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Welcome to Man-Cub Mamas! We hope you’ll join us on our journey in parenting man-cubs. Our site has three mama authors: Mama R, Mama M, and Mama T. Together we span the length of the US, living on the East Coast, Mid United States, and West Coast respectively. We look forward to sharing advice, DIY crafts, and book reviews with you.

Baby, Tips

Best Budget Baby Gifts

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Looking back at my baby shower over two years ago, there are certain items that I am so grateful I got. These were items that I didn’t register for, but wish I had. That said, ALWAYS LOOK AT THE REGISTRY. The registry is king for baby showers. It represents the true desires of the mother-to-be’s heart. Please respect that and get something off of the list (with luck, they’ll have some of the items listed below on their list!). That said, if you don’t have access to the registry or the only items left are out of your price range, here are a few ideas:

  • Children’s Books. A good friend of mine got Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Numbers Colors Shapes for my baby shower and we still read them! They have been a great gift. I feel that you can hardly ever go wrong with children’s books.
  • Bow Ties. We got several bow ties at our son’s baby shower, and we have used them all (and still use them). If we ever have a girl, I’m planning on registering for lots and lots of bows to help off set all of the gender neutral baby clothes we’ve kept.
  • Burp Cloths. Babies spit up a lot, and I never felt like we had too many burp clothes. We received several beautiful handmade burp cloths, and used all of them.
  • Bibs. There was a several month stretch where my son wore bibs every waking hour. He drooled so much. We would go through all of our bibs within a few days. Having cute bibs (especially patterned ones that were less likely to show stains) was nice because half the time people couldn’t even see what my son was wearing underneath.
  • Baby Toiletries. One of my friends gave us a basket which included infant tylenol, diaper rash ointment, gas relief drops, baby shampoo, and baby body wash. It was incredible. We went months before we had to purchase any of those items for ourselves.

The best thing about these items is that many of them are gender neutral (instead of bow ties, you can do bows). These can be great gifts especially if the mother-to-be has chosen not to reveal the baby’s gender.

Why I Needed a Mom Vacation

Baby, Pregnancy

What They Don’t Tell You About Postpartum Recovery

what they don't tell you about postpartum recovery

One of the things that surprised me the most when I had a baby was how unprepared I was for the postpartum recovery period! Everyone has plenty to say about pregnancy and childbirth, but for some reason, the postpartum period gets kind of passed up. It isn’t the prettiest or most delicate of experiences, but I don’t think women should be embarrassed about it! I did have some awesome friends who gave me helpful information based on their recovery experiences, but my doctors, family members, etc. didn’t really tell me much. Maybe a lot of women don’t remember their postpartum recovery periods as well as the childbirth experience? I guess that would make sense, since childbirth is such an amazing and even traumatic (to put it frankly) experience for the body. I did get a little bit more preparatory information from the prenatal/childbirth prep class we took and from the website I got regular updates/advice from. However, Brian and I found ourselves surprised over and over again as I recovered from childbirth… Basically, the recovery was more intense than I thought it would be! Hopefully, this post can give some of you first time moms out there a little insight about what to expect during the postpartum recovery time. Now to be fair, everyone’s experience is different, just like every childbirth experience is different. But these tips are based on my personal experiences, and I know that other women can back me up on them!

What to Expect

1) Your uterus needs to contract itself back to normal size after giving birth. Your nurses and/or doctors will help speed up the contraction process by kneading on your tummy soon after you have your baby. I remember this being uncomfortable for sure and I didn’t enjoy it by any means, but it wasn’t excruciating pain. The nurses first did this within minutes after I was stitched up in the delivery room, and then they would periodically do it throughout my recovery stay in the hospital. It seemed to get less painful each time they did it, from what I remember.

Another thing that helps a uterus contract back to its normal size is breastfeeding. Each time I breastfed my son for the first week or two, especially for the first couple days in the hospital, I could literally feel my uterus contracting- kind of like a menstrual cramp. Again, it wasn’t a terrible kind of pain.

