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Fashion Find: Mitera Collection

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When Yoko Shimada gave birth to her son Hugo in 2010, she was in a state of euphoria as many of us new moms are. But, “there is another side of motherhood that no words can describe,” she remembers. “Nobody really tells you how truly challenging it can be. Sleeplessness, hormone-induced sweating, post-pregnancy excess weight and saggy stomach, postpartum hair loss, lack of time for any form of self-care like showering, putting on decent clothes and exercising.” Sound familiar?

She struggled with breastfeeding, and when that got easier, she struggled with breastfeeding in public. And then she struggled with pumping when she went back to work as a global public health exec. She had to look professional, but also needed easy access to her breasts for pumping. Dresses were impossible. “I had to completely undress, or at the very least, undress from the waist up (if there was a zipper in the back) in order to pump. If someone were to walk in the door while I was pumping, I would look completely naked.”

And so she dreamed up Mitera Collection, a beautiful, functional and practical line of versatile nursing- and pumping-friendly dresses. Three years and one more baby (Emmeline) later, it came to life. The inaugural collection launched this spring and includes 6 styles that range from casual to professional to party. It reflects the sensibility of an urban mom, who Shimada says, “is not just a mom, but a woman who wears many different hats.” Mitera is also committed to newborn and maternal health; a percentage of revenue will support organizations working in that space.

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Below, Shimada talks about the journey to launch Mitera, and how it’s helping solve at least one challenge we all face postpartum: what to wear.

Tell us about your own breastfeeding experience.

Society expects and everything in the media tells you that you are supposed to be HAPPY to be a mom. But having done it twice now, it is not that simple. I admit that the first three to four months into my postpartum period was both the happiest and hardest time of my life. As a global health professional who specialized in maternal and child health, I knew the benefits of breastfeeding and I spent my career educating women in different parts of the world about the importance of breastfeeding and its benefits for both the baby and mom. But when it was my turn, I realized how hard it actually was. My nipples cracked and bled and they hurt for a good month and a half (with both kids!). Constant breastfeeding sessions every few hours = no sleep, no rest. Pumping sucked. Period. But after persevering through a few problems for the next two months, I was successfully breastfeeding and came to really enjoy it.

How did that experience plant the seed for Mitera?

Just when I had gotten used to the breastfeeding process, I encountered another problem – breastfeeding in public. On top of already feeling unattractive, I could not really wear clothes that made me feel somewhat normal. Instead, I was wearing ‘nursing’ friendly clothes where I could easily and ‘discreetly’ pop my breasts out for feeding my son or lift a shirt exposing my midriff, the most vulnerable part of my postpartum body to nurse. Both of my babies were extremely unhappy with the nursing cape that they constantly batted away, every time I tried to cover myself. When my son was 3 months old, we took him to Japan (my home country) to introduce him to his extended family. In addition to the stress of traveling internationally with my newborn son, it was also a struggle to feed, pump and store milk at the airport and in the economy seat of an airplane. It was messy and I felt uncomfortable, frustrated and miserable.

What about your back-to-work experience?

Four and a half months after Hugo was born, I went back to work. The lactation room in our building was located in a dark basement. After trying to pump there a couple of times, I started pumping in my office with a big sign on the door saying “DO NOT ENTER.” I pumped while checking emails. I pumped while eating lunch. I pumped while on conference calls. I pumped all the time.

This is when I ran into yet another challenge – my wardrobe. Since my days were so busy with no option to stay late, I had to be ultra efficient while accommodating my pumping schedule. My attire had to be in line with the professional look of the World Bank, but also make it easy for me to quickly access my breasts for pumping.

Out of necessity, I started sketching my ideas out for nursing dresses nice enough to wear to the office. Initially, I never really thought about making them. But, then I realized that I couldn’t find anything in the market that really worked for me. I found a patternmaker in Japan to make the prototypes and had a tiny factory in Kobe produce the first samples of my breastfeeding dresses. I wore them all myself out of necessity and also to test them. It was not long until other moms started noticing them and asking me where I got the dresses. So, I continued working on the design in the evenings after I put my son to bed, while holding down a fulltime job that required constant international travel. It took me another three years and one more baby to decide to develop my idea into a business.

