Perspectives: Sascha Mayer of Mamava
Sascha Mayer and Mamava are on a mission to support breastfeeding mothers with private lactation pods and resources for nursing moms on-the-go.
With more than 850 freestanding lactation pods in offices and public spaces across 46 states and Washington, D.C., Mamava is working to create a better and more supportive experience for busy breastfeeding mothers. American-made and mama-owned, their spaces offer privacy, cleanliness—and words of encouragement—for pumping or nursing, and the Mamava app shares important info like the best breastfeeding-friendly locales around the country as well as helpful resources for moms and babies.
Today, we’re chatting with Mamava Co-Founder Sascha Mayer about the inspiration behind the company’s founding.
There is a personal story behind the founding of Mamava. Can you start by telling us about that?
The idea for Mamava was born when my co-founder, Christine Dodson, and I were both breastfeeding moms. Even though we worked for a supportive employer, when we traveled on business, we found ourselves pumping in restrooms, closets and cars. Because of our professional background, we recognized that the lack of lactation spaces was a clear problem that could be solved through design.
Our boss at the time was very supportive of the concept and allowed us to incubate the project within the design firm. In 2015, we were confident enough with our product development that we set out on our own.
We’re now a thriving company with 25 employees based in Burlington, Vermont. Our line of lactation pods gives moms comfortable and private lactation spaces while also offering facilities a cost-effective turnkey solution. We believe that design can change culture and it’s been gratifying to see our concept have a powerful and positive impact on women.
Since launching, what would you say has been your biggest success or most valuable lesson?
Pumping can be an isolating experience, so one of our biggest successes has been the amazing mom community that has grown around us on social media and through our app. All of our pods have a mirror with the phrase ‘Looking Good Mama’ printed on the bottom for encouragement. Mothers who were using the pods began to leave each other sticky notes with words of support.
These spontaneous messages were heartwarming and even went viral. To extend this community, moms can now leave digital notes—”Words of Support”— to the next user via the app. This is a special space where the physical pods and the digital world intersect.
We’ve built a bridge between the lonely physical world of pumping mothers and the collective soul of all the women who are experiencing this journey at the same time. They may be all alone in a lactation suite, but together they’re held in a strong web of support.
We learned a powerful lesson from these messages—that women recognize the value of support and encouragement during a challenging time. Our mom community continually reaffirms for us that we’re on the right path to make our culture more aware of, and accommodating for, all breastfeeding moms. Mothers deserve nothing less!
Honestly, that’s beautiful. There is nothing quite as powerful as a supportive community. So, to add to that, what are three things you think every breastfeeding mom should know?
Well, every breastfeeding mother needs to know her rights. Moms in all 50 states have the right to breastfeed in public and hourly breastfeeding employees are protected by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Many states—and even some cities!— have legislation that provides protections for breastfeeding moms in the workplace.
And while some businesses offer fantastic lactation spaces, far too many still do not. We want to provide resources and support for moms in every industry, so we have a page on our web site devoted to giving useful tips on how to request private, dignified places to pump with email templates and talking-point scripts. If you need advice on how to ask for a place to pump at work or in public space, look no further.
Also, the Mamava app is a free tool that helps moms find private spaces to pump or nurse wherever she goes (both Mamava pods, as well as 4,000 other pump-friendly places). We like to think of it as Waze for mamas on the go. Every day, moms add new lactation spaces, upload photos, list available amenities (e.g., space for strollers, outlets, etc.), and write reviews so other mamas know what to expect when they get there. Knowing where you can pump or breastfeed ahead of time is a game-changer for moms that helps reduce stress.
Finally, one of the ways we are affecting positive change for mothers is by making it easier for employers to support breastfeeding employees at work. Our partnership with Medela, called New Moms’ Healthy Returns, is a program that offers a single-source solution and customizable package with breast pumps, lactation pods, virtual support with online resources and breast milk shipping for traveling employees.
We believe that change can only happen when employers provide the full-circle support that working moms need in order to show up as their best selves at home and work. This kind of support for working families didn’t exist 10 years ago, so we’re proud to help businesses support the next generation of moms.
Awesome! And so, to wrap-up, what’s next for Mamava? How can RUBY readers get involved or learn more?
We’re focused on our mission to change the culture of breastfeeding by helping make it an authentic and accessible choice for all mothers. To help make that vision a reality, we’re designing other tools and products that will make it easier for moms to reach their breastfeeding goals, and make it easier for facilities and employees to support them. This includes new product development and the continued evolution of our offerings.
A major milestone for us would be to see breastfeeding rates increase from 81 percent of new mothers to 90 percent by the end of this decade. And we’ll continue to address barriers to breastfeeding in the workplace with solutions like the new New Moms’ Healthy Returns package. We’re committed to ensuring that all breastfeeding women have the support, space and resources they need at work to be successful.
Katarina Kovacevic is founder and editor of RUBY. Follow her on Instagram @Little_K_Kata.