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.

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Tips

We Should Let Our Boys Be BOYS

we should let our boys be boys

I’m reading a book right now (which I love so far), called The War Against Boys by Christina Hoff Sommers. I’ll let you know when I’m done with it. 😉 This book and a conversation I had with a friend recently, has made me think a lot about raising boys. As a mom, I feel like there are things I rock at (like having sleep routines) and things that I suck at (like doing fun crafty activities… I really hate doing crafts with little kids… 😣). Something I am consciously going to work on right now is letting my boys be boys.

Now I’m not referring to that old saying “boys will be boys” which often implies that aggressive, sexist, sexual behavior should be overlooked because “that’s just how boys are”. Gross. No, boys are not naturally animal-like creatures that lack self-control. I truly feel that boys are misunderstood these days. Did you know that boys are falling behind in academic and career achievement, and have for some time? There are many arguments that try to explain the reason for this crisis. Here’s my theory:

  1. Boys, as a general group, tend to need more physical activity and hands-on learning than many classrooms and schools are providing.
  2. Boys tend to be high-energy: what happens when they can’t channel that energy into their learning, but are required to stifle it? They disengage from learning.
  3. Girls are encouraged and applauded and praised for their achievements, especially since for so long girls and women were treated like second-class citizens. Do boys get encouraged, applauded, and praised as well? I feel like they don’t- at least not to the extent that girls do. What’s another intelligent, succeeding boy, after so many males have gone before him to shape the world? It’s the girls’ turn! (Insert sarcasm)
  4. Boys do not have productive role models. Think about the mainstream role models geared toward boys right now: superheroes, singers, professional athletes? What do these groups have in common? They have big, attractive bodies and they can pretty much do whatever they want.
  5. There is such a double-standard of what it means to be a man. Are good men intelligent or are they dumb and humble? Are good men physical or are they weak? Should they be tough or should they be sensitive? Is it better for boys to be more like girls, to help mold their character into more evolved, mature, higher beings? (Again, insert sarcasm)

I am worried about the kind of world we are raising our boys in. It is NOT second-best to be a boy. Girls and boys, males and females, are needed equally and should be treated with the same respect, love, and encouragement, and given the same opportunities. I do not wish that I had daughters instead of sons.

Here’s my plan for raising my boys to love that they are boys:

  • I’m going to help them understand that it’s okay to cry and be emotional.
  • I’m going to introduce them to male role models that portray and encourage kindness, intelligence, respect, happiness, and ambition.
  • I’m not going to stifle their energetic spirits; I will give them plenty of opportunities to be physical as well as teach them about when it’s appropriate to sit still and be calm.
  • I will teach them how to be reverent and thoughtful.
  • I will play WITH them!
  • I will let them choose what activities, sports, etc. they want to do. If they want to play basketball, great! If they want to do ballet, great! If they want to be on the chess team, great!
  • I will show them that I am interested in what they’re interested in.

 

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Tips

How to Thrive-Not Just Survive- as a Stay-at-Home Mom

how to thrive as a stay at home mom post

how to thrive as a stay at home mom

 

Is this you, by the end of the day? (Or by lunchtime… ?) I know I have days like this! Days when I just want my kids to take care of themselves and let me eat my favorite chocolate while watching my favorite show. Days when the house looks like it’s been overrun by a stampede of wild animals…. Days when I’m still in my P.J.’s at 3:00 pm.

These types of days are not fun! But we all have them sometimes. (Hopefully not all the time! 🙂 )

I stay at home with my two boys, and most of the time I love this job. I can definitely understand why some moms choose to work (or simply just need to work) while raising children. My belief is that as long as a mother is happy, fulfilled in her life, and gives her kids consistent love, attention, and stability, kids will be okay- no matter if the mother works or stays home.

That being said, I’ve thought a lot about my job as a stay-at-home parent. There are things I feel like I do well, and there are things I need to improve on. All of us parents know that kids are unpredictable. But there are certain things we can do to help our days go more smoothly, no matter how our kids are feeling or acting on any given day.

Based on my experience, here’s a list of things YOU can do to thrive as a stay-at-home mom!

 

How to Thrive- Not Just Survive- as a Stay-at-Home Mom!

