We interviewed Kate Torgesen, founder of Milk Stork, about why she started her company, what she wants working moms to know, and why her company’s partnership with Ovia Health is essential for transforming the workplace for women and families.
Why did you create Milk Stork?
Milk Stork started with two gallons of breast milk and a four-day business trip.
It was my first business trip after returning from maternity leave, after having twins, and I couldn’t figure out how I was going to supply them with breast milk while I was gone. The twins and I had endured countless breastfeeding challenges – latching issues, tongue ties, slow weight gain, and nursing strikes, not to mention tandem nursing! – and I didn’t want my business trip to derail everything that we had overcome in our breastfeeding relationship. At the same time, professionally, I was ready to be back in action. And, while it wasn’t the most important business trip of my career, I knew that if I didn’t step up and shine, someone else would.
At the time, the twins were consuming half a gallon of breast milk a day. So, to take the trip, I had to pump two "extra" gallons of milk before I left. I did this by adding pumping sessions to my busy schedule in the days leading up to the trip – I went from pumping every three to four hours to pumping every couple hours. Then, while I was away, I pumped relentlessly around the clock to maintain my milk supply (i.e. my ability to lactate). And then, I somehow managed to cram two gallons of breast milk into my hotel mini-fridge.
On the last day of my trip, I packed a soft cooler with the milk along with four gallon-sized Ziploc bags filled with ice (it was too much milk to cool with a couple of gel packs). I lugged my sloshing, dripping 25+ lb. carry-on of milk (along with my purse, breast pump bag, and suitcase) to the TSA line and then endured an embarrassing inspection process that required opening all of the milk containers – not to mention the process of explaining to several TSA agents why I had "so much breast milk."
Once through TSA, I ran to the nearest bathroom to drain the excess water out of the ice bags, then rushed to the nearest bar to replenish the bags with fresh ice. I barely made my flight. On the plane, I continually checked on my milk and the Ziplocs out of fear that my milk wasn’t cold enough and that the Ziplocs might leak.
For me, that trip was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I came home frustrated by the logistical barriers and burdens I faced during that trip. I was determined to create a solution that would make life easier for breastfeeding moms.
In August 2015, Milk Stork launched as the first breast milk shipping company. Since then we’ve transported over 2 million ounces of breast milk home and we are the trusted breast milk shipping solution to over 14,000 moms and over 400 employers.
Why are modern maternity benefits such as Milk Stork so important as a benefit to employees?
Today, 47 percent of the workforce is female and most moms are working moms. The transition to working motherhood can be logistically, physically, and emotionally challenging. Maternity (and parent-supportive) benefits ensure that employees are supported in this transition so that they may thrive at work and at home. Family-friendly benefits are not just good for people, they’re great for business.
Why did you choose to partner with Ovia Health?
The transition to parenthood can feel like a journey into the unknown. Getting the right information, at the right time in the journey, can make all the difference. This is especially true when it comes to returning to work and trying to continue to breastfeed. By partnering with Ovia Health, Milk Stork is able to connect with working moms at the right time in their breastfeeding journey. For employers, Milk Stork and Ovia Health’s partnership ensures that parent-friendly benefits are integrated into an easy, go-to solution for their employees.
Why is it so important to extend the reach of Milk Stork through partnerships with companies like Ovia?
Partnering with trusted companies in the benefits space, like Ovia Health, helps keep Milk Stork top of mind with employers, which in turn ensures that our services are provided to the working, breastfeeding moms who need us most.
What's the one thing you want Ovia Health users to know?
We are excited to help Ovia Health users maintain their commitment to breastfeeding no matter where their jobs might take them.
What's the one thing you want employers to know about supporting women in the workplace?
I want everyone – including employers – to acknowledge and celebrate motherhood as an empowering experience that enhances an employee’s career performance and their ability to contribute to their company. Being a parent requires creativity, efficiency, emotional intelligence, and deep wells of strength and grit. Supporting working moms isn’t about accommodating a specific employee population, it’s about ensuring employee performance.
What's your number one tip for working breastfeeding moms?
When I was pumping, I found that it was essential to schedule my pumping sessions on my work calendar. Whenever I tried to “squeeze in” a pumping session, I would invariably schedule over it or drop it all together – and that can be a slippery slope when it comes to milk supply. When they were scheduled, I was committed to them and it also prevented my colleagues from scheduling over them.
Ovia Health’s maternity and family benefits solution is the #1 health app for women and families. Learn how Ovia Health can help you meet the needs of this new generation.
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