By now you've pretty well gotten to know the Snugabell Team, with the exception of Head Mama in Charge Wendy herself. Take a closer look at Wendy with today's Q&A, which includes the Snugabell backstory, some insight into the woman herself, and something about jumping out of an airplane!
So how’d it all begin? When I was pregnant with my first daughter, a good friend of mine asked me if I was going to pump. I asked her why I would need to (we get a full year of maternity leave here in Canada). She said that she pumped so that her husband could take the occasional feeding, which gave her a bit of flexibility as well as her husband, bonding time with the baby. I talked it over with my husband Mike and he agreed it would be a good idea.
And then? When I started pumping, I quickly became frustrated with the fact that you could do *nothing* other than sit and hold the flanges on your breasts. Aside from the postpartum Carpal Tunnel Syndrome which left my hands completely numb with pins and needles after just a few minutes of holding the flanges, I was bored silly and instead of relaxing (and helping my milk to flow) I sat there thinking about all the housework and work-work (Snugabell is my second business) that needed to be done. It wasn't long before I was Googling "hand-free pumping" and "pump hands-free" as I figured there *must* be something available to hold your pump for you. There were a few products, none of which I was willing to part with my hard-earned money for, and all of which were ugly.
With my background in the apparel industry, I knew I could do better and so I mocked-up the first PumpEase from some scraps in my studio. A few people caught wind of my invention and encouraged me to take it to market. The fact that PumpEase would be available in pretty prints was a no-brainer for me - I didn't even consider anything else. Function, quality and making it pretty were all equally important to the design process.
What's the best part of your job? Helping moms enhance their breastfeeding relationships with their babies. Nothing gets me going more than a mom telling us that our products made the difference between quitting breastfeeding and persevering. It literally brings tears to my eyes that we have that much reach. I never imagined that happening…or how amazing it would feel.
What's the most challenging job you ever had? The most challenging job that I've ever had is being a parent -- hands down. I'm an overachiever and tend to do most things that I undertake well. If I don't do something well, I hire someone that does. Unfortunately this doesn't apply to being a mom so I find myself struggling with this on a daily basis.
Tell us about your family. I have two beautiful girls, Antonia (7) and Michaela (5) as well as my wonderfully supportive husband, Mike.
What does breastfeeding mean to you? When I see a mom breastfeeding, all is good in the world. When I see a mom formula feeding, I wonder what tripped her up - what misinformation did she receive, why weren't people there to support her? I feel sad. And I feel sad because I know what it is like to be on that side. I was a misinformed mom myself (and I consider myself to be fairly intelligent, so I understand how easily it can happen). I breastfed both of my daughters for about seven months each. With Antonia, I quit. I kept delaying that quit date (which in hindsight, should have been a sign that I didn't really want to quit). I had it in my head that I "wanted my body back" as we were getting married. With Michaela, I thought she weaned herself - years later, armed with the knowledge from starting this business, I realized it was just a nursing strike. I would have killed for the resources then, that are available now (KellyMom, Best for Babes, Motherwear’s Breastfeeding Blog, and the list goes on). I often tell my husband that I wish we could have another baby so that I could put to good use all of the new knowledge that I have. Having said that, starting Snugabell did inspire my sister Denise to exclusively breastfeed and for much longer with her second baby than she did with her first.
What the hardest part about being a parent (that shouldn’t be)? Always feeling like I'm failing.
What's the best thing to do on a day off? Anything with the fam - snuggle on the couch and watch a movie, go for a hike, explore our city...
Where do you see Snugabell in five years? I see us in a bigger office, with a few more employees, in 500+ stores with a couple of major chains in there. I also see us getting more involved in the social side of breastfeeding promotion and support.
If not Snugabell, what? My other passion in life - not nearly as compelling - is jewellery. I'd love to take a silversmithing course and start designing!
