Like many new moms, Lindsay Applebaum Stuart would lie awake at night, tired and uncomfortable, while breastfeeding her first child. It was three and a half years ago, and Stuart couldn’t get used to sleeping in a bra, which was necessary to hold pads to absorb milk that leaked during the night.
“Nothing was comfortable, and nothing felt like it was designed with that in mind,” she said. “It was just, we’re going to slap a Band-Aid on this problem until you get through it.”
Unlike most other new moms, Stuart acted on an idea to make the situation better. She launched a business, Mamalux, specially designed leakproof lounge dress for nursing mothers with built-in, removable and washable pads.
Last fall, she raised more than $25,000 through a Kickstarter campaign, and in February, she shipped out her first orders.
Before creating Mamalux, Stuart had no experience in apparel design. She formerly worked as a sportswriter, in marketing for Dick’s Sporting Goods and at Weatherman, a Bluetooth-enabled umbrella startup.
Working at the startup gave her the confidence to think she could launch a product.
“It felt like more of an attainable thing,” she said. “You can have an idea and just do it.”
She started by Googling, “how to design apparel,” and worked from there, finding a designer on the freelancer website Upwork to create a technical drawing. She found a factory in Minnesota and — unable to visit because of the timing of the COVID-19 pandemic — worked with them remotely to develop several prototypes.
Stuart also relied heavily on a Facebook group of mothers to test her product. She had found the group through her pediatrician, Kids Plus Pediatrics, and asked the group if anyone breastfeeding a newborn would be willing to try the dress.
“People were enthusiastic to try it, sleep in it, give me their feedback,” she said. “It took a while after trying it on women of all different sizes to make it universally something that women would feel good putting on and to make sure it worked. Some people leaked right through my first pads.”
In further product development, Stuart even had a friend donate her expired breastmilk to use for testing purposes. Stuart would line up different prototypes on her kitchen counter at night on top of construction paper and saturate them with breastmilk. She would check in the morning to see which ones had leaked through and discolored the construction paper.
Seed stage investor Innovation Works invested $50,000 in the company, including office space in East Liberty.
In part, Stuart believes that the dress, which costs $98, has been successful because of the importance of sleep for new mothers.
Studies have tied poor sleep quality in postpartum women to increased symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as higher levels of stress and less positive parenting.
“For me, that was the hardest part of new motherhood,” Stuart said. “When you’re so sleep-deprived, everything is harder, you are more emotional and you can’t function like you did before. Anything that helps, even if it seems small, is big, and for me being comfortable is a big part of that.”
Stuart will have the opportunity to test her product in May, when her third child is due. She is also working on developing Mamalux’s second product, a robe for new mothers, with dreams of expanding the company even more.
“That’s the goal in the future,” she said. “Not just breastfeeding products but things that make life easier for moms.”
Anya Sostek writes for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.