Interview with Nancy Holtzman from Isis Parenting {Part 1}

twitter_profileimgNote: This is part 1 of a 2 part series about Isis and the working mom. Stay tuned for next week when we tackle pumping at work specifically!

Going back to work after a baby is a big adjustment. I think we can all agree there. New schedules, daycare woes, missing your kid, pumping…it’s a nebulous of things you didn’t really think about as a unit until you were slung into it. On top of all that, when you start looking for advice about some normal baby things (starting solids, sleep training, nap routines) you get slapped with advice for the stay at home parent. Kid going through a growth spurt? Spend the day nursing. Um…that can’t happen when you are working. Working on longer nap on weekends kind of loses the point when they are taking most at daycare anyway. So while you research as much as you can, you feel kind of left out in some cases.

This time around with Oliver, I found a saving grace on the internets in Isis Parenting. A group based out of the North East to serve new families. They have classes (online and in person), provide online resources, research baby products and are there to answer the questions new moms and dads have. I think their mission statement sums it up:

At Isis, we love babies and the people who come with them. We are committed to providing innovative programs and a highly edited selection of products for expecting and new parents…all under one roof. We nurture a thriving community of families who learn as much about the transition to parenthood from each other as they do from the experts on our team. Isis makes navigating childbirth and parenting easier, less stressful and more joyful.

nancy headshotI fell in love with them on Twitter. Not only do they have a main company account to promote their business, but Vice President and co-founder Nancy Holtzman is online to answer folks’ questions. When people question my love for a social media platform like Twitter, I should just point to her account. A full time working mom who takes her time to answer questions from poop to postpartum hairloss is truly a shining of example of community on the internet. It isn’t unusual to see her responses as early as 6 am and as late a 11pm. Then she runs multiple webinars a week on sleep, breastfeeding and other parenting woes and then she runs a successful business all the rest of the minutes of the day! SHE IS A MACHINE. But because of her online platform, I have found her business, and overall goodwill, to be perfect for the working mom. So I asked Nancy to do a little interview to introduce herself and Isis for the Liberating Working Mom readers. To note, my original set of questions created a giant monologue of answers so I split it up into a 2 part series :)  Here we go:

I guess the first obvious, most asked, question is how did you get started with Isis?

I’m actually one of the original clinical founders and have been part of Isis from the very beginning, now over ten years ago.  My background is as a registered nurse and lactation consultant and I’ve been working with expecting and new families in the Boston area for the past 20 years (wow, that makes me feel old).

Ten years ago, I’d been running a busy private practice in the Greater Boston area, called “Great Beginnings New Mothers Groups” and “Boston Breastfeeds” and had developed a strong following of moms and a referral base from area pediatricians, OBs and midwives.

It was at that point I was approached by the two original founders of Isis Parenting (initially Isis Maternity), who asked me to help with the development of this amazing start-up idea: to open a parenting center where we could have everything under one roof for expecting and new families. Being a passionate mother/baby person, I loved the idea of being able to gather the best products, educators and programming for this group. It’s so hard for new parents to try to navigate products and services – often at a time when they are exhausted, overwhelmed and vulnerable.

Though it took almost a year to get the first Isis Center open, it was truly a labor of love for many people. I actually painted the walls of our first classroom in Brookline MA and personally taught almost all the new moms group programs there during the early years. I remember teaching Newborn Essentials the evening of my 15th wedding anniversary! But watching Isis grow over the past ten years has been amazing. I feel so proud that we can offer support and evidence-based information to so many more families, across the country and now even internationally through our webinars and online learning programs. And, later this year, coming soon to a town (hopefully) near you – yes, we’re expanding outside of New England in 2013!

Since you field tons of calls and questions about sleeping, what advice would you give new working moms in the sleep department?

First, have realistic expectations of life with a newborn. Weeks 3-8 may be the hardest weeks for you as a new mom. Don’t expect to be able to put your baby down and get much done during those weeks. It’s ok to hold and nurse your newborn to sleep. Don’t worry that you are creating bad sleep habits when your baby is only 4 or 8 weeks old! Focus on what works for you and your baby, though always with an eye toward safety. Work on establishing fairly consistent “bookends to the day” – a bedtime and morning wake up time – by 8-12 weeks. Don’t worry that your ten week old doesn’t have a real feeding or sleeping “schedule” before beginning childcare. It will gradually evolve with consistency and maturity. Oh, and watch our Sleep Webinars for support and suggestions on newborn sleep and establishing nurturing routines.

