The first few weeks of breastfeeding can feel quite overwhelming. It’s a learning time for both you and your baby, each of you getting a feel for each other.

Your baby is slowly discovering how to breastfeed and find comfort outside the security of your womb. You are learning how to communicate with your baby and offer comfort and nourishment. 

Be patient with yourself and your baby; it will get easier, particularly once your milk supply becomes established. Having questions is normal. Trust your instincts, but also try to prepare yourself by understanding what to expect in the first few weeks. Below we’ve compiled some breastfeeding basics and tips from Day 1 to Week 6.

What to Expect

  • Your milk production grows from about 1 ounce (30 mL) to about 30 ounces (900 mL) between Days 1 and 40.
  • Most mothers start to make noticeably more milk starting around Day 3 or 4.
  • Your baby should be back to birth weight by 2 weeks. You can then expect baby to gain about 7 ounces (210 g) per week or 2 lbs (900 g) per month.
  • Most babies feed 8-12 times per day, but not at set times. They may bunch feedings close together for part of the day (cluster feed).
  • Your baby may want to feed again soon after breastfeeding. This is normal in the beginning.
  • By Day 3-5, baby’s black stools (meconium) turn first green, then yellow. You can then expect 3 or more yellow stools every day.
  • Also, expect 5-6 or more wet diapers a day by Day 5.
  • If your breasts feel very full, breastfeed more or express milk. This will make you feel better, not worse.
  • Most babies sleep for one 4-5 hour stretch each day. This may not happen at night, unfortunately.

Fun Facts

  • A baby’s stomach stretches from the size of a shooter marble on Day 1 to a chicken egg by Day 10.
  • Babies may take one breast at a feeding, or they may need to feed on both breasts. Let your baby decide.
  • Drained breasts make milk faster. Full breasts make milk slower.
  • Breastfeed only if possible. Avoid pacifiers and any other liquids

General Breastfeeding Tips

  • Breastfeed whenever your baby wants to. You’ll know it’s time when your baby’s head turns from side to side with an open mouth. Or when she puts her hand to her mouth.
  • Ideally, don’t wait until your baby fusses or cries. When upset, it’s harder to feed well.
  • Use a position that feels good for you and your baby.
  • Learn to sleep while you breastfeed. Practice during the day.
  • If breastfeeding hurts, get help. A small change in how your baby takes the breast may be all you need to feel better.
  • Find a mother’s group near you and spend time with other breastfeeding mothers. We are stronger together!

You Know You Have Plenty of Milk When

  • Baby is gaining weight well on breast milk alone.
    • 0-4 months: 7 ounces (210 g) a week or 2 lbs. (900g) a month

When to Seek Help

  • If breastfeeding hurts.
  • If your baby loses more than 10% of birth weight or after Day 4, gains weight too slowly.

Even when breastfeeding is going well, you may experience some of the following:

  • Your baby has fussy times – Most babies do.
  • She wants to feed again soon after breastfeeding -Most babies do.
  • She wants to feed more often – This adjusts your milk production
  • Your breasts no longer feel full – Usually at about 3-4 weeks
  • She wants to feed less often or for a shorter time – Babies get faster with practice
  • Frequent night feedings – Babies need to do this to get enough milk
  • She will take a bottle after breastfeeding – Babies like to suck, this might not be related to milk supply
  • You can’t express much milk – This skill takes practice

One thing that we can not stress enough is, be patient with yourself. Breastfeeding is natural but it’s also a skill, and like all skills there is a learning curve involved. You are not expected to know it all and there is no shame in asking for help and reaching out. Seek out the support you need.

Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA, Lactation Consultant, Ameda Breastfeeding Products
Coauthor of Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers

The pain experienced during labour is different for every woman and can vary pregnancy to pregnancy. Preferences on how to manage that pain also differ, and each expecting mom will have her own ideal plan. Researching the available options is an important step in preparing for your labour.

What is TENS for Labour?

If you would prefer to avoid drugs or other medical interventions and are opting for natural labour pain relief, a TENS machine may be just the thing for you. TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. The machine itself is a small box with a clip on the back that you can attach to your clothing. It releases little pulses of electrical energy.

