Baby Princesses - this post is not for you, but for nursing moms out there. I've got a couple of things to post for you soon. Thanks for letting me use "your" blog to vent . . .

Dear Reagan National Airport and Delta,

I’d like you to imagine for a moment that you live in a world without bathrooms.

Let me amend that picture slightly. Not all bathrooms have been eliminated; there are a few here and there in recognition of the fact that a small sliver of the population does use need to use the bathroom (most people do not). In this world, you are a one of those rare people who needs a bathroom a few times throughout the day. You have installed a bathroom at your home and your workplace has agreed to accommodate you by giving you access to a bathroom somewhere within a half a mile radius. As long as you don’t vary your routine much, it is generally not a problem.

But. Sometimes you do not get the break in your schedule that you need to use the bathroom. Sometimes you are called upon to attend a work event that lasts for several hours or even days. And sometimes, you even need to travel. Every time you run across one of these occurrences, you call ahead to the meeting attendees/event organizers/host, explain to them your dilemma, and see if they are able to find a solution that is workable for everyone. It’s a little embarrassing, of course, because it’s a pretty personal matter and you also don’t really want to be the person who requires special attention. They may be understanding; perhaps they know someone else who uses the bathroom. They may just be confused because they’ve never had to deal with that issue before. And sometimes, they may think they can help you but when you arrive at what they have told you will be a useable bathroom, it’s just not going to work.

And finally, imagine that one day at the end of a trip, when you’ve had issues with finding bathrooms at your destination and you are impatient to be home, your flight is delayed and you learn that there are no bathrooms at the airport or on the plane. You will need to spend a minimum of seven hours with no access to a bathroom.

Now you understand what it is like to be a nursing mom. And specifically, what it was like to be a nursing mom on a very delayed Delta flight, stuck at Reagan for several hours last night. Multiple kind and personable employees of both the airport and Delta confirmed that no, there were absolutely no lactation rooms anywhere in the airport. And no, there was no private space that could be found to serve this purpose for 20 minutes. No office, no space in a club room, nothing at all with a door that closed.

Nursing regularly, like using the bathroom, is a biological need that prevents you from really focusing on anything else until that pressure is alleviated. What starts out as slight discomfort quickly morphs into full-blown pain, and there’s also the matter of leaking. If last night was really that bad, you might ask, why didn’t I pump in a bathroom stall? To answer a question with a question, if you really had to go to the bathroom, would you walk into the kitchen of one of the airport restaurants, find a drain in the floor and go? Sometimes pumping in grimy bathroom is just too difficult to stomach.

The obvious issue here is that in a place that routinely sees people trapped for longer than they anticipated being there, there is absolutely no system in place to accommodate nursing mothers. If the airport isn’t willing to provide that service to travelers, then Delta needs to step up and find a solution for their affected passengers. The underlying issue is even more disturbing, however. Many genuinely kind, sympathetic and well-meaning staff members were not empowered to find a solution to a relatively simple problem. They genuinely believed that I was making a reasonable request and would have helped me if they could. But because it was outside the scope of the normal day-to-day, there was nothing they could do. Lactation rooms are a need you can anticipate (so it’s confusing that you haven’t). But, there are always going to be passengers with special needs that you can’t anticipate or just haven’t run across before. Your employees need the permission and the training to know when it’s okay to bend a rule, to look for a work-around, to think critically and figure out a way to bring a passenger to a room with a door that closes if that’s what they really need. Otherwise, you’ll never achieve a superior level of customer service.

Thank you for listening.

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Comment by Baby Princess' Mom on October 27, 2014 at 8:27am

I think you misunderstood  - I didn't have my baby with me.  I wasn't looking for a place to nurse, I was looking for a place to pump .  .  . which is a lot harder to do discreetly.  Also, my main point was just that neither the airline nor the airport had empowered their employees to problem solve.  Even if they didn't have something in place for nursing moms (which you're right, I guess is not the law, but would be a mark of excellent or even mediocre customer service) they should have been able to help me figure it out.

Comment by Cari on October 27, 2014 at 4:36am
You can't really blame the airline itself. It has no control over the accommodations at the airport and you certainly arent going to be given a lactation room on the plane. I was a flight attendant for several years and although I never really asked about it, I've never heard of lactation rooms in airports. Although I do applaud you for wanting to be more discrete about breast feeding your little one (I've seen way too many moms who had no problem just whipping both breasts out for all to see without being even remotely concerned about even trying to be somewhat discrete). However, I find your post to be a little irrational. There are bathrooms EVERYWHERE in airports. But, if you prefer not to go that route (which I never did either) there are always areas in the airports that are quiet with little to no people (such as a gate section with no flights scheduled). You could always always find a quiet corner and breast feed with a cover if you are concerned with modesty. Laws protect nursing moms to be able to nurse in public without being asked to stop. However, there are no laws that require "lactation rooms" to be provided. You are certainly able to breast feed anywhere in the airport. It doesn't have to be in a bathroom or even a busy area of the airport...although those are still options. I don't know the circumstances if your traveling but you had to have known that there would be a good possibility that this could happen (no special rooms). But the way I look at it is... It's like this MOST places you go. Example: restaurants, malls, grocery stores, etc....all places that you would go to on a regular basis, but none of these places offer lactation rooms. If you know you'll need to breast feed ahead of time, you know that you'll have to accept the fact that there is no private rooms for you to do this... in most cases. The same goes with the airport.

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