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Mother's necessities, baby essentials

After living an exciting life in Hollywood, Elisabeth Wooten Lee Schmitz, 48 of Cotswold, settled down in Charlotte with her family and began selling maternity, baby, and breastfeeding products at her extraordinary boutique, The Milky Way. Keep reading to find out more about The Milky Way!

Q. What did you do before opening The Milky Way?

A. In my previous life, I worked in public relations in Hollywood. My last job was vice president of media relations for UPN (now the CW). It was a totally different life and, yes, I do have lots of stories!

Q. What made you decide to open a retail store?

A. After a decade of climbing the ladder in the crazy, competitive world of Hollywood, I gave birth to my first child, Zeke, in July of 2002. I knew that I couldn't go back to my old job and be a good mother to him. After some soul-searching together, my husband, Adam, and I decided to sell our house, move to North Carolina to be closer to my family and open a retail store together.

We wanted to find something we could do together that would allow me some flexibility to be with our son. Retail has so many aspects that it really worked well for our combined strengths. He brought a lot of creativity and good business sense. I brought the "front office" and sales skills that I honed in my years in public relations.

Q. What was your inspiration for the store?

A. It was modeled after The Pump Station, a store for nursing mothers in Santa Monica, which may have been the first of its kind. But it was actually inspired by my own experiences as a new mother. I felt unprepared, especially on the nursing front, for so many of the challenges of mothering a newborn.

For instance, I had a wonderful post-partum doula who saw me struggling to get Zeke latched on while using my Boppy. She knew about a better nursing pillow called My Brest Friend, which was available at The Pump Station. She got one for me and my nursing got so much easier instantly!

When I walked into that store, I thought to myself, "I wish I"d known about this place sooner." I could have saved myself a lot of time, anxiety and money if I had gone to a knowledgeable source for my nursing needs. So when we were looking for a retail concept, this one just seemed like the best fit. We could provide a loving, supportive haven for new moms while also making a living working together. What could be better than that?

Q. Where is the store located?

We are located at 1419 East Boulevard in the Twin Oaks Shopping Center. We can also be found online at http://amilkyway.com.

Q.What types of products do you sell?

A. We sell nursing bras and tanks in a tremendous range of sizes. We've got Medela breast pumps for sale, Medela's hospital-grade Symphony breast pumps for rent and every part you can imagine (including the ever-elusive tubing) for Medela breast pumps as well as everything you need for sore nipples and low milky supply.

We also have slings and carriers and the expertise to help you find the best carrier for your needs while also helping you learn how to use it. We've got beautiful baby clothes. (Kissy Kissy, Magnetic Baby and LeTop are some of our signature lines). Additionally, we carry wonderful products for swaddling including the Woombie and the Aden and Anais muslin swaddling blankets.

We offer organic skincare products for mother and baby as well as an array of other products, like the Nosefrida snotsucker and the adorable but highly functional Chewbeads (worn by mommy, chewed by baby), that just make life with baby easier. In summer we sell lots and lots of swim diapers , rash guards and baby-friendly sunscreen. And of course we have tons of gifts, toys, books, beautiful blankets, hooded towels, fancy burp cloths, etc.

Q. What ages to you cater to?

A. We cater largely to children from 0-24 months, but also we stock really pretty clothes for girls 2T-4T.

Q. What is a must-have item for every new mom? What about for every baby?

A. Every mother needs a jar of Lickety Split Healing Balm, which will heal her sore nipples, her baby's sore bottom and just about everything else that happens to skin. (My friend swears it's the only thing in the world that works on her golden retriever's hot spots).

Every baby should have a soft and comfy convertible gown to spend the first few weeks of life in. Our Kissy Kissy convertible gowns have been a best-selling item since the day we opened. They make life easier for parents and babies.

Q. What is your favorite breastfeeding item?

A. A great nursing bra and the My Brest Friend nursing pillow.

Q. Do you offer nursing bra fittings?

A. We certainly do! And we have the best selection of bra sizes anywhere around. They range from 32B-38K, and 40D-44H. Providing expert bra fittings is the thing we are most proud of, and they are our bread and butter as a business.

I can't tell you how many women have come into The Milky Way after having been everywhere, including online, trying to get a decent fit. Many, especially larger breasted women, are pretty much resigned to never finding a good nursing bra. It's just amazing to see their faces when they realize that we not only understand what they need, but we have the right bras and know how to fit them perfectly. It is truly a great feeling to make such a difference in a new mother's life!

Q. Do you offer lactation support?

A. Charlotte is chock full of fantastic lactation consultants, so while I am a certified Lactation Specialist and have a lot of practical knowledge, I leave the medical part of it to the true experts. What we do at The Milky Way is offer lots of product support and lots of moral support.

I have women come up to me in public all the time and tell me how much a little encouragement from The Milky Way staff did to bolster their confidence and give them that extra push they needed to keep nursing when the going got tough. I can't tell you how happy and proud that makes me feel.

Q. Do you have classes in the store?

A. Yes, we have a wonderful baby sleep class from sleep maven Meggan Hartman of Asheville. Her knowledge is so comprehensive and she has a wonderful ability to troubleshoot sleep problems in babies and toddlers in a way that works for individual families. She'll be holding baby-focused (0-12 months) classes at the store on February 21 and March 21. Check our website for details.

You can find more information online:

Website – www.amilkyway.com.

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Milky-Way/104939239562753

Twitter – @ AMilkyWayStore - https://twitter.com/amilkywaystore

Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/amilkywaystore/

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