 

  1. Set aside time for yourself, every day. Mama R talked about this in her most recent post!
  2. Adjust your schedule to make sure you get enough sleep. Everything in life is hard when you’re sleep deprived! And obviously, with babies it’s hard to get enough sleep. But once your kids are on schedules, try to be on a sleep schedule yourself. Go to bed and wake up around the same time every day. (This one is hard for me! I’m a night owl, so I hate going to bed early. 😉 But I feel much better and more able to wake up with my kids when I go to bed at a decent time.)
  3. Exercise. I’m a BIG believer of exercise not only being good for the body, but for the mind and the spirit as well. We give so much to our kids, including our bodies. We need to take time to take care for these special bodies that are able to do so much. You don’t have to be a marathoner to be healthy; even going for a daily walk is a wonderful way to get your heart pumping. I find that my mind is sharper and my mood is brighter on the days I take time to get my workout in. I know this can be a sacrifice, because our days are so busy. But exercising is definitely a worthwhile investment in yourself.
  4. Try to abide by some sort of schedule. One thing I love about being a stay-at-home mom is that I can be so flexible with my days! But I do feel more under control of things when my kids and I are on a schedule, even if it is a flexible one.
  5. Get ready for the day each day. I’ve gotten to the point where if I don’t shower, get dressed, and do my makeup and hair each day, I feel like a bum. Even if I don’t get ready until the afternoon, it still counts as getting ready for the day! 🙂 I just believe that a woman shouldn’t completely lose herself after she becomes a mom. Yes, we do give everything to our children, and we would do ANYTHING for them! But we need to remember that we are individuals, women. Not only does it benefit your heart and mind when you feel good about how you look, it helps your kids see that it’s important to prioritize one’s self-esteem.
  6. Go on dates!!! If you’re married, DATE YOUR HUSBAND! Get dressed up, feel hot, and do something fun- regularly! If you’re single, take time to go out and feel hot and have fun! Every mom was a girlfriend/wife before she was a mom. 🙂
  7. Keep in close touch with friends and family. The life of a stay-at-home mom can be lonely sometimes. Try to keep in close touch with people you love. I love talking on the phone to people- it keeps me sane!

Being a mother is the most rewarding job there is, but it’s also the hardest- and it’s okay to admit this! It’s just as important to love yourself as it is to love your children. After all, the person you have to confront at the end of each day is YOU. Your kids need a happy, confident, fulfilled mama. And you need a happy, confident, fulfilled life. You can have these things as a stay-at-home mom!
Do you have any tips for thriving as a stay-at-home mom???

 

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Tips

20 Screen-Free Activity Ideas For Parents Who Are Running Out of Ways to Entertain Their Kids

20 Screen Free Activities

Do you crazy trying to think of new ways to entertain your kids- away from the TV or computer? I know I can always use new suggestions!

I’ve put together a list of fun and simple activities you can do with your kids (or have them do on their own)! None of these involve screens. 🙂

 

If you’re curious, here’s an article from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which explains the most recent screen time guidelines for children:

https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/american-academy-of-pediatrics-announces-new-recommendations-for-childrens-media-use.aspx

20 Screen-Free Activity Ideas

  1. Read together
  2. Build a block tower
  3. Print coloring pages from online and color them
  4. Draw with sidewalk chalk outside
  5. Color on a chalkboard
  6. Go on a walk
  7. Play at a park
  8. Play at your local library
  9. Record your child telling a story, then record it for their keepsakes
  10. Make homemade finger paint, then finger paint together
  11. Play with bubbles
  12. Clean together (My oldest loves to help me with things around the house! Even though it slows things down right now, he’s learning- and someday he will be a huge help!)
  13. Have quiet time (In my house, during quiet time, each person does their own thing in a separate room or area of the house away from everyone else. Usually, the activities involve books, puzzles, or sleeping. 🙂 )
  14. Learn about something new! (Check out a book from the library about a subject your child is excited about, and read it together!)
  15. Play with Play-Doh (I know there are recipes out there for homemade Play-Doh, but I’ve never made it myself.)
  16. Have a dance party!
  17. Bake a treat together
  18. Go to a store and spend time in the toy aisles (I know this would be a dream-come-true for a lot of kids! Usually they’re rushed in this part of the store, since parents have other things to get and look at.)
  19. Go to a museum or zoo
  20. Do a photo shoot

 

Are there any creative activities you do with your kids that you want to share? Tell us about them in the comments! 🙂

 

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Food, Tips, toddlers

Tips for Parents of Picky Eaters

Pinterest Ready Picky Eaters

Photo from Pixabay.com

Here’s a little glimpse into my family’s daily conversation around dinnertime:

ME: “Who wants dinner? I’m hungry!”

