What does a stylist do?

I bet a lot of people wonder: what exactly does a stylist do? My short answer would be: whatever it takes to make you look amazing. From conversing weeks before your photoshoot to discuss what outfit(s) you will wear and the type of moment you would like to capture down to reminding you to get your nails done (if you like painted piggies) and fixing your hair on the day of your shoot, the role of a stylist is almost that of a ghost, but can be found so clearly in the image of your final photos.

I could go on and on about what I do as a stylist (I like to think I also decrease the stress in my clients’ lives) but I am so fortunate that Sandy of Red Lotus Photography actually caught me in action so here, I’ll just show you:

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Maternity Girl sells new and resale maternity and nursing apparel in Pittsburgh. She also offers styling services for maternity and breastfeeding photoshoots. If you’re interested in working with Elena for your next photoshoot, please send your inquiry to: maternitygirl@yahoo.com. Elena has worked with many different photographers and has many styling packages available ranging from outfit selection only to day-of assistance. For some final photos in which Maternity Girl did the styling, please check out her Facebook album by CLICKING HERE

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Breastfeeding Photos – next year’s holiday card!

Are breastfeeding photos the new holiday card? Probably not. But it’s definitely an up and coming genre – you know, like a maternity photoshoot, newborn photoshoot or family photoshoot – all the things people flock to due. I’m excited to be a part of this process of the changing times. People don’t think twice when they remember to schedule a family photoshoot for holiday cards but rarely does a Mom think – or more importantly do – a photoshoot of one of the things that takes up a significant part of her life while her child is a baby.

I personally scheduled a breastfeeding photoshoot during a “crisis” when I didn’t think my little one and I would make it to my 1 year breastfeeding goal. I was on the verge of an emotional breakdown and just wanted proof – something beyond my sleep-deprived memory – that indeed I did breastfeed my child and it was beautiful. The finished product was indeed so beautiful [you can go see for yourself] that it re-energized my breastfeeding spirit. Further, it made me call Sandy of Red Lotus Photography to say, “We have to do a bunch of mini sessions – Moms NEED this!”

And so we did!

Sandy just finished sending off all the photos to the lovely Mamas who signed up and guess what? They’ve agreed to let me share some with you!

I debated for quite a few hours about how to share these (my favorites) … a blog post a day? This one post with an in depth commentary about each Mama and their beautiful baby/babies? Should I include details about why these are my favorite? Nah. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? All I can say is that this photoshoot was one of my favorites:

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Readers – what do you think?

And okay, just a little commentary … one of the Mamas actually breastfed her twins. TWINS! Exciting, right? Dad was actually in attendance so I encouraged him to step into the frame. A lot of people think breastfeeding is about Mom and baby (or babies!) but I like to think that behind every successful Mom and baby breastfeeding team there is also a really good support network which often includes Dads. If these photos are about capturing real life, how could we not include Dad, right?

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Just writing this post almost has me in tears; I’m having flashbacks to the fun and beauty of this day. It was such a privilege to be a part of such a special treat for these Moms.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these photos just as much as I enjoy sharing them!


Maternity Girl sells new and resale maternity and nursing apparel in Pittsburgh, PA via private appointment, Moms markets and trunk shows. She also styles for photoshoots and rents maternity dresses (in Pittsburgh only). Her newest (and most popular item) is called Mama’s MilkBox – it’s a nursing apparel subscription service for Moms who want to look good and feel good all while feeding the baby. To see what’s new, you should definitely check out her Facebook page and for fun, look at her maternity and nursing musings.

Let’s Talk About: Going Back to Work After Baby

This post has been a long time in the making. So it’s extensive. You’ve been warned.

‘Going back to work’ is one of the most talked about topics I have with friends, Moms, Mom-friends and clients. For many, the fear about the whole thing begins as early as pregnancy: How will I feel about going back to work? Will my baby be okay? What will I need to do to prepare? Etc. I don’t have all the answers. Sorry. But I do have some tips, tricks, advice and suggestions that might make your transition easier. Please note this post is for both formula and breastfeeding Moms. So if you see a section that doesn’t apply to you, please feel free to scroll past it but read through to the end!

Let’s talk about the emotional aspects of working first. Will you be scared? Anxious? Okay? Who knows! That’s the tricky thing about hormones. Even if you tell yourself you should or will feel one way, you might completely feel another. Some Moms think they’ll be a mess and it turns out they like working! Others think they’ll be okay and then they cry the whole first day. My takeaway from this topic is that because you won’t know until you get there, try not to stress about it – especially during your pregnancy. Take each day moment by moment and cross all the bridges when you get there.

