How Breastpumping Inspired Me to Quit my Job and Launch my own Business!
Welcome Carnival of Breastfeeding Readers!
When I found out I was pregnant with my first child at 38, a good friend of mine asked me if I was going to pump. I looked at her quizzically and asked, “Why would I need to?” She went on to tell me that she and her husband had chosen to pump primarily so that he could feed the baby and therefore bond with her as she was.
That night, I talked to my husband about it. My husband, Mike, is one of the most endearingly sensitive men I have ever met. He cried when he said his vows at our wedding, he cried when our daughters were born and he cried when he kissed my belly for our pregnancy photos. He said the pumping sounded like a good idea. (All this and he rides a Harley too!)
After our daughter was born and we waited the recommended 4-6 weeks before introducing a bottle, I sat down at the kitchen table and stuck these plastic funnel doo-hickeys on my breasts and lo and behold, the milk started flowing into the bottles! Who knew? And needless to say, Mike cried the first time he fed each of our daughters.
When I started to pump on a daily basis, I experimented with various positions and locations around the house. I leaned-up against the kitchen table to try to pin the horns between my body and the table so that I could at least turn the pages in a magazine, however it didn’t work too well - I couldn’t turn the pages (even with my elbows) and it was pretty uncomfortable. I tried to simply hold the horns with my hands, however, my Carpal Tunnel Syndrome caused them to go numb and ache within a few minutes.
So I plunked myself down in front of my computer and Googled “pump hands-free”. I found a handful of products, all of which were expensive, fiddly and “less than attractive” (insert eye roll here). Why is it, that when we become a mom, it is assumed that we no longer have any style?
I let the idea stew in the back of my mind for a week or so, and then I decided to try to construct something on my sewing machine that would hold the horns for me.
Three years of research and development later, my website selling PumpEase™ hands-free pumping supports went live! I now have the freedom to stay at home with my two girls (3-1/2 years and 17 months) and be a WAHM and entrepreneur. Equally as important to me is knowing that I am helping pumping moms everywhere to pump with style and comfort, to pump pain-free, to extend their nursing relationships with their babies and to make much-needed donations to breast milk banks.
Be sure to check out these great posts from our blogging friends:
Raising Baby Bee writes about pumping at work (and shares a great ‘do not disturb’ sign).
On January 27th of this year we participated in our very first consumer trade show - Westcoast Moms’ Vancouver’s Largest Baby Shower. It was a ton of fun, we made a lot of great new contacts and PumpEase™ hands-free pumping supports were very well-received.
We interrupt this blog post for a very important message: A big thank you to my hubby for staying up until 3 am with me the night before! Those “little” give-aways take a long time to make! And also to my bff Lorelei for riding shotgun the day of. We now return to our regularly scheduled blog post.
The morning of the show, I woke-up to 2 feet of snow here in Coquitlam (the show was in East Vancouver - about a 30 minute drive west). Now some of you might be thinking, “Two feet of snow….big deal!” However, if you are saying that, I would guess that YOU don’t live here in the lower mainland where a mere dusting of snow causes sheer panic and chaos. We never get snow = people don’t know how to drive in snow = sheer panic and chaos.
I had to work really hard not to let all the negative thoughts into my head… a much harder task when you’ve only had 3-1/2 hours of sleep!
no one is going to show-up
we’re going to get into an accident on the way there and there will be pumping supports strewn all over the freeway
Lorelei, my bff, won’t make it to ride shotgun (Lorelei doesn’t like to drive in the best of weather, let alone snow!)
Well positive thinking prevailed once again: it was sunny with absolutely no trace of snow in East Vancouver, the people were lined-up around Heritage Hall to get in and Lorelei beat me there!