Tell me about the Mitera aesthetic.

Contemporary, Sophisticated, Modern, Chic, Urban, Simple, Inspiring and Empowering. I designed all the dresses from the point of view of a woman who is a mother. Our dresses are designed to be first and foremost beautiful and then functional and practical. I want women to feel like they are done the minute they put on our dresses (as moms, we are always short on time, right?). All of our pieces are designed to be versatile – from day to night, brunch to dinner, playdate to cocktail, office to evening, and kids birthday parties to weddings.

How are they functional for breastfeeding and comfortable for postpartum?

All of our dresses have the patent-pending hidden zipper system which allows for discreet feeding and pumping. Three out of the six dresses have what we call a modesty bra, which is a thin lining or a loose sports bra offering extra protection when the zippers are open. All of our dresses are machine-washable and several come with huge pockets for essential mom items like keys, pacifiers and toy cars. I know how messy mommying can get, so I envisioned those days when I might be nursing a baby while dealing with a toddler covered in Nutella or some other sticky substance! With our timelessly chic design, completely hidden zipper access and practical luxury afforded by details like pockets and washability, our pieces are meant to be worn through pregnancy, nursing and well beyond, through the joys and challenges of motherhood. I wanted to design dresses that women would want to wear even if they are not pregnant or nursing.

What kind of fabrics do you use?

We use only high quality durable and washable fabrics made in Japan. This has practical and ethical reasons. We searched high and low for luxurious yet durable and washable materials for our dresses. While it would be nice to wear a silk dress, it is not practical when you have small children and cost of dry cleaning could be prohibitive. I personally source fabrics from Japan and we know where our fabrics are manufactured and feel confident about their quality, as well as traceability.

Why is wearing a nursing-specific item so important for a breastfeeding mom?

Most dresses do not allow easy access for discreet breastfeeding. Most of the time actually, wearing a dress as a breastfeeding mom means taking it all off or becoming half-naked if there was a zipper in the back, in order to nurse. It is just not practical. There are great designs like the classic V-neck dresses or crow-neck dresses where you can access your breasts for feeding or pumping, but the problem is that these designs are fairly limited. I wanted to wear dresses to go to the office and needed something that was professional as well as elegant and something that allowed me to easily access my breasts for frequent pumping while I was on a conference call or typing an email. I could certainly not wear a deep V-neck with my protruding lactating boobs (lol!).

What can we expect in future seasons from Mitera?

We might be adding fun colors to add to the existing line and our second collection is in the works. We are thinking a jumpsuit, maybe a top and more! We also have plans to design nursing bras and accessories all with the same Mitera aesthetic.

Tell us more about the mother-to-mother program.

Because of my background in global public health, I have always been passionate about issues surrounding maternal and child health. When I became a mother myself, these issues became even more personal. Pregnancy and childbirths should be the one of the happiest times of a woman’s life, yet the reality in the most of the developing world is different.

Each year around the world, 2.9 million newborns needlessly die within their first month and an additional 2.6 are stillborn. One million babies die the same day they are born. Furthermore, approximately 290,000 mothers die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Over 90% of the deaths occur in the developing world, and 90% of them are preventable. While great strides have been made in reducing global child mortality, newborns now account for 44 percent of all childhood deaths. That is why we decided to focus on newborn health.

With our Mother to Mother program, our intention is to help bring innovation to affect social change - in this case, to improve maternal and newborn health. Our focus is to identify innovators and market disruptors who are working to improve maternal and newborn health and partner with them in our program.

