The mom of four and the founder of local nursing wear clothing company, Latched Mama, Melissa Wirt knows firsthand that breastfeeding can be challenging in the crowded stands at a Flying Squirrels baseball game. “Baseball stadiums are hard for breastfeeding moms because it’s sometimes hot and loud. People are beside you and above you,” she says.
After hearing from some moms advocating for an area that offered privacy, Wirt decided to come up with a plan for a nursing area at The Diamond, home of the Richmond Flying Squirrels. She had experience making life easier for new moms. “We were built on the fact that we want to help other moms,” says Wirt of the company she started in 2014 after the birth of her second son. “Latched Mama itself is a labor of love.”
This February was the right time for her to approach the Flying Squirrels with her idea for the Latched Mama Nursing Nest. “I explained why this type of area was important,” she says, noting she breastfed halfway through her meeting with team management. “I originally asked for a storage room, but the Squirrels found a good place in the back of the store.”
Flying Squirrels General Manager Ben Rothrock was immediately interested in Wirt’s idea, emphasizing that women should know they are always welcome to breastfeed their babies anywhere in the facility. “We support mothers and their right to breastfeed wherever they choose. This is just one option for those who want a private space with amenities, such as a couch and changing station,” he says. “Many things went into finding the perfect space. We went with what the facility lent itself to.”
Latched Mama handled the design and renovations. The Flying Squirrels cleared out the area and Wirt went in with her contractors, 89 Paint, and Sweet September Lane, who crafts custom signs.
“What is really cool about this area is the definite sense of community at the game. What a lot of other stadiums are adding is the single-person breastfeeding pod. Breastfeeding can be isolating, so it’s nice not to be in a single-person pod,” Wirt says. “In this area, you can talk with other moms about the game, about kids, about whatever.”
The Latched Mama Nursing Nest consists of a common room that has two chairs and a preschool play table with coloring sheets and crayons for older children, a private nursing room with a glider and bench for moms who prefer more privacy, and a 2-stall restroom with a diaper-changing table. The area also has outlets throughout the room, a mini-fridge, and an audio stream to keep up with the game. The Nursing Nest can accommodate six to ten moms at a time.
The soft pink and grey tones throughout the space are light, whimsical, and calming. The private nursing room is decorated with printed pictures of the Rockford Peaches, an all-female professional baseball team which served as the inspiration for the 1992 film A League of Their Own. One of the walls in the suite also sports a hand-painted quote from the legendary MLB catcher, manager, and coach, Yogi Berra.
“We tried to mix in baseball, but make it fun and feminine as well,” Wirt says.
The Nest was available to mothers on opening day this season. “It’s an outstanding space. They really took it under their wing and did a fantastic job. We’ve heard a lot of positive feedback,” Rothrock says. “They went beyond our expectations.”
The new space is “Latch Mama’s gift to Richmond,” Wirt says.