Steps to Becoming YOU!

5 Baby Products No One Told Me I’d Need

Like most moms-to-be, I spent hours (days…weeks…months) poring over lists of must-have baby items. I created and modified baby registries like I used to exercise. I was going to get this right. No way would I be panicked in the middle of the night without the supplies to soothe my baby!

Yeah, right.

Our children are an opportunity for us to grow. I’ve been challenged left and right, more by the process of caring for Xander than by him as a person. He’s an incredible baby. NOTHING can prepare you for the terror of sitting in the pediatrician’s waiting room for the third time, fearing that your baby’s weight has decreased even more. Or the heartbreak of having both hands tied to a breast pump while your baby cries for your attention in the bassinette beside you. I can’t say that I’ve mastered these things, but I’ve learned to not let these challenges completely undo me.

And there are a few products that helped.

Here, I’ll share my list of 5 things no one ever told me I’d need. Hopefully, they’ll help make those 3AM sessions a little less panicky for you, too.

1. Infant Formula–Just in Case

The hospital I delivered at is considered baby-friendly. They encourage immediate bonding with your baby and have nurses check in around the clock to assist with breastfeeding. Unfortunately, not one of these nurses explained how to unlatch my baby. When he tested positive for low blood sugar, they created a huge scene, grabbing my baby off of my chest and asking me if I preferred donated breast milk or formula. After some thought, I opted for formula, because the thought of someone else nourishing my child upset me. These same nurses insisted that I get as much milk as possible into my baby, so I tried until I was blistered, bruised, and bleeding.

After a week of trying to fight through the pain of breastfeeding, and round-the-clock attempts to satiate my child, he was hospitalized for weight loss. Here, finally, the doctor recommended that I fill my child up with sustenance. In a matter of hours, he transformed from an unhappy, cold, lethargic bundle to the babbling, smiling baby I’ve adored for the past 4 months.

Breastfeeding is fantastic. Don’t get me wrong. But lately, it’s been presented as the only option, with people going so far as to recommend not buying formula as it can tempt you to stop breastfeeding. I was 100% committed to breastfeeding, too. And Xander almost lost his life because of it.

Have a can of formula on hand, or a few free samples. Your child’s life is more important than your opinion of what’s right.

2. Mixie Baby Bottles

After weeks of trying to use a breast pump, breastfeed, and formula-feed my son, I finally threw in the towel. Hearing my baby cry or coo in the next room during the day (or beside me at night) and having both hands tied up broke my heart. I also had the impending worry of returning to work after six weeks, and every missed second with my son hurt deeply. After seeing my milk production decrease steadily, I let go of my own desires and plans and did what was best for Xander.

No longer was I spending entire nights awake, rinsing the various pieces of my breast pump. Instead, I had a basket of bottles ready for quick assembly and a can of formula at the ready.

It took me two months before I realized that there was a better way. Mixie Baby Bottles changed my life. No more measuring in the dark. No more spilled water or sandy formula in my sheets. With the Mixie bottle, you measure your formula and pop a lid on it, then add water. The formula stays unmixed until you press the button on the bottom. Xander and I have been sleeping much better ever since.

3. Huggies Little Movers Diaper Pants

My husband is incredibly tall. I’m average, with a short torso and long legs. Xander inherited my husband’s long torso, and my legs. He’s going to tower over us both. This has made diapering more complicated, as many diapers just don’t seem to fit properly. We’ve experimented with every brand out there, from the most extravagant organic diapers to fancy cloth diapers, to the cheap emergency diapers from the convenience store down the street.  Huggies Little Movers Diaper Pants are the best out there. They can be slipped on in a rush, or fastened at the sides, which are stretchy. In the past, Xander has been cut by ill-fitting diapers. These are soft, absorbent, and have never sprung a leak.

Formula-fed babies often have different bowel movements than breastfed babies, and I think that most diapers are tailored to the breastfed population. The Little Movers manage to hold it all in, leg kicks and all.

4. MAM Pacifiers

Much like formula and bottles, pacifiers were highly discouraged. The first pediatrician I saw chastised me for giving my baby the ability to soothe himself, despite studies that prove that pacifiers may help reduce the risk of SIDS. Why was he so adamant? Again, breastfeeding comes into play. Let me assure you, Xander’s latch was never affected by a bottle or pacifiers! Like breastfeeding, I had a concrete plan. My son was not going to use a pacifier. Until that first night at our apartment, when screaming at 2AM after several days with no sleep forced us to crawl out of bed and sterilize the lauded Phillips Avent Pacifiers. If we were going to “break the rules”, this was the one that was “acceptable”. But even the smallest size was unwieldy in our baby’s tiny mouth. I set another pot of water to boiling, trying out the tiny MAM pacifier that was thrown into a box of freebies for one of my registries. After letting it cool, I plopped it into Xander’s mouth…and he happily sucked away. Even better, MAM has a line of nighttime pacifiers that glow in the dark, so you can easily spot it (or baby’s mouth) in the middle of the night.