How does a TENS machine work?

women on exercise ball with TENS pads on back

Leading out of the box are four wires connected to sticky pads. Ideally, your birth partner will place the pads on your back for you. Put one pad on each side of your spine, at about bra-strap level. The remaining two pads should be placed further down your back, near the base of your spine. The pads are covered in a gel to help the electrical pulses pass through your skin more easily.

There are dials that allow you to adjust and control the frequency and strength of the pulses. There’s also a boost button for you to hold in your hand and press when you want maximum output from the machine to help you with a difficult contraction. Always follow the instructions that come with your TENS machine.

How does a TENS machine reduce pain?

There are several theories on what makes a TENS machine effective. One is that the electrical pulses prevent pain signals from reaching your brain. Another is that the pulses stimulate your body to release its own natural, feel-good substances, called endorphins.

It’s most likely that various factors interact to make TENS work. It may give you a feeling of control over your contractions, it may help you to feel less anxious, and it also may provide a distraction from your contractions.

When and how should I use TENS?

TENS seems to work best and give you the most effective pain relief when you start using it at the very beginning of your labour. TENS machines are available to rent or buy, so will be able to use it at home before you transition to the hospital (if you’re having a hospital birth).

It generally takes about an hour for your body to respond to the electrical impulses by releasing endorphins, so start using it when you’re getting regular contractions or backache. You may find your machine works better at relieving your back pain rather than abdominal pain.

Start with the controls at their lowest settings and gradually turn them up as your contractions or back pain gets more intense. You can use the boost button at the peak of your contractions for a little extra relief.

What are the advantages?

  • It’s portable and non-invasive.
  • It’s under your control.
  • It’s easy to use.
  • You can keep moving while using it.
  • You can use it for as long as you want and then take it off. There are no lasting side-effects.
  • It’s safe for your baby.
  • You don’t need an anesthesiologist, doctor or midwife to administer it, so you can start using it as soon as you want to.
  • It can be used for a home birth.

What are the disadvantages?

  • You will need someone to help you put the pads on.
  • It may only help in the early stages of labour.
  • It may be difficult to find a TENS machine in your area. (http://www.motherschoiceproducts.com/) you can purchase or find a store.
  • It may have to be removed if your baby’s heart has to be monitored electronically.
  • If you want to use a birthing pool or have a bath, you can use TENS before you get in the water, but not when you are in the water.
  • It can make it more difficult for your birth partner to massage your back, which can be an effective form of pain relief.

Useful tips

· Don’t give up right away if you think your TENS isn’t doing anything. It usually takes at least an hour of using it for your body to build up endorphins in response to the stimulation.

· Take the pads off every three hours and reapply the gel to ensure good contact with your skin.

· Keep mobile. Moving around during labour helps women feel more in control and should, therefore, enhance the effect of TENS.

· If you don’t feel like it’s helping you, take it off and don’t feel bad. You’ve lost nothing. All other forms of pain relief, both medical and non-medical, are still open to you.

Where do I find a TENS machine?

You may need to call a midwife clinic to track a TENS machine down. Or if you are lucky enough to have an obstetrical physiotherapist in your town, try calling her office. Your doctor or midwife should be able to help you track one down; ask for their help during a prenatal appointment.

Once you find a TENS machine, the midwife will show you how to use it during your labour. Prices will vary but generally hang around $100. You can usually find TENS machines at midwife clinics, select pharmacies, or online.

Simple Steps to Keep Your Ameda Breast Pump Clean

Keeping your breast pump clean is not time consuming. But there are a few things you can do to simplify your pump care — so you can spend more time with your new baby.

Sanitize Your Ameda parts Before the First Use

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If your pump kit package is not marked « sterile, » put all the pieces that come into contact with your milk in a pot, cover them with water, and boil for 20 minutes before using the pump for the first time. It is best to let the parts air dry so make sure you have a bit of time for this. With an Ameda pump that would be the bottle, flange (part that goes on your breast), clear valve, and silicone diaphragm. All Ameda pumps use the same kits so this will apply to any personal use pump or rental/hospital pump. Unless your doctor or hospital has told you otherwise, there is no need to do this again.

