breastfeeding in airports

The Rising Trend of Breastfeeding in Airports

Nervous about unbuttoning your blouse in public? It’s an awkward moment for every nursing mother. And it’s equally the same feeling of inconvenience with breastfeeding in airports, while traveling. It is certainly different than feeding at home. While it may be frowned upon by some people, it is perfectly legal to breastfeed your baby in public, and this includes breastfeeding in airports. 

The reality is that while airports are going the extra mile in the terminal to make your layover more enjoyable, the whole nursing thing is treated like an unwanted black sheep in the family. Most airports don’t offer a designated friendly establishment for nursing moms and the ones that do are negligent in making it known. So what sort of impression does this leave you lactating mothers?

San Jose Airport Nursing Room
Breastfeeding nursing room at San Jose International Airport

First of all, remember that breastfeeding your child is your right. When it comes to breastfeeding in public, we are all supposed to stand up and applaud the practice. But as anyone who has breastfeed in an airport can testify, it ain’t easy. And we can all pretty much agree that air travel, even in the best of circumstances, isn’t fun. It is particularly harrowing and this is especially true if a lactating mom has to return to work.

As uncomfortable as it can be, the best bet is to inquire at the information service counter if there is a facility for nursing mothers. Family changing room might be considered a reasonable accommodation, which may at least have a comfy chair, a handicapped bathroom and your last resort, a regular bathroom. If you are lucky enough to have access to a business class lounge, your situation is a lot easier.

Recently, a survey reveals that despite new state and federal workplace laws that require certain employers to provide moms who breastfeed or pump with lactation room, ideally a private space with a chair, table and electrical outlet, airports are doing a pretty lame job one at that.

The study, a phone survey of customer service representatives at 100 U.S. airports, found out that only 37 actually had a designated lactation room, although 62 of the airports said they were breastfeeding friendly. Furthermore, in 25 of those airports, the so-called lactation room was a unisex/family bathroom. 

Only eight US airports met the minimum requirement for a breast-pumping mother: San Francisco International Airport, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Baltimore/Washington International Airport, Indianapolis International Airport, Mineta San Jose International Airport, Akron-Canton Airport in Ohio, Dane County Regional in Wisconsin and Florida’s Pensacola International Airport. 

“Finding a clean, private room other than a bathroom to express her milk at the airport was the biggest challenge for the traveling breast-pumping mother,” the authors of the study note.

This is about as dismal a finding as you can get, and what it comes down to highlights how little our society understands and supports the importance of breastfeeding and the needs of nursing mothers. This underscores the continuing difficulty of that challenge.

USA Today however says, “An increasing number of airports around the country are creating nursing stations for traveling mothers.” Airports can now claim to be mom-friendly.

David Jaacks, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and his Smithfield Company have come up with a design for a small enclosure for nursing moms, a “lactation suite,” that could soon spread to public areas including airports and malls worldwide.

Just this week, Minneapolis – St. Paul International Airport is opening two new, specially designed lactation rooms in the Lindbergh terminal, near gates F1 and C13. As this study suggests, MSP may be the cheeriest and most welcoming airport in the nation. For several years, it has had a comfortable, well equipped “nursing mothers room” near Gate C13 in the Lindbergh terminal.

Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport nursing room
Breastfeeding pod, Mamava nursing station, at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport

Additionally, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey plans to introduce the free-standing lactation “pods” in Terminal B at Liberty Newark International Airport and in LaGuardia Airport’s Central Terminal Building. And Terminals at John F. Kennedy International Airport are pondering upon installing lactation areas. Other global international airports also offer a list of nursing venues, and kudos to Changi for having as many nursing rooms as it does gates.

The physical demands of breastfeeding can be overwhelming and perhaps stressful, as it takes a lot of attention and it’s sort of exhausting. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast feeding infants exclusively for the first six months of their lives, and continued supplemental breastfeeding as other foods are introduced to the infant’s diet.

In today’s modern world, it’s quite methodical to feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in public, even doing so discreetly. While many people aren’t thrilled about having a baby near them in flight, public awareness is imperative in a way that people should truly understand the importance of lactating pods, and how easy it is to support moms on their breastfeeding journey.


  • JC

    I am flying out of San Jose international airport today, December 2, 2015, and I could not find any of the nursing rooms at the Southwest terminal. The directory shows four nursing rooms but instead of that there are only family bathrooms with no seating inside. Only a toilet, sink and a koala changing table. I’m very disappointed because it seems they removed the ones that I see posted online.

  • straight from the source

    Hello! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say I really enjoy
    reading your articles. Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that cover the same
    subjects? Thank you so much!