Our first partner will be D-Rev, a San Francisco based non-profit product development company dedicated to improving access to world class medical technologies for the population living on $4 a day. We chose to partner with them because 1) they focus in particular on newborn health through their device called ‘Brilliance’ to treat neonatal jaundice, 2) they are innovative in how they aim to achieve their goal of radically improving accessibility to health technologies that can save and improve people’s lives, 3) all of their products are designed to scale on the market, not through donations or subsidies, 4) they are committed to transparency which is important to us in terms of showing our customers where our donation goes.

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There are certain moments of parenthood that stay with us forever. The ones that feel a little extra special than the rest. The ones that we always remember, even as time moves forward.

The first day of school will always be one of the most powerful of these experiences.

I love thinking back to my own excitement going through it as a child—the smell of the changing seasons, how excited I was about the new trendy outfit I picked out. And now, I get the joy of watching my children go through the same right of passage.

Keep the memory of this time close with these 10 pictures that you must take on the first day of school so you can remember it forever, mama:

1. Getting on the school bus.

Is there anything more iconic than a school bus when it comes to the first day of school? If your little one is taking the bus, snap a photo of them posed in front of the school bus, walking onto it for the first time, or waving at you through the window as they head off to new adventure.

2. Their feet (and new shoes!)

Getting a new pair of shoes is the quintessential task to prepare for a new school year. These are the shoes that will support them as they learn, play and thrive. Capture the sentimental power of this milestone by taking photos of their shoes. You can get a closeup of your child's feet, or even show them standing next to their previous years of first-day-of-school shoes to show just how much they've grown. If you have multiple children, don't forget to get group shoe photos as well!

3. Posing with their backpack.

Backpacks are a matter of pride for kids so be sure to commemorate the one your child has chosen for the year. Want to get creative? Snap a picture of the backpack leaning against the front door, and then on your child's back as they head out the door.

4. Standing next to a tree or your front door.

Find a place where you can consistently take a photo year after year—a tree, your front door, the school signage—and showcase how much your child is growing by documenting the change each September.

5. Holding a 'first day of school' sign.

Add words to your photo by having your child pose with or next to a sign. Whether it's a creative DIY masterpiece or a simple printout you find online that details their favorites from that year, the beautiful sentiment will be remembered for a lifetime.

6. With their graduating class shirt.

When your child starts school, get a custom-designed shirt with the year your child will graduate high school, or design one yourself with fabric paint (in an 18-year-old size). Have them wear the shirt each year so you can watch them grow into it—and themselves!

Pro tip: Choose a simple color scheme and design that would be easy to recreate if necessary—if your child ends up skipping or repeating a year of school and their graduation date shifts, you can have a new shirt made that can be easily swapped for the original.

7. Post with sidewalk chalk.

Sidewalk chalk never goes out of style and has such a nostalgic quality to it. Let your child draw or write something that represents the start of school, like the date or their teacher, and then have them pose next to (or on top of) their work.

8. In their classroom.

From first letters learned to complicated math concepts mastered, your child's classroom is where the real magic of school happens. Take a few pictures of the space where they'll be spending their time. They will love remembering what everything looked like on the first day, from the decorations on the wall to your child's cubby, locker or desk.

9. With their teacher.

If classrooms are where the magic happens, teachers are the magicians. We wish we remembered every single teach we had, but the truth is that over time, memories fade. Be sure to snap a photo of your child posing with their teacher on the first day of school.

10. With you!

We spend so much time thinking about our children's experience on the first day of school, we forget about the people who have done so much to get them there—us! This is a really big day for you too, mama, so get in that photo! You and your child will treasure it forever.

This article is sponsored by Rack Room Shoes. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I can still remember bringing my first newborn baby home, even though it has been over a year now. And let me be clear—I don't remember it because it was blissful and euphoric. I actually remember it so vividly because it was close to the most anxiety-ridden, stressful, emotional day of my life.

The two previous days spent in the hospital were everything I hoped they'd be. Sure, I was getting virtually no sleep, and my body ached from all it had just been through, but I had an abundant amount of help at my fingertips. I didn't yet feel overwhelmed or inadequate and I was fully confident that I could handle this whole mama thing. Excitement was my overarching emotion.

