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Get pumped: How one entrepreneur is making breast pumping better for moms

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


Sarah Wells is one of those women.

She’s mother, wife, and Founder + CEO of Sarah Wells Bags—gorgeous, high quality, and functional breast pump bags for all your pumping wants and needs. From creating innovative products like the wet/dry Pumparoo bags for your breast pump parts to designing a uniform compliant bag for military mamas (with a special military mamas discount!)—Sarah and her team are on a mission to keep you looking fresh and fabulous.

So how does she create beautiful bag after bag while also devoting time to creating a family? We caught up with Sarah to find out her secrets to running a thriving business and a happy family.

Your bags are functional and fashionable—and so.much.better than the bags that come with breast pumps. Why did you want to create your line of bags?

Sarah Wells: When I went back to work as Executive Director of a national nonprofit organization after the birth of my first child, Maddy, I was frustrated carrying an unattractive bag that came with my pump, which also lacked the functionality a pumping mom needs (like insulated pockets and more space for all your stuff), and I hated carrying multiple bags—a purse, pump bag, and laptop bag. Many other baby products had a fashion makeover ages ago, like diaper bags, but pump bags were stuck in big rut!

What was the need in the market?

Sarah Wells: My timing could not have been better. Right around the time I began exploring my business idea, the Affordable Care Act (Health Reform) passed and many moms were given insurance coverage of their breast pumps. This is an amazing opportunity for new moms. However, because of caps on what insurance is willing to pay for, moms who used to get a bag with their pump (albeit the ugly bag), suddenly were getting a pump without a tote. I think moms always wanted a better alternative; and Health Reform created an even greater demand for the product.

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Why is it important for you to work toward ensuring mothers feel good about their pumping experience?

Sarah Wells: Pumping is an incredible gift you give your (or another!) child. However, it comes at a crazy time for most moms. You are exhausted, physically recovering, overwhelmed, in a complete life-changing, Twilight Zone mental space.

Moms need every ounce of support they can get post-partum.

I consider it my honor to provide moms with a bit of fashion and function that makes them feel peppy and achieve their pumping goals.

What are your big hopes and dreams for Sarah Wells bags?

Sarah Wells: I’m living the dream! Truly, I mean that. I’ve built a company based on support, quality, and excellent customer service. I’m extremely proud of my accomplishments and humbled every day by the amazing testimonials moms send me about their bags. Where do I go next? There are women becoming pumping moms every day; I just want to keep reaching these women and improve on every aspect of my business.

What inspires you to do this work?

Sarah Wells: Absolutely the moms I interact with. I aim to support pumping moms in every way I can, but they give back to me too. I’m a pumping mom myself at the moment and I learn from my customers all the time. And they are always cheering me on with the business.

There is so much talk about judgmental parenting and catty moms—that exists—but honestly, the vast majority of moms I encounter are truly supportive and nothing short of amazing.

Tell us about your career to this point—how did you get here?

Sarah Wells: I’ve always had a passion for advocacy, especially for women and girls. My mom was mayor of our town growing up and head of a nonprofit organization (an incredible role model) and this set me on a path toward Washington, DC (I thought my destiny was politics—ha!). I majored in Women’s Studies and Public Policy in college and graduate school and I worked in two nonprofit organizations related to women and health care. When I became a mom myself, to two little girls, my passion for issues important to women and girls became almost overwhelming.

I had no idea in the early days that my journey would lead here, but it makes a lot of sense now.

I’ve always been entrepreneurial and have a passion for women’s issues. My business combines it all.

What are your secrets for integrating work and family?

Sarah Wells: Running a business is a 7-day-per-week job and 365-days-a-year (I have to work on Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. like people in retail.) However, it’s not a traditional schedule. So the good news for work/life balance is that I can take off at 2pm to join my daughters at the park or start work later in the morning to do camp drop-off. It’s taken me a couple of years to adjust to this new routine, but I really like it.

