The average working mother in America is unsupported and overwhelmed.
It is a tragedy that starts in the workplace and extends all the way up to government policies and agendas.
Women change profoundly after each birth and baby. To see this process and transformation as a simple inconvenience continues to be a dire mistake.
Our strengths and experiences as mothers amplify our potential as employees and professionals.
Melissa Wirt is the founder and CEO of Latched Mama, a breastfeeding and postpartum apparel company whose parent-friendly policies are setting a new standard for flexible work.
In our conversation, she doesn’t hold back on the ways our country is failing mothers at the societal and workplace levels. Listen in for the raw truth on going back to work after a baby.
Where to find Melissa Wirt:
In this episode, we are sharing:
- How Melissa started the massive brand and mission she has today
- The support and education necessary for successful and extended breastfeeding
- Ways we are failing our mothers in society and the workplace
- Collective and individual trauma around breastfeeding
- Policies that devalue the role of the mother in America
- How business owners can benefit from allowing women to show up as their new and full selves
- Our strengths and experiences as mothers amplify our potential as employees and professionals
Welcome to the Postpartum University Podcast, where we support you and your provider in understanding the science, the art, and the sacredness of healing after birth. I’m Maranda Bower, your host, your Postpartum Nutrition Specialist, and homesteading mom with four wild kids. It’s time to get you the holistic, whole-body healing that works. Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Postpartum University Podcast. Maranda Bower here, your host, and I have Latched Mama, Melissa Wirt here. Yay, I’m so excited. She’s the CEO and founder of Latched Mama. And for many of you, you probably know this brand. As I do, I’ve been wearing it since my third back in 2016, I believe. She owns obviously a Latched Mama, breastfeeding and postpartum apparel company, whose parent-friendly policies are setting a new standard for flexible work, which we are gonna get into and talk about. She’s also a mother of six. She’s a certified lactation counselor and advocate for societal and employer support, which is so, so necessary for today’s growing families. Melissa, welcome.
Melissa: Thank you so much for having me. This is so much fun. I like being on the side of the microphone.
Maranda: I love it, I love it. I seriously have been watching your company grow for so many years. Like I said, after my third baby, back in 2016, I have been wearing your brand, amazing. And I’ve gotta ask, how did you get started in this work?
Melissa: Yeah, so like most, I feel like things that turn really big, I had no plans for it to be what it is today. It really started from my own desire to make motherhood easier for other moms. But I knew that we needed some sort of revenue stream for it, and I also knew that there was a need for women to feel more supported in their breastfeeding and their nursing journeys. So they kind of all just kind of came together and we built an online community right alongside the brand. And we just haven’t really looked back.
Maranda: That’s phenomenal. And like I said, you’ve been, you started this work in 2015, is that accurate?
Melissa: Yeah, so I started it when my second son was six months old. old. So like, yeah, like 2014, 2015, right around there, started with one nursing hoodie, basically, and one Facebook ad, we put it on a dress form in the corner of our family room, and we hung up poster board behind it to make a white background and put it on Facebook and kind of the rest has been in history. So that’s incredible. So how big is your company now?
Melissa: Yeah, so we had, yeah, we had our first eight-figure year last year. So it’s big, it’s big, and it keeps getting bigger and kind of hopefully stronger as we go. You know, we are trying to maybe do a little bit of a non-breastfeeding line eventually, just so we can keep moms more kind of like engaged in the community and stuff, it’ll never be like a normal clothing line. But once we have moms who find us, they want to stay. So we want to make sure that we can offer, you know, women support throughout another childbearing years and stuff. So And maybe we’ll touch a little bit on this a little some more because I kind of want to dive into how you create such a huge business while raising six kids. But I want to switch the conversation into some really important news that we’ve learned recently around breastfeeding.
