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Imagine a world without disposable diapers.
OK, don't. No one needs that kind of stress right now. Instead, let's take a minute for a brief history lesson.
In the 1940s, cloth diapers reigned and the best option available for keeping leaks to a minimum were rubber "baby pants" pulled over the top. Effective? Sure. Breathable or comfortable in any way? Nope. Diaper rash was a guarantee and the less than cozy design dug into squishy baby legs and bellies.
Enter Marion Donovan—a stay-at-home mom who had given up her career as an assistant editor at Vogue and a woman predisposed to ingenuity. After giving birth to her second daughter and totally fed up with diapers that soaked the sheets every nap time, she set out to create a solution. As she stood in her bathroom one day, the shower curtain sparked an idea. One pair of scissors, countless shower curtains, a sewing machine and three years later, she'd perfected the Boater—a reusable diaper cover made from nylon parachute cloth that kept leaks at bay without discomfort.
Not surprisingly, they were an instant hit when they made their debut at Saks Fifth Avenue in 1949.
She didn't stop there. Guided by the simple question "What do I think will help a lot of people and most certainly will help me?" Marion Donovan went on to set the wheels in motion for the fully disposable diaper (an innovation which wouldn't hit the shelves for another ten years as none of the male executives she pitched believed they would sell) the Zippity-Do (an elasticized zipper that allowed women to zip up the back of their dress unaided), a hanger that could organize up to 30 skirts and pants in a small space along with nearly a dozen other patents.
While it's true that necessity is the mother of invention, it's also true that few groups of people are more inventive than mothers—especially when it comes to innovating the needs of mamas and babies. These days there are countless brilliant products on the market that make mom life easier, invented by mothers who could no longer abide by poor design or inconvenience.
We've rounded up some of our favorite stories and mom-innovated products that might not yet be as commonplace as disposable diapers but who knows? Only time will tell.
ezpz: Less messy mealtime
Any parent who's ever fed a baby knows that most of the time, more food ends up on them (and every surrounding surface) than in them. That was the story for mama of three boys under three Lindsey Laurain back in 2015. Fed up (pun intended!) with all the hassle of cleaning up after mealtime, she realized what she needed was a plate her little ones couldn't spill or hurl to the floor. The result? A self-sealing bowl and mat that has become ubiquitous with first foods. ezpz has since expanded to offer a range of brilliant silicone mealtime essentials that are beloved by celebrities and tired parents alike.
Frida: The grossest thing we've ever loved
When it comes to the cult-favorite NoseFrida, there are two camps: Those who swear by it and those who could never. Though the innovative alternative to the bulb suckers of yore splashed onto the market less than a decade ago, it's without a doubt become a staple of modern parenthood–once you get past the total gross out factor. Chelsea Hirschhorn, Founder and CEO of Frida is also a Swedish pediatric ear, nose, and throat doctor, and mom to three boys. She just gets it. It's no wonder that today, one in every ten new moms has used a Frida Mom product for their postpartum recovery—especially given their often raw, real and totally relatable marketing. In fact, in 2020, ABC pulled their Oscars commerical at the last minute citing that it was "too graphic." Well, last we checked, so is motherhood.
Dreamland Baby: Safe sleep reimagined
When Tara Williams' son was about 6 months old, he struggled to sleep for more than an hour and a half at a stretch. Like nearly every mama since the beginning of time, she was exhausted and desperate to find a solution. One evening as he lay on the couch next to her, she placed a heavy throw blanket over him and almost instantly, he began to settle.
In that moment, a lightbulb went off. The gentle pressure helped him relax and fall asleep. What her little one needed was a weighted blanket! Since there were none on the market that adhered to safe sleep standards, she got to work creating a prototype. With her mother-in-law's sewing help, the result was 12 hours of sleep the first time her son used it.
Tara was onto something and she knew it. Over the next months she worked tirelessly with pediatricians, NICU nurses and certified sleep consultants on a series of refinements that resulted in a sleep-safe sack which then underwent rigorous testing to ensure it exceeded all U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Standards. In May of 2020, on the heels of a successful Kickstarter campaign, she made her debut on Shark Tank and secured a $100k investment.
Lorena Canals: Kid-friendly rugs that are stylish and functional
Inspired by the question, “why can’t we wash our kids’ rugs at home?” Lorena Canals set out to create one. In the 20+ years since, the brand has created an extensive collection of machine washable, kid-friendly home accessories that don’t sacrifice design and style. Each product is manufactured with the highest standards, handmade by artisans in the north of India using eco-friendly natural fibers and child-safe dyes. What’s more, each purchase helps children in the north of India access education.
Doddle & Co.: The pacifier 2.0
Every parent who's ever dropped a pacifier while out and about knows the devastation that follows when there's nowhere around to clean it. So while the vast majority of us have just stood by and accepted it as a necessary evil of parenting, two mamas (with five young kids between them!) Nicki Radzely, an experienced marketer and sales professional, and Janna Badger, an award-winning industrial designer decided to create a solution.
Reimagining the age old design of pacifiers with an exposed nipple, they came up with a far more clever version. Made from 100% food grade silicone, the non-toxic and naturally hygienic pacifiers are engineered to conveniently pop back into a built-in protective silicone bubble the second they take a tumble. No more searching for a place to scrub up when it's hurled to the floor or carting around clips and cases to keep it clean while not in use!
What's more, they're ergonomically designed for baby's mouth in a way that actually mimics the natural breastfeeding latch—a design which may minimize the risk of nipple confusion.
