Thursday, December 30, 2010

What's in your breastfeeding consult bag?

From day one when I started visiting mothers at home to help them with breastfeeding problems, I always had a bag handy full of supplies. Of course, in the beginning the bag starts off ridiculously full and then as you gain more experience, slowly you discard unnecessary items and keep the worthwhile ones. Here's a look at what I carry around (yes, the bag stays in my car because I'm often called after work to consults)

  • Hand Sanitizer: I always either use hand sanitizer or ask my mamas permission to wash my hands once I reach their residence before I touch either any babies or breasts. 

  • Gloves are an important item in my bag. Before, I used to handle mothers and babies without gloves but after my mentor had an experience with a mother who had a communicable disease, common sense hit us that for our safety and that of the mother and baby, we should wear gloves. 

  • Most of the cases I see are cracked nipples. Some are worse than others. I always carry around a tube of lansinoh in case the mother needs some to use until her nipples heal. This stuff is a godsend!

  • Small hair dryer. Here's a tip you learn as go along. Cloths soaked in warm water are often used for engorgement but my little friend here works miracles! Combine it with the following item and your mama can finally get relief of painful melon like engorged breasts. Make sure to stay in tune with the mama so as not to burn her!

  • A comb. This simple comb, combined with the blow dryer does wonders for a mama needing relief of engorgement. Simply hold the hair dryer at a comfortable distance and setting and comb from the top of the breasts gently to the nipples and repeat going full circle

  • I call her "old faithful". My pump has been with me through many replaceable parts and mamas. Sometimes the mom wants to learn how to pump, sometimes she needs to take the edge off some pressure in her breasts, or to help erect the nipple in case of flat ones

  • I also see a lot of nipple confused babies who absolutely refuse to latch. In those cases, after the mom pumps (or if she chooses to use formula) I teach her a handy method we know as cup feeding

  • Homemade "Nipplette". This is probably my most prized possessions. Ina May's 2010 book "Ina May's guide to breastfeeding" featured how to make a nipplette by using an oral syringe and cutting off the long part and inserting the stopper the "Wrong side". Fit the nipple into the smooth side and gently tug to erect flat or inverted nipples. Success rate : nearly 100%. Cost: 1 Florin, compared to the 65 (nearly 30$, ouch)  Florins Avent's Nipplette costs. 

  • In case the mom pumps, and she wants to store her milk but wasn't anticipating expressing milk to begin with. Pre-sterilized milk storage bags

  • Breast Shell : Just in case my mamas want to catch their milk from one side while they pump the other. This also helps relieve pressure and draws out nipples subtly

  • Hand Towel : I get milk on me often. I've had it drip on me, puked on me, and even squirted on me from a distance. 

  • A stretchy newborn wrap : Many times, I don't know what mood to anticipate the mother and baby in. Sometimes the mother is home alone (dad at work, or single mom) or she's frazzled, or the baby has had a rough birth experience. Whatever the cause, I keep my wrap handy in case I need to give the mom a break and the baby some closeness and warmth. This usually gives the mom a chance to regroup and get her bearings together and recount her birth and breastfeeding experience or just to let all her emotions out. 

Are there other items you keep in your postnatal visit bag specifically for breastfeeding moms? 

From a Breastfeeding Counselor: A lesson on body image

It is no surprise that many women feel insecure or unhappy with their bodies, especially after giving birth. I know I certainly am one of them. Since giving birth, my belly and breasts haven't quite stayed the same, and I can get pretty down about it sometimes.

Since becoming a breastfeeding counselor and helping out many new mothers with breastfeeding it's only natural that I see a lot of breasts too. Young, old, black , white, latino. You name it, I've seen it. And as I was driving somewhere the other day, something occurred to me as I moped about my breasts. They're actually normal looking. Of all the consults I'd been on, I think I can't even reach a whole hand how many "pretty" and media-portrayed breasts I've seen, much less any of those that didn't have silicone in them. All types of women have breasts that look like mine, and I realized that my situation isn't so bad. We have little if any control over what our breasts look like (we have genes, gravity, age and pregnancy to thank for that.) and to know that men are more accustomed with so-called "floppy" breasts, is a comfort to me and helps me to fit in my skin, why bother to change something that you have no control over?