I’ll also add: don’t feel you need to be a martyr to infant sleep, suffering with sleep deprivation until it works itself out. If your 6 month old is waking up even more at night now than he used to, and you’re starting to feel like you can barely function at work, there are many gentle but effective approaches to help that don’t need to include “crying it out”. Fragmented sleep isn’t healthy for you, your family, or your growing baby. We see so many families who wait until 8-10 months before calling for a Sleep Consult, hoping things would naturally resolve as their baby grew older, or thinking that since they always nursed to sleep or bed-shared, they were now “stuck” in a particular situation. Not so at all! In the reviews on our Sleep Consults page, you’ll see many say “I never thought this would work for my baby” or “I wish we’d called sooner!”.

Lastly, for fun, tell us one of your most rewarding experiences in your job.

One of my favorite things is when I receive an email from a client who starts off with “I know you won’t remember me, but I was in your Great Beginnings group ___ years ago.” There is usually a story about how all the moms in her group are still in touch or get together regularly many years later, or, how she still remembers certain things I said in the class (or showed her how to do the Super Swaddle, or how to diaper to avoid blow outs, or use vestibular motion to help a baby stop crying, any of the dozens of things I consider routine but were very significant in her new mom experience), and has passed them on to dozens more new moms. I feel like my work is a stone tossed into a lake, and the ripples reach out further and further, extended by other mothers, and now, other instructors, more Isis Parenting centers, now, the webinars and eLearning opportunities, and soon, will be represented in many other cities across the US. It’s a great feeling!

Almost twenty years ago, I started a program called Great Beginnings, to help support new moms and infants with new mom adjustment, soothing and settling techniques, feeding and sleep information and infant development education. I believe that program will continue to be my true “legacy”  – now over 12,000 moms in the Boston area have “graduated” through the Great Beginnings program. Any day now, Isis Parenting will be able to announce some very exciting expansion news: soon, many more mothers and babies and families all over the country will be able to experience Isis Parenting and the Great Beginnings program in their own towns. To be able to offer information and support to so many new families is truly an honor and a reward!

But I’ll end with a funny story: I get so many questions about baby poop via twitter each day that we devised a “game” with a point system for scoring: so many points for a poop question before 9 AM my time, bonus points for “Help, my baby hasn’t pooped in _ days!” if it’s been more than 4 days, and so on. One of the most popular breastfeeding webinars is “Poop Talk” and it’s one of my personal favorites too. (Editors note: Nancy just posted this about baby poop and I was laughing so hard.)

And to give a sneak peak of part 2 of this series, I asked Nancy to just talk about the choice to pump:

Nobody really loves pumping. Let’s face it, it’s tedious, boring, and a time suck. It’s a hungry machine that wants more more more. For a nursing, working mom, maybe it’s helpful to think about pumping as the thing you do in order to continue breastfeeding when you’re together with your baby. You’re maintaining your milk supply to sustain nursing, and also expressing milk to “make meals” for your baby, even when you’re not able to be with your baby physically.

Fifteen years ago, in the “returning to work” discussion at Great Beginnings, the conversation was “Returning to work, Not returning to work, Making the decision, conflicted feelings”. Nowadays, the conversation has shifted. As supported by the Shriver report, most women *do* return to work during their baby’s first six to nine months of life. So, my goal is to work with moms to figure out not only how to get breastfeeding up and running, but how to sustain the breastfeeding relationship during the transition back to work, and beyond.

From my perspective, breastfeeding is important: the nurturing and intimate act of nursing, and the benefits of the milk itself. It’s hard enough to get breastfeeding successfully up and running during the first few weeks (such a large number of well-intentioned new moms simply don’t make it past 2 weeks of breastfeeding) – that once you achieve that hurdle, it would be a shame to sacrifice the breastfeeding relationship because of the return to work.

Additionally, continuing to breastfeed and express milk at work may help assuage some of the emotional or guilt feelings about returning to work and leaving your young baby: even though you may not be with your baby full-time, you can still continue to do the things for your baby that only you can do: express milk when apart, and continue to breastfeed when together.

Pumping at work is just the bridge to breastfeeding, a tool that allows you to continue to nourish your baby, when you are together or apart.

Stay tuned for next week where Nancy answers a gaggle of pumping questions and how to maintain supply!


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