Many of the best-known baby carriers were created by mothers who still own and run the companies. This week we focus on mother inventors.
Susan Gmeiner first created a sling when she was a first-time mother trying to get things done while keeping her baby close. She preferred the adaptability of a ring sling. When she created her own pattern for a ring sling, she had a hit with neighbors and friends. She’s been making Maya Wrap baby carriers since 1996.
Corrine Mahar-Sylvestre is a mother of two children. She used baby carriers with her babies and promoted babywearing to others. She was still frustrated by what she had available. Since 2002, she’s been creating her own baby carriers. “I became determined to create a better baby sling, something attractive to mainstream parents and easy to use correctly, comfortably, and safely. My pouch-ringsling hybrid fit the bill.”
Beth Leistensnider created her first baby carrier in 2004 when she was planning travel with her 7-month old daughter and she needed a carrier that would be very comfortable and very compact. When she made her own carriers, “people on the street were offering to buy them off my back, so I thought I might be on to something.”
Lynne Banach is a mother of two children. When her daughter was born in 2005, her sister gave her a custom-made silk baby sling. She and her baby fell in love with babywearing. She made a sling for a pregnant friend, and a business was born. Now, her sister is her business partner, and they make gorgeous silk ring slings in a variety of colors.
Audra Meng is mother to two children. Keeping her first child in arms was the only way she found to soothe him, and baby carriers helped her to meet his need for closeness as well as working with her busy lifestyle. She really wanted a carrier that allowed her to carry her baby in the position that felt most natural to her, on the hip, so she applied her engineering experience gained earning her doctorate to babywearing.
Be sure to see our extended profiles of these baby carrier manufacturers:
Peapod Creations – Shirley Phillips, Debbie Phillips, Jennifer Field, and Andrea Phillips, makers of the award-winning Cuddly Wrap. Peapod Creations is a mother affair. Shirley is mother to Jennifer and Andrea and mother-in-law to Deb.
Beco – Gabby Caperon, designer of the Beco Baby Carrier, is mother to one son.
TogetherBe / Peekaru – Melissa Radcliffe founded TogetherBe, which manufactures Peekaru babywearing vest, Peekaru ozone cover, and FreeHand Mei Tai baby carriers. Melissa is mother to three children.
Many baby products are created by mothers who are meeting their own children’s needs. This week we will focus on those mother inventors of byNature.ca products. Monday we covered Mother-made Cloth Diapers.
Many of the cloth diaper brands that have become familiar were created by mothers who still own and run the companies. This week we focus on mother inventors.
Betsy Thomas is a mother of three. She was one of three mothers who started Bummis in 1988 as a “kitchen table business.” They cloth diapered their own children and created the products they themselves needed. Bummis remained a home business until it grew to large. “My husband and I home-schooled our 3 sons – and so like many business-mothers, I grew the business slowly but steadily at the same time as raising my family. It was pretty wild at times!”
Erika Froese is a mother of five. She created Sandy’s diapers in 1991 then Air Flow diaper covers in 1993 to meet the needs of her own children. “Shortly after Sandy was born, I set to work to design a diaper that would make my life easier and Sandy’s more comfortable.” She started her business out of her basement until she grew the business and opened a manufacturing facility.
Tereson Dupuy is a mother of three children. She created her own cloth diapers in 1999 when her son had chronic diaper rash. She built a business from her diapers in order to stay home with her children. “As the business grew, balancing everything certainly became more challenging. I decided to surround myself with good people to help me with the business so that I was still able to stay home with my children.”
Linda Byerline is a mother of three children. She created her own cloth diapers in 2002. When her third child was born prematurely and developed chronic lung disease, her doctors recommended that she switch to cloth diapers. She found that this decreases her daughter’s need for hospitalization and medication, but she could not find diapers that fit her daughter well. Linda created her own cloth diapers with a focus on fit and comfort.
Annie Marie Padorie is a mother of five children. She began to sew her own diapers in 2003 when she decided she didn’t like the feel, the fit, or the care of the diapers she bought. She tried making many styles of diapers while looking for comfort, ease or use, and ease of washing. “Some friends urged me to make some for them and a company was born.”
Erin Kimmett was a cloth diapering mother who couldn’t find a diaper cover that worked well for her baby, so she designed her own. She made patterns, cut, and sewed the diapers on her dining room table with her secondhand sewing machine. She spent a year and a half perfecting her pattern before releasing her new product in 2004.
Many baby products are created by mothers who are meeting their own children’s needs. This week we will focus on those mother inventors of byNature.ca products starting with cloth diapers.
They point out that an ASTM subcommittee started writing Sling Carrier Standards two years ago.
The vast benefits of babywearing should not be disregarded with the report of incidents from “bag-style” slings. The sponsors of this release make safer baby slings and carriers and have been active in the standard writing process and are dedicated to safety through engineering. “We see this as an opportunity to reach out and educate American consumers. We hope to provide valuable information allowing parents and caregivers to not only make informed buying decisions, but also to increase the awareness of how to properly wear children, especially babies, in baby slings and carriers,” says Kristen DeRocha, ASTM Subcommittee Chair.
