Mixing fashion and lactation may not seem like they go hand in hand, but to Naya Weber the two are intricately connected. Her blog, Lactivist in Louboutins, is a wonderful blend of breastfeeding, motherhood, and style. She originally began writing it as a way to hold herself accountable after giving birth. As she says, “I didn’t want to end up on an episode of ‘What Not to Wear’ because I did not put any focus on me.” This is a sentiment that I’m positive a lot of new moms can identify with, myself included (I was still wearing my maternity leggings when I got pregnant the second time, yikes!). “As I got deeper into motherhood, I realized how important breastfeeding was to me,” she says. “I worked hard to establish a relationship with my older son and loved to learn about it. My blog focus changed very organically into documenting my journey as a working and pumping mom.” She also credits the start of her blog and personal breastfeeding journey with helping her find her passion and, she says, “it helped me figure out what I want to be when I grow up!”
Her road to Lactivist in Louboutins and the discovery of her passion began back in 2011. After working in sales for several years and becoming burned out, she says she worked as a “configuration and data manager for an engineering company, which paid the bills but definitely wasn’t my dream job. I began pursuing a career in lactation while working for the engineering company, by obtaining a lactation educator and counselor certification. I also got really involved in breastfeeding advocacy and was unofficially an apprentice for an established lactation practice near Fort Worth, TX. I finally started working in the breastfeeding field when I began to work for Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas in Fort Worth. It’s a non-profit human milk bank and my job was to talk about breast milk all day. Around the same time, I started teaching breastfeeding classes part-time at a hospital entity in the Fort Worth area. I was able to pursue becoming a lactation consultant full time about two years ago. Prior to that, I was working towards it on a very part time basis, primarily nights and weekends since I had a day job. In all, it took me five years to complete all of the requirements to sit for the IBCLC exam.” Despite the fact that it wasn’t her main focus during much of that time, which made it take a bit longer, she never let that get in the way of her dream.
A big part of her journey began back with the birth of her first son. Looking back, she recalls that “he was a late preterm baby, born 3.5 weeks early. He would tire out at the breast without transferring much milk, but my husband and I didn’t realize it. We ended up having to supplement him and I was pumping after every feed for several weeks. We persevered and breastfed for almost two years, despite me going back to work when he was 12 weeks old.” With the knowledge and experiences she had gained from her firstborns breastfeeding story, she was ready to start again when her second son was born 3.5 years later. As it turns out, he would have a difficult time as well. She says “he was born with severe lip and tongue ties. He was gaining weight beautifully, but I was in a world of pain. We made it through our difficult period and breastfed for 2.5 years--much longer than I had intended!” She credits her personal experience with helping her to “empathize with the families I support. I’ve been worried about breast milk supply, weight gain, had cracked nipples, pumped at work, and more. I can relate to the frustration they may be feeling. My goal is to empower them to make the best decision possible for their family.”
As her own story shows, breastfeeding is not easy for everyone. If it were there would be no need for lactation consultants. Many of us, myself included, have a desperate need for these services when beginning our breastfeeding journeys. As Naya says, “I believe lactation is very natural--nearly all of our bodies were designed to do it after childbirth (and some without childbirth). It’s breastfeeding that requires support. Many moms fear that they will be judged for seeking help, but it’s okay to ask for help. For something that’s touted as natural, it doesn’t come naturally to some women.” For those of us that it did not come naturally to, having relatable consultants who have been there, experienced that, can make all the difference in the world. As someone who had a very negative experience using lactation consultants, seeing how caring and relatable women like Naya are restores my hope should I ever need to seek help again.
When Naya first began blogging, planning definitely wasn’t on the agenda. She recalls that “I definitely dove right in and worked on things as they came about. It still serves as my creative outlet. I don’t have a huge audience, but many of my readers have been with me for years. Because I use it as a way to be creative, I tend to be very selective with collaborations I do. Despite writing in this space for six years, I still work things out as I go.” It wasn’t all easy though, she says that “something I struggled with initially was finding my voice and writing style. I tend to very wordy, but I really had to edit down some of my posts. I am happy to say I don’t have that problem any more.” While she dove right into the blogosphere, she still says that “it was a bit scary starting my blog. Mostly it was my friends that were reading it at the start, but I was nervous about my employer and family members finding it.” During the past six years since Lactivist in Louboutins began, she has self-taught herself many skills, including basic HTML code, social media promotion, graphic design, and marketing. While most was self-taught, she did take a few classes in social media and marketing along the way. If you, dear reader, are worried about not currently possessing the skills needed to accomplish what you wish to do, please take inspiration from the fact that it can all be learned on your own, it just may take a little time!
While researching and planning may not have been part of her blogging experience, starting down the IBCLC path was a different story. “I had to be much more calculated,” she says. “In the beginning, trying to juggle schoolwork with my full time job, motherhood, and trying to be a good partner to my husband was difficult. My time is a very precious commodity and I really had to let things go when I was in the thick of schooling and obtaining clinical hours. I still struggle a bit with managing all the different things I do, but it has gotten a lot better.”
