Breastfeeding offers plenty of health benefits both for the baby and the mother. When it’s time to go back to the office, many mothers wish to continue providing their offspring with their milk. This transition, however, presents plenty of challenges due to the lack of infrastructure and innovative products to support mothers returning to work in corporate America. Typical current scenarios include women hiding in bathrooms to pump and noisy breast pumps that create friction and uncomfortable situations.
Since 2010, the federal “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” law has made breastfeeding and working possible for more moms across the country. Nevertheless, amenities beyond a flat surface and a chair are often not included, and companies below 50 employees are exempt. Since March 18, the State of New York made it compulsory for the lactation spaces to comply with “minimum standards”: A refrigerator for breast milk close to the work space, an electrical outlet and nearby access to running water.
Research has found that offering breastfeeding support has a minimal impact on employer’s insurance premiums while leading to reduced healthcare visits and complications during the first year of a baby’s life. Additionally, convenient pumping facilities decrease time spent extracting the milk, as well as the stress of the working mother. Given that women represent a 47% of the workforce, and 62% of women with births in the last twelve months are active in the labor force, the category is ripe for innovation.
Reinventing The Breast Pumping Experience
Willow, the company behind the quiet, in-bra wearable breast pump, just announced the most convenient and flexible breast pump system ever, with a new reusable Milk Container that moms can pump into directly with the Willow 2.0 pump.
Naomi Kelman, CEO and President of Willow, said “We embrace the challenges of modern parenthood, and our goal at Willow is to provide brilliant solutions to real-life problems faced in early motherhood.” According to a recent study conducted by the company of 300 clients that pumped with the Willow for at least 30 days, 97% of women reported to find it easier to pump in different places, and less stressful.
“We want women to say yes to opportunities in their life, not to have to choose between motherhood or their professional career. This requires a culture shift. Currently we push women to the side, we make them hide. Willow wants to change that,” said Kelman.
Willow also provides unlimited digital lactation coaching and data insights through its connected app, which helps create a better breastfeeding experience. Additionally, the startup offers financing options for people with less resources. Although the majority of Willow’s 40,000 current customers are individual consumers, the startup is working on partnerships with employers to guarantee access to the state of the art breast pump.
The Economics Of Breast Pumping And The Workplace
Amy Van Haren, CEO of Pumpspotting and mother of two, experienced the difficulties and isolation while working and breastfeeding. She identified the need for a the community-driven breastfeeding and postpartum digital health platform and built it. Pumpspotting offers a digital corporate lactation program to help support and retain breastfeeding employees and enable parents to work and nurse.
“Mothers spend 1,800 hours a year nursing and pumping, the equivalent of a full time job, and a huge percentage of that time takes place at the workplace. Pumpspotting allows employers to connect mothers at work so they feel less isolated, more supported and capable of nourishing both their family and their careers,” says Van Haren.
Additionally, the combination of rising breastfeeding rates and short maternity leaves with the increasing number of women in leadership and founding positions in the US has created another gap in the market. The travel schedule of executives can be challenging, and milk shipping has come to fill that void.
Milk Stork is already working with over 500 family-friendly companies, including Pinterest, SAP, and Unilever, and has transported close to $2.5 million ounces of breast milk and made more than 44,000 deliveries.
“It’s a pain point that many women will try to avoid by reducing or eliminating their business travel while breastfeeding. Others may find themselves ‘pumping and dumping’ —and still others, find themselves weaning before they’re ready,” says Kate Torgersen, Founder and CEO of Milk Stork. For employers, Milk Stork is an easy and affordable employee benefit that helps moms continue breastfeeding as they resume their job, and conveys that the employer is committed to supporting working families.
Infant formula is also ripe for disruption and getting attention from the investment community. For mothers who can’t breastfeed, chose not to, or simply want to combine both, easy solutions to provide babies with the best nourishment in a convenient way are an attractive alternative. The category has been estimated to reach $95 billion by 2026, according to CNBC.
Collectively, these femtech areas are set to make it possible for women to make informed choices about how they want to feed their babies while removing the logistical inconveniences of it – and they are doing so while putting the mother’s well-being and experience at the center.