5. Earth Mama Angel Baby…Everything

A throwback to my pre-pregnancy days, Earth Mama Angel Baby is an organic, herb-based line of products that are great for sensitive skin. Xander inherited my inability to tolerate most soaps, detergents, and scents, but has never had a reaction to an Earth Mama product. I had to ditch my reliance on my herbal regimen for hormone regulation once morning sickness transformed lemon balm into cat urine, but for some reason, the Earth Mama herbs were always comforting. I cannot recommend their postpartum care package highly enough. It is the gift I will give to every mom-to-be.

Bonus: Forgiveness and Acceptance

I’ve mentioned several times how I had a definite plan going into pregnancy/motherhood. Let me be the first to say that your baby will crap all over your plans…sometimes literally. Parenthood is about letting go of what YOU want, for the greater good of your child. Does it hurt to be judged for not breastfeeding? Every day. Do I regret it? Absolutely not. I’ve learned that we are allowed to change our minds. Don’t limit yourself and your child to what you think you want. Do what you know your child needs. All the doctors, nurses, and pediatricians in the world could approve of my methods, but it wouldn’t have mattered if I had ignored my instincts for another day. Xander wouldn’t be with me now. This is a lesson I have taken to heart and one I hope to pass on to all new parents so that you don’t have to experience the pain firsthand. Forgive yourself for the little mistakes. Be willing to change. And accept that your child is going to transform you more and more each day.

I’ll also remind you that each child is different. What worked for me may be the opposite for you! And that is absolutely okay! Be willing to try different things. Do your own research, check in with trusted doctors, and most of all, listen to your heart.

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5 Ways to Ditch Distraction

Distraction is detrimental to our children. I realized this as I flipped through the photo gallery on my smartphone, while my son begged for my attention beside me. I’ve taken at least three pictures of him each day. Though he was within inches of me, I was staring at a static image instead. It dawned on me that I have been documenting his life, and not living it with him. I’ve collected evidence instead of memories. He’s nearly five months old, and his entire life has been a blur. I want to put a stop to this now.

Is it the same for you? Do you remember a time when you didn’t have to try to stay present? The importance of this is multiplied a thousandfold for us as new parents. If you find yourself reaching for the phone or the remote control, ask yourself if you should be reaching out towards your children instead. Read on to find out the best ways to ditch distraction and live fully for today.

1. Stash the Screen

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When my son was born, I had an ancient, dinosaur of a cell phone that was capable of little more than calling and texting. I upgraded for business purposes, but quickly found ways to lose myself in social media. And lose myself I did. I spent hours poring through freelance jobs, apartments, and old friends’ updates from the past few years, most of the time while my son babbled away and looked up at me affectionately. A few days ago I came across this post that gave me chills and brought tears to my eyes. I had convinced myself that working from home was the best way for me to be there for Xander. But what he really got was the shell of a parent, a cardboard cutout whose bloodshot eyes were glued to one screen or another.

In the week since I’ve tried to be more diligent about setting specific business hours for myself. When my workday ends, the individual screen time does as well. I also make sure that I read at least one book to my son each day. When Xander is asleep, I try to invest my time in ways that will alleviate my stress the next day. Having more genuine moments with my family is my priority, and I want my interactions to reflect this.

2. Prioritize Meal Time

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I have always had a complicated relationship with food. From simply overeating as a child to restrictive diets bordering on anorexia as a teen, I’ve seen every number on the scale and on the waistband of my jeans. For many of us, parenthood allows us to re-examine our habits. This means being open to working on areas that have been problematic for us in the past. I’ll be honest. Every day is a struggle with food for me, as it is a major coping mechanism in times of stress. I use food as a distraction. If you find yourself falling into these habits as well, try scheduling your meals. Have a plan for the day. Spend time explaining food preparation to your child. When you eat, savor each bite and describe the flavors in detail. Connecting to the food you’re eating makes it much simpler to make healthy choices. It also demonstrates a positive relationship with our food.