Flexible does not equal less time on the job (realistically, I work more hours now than I ever have.) But flexibility does allow me to participate in more family activities. I know not everyone can or wants to have their own business. But I often encourage my friends or family to look for flexible employment (e.g., non-traditional hours, partial or full telecommuting) if they are struggling with the balance. I know I’m lucky.

You’re a busy woman—how do you recharge?

Sarah Wells: I wish I could say, “a great stimulating book” or “exercise” but honestly, it’s the couch, a glass of wine and Game of Thrones. That’s the real me!

(Sounds heavenly to us!?)

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.

Sarah Wells: I have both! I’ll start with my mom, who I mentioned earlier (mayor of our town.) I could fill a book with all the ways she is amazing. Incredible mother, master gardener, world class chef, community organizer, savvy professional, etc. Nature and nurture—she’s given me an incredible foundation to build my dreams.

I also have a professional mentor, Nancy Strojny, whom I have worked with for years now. This is one of my top recommendations for other people starting a business. Nancy works with SCORE.org, and they will match you to a free, confidential business expert who can help you immensely. Nancy is one of the sharpest business women I’ve met and is “all in” for my success.

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

Sarah Wells: Perhaps in my case, my firstborn transformed my professional path a bit more than average, as pumping for Maddy inspired the entire idea behind my breast pump bag business. Aside from that, my kids have helped me sharpen my professional goals because any time away from them has to be really worth it. They have made me a better person in every way.

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

Sarah Wells: First and foremost, my family, Greg, Maddy and Abby. They literally jump on me at 6:30 am! But also, I get up every day and do my best for them because I love them so deeply. I also have developed an intense drive for my work over the years. I wake up itching to get to my desk and compete with myself from the day prior. Can I top myself today? Be more creative, a better human, a savvier businesswoman?

Tell us about a typical day in your life.


At 6: 30 am. . . Abby (11 months) babbles on the video monitor wanting to nurse, Maddy (5 years old) jumps up and comes looking for me. The whole family is up and moving for the day. Most days I don’t get a shower in the morning, which bothers me, but I’m constantly making sacrifices to keep up with motherhood and professional demands. (And I work from home, most of the time virtually with my customers and vendors, so they don’t see me unshowered!)

At 7:45 am. . .Childcare handoff, I grab something fast to eat and my 100% required second cup of coffee.

At 10:00 am. . . I’ve gone through most of the customer service messages from the overnight (my customers send emails VERY late at night because they are often up in the wee hours breastfeeding!). My customers will tell you I’m normally VERY fast at responding. This is a top priority and something I want to be known for.

At 1:00 pm. . . Pumping on my Spectra S1 pump which is bedazzled with gems by the company and makes me smile literally every time I use it (see, just little things like that make a difference in a pumping moms day…) Shoveling some sort of food. Drinking lots of water.

At 3:00 pm. . . Working on marketing materials, talking to my manufacturer, mentoring meeting, scanning the internet for color or pattern ideas for the next bag, talking with moms on social media.

At 5:00 pm. . . Pumping again! And then knocking off for the “daytime” and hanging with my kiddos. We just moved and have the most amazing neighborhood to explore, so we have been going on a lot of evening walks. Then dinner, bath, books, bed for the kids. Then I come back down, clean up and start dinner for the adults. This is the hardest part of the day for me. Exhausted from a full day of work, plus pumping, evening is almost like another full day of child entertainment, the bedtime routine and making sure grownups have a healthy dinner. Whew.

At 9:00 pm. . . Check in on email. Instagram posts for business. Finally…a shower!

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?

Sarah Wells: Make sure the downstairs (living room, kitchen, etc) of the house is fairly clean before bed. I do not mean vacuumed, scrubbed, etc. I mean, most of the big toys put away and dishes running. We are not perfect on this, but it’s more restful to go to bed with it done and to wake up to a fresh start.

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

Sarah Wells: Ask people what they think of your idea. But not just your family and friends, try to find a group of people that are not biased who will tell you if they would BUY your product or service (there is a difference between liking the idea and being willing to spend money on it.)

