December 17th, 2010 • Comments: 0 • by Wendy • Breast is BestPumping

An Interview with Jen - a Mom's Bumpy Road to Exclusively Pumping and PIP!

The following is an interview with Jen from Life With Levi. Jen bought a PumpEase from us a couple of months ago and so loved it that she contacted us to pitch an idea to PIP (pump in public) on Black Friday, take pictures and blog about it! We were SOOO game! So we sent her a complimentary PumpEase (so that she had one for work and one for home) and sat back and watched her go! Jen then told us she also wanted to review PumpEase which we were also thrilled about. And as you can see, er... read, she wrote an honest, thorough and detailed review! Keep your eyes on Jen - she is an exclusively pumping mom with lots of experiences to share!

OK, now for the interview...

Wendy:  When did you know that you wanted to breastfeed your baby?

Jen:  I always planned on breastfeeding. I guess I didn't really consider that there were other options. I mean, I know formula exists, but I've always thought of formula as Plan B, not Plan A.

Wendy:  How were the early days of breastfeeding for you and your son?nipple shield

Jen:  They were a struggle from the beginning. At the hospital, I had a lactation consultant visit to help me. She recommended using a nipple shield, since I apparently have a flat nipple (This was news to me, but it's true. Amazing what you learn about your body when breastfeeding!). Even with the nipple shield, breastfeeding was a struggle. I went back to see the lactation consultant a week later - she told me part of our issue was my letdown, and that I should try pumping a bit before breastfeeding so that the milk was already flowing when Levi latched on. Trying to manage pumping, getting a nipple shield in place, and a squirming, crying newborn was tough, and it only worked partially for us. I was lucky if I could get Levi to feed for more than 5 or 10 minutes at a time. After we both got frustrated, I would switch to pumping, then bottle feed him the pumped milk. I wanted to keep our breastfeeding relationship going, but I also wanted to make sure he got enough to eat when he was hungry, and that's what worked for us.

Wendy:  How were the early days of pumping? How was your letdown? Finding the time to pump? Was it hard to pump enough milk?

Jen:  Pumping for me was an emotional experience in the early days. I would cry while pumping, because I felt like a failure that I wasn't breastfeeding the "normal" way. It was both a relief and a chore - the pump didn't have latch issues or pull away from my breast, but it did take time. As a sleepless, exhausted new mom, it was a tough cycle - trying to find time to pump with everything else going on was really hard. Once I started pumping, though, I had absolutely no trouble maintaining my supply. In fact, I probably have an oversupply of milk now thanks to all the pumping I did in the early days and continue to do now.

Wendy:  What brand/model of pump do you use? Do you rent or own?

Jen:  I own two breast pumps currently - a Playtex Embrace that I bought while I was still pregnant, and a Medela Pump In Style that I bought to keep at work when I returned after maternity leave. I also have two sets of parts for each pump, so I can still have another to use when one set is drying.

Wendy:  What led to you pumping exclusively?

Jen:  Long story short - I developed a breast abscess that required surgical drainage when Levi was only a couple weeks old. It was too painful to try to breastfeed, but I had to keep expressing milk or the infection could get worse, so pumping was really my only option. I wound up needing two surgeries and a 4-day hospital stay to clear the infection. By the time everything was healed up, two months had gone by and I was already used to exclusive pumping.

Wendy:  How long after giving birth did you return to work? How did you prepare for this transition? Did you build a stash? Talk to your boss? 

freezer stashJen:  I went back to work after 12 wonderful weeks of maternity leave. I had burned through all of my freezer stash when I was recovering from surgery, but thankfully was able to build up a new stash before I went back to work. I work for a global company in a relatively small office (about 30 people). I made sure to research my legal rights before returning to work, and my boss knew I was breastfeeding, but I didn't talk to her specifically about logistics until I started back. (If I could do it again, I would definitely have this conversation in advance.) Luckily, she had no issues with it, and just let me do what I needed to.

Wendy:  Did you always have your "pumping cave" or did you have to fight for a private place to pump?

