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Belly Armor’s mama CEO talks building a brand and a family

Motherly @ Work features the stories and insights of modern women growing their careers—and their families.


Like Aileen Chen Co-Founder and CEO of Belly Armor—an innovative company that designs products which will protect you and your little ones from potentially harmful radiation from cell phones, laptops, power lines, and other everyday objects. Belly Armor sells beautiful belly blankets to protect your precious cargo, nursing covers, baby monitors, and more. Belly Armor’s products have received many prestigious awards such as The Bump’s Best of Baby in 2012 and 2015, and Pregnancy & Newborn’s Top Products of 2014.

We caught up with Aileen to find out how she prioritizes her to-do list, and how she’s making a difference in the world.

Your business, Belly Armor is super important for protecting ourselves and our little ones from radiation. Why did you want to start your business and create your innovative products?

Aileen Chen: When I was pregnant with my first child, my own worry about the wireless devices I was surrounded by prompted me to look into the potential harm they might pose for my baby. I was surprised to learn of the research showing health risks and the precautionary measures that many governments and health organizations worldwide were advising.

It was well-accepted that everyday radiation (non-ionizing radiation emitted by sources like cell phones, computers, wireless towers and power lines) can have a biological impact, but there was much confusion and debate around how it impacts our health.

Increasingly, research was indicating potential health risks from this radiation, and experts are particularly concerned for young children and during pregnancy when DNA replication and cell growth are at their highest rates. Compounding the risk is the exponential growth in wireless technologies over the past decade—today’s children will be exposed to levels of radiation unprecedented in human history, in closer proximity and for longer durations throughout their lives than previous generations. There was an obvious gap between scientific knowledge and public awareness. As the health experts warned, if history is any indication, it can take years and even decades for scientific evidence to conclusively affirm health risks from environmental hazards and then translate into policies to safeguard people. Such was the case with tobacco, lead, asbestos, and x-rays.

I felt compelled to raise awareness about this emerging health issue, particularly amongst parents and parents-to-be, and design solutions to help families address it.

Wireless technology has become an indispensable part of our modern lives, but I believe we should develop a healthier relationship with technology as the wireless infrastructure around us continues to grow exponentially. With my co-founder, we started Belly Armor with the mission of giving children the best possible start in life, by increasing awareness of this health issue and providing practical and effective solutions for parents looking to reduce their families’ exposure to everyday radiation.

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What would you say are your most popular products and why?

Aileen Chen: Our products are designed with the modern parent in mind—they must fit easily into their everyday lives, while providing effective ways to reduce their exposure to everyday radiation. Belly Armor’s products span maternity, nursery and fertility—from maternity bands and low-radiation baby monitors to men’s boxer-briefs.

Amongst the various product categories, our Belly Blanket Chic is the most popular product in the thirty-plus countries we sell globally.

It is very versatile, being a blanket that can be used during pregnancy to cover the bump while the expectant mom uses a laptop or tablet, as a baby blanket after pregnancy, and have often been used by men under their laptops on their laps.

Our RadiaShield® Fabric—the functional part of the product that has been independently tested to be 99.9% effective in shielding the radiation emitted by everyday electronic devices—is very lightweight and breathable. Not only is this Belly Blanket Chic portable and easy to keep around the office desk or home, it is also super soft to snuggle up with and free of heavy metals, toxic chemicals and common allergens.

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) recently released a study suggesting that chronic exposure to cell phones and other wireless devices may lead to cancer in humans. Do these types of studies motivate you to grow your brand presence? What do you think of the current research on radiation effects on our children in utero and out?

Aileen Chen: This federal study provides further validation and adds to the growing pool of research indicating that cell phone radiation can pose harm and that we need to think differently about the way we use wireless technology. The fact is, wireless technologies have not been around for a long time, but they are growing exponentially around us, permeating into offices, schools, and homes. Our children are exposed to unprecedented levels of wireless radiation and will be throughout their lives.

