This mother launched the first female-led US infant formula brand after feeling ‘riddled with guilt’.  Now she’s rocking the industry.

This mother launched the first female-led US infant formula brand after feeling ‘riddled with guilt’. Now she’s rocking the industry.

Bobbie founder Laura Modi shares how her own feeding experience as a first-time mom inspired her to shake up the formula industry.  (Photo courtesy of Bobbie)

Bobbie founder Laura Modi shares how her own feeding experience as a first-time mom inspired her to shake up the formula industry. (Photo courtesy of Bobbie)

Breast, bottle, whatever: how do you feed is a shameless series about how babies eat.

Laura Modi shudders at the memory. “I’m just starting to have the confidence to say this now, but I lied,” she says. “I lied to my pediatrician.”

Parents who receive their monthly packs of European-inspired organic formula will no doubt recognize Modi as the brains behind Bobbie, the only female-founded, mother-led infant formula company in the US. , her rise to infant formula pioneer can actually be traced back to her experience as a “guilt-ridden” first-time mom as she stood in the aisle of her drugstore, examining the formula options she needed to feed her baby because she couldn’t t breastfeed. Modi remembers thinking that her body had failed her, and that shame kept her from opening up to her son’s doctor about the realities of her nursing struggles.

“One of the questions they ask is ‘OK, tell me, how’s breastfeeding going?'” Modi told Yahoo Life. “But I’m sitting there sweating [and thinking] I haven’t breastfed for a month. But that’s a very straightforward question, so I better tell ’em it’s going well.. And I remember doing it two or three times, and walking away feeling like, why did i just lie to my pediatrician?

“I should have said, ‘I’m feeding my infant formula,'” she says now. “But I didn’t feel the permission to do so. I wasn’t asked the question that opened up, and instead I decided to give her an answer that I think she expected or wanted to hear – and it didn’t. .”

Modi came out of the experience wishing the language around feeding conversations would be less expressed in shame and smugness so new parents could feel free to express themselves honestly. Recalling her desperation as she weighed her options in the formula aisle – where cans were stacked alongside diapers and bottles – she also saw an opportunity for a better shopping experience and ingredients she felt more confident in feeding her baby.

“The first thing I wanted to change, and it’s always been ingrained in the DNA of this company, was the feeling that I should feel better about what I’m buying,” says Modi. “I should feel better about my decision. I should feel better about my choices as a new mother. I should walk away with confidence and less comparison. The experience is better. But more importantly, for my mental health, I needed feel good about that choice – and I didn’t.”

Bobbie announced a partnership with Target this summer.  (Photo: Bobbie/Icarian Photography)

Bobbie announced a partnership with Target this summer. (Photo: Bobbie/Icarian Photography)

Modi and co-founder Sarah Hardy launched Bobbie in 2021, quickly establishing itself as a subscription-based service that provides parents with organic infant formula that meets nutritional standards set by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Union ( which, the Irish-born Modi notes, updates its guidelines much more regularly than the FDA). Last summer, Bobbie launched her first campaign, How’s the food going?, in which celebrity parents including Tan France and Kelly Stafford opened up about why the formula worked better for their families and should be destigmatized. In June of this year, it was announced that France, alongside supermodel Ashley Graham, Oscar winner Laura Dern and editor and TV presenter Elaine Welteroth, would join the brand’s first MotherBoard, an annual collective of “activist parents”. who are pushing for change in the formula industry. including a departure from the judgment that families so often face. (To quote the Bobbie website: “We support every parent’s unique feeding journey with every unique baby, whether they choose to exclusively breastfeed their baby until age 5, turn to formula on day one, obtain donor milk from a milk, pump around the clock for every gram or just fill a night bottle with some formula Bobbie understands that there is no one-size-fits-all plan for feeding a baby.

