In honor of Breastfeeding Awareness Month it only seemed fitting to highlight Portland Law, mother and founder of Lillemer which is best known for their
Lil'buds® Breast Packs. The business is based in Hawaii, where Portland lives with her husband, three children and two dogs. We caught up with Portland to learn more about her story and the product that has helped many, many breastfeeding mamas...
You live in Hawaii now, but where are you originally from? How many children do you have?
I was born and raised in Hawaii! After college on the East Coast, I married my best friend and about a year after our wedding, we moved back to Hawaii where we started our family. We now have three kids and two dogs, and live in a little house next to the mountains. If we stand on our tiptoes, we can see the ocean from our front door!
Tell us the story: When did you launch Lillemer? How did you come up with the idea to start a product line for breastfeeding mothers?
The idea to create a product to help nursing mothers breastfeed easier and more comfortably came after I had my first child almost nine years ago. I suffered from two terrible bouts of mastitis and was not satisfied with what was available to help treat the pain and clear the infection naturally. I vividly remember calling my OB and asking - "what on earth can I do to help with the pain?" The options were pretty limited - hot shower or wet washcloth. Neither seemed very convenient for me, as a mother home alone during the day with her newborn. Six Months later I switched to formula. I did this for many reasons but a big one was the anxiety of getting mastitis again.
Fast forward now a couple years to after I had my second child. I came back to my idea, I brainstormed, I sketched, I cut up some fabric, I tried out different fillings, and my nights were consumed with this little project. Suddenly it hit me one day that this little idea worked. I wanted a comfort pack that was: wearable, functional, chic, earth-friendly and dry. Something that could provide targeted relief to an area of the breast, that could be hot or cold and that would avoid a tender nipple. After months of working on a design, I sent out a few pairs to family and friends. The response was overwhelmingly positive. So it was, lil'buds® was born.
When you decided on making products for breastfeeding mothers, what were your "non-negotiables"?
It was really important to me that I made a product that wouldn't add more waste to an already waste-full planet. Living on an island, in the middle of the Pacific, I feel more conscious of the impact our lifestyle has on the environment around us. Plastic pollution is a real thing here; it washes up on our beaches, it affects our marine life. So everything about Lil'buds® is earth-friendly from the recycled chipboard packaging to the 100% cotton fabric, to the all natural seed filling. The best part about making Lil'buds® entirely earth-friendly and biodegradable, is that it makes a product that works, and works far superior to any plastic equivalent, in my humble opinion!
The patterns and colors of Lil'buds® are always so fun! How do you pick the designs?
I select the fabrics myself, which has been a lot of trial and error. It’s hard sometimes to know how the final product will look when you’re browsing swatches, or looking online. Usually, I have been pleasantly surprised when I see the final product in packages. I also have worked with a local artist in Hawaii, Lauren Roth, to create the Seashell flannel fabric unique to Lil’buds. It’s one of my favorite prints!
What is one of the more challenging parts of your business? How do you overcome this challenge?
The biggest challenge for me has been not to compare. I follow a lot of mom-made-brands on social media, and it is so easy to get caught up in the constant comparison between what they’re doing and what you’re doing, measuring their success by your own, questioning if you’re making the right decisions or not. I realized that doing this hindered me from being genuine, and caused me to lose sight of what my goal really was - to help every breastfeeding mother achieve their breastfeeding goals. So I've stopped comparing and instead started supporting. There's a difference, and I notice a change in myself as well.
If you had one piece of advice for breastfeeding mother, what would it be?
“If you believe you can do it, you’re already halfway there.” Trust your body and believe in yourself! This is huge and makes all the difference for a breastfeeding mom's success. Trust your body that your milk will come, trust your body that you will make enough, trust this body that grew new life will sustain it as well. Purely from my own experience, I know anxiety plays an unseen role in milk supply. Every new mother is plagued with that one question - how do I know I have enough milk? If I had any advice it would be this - trust your body to do a process it was made (literally!) to do, throw away the clock and listen to your baby, watch the cues, and feed on demand. If that means three feeds in an hour - do it. If it means one feed every three hours, do it. Your body will follow your lead, if you believe in it and keep baby close at the breast.
What is one thing that you do each and every day that brings you joy?
Sewing! I absolutely love to quilt. Working on little blocks, then piecing them together to make one big quilt and seeing the final product. I love the precision of sewing each seam, the quiet time by myself, and the creativeness in each pattern. I also love knowing someone will someday wrap that quilt around themselves for comfort and warmth... these things bring me joy. (Now that I think about it, it’s not much different than knowing some mother is wrapping their breast with Lil’buds for comfort and relief. :) )