3. Go Outside

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In the earliest days of pregnancy, I daydreamed about going for long walks, luxuriating in the fresh air and staying active. Five and a half weeks in, morning sickness left me bedridden. The smell of salty ocean air sent my stomach churning. This lasted until well into my second trimester when my expanding body made it painful to move. Needless to say, I didn’t realize my dream of forest hikes with my unborn baby. But I decided to start today. Something powerful happens when we are outside. We realize that we are a part of a much larger ecosystem. Our focus shifts from our heads to the world around us. While walking with my husband and son yesterday, we paused to view the unusually rough ocean waves. Xander was fascinated by a crow. We slowed down and breathed. Times like these are precious. Make it a point to go outside at least once every day. If your neighborhood isn’t ideal, go somewhere that is! Befriend the local cats or dogs, watch the flowers bloom and the leaves change with the seasons. It will keep you anchored in the moment.

4. Be Honest

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I am the queen of smiling and bearing it. When my husband was hospitalized and I was bedridden with a day-old infant, I took pride in all of the doctors telling me how strong I was. What I missed out on was the support that each person who checked in on me was willing to offer. I have seen this time and time again in the lives of parents. We want to protect our children, so we tell them “It’s okay, you’re fine, everything will be alright.” We gloss over painful moments in hopes of escaping them. This is a serious disservice to our children and ourselves. We’re missing the most valuable opportunities to be vulnerable and real. We’re demonstrating to our children that showing emotion is a weakness. We’re telling them that feelings are wrong. It’s okay to fear the difficult situations, the tough conversations, the painful moments. But don’t let that fear stop you from diving in headfirst. By learning to sit with these emotions and work through hardships, you’re not only present, you’re allowing your child to come to you when they need you the most.

5. Hug Your Children

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There is nothing more precious to me than holding my son in my arms. In the middle of the day when I’m up against deadlines, my stomach is growling, and my phone is ringing, I need to be reminded of this. It takes very little time to be affectionate with your children. Smile with them. Listen to their words, whether fully-formed or not. Let them feel the love you have for them radiate from you in every action.

This article took me two weeks to write because my son has been especially clingy lately. Though it is a message I felt desperately needed to be shared, I know that my baby’s needs come first. If you want to be the best version of yourself possible, you have to be present. Let go of the regrets of the past and the worries of tomorrow, and instead, embrace your child and the beauty of today.

Losing the Baby Weight…OR NOT.

Losing weight is at the top of most new parent’s to-do lists. Right up there with getting more sleep, taking a shower, and drinking more than a lukewarm cup of water. This is especially true for new mothers, who in the span of hours go from adorably pregnant to obsessed with fitting back in pre-pregnancy jeans. Want to save yourself from unnecessary anxiety and regret? Read on for my tips on how NOT to lose the baby weight.

1. Accept that You Have Changed

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We would never expect ourselves to snap back to the social schedule we had before the baby was born. Nor would we push ourselves to un-babyproof the house. But we expect our bodies to immediately return to the shape they were in before we went up a size (or two…or six…or twelve…it’s different for everyone!). We push our exhausted, recovering selves to shrink down into the outline of who we’ve become. And it doesn’t work!

 

2. Set The Example

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You wouldn’t expect your infant to turn down a meal to stay in newborn clothes, but we do this to ourselves on a daily basis. Now more than ever, our relationships with food and our bodies must be focused on nourishment. Favor nutrient-dense, filling foods and prepare them for yourself lovingly. Be sure that you’re consuming enough, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Some days will be harder than others, and it’s important to allow ourselves some flexibility here. We just spent nearly a year growing another person. Our habits will not change overnight. But we must set a positive example of self-acceptance and healthful meal choices for our children.

 

3. Fresh Air is Also Nourishment

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Have you showed your baby your favorite places yet? Spending time outside of the home as a family is essential. Going for walks is an excellent way to start exercising in a natural, enjoyable way. It allows you time to process the immense changes that have taken place in your life, and to connect with your body once again.

 Are you ready to be your best self, for your sake and your baby’s?

This means learning to love your new physical shape, not trying to reverse the progress you’ve made. It means taking the time to choose foods that will support and nourish your body. It means taking a few steps outside to connect with nature and exercise. Things will never be the way they were before your baby came along, and you wouldn’t want them to be. Stop focusing on trying to lose the baby weight, and start living!

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For More Sanity-Saving Tips, Read On…

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New Parents: Are You In Need of a Little Sanity?

 

Sanity may not be on your baby shower registry. It may not be on your hospital bag packing list. I doubt it’s resting in your baby’s new carseat, crib, or clothing. Sanity is a gift we can give ourselves. Follow this series to learn quick, easy steps to staying sane in parenting’s most traumatic moments.

Last week was one of those weeks. If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you know the ones I’m talking about…my son had an appointment with a new doctor that turned into multiple appointments in different towns, my husband had several meetings, and I lost not one but two of my best clients. By Friday night, I was exhausted and doubting my self-worth.

