Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Sanity-Saving Newborn Nighttime Routine

Not a creature was stirring...
There is often not much more precious to new moms and dads in the early days of parenthood (and beyond) than a little bit of uninterrupted sleep.  Sadly for me (and even more so, Bran), I am complete psycho hose beast when I don't get enough of it.  Necessity is the mother of invention and I quickly learned that simply being a mom did not mean that I could subsist on naps and good intentions.  It grew painfully clear that I needed to figure out some sort of routine so I could string together several solid hours of sleep in order to remain human.  Through some trial and error, we found a routine that worked for my kid AND my family, both in his newborn stage and a little later on.  It does require a little work upfront and a partner to lend a hand.  However, if you're anything like me, you are willing to go to great lengths in order to get a good, solid chunk of shut eye.

I would recommend waiting until after the first month to implement this strategy if you are breastfeeding so your supply is a little more established before you skip a feeding like I am suggesting below, but it's totally up to you.  This plan will not work for everyone, but it's worth considering and/or modifying to fit your needs and child, even if you only do it a couple times a week so you can recharge.

Months 2-3

Step 1:  PUMP - This is where you're paying your dues.  This bottle of liquid gold will be used later in the evening, either that night or later depending on your storage method.  I have found that pumping after the first nursing session in the morning works well because that's when most women are the fullest and have the most extra milk.  This pumping session is also good for supply - the more you pump, the more you'll make.  I know it's annoying to pump, trust me I do.  But is the sacrifice worth it for the payoff at night?  That is the question.  You will skip this step if you are formula feeding, obviously!  And if you want, you can skip this step altogether if your supply is abundant and established and you want to just go with a bottle of formula later in the evening.

Step 2:  Go to Bed -  As soon as your baby is done eating his last meal of the evening, you must Go to bed.  Go directly to bed.  Do not pass go, do not collect $200.  It is a big bummer to miss your favorite show or lose out on evening time with your partner, but sleep, at least in my world, makes everything so much better.  Keep this phrase on repeat:  This phase does not last forever.

Step 3:  Dream while your SO takes the first night-  Now that you have an extra bottle in the fridge, and you're in dreamland (possibly dreaming that you're going to sleep through the night), your partner should be manning the baby monitor.  He will likely have 2-3 hours until the baby wakes for the bottle, so then you'll have another 2-3 until baby wakes again.  Another advantage to feeding baby with an expressed bottle at this last feeding of consciousness in the home is that you KNOW baby is getting a good amount of milk to hopefully allow for a few more minutes of zzz's.  Then, after these 4-6 hours (*crosses fingers*), you will be able to take the middle of the night feeding(s) while your partner, who already has paid his dues, rests peacefully.

This is a sample schedule of how things went down (when they went well) during months 2-3 when we implemented this plan.

8-9pm - Everett eats and crashes, as do I
12pm - Everett stirs and needs to eat, DH feeds him while I continue to sleep
3am - Everett wakes up to eat, but I am refreshed after 6-7 hours of solid sleep and DH now reaps his sleep reward
6am- Wakes to eat again, mom or dad on duty
8am- up for the day

If your little angel cooperates, this means that both partners get 5-7 hours of solid sleep with an extra couple hours on each end if you so choose, possibly with 1 or 2 wake ups.  To me, that is A-OK.  Pretty great, actually.

Months 4+
As your baby gets older, he will likely be able to sleep for longer and longer stretches of time.  Some babies don't need any help at this point sleeping through the night.  Most babes do, though, so if your kiddo is not there yet, this method will hopefully give you some reprieve.  The main difference here is that you are doing a dream feed.  We fill Everett up with the dream feed so that when both DH and I sail off into dreamland, Everett's tank is full and he will not wake up due to hunger.  This also will allow you to relish in a little adult time in the evenings.  This is what a sample of what our current schedule looks like.

8pm - Everett crashes (last feed at 7:30)
8-10pm - Bran and I get a little alone time, eat dinner, have a glass of wine, watch TV, chat, etc...
10pm - I go to bed.
11:30pm - Dream feed by DH, then he'll go to bed.
6am - Everett wakes to nurse, I get up and pump, walk the dog, start my day.
7:30-8am - DH and Everett wake up.