And get a professional mentor!

What do you hope your children learn from your career?

Sarah Wells: Be open to the idea that what you start out doing in your career is just part of the journey and you may end up elsewhere. Try a lot of different experiences so you can weed out what you like and don’t like (and start that early, like internships in high school). Once you figure out your strengths and your passions, you can craft a successful path of your choice.

What’s in your bag?

Sarah Wells: I’m actually a purse “stuff” minimalist (I like to keep things clean!). In the main compartment: wallet, keys, phone, basic extras like lip gloss, spare pare of contact lenses. In the side pocket, all my diaper bag items. I leave the other side pocket empty for when I need to carry my breast pump and accessories!

Right now I’m carrying a prototype of a new bag I’m launching this holiday season, I think it’s my best yet. Not quite ready to share a photo, but stay tuned…

You launched a limited edition military Kelly bag in July. Why was it important to you to recognize military mamas?

Sarah Wells: Women have played an important role in our military for a while now, and recently through changes in the law, they are realizing their full potential and opportunity there. I knew this as a women’s rights advocate. But I had NO idea prior to my business venture that these women often carry on their breastfeeding journey in some seriously tricky circumstances!

Not only do some moms nurse and pump around people who lack education (or respect) in breastfeeding, they are pumping while flying military aircraft, pumping in a Humvee with their rifle on their lap, in the desert, on base, on the floor of a bathroom, shipping their milk, dumping their milk and more.

I think these pumping moms epitomize what we think of when we think “soldier”—discipline and commitment. I’m humbled by it sitting here in my cushy home office when I pump and I’m so thankful for what they do. A uniform-compliant breast pump bag was the least I could do to say thanks.

What does ‘Motherly’ mean to you?

Sarah Wells: To act with kindness and love and commitment in all that you do.

(Nailed it.?)


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If you've got a Tuo Convertible High Chair by Skip Hop, you should check to see if it is part of a newly expanded recall.

Back in January, the company recalled about 7,900 of the chairs in the U.S. (and another 2,000 in Canada) after learning the front legs on the highchair can detach from the seat.

Now the recall has been expanded to include about 32,300 chairs sold in the United States, and an additional 8,600 purchased in Canada. The chairs were also sold in Australia and Mexico.

In the first recall, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported "Skip Hop has received 59 reports of the legs of the high chairs detaching, including eight reported injuries that resulted in a lip cut and bruises to children." Skip Hop expanded the recall to more model numbers after receiving 17 reports of the legs of the high chairs detaching, but no injuries have been reported.

The initial recall impacted grey chairs purchased between December 2016 and September 2017, but the expanded recall impacts charcoal grey models (style number 304200) and versions of the high chair in a silver and white with clouds design (style number 304201) purchased between June 2017 and December 2018.

The high chairs were sold at Target, Babies "R" Us, Buy Buy Baby, Kohls, Dillards and through Amazon and Skiphop.com between June 2017 through December 2018, and retailed for about $160.

The impacted date codes (which can be found on the back of the chair, on the "warning" sticker, are as follows:

HH5/2017, HH6/2017, HH7/2017, HH8/2017, HH9/2017, HH092717, HH030518, HH05182018, HH05312018, HH092917, HH010518

Refund process

On its website Skip Hop asks that parents take a photo of the date code on the chair, as well as a photo of the seat being cut as in the photo above (you need to write your name and the date on the chair before snapping the pic). Upload your photos into Skip Hop's product refund form and you should receive an email confirming the shipment of your e-gift card or refund within 5-7 business days, according to Skip Hop.

"We encourage consumers with affected product to immediately stop using the product," the company says in a statement.

"Consumers can find more information about this expanded recall by clicking on our website www.skiphoprecall.com, emailing our customer service team at recall@skiphop.com, or calling 888-282-4674 from Monday to Friday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM EST."

