We sat down to chat with Julie Burrell, owner and inventor of Pumpndo, to learn more about how her invention helps women do more while breastfeeding and how she thinks we can help reduce the stigma surrounding breastfeeding.
"Breastfeeding is not always easy, but it is worth it. Trust your body—you were born to breastfeed!"
Before her daughter was born in 2013, Julie Burrell researched all things breastfeeding and pumping, for months prior to delivering. The Hesperia native and GVSU graduate knew she'd be returning to work and that pumping would be a big part of her life. About a week into motherhood, Julie began pumping casually; it became apparent very quickly that stopping everything she was doing to hold the pump for the entire pump session was not an option for her lifestyle.
"I was way too cheap to buy a $50 hands-free pumping bra, so I DIY'd a terrible option out of an old Victoria's Secret bra. I used my DIY option for 11 months of pumping with my daughter and then again when my son was born in 2015," said Julie. "About six months in, while on the phone with my uber-creative best friend, I said, 'Ugh, I hate pumping. I really wish there was an easier way to do this, while still being able to work and be hands-free ... If only there was something that could clip on my nursing bra!' To which my friend replied, 'Well, why don't you make one?'"
After some sarcastic commentary with her friend, Julie went to her closet and discovered that the clips used on different nursing tanks and bras were universal. She began experimenting with various materials to create the right stretch and structure—and after a few months of trial and error, had a prototype that she'd sewed in her own dining room.
The Pumpndo was born.
Established in 2016, Pumpndo has experienced measurable success, having gone on to be a U.S.-patented product available on Amazon, with Julie winning the 2017 Grand Rapids InnovateHER award and placing second in the Dolphin Tank 2017 competition. Julie's aspirations have evolved over the years since creating Pumpndo, but one thing remains certain.
"Being able to help fellow moms have success with their pumping journey remains the most important goal for me," she said. "Over two years, I've been given countless reviews and the overwhelming majority of moms compliment the simplicity and usefulness of the product."
For Julie, staying productive has been key.
"Pumping hands-free in under 30 seconds while essentially keeping all of my clothes on allowed me to pump for eight months longer with my second child versus my first. Momming is hard enough!"
The stigma surrounding breastfeeding is unfortunately still alive and well throughout society, something Julie hopes can be remedied by education and understanding working hand-in-hand with each other.
"I encourage moms to not feel ashamed and openly discuss their breastfeeding and pumping goals with friends, family and employers. Though I believe breastfeeding is evolving, there is a huge generational gap—baby boomers didn't breastfeed as much as the generations to follow, and so we may lack that support from our moms and grandparents, which hinders our success."
Julie also acknowledges that finding the time to pump isn't always the only challenge facing women who are attempting to breastfeed.
"With my daughter, I struggled with pumping enough to supply milk while I was at work. I pumped for about four hours a day, and it turned out that one of my childcare providers was overfeeding her and essentially wasting upwards of 4 ounces per day. I ended up utilizing some milk-sharing groups to get donor milk for her."
Her advice for women who are on a journey with breastfeeding?
"Society, your doctor or even your family may not be in your corner, but there are resources out there to support you—I SUPPORT YOU! Offer the breast often and ditch the schedule."
Outside of running Pumpndo in her spare time, Julie spends her days working on all things economic development for The Right Place. She enjoys spending time in the pool, riding bikes and exploring nature with her husband and two kids—who happen to share the same birthday.
"Every day brings a new joy and a new first—from their tiny eyes looking up at you during a feeding and the first 'I love you' to the terrible twos and everything to follow; every day is different and exciting. I love watching them learn and evolve as tiny humans. I wouldn't trade it for anything."
Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for West Michigan Woman.