Lincoln arena offers privacy for moms



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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — You might have seen the nursing nook at the Fleetwood Mac concert.

Or at the last Husker hoops game.

Or between dances at the Governor's Ball.

It's there on the concourse level of Pinnacle Bank Arena, in the northwest corner, looking like a cross between a '50s travel trailer and an oversized Coke machine.

The Lincoln Journal Star reports (http://bit.ly/15CN5LW) it's the first of its kind at a public arena anywhere in the country, a place for moms to breastfeed or pump in privacy. It's got seats and electricity and a changing table and a locking door.

It's pretty cool.

And it happened because a lot of people agreed it was important.

Mike Miller was one of those people.

The Lincoln man thinks about women a lot in his work. Particularly pregnant and nursing women, and their needs.

He's a head-hunter, searching the country for maternity managers for hospitals. He knows breastfeeding has come full circle, embraced by medical professionals and moms, but he also knows society has been slow to catch up.

And sometimes it's an impediment, he says. And moms — especially first-time moms — can end up feeling isolated or unwelcome in public spaces.

The idea to help make a change started about a year ago, while he was cheering on the Huskers at a women's basketball game. It was a pink out, an event to promote awareness for breast health.

Miller looked around and saw babies.

Miller notices babies. He's a baby magnet, the guy they make googly eyes at over their mothers' shoulders in the church pew.

And he keeps up to date on babies — he'd read about a lactation lounge at the Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island, and the many women who had used it.

There he was at the game, wondering where all those moms went if they wanted privacy to feed those babies?

So he did something.

He went to the Lincoln City Council.

"I thought this was important," he said last week. "And it was something I could do locally."

Council members approached him after that March meeting. Leirion Gaylor Baird talked about nursing at the Oakland airport as a new mom in 2002, and Trent Fellers talked about his wife searching for an accommodating spot on a family vacation and failing.

Miller felt their support, but they told him he needed to talk to the folks who controlled arena money. So he regrouped and gave his pitch to the West Haymarket Joint Public Agency.

Tim Clare and Chris Beutler and Doug Emery listened but didn't commit. So Miller went back to them two months later with more information, and this time they sent him to the free throw line.

Talk to Tom Lorenz, the arena's general manager, they said.

He did. And he took April Deis with him.

Deis is the nurse manager at Bryan's Mother/Baby and Lactation. She spends her working life helping get families off to a good start. She's also a mother of two and had experience with pumping at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Her son was 3 months old and she was attending an all-day conference at the new arena. She planned ahead, knowing she'd need a private place to plug in. Arena staff provided her a lovely conference room.

A lovely energy-saving conference room.

The electric pump was doing its work when the lights went out. The nursing mom waved her arms to get the power to come back on, and she waved her arms to keep it on until she completed her mission.

The arena had gone overboard to be accommodating, Deis said, but like many public spaces, it just wasn't equipped. Which is part of the reason, when Miller pitched his idea, the mom got on board.

"I was his ace in the hole," she joked.

Deis was the one who found Mamava online — and the mobile nooks they designed. The JPA agreed to buy one with an assist from Bryan Health, for $13,000 including shipping, and the Bryan Health Nursing Nook was christened in early January.

It's already been featured in a national arena publication. It fits in with the mayor's goal of building a healthy city.

And it has been used.

At least four or five times, Miller said.

Lincoln is blessed with breastfeeding resources, he said. Milkworks and lactation consultants, doulas and midwives, and now a nook in a very public place.

He's hoping for more.

The idea is not to hide nursing moms away, he said. It's to provide an option for pumping, and for first-time nursing moms who might otherwise stay home, or for babies who are easily distracted.

And it's more.

"Aside from the private physical space the nook provides ... it stands as a nice statement of support for breastfeeding moms," Gaylor Baird said.

And it's a statement in a building filled to the rafters at basketball games, concerts, conferences and dozens of other events.

Its time has come, said Deis.

"Breastfeeding mothers are everywhere."

Or, at least they should be.

___

Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

This AP Member Exchange was shared by the Lincoln Journal Star.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cindy Lange-Kubick

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