In a recent Tweet, I admitted that it was only after seeing so many breasts that were not the stereotypical version of perfect, that I came to accept and understand that real breasts are indeed worn, they do drop, but they've done so for a beautiful cause. Our breasts are the way they are because they have nourished, nurtured, and been lived in by our children. They have gone from objects of admiration to vessels of sustenance and back again. Any real man with children will understand these transitions and be fond of them for what they are, what they've done and that they stand in their own right. There's no need to be ashamed

A dear friend of mine, who is a birth professional also acknowledges this truth:

What about you? How has your role as a birth professional affected your own body image? 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Birth of a Father

This past Friday, my cousin's wife gave birth to their first child, Jack. As heartwarming as that was, what was really precious was to see little Jack tucked under his mom's hospital gown right after birth. He enjoyed skin to skin with his mom and breastfed straight away. Another beautiful photo arrived to me, but this time with Kyle and Jack enjoying some one-on-one skin time. A quick Google search for skin to skin contact with dad doesn't render too many beautiful pictures as it is the fact that mostly mothers are the ones in the photos, so that's why this picture was so special and meaningful to me...


Monday, December 6, 2010

Introducing CariBirth's new line of carriers - Bella Sophia Carriers!

This past Saturday was the official launching of my business', CariBirth, new line of slings and wraps, name Bella Sophia Carriers. I was filled with excitement as I saw my dream unfold before my eyes. I sat there and watched the seamstress cut each piece of fabric, measure each slings, sew, pleat, sew, turn, sew and then the last threads were gently snipped and  gently lifted off. I was giddy like a teenage girl at the sight of the Backstreet Boys.

I decided to have the wrap, ring and pouch sling made at the same time. I am very pleased at the outcome of all three but if I must choose, I can say the ring sling won my heart. The color, the aesthetic pleats, the thick shoulder part (the first one was done without padding, but padding is available too) and its teasing pink salmon color. I especially love it because the material is very sturdy and trustworthy. The shoulder part was triple enforced to ensure use through many kids and with delicious material like the one used for the Silly Salmon ring sling, washing it will only make it softer each time (hand wash please).

A pouch sling was also made and the material of this one is also very strong, yet light enough to be cool on those hot days. While the fabric was more pricey, I decided never to sacrifice good, strong quality material in exchange for more profit on each sling. I know that when I purchase commercially made slings, the first thing I do when I get it in my hands is to stretch, pull and tug on it. You can rest assured that Bella Sophia fabrics go through the same (if not more!) rigorous testing to ensure the right feel and most importantly, a safe sling you'll want to wear your baby/child in all the time.

Lastly, the wrap. Finding fabric for this baby proved to be a task more formidable than for the other carriers. Fabric too thin makes for a nice cool wrap, but simply cannot stand up to the wear and tug of putting a baby/toddler in it, tying, untying, wiggling, stretching and so forth. A thicker more dense fabric makes for a secure carrier that'll last you a couple of kids but means being warmer in an already hot climate. There I was, like a mad woman feeling, rubbing, tugging and inspecting for the right cloth for my wraps. I finally found one, right in between of the two. My next mission is to find a strong flannel material for stretchy newborn wraps so luxurious you'll want to wear your baby just to feel it on your skin! I've only purchased and used some of the best (and expensive, ouch!) brand wraps on the market that I've used with my own toddler and other young babies. This translates into Bella Sophia Wraps being tested and made with you and your baby in mind

I'm not a seamstress (that's why I hired one!) nor do I profess to know an extreme amount about sewing, but what I do have is experience with and knowledge about is what a good and trustworthy carrier feels and looks like. I could never produce and sell a sling I wasn't comfortable putting my own newborn in. This is the guarantee Bella Sophia Carriers makes to you, because it's from a "mother to mother with love..."


For orders or questions on wraps and slings, give Wendy Maduro a call at 593-4444 or send an email to

Friday, December 3, 2010

How Babywearing got its start on Aruba

The photo above was taken June 25th 2009. It was the re-launch of our breastfeeding support groups and it was a night I won't soon forget. Not only was the re-start of our support groups very exciting for Pro Lechi Mama, but I was especially stoked because it was the first time I started teaching moms about the art of babywearing.

Bringing babywearing back
Babywearing is not a new concept anywhere, and that includes Aruba. There have been many individual advocates in the past who've raised awareness about babywearing. These include Tamara Loefstok from Mommies & Bellies, and Shanti Gould from Prana. These themselves were babywearing mamas, and have in the past organized events having to do with babywearing and have advocated the practice. Tamara, a babywearing mama of two and maternity store owner, recounts to me the Sling Fashion Show she had organized at an Expo some years behind. Then, for some years, babywearing had slipped into the background until the early part of 2009.