Naya’s two boys are currently 7 and 3.5 years old. Juggling everything she has to do has gotten a little easier as they’ve aged, as she says “they’re now not as dependent on me and can play together well. Most of the time they entertain each other with minimal interaction from me. It gives me a chance to finish up meeting notes, respond to emails, or have a few minutes of quiet before starting the next task on my neverending to-do list.” This hasn’t always been the case, however, at first “balancing work, schooling, and motherhood was hard. I cried A LOT about feeling like I was giving everything in my life (including my kids) a solid 10%, despite wanting to put more effort into everything, especially time with my kids.” “Now that schooling is done,” she says, “I’m finding it a little easier. On my days off from work, I try to spend a lot of time with my kids and focus on being present for them. For me that means putting my phone down and keeping my laptop closed. I try really hard to make memories with my sons--not just the big monumental trips to Disney World memories, but the smaller ones as well. I love to have dance parties with them in our living room, we crank up the music and rock out. We also have a movie night on a Friday or Saturday where the kids stay up really late and we watch something together.” The biggest struggle she’s overcome, though, is “telling that mom guilt voice in the back of my head to shut up. While it does poke out every now and again, I tell myself that my sons love me and they know that I am crazy about them.” Her sons have also been involved in her various business journeys. She says that “whether I was working on the blog, teaching breastfeeding classes, or working part time seeing moms, they’ve been with me every step of the way. I do this for them.”
While just helping mother’s one on one is impressive enough, Naya also has quite an impressive resume of opportunities she has got to be a part of since she started. She has spoken at MommyCon 2016, speaks to local groups of postnatal mothers, spoke on the topic of Sex and the Breastfeeding Mother, and so much more. “Someone recently introduced me to a group of lactation consultants and called me influential,” she says, “I haven’t ever really thought of myself that way...if my words have helped even one person, I am grateful to write them.” “I can honestly say that I had no idea it would lead to all of this,” she says, “not a clue. I’m grateful for the opportunities that I have been given and still get a thrill when someone says they’ve read my blog or heard of me. I’ve gotten ‘recognized’ a few times and I’m not going to lie, it felt kind of weird but good. I’m really just an awkward mom hoping I don’t make a fool out of myself.”
Though she has already gotten to do some amazing things a result of Lactivist in Louboutins and through lactation consulting, she has many goals to still achieve. “I would love to do more in the fields of maternal mental health and postpartum support,” says Naya. “That may mean obtaining a postpartum doula certification, but I haven’t even started exploring the possibilities. On the other end of the spectrum, I would love to learn more about styling and offer services to women, focusing on postpartum women dressing a body that feels strange to them... I would also love to speak at more conferences or group sessions and share my knowledge.”
With all the things that her work has led to, the two things that have brought her the most joy, she says, is that “I’ve met some incredible women through the blogging community who have become close friends and co-conspirators of sorts. We try to get together every few months, but it’s hard due to jobs, kids, and life. I am not sure I would’ve met them otherwise, but I’m glad they’re a part of my life.” The second thing that she loves is “‘graduating’ moms and babies from seeing a lactation consultant. It doesn’t happen often, but after several visits, I get to tell a mom and baby that they don’t have to come back because breastfeeding finally going well. Sometimes there are tears, but there are always smiles and hugs.”
Although her work is incredibly rewarding, like so many mothers, sometimes there are days that are harder than others. When this happens, what keeps Naya motivated may sound familiar. “As cliched as it sounds,” she says, “my kids keep me motivated. They see their mom working hard, being happy with her career choice, and working outside of the home while raising children. I also feel like the universe throws something incredibly positive my way on those days when I want to throw in the towel. A recent example: a few days before I took my IBCLC exam, I had hit a wall. I couldn’t study anymore, I didn’t want to do this anymore, I was done. My ridiculously supportive husband took the day off and we went to a restaurant for brunch since the kids were in school. I saw a mom nursing in public and I went over to give her a ‘Thanks for nursing in public’ card. I gave it to her and told her she was doing a great job. She put her hand on my arm and told me it was her first time to nurse her three week old baby in public and she was very nervous, but I made her feel more confident. I was over the moon and couldn’t believe my luck. Even when I get off track, something happens to remind me of why I started this journey to begin with.”
If you’ve been inspired by Naya’s story, then here is one last bit of inspiring advice from her: “Do it. Follow your passion, make your dream a reality. If you wait for the right time to start, you may be waiting forever.”
More of Naya’s favorite resources:
Livingfornaptime.com (blogging help for working moms)
The Milky Way Movie (on breastfeeding)
Embrace (on body image)
Miss Representation (on how mainstream media exploits women)
Connect with Naya:
On the web
Thanks for reading!
Yours in business and motherhood,