TikTok is currently buzzing with videos of new moms, many who have had premature births, saying they will never purchase from Kyte Baby again. It's a similar story in each post's comment section, with thousands of women sharing stories of life in the NICU or recommending dupes for the popular baby brand's products.
So why the massive boycott against Kyte Baby, and what do NICU moms have to do with it? It all boils down to the company's alleged treatment one of its employees, a new NICU mom named Marissa Hughes.
Marissa Hughes' journey to motherhood
Hughes and her husband's "deepest desire" has been to grow their family, according to the couple's GoFundMe page. But for nearly three years, they faced immense challenges in their quest. This included failed IVF and IUI procedures, multiple miscarriages and Hughes nearly losing her life due to a related surgery — after which she asked Kyte Baby to have time off but was denied the request, according to Hughes' sister.
After serving as foster parents, the Hughes said they felt compelled to adopt in October and started the GoFundMe to raise funds to do so. Then two months later, they got the call: A baby boy in a hospital nine hours away from their home in Dallas needed a family.
GoFundMe / Marissa Hughes
Born at 22 weeks and weighing just a pound, the couple again turned to GoFundMe to raise funds for the baby, named Judah, and his expensive NICU stay ahead, as they expected he likely wouldn't be discharged until the end of March.
Hughes again asked Kyte Baby for time off from her in-person job as a studio coordinator, which she had had for seven months at the time, her sister said in a TikTok. The brand agreed to give her two weeks of paid leave before she needed to return.
But the new mom asked the company if she could instead work remotely after those weeks, as Judah would still be in the hospital nine hours away. The company denied the request and said if she could not physically return to work after the two weeks, she would be terminated. Hughes decided to stay with Judah, therefore giving up the job she depended on for income.
Kyte Baby boycott begins
The story, both on TikTok and the Hughes' GoFundMe, went viral once other parents learned how their favorite baby brand, which is known for its bamboo sleep sacks, treated the new mom in her time of need.
Then the videos began to spread the story further, showing support for Hughes and against Kyte Baby.
One video with more than 300,000 likes shows a woman holding a small baby, hooked to many machines, with the words "one of the reasons why I'll never purchase Kyte Baby again." Its caption states, "A business that has morals, ethics and supports their mothers is import to me. Instead [of] helping this family, they created more stress than necessary."
Another with nearly 2 million views states, "I will never give Kyte Baby another dime of my money, and I would encourage you to do the same… As someone who is adopted and a mom, this literally makes me sick."
@mauraepowers Replying to @Cristina this makes me sick #momlife #momlifebelike #momlifebelikethat #toddlersoftiktok #parentsoftiktok #momsofnh #workingmom #bamboobabyclothes #kytebaby ♬ original sound - Maura Powers
Kyte Baby responds
As social media backlash against the brand continued to grow, Kyte Baby's founder, Ying Liu, finally decided it was time to share her side of things.
In a video posted to the brand's official TikTok account on Jan. 18, Liu said she wanted to "sincerely apologize to Marissa for how her parental leave was communicated and handled in the midst of her incredible journey of adoption and starting a family." She explained her company "prides itself on being a family-oriented company" that treats "biological and non-biological parents equally."
The post received more than 2 million views, but those views didn't equate to forgiveness.
Many criticized Liu for sounding inauthentic and scripted in her apology, with one comment reading, "I like how your lawyer prepared that statement. So sincere."
Later that same day, Liu posted another video to the account, trying a different approach to win back customers.
"I just posted an official apology on TikTok, and the comments were right. It was scripted. I memorized it," Liu said. "It wasn't sincere, and I've decided to go off-script."
The Kyte Baby founder goes on to say she made the call to veto Hughes' remote work request and said she now realizes it was a terrible decision.
"I was insensitive, selfish and was only focused on the fact that her job had always been done on-site, and I didn't see the possibilty of doing it remotely," Liu said. "However, having a little bit of sensitivity, understanding and flexibility would have accommodated her, and I did not accommodate her."
Liu said she agrees that this appears she is trying to "save face," but she states the situation has made her realize her short-sightedness and the changes her company needs to make to protect and ensure employee pregnancy benefits.
She also said, as if directly to Hughes, that the company would continue to pay the new mom her benefits and grant her the remote work she requested, also offering her her original position in-person when she's ready to come back.
In a post on Facebook, Hughes said she saw the apologies from Liu and acknowledged the offers, which Kyte Baby told TODAY.com she had declined.
"While we don't think it would be appropriate for me to go back, we're really encouraged to hear that there will be some changes made for current and future employees at the company, and we just pray that it all works out and that those changes are made for everyone that works really hard to keep that company up and running."