Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Family Paws

I had the pleasure of meeting with Jennifer Shryock, a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant and owner of Family Paws.  Family Paws is an internationally recognized business that educates and supports new and expectant families with dogs.  Jennifer, a mother of four, developed the programs at Family Paws after they adopted their first German Shepherd rescue dog years ago.  She saw dogs that were being abandoned in desperation by new parents because they did not understand how to prepare themselves and their dogs for a new baby.  Family Paws has two programs- Dogs and Storks for expectant families and the Dog and Baby Connection for new families with babies over 3 months old.  Family Paws has trained, certified educators throughout the U.S., Canada, and even China.  Family Paws has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, television, radio, and most recently the July issue of Martha Stewart's LIVING magazine!  The best part is this fabulous service and passionate educator is located right here in Cary!

What inspired you to start Family Paws?

   Dog rescue!  I saw so many dogs surrendered due to the arrival of a baby.  Many families had fears or became overwhelmed once a baby arrived.  I felt there needed to be more resources out there. 

What is the goal/mission of your programs? 

   To promote safety in families with dogs.  Offering education and support to increase safety and success while decreasing parent’s stress!

What local programs and services do you offer?   

  We offer local new parent classes and private consultations.  The baby bundle is perfect for expecting families!

What is your philosophy or approach to dog training?

    I believe that dogs need to enjoy their relationship with their people.  Learning should be fun for both dog and the people. We use science based methods that offer rewards and positive outcomes for both dog and people.  We only use dog and baby friendly techniques…meaning anything we teach is safe to implement in front of children. No harsh methods or tools used.

What resources do you have available to expectant families or families with young children? 

   We educate families about the many tools that are helpful such as indoor tethers, KONG toys, and proper equipment.  We also help our families to know of baby related resources in the area. 

Can you provide a couple of key pointers you give to families when they are preparing their dog for a new baby?   

1.      Decrease attention seeking behaviors NOW!  Behaviors that will not be safe or appreciated once a new baby arrives.  Ex:  barking, whining or dropping soggy tennis ball in your lap.  The more you can decrease these behaviors now the less likely you will be frustrated by them once baby arrives.
2.     Firm up basic manners.  Using manners as fun and games is helpful once a baby arrives.  The more commands your dog is successful with the more you can safely and comfortably include them once baby arrives.
3.   Become familiar with dog body language.  Visit to learn more.


Fun Favorites
Favorite Food-  Banana’s fosters from Winston’s grille!    Or good philly cheesesteak
Favorite Place to Vacation- Beach or mountains
Favorite Way to Relax- audio books or walk in woods
Favorite Song/Artist- Bon Jovi, U2
Favorite Color- lavendar

Thank you so much for sharing your business with us!  You can learn more about Family Paws at

Friday, August 17, 2012

"You're a Baby What?!"

This is the comment or rather the look I have gotten when I tell people what my new business is.  Now don't get me wrong, for the most part the response and feedback has been positive and supportive, but I think there is a lot of confusion about what exactly a baby planner is. 

So, what is a baby planner and why did I decide to become one?  Isn't a baby planner like a wedding planning- helping you decorate the nursery, plan a shower, or find a photographer?  The answer is both yes and no.  Some baby planners do focus on these services but most do so much more!

Mary Oscategui, founder of the International Maternity Institute, says, "A baby planner is an objective and supportive educator, who determines the types of services and products that are essential throughout their client's journey toward parenthood (The Baby Planner Professional What You Need to Know, 2010)."  I think the key word in this definition is educator.  The focus of most, if not all, baby planner businesses is education.  Even Rosie Pope, maternity clothing designer and concierge, who has been popularized in the Bravo series Pregnant In Heels strives to educate her clients on a variety of subjects related to pregnancy and parenthood.  The show dramatizes her interactions with clients for entertainment purposes, but if you look at her business model it is all focused on education for expectant families.  As baby planners we assess what areas or subjects our clients need support and guidance with, and then we provide unbiased information so they know all their options and can make their own, educated decisions.  For example, if I have a client that wants help with their registry I am not going to do it for them or even tell them what to include.  I will assess their needs, budget, and lifestyle and then educate them on all the products that may best suit them.  It is ultimately up to the client to decide which items they want to include on the registry.  The goal is to empower parents to make informed decisions for their growing family.

"If you don't know your options, you don't have any."  ~Korte and Scaer

Okay, so that is what a baby planner does, but why did I become one?  Many people would look at my career up to this point and ask, "Why would you want to do this?  You practice medicine!  Aren't you over-qualified and over-educated for this?"  My response is, yes I practice pediatric medicine as a nurse practitioner, which has afforded me a unique perspective into the lives of new parents.  I see first-hand how overwhelmed and stressed they are in the first few months.  And in most cases a lot of it could have been avoided if they had had the right education during pregnancy to prepare them for life with an infant.  Parents can be freaked out by the nuances of newborn behavior and then they become convinced that there is something 'wrong' with their baby, when nine times out of ten whatever their baby is doing is completely normal.  As a baby planner I can prepare parents for life with a newborn so their transition into parenthood is more relaxing and enjoyable.