What’s something readers might not know about you? I love things that scare the crap out of me: bungee jumping, rollercoasters, motorcycles… Jumping out of an airplane is next on the list!
When I saw the name of my youngest daughter's preschool on the call display, that last thing I thought they would say when I picked-up the phone was, "Michaela has lice".
"You have to come and get her", Mrs Megan told me.
Of course I have heard the stories. My older sister's kids had lice, several times even, but they are all young adults now. That was years ago.
I went to the school and picked M up. Another parent pulled-up at the same time. She asked me, "What are you here for, lice?" I answered yes and wondered how she knew. Turns out she had treated her daugther for lice the day before and brought her back to school that morning.
Mrs Megan proceeded to show me a smudge of brown behind M's right ear that she scraped with the fingernail of her thumb. She said, "See? you have to scrape them with your fingernail to get them off". I looked and nodded.
We went to the drugstore to buy "the lice kit" and who did we run into again but the mom from the school. As I was walking away I heard her ask the pharmacist for "something stronger as that stuff you sold me yesterday didn't work".
I went home and called my sister. She proceeded to tell me about my nephew, who upon his return from camp (some ten years ago), was laden with lice. She used the insecticide lice treatment that most people think is the norm (including myself) and he vomited for two hours afterwards. "Don't put that on Michaela's head. It is an insesticide. It is poison", she pleaded. Later I found out that the chemicals will only kill the live lice therefore you still need to comb out the nits. As well, lice are becoming resistant to the chemicals found in these treatment kits so they are not nearly as effective as they once used to be years ago. I returned the lice treatment kit to the drugstore.
I spent the next hour or so doing research online. What do lice look like? What do nits look like? I inspected M's head in the "hot spot" behind the ears and at the nape of the neck and couldn't see anything, not even the brown smudge Mrs Megan had shown me. I had Robyn take a look (who also has grown children that had lice when they were younger) and she couldn't see anything either. When my husband came home he took a look too. Nothing.
I kept Michaela home from school the next day as they couldn't guarantee the other little girl wouldn't be at school again. When I spoke to Mrs Megan, I told her that M did not have lice. I was told to check her head every day for a week. So we did, twice a day to be extra dilligent, and we found nothing. Mrs Megan checked her head too.
And life went on. This happened at the beginning of December. Christmas came and went. On New Year's Day we had a bunch of family over for Michaela's birthday (she was born on January 2nd) and I'm not sure why, but I noticed her scratching her head. A lot.
The next morning she crawled into bed with me as she often does on non-school days and she was scratching her head again.
We got up and I took a look at her hair and I saw nits. Lots of nits. And then I saw live lice.
By the time my husband got home from work, I had killed 12 lice. I didn't know what to do so I turned once again to the internet and decided to call Barb at Lice911.com. I had heard some of the moms at school talk about her business so decided to call her to get some advice. She talked to me for about 20 minutes. "It's all about breaking up their reproductive life cycle", she told me. Barb researched this business for an entire year before embarking on it nine years ago. She knows her stuff!
"LICE911 is a team of professionals dedicated to head lice awareness through prevention, screening, removal and training. We are Canada's first completely all natural and holistic approach to head lice removal. We work closely with families, schools and entire communities teaching how to safely screen, treat and help prevent head lice infestations."
We made an appointment with Barb, traveled 30 minutes to her office (she also offers in-home service) and she proceeded to do a complimentary assessment on all four of us. And all four of us had lice. Michaela had it the worst, followed by my husband, then myself and last but not least my eldest daughter Antonia.
I should mention that her office is *very* kid-friendly, outfitted with video games and Netflix to keep the little ones occupied.
At that point Barb told us that she can train us on the wet-combing method or she can comb any or all of us out. We decided that she should at least comb out M seeing that she had the most severe infestation. Then my husband jumped into the chair because he was totally grossed out by the whole thing. I jumped in next because, honestly, I didn't trust my husband to be diligent enough combing out my hair - he isn't adept at sectioning hair and combing it out piece by piece. After three of us were done, we decided that we might as well have Barb do Antonia too. I have to say that I was super proud of my girls for not freaking out about the bugs in their hair and for being so patient during the comb-outs. Barb and I had an interesting conversation about business as well. We were there for 4-1/2 hours.