It works for us, but you may need to tweak it to work for you.  And maybe it won't work at all.   If I learned one thing about babies by having one, it's that no two are the same and there is no one size fits all method for anything that works for every kid. This works for mine and I hope if you are not one of the lucky ones with a kid who can sleep through the night, this will work for you, too!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Nursery Tours

Georgia's Room

I love Georgia’s sunny little room. It’s full of hand-me-downs from so many people we love and the room itself was built by her father and grandfathers (and is still being built—you’ll notice the door to her room is a salvage affair that still needs to be painted and fitted with a doorknob.) 

Many folks told me a changing table was unnecessary. One morning when I was about seven months pregnant, I found my cousin had left this wood-and-wicker changing table on my front stoop. I gave it some paint, new knobs, blue bins from Target, a changing pad and shoved on the plastic diaper organizer thingie. It’s been really helpful to have a dedicated place to change her and the rest of the changing table makes for great storage. Georgia loves to get her butt powdered while she chats with her space dogs prints I found on Etsy.

I saw this book bin at Land of Nod long before I was even pregnant and wanted it even then. It’s the only piece of furniture that’s new to the room.

My father sent Georgia roses when she was still in the hospital, which I hung upside down and dried. I doubt they will last very long, but they are a sweet memento for now.

This crib has been in use for over thirty years and held ten other babies prior to Georgia (not all at once, of course.) Get close and you can see teethmarks all around the top. The hot air balloon mobile was something I felt silly for buying before the baby came and now feels essential—she spends a lot of time staring at them before drifting off to sleep.

We spend a lot of our day in Georgia’s little room. She plays while I work, we listen to music, we change her diapers and clothes dozens of times, and she naps and sleeps here. It’s a happy little place.

Everett's Room



Even with our first scare at 32 weeks when I went into preterm labor, I was still not motivated to get the nursery done early.  I am a procrastinator in general, but I was so excited to DIY much of Everett's nursery in the later weeks of my pregnancy.  However, I never really got that chance to nest.  I was put on strict bedrest at 32 weeks.  At that point, I had done close to nothing with the nursery and didn't even have many of the essentials.  I still expected to go full term with the pregnancy.

That wasn't what happened.  I went into the hospital again at 35 weeks where I would ultimately deliver at 35w4d.  The nursery was not even close to done.  When I went back in to the hospital at 35 weeks, my dad got started and built the entire bookcase before we got home.  He also painted the glider.  My mom and sister got us diapers, wipes, pacifiers, etc.... all the things a new baby would need.  They also cleaned my house (I was not planning on being admitted to the hospital before the doctors visit that landed me there) and set up the nursery.  I am so thankful for them!

When I finally got settled in with my new baby at home, I really did not care about the nursery.  He was sleeping in our room in the cosleeper and I had everything I needed there.  We change diapers on my bed with a little mat. The styling and contents of the nursery were not on my sleep deprived, recovering from surgery, major life changed radar.

It's recent that it got a new (used) dresser and a bit more situated.  It's functional, with lots of storage while Bran and I are still using the closet.  We have a small house, so every ounce of space needs to be used functionally.  We are mostly minimalists, so this really sort of fits in with that.  Almost everything in it is second hand or homemade and I think it's fun to have little pieces of history dotting the room. Everett and I have a lot of fun in here (mostly when it's a little messier) and that's what really matters to me.

Source List
Crib:  2nd hand on Craigslist, Oeuf Sparrow Crib
Crib Sheet: Handmade by moi, tie dye
Andy Warhol Prints:  Room & Board
Mobile:  Uncommon Goods (no longer available)
Glider:  2nd hand from sister, fabric from Spoonflower
Baskets in Bookcase: The Container Store
Dresser: 2nd hand from Craigslist, Ikea Malm
Pussycat Print:  Olive Dear on Etsy
ABC Print: RK Design

Friday, October 26, 2012

Trader Joes to the Rescue

I am a Trader Joe's fanboy.  I can't help it - there are so many meals that practically make themselves by shopping just a few ingredients and, for the most part, are healthy and wholesome.  If you have perused the shelves of a Trader Joe's, you what a fun and different experience it is as compared to a typical supermarket.  Because I shop TJ's so often, I have many-a-meal in my repertoire that I depend on, made solely with TJ's specific ingredients.  These meals are tasty, quick, and inexpensive.  There are no measurements because you won't need them - these meals are so easy and fail proof, you simply add as much of an ingredient as you like, unless noted.  Bear in mind I don't eat red meat or pork, so even within my limited scope, there are a ton of dinner options.

