Hudson Valley Parent

HVP - July 2014

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Page 23 of 49 ■ Hudson Valley Parent 23 I am a Hudson Valley Parent Jenn Sullivan: Local lifeline for new parents By KATHLEEN WILLCOX W hen it came to her own newborns, Jenn Sullivan had plenty of support from her family. But she soon noticed that many of her friends did not, especially when it came to breastfeeding. Many found their closest family and friends can offer little in the way of guidance and support in the fi rst key months of nursing an infant. After giving birth to her daughter Sophie, now 9, Sullivan recalls the struggles of returning to work in an offi ce as a project facilitator for the Cary Institute of Ecosystem studies. "They were wonderful, very sup- portive," Sullivan says. "They even al- lowed me to go to part-time to spend more time at home with Sophie. But I was really enjoying bonding with her and baby wearing, which would be impossible to do at a normal offi ce, obviously. It was getting harder and harder to leave her every day." Sullivan's desire to stay close to Sophie during the day, along with her observation that many in her cir- cle could use guidance, support and equipment on the breastfeeding and baby-wearing journey, inspired her to open Waddle n Swaddle, a small retail store and quasi-community center for new mothers and fathers. The store, which she opened in Poughkeepsie, was part of her vision to serve as an empowering resource to Hudson Valley moms who were going through the same thing together, but were separated and spread out in their individual homes, often feeling as if they were struggling alone. From the beginning, Waddle n Swaddle was much more than a retail store — it incorporated her love of the Hudson Valley, her training as a lactation counselor and her intrinsic ability to connect people with exactly the support or service they needed. It provided a lifeline to moms (and dads) who were interested in learning as much as they could about sustainable, eco-friendly Hud- son Valley-centric child-rearing. And no, you do not have to breastfeed, cloth diaper or baby-wear to be a customer, you just have to be inter- ested in a more holistic approach to parenting than what is typically featured in the big box stores. Waddle n Swaddle also offers the kind of lifestyle that Sullivan craves as an employee, an employer and a mother. "Sophie was with me from the beginning at the store," Sullivan said. "Other workers can bring their kids, too. Our concept here is about supporting the local community and providing a community atmosphere for the people who work here and the people who shop here. We offer as many local Hudson Valley prod- ucts as possible, and all of our prod- ucts are ethical and nontoxic." Sullivan offers the kinds of cool classes and workshops one would attend during the harried fi rst years of childhood when one is desperate- ly seeking other like-minded parents — music, yoga, massage, art and workout classes for moms, babies and young children. Waddle n Swaddle also offers private online communities for moms who want to be able to reach out to other moms at 2 a.m. for answers and moral support — currently about 600 parents are members of the pri- vate groups, and the forums are quite active, Ms. Sullivan says. To round out its offerings, Waddle n Swaddle also offers acupuncture and chiro- practic appointments with specialists. In 2010, the same year she gave birth to her son, Griffon, Sullivan opened a second location of Waddle n Swaddle at the Vassar Brothers Medical Center. Kerry Zeff, who had just given birth at Vassar, became a customer, and she and Sullivan became fast friends. Later that year, Sullivan and Zeff decided to become full-time business partners, shut down the Vassar store, and open a Waddle n Swaddle in Rhinebeck. "We are still trying to fi gure out how to run a business," Sullivan says, chuckling. "But the partner- ship and friendship has been great. I manage the Poughkeepsie store and Kerry runs the Rhinebeck store. We make all buying and stocking decisions together, and we recently made our tagline 'Naturally Modern Family' to more accurately refl ect our offerings so it's clear that we are here for the whole family." Waddle n Swaddle "is about supporting the local community, and providing a community atmosphere for the people who work here and the people who shop here."

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