To many, pregnancy and motherhood are considered the highlights of a woman's life. And our society, literature and movies have romanticised these journeys to the extent that issues and struggles behind them generally come as a shock to new mothers.
Nishat Anjum Palka, an alumnus of Brac University, gave birth to her firstborn in 2019. She was a fairly young mother. After labour and the baby's delivery, she struggled with severe postpartum depression.
When she tried to seek professional help, she realised there are limited platforms in Bangladesh working exclusively with women's physical and mental health during pregnancy and postpartum.
Addressing the need, Nishat conceptualised her venture named 'MommyKidz,' a one-stop solution to aid women, mothers and parents with access to information, healthcare and essentials through an interactive community and circle.
MommyKidz operates through a digital app where relevant information (including but not limited to stages and complications of pregnancy, maternal and infant health, etc) is shared and experiences are discussed by the members who are parents-to-be. Information and different healthcare can also be availed through this app.
Additionally, MommyKidz sells thousands of essential products (both imported and locally produced) for mothers and babies, via F-commerce and E-commerce. Washable cloth diapers happen to be the company's best-selling item.
Understanding and responding to women's beliefs and attitudes during the childbearing stage is an essential focus of international maternity health policy. And must be considered to optimise a woman's well-being. In fact, in many discourses, the psychosocial well-being of women is now viewed as equally important as their physical well-being.
A report by Countrymeters shows that in our country, around 10,000 babies are born every day, nearly 3.6 million yearly. Due to the nescience and superstitions prevailing in society, parents, especially mothers, become puzzled about what to do.
Mental health is severely unaddressed in our country, resulting in 39% of women facing postpartum depression according to the National Library of Medicine and other mental health problems.
"If not treated on time, mental health issues among mothers cause long-term effects. On the other hand, different stages in pregnancy require different supportive products, pregnancy and parenting tools or medicines. However, most of the time, they are unknown and also unattainable even in the big cities in our country," said Nishat.
MommyKids started with the founder's personal funding. Later, in 2020, the company got an angel investor. The company operates from its workplace located in the capital's Mirpur.
Building a community of women and parents supporting each other
Through their user-friendly app, available for Android (iOS is still under process), MommyKidz has developed a community. In the community, every member is connected to each other, which allows them to create smaller, personalised circles amongst themselves. The circles can specifically cater to the needs and requirements of mothers in similar stages of pregnancy. This helps everyone to connect, share, learn and grow together.
For example, someone with a special-needs child can connect with other parents who also have a special-needs child. Similarly, a three-month-pregnant woman will automatically connect to the circle of three-month-pregnant mothers.
This protocol helps build a supportive ecosystem where parents exchange knowledge and experiences, allowing them to comprehend their situations better.
So far, the platform has served more than 9,000 families.
Their app also allows users to enjoy a customised feed and freemium services like period/ovulation tracker, fetal tracker, baby growth milestone, articles library, Q/A by expert and many more.
"The Q/A has been a useful tool for the parents. On any given day, we receive 90 to 100 queries from users. Most importantly, male users are also very active in this segment as well. We have two in-house doctors handling this segment," added Nishat.
Rural women and parents will also be able to avail services with or without smartphones by calling MommyKidz's emergency helpline, which will be launched soon. Nishat says that additional pregnancy and parenting tools are soon going to be added to her app.
As of now, MommyKidz has more than 10,000 app users from all over Bangladesh.
A quality product line for mothers and babies
MommyKidz also provides its users with authentic baby and mother care products that can make their lives easier. In fact, this is one of the main revenue streams of the brand. Other than the washable cloth diapers, which are manufactured locally by the brand, all other products are sourced from the United States, United Arab of Emirates, Europe, China, Thailand, Hong Kong and India through third-party vendors.
The brand is actively promoting and encouraging users to use washable cloth diapers as they are suitable for babies and also good for our environment. Till now, they have successfully provided cloth diapers to more than 1,000 families.
Usable for six months, one cloth diaper (with one pad) costs Tk 200. The user can buy pads separately at Tk50 for each. On the contrary, the same diaper imported from other countries costs around Tk350 to Tk500 each.
According to a World Health Organisation report, Bangladesh will be the seventh-largest consumer of baby diapers in the world by 2025 as the domestic market for baby diapers continues to grow quickly, due to the rising purchasing power of parents and a familiarity with the comfort of using diapers for newborns.
According to a report by Deccan Herald, disposable diapers do not degrade well in a landfill and take more than 500 years to decompose.
"These diapers have been posing a serious threat to the environment. It is high time we adopt sustainable alternatives," opined Nishat.
Besides washable diapers, MommyKidz also sells bathing accessories, skincare products, feeding essentials for babies, breastfeeding essentials for moms, toys, clothes etc.
"As we continue to explore new ways of serving our growing user base, we will need a lot of support. We are glad to receive mentorship and networking support from Youth Co:Lab, an initiative co-led by UNDP and Citi Foundation," she mentioned.
In the upcoming days, MommyKidz will launch its telemedicine services, well-being health packages, online pharmacy and home diagnostic services to provide authentic medicines and accessible diagnostic services with a view to ensure safe pregnancy and a happy parenting journey.