When I was pregnant I kept hearing about “this store in Brooklyn” that was a great resource for new pregnant women. When my mother visited from California she constantly forgot the location of the coffee shop on my block but somehow remembered the location of “this amazing store” that she found. Even my friends without babies seem to know that “there’s a baby store, or something” nearby where I live. Wild Was Mama, formerly known as Caribou Baby, turned out to be the kind of place that everyone knows about in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
So naturally I was delighted to sit down with Adriane Stare of Wild Was Mama to learn a little bit more about her, how she managed to launch the store just 18 months after having her first child, and the inspiration for the second retail location on the border of Park Slope and Prospect Heights (now open at 464 Bergen Street).
To the ordinary person it may look like a “baby store” on the outside, but Wild Was Mama is designed as a place for mothers to come and get the support they need starting with pregnancy through post-partum and onto motherhood. Its a subtle difference that only new mothers would understand. Sure, it’s also a retail store that will sell you some pretty damn cute baby stuff, but they are known for offering a range of classes and services (some free) to help make the transition to motherhood easier. And as if on cue, while Adriane was talking to me about how its important to create a welcoming space, a new mother came in because it had started to rain on her walk home and she desperately needed somewhere to stay dry and breastfeed her 5 week old. She nestled on the couch next to us and said she knew she would be welcomed to make herself at home there (and she was).
Wild Was Mama is also known for letting women explore some of the “crunchier” sides of parenting and is often THE source for new mothers to learn about topics such as baby wearing or cloth diapering (and even “Elimination Communication”, which Adriane herself practiced with her boys). When Adriane became a mother she found that this is what other local mothers were the most curious about and realized that there wasn’t any other place around that provided a space where mothers could talk about their curiosity and compare their questions.
Here is my Q&A with Adriane:
Q: First off, what is with the name change?
A: I had known for years that the name needed a change, but it took opening a 2nd location to really put the paperwork into motion. We wanted something that could be trademarked, and Caribou Baby was not available. Also, Caribou Baby implies that the store is just a baby store, but we really define ourselves as a store for mothers – it’s all about supporting the bellies and boobs… and vaginas!
Q: Your store is one of the first to really tackle non-mainstream baby care and parenting choices. Why do you think this is such a hot topic with local Brooklyn moms?
A: A lot of people in New York moved to the city to follow their own path and are used to making unconventional decisions, so they question everything when they go into parenting. They aren’t just doing what their neighbor does. New Yorkers tend to make the conscious choice to have children later in life and have developed strong lifestyle preferences and can afford to make deliberate choices, such as wanting more environmentally friendly ways to bring up their children.... so they will learn about cloth diapering.
Q: Your store is the epitome of a kid-friendly store. Did you always bring your kids to work with you?
A: Actually, I don't! My children are a huge influence for me and a driving factor in how I relate to other mothers… but I don't want my kids to become the focus or take my attention away from the mothers who need help. I want to provide an environment where mothers can make their own decisions and won't feel pressured by my own parenting choices. Plus, now my kids are much bigger they would look like “little monsters” compared to the teeny tiny newborns being brought to the store, and I don't want any new mothers to become overwhelmed or intimated!
Q: What has the process been like to prepare for a 2nd store opening?
A: We had to take a step back and rewire a lot of the business so it was set up for expansion. Opening a 2nd store meant developing a central office and warehouse fulfillment center, and it took a while to find and develop that space, which is now in Bushwick. We also had to think about how to expand and train the staff so that there’s a strong consistency between the stores –it’s important to us to have our strong customer service continued, and to make sure our brand values were consistent. Now that groundwork has been laid who knows but maybe we will open multiple stores down the line!
Finally, if you had 3 tips for other mothers that you wish someone would have told you, what would they be?
1) There is no kind of parenting that will change your child from being who they are. In my experience, kids tend to come out the way they do, and there is nothing you can do to change that. Having a baby that is cranky, colicky, irritable or hard to settle and soothe is NOT a reflection of your mothering. The more quickly you accept this and learn how to not take it personally, the sooner you will start developing positive strategies to cope and respond.
2) Parenting is the wilderness. Each new family is made up of unique parts, and there is no one perfect or "best" way. There are only your instincts and experimenting how to move forward. If something doesn't feel right to you, it probably isn't right for you. If something feels okay to you, it probably is okay for you. When in doubt, I like to ask myself "if I were alone in a shed in the middle of the woods with only my baby in this very moment, what would I do?" This applies for questions of sleeping, feeding, soothing, carrying, playing.
3) PLEASE hire a postpartum doula for yourself after birth! Ask for it on your registry, save up the cash for it, do whatever you gotta do... but hire a woman who can come to your home and really, truly tend to your whole family. No matter how easy your birth was, or if you have parents coming into town to help, there is nothing as healing and necessary as a professional postpartum doula (that you have chosen and actually trust) who will listen to your needs and connect you with resources. Even if you don't think you will need it! As a culture, we are so used to doing things by ourselves and afraid to trust, ask for help and be at the mercy of others. But when you have a baby, it's as if you yourself have also become a baby too. Show yourself some love and hire someone who can help give you what you need, so that you can give your baby what they need.