A typical TJ's haul
Chicken Andouille Sausage with Potato and Vegetable Hash
TJ's shopping list: Chicken andouille sausage, frozen potato hash, green beans, mushrooms
How to:  Cut sausage in half and pan fry.  Empty frozen potato hash bag into skillet, saute with extra green beans and mushrooms.

Mixed Greens with chicken, pepitas, goat cheese, orange cranberries
TJ's shopping list:  Baby greens, just chicken (precooked in the deli section), pepitas, 4oz goat cheese, orange cranberries, Tuscan balsamic dressing
How to:  It's a salad for pete's sake.  Mix together and serve.

Polenta with Sausage Mushroom Ragout (based on this recipe)
TJ's shopping list:  premade polenta roll (near the pasta), parmesan cheese, chicken andouille sausage, red wine, pasta sauce (marinara), mushrooms, bell peppers
How to: Slice polenta and sausage into rounds.  Put polenta rounds on a oiled baking sheet, cover with a scoop (tbsp) of grated parmesan, broil until browned and toasty.  Saute sausage rounds in skillet until browned.  Add chopped mushrooms and bell peppers, then cover with a cup of red wine.  Add bottle of marinara and heat until warmed.  Top polenta with ragout, then more parmesan.
Ingredients for shrimp risotto
Chilean shrimp risotto with peas
TJ's shopping list: Chilean frozen shrimp, boxed mushroom risotto (in the pasta and rice section), chicken broth (I always buy the one WITH fat, not fat free), an onion, extra mushrooms if you so desire, frozen peas.
How to:  Cook the risotto according to the directions on the package (add mushrooms to rice when sauteing), throw in defrosted shrimp  as well.  Add peas at the last moment and warm through.
Chicken and Vegetable Yellow Curry
TJ's shopping list: Yellow curry simmer sauce, chicken breasts, frozen vegetable medley, frozen garlic naan, frozen samosas
How to:  Heat your oven up and started baking the samosas.  Keep the oven hot so you can throw your naan in at the last moment (side note, I also found you can put the naan in the toaster and it turns out well without heating up the kitchen).

            Cut up raw chicken into bite sized pieces.  Salt and pepper, then saute them in a nonstick skillet until almost done.  Pour in the simmer sauce and veggies and cook until veggies are heated and chicken is cooked through.

Pollo Asada with Salad and Quesadillas
TJ's shopping list:  Pollo Asada, romaine lettuce, bell peppers, black  beans, limes, homemade tortillas (homemade by TJ's), shredded cheddar blend
How to:  Grill up their asada.  Pair with a salad with bell peppers and black beans (vinaigrette with lime and shallot goes really well here).  The way I make my quesadillas is to salt the bottom of a non stick skillet, put in a tortilla then add cheese, crank it up to very hot until it gets toasted and the cheese starts to melt, then stick the other tortilla on top and flip so the other side can toast and get crispy.

Baked Cod with Roasted Veggies
TJ's shopping list:  Frozen breaded cod, blend of broccoli and cauliflower (or any other veggies you like),  rice pilaf
How to:  Crank up the oven.  Place your cod on a baking sheet and bake per the instructions.  Toss your veggies with olive oil and S&P, put them on a separate jelly roll pan and into the oven.  Your veggies will be done just about the same time as the fish. 

Our Favorite Italian Sandwich
TJ's shopping list:  French Baguette, Olive Tapenade (the refrigerated one near the hummus),   magically sliced fresh mozzarella, basil leaves (you can add proscuitto if that's your gig)
How to:  Slice the baguette.  Take out some of the white part so your sandwich is not so bread-y.  Slather the tub of tapenade on the bottom piece and use the whole tub for one baguette.  Peel the cheese pieces and layer across the sandwich, then do the same with the basil and proscuitto, if using.  Salt and pepper.  Would also be great as a panini.  Serve with a salad and/or TJ's salt and pepper chips.  SO GOOD.