C: “Not me!”

HUSBAND: “Mmmm C, do you want ________ ?”*insert menu item for that night*

C: “No. I don’t like dinner. I want breakfast!”

 

Now I know we’re not the only family with littles who have reservations about the foods served at mealtime. And for us, it is our oldest who has the pickiest palate. It’s hard for me to relate to him on this, because I don’t recall ever being a truly picky eater. Sure, there were some foods I would whine about, but as far as I can recall, I have always loved to eat! My oldest son: Now, I KNOW that he loves to eat. He’s human! And there are some foods that he goes gaga over. But it has definitely been a struggle to help him establish good eating habits.

 

The most prevalent characteristics of my son’s pickiness are:

  1. Not enjoying the concept of dinnertime (we have to stop playing, it’s more formal than other meals, it usually has foods that are less familiar than the other meals’ foods)
  2. Being wary about trying new foods
  3. Feeling pressured by eating with Mom and Dad (he seems to feel more comfortable when he eats alone)

 

It can be an extremely frustrating thing having a picky eater. As parents, we want to teach our kids healthy habits- we want them to have a healthy relationship with food. So what can we do, those of us who have kids who would almost rather starve themselves than eat vegetables?

1. Remain calm and assert your authority

 

This sounds intense, but as a parent, YOU are in control of how things go in your house: If you want to have nightly family dinner, make it a rule that everyone has to sit down and eat together; if you want your child to eat healthy foods, offer them healthy foods most of the time; if you don’t want your child to fill up on snacks before meals, don’t provide more than one snack between meals.

2. Don’t allow your child to eat snacks after dinner

In our house we don’t allow our kids to eat after dinner because we want them to actually eat their dinner. We feel that if they know they can always snack on something after dinner, then they’ll rely on that and just choose to not eat dinner if they don’t like what’s being offered. The exception here is when we have dessert after dinner. Once my oldest consistently eats a decent amount of dinner every night, then I can see us providing healthy snacks before bed if he gets hungry late at night.

3. Keep offering plenty of options

I’ve been told that it can take 10-20 times of a food being offered before a kid actually eats that food. Therefore, just because your kid rejects a food you give them doesn’t mean you should stop offering it to them! Keep putting it on their plate, and eventually they may decide that they like it. 🙂

4. Don’t force your kid to eat

Here is a little secret every parent learns pretty early-on: You can’t force a child to eat or sleep. For some reason, kids sometimes seem to fight their natural instincts! It drives us parents crazy, because we know what’s best for them!!! Nevertheless, we must let our kids make choices for themselves, even when the choices are simple. You can put food on your kid’s plate, but you can’t MAKE them eat it. Plus, allowing them this little bit of freedom may help prevent unhealthy relationships with food later on.

5. Involve your child in decisions about food

Little ones love being independent and learning how to do things for themselves. Involve your child with cooking (this is something my son has been interested in lately!). Also, let your child make choices about food sometimes. For example, you can offer a few different options at snack time and allow him or her to choose which snack they want. You can even go further if your child isn’t too excited about what’s being served at dinner; you can let them choose one food item on their plate that they will eat all of.

6. . Be optimistic

Our kids can sense when we are stressed. Try to speak positively about food and bodies. And set a positive example! If your kid sees you enjoying and trying a variety of foods, they will be more likely to try the foods as well. And remember: Your child won’t starve himself/herself! Even though at times it may seem like they’ll try…. They won’t let themselves starve, so consistently offer them a variety of healthy foods!

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Baby, Tips

What to Expect When Breastfeeding

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* I was not compensated for this post, but it does contain affiliate links.

Two years ago, I sat in a breastfeeding class, learning all that I needed to know before my baby came.

Just Kidding.

Two years ago, I sat in a breastfeeding class, learning about the benefits of breastfeeding, which would hopefully be enough to motivate me to stick with it for at least a year (which was my goal).

Because breastfeeding is hard.

I believe that each mom has the right to make the best decision for her and her baby- whether that is breastfeeding or formula feeding. However, this post is for those moms who want to continue breastfeeding. This is not supposed to be a doomsday post about how horrible breastfeeding is, but rather a warning in advance so breastfeeding mamas don’t end up dreadfully disappointed because they didn’t expect any of these issues to arise. Trust me, it’s better to be prepared ahead of time than to be googling issues in the middle of the night when your emotions are high. Whatever your target length is for breastfeeding, know that you can do it and work through these issues. Breastfeeding can be a worthwhile experience for both you and your baby.

