For years now pediatricians have been hammering home the "breast is best" message, advising new moms to breastfeed their babies until they're around a year old at least. And American moms are listening -- over 80 percent breastfeed at birth. But only 50 percent reach the one-year mark.
Just about any working mom can tell you why.
Combining breastfeeding with work is a challenge. Combining breastfeeding with work that requires extended travel is a downright nightmare. The internet is full of stories of nursing moms huddled in hotel bathrooms and conference hall closets with bulky pumps, and miserable tales of lugging coolers of expressed milk through airport security. In 2014, Milk Stork co-founder Kate Torgersen was among them.
The straw that broke the camel's back.
At that time Torgersen was a new mom committed to breastfeeding her twins, Finn and Zoe, when she was offered a great career opportunity that involved a four-day business trip.
"To take the trip, I pumped the two 'extra' gallons of milk to create a stash to cover my absence. I went from pumping every four hours to pumping every couple hours. Then, while I was gone, I had to pump relentlessly around the clock to maintain my milk supply. All of the pumping generated another two gallons of breast milk, which I crammed into my tiny hotel mini-fridge," she related in an email.
"On the last day of my trip, I packed a soft cooler with all of the milk, along with four gallon-sized Ziplocs filled with ice. I lugged my sloshing, dripping, 25-plus-pound carry-on of milk (along with my purse, breast-pump bag, and suitcase) through airport security only to endure the embarrassing inspection process. Needless to say, I barely made my flight."
Torgersen calls that business trip "the straw that broke the camel's back," but her horrible experience didn't cause her to give up on work travel or breastfeeding. Instead, it pushed her to found Milk Stork.
A great benefit for working moms.
The Palo Alto-based startup is on a mission to make combining work travel and breastfeeding less horrible by offering new moms a simple way to ship milk home. Breastfeeding road warriors simply book with the company, which sends a pre-labeled box, coolers, and cooling packs to wherever they'll be staying.
Moms just pump, pack, and send the package off to any location in the U.S. via FedEx. No dripping coolers or conversations with skeptical TSA agents required. Priced at $99 a day, the service is pricey, but it's also super simple, according to multiple online reviews.
For mothers with mobile careers and small babies, the idea is a godsend, and major companies like Snapchat, PayPal, Pinterest, and Vox Media have taken notice, signing on to offer the service as a benefit to employees. Smaller firms can use the service to support working parents too simply by reimbursing mothers as they would any other expense.
Burgeon Legal Group, a boutique firm with 33 employees, told me a couple of moms at the firm had utilized Milk Stork on the company's dime. Over email both women said they were thrilled to be offered the service and would recommend it highly. But it's not just working moms who benefit. A spokesman for the firm noted that the new offering helps convey the firm's inclusive culture to job candidates, as well as motivating existing employees.
Bottom line: breastfeeding and work travel are a tricky combo, but Milk Stork makes it much less painful. The price tag is steep(ish), but if you want to show you're serious about supporting your people and providing a parent-friendly workplace, it's a new benefit to seriously consider.