After we were done we knew we had made the right decision. Although the wet-combing method isn't hard per se, you do need to do it correctly for it to be effective.
Here is the count:
Michaela: 600 nits, 100 live
Mike: 150 nits, 30 live
Me: 40 nits, 3 live
Antonia: 30 nits, 10 live
Our instructions were to do the wet-combing method every three days for three weeks or until we "combed-out clear" twice. Barb made us up a schedule for each person and at my request, split it up so that we were doing two people per day. So it was comb outs for two days, then one day off, then repeat. It felt *so* overwhelming to me as I knew I would be doing most of the comb outs. I think the first one took me three hours. The first time Mike combed me out, it took him four - my butt was pretty much numb by then. But we got faster over time.
And then I had to call the masses of people that were at our house over the holidays and tell them that they had potentially been exposed to lice. Funzies.
I am happy to say that as of a couple of weeks ago we have finished our comb outs and have packed up our Lice Screening Kit (that my husband insisted on buying and that I originally scoffed at). I figure I spent between 40 and 50 hours combing. By week 2 I recruited my mom and my sister to help. My mom was also helping over at my sister's house (she does daycare for me) as her younger daughter was infected as well. She caught her eldest in time, only finding two live lice and no nits.
Barb was there for us along our journey as well. She offers unlimited support via phone or email to anyone that needs it, not just clients.
I now know, much to my chagrin, more about lice than I ever thought possible, nor would ever want to. I do however, feel much more prepared if (heaven help us) this ever happens again. What I *can* say is that there are a lot of MYTHS out there about head lice and a lot of misinformation on the internet.
I also think that every school district should hire an expert like Barb to present to parents at the beginning of EVERY school year. Knowledge and awareness are key.
FACTS About Head Lice
1. Lice don't jump or fly; you need five seconds of head-to-head contact to transfer from one host to another.
2. Lice don't care how clean or dirty your hair or your house is, how much money you make, where you work, how old you are or what ethnicity you are. Of course the negative stigmas still exist. Education is key.
3. Nymphs (baby lice) need to eat immediately upon hatching or else they will die. They cannot reproduce for 7-10 days.
4. Lice are creamy yellow to black in colour (and may even appear red if they just ate - I know... eww!). They move very quickly on your head, detecting movement and hiding from bright lights. Therefore the best way to confirm whether you have lice is by finding their eggs (nits). Nits vary in colour from clear to brownish-grey, are about half the size of a sesame seed, are all the same shape and size and can be found attached to one side of the hair shaft, at about a 45 degree angle, one to two inches from the scalp. You will find eight to ten nits in one area, cemented to the hair shaft and thus difficult to remove. They will be concentrated around the ears and at the nape of the neck.
5. You need only clean your house on the first day. Wash the clothes the infested person was wearing and their bedding using the hottest water possibe and dry in a hot dryer for 20 minutes; lice cannot burrow therefore you only need to clean surfaces. Vacuum any upholstered furniture and car seats. Items that can't be washed or dried can just be set aside (no need to bag) for 48 hours; lice with no host will die of deyhydration usually in the first 24 hours. Combs, brushes and hair accessories can be cleaned by washing them in hot tap water (65°F) for 10 minutes.
6. There is no need to use any chemicals, tea tree oil, mayonnaise or anything else you read on the internet to rid yourself of lice. The key is in the comb and the best one on the market is the LiceMeister, manufactured and sold by a non-profit organization. If you have school-age children, invest in one today. (And no, I'm not getting a kick-back for that endorsement.)
7. After the initial treatment, it is "life as usual". Kids can return to school and regular activities and you can return to work.