This release was sponsored by Hotslings, Maya Wrap, Moby Wrap, Wrapsody, Gypsymama, Together Be, Kangaroo Korner, Taylormade Slings, Scootababy, Bellala Baby, Catbird Baby, SlingEZee, ZoloWear, HAVA, SlingRings, and Sakura Bloom.
You can find them on Facebook as Babywearing Manufacturers United.
Second, a national conversation has started about babywearing. Not all of the news stories stop to mention the benefits of babywearing, but there are organizations making an effort to focus concerns where they belong, on one style of sling, and to emphasize that babywearing, when done safely, is a great benefit to parent and baby.
Babywearing International welcomes the CPSC warning as an opportunity to better educate caregivers and the general public about babywearing safety. We remain committed to promoting babywearing as a universally accepted practice, with numerous benefits for both babies and their caregivers.
During the past year, Eco Baby Steps has posted profiles of some of the great people who manufacture products that Parenting by Nature carries. As a New Year’s treat, I want to give you an opportunity to learn more about the woman behind both the store and the blog: Nature Mom, Tamara Champion.
What motivated you to start the kind of store you did, focusing on natural and attachment parenting?
I always knew I was going to use cloth diapers. I was raised with a very frugal and eco-conscious grandmother who used cloth diapers, and it seemed to me that it was the natural thing to do. I just couldn’t imagine using paper & plastic diapers on my new, precious baby. The cost of disposables, the waste that continues to pollute our landfills and the chemicals used in disposable diapers also turned me off. When I was pregnant with my first daughter 5 years ago, I searched for cloth diapers locally and found them nearly impossible to find. When I turned to the Internet I discovered a whole new world of cloth diapering with the advent of pocket cloth diapers and all-in-ones. Unfortunately these were equally difficult to find in Canada, and at the time, I had to order from a US-based company. This scenario repeated itself when I started looking for a simple baby sling that I had wanted for my new baby. These items became the first products sold through our store.
With a background in retail management, sales and customer service I had been researching business ideas that I could do from home when my new little bundle arrived. I was already passionate about the products I was looking for and it didn’t take long to realize that a ‘natural baby store’ was a perfect fit for me. Parenting By Nature was one of only a handful of its kind back in December of 2004 and today I still get excited every time I talk with new parents that are interested in using cloth diapers or looking for that perfect baby sling.
You get to talk to a lot of people about their parenting choices. Have you noticed any changes in parents’ concerns in the past year?
This past year we definitely heard more concern about the cost of raising a baby with the present economic situation. The wonderful thing about our products is that we really try to find items that go the distance and parents have started to realize that quality will outlast much of the inexpensive department store finds. While some products may seem more expensive up front, such as our Stainless Steel Sippy Cups, when you consider they can be used by both a toddler and an adult simply by changing the lids, you actually have a very economical product.
Similarly, cloth diapers can save parents a substantial amount of money, particularly when they can be passed down from one child to the next. We’ve noticed many parents are turning to cloth diapers today because of the money they’ll save. A few years ago parents were happy choosing cloth diapers because of environmental benefits or health benefits for their child. Today, an economical cloth diapering system is just as important. Two years ago pocket cloth diapers were our top selling item but today we are selling more prefolds and covers – the same products used by diaper services for home laundering.
How has your store and your blog helped you create the life you want to live?
Parenting By Nature started as an desire to bring natural, reusable products I was passionate about to more families in Canada but has turned into so much more for me personally. My original goal for the store was to bring in some extra money for groceries and necessities at home, but living on only one income (my husband’s) was proving to be more difficult than we thought. It had always been my dream to be home when I had children and Parenting By Nature helped make this dream a reality. I have an amazing amount of flexibility with the store, and this allows me to focus on what matters most. I can drop everything at a moment’s notice if my kids need me or if an opportunity comes up for our family or friends.
Working with two young children under foot is not without its challenges, but overall my two girls see a very happy, productive and fulfilled mommy. That’s very important to me. I’m also very thankful that I get to wake up every single day to a job I love. Whether it’s helping a new, confused mother wade through her cloth diapering options, or speaking with a new father that is enjoying bonding with his baby in a sling, I genuinely enjoy working with parents knowing the future of our children will benefit from their discerning choices.
When it comes to the choices you advocate—cloth diapering, babywearing, and natural parenting—what is going really well for you? Has anything only recently really clicked or fallen into place for you?
Cloth diapering seemed to come naturally for me. I was determined to make it work so that I could keep disposable diapers off my girls and out of landfills. There wasn’t any other option for us as a family. The joy and convenience of babywearing was something that came as a surprise. Before my oldest was born I knew I wanted to carry her in a sling for the first few weeks when we would go out, so she’d be close and safe. I didn’t expect to be carrying her around in the sling at home as much as I was. She was in her sling daily, for hours, and she just loved it. For me, it was such a relief to be able to have my hands free in those early weeks, so that I could accomplish chores around the house, prepare a sandwich or spend time getting Parenting By Nature up and running.