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The holiday season is upon us. Tis the season for joy and giving… and the perennial "I want" monster. Kids, young and older, tend to ramp up their requests for toys, treats and all manner of "stuff" this time of year. Of course, it's not surprising given the onslaught of ads, promotions and sales that they see on every screen or media outlet this season—however, as parents, the constant barrage of requests can be overwhelming.

Sure, we want our kids to have nice gifts, but we may fear in the back of our minds that we are raising kids who are too spoiled or not grateful enough.

How do we balance this desire to gift while still fostering a sense of meaning and gratitude during this season? Here are some tips.

1. Help kids focus on the abundance in their lives.

In our culture, it's easy to focus on the things we don't have. Social comparison is probably at the highest it's ever been thanks, in part, to social media posts. In past generations, comparison was maybe only with our neighbors or classmates. Now social comparison has no boundaries with pictures of friends' vacations and cars being posted on social media daily from all parts of the world. Even if our kids are not on social media, they still experience the comparison pressure.

A meaningful way to combat this pressure is the same way people have been doing it for centuries: by practicing gratitude. This old quote is as true today as ever, "Gratitude turns what we have into enough." Helping kids focus on the good things in their lives can be simple but effective in keeping the attention off of requests. Additionally, it can help us adults be intentional about our focus as well.

For young children, focusing on gratitude can be as easy as finding a joyful aspect of each day when you are sitting around the dinner table. Even on the hardest day, there is usually some little thing for which to be grateful.

If you want to get a little more creative, something like a "reverse" bucket list can be fun. Instead of making a list of all the things kids want to do (or purchase), you focus on the things you've done that have brought joy to your family. Contentment and gratitude become of the center of the conversation instead of "I want." You can also do a reverse advent calendar, where your family does one positive thing a day (donating goods to a shelter, sending Grandma a card, etc.).

2. Help them see outside themselves (and their situation).

Young children are inherently self-centered, but it's no fault of your parenting or your child, it's simply brain immaturity. Before the age of about four, their brains have limited skill in understanding the feelings and mind of another person.

That being said, as kids mature, you can help them understand the world around them and people who live in different circumstances than their own. Many of us grew up in the generation where our parents told us to clean our plates because "there are children starving out there." Perhaps well-meaning, this guilt-inducing approach to understanding poverty may not always have the results we want.

Instead, kids might respond better to having authentic interactions with fellow residents that live different experiences than their own. Perhaps there are residents in your town who really need extra support, like refugees or underemployed individuals who you can reach out to through a local charity.

Many church or community groups know of families that need "adopting" for whom you can provide gifts and food. If you are able to actually meet the family in person or at least learn their names, this can make the giving much more meaningful for kids.

Trying to authentically engage with people that are different from our typical neighbors also raises many questions and topics for conversation with kids. Serving a meal at a homeless shelter may prompt an in-depth discussion of poverty and its causes.

These conversations can be challenging for parents, but are often necessary to help kids really understand others. By opening their eyes to the needs of others, kids gain a whole new perspective on their own wants and needs.

3. Guide them through uncomfortable feelings.

Part of the pressure in the season of "I want" is dealing with kids' uncomfortable feelings when the inevitable let-down occurs. No matter how many gifts or experiences you offer, no parent can provide everything. Kids will inevitably experience disappointment in some form or fashion. It turns out, this is actually a good thing.

In coping with the small disappointments and stresses of life, kids can actually grow in empathy and emotional maturity. The key for parents is to guide them through the uncomfortable feelings instead of trying to make them disappear.

When your child feels sad or disappointed about something (not getting the gift of their choosing, for example), instead of trying to distract them with an activity, allow them to feel those uncomfortable emotions long enough to really process them.

Allowing this emotional space is what builds resilience over the long term. You can offer emotional support and listen, but try not to rush them "back to happy" too soon. Once they calm down, you might offer some insights into how those emotions relate to other kids who are struggling or disappointed. In this simple act of emotional support, you've just helped your child build emotional intelligence and empathy for others who experience disappointment. Now that's the best gift you can provide for your child!

