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Fighting the Class Gap in Breast Milk

Breast pump next to baby

They always say that mother's milk is best, but for some moms, it's not possible to provide. This issue predominately affects low-income, working moms who have no place to pump and not enough breaks to do so. In contrast, white-collar female workers often have lactation rooms, or even the option of pumping at their office desk.

This reality, and its reporting in a past New York Times article, is what inspired South Burlington, Vermont, resident Sascha Mayer to envision private areas where women could nurse and pump milk, regardless of their employment status. Mayer teamed up with Christine Dodson, a colleague at a graphic design studio, who stopped breast-feeding her baby because there was never a place to pump when she was traveling for work. The women named their project Mamava, for mothers on the go, as reported in the Times, which recently revisited the issue of breast milk and the class gap.

MORE: Breastfeeding 101: Pumping

"We want to provide a place to breast-feed or use a pump anywhere a mother might need to," Mayer told the Times.

With no experience building anything or financing such a project, the duo paid for their experiment trough private funds. Their "mobile lactation suite" concept went through some evolutions, but when it was ready, it came out sleek and inviting, with benches, a fold-down table for the breast pump, an outlet with USB ports and casters, so the units can be transported.

In 2013, in the aftermath of a lawsuit filed by a woman kicked off a flight for publicly breastfeeding, the Burlington airport director asked if he could install the first Mamava unit. The Affordable Care Act also gave them a boost, by encouraging employers to provide a time and place to pump, and requiring insurers to pay for breast pumps.

Because each unit costs $11,250, Ms. Mayer and Ms. Dodson hope that more companies will sponsor them, so that as many low-income women can use them as possible, as the Times reports. Nearly 30 units thus far have been purchased from across the county.

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Image via NYTimes/Matthew Thorsen

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