Introducing Mamava's Pumpcast

Hey mamas! What happens when two hard-hitting sales executives get ready to leave for maternity leave? Tune in each Wednesday to our #pumpday pumpcast to find out!

 

Each week we’ll offer insights into the realities and challenges of two working moms---through pregnancy, breastfeeding, pumping, maternity leave, and beyond.  

 

They’ll share their experiences being preggers and let us know what they’re missing out on (hint: it’s not just the cured meats).  

 

We’ll also hear about the stuff that no one’s talking about… like what they’re doing to prepare for maternity leave, how to deal with their new pump bra, and what to  do when lightning crotch hits.

 

Real mamas keeping it real. Join us every Wednesday for #pumpday!

The lady doth protest too much, methinx: 4 Things Every Start-Up Needs

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 4.23.22 PM.png

The rise and fall of Miki Agrawal, the founder and CEO of the women-founded, feminist-branded company Thinx, is causing a stir in the business world, but for all the wrong reasons. In “What A Start-Up’s Scandal Says About Your Workplace,” (March 23, New York Times) Miya Tokumitsu describes Agrawal’s fall as all but inevitable because it exposes what she calls the “myth” that making a profit can be compatible with social justice. But the story of Thinx has nothing do with being a socially conscious start-up and everything to do with how you treat your employees, vendors, and other partners. In other words, it’s not Agrawal’s start-up status or social justice mission that caused her downfall: it was just bad business.

 

Start-ups differ from traditional companies for how they shift culture and solve problems through disruptive innovation, but they still require the same best practices of any business to be sustainable. As the feminist CEO and co-founder of another women-founded, women-owned and run category creating start-up, Mamava, I know first hand that a business needs a strong mission, a clear vision, and a comprehensive strategy to succeed. Here are four essential things every start-up needs:

 

1) An employee manual and mission-aligned benefits on day one

Before my co-founder and I hired our first employees in 2015 we wrote an employee manual and put our benefits package in place. As a company committed to ensuring that breastfeeding/ pumping women have a dignified place to pump whether at work or out in the world, we deliberately aligned our policies with our mission to include health insurance and 12-week maternity leave at full pay. With two of our ten full-time employees expecting babies in May, this was not a hypothetical gesture.

 

2) A creative and flexible work culture

We value a flexible family-friendly schedule, including “Thoughtful Thursdays” where employees work from home on projects that require deep thinking. And we do get a lot of work done from home, but it also gives employees time to take care of appointments, attend a parent teacher conference, or just not have to commute one day a week.

 

3) Employee stock options

Every full time employee participates in our incentive stock option program. As a result, our employees have ownership in our company and are invested in both our mission and our success.

 

4) Transparency

We became a certified B Corp because we value the highest standards of transparency, sustainability, and accountability. Like the best mission driven companies our brand values do not stop at the office. We worked hard to bring our manufacturing back to Vermont (from Rhode Island). This means that our lactation suites are not only made in America, but they also support our local state economy. And because we value a close and collaborative relationship with all our vendors, we spend a couple of days every quarter working in the factory so that we can see first hand how (and by whom) the suites are made, packaged, and shipped.

 

We’ve learned a lot in the last year and a half about the challenges of being a start-up company. But our success is a testament to our unwavering belief that it is possible to do well by doing good. Your company will succeed when you do what’s right for your employees… and if you can’t afford to do the right thing, then your business isn’t truly viable or sustainable.

Traveling, Pumping, and the Dreaded Nursing Strike

Tabitha.jpg

 

This blog post is from one of our #MamavaMonday mamas, Tabitha Allen, who shared her adventures in pumping:

 

Friday morning we arrived in Madrid from Boston and got a hotel to relax before our next flight to Venice. It was our first vacation away from our 4-month old daughter who's breastfeeding—except during the day when my husband bottle feeds her my breast milk. So I packed my pump, but when I plugged it into the Madrid outlet, it began smoking. Thankfully I had a plan B and had brought a manual pump as back-up. I ended up using it for the rest of our vacation.

 

We walked the streets of Venice for more than 12 hours every day and I continued to pump as if I were feeding our daughter. I felt a strong sense of responsibility and love for breastfeeding, so I did not want anything to go wrong when I returned to her. On eight hour flights I pumped in the plane bathroom.

 

Here is the kicker: we returned home in the middle of the night after being away for five days and after that first late night feeding my daughter went on a nursing strike. Yes, this is real.

 

I was unsure why all my hard work from pumping on our short vacation was failing until I did research and saw all the forums telling me about a nursing strike. I was so hurt, emotional, frustrated, and angry that I'd left her too soon. I felt guilty that by leaving her I'd destroyed the most precious bond we had together.