And then we got home.

It didn't take long for the crying to start. And once it started, there was no end in sight. My sweet baby boy just kept crying, and crying, and then crying some more, and I longed to have a "call nurse" button to press for a little relief.

My amateur mama skills seemed futile as I rocked, shushed, snuggled and nursed my baby. None of it helped; my sweet son wanted nothing to do with this world and was begging to be put back in the warm and comfortable surroundings he had just emerged from.

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And so those first couple of months were a fog of diaper changes, feedings, nap time, crying (so much crying for both of us) and an endless amount of pleading prayers.

I didn't love my new role of being a mom yet. Although I had been dreaming of this calling my whole life, I decided I clearly wasn't cut out for it and figured the rest of my days were surely going to be full of hardship.

My hope and excitement for the future were at an all-time low, which could partially be thanks to those pesky postpartum hormones. This period of life was hard. All-consuming and so hard.

So I'm here to tell you, brand new mama, if you don't love being a mom yet, that's okay. Because here's what's going to happen.

One day, after weeks and weeks of having a fussy baby, that little bundle of joy is going to crack their first smile, and your heart is going to absolutely burst with happiness as you quickly grab your phone to capture a picture.

And then your sweet little one is going to start cooing and oohing and aahing, and you will feel like they're telling you all about their day, which is going to simply melt your soul. It definitely melted mine.

And then feeding the baby is going to get easier, and their nighttime sleep stretches are going to get longer, and taking them out and about isn't going to feel so overwhelming.

And then, mama, one day you're going to look at yourself in the mirror when you get a spare second. You'll see spit-up on your shirt, dark circles below your eyes that not even the best concealer could cover, unwashed hair tucked under your favorite baseball cap, and you're going to say to yourself, "I love being a mom. This is me now."

And you might no longer grieve the old life you once had. You'll stop wishing you could go back to your carefree youthful days, and you'll instead start looking forward to all the many fun family memories that will soon be made.

One day, you're going to love being a mama. I did.

Hang on tight to any little joys you can find during this in-between time and give yourself grace. A lot of grace. You're doing the best you can, and that's all you need to do for now.

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The summer season is the perfect time to get creative and enjoy fun projects around the house with your little ones. Some of the most memorable family moments can start with a piece of construction paper or end with a table covered in shaving cream.

While you're having fun, just remember that being creative is about the process, not the result. Your kids' artwork may not be museum-worthy, but that's okay! Embrace the fun of the creation and not necessarily the end result.

First thing's first, get organized.

before you can begin any project, it's important to start on a clean surface. A fresh canvas sets the stage for family activities and DIY projects so I always put away clutter and clean the surfaces to prepare for new activities.

I always recommend creating or purchasing organization bins or spaces for each activity or categories of items. For example, a container specifically for crayons, markers and colored pencils. Then when it's time to clean up, everything has a specific place. Make sure to clearly label the bins so everyone can easily determine what each container contains. This is a great way to exercise good organizational habits from an early age. As soon as they are 2-years-old, they can play a part in cleaning up and putting things away. And, if you have systems set up for them from the start, it makes it much easier for them! Kids also love to help clean counters once you've put everything away. Whether it's after you've cooked a meal together or exhausted all of the glitter glue, they love wiping down counters with wipes. Set the expectation that kids who craft are responsible for cleaning up their supplies when they're done. It's crucial to start the healthy habit of tidying up after yourself early on.


Ask your kids for their input.

Imagination runs wild, so take advantage of their creativity. Ask them what type of art project or fun family activities they want to prioritize. If you have multiple kids, create a "suggestion jar" they can continually add and pull from when they are looking for an activity to do.

It's important to embrace collaboration. You know what they say: Teamwork makes the (crafts) work. Encourage your kids to work together and call out ideas for each other's artwork.

