breastfeeding career

Kickstart a Kickstarter - Meet Leche Libre

Tuesday, August 02, 2016 Jen Lezan

Breastfeeding has become such a hot button topic lately. It can be baffling to see some of the arguments against breastfeeding. Women, luckily, have the choice to decide what they feel is best for their child. As a extended breastfeeding mom,  I have witnessed and experienced the amazing benefits of breastfeeding for my youngest child. I have friends who chose to breastfeed and friends who have made the choice to bottle feed. The reality with motherhood is that everyone will have an opinion on how you should be a mom, but ultimately as a woman it is just my job to support my fellow sisters in any decision they make that benefits their child. Whether they breastfeed or bottle feed, if they're doing right by their little one, that is what matters.

 My concern with the issues of breastfeeding, isn't whether or a not a mother choses to do so, my focus over the years has been that not enough mothers have the opportunity to breastfeed and are not offered enough information and help to be successful at breastfeeding. Even though a variety of evidence indicates that breastfeeding reduces many different health risks for mothers and children, numerous barriers to breastfeeding remain—and action is needed to overcome these barriers. Everyday women are misinformed on the realities of breastfeeding. Everyday women face barriers when it comes to their choice to breastfeed. Everyday women face critical judgement for choosing to nourish their child in the healthiest way possible. 

Working moms can sometimes face even harder situations. We live in a day and time where mothers can no longer make the decision to stay home with their children. The economy in which we live in  typically requires a two income household. That means, most moms go back to work sooner than they hope after they give birth. This poses a tremendous barrier to continuing on with breastfeeding. Employed mothers typically find that returning to work is a tremendous barrier to breastfeeding. Women often face inflexibility in their work hours and locations and a lack of privacy for breastfeeding or expressing milk, have no place to store expressed breast milk, are unable to find child care facilities at or near the workplace, face fears over job insecurity, and have limited maternity leave benefits. 

There have been instances where mothers encounter pressure from coworkers and supervisors not to take breaks to express breast milk, and existing breaks often do not allow sufficient time to pump. When mothers who do not have a private office at work do not have a place to breastfeed or express breast milk, they may end up having to use the restroom to pump, a situation that is unhygienic and often associated with premature weaning.

It's hard enough being a mom, but these situations make it even more difficult. That's why I am such a huge supporter of people and companies whose sole focus is to make a moms life easier. In this most recent Kickstart a Kickstarter Campaign - we are featuring Leche Libre. Leche Libre is the brainchild of Chicagoan and kickass momma: Andrea Newberry. She launched Leche Libre not too long after she had her own Children. She found it was hard to find cool clothing for breastfeeding. Clothes she feel comfortable nursing in were unflattering. She found that it was hard to look professional and pump easily at work. Dressing up for a wedding while nursing is nearly impossible and stylish clothes rarely offer discrete access. She wanted to figure out a solution to this problem. Leche Libre was born. 

Leche Libre clothing is constructed to give you confidence as a woman, as a mother and as a consumer. At Leche Libre, they want to celebrate strong women and strong individual style. I love the fact that are working on finding a way to create clothing that empowers women to breastfeed without having to deal with the stigma and the hardships. They're for the bad ass mommas that want to breastfeed without having to give up killer style.

Another key issue moms face when breastfeeding, especially in public, is the stigma surrounding breasts. An excerpt from The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding highlights, " In American culture, breasts have often been regarded primarily as sexual objects, while their nurturing function has been downplayed. Although focusing on the sexuality of female breasts is common in the mass media, visual images of breastfeeding are rare, and a mother may never have seen a woman breastfeeding. As shown in both quantitative and qualitative studies, the perception of breasts as sexual objects may lead women to feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding in public. As a result, women may feel the need to conceal breastfeeding, but they have difficulty finding comfortable and accessible breastfeeding facilities in public places."

