August 2022 – Preemie Professional Highlight

Dia L. Michels, Author and Publisher of Platypus Media, LLC

Dia L. Michels
Author and Publisher of Platypus Media, LLC

“When you are 90% done, you are halfway there!” – Dia L. Michels

PREEMIEWORLD: How long have you been working in your field?

DIA: 30 Years

PREEMIEWORLD: Why did you choose your current profession?

DIA: When I was a student, I was taught that the pen was mightier than the sword. In adulthood, I came to understand that, while words are powerful, it is those who control the publication gateways that control which words reach audiences. I founded Platypus Media in 2000 with the goal of normalizing breastfeeding and attachment parenting. As a parent myself, I realized that so many new moms had bought into the sexualization of the breasts and the “freedom” that comes from using infant formula. I wanted to remind people that, for mammals like us, breastfeeding and keeping our babies close have enormous biological and emotional benefits. In 2001, I wrote my first children’s book, “If My Mom Were A Platypus: Mammal Babies and Their Mothers.” This book led to speaking engagements with kids at schools, museums, and nature facilities. I soon realized I could not effectively promote breastfeeding without introducing the concept to children, the next generation of parents. Platypus Media has grown a lot since then, but my mission has stayed the same. I believe that babies need to feel safe and secure so they can grow into children who love to read and want to know more about how the world works. Being a publisher is a wonderful thing to be. We put such care and thought into each of our products. I believe that our books entertain, inform, and most importantly, imbue the essentiality of learning and bonding as a part of the human experience.

PREEMIEWORLD: What do you want other professionals to know about what you do?

DIA:  In 2010, Debi Iarussi, a neonatal nurse in Texas, approached me about developing resources for NICU families. She suggested we do coloring books for children who have a younger sibling in the NICU. This led to “Come Home Soon, Baby Brother!” and “Come Home Soon, Baby Sister!” and their counterparts in Spanish.

Then, in 2017, Naomi Bar-Yam, Executive Director of the Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast, suggested we do another coloring book for NICU sibling support, but focus it on how human milk plays an important role in preemie growth and development, even if breastfeeding isn’t an option. “Rich and Creamy for our Preemie” and its Spanish edition was born!

It is wonderful to be able to respond when people let me know about needs that are going unfulfilled. Both coloring book titles are sweet, gentle, and educational—and there is nothing else like them on the market. We sell them all over the country and work closely with groups who purchase them in bulk to give to families. It is so nice to know that we can play a small role in supporting a child through a difficult time.

PREEMIEWORLD: What advice do you give to preemie parents?

DIA: None of my three children were born early, but I have talked with enough families of preemies to get a sense of the helplessness, frustration, and worry that comes with it. On a neurological level, my advice is to remember that all five senses stimulate brain development. Touching or singing helps your infant grow, but so too does letting them simply look at you or smell you. I hope you can feel good about even the smallest of interactions. On an emotional level, remember what they say on airplanes—be sure to put your oxygen mask on first. You can’t help anyone else if you aren’t functioning. Do whatever you can to stay calm, rested, and nourished.

PREEMIEWORLD: Fun Facts: Tell us a fun or quirky fact about you:

DIA: I really enjoy electric bikes and scooters. I recently purchased a 52V, 1600W Dual Suspension, Long Range Electric Scooter that I use to commute to work daily. I love putting on my helmet and fluorescent vest and cruising the streets.

PREEMIEWORLD: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

DIA: What I especially enjoy about my job is being able to highlight talented people who have not been recognized elsewhere. I have the opportunity to launch staff, authors, and illustrators and watch them fly. Being a publisher also gives me a unique opportunity to “birth” materials that make the world a better place. Whether it is a book that depicts babywearing, or one that presents evidence-based research on breastfeeding and infant sleep, or a series that introduces children to the amazing accomplishments of women in botany, medicine, and engineering, I take pride in the fact that I helped make them happen.