Most people don’t know that safety standards for cell phone radiation were established nearly 20 years ago using a 200-lb adult male model. (Or, that most phone manuals advise using and carrying your cell phone at least 1/2-inch away from your body.) The phones we use today and the way in which we use them (in terms of proximity and duration) are drastically different from 2 decades ago. In addition, the populations using these phones have changed dramatically—the majority of cell phones users now are less than twenty years old, with growing numbers that are children.

There is still much scientific debate about the nature and the extent of the risks from wireless radiation.

However, what we do know is that radiation at the levels emitted by cell phones and Wi-Fi does have a biological effect. Numerous studies have shown that it impacts the way cells grow, DNA replications and brain cells function, and most scientific experts agree more research needs to be done.

Because children are more vulnerable to environmental factors, many health experts and governments recommend applying the precautionary principle towards these risks until we know more. The World Health Organization has labeled cell phone as a possible carcinogen. The American Academy of Pediatrics has openly urged the FCC to update their safety standards to safeguard children. Nearly 200 independent scientists from 39 countries and institutions like Yale and Berkeley have urged the UN for stricter controls on cell phone radiation. The French government has banned the marketing of cell phoned to children under 12 and prohibited the use of Wi-Fi in places dedicated for children under 3.

Dr. Devra Davis, a renowned cancer expert, a former health advisor to President Clinton, and current president of the Environmental Health Trust, a nonprofit devoted to researching and educating about avoidable environmental health threats such as wireless radiation, says: “If ever there was a time to re-think our growing dependence on wireless in schools, cars, homes, and energy production, this is it. There is no other suspected cancer-causing agent to which we subject our elementary school students or place directly in front of the brain and eyes with virtual reality… It makes no sense to continue building out huge wireless systems until we have done a better job of putting the pieces of this puzzle together. This latest report from the NTP should give us all pause.”

We work with experts like Dr. Davis and organizations like Healthy Child Healthy World (of which Belly Armor is a Trusted Partner) to educate more about this emerging health issue. Seeing the awareness grow and powered by more emerging research, my team and I are even more motivated to do our best in our mission to give children the best possible start in life.

What inspires you to do this work?


Aileen Chen: The ability to make a positive impact in creating a healthier environment for our children.

What are your secrets for integrating work and family?

Aileen Chen: I think work/life balance is very individualistic—everyone defines that balance differently and goes through their own journey to achieve it. Striking that balance is a constant work-in-progress as careers evolve, as life happens and as priorities shift. For me, I believe a good balance is achievable when I am clear and realistic about what that balance means for me.

And I try to achieve that balance by:

—Prioritizing the handful of most important things (work and personal) I must complete each day, and getting those squared away early in the day. There is less stress and overhang once those are done.

—Separating time for work and time for family, and being fully present when I am in either one.

—Automating wherever possible and seeking help as necessary.

—Choosing progress over perfection—knowing when to let something go and not get stuck trying to make something “perfect” (it is still often easier said than done!).

Of course, the key to making this all work for me is that I am blessed to have a very supportive husband, an equal partner in our parenting journey and a strong supporter of my goals.

How do you recharge?

Aileen Chen: During the day, I try to take a break to walk in the sun or listen to music, even if for only 10 minutes. It’s amazing how they can reset me physically and emotionally. At night, I like to read, and do relatively simple but productive tasks in silence—like cleaning or baking—which feel therapeutic, give me time to think, and produce clear results and a sense of accomplishment (even if it’s a small one).

Do you have a mentor or someone you look up to that’s helped to shape you as a woman and a mother? Tell us how they inspire you.

Aileen Chen: I have been very blessed to have had many mentors throughout my life so far. During the earlier part of my career, a couple of them guided me and served as my staunch advocate with promotions and international work opportunities, giving me a wealth of experiences.

