Chicago hotel offers amenity for nursing moms

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CHICAGO -- Nursing mothers can now get more than a room key when they check into the Hard Rock Hotel Chicago.

In what may be a first, the Michigan Avenue hotel last week began offering a Nursing Mothers Amenity Program, which provides on-the-go moms with a hospital-grade breast pump and the accessories to go with it.

The $30 package includes storage bags for the milk, products to clean the pump parts and disposable bra pads. They're not quite as luxurious as other hotel amenities -- iPod docking stations, minibars and yoga mats -- but hotel officials think they will be appreciated by a certain traveler.

"We have a lot of business travelers, and many of them are women. If we can make it easier for women, we just want to help them," said Carrie Meghie, general manager of the Hard Rock Hotel Chicago, who thought of the idea after pumping milk for her son. "It is so hard to get a refrigerator in a hotel. The minibar isn't the right temperature. I have experience where I lost breast milk, and it is heartbreaking."

The hotel rooms will have refrigerators to store the milk and a microwave to steam clean the pump parts. The hotel's concierges are trained on the proper way to ship breast milk.

The program launched Mother's Day. The fee for the nursing package will go to a local nonprofit, the Jackson Chance Foundation, which supports Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.

"We did some research, and I was amazed there was no other hotel we could find ever to have done something like this," Ms. Meghie said.

Medela, a McHenry, Ill.-based company that specializes in breast pumps and breast-feeding accessories, donated a breast pump and supplies, and has committed to donating more pumps.

It is the first hotel partnership for the company, said Medela spokeswoman Claudette Yasell.

Anitra Johnson, a nursing mother who lives in North Carolina, recently traveled to Chicago for business and brought all the supplies with her to pump milk for her 10-month-old twin boys. She requested a refrigerator when she checked in at her hotel.

"This would have been so helpful," said Ms. Johnson, 36. "You can carry less with you when you are traveling."

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