4. Model gratitude and kindness.

As much as we want our kids to focus on gratitude and giving instead of receiving, it is often a challenge for us to not get immersed in consumerism this time of year. The culture of purchasing this time of year is overwhelming. Even if we are mostly buying gifts for others, it can be challenging not to get caught up in the "fear of missing out" feeling when it comes to finding the best deal or coolest gift.

Unfortunately, our kids might pick up on this "fear of missing out" feeling too. Once they reach school age, kids often compare wish lists or holiday outings their family has experienced. As with most things parenting-related, we really have to practice what we preach when it comes to fostering gratitude.

We can model these values by showing our appreciation to store clerks, wait staff or others who have to work during holiday times. Kids are always watching and these little acts of kindness can make a big impression.

Modeling kindness is, of course, a year-round goal but this time of year we can help our kids show gratitude in special ways to those around them. Perhaps kids can show gratitude for those they interact with like teachers, bus drivers, or grandparents by making cards or special treats. Make a list together of who you want to thank.

The holiday season doesn't have to be filled with the dread of constant requests and wish lists from the kids. By changing our attention, we can use this season as a time for emotional growth and lessons in gratitude.

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It would be so great if we could be in two places at once because as mothers, we're often trying to do that.

We want to be there for every moment and milestone, but the fact is, we can't. Sometimes we're in the other room when baby takes their first steps and sometimes we have to be at work during our kid's big ballet recital.

That's exactly what happened to Busy Tonight host Busy Philipps on Friday. Her 5-year-old, Cricket, had a ballet recital, but Busy had to work. Luckily, FaceTime came to the rescue.

"Being a working parent sometimes is unbelievably heartbreaking and hard but thank god for FaceTime (even if it's blurry),' she captioned an Instagram post showing her screenshot.

Busy is so right. It is hard to have to make choices and admit that we can't be everywhere at once. Motherly's 2018 State of Motherhood Survey found 78% of mothers surveyed have mixed feelings about combining a career and motherhood, and that "there are real tradeoffs".

Having to FaceTime into your kid's dance recital so that you can smash glass ceilings in a television genre dominated by men—yeah, that's a tradeoff.

But it is also okay.

It's okay for Busy to love her job and not be physically present for this one recital, because (if you follow her on Instagram, you know) she's present and engaged in so many other moments of Cricket's little life.

Our kids know that we are there, that we love them, and that we would be there for every moment if we could. But the reality is that (even if you are a stay at home parent) there are times when you will miss something.

Obviously, someone was at Cricket's recital, holding up their iPhone, and Cricket will know that she had people in the audience and that Busy saw her in action.

Being a working parent can be unbelievably heartbreaking, but she's making it work, and so are you, mama.

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You're living the dream—you've asked your boss if you can work from home, or you landed that flexible position, or maybe you decided to strike out on your own as a consultant. Now comes a new challenge: How do you make your home into a workplace when it's already home to your (sometimes rather loud) family?

Through clever scheduling, a few ground rules and some hard core #momhacks, mamas have figured out how to share their workspace with little ones.

If you dream of being a working mom and a stay-at-home mom, take some tips from these mothers who've made the most of flexible work options (and a whole lot of inner drive).

1. Be honest with your clients

If you're working from home, be transparent about that from the get go. That way, if a child does bust into your office or the dog starts barking while you're taking a call, you can just keep going without having to explain away the background noise.

Sarah Hamaker is a mother of four between the ages of 10 and 15, and she also works as a certified parenting coach. She says she always starts phone conversations by telling her clients that she works from home—and they may hear a child in the background. "Most people were very understanding," Hamaker explains.

The mute button on her headset helped, too. Whenever she wasn't speaking, she'd hit the mute button so the conversation appeared to be a little quieter.

2. Get a gym membership

Sometimes, a work call is just too important to risk an interruption. If you don't require everyday child care, but do need a quiet call every once in awhile a gym membership can be a lifesaver.

