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Launching a Nonprofit: Au Baby

Launching a Nonprofit: Au Baby
Jolawn Victor

Almost four years ago, I wrote 100 Life Goals I want to complete during my lifetime. The goals are divvied up into five categories: family, travel, physical, experience, and lastly, influence. Influence goals include goals that affect others. They touch an audience greater than just you and your immediate family. Under this section it reads: #86. Support mothers globally – not sure how and #87. Support breastfeeding legislation by developing

I’ve always felt compelled to help mothers. There is something global, no universal, about motherhood. No matter a women’s race, socioeconomic status, class, ethnicity, you name it, mothers have one thing in common. We have a shared experience that creates a perspective through which we see the world. This passion and shared linkage inspired me to explore the challenges that mothers face. Through my experiences breastfeeding, I discovered that it is a simple yet hard, endearing yet controversial, rewarding yet painful, burden and joy that all breastfeeding mothers carry.

Before I wrote my 100 Life Goals, I purchased the domain name because I knew my heart was happy at the intersection of my passionate desire to breastfeed, and my sheltered, bubbling tenacity to become an activist for its cause. I experienced my first challenge breastfeeding in the hospital the day after Gadget was born. Every time the lactation consultant was present, I had no issues, but just like a fairy with pretty little wings, as soon as she disappeared I couldn’t get started. When she returned, like magic, she did her thang, and baby boy happily resumed his meal. However, I had so many issues with one side that she introduced me to a shield. I’m convinced that even saying the word ‘shield’ went against everything in her body. Skin to skin contact is so critical to a great start in so many ways: for bonding, helping baby to stay warm, and a quick-start at successful breastfeeding. A shield is a plastic nipple that covers the real one for mothers that have issues. Of course, I abused the shield and was still using it three months later. After realizing I was doing fine by myself, I finally abandoned it.

A few weeks later I hit a wall. I seriously wondered why the breast had not evolved at the same rate as mankind’s other technological advances. I knew from day one I was going to breastfeed, no matter the challenges; but I was truly caught off guard when it hit me: I was my child’s breakfast slave. And his lunch, dinner, AM snack, PM snack, midnight snack, ‘just because you’re there’ snack and everything in between snack. I could look at the telephone and see how it had evolved, thanks to man’s inventions. Now, I could hold a phone, without a cord, the size of my palm, in my pocket, and take pictures with it, and make a phone call. It baffled me that I was virtually tethered to this boy, because mankind had not yet figured out how to evolve breastfeeding into a click, download, or hologram.

My no-mother-required-for-breastfeeding daydreaming quickly ended, and upon returning to work I experienced my second major barrier. Pumping. I hated that my life revolved around a 3-4 hour pumping clock, and I did not even get to enjoy the intimacy of breastfeeding my baby. Yes, I got to breastfeed Gadget in the morning and again when I returned home from work, but dragging around my mechanical baby, aka my Avent double electric pump, was making me spite the blessing that breastfeeding was meant to be. Aside from this, I had no private place to pump. I revealed the first glimpse of the activist in me as the outcome of a horror story when I requested (demanded) that I have a place to pump at work. A mother’s room was created, and to my knowledge still remains today in a manufacturing plant in South Jersey, available for all salaried, hourly and temporary employees to use.

Of course, by the end of the eight months I spent nursing Gadget, I was head over heels in love with the unique experience and gift breastfeeding had given us. Fast forward to my second son, who gave me an incredible freedom with breastfeeding. Hubby and I lived in New York City by then, and we were professional on-the-go parents. We’d take the subway, taxis, and walk dozens of blocks pushing one baby in the stroller, and carrying the other one strapped to our chest. We could fold a stroller with one hand, while giving the other one a binky, on the sidewalk, in Times Square. We had this thing down pat. And we had to because the pace was so different.

My challenge was removing all reservations I had about breastfeeding in public. I had never done it before, and it felt so uncomfortable yet liberating. I was definitely embarrassed at first, because of my insecurities surrounding it, and placed more barriers by assuming the social and cultural norm was NOT to breastfeed in public. I bought the cutest nursing cover I could find, and off I went. And I had to embrace it, because nobody had time to clean the pump (because I hadn’t cleaned it after the previous use), hand wash a few bottles in a hurry, pump, clean the pump (like I was supposed to do the last time), pack a bottle bag, (oh shoot, the baby’s hungry now, but I can’t nurse him because I just pumped everything into a bottle!), give him a few ounces and hope it ties him over, and THEN leave.

Whew, what was I thinking? I also revived my love-hate relationship with my pump since I was a full-time business school student and pumped everyday at noon. Being a student forced me to make some tradeoffs, and in the end I decided on my MBA career. When I received the opportunity to travel to Australia for a three week class, I selfishly decided I was not going to pump, and quickly transitioned Boots from an almost entirely breast milk exclusive diet, to formula at six months. Looking back, now five years later, yes, I wish I had lugged that pump around Melbourne with me (even if it meant to wine tastings, the Australian open, cricket test matches, watching pandas and kangaroos at the zoo, and while holding a didgeridoo), but I didn’t.

By the time Miss C came along, I was so cocky and sure that breastfeeding was going to be a breeze, that I was dumbfounded when I quit three weeks in. Yes, I just said quit. We had an excellent start in a baby friendly hospital and tremendous resources, but at week three a reality check brought me to my knees. It hurt soooooo bad. I couldn’t believe how much pain I was in. Convinced I had thrush or something, I stopped nursing and pumping for 48 hours. I needed to recover. My body was cracked and tired, and those two days were exactly what I needed to get back into the ring. After three kids, I’d experienced enough challenges to know that several women had it inconceivably worse than my breastfeeding ups and downs and we could use additional support.

What if there was a way to bring women together in order to support the cause of breastfeeding? How could I take the same knowledge that I’d learned at La Leche League meetings and use it to spark focused conversations about breastfeeding across the nation for an entire month? The brand manager in me came out in full force and this month I founded Au Baby (pronounced “oh baby”). Au Baby is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to enable women to start and to keep breastfeeding for as long as they want.

There is a gap – a need for a branded, promotional breastfeeding campaign that is simple and appealing. Although the government coined August National Breastfeeding Awareness month a few years ago, no one has taken advantage and created one voice for breastfeeding advocacy. One voice, whose sole purpose is to raise funds that support efforts to remove the barriers that prevent mothers from reaching their breastfeeding goals. Au Baby’s vision is to transform the look of breastfeeding advocacy and seeks to inspire, educate, and raise funds and awareness for breastfeeding. And I want to do all of this using gold eye shadow.

My vision is that each year in August, National Breastfeeding Awareness month, women will paint their eyelids with bright gold eye shadow and seek sponsorship from friends and family for wearing the shadow for 31 days. Why gold? Gold, the element Au, was chosen because of its shared properties with breast milk: delicate, precious and valuable – one drop is like liquid gold! The funds raised will be donated to existing breastfeeding support and advocacy groups who are already rolling up their sleeves to remove the barriers which prevent moms from reaching their breastfeeding goals.

I am going to “Make August Glow,” and I am so freakin’ excited to have my passion come together into something real! Almost. The official campaign will launch August 2014, but I couldn’t let this year’s awareness month go dull. So, I’m launching an Indiegogo campaign to help make this idea a reality. Stay tuned for more details!

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