What would you like to work on in the coming year with your own family?
I’m constantly working on leading a simple, less commercial life which seems to be harder the older my kids get. The holidays are always a tough time. When I look at the number of gifts their very generous family and friends have given them this year, I wonder how I will ever teach them that there is more to the holidays than toys and ‘things’. This is my current battle and likely one I will be working on for a few years to come.
What changes do you see for your store in the coming year?
The baby I was due with during Parenting By Nature’s early days will be 5 years old in March. As she grows I’m constantly learning new ways to parent with a simple, natural approach, and I’m discovering new products along the way. Parents have told me over the years that once their child has grown past the baby stage they are at a loss for stores in Canada to support their parenting choices. I won’t let the cat out of the bag yet, but let’s just say our natural ‘baby’ store will be expanding in 2010. I’m very excited about our plans – this will be a great year.
What changes do you see for your blog in the coming year?
We plan to continue covering a variety of topics that pertain to natural parenting. We hope you’ll enjoy our articles whether you’re a new parent or parenting older children or teens. We also anticipate working with more guest blogging parents over the next year so that our readers can benefit from a diverse range of experiences. And watch for another exciting contest we’ll be launching in the Spring.
Continuing our series of baby carrier manufacturer profiles, this week we feature Shirley Phillips, Debbie Phillips, Jennifer Field, and Andrea Phillips of Peapod Creations, makers of the award-winning Cuddly Wrap. Cuddly Wrap was given the PTPA Media (Parent Tested Parent Approved) Seal of Approval and Green Seal of Approval.
First, please tell us a bit about yourselves and your company.
As a company, and as family members working together, we at Peapod Creations believe in the importance of close, nurturing family ties. We are particularly focused on the needs of infants and young children and how parents can best fulfill those needs. Our company is also committed to “protecting the earth for future generations of little ones”. We are showing this commitment through our decision to change to organic cotton as well as using recycled/recyclable packaging.
On a more personal note, Shirley has been working with mothers, babies and young families for over 35 years as a maternity nurse, childbirth educator, board certified lactation consultant and La Leche League Leader. Andrea is an experienced office and accounts manager who works with families on a daily basis at a not-for-profit adoption agency. Jennifer, a licensed Occupational Therapist (OT), is the mother of three children, a daughter 8 years old, a son 6 years old and a son 2 years old. Deb is the mother of 3 boys, ages 6, 8 and 10 and has experience with direct sales and numerous years experience with nonprofit organizations working with mothers, children and their families.
Peapod creations seems to be a family affair. Can you tell us more about this?
Yes, we are definitely a family company. Shirley is mom to Jennifer and Andrea and mom-in-law to Deb. There are also six little ones who have occasionally helped fill CuddlyWrap orders over the past 5 ½ years! We have also enjoyed having our little ones take their turns as live models at trade shows and photo shoots. Many of our parent/baby models are family members, including Shirley’s husband, Deb’s husband, Deb’s sister-in-law and niece as well as Jen and Deb with their children.
What inspired you to become a manufacturer of baby carriers?
Our story begins with Shirley as a young mom making her own mei-tai and always on the lookout for a comfortable baby carrier. Fast-forward to Shirley as a grandmother and still on the hunt for the most comfortable baby carrier, making and giving different styles to Deb and Jen. It wasn’t until we found the wrap-style carrier (Shirley at a conference in the Netherlands) that we truly found comfort and versatility.
Our inspiration to become a manufacturer was given to us by other mothers! Wherever Deb and Jen wore their babies in their wrap-style baby carriers, mothers would stop them to give compliments and ask where they could get one. Peapod Creations was born from the desire to share this wonderful way of carrying your baby combined with the determination to provide the highest quality, eco-friendly fabric and instructions to our customers.
Did you ever have an ah-ha moment when you realized how much a baby carrier really does help?
Jen and Deb: I don’t recall an ah-ha moment so much as frequent moments of a deep sense of gratitude for my CuddlyWrap that allowed me to meet the needs of my baby and other children while Life happened.
Shirley: And my special moment was watching my 81 year old mother dance wearing her youngest great-grandchild in the CuddlyWrap.
Are there unexpected ways that you have seen a baby carrier make your own lives or the lives of your customers easier?
One story that stands out is a letter we received from a new dad who thought he wouldn’t be able to carry his baby because of his severe back pain that required him to use a cane for walking. With the comfort and ergononmics of the CuddlyWrap, he was thrilled to be able to carry his new baby!
And for Jen, it definitely made life easier during and after gall bladder surgery when her husband had to soothe a 6 month old infant at the hospital for 12 hours and then at home for the next couple weeks.