Soy Marinated Cod Fillets with Green Beans
TJ's shopping list:   Wild Marinated Frozen Cod, green beans, ginger, soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil, white or brown rice
How to:   Pan fry the defrosted cod.  Steam the green beans until not quite tender.  Meanwhile, saute a knob of ginger and a couple cloves of garlic in a tbsp or two of sesame oil in a skillet.  After a minute, add in a couple tbsp of soy sauce (more if you're me).  Let it boil and reduce for a few more, then toss in the green beans and cook for just another minute.  Serve both over rice.

There are so many more options.  What are you favorite meals made from TJ's ingredients?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Working From Home VS Parenting: Deathmatch

This is where the magic happens...

There are a lot of benefits to working from home when you have kids, benefits that most folks can understand from the outside. I've been working from home for nearly a decade now. I didn't have to adjust my employment very much to accommodate for pregnancy or maternity leave, we save a ton of money by not having to invest in professional childcare, when and where I get my work done is very flexible, and our kid is with one of her parents all day. I also get to stay in the work force and never have to worry about explaining a gap on my resume. Whee! 

In these ways, it is excellent and it works well for both our family and my personality, but working from home is tough and throwing parenting into the mix makes everything even more complicated. People often tell me that they wish they worked from home, but it's important to go into this type of arrangement with both eyes open.
  • Those who work at home are more likely to be self-employed, do contract work, or work multiple, part-time jobs. By their nature, these are not cushy, forgiving positions. I live in the last two categories, teaching college-level writing courses for online universities. While I have a lot of job flexibility  I have very little job security. I was totally unable to take maternity leave at one of my institutions and kept working through three days of labor with Georgia and the difficult weeks following her arrival.
  • When you're working, you're not really parenting and when you're parenting, you're not really working. True, you can work and supervise your child to the point that he or she isn't climbing out of the dog door, and you can feed a baby while sitting in on a conference call that doesn't require your participation, but it's rare you'll be able to do much beyond that.
  • Work-from-home parents have very little downtime. The office employee gets a lunch break or can zone out while the computer crunches numbers or can take a long trip to the loo with their smart phone. The stay-at-home parent has nap time and the freedom to strap the baby to his or her chest or into a stroller and go out into the world. The work-at-home parent spends any break to tend to either working or parenting. 
  • There's no cleaning crew visiting your office in the dead of night. It's hard to keep up with housework once you have kids but it's also very difficult to work in a messy environment. Little things that are taken for granted in an office, like the toilet paper in the bathroom never running out, don't happen like magic at home. If the garbage needs taking out and it's a little stinky, it's nigh impossible to simply ignore until the work day is over. That said, it's a rookie mistake to give a day of work over to housekeeping.
  • Your partner may not understand how hard all of this is. I think every couple has times where one half doesn't really see how the other half is living when they are apart. It's normal but it's a challenge. This sort of an arrangement can create a lot of resentment, even when everyone has the best of intentions. 
So what's a work-at-home parent to do? 
  • Take care of yourself and have a routine. Eat breakfast. Shower. Get dressed. Get your kid dressed. Make a schedule. It can be too easy to feel like nothing was accomplished at the end of a long day. We write about our kid's schedules but here's a more specific look at my work day during the work week:
    • In the mornings, I love getting up 15-30 minutes before everyone else to make the coffee and check my work emails (three accounts! whee!) This gives me a good idea of what sort of variables I'm working with.
    • Once Georgia is up, I put work away as best I can and just focus on spending some time with her and my husband before he leaves for work, then taking care of her while getting myself some breakfast.
    • During her morning nap, I make a to-do list and start to tackle the items that require the most concentration first. I also try to get a quick shower and get dressed.
    • When Georgia is up again, she's in the mood to play and move and needs a lot of attention. Usually, we go into her bedroom and I set up a blankie with toys on the floor. I play kids' music on my laptop and she plays while I work. I'll flip her on her tummy so she gets some tummy time or get her a toy that's rolled away. I know this won't work once she can climb into my lap! But for now, it works, so it's what we do.
    • During her next nap, I get back to work and make sure I have some lunch.
    • In the early afternoon when Georgia is up again, I try and get out of the house, even if it's just for a quick walk around the block. Staying inside all day makes mama go something something. If it's been a really tough day, I let Patrick know in the afternoon that it would help if he figured out something for dinner.
    • Once Patrick is home, he takes over and I wrap up any loose ends. It's a bummer when I have to keep working late at night, but that's the way it goes sometimes.
  • Talk to your partner throughout the day. Obviously, there are situations where this isn't possible, but when it is, this is a powerful habit that keeps the two of you working as a team. You might only be able to manage a few text messages back-and-forth, but that can be enough to let each other know how the day is going, what challenges you're each facing, what adorable things the kiddos are up to, and how you can help each other. Patrick and I talk over IM throughout the day and it's so helpful to know what he's coming home with and what he is coming home too. 
  • The television is (probably) not your friend. I love television, I do, I'll admit it, but when I keep it on all day, my productivity suffers tremendously. I also feel bad when I catch the baby watching the Wen infomercial. Instead, I snap off the tv after watching the morning news and turn on the radio instead. It fills the quiet air without distracting me too much and I never feel guilty about Georgia chewing her toys to Larry Mantle's dulcet tones. 
  • Know when to call in reinforcements. This is something I sort of stink at. Work piles up, I start to feel stressed out and then guilty (Bad parent! Bad worker person!) so I get blue and then snippy and frantic. It's hard for me to reach out to others and ask for help when it gets this way, but it's so important. We have family and friends nearby and I need to lean on them a little more when things are crazy. Even if you can't get this kind of help, there are options for you. Look for Mother's Day Out programs in your area. These are childcare programs that are open to stay-at-home parents and their very sporadic needs. You might try and arrange a childcare co-op or work out a nanny-share
  • Housework comes dead last. Always. The only time you should spend part of the work day cleaning your house is when you children have no needs and you're ahead on your work. Leave housework for the evenings and weekends. Not only does this give you the day to focus on what's important, but when you leave the housework for the evenings, it gives the partner who has been in the office all day a chance to contribute to the running of the household.
While I'm an old pro at working from home, I'm clearly new to being a work-at-home parent. This is something I'll probably be posting about a bit moving forward and I'd love to hear from others who are making this type of arrangement work!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Our Top 5 Piece of Baby Gear for the First 3 Months