I’ve spent the last two months coming up with coping strategies for overwhelming moments. In this series, “Secrets to Sanity”, I’ll be sharing them with you one-by-one.

Sanity Secret #1: LEARN TO LOVE YOUR BABY’S VOICE.

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This is one of my favorite pictures of my son, Xander. He was born a terrifying shade of blue, with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. Hearing that first cry was life-altering for me. For six days, I tried to breastfeed him constantly, as he was always rooting around for food and cried incessantly. By the end of that first week, he was back in the hospital, and I was chained to a breast pump to try to stimulate milk that just would not come in.

For months, I have beat myself up over those first six days. Knowing that my baby was starving and trying to communicate in the only way he could made me feel like a complete failure as a mother. But it made me fall in love with his voice.

Like many babies, when Xander is hungry he has a very specific cry, a “LA!” sound, that I came to recognize within hours of his birth. At almost four months old now, he has developed other vocal cues for different behaviors: soft grunting and squirming for a wet diaper, quiet chatter when he’s sleepy, rolling over and giggling when he wants his dad’s attention. He has trained us to respond to these sounds.

This week he had a mega-round of shots. I have been on the fence about this for a while, and have had difficulty finding a provider who accepts his insurance. To complicate matters, to have him vaccinated we have to drive thrity minutes to a clinic in an unsafe area. After much back and forth and weighing our decision, my husband and I decided to have it done.

We discovered a new cry. A panicked, “Why are you letting this person hurt me?” cry. A heartwrenching, “Please make this pain stop!” cry. An “I’m so exhausted but am burning up and uncomfortable” cry. This was a new and awful experience as a parent. The usual methods of rocking, singing, feeding, and soothing did nothing to stop his screaming.

And while I hate to hear him upset, I love that I know the meaning behind this new voice. After hours of crying, he eventually drifted into a deep sleep only to wake himself up with shaky, sob-ridden breaths every hour or so. I know that if I ever hear him cry that way again, it is my job to hold his hand and do everything I can to lessen his pain.

I share his cries, though I am determined to be the strong one. I kiss his newly-bandaged legs and reassure him that everything happens for a reason. I listen as he cries, and offer what comfort I can. I love that he communicates with me, and his crying doesn’t fray my nerves because I know that it won’t last forever.

It’s my baby’s voice, and it’s one of my favorite sounds in the world.

Does your baby communicate with you? Does crying drive you into a frenzy? Take a deep breath, slow down, and make eye contact with your baby. Give them all the tenderness and love you can. Sing a song, hum a lullaby, open your front door and remember that you are still a part of the world around you.

In a few years, we will all miss this stage so much.

Stay tuned for Sanity Secret #2!

Postpartum Depression…It’s Different for Everyone

Postpartum depression krept up on me just when I thought I was in the clear. I had seen it firsthand with my husband, and I was exhibiting totally different signs. If you’re struggling AT ALL as a parent, do no hesitate to reach out! There are amazing resources that are free of cost, judgment, and exist only to support you. Please don’t hesitate to contact me, even if you don’t feel you have the strength, time, or energy to talk to anyone else right now.

The night my son was born was the first night my husband and I had ever spent apart.

Two nights later, it stretched to nearly a week, as my husband underwent treatment at the local psychiatric ward, and I moved in with my in-laws to care for my newborn.

Everyone says that having a child will change your life, and it’s absolutely true. I envisioned lazy Sunday mornings with our son between us, reading stories and lounging in the sunshine. This isn’t to say that we do not have those things (we do, and it’s EVERY morning, not just on Sundays!), but our road to getting here was a little bumpier than most, and I want to share our story in hopes of reaching out to others like us.

The hardest thing either of us has ever done is seek treatment. For me, this stemmed from an aversion to conventional medicine, and the inability to ask for help.

Postpartum depression is not a weakness. It’s not something that you can will yourself out of. It is a very real, very normal diagnosis that can safely be treated TODAY.

For my husband, depression manifested as uncontrollable fear and anxiety. Xander’s birth was a catalyst that brought to a head all of the self-doubt, rejection, and phobias (rational or otherwise) that he had accumulated his entire life. My husband’s love for our son is the strongest thing I’ve ever witnessed, but in those first days he absolutely could not cope. He underwent intensive counseling and psychiatric help, which completely transformed him as a person and prepared him for our new lives as a family of three.