Expect a Learning Curve. As I watched other moms breastfeed I thought it would be easy. But instead it turned out to be incredibly awkward–I was trying to use my breasts in a way that I had never done before. I spent the first month wearing just a nursing bra on top because it was too hard for me to coordinate nursing with a shirt on. It took several more months after that to be confident enough to nurse outside of my home.  In addition, my baby initially couldn’t latch because of my inverted/flat nipples. I ended up having to use a nipple shield to trigger his sucking reflex and also to soften my overactive letdown reflex.

Expect Engorgement. Expect to be extremely engorged when your milk “comes in” during the first week. You also might experience engorgement as your baby adjusts to eating solids, sleeps more at night, or goes on a nursing strike (my baby went on nursing strikes when teething- I found this article extremely helpful). What has helped me most with engorgement is being able to pump either by using my manual hand pump or by renting a hospital grade one. One thing I wish I had done was actually purchased an electric pump. For those of you who are lucky enough to have insurance cover part or all of a pump cost, DO IT!

Expect to Get Wet. This will happen not only when your milk first comes in and you are leaking all over the place, but also whenever you have a letdown reflex (which could be triggered by a baby’s cry) or when your nursing baby pulls off unexpectedly. These cloth nursing pads have worked the best for me, although I have tried disposable nursing pads as well. With disposables, I found that they were too small and would move around too much even if they had an adhesive to help them stick my nursing bra.

Expect Sore Nipples. I’m very grateful that my doctor prescribed a medicated nipple cream for me to use. Of course my nipples were very sore at the beginning because they weren’t accustomed to being used that often! My baby also happened to suck extremely hard, which I had to adjust to. Throughout the first year I used the cream sporadically due to soreness from growth spurts and latching/unlatching issues. Using a nipple shield also helped when my nipples were especially sore.

Expect Plugged Ducts. These are THE WORST. I seriously panicked every time I had a plugged duct. Luckily for me, with frequent feedings and pumpings, I was able to unplug them before developing  mastitis. My top recommendations for unplugging ducts are 1) warm compresses, 2) massaging the affected area, and 3) pumping at different angles (even if this means bending over or laying down to pump). Plugged ducts usually occurred for me when my baby was on a nursing strike and I wasn’t draining my breasts as often as usual.

Expect to Worry About Your Milk Supply.  At three months, my baby was not gaining weight appropriately and the doctor recommended supplementing with formula. We were confused by this because it seemed like my baby was nursing all the time—an average of three to four hours a day! After meeting with a lactation consultant, we realized that my baby was a lazy nurser. He was so used to nursing all the time that he didn’t bother to drink effectively. After two weeks of training, my baby learned to nurse in half the time and was gaining more weight. All of this goes to show that sometimes the issue may not be your milk supply, but rather how your baby is nursing. Additionally, by meeting with a lactation consultant you can learn the ways in which to boost your milk supply. Lastly, for those women who feel like they aren’t producing enough milk because their baby nurses frequently, I would recommend reading this article.

Expect to Bottle Feed. There will probably come a time where someone will have to bottle feed breastmilk to your baby. It may be because you go back to work, attend school, or you have a medical emergency.  The latter two examples were true in my case. I was in my last semester of graduate school when my baby was born, and I had to have an emergency surgery a month after he was born. I was lucky enough to have pumped enough breastmilk to sustain my baby during these times (even if that meant pumping at the hospital). Part of what helped me do this were these breast milk storage bags.

Expect to Compare. There will be times when you will observe or talk with other mothers who breastfeed and wonder to yourself whether you were the only one who’s having a hard time. You aren’t! Hopefully this article lets you know that not only should you expect issues to arise, but that these issues are normal, and you can handle them. Breastfeeding doesn’t always have to be hard–as you and your baby adjust, there will be times when it will be easy and enjoyable. Issues may arise along the way (as they have for me over the course of a year) but they will be separated by stretches of good nursing experiences.

Expect to Sacrifice. You will have to worry about what you eat, drink, and what medicine you take, as all of this could negatively affect your baby. Breastmilk digests more quickly so you will have to feed your baby more often than a formula fed baby. This means you may lose more sleep at night, since you will be the one to get up and feed your baby. You may have to arrange your schedule to pump or nurse your baby regularly. You will have to travel either with your baby or a pump to keep up your milk supply.