As our kids grow, it's nice to look back and reflect on what the greatest hits for our kiddos in particular age ranges. This is an ongoing series where we'll talk about what they like best (and sometimes what didn't work out the way we thought it would.)

Natty & Georgia

1. Billions of Plastic Rings

What can't these little bastards do? They're fascinating to stare at and must feel a.m.a.z.i.n.g. when several of them are crammed into your mouth. They'll keep toys attached to a car seat or stroller. And they hurt like a mofo when you step on a big pile of them in the middle of the night. Winner!

We are dirty hippies who cloth diaper. I don't have some complex justification for it and I don't think I'm doing anything better than a parent that uses a disposable (and we use a disposable at night to hold each evening's tidal wave of pee.) It's not totally clear if cloth diapers are better for the environment, though if you're washing them yourself, cloth diapers are absolutely better for your bottom line (ha! bottom!) Cloth diapered babies do experience less diaper rash and I've also heard rumors that cloth diapered babies potty train earlier than their Pampered cohorts, but who knows? Ultimately, my mother-in-law gave us the gift of diaper service, so it made the choice very easy.

I'd also seen my sister cloth diaper her five children, so it was familiar and comfortable to me, but her children have Twitter accounts and facial hair and car payments these days. Lots have changed in the cloth diapering world since then and cloth diaper covers make cloth diapering just as easy as disposables. Obviously, this is just my opinion, but having done both, I'm thrilled with the cloth option, especially when couples with Thirsties covers. They change easily, they don't use pins, we have never had them leak, and they adorable.

We have a total of eight covers. In the early days when she was pooping roughly 700 times a day, we had to do laundry once a day to keep up, but that's diminished, as has the laundry. The sizing on these little things is so smart. She's been wearing them since she was an itty-bitty either pound baby and is still wearing the size ones at fourteen pounds with lots of room to grow.

Georgia doesn't suck her thumb and she rejected all pacifiers, so I'm particularly glad she's bonded with this lovey. And I'm so glad we have spare one hidden away for when she loses one!