8. Average infestations take three weeks to clear. There is no "quick fix" and lice will NOT go away without treatment.
9. The best way for girls to prevent a lice infestation is to tie their hair back - "ballet buns" and braids offer the best protection.
10. Teach your child to avoid head-to-head contact with other children and not to share personal items such as hats, sleeping bags, combs and brushes. As well, teach them to tell you if their head is itchy or if they feel like there is something moving in their hair.
At the end of the day, aside from the hours and hours of combing, the worst part of this situation was not snuggling our kids for three weeks. As Barb said after she finished our initial assessment and found all four of us infested, "You are a close family".
I hope this helps at least one family rid themselves of lice or prevent an infestation from even happening.
Have you had lice in your house? How did you handle it?
Hi, everyone! My name is Josh and I'm working with Wendy and the rest of the Snugabell team on Press and Public Relations. I ended up on board through my wife, Amy, who you learned a little bit about last month. Since Amy is a Certified Lactation Counselor and does social media work for all sorts of mom-oriented companies like Snugabell, I've been pretty well surrounded by birth, breastfeeding, and all-things-parenthood since our daughter was born three years ago.
I'm a freelance writer with a background in traditional marketing, now collaborating with Wendy to try and get the word out about PumpEase and the Toni Top in fun, creative ways. I spend a lot of my time working for a big, traditional insurance company so it's always refreshing to work with small, nimble companies like Snugabell. The things you can get done with social media, networking, and good-old-fashioned legwork are amazing and always rewarding. Plus I get to tag-team with my wife supporting something that we both really believe in and want to see succeed.
Together we make up West Freelance Communications, focused mostly on social media and blog development. By far one of the greatest things about being in business for yourself is getting to pick and choose which companies you're going to work with. If we don't believe in something, we don't have to do it. That's a great feeling.
It's great to have a chance to introduce myself to everyone. Looking forward to getting to know each other better as time goes on!
Hi! My name is Amy West and I’m the woman behind a lot of the social media work that goes on around here. Wendy has been a great, long-time client and it’s an absolute blast to work with her.
My job is basically to keep up with what’s happening in social media and to help the Snugabell team connect with all of their great fans and customers online. We post new content every day and love reaching out to you to see what you think about things that hopefully kick off great conversations.
The thing about my job is that you really have to feel good about the companies you work with. I’m a CLC (Certified Lactation Counselor) and very proud to be a member of the Best for Babes team – an organization that Snugabell supports generously. Because my life and work are so entwined with breastfeeding and parenting in general, Wendy’s company really speaks to the things I care about.
This is a great gig and I’m very proud of the work I get to do every day. My company, West Freelance Communications, does similar work for a number of other clients, mostly active in the parenting sphere. This allows me to work from my home, which has been fantastic – especially during our first years with Ava, our now three (going on twenty-three) year old daughter.
Anyway, that’s a little bit about me – the one who’s usually behind the curtain. The moms I get to meet through my work with Wendy are amazing – I’m so grateful to be a part of the Snugabell team!
Giving birth is one of the most intensely powerful physical and emotional experiences a woman can go through. Labour and birth themselves are intense, as well as the transformation of a woman into her new-found role as a mother.
Our North American culture does not always seem to honour this process or transition. Historically, women were able to rely on a community of other women to support them throughout this experience. Today, women generally are expected to carry themselves through pregnancy, birth and postpartum with minimal support or nurturing from other women.
Enter the Birth Doula. The word doula is a Greek word meaning “female slave” or “woman’s servant”. In the birth world, a doula is a woman who provides familiar, knowledgeable emotional and physical support to a woman prenatally, during labour, and postpartum.
The support a doula provides allows women to remember their births as more positive, blissful experiences, feeling honoured, heard, comforted and supported throughout.
