I Wanted to Quit Everything—My Job, Breastfeeding, Motherhood—Instead, I Founded a Startup to Help Moms Like Me
Jul 13 , 2021
We’re so excited to catch up with Amy of Pumpspotting to learn about her journey as both a mom and a tech founder. In short, Amy is an entrepreneur and former wntm (working, nursing, traveling mother) to two kids.
As a mom, Amy’s seen and done it all: nursed in parks and playgrounds, parking lots and on hiking trails, pumped in makeshift offices, dressing rooms, the backseat of her car, bathroom stalls and even between businessmen at 20,000 feet.
We caught up with Amy to learn more about her breastfeeding journey and what inspired Pumpspotting, a community-driven breastfeeding and baby feeding support platform. Scroll below for the full interview.
What inspired you to create Pumpspotting?
Pumpspotting began like so many in the motherhood space—out of raw need. About six years ago, I found myself sitting on a very dirty bathroom floor in the San Francisco airport. I was hooked up to a breast pump that, I like to joke, sounded like Darth Vader to me. I was about to board my fourth red–eye in a matter of seven weeks and I had an eight-week-old son. I was trying to run a marketing agency and breastfeed and I was just beside myself with overwhelm and frustration and isolation.
I remember sitting on that airport floor and feeling sweat from all the people in the bathroom while waiting to get into the stall. I felt frustrated that I didn't have a place to be, and just felt emotionally spent. I wanted to quit everything—my job, breastfeeding, motherhood. I was over all of it. Texting back and forth with my sister in that difficult moment felt like a lifeline. It also got me thinking about the power of being connected to other women who are in this phase of life and on this journey.
At that point in time there was not a lot out there that was bringing us together. I wanted to create a space where moms could be honest about what they were going through, to cheer one another on and to help find places that didn’t include bathroom floors. My background being in community-building and marketing, I just had an idea to build it.
How did technology influence your vision?
Innovation is happening all around us. It makes perfect sense that finally it has come to the world of feeding. It’s very exciting for me that it's happening and that we’re part of this innovation.
When developing the idea behind Pumpspotting, I thought about how we're all on our phones, and how we have technology that can do so many compelling things. I wanted to build a space that could fit in the palm of our hands, one that would really bring us together so that we could share support and encouragement and make this journey easier.
From there, it grew to be very much community centric and uniting parents and growing. When we started out, we didn't really know where we were heading, but we knew very much who it was that we served. After we released the app, we started growing and moms started coming together and really connecting.
A bus called ‘Beast Express’
There are so many shades to breastfeeding, postpartum and motherhood and every journey looks different. We all need support and connection and access. But what does that look like?
This question spurred the next iteration of Pumpspotting. We bought a 40-foot RV (I was 25 at the time). It had a broken step, a busted roof. And I kid you not, an airbrushed leopard on the back of the bus. But inside someone had lived in it and had already started to make it into a beautiful home. It had this energy and this vibe that felt very much like what we needed.
We took this bus—we called it the ‘Breast Express’—and turned it into a beautiful nursing and pumping oasis.It had couches and comfy seats and pillows and all kinds of places for moms to sit and feed or pump. The kitchen was stocked with snacks and food and protein shakes and like all the things we needed to feed the parents, we had a ‘find your flow’ station with all kinds of breast pumps, because you don't really get to see them and touch them and experience them. There was a bed in the back to put your feet up and relax.
I moved onboard the bus for five months and, let me tell you, I knew very little about how to run a breastfeeding company. On top of that, I had to learn how to empty a sewer and how to park a 40-foot RV in New York city. It was the beginning of this theory, magical, like a deep discovery journey of uniting parents.
Over the course of two years, we ended up stopping at over 60 cities and uniting thousands of parents onboard. It was so meaningful and important for us to understand why this is so hard and what it is that moms need. To see the power of sitting next to someone who's in that same phase of life was really powerful. We stopped at NASA and IBM and lots of different companies. And we had so many working parents onboard.
What has been one of your biggest learnings?
During our time on the bus, we spoke with so many parents across the country. They would come onboard and convey that they had zero support in the workplace or that their employers had no idea what they were going through. It became clear that advocacy was falling on parents.
Everyone going through this had to step into this, rather than organizations and employers stepping up and being proactive about breastfeeding support. What we were hearing from parents is that feeding a child is a lifestyle, and it's so true. It's every two hours, both at home and at work.
We saw a real opportunity with Pumpspotting—that we could create the technology in such a way to not only serve all the pain points of moms. We allowed employers to implement Pumpspotting as their company’s breastfeeding support system, a one-stop space that meets the needs of parents and centralizes lactation programs for employers. We see it as a way to take the burden off of employers to think about how to implement breastfeeding support.
Breastfeeding is good for business
We always like to say that breastfeeding is actually good for business because it is. Employers see a reduction in health claims from healthy moms and babies, which means fewer absences. Retention rates go through-the-roof because when working mothers feel supported, they stay on the job.
When companies bring on Pumpspotting, we address the logistical, emotional, and social needs of nursing, pumping, and feeding parents. We essentially have three components.
First, we give them the technology so they get a custom code and all parents have access to the Pumpspotting platform with virtual lactation consultants, a global community, and encouraging content. Second, we’ve built them an exclusive employer environment and within that space, they're able to communicate key policies and lactation information and where to find and access lactation rooms.
And third, we create a custom internal company chat space for parents at work to support one another. Whether you're on maternity leave, working remote, traveling, or in the office, our platform is the great connector to help working moms communicate with their peers. All parents at a company can connect to one another, which is super important because sometimes you can feel so isolated.
I remember that we stopped at NASA (during our bus tour) and there was one mom who said, “I feel so alone because I'm the only parent in my building with a new baby. And yet she was on a campus of 13,000.” There’s a power in connecting parents within an organization that can be the difference between their continuing breastfeeding or giving up.
Really what we're doing for employers is saying, we'll make you the hero with your feeding parents. Pumpspotting delivers a complete solution that makes parents’ lives easier and with all the support a company needs to execute with ease.
How did COVID change how moms view community?
I think COVID just deepened the need for a platform like Pumpspotting because parents were feeling more isolated than ever. It's already hard enough when you have a new baby and then here comes COVID where you're cut off from your entire support system around people bringing you food or holding the baby while you sleep or checking in. It's been really interesting the way everything from tele-health to maternal healthcare is being rethought and transformed.
For us with the community, I think they started showing up more. We started seeing more of the community day in and day out asking questions. I think the conversations got deeper and more honest because people were juggling because parents are juggling so many things. All of a sudden you really need to talk about how hard it is because now you've got kids at home and you’re expected to work.
I think that people started to open up more and really talk about what they were going through. We saw how parents really showed up for one another in a deeper, more meaningful way. There has been so much cheering on and more 'I relate.' 'I see you.'
There is such power in hearing from another parent who's been through this and doing this, but if you are giving back to someone in that way and in that moment, that exchange almost benefits you as much because you feel as though you're able to contribute after having gone through this struggle and learning so many things.
As mothers and parents, I think we're just built to want to contribute and give back and share and make it easier for other people. We've seen more and more of that during this time period.
Pumpspotting is a community-driven breastfeeding and baby feeding support platform. We connect and nourish new parents on our app and in-person throughout the postpartum journey to help families meet their feeding goals. Our app, mama feed programs, and Pumpspotting at work corporate lactation programs meet parents where they are and serve what they need, when they need it, whether community, a feeding expert, encouragement, support from employers, or a place to pump.