Did you know that of the four out of five babies who initiate breastfeeding, an average of less than one of them meet the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation to be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life?
Today Whitney, founder and CEO of Momful, shares how her breastfeeding challenges ultimately inspired her to help other moms. As she’s learned first-hand, there are many factors, beyond just a mom’s nutrition, that can lead to successful breastfeeding.
What unique challenge did you experience as a new mom?
My daughter wasn’t gaining weight despite me feeding her around the clock. During her one-month checkup, the doctor told me that Kate’s weight had dropped to below the third percentile and that she needs food. He asked me if I’ve been breastfeeding. It came as such a shock to me because there were times when Kate was nursing for 45 minutes and she seemed fine (at the time, I thought that duration of time was normal).
We had noticed that she was starting to cry more and we were starting to have rough nights just because it's hard to console her. But we also knew that it’s normal for babies to cry a lot. Any hospital staff tells you that crying is how babies communicate, so we didn’t think much of it beyond that.
When I got home from that doctor visit and looked at Kate’s diagnosis, it read, ‘failure to thrive.’ It sounded so scary and I didn’t really know what it meant. I looked it up and it basically is the term given to a baby that is starving.
There were so many things that I was doing ‘right’, that it felt frustrating that this was happening. I had taken a class, I had friends sharing advice, I had resources, I had financial means. I was doing all the things that our lactation consultant recommended—offering both breasts, making sure I’m offering on demand and that I should feed several times per day. I wasn’t really learning anything new, so it was frustrating (and expensive) to bring Kate in for observation.
What was the game changer?
Everything shifted when, at the end of that appointment, the lactation consultant asked about my nutrition. She said, “make sure you're taking a great postnatal multivitamin and consider taking breaks because that has been known to help with breast milk supply.” She also told me to drink a certain tea and to make sure I’m consuming a certain amount of calories each day.
I thought to myself, “why is this the first time I’m hearing this?” I had been doing my research and living/breathing all things breastfeeding. Yet this is the first time the importance of the mom's nutrition has ever been mentioned to me. I felt betrayed that I had done all this research and it wasn't discussed anywhere.
After that, I made a point to pay closer attention to my own nutrition. Maintaining a good, healthy diet is tough stuff, especially when you’re a new mom. I was only sleeping a few hours a night and busy during the day with a newborn, yet I was somehow supposed to be fitting in these perfectly balanced meals. It just wasn’t realistic. Even just the physical implications of trying to physically eat while you're also holding a newborn is difficult.
How did this inspire you to start Momful?
Four months into my exclusive pumping journey, the overwhelm crept in. I was exhausted by having to remember to order foods I was running out of. It was getting out of control and it wasn’t sustainable. I didn’t have time to remember to order these things or to count my pills every week. I needed a service that packed all this up and delivered it to my door on a regular basis. That type of service didn’t exist at the time, so I decided to create one myself. This was the idea behind Momful.
Momful’s mission is to nourish moms on their breastfeeding journey, to help them meet their breastfeeding goals, whatever they might be. My personal goal was that I wanted to exclusively breastfeed for a year.
We started with our vitamin supplements. This was my biggest unlock and I wanted to offer moms a product that would help other moms experiencing the same challenges. Our line is mama-founded (that’s me!) and doctor-formulated.
I had the idea for Momful in late 2017 and didn't launch it until March of 2020 just before the pandemic started. We’ve found that the daily packets are great for a daily regimen. Otherwise, you have to order each vitamin bottle separately and sometimes you may forget which ones you’ve taken.
The packets eliminate this extra step. This lets me throw a packet in my bag or my purse. I have some at my desk, too. It’s an easy reminder to take my pills and not skip any. The packets are designed to be very convenient and to promote consistency in your nutrition routine.
Through customer feedback, I found that some women were like, "hey, the daily regimen has fish oil in it, but I actually already have a fish oil that I love, so I don't want to pay for this whole packet if I don't need the fish oil." So, for moms who prefer to mix and match, we allow for that through an a-la-carte system. This way, you can take exactly what you want from Momful and not what you don't want.
What is one interesting fact most moms might be unaware of?
The CDC reports that around four out of five babies born in the United States are breastfed. However, less than 20-percent of them are still being breastfed at the age of one year, which is the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics for breastfeeding your child. The World Health Organization actually recommends breastfeeding your child for at least two years.
We’re seeing trends of high intent or high initiation rates with breastfeeding—four out of five babies of the five million born every year start with breastfeeding. Yet roughly 60-percent of moms report that they don't breastfeed as long as they intended. It was really meaningful for me to look into why this was happening. There are so many factors involved, and probably the nutrition of the mom is a huge one.
Diet can have a huge effect on your energy levels (even when sleep deprived) and overall feelings and wellbeing. Supplements can really affect a mom’s milk. Momful helps moms feel better, physically and mentally.
Anything new in the pipeline you want to share with us?
As more research continues to be published, as we learn more about the way these things behave in women's bodies, we are continuing and have a commitment to constantly improving the formula.
Our Mom Bod formula has a significantly better formula that represents the latest findings in breastfeeding and postpartum research, as well as real-life consumer feedback. We’re using methylated folate instead of folic acid and D3 instead of D2.
Ready for your best milk yet? Momful offers nutrition designed specifically for your unique needs as both a breastfeeding & postpartum mom. We nourish moms so they can meet their personal goals for breastfeeding. Mama founded, doctor-formulated.
Lilu is a Women’s Health company building tech-enabled devices to empower new moms. Our first product, the Lilu Massage Bra, mimics compression massage, so you can empty your breasts fully to establish, increase and maintain your milk supply. Pump up to 50% more milk each session, all while going hands-free.
The Lilu Massager + Bra is designed to make pumping moms’ lives easier. It works with your pump so that you can produce up to 50% more milk per pumping session completely hands-free. It enables you to actually get stuff done or simply relax while pumping. Reach your pumping goals, with Lilu.