Maranda: So the Academy of American Pediatrics, they’ve come out with a new recommendation, as you know, extending breastfeeding for two years. And you and your company are really changing this conversation here and speaking up about these societal supports that are necessary and making that goal achievable. We can’t just make that goal and expect it to happen. Absolutely. What changes need to happen to support families and breastfeeding two plus years beyond?
Melissa: Yeah, I mean, if you look at the percentage of moms who actually want to or have to go back to work, and the fact that we have no paid maternal leave system in the United States right now, the transition from actually breastfeeding on demand to pumping in the workplace is something that needs to be acknowledged and celebrated. I mean, the stories that we hear is a brand from women who get back to the workplace and either the laws aren’t recognized, or you don’t want to be the squeaky wheel after you’re coming back and you’re a completely different type of employee. Again, it’s just the entire society in general, we need to start actually recognizing women as more powerful on the other side of childbirth, more capable. And I think if we want them to breastfeed for two years, which is just to me, mind-boggling, even as a stay-at-home mom, when you can breastfeed on demand, it seems very hard for some women to reach that two-year mark. But we need support, you know, we need to educate, we need to help, we need to get women off to the best start possible when they leave the hospital or, you know, after a home birth, and it’s just there’s a lack of education, there’s a lack of support, and then we’re forcing women back in the workplace. We can’t have a two-year recommendation while those three things are still in place.
Maranda: Yeah, it’s so true. And not only are we forcing women back into the workplace, but we’re not supporting them while they’re breastfeeding in the workplace whatsoever, and we’re pushing them to continue as if they didn’t even have a baby at all.
Melissa: Yeah. I mean, if you were to look at probably the percentage of businesses that are managed or, you know, an upper management has a male there or somebody who doesn’t actually understand the science behind breastfeeding. I mean, how many women don’t understand the science behind breastfeeding until after they have a baby and they’re sitting there Googling it, because they don’t have the support. But I mean, I would venture to guess that most people don’t understand that breastfeeding works on supply and demand. So if a woman is not pumping, if she’s not given that time to express breast milk in the workplace, what’s going to happen? Her body’s not going to make it anymore. And I think that those simple educational aspects really need to start taking place kind of like within society in general.
Maranda: For sure. And I know as a mother who also has pumped and failed miserably that that’s not even something that we’re talking about. Sometimes the pump is not the efficient way to do it. And a lot of women don’t respond no matter what kind of pump that you’re using. And so having that as the only option can be very detrimental in itself.
Melissa: Yeah. And it’s just, it’s crazy to me that we’re taking this like, I mean, I know, you know, with four kids, like the amount of things that are told to you as soon as you get pregnant and as soon as you have your baby, like the, you must do this, you must do that, you must do this. And now suddenly, like this, you know, great group of people who want what’s best for our baby, who is telling us what’s best for our baby want us to figure out how to breastfeed for two years. And for some women, that’s great. And that’s easy. And they’re at home and it’s wonderful. But I think we are losing a little bit of the support aspect of the fact that like, you need to start educating women and supporting them and, you know, touching base with them prior to six weeks. I mean, it’s just, there are so many different ways that, you know, we’re failing our mothers at this point.
Maranda: So I want to say too, that I have noticed specifically around breastfeeding, how much trauma there is for women that so there’s so much trauma that we can’t really even talk about breastfeeding without feeling shameful, right? Like we didn’t do it long enough. We didn’t do it well enough. Well, what about, you know, I formula fed, and this is so not fair. And like there’s so many different, like the Fed is best versus formula versus breastfeeding and like all of these controversial topics. And when I look at the whole, like the real reason why we’re having all of these fights and these, these significant troubles is because we’re traumatized.
Melissa: Absolutely. You know, and it’s interesting too. I mean, so much of it is from a lack of education and support. I feel like you know, so much of that trauma is from, you know, deep-seated anxiety and the perfectionism that we put onto mothers. I mean, there are so many different aspects of it that you know, we were talking the other day we hire some high schoolers here. They were graduating college they were graduating high school and they had no idea even how their cycle worked. They’d gone through the public school system and had no idea when they could get pregnant how their body worked and we’re just kind of pushing them out into the workplace like into the world and we’re trying to assume that they’re going to understand, you know, the simple science behind their bodies and we don’t we’re failing we’re failing women everywhere just like you said.
