Breastfeeding/pumping in public is no easy task. But there's an app for that. Moms Pump Here aims to help mothers ID a nice place to pump.
Nursing in public has fielded a ton of press lately (most recently with the mom who was Facebook-shamed for NIPing in a T.G.I. Fridays.) But what about pumping moms? At least you can be semi-stealth when breastfeeding in a public spot if you so choose—a secluded spot; a strategically draped scarf. But pumping is a whole different animal. First, you need electricity, so an outlet is crucial. Next, you've got boatloads of equipment to set up, requiring significantly more time and energy than simply unsnapping a nursing tank. And, like breastfeeding, you want—and deserve—someplace clean (i.e. not a public toilet), private and quiet, so your milk ducts can concentrate and do their thing.
That's why Priya Nembhard and Kim Harrison (pictured below) created Moms Pump Here, an app that utilizes GPS to help moms suss out the nearest lactation-friendly spots based on their current location. Real women submit and rank locations and so far more than 1,000 locales are included in Moms Pump Here's database, including airports, retail stores, churches, universities, and doctors offices. (Their most searched locations are malls and airports.) Addresses, phone numbers, maps and special amenities are all listed, along with photos and member feedback.
"Our goal is to make sure moms are not inconvenienced," explains Nembhard, 37, an entrepreneur and mom of three from Queens, N.Y. "We don't want to make pumping and breastfeeding something that needs to be hidden, but do want to provide women with options."
The app story
The idea for MPH came to Harrison in 2012, when she found herself in the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York for work with no place to pump other than a bathroom stall for her then-three-month-old son. She recalled that Nembhard, an old college acquaintance, was an entrepreneur and reached out. The idea resonated with Nembhard.
"I personally had had my own issues with breastfeeding and pumping," she recalls. "My oldest had kidney issues at birth and I was advised to nurse him for at least a year because the antibiotics were so hard on his immune system. I nursed for nine months and pumped three months longer and would find myself pumping in my office or car, but there weren't that many other great options." Her second child, a girl, was born two months before Nembhard was to be married, and the stress of wedding planning combined with career logistics led her to pump exclusively for a year, including while sitting on a toilet in her strapless ivory wedding gown during cocktail hour at what she called "a beautiful event facility with nowhere to pump."
The MPH website has been up and running since 2012 but the app just went live in March of this year. Since then, more than 1,000 people have downloaded the app and 6,000 people have liked the Facebook page, which includes entries like, "It's "ª#"ŽiBreastfeedSelfie Sunday! Images of women breastfeeding are not borderline porn. It's a silent protest for our rights. Show the world your super power by posting a classy breastfeeding pic and tagging "ª#"ŽMomsPumpHere!"
Suggested pumping spots take 48 hours to be vetted by staff, but generally must fulfill four requirements: an outlet, a comfortable chair, a sink, and a table. So far, some of their star entries include Great American Ball Park (where the Cincinnati Reds play)—their new Pampers Nursing Suite is believed to be the first ever dedicated ballpark suite constructed exclusively for moms and features five comfy gliders, changing stations, a private restroom, a kitchenette with a sink, ice and refrigeration, lockers for storing items and a flat-screen TV, so mom needn't miss any big plays; Disney Baby Care Centers in California and Orlando; Westfield Fashion Square Mall in Sherman Oaks, Calif., and Minneapolis St Paul International Airport are also highly ranked. Their wildest submission so far? "The Shuman Juvenile Detention Center in Pittsburgh," Nembhard admits.
The app still has some growing to do (or maybe society needs to up its nursing facility game). For instance, I live in downtown Chicago and when I logged on, I received 30 suggestions for nearby locations, the closest being Wrigley Field (two miles away, in the first aid lounge) and the farthest at the University of Chicago (12.5 miles away). When you have to pump, two miles is a long way to drive and at that point, I'd just as soon do the deed in my car, using my trusty car outlet adapter.
Hopefully, as word spreads, more locations will be added. In fact, that's already happening: the app now has locations to "ª#"Žbreastfeed and "ª#"Žbreastpump in Canada, Puerto Rico, Guam and the US Virgin Islands. And the site is transparent about the fact that not all locations are stellar, "and the ratings will reflect that," Nembhard points out.
In an ideal world, Moms Pump Here wouldn't need to exist, as women have the legal right to feed their children—by any means necessary—in public. But until our culture catches up with us highly evolved lactating moms, it's nice to know that privacy, electricity and a comfy chair are just a smartphone click away.