Throughout my career in pediatric medicine I have found my passion is teaching parents.  Let's be honest, as pediatric healthcare providers you are taking care of the parents just as much as you are the kids!  I spend most of my time in the exam room educating parents on the difference between a viral and bacterial infection, why babies are so prone to ear infections, what it means when their child is wheezing, and of course how to care for their seemingly fragile new little one.  Unfortunately, the time constraints of working in private practice do not allow me to really give parents all the information that they need so I end up just telling them the absolute necessities.  So, it seemed like a natural transition for me to create a business where I could focus on education before the baby comes.  But also a business that supports expectant parents on their entire journey so they can be well informed for every decision they have to make along the way. 

Some people are surprised that I am a Certified Baby Planner and wonder what that means.  Do you have to be certified to work as a baby planner?  No, but becoming certified means that you have completed a comprehensive training program that teaches you every aspect of being a maternity consultant.  I chose to become certified through the International Academy of Baby Planner Professionals via the International Maternity Institute which is the only accredited program in the industry.  The course was immensely informative so now I have a wealth of knowledge and resources for my clients as well as an incredible worldwide network of baby planner professionals to collaborate with.

So, that in a nutshell is why I have chosen to become a baby planner!  I hope that this clears up some misconceptions that people have about what a baby planner is.  We are so much more than someone that helps you pick pretty bedding or choose your birth announcements.  We are professional consultants that strive to prepare, educate, and support expectant families on their journey from pregnancy to parenthood and beyond.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

MasonDee Photography

So, as I mentioned I want to use this blog to feature local businesses in the maternity/baby industry.  I think it is very fitting that my first feature business is MasonDee Photography!  Katie, owner of MasonDee, is not only a friend but she has also photographed my family and provided all the beautiful images you will find on my website, Facebook page, and marketing materials. 

As a mom of two small children I am constantly taking pictures but for the thousands I have taken I only have a handful that are really great shots.  It is amazing that Katie can capture perfect images of babies, children, and families using only her camera and natural light.  Katie's work allows families to have beautiful pieces of art showcasing the precious yet fleeting moments in their lives.

What inspired you to become a photographer and start your own business?

"I have always loved photography.  I remember being really little and running around with a small point and shoot camera, but I got serious about photography when I studied it in college and became photo editor of the school newspaper at Virginia Tech.  When I became a teacher, I was able to pass along my love of photography to my high school students by teaching classes like yearbook and journalism.  I think that I was able to take my hobby to the next level after I had my little girl, Finn.  This is when I fully developed my own style as I was taking pictures constantly. I'm still learning all the time! People kept asking me to photograph their families, and the business slowly evolved from there!"

 How did you come up with the name “MasonDee” Photography?

"Most people name their photography businesses after themselves.  I knew I wanted to do something a little different, and my first loves, prior to Finn, were my dogs: Dixie and Mason. We've lost them over the last few years, so it was the perfect way for me to honor them."

What are you favorite sessions- newborns, families, maternity, etc.?

"Outdoor family sessions are so much fun!  I especially love to photograph siblings-  it's great to watch brothers and sisters interact, and the spontaneity of what can happen during these shoots usually makes for wonderful photos."

What tips or pointers can you give parents on capturing great photos of their little ones?

"Don't be afraid to shoot from different angles-  get on the floor with your kids while they're playing, or stand and shoot from above. Not all photos have to be “staged” or have smiling children in them.  Try to think about what you'll want to remember about your life when your babies are grown- it's the day to day “stuff” that goes by so quickly-  so photograph  it!  If at all possible, try to shoot where there is nice natural light so you can avoid using a flash; a flash can cause harsh light in your photos.  And shoot as much as you can!  I think that the more you use your camera, the more comfortable you become with it, and you'll only continue to get better."

What advice can you give to other woman like yourself who juggle running their own business, being a mom and a wife?

"I'm still trying to figure this out for myself... No matter what, my family is my priority, but I do catch myself feeling distracted with business issues a lot of the time.  I have a very supportive group of friends, and my husband is behind me100%.  Figuring out your time management and asking for help along the way are two things that might make life a bit easier."

Fun Favorites...
Favorite Food or Restaurant:  Italian all the way!  
Favorite Vacation Spot:  The Chesapeake Bay or Boothbay Harbor, Maine 
Favorite Way to Relax:  Running, Yoga, and Photography
Favorite Color:  yellow- reminds me of sunshine
Favorite Singer/Band- Old school: I am a huge Beatles fan.  These days I'm loving the Avett Brothers out of Concord, North Carolina- fun bluegrass!   

Ok, couldn't resist adding in a couple she took of my kids...

To contact Katie and view more of her work visit

Katie, thank you so much for sharing your talent with us!

Monday, August 6, 2012


Raleigh Baby Planner has joined the blogging world!  This blog is designed to be a fun yet informative site for everything related to pregnancy and baby.  Although, I will feature a lot of advice and suggestions on particular topics or products, none of the information provided should be seen as a substitute for your own research.  Also, although I hold degrees in the medical field, none of the information provided in this blog should be interpreted as medical diagnosis or advice.  If you or your child are having a medical issue you should always consult your healthcare provider.  Ugh, now that I got the legal stuff out of the way let's talk about what you will find here.

I want to use this blog to introduce you to local businesses that are in the maternity and baby industry.  I will be featuring interviews a couple times a month, so you can become familiar with all the services and talent out there.  If you know of a business you would like to see featured definitely let me know!  I will also post about 'hot topics' in the world of pregnancy and baby.  Again, if there are topics or products that you would like to learn more about just send me a message!