 

My husband was very understanding and supportive, reassuring me that I had kept our daughter alive for the first four months of her life with my breast milk. I would feed when I was home and my husband fed her during the day when I was at work, so as a family we had the connection that Bethany described. I hadn't realized the bond I had with her meant so much until I started losing it.

 

The thought of buying formula to supplement was devastating to me. People kept telling me to keep trying and maybe she would start again. I began to lose hope and accept this new change and my new role as a bottle feeder. But last night an opportunity arose for me to try to breastfeed while my husband warmed a bottle and she latched--finally my prayers were answered. My husband came upstairs to find me breastfeeding our daughter and we gathered together in her quiet dark baby room watching her touch my face with her little hand.

 

I had treasured these moments since she was born, but had been missing them all week. I kissed her little hand, grateful for this moment with her as my husband stood and watched us. After I laid her back down in her crib we hugged each other in silence holding this moment in our hearts. 
 

This morning before leaving for work she breastfed again and I thought my day was complete, until I was pumping at work and reading Bethany's post.  I had not been able to pump more than three ounces all week and as I read her story I truly felt as if I had been living it. When I was done reading I looked down and I had pumped five ounces. I was overwhelmed with joy and knew I had to share this story with you.

 

I don't know if my little girl is completely back to breastfeeding, but I do know that I stayed determined during this struggle with the help of my husband. The bond that I formed breastfeeding my daughter has left me with a love for her so strong that even the thought of supplementing cannot break it. To the other moms who are breastfeeding, supplementing, and formula feeding, know that your babies will grow and change in many ways and taking them out of a normal routine may alter your schedule.  Be prepared to change with them and be patient because all you need is love.

 

If you’re a #breastfeeding mama (or know a fierce #breastfeeding mama), let us know & we’d love to share your story in our #MamavaMonday series--contact us via DM☺

The Future Is Female And So Was The Past: Women, Work, and Labor

2014_rosie_the_riveter_flexing_her_arm_muscles_we_can_do_it.jpeg

 

Mamava celebrates women every day of the year, but we get especially pumped for March because it’s Women’s History month. So imagine how excited we were to learn that the theme for the 2017 National Women’s History Project was “trailblazing women in labor and business.”  Labor and business! Hello?!

 

The National Women’s History Project celebrates labor in terms of, well, labor. Our fore-mothers include women like Kate Mullany, who formed the first all-women union to improve working conditions at the Troy Collar Factory in 1846. And Norma Yaeger who was the first woman stockbroker on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange...ever. And that was in the 1960s.  And even more recently, Lilly Ledbetter, an advocate for wage parity and the force behind the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. These women paved the way for all of us to be here today.

 

But because we’re a company dedicated to supporting new moms, we’re also inspired by the other meaning of the word labor--and that’s the labor of birth. Like Valerie Kaur’s powerful message about breathing through-- and pushing into--the space of revolutionary love, a space that all mamas know well.

We love laboring on behalf of mamas to ensure that those who choose to breastfeed have the support and resources they need to succeed. Our mission is to ensure that mamas have clean and dignified spaces to pump both at work and wherever they go.

 

Supporting mamas is the easy part; the hard part is changing culture.

 

Today women make up half of the workforce, but still make less money than their male counterparts for the same work. Racial and gendered discrimination continue to affect too many women on a daily basis. While we’ve certainly come a long way, when it comes to labor and working conditions for women workplaces are still not equal playing fields.

 

There’s a powerful scene in Hidden Figures when Taraji P. Hensen’s character runs across the Langley campus to use the only designated bathroom for African American women. On one of these runs she returns soaking wet from rain and has to account for her whereabouts to her angry boss (played by Kevin Costner).

It’s only after she explains where she’s been that he finally realizes that the workplace is structured by both gender and racial privilege (invisible to him as a white man until it’s pointed out by a black woman). Costner’s character then takes a crowbar to the “Colored” bathroom sign, thus putting an end to at least one local form of discrimination.

 

Authentic cultural change takes a long time, but sometimes a small potent gesture--like eliminating segregated bathrooms--can go a long way towards improving material conditions for everyday women.

 

New mamas are a powerful reminder that notions of the “ideal worker” continue to assume that male employees are the norm. We see this reflected in work environments that haven’t yet made accommodations for breastfeeding women.

 

When breastfeeding moms return to work, they need the time and space to pump so they can continue to produce milk. But they also need a workplace that demonstrates respect for women’s choices about how best to feed their children by making sure that mamas have a quiet and dignified space to pump. Mamas are everywhere and mamas go everywhere, so we need workplaces that support the needs of all bodies and all employees.

 

We’re thankful for all the trailblazing women who came before us. From demanding safer working conditions to claiming the right to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with male peers, these women identified a problem, mobilized to solve it, and challenged expectations about what women could do and what women could be. 


That’s cultural change we can get behind. And to all the mamas out there, we’ve got your front!