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Here are a few of my favorite craft projects:

  • Flipbooks: Have each kid create their own flipbook full of creative crafts, poetry, or other fun moments they want to capture.
  • DIY dollhouse: Make a custom dollhouse filled with handmade mini furniture to decorate it in their own way.
  • Out-of-the-crayon-box crafting: Challenge your kids to craft with creative elements around the house—whether it be clothespin snowmen or sponge sailboats, there are endless possibilities.
Garner even more excitement by making the prep part a project itself! Have your kids help create a fun workspace for food-making, craft-building, or DIY science-slime experimenting. They can pick a color scheme, help find the right organizing bins, or decorate the wall with art projects from this past school year for inspiration.

Try DIY projects.

Kids need to get out their creativity and energy so hands-on projects are a fun way to put their growing brains to work while they do it.

Be sure to practice safe crafting. Store all scissors and other sharp objects in protected, designated places, make sure to read all directions for new craft supplies or projects, and watch out for slippery messes!

Stock up on these essentials:

1. On-the-go park bag: Parents should be ready to go to the park at a moment's notice. Have a bag pre-packed with all the essentials: a mini kite, a picnic blanket, a ball to toss around, sunscreen and more.

2. Chalk: I love bringing crafts outside whenever possible, and something as simple as colorful sidewalk chalk is an easy way to make drawings larger than life!

3. Contact paper: You can use contact paper to add temporary color and character to flower vases, glass jars or really any decorative container with a hard, smooth surface. As a first step, wipe the vases or jars down with a disinfecting wipe to make sure the surface is clean so the paper will stick properly.

4. Felt: Felt is one of my favorite kid-friendly ways to incorporate color into crafts. You can make fun flowers, finger puppets, or whatever your heart desires.

5. Bubbles: They provide instant fun for any age!

6. Instant camera: Capture all of your moments —happy, sticky, and everything in between. Let your kids get in on the action of capturing their favorite family moments and compiling them into an end of the year scrapbook!
Learn + Play

Is it too soon? I ask myself as you toddle in and chat excitedly about the baby in mommy's belly. "Where is she?" you ask. "But I don't see her," you insist when I tell you she's in there.

Will you miss our special time as a trio? I wonder, as we snuggle on your rug at night, you, Daddy and me, under a blanket too small to cover us all. But you don't realize, pulling it up over us anyway, feet popping out, giggling all the while.

Were we selfish? I worry as I rush to comfort you during the night when a fever spikes and you call out our names. "Mama!" "Daddy!" And we're both there in a minute.

How can I possibly love another child as much as I love you? I question myself, as you run into my waiting hug and beg for just a million more.

But I tell myself that we'll learn these new steps together in stride, just as we did when you found your way into the world and became all of mine. Because it was you, my sweet boy, who taught me how to be a mama.

It was you who, in those first weeks, rested your head contently on my chest, just when I thought nursing might be too hard to handle. And it was you who flashed your first smile as the washer broke, amid mounds of spit-up stained laundry.

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You were the one who settled my breathing, as it quickened and tightened during my first panic attack. And it was rocking you at night that saved me when my maternity leave came to an end.

When you brought your very first stomach virus home and we all got sick at the same time, it was the sound of your first laugh that saved us during the eleventh hour, when we were questioning what made us think we were strong enough to care for a family.

We learned together how to navigate pediatrician visits and shots, what rocks and rhythms made nighttime smoother, how to introduce foods and when to wean. After six months, it was you who gave me the signal it was okay to stop nursing. When endless pumping sessions at work had me in tears, you assured me you'd love me just as much if I picked up a bottle of formula, gulping it down with a smile, your hands resting on mine.

When I worried at work each day that you were bonding more with your daycare teachers in those long hours than we ever could at home, you shared your first word, reminding me how special our bond is in that sweet, jumbled "mama."

We did it all, together.

And even now, as I worry about transitioning you into a big boy bed, you excitedly accept the challenge and graciously tell us we can give your crib to your new baby sister–just not your blanket.