The Leche Libre line is zeroing in on this key issue and has designed garments that allow a mom to discreetly breastfeed in public. The zippers on the front of the dresses and tops allow mom to quickly unzip and have her little one latch on. Andrea Newberry also highlights that instead of sexualizing breasts, she really wants to inform women that breastfeeding is a natural habit as old as time and that women should embrace their opportunity to connect and nourish their child.

Leche Libre is a steadily evolving local Chicago one woman brand. In order to get to the next level, Andrea is launching a Kickstarter to help Leche Libre grow. I wanted to get the rundown about her journey - so she took the time to answer some questions. Keep reading for the full interview.

1. Andrea, can you share a bit about yourself, your background and career history and what led you to launch Leche Libre?

I do not have a formal background in fashion.  If you had told me 5 years ago, I would have my own fashion line, I would have laughed in your face. I went to art school and studied photography as well as book and paper arts.  After college I worked doing art restoration at a small firm in Chicago which specializes in book and paper.  In 2009, the economy was tanking and I found myself pregnant and without a job.  I tried finding another job, but no one was hiring at all let alone a pregnant woman, so I decided I would embrace being a stay at home Mom. 

Skip to two years later, and I had a 2 year old daughter and newborn son and I sort of felt myself disappearing into motherhood. I felt resentful that not only had my life completely changed, but my personal style had to change as well to breastfeed easily.  I spoke with other women having the same issues and I knew something had to change.

I was learning to sew at the time and so I took a vintage pattern and altered it to put in zippers along the bust.  I wore that dress everywhere from then on.  Wherever I would go, women would ask me about it and really loved the concept.  I decided I needed to pursue this idea.  I was suffering from post partum depression at the time, and I knew I needed a creative project that was just mine, that would help me regain a sense of myself, so I sort of jokingly said, I'm going to start a fashion line.  I thought I might start an etsy shop and sell dresses I made by hand one by one.

I threw myself into the process of learning fashion design from watching project runway and youtube videos.  I took an online draping course from Skillshare and it yielded my design for my zipper tunic which has become the signature Leche Libre look.  I started researching the business end and realized it would be more efficient and worth my time to have the dresses manufactured than to sew them by hand.

I got some samples together, took a few photos and launched online with presales.  I needed to sell $1000 in presales to make my first run. I made about $1200 in two weeks, went ahead with my first small run of about 25 dresses.  It took 6 months for that first run because I kept running into problems. Once I got the dresses though, I sold out in a few months.  I got feedback, adjusted the patterns and made 25 more.  I did this a few more times, making small runs, getting feedback and adjusting.

I've just sort of felt my way through each stage of this process.  There are times when I have no real idea of what I'm doing, but I just keep an eye on my goal and keep putting one foot in front of the other.  There have been a few stumbles along the way, but I just keep getting up and learning and moving forward.  It's slow going, especially since I don't have any childcare support for my kiddos, but I’m so proud of what I’ve built Leche Libre into and I plan to keep going!. 

2. Can you give us the rundown on Leche Libre, the ethos behind your work and what to expect this upcoming year?

Leche Libre empowers women to confidently breastfeed in public shame free whenever they want, wherever they go in effortless style. Leche Libre represents modern motherhood in a fresh, dynamic way, promoting the vitality and freedom that comes from breastfeeding on the go and looking cool while doing it. Instead of thinking, ‘I just had a baby, my social life is over,’ I want women to say, ‘I just had a baby, now let's go have some fun!’

Clothing designed for moms always appears so soft and delicate. Why is that? New Moms are doing the most powerful thing a human being can do: to give birth and sustain life through the strength of our bodies.  I want to make clothing for women which helps us reconnect with that power and allows us to represent our personal strength through the transformative power of fashion. 

3. Can you share more about your upcoming Kickstarter Launch?? 

After two years of development and market testing, I am finally at the point where I feel like I have a handle on the manufacturing and sourcing process and I understand better what breastfeeding women want.  I'm ready to move forward into my first large scale production run.  I have redesigned my collection into three incredibly versatile looks which together represent a complete wardrobe for a breastfeeding woman. 

