Although a majority of Binghamton University students may not be parents themselves, visitors, faculty and students with newborns have a new place on campus for breastfeeding.
On Oct. 4, the University unveiled the Mamava Pod, a lactation space located on the top floor of the University Union near the Visions Federal Credit Union and the University Bookstore. The pod is a privacy chamber with several features catering to nursing parents, and BU is the first school in the SUNY system to own one.
The previous lactation room in the University Undergrounds required a key from the Tillman Lobby information desk, making it hard to access during shift changes or if the desk’s occupant was elsewhere in the building. When construction for the ongoing basement renovations made the room inaccessible, it was temporarily moved to a small space in Old Rafuse Hall.
Peter Nardone, general manager of the University Union, was first introduced to Mamava Pods at an Association of College Unions International Conference last spring, and said he hopes it will show mothers they are welcome on campus.
“We looked at this as an opportunity to say, ‘What can we do to enhance our offering to nursing mothers on campus?’” Nardone said. “While we were in the process of [construction], we said, ‘Well, let’s look at different options.’ This gave us a more transparent space.”
The Mamava Pod can be used by any current student, staff or faculty member, as well as visitors to campus through the Mamava app. The Mamava Pod is also compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and is maintained on a daily basis by Physical Facilities.
Halley Gerber, a junior majoring in human development, finds the Mamava Pod’s visibility an important part of the campus environment.
“It definitely draws attention to itself, because it’s in the middle of the top floor of the Union, right next to the bookstore, where hundreds of students pass every day,” Gerber said. “The University has made it known that they accept mothers or people that are breastfeeding and that there’s a location for them to relieve themselves and nurse their child or pump.”
The unit and its BU logo and colors cost around $20,500 to install. The Mamava Pod can be moved and placed anywhere with internet and electrical access. Its current location features a nearby elevator and bathrooms for cleanup, and is easily reachable from the Spine.
Orrin Kenyon, assistant director of University Union operations, was part of the decision to host a Mamava Pod on campus. He said he hopes that if the Mamava Pod continues to see use, other parts of the campus will become more accessible too.
“We probably only need one in the Union, but there have been other areas and offices who are excited about it,” Kenyon said. “Maybe some place closer to the academic buildings, because there’s a lot of traffic there, or the Events Center, since a lot of people may go down there with families.”
Since the Mamava Pod went online, it has been used twice, according to Nardone, who received the information from Mamava statistics. The Union has also received several inquiries asking about the Mamava Pod’s availability and is working to address concerns or needs as they arise.
To use the Mamava Pod, users can contact the University Union for an access code or go on the app, where they will see a list of available lactation spaces nearby. The Mamava Pod in the University Union will appear first on the list, and if unoccupied, the user will be given a code to unlock the door. In the Mamava Pod, cleaning wipes are available, in addition to an ambient fan and an artificial plant to create a comforting atmosphere. A bench and a place to plug in a pumping machine are also available.
Gerber said while additional programs for women’s health on campus are needed, the Mamava Pod is one step in the University’s trend toward a more open and accepting campus.
“It’s a really private space in a really central location,” Gerber said. “It really satisfies a need. I think it’s nice that [the Union] can cater to people of all different backgrounds and walks of life.”