August 16, 2017
Philadelphia residents Samantha Matlin and Lacey Kohlmoos have both created online petitions pushing for Amtrak stations in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., respectively, to provide lactation facilities for nursing mothers.
Matlin describes her experience trying to pump breast milk both on an Amtrak train and at 30th Street Station in her Care2 petition.
“When I asked about where I could pump on the train, I was told by one Amtrak employee, ‘We don’t accommodate for that,’” she writes. “And if that weren’t bad enough, there wasn’t a clean, private place with a plug for me to pump in Philadelphia's Amtrak-owned 30th Street Station before getting on the train either."
Matlin launched the petition last week and is very close to reaching her goal of 19,000 supporters.
Kohlmoos, who also resides in Philadelphia, started her Care2 petition to target Washington, D.C.’s Union Station.
“I’m a working mom, and the first time I had to travel for work after giving birth was from my home in Philadelphia to Washington, DC,” she writes in the petition.
Kohlmoos says she had previously experienced mastitis, an infection of the breast tissue often caused by blocked milk ducts that lead to flu-like symptoms and searing breast pain. To avoid it, she knew she would have to pump as soon as she got off her train in D.C., even though she pumped just before leaving her home in Philly.
“But when I arrived at Union Station, breasts aching, I couldn’t find a private, clean place to express my milk,” she writes.
“The public restroom was crowded, dirty, and didn’t have anywhere I could plug in my pump. I asked the women at the information desk where I could find the lactation room, and they informed me that there wasn’t one. They suggested trying Potbelly’s restroom so I’d have more privacy.”
Eventually, Kohlmoos ended up pumping in a nearby Starbucks, trying not to get any of the equipment contaminated, with intermittent knocks on the door when other customers needed the bathroom.
“It was, in a word, gross,” she writes.
Like Matlin, Kohlmoos is also very close to reaching her goal of 35,000 supporters.
Both women say in their petitions that as an alternative to building new lactation structures, each floor of the stations could at least be equipped with a Mamava lactation pod. According to the Mamava site, pods are designed to give clean spaces to pumping moms and can comfortably fit two mothers and any partners or family members who are with them.
Locally, Mamava pods are already located at Temple University, the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Zoo. The Lehigh Valley International Airport is also listed as a Mamava location.
In a statement given to Philly.com, Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly D. Woods said women are free to nurse despite having no lactation facilities throughout any of its locations.
“Amtrak respects the rights of mothers to breastfeed their children on trains and in stations. Therefore, Amtrak will not ask a mother who is breastfeeding to cover up nor to move from her seat,” Woods said in the statement.
Nonetheless, both petitions are flooded with messages of support calling for the designated lactation areas.
"Since the American Pediatric Association strongly encourages breastfeeding, Amtrak and other companies need to make it safe for women to do so," wrote one supporter.
"I wouldn't eat in a bathroom, so I shouldn't have to feed my child or express milk in one."