2) You will bleed for a little while after the birth. The bleeding shouldn’t be really intense (if you ever notice big clots, you need to call your doctor right away). It is kind of like being on your period for the first few weeks after giving birth. Your body has a lot of extra “stuff” to dispose of after you have a baby! In the hospital they give you large pads to use (they may feel like diapers, but they are necessary!), and I continued to use large ones for a week or two after I got home. After that point, the bleeding was still there sometimes (like spotting), so I just made sure to always have pads on hand. I would sometimes notice that I would bleed more after breastfeeding (remember the whole uterus contracting back thing?). Just like the cramping, the bleeding aspect of postpartum wasn’t too difficult for me.

3) Going to the bathroom will be painful at first. For me, this was the worst part of postpartum recovery. I almost had to have a catheter inserted again when I was in recovery at the hospital because I had such a difficult time peeing! Thankfully, it eventually got easier during the hospital stay. I just had to make sure to get up and go often or else I would wet the bed (no muscle control right after pushing out an 8 pound baby!). The little squirt bottles they provide you with in the hospital are a life-saver- you use them as you urinate to help relieve the burning sensation.

Going #2 is a whole different experience… It was VERY painful the first time! But I think my situation was worse than it needed to be because I was constipated. I think doctors want you to have a bowel movement within 5 days after having a baby, and it took my body this long to figure it out. What I suggest is preparing yourself before you go into labor by getting lots of fiber!!! When I hit the 35 week mark with this pregnancy, I’m going to start drinking one or two glasses of prune juice every day and make sure I’m getting lots of fruit every day. Hopefully this will make things easier when it’s time for me to go after having the baby! 🙂

4) Tearing takes a toll on your body. If you tear during pushing (which is very common, especially with your first baby), you will need stitches and these will need to heal. I had to have an episiotomy with my first because forceps had to be used to flip him from the posterior position. I can tell you that it took several months for me to feel normal again down there, and I think it was mainly from this episiotomy (plus the other natural tears I had). I know it was good and necessary so I could have my son safely, but it caused me pain for awhile. In the hospital I was given a small inflatable tube to sit on to relieve pressure from the tearing, and this definitely helped. And when I got home, as long as I was following my pain medication schedule for the first few days the pain wasn’t unbearable. But even after the initial pain went away, I could feel some scar tissue forming. You do eventually get back to normal (and I’m really hoping my second postpartum recovery won’t be as painful and long), but it takes some time. Let your body heal and don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor if you feel something is wrong or abnormal.

5) Intimacy will be an adjustment at first. As you have probably heard or can imagine, sex after having a baby is not the most comfortable experience… But never fear, things will get back to normal! Again, just let your body heal and listen to its needs. And remember that there are lots of ways to be intimate besides the obvious. 🙂

6) Start thinking about birth control before you have your baby. Your doctor or nurse practitioner will be able to prescribe you your preferred method of birth control when you see him/her for your postpartum checkup (usually between 4 and 6 weeks after the baby’s born). But make sure you’re thinking about what you’re going to do before this point, and make sure that you don’t consider breastfeeding your method of birth control, because it is not a method of birth control!….. 🙂

7) Your period. I can’t speak for other women here, but I didn’t officially have another period after having my baby until he was about 5 months old (this is when I stopped breastfeeding). But I think I’ve heard of some women’s ovulation starting back up again within a couple of months after having a baby.

What You’ll Need

I found that the hospital provided me with most of the materials I needed to get through my recovery. I got witch hazel pads (which help with hemorrhoids), numbing spray (which helps while going to the bathroom), a squirt bottle (as I mentioned above, to help with urinating), and some large pads to wear for those first few postpartum recovery days when lots of fluids are still leaking. Some other things I would suggest having are:

Nursing equipment. If you’re planning on breastfeeding, you’re going to want a comfortable place or places to do it, and you’re going to want equipment to help you feel comfortable as you’re getting used to feeding your baby. I needed a water JUG (the one they gave me in the hospital) at all times with me because I always felt like I was going to die of thirst! 🙂 I also loved my nursing pillow and my nursing cover (for when people visited). You’ll probably also want lots of snacks to munch on, books and/or your phone/laptop to entertain yourself with. I watched a lot of my favorite shows while I breastfed my son.