Here are 5 ways a doula can make your own birth more blissful:
1. A doula is focused on your emotional and physical needs 100%. Your doctor or midwife is a medical professional, trained to ensure you and your baby stay healthy. We’re lucky to have them as safeguards for birth, there to intervene if things don’t go as smoothly as they usually do. Because their role as medical professionals is their number one priority, they are not able to provide continual support as you cope with the intensity of contractions during labour. Your doula is not a medical practitioner, and does not have this responsibility pulling at her attention. This allows her to put all of her energy into making sure you are as comfortable, relaxed and taken care of as possible.
2. A doula can do the left-brain work. During prenatal classes and in birth books, you learn about different labour positions, comfort measures, specific things to try for certain situations that may come up during birth. You may also have heard that it is important to allow yourself to go inward, switching to the more meditative, right-brained mentality and focus on letting your body do its work. It is difficult to stay in that meditative, focused state if you are constantly reaching into your “left” brain to think of all the things you could be trying. You doula can do that thinking for you, making gentle suggestions for trying a new position, reminding you to have a sip of water between each contraction, getting you to the washroom once an hour to make sure your bladder is empty and there’s lots of room for baby to move around. She will also have a few tricks up her sleeve for dealing with especially intense labour or discomfort. This allows you to stay focused inward, steadily focused on coping with each contraction.
3. Doulas provide continual and familiar support. If your are birthing in a hospital setting, there will be nurses around to check in and monitor you between visits from your doctor or midwife. An important thing to point out is that hospital staff work in shifts! Labour can be a long journey, and in your time at the hospital, you sometimes go through one or two OB's and multiple nurses. Your doula will likely be your only support person that you and your partner became familiar with during pregnancy, and will stay by your side through the entirety of labour. Your doula knows you, knows your birth vision and knows what you’ve experienced so far in your birth. This steady and familiar presence offers a feeling of safety that is so important to minimizing your stress level during labour.
4. A doula takes stress off your partner. We are lucky here in North America to live in a time where fathers are invited into hospital birthing rooms. It wasn’t long ago that women birthed without any familiar support in hospitals, left only with doctors and medical staff. However, men have traditionally never been a part of birth, and in our culture, people barely talk to women about birth, never mind men! Because of this, it is a lot to ask of the father to be your sole support person during birth. Doulas do not replace the father’s role in your birth experience. They simply remove the pressure on dads to remember their crash course in labour and birth over the last few months. Between holding mom, taking steps to minimize her discomfort, making sure the whole birth team is nourished and hydrated, asking the right questions of medical staff, and suggesting techniques for keeping things moving along smoothly, there is no shortage of support to give mom. Having a doula to aide in some of these tasks makes birthing a more blissful experience for both mom and dad.
5. A doula will make sure you continue to feel supported after birth. You’ve had your baby. Now what? As you settle into your new role as a mother, your doula will be available for breastfeeding support, emotional support and to help you find any postpartum resources to make the entry into this new part of your life as smooth and blissful as possible.
Having a birth doula to support you during birth is one of the easiest ways to create a sense of calm trust in the process. The biggest enemy of birth is stress, which interferes with progress and can slow or stop contractions altogether. Having a doula by your side providing continual emotional and physical support during your birth makes it so much easier to create a blissful birth for you, your partner and for baby.
Jessica Austin is a Birth Doula and Childbirth Educator based in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Her doula practice - Birth Takes a Village - has a mission "to promote a gentle and informed birth culture". You can also find Jessica on Facebook and Twitter.
I for one wish I had hired a doula for my birth. Don't get me wrong, I had "textbook" pregnancies and wonderful births both times. As well, my doctor and the rest of the hospital staff, as well as my husband, were all amazing during my labour and birth and I wouldn't change a thing. However, a doula is there to support you in a different way and I would definitely opt to have that support if I were to have another baby. Jessica's five points really resonated with me. It just makes sense. How about you? Did you have a doula? If so, what was the best thing about having one? If not, will you have one "next time"? Please share your experiences below.