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Union Station opens private lactation space for pumping, breastfeeding mothers

Chicago Union Station opened a private lactation pod for pumping or breastfeeding mothers Monday. | Amtrak

Mothers on the go can now privately pump or breastfeed in five new mobile lactation pods at Amtrak stations across the country — including one in Chicago Union Station.

Designed by Mamava, which has installed almost 500 lactation stations in the U.S., the pod can be unlocked through a mobile app or by Amtrak customer service and includes benches, a fold-down table and a charging station. The Union Station pod opened Monday.

Spokesperson Marc Magliari said the pods are one way “to make it as welcoming as we can to use Amtrak.” He added that they are not a requirement for mothers breastfeeding in public.

“It’s strictly the option of the mom if they wish to use (the pods), or anywhere else in the station or aboard our trains,” Magliari said. “It’s totally up to them and we’ll support whatever choice they make.”

Mamava spokesperson Ann Pechaver said train stations are “the next thing” for ensuring access to commuting mothers. The app helps users locate the nearest Mamava pods or pumping-friendly spots.

Ashley Logan, a working mother who commutes in and out of Union Station, said she was “thrilled” to see the new pod.

“It’s hard enough leaving your baby at home. It’s hard enough breastfeeding,” she said. “And without the resources and the support system from the city and the people around you, it can make it really challenging. So this is definitely a step in the right direction.”

The project also follows efforts started by Lacey Kohlmoos, a Philadelphia-based mother whose experience at Washington, D.C.’s Union Station resulted in a mission to make pumping and breastfeeding easier in Amtrak stations.

Kohlmoos — along with tens of thousands of others — emailed and tweeted Amtrak calling for clean, private spaces for mothers. Though Mamava began connecting with Amtrak more than a year ago, Pechaver said “the stars were perfectly aligned” with the campaign.

“The petition was definitely viewed as a positive reinforcement that women view lactation accommodations as an essential need for both public spaces and corporate locations,” Pechaver said in an email to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The station that Kohlmoos originally complained about, in Washington D.C., also has a new lactation pod. So do Amtrak stations in Philadelphia and Baltimore. And New York’s will open in September.