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Snugabell Toni Top and Pencil Skirt giveaway

Drawing from her own personal experience as a pumping mom, PumpEase™ and Snugabell creator/owner Wendy Bell has developed a product and company that offers quality support to pumping moms and now has a new line of maternity/nursing wear, the Toni Top line.  Along with a beautiful giveaway opportunity for Leakies, Wendy answers a few questions, sharing her passion, mothering wisdom, and how she overcame a breastfeeding challenge in her own journey.  I’m so grateful for the support of PumpEase™ for TLB and all Leakies and hope you enjoy the interview and giveaway.

Wendy with hubby Mike

TLB:  What should TLB readers know about Snugabell?

Wendy:  Snugabell designs and manufactures maternity, nursing and pumping products for moms that are not willing to sacrifice fashion for function.  Our products include PumpEase, the world’s ONLY fashionable hands-free pumping bra, PumpEase Organic, the world’s ONLY organic hands-free pumping bra and the Toni Top “bump, breast & beyond” clothing line.  Our mission is “to support moms’ decision to breastfeed through education, community and beauty”.  Alongside The Best for Babes Foundation, whom we have proudly supported since 2009, we work hard to help beat The Booby Traps – the cultural and institutional barriers that prevent moms from achieving their personal breastfeeding goals.

 

TLB:  What inspired you to start your company and as you’ve added the Toni Top and pencil skirt to your product line, what are your plans to continue growing

Wendy: When I was pregnant with my first daughter, a 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 also feed the baby.  I discussed it with my husband, and we decided this would work well for our new family.  I didn’t have too many pumping sessions under my belt before I was online searching for something to hold the pump flanges for me.  Not only was I bored silly sitting on the couch unable to do ANYthing else, as soon as my daughter was born I developed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome which made it painful to hold the flanges for any more than a few minutes.  I found a few products, all of which were ugly and none of which I was willing to part with my hard-earned money for.  With my (at the time) nine years experience in the apparel industry, I considered what would make a “better” hands-free pumping bra and sewed the first PumpEase prototype.  After encouragement from family and friends, I decided to do a small manufacturing run and build a website.  It was a no-brainer to produce the PumpEase in pretty prints – women like pretty things whether she is seen in them or not!  I naively thought this product-based business would provide some “passive income” and compliment my service-based CAD Pattern Management business nicely.  Little did I know it would grow to where it has in four short years.

Our plans for the future include continuing to expand the Toni Top “bump, breast & beyond” maternity, nursing and hands-free pumping clothing line beyond our current six styles (3/4-Sleeve Top, Tunic, Dress, Pencil Skirt, Maxi Skirt and Palazzo Pant) and continue to build our international business via distributors.

 

TLB:  How do you balance family and growing your business?

Wendy:  Actually, I don’t strive for balance anymore.  I don’t believe it exists and in fact believe the term “life balance” is yet another dangling carrot designed to make women feel inadequate .  You never hear a man that works 40, 60 or 80 hours a week pining for “life balance”.  My husband and my girls know that I have a business and that it is busy.  Sometimes one or the other gets more or less attention than it deserves and so be it!

 

TLB:  What was the most challenging experience you faced in your own breastfeeding journey and how did you get through?

Wendy:  I had amazing pregnancies, births and breastfeeding relationships with both my girls.  Not to say that I wouldn’t do anything different if I could do it all over again, as I would – I’ve learned *so* much since I’ve started the business.  If I had to choose the biggest challenge I guess it would be the misdiagnosed thrush that I had with my second daughter.  I found out only last year, when I took my CLE training, that it was most likely actually a staph infection (the stats are that 75% of staph infections are misdiagnosed as thrush).  The doctor didn’t take a culture and thus we were treating something that we didn’t have and it took forever to clear it up.