The Kickstarter Collection:

      The Little Black Breastfeeding Dress, a must have for every nursing woman, is the ultimate in sophisticated style and transitions easily from professional day to formal evening wear
      The Zipper Tunic is the signature look of the edgy Leche Libre aesthetic and can transition from professional to casual wear
      The Nursing Sweatshirt is your go-to piece for casual everyday wear and will be the first piece of my upcoming line of streetwear.

I have designed my collection with versatility in mind.  All dresses have pockets large enough to hold big phones.  The LBBD can be styled to be dressed up or down depending on your need.  If a LBD is a must have for every woman then an LBBD is a must have for every breastfeeding woman! The zipper tunic has a hip pocket designed to hold phones as well as a small inset pocket for credit cards and ID’s so you don’t have to keep your valuables in your diaper bag where they can easily be stolen when out and about. The sweatshirt is designed so it can be styled to be feminine or gender neutral, depending on taste.  It is the first gender neutral breastfeeding garment ever!

I have a goal of raising a minimum of $20,000 to do a large scale production run of my three designs.  Right now I only sell Leche Libre from my online boutique.  The goal of the kickstarter is to help me to make enough dresses ,so I can lower my costs and sell dresses wholesale in stores at the same prices I'm selling currently selling them online for. 

4. Can you give us a rundown of the Kickstarter rewards people can expect if they back their project?

Backers to my kickstarter will get the first exclusive access to my new collection at huge discounts with FREE SHIPPING.  Yes that's right.  FREE SHIPPING.  (please read that last line in an infomercial voice)  I will never offer this big of a discount WITH free shipping again. So, I hope everyone gets in on this one time only deal!  My intro level is a cute onsie with my little Lucha Libre baby mascot.  Leche Libre is a play off of the Mexican wrestling league Lucha Libre, so our little mascot is a baby with a mexican wrestling mask. From there it goes to the sweatshirt around $75, and the Little Black Dress and Zipper Tunic each graduate up in price.  My higher packages include one of each garment and then the final package, in addition to the whole collection, I'll name a dress in next year's collection after you. So you can really make a name for yourself in breastfeeding apparel. HAR HAR.  But yeah, basically, you support me, I'll make you look badass, your baby gets fed, you'll get a great deal, I'll expand my business and everyone wins!

5. What has it been like organizing this kickstarter campaign? Have you faced obstacles and if so, what and how did you overcome them?

Organizing this Kickstarter has been one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life.  Of course giving birth was the HARDEST thing I've ever done, but that is like 24-36 hours and it was over.  This is spread out over months.  It takes an exceptional amount of work.  I've had to put the business side of Leche Libre on hold to prepare for the Kickstarter.  So it does feel like a gamble, but I'm in the position where I need an infusion of cash and this is the way I can get at that MONAY.  So, I've committed.  It's been interesting because it's been summer and I've got my kids home from school.  So, I'm working REAL HARD on work life balance.  I have no additional childcare so I'm hustling to make this work.  Basically, I've been working in the morning on stuff I have to be home to do and then anything I can do on my phone or with pen and paper, I pack up in the afternoon and take my kids to the pool.  I'm the crazy lady at the pool on her phone.  People probably think I'm #snapchatting or something, but I'm actually following up on emails and exciting things like that.

Preparing this Kickstarter has been a bit grueling psychologically too.  I feel like I'm really putting myself out there more than ever before.  There is a part of me where I'm scared that I'm full of shit and afraid of success a bit.  So, deciding to follow through on the Kickstarter was this thing where I had to commit. I had to say I'M IN IT TO WIN IT.  I just have to move beyond my limiting beliefs and put myself out there.  You'll see a lot of testimonials on my Kickstarter from past customers because I want to prove to everyone, but mostly myself that despite my being self taught, I actually AM a fashion designer now.  I can do this, I have been doing it and I’m going to keep doing it.  I am riding the waves of confidence and fear but I keep focusing on the fact that I am GOING TO GET THAT MONAY.  Sorry, I just can't say money. MONAY is way more fun.