Now let’s say you’re almost there or you already are and you’re an emotional disaster. Here’s some ways to cope:

1. Take their jammies with you and smell them throughout the day. Does that sound creepy? I think so. But hey – I like smelling the scent of my baby and I know I’m not alone. Now that I’ve put this out there, if you already do it, now you know you’re not alone too. Look, Mamas have to do what they have to do and taking care of yourself and your feelings is very important. If you slip their favorite toy into your briefcase, buy a second lovey and keep it at your desk or carry yesterday’s blanket to get a little whiff, kudos to you for taking care of yourself and the way you feel. Don’t let anyone pass judgment.

2. Wear a special piece of jewelry.

I have 2 items I love. The first is a gift I received from my grandparents and it’s a charm representing each of my children and the second is a photo-necklace that I have housing the picture of my son’s first smile (a picture of THE first smile? Yes. Back in the day when I did nothing but stare at him and take 238 photos a day [no exaggeration] I somehow managed to capture this. But I digress …) Every time I wear one or both of these necklaces, I feel like I am carrying my children WITH me. How or why I feel that way makes no sense to me but sometimes I’m working and I think of them and I just touch the charms and I feel good. So how about treating yourself to an early Mother’s Day gift? You can turn a favorite photo into a piece of jewelry (just search “custom photo necklace” on etsy), get a charm, wear something with their initials, etc.

3. Get a “Back to work buddy”

When possible, I try to make these connections between clients because I think it’s important to give yourself support. Any friend who has recently went back to work will be a great resource but if you can find someone in your field, that’s even better. Lawyer moms can relate to other lawyer moms and teacher moms can relate to other teacher moms, etc. Every field has its own unique set of challenges and having a buddy in your field is invaluable. They will understand your challenges better than anyone else and perhaps, if it’s someone who has already went back to work, they can help you if you’re facing a certain struggle and they’ve already done it before (ie, law firms having Moms pump in closets or teachers being sent to the nurse’s office, nurses having to work erratic schedules, etc.).

4. Talk about your fears and your excitement – embrace them. Whatever you do, know that the way you feel is okay – whatever it may be. For the record, post-partum depression can hit any Mom way up until baby’s first year. I think it’s great if you’re excited to go back to work and you want to share that detail with your partner and friends, but I particularly fear for Moms who experience a depression right at the time they go back to work – and then they bottle that in. If you start to feel anxious, feel sad or start to have some thoughts that don’t feel healthy to you – please make sure you share THAT with your partner, friends and a doctor.

5. If possible, ask your daycare provider, or stay-at-home partner, to send you a picture of your kid(s) throughout the day. Some daycares even have cameras in their facilities so you can “peek in” whenever you like. (Fancy, right!?) But they’re not everywhere. I send my husband a picture of the kids every day. He probably doesn’t need it, but his desire to be with the kids isn’t any less than a Mom, so why not? In the world of modern technology, it takes 35 seconds to snap a photo and email it with a caption that says, “Hi! I was just thinking of you!” I like to think (and he has told me!) that it does give him a sense of closeness. And doing so also makes him feel like he hasn’t been gone ALL DAY and doesn’t know what they’re up to.

Now that some of the emotional details have been discussed, let’s move onto the practical.

You may be wondering, “What do I need to do to prepare? Especially if I breastfeed?”

To be honest, the answer to this will be so specific to your situation details that I don’t have a great catch-all answer. Check first with your daycare provider. If they are an organization, they will have gone through this so many times before that they will be clear about what you need to pack and bring every day (snacks? bottles? extra binkys?) and can probably give you a checklist. If a family member will be your daycare provider, I recommend just buying two of everything you use on a daily basis and leaving the second set there. That means you have less to pack (or forget) every day. The really good news is that after the first week of juggling the stress of your new routine, you will have figured the practical details all out.

As far as breastfeeding goes, I would recommend utilizing the kellymom.com website as a resource and beyond that, I would recommend you check out your local resources. For example, here in the Pittsburgh region, The Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburgh offers a “Working and Breastfeeding” class – approximately every other month. They can help you figure out a pumping schedule, give you some tips and help you come up with your own plan for balancing the return to work with a new baby and breastfeeding.