Wendy with her family

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Wendy is giving away a Toni Top and pencil skirt to one very lucky winner.  The Toni 3/4 Sleeve Top retail value = $66.00; Made in Canada; 95% modal, 5% spandex jersey knit.  Toni Top Pencil Skirt, retail value $56.00; Made in Canada; 95% modal, 5% spandex jersey knit, 66% rayon, 28% cotton, 6% spandex rib knit.

The Toni Top is designed for all stages of a busy mom or mom-to-be’s life – from pregnancy to nursing and beyond weaning. It even works for hands-free pumping! When you wear the Toni Top – you feel A-MAZE-ING. You know those garments that once you put them on, you are constantly stroking the fabric? THAT”S the Toni Top. It will quickly become one of THE favourite pieces in your closet.

 

  • get triple bang for your buck – wear the Toni Top during pregnancy, nursing and beyond weaning
  • it features a shaped front hemline that will provide coverage for your growing belly
  • it has no special openings for nursing – just good design – a hallmark of our products
  • it features easy nursing access, providing ample coverage as you gain confidence nursing in public
  • it has a flattering wide-set sweetheart neckline which broadens your shoulders and thus slims your waist
  • it features 3/4 length sleeves to keep you comfortable
  • it’s made from a luxurious modal/spandex fabric that feels heavenly against your skin
  • it features a heat transfer care label thus eliminating irritation to your neck
  • it was designed by an expert – a nursing mom that has over 17 years experience in the apparel industry

The Toni Top Pencil Skirt can be worn with the waistband rolled up to cover your belly or rolled down part or all the way. Rolling the waistband can also be used to control the length of the skirt a few inches – perhaps exposing a little more leg for a night out on the town? Wear the Pencil Skirt with the 3/4 Sleeve Top for a 2-piece dress – so versatile! It will quickly become a staple of your wardrobe.

  • get double bang for your buck – wear the Toni Top Pencil Skirt during pregnancy and beyond
  • it has no unflattering maternity panels – just good design – a hallmark of our products
  • it’s made from a luxurious modal/spandex fabric that feels heavenly against your skin
  • it features a heat transfer care label thus eliminating irritation to your skin
  • it was designed by an expert – a mom that has over 17 years experience in the apparel industry

Currently Leakies can find the Toni Top and Toni Top Pencil Skirt website http://www.snugabell.com/products/toni-top (soon to be on Amazon.com and in retailers this fall).

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 Good luck to everyone!  Please use the widget below to be entered and have fun browsing snugabell.com.  The giveaway is open from April 12, 2012 to April 19, 2012.  A big thanks to Wendy for her ongoing support of TLB and all breastfeeding women, please be sure to visit their Facebook page and thank them for their support of TLB and this giveaway opportunity.

This giveaway is open to international entries.

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Maternity and Breastfeeding Tops Review for A Mother’s Boutique

Way back in July I agreed to do a review for A Mother’s Boutique, on a nursing top. Smunchie was still at the breast frequently and I was certain I’d get plenty of mileage out of a nursing top even at 20 months. What I didn’t count on was getting pregnant that next cycle and sick before I even peed on a stick. Enter not wearing much of anything but pajamas for the next 6 months and a gradual decline in interest in breastfeeding by Smunchie. My most common fashion accessory became an IV line and when not one but two tops arrived from Judy, the most I could tell you about them was “you can access my port easily enough.” Figured you smart ladies wouldn’t find that so helpful.

I could also tell you they are pretty, check out the Shawl Tunic/Mini Dress and the Front Rouche Top in Bamboo which I now have in black and purple (or eggplant) respectively. Smunchie did breastfeed a few times in each top but they seemed too nice for my no-showering self and spending all day on the couch with my puke bucket so they got little wear. Then I lost 16 pounds and it looked like I was a little girl playing dress-up in my mom’s clothes. What I could tell you in those first few months: both tops were incredibly comfortable and I could easily breastfeed in them. Which was of course the point. Now that I’m starting to get my feet under me a bit more and actually pay attention to what I put on myself, I can tell you even more and Smunchie still breastfeeds here and there so I’ve been able to try them as both maternity tops and breastfeeding tops.  (Sorry for the crummy pics, self portraits with my phone while breastfeeding and hooked up to an IV.)