6. Can you share a little insight to the concept, creation process and behind the scenes that went into organizing your video and initial product shots?

For the video and photo shoots I really wanted to go out and show women breastfeeding in very public spaces.  For the product shots, I had the shoot on the steps of the Museum of Contemporary Art and by the Lakefront.  I wanted to represent women in an urban setting living a dynamic life and being moms at the same time.

I had the same thinking for the video of wanting to show women leading an active lifestyle out and about and show the vitality of being able breastfeed on the go.  Being in Chicago, I thought let’s get on the train and go downtown.  It was so fun having a group of like 6 women all sitting around downtown nursing.  Originally I wanted to do skateboarding style video for breastfeeding.  Which I know sounds crazy. But I visualized kids running around and action and rad music and women being powerful and looking cool.  I feel like Moms are never represented as cool.  I want people to watch the video and think, those moms are fucking cool.  I had to cut the skate video out a bunch as I had to tell my story and so my video is mostly me talking.  I wish there was more time for the rad music shots but alas, people need to know who they are supporting and why. I'll get my breastfeeding skate video out next. Pinky promise.

7. What are your goals if you get fully funded and how do you plan to be successful at reaching them?

As I said before, my two main goals with the Kickstarter are to get exposure for Leche Libre and to be able to fund a large enough production run to allow me to start selling wholesale.  So, hopefully in 2017 you'll start seeing women everywhere wearing Leche Libre and you’ll be able to buy the garments in the awesome Mom boutique near you!

8. What inspires you to pursue running your own business and launching a brand from scratch?

Leche Libre is a mission of passion for me.  Empowering women to own our power, love ourselves and live our lives with as much freedom as we can fills me with energy and determination.  Normalizing public breastfeeding is a powerful feminist issue as it is one of the main ways we can make a social stance to strike back against the sexualization of our bodies and take ownership of our bodies and ourselves.

On a personal level, I love to adventure and travel, but its not as easy right now with the kids. So, instead I'm adventuring into business.  Everyday is a new adventure and I have so much to learn and explore.  It can be intimidating, but it can also be really rewarding and awesome. 

And finally, I think it's really important to start ethical businesses right now.  All around me, I see so many problems in the world.  I feel it comes down to key elements of our society placing a higher value on money than on people.  Now is the time for persons of integrity to get into the game, and redefine how business works.  The corrupt corporate capitalism we've got going now is going nowhere good.  We need to put people first, empower our communities and band together.  Being a Mom in business, we get it.  We're all in this together and we have to make the world a better place for our kids. I'm trying to do that with Leche Libre. 

9. How do you think being in Chicago will help or hinder your growth as build your company?

Being a fashion brand in Chicago is interesting. Since I don't have previous experience, I can't say for sure what it's like to work out of New York or LA, but it definitely seems that there are more opportunities there for easy material sourcing and manufacturing.  However, Chicago is a great city.  I've lived here for almost 20 years and I've got a great network of people here.  We own our home. I mean that's amazing for a middle class family to own in the city. The cost of living here is so much less than LA and NY.  We have a great quality of life.  Perhaps it's not quite as easy to get connections to media and celebrity endorsements, but I have no idea how easy those are to get on the coasts either.  I think it's often easy to use something as an excuse, like I'm in Chicago or I have no experience, I'll never make it.  But excuses are dumb.  My life is in Chicago and I want to stay.  So I'll just do what I've done all along the way.  I'll make it work.  How do you like that Tim Gunn??

10. Finally, where can our readers learn more about you, Leche Libre and donate to the Kickstarter campaign?

Check us out at and please please Puh-LEASE support my Kickstarter which you can visit at this little linky.  And then of course facebook, instagram and twitter!

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