We are very excited to be showing support for black mothers, fathers, parents and infants during Black Breastfeeding Week. A recent CDC study regarding breastfeeding statistics which found that interventions are needed to address barriers experienced disproportionately by black mothers in their feeding journeys.
During this week, we will be sharing the feeding journeys of real parents in our community. Today, we bring you Ophelia’s story of staying positive during her initial obstacles and the resources she found on her journey.
How would you describe your own feeding (nursing or otherwise) journey?
My nursing journey has been extremely empowering. It was definitely rocky in the beginning as I knew nothing about breastfeeding, and there were no resources that I had knowledge of. I wasn’t able to ask my family for advice nor support as I was the first woman in my family to ever breastfeed. On many occasions, I heard that black women do not breastfeed; and that I should give my son a bottle of formula but, as I continued to learn about the benefits of my breastmilk verses formula I decided to continue despite the odds being against me. I am ecstatic to say that my body ALONE has nurtured my sons very being and his existence!
What, if any, misconceptions of nursing did you encounter?
One huge misconception I’ve encountered throughout my journey is that I breastfed too long. Most people believe that once a child is out of the infancy stage that they no longer need breastmilk. That’s totally untrue. The composition of breastmilk changes as the child grows and as their needs change.
Did you have any complications or challenges on your feeding journey?
The biggest challenge for me was not seeing black women or any woman of color breastfeeding. It would’ve been so much easier if there was a woman who looked like me at the breastfeeding support groups I tried to attend. Most of the moms had their own “cliques” and I never felt included. I eventually stopped attending; and searched hard for moms of color who shared my love for breastfeeding and who could understand the struggles I had. I finally found that group; and I’ve helped the creator build this group from the bottom up. We now have over 20 women who come out each month to get support and empower each other.
What resources or support helped you on your journey?
The support of my SO(significant other) has been so abundant that without him I do not believe that I’d still be breastfeeding today. The group Coloring Between the Lines also has been of huge support as the group is filled with women of color, mostly black mothers, who are breastfeeding their babies. I now feel that the support that I gained throughout my journey will help me to support the women of color in my community.
Why do you think it’s important to have Black Breastfeeding Week?
Black Breastfeeding Week is needed to bring awareness to the lack of breastfeeding in the black community. Infant mortality rates are staggeringly higher for black babies; and black breastfeeding rates are low. As a breastfeeding peer counselor I believe that if we increase breastfeeding rates in our community we will decrease infant mortality. This week is also needed to show the world that black women do breastfeed, and we need to be represented in the media, natural baby community, and hospitals. As most hospitals in low-income communities are sadly funded by formula companies and they do not give women of color breastfeeding resources if they choose to breastfeed.
Do you have any specific advice to share with anyone looking to nurse?
Breastfeeding is a journey. There will be good and some bad days. The good will outweigh the bad and you should never give up on your worse day. Find support, hold your baby close, look into their eyes, and know that you are giving them the best start at a healthy life.
Thank you Ophelia!! You can follow Ophelia on Instagram.
My Son with Special Needs: Bonding Through Adventure
By: Ashley Baggerly
We came across a great story from a mom named Ashley, who found a great way to bond with her son by taking him on hikes and utilizing baby carriers to achieve her dreams. We were so inspired by her family’s story, we wanted to share it with our Tula Love community. Here is her story originally shared by Adventure Mamas Initiative.
The moment I hit the dirt I’m smiling. It’s exhilarating to have my feet on the trail that I have desperately wanted to hike since I was 12. The trail markers of the Pacific Crest Trail bring back floods of memories and dreams of the days of care-free, spontaneous adventure. My son shakes his hands around, yelling out “Happy Day! Happy Day!” Indeed, everyday spent this way is a happy day. This experience of day hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is dear to me. It represents living my dream, being healthy, and overcoming one of my most heart felt challenges.
I’m not super mom. I struggle, as everyone does, with the challenges of day to day parenthood. My story is about how I was able to build a bond with my son as he joined me on my greatest adventure to date. It’s about how I learned to balance the load of parenting and my own needs. It’s about not giving up.