Lots of help at home. If you’re fortunate enough to have loved ones who can come to your home and help you after your baby is born, take advantage of that! My mom and sister came to help us after my son was born, and it was SOOO nice having them with us. My mom pretty much took care of all of our laundry, meals, and cleaning, and she even watched the baby for us in the morning if we had a long, sleepless night with him. I also really needed my mom and sister there emotionally, since having a baby and experiencing all that comes with it can feel overwhelming at times. It was very therapeutic to have people there with me during the day when Brian had to go back to work and school during the day.

Emergency formula. Even if you’re planning on breastfeeding, I suggest having a small stash of formula on hand just in case you’re going to need it. Plus, I’ve heard that emergency preparedness kits should always have infant formula if there are babies in your family. This totally makes sense, because if an emergency were to ever happen in your home or area (or to you), your baby still needs to eat their specialized milk.

 

I could go on and on about different things parents might need when they have a baby, but since this post was dedicated to the postpartum recovery period specifically, I’ll leave it at that. 🙂

It may seem overwhelming or scary to have a baby and to handle everything that goes along with having one, but don’t worry- everything will work out and you will end up having your own story to tell! I honestly did not think things were that scary or painful when I was experiencing all of this; I was so in love with my baby and so excited he was here that those happy emotions usually overpowered any of the confused or overwhelmed ones.

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Budgeting

The 8 Phases of a Spending Freeze

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As mentioned in a previous post, my husband and I decided that we would go on a week-long spending freeze every month this year. We go a whole week without shopping—at the store and online. We pick the week randomly, usually deciding a day or two beforehand. This helps keep us on our toes, and also helps us avoid weeks when we know we will have to spend money.  Now that we’ve gotten six spending freezes under our belts, we’ve started to notice that each spending freeze goes through the following phases.

Day 1: The Confident Phase

“I’m totally nailing this spending freeze. We got everything we needed yesterday and we are set for the week! This is going to be so easy.”

Day 2: The “Oh Well” Phase

“Rats, we forgot to pick up more _____. Oh well. Good thing we’re only going on a spending freeze for a week. I’m sure we’ll get by without it.”

Day 3: The “I Just Found a Great Deal!” Phase

“Hey honey, we just got the weekly ads in the mail and look at what they have on sale! We should get _____! … Oh yeah. We’re on a spending freeze.”

Day 4: The Failed Spontaneous Phase

“Let’s be spontaneous and go to _____! … Oh wait. We’re on a spending freeze.”

Day 5: The Turning Down Friend/Salesman Phase

“Oh, I’d love to come to a lunch date with you, but we’re on a spending freeze. Care to meet up at a park?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, but we’re on a spending freeze right now. Maybe we can buy your product later.”

Day 6: The Countdown Phase

“Just two days left. Just two days left.”

Day 7: The List-Making Phase

“Okay, so what have we run out of so far? Let’s make a list so I can pick up everything tomorrow.”

Day 8: The Spending Phase

“Thank goodness it’s over! Let’s go to ALL THE STORES.”

 

By far the hardest part of the spending freeze is breaking our habit of going to the store for every little thing. We get so used to spending money nearly every day that it can be hard to adjust. But it’s really been worth it! It has helped us keep our spending in check and reevaluate what is really important to us.

Why I Needed a Mom Vacation

Health

How to Keep Your Mama-Self Healthy (And How to NOT Obsess About Weight)

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There are a lot of voices out there that tell women that they can – and should – always be trying to lose weight. “Forget focusing on how healthy you feel- it’s all about the way you look and the clothes you can fit into”, they tell us.