In the beginning months of 2009, after seeing so many beautiful slings in Fitpregnancy, I decided to purchase some and hopefully sell them if I found any mother who'd be interested. Little did I know! I ordered a black ring sling from Maya Wrap, and a green paisley pouch sling from Slinglings. Because of the negative experience I had with the cumbersome and oh-so expensive Baby Bjorn, I had dismissed babywearing....that is... until I slipped Dahlia into one of my new slings! I fell in love! I carried her all over with me, in town, in the house, at the supermarket. People would stop and stare and many times tell me how beautiful the carrier was and how handy it was too! As the days passed, I engrossed myself in learning everything I could about babywearing. I carefully studied the manual that came with each of my slings, and I searched all over the internet for info on safety, positioning and more. Moms fell in love with my slings, and I fell into my role as a Babywearing Educator. For a certainty, I am the first to officially have classes and consults on babywearing, and as babywearing grows, I know I won't be the last!

Babywearing gets a jump start
As the months passed by, and I continued showing moms how to use the slings at the breastfeeding support groups, an old friend returned to Aruba. She was pregnant and had some very good sewing skills. Of course she saw my slings, and when she told me she was going to sew her own instead of buying  commercially made one, a light bulb went off in my head. Some weeks passed and as she neared her due date, I approached her with an idea. "What if you make the slings, and I refer people to you when they want to buy one?". It was an amicably accepted idea by both of us, and she did it. I was one of her biggest supporters and first customers. Finally! "Babywearing is going somewhere!" I thought. I'd purchase many slings from her and contributed a lot of fabric to her new sling making business and I was glad to do it for the sake of babywearing. As the months rolled by, she got more and more customers. She soon added the making of mei tais to her repertoire.
I could rely on her because she was not only an experienced seamstress, she also was a babywearer. Who knows best what works and what doesn't, what's comfy in a sling and what isn't than a combo of those two!
For many months we collaborated together.

Taking a different turn
I began offering more formal classes in the form of powerpoint presentations in which the parents also got a chance to test out the many type slings I had accumulated. A dear friend of mine, Noortje van Pelt, and I started out with this concept, but later decided that I would continue alone until her children were older and she could dedicate more time to it. I'll never forget the valuable tips, tricks and knowledge she imparted to me and I am grateful to her for introducing me to the oh so wonderful wrap! At the same time, Shanti Gould a certified yoga instructor, whom I'd met in December of 2009, invited me to give quarterly workshops on breastfeeding and babywearing at Prana, Aruba's leading yoga center. What better than giving classes on the two things I loved most! I felt extremely privileged by this invitation and remain grateful to Shanti for combining forces and putting babywearing to the fore.

After over a year of teaching, buying slings, speaking to moms, speaking to nurses, speaking to doctors about babywearing, I also started renting my slings out. I bought each type of carrier so that moms who weren't ready or financially able to commit to an unfamiliar carrier, could try it out in the comfort of their own home for 1,2 or 3 weeks at a time. This has also proven to be a very successful endeavor that is still growing! I've rented out my carriers to former breastfeeding clients, friends, even adopting parents. I've recently completed a photoshoot for CariBirth's step-by-step picture guide using local moms and close friends.

What the future holds
Because I come in contact with so many (expectant) parents, I get asked nearly all the time if I make and sell the slings myself. Due to time constraints and other obligations (like working a full time job, being a business owner on the side, mother and wife) I was unable to produce and sell the slings myself. Recently, however, my priorities have shifted and I decided that my business would start not only making slings, but also eventually start importing them as a wholesaler. This was decided with no ill intention but to give the parents a wider variety of choices and to further babywearing even more! I'm proud to announce that I have 3 orders in already for custom made Bella Sophia Carriers! I work closely with another seamstress and parents have the luxury of not only purchasing slings but also receiving a free complete consultation and step-by-step picture guide with each purchase. Moms (and dads too!) can leave with their purchase feeling fully confident in themselves and their ability to practice safe babywearing. This is just the beginning for my small business CariBirth. I see big, bright opportunities that lay ahead.

I'd also like to finish off by taking the opportunity to thank those who have and still believe and support CariBirth and babywearing. Minouche Lopez, my eternal mentor and one of my biggest supporters, Noortje Van Pelt, my original partner in crime and experienced babywearing friend. Andrea Justina my eternal breastfeeding and babywearing model who doesn't miss an opportunity to spread some babywearing love around, Jury & Joanna, two childhood friends of mine who've blossomed into beautiful babywearing mamas themselves. Angie Geerman, another knowledgeable babywearer and close friend, Shanti Gould, for believing in me and helping me get out there, and last but not least, Dahlia, the baby (now 3-year-old who still loves a sling ride!) who started my love affair with carriers.

Do you have any questions about babywearing? If so, feel free to contact Wendy Maduro at 297-593-4444 or send an email with your babywearing photos to