"Nursing should be a right, not a privilege". By providing lactation suites, Mamava is improving access and addressing real needs of working women, their employers, and families.
Champlain College Robert P. Stiller School of Business
Mamava is a business dedicated to transforming the culture of breastfeeding. Inspired by the personal experiences of founders Christine Dodson and Sascha Mayer, the company has designed lactation suites that provide a private space for mothers to nurse or pump breast milk on the go. Just 10 years old, the company is a Certified B Corporation, which meets rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency, in addition to being women-owned and creating high-quality products manufactured within the United States.
The idea of the lactation pod was inspired by reading a 2006 New York Times article by Jodi Kantor, which depicted the challenge that many women face in providing breastmilk for their babies. “As pressure to breastfeed increases, a two-class system is emerging for working mothers. For those with autonomy in their jobs — generally, well-paid professionals — breastfeeding, and the pumping it requires, is a matter of choice. But for lower-income mothers — including many who work in restaurants, factories, call centers, and the military — pumping at work is close to impossible, causing many women to decline to breastfeed at all, and others to quit after a short time.”
The article struck a chord with Dodson and Mayer. Having personally dealt with breastfeeding and pumping in all manner of places, from tradeshows to airports and baseball games, the team was inspired to create a solution. In the workplace, they both had benefited from having private office spaces, but had also witnessed colleagues who did not enjoy the same access to privacy. They saw a need and set out to address it.
The two started out in the Mamava venture with the motto "nursing should be a right, not a privilege". With the support of their employer, Solidarity of Unbridled Labour (formerly JDK), they began designing a lactation suite to address the needs of working Moms.
The first-of-its-kind freestanding lactation suite provides privacy, cleanliness, and a comfortable place to breast pump or nurse. Now, with 160 lactation suites in existence (and growing), the team is working to maintain their position as brand leader in this field and continuing to address women’s needs in a way that is cost effective for companies to support.
With the support of state and federal legislation, lactation suites are beginning to pop up in state buildings, airports, sports stadiums, etc. “We’re getting social media feedback from Moms who are thrilled. Some of them have found a suite by accident and are so excited by their experience using it. They ask “What took so long!? Why isn’t this at every stadium, etc?”. It’s an amenity that really supports women.”
Not only do the lactation suites support nursing mothers but also for their employers, who increasingly recognize that their staff are unable to work efficiently if they need to go off-site to express milk. “Once employers understand the science behind breastfeeding, they get it. Women need to maintain a schedule or they are uncomfortable or they may become unable to provide food for their child.”
With this understanding, employers begin to ask the question, “How can I solve this? What can we do?” and they become real advocates for working women. By providing a clean and private place, the Mamava lactation suites solve a workplace problem. In supporting the needs of Moms on the go, they also increase awareness of breastfeeding and change the culture to empower working mothers and allow for greater choice and equity.
In addition to designing and producing the physical suites, the team is also developing an app to locate nursing-friendly places for Moms on the go, working on providing content that engages Moms, creating brand-specific marketing for the suites, and advocating for and writing legislation that addresses the needs of working mothers who breastfeed. Through this, Mamava is building a community of breastfeeding advocates and support for lactation suite access.
As a start-up company, it’s an exciting and ever-changing place to work. Over the last ten years, the company has grown to employ nine talented staff people who are working in design, sales, manufacturing, advocacy, and customer satisfaction. “The people who work here are really drawn to the mission. We’re addressing real needs of working women, their employers, and families. Our staff is attracted to the energy, the cause, the potential.” In addition to being a B-corp women-owned company, Mamava also supports its staff through workplace practices and creating a positive work culture with ideas like Thoughtful Thursday, a policy that enables everyone to work from home on Thursdays. “It’s a perk that is easy for the company and the staff really appreciates.”
The Mamava website provides resources for women who are providing their babies with milk, including workplace rights and advice. “We believe that it is a good thing for Mamas to be on the go, but that they shouldn’t have to use a breast pump in a bathroom, storage area, dressing room, or other undesirable location.”
When asked about her vision for success and hopes for the future, Dodson replied that, “Our success will really be measured when buildings aren’t constructed without consideration of lactation rooms. We’re working on building that awareness and we’ll know that we’ve been successful when HR professionals, architects, and facilities managers get it and spaces are developed for happy employees. It doesn’t have to be Mamava suites but a culture shift. If we are out of business and the problem is solved, that’s okay and we’ll move on to the next project that affects nursing Moms on the go.”
Above all else, Mamava is inspired by providing and increasing access. “We’re focused on how to keep Moms front and center of our business. Everything we do, we do to make it better for Moms and improve their access.”
As noted on their website, Mamava stands by the belief that “How mothers feed their children is their business. Providing mothers with a private, comfortable, clean, and serene place to do it is ours.”
Christine Dodson, Managing Director
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Burlington, VT, United States
Business Website: http://www.mamava.com/
Year Founded: 2006
Number of Employees: 2-10