The first time I really wore the shawl collar tunic top and actually had the energy to care about what I was wearing was to go see Earth Baby, The Storyteller, Lolie, and The Piano Man in The Nutcracker. Loaded up with my drug cocktail to get me through the evening I gussied myself up in the top. By then my PICC line was placed and the stretchy fabric of the top made it easy to hide the somewhat bulky port on the inside of my arm without drawing attention to the site. Feeling a bit adventurous and excited to actually be leaving the house (hey, I was excited to lift my head off the pillow!) let alone with lipstick on, I went with the mini dress style and high heel black boots. The simple detail of the dress lent itself well to a wide range of accessory options and I went for my grandmother’s Korean War era garnets and a scarlet made-by-me cashmere cloche decorated with an art-deco black mother of pearl button, a treasure acquired during a visit to Paris.  (Another bad self portrait!)

I must have looked hot in real life. The Piano Man was playing piano when I walked into the intimate setting for the show and he got a little, um, distracted, when he saw me. After 5 months of feeling and looking like death it felt really nice to distract my husband. Through the dinner, the performance, the fundraising talk, and the post-show excitement I was comfortable in the top. My nursling wasn’t with me so I didn’t get to give the breastfeeding function of the top into use but the top was already a favorite just in comfort and style alone.

Blurry pic but the only one I have of me and my ballerinas from The Nutcracker.

Since that evening I’ve worn both the shawl collar top and the front rouche top several times and not just on my couch. Both have held up well to washing, line drying, machine drying, and the inevitable spills. They still look and feel like new. Soft, comfortable, and beautiful, they are both tops I reach for when I need to be really comfortable and look put together. I packed both these tops for a month long training with my job where I had long days and couldn’t exactly go around in my pajamas all day. The rich purple of the front rouche top hasn’t faded a bit even with line drying and to my amazement the top gladly released the tiny bit of white acrylic paint I accidentally got smack dab in the middle of my Sugarbaby bump and though I’ve dropped all kinds of food on it (baby bellies make the perfect crumb ledge) there are no stains.

 

Some details:

The Front Rouche Bamboo Top- The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.  Because I swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

30 weeks pregnant, eggplant front rouche bamboo top

Dreamy soft and with a perfect amount of stretch so it returns to it’s shape well. The front rouching is perfect for a post-baby belly and even way beyond, I can see wearing this long after pregnancy and weaning are over. Easy to dress up (I like it with a simple black skirt) and just as comfortable more casual. The access for breastfeeding is simple to use and can be done one handed even with undoing a nursing bra. I don’t have anything bad to say about the top, it’s so versatile and comfortable. Living in Houston often fabrics that would be comfortable elsewhere are too hot here but the bamboo rayon breathes well and I have been fine in 80+ degree weather in the the 3/4 length sleeve top and was just as comfortable wearing it in Illinois in the middle of January. This will be an all seasons top for me, particularly since Houston has a thing for over air conditioning everything in the middle of the summer. The ugly for me is the price. I’m admittedly a make my own or thrift store/bargain kind of girl so the $89 seems really steep for me. However, I recognize that not everyone has the fear of spending money that I do and more and more lately I’ve been seeing my wardrobe as more expensive than I realize because things don’t last all that long and I have to replace pieces, meaning I spend more than I think. Now I haven’t had or used/abused the top long enough to say for sure (though a good amount of time already and it looks amazing), but it seems like this top will hold up well and for a long time. If that’s the case, then for a specialty top (maternity AND breastfeeding top) that can be worn all year long and features style versatility, it’s a worthwhile investment. If, let’s say, you get the top mid pregnancy and continue to wear it for the next 2 years while breastfeeding (hopefully longer) the top averages out to $3/month. If you keep the top as a permanent stylish option in your wardrobe it’s even less. As a specialty item that can extend far beyond it’s specially this is completely worth the upfront cost for the long term investment.

