Crystal Harris, Inventor of the “Brauxiliary Band,” Talks Motherhood and Entrepreneurship

Crystal Harris, Inventor of the “Brauxiliary Band,” Talks Motherhood and Entrepreneurship

Crystal Harris, entrepreneur and working mother of three, is the creator of the Brauxiliary Band.

The Brauxiliary Band is the first hands free pumping attachment for bras that allows mothers to keep their clothes on and pump at the same time. Fed up with the lack of options when it came to finding bras that allowed her to stay productive at work, Harris took matters into her own hands and created not just the attachment, but an entire brand behind it. Brauxiliary has struck a chord with working moms from all over, raising over $4,000 with its Indiegogo campaign. Even Harris’s attorney was so inspired by her prototype that she agreed to work pro bono on its patent. 

I talked with Harris over email about her creative process, the challenges of being an inventor, and the future of the Brauxiliary Band.

What inspired you to create the Brauxiliary Band?

I was inspired to create the Brauxiliary Band out of pure necessity! I was going back to work and needed to be able to pump breast milk without my hands being occupied for 30 mins at a time, so I looked into hands-free pumping options and every single one of them was a hassle. They all required that I get undressed from the waist up and change out of the bra that I was already wearing. Who has that kind of time? And a mother has to pump every 3 hours or so. I would have been literally changing clothes ALL DAY LONG.

What was the design process like?

I started by thinking about what was important to me. It had to be easy to use and comfortable. It had to be adjustable because of the ebb and flow (no pun intended) of breast milk, your boobs are a different sizes at different times of the day. Most of all, it had to hold the breast pump flanges securely and work with the bra that I was already wearing. I started googling DIY pump bras and hands-free pumping hacks just to see how women were solving this problem, and I ran across an article about using intersecting hair ties wrapped around your bra straps. I tried it once and the hair ties ended up totally tangled, with my nipple and even some of my precious breast milk ending up as casualties of that war. So I knew that wouldn’t work for me. I’m a bit crafty, and I had elastic and snaps in my house from some bibs that I had made for my older children, so I sewed the first prototype by hand for my personal use.

What were some of the challenges you faced when designing the band?

I suppose the biggest challenge has been sourcing the right materials. We have refined the prototype to be made with a high quality lingerie strapping because women love the option of wearing the Brauxiliary Band all day under their nursing bra. We have also changed the fasteners from a series of snaps to nursing bra clasps to be sure the Brauxiliary Band is fully adjustable and not just adjustable along predetermined measurements.

(Another) challenge has really been getting a manufacturer to take me seriously. I heard a lot of “no.” It was so interesting to me just how many manufacturers would say, “We’ve never made anything like that before.” I was like, “I know! I INVENTED it…it’s never existed before. Duh!”

What advice do you have for young female inventors?

My advice to young female inventors would be to remind yourself that you are the NEW guy and not the LITTLE guy. Give yourself permission to be new at whatever you’re attacking. Give yourself permission to ask questions. People love sharing their expertise with folks who genuinely want to understand. I start almost every conversation with someone new by saying, “Forgive my ignorance, I’m an expert at breast milk, but not an expert at custom jacquard elastic, or button ligne, or purchase requisitions or whatever…” then I ask my questions. And I take notes. Only be ignorant about that subject once.

What’s in store for Brauxiliary next?

I have to get a Brauxiliary Band into the hands of every woman with a breast pump. It’s crazy because depending on her work place, a woman my not have adequate time and accommodations when it comes to pumping. So if it takes 15 minutes of her strict 30 minute pump break to set up the pump, the woman only gets 15 minutes of actual milk removal. Since breast milk production is based on how much milk is removed, the woman without adequate time to pump ends up with supply issues and the only way to boost supply is to remove more milk, but she can’t make that happen so she just gives up. Brauxiliary Band helps to break that cycle because it takes so much less time to set up the pump. But ultimately we have to attack the policies in this country that spread “Breast is best” propaganda while doing nothing to actually support women in that goal. I’d like to be influential in that space.

Click here for more information about the Brauxiliary Band.

Cover image courtesy of Getty Images