Everyday Cleaning of Your Ameda Breast Pump

With an Ameda pump, you don’t need to boil, microwave or wipe your pump pieces with disinfecting wipes on a regular basis. After every use, rinse the pieces that come in contact with your milk with cool water then wash them in warm, soapy water (using mild detergent), rinse with clear, warm water, and air dry. You can also clean pump parts in the dishwasher. You may want to get one or more extra pump kits and wash them all once at the end of the day. That way you don’t need to wash your parts every time you pump.

To clean your pump motor or bag, just wipe it with a clean, damp cloth. This is also a good way to clean the outside of your pump tubing if milk drips onto it.

No Tubing Care

For mothers using a pump with tubing, any moisture in the tubing can contaminate their expressed milk with bacteria, mold and viruses. That’s why Ameda breast pumps have Proven Airlock Protection™. During pumping, Ameda’s diaphragm keeps the air from your pump from coming in contact with your milk. For mothers using a breast pump without a barrier at the flange there is a chance to get moisture in the tubing. Any moisture in the tubing can contaminate expressed milk with bacteria, mold and viruses Ameda has the world’s only breast pump with a proven protective barrier.

Adapted from Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA, Lactation Consultant, Ameda Breastfeeding Products
Coauthor of Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers

Incontinence Explained

Incontinence is a widespread condition that affects 8.7% of individuals above 20 years old worldwide, which increases up to 30 to 60% in women aged 40 and over. Incontinence ranges in severity from ‘just a small or occasional leak’ to the complete loss of bladder or bowel control. It can occur at any age, but it is more likely to develop as you get older or following childbirth. Some people wrongly think that incontinence is a normal part of ageing or that it cannot be treated. This is unfortunate, as many cases can be successfully treated or at the very least be significantly improved. Urinary incontinence often occurs because of weak or stretched pelvic floor muscles. These muscles assist in supporting the abdominal and pelvic organs; help to control the bladder and bowel; provide support for the baby during pregnancy and assist in the birthing process; as well as working with the abdominal and back muscles to stabilize and support the spine. In men, they are also important for erectile function and ejaculation. (Yes, men have a pelvic floor too!)

Urinary incontinence can often be improved and can in most cases be treated. Urinary incontinence is treated differently according to the type and cause. Pelvic floor exercises are seen as the most effective way to prevent issues with incontinence, especially stress incontinence. Yet, 1 in 3 women who are trying to perform pelvic floor exercises, do not know how or are unable to voluntarily exercise their pelvic floor muscle themselves and require assistance.

Incontinence is commonly associated with:

  • Accidentally leaking urine when you exercise, laugh, cough or sneeze
  • Needing to get to the toilet in a hurry or not making it there in time
  • Constantly needing to go to the toilet
  • Finding it difficult to empty your bladder or bowel
  • Accidentally losing control of your bladder or bowel
  • Accidentally passing wind
  • A prolapse – In women, this may be felt as a bulge in the vagina or a feeling of heaviness and discomfort
  • A prolapse – In men, this may be felt as a bulge in the rectum or a feeling of needing to use their bowels but not actually needing to go
  • Finally, if pain is experienced in your pelvic area during or after sex

There are different types of incontinence with several possible causes. The following are the most common:

Stress incontinence – occurs during activities that increase abdominal pressure such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting heavy objects or during physical activity. It is the most common form of urinary incontinence and affects about 51% of women suffering from incontinence.

Urge incontinence – occurs when the need to urinate comes on so quickly that you might fail to make it to the bathroom in time. Also known as an overactive bladder. This is the most common form of urinary incontinence in men, affecting between 40-80% of men above 20 years old, worldwide. It can affect anyone at any age, but it appears to be more prevalent in the elderly.

Mixed incontinence – a combination of both stress and urge incontinence. If you or anyone you know experience the symptoms of incontinence it is important to know that there are safe, effective, and drug-free solutions that can assist in the long-term management of the condition. Let’s normalize the conversation around the condition.

Incontinence and the affect it can have on your Mental Health.