Jen:  I'm definitely spoiled when it comes to my "pumping cave". I've had it from day one. I assumed that would be the setup when I returned from work, but wasn't sure until I spoke with HR. For those that are wondering, my pumping cave is a private office on a vacant side of the building that's for my exclusive pumping use. Technically, our company doesn't lease that side of the building, so it's not something that will always be available to people in my company. Most of the women in my office are past menopause, so I think HR just handled this on a case-by-case basis. I know I'm blessed, because I've worked for companies that don't have space set aside for moms who pump, and I've heard stories of women who have to fight with their bosses to get ample time or adequate private space to pump.

Wendy:  What has been the hardest thing about pumping? The most rewarding?

Jen:  The middle of the night pumping sessions are the hardest. All I want to do is sleep, but instead I'm up and pumping. I've started going longer between nighttime pumping sessions, but wake up engorged and uncomfortable. Plus, going longer between pumping sessions is a slippery slope - I find myself pumping every 4 or 5 hours instead of every 3 more often now, especially at work.

I almost hate to admit this, but the most rewarding thing for me right now is how much I'm not spending on formula. Yes, I'm feeding my son the perfectfood, I'm lowering my risk factor for breast cancer, etc... those are all things that I love, but I guess I kind of take them for granted at this point. But my bank account is something I keep a close eye on, and knowing I don't have to budget for formula is a huge relief.

Wendy:  What surprised you the most about pumping? About breastfeeding?

Jen:  It's super easy once you get the hang of it. I just realized I've been doing this for almost 4 months now, and show no signs of stopping. My supply has leveled out. I no longer leak through all my shirts. Pumping is relatively easy to work into my schedule, and I find I enjoy pumping as a bit of "quiet me time" now.

Jen from @LifeWithLevi - PIP!Jen from @LifeWithLevi - PiP!All done!

Wendy:  How did you come up with the idea to try pumping while shopping on Black Friday? At any point during the day, did you ask yourself, "WHAT am I doing????"

Jen:  Several times, actually! LOL. Neccessity is the mother of invention, right? I refused to miss out on Black Friday shopping, and I also refused to skip a pumping session, since engorgement sucks. So I decided to do both. I live in Minnesota, and pumping in the car would be cold and uncomfortable, so I decided I'd just bring my pump in with me. I use my PumpEase while pumping for everything else (folding clothes, catching up on Twitter, reading a magazine), so why not give it a go for shopping?

Wendy:  How did you feel after you accomplished your goal of PIP (pumping in public)? Did you feel like a super hero? Were you surprised? Did you think, "What's next?"

Jen:  It was awesome! I was surprised just how easy it was. I even had a lady give me a thumbs up when she saw my Medela pump bag (I'm guessing she recognized it, because she looked at my chest next and gave me a knowing smile). Now that I know just how well my PumpEase holds up, I'd love to try out pumping and doing other things. I'm somewhat holding off until I find a more portable pump to use, though. I'm not super modest, but I would prefer something that doesn't stick out six inches from my chest.

Thank you LOADS Jen for agreeing to this interview. I believe that moms need to TALK MORE about the fact that breastfeeding and pumping are NOT always easy in the beginning, but that it DOES get better! I am inspired by your journey and look forward to hearing more as you continue down the path of exclusively pumping for your son.

So, how was breastfeeding for YOU in the early days? What about pumping? Looking back, what one thing did you wish you had known before you had your baby? By sharing your experiences, as Jen just did, you will be helping countless other moms, present and future, beat the Booby Traps!

{Photo credit: Jen / Life with Levi}

November 24th, 2010 • Comments: 0 • by Wendy • About this Blog & MeCustomer ServiceInside SnugabellPumping

PumpEase - Not Just Another Pretty Face

PumpEase features a 3-row hook & eye closure

The other day, while in the shower (I do all my best thinking in the shower and the car), I was pondering our slogan (which we love):  "...because women like pretty things EVEN when they're pumping!™" and then I had this horrible thought, "Oh my gosh... I hope people don't think PumpEase is "just another pretty face"!"