At daycare, you rock the baby dolls, and you tell everyone you pass what your baby sister's name will be. You ask to read about Daniel Tiger and Baby Margaret, making sure I know how to navigate what's on your horizon.

Because, baby boy, you've always been quicker to adapt than me. Sometimes I think it's you who is teaching us.

You see, baby boy, it was your encouragement and love all along that guided me into motherhood. And it was your hugs and kisses and "good job mama's" that told me I could do this again.

Life will change as our family grows, but we'll keep learning together.

It'll be you who marches into that Kindergarten class, head held high as you proudly wear the backpack you picked out yourself, reminding us that time stops for no one.

It'll be you who introduces us to practices and clubs, field trips and permission slips–I'm sorry in advance for the ones I'll forget to sign!

It'll be you who turns my grip white, as you tuck your permit into the glovebox and pull onto the street for the first time.

It'll be you we wait up for first, worried that you haven't called. And it'll be you who heads off to college, leaving the house that seems too small feeling much too big.

But before your baby sister comes, and time continues to carry us in its unforgiving pace, I'll soak up every undivided second of attention I can give you. I'll snuggle you close and savor our chats. And we'll follow each other's leads, continuing to figure out this whole thing called life together.

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A recent trip to the movie theater had me brimming with excitement to reunite with Woody, Buzz, and the crew of Andy's (er, Bonnie's?) toys in the Toy Story franchise's new installment. Sure enough, my family laughed at the adventures of the cast, but it was a newcomer to the gang that really stole the show: a plastic spork named Forky.

While his reluctance to accept his place was charming and sweet, Bonnie's creation of Forky, and her subsequent attachment to him as her new favorite toy, points at a bigger picture—what constitutes a toy? Likewise, what does a child really need to be entertained?

The film's inclusion of such a common, utilitarian object as a chosen plaything serves as a reminder that children's imaginations are a powerful thing, and—when left to their own devices—kids are quite capable of having fun with far less than our society typically deems necessary.

Forky is a throwback to a time when less was more, and when families' homes weren't miniature toy stores.

I remember recently being spellbound as I watched my daughter engrossed in play with a handful of rocks. Each pebble had its role—mommy rock, daddy rock, baby rock, etc—and she carried on with a captivating scene encompassing equal parts comedy and tragedy. It was a rock family saga, and frankly, I was mesmerized.

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Despite a house full of flashy, modern, (and sometimes expensive) toys, I've found that some of the most creative play comes from the most unexpected "things" that most adults would consider non-toys. Kids have a unique way of looking at things, and often the items they gravitate toward as their preferred toy may leave parents not only scratching their heads, but also howling in laughter.

Kitchen accessories seem to be a favorite for many little ones, as I remember my own niece insisting on carrying a serving spoon everywhere with her. These inanimate objects function as the perfect plaything for children, as their minds are free to create whatever story or fantasy they desire. The make-believe is endless.

Other favorites for my kiddos include shoelaces, ropes, or yarn, which have infinite aliases—stuffed animal leashes and zip-lines being their go-tos. And who can forget the magic of cardboard boxes and of course bubble wrap. We're talking hours of fun and play.

After watching the film, I looked around my house at the abundant number of toys that my own children possess. Then I turned around and watched as they chose to stack Tupperware containers and throw foam koozies at them in a competitive game of kitchen bowling.

So yeah, we're all probably a little guilty of overindulgence with it comes to our kids. To be honest, it's fun to watch their eyes light up upon receiving a new toy at their birthday or other holiday. And I'm not arguing that those practices need to change completely. Rather, let's not forget the power of minimalism and its place in our lives. Let's encourage resourcefulness and creativity.

Behind the fun and nostalgia of the Toy Story series are important lessons and messages. In today's culture where more is more, Forky is a reminder that parents don't necessarily have to break the bank in purchasing toys for the little ones in our lives. In many cases, a "spork" will do.

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