Fenway Park Has a Private Pods for Moms to Pump Milk Thanks to This Vermont Startup (VCET BostInno Feature)

By Lucia Maffei

This is the fifth story in our “Inno on the Road: Burlington” series, which is running several stories on Burlington (and Vermont) startups the week of August 13, 2018.

Next time you stop by Fenway Park, enter Gate B and head over to the kids area; you’ll find what looks like a white, prefabricated box with rounded corners—the size of an average car. Inside, moms have the privacy they need to breastfeed or pump milk, even at a Sox game.

At Fenway since June 2015, the lactation pod is a product of Mamava, a Burlington-based startup launched in 2006 by Sascha Mayer and Christine Dodson. Since 2015, the company has grown to 22 employees and sold more than 500 lactation chambers to customers including Amazon, Walmart, Fenway Park, Boston’s Logan airport and SpaceX. Its total funding is just shy of $2.5 million, with local early stage venture capital firm FreshTracks Capital among its investors.

Mamava has been at Fenway since June of 2015. (Photo courtesy of Mamava)

“The benefits of breastfeeding are many, from both maternal health and babies’,” Mayer said. “But there isn’t the infrastructure to actually support it.”

The absence of paid parental leave means that in many cases, new moms have to go back to work while still breastfeeding. Both working moms, Mayer and Dodson faced this particular challenge when working at the Burlington-based design studio where they first met. As designers, they thought they could use their skills to prototype the first Mamava chamber, which saw the light in 2013.

The timing couldn’t be more appropriate. At work, a federal law amended in 2010 requires employers to provide break time and private lactation space; and said private space cannot be a bathroom and must be “shielded from view and free from intrusion.”

Since 2010, some new offices have started to comply with the law by planning ahead of time on including a lactation room in their spaces. From an office manager standpoint, spaces where a lactation room wasn’t present needed a fix; a quick and effective one, possibly.

Mamava manufactures and sells lactation and breastfeeding chambers that can be installed in offices and public places in less than four hours, the co-founders said.

While meeting practical installation, the pods were designed with specific inputs from the real users, the moms, Mayer pointed out. Inside the pods, for example, light can be adjusted to customize the experience, and there’s enough room for a second person, luggage “or toddlers,” Dodson suggested. Pods come in various models, are around 26 square feet large (but one model is wheel-chair accessible) and costs from $9,000 to $23,000.

“Just the shape of it, it feels like you’re not in a closet,” Mayer said.

In addition to the pods, Mamava has a free app that traveling moms can use to find Mamava pods in public spaces or other lactation rooms that the company has vetted. Currently, the app maps around 2,000 pumping-friendly places in the U.S.

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