There are many female business and political leaders that I admire and would love to meet one day. While some of her policies and actions had been controversial, Margaret Thatcher was a role model for me when I was young, being one of the few female world leaders then (and unfortunately there are still only a handful today). I had the honor of meeting her at an intimate student symposium during high school, not long after she left the prime minister office. I remember being completely inspired by the harmonious combination of her intelligence, toughness, wit, confidence, warmth, grace and femininity. She inspired me to find my own style and voice as a leader, more assured that confidence does not equate to arrogance, toughness can be done with grace, and exuding femininity does not have to imply weakness.

In recent years, my most indispensable mentors have been the groups of women entrepreneurs who have also become close friends.

We have been a part of each other’s entrepreneurial journeys, inspiring and nurturing each other. We share the challenges of parenting while building our businesses, and learn from each other’s parenting styles and philosophies.

Each person is an amazing woman and mother with purpose, vision and compassion. Being surrounded by them has given me perspective and support when I’ve needed it most.

Tell us about your children. How have they transformed your career?

Aileen Chen: As most parents would probably agree—having children can be completely transformative in changing the way we view the world, ourselves, and our purpose.

My kids have brought so much laughter and meaning (and challenges too, no doubt!). They have taught me how to live in the moment, to reflect on my own words and actions, to treasure the simple things in life.

Becoming a mother ignites the intense desire to give your children the best in life, and for me it sprouted Belly Armor.

Being a mother has made me focus my time, energy and experiences on things I care about and the things that will positively impact the world I leave behind for my kids.

What gets you out of bed in the morning and keeps you inspired and excited about life?

Aileen Chen: Technically, well, the alarm clock. And then my kids’ voices and giggles and our dog’s pitter patter on the floor, eager to be walked and fed.

I’m excited by the progress I can make and by the experiences my loved ones can have each day. I believe that as individuals, we can all positively impact other’s lives and collectively build strong communities and societies. I strive to make a difference, and to teach my children to be positive contributors to society.

Tell us about a typical day in your life.


At 6: 30 am. . . Getting up and ready, starting to prep kids’ lunches while my husband makes breakfast.

At 7:45 am. . . Getting kids to put on their shoes and into the car. This can take anywhere between 30 seconds to 5 minutes.

At 10:00 am. . . At my desk with a cup of coffee, working with my team on an awareness campaign.

At 1:00 pm. . . Finishing lunch, trying to get a little sun outdoors.

At 3:00 pm. . . Replying to customer emails.

At 5:00 pm. . . Getting ready to pick up the kids from their after-school activities. Thinking about dinner prep.

At 9:00 pm. . . The kids are in bed; I am tidying up the house, planning for the next day, and catching up with my husband.

What’s one thing you do every day (or try to do every day!) to ensure that your work and home lives run more smoothly?

Aileen Chen: Each night, I plan my schedule and my family’s schedule for the next day (including what to pack for kids’ lunches and make for dinner) and create a To-Do list of the top priority things for the day. It makes it much easier to jump-start the next day and know what you want to accomplish.

We’d love to hear—what would you tell other mamas who have a great idea and want to start their own business?

Aileen Chen: Do something you are passionate about, something that you strongly believe in. Otherwise, your motivation may wane over time, and you may feel increasingly conflicted about your time and energy spent on the venture versus on other responsibilities and interests in your life.

Also, do good planning upfront before you dive in—understand the market demand, target customers, competitive landscape, and differentiators of your products/services. Knowing these, you will be able to test the viability of your idea and gain clarity for your path forward. You have to be really honest about your strengths and weakness, what type of resources and support you need to get started and keep things going for a period of time until you get traction. Your initial capital should also have some of your own capital—having skin in the game will make you feel even more invested and motivated.

Be prepared for the business to take a lot of your time, energy, and mindshare. Because it is your own business, it will be hard to completely turn off, even when you are on vacation or on maternity leave. If you are passionate about what you’re doing, you’ll still be jumping out of bed every day, excited to make progress on the idea.

What do you hope your child/children learn from your career?