I had a rough Cesarean when my twin boys were born and an emotional recovery as I learned to cope with the fact that one of my babies, Steven, was born with special needs. I remember holding his brother and feeling an instant connection, a bond. When I held Steven in my arms, I felt empty and scared. Was he wanted and loved? Absolutely and undoubtedly. But was there that same immediate maternal bond? The hard truth was no. It seemed like any person who held him was better at taking care of him than me and that was so heart-breaking.I didn’t tell anyone about my feelings. How could I? Everyone in the NICU was telling me how to take care of him. It made me feel so inadequate. I felt broken inside, I was his mother and I had no idea how to even hold him.
I remember when he was 2 weeks old, I realized if I could get a hold of one of those “baby-wrap-things” maybe then I could hold my son. Something clicked. I haven’t stopped holding him since. I’ve held this child tight to me for almost 5 years. I’ve held him through another pregnancy. I’ve held him through surgeries and dozens of doctors’ appointments. I’ve held him through deserts and to the tops of mountains. I didn’t know how to deal with all of the complicated issues surrounding his condition but I knew I just needed to hold him. It’s what felt right; and sure enough, amazing changes began to take place: after months of holding my baby boy, a true, deep bond was finally forming.
Steven’s condition presents unique challenges. Although I try not to focus on the what-if’s, the toll of caring for a dependent child is strenuous. The weight is heavy. The emotional incline is tough. Special needs moms are not super moms. They are just like you.
Overtime, the accumulated stress began to wear on me; I was developing a mild case of anxiety. It was amplified by the fact that finding friends who understand your child’s unique needs are not easy to come by; I couldn’t help but feel lonely at times. It took a long time but I finally accepted that I needed to adventure, even if that meant as a solo-mom. I broke through the fear that had been holding me back from adventuring by myself and took the twins to Joshua Tree National Park when they were 18 months old. My anxiety disappeared immediately and the door to the world swung open.
This new momentum didn’t stop at Joshua Tree. I continued to seek out paved nature trails so I could put Steven in the stroller if I became exhausted of carrying him. After our 3rd baby was born I found that I felt ready for bigger hikes. We hiked a killer trail at Zion National Park while I tandem wore Steven and the 2 month old. We were not necessarily completing these big trails but we were on them and that was enough.
With this new found confidence, I began to feel a nudge, the Pacific Crest Trail sat in the back of my mind like a dusty book on the corner of my night stand. It seems that some dreams never die. I couldn’t help but face the facts surrounding Steven’s condition. I know things are good right now. But I also know that the reality is we have some dark days ahead of us. Damn it, I’m going to live now. This is it. Now is the time. Before I knew it, I began telling my husband, “I want to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, Section C, this year by myself with Steven… Some day his brothers will be hiking it and…I don’t know if he will be able to…so if I take him now…” My husband stopped me, “Then let’s do it. Plan out the hikes, I’ll pick you up where the trail crosses the road.” My husband is the glue that keeps this family together.
I’ve completed nearly 40 of the 132 miles I plan on completing. It’s difficult at times. I’m hiking by myself and I’m often carrying 50lbs of weight with no frame. But at the same time, it is also peaceful and beautiful. Every weekend, I look forward to it. Hiking with Steven helps me to be centered and better able to cope when situations are hard at home. I’m also finding an incredible strength within myself when things on the trail become challenging. Being able to solve problems I face has boosted my self-confidence.
I’ve learned that sometimes things are difficult and you can’t change them. Sometimes things are not okay and that’s actually okay. Sometimes things take a hell of a lot longer to accomplish than they should but it’s still an accomplishment. And sometimes, when things are at their darkest and you feel like you don’t have another step left in you, you find the strength.
I’m a better hiker than I was before. I’m a better person than I was before. I grow everyday as a parent and when things get tough…I keep going. I’ve learned that there is no giving up.
My hope is that mothers become advocates to bring more accessibility to the outdoors. Let’s speak up about enhancing access to those with special needs. Let’s partner and volunteer with those who manage our local forests, BLM lands, state parks, regional parks, and national parks. Let them know it’s important for mothers to feel comfortable to bring themselves and their children into nature.
Let’s keep posting our success stories of connecting our families with nature. We are all part of a greater movement that is having a healthy physical and emotional impact on families around the world.
Let’s get outside and continue our adventures with babies in tow, regardless of their unique, special, and dynamic needs, and support one another lovingly along the way.
Babywearing educators are a wonderful asset to the babywearing community. Their experience, knowledge and passion for babywearing can help caregivers overcome challenges and gain confidence in wearing their baby. We appreciate the role that babywearing educators play in our community and we are excited to celebrate their role through this series of babywearing educator spotlights.