A gym with on-site childcare is essentially an on-call babysitter, says Traci Kantowski, communications director with Trust Transparency Center. "I regularly take advantage of gym childcare when I need to be able to focus, or have an important call because I know my kids are cared for," Kantowski says.

Bonus: You can also actually just hit the gym.

3. Designate an area of your home for work

Kantowski's children know they need to knock before entering her office, but not every family can devote an entire room to mom's workspace. If all your bedrooms are full, you can still carve out a designated area just for your work, even in small spaces. Closets can make great compact work spaces, thanks to DIY ideas and products like this closet-to-office conversion kit from the Container Store.

If your office or desk is in a high traffic part of your home, a pair of noise-cancelling earphones can help you focus while your kids play with their other parent, grandma, the babysitter or each other.

4. Get a hotspot plan

For many, the point of working from home is to spend more time at, well, home. But for many mamas, working from home is appealing because it also allows us to be away from our desks. Ballet practice, carpool duty, library time—these are all things you can make time for when you're not commuting, but you might have to squeeze in some work while chauffeuring the kids around.

Make sure your cell phone plan includes hotspot access, so you'll be able to sneak in work time from the carpool line, the pool and the indoor playspace, Kantowski says.

5. Use electronics in case of emergency

Screen time guidelines suggest parents keep video time to a minimum, but, one work-at-home mom, Julianne Robicheau says sometimes a little screen time goes a long way to helping mama get her work done. Robicheau started her skin care company, Robi Luxury Skin Care, when her child was a year old, and says that, in a pinch, Ryder and his team of pups have come to save the day.

"Of course, I don't feel like mother of the year when I do this, but sometimes, work needs to get done and I have to rely on babysitter Paw Patrol," she says

​6. Let them help

Robicheau often lets her 4-year-old help her when it comes to photoshoots and putting together shipments. "I'm raising them to just roll with it," she says, explaining that she even brings her kids to most business meetings. "I shot a marketing video with a videographer from home with both kids around," Robicheau says.

Bonus: this method teaches kids about work ethic, and there are plenty of long-term benefits for kids who see mom working.

7. Reserve special toys for key work moments

When her children outgrew napping, Stephanie Woodson, who writes sewing and craft tutorials for her web site, Swoodson Says, transitioned them to quiet time with audio books and puzzles in their room so she still had a chunk of the day to herself. "Reserving special toys or crafts for busy days is key: A sensory bin or magazine collage activity can keep them happy for a long time," she says.

8. Share childcare with other work-from-home parents

If you know of other work-at-home-parents, you can swap children with them, giving each parent a day to work while the other parent watches everyone's kids, says Swoodson, who did this many times.

9. Wake up early

Allison Carter, creator of Confetti Party Plans, wakes up an hour earlier than her children to set her daily goals, check her email and plan her social media so that when her children wake up, she gets to focus on breakfast knowing that she already accomplished something before she actually started her day.

10. It doesn't matter *where* you're working from

Sonja Thompkins is a homeschooling mother of a 5 1/2 -year-old and an online business coach for brick and mortar boutique owners. She says she uses her gym, the library, fast food restaurants or even the car to work—as long as her child is entertained, and even takes video calls. "Clients truly don't care about your perfectly curated office backdrop," she says. "I used to think they did."

11. Batch work when you can

Thompkins' husband is an army reservist and a firefighter who works in 48-hour shifts. But when he's home, he takes over so she can crank out as much work as possible. "I use a project management app to keep me focused on the tasks I need to accomplish, which is great for my productivity," she explains.

If you're just starting out as a work-at-home parent, you'll soon figure out that you'll need to adjust your expectations, your technique and your methods as your family grows.

What works for a toddler (race to the computer to get two hours of solid work time while he naps!) will change drastically when he's a preschooler (schedule a playdate and practice some hands-off parenting so you can snag a few sneaky hours).

In the end, it's all about flexibility. And isn't that what working from home is all about?

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