PASCAGOULA -- A business owner with a passion for natural nurturing, 24-year-old Hallie Waldrep wants young mothers in South Mississippi to have community resources that weren't available when she was a teen mom.
Waldrep was 18 when she learned she was pregnant with her daughter, Charlotte. She said she knew she wanted to breast feed and buy natural products for her child, but couldn't find any educational resources in Pascagoula. In fact, she couldn't find any in South Mississippi.
"There wasn't a lot of education out there, and I was low-income," she said. She had recently graduated from Mississippi School for the Arts. She "took the initiative to do the natural side of parenting" with help from her own parents.
Maternal Instinct Boutique, Waldrep's storefront in Anchor Square, aims to provide such resources. It offers tools, classes and natural products for mothers.
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"So many of these young moms don't have that support system," she said, "so we strive to be that for them."
Maternal Instinct opened in Cottage C five months ago, and Waldrep said they've almost surpassed their 24-month financial projection. She predicts she'll hit that mark by the end of January.
The boutique sells all-natural baby products such as body baby carriers, cloth diapers, breast-feeding products, bottles and pacifiers.
"Basically any baby product you can think of, we probably have the natural version of it," she said.
Wear your baby
Her business plan centers on baby carriers. The wraps that hold babies close to their parents is called babywearing.
"It promotes a much closer bond," she said. "It helps especially in the newborn to larger baby stage to make the child feel like their world has boundaries."
Babywearing can help with fussiness, crying and can aid in preventing colic, she said. Some baby carriers she sells are for skin-to-skin contact, which helps the baby sleep.
She teaches babywearing classes at her boutique, and she's becoming a certified babywearing consultant. She will be the state's only license holder from the Center for Babywearing Studies.
Facebook helps moms share
Waldrep maintains the Facebook group Moms in Black. It has about 700 members -- all local -- who are passionate about natural parenting.
The group, she said, is based on the concept of the black belt.
"You take all of the experiences in your life and you use them to shape the path that you're on," she said.
The page lets moms share their experiences, post photos, and keep up on the free classes and picnics she hosts at her shop.
The core curriculum has classes on breast feeding, babywearing, cloth diapering, and car-seat safety.
Waldrep is also the representative for the local chapter of Share The Love, a national cloth diaper bank. She helps mothers who qualify receive free cloth diapers.
"If they don't qualify, you can get a full cloth diaper stash for $100," she said. Moms using disposable diapers spend about $2,500 per child on them.
Waldrep said she did not use cloth diapers with Charlotte but had to when her second child, 1-year-old Isabella, was born. "Isabella was allergic to disposable diapers."
Her small family lived in Huntsville, Ala., at the time but moved back home to Pascagoula, and she and her husband couldn't find any options for cloth diapers.
"We decided we would grow that community and fill that need," she said.
She said her next meeting will be a picnic Jan. 19 at Maternal Instinct. It will focus on babywearing and will feature a new-product launch. It will start at 10:30 a.m.