You see, we're always talking about how we're the ONLY fashionable hands-free pumping bra (and now of course we're also offering the ONLY organic hands-free pumping bra), but I wondered... do the moms out there realize that when we designed PumpEase, the functionality was right up there in importance with the aesthetic?

After all, if you try on that fabulous Dior dress and it fits like hell, then what's the point? I for one, do not believe in being a "fashion victim". I wear fabulous shoes, but they fit well and are comfortable. Some of them are even pieces of art. (Yes, these shoes do exist!) But I digress...

As you may or may not know, I have over 15 years experience in the apparel and sewn products industries (aka the fashion industry) including designing and manufacturing a women's sportswear line, providing CAD pattern management services (pattern making, grading, marking, technical specificiations) to other manufacturers, custom design and teaching fashion courses at the post secondary level.

This reminded me of something that I used to tell my starry-eyed fashion design students in drafting and construction (sewing) class. Often the "design-oriented" students had no use for drafting and construction class (they thought it was boooooring) and so I found myself saying, "A pattern is like the foundation of a building. If you don't draft a solid foundation, your design will crumble."  In other words, anyone can sketch a glorious dress, amazing suit or other fabulous garment, but if it is impossible to create either via flat pattern drafting or draping, or if it is too expensive to produce for the mass market, then you have nothing. Nothing. Well, you have a sketch...

These students figured they could just hire a pattern maker to execute their designs. Well yes and no. In order for a patternmaker to successfully bring a design to life, the designer needs to have a firm understanding of the fundamentals (and limitations) of pattern making, garment construction and mass production. And honestly, although there are a lot of pattern makers out there, a good pattern maker is hard to find. I can't tell you how many times we've received patterns for grading (that were drafted by someone else) that were just... ummm... BAD. Cringe-worthy even! And believe it or not, many of them came from brand name companies! The lightbulb surely went on the next time we were in a "better" store and we tried something on that just felt weird - the sleeve cap was glued to our upper arm or the pants had "hungry bum" - it all made sense now. It was concrete evidence of bad design and it can happen in any market.

So when it came time to create our hands-free pumping bra, there were a few things that were non-negotiable...

1.  It had to be pretty :: you're already aware of this one. Does it matter you ask? Considering the $9.6 billion US lingerie industry in which over 80% of purchases are made by women, I would say it does! The postpartum period is certainly not the sexiest time of a woman's life, so why not spice it up a bit with something fun?

PumpEase works with all sizes of breast pump flanges

2.  It had to accommodate ALL makes and models of breast pump flanges on the market :: we have yet to find a breast pump that doesn't work with PumpEase. We even tried the larger-than-average Simplisse flanges at the ABC Show in Las Vegas last month and yes, they fit too! Our "no-stitch" horn openings are at the heart of our design. It's simple really. Even if you use a stretch fabric, if you finish the fabric with thread, even stretchy thread, the fabric won't stretch as much anymore. Have you ever inadvertently pulled on a garment and heard the "snap, snap, snap" of threads breaking? Go ahead, hook your hands inside the openings and stretch them. Stretch them hard. They are built to last and will always return to their original shape.

3.  The closure had to be adjustable :: let's face the facts: nursing moms have fuller and less-full days. Aside from our fabulous fabric that is super stretchy and has incredible memory (i.e. it doesn't "bag out" after use like cotton/spandex can), PumpEase has a 3-row hook & eye closure for another 1-1/4" of adjustment.

4.  The closure had to be user-friendly :: it's a no-brainer that we chose hook & eye. I don't know about you, but I can do up my bra in the dark and behind my back, sometimes even with a martini or two under my belt ;-) So when a new mom is hormonal, sleep-deprived and gets up in the middle of the night to pump, she will be able to don and doff a PumpEase with ease.