Beyond that, I do have a few specific tips that I always offer [for breastfeeding Moms]:

1. Get yourself a Simple Wishes Hands Free Nursing Bra. This is one of the best $27 you will ever spend. Not only does it make pumping way less of a pain in the a$$ but by the very nature of the design, it makes it very easy to wear over your clothes. Yes. Over your clothes. I just said that.

A lot of times, I tell people this trick and they look at me like I have 4 heads because it’s hard to explain when you’ve never seen it before so I decided to share a picture:

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That’s me wearing the Simple Wishes Breastpump Bra over my (of course) nursing clothes. Much of the stress re pumping at work relates to the fear of someone seeing what you are doing. While I don’t think everyone will have the carefree attitude I have adopted over time, I do think not being half naked and not having to lift your clothes and expose your back will help. To be honest, this is basically how I pump in my car (yes – while driving). When I’m out and about and I would have/should have been nursing the baby, I set myself up like this and just throw a nursing cover over the whole process.

I love this bra SO MUCH that it is on the Essential Breastfeeding Supplies list that I recommend to all Moms who plan to breastfeed.

2. Throw all your pieces in a big ziploc baggie and stick them in the ‘fridge between sessions. I didn’t learn this trick until my second baby and when I found out, I was so mad. I could have saved HOURS of my life not washing breast pump parts between sessions! I mean, think about it. You’re pumping Milk. Milk, like cow’s milk, that’s kept in the ‘fridge. So really, if you just stick all the parts in a ziploc baggie and stick them in the ‘fridge, they shouldn’t go bad. When I first started pumping during the day and had to wash all the parts, I thought when I went back to work I would just buy 2 extra sets of flanges, valves and membranes so I could just grab a new set every time I had to pump and only have to dedicate myself to one long-washing session at the end of the day (I envisioned after my baby went to bed). It turns out I never had to deal with it because we wind up moving and I was finished breastfeeding before I returned to work but I like to think the ‘fridge trick is even better. On that note, if possible, I also recommend a small mini-fridge in your office or cube so you don’t have to stress about someone touching, using, or doing something to your expressed milk.

Oh – and speaking of extra valves and membranes – whatever type of pump you have, HAVE EXTRAS of everything. If you have a Medela, you especially need extra membranes. The tiniest of holes can mess up your whole day and give you unlimited stress. For $5, save yourself from having a meltdown at work. Keep a box in your drawer and keep a box at home too (those damn, slippery things can fall down a drain so easily!)

Well folks, that’s all I’ve got for now. I imagine I’ve already “chewed your ears off” for about 5 min. I hope you found some useful information within and – at the very least – enjoyed my picture. I’m pretty sure you won’t find one similar anywhere on the internet. I also want you to know – if you’re a Mom – you’re doing a good job today! Look – we all have our bad days. Our stressful days. The days we wish we did something different. The day that never ends and the day that went too fast. Nothing is perfect and life can be hard. Just do the best you can, love your kids, love each other and what more can you ask for? Oh – and if you have super little kids (ie, just born and barely beyond), just know that each day it gets better. And easier. Until you hit potty training. Just kidding. Kind of.

Signing off,

Elena

PS – What tips, tricks and advice can you share? Leave a comment below! There is no better support for Moms than other Moms.

Introducing Mama’s MilkBox

I was trying to wait until the 1 year anniversary of my business to make the announcement, but I was so excited, I couldn’t hold back and yesterday I announced, on Facebook, about my newest product and service – Mama’s MilkBox.

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Mama’s MilkBox is a clothing subscription service for nursing Moms. Very few Moms have enough time to scour the internet for fashionable nursing apparel and even fewer have the hours necessary to drive to a store and try clothes on. In Pittsburgh, I happily drive to the homes of my clients but I wanted to make the great products I sell available to all the nursing Moms across the US. I mean, shouldn’t everyone have a Maternity Girl in their region?

A Mama’s Milk Box subscription is $49/box and each box comes with a $49 credit to shop. I sell 2 box types: Whole and Skim Milk. A Whole MilkBox comes with 5-7 items and a Skim MilkBox comes with 3-5 items. Upon mailing, you are charged $49 and you have 7 days to try on your items – all in the privacy and comfort of your home. Keep what you like and simply mail back the rest. [Return items must be received within 7 days of your receipt] You will only be charged for the items you keep, less your $49 credit. Shipping to you is FREE.

