The Tulsa Zoo Welcomes Nursing Moms and Parents with Children with Special Needs


When I had my first child, I expected breastfeeding to be a simple, natural act that I would easily breeze through. Uh, no. That did not happen. Breastfeeding was hard. It hurt. In the beginning, it seemed like it was constant. I felt like a human pacifier most of the time. And the leaking. Ugh. I was assured that things would eventually adjust. They didn’t. One time my breasts suddenly decided to leak all over my shirt in front of a college class that I was teaching. All of my children turned their tiny noses up to bottle and pacifier, and pumping just somehow didn’t work for me, so I was it. Since getting a break from my baby was not happening, I craved being able to get out of the house, go to a restaurant, spend time with friends or just sit in a park. However, any of these activities involved taking whichever little human was attached to me for food at that time. Needless to say, I was often hesitant to go anywhere for fear of discomfort or not having a decent place to feed my baby. Too often, visits anywhere were cut short.

For that reason, I was thrilled to go to the ribbon cutting of the St. John Family Den at the Tulsa Zoo. Coincidentally, the opening happened to be on National Women’s Day.

Thanks to a generous donation from St. John Health System, the St. John Family Den provides a quiet, comfortable space for nursing mothers, a private place for women to pump, a clean and spacious adult changing room, a bathroom with a tiny toilet for toddlers, and a quiet room for parents with children who have sensory issues. They can take their children for a quiet and calming break from all the zoo activity. The Family Den was constructed with input from the Autism Center of Tulsa and the La Leche League.

This morning, the temperature was climbing, the sun was brilliant in a cloudless sky, and families were pouring into the Tulsa Zoo. As I left, a group of moms pushing strollers were enjoying the day, the zoo and each other’s company. One of the zoo volunteers told me that there’s a group of stroller moms who come walk every day. Those moms now have a comfortable place out of the crowds and noise to quietly nurse their babies. Suddenly, the day felt warmer and brighter knowing they have that community support for creating healthy families.

Happy National Women’s Day to all you wonderful moms!

Categories: Editor’s Blog