Our next Babywearing Educator spotlight is on an active and long time educator, in both public and private consultations, from Washington. We asked Ricki Franklin, of Babywearing Boss, to answer some questions about herself and her role as an educator.
Tell us about your business.
As a Center for Babywearing Studies trained consultant I work with families and organizations serving families to promote child carrying. I focus on principals of Kangaroo Care and the benefits of hands-free carrying provided by babywearing. I meet with families, in their space, to assess babywearing goals and we work together to reach those goals, often in about 90 minutes. My nanny services almost always include babywearing as well. Whether I’m carrying a baby to give a postpartum family a break or a busy toddler who needs to recenter, babywearing always comes to the rescue. I am excited to announce, I’ll be partnering with a local Baby Tula retailer to offer in-store carrier fit adjustments and consultations.
How did you get involved with babywearing?
Researching online, I found out babywearing might help me reach my breastfeeding goals. I got a carrier, studied how to use it, but was very intimidated because of my plus size body: I was worried I wasn’t supposed to babywear as a fat person. One day, when my baby was fussy and couldn’t settle, my mom said, “Tie that baby on me!” I wrapped her in a Pocket Wrap Cross Carry with a stretchy wrap and my baby slept for hours on his grandma. At once I knew babywearing was for every BODY. Our little extended family immediately fell in love with babywearing. I found my local babywearing group which grew into an amazing support system bonded over new parent struggles. I now serve as President of BWI Olympia.
What do you find most rewarding as a babywearing educator?
I love knowing I’m passing on parenting skills and making the world a safer place for children. One of my former clients just became a grandmother. She explained how thrilled she was to teach her daughter how to babywear her first grandchild. Babywearing is an age old tradition and I respect that tradition by sharing the knowledge whenever possible.
What is one important tip you like to share with new or first-time babywearers?
Practice the steps to prepare your carrier, secure baby in the carrier, and take baby out of the carrier. Try using a doll, stuffed toy, or even a bag of your favorite snack to make this process effective. Getting a feel for the flow of each step will make you more comfortable. Your baby will sense that trying out the new carrier is OK because of the confidence you gained with those trials!
This Guest Blog was written by Lindsay Rothman, MS Ed. and Brooke Nalle, MS Ed.
The Pediatric Sleep Consultants of Sleepy on Hudson www.sleepyonhudson.com
I am sure if we put our heads together, we could create a long list of frustrating sleep scenarios that stress US out more than our babies!
I see a lot of parents trying to get a young baby to nap in their crib only to spend more time getting the baby down for a nap than they actually spend napping.
Maybe you have tried getting your baby down for a nap in a new environment; and they are just not having it? It’s. The. Worst.
In these scenarios, and many others, a baby carrier may be your best friend! Here are a few things to keep in mind about infant sleep and some tips to help get your little one settled for resting:
1.Did you know that young babies don’t develop consistent and reliable melatonin production until they are 4-6 months old? Rather than push a rock up a hill, try using a carrier during your baby’s naps to begin to cement in good, complete sleep cycles. When your baby is a little bit older, then you can start to alternate crib and carrier naps — a mix is best for flexibility.
2. Sometimes, I don’t know if baby is hungry or sleepy. Use a baby carrier when you hit that rocky point and are not sure if it is nap time or snack time. Once in the carrier, baby will offer queues to help answer the question — hungry or sleepy. And either one can be done in your carrier!
3. We finally got a great nap routine going at home, but my baby is refusing her nap at grandma’s house. It can be very overwhelming for a baby to be exposed to a new place and new people. Your baby carrier is truly your one and only friend in this situation. Your baby will find the baby carrier family and they will be close to someone they love. Baby can get a nap and you can return to exploring new or familiar (for you) places!
4.Baby sleep, and babies in general, are all about transitions and change. Just when you think you have mastered a routine, it starts to shift. Very often a baby will give up a nap (very normal age appropriate behavior), but he is still grumpy. We love using a baby carrier when you just don’t know what to do during a former nap time. Offer them a place to unwind and decompress — your carrier is perfect for this. Both you and your baby will get a bit of a break and can now make it to bedtime a little more gracefully.
We are excited to have Queen Hatter from Mad Hatter Warped & Woven here to give you a behind the scenes look at what goes into creating handwoven fabric and what it is like to be a fiber artist. As many of you know, some of our coveted Baby Tula Wrap Conversion Carriers are created using handwoven material. What fun it is to have the chance to learn more about how these pieces are handcrafted!
