Sunday, June 28, 2009

One Hot Mama, Customer Service, Amazon & The Belly Bandit

What a mouthful! :) But I really need to cover all these topics in one post. I've been getting some calls and emails that deal with above over and over again, so I'm putting the FAQs in one place!

As some of you know, One Hot Mama is almost 11 years old. (I can keep track easily because our son, whose birth inspired the whole operation, is about to turn 12!!) For more than a decade, my husband Bob and I have run what we hope is the coolest place to buy maternity and nurswingwear on the internet with one goal: to treat every customer like we would like to be treated. The One Hot Mama Golden Rule is that we want you all to be happy hot mamas, and we spell out our customer service information for all to see from every page of our site.

A few years ago, we became Amazon merchants. Our Amazon storefront has all the great maternity duds, nursingwear and accessories (like baby slings and Belly Bandits) that One Hot Mama has, with the added advantage of the Amazon name. Face it -- sometimes when you search around the internet, you find what you want and then wonder if it's safe to buy it from Joe Schmo, who probably is running his store out of his basement. Or his mother's. (Just for the record, One Hot Mama has a gorgeous store in Los Angeles, in the Studio City area. If you're in the neighborhood and in the market for hip maternity clothes, come visit!). If that sounds like you, Amazon offers the protection you need -- we don't even see your payment information!

All Amazon merchants aren't the same, however. Each one sets their own shipping prices, and their own return policies. One of the hottest sellers in our store is the Belly Bandit Postpartum Tummy Cincher/Belly Wrap -- hot mamas love these in the Original, Couture and Bamboo styles. What they don't love is getting the size wrong, which they often do. Hey, they have to predict the circumference of their postpartum waists when they can't even see their feet! It's not easy! Of course, we try to help.

But the point of this entire post is to answer all the mamas who call me and say, "what if I get the wrong size?" Not a problem. You see, life is too short for us to make you call us and get some return authorization number, or to pay again for us to ship a replacement or (horrors!) to charge you a restocking fee. You just had a baby, so we make returns and exchanges easy. The fact that you can get to the post office is deserving of some sort of award. In fact, my youngest babies are now 4, and I have in my purse at this very moment a top that needs to go back for a different size -- it's been in that purse for two months. At this point, I'm just waiting for someone smaller than me to have a birthday so I can pretend I bought it for them!

But I digress. (As usual.) The point is that, no matter what you buy from One Hot Mama, no matter where you buy it (through Amazon or from our site directly), you'll get the same great treatment. Because I have been there. And you deserve to be treated, well, like the one hot mama you are.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Breastfeeding Myths -- Debunked, Busted & Destroyed

Strong words, but true. Dr. Jack Newman's page of Breastfeeding Myths addresses some common (breastfeeding moms have to change their diets) and just plain stupid (breastfeeding moms can't dye their hair) misconceptions about nursing. Wow, there are a lot of them!

The only one that's missing something is below:
12. There is no way to know how much breastmilk the baby is getting. Not
true! There is no easy way to measure how much the baby is getting, but
this does not mean that you cannot know if the baby is getting enough. The
best way to know is that the baby actually drinks at the breast for several
minutes at each feeding (open mouth wide—pause—close mouth type of suck).

I'll just remind you here that you can measure input by measuring output. Check poopy and wet diapers. We used charts with the twins to make sure we weren't applying April's diapers to Georgia and just not feeding her! :) If you can't tell if your super-absorbant disposables are wet, put in a square of toilet paper every time you change your baby.

Now go forth and use your breasts for their intended purpose -- free food for baby!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

This is for the One Cool Papa behind One Hot Mama:

I couldn't do it without you. Our family is a gift for both of us, and I am lucky to have a husband who I always knew would be such a good father.

For all the new mamas who may be thinking "yeah, wish I was so lucky ... my husband doesn't carry his weight at all!" -- here's a newsflash. I was like you for almost the entire first year of my son's life. Noting how much sleep I didn't get in comparison to how much my hubby did, how many hours I was nursing while he "got" to be out at work, and how much freer he was. Guess what? Men and women are different, and even if you've gone the full bottle-feeding route, the baby came out of your body (or some other woman's body, if you adopted). Yin and Yang. Black and white. Alpha and Omega. You're both necessary, just in different ways. So take a chill pill, toss your clock and stop taking inventory. You're in it together -- give him a big happy father's day hug!

What to Say to a Parent Who's Losing It

We've had a busy last few days -- Father's Day, then my Mum's 65th (!) birthday on Monday, then we took all four kids to Disneyland yesterday evening for our last hurrah until the SoCal annual pass works again in late August.