This is one of those items that make me realize how stinking clueless about babies I was before Georgia arrived. We were gifted this about a week before Georgia arrived and I didn't take it out of the packaging for about a week after she'd arrived because I didn't see us using it much. I mean, $60 for a blankie, and some hangy toys? Cue exhausted laughter. I'd somehow failed to realize how much time babies spend laying on their backs, staring at stuff. The really nice things about this mat is the blanket has interactive bits all over it (crinkly fabric, fluffy spots and a detachable carrot that Georgia has long conversations with many afternoons) and all of the hanging toys detach and stand up to a lot of chewing, shaking, biting, sucking, throwing and so forth. 

5. The First Years Jet Stroller, City Chic

This is what you gotta do when your kid is so white, she glows. Thank goodness she tolerates hats so far! Anyway, on to the stroller. I love this cheap little ride! $39 gets you a super light stroller (11 pounds!) that folds and unfolds with ease, a comfy seat, a five-point harness, a basket underneath, cupholders for the pusher... and a shade that doesn't do much other than block your view of your kid.

The lack of shade is the consistent downside of umbrella strollers, whatever the price range. You know what fixes that? A hat! Obviously, this isn't the stroller for a two-mile hike on a shadeless beach (and there are extended shades you can buy), but I use this every day for quick walks in my shady neighborhood, trips to the grocery store and mall and other easy outings. It handles surprisingly well and copes with uneven terrain nicely when you consider what it is. Patrick and I took it on a jaunt to Descanso Gardens and powered it over paths of pebbles, woodchips and dirt without any issues.

Cori & Everett

1. The Snuza
Everett was in the NICU for the first week of his life, and just about the only perk to being in the slammer for that time was that just by glancing up at the hospital monitor, I could tell all was OK with his health.   The very first night we brought home this teeny, tiny 5lb baby, I kept peering over his bassinet making sure I could see his chest going up and down, up and down.  By conducting a very scientific poll, I found this is a very common thing to do amongst new moms that I'm related to or friends with.

I knew that there were options out there.  I initially bought the Angelcare Movement Monitor, but it did not work with my co-sleeper.  Instead, I ordered this Snuza monitor.  It's a little contraption you stick on their diapers and it senses the movement of breathing.  If breathing stops, an alarm sounds after 20 seconds.  I didn't think I'd be a bubble wrap parent, and I hope not to be, but the idea that if breathing does stop I will know ASAP gave me peace of mind.  My sleep is much more restful and has been since the night we started using it.

We have used this thing for 5 months and have only had a handful of false alarms.  Everett is a stomach sleeper (I know this is not recommended, but my pediatrician said it was OK for us), so we simply put it on the back of his diaper every night before we go to put him down for the night.  The false alarms were the result of a diaper being too full and the sensor losing contact with the skin.  Otherwise, it's very dependable.

2.  Aden + Anais Swaddle Blankets

 These blankets are as good, if not better, than everyone said they'd be.  They are gauzy and large and great for everything from swaddling, to a lightweight blanket, to a sun shield, to play on.... the list goes on.  We used these to swaddle during the first month and will continue to use them for quite some time.  We almost never leave the house without one.

3.  Arms Reach Co-Sleeper

This handy dandy mini co-sleeper is a great option for those of us who want the convenience of cosleeping without actually sharing a bed.  It's really nice to be able to just grab him to nurse without stepping foot out of bed.  The Arms Reach eliminates the need for a changing table for us because there is enough storage underneath to for all of Everett's diapers and wipes.  We just roll out a flannel blanket and change him right on the bed.

This is a *mini* cosleeper and Everett will probably be moved to his crib in the next month or so because he's outgrowing it.  This should be used in lieu of a bassinet with the understanding that other sleeping arrangements will need to be made at 4-6 months.  I believe the regular Arms Reach Co-Sleeper can be used for a longer length of time and I may have chosen that one if I were purchasing it for myself, but this has really been a godsend.

4.  Mustela Line Toiletries AND Method Dyer Sheets (Rice Milk + Mallow)

This is sort of a silly one, but I love the combo of scents here.

Babies don't need any help smelling good, but these two products are easy on his skin as well.  The Mustela line has a shampoo/wash combo, rinseless soap, body oil, bubble bath and my favorite, the wipes.  I like to give Everett a quick clean up with the Mustela wipes before he sees his peeps.  They are wonderful and give Everett a signature scent, if you will (eyeroll).

I know some people don't like to use any dryer sheets at all, but if you are the sort who likes them, these are great.  You certainly only need one and it is another one of those things where even before Everett wears the clothes, people will say "that smells like Everett."

5.   Lawn Countertop Drying Rack
If you are bottle feeding at all, you may want to consider buying the lawn drying rack.  Bottle feeding my expressed milk has been such a big bummer (I promise I'll tell you more about this soon), especially in the beginning, that I wanted to do everything I could to make my life less difficult and the bottle feeding less bummer-ish.  We used Dr. Brown's bottles.  They work wonderfully, but there are a million different parts to them and they are a big pain in the ass to clean.  The rack makes it so much easier to deal with them.

Honorable Mention:  The Boppy

While the Boppy was just alright for breastfeeding (I used My Breast Friend in the hospital and it worked better but was only a single purpose item), Everett loved to BE in the boppy.  He was never a fan of being flat on his back for any length of time, pretty much from day 1, so he slept in the boppy for most of his naps (although I don't advise that).  A friend gave me the tip to put him on his tummy once he had some neck control (like you can see above, but probably pushed a bit more up to the edge) and put his toys in front of him on a surface with a solid surface to work on eye hand coordination and help him want to reach for things.  It's just a great place to put baby for a few minutes if you need a break.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Milk Maker Cookies

Recipes for these cookies float around the internet using a lot of names-- lactation cookies, breast milk cookies, milk makers cookies-- and all of the will get you the side eye if you mention the publicly and it's almost inevitable someone will say "So, you make these cookies with your breastmilk?" There's a little terror in their eyes when they ask, particularly if they've taken any baked goods from you recently.
No, there's no breastmilk in this recipe, just a bunch of ingredients that act as galactagogues (awesome Scrabble word simply meaning something that increases milk supply.) Peaceful Parenting has a great explanation of why each ingredient works (and a few different recipes for these cookies.) I think there are two other reasons these cookies work well. First, they are calorie bombs. A nursing mom often needs more calories than a pregnant mom and those calories can be hard to come by in a healthy way when busy with baby, work, and so on. Second, they are comfort food, which can help moms relax, and the more relaxed mom is, the more milk she makes.
I almost always have these cookies on hand and have one or two with a glass of milk or a piece of fruit for a snack. When I don't have them around, the amount of milk I pump in the morning is affected by an ounce or two. You can retain their galactagogue (can you tell I love this word?) qualities while reducing the calorie load by eliminating or alternating your mix-ins. My favorite variation adds lemon zest, white chocolate and dried cranberries. Cori prefers chocolate and peanut butter chips.
This recipe is a variation on Housepoet's Famous Lactation Boosting Cookies. It's great to bring a batch of these to a new mom and hit the spot more than flowers if you visit at the hospital.
basic recipe ingredients
  • 4 Tablespoons water
  • 2 rounded tablespoons flaxseed meal*
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups whole wheat or white flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 rounded tablespoons Brewers Yeast*
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats*
optional mix ins
  • 1-2 cups chips (chocolate**, white chocolate, peanut butter, butterscotch)
  • 1 cup cocoa nibs**
  • 1 cup dried fruit
  • 1 cup nuts
  • 1 cup broken pretzel pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chopped crystalized ginger
  • lemon or orange zest
*This is where the galactagogue magic happens, so don't skip these ingredients!
** Some say chocolate is a no-go while nursing. That suggestion makes me make this face.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, mix the water and flaxseed meal and set aside for a few minutes. It will turn to a thick, firm gel. Cream the butter and sugars, then add eggs one at a time, mixing well eat time. Stir the flaxseed mixture well and add to the butter mixture. Add the vanilla, salt and baking soda and beat until blended. Add the flour. Stir in oats and then any additional mix-ins.
Scoop onto baking sheets and bake for 9-11 minutes. For cookies that hold their shape and spread less, put each cookie sheet in the freezer for 20 minutes prior to popping them in the oven. I like to make a big batch of this cookie dough, then use a cookie scoop to portion out all the dough. I freeze the dough for 20 minutes, then put a dozen pieces in quart-size freezer bags and toss them back in the freezer. This way, I can have a fresