Before the 2023 United Airlines NYC Half Marathon, Bridget Cheung wondered how she’d navigate feeding her baby on race day. As a longtime runner, the new mom was excited to return to the sport she loves, but she worried about the logistics of nursing before and after running 13.1 miles through the city. 

Cheung’s concerns were put to rest when she discovered the &Mother lactation tents located at the start, along the course and near the finish line. In one of her first races postpartum, the New Jersey runner finished in 1:31:37. 

“You have no idea how appreciative I am to have a space before and after the race to nurse and not have to feel anxious while running today,” Cheung said later in the lactation tent. 

Cheung’s experience is one of many examples that demonstrate the importance of organizations prioritizing the needs of mothers and caregivers. Since November 2022, &Mother has partnered with New York Road Runners (NYRR) to provide lactation stations at the TCS NYC Marathon, the United Airlines Half Marathon and the Brooklyn Half Marathon. In total, over 125 women have used the resource on race day. 

&Mother is a nonprofit organization dedicated to breaking the barriers that limit a woman’s choice to pursue and thrive in both career and motherhood. For many women, this includes the ability to continue participating in sports — and creating supportive infrastructure is critical to their experience. &Mother also recognizes that athletics is a demonstration space for the rest of society. So, if lactation stations and childcare can be provided at road races, then other workplace leaders can see the benefit for their employees. 

“We envision a society at a gender parity that is healthier and more productive because it values the contributions of women, with or without children,” explains Alysia Montaño, Olympian and president and founder of &Mother, who says that in 10 years she envisioned a culture where motherhood is not a limiting factor in how women succeed professionally or personally and where women can openly express their needs and receive support without retribution. 

“We envision a working world where mothers are supported as leaders and sought after as employees,” Montaño adds. “Where the value of mothers in the workforce has become intrinsic such that structural norms facilitate the needs of the modern family.”

The Run Specialty Opportunity

The run specialty and event business should pay attention to the benefits and opportunities in partnering with an organization such as &Mother.

Running event organizers have a major opportunity to provide supportive spaces that not only welcome mothers and caregivers, but also enables them to show up as their best selves. &Mother offers in-person and virtual consulting services that help guide event organizers on best practices for race deferral language, lactation spaces, caregiver lounges and childcare — all components that create a more inclusive race experience for mothers and parents.

&Mother has coached race organizers at a number of events over the last year, including:

• The 2022 USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships, where all athletes, coaches and event staff enjoyed childcare and lactation stations.

• The 2022 TCS NYC Marathon, 2023 United Airlines Half Marathon and 2023 Brooklyn Half Marathon, where runners utilized lactation stations along the course. 

• The 2023 5K and 10K in Santa Cruz, CA, where participants used lactation stations and the first ever caregivers lounge. 

In early October, the organization also provided free childcare and lactation spaces to the mothers participating in the Women’s Sports Foundation Annual Salute — &Mother’s first activation at a non-race event. For the moms and caregivers in attendance, these services helped them feel welcome while celebrating the many milestones in women’s sports that year. 

“It is support like this that helps keep working moms confident that they can stay on the ice, field, and/or in the boardroom,” points out Kendall Coyne, a professional hockey player and new mom. 

Getting Involved With Moms

To drive event participation and demonstrate true support to mothers, brands, race organizers and running stores can work with &Mother to create supportive infrastructure at races and related events, including educational events focused on maternal wellness topics that help mothers continue or return to running. Feedback from moms and caregivers shows this is much needed.

Thanks in part to the passage of Title IX 51 years ago, the current generation of women who are becoming mothers has participated in sports since childhood and they do not want to give up their athletic pursuits because they are becoming mothers. Of the over 500 people surveyed by &Mother in the last year:

• 97 percent would prefer to support a race that provides lactation support, even if they do not personally need to use the service.

• 88 percent would prefer to support a race that provides childcare options, even if they do not personally need to use the service.

&Mother’s in-person or virtual consulting services include a customized event standardization playbook, which provides recommendations for event provisions, including, but not limited to, lactation stations, breast milk storage and transportation, caregiver lounges, family support, deferral language (including pregnancy and postpartum) and childcare. These standards can also be implemented at running or outdoor industry events, as &Mother demonstrated when they consulted with The Running Event in Austin, TX, last year on how to set up lactation spaces for brand representatives and attendees that are lactating. 

&Mother’s Changemaker Grants also provide a platform where brands can align themselves with professional mom athletes that have the potential to reach or return to pinnacle performance if they had basic support needs met, such as paid maternity leave and access to affordable childcare. Brands can help bridge the monetary gap these athletes’ experience and commit themselves to contract language that protects sponsored athletes throughout their maternity journey. 

In a partnership with &Mother, running industry leaders can create an inclusive environment that supports and celebrates the accomplishments of mothers and caregivers.