For me, depression came sweeping in as I approached six weeks postpartum, and started dreading the thought of returning to work. I couldn’t put Xander down, because I could acutely feel the seconds ticking by and was afraid to miss the limited time I had during my maternity leave. It was difficult to find the time to care for myself after his birth, and some days he never left my arms. I remember replaying his birth over and over in my head, and missing the days that had already passed. I felt guilty that my baby was seeing me cry so much. But I had bonded with my baby. I adored him. I was able to function, and didn’t ever consider that what I was feeling was classic postpartum depression.

Becoming a parent is HARD. Your body hurts. You’re mentally and physically exhausted. You are terrified and amazed by every single sigh your child makes. You feel with every fiber of your being the potential to screw up.

And we all fall short in one way or another.

If you are a parent, do something for yourself right now. Drink a glass of water. Take five deep breaths. Know that you are not alone in this journey, and that you and your child will be okay.

I was lucky enough to have a doctor who recognized depression in me immediately. She started me on a low dose of medication. I will be honest…the first day on Zoloft, I felt like someone was trying to tear me away from my baby. My greatest fear was not being able to care for Xander, and the overwhelming need to hold him started to wane. I remember taking a shower and crying harder than I ever had, and telling my husband that I couldn’t take the medication after all.

And then, about an hour later, I felt better. Significantly better.

I have watched myself transform from a slightly reclusive, overwhelmed parent to one who is full of love and ambition. I have seen my husband completely transformed. The love we have for our child is unfathomable, and every moment is joyful. We get to experience the world again, through his eyes, and it is beautiful.

I was afraid that asking for help and getting treatment would damage my bond with my child, or put me on some sort of watchlist where I was in danger of losing my son. These fears were absolutely unfounded.

Find a moment for yourself today to feel gratitude for your child, and to nourish your body, even if it’s just drinking a glass of water. (I don’t know any parents who aren’t dehydrated!). Recognize that asking for help is setting your child up for success in the future. You wouldn’t want your child to suffer unnecessarily, and neither should you.

 

Xander, or Why I Quit Paleo

It was a much warmer summer last year. I remember, because I spent the majority of it miserably hunched over the toilet in the bathroom of my apartment. My years of holistic nutrition and wellness paid off–I was pregnant, and my body wouldn’t let me forget it.

I started my journey years ago after being diagnosed with endometriosis and losing my health insurance. In panic and fear, I turned to the internet for some form of support. After much searching and trial and error, I stumbled upon a lifestyle that suited me. It kept my stress level low, my weight ideal, and managed the painful symptoms of my chronic condition.

Fast foward to the weekend my morning sickness hit. I had developed an aversion to protein, which made up the majority of my paleo diet. My herbal teas did nothing to calm my roiling stomach and gag reflex. Yoga was out of the question–any movement just made my head spin even worse. So I did the only thing I could. I gave in to my body’s cravings.

This led to an immediate depression and loss of identity. For years, my habits had defined who I was. In just a few weeks, the little person growing inside of me had stripped away all of my carefully maintained habits. I was left reeling.

Let me be the first to tell you that it is okay. You are doing exactly what you need to be doing. Listen to your body, your spirit, and that precious little life that you’re nourishing. You haven’t failed.

Had somebody said to me that this might happen, I think pregnancy would have been more enjoyable. Instead, I felt like a failure, and that I was robbing my baby of nutrition. These ideas followed me after the birth of my son, when my milk failed to come in and he was hospitalized.

Let me be the first to tell you that IT IS OKAY. Not being able to take a pre-natal vitamin is okay. Getting a scary diagnosis and panicking is okay. Crying in the doctor’s office is okay (and if you feel like it’s not…find a doctor that you feel comfortable with, or a doula in your area who can help you navigate these visits). Requesting medication is okay. Formula feeding your baby is okay. AND SO ARE ALL OF THE ALTERNATIVES.

As long as you are operating out of a place of knowledge and love, and have an open dialog with your healthcare provider, you are already building a wonderful relationship with your child.

My son is three months old now, and I am so thankful that he is in my life. Q6isXD8d-w_wfSWJYsjNI0ToanYwgC7PtSyfROhrsDbl12FW6whapdymFtf3ov8n12Yjs2iMYn4xS45Q-SBIYhIiXeqce5L9cNSrU6Fgs12d3gfR7lWpHSn6zf6dIUi4YWNpzhQEPCtJf-fjp-OixcEiIDGi4oPq8uOXDw_ZOjJa8jGdpp3kkeVni442te6AnS8mgwCctqwgyXKsJFRsVEduXu45oYYaDX

But I am so much more than a parent. I have a thriving business, and the desire to carve out a new nutritious and holistic plan for my life. Please join me in this endeavor, and together we can create a community of parents who uplift their children by addressing their own needs first.