The year is 2010. The scene: An airport bathroom, where I am frantically pumping my milk over the sink because it’s the only available outlet in the room. Suddenly, I hear that my flight is being called for boarding. Realizing that I don’t have time to finish pumping, store my milk, replenish my ice pack, or hope that my milk makes it through security (again), I am forced to do something so horrible, you may want to prepare yourself: I dump all of my milk down the drain.
Honestly, that moment still hurts. Had there been a better solution back then, you better believe that I would have taken it. Thankfully, today there is a better way for breastfeeding moms to get their milk home when they are away.
Started by Kate Torgersen, a mom who breastfed all three of her children (including a set of twins), Milk Stork gives traveling moms a special cooler for their breast milk called a “Pump & Ship.” Complete with a prepaid shipping label, the Pump & Ship package provides everything a mother needs to do just that — pump and then directly ship her milk home to her baby.
Shipping breast milk home helps moms avoid the hassle of not only carting their milk around, but getting it through airport security and onto a plane. I once had an unfortunate incident that involved my breast milk cooler in an overhead bin and a storage bag that burst open. Let’s just say I was not popular with my seatmates who quickly discovered that no, it was not the plane that was leaking on their heads.
Torgersen explains that in 2014, when her twins were 8 months old, she was faced with a 4-day business trip. Having made a commitment to breastfeed them for at least 12 months and having already fought through breastfeeding challenges that included tandem nursing, a tongue tie, latching issues, and weight gain issues, not to mention a pumping relentlessly at work to maintain a-half-gallon daily supply to meet their demand, the dedicated mother was determined to keep going.
On the flip side, she says she was committed to being “all in” with her job, not wanting the fact that she was a breastfeeding mother to hold her back in any way. She began troubleshooting the breastfeeding logistics of her trip, only to learn there were no services that would let her ship her milk back home. Her only option (as many breastfeeding mothers know) was to pump and store her milk, seeking out her own dry ice and shipping materials at her destination.
“It was too just much to do on top of the conference and all of the pumping,” she says.
Although Torgersen made it through with some Ziploc baggies and a whole lot of ice, she returned home frustrated and determined to come up with a better solution for breastfeeding mothers. Enter Milk Stork. Together with her father, Mike Torgersen, Milk Stork launched in 2015 as the first breast milk shipping service for traveling moms.
The way the Milk Stork service works is simple: A breastfeeding mom chooses which cooler she wants (there are larger and smaller options). The cooler is shipped directly to her hotel, awaiting her arrival. A mother can then pump and store all of her milk directly into the cooler (complete with a prepaid shipping label) and ship it directly from her hotel lobby to her house (and hungry baby). Shipping notifications are then sent directly to her phone, so she’s alerted to how her liquid gold is faring out there in the world without her.
What’s even cooler, is that Torgersen has partnered with over 60 companies that have recognized the Milk Stork service as a necessary travel expense for breastfeeding mothers — allowing employers to cover the cost. Torgersen also encourages employees to speak with their employers about covering the cost of Milk Stork when they travel. She believes it’s important to recognize the needs of nursing mothers and raise awareness about how support of breastfeeding mothers benefits companies.
In fact, Milk Stork is a solution that not only prevents working mothers from having to wean earlier than they would like to, it helps mothers maintain their milk supply, and in some cases, even keeps nursing mothers from leaving the workforce altogether.
“The reality is that maternity leaves are short and most women are returning to work before their babies are even eating solids,” she explains. “To keep breastfeeding, a working mom has to spend a lot of time on the pump. She has to juggle her complicated work/pumping schedules, and she has to lug a whole lot of stuff around with her every day. My advice to women is to ask for the support you deserve. Supporting and retaining great employees is what makes companies thrive. And, Milk Stork is a great way to support working/life balance and gender diversity, as well as attract and retain talent.”
We couldn’t agree more.