Given the pandemic-related supply chain backups and an FDA recall hitting several branded powdered formulas that resulted in a dire shortage of formulas this spring — and, indeed, an ongoing cap on formula purchases at many retailers across the country – there is no better time for this change. Because of its direct-to-consumer model, Bobbie was in a unique position during the crisis. As supermarket shelves became empty, the brand’s existing subscribers could still receive their monthly deliveries of formula. At first, Bobbie’s new subscriptions flourished, so much so that the brand had to stop acquiring new customers in order not to run the risk of not being able to guarantee supplies for everyone; the waiting list to join currently remains at capacity. Despite increased demand and a new appreciation for alternatives to store-bought formulas, Modi notes that “these have been a very challenging few months.”

“I don’t think any formula company is immune from dealing with any part of this crisis,” she says. Modi recalls that one of her analysts approached her at the beginning of the formula crisis and pointed out her dizzying numbers.

“There is no bad way to feed your baby,” says Modi. (Photo: Bobbie)

“She’s looking at this: ‘Growth is really moving fast and our ability to supply the market at the rate we’re growing – something is going to happen,'” says Modi. “So we made a very difficult decision at the beginning of saying, ‘Let’s stop expanding the business until we get to a place where we can produce more products to serve more customers. My only priority right now is to have enough formula to feed babies in Bobbie. So, As you can imagine, all this growth was happening. And in the first week of the crisis, we doubled our client count and decided on the number of clients we have – which is 70,000 babies in every state in the country – we made the decision that now we need to produce enough formula as we deal with this crisis to care for these babies and give these parents peace of mind.

“We could have kept growing,” she continues, “and just put a finger in the air and [said] ‘let’s see how things go’, but we would be in that risky position, then, of maybe going through too much inventory to not serve those that are already in Bobbie. and that wasn’t [a decision] we were willing to do.”

While Bobbie isn’t accepting new subscriptions at the moment, parents eager to try her organic formula — with ingredients like grass-fed cow’s milk, vegetable oils and DHA — now need only head to the nearest Target. This summer, amid a shortage of formulas, the brand announced that its long-standing partnership with the major retailer would see its product launch online and in stores across the country. Modi cautions that retail shoppers won’t have the same stock guarantees as Bobbie subscribers, though the CEO is proud to offer a more ad hoc alternative to parents who can “grab a can when they need it.”

“We were a few months into launching the business and our subscribers were knocking on our door saying, ‘Hey, can we put it on the shelf? What if I need to grab a can between subscriptions or if I’m traveling or happens to be short?'” , she says. “Even for our subscribers, they need to feel like they can just go to Target and get it.”

While it’s hard to predict where the infant formula industry is going after this tumultuous past year, Modi would like to see more innovation in terms of ingredients and the latest science, something she feels the United States is “missing the mark” in general. . And as a mother who knows all too well the complexities of eating, she would like to normalize frank and shameless conversations about it. She points to her own “wildly different” experiences with her three children.

“I think a lot of times this is something that we forget: it’s that depending on the baby, depending on where you are in life, your environment, your environment, everything changes to what your feeding experience is going to be like,” she notes. “So while I had that first difficult experience with my first child, which led to the disappointment and emotions that I had, I actually went to the birth of my second child and had armor. I had the bottles, all different kinds of formula. I was ready to go, but still he took it really well. I didn’t have mastitis. I was in a position where I was able to freely breastfeed him much longer than I had my first one. And when I finally started transitioning to formula, I didn’t feel bad about it. It was a completely different experience.

“Now, on to my third child,” she continues. “I was in the midst of building Bobbie and right in the middle of it – we were several weeks away from getting FDA approval, and it was also in the midst of a pandemic so I had two young children at home – my nanny dropped out. my mom It wasn’t over. It was a disaster. So now maybe my body was able to produce the milk, but my environment wasn’t positioned to prepare me to exclusively breastfeed this child at all. And I made the immediate decision to start feeding him with a bottle. And there’s no difference with any of my kids: bottle, breast, both. They’re all fabulous.”

His stance is clear: “There is no such thing as a bad way to feed your baby.”

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