Maranda: So if you’re a birth and postpartum professional who wants to give the families you serve some solid holistic evidence-based information regarding nutrition, repletion, and nourishing your body after baby. This is for you. I have 18 beautiful pages in a handout form that is completely free. A full guide to nutrition completion, common misconceptions, supplement support, favorite recipes, 30 healthy and quick snacks, and so many more. You can download your free collection with handouts at postpartum you that’s the letter u .com/handouts. Well, I know that you are leading by example. What you are doing and your job and your company is beyond what we’re seeing in the US right now.
Maranda: How in the world do you have a productive and profitable business with an office that is crawling with babies and breastfeeding mothers, right?
Melissa: Yeah, so, you know, we definitely would be more efficient if there were not babies around. I mean, lay that on the table every time I talk about this. But what we do have is a wonderful, wonderful community. And I think anytime that you build a brand or build anything, you wanna make sure that your why is at the forefront of everything you do every single day. And with little babies crawling around, it is. I mean, we can’t forget our why and the fact that we’re here supporting moms every day. But, you know, it started with me bringing my own children to work and I realized that if I could get the company as far as I got it with my children in tow, I needed to give other employees that same opportunity.
Maranda: And what happens when you allow women to bring their babies to work and you allow women to be mothers first, you have a different type of commitment, you have a different type of work ethic. It takes a lot more flexibility. It takes sometimes, you know, flexible deadlines for things. But for the most part, I go to bed every night knowing that my employees are happy and healthy and they feel like they’re accomplished at the end of the day where I know so many working moms go to bed at night and they feel like, hey, I only got 50% of my job done and I only, you know, loved all my kids 50% of the time. And now I just, I feel like a mess and I don’t feel good enough. You know, it’s really my goal every day to make sure that the people who show up for me in the brand every day really feel good about themselves at the end of the day.
Melissa: And I bet that really contributes to your employee retention rates.
Melissa: To your employees, you know, staying with you every day, not calling in sick and having as many sick days and mental health days. Like, I’m sure that’s significant for you guys.
Maranda: Yeah. I mean, when you allow your employees to bring their entire selves to work, they realize pretty quickly that it’s a really unique workplace, especially people who have worked other places as well. You know, they’re more likely to tell the truth. They’re more likely to show vulnerability, which is, you know, the benchmark of all sorts of connection. So we’ve really, truly kind of have built a work family at this point. And I know everybody’s story. I can walk in the front door and I know why everybody is at work. And there are some moms who are here simply for the social connection. They don’t need the paycheck. They’re just here literally to build community. I have some moms who I know won’t be here very long because they’re nurses or they’re lawyers or they’re accountants, and they’re just getting their feedback under them and want to leave the house and do something and get something done. I have moms who absolutely would have no other employment if they weren’t able to bring their babies to work and it’s completely changing their lives. So that’s what’s so cool is like every day I know that I’m offering women something that, you know, they really can’t get anywhere else.
Maranda: And I mentioned this and I’m so glad that you kind of went into a little bit of detail. Like there’s some significant benefits here that we’re not recognizing. So if you, as a professional listening in, because I know that so many of you are agency owners, you’re business owners, you have companies that you’re running for birth and breastfeeding and all the things in between, these are some incredible things that you can do for your company and actually have a lot more benefit of, which we don’t talk about. And, you know, the go, go, go kind of masculine way of doing business, right? So I’m really glad that you mentioned that. I want to turn the conversation a little bit to what happened recently in the Senate. There was a pump act that failed to pass and it truly devalues the role of motherhood in America. Can you share a little bit about first, what is this pump act?