Mental health and incontinence are both hard to talk about, but due to the number of people suffering with the condition we need to lift the lid on this subject and normalize the conversation. What many people do not realize is that the two can be interlinked. In fact, 30% of women with incontinence will also suffer from depression, which is three times more likely than the general population. Another study found that 28% of overactive bladder patients also experience depression, with half of these suffering from moderate to severe depression.

Having a problem with your bladder can massively affect your self-confidence and have an impact on many areas of your life including your mental health. It is important to remember that you are not alone, and there are products and solutions that can help you.

Dr John S. Young, Associate Professor in Urology, spoke about the connection between mental health and incontinence in a recent interview, where he delved into the connections between the two conditions.

How can incontinence affect mental health?

Many studies clearly demonstrate that incontinence has a significant negative impact on mental health. There are a variety of ways that incontinence can impact every aspect of life.

  • emotional – fear of incontinence in public as well as feeling and becoming socially withdrawn
  • relationships – fear of intimacy
  • stopping exercise – for fear of incontinence
  • employment – feeling stigmatized, reduced self-confidence and self-worth leading to periods of absence from the workplace
  • quality and length of sleep

What symptoms of mental illness should I look out for?

Incontinence is still a taboo subject for many, but if you know someone who is suffering or you are suffering with the condition yourself, then it is a case of looking out for signs of mental illness which will usually present themselves as depression. These signs may include:

  • withdrawal – not going out anymore and cancelling plans (sometimes at the last minute)
  • changes in mood – including both irritability or frustration and seeming sad
  • expressing dark thoughts
  • changes in eating habits
  • increased consumption of alcohol

How can mental health issues increase incontinence?

There can be cases where mental health concerns can directly cause or increase incontinence, as Dr. John explains: “Mental illness can be associated with lifestyle factors that affect the bladder, such as the consumption of substances (caffeine, alcohol) that affect bladder function, and fluctuating fluid intake (excessive one day and insufficient intake the next day).”

“A person suffering with pathological anxiety may develop obsessive habits that lead to more frequent voiding, a heightened awareness of bladder fullness and a type of incontinence associated with this, called urge incontinence. By contrast, incontinence can occur because a person becomes less aware of bladder fullness; that is, detached from the sensations that tell us when we need to empty our bladder.”

What should you do if someone you care about is experiencing mental health issues due to their incontinence?

If your friend or family member seems to be suffering from incontinence and mental health issues, the first thing to do is talk to them and let them know they are not alone. It may be a good idea to encourage them to talk to a trained professional or seek assistance through support groups or from their GP.

Incontinence is an increasing problem that affects women and men of all ages. It is important to keep the channels of communication open and normalize the conversation. TensCare offers a range of products that assist in training the pelvic floor muscles aiding with the long-term management of incontinence. Explore the range today and see how TensCare can help you feel better naturally.

You’ve probably been dealing with Zoom Face, but haven’t even realized it. What is Zoom Face? It’s those moments when you’re signing on to a Zoom meeting or even in the middle of it, and you start to look at your video feed and wonder “Is that really what I look like?”. You’ve done that, haven’t you? First off, you really must remember how lighting and angles can make a huge difference in how you appear on camera. Instagram influencer Danae Mercer (https://www.instagram.com/danaemercer) can show you just how dramatic of a difference lighting and angles can make. Stress has also been shown to have an impact on skin, and no one can deny it’s been a stressful year. But if you’re still not happy, you should know that Botox is not your only option. 

Take a Pass on Botox 

Hate needles? Worried about the cost and long-term commitment of Botox? Then the Perfect BEAUTY by TensCare can help with Zoom Face issues without needles, at minimal cost, and you can stop any time you want. So, what is it? The Perfect BEAUTY is a powered muscle stimulator used for body toning and shaping, as well as for the reduction of wrinkles. It works by sending a small and gentle stimulation (similar to your natural nerve impulses) to the muscles being targeted via two or four auto-adhesive electrode pads. This electrical stimulation helps you to firm and tone your face or body which can minimize the appearance of wrinkles. The Perfect Beauty has bespoke programs dedicated to each specific area: face, abs, buttocks & hips, thighs, bust, arms and calves. 

