Swati Jagdish, founder of BondandBeyond is a Lactation educator and counselor. Being a mom, a psychology graduate and a person who loves to talk and share about her experience as a trainer, she started something of her own. Her brand helps new moms with pre and post pregnancy professional support. Swati shares about her journey as an women entrepreneur with WOI.
Always remember – Knowledge can get you a job. Talent can get you a career. But it is passion that drives you at the end of the day.
I’m Swati Jagdish, a certified lactation educator & counselor, pregnancy health coach and postpartum support professional practicing under the brand name, ‘Bond & Beyond’, for the past 4 years. I grew up in the pristine hills of munnar and always believed life should be beautiful and unhurried, just as the hills taught me. Boarding school and later moving cities for college, made me slightly distant from immediate family, but I was always a people person. Right from the age of 12, I found myself doing 2 things. One was to be an agony aunt to my friends and school mates. I’ve been listening to personal issues and providing solutions for as long as I can remember. Two, I have always been telling stories to small groups. My brain weaved a story out of any small concept and I narrated it with as many emotions I could squeeze into it and felt great pride when every single person in the room understood what I was talking about. Eventually I did my post graduation in psychology but didn’t like to get into the clinical world of depression and disorders. I thought hard, what did I enjoy doing in childhood? ‘Talking’. That’s it. I realized I was always interested in knowledge sharing and found great adrenaline rush when someone told they’ve been influenced by me. Thus began the interest in counseling and training. After a 5 year stint in Training and development dealing with both colleges and corporates, I decided to take a break and focus on pregnancy. That changed my career, and life in general.
Pregnancy had me wondering. What did I know about what was happening in me? What did I know about what I was going to do with the baby I was about to have? I had no answer. Thus began my search for birth educators. I was anyway unhappy about the conventional hospital system of birthing and started looking for places where I could try the midwifery model of care. My search ended at Birth Village, cochin – I found one of the country’s best midwives and I was greatly inspired to get into the field of breastfeeding. After my birth, I had only initial hiccups and I sailed through. I need to mention that I breastfed for nearly 4 years which I never thought would be possible. But the death of my mom and dad when my child was around 3 months came as a great shocker, but as I tell everywhere, it was breastfeeding that kept me strong and going. A great way to mourn them sitting at home breastfeeding my baby was to talk to people. Something I’d always enjoyed doing. But with a baby in arms that constantly sucked on to dear life, I couldn’t go anywhere to meet anyone. One thing that kept me going was parenting groups on Facebook. The fact that I could help other moms with their queries on various parenting concepts such as Breastfeeding , cloth diapers, baby carriers etc, helped me get over my worries instantly. I’m forever grateful to these groups especially Breastfeeding support for Indian mothers (BSIM), the founder Adhunika prakash and the hundreds of mothers I met there, who are now my support system. That’s the same time I found some like minded moms on Facebook and began meeting each other regularly in my city. The numbers kept growing and we are now a public charitable trust named Coimbatore parenting Network that conducts various workshops and awareness events in the city. The support groups along with the passion that sprung out of conducting meets in the city, led me to pursue lactation & postpartum counseling as a career.
For me building a brand means building your integrity. In my kind of profession, the brand is closely linked to the person associated with it. Getting into a field that was never explored before had a lot of challenges. One – there was no lactation professional in my city at that time. I had no one to learn from. Two – How a lactation counseling session must work, let alone holding a newborn was a new deal. Three – Getting used to dealing with women’s bodies was also an issue as I hadn’t been from a medical background. When I brand my work I am actually marketing myself. So If I had to be a known brand I had to be a known individual. For that I needed the best learning environment. Thus I wanted to work in a set up that helped me learn. I started working at a hospital where I learnt from scratch. Made myself believe I had it in me to deal with any breastfeeding issues out there. Once my confidence shot up, the brand was created. It is only after 4 years of practicing that I’m being searched with my brand name. it is slow , but it was steady. I couldn’t have done it in any other way.