Aileen Chen: That they should always try to do things that make a positive impact. That they can pursue their passions and find meaning in their work. That they don’t have to choose between family and career but can have a good balance of both. That challenges will also always exist but can present the most valuable learning experiences. That surrounding themselves with positive influences will enable them to achieve their dreams.

What’s in your purse?

Aileen Chen: Wallet, keys, pen, small notebook, iPhone, headphones, water bottle, granola bar, and a good luck charm I got with my husband and kids at a temple in Japan.

What does ‘Motherly’ mean to you?

Aileen Chen: Being a nurturer and a pillar.

This part of Khalil Gibran’s poem On Children really speaks to me and how I see my role as a mother:

“Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You are the bows from which your children

As living arrows are sent forth.”


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Who says you have to wait for birthdays or holidays to give your bestie a great gift? A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs in these more-than-trying times. We've rounded up some of our favorite go-to gifts that are certain to be a bright spot in her week. But be warned, you may want to snag a few for yourself. (You deserve it, mama.)

Here are some our favorite "just because" gifts to give our hardworking mama friends.

New Mother face + body care duo

volition face + body care duo

This correcting oil and stretch mark minimizer is perfect for the pregnant mama looking to keep her pregnancy glow. The correcting oil brightens the skin while reducing dark spots, and the stretch mark minimizer works to smooth her ever-growing belly.

$70

Allover roller

esker allover roller

This jade roller goes beyond your typical face roller and can be used anywhere on the body. It works to increase stimulation and reduce puffiness and is perfect for applying any oils to the face or body. Plus, it feels like a mini spa treatment.

$65

Kombucha making kit

farmsteady kombucha making kit

What could be a more perfect gift for the health-obsessed friend? This kombucha making kit comes with everything you need to brew your own homemade green tea kombucha. They'll think this is the tastiest gift ever.

$45

Laetitia lipstick

cupid & psyche laetitia

This red lipstick is perfect for your makeup enthusiast bestie who is looking to spruce up her life in quarantine. Crafted in the United States, these bee and vegan-friendly and cruelty-free lipsticks are created to flatter all complexions. Cupid and Psyche Beauty makes finding the perfect red lip way too easy!

$23

Jigsaw puzzle

inner piecec jigsaw puzzle

Mamas need to destress now more than ever during quarantine. This adorable jigsaw puzzle is perfect for the mama who needs a brain break! The 500-piece puzzle designed by artist Ray Oranges features an abstract gradient design that fits a standard frame when completed. Bonus: It's printed on recycled paper and the company donates $1 from every puzzle sold to youth mindfulness programs.

$30

Matilda's Bloombox

matilda's bloombox

If we have to be stuck inside, we might as well have some gorgeous florals to brighten up the space. Matilda's Bloombox locally sources blooms, delivers them to her door and provides simple tips on how to arrange it into a beautiful bouquet.

$39

'I Am Enough' bracelet

I Am Enough bracelet

Let this dainty bracelet serve as a constant reminder to your bestie that she is enough. She'll wear this on her wrist and read this daily oath to herself, "I Am Enough."

$35

Glow assorted teas

vahdam low assorted teas

This tea gift box set covers the entire spectrum of flavors from sweet to spicy. Individually packaged in beautiful tins, your gal pal will feel like a queen sipping her morning tea. Originally $40, this set is currently on sale for just $24. We'll take two, please.

$24

Find your voice journal

find your voice journal

Journaling is a great way to ease anxiety and will slow your bestie's racing mind before bed. This gift is perfect for first time journalists and includes prompts, daily quotes and coloring pages to help her unlock her potential and find her voice.

$22

Premium frother

shore magic premium frother

This gift is fitting for your latte-sipping bestie who can't go a day without her coffee. All she has to do is add two scoops of collagen to her favorite drink, and she'll have a perfectly foamy drink ready in seconds. Skipping the drive-thru line has never been so easy!

$25

Bath soak infusion kit

maude bath soak infusion kit

Say hello to hydration! She'll be feeling smooth and relaxed as ever after a long bath soaking in these salts. This vegan + cruelty-free set incorporates dead sea salt and dehydrated coconut milk powder for an ultra hydrating experience.

