Struggling with all the advice for new mums that went against her own maternal instincts, Henrietta Hannemann launched Natural Mama Co., providing a safe online space for mums who want to parent gently, respectfully and without the use of sleep training. She creates beautiful support packages for new mamas starting their parenting journey, containing special treats like lactation teas and cookies, along with gentle sleep advice.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
After having my baby, I like other new mums, wanted to do everything “right”. The only problem was that what I was being told to do went completely against my instincts and what I had learned from studying psychology and anthropology nearly 15 years earlier. I KNEW it was natural to keep my baby in my room with me but everyone else said it was “creating bad habits”. I KNEW breastfeeding on demand and feeding to sleep was what cultures around the world had been doing for eons, yet everyone else said it was wrong. I KNEW that excessive crying, especially leaving a baby to cry until they vomited, was damaging to development, long-term mental health and attachment but it felt like I was the only one that felt this way as all around me mums were being encouraged to sleep train by health professionals. It made me feel sick to my core. But it also made me feel really sad that so many mums were being told all the “should nots” rather than being encouraged to trust their instincts.
Natural Mama Co. came about after one day I spoke out against “cry it out” on a Facebook mums forum and got absolutely slammed for it. The backlash and the comments affected me for months. As I lay awake night after night, with big, fat tears silently falling onto my pillow, my heart breaking at the thought of all the babies who were also crying themselves to sleep, and for the mums that were doing it even though they didn’t really want to, I searched my brain wondering how I could help change this worrying cultural trend and also find a way to support other mums.
I created an Instagram page (@naturalmamaco) with the aim of supporting other mothers who felt like I did and to get the word out that it was OK to trust your mama instincts, it was OK to help your baby fall asleep for as long as they needed and that it was OK to breastfeed for as often and as long as it worked for them and their bubs.
After reaching 10K followers, I decided to create an online shop that sold products in line with natural parenting, gentle sleep and breastfeeding, such as “The Gentle Sleep Book” by Sarah Ockwell-Smith, organic and locally made lactation tea and cookies, plus magnesium products that I found invaluable for naturally helping induce sleep, no tears needed.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
Most of my business was built while my baby was asleep in my arms, boob in mouth, and me on my phone building a following of like-minded mums. I would follow the followers of my idols Pinky McKay and The Milk Meg, in the hope they would follow me back and that they would find my content engaging. I tried to be as raw and honest as I could in my posts and made sure I replied to every comment on my page. I realised my content seemed to fill a gap in the information that was out there about motherhood, as I received comment after comment saying “I thought I was the only one that felt this way”, just as I had thought myself, and it filled me with happiness knowing that I was helping other mums which in turn motivated me to keep going.
With the goal of supporting other mums, creating “support packs” around the two biggest areas that people seemed to have the most difficulty with – breastfeeding and sleep – seemed the next logical step. I wanted to create something helpful but also beautiful to make mums feel special and supported. I sourced beautiful, organic products from local businesses that were in line with Natural Mama Co. values and gradually found what worked and what didn’t.