While we were shepherding everyone into a couple tables with the million dollars of fast food, I noticed a dad behind us with a double stroller (like us) and a kid on his back. The twins were under 2, and the "big kid" was just under 4. I was amazed by how overwhelming it looked to me -- he was outnumbered, after all, and he looked dazed. And then I remembered that we had been in that same situation with one extra kid! Our newborn twins came home to a house with a 4 and a 7 year old. No wonder people looked at me like I was pulling rabbits out of a hat.

Since I remembered the feeling of being so outnumbered and physically drained by every outing, I said something to him. He lit up, and we talked frankly about how hard little kids/babies can be. Turns out his wife had committed herself for a while. While that seems extreme, that leads me to the original inspiration for this post. When you see a parent losing it with their child in public, is it right to say something? The article starts with evidence of Liv Tyler daring to confront someone who's slapping a little kid -- as well she should.

Here's what I do, when I can. (As in, when my own kids aren't going so nutty as to distract me from a potential nuclear bomb going off next to me.) Yes, say something. Not necessarily along the lines of, "you suck as a parent." More in the vein of, "your daughter is beautiful/spirited/just like mine." Lie, if you have to (you can invent a child who did that very thing, for example), but try to speak to the person inside the screaming nut. That can often difuse a bad situation. Back to my dad-of-twins-and-a-toddler interaction -- speak to the people who are quietly losing it as well. The mom struggling to nurse her newborn, the parents schlepping luggage and kids through Customs & Immigration. The companion of the tantrum thrower in the checkout line.

All you have to say is, "I've been there." Those of us who've lost it will appreciate it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sometimes The Advice You Give Is The Advice You Need

Just found this one in the archives, and was checking it for the blog, when I realized that I needed to hear this exact rant today! Maybe you do as well ...

Q: I am a 22-year-old-mother of three. My children are 4yrs, 2yrs, and 3 months. I am having a very hard time getting back to my weight after my third child. After my first two I dropped my weight back down to 130lbs. I am now at 150 and no matter what I do I can not shake the weight.

I am also breastfeeding, therefore I can not diet as normal dieters do. I cannot take supplements or fill up pills. I have been working out 5 days a week since my youngest was 6 weeks old. I lost a few pounds at the beginning, but now I am stuck at 150. I am 5ft 7in tall and want to get back down to 130. Most of the weight that I can not shake is, of course, my flabbing tummy, hips and thighs (inner and outer). I can not stand it. I am so upset about this it has really affected me emotionally and socially. PLEASE HELP!!!!!!!
Thank you,Lindsay

A: Dear, dear Lindsay:
What a timely letter (they often are). I'm going to answer it in the Ask Rox forum, because you've hit a nerve that will be familiar, I think, to a great many hot mamas. First, let me say what all mothers need to hear:

You have a great body
Your body birthed a baby
And is feeding a baby
That's one great body

Okay, platitudes aside, here's the dope. First of all, you have no idea what your "my weight" is, because you got pregnant with your first child before you even finished growing! My body at 17 was not the body I had at 23 was not the body I had at 27, and I had no children in that time. In my late teens, I was a rail with no discernible chest, then I went to college and gained the proverbial "freshman fifteen," which, in typical overachiever's fashion was actually twenty pounds. Bear in mind that I am just over 5 foot 2 and have the smallest frame possible (meaning really small bones -- my wrist is so small I have to cut down children's watches). Therefore, I had a face shaped like a Moon Pie and a chest like Dolly Parton's. Now, after weaning my daughter, I am still smallish, but thickwaisted from the front, and now, I once again have no discernible chest. All these bodies have been mine. In retrospect, some I liked more than others, but they were always good to me, though I was not so good to them.

Let me be blunt -- if you decide to climb Everest, you'll have to prepare for about a year. Get in the best physical shape of your life, find a reputable climbing outfit, raise money, get fitted out and find your way to Nepal. You'll learn about Everest, and one of the things you will learn is that it's rather chilly there. Once there, when you notice that it's cold, will it surprise you? Will you mention it repeatedly? Will it affect your self esteem? No, because you have other fish to fry. Well, having a baby (just one, mind you) is like climbing Everest, physically and mentally. We should try to be in the best shape possible before getting pregnant, we should prep by taking folic acid before even trying to get pregnant, we should stay in great shape throughout the pregnancy -- knowing that labor is a marathon and that the fourth trimester is fraught with hormonal changes, night sweats and mood swings the likes of which are hardly ever seen outside a Turkish prison. But we don't, because we're human. And, you, my dear Lindsay, have climbed Everest THREE TIMES in the past four years!! What, exactly, did you think your thighs might look like at this point? :)