Q- Queen Hatter, for those who aren’t familiar with handweaving, can you explain to us what the process entails? How long does it take from start to finish to complete a piece? What is the most challenging part about handweaving?
I love these kind of questions! I am always amazed at the thought that each handwoven piece started with just cones of yarn and a bit of inspiration. In the simplest terms, handweaving is creating fabric by interlacing yarn together. The yarn that runs vertical on the project is the warp and the horizontal threads are the weft. How many threads you have per inch in your warp and in your weft along with the weave structure and the fibers used, drastically changes how the finished fabric will feel (think 200 thread count sheets vs. 900 thread count sheets.) These details are especially important when your finished piece is intended to comfortably hold the weight of a baby.
In my video (below), I have given you a small glimpse of what it is like as a fiber artist and what goes into making handwoven fabric. You will see that I start the process with a box of yarn. I lay out the colours, switch out some colors, and rearrange them until I am satisfied with the colourway and begin warping.
You see the cones of yarn on the floor and I have a few threaded through my fingers, this keeps them separated and in order as I spin them around my warping wheel. A lot of things are happening during this time. On the technical side, I am measuring out the yarn as I need each thread to be the same length and have the same tension. Typically, I work with approximately 900 threads per warp with each thread at a length of 25 meters. Keeping that much thread from tangling on each other and in even tension requires a lot of skill and patience. On the artistic side, I am placing each thread where I want it to go to create the desired colourway. When you look closely at my work, you will see hundreds of pinstripes and colours that melt into one another – these colour transitions and details are part of what makes each fiber artist’s work unique. It is always my hope that you can see my work and without seeing a label, know it is something I created because of the details that are unique to me. This process of preparing the warp yarn and getting it onto the back of my loom takes an average of 12 – 15 working hours. This is the foundational work for the full project. If the threads are not consistently the same tension when it comes time to weave, you will end up with broken threads or threads that do not lift properly.
As you continue to watch my video, you will see me threading heddles. The order I thread the heddles is part of what makes it so my finished pieces have my signature hearts woven into them. Each thread has to be threaded into its own heddle, this process takes me an average of 12 hours. With a bit more work, I am ready to start weaving! To get to this point, I am about 25 – 30 hours into the project.
Next the weaving begins. You will see the weft thread being woven through the warp as I throw the shuttle from one side to the next. Depending on what thread I am using for my wefts, I have to throw the shuttle 28 – 32 times to weave one inch, on average I weave 25 inches an hour. That is a lot of work, skill, and love that goes into each piece!
I would say the most challenging part about handweaving is a small error can take several hours to fix. The key to having a beautiful finished piece is consistency. Bringing the threads together in a consistent beat and maintaining consistent tension.
Q- Why is handweaving considered a fiber art? Do you participate in any other fiber arts?
Handweaving is considered a fiber art for many reasons. There is a lot of room for self expression in the weaving draft/pattern you choose along with which colours you use, how you transition the colours, if you incorporate textured fibers, etc. Each piece carries a very unique charm with it, a story, a feeling… I find that to be the most magical part – that feeling, that story, that sense of connection and belonging that comes with the piece.
Recently, I learned how to hand paint yarn. This is another form of fiber arts that pairs lovely with handweaving. Hand painting the yarns I weave with has allowed me to achieve some very fascinating colourways.
Q- Tell us more about your journey as a fiber artist. When did you learn? What did you do before becoming a professional fiber artist?
I started handweaving in 2013. I began by reading handweaving books and watching instructional DVDs. The more I learned about the art, the more fascinated I became. I enjoyed how intricate the work was and fell in love with all the possibilities. What drew me to learning how to weave was my desire to create handwoven babywraps. At the time, the weavers that created baby wraps mostly used plain weave, which I absolutely adored but I wanted to see what other possibilities there were and create a look unique to me. As I read more about weaving, I discovered there were endless possibilities for various weaving patterns. This discovery fueled my desire to learn. Before ever sitting at a loom, I had my mind made up that when I wove, I would weave hearts.
