Do you feel frustrated by nursing in public?
I am a fashion and accessories designer who has worked many years for outdoor, fitness, and fashion companies in the Bay area. Once a single and hip designer in San Francisco, I eventually found myself married and pregnant and now I have 2 kids!
At first, when navigating the world of baby gear and all the things you need, you are overwhelmed but pretty soon you embrace the madness. It just seems: the more the better! I also had an older sister who guided me in the world of baby carriers, car seats, cloth diapers and more. So, yeah I was a baby wearing, cloth diapering mom. I had a gazillion diaper bags and a gazillion of everything.
I decided to begin designing products for moms to solve many problems I found with products for moms. One that I was always confused and unhappy with was my nursing cover. Back when I had my first child, everyone had a nursing cover. I had 3 I believe, one for the diaper bag, one at home, and a backup in my car. Though they were genius in the sense that before moms just used a blanket, I didn't like them. You all know why. With my first child I dutifully carried one around but here were my issues with it:
- It was decorated like a nursery, so it was an instant flag to anyone in a public place that I was nursing or about to nurse.
- I had to pretend like I didn't see people staring at me - something about the design of it just made people curious; since I was nervous, it was hard to let-down
- When baby would emerge from underneath, It looked like her oversized handkerchief
- It didn't cover me - my back and sides were always exposed and only worked for people I was facing head-on, which I never wanted to do
- It couldn't be used for anything else - too thin and short and narrow for a blanket or canopy
- I forgot to bring it with me
- I would throw it off of me as soon as I was done nursing because I was embarrassed to carry it around
I know you're already saying 'oh, I don't use covers, I just whip it out and I don't care.' You know... I wish I was that person, but my reasons for not being able to be that person are:
- I am sensitive about people seeing my midsection and back - my midsection is like living history - you can see my stretch marks from my two pregnancies and the weight gain from them as well.
- I don't like having to wage a war of equality and civil justice while also trying to nurse my child.
- My kids would not latch if they were overstimulated so I would get engorged because they would only suck til let-down and then they'd be off. I'd end up letting down and then they weren't really fed - they had moved on to the next thing but they were still hungry. They would end up being cranky and I'd be in pain because I hadn't emptied and then I would leak through - it was a mess and I decided either I cover or I don't nurse in public. Once you decide you're not nursing in public, the next thing you know, you've ordered some formula on amazon to supplement for your busy social schedule out and about with friends and then, well that's another debate!
So, back to how it all came about: by my second pregnancy there were more of the nursing covers that were scarves and they were such a welcome addition to the nursing world. I had one I got and then I sewed a few of my own because it was quite convenient. The only thing is that in summer I didn't really wear scarves and so I had the same issue - I'd forget the cover.
Even though I'd end up forgetting the cover, I always wore a cardigan or a jacket. Even in the summer time, especially after just having a baby, I was just more comfortable with another layer on. You may be familiar with the phenomenon but oftentimes when you nurse, you and your baby unconsciously favor a side - and then before you know it, you have one size B breast and one size D breast. With the fast weight gain and loss, the unevenness as described above, and the occurrence of such wonderful things as leaking through your top, etc. having a second layer in some form was basically a necessity for me. So, what became my nursing cover? My sweater became it. If you're not a mom, I'm pretty sure I've scared you off of children and breastfeeding, huh?
I would tie the arms around to make something to go around my neck or I'd put my arms through the sleeves but wear it backwards. It was that habit that got me thinking of a nursing cover that was more wearable or integrated into what you wear. I didn't want a top with a concealed slit like many out there because I would only wear a shirt once and wash it and I couldn't afford to buy all nursing shirts PLUS, once you're done it's kind of weird to be wearing these peekaboo tops around. I wanted something that I would wear over and over again that I could use as a cover. Since I'd be wearing it, I wouldn't have to worry about forgetting it at home.
Well, fast forward through some sketching, some draping of fabric on my dressform, and I had a working prototype. I then took some pictures and showed my friends and asked around what they thought. It seemed they thought it was a really useful idea and a welcome design for nursing tops. After this, my first approach was to sell them on etsy.
The first (actually second) Cardimom® prototype
After going through the process of making one and then realizing all the sizing needs and that a sweater is better to be knit rather than sewn, I started looking into manufacturing them. With the cost of materials and time, I could not charge a fair price that would compensate me for my time involved. I decided to have them knit by a manufacturer and to sell them online.
Fast forward a few months and I had sweaters in hand ready to order.
One great thing about the final design, which my friend helped to name the Cardimom®, is that it can be worn as a cardigan but then, pulling the shrug collar over the head transforms it into a nursing cover.
You just wear the cardigan and you have a cover on hand at all times, you don't have to carry it in a bag. It can also be worn as a tunic or poncho and it is really great as a maternity sweater with the open front. It can also be worn over a baby carrier either on the front or you can back carry and baby's head goes through the neck hole.
As it turns out, many women who do not have nursing children love the style as the shrug collar can also be worn as a hood and they just love the ability to transform it from a cardigan to a poncho top, making it a great piece for travel.
It has often been a lifesaver to me when my "leakproof" coffee mug leaks on me as I'm drinking coffee or tea, giving my shirt underneath a second chance.
Lastly, the sweater on its own is great as a cover for your car seat carrier or stroller and because it carries your scent, it is especially soothing for baby.
It can even be used as a backup grocery cart seat or high chair insert. I've been amazed at how the Cardimom® has become such a staple in many moms' lives and I hope you get your hands on one, whether you are a mom or not! They are so soft and comfortable that you'll love it from the moment you put it on!