 

The Shawl Tunic/mini dress- The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.  Because I swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

20 weeks, black shawl tunic/mini dress

Side detail of black shawl tunic/mini dress

31 weeks, black shawl tunic/mini dress

Not quite as soft as the bamboo top (something I wouldn’t have noticed if I didn’t have the two to compare so it doesn’t really matter), the Shawl Collar Top has a beautiful silhouette that looks great with or without a baby bump. The wrap detail of the shawl collar give it more style than a simple stretchy tunic top or dress without overpowering the classic lines and it looks great as a mini dress, or a tunic top over leggings, jeans, or long pants. Combining both comfort and style, the stretch and drape of the cut and fabric makes it easy to dress up or down and you never have to sacrifice feeling good for looking good. Breastfeeding access is easy, the shawl panels providing coverage if you want it and again, I was able to get my breast out one handed even with a squirmy toddler impatient for her “bobbies.” I have long arms and am often frustrated with the length of my long sleeves. This top actually had long enough sleeves for me arms but with the stretch in the fabric I don’t think the sleeves would be too long for those with more normal length arms. This top is the perfect go-to, able to be the little black dress (or other color) staple for your closet. Whether with grandma’s garnets or blue jeans, I get compliments whenever I wear it out. With just enough gathering on the sides, it will be comfortable and forgiving at any stage of pregnancy and postpartum. It goes back to it’s shape well and I know I will be wearing this top frequently when I have a new nursling going with me to events and have lost the baby bump. The bad was minimal, the shawl collar doesn’t always lay smooth over the breasts, particularly after sitting with a baby bump but a little adjustment and smoothing was all that was required to unruffled the look. The ugly is the same, a costly upfront investment but I have actually paid around $79 for a little black dress option and that one doesn’t work for maternity or breastfeeding like this one does and there’s no way it could be paired with blue jeans. For many people $79 wouldn’t be much to drop but for our family budget it’s high so I’d have to make sure I’d be able to get my money’s worth in a top like this. Thanks to the versatility, the fact that it’s a great non-maternity/non-breastfeeding option as well as being functional during those times, and it’s comfort, I would consider that a $79 well spent if I could bring myself to get over the initial sticker shock. I’ve been wearing it regularly for the last 3 months and occasionally a couple of months before that and it looks brand new still. Regular wash and wear, it has taken me from an evening out to a day in blue jeans with ease. So assuming I can wear it through the entire pregnancy and for 2 years breastfeeding (likely more) it would average out to $2.55 per month, going down if I continued wearing it long after pregnancy and weaning. As both a dress and a tunic top it has a long life. Last, but not least, I would wear it primarily during colder months, however it would still be a go-to piece for special indoor events in the summer as the AC always makes me freeze inside during the summer.

Beyond the tops themselves though, I know that great customer service can make or break a shopping experience. Whether getting to shop her brick and mortar store in person in Wexford, Pennsylvania or shopping online, Judy Masucci, the owner of A Mother’s Boutique, is known for her fantastic customer service. Offering virtual fittings, you can send her your measurements and get bra fittings and size suggestions as well as specific articles that would work well for your body type. Patient and helpful, Judy aims to go above and beyond in helping her customers make great investments in garments that last, provide comfort, and flatter. Poor Judy has had to wait forever for this review, understandably impatient for me to share about the products she so carefully selects for her store. I spent some time the other day browsing her shop and encourage you to check it out. She has some fantastic sale prices right now and is celebrating her birthday and sharing Cake! Be sure to visit A Mother’s Boutique’s FB page and take advantage of the celebration.  You can get there by clicking the button on the right and take advantage of the discount for Leakies while you shop.