Melissa: Yeah, so just kind of on the surface without getting into a ton of details because there are kind of nitty gritty details around it, but most women, if you were to ask them would say, oh, absolutely, you know, when the affordable healthcare came out, Bill came out, you know, women were allowed to pump in the workplace. It actually didn’t protect basically salaried employees. So your teachers, anybody who was kind of in a salaried position, didn’t necessarily have that same protection from being able to go pump. So it was about nine and a half million women of childbearing age were affected by the fact that this bill didn’t pass.
Melissa: It was very interesting. It ended up being the people who didn’t vote to pass it were really hung up on the transportation industry because within the bill, it was required to create a private pumping area. And so there were actually women, women senators who were against having to add that to railway cars, which was just, I mean, if you really, really dial it down to the amount of people and the money, like it’s just, it’s mind-boggling to me sometimes where we get hung up as a country is like, it’s just like, you can’t not pass the pump act the same week that you’re going to tell women that they have to breastfeed for two years. Like it’s absolutely mind-boggling to me that as a society, we can’t seem to get ourselves together. You know, like those two things are not aligned at all.
Maranda: I find like this information is not really mainstream, right? Like a lot of people don’t even know that this is occurring because the focus is on so many different other things that are happening in our world, right? It’s taken a back seat. And I’m wondering for those who are listening in, how can they learn more about what’s happening here? How can they join in on these conversations and maybe even, you know, make a difference and, you know, write to their local politicians and be an advocate for these kinds of changes.
Melissa: Yeah, absolutely. You know, it’s really funny because when they’re not covered, there really aren’t there really isn’t a whole lot of information like you said out there. You know the best thing that I would say is we all just need to start talking about it. We all need to go into our workplaces whether you are a nursing or pumping mom or not and ask what their policy is. Start advocating for the people who may show up after you or may get pregnant who are too afraid to ask because I can tell you that like the stories that we hear in our Facebook group and the stories that we hear in our community are always so riddled with fear because they’re afraid to rock the boat. In some cases legally they’re protected but you’re in these ignore the fact that women are coming back to work in most cases at what at the most six 12 weeks postpartum that is so freshly newly postpartum. I remember laying in bed after my last baby and I was six weeks postpartum and it was when the bill was trying to get through the senate that we were going to finally give women paid leave and maybe it wasn’t even six weeks maybe it was four weeks. I don’t even know what the bill ended up trying to get passed as but it was it was a stupid short amount of time but it was better than nothing and I remember sitting there and I couldn’t even go make myself a sandwich and this was my sixth baby born beautifully at home I didn’t tear I had all of the support in the world I like have princess births I have the best nurse midwife like my mother was in town I have multiple nannies I have a farm to go walk on and everything I need and the postpartum is still hard you know so when we’re going to send women back to the workplace in situations where it all needs to be set up we need to advocate for each other I feel like as women and I know you asked where to go find the information but the problem is that it’s not really out there there’s nobody really truly doing an amazing job of recognizing this partly because I think it’s just depressing like it literally is this tireless effort of a tireless effort. And then bills don’t get passed because you can’t add a private pumping place to a railway car. Like it’s just mind boggling to me. And it is, it is really insane. So if you’re listening in, like one of the things to take away from this, share this episode, share it with your bosses, share it with your coworkers, start having the conversations. That is exactly what Melissa is saying here. And I will, I will take another business owner, another employee’s phone call, email, anytime. If you, anybody wants to talk about our policies, how we make them work, um, I will send our kid in the workplace waiver that we had our attorney do to anybody who wants to review it. Because there are really, truly very few jobs, especially office jobs. I feel like in America where you can’t, where, where you shouldn’t be able to bring a small infant. And when CBS came out and did the, did the interview with us out here, their biggest concern was where are we going to film because it’s going to be loud because you have kids there. And I tried to teach them because nobody really on the team had had a baby. I was trying to teach the sound guy that when you keep moms and babies close to one another, there’s really not a whole lot of noise.