The Details 

The type of electrical stimulation is called E.M.S. (Electrical Muscle Stimulation) and has successfully been used in rehabilitation and training in competitive sports. EMS produces intensive and effective muscular contractions. These external electrical impulses work through the skin to stimulate the nerves supplying a specific muscle group. This current then passes into the nerve fibers controlling that part of the muscle stimulating it to contract. So, electrical stimulation (EMS) artificially activates a muscle for you enabling to exercise the muscles and, as with any kind of exercise if performed regularly, build strength and tone and promoting the muscular structure. This also improves microcirculation and mobilizes fat in areas where it tends to accumulate. 

Bye Bye Zoom Face 

Just like exercise tones the muscles of your body, this stimulation tones and firms the muscles of the face increasing the appearance of fullness which in turn decreases the appearance of wrinkles. Bye bye Zoom Face. This is how you get there: 

The most effective way to use Perfect BEAUTY is once every two days for each muscle with a day of rest in between. It is possible to work on pairs of muscles, for example thighs and abdominal muscles, treating one set one day and the other the next day. Once you have reached a point where you feel you have the results you are looking for you can reduce sessions to once or twice a week. How the electrical pulses are delivered to the muscles are through the use of electrode pads that stick to the skin. Some tips on using the electrode pads: 

  • They must always be used in pairs (two electrode pads on each channel), so that the signal can flow in a circuit.  
  • Electrode placement is very important for best results. Don’t worry, the Perfect BEAUTY comes with detailed diagrams. 
  • Place two electrode pads over the bulk of the muscle, with one electrode over the muscle’s motor point. The motor point is the area on the skin that is located closest to the motor nerve’s entry into the muscle – about 1/3 of the way down the muscle from the spine. Here, it is easiest to trigger a contraction by electrical stimulation.  
  • Large muscle groups may need more stimulation, that is, four electrode pads used simultaneously.  
  • When exercising smaller muscles, make sure to adjust the intensity level slowly as the nerves may be more sensitive since smaller electrode pads have an increased current density.  

Home Time 

All this can be done at home whenever works best for you. While reading, watching a movie or even while you’re working! Once you have a TensCare Perfect BEAUTY machine all you have to worry about is replacing the batteries and the electrode pads periodically. The machine itself is small and light making it portable and convenient. For more information, you can look at the product page at Mother’s Choice Products, or you can buy one at Amazon.ca 

Spring is right around the corner, and you may be considering getting out more with your little one. Maybe you are planning a long road trip or having date nights with your significant other or your girlfriends. Either way, we want to share a few breastmilk pumping and milk storage tips and tricks to make your pumping on-the-go adventure an easier one. With the pandemic still upon us and as some places begin to open back up, it’s important to remember that the virus is not gone. Being extra diligent about handwashing, sanitizing, maintaining social distancing, wearing masks, and taking other special precautions will help secure a safer time. 

Adventurous times such as taking a flight, adult gatherings, and running errands without your baby can be exciting and a little tricky. Here are some go-to tips and tricks so you can continue your outing with ease. 

Tip 1: Feed your baby before you leave! If you are bringing your baby with you in the car, then you have a few hours until you may need to pump or feed. And we all know a good car ride can be a perfect time for your little one to nap. 

Tip 2: Make sure your portable pump is charged and ready to go. It is also a good idea to have extra batteries ready for pumping. For long car trips, if you are pumping and plan on giving a bottle, most breast pumps can run on batteries or you can charge your pump in the car with a USP port, just make sure to bring an extra pumping kits so cleaning parts between each pumping will not be a challenge. 

Looking for a portable pump? The Ameda Mya Joy is a great option! This lightweight, hospital-strength pump fits in the palm of your hand for easy pumping wherever you go. 

Tip 3: Be comfortable! Consider wearing an outfit for easy pumping or a cover to help you feel more comfortable. 

