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CES finally welcomes boobs

(of the baby-feeding variety)

Things changed for nursing moms visiting CES this year and it’s amazing to think that my little post from last year helped get that ball rolling.

What started as a simple project to illustrate how difficult it was to keep up with a pumping regiment at CES 2016 spiraled into something unexpected and beautiful.

Here’s what happened.

First piece — I shared the post with Allyson Downey, who directed me to MAMAVA, a woman-led company out of VT that makes portable lactation pods for conventions (and now airports, stadiums… well, pretty much anywhere that could use a lactation room… which means virtually EVERYWHERE) and the Mamava CEO, Sascha. Second piece — Allison Carney Fried (global communications for CTA), responded to my post, promising that CTA could and should do better to meet the needs of women visiting the show. Third piece — Lauren Dragan responded to Allison’s post and then took things one step further than I did, publishing a fantastic article in The Daily Beast. She then helped me push the connection between CTA and Mamava to make sure pumping mamas had a place to go for 2017.

And guess what…

We did a thing! Lauren (top) and I hanging with ladies of Mamava in their lactation pod at CES

Mamava set up three lactation pods at CES this year — one in Tech South, one in Tech North and one in the BabyTech Marketplace. Allison came through on her promise.

A big thanks for Allison for helping to make the male-dominated CES a woman friendly place.

At one point, I was chatting with Sascha in front of the pod in BabyTech and a woman came by to let us know that she had just pumped at the pod downstairs and say thanks. Even if that was the one pumping mom who used the pod at the show, my work was worth it, but something tells me she was far from alone in that respect.

A new breast pump to make stories like mine a thing of the past

Little did I know, but getting Mamava to CES was only the beginning. Apparently, my post struck a cord with the folks at Willow, who had been stealthily developing their game-changing “wearable” breast pump for the last couple years. It’s beyond humbling to think that I played a part in the inspiration to make a truly discreet pump (in sight and sound). Not only does the Willow team keep a blown up version of the picture I took pumping on the floor of the “Family Bathroom” in the Venetian at their office, they also used that picture for the pitch at their booth.

My feet! My pump! That horrific urinal/toilet conundrum! Hanging with the Willow team and my memory of CES past.
That’s it. Everything you need in two neat little “boobs.” Here I am admiring the goods with the Willow pump inventor, John Chang.

Even more coincidences — Anke Huiskes, who now works as Willow’s director of Sales responded to my post with her own harrowing tale of pumping at CES 2016 and how she had already started to fight the fight for MWC after being told “This event is thought for professionals and not even kids are allowed to go inside the venue” when she asked for a “Mother’s Room”. After these two experiences, Anke decided she needed to get into the game of making a better breast pump and roads led her to Willow.

The future of pumping

Fear not, ladies, the future is looking bright.

Last year, I lamented that CES was the place “where you can try multiple types of virtual reality but the lactation room of the future has yet to materialize.”

Well, we may have gotten a glimpse of the future this year with Mamava’s team up with Steelcase. Check it out…

Mamava mini by Steelcase. I want to live in here.

Extra boobie bonus, Naya Health just launched their gorgeous breast pump that throws everything you thought about your breast pump out the window (from the noise to the “stylish”-ness to the ever-so-lovely yanking on your nipples as if you had udders).

Showing off the Naya pump with CEO, Janica Alvarez. Yes, I have the same over-the-top smile in every damn picture. I’m that happy.

I can only hope that this is just the beginning.

Lessons learned

At the end of my post from last year, I stressed the need to normalize breastfeeding and pumping. I hate to say it, but most people, women and men included, who have never experienced the pain-in-the-assness that is pumping, simply do not know and do not understand what the big deal is. Sometimes we need to go out of our way, get out of our comfort zone, and push others way outside of theirs, to get our point across and our needs met. There have been national ads about erections since the ‘90's, I think we can get over our squeamishness about breast milk.

I no longer have a baby at the teet, but I promise you, my lactating sister, that I will always ALWAYS continue fighting the good fight for you.

We make humans and we deserve better.

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