A baby booger sucker. Toddler butt-washers. Gas-relieving gadgets for infants.
Fridababy went where few parenting brands have gone before, introducing clever solutions for the unsexy, icky realities of childcare. It marketed its collection of unique, uncommon tools as lifesavers for when snot or poops come full force—or, as company CEO and president Chelsea Hirschhorn more aptly puts it, the “non-Instagram-worthy part of parenthood.”
Launched in 2014, Fridababy is now found in more than 35,000 retail stores. It’s the No. 1 baby-category seller on Amazon, with over 2.5 million products sold last year alone. The snot-absorbing NoseFrida, for example, is one of the most-registered products at Target and BuyBuyBaby.
And starting Wednesday, the business that made a fortune out of gross baby ordeals will now service an entirely new problem: the harsh and bloody postpartum recovery process. Dubbed FridaMom, the wellness line includes a wide range of hospital-stay and post-delivery products: disposable delivery and nursing gowns; a squirt bottle to clean “down there”; a pack of cooling liners to reduce swelling; and high-waisted mesh underwear designed for both C-section and vaginal deliveries, among other necessities.
As the back of the disposable underwear briefs attests, it’s “for when the mess is too gross for your period underwear and your body is too big for a waistband.” The collection starts at $11.99.
Hirschhorn, 35, developed the new subbrand following her second pregnancy, in 2016. (A former bankruptcy attorney and lawyer for the Miami Marlins, Hirschhorn took over the role of CEO from the Fridababy founder in 2014.) The CEO found herself—once again—completely unprepared for childbirth. She rummaged through stores looking to stock up on all the essentials she would need for the coming weeks. The fragmented retail experience resulted in products designed for other purposes, such as first-aid burn spray, or piecing together DIY ice pads.
Why, she wondered, did she need to hit up seven different aisles? Why did so few brands target mothers in need while countless companies centered on newborn care? Nearly four million Americans give birth each year, yet the delivery-room category has seen little, if any, innovation.
Not to mention, American women receive far from adequate medical support. In Sweden, mothers are assigned a midwife who checks in on them routinely after hospital discharge. Here, most are sent packing with a newborn and told to check in with their physician six weeks later. Hirschhorn heard from numerous women who were advised to “steal” as many supplies as possible during their hospital stay.
“As women, we’re so accustomed to putting ourselves second in that way,” laments the CEO. “I don’t think it occurred to women to even voice their complaints about what they were experiencing or the [lack of] recovery products that were available to them because they were so focused on this new role that they had assumed.”
A diaper full of ice, sitting on a wee-wee pad
Hirschhorn experienced this acutely when, following the birth of her second son, the physician prescribed ice therapy for a swollen perineum, an area prone to hemorrhaging. To her surprise, the nurse walked into her hospital room holding . . . a newborn diaper. She then proceeded to pour a pitcher of ice from the hallway ice machine into the diaper before taping it between Hirschhorn’s legs. The new mom was commanded to sit on top of a dog wee-wee pad until she had to go to the bathroom.
“A diaper isn’t absorbent enough to hold a quart of blood that will come out over the course of an hour or two,” Hirschhorn reflects with a good dose of humor. That moment solidified her commitment to creating perineal cooling-pad liners medicated with witch hazel to reduce swelling and itching.
That product alone took two years of research. The Frida team quickly understood why other consumer brands shied away from tackling the postpartum category.
“It’s extremely hard to create a line of disposable products to service a need-state that is so short in duration—but so physically and emotionally transformational—at a price point that is universally acceptable to women,” explains Hirschhorn.
But much like Fridababy’s mission to dispel the Pinterest-perfect clichés of childcare, Hirschhorn was determined to solve the ubiquitous needs that every new mom has. It was a feminist mission to cater to a group mostly ignored by the consumer, medical, and even lifestyle industries.
Hirschhorn references the still wildly popular handbook What To Expect When You’re Expecting, published in 1984, noting its dated advice. “I think in chapter 12, in the hospital-bag checklist section, they suggest you pack a sandwich for your partner,” she laughs. “Obviously, a lot has changed culturally over the past 20 years in the way that women service the problems they’re experiencing.”
FridaMom takes a candid, humorous approach to such sensitive topics. The brand caters to a millennial consumer increasingly looking to establish an honest connection with brands; that means a conversational transparency about everything, vaginal stitches and all.
“There’s been a major shift that puts us at the intersection of culture and commerce at a perfect time to launch a product line like this,” she says.
The FridaMom perineal healing foam box, for example, promises cooling pain relief from “vag to tush.” The delivery gown, meanwhile, advertises a stylish side-button design and secure rear closure that “won’t leave you flapping in the wind when doing laps around the hospital.”
“Craving some of the raw, unfiltered realities from other parents”
Basically, they’re not sugarcoating delivery. But they’re also having a bit of fun with it. That fine balance—echoing more of a BFF than a corporate entity—ultimately differentiates the brand from its often exhausting competitors. So many lifestyle brands make it look all too easy and beautiful to parent, and a substantial percentage of young moms want something a little more real.
“We have leveraged the insight that parents don’t want to see how perfect your parenting skills are or how amazing your rainbow flower exploding birthday cake is,” says Hirschhorn. “People are craving some of the raw, unfiltered realities from other parents.”
So when it came to crafting the FridaMom campaign, the team reverted to its source material: a real mom. More specifically, Hirschhorn. Debuting Wednesday, the online campaign features the CEO navigating labor and the postpartum recovery process—using her own body during the R&D process.
It’s part of the company’s effort to reinforce the fact that moms develop the products and not, as Hirschhorn explains, some gray-haired men in an ivory tower. The research team includes doulas, midwives, and female physicians, all of whom filter through the nice-to-haves and boil it down to the have-to-haves.
“We’re solving problems that we know exist because we put our own vaginas on the line,” stresses Hirschhorn. “Our ultimate goal is to make sure that a first-time mom goes into this experience as prepared and informed as a third-time mom.”
The company was concerned as to whether retail partners would take to devoting a section to postpartum delivery, but so far, big-box stores have demonstrated enthusiasm to seize an untapped market. FridaMom launches in Target stores nationwide and at Target.com, Amazon, and Buy Buy Baby.
Now when an expecting couple registers for a breast pump, they might also find a four-foot section specifically dedicated to the mother’s physical transformation.
As for what’s next for the business empire, Hirschhorn’s husband jokes she’ll either have to have more children to keep fueling the innovation pipeline—or they’ll be on FridaTeen very soon. But she isn’t too concerned: The Miami headquarters is full of involved parents who, like her, are always looking to simplify the messiness of domestic life.
“There’s a variety of need-states that we feel are continually untapped when it comes to the realities of parenting,” says Hirschhorn, “and they definitely transcend the baby space.”