5.  It had to be of EXCEPTIONAL QUALITY :: our fabric is one of the best technical fabrics out there. Quite frankly, it is expensive and although we could buy cheaper we don't, because YOU are worth it. It is also super-soft, wicks moisture away and is easy to care for and yes, YOU deserve it. PumpEase is Made in Canada and we are so very proud of that. Our manufacturer, that we have worked with since Day 1, is top-notch, however even after the goods come out of the factory, our Quality Control team goes over each and every PumpEase one more time before packaging them. Our return rate for BOTH sizing and warranty issues is less than 1%.PumpEase - quality detail

6.  It had to fit the majority of our market :: via our four sizes - S/M/L/XL - PumpEase fits moms from 32AA to 48H (a size range into which over 90% of women fall into). We developed our sizing using ASTM standards for body measurements, with a strong focus on the bust point measurement, which varies as much from woman to woman as the bust measurement itself. PumpEase fits moms with bust points that measure from about 4 to 11" (that's the measurement from nipple to nipple). Just to put this into context, the very first horizontal line that a pattern maker drafts is based on the bust measurement. In fact the bust point calculation itself is based on the bust measurement, and therefore this is pretty much the foundation of the whole draft. If you make an error at this point, the whole draft will be wrong. So bust point is very important in apparel in general, and even doubly so when you are inserting breast pump flanges into your pumping bra and the openings need to line-up with your nipples.

And then of course, we musn't forget that Dr Sears says that the bold colours and prints of PumpEase are better for your baby. It just goes to show that you should never judge a book by its cover...

Have you ever been skeptical of a product because it looked "too good" for the price?  You thought it wouldn't work/wouldn't fit/would be uncomfortable? Please do tell us about it below...

{Photo credit: Ameda}

October 26th, 2010 • Comments: 0 • by Wendy • Dragons' DenMedia & Marketing

Snugabell Travels the Road to the Dragons' Den Part IV

WOW.Pandora La Glamme & Kevin O'Leary

I have no words for how I feel amidst the outpouring of support from friends, family, colleagues, vendors, customers and even complete strangers after the airing of our Dragons' Den segment. Just WOW.

I'm still digesting it all.

I was actually quite surprised at how many people were outright angry; they thought I got ripped-off; they thought the Fenis got too much air time and I got too little. (Sorry Ryan and Elizabeth!)

I am flattered by your passionate support for me and my business. Thank you.

I'm not going to lie - I was disappointed that the segment that aired was as short as it was and as a result, not reflective of what happened in The Den. A segment like mine is referred to as an "Also" as in Also in The Den. Interestingly, they find it harder to edit the shorter segments than the full-length ones. Watch it again and note how much of the audio is voice-over courtesy of Diane Buckner - hence they can make up whatever story suits them. But hey, that's the chance you take when you appear on a show like this, and I'm OK with it. OVER 1.5 MILLION people saw my product and very clearly what its function is. And the orders are rolling in. Onwards and upwards I say!

I did have a short chat with my segment producer Molly, who, when I asked what I could have done differently, was nice enough to ask Mike (the fellow who edited my piece) for some feedback. Here is what they had to say...

"I asked my colleague Mike for some feedback for you - he edited your piece. He said it was good, at least you made the cut, about 50% of products taped don't get to air. And 1.5 million viewers saw it! I can only say it's hard to sustain a LONG piece, usually pieces that make it to about 8 minutes were likely in the den for at least 45 minutes. With yours they didn't hate the product, they liked you, but they simply didn't see it as an investable business. It's almost the toughest kind of pitch in the den, cause it's a cool product, people like it, but over the course of your presentation there was no over-arching lesson to be learned by the viewer (meaning a lesson in business because you were either ill-prepared or over valued or what have you). It seems unless you really get a vibrant or heated discussion going, it's hard to sustain the arch of a full piece."

This made total sense to me. And I actually watch the show now from a new perspective
----> the lesson.

I will also add that although I still cannot share any specifics about what happened in The Den outside of what aired on TV, I will tell you that ALL of the Dragons were very kind to me. There was (obviously) a lot of "boob innuendo" flying around the set throughout the 30 plus minutes I was out there, but it was all in good fun. They had a problem with my valuation (as they do with most pitchers); they asked questions and I answered them; they decided not to invest... However, everything happens for a reason <---- I TRULY believe this.