Some other FAQ are below:

1. Q: When should I sign up for a MilkBox?

A: If you are pregnant with your first baby, I would wait at least 2 weeks to establish breastfeeding and adjust to your new normal. Then, when you realize 2 weeks have past and you’re tired of wearing pajamas, fill out the profile and a stylist will call you soon. If this is your second (or later) baby and you have breastfed in the past and you plan to do the same with your new baby, you can fill out a profile as soon as you decide you want some new clothes. Many vendors design their clothes to be worn during pregnancy and after for nursing. We can ensure you get some new maternity clothes that will also function for your breastfeeding future.

2. Q: Can I buy a MilkBox as a gift?

A: You can! When you fill out the profile, just write in the notes section that this is a gift subscription. If you want it to be a complete surprise, our stylist will call you to talk about what types of clothes your recipient tends to wear. If you want your recipient to receive the full MilkBox experience, we will call you first, just tell us you want them to be a part of the Style Session and then we will proceed to call them directly.

3. Q: What kinds of brands and designers do you carry? How much do each of these things cost?

A: Each MilkBox comes with a variety of brands. This is what our subscribers love most – sometimes because they don’t know where to even look for nursing clothes and other times because they try on a brand they would have never thought of and fall in love. The prices of each of the items in the box varies but it’s roughly $30-$59 for a top and $49-$79 for a dress. You only pay for what you keep and don’t forget – you have a $49/credit with every box!

4. Q: What if I don’t like anything in the box?

A: We pride ourselves on our ability to match our clients with clothes that meet their fashion and daily needs. If you don’t find anything, then expect a phone call from a stylist because we really missed the mark. Outside of that detail, if you don’t like anything, just send it all back and you still retain your $49/credit.

5. Q: Would the credit be applied to my future box?

A: Credits accumulate. You would still be charged $49 for any subsequent boxes, but then you would have a $98 credit for that box.

6. Q: Why is the service every 6 weeks instead of monthly?

A: Mom bodies change very frequently – especially after a baby is born. We felt that a monthly subscription might be too frequent, especially as our clients adjust to their new normals. We also felt that 8 weeks was too long to have to wait for another box – by then some people get bored with their clothes! Hence 6 weeks seemed like the perfect compromise, Goldilocks-style of course.

7. Why don’t you have a “MamasMilkBox.com” website? We’re working on it! The logo is in its final stages and the website is a work in progress. The Mom behind it all is just trying to make sure that until those two things are complete, MilkBoxes still make their way out the door (even with a baby on her hip!)

We hope you sign up for a MilkBox today and if you have any questions, please feel free to click on the little envelope above at the top right to contact a team member. We’ll get back to you soon!

I hope you have a good week y’all!

Elena 😀


 

If you’re on Facebook, be sure to check out the Maternity Girl page. I’m hosting a MilkBox Giveaway with a $100 credit to shop!

Giving Back to the Community

As a part of the resale aspect of my business, I frequently make trips to the Genesis House of Pittsburgh to donate maternity and nursing clothes, baby gear, and more on behalf of my clients. Giving back to the community that I live in is extremely important to me.

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Today I made my third trip of the year and I’m proud to announce we had about $1200 in donations, from 8 people including:

– a stroller

– a carseat

– baby bedding

– maternity & nursing clothes

– a diaper bag

– blankets, bibs and so much more …

Thank you to everyone who made a donation – I’ll be mailing your tax receipts soon.

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If you live in the Pittsburgh area and you have maternity and nursing clothes to donate or baby gear that could benefit others, please check out this organization. All the way below I’ll be listing items they take.

Now I’m off to prepare for tomorrow’s photoshoots, a nursing appointment I have on Sunday, and my next big project which I’m announcing on November 24 – which happens to be the 1 year anniversary of my business. You should get excited. The news is BIG (and even more exciting and better than the potential news that I could be pregnant).  Stay tuned!

And have a good weekend y’all,

Elena


 

Genesis House gratefully accepts:

Clothing: infant and children’s shoes and clothes sizes 0-6, especially onesies, sleepers and baby socks

Feeding supplies including formula, bottles, bibs, and new breast pumps (even if it was never used, the seal cannot be broken)

Baby furniture including cribs, mattresses, changing tables, bassinets, pack ‘n plays, highchairs, and glider rockers

Baby equipment including strollers, bathtubs, bouncy seats, monitors, exersaucers, front packs, and car seats manufactured within the past 5 years

Other baby items and supplies including diapers and wipes; sheets for cribs, bassinets, and pack ‘n plays; new toys, stuffed animals and gift items.