Determined to learn, I met with 5 handweavers in my area and begged each one to teach me. Sadly, they all declined, stating it was difficult to teach and highly time consuming. My only option to learn was to purchase a loom and teach myself. The next several months I woke up before sunrise and stayed up long after my daughters went to bed, trying to learn the art. I was the sole provider at my household, I had a 4 year old and 18 month old and I owned a business in the dental field so finding the time to learn while being a mother and working was very daunting. One small error, took me hours to fix. Each time I felt discouraged I held onto the feeling that handweaving was something within me that I was meant to do.
Q- After you learned how to weave and started your business, Mad Hatter Warped & Woven, did you anticipate the amount of success you have had? What have you done to create the presence you have?
That is a hard question to answer. I think it is easy to be overlooked when you blend in yet it takes courage to stand out. When I started weaving, there weren’t other weavers in the babyweraring world weaving hearts, I was the first. I think this helped in my goal to be unique. I wanted to create baby wraps that you could see a photograph of and know it was created by me, without ever seeing the label. I wanted my baby wraps to be known for their magical wrapping qualities paired with their charming aesthetics so I took a long time sampling various fibers and learning which ones would support the weight of a baby well. Creating with the goal of being a highly sought after or high-end company would be far too stressful and in turn, would take away from my artistic process. Creating with the purpose of having a high quality, memorable product was something I strived for. To accomplish this, I use high quality yarns and maintain high standards in my weaving process. If a finished piece does not meet my standards, it is not sold. My purpose then and my purpose now is to offer a piece of my story in fiber art form for others to connect with. To dare to be different. To offer love and support to the babywearing community. To provide a tool to use in boding with your child. To encourage you to be kind to yourself through the journey of parenthood. To inspire you to live your dream. During my time in the handwoven baby wrap market, I have authentically shared my story with others in various ways while encouraging them to do the same. I think this has created a very unique sense of community and belonging among those who admire Mad Hatter Warped & Woven products.
Q- Who is behind the scenes at Mad Hatter Warped & Woven? Do you do all the work yourself?
Since I started Mad Hatter Warped & Woven in 2013, I have accumulated a very talented team. I design and warp all of the Mad Hatter Warped & Woven colourways so each project begins with my love and time. Some pieces I weave and other pieces are woven by talented handweavers that I taught the art to. Currently, I have two weavers who create with me, Wildflower and Knight. Wildflower is my sister-in-law, she has 6 children and a background in floral arts. Knight is rather young, an artist of many mediums, and a main provider for his mother and sisters. Each Mad Hatter Warped & Woven babywrap has a tag that states which artist wove the material. After the pieces are woven, I do all the finishing work and have a seamstress that sews them for me. Some pieces are created into Mad Hatter Baby Wraps, Mad Hatter Bunnies, Mad Hatter Bears, or Mad Hatter Minky Blankets while others are sent to other artisans who create handbags or soft structure carriers out of them, like Baby Tula.
Q- What is it like working with Baby Tula? Do you design the fabric differently knowing it will be converted into a Tula?
Tula has a very special place in my heart. I found babywearing in 2012 when my oldest was nearly 3 years old. She was receiving treatment for her autoimmune disease and I was looking for a way to help relieve the pain she has in her joints. We couldn’t be out exploring long without her having a lot of pain and needing to be carried. While I mostly wore my youngest in babywraps, I would wear my oldest in a Tula. My daughters are now 8 years old and 5 years old. I have a Tula in my car and one at my weaving studio. When my daughter is having a flare up, it brings her comfort to be close to me and makes it so we can continue the days activities. I can’t imagine how different my life (and theirs) would be without our Tula, it is one of my favorite “tools” as a parent. I started collaborating with Baby Tula in 2016. Each time I create fabric with the intensions of it being converted into a Tula, I plan the colourways with this in mind. I think of how the colour transitions and colour placement will impact the look of the piece after it has been converted.
Q- What does the rest of 2017 have in store for you as a fiber artist?
Anyone who knows me, knows that I love learning. I love exploring new possibilities and challenging what I have been able to create in the past. I am excited to continue experimenting with hand painted wefts and perfecting the various looks I am able to create with them. Beyond that I have been taking on various collaborations and joint ventures as I explore other ways to use my creativity as a fiber artist.
Thank you Queen Hatter for sharing with us what goes into creating handwoven fabric and what it is like to be a fiber artist. We are excited to have more Baby Tula Wrap Conversion Carriers made with Mad Hatter Warped & Woven to offer in the future. If you would like to see more of Queen Hatter’s work you can visit her Facebook page or find her on Instagram.