Maintaining sense of self is key as a mum. That's the philosophy behind NZ based breastfeeding clothing label Close to the Heart. Co-founder Michele Lithgow talks about what inspired her, Jacqui and Alex to start the business.
It was early January 2018 and I was on the verge of returning to work after having my second baby, Jasper. I'd told work I would be back part-time in February, eventually building up to four days a week. And to be completely honest with you, I was not looking forward to it.
I so loved being at home with Jasper, who was 6 months, and Zeb, who was just over two. Yes, some days were very challenging, as anyone with kids will know! But amidst the chaos we shared beautiful, happy moments together, and they made all the challenging stuff totally worth it.
On top of that, I was still breastfeeding Jasper. I loved breastfeeding both my boys, and the thought of stopping or cutting back feeds to go back to work made me really sad. I just was not ready.
I lay awake one night thinking about what I could do that would enable me to work from home, to have flexibility in my week, and to create the time that I wanted to have for my kids.
As the insonmia set in, I reflected on my journey as a mum, and how important it is to hold onto your sense of self - that person that you were before you had kids. That can be really hard to do when you are breastfeeding - crazy hormones, endless hours with a baby attached to your boob, not having breastfeeding clothes that you actually like to wear.
Breastfeeding can be really draining - mentally, emotionally and physically. You can enjoy it and want to do it, but it can still be bloody tough!
Night turned into dawn, and all these little pieces started to fit together into a new idea. By the time the sun rose, I was ridiculously tired, but I had a plan. I wanted to create a line of breastfeeding clothes that looked and felt like normal clothing. Pieces that were effortlessly stylish, chic and simple - so you could feel like yourself when you wore them. So that when life was changing at an incredible pace around, you could hold onto your sense of self.
The next day I went straight to see my sister, Jacqui, and her sister-in-law, Alex, and shared my idea and invited them on the journey. That's the thing about new ideas - it takes a team of people with different skills to bring them to life.
And so, we got to work. We didn't know where we'd end up, but we knew we wanted to get started on making our range of breastfeeding clothes happen. After a year of planning, researching, designing, fabric sourcing, patterning and sampling, while also creating a new brand, website and social media channels, we opened the doors to Close to the Heart in November 2018.
Where to next for our breastfeeding clothes
And wow... what a ride it has been! Close to the Heart has taken so much more energy, love and time than I ever imagined - but it has been totally worth it. The biggest buzz for us is when women tell us they love wearing our breastfeeding clothes, that they feel comfortable and beautiful in our dresses and tops, that they feel like themselves. This is exactly what we set out to do!
We are so excited about 2020 and taking our range even further. The year has started with a bang, with six new Australian stockists taking us to a total of 13 stores in New Zealand and Australia.
We're continually refining our styles and fabrics based on feedback from our customers, and this year we'll be introducing new styles while bringing back your favourites in new colourways, as well as lovely new linen-blend fabrics.