Here at The Merge Journal we love companies that make a positive impact in our world. We absolutely adore Mama Maya; their wraps are organic cotton, fair trade AND for every wrap purchased at least one woman is providing a safe birthing kit through Birthing Kits Foundation Australia. Today we are chatting with rocking Robyn, mother mama boss and founder of Mama Maya.
Robyn, can you share a little bit about yourself and how did your own pregnancy and birth impact and inspire you to found Mama Maya?
I’m a mama of two little boys – Hugo, 4, and Remy, 2, and together with my husband we live in Sydney.
When I was giving birth to Hugo, the umbilical cord was looped around his neck. It’s really quite common, and my OB and midwife worked to get him out as quickly as possible and give him oxygen. Not long after, I heard about the work of the Birthing Kit Foundation Australia (BKFA) – providing clean birthing kits to women in remote areas of the world. 350,000 babies are born every day; in Australia, 6 in 100,000 people die each year in pregnancy or childbirth, but in a country like Uganda, it’s 1 in 16. I realised how lucky I had been to have a clean and safe place to give birth, and also trained caregivers to support me.
I wanted to do something to increase awareness of these statistics, and also contribute to reducing the rate of mother and baby morbidity and mortality. I’ve always wanted to have my own business, and after a 15-year career in media and advertising, I launched Mama Maya. By taking something that every parent of babies owns multiples of – a simple muslin wrap – I built a one-for-one model around it, with a focus on stylish, timeless design, sustainability and philanthropy. Through a partnership with the BKFA, we fund birthing kits and caregiver training to local organisations in over 20 countries – and can guarantee that for every purchase at least one woman will have access to a safer birth.
Every two minutes one woman dies of complications related to pregnancy of childbirth, with 99% of these deaths occurring in developing countries. I was shocked when I read that statistic. I had two high risk and complicated births and it made me truly reflect on my own pregnancies. Is there anything we can do as mothers living in Australia to help change this statistic?
It’s crazy isn’t it? Here we’re spoilt for choice – public vs private, natural vs caesarian, hospital vs homebirth, epidural vs drug-free. It’s really humbling to find out that so many women have little or no support during childbirth, or access to a hygienic place to birth – things that we just take for granted.
Improving maternal health is one of the UN millennium development goals, and there are a number of charities with donation programs benefiting maternal and infant health. Close to our heart though is the BKFA; Birthing Kits are assembled by volunteers, so hosting an assembly day is a great opportunity to catch up with a group of friends and do something to help women in need!
For every Mama Maya wrap purchased, the Birthing Kit Foundation Australian (BKFA) provides a safe birth for a mother in a developing country. Can you share with our readers a little bit about what is in the safe birth kits and how BKFA works to provide a safe birthing experience for mothers?
Birthing Kits contain six items – a plastic sheet, gauze, gloves, soap, a sterile scalpel blade, and some string to tie off the umbilical cord. The items in this kit are so basic, but they are essential in enabling a mother to deliver her baby in a safer, cleaner environment, significantly reducing the chances of infection. I’ve even been told of women bringing their kits to birthing clinics, because the facilities are so basic and unsanitary!
BKFA Birthing Kits are assembled by volunteers in Australia, and distributed to over 30 organisations in around 20 countries. They are then given to women living in remote areas with limited or no access to birthing support. BKFA also fund local community programs to train birth attendants and community health workers, empowering women through education.
You’ve chosen to manufacture your beautiful organic wraps in fair-trade factories. How important is it for you – as founder of Mama Maya – to use your social influence to help make a difference in our world?
I take a lot of pride in how and where my products are made, and ethical and environmental responsibility is something that more and more people are demanding from brands. There’s a really great quote from Anna Lappe: “Every time you spend money, you are casting a vote for the kind of world you want”; I want a world where our manufacturers are paid and treated fairly, our fabrics are as natural as possible (especially for little babies!), with less waste and pollution, and where my money can make a difference in the world. And I’d love for this to become the norm!
I love how you talk about the mass consumerism in the baby industry. What are some tips you could pass on to new parents or parents to be to help reduce wastefulness?
I was definitely guilty of buying anything and everything when I had my first son – it’s very easy to get swept up in the excitement of a new baby, and the fear that you don’t have all the things you think you’ll need! However when my second baby came along (also a boy), I barely bought anything new – I’d learned the first time around what was an absolute essential, and all the things that were just cream on top.
One thing that served me well was buying clothing that were really well made, of quality fabrics, in gender-neutral styles. They often cost a little more, but I was able to get wear out of them for two babies, rather than throw them out after several wears.
There are also some amazing organisations who collect used baby items in good condition and donate to those in need, such as Dandelion Support Network and Mummies Paying It Forward (both Sydney-based) and St Kilda Mums (Melbourne), and I’ve passed on a lot of my baby things to them to ensure their life continues.
Robyn, you’re a rocking #mumboss; what advice do you have for mothers who are wanting to work from home / start their own business?
Ensure you have the support in place to enable you to work on your business – child care, help from family, and any other domestic help you might need. It’s hard work starting a business, let alone doing it while also trying to focus on your children.
What is something you hope to pass down to your children?
Two things that are really important to me are empathy, and an awareness of the world. If my children are kind, inclusive and worldly, then I will be a very happy mama.
Funniest memory since becoming a mama?
I don’t think I can isolate one moment! Sometimes we’ll laugh for ages about something so ridiculous, like when my 4 year old says something like “cheese pants” and it continuously cracks up my 2 year old. It’s not funny to anyone else, yet to us we can see the facets of their little personalities shining through, and that’s the best.
What’s your favourite weekend activity?
Every other weekend for 8 months of the year (when it’s warm enough!) we spend the morning at Whale Beach – playing in the sand, paddling in the water, and looking for crabs in the rockpools. We’re all sun chasers and happy to be outdoors in the warm weather!
Your most inspirational quote?
I really love Marilyn Monroe’s quote: “Sometimes things fall apart so better things can fall together”. It’s a fantastic reminder when something unexpected or bad happens to trust the path the universe is taking you along, and that things are happening for a reason.
Finally, what is next for Mama Maya?
We’re only just at the beginning – we have a really big goal to fund 100,000 birthing kits in our first 3 years, and will also have another couple of colours coming out in our classic and chic signature spot print. And if you’re in Sydney, we’ll be at One Fine Baby in August – so if you’re heading there, pop over and say hi!
Want to read more ‘Interviews’? Click on the little ‘plus’ sign at the bottom of this page, and check them out under ‘Categories’.