Female fans of the Minnesota Vikings are cheering about the franchise's latest innovation, which will be another first for the National Football League.
The team's current and future home will have lactation suites for breastfeeding moms who need to pump or nurse, because sometimes there's no getting around baby's meal time at game time. And really, who wants to prepare dinner in a bathroom?
Just like a couple of the other trend-setting features of the half-built $1.08 billion U.S. Bank Stadium — such as the clear fluoropolymer roof and cross-linked polyethylene snow-melt system — the lactation suites made in the U.S. by Vermont-based Mamava sport a good deal of plastic.
The exterior walls of the suites are made of an eco-certified composite material and the interior has seating made of food-service grade fiberglass and DuPont Co.'s acrylic Corian.
At just 32-square feet, the lactation suites won't compare to the luxury suites in terms of amenities or price. The mobile Mamavas cost about $11,250 plus shipping and installation. That compares to the typical football stadium concept of a premium suite, which cost fans $110,000 to $500,000 per season.
The Mamava (taken from the Spanish words for “mother” and “go”) suites have practical perks like an electrical outlet, bench, fold-down table, USB charger, room for bags and a stroller, and a locking door. However, it's the privacy, quiet and convenience that will improve the game experience for many women — and probably a lot of guys, too. (By the way, how come it's OK for busty cheerleaders in skimpy uniforms to bounce around the sidelines and for the sports world to mark the 10th anniversary of Janet Jackson's Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction but it's not OK with everyone for moms to publicly provide their babies the healthiest food he or she could have? Hello, it's normal and legal to breastfeed. Lactivist rant over.)
About 4 million babies are born every year in the U.S. Mamava says about 77 percent of them start out breastfeeding but many moms quit because they don't have a private space to pump when they go about their days or return to work.
Mamava is out to change that and maybe even make their free-standing pods as common as diaper-changing station. Its first lactation suite was installed at Burlington International Airport in Vermont in August 2013. Since then, about 50 units have been put into additional airports as well as malls, zoos, college campuses, hospitals and businesses.
Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren told the website Cosmopolitan.com that an employee who is a new mother suggested the team do more for female workers, guests and fans — half the fans are women — who need to nurse or pump breast milk. Soon afterward, he saw a Mamava at an airport and decided it could be the answer.
“Creating a family friendly environment and a positive experience for all fans at our football games is paramount to the Minnesota Vikings,” Warren said in a news release. “While we certainly encourage breastfeeding mothers to nurse where they feel comfortable, we have become increasingly aware of the need many moms have for the privacy and comfort that those Mamava lactation suites provide.”
Fenway Park, home to the Boston Red Sox, has a Mamava suite in place, as does the home stadium for the University of Nebraska's Cornhuskers. The Vikings will have the first one in place for the NFL.
With the new home for the Vikings still under construction, the team should have two Mamavas installed at its existing home of the TCF Bank Stadium in time for the Vikings-Chiefs game in Minneapolis on Oct. 18. They also have plans for the pods at the Vikings training facility and corporate offices.