My calendar motivates me to do even better. Every day if I have done something productive, that helps me get to the next day. Also, I have a support group that I manage with 11 other admins. This is the place I come for motivation as everyone has their unique strength to give to the team and once an event unfolds, everyone comes together to make it happen, without ego and misunderstandings. Then comes my family, my husband who is the best I can turn to for entrepreneurial ideas and guidance as he’s been one for 15 years now. Of course I have a set of very true friends. No matter what, they make me feel grounded and help me with whatever it is that I’m going through with life. My guru and main motivator however is my child and every time she says/ does something , I learn a million things from that.
The first sale was my first independent counseling session. I remember it was at a hospital that called me as a consultant, to help with a premature baby that was a few days old and weighed barely a kilo. I couldn’t even hold the baby properly but I managed to give the mother the confidence to breastfeed and the necessary information to continue. It was so difficult to even charge the parents, because one, I couldn’t get myself to charge for something I’ve been doing for free in my support group meetings, and two, I didn’t have any clue how much to charge for these things. To understand my worth, the value of my time and effort took a long time. It definitely involved many many free sessions I had to do in the first 2 years of my practice as well.
I consider every baby as a milestone and every single session gets me closer to a mom and baby In some way. However when I tell a mom that she doesn’t need to do anything more but to let her baby be on her chest, skin to skin, to help with her breastfeeding journey, many fail to believe me. But when I stand there, waiting for a breast crawl to happen, sometimes hours to let the baby find the breast I see miracles. Given enough time, and under the right circumstances the little fragile thing moves to search for food. Of course I get to prove my point, but to witness something that is so primal, is definitely overwhelming. When that happens, not only does the mom get her oxytocin surge, I too receive a part of it.
I learnt that social media needs to be put to great use with this career path. Since breastfeeding is a topic that is not talked about as much, people like me who are open and vocal about breastfeeding and allied issues need to keep making noise. Apart from this, in this field it is also important to not undermine the work that you do. I am always available to my clients but There are people who don’t even know me, just WhatsApp me with their issues, stuff that I might need an hour to explain. I do this because I love doing this, but I don’t do this for hobby either is something I have to make people understand all the time. Also, since it is breastfeeding counseling, people still feel it is something casual and doesn’t need the kind of importance it deserves. I have had clients tell me that their families ridiculed them for having asked for this service. I’ve also been asked why charge for such a noble thing. I’ve seen people not give an ounce of importance for my effort when it was free and that I feel is an important lesson I learnt. Free advise won’t work all the time!
Behalf of Nourish & nurture, Mumbai, I’m also coordinating the lactation care counselor course, for aspiring breastfeeding counselors. If there’s anyone who wish to get into a career that’s very mentally satisfying this is for them. I guide them through the process, explaining the scope of the job, the course outline and to even attempt the IBCLC examination.
Honestly I don’t feel much as an entrepreneur as it’s still just me in my office. On a serious note, I feel more responsible for my brand, myself and my work. On the whole, I feel I am successful not because of the brand, but the relationship I have with my clients and their families. The biggest struggle I now have is probably the fact that I need to convince people double my age to let them give the mother I work with, the opportunity to do what she feels is right.
For anyone whose dream is to become an entrepreneur, I would say – If you want to do something of your own, ask yourself if you are ready to not expect anything in return for at least a year or two. Having your own brand would just be like raising a baby. Once we are ready to have a kid, we just jump in without knowing what parenting really is. We might not have to teach our child skills, but to see our child crawl, take baby steps, say its first words, eat by itself, get potty trained etc, we need to have the patience and the determination that we can do it somehow. Some things happen on its own and some things need a lot of effort. To start a business, Be ready to put in the effort and slowly, see a lot of things happening on its own. Just don’t do something because others are doing it. Evaluate the pros and cons. Go sit and talk to a professional. Just because it is the in thing now, doesn’t mean it would work for you.
All the best.
Thank you Swati. Your venture serves to be a good friend for any new mom who needs a professional help and support! And, We are glad to feature your entrepreneurial journey on WOI. We wish you all the best for your future endeavours. Keep Inspiring!
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