By Martelle Esposito
This week, we launch our summer parentpreneur series. We’ll be talking with parents about what inspired them to start companies, organizations, and projects that create positive experiences for families. Today, we are talking with Juan Chen, founder of LacTeck and inventor of the BabyMotion Flange. Inspired by her own challenges as a breast pumping mother, Juan’s company focuses on developing empowering breast pumping technologies. She also sends a weekly newsletter of LacTeck Hacks, or breastfeeding and breast pumping tips, to subscribers.
Can you tell us a little about LacTeck?
LacTeck is working to make breast pumping less painful and more efficient. LacTeck is something I have been thinking about since I became a mom. I ended up exclusively pumping, and there are so many inconveniences of pumping. It’s primitive. It’s an important issue that not a lot a of people know about. We are still using pumps that use technology that was developed 100 years ago. I don’t want my daughter to experience this. It works okay, but there are some gaps in mimicking the baby besides the suction. That’s why I developed the flange, trying to better mimic baby suction.
What inspired you to start LacTeck?
My own experience. There was so much pain when my daughter wasn’t latching. It was worse than delivery. When I was pumping, I also had a 4-person team—my mother-in-law would wash the bottles, my father-in-law cooked, dad fed the baby, and I pumped every two hours. I feel ashamed looking at myself pumping every time. You see your body change. You are doing all this work, and there’s not much beauty in it. There are ways to bring the beauty back into it, even though it won’t be as good as breastfeeding. And, policy change in the long-term is so important, for things like paid family leave to support breastfeeding mothers.
Can you describe an experience you have had in your entrepreneurial journey so far that has been particularly meaningful?
When I was trying to do the market research—sending out surveys to moms on prototypes and ideas—what they wrote me was really encouraging. There were 40 pages of notes on how great and meaningful this was and how much they needed it. The meaning and the mission is really what keeps me going.
Can you describe a favorite or memorable family memory?
Anything that makes me better is a memorable experience. My daughter, she would sometimes misbehave, and I would tell her not to do something. Then she would be upset and walk to the corner of our house and murmur, “you yelled at me.” It’s fascinating that I see so much of myself in my daughter, as I would do the same thing. I did apologize, and that’s very different from the Chinese way of parenting where you are always right.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting your motherhood journey?
One thing I regret is that I exclusively pumped for 8 months. I never thought about trying to breastfeed in the middle of that 8-month journey. Exclusive pumping was a lot of work. Once the initial pain was gone, I could have tried again with breastfeeding.
What’s it like to be a mother and an entrepreneur, given that both can be very challenging and rewarding?
It feels great! I feel the happiest ever in my life. I am doing something I am passionate about. And, I have always loved kids. The only piece left is making the business successful. You only get to do something like this maybe once in your life.
How has being a mother impacted your work?
Day to day, whenever I look at my daughter, she reminds me why I am doing this because she is directly related to the work I am doing. Whenever I see her grow, I feel happy that I was able to provide 8 months of breastmilk, and I want other mothers to be able to have breastfeeding and/or pumping experiences of their own.
Can you describe an experience when you really felt your mompower?
It’s little things. I always encourage my daughter to try new things. One day, she said, “look mom I am trying new things.” I instilled in her a trait to venture, and that’s really powerful. In this case, she tried tofu.
What has been most challenging about being a mother and entrepreneur?
It’s the time. Because I love doing what I do, it’s hard to focus on my daughter when I play with her because I have work in the back of my mind. That’s the challenges of today’s working mom or any parent. It’s very hard.
What in your life has prepared you the best for these two journeys?
For motherhood, it’s my own mother. Whenever I see her, she always gives me strength. She’s always been a strong mom. That prepared me well. I am never unsure of my motherhood.
For entrepreneurship, just my background in business prepared me very well to connect the dots in the space. I’ve pulled together all my past experiences.
What keeps you motivated through the ups and downs of both motherhood and entrepreneurship?
My daughter motivates and validates my work. My husband is always there. When I have downs, he pulls me up. When have highs, he pulls be back to earth.
What advice do you have for other parents beginning their parenting or entrepreneurial journeys?
Just relax because most parents are fine. A lot of first time parents stress out about everything. You have to trust yourself and your instincts. Same thing for entrepreneurship.