Thank you CBC for the opportunity to present to five amazing entrepreneurs. And thank you Molly and Sam and all the fantastic people at the CBC for guiding me through the process.

Oh! and I was going to call this post "Snugabell Travels the Road to the Dragons' Den Final Chapter", but somehow I don't think that is suitable...

Because I'd do it again in a heartbeat...

Oh and one last thing. See the pic above of Pandora La Glamme and Kevin O'Leary? Kevin actually pulled her back onto the set after we walked-off to have this picture taken. And here is what went down:

KO: "What do you do?"

PLG: "I'm a burlesque performer."

KO: "No really, what do you do?"

Nuff said, here's the pitch:

We'd love to hear your thoughts on the pitch, the model, the product, the Dragons - anything that comes to mind at all. We're all ears (and boobs)!  You know the routine - leave your comments below.  :-)

September 22nd, 2010 • Comments: 0 • by Wendy • Health & WellnessJust for Fun

Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and the Corset

Shortly after the launch of PumpEase Organic, I received the following email about our marketing image (shown below).  I figured if there was one person out there that felt this way and took the time to email me, that there may be others that had the same concerns and yet didn't say anything.  So I've decided to share both the emails and my interview with Melanie Talkington of Lace Embrace Atelier, an expert in corsetry and the owner of one of the largest antique corset collections in North America.  I met Melanie at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in 1993 where we were both studying Fashion Design and Technology.

PumpEase Organic

The following is the email that I received, unedited...

Dear PumpEase folks

I just came across your advertisement for your pump. As a childbirth Educator, breastfeeding advocate and educator, and mother of four breastfed children, I find the picture extraordinarily harmful to breastfeeding women.

Postpartum women are sensitive the enormous changes that their bodies go through. As I am sure you can appreciate, growing a baby for nine months is a huge endeavor. After birth, the body must not only recover from birth, but make the slow and subtle changes back to its pre-pregnancy state.

This picture of a woman, who is presumably postpartum since she has the hands free pump attached to her, definitely does not have the body of a woman who has just given birth. The corset and size of the woman's waist are completely misleading( is she a size 3?) further promoting the media stereotype that resume their pre-pregnant bodies immediately after birth.

The picture also gives the false sense that the woman who is pumping would never have to support those flanges and bottles attached to the bra. The weight of those bottles and eventual milk will weigh down on her breasts and nipples and cause her discomfort and/or pain. For women with large sized breasts this would not be a possibility. She would need to support the weight of her breasts with her hands for comfort.

Not only does this picture not represent what the postpartum women is going to look like, but in all honesty, it's pretty cheesy. Your ad did get my attention, but I would not recomment your product in my classes.

Xxxx Xxxxxxx

And my response...

Good day Xxxx,

I apologize for the late reply - our assistant got married and went on her honeymoon for two weeks, and as a result we got quite behind.

I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts and feedback on PumpEase Organic, especially since it's a product that is extremely helpful to breastfeeding moms whom you support.

The colleague who lent us the corset that you see in the image, who is a leading corsetiere in North America, works with many new moms to help them return to their pre-pregnancy figure.  She has had women come in as soon as one week after giving birth.  In Victorian times, postpartum women were wrapped in a soft cotton corset with ties down the front to help the new mother get her figure back.  Corsetry supports the back, slims the waist and improves the posture.

In fact, postpartum belly-binding/compression has been in practice therapeutically for thousands of years and is still evident today.  Women are routinely told, by both hospitals and birthing professionals such as yourself to purchase a “compression garment” and to wear it “as tight as you can stand it” immediately postpartum to help return the uterus to its pre-pregnancy size, decrease bloating caused by water retention and support the legs & back. There is information on Belly Bandit’s site about the safety of this practice including how it can support Caesarian Section incisions.  Therefore I’m not sure why you feel the need to fault moms for doing something to boost their own confidence, if that's their choice.  It's like criticizing a mom for covering up when she nurses in public; I say that whatever helps moms' confidence, goes.