As if being a woman in an image-obsessed world isn’t hard enough, we are expected to maintain “perfect” bodies after becoming mothers. “I can’t wait to get back to my pre -pregnancy weight! When will this belly pooch go away?!” Isn’t it ironic that our very human existence depends upon women and our desire to have babies, yet our society degrades women’s bodies and tells us that we’re “too fat”. (We don’t have to be told this in explicit words: we learn this from years and years of unrealistic images and videos being shoved in our faces, making us think that the way we look is undesirable.)

Sorry for the rant, I just had a kind of epiphany for myself yesterday that’s making me ponder how I think about myself. I was looking up some information about BMI with my husband, and I ended up reading the website’s information and advice about my weight and height. I was told something I have never been told before (or maybe I just haven’t truly listened until now): “Losing weight will not benefit your health.” Wait, what? I don’t need to keep losing weight? Isn’t it always better to be thinner?” I started to say some things out loud to myself and to my husband which sounded totally irrational and totally sad.

I’m admitting to myself that there are some attitudes about body, self-image, beauty, etc. that I need to reevaluate. And I’m already starting to feel more freedom. These recent realizations got me thinking about how women, including moms, tend to be very critical and harsh to themselves.  It’s so important for us moms to take care of ourselves, including our bodies. Where is the balance between prioritizing our health/wellness and becoming obsessed with weight and appearance? In my opinion, here are some ways we can focus on our health- our actual health- rather than just our appearances:

 

  • Decide on an exercise regimen that you enjoy and which fits your lifestyle.

You don’t have to be a marathoner to be a healthy person! Any exercise that gets your heart pumping and your muscles moving is good for your whole body and will help you stay strong and healthy.

 

  • Discover your “why” and make it a mantra

Why do you choose to be healthy? Do you want to live as long as possible? Do you want to be an energetic parent? Do you want to wear your clothes with confidence? I think most of us probably have several “whys” that go into our decision to live a healthy life, but having a mantra for yourself can help you remember why you do what you do. As moms, it can be tempting to forget about ourselves since we have so many things to do and people to take care of! But taking care of your body is worth the effort.

 

  • Don’t starve yourself

Nutrition experts tell us to NOT DIET! I know this has given some people the results they want, but I know for myself that consistent exercise and moderate, healthy eating is what feels the best. The thing about diets is that they can help you lose weight- but is the weight loss then sustainable? A few years ago I went on a “no sugar” diet, and it didn’t really even do anything positive for me. I was stressed (because of the worry that I would “give in” to the “evil sugar”), I was obsessive about it, and it flat-out just wasn’t sustainable or realistic. I’m sorry, I am not about to give up sugar for the rest of my life! So I try to take a more balanced approach with food and let myself enjoy variety. I’m a believer in listening to our bodies to tell us what they need. Guess what? Cookies aren’t evil, so go have one! 😁 Of course, it’s important to practice moderation; too much of one thing can make anyone feel gross.

 

  • Don’t rely on the scale

I know of people who have totally ditched the scale because they get too fixated on their weight number. I finally realized recently that me being 7 pounds lighter than I was 2 years ago is hardly something to stress about! I feel great, I love how my clothes fit, I work out hard, and I feel like I have a much healthier relationship with food than I used to.

 

  • Try new things

Experimenting with different foods and recipes as well as different physical activities can be fun ways for you to prioritize your health. These things also set a good example to your kids, showing that trying new things is fun!

 

  • Remember that your body is AMAZING!

Think about it: You have given your child or children the best of yourself- your body, your life! Give yourself a break and remember that your body does wonderful things.

 

  • Remember that your children will learn how to think of themselves from YOU.

We don’t realize how much kids really do pick up on and understand. If we aren’t kind to ourselves, they won’t learn how to be kind to themselves. To your child, you are the most beautiful and perfect woman on the planet. Don’t crush their image of you by letting society dictate how you feel about your body. Love yourself.