$32

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

It's a hard-earned title she answers to a hundred times per day. Whether she's new to the club or a seasoned professional, this delicate script 'mama' necklace is guaranteed to be a perfect fit.

$105

Superfood honey

Beekeeper's Naturals B.Powered honey

With a lack of sleep and jam-packed days, getting through the afternoon can be a real challenge. Send her a powerful pick-me-up in the form of a therapeutic blend of royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis and raw honey. It makes the ideal companion for tea, smoothies, yogurt or even on its on.

$17

Calming midnight mask with melatonin

Who doesn't deserve a reminder to pamper themself every once in awhile? Even better, this mask does all its work at night while you're sleeping with no extra effort needed. It's an amazing plant-powered antioxidant-packed mask that has melatonin, wild dandelion leaf and hyaluronic acid to rehydrate, repair and reset facial skin. It's so good, you might want to gift it to yourself. We won't tell, mama.

$68

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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One of our main goals as mothers is to encourage our children to learn, grow and play. They start out as our tiny, adorable babies who need us for everything, and somehow, before you know it, they grow into toddlers with ideas and opinions and desires of their own.

You may be hearing a lot more of "I do it!" or maybe they're pushing your hand away as a signal to let you know, I don't need your help, Mama. That's okay. They're just telling you they're ready for more independence. They want to be in charge of their bodies, and any little bit of control their lives and abilities allow.

So, instead of challenging your toddler's desire for autonomy, we found five of our favorite products to help encourage independence—and eliminate frustration in the process.

EKOBO Bamboo 4-piece kid set

EKOBO bamboo 4-piece kid set

This colorful set includes a plate, cup, bowl and spoon and is just right for your child's meal experience. Keep them in an easy-to-reach cabinet so they'll feel encouraged (and excited!) to get their own place setting each time they eat.

$25

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Before you know it, your little one will be asking (okay, maybe demanding) to fill their own water cups. This amazing 4-pack of cups attaches directly to the fridge (or any glass, metal, tile or fiberglass surface) making it easier for your child to grab a cup themselves. Just be sure a water pitcher or dispenser is nearby, and—boom!—one task off your plate.

$29

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

These beautiful blocks, made from sustainably-sourced wood and water-based, non-toxic, lead-free paint, will keep your little one focused on their creation while they're also busy working on their fine-motor skills. The puzzle design will encourage patience as your kiddo creates their own building, fitting one block in after the next.

$18

Lorena Canals basket

Lorena Canals Basket

This *gorgeous* braided cotton basket is the perfect, accessible home for their blocks (and whatever else you want to hide away!) so your kiddo can grab them (and clean them up) whenever their heart desires.

$29

BABYBJÖRN step stool

BABYBJ\u00d6RN Step Stool

Your kiddo might be ready to take on the world, but they might need an extra boost to do so—cue, a step stool! An easy-to-move lightweight stool is the must-have confidence-boosting tool you need in your home so your growing tot can reach, well... the world.

$20

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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In just over three weeks, we will become parents. From then on, our hearts will live outside of our bodies. We will finally understand what everyone tells you about bringing a child into the world.

Lately, the range of emotions and hormones has left me feeling nothing short of my new favorite mom word, "hormotional." I'm sure that's normal though, and something most people start to feel as everything suddenly becomes real.

Our bags are mostly packed, diaper bag ready, and birth plan in place. Now it's essentially a waiting game. We're finishing up our online childbirth classes which I must say are quite informational and sometimes entertaining. But in between the waiting and the classes, we've had to think about how we're going to handle life after baby's birth.

I don't mean thinking and planning about the lack of sleep, feeding schedule, or just the overall changes a new baby is going to bring. I'm talking about how we're going to handle excited family members and friends who've waited just as long as we have to meet our child. That sentence sounds so bizarre, right? How we're going to handle family and friends? That sentence shouldn't even have to exist.

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