Items for pregnant women including current books about pregnancy, birth, and parenting; maternity clothing or casual clothing suitable for pregnancy wear; new bras and panties.

Alyssa Milano and Breastfeeding – Kudos to all Moms everywhere

Since the focus of my business is maternity and nursing, I’m really into things that get attention (especially positive) for either and this morning, Alyssa Milano seems to be the winner. Yet again, she’s trying to “normalize breastfeeding” by showing, model and actress style – how Moms can tackle breastfeeding (yes – I say tackle – because it’s hard work!) while working. Look, isn’t it pretty:

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But you know, I read an article about the photo – it was on US magazine online – and I have to admit, it frosted my cookies a little.

First of all, the LINK to the article is, ” … another, revealing, breastfeeding photo.” I don’t normally like to play the semantics game but when I saw the word “revealing” it made me wonder – revealing like skin or revealing like a glimpse into the life of being a Mom with a new baby? I have bad news – it’s the former. You know how I know? Because at the end of the article it said, “… which almost fully exposes her breast.”

Being critical is really not my thing but this detailed commentary bothered me because I felt like it was a dig to breastfeeding Moms; like she almost flashed somebody a nipple! And I don’t like anything that even remotely messes with Moms across the globe. I’m personally (or at least I try to be) a FACT writer. My take on the photo would have been, “Look! Here’s Alyssa Milano being a Mom again!” Maybe I’m being overly sensitive. Or protective. I like to think it’s the latter because as a Mom myself, I have insane, natural, strong protective instincts. In fact, I hope I’m wrong. But if not, I just want to highlight that it is disappointing anytime there is any kind of judgment passed on Moms who are just trying to do the best that they can. That’s just not cool. How does that play into this particular issue? For me it means let’s not talk about how she “almost exposed her breast.” I see breasts EVERYWHERE in the media – thinking about exposed nipples makes me think of Janet Jackson (was it Janet Jackson? Oh Mom brain …) anyway – some singer who had an accidental nipple exposure during some highly televised event. It was talked about for days. I would hope that if this photo is talked about for days, it doesn’t try to sexualize breast. That instead, it just highlights another Mom trying to go about her day who also happens to be having beautiful photos taken so she remembers this time in her life. And should she keep it private because she’s breastfeeding? Why? If she wants to share it, why not? Celebrity and actress Moms share their pictures all the time. This is just another take on how some Moms feed their baby. Can we please stop making the issue about breasts?

Speaking of sharing these glamorous photos though … I just want to remind all Moms that it’s ok if you don’t have a beauty squad like this on hand. In fact, for fun, I’m going to try and re-create this picture in my own way later today. I have a fabulous on-staff stylist who likes to “cut” my hair. He’s 3. Stay tuned (it’ll be tagged #nursingootd) …

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TGIF Y’all!

My blog has a decent amount of readers, but for some reason, yesterdays’ post had a huge surge. I think it’s because my Facebook post “teaser” had everyone thinking I was pregnant. [You know you totally did!] Sorry! What can I say? I am good at grabbing attention. Well, now that I have it, I’m going to use it and I want you to know I’m starting a new trend – it’s called the #nursingootd hash tag!

What the heck is that you might be wondering? Let me explain (I’m proud of myself for knowing some this is too). “OOTD” stands for “Outfit Of The Day.” People use that tag a lot when they take selfies [it pains me just a little to use that word] and post their pics on social media sites, like Instagram, just to show others how fashionable they are that day.  “#maternityootd” is used a lot too and that totally makes sense as one’s fashion has to change to incorporate a growing belly. But that got me thinking … WHY ISN’T THERE ANYTHING FOR NURSING? I mean, I might not look like I’m walking the red carpet today but I wear nursing clothes every day and I like to think I’m fashionable too. (I generally am. I swear. Just ignore/pretend you didn’t see yesterday’s photo [though that WAS a nursing top that I sell in my online store. But I digress. Back to my new trend …])

So there you go – you heard it here first – the cool new thing is to take selfies when you wear nursing clothes and tag your picture with “#nursingootd” Sometimes it’s really hard for me to accomplish this task (ie, “taking selfies”) with my 2 littles [these guys] but starting today, I’m going to try. And I hope you do to! You can catch my #nursingootd pics on my Instagram page. Go ahead! Just click on the link now! I put on nice boots for you.

Have a good weekend!

Elena

PS – I wish it said I was pregnant. I have TERRIBLE baby fever but the husband keeps telling me, “No!”