 

We live in a messed up world that yells at us that we are never good enough. Well, you ARE good enough! Beyond good enough! You are special and beautiful and you don’t need to look a certain way. You have so much more to offer your family and the world than small thighs or a flat tummy. As moms, taking care of our health is not only important for our own lives, but also for the well-being of our families.

 

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Favorite Books, Reading, recommended reads

5 Ways to Find Books Your Children Will Love

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It only takes my son a few pages to decide whether or not he likes a picture book. If he likes it, we keep on reading. If he doesn’t, the book gets pushed out of my hands as he proclaims, “I don’t yike it!” Once a book has been “unliked,” I hardly ever can crack it open again for a second chance. There can be many reasons why he doesn’t like a book: he isn’t in the mood to read, he doesn’t like the pictures, or the reading level is too high for him. Thankfully I’ve still be able to read quite a bit with him, and today I’ll be sharing my tips with you! This post will mostly be geared towards finding picture books your children will love, although some of the suggestions can apply to chapter books as well.

1. Pick a Subject Your Child Likes and Explore

What toys does your child play with the most? What TV shows do they like to watch? Chances are if you find a book that relates to the toys they play with or the shows they watch, they’ll end up liking it. For my son, I know I’m safe if I get a book that has dogs, construction vehicles, or is a retelling of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk.’ You can browse by subject at your library, or simply skim the shelves for titles and cover art that match your child’s interests. Usually I pick several shelves to look at each time we go to the library, changing it up every time so I can be exposed to new authors and illustrators. I’ve found dozens of books this way.

2. Ask a Librarian

Extra points if the librarian you ask is one that does Story Time! I always get books my son likes from Story Time. I know if he’s sat through it once, he can sit through it again. These librarians know what children’s books are most popular. They also will be able to guide you to authors or series that your child may like. They also have an extensive knowledge on searching the library databases. A few months ago, I could not figure out how to search for books with songs (you know, like nursery rhymes or classic kids songs like “Old MacDonald”) but within a few minutes one of our librarians printed out two pages of books in that category.

3. Binge Read Authors and Illustrators

Once you find a book your child likes, look up every book that author or illustrator has done. If they liked one book, they’re likely to enjoy the others. Children’s book authors are more prolific than chapter book authors, and so this should lead you to several–perhaps dozens–of books your child will enjoy. It is especially helpful to research illustrators because often they collaborate with several different authors. Pictures are really important to young kids, so if you find an illustrator they like, they probably won’t notice that the author changed.

4. Introduce Books from Your Childhood

If you remember a picture book you read as a kid, chances are it was an excellent one. Look it up and try it out! Your kids are more likely to be excited about reading it if you exclaim about how much you loved that book when you were little. And it’s much more fun to read aloud when you know you will like the book as well. We’ve already started doing this with several series, like Berenstain Bears, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, and What Mommies Do Best.

5. Try Again

Your child will still come across books they don’t like. The important thing to emphasize  is that there are still books they can love to read, and you will help find them! We always have a few books from our weekly library haul that never make the cut. By figuring out why my son doesn’t like them, I’m able to troubleshoot so it doesn’t happen again. If he isn’t in the mood, I try reading the book later. If he doesn’t like the pictures, I try to avoid that illustrator in the future. If the reading level is too high, I make a mental note to try the books again when he’s older.

If you are still looking for books your kids will love, check out our Recommended Reads posts! We post about our favorite picture books, chapter books, and young adult books at the end of every month.

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Communication

How to Use Sign Language With Your Baby

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I love sign language! I wish I could sign fluently, I think it’s such a beautiful form of communicating. My hubby and I have used sign language with our babies in order to communicate with them earlier than when they can speak. It has been such a fun experience! My oldest son was an early talker, so he didn’t use sign all that much. My second son has been quieter, so he has used more sign; and it has actually helped us understand him many times when we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.

