#FreetheBoob: What We Need to Do for Working Moms

Even if you’re not a woman, don’t have kids, or don’t want to hear about body parts, reading this will make you as incensed as I am. This isn’t about bodies. It’s about compassion for the people who give us life.

This week, I took our LXMI team to Miami for an offsite and flew our CMO Thea down from New York.

Let me quickly introduce you to Thea. She’s a mom of two, including a nursing six-month-old. We joke that Thea and I are opposites: she’s a bubbly blonde former cheerleader who lives in an East Coast suburb and doesn’t like to stir up controversy. (I, on the other hand, live in a hipster neighborhood in San Francisco and grew up holding picket signs.)

I mention this to establish the fact that Thea wouldn’t call herself an activist. So when she mentions something that really, really bothers her, it probably bothers a lot of people who consider themselves mainstream.

Thea was worried about the offsite because, like so many working moms, she’d have to figure out a way to travel with a breastmilk pump and bottles, pump while on the road (we’d planned to spend a lot of time driving to Sephora stores across South Florida), and simultaneously contribute to the team events. For those not familiar: breastfeeding is a big deal. New moms must pump every few hours, or else things up there get pretty painful.

It’s hard enough building a startup that’s sourcing raw materials from small producers in places like Uganda and Madagascar. Add in the logistics of pumping breastmilk in front of your colleagues while working 14-hour days in the Miami heat, and you have what sounds like an impossible situation.

Except it’s not. I’m so proud that our company (which includes five gals and one very laid-back guy) didn’t make a big deal about Thea needing to pump in the car, or while we were all brainstorming back at our Airbnb. And I’m so proud that Thea dove into every activity we planned, including a hilarious trip to the Russian baths (i.e., sitting in blisteringly hot saunas alongside big hairy dudes while bonding with your co-workers).

How was this possible? Because our team believes that breastfeeding is the most natural, normal thing for new moms to do, and because we believe they should be able to do it in public without getting stared at, ogled, or made to feel weird.

Breastmilk is a source of life. Some people tell me they are “grossed out” by mothers feeding in public, and that they should find a private place to pump or feed. To those people, I say: deal with it. New moms have a tough enough time creating life in their bellies and ensuring the existence of the next generation. We owe them all the support we can muster, including the freedom to nurse or pump in broad daylight.

Do you know how hard it is to find places to pump or feed as a new mom? True, some progressive planners have put feeding stations in places like airports (thank you, MIA) and public spaces. But often, moms have to go into nasty public bathrooms or run around looking for private spaces. Why should moms have to cloister themselves in dank closets or under blankets?

I asked Thea what she does on planes. She said she’d tried covering her chest with a blanket, but her baby hates it, and so does she. Why? Because babies bond with moms when they feed by gazing up at the women who gave them life. Why would we deny mother and child this sweet experience by forcing moms to cover up? And from the baby’s perspective, it’s really hot and uncomfortable under there. Personally, I prefer eating without a blanket over my head.

It’s high time to #freetheboob. It costs NOTHING, helps busy moms, is better for babies, and increases compassion across the board for people who witness it.

ps. This weekend I’m running around to all the Sephora stores in southern Florida. Follow the adventure on Instagram here.

Leila Janah runs Samasource and LXMI and writes a weekly letter. Subscribe here.