When I was nursing my second child, I decided to leave her at home and take a one-day trip to Baltimore for a large conference. There was no way I was lugging around a massive electronic pumping system, so I carried along a largely ineffective hand pump and occasionally tried to seek shelter in the expo center restrooms.
It was the worst.
I had to sit on a toilet in a public restroom and try to express enough milk as to not feel burdened by the weight of bowling balls that, to make matters worse, were leaking through my dress.
Local mom Lacey Kohlmoos experienced similar frustration in the summer of 2017 when she took an Amtrak train from 30th Street Station in Philadelphia to Union Station in Washington, D.C., for a work event. Because she usually worked from home and didn’t know better, she assumed it would be easy to find a place to pump.
“At that point I needed to pump every two to three hours to keep up my milk supply and avoid leaking, aching breasts and mastitis,” she says. “But when I asked the information desk ladies if there were any lactation facilities in Union Station, they looked at me like I was crazy.”
She said they first suggested pumping in the public bathroom, which was crowded, dirty and didn’t have an electrical outlet. She ended up leaving the station, finding a nearby Starbucks and pumping in the individual bathroom. In the 15 minutes it took for her to express her milk, she recalls that there must have been at least 10 knocks on the door.
“The whole experience was embarrassing, stressful and rage-inducing,” Kohlmoos says. “But I thought, just like so many other new moms, that’s just the way it is.”
But she knew it didn’t have to be that way.
As the online organizing strategist at Care2, Kohlmoos was already working with everyday people to turn their petitions into full-fledged, winning campaigns. But it wasn’t until a few months later when she was inspired by all the social media posts for Breastfeeding Awareness Month (August) that she decided to do something. So she created a petition on care2.com demanding that Amtrak provide lactation facilities at Union Station in D.C.
“Because it’s my job to help other activists, I had a lot of resources at my fingertips that others may not have access to or may not realize they have access to,” she says. “I was able to send out an email to Care2’s members urging them to sign the petition, post to Care2’s Facebook page and get our PR firm to put out a press release.”
But while Kohlmoos had access to some additional internal tools, anyone can create a successful petition on sites like
care2.com—and thousands of people have. Kohlmoos says she got an overwhelming amount of support from lactating working moms.
“I’ve heard countless pumping horror stories since I started the petition,” she says. “One woman told me that the logistical nightmare of figuring out how to pump while traveling by train was so great that she just decided not to go on a trip to New York with her friends.”
She connected with fellow frustrated local mom Samantha Matlin and asked her to start a petition calling for lactation facilities in 30th Street Station.
After gathering more than 50,000 signatures between the two Care2 petitions and getting some press attention from D.C. and Philly outlets, she emailed Amtrak’s communications manager to ask her for a meeting to discuss getting lactation facilities at the two stations. When she didn’t hear back, she invited all of the petition signers to join her in a Twitterstorm targeting Amtrak, which generated more than 2,000 tweets within 24 hours demanding lactation facilities and linking to the petition.
One of Kohlmoos’ colleagues happened to have a connection with Mamava, a company that makes and installs lactation pods in public places, so she requested a meeting. Mamava loved the petition and jumped on board the campaign.
As Kohlmoos was putting pressure on Amtrak to get lactation facilities, Mamava was reaching out to them about placing an order for some pods. And while Amtrak never responded to Kohlmoos and Matlin directly, they did respond to Mamava and told them that they would like to buy some pods—expected to be installed in Philly, Baltimore, Chicago and New York City this year.
It was a fortuitous chain of events, but not an uncommon success story. Viral petitions often lead to media attention and connect the movement with corporations, nonprofits and other influential parties who want to help turn the issue into action.
You don’t have to be a “petition expert” to get the ball rolling—Care2 even offers a free online “activist university” to give you the tools to spread your message and get it into the hands of the right changemakers. Thanks to Kohlmoos and thousands of action moms who shared her petition and spread the word, nursing moms should soon be able to travel with one less inconvenience.