Two fully portable modules, one placed downtown and the other midtown, cost $27K each — and more may be coming
By Carina Julig firstname.lastname@example.org
Santa Fe New Mexican
LOCAL & REGION
The city of Santa Fe has purchased two pods where women — both employees and members of public — can breastfeed and pump breast milk in comfort and privacy. “If this all goes well, we do have plans to put more in,” said Deputy City Manager Layla Archuletta-Maestas, who facilitated the purchase of the lactation pods as part of an unofficial pilot program. Archuletta-Maestas said she initially started looking into options for nursing women because the city has several expectant mothers on staff. Facilities managers suggested the city select a portable option. When they started looking into the project, “we said, why don’t we make this accessible to the citizens” and not just employees, Archuletta-Maestas said. The pods were purchased from manufacturer Mamava and installed Nov. 2 at the downtown Main Library, 150 Washington Ave., and the city’s Office of Emergency Management at the midtown campus, 1600 St. Michael’s Drive, Building No. 2. The modules cost $27,000 each, Archuletta-Maestas said. The modules are not only portable but also compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, something Archuletta-Maestas said was important to the city. Mamava pods can be opened through an app, a feature she called a plus. “We wanted to have that security, and we also wanted to make it so that we didn’t have to have a staff member there all the time,” she said. This is an issue close to heart for Archuletta-Maestas — she’s an expectant mother herself. “I have an office I can go to and shut the doors and have my privacy, but I wanted to make sure others have that luxury,” she said. The city did not previously have any dedicated areas for breast pumping, she said. The Main Library was chosen as an initial location for a module because it’s a spot frequented by families and is near several city offices, including City Hall and offices in nearby Marcy Plaza. Library Director Margaret Neill said having a lactation pod at the library is a natural fit because of its community-focused mission. “We’re excited that we’re able to offer another service for people,” she said. Neill said the pod at the library has been added to the janitorial cleaning schedule, but it’s mostly self-functioning due to the app. Patrons who don’t have a smartphone or can’t otherwise access the app are welcome to ask workers at the front desk to open it for them, she added. Word was still getting out about the lactation pod, she said, but so far the library staff has answered a lot of questions from people wondering what it is. “It’s really kind of cool,” she said. “It looks like a little spacecraft.” Simran Priel, a nurse midwife and certified lactation consultant at The Birthing Tree in Santa Fe, applauded the city for the purchase and said she hopes it will inspire more businesses and organizations around town to follow suit. “In places where there’s not a lot of public bathrooms or facilities, this is really needed,” she said, adding she’d like the city to build more single-stall family bathrooms as well. Parents aren’t required to go to a private place to feed their child, she said, but for many it provides “a comfort factor and a convenience that is really nice to accommodate parents.” Federal and New Mexico labor laws require employers to provide breastfeeding employees with a private space other than a bathroom to pump milk, along with reasonable break time. New Mexico law explicitly states “a mother may breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be present.” Having the law on the books doesn’t automatically mean it gets followed, Priel said. Recently, one of her clients was told to cover up while breastfeeding at a gym for the comfort of the business’s “more conservative clients.” “She just raised hell,” and the gym ended up apologizing, Priel said.