Written by Robin Kaplan, M.Ed., IBCLC, Owner of the San Diego Breastfeeding Center and Co-editor of Lactation Matters
Last month, I had the pleasure of interviewing Wendy Wright, MBA, IBCLC, and owner of Lactation Navigation, a business committed to empowering mothers, babies, and employers by easing the transition from maternity leave to work through education, preparation and communication for all issues related to breastfeeding.
Robin: Wendy, tell us about Lactation Navigation.
Wendy: Lactation Navigation serves to help women return to work without weaning. We provide our support through three primary pathways: (1) directly working with employers on breastfeeding policy and breastfeeding support programs, (2) directly supporting new mothers through teleconference education, on-site return to work classes, pump rentals and free community classes offered monthly and (3) training lactation consultants to assist employers and mothers in their specific geographical areas. I have also begun to explore the iphone to assist women in their return to work – the pump@work iphone application has been available since 2010 and is selling well in the Apple store. 50% of proceeds from sales are donated to the California Breastfeeding Coalition.
Robin: How did you decide to focus on workplace lactation for your business?
Wendy: I worked in the crazy up and down world of biotech marketing for 20 years before becoming an IBCLC. During my biotech employment, I gave birth and breastfed two great children. Maddy – currently 12, breastfed for 18 months during which time I traveled for approximately 40% of each workweek. Teague – now 5, breastfed for four years during my last biotech position and my return to school for the IBCLC. I always knew I would breastfeed and would never allow work to get in the way. As I met more and more mothers, it became obvious that returning to work without weaning was very difficult for many – priorities are often confused, commitment levels are not built initially and employment rights are misunderstood. Once I became an IBCLC, the choice to focus on workplace nursing was straightforward and there were very few experts available on the topic.
Robin: What can we do in our communities to promote better workplace lactation support?
Wendy: I would encourage each lactation consultant to work with their local hospital to offer a back to work breastfeeding course at a reduced rate or for free. This will give women a place to turn and an opportunity to network with other mothers in their same position. Lactation Consultants will benefit by gaining referrals, networks and potential corporate clients. Also, get involved with your local breastfeeding coalition – when back to work legislation or breaches of policy occur in your area, you can be the local expert to assist and promote the appropriate breastfeeding resources and support.
Robin: Where can a woman find out what her rights are as a working, breastfeeding mother?
Wendy: The National Conference of State Legislators summarizes each states’ current breastfeeding laws, it was last updated in May 2011. Also important to review is the National Fair Labor Standards Act (part of the Affordable Care Act). The Act has been amended to provide rest breaks and space for employees who are nursing mothers to express breast milk. The amendment became effective on March 23, 2010 – and where there may be a conflict between federal and state law on a particular issue, the amendment specifically provides that the federal law does not preempt a state law providing greater protections. This is great news for all American women and babies!
Robin: What is the most rewarding aspect of your business?
Wendy: I love listening to success stories once women have returned to work. I learn something from each experience and then can apply the new understanding to helping more women successfully balance work and breastfeeding.
Wendy spent 15 years in the biotech industry in the Bay Area and worldwide prior to breaking out on her own and founding Lactation Navigation in 2007. Wendy has a B.S. in Health Services Administration from the University of Arizona and an MBA with a Marketing emphasis from the University of Cincinnati. Wendy’s daughter is twelve and her son is five. Both kids love to swim and enjoy bicycling. She is dreadfully fearful of spiders and enjoys spicy food any time of day. Lactation Navigation allows Wendy to combine skills learned in the corporate setting over the past 15 years with her love of breastfeeding. It allows her to spend time with her children and also with new mothers. It also encourages health and happiness for other families, and brings bottom-line profits to progressive companies.