Since their launch in 2017, they've expanded their line and won everything from JPMA's Most Innovative Product Award to a successful Shark Tank deal.
Gathre: A stylish place to play
You spend so much time on the floor with your little one and between the spills, accidents and general mess-making there's a lot to clean up. I mean, if you haven't thought about swapping a rug for a tarp, are you even a parent? But you've also got an aesthetic to uphold.
That's where the gorgeous mats from Gathre come in. Founded by two mamas who wanted to create something that allowed them to slow down with their little ones and connect with intention, their wipeable, minimalist mats are the ideal place to, well, gather. They're crafted from faux leather with a flocked suede bottom which means you can literally hose them down when things get crazy. Whether you take it to the beach or set it on the living room floor, you'll find there's no limit to when or where it comes in handy.
Ollie World: Smarter swaddling
Launched by founder and tirelessly dedicated foster mom Hindi Zeidman in 2009, the Ollie swaddle was borne of her own need to find something that would work for Oliver, the little one in her care. The swaddles she found either didn't hold him correctly, were not strong enough to apply a comforting pressure, or left his legs unwrapped. The product she created slowly began to turn things around for him. He started to sleep, eat and gain weight. He began to reach the developmental milestones he had been missing and she knew she had created something that needed to be shared. She was right.
Since their launch they've become a must-have for Houdini-esque babes and sleep-deprived parents, selling out time and time again.
Tushbaby: The universal hip carry gets an upgrade
As any parent can attest, carrying our kids around is hard work. And while there are plenty of super technical carriers on the market, nothing is as simple as hoisting them onto your hip. Determined to find a way to cart her little one that saved her arms and back, founder Tammy Rant prototyped a solution and was instantly bombarded with inquiries from other parents as to where they could buy their own. She launched Tushbaby as a women-owned company that not only provides parents with thoughtful solutions but also gives back—TushBabies are donated to a Cerebral Palsy foundation so parents who need them can be provided with one for free.
Belly Bandit: Postpartum recovery revolutionized
When Lori Caden was out shopping after recently given birth, she was offered help as she struggled to reach the cat litter. "Here, let me get that for you. After all, you're pregnant."
It could have been one mama's mortifying and heart-breaking moment. Instead, it sparked the creation of what's now a ubiquitous postpartum must-have. Joined by her sisters who instantly had her back, they got to work researching and designing a solution that would help new moms feel more like themselves while supporting their postpartum bodies. They drew inspiration from the centuries-old practice of belly binding and created a modern version that is doctor-recommended and mama-endorsed by everyone from Motherly's own co-founder Liz Tenety to Beyoncé.
WubbaNub: Paci & Lovey Ingenuity
A lost paci can feel like end times, can't it? When WubbaNub founder Carla Schneider was desperate to soothe her newborn who fussed each time his pacifier was MIA, she grabbed a hotel sewing kit and came up with a solution that mamas worldwide now depend on. The brilliant lovey + pacifier combo is not only easier for little hands to hold, it also gives them the perfect pal to snuggle. Since their launch in 1999 they've created tons of different collections including collaborations with everyone from the MLB to Jimmy Fallon.
The Baby's Brew: Warm bottles anywhere
When you're out and about and have a hungry, crying baby, time is of the essence. Conceived by founder Alaina Moulton, military wife and mom to Willow, Alaina was looking for an easier way to warm her baby's bottle on-the-go. She was tired of missing out on things, held back by the worry that she'd find herself without a reliable way to get her hands on warm water.
After a quick Google search left her empty-handed, Alaina set to work creating the world's first battery powered, portable bottle warmer. Now mamas everywhere don't have to feel tied down by bottle feeding woes!
EmBeba: Generation-tested diaper rash care
Since the dawn of diapers, mamas and their babies have done battle against diaper rash. While on family trip to the Bosnian countryside, Thai-Anh Hoang's local family member gave her a remedy straight from the garden—a balm they'd been using for generations. It worked like a charm. After returning home, she got to work perfecting the formula to create a magical mixture that soothes everything from diaper rash to eczema. EmBeba launched their signature product in January 2021, but we suspect it's only the beginning for this clean skincare brand!
Nunona: Plant-based (and delicious!) breastmilk boosters
After spending her entire career traveling the world focused on infant nutrition and developing infant nutritional products, Nunona's founder Krista Maas de Villiers became a mom. Only then did she realize she was no longer interested in the synthetic products she helped develop in the corporate world. Instead, she wanted to nourish her body and her baby with plant-based nutrients—an option that she found hard to come by. So she set to work creating the all-natural, evidence-based products the market was missing—and the result is delicious.
Earth Mama: Effective, natural herbal care for mamas and babies
Founded and grown in her own garage in 2002, Earth Mama started as an operation of one, creating salves, tinctures, teas and soaps with homegrown herbs. With a deep desire to bring the healing powers of nature that have been relied on for thousands of years to as many mamas as possible, Melinda Olson's formulas quickly grew into Earth Mama Organics. Since then, the brand has remained committed to manufacturing clean, safe and effective herbal solutions for the entire journey of motherhood, including pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby care, and even the loss of a baby.
Bravado Designs: Frump-free underthings for ever-changing bodies
With 28 years of serving pregnant and postpartum mamas under their belt, Bravado Designs is a true authority on the needs of changing bodies. It's true that we have them to thank for rescuing us from the uncomfortable and frumpy designs our own moms had to live with. Launched in Canada by two young mamas, they designed the first prototypes with extra leopard print fabric certain that a better bra was possible. Throughout the years they've maintained their commitment to ethical manufacturing while creating long-lasting products that truly work.