There will be a point where you decide it would be best for your sanity and/or your baby’s health to wean. My son ended up self-weaning (It’s a real thing! My lactation consultant confirmed it!) at 15 months, and that was the right time for us. Whether your child weans a couple months or a couple years into breastfeeding, know that your efforts were worthwhile. And ultimately a fed baby is a happy baby, whether it’s breastmilk, formula, whole milk, or soy milk.

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Baby, Tips

Why I’m Pro-Breastfeeding AND Pro-Formula

 

Pinterest Ready Breastfeeding Formula
Photo from Pixabay.com

It seems like breastfeeding is all the rage these days when it comes to parenting. In fact, we’re told that “breast is best”. I do love breastfeeding. I also love bottles and formula.

I have breastfed AND bottle-fed both of my boys, and it has worked out stupendously for our family.

Here’s why I love breastfeeding:

It’s a special, snuggly experience.

I love the warm snuggles that come with nursing my babies.

It’s cheap and convenient! *

Breastfeeding is free! *It’s convenient because a mom can nurse her baby anytime, anywhere. But I don’t find it convenient in every way (like when I want to go somewhere for a few hours and have to worry about the baby getting fed in my absence).

When you can do it successfully, it can feel good.

If you’re a new mom, you might not believe me when I say this one, because it can definitely hurt (a lot sometimes!) at first. But if you and your baby get it down, it does feel good; breastfeeding releases the hormone oxytocin, among others. (Oxytocin is a hormone that serves many different purposes! 🙂 )

I like not having to worry about calories.

There’s a lot of pressure to lose the baby weight after having a baby. I’ve enjoyed a hearty appetite during the initial postpartum period with both of my boys, because breastfeeding burns a lot of calories! While I’m breastfeeding, I feel like I don’t have to think very much about losing my baby weight.

 

As I mentioned, I’m also pro-formula/bottle feeding. Both of my babies have needed supplementation, so I am grateful for formula. Here are the reasons I love it, and the concept of bottle feeding:

It allows the daddy (and others) to help feed the baby.

Each time my babies have started taking bottles, I feel like my whole world opens up! With bottles, I’m not the only one who is capable of feeding the baby!

In my experience, my babies sleep better overall when they have bottles.

Both of my boys started sleeping better at night when we started supplementing with formula. I don’t know much about the science behind this, but I’ve heard several times that breast milk is digested more quickly than formula, which could explain why some babies (like mine) sleep longer with formula in their tummies- whether that formula is given along with breast milk or given on its own.

It frees me up to exercise more.

When my babies start breastfeeding less, I have more energy and time to exercise. I know not all women feel this way, but while I’m nursing, my body feels a little awkward doing intense exercise. (Let’s just say “the girls” aren’t up for a lot of running and jumping around… ;). ) I’m not sure why I feel like I have more energy to exercise when I’m breastfeeding less… Maybe it’s associated with getting more sleep? Granted, I am able to work out a little bit while nursing- just not the same way as when I’m not nursing. Again, some women don’t experience these while breastfeeding- this is just my experience with exercise/breastfeeding.

I’m able to see how much my babies are eating, and I have more confidence that they’re getting full.

One difficult thing about nursing is that you can’t tell how much your baby is eating unless you pump. (Even then, pumping isn’t always a totally accurate way determine how much milk you’re producing.) With bottles and/or formula, I can keep track of the number of ounces my baby is taking in.

 

The bottom line is that I am pro-breastfeeding and pro-formula. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to do both, and that they have both worked for my babies and for our family.

 

I know that feeding a baby can cause a lot of anxiety for parents. If I could give some piece of advice to any new mom (or dad), this is what it would be: Trust your instincts, and remember that the most important thing is for your baby to be well-fed. Sometimes I think we can get so caught up in what other people think, in our goals that we have for our babies, etc. that we forget to relax and let our instincts take over. Some women find breastfeeding fairly easy. I don’t. I’m glad that I’ve been able to do it, but it hasn’t been easy for me. Parenting is very personal, and I believe parents have a special gift to understand what is best for their individual, unique children. Ultimately, you should strive to give your baby the most loving affection and attention you can give him or her. Your baby loves you unconditionally; don’t be too hard on yourself. Finally, treasure the precious time you have with your baby, because they grow up REALLY fast! (I’m feeling right now that I need to slow down more and enjoy my sweet boys in the special stages they’re in… they truly do grow so quickly! I wish I could soak every little moment in and never forget them!)

You’re doing great, mamas and daddies! Keep up the good work!

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