Tip 4: Keep storage solutions readily available. If you’re going on long trips and car rides or staying away for a while, an easy way to pump and store is to use quality milk storage bags. The new Ameda Pump’N Protect milk storage bags are a perfect choice! The bags are easy to use and a perfect solution for storing on the go. Pumping directly in the bag makes it easy and with the double zipper seal with leak proof technology, your milk will stay safe and secure. 

Safe travels! 

You might not know much or maybe nothing at all about your pelvic floor but we can help you with that. The pelvic floor is made up of muscles that support important organs such as the uterus, rectum, vagina and bladder. Pelvic floor exercises (called Kegel exercises), are done to strengthen these muscles which can be strained during giving birth and with other medical conditions. Medical issues such as prolapse and incontinence can benefit from a Kegel exercise program. To increase the opportunity of seeing results faster, toning balls, which are comprised of small weights, are used along with pelvic floor exercises. 

Pelvic Floor Issues that Can Result After Childbirth 

The most common pelvic floor issues that arise after giving birth vaginally are pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence. Pelvic organ prolapse is when one or more of the organs in the pelvis move from their normal position and push into the vagina. This is not life threatening but it is uncomfortable and can be painful. You should know prolapse may not occur until years after birth and can cause numerous issues including sexual disfunction.  

Stress urinary incontinence is when you can’t hold your urine. Why it happens is because the supportive pelvic muscles, tissue and even nerves can weaken during pregnancy and are strained while giving birth vaginally. Some estimates have as many as 35% of new mothers with some urinary incontinence following childbirth and 20% have severe pelvic floor injuries after a normal pregnancy and birth. But most women get the strength back in their pelvic floor muscles within two months. This is why pelvic floor exercises are so important, they are muscles that needs work just like any other muscle in your body! 

How to do Kegel Exercises 

The Mayo Clinic explains how to do Kegel Exercises: 

“Find the right muscles. To identify your pelvic floor muscles, stop urination in midstream. Once you’ve identified your pelvic floor muscles you can do the exercises in any position, although you might find it easiest to do them lying down at first. 

To do Kegels, imagine you are sitting on a marble and tighten your pelvic muscles as if you’re lifting the marble. Try it for three seconds at a time, then relax for a count of three. For best results, focus on tightening only your pelvic floor muscles and try to do a full relax of the muscles. The relaxation is just as important as the contraction. Be careful not to flex the muscles in your abdomen, thighs or buttocks. Avoid holding your breath. Instead, breathe freely during the exercises. 

Repeat three times a day. Aim for at least three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions a day. 

Don’t make a habit of using Kegel exercises to start and stop your urine stream. Doing Kegel exercises while emptying your bladder can actually lead to incomplete emptying of the bladder — which increases the risk of a urinary tract infection.” 

Using the Fleur Pelvic Toning Balls for Better Results 

So now you know how to do your Kegel’s – it is time to add the Fleur Toning Balls to take it to the next level. The weights are often useful to help beginners better identify their pelvic floor muscles. Because you can’t see your pelvic floor muscles move, it can be hard to focus properly and the weights can help you improve your body awareness. 

When the weights are inserted properly, your pelvic floor muscles will activate naturally through normal body movement. Sometimes gravity and normal movement might make the weight begin to slip out, if so, engage your pelvic floor muscles to keep the weight inside. The more you engage these muscles, the stronger they get! Your results will depend on the extent of the damage to the muscles and how old the injury is. 

How to insert the Fleur Toning Balls 

The first thing you should know about inserting toning balls is that you should wash both your hands and the toning balls with warm water and antibacterial soap. Then dry them off. What can really help with inserting them is to use a good amount of water-based lubricant, and try to stay relaxed 

The easiest way to insert them is to lie down comfortably with your legs open. Take the lube and apply as much as you need to the opening of your vagina. Slowly insert the first ball and push them both as far as you are comfortable with. It’s okay if it takes you a few tries before you can insert them confidently. The string section at the end should remain outside the body. 

They should feel comfortable and secure. If it feels like they’re about to fall out, they need to be pushed further into the vagina. Most people report feeling a slight tingly sensation which is more noticeable when moving. The TensCare Fleur Toning Balls are made of medical grade, phthalates-free, silicone. Their sleek shape measure 33mm in diameter and 180mm long, with the perfect weight of 75 grams. 

