Mom of three Leslie Morgan Steiner was in the restroom in Terminal C at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C. last week when she noticed that the handicapped stall in the main bathroom was labeled "nursing lounge."
The D.C.-based public speaker and author of Mommy Wars, Crazy Love, and The Baby Chase travels through Reagan National Airport about once a month for work and told The Huffington Post she was "shocked" to see the converted stall. "It's ridiculous -- to slap a plaque on a metal door and think it goes from being a toilet to a hygienic place to feed a baby," she said, adding that the inside of the "lounge" looked almost exactly the same as a bathroom stall.
Steiner's three kids are now teenagers, but she recalls how difficult it was to find places to breastfeed, and notes how ridiculous it is to suggest moms should have to feed their babies in private in the first place. "Nursing moms are expected to sit on a converted toilet seat. Who knows what they are supposed to do with other small children while they fed the baby."
After the mom shared a photo of the "nursing lounge" on Facebook, commenters shared "enthusiastic, outraged" responses, as well as stories about the unpleasant places they fed their babies and encouraging words for breastfeeding moms. Steiner's favorite response was a photo of a room for mothers in a Tokyo airport -- "truly a 'lounge' that helps moms breastfeed in the airport while also giving their older kids a clean, safe place to play," she said. "That is what we need in our country. Not a toilet!"
In response to the outrage over the nursing lounge, a spokesperson for Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport acknowledged the issue at hand. Media Relations Assistant Manager Kimberly Gibbs told The Huffington Post, "We recognize that the location of the nursing lounge is not ideal. We are working with our teams to find a better solution to accommodate nursing mothers within the limited available space at Reagan National Airport.”
Earlier this year, Israeli photographer Tamar Shugert summed up the issue with asking moms to nurse in a bathroom in the caption for her viral breastfeeding photo: "If you are not willing to eat your lunch in the bathroom, then don't expect me to feed my kid there!"
Here's hoping for positive progress for breastfeeding moms.