Melissa: When a baby starts to fuss and a baby can be put to the boob or put to the breast, sorry, and, or given a bottle, there’s, there’s not a whole lot of, of angst there, you know, um, it does get loud in here sometimes, but it’s, it’s a really beautiful thing. You know, when you can have a woman who baby wears at her desk while she does, while she does work, it really doesn’t take away from much of anything. It’s, it’s like my heart just melts hearing you say that. I just love it. I just, I can’t imagine dropping a six-week-old baby off at daycare. Like, and that’s what’s crazy to me is that somehow we’ve got, we reached the point in America where like motherhood in the workplace is like hopefully a pumping break and a picture of a baby on a desk. Like that’s not what motherhood is. And if any business owner in America thinks that a woman’s gonna come back to work after having a baby and she’s gonna put a picture on her desk and she’s gonna pump and then she’s gonna be the same employee the rest of the hours of the day. No, like you’re completely missing the point but I feel like as soon as business owners check their egos at the door and realize that, you know what? You’re not the most important thing anymore in this person’s life. Their baby is or their child is but then really, truly getting to know that new version of them because everybody’s different after every single baby and learning what new skills and strengths they can bring to the table. It’s such a beautiful thing, you know? I mean, you’ve had babies. What you learned through that pregnancy year and that postpartum time, it strengthens you. It’s the coolest thing ever, you know?
Maranda: It’s so true and it’s always so different. And you think you have it down and you’re like, well, I’ve learned so many new things. I can’t even begin to comprehend what I don’t know, right? You have six kids. Like you’ve got so much more experience than I do but yet it’s so unique and different to each and every individual.
Melissa: Yeah, like this last baby, I wasn’t making enough milk or he wasn’t transferring it well enough. So my supply was dipping and going back up. So I had to use donor milk and it was this really, really sad, scary first two weeks. And it wouldn’t have been a big deal if I had to use formula. But the idea that I was running this huge breastfeeding company but suddenly I was gonna have to give my kid formula and had I ever even really thought about that and what did that mean? And like just the deep dive into like perfectionism and like what’s really important and how small of a window this actually is. I mean, there’s so many lessons you learn and just grit and tenacity and love and all things that 100% can be taken into the workplace too.
Maranda: I got goosebumps when you said that because I can absolutely 100% agree with you, right? Running a postpartum company and having major success and supporting all of these other people And then, you know, after my second, I had rage and severe anxiety and I was like, who am I as a professional to be teaching these things? When here I am experiencing them, obviously, I’m such a failure, I should quit, right? All of these things that we do to ourselves, right? And learn in the process, right? It’s just mind-boggling. So thank you for sharing that. Okay, where can people connect in with you and find you?
Melissa: Yeah, so if you want the clothes, they’re Lachmama.com but of course this is very little about the clothes. We have our own podcast. It’s called the Lachmama podcast. I have my own personal private Instagram page which is the Lachmama where you can see my cows and my chickens and my babies and hear about all sorts of nerdy things about women in the workplace. But yeah, you know, we really, really want to continue making this change and showing places that like, we’re completely unfunded, we’re completely debt-free as a company and we have literally done what many small businesses dream of and we’ve allowed women to bring their babies with them. So it’s possible to do. People just need to be not afraid to try.
Maranda: It’s not only possible, but you’re offering the inside scoop on how to do it themselves. So I hope those of you who are listening in, if you have this or if you want this in your own workplace, please, please, please take Melissa up, take a look at her information and let’s make some change.
Maranda: Thank you so, so much for being here, having this conversation. It has been an utmost privilege and I’m just, I’m so excited for it. Thank you.
Melissa: Thank you.
Maranda: Love this episode. Let us know by leaving an amazing review. Your support is everything. Want more? Head over to postpartumu.com. That’s postpartum, the letter u .com and explore how we support moms like you in holistic whole body healing that’s specific for the unique needs of mamas in the years postpartum. See you there.
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