The proper use of toning balls involves using them for short periods of time. Using them for too long can have the opposite effect you’re looking for with the weakening of the pelvic floor muscles. 

And remember, always consult your doctor before using toning balls during pregnancy. 

There are a few places you can easily get your own set of Fleur Pelvic Floor Toning Balls 

LeakyBladder 

Amazon 

Mama Bear Club 

When she started Mother’s Choice Products 25 years ago, nurse Sandra Hass was looking for a new way to help support her busy husband and three young children while at the same time, giving herself the time to actually take care of them. She certainly never expected to become one of the province’s top CEOs. But that is exactly what happened.

Sandra Hass is on BIV’s Latest List of Largest Female Led Businesses

Recently Business in Vancouver (BIV) released their annual list of Biggest B.C. Businesses Owned by Women and once again Sandra Hass of Mothers Choice Products is on it. Sandra is modest and often attributes her success to the talents of others but once you begin to hear her story you learn that Sandra is a resilient and resourceful businessperson who knows the value of relationships.

From the first day when Sandra picked up the phone at her kitchen table through economic crashes, market changes and COVID-19, Sandra has focused on quality and integrity, growing her home-based business to a large office and warehouse facility and a major supplier to both independent retailers and major chains including Walmart, Toys R Us, Save On Foods, Buy Buy Baby, and London Drugs.

Mothers Choice Products Begins

Sandra started out as a nurse, specializing in maternal and child health. One day, just after the birth of her third child, she realized returning to twelve-hour nursing shifts with young children and a husband busy building his career wasn’t a viable option. Sitting at her kitchen table she thought about her training in maternal health and the lack of availability of some needed quality products like Ameda breast pumps. She decided to pick up the phone and call Ameda right then, asking to be able to sell their product in her area. They agreed and sent her $617.02 of products and six weeks to sell them.

She had them all sold in two.

Her First Mentor

Her original goal was to be able to take care of the kids and make enough money to contribute by paying the Hydro bill. But her father, a retired entrepreneur, saw what she was doing and decided to help. Offering to fly to Toronto to talk to Ameda’s head office, (if Sandra covered the flight); he was able to secure Mothers Choice Products the rights to the province of BC. Her Dad was her mentor, teaching her about sales and business and coming over to help fill orders out of the upstairs room of her house. Sadly, Sandra’s father passed away after her first year in business, leaving her to figure out the rest without him.

Without her dad, Sandra relied on networking, relationships she built and nurtured, and her gut instinct. From hiring to products, she has let her intuition guide her and though it doesn’t always work out, she has always learned from the experiences. As her children grew older Sandra had the opportunity to expand her business and has fond memories of the excitement and downright craziness that came with it.

Growing Pains

Sandra taught herself how to import, how to create UPCs, and much more through picking up the phone and calling people she knew might have the answers. She joined the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs, where she gained confidence and bounced ideas off members. There was the mouse infested first warehouse, then the one with the hidden grow-op (which was also a porn studio), and a moment of serendipity where a product producer made a choice that ended up saving her business amidst the 2008 financial crash.

But there was also the sexism. Though Sandra’s husband was never part of the business, he was often requested to be present. From pitching companies to dealing with banks and financial transactions, it was expected and sometimes, (even more maddeningly), required, for her husband to be involved. Even as recently as 2007 to open a bank account and get a loan, her husband’s signature was needed. So Sandra is acutely aware of some of the barriers that still exist for women in business and says “it’s wonderful helping other women.”

Looking Back

As she looks back on her almost 25 years in business Sandra isn’t sure she could do what she did in today’s environment. Sandra says “I did it out of necessity and I enjoyed every minute of it!”, but she doesn’t think she’d have the same opportunities now. Where she once could just pick up the phone and reach the people she needed to talk to, now you have to make appointments to talk to people, everything is more organized, and there’s a lot more competition. She was able to do what she did because she took the initiative to reach out and create opportunities and because she took the time to develop those relationships. Relationships, initiative and intuition built her business and will keep it in the Biggest B.C. Businesses Owned by Women List for a long time to come.