CEO and Co-Founder of Mamava
Mom to two kids
"We created Mamava from a place of experience and empathy."
We had the opportunity to connect with the amazing Sascha Mayer from Mamava, and love what she has created. The passion she has for this space, and to help moms everywhere came through as soon as we talked to her.
Mamava's goal is to make breastfeeding more accessible for every mom, no matter her circumstances. They want to educate mothers about their rights in the workplace, encourage them to use their voices to ask for accommodations and provide them with a combination of physical and digital products that help make their breastfeeding journey an experience they will cherish forever.
If you haven't already used it, they have a free mobile app that not only helps moms find lactation spaces and unlocks them, but it also links to their online resources guides to empower and support breastfeeding mothers. Learn more about Sascha and Mamava, and a huge thank you to her and her team for helping working moms everywhere.
The Returnity Project: Tell us a little bit about yourself and Mamava.
Hi! I’m Sascha Mayer, the CEO and co-founder of Mamava. We are the category creators of freestanding lactation pods and more broadly create designs solutions for nursing mamas on the go—like our Mamava mobile app, which helps mamas locate and unlock our pods, and find other (non-Mamava) nursing/pumping spaces. Currently, the app has more than 3,000 breastfeeding locations submitted by moms and vetted by us.
Our home base is Burlington, Vermont—with our office right on the shores of Lake Champlain! Since 2015, Mamava has placed over 750 lactation suites across the U.S. and beyond, in airports, sports stadiums, automobile factories, and military bases.
Design and mission are very important to us. Our products are designed with consideration of the biological, physical, and emotional needs of nursing mamas (and babies) on the go. My co-founder Christine Dodson and I are are often out evangelizing about breastfeeding legislation, positive work cultures, and entrepreneurship.
Before launching Mamava, I spent two decades at a design studio—now called Solidarity of Unbridled Labour—where I directed brand strategy. There, I got to work on the creation of many brands, including HP, Levi’s, Lululemon, Merrell Apparel, Nike Women. And before that, I spent some time working on as a staff assistant and assistant press secretary for Bernie Sanders.
I have two kids, now 13 and 15—and love to spending time outside with them, my husband, and our rescue dog, Cletus. Also, our chickens. We have seven chickens.
TRP: You’ve spoken What inspired you to create Mamava, and what gave you the courage to start your own business?
SM: We created Mamava from a place of experience and empathy. On Labor Day 2006, with my baby on my breast, I read an article by Jodi Kantor on the cover of the New York Times about the health benefits of breastfeeding and challenges of breastfeeding mothers returning to work. (Jodi won a Pulitzer Prize for her investigative work which contributed to breaking the Harvey Weinstein scandal in 2017.) In the piece, Jodi identified the fact that a corporate class of women with workplace autonomy were able to meet their breastfeeding goals, but many hourly wage workers didn’t have the space or time. As a result, there was a two-class system where wealth begets wealth, and health begets health.
At that moment, I decided to do something about these social inequities—and then it was a long journey from the time I had the idea, to creating and placing a prototype, to actually starting the business. I recruited Christine, who is a mom of three, to join me in the effort. And, fortunately, we were very lucky to have the support of the design studio where we worked in those early years. We set out to solve a meaningful problem so it didn’t feel so much like a choice or risk—it felt like a calling.
All along the way I reached out to people who could help. The more connections you make and input you get while you’re launching your business, the stronger your idea will become. Today, we have a board of directors and an advisory board. These Mamava friends have built great businesses and offer advice whenever I pick up the Bat Phone to reach them. I think of them as our Justice League.
TRP: Many of the stories we've shared on The Returnity Project focus on both the challenges and beautiful moments of motherhood; specifically the return to work. What was the return to work like for you?
SM: When I returned to work and I was breastfeeding and traveling on business, the only place I could plug in and use my breast pump was a restroom. As if it wasn’t hard enough to be away from my baby, making food in a place designed for the exact opposite function was demoralizing and undignified, but I kept going because I knew it was the best thing for my babies even if I wasn’t able to be with them.
I had it easy compared to a lot of women. I had a high-quality breast pump. I had the ability to take breaks. I had supportive colleagues at the design studio who looked out for my time—and eventually worked with me as Mamava was incubated. We were in the business of solving problems through design, and so we came up with the design for a freestanding lactation suite, and the brand we would use to frame the story for the world to help better understand the problem we were solving.
I think my return to work after having my first child marked a change in my confidence as a professional. I had just done one of the the hardest things anyone can do which is grow and birth a another human being, and now I was responsible for keeping that human being alive. After that, my “day job” seemed easy, and of course I had to become more focused and efficient.
TRP: What advice would you give to other working moms?
1) Know your rights. If you’re paid hourly, you’re covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and your employers must give you break time and a private space—that’s not a bathroom—to pump. If you’re salaried, this law doesn’t apply, but any states have legislation to cover all breastfeeding mothers. Our team at Mamava has created a comprehensive guide to state workplace laws to help mothers understand what’s often presented in jargony legalese.
2) Connect with other mothers who have been in the position you are—likely you’ll find allies at every level of your workplace. Don’t be afraid to discuss breastfeeding at work. The more we normalize talking about breastfeeding, the more normal it will be to provide the support working breastfeeding moms need. Remember, asking for breastfeeding support isn’t just about getting help for you—it’s about helping other women, and other working families, balance their personal and professional goals.
3) Overall, my mantra is that perfection is the enemy of progress—whether at work or at home. Sometimes good enough is good enough. Work with your partner and make sure they share the childrearing effort.
4) Make a good night’s sleep a priority!
TRP: What are you most proud of?
SM: The greatest thing about Mamava is the constant affirmation we get from breastfeeding moms, including those returning to work outside of the home, who tell us that we have helped them to meet their breastfeeding goals, that they feel less alone and “seen.” Breastfeeding initiation rates are increasing every year in the U.S. and we think Mamava is a part of creating that positive momentum.
TRP: Anything else you want to share?
SM: Our goal is to make breastfeeding more accessible for every mom, no matter her circumstances. We want to educate mothers about their rights in the workplace, encourage them to use their voices to ask for accommodations and provide them with a combination of physical and digital products that help make their breastfeeding journey an experience they will cherish forever. Our free mobile app not only helps mom find lactation spaces (Mamava pods and more than 3,000 other dignified places to pump or nurse) and unlocks Mamava pods, it also links to our online resource guides to empower and support breastfeeding mothers.
We are so happy to share our story with The Retunity Project. The more mamas who know of us, the more mamas will feel empowered to achieve their breastfeeding goals. We are excited to share our message and help change the conversation around pumping and breastfeeding — making it more optimistic, realistic and accessible.
CEO and Co-Founder of Mamava