To extend the Everest metaphor (only because I've read a cool book about it, not because I ever climbed anything resembling a mountain, myself. In fact, the description of the travails involved in getting to the BASE CAMP of Everest pretty much were enough to wipe that off my to-do list permanently!), after such a grueling climb, it takes weeks if not months for the climbers to recover. Vicki Iovine, one of my personal goddesses, writes in one of her umpteen books that, whether she put on a leotard and headed out to step class the minute her doctor gave her the go-ahead or just spent the entire post-partum time at Gymboree, her body needed, what a surprise, about 9 months to take off the weight it took nine months to put on! If you have three kids in four years, you can pretty much expect a forecast of slightly flabby, with fat in the horizon and storm clouds full of stretch marks. If we are to be quite frank, the same weight post-baby doesn't look just like it did pre-baby, right? For our New Year's Resolutions, Bob and I decided to get into great shape. All went well, for about three months, then he took off with Gilad's Quick-Fit System, and I got sick, busy, tired and trailed off. At this moment, it feels easier to get pregnant again so that my not-so-firm tummy would have a raison d'etre than to get back up on that Reebok Step I asked for last Christmas.

At this point, you're probably asking yourself, "Did she even READ my question? I feel yucky and want to look good!!" I do hear you, but I just want to point out that your body is just coming off a long, weird cycle of up/down, pregnant/not and is tired all the time. Not optimum for an Olympic athlete, not optimum for you. What can you do? Here's my 9-step program for looking and feeling great while nursing a baby and being a mom (do I need to remind everyone here that I'm not a doctor, have only played a nurse on tv and that all weight loss and exercise programs should be started under a doctor's supervision? Well, I just did.)
  1. From us, the Spanx power panty and stuff will hold it all in til your insides adjust and your muscles get stronger. Look good immediately.
  2. Stop wearing big, baggy or shapeless clothes. This only makes you look like hell. Go get a pair or two of pants or skirts and some tops that fit you now, flatter your face and that have some colour. Wear a little makeup and let your hair down sometimes.
  3. Stand up straight and as tall as you can.
  4. Throw away your scale. It's fairly useless. You can weigh 125 and be all flab, or 150 and be a sculpted vision. Muscle weighs more than fat, anyhow. Did you know that many anorexics are medically obese, because of the complete lack of muscle in their builds?
    I checked your weight out for your height. It is a bit on the heavy side of normal, but you just had another baby, and may be big-boned. I tried looking up your BMI, which measures your body fat as a function of your height and weight, but found that ... "BMI is reliable for most people between 19 and 70 years of age except women who are pregnant or breast feeding, competitive athletes, body builders, and chronically ill patients." That about says it all right there, doesn't it? You're still a little bit pregnant, so let it go.
  5. Check out She's got a half-hour show on Lifetime every morning that's a good, complete workout. She's a mommy of two, and she's full of practical, helpful, non-fad advice. If you can't get the show, to her store and get dvd or two.
  6. Did I already mention tossing the scale? Just checking.
    That's great that you're not popping any diet pills. Geesh! That shouldn't occur to you.
  7. Even though some of these suggestions involve getting a book or a tape, being healthy shouldn't involve paying anyone anything. Get the books and tapes at the local library, if you prefer. Speaking of which, get this one:
    Eat Well, Lose Weight While Breastfeeding. I haven't read it yet, but I'd bet one of the things it suggests is to not clear the table by eating the last of the mac and cheese and pepperoni pizza that my kids live on! Other mothers seem to like this book, so it'll probably be helpful.
  8. Don't have any more babies for a couple years. Seriously, a woman's body needs two years after the birth of a child before getting pregnant again just to replenish lost minerals and let bones get back into place. I want another baby, but I just feel like I need a minute longer or my very bones will snap.
  9. Learn to dress the body you have now -- Trinny & Susanna of BBC's What Not Wear are your guides in this -- get either this book or What You Wear Can Change Your Life.

I hope some or all of this is helpful. Realize one very important thing ... the woman giving you this advice is thirty-seven and a half years old, so all the stuff I did after my two pregnancies was harder because I'm practically a grandmother agewise!! :) My body now is better and stronger than it was at 23, and in ten years, yours will be as fabulous as you want it to be. Put the focus on your insides -- how they feel. If you can keep up with THREE little kids, you are a strong and amazing young woman. Looking like a hot bod on the outside requires hours of dedication ... part of the reason Jennifer Garner of Alias and her husband are splitting is that if she wasn't at work, she was at the gym. Okay, that's according to the Enquirer -- but they're usually a little bit right. You already have a full-time workout on your plate -- with a 4-yr-old, a 2-yr-old and a 3-month-old trainer. Write me back when everyone's in school and you're able to run a couple miles a day. You'll be missing this mushy body time you had with your babies! :)


Update. Wow. I am now 43, and have had two more babies (at once!) and am once again faced with the reality of a not-so-great body. Denise Austin is no longer on Lifetime every morning, and I have slowly let go of my thrice-weekly workout in favour of collapsing in front of HGTV (house porn, really!) at the end of the day. I have to take my own advice, and be easier and harder on myself at the same time. Maybe you need to do that as well.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

You Matter, by the Great Seth Godin

For all you hot mamas and cool papas ...