The Westcoast Moms Baby Shower format is primarily targeted to first-time parents, most of which are still expecting. I have a display on my table at trade shows: a woman’s torso with a nursing bra, a PumpEase™ hands-free pumping support and breast pump horns - pretty much the works. It always cracks me up watching the expressions of people, especially the “Dads to Be” as they walk past my display. It ranges from giggles and nervous laughter, to disbelief and shock, to pure and utter horror. If I get the chance, I always make light of the display and make a point to assure the Mom or Dad-to-be that after experiencing the miracle of childbirth, a breast pumping display is “old hat”. “You’ll get over it!”, I say to them with a big smile on my face (it is so true)!
So Lorelei and I notice Shaw Cable making their rounds at the show. Bianca and her cameraman approach me because of the display. She said it was a “good visual”. Well the rest is history. Watch the clip below.
Here at Snugabell™ we have just gone through the onerous task of re-branding our product. We thought we had the perfect name: Mike & Toni’s hands-free pumping supports. Then we started to get feedback from people indicating that they were confused by the masculine-sounding names for a product that was targeted primarily to women. Moms of boys also didn’t like the pink colour on the packaging. I was selling to women, so I thought pink would work. Apparently I was wrong…. I had girls….. so shoot me!
For the record, Mike and Toni are our two darling daughters, Michaela and Antonia, 1 and 3 years old respectively.
Because our whole approach is one of lighthearted humour, we wanted a lighthearted name. As I’ve mentioned before, we feel people are WAY too serious about the most natural thing we can do for our babies - feed them as nature intended.
We tried to have a focus group to brainstorm a new name, however it was a scheduling nightmare. Most of the members of my target market were too busy (with their families) to attend. I thought a Facebook Group would work……but not much happened there - people joined, but didn’t really discuss…hmmmm. So we turned to our old friend Survey Monkey. We LOVE Survey Monkey yes-indeedy-do! We got a fantastic response to our itty-bitty survey. Thank you so much to everyone that participated!
I would like to share some of the suggestions we got for naming the pumping support. I’ve never laughed so hard! I was once again reminded that I know some wonderfully creative people! And for the record, I REALLY wanted to use Boob Tube - thank you Kim!
Here are some of my faves: Titty Taps, Deliver-Eze, Meloneez (too bad my name wasn’t Melanie), Juggies, Plug ’n’ Play, Milk-a-Matic, Mammy Milker, Num Nums, Nummies, Pump’ems, Suckies…..you get the idea.
And I know you can’t make everyone happy. There is ALWAYS going to be someone who doesn’t like the name. And there is ALWAYS going to be someone that you offend. Oh well, it’s good for press!
Did you know in the 1970’s there were as many as 23 milk banks in Canada? In the 80’s however, fears of HIV transmissions led to the closure of all but the Vancouver bank, located at BC Women’s Hospital.
Breast milk banks - there are currently 10 in the United States as well - provide supplies to mothers who cannot produce enough milk or are not able to produce their own due to illness or being on medication. Banks are also used by parents of adopted and foster children.
Many Canadian communities are pleading for more milk banks to be opened, however few hospitals are willing to supply the required funding and resources and the government isn’t stepping up to the plate to help (surprise, surprise).
Here at Mike & Toni’s™, we are committed to raising awareness around the need for donations (both breast milk and monetary) through our website, blog J and promotional materials. And of course we will talk about it with everyone we meet!
We will also donate at least 1% of our profits to the BC Women’s Milk Bank to assist mothers and babies in need.
How can you help? If you are nursing and have an abundance of milk, please consider donating! If you are in the Greater Vancouver area, they will even come to pick it up. Then they pasteurize, test, freeze and ship it out to those in need. Of course, you can use your Mike & Toni’s™ hands-free pumping support while collecting the milk!
If you can’t help with a milk donation, you can help by donating monetarily. Currently the milk bank cannot pay for the inward shipping of donations outside of their cachement. A donation could help to change this!
For more information, you can visit the Human Milk Banking Association of North America at www.hmbana.org. Our very own Frances Jones, Coordinator of the Vancouver Bank, is the Chairperson of the Board. It is actually a pretty interesting read!
You can also find information about the Vancouver Bank here.
Thank you for your support (pun most definitely intended)!