Holli Harris Is Helping Working Moms On Their Breastfeeding Journey While Still Staying Stylish

The workplace isn’t exactly welcoming to new mothers, and especially so for those who want to breastfeed their babies. Countless studies show how breastfeeding rates drop dramatically for moms who return to work — sometimes to the rate of 70% or more. That’s why Holli Harris created Hadley Stilwell, a clothing collection for breastfeeding moms. Designed to help make nursing or pumping easier to do at work, the clothing line offers easy breezy options that are professional and pretty. Here is Holli’s story on personal transformation and why women everywhere should breastfeed on their own terms — and timelines.

So let’s talk about what was life like before you started Hadley Stilwell.

Not shockingly, my whole life changed when I became a mother. As you know, becoming a mother is like becoming a new person. Pre-motherhood, I was in international business. I lived in Russia for five years and I loved it. I tend to be an adventurous kind of person. I love being out and about in the world and speaking other languages,

But of course, when you become a mother, that can change. When my daughter was five months old, I had to go DC. I had a nanny because I was breastfeeding and also pumping. Five months after giving birth, though, I was not fitting into my former suits. I wrote an article about the really steep decline in breastfeeding when women go back to work — but part of that is solvable. So in my head, I started to design clothes that working moms could breastfeed in. It would take two seconds to put on, it didn’t need to be dry cleaned, and it had to be wrinkle free. The clothing has morphed from being well-tailored clothes into elegance for breastfeeding mothers.

How would you describe the clothing itself?

First of all, the fabrics have to be comfortable. There are double knit pieces and heavy jersey material. Inside, there are hidden panels so you can breastfeed easily but it’s not an obvious breastfeeding shirt or dress. I have a Jet Set collection that’s all about moms on the go. It doesn’t mean necessarily getting on a plane, but it’s about jet setting in your own environment, whether that’s getting into your minivan or running errands.

For me, it’s all about feeling. There are plunging necklines, and my hope is that women understand that it’s okay to feel both sexy and elegant. There are crossover shirts that allow for easy access and accentuate your figure at the same time. Plus a lot of pieces can work within your own wardrobe. For example, you can wear the tunic with your own pants or jeans and whatever shoes you want, be it high heels or even sneakers. The best part is that you can continue wearing the clothing even past pregnancy and postpartum. With traditional maternity clothing, once you’re not pregnant or nursing anymore, what do you do with the clothing? Box it up until the next baby comes? With Hadley Stilwell, you can continue wearing these outfits, which is important because you can get a lot of mileage out of them, and they’ll still feel comfortable and won’t make you think that you’re wearing maternity clothing.

You had mentioned earlier that it was a journey to mentally embrace the idea of going from being a financial expert to transforming into a designer.

Right. Once, I was doing a presentation, and being from a finance background, I didn’t consider myself a designer. But when I sat down, one of the senior executives I was sitting next to said, “You are not an accidental designer; you conceived this, you manufactured it, you’re wearing it, so you are a designer.” I think that I needed that validation because it reinforced that I could be whatever I wanted to be. And it sounds cliche, but I think becoming a mother really helped me grow into who I am. You always hear about the baby being born, but really the mother is born for the first time, too.

The cool thing is that I still get to use my business acumen. I learned that every second counts. In some ways, it’s just going into business mode, and knocking out the things on the to do list. On the other hand, it’s so different; it’s organic. I used to work with Russian oilmen and Texan bankers, and I would often be the only woman in the room and maybe sometimes the only American.

But I think that the world of business is changing. People are more accepting of hearing a child in the background during a business call, or telling your boss that you have to pick up your kid from school. Society is slowly starting to catch up to where it needs to be.


Let’s talk about your own breastfeeding journey.

My daughter stopped breastfeeding when she was five. I think it’s wonderful that more women are breastfeeding longer.

And then along comes that Time Magazine cover with the mom breastfeeding her 3-year-old son and it takes the idea of breastfeeding to a whole other level.

Yes, Time Magazine went backwards with that sort of image. It made me angry and upset, to be honest. They chose a photo of a 3-year-old who looked like a really big kid and had him stand on a little ladder. The image seemed to take on two extremes because here you have a very pretty, very thin mother breastfeeding a very big kid. It definitely didn’t help make extended breastfeeding a more socially accepted idea. It might have made moms who were breastfeeding older children feel like some sort of a weird pervert. To be honest, I’ve only started saying now how long I’ve breastfed my child. It’s like I came out of the breastfeeding closet.

How do you get it all done?

It’s constantly shifting, but I do have help. I’m also super duper smart about every second, and I make a list where I write down every single thing that I need to do and start splitting them up. “What can an intern do? What could the manufacturer do? What could this person do without adding like people?” You don’t need to do everything, and you shouldn’t. It’s a waste of your time and you need to focus on what you do well, which is learning to grow your business and offloading anything that you don’t need to do yourself.

What do you want your brand to stand for?

Hadley Stilwell is all about well-being. If you feel good about yourself, if you feel beautiful, you might want to breastfeed longer because if it’s difficult to do, it’ll be the first thing to go, especially if you work outside the home. When you want to breastfeed and you’re able to accomplish that and still feel good about yourself, that will positively spill over into all aspects of your life — and that’s a good thing.

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