These are the words/phrases we have used consistently in ASL with our babies:

-More (this has been the most helpful!)

-All done

-Please

-Mama

-Dada

-Milk

-Water

-Eat

-Thank You

My oldest son has even loved learning ASL words as he’s gotten older- he thinks sign language is fun!

 

Benefits of Teaching Your Baby Sign Language

To quote an article from Psych Central:

  • “The ability to sign basic words could prove helpful in boosting communication and providing a ‘bridge to the spoken word.’ It may also facilitate the acquisition of verbal and written forms of communication later on.

“Infants who learn baby sign language also are thought to gain psychological benefits, such as improved confidence and self-esteem. Feelings of anger due to an inability to communicate may not occur as often. Having the ability to sign could be a lifesaver when a child is too distraught to speak clearly.”

  • Encourages communication rather than just fussing
  • It’s fun to see your baby learn something very directly hands-on!

 

How to Teach It

Babies are naturals at learning language, so simply using the signs in front of them will teach them how to use it. When you use a sign, say the word that goes along with it. I felt so excited when each of my babies used a sign for the first time to communicate something they wanted!

 

Where to start:

Here’s an awesome website to help you get started with baby sign language!

http://www.babysignlanguage.com/

 

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Favorite Books, Reading

Teaching Kids to Love Books

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Not to brag, but my son loves books. He may not be able to read them yet, but he loves them. While I realize that some children are more naturally drawn to books than others, I’d like to offer some tips of ways to teach your kids to love books.

Read to Them

Schedule a time to read to your children at least once a day. Make it part of your routine! Like many other summer reading challenges, I encourage you to read 30 minutes a day to your kids! I know attention spans can be short, so consider breaking up the reading times. In our schedule, we read after breakfast, before our son’s nap, and before bedtime. This means we only have to do 10 minutes at a time, although often it goes longer than that. And once your child learns how to read, don’t stop reading to them! My mom would often read to us even in our teens, just to get us hooked on a book she knew we would love. Often she would tell us, “I’ll just read the first two chapters, and if you don’t like it, we can return it.” Inevitably she would finish reading and we would fight over who would get the book next so we could finish it.

Go to the Library Often

I recommend going to the library once a week. I remember as a child we would go to the library and load up on books for the week. It’s the best way to be able to cycle through books so you can keep your child engaged in reading. Be sure to let your kids help pick some of the books they will read that week. Sure, you may end up with some books that you don’t like as much, but you may end up finding some treasures. (Stay tuned for next week when I discuss “Ways to Find Books Your Children Will Love”). If it’s hard to make time for the library, I highly encourage reserving books online and making use of library book drop-offs. This means you only have to make a 5-10 minute trip to the library to drop off past books and pick up the books you have on hold.

Attend Story Time

I am constantly learning how to be a more engaging reader through our library’s story time. Each librarian has their own way of adding expression and voice to the book they are reading. Often this encourages children to be more engaged in the books. I’ve learned how to look for places in books where I can engage my son in the story (making animal noises, pointing out different details in pictures, saying a repetitive phrase). Kids love to feel involved, especially when they can’t read on their own yet.

Reorganize Your Books

This is a tip I got from a friend, who wrote a beautiful blog post on how she decided to organize her books. I’ll just include this quote about the results: “Though I didn’t add a single new book during this clean-up process, it was as if my kids were seeing them all anew. They spent the rest of the day exclaiming over books they thought were lost and enjoying entire collections or author groups.”

Get New Books

There’s just something exciting about getting a new book. The book lover that I am would much rather my son get a new book as a gift than a new toy to junk up our house. Because of this, we have a separate Amazon Wishlist just of children’s books. If you can’t afford to buy new books all the time, consider shopping at your library’s book sales. We found some great classics at our local library sale this year.

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Library Book Sale Haul

You can also see if your area is part of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, where your child can receive a free, age-appropriate book once a month from the time they are born until they are 5!

Happy Reading!

Why I Needed a Mom Vacation