Summer McCune was born and raised in St. Charles Parish and has always had an affinity for the arts. She is a double major graduate from LSU’s Fine Arts College where she majored in Ceramics and Sculpture and obtained a minor in Art History. She began a nine-year-long career in teaching as a talented art teacher, married her high school sweetheart with whom she has three children, and, of course, started NolaBee.
NolaBee was originally her creative outlet outside of teaching where she could sell her art, but after the birth of her youngest child Adler, this would soon change. For the first 13-14 months of her life, Adler was in constant pain from a cow milk allergy. Later Adler was suffering from a feeding aversion, or pediatric feeding disorder, that soon became bottle aversion, making mealtime a battle. Poor Adler continued to worsen, beginning to cry whenever she would see the bottle or be put into the feeding position. Since McCune was the only person her daughter would begrudgingly trust to feed her, she had to resign from teaching.
“It was a constant struggle around the clock to get her to eat,” shares McCune. “I ended up landing on dream feeding which is when you feed them in a drowsy state or when they’re completely sleeping. I did that for three months of her life and it was very, very hard because I would go to medical professionals looking for help and nobody really had much to offer.”
While she didn’t find the support she needed in the medical field, McCune harbors no ill will for them, understanding that they were just as puzzled as she was. Soon, McCune was suffering from depression and crying with her daughter during feedings. When it felt like all hope was lost, Adler’s condition started to improve and she began eating more regularly.
As she thought back about how sparse resources were and how unfair it was to have such little support despite knowing that there were others out there with children who suffered from feeding aversions, McCune wanted to figure out how to raise awareness and share Adler’s story. She soon realized that NolaBee was going to be her saving grace.
The idea for the awareness jammies itself was simple. Who doesn’t love adorable pajamas for their equally adorable baby? And who would say no to having a symbol of awareness for feeding aversions on the pajamas as well? McCune already knew what the perfect design on the pajamas would look like, which she created herself.
“Adler’s pattern is inspired from ‘Five Little Speckled Frogs’ because it was our saving grace during refusals and would be the only card we could pull to get her to calm down,” says McCune. “It has a NOLA spin on it with the ‘yum yum’ and fleur-de-lis on the frogs.”
McCune was inspired to make these jammies into something bigger that would hopefully help other parents and their children facing similar issues. Each collection that McCune produces raises awareness for different pediatric conditions, and each pattern holds a special meaning to the child. With each pajama comes a story list that explains what the condition or disability is, tells the story of the child, and other information and resources. With all the information provided, she hopes this will allow children to become “friends with complete strangers” by sharing these stories and making connections through her art.
Now, she has multiple pajama collections and even more in the works, including one that honors her little sister, Riley. Riley was born with spina bifida and scoliosis, resulting in her needing 13 major back surgeries in her life. The sisters ended up spending a lot of time at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, so to honor the doctors, nurses, specialists, and her sister, McCune will donate a portion of her earnings annually to the hospital.
As a one-woman show and a mom of three, you can imagine how busy McCune may be, but she is taking each day with stride. She welcomes families to submit their stories for the awareness jammies as she hopes to make a variety of collections for different pediatric afflictions. As she begins to fine-tune her process, she hopes to release more collections soon.
To keep up with McCune and NolaBee’s future endeavors, visit nolabeemade.com or NolaBee’s Facebook and Instagram pages.