Here's one more to add to the list: last week Burlington International Airport became the first U.S. airport to install a dedicated breastfeeding and pumping station for nursing mothers.
The pod-shaped, post-security "Lactation Station" is a freestanding kiosk that features easy-to-clean surfaces, a fold-down table, a power outlet and space that can comfortably accommodate seating, a breast pump, luggage and a stroller, reports NBC. The breastfeeding station was designed by Burlington-based Mamava, a company headed by Sascha Mayer and Christine Dodson, who have both dealt with the difficulties of trying to breastfeed their babies while traveling for their jobs and their lives.
"This allows a nursing mother to go through security and use the station to pump shortly before her flight," Mayer told NBC. "It's all about solving a problem."
Mayer started working on the design for the station at the request of Gene Richards, Burlington airport's aviation director, who wants the experience for everyone traveling through the airport to be "as relaxing as possible."
To that end, the airport opened a pre-security lounge for nursing mothers in May.
What a change from 2006 when a woman from Santa Fe, N.M., was kicked of a flight in Burlington because she wouldn't cover herself while nursing her 1-year-old daughter. The unidentified flight attendant reportedly was disciplined, but the story nevertheless gained national attention and prompted protest "nurse-ins" at 19 airports that November, including the Burlington airport.
"A lot of people breast-feed in the public. We totally welcome that if you have that comfort level," Richards told USA Today. "But for people who want privacy, we want to make sure they have a place to do it."
The Mamava is manufactured by G3K in Springfield, Vt., and is free to use thanks to Zutano, a children's clothing manufacturer in Cabot, Vt., that is sponsoring the location.
"We feel like this is such an important piece to acknowledge the needs of working mothers, and address the balance between taking care of their babies and going back to work," Michael Belenky, cofounder of Zutano, told USA Today. "It's not an easy transition."
That would explain why some women find it difficult to keep breastfeeding their babies. More than three-quarters of babies begin life being breast-fed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But by six months of age, the number declines to less than half, and by 12 months, a little more than a quarter of babies are breast-fed.
If this new Lactation Station proves successful the $3,500 unit could be mass produced for other airports and even for private workplaces. That could encourage more women to breastfeed longer, which would provide numerous health benefits for both the baby and the mother.
For babies, breast milk is easier to digest and offers important nutrients and antibodies to protect them from illness that formula just doesn't have. According to Womenshealth.gov, ear infections and diarrhea are more common among formula-fed babies. Breastfed babies have a lower risk of respiratory infections, asthma, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes. Some research shows that breastfeeding can also reduce the risk of Type 1 diabetes, childhood leukemia, and sudden infant death syndrome.
Breastfeeding also has health benefits for the mother, including lower risk of Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and postpartum depression. Also, many studies have reported greater weight loss for breastfeeding mothers than for those who don't.
The government website also lists ways in which the whole country benefits from breastfeeding. Chief among them is the billions of dollars saved per year as medical costs are lower for fully breastfed infants than never-breastfed infants.
And if the unit is mass produced here in Vermont that would certain be a economic shot in the arm for the Green Mountain State.