When you love the work you do and the people you do it with, you matter.
When you are so gracious and generous and aware that you think of other
people before yourself, you matter.
When you leave the world a better place than you found it, you matter.
When you continue to raise the bar on what you do and how you do it, you matter.
When you teach and forgive and teach more before you rush to judge and demean, you matter.
When you touch the people in your life through your actions (and your words), you matter.
When kids grow up wanting to be you, you matter.
When you see the world as it is, but insist on making it more like it could be, you matter.
When you inspire a Nobel prize winner or a slum dweller, you matter.
When the room brightens when you walk in, you matter.
And when the legacy you leave behind lasts for hours, days or a lifetime, you matter.

And when you're a parent, there's a good chance you'll be all of the above.

(For more from marketing and life genius, Seth Godin, visit his blog.)

How To Be One Hot Grandmama

This is great -- confirmation that my mom and mother-in-law are trendsetters. Here's an article about Boomers ditching the name Grandma, which does sound so fuddy duddy.

How does it work at our house?

'Steen for my mom, whose name is Christene;
Gralice for Bob's mom, whose name is Alice (contraction of Grandmother and her name);
Poppa for Bob's dad;
Ganpa Douglas for my father.

There are many more variants for our various steps, but our cool birth parents led the way!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Is Breastfeeding Confining, Time-Consuming and Tough?

Q: People are telling me that nursing is confining, time-consuming and difficult. Is it?

A: Yes. So is being a parent, but you’re doing that. I don’t know of a way to mother that won’t take up a lot of what used to be your time, unless immediately post-partum, you hand the baby to a trusted person and then leave the room, never to be seen or heard from again. If that’s the relationship you’re looking for, get a cat.

Nursing is only confining if you let it be. Once you learn to nurse in public (see my Rules of The Road post for tips), you can go anywhere, and I mean, anywhere. It’s actually less confining than formula, because you can decide to take off to Mexico on Friday at noon and be on the road by 2 (been there, done that). A 10-hour delay in a third-world airport is no biggie (yes, we’ve done that too) nor is a snowstorm or earthquake or hurricane (thankfully, haven’t done that). You can feed your baby anywhere (and if the situation were really dire, you could also feed everyone else trapped in the hut with you).

Time-consuming, yes, but so is washing and prepping bottles and shopping for formula and going to the doctor (statistically, formula-fed babies get sick more often. That doesn’t mean that your particular baby will, or that your breastfed baby won’t, but chances are he’ll follow the norm). Not to mention that, there are worse things to do with your time than being forced to sit in a rocking chair and get the hormonal buzz that comes from nursing. And once you figure out how to nurse in a sling, you’ll be unstoppable. (Buy one from us!)

Difficult? I got a question for you — wasn’t sex kind of tough to figure out the first time? And maybe even the second. But you clearly persisted enough to become a mom. There are two people who need to learn to nurse here, one is you, and the other is baby. And he’s also learning to breathe, to poop, to live in a non-liquid environment. His schedule is full. He may be having a tough time too. So be patient. One thing is true: done correctly, nursing should not hurt. Get help if it does. It could be that baby’s lips aren’t pouting in a fish-face shape, or he has thrush, or a short frenulum or any one of a gazillion little things that an experienced lactation consultant or doctor or LaLeche League leader would notice. Read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding for troubleshooting.

And remember, even one day of nursing is beneficial to your baby. So try it for one week. Then another. And another. Go as long as you can, and you’ll reap a lifetime of benefits. After all, you can always go from breast to bottle, but the reverse is a really tough road.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Gratitude in Another Latitude

So we participated in the one-year blogiversary of the Blacktating Blog, and the winner of a shiny, new One Hot Mama gift certificate was a mama blogger who lives in Korea! I love how the internet makes the world even smaller!

Something she said in her nice post about winning was so true about moms in general that it bears repeating:
I decided to treat myself and buy whatever I liked instead of trying to buy the
most practical thing.

How many times do we mamas, when presented with a Mothers Day gift card or some unexpected cash, use it for diapers? Okay, I know that times are certainly squishy, economically, and who knows what the future holds, but if you are nursing your baby, you are contributing to the bottom line (insert your own baby poop joke here). But I do remember feeling stricken by guilt if I wanted to get a magazine in the checkout line (house porn is my thing!) because I was no longer working -- but I had to be reminded by my dear hubby that I was working, just no longer getting a paycheque!

The next time you get a little bonus, use it for a mama treat -- from a $5 magazine to a new car. Okay, that would have to be a heck of a bonus. If you get that one that big, use some of it One Hot Mama -- we have tons of new stuff! :)