We do not feel that we are giving the wrong message to new moms at all with this image. We feel we’re doing something positive for body image by not using a stick-thin model (as evidenced by our model Talysia’s upper arms and wider hips).  Talysia is, in fact, an average size 12, with a waist measurement of 29-½”, not a "size 3" as you stated in your email.  She is also a mother.  Having said that, women come in all shapes and sizes and their bodies react differently to pregnancy, even from one baby to another.

Further, we are not suggesting that women don a corset after birth any more than we are suggesting that women dress-up as a pin-up girl or as Holly Golightly as seen in our other marketing images.  In fact, moms LOVE our images, with most finding them very empowering.

I should also correct you in your statement:  "The picture also gives the false sense that the woman who is pumping would never have to support those flanges and bottles attached to the bra.  The weight of those bottles and eventual milk will weigh down on her breasts and nipples and cause her discomfort and/or pain.   For women with large sized breasts this would not be a possibility. She would need to support the weight of her breasts with her hands for comfort.”

I have many testimonials on my site attesting to the fact that PumpEase works wonderfully for larger breasted women AND supports full 6-8 ounce bottles. And again, I can attest to this personally as I pumped 10 oz of milk with no problems whatsoever.  I was a D when nursing and do NOT have “perky” boobs by any means.  I was also using the Petite version of our product (as this was during our prototype stage).  We now have a wider version of PumpEase which provides even more support.

We designed PumpEase solely to help moms extend their nursing relationship with their babies.  Our customers include moms pumping for their toddlers and preschoolers as well - not just newborn babies.  If you look around our site, I’m sure you’ll agree.

If you’re ever in Vancouver, you should visit Lace Embrace and try a corset on.  You will find that they are very comfortable, easy to wear and wonderful for your waistline and posture.  I know, as I’ve worn one myself on several occasions.

Thank you,

Wendy Armbruster Bell

After I received this email, I contacted Melanie to help me with my research.  We had previously discussed my interviewing her about maternity and nursing corsets both because I love the History of Costume (one of my favourite subjects in school) and because I find it very interesting to hear about the nursing apparel from other eras and thought some of you may too.

So without further adieu...

And if you'd like to learn more about historical costume you need to attend one of Ivan Sayers' lectures.  Ivan Sayers is a fashion historian who specializes in the study of women’s, men’s and children’s fashions from 1650 to the present.  Sayers has one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of historic clothing in private hands in Canada.  He is the founder of the Original Costume Museum Society in Vancouver.

So what do you think about corsetry?  Corsetry while pregnant?  Corsetry while nursing?  Do you find this as fascinating as I do?  And what was your first reaction to our marketing image?  Did you think it was inappropriate?  Empowering?  Silly?  Leave your comments below - I'd love to hear all about it!  And if you're ever in Vancouver, be sure to visit Lace Embrace and try a corset on.  Remember my warning however - they are totally addictive!

July 6th, 2010 • Comments: 0 • by Wendy • Media & MarketingPumpingResources

How to Use a PumpEase hands-free pumping bra

Hi everyone! Please check-out our latest video entitled, "How to Use a PumpEase hands-free pumping bra". Any idea what it's about? OK, just kidding...

I worked with the wonderful Cathrin Witt on this project. I was responsible for taping it and tried my best to follow Cathrin's guidelines for shot angles and such, however I'm no professional in this arena so you can blame the "not so great" lighting on me. Cathrin was in charge of editing - adding music, stills and titles - and making it look all pretty and professional!

The cool thing is, Cathrin (or Cathy as I knew her as in high school) and I reconnected on Facebook a couple of years ago, yet did not meet face-to-face or even speak over the phone to get this video produced. She lives in Bellevue, WA - about two hours south of me AND in a different country!

So just think... if the next time that Cathrin and I venture down the video production road, we actually work together in-person, we could potentially have Oscar material on our hands! Should we clear off our mantles Cathrin?

Anywho, take a gander at the video and let us know what you think. You like? No like? Tell us all about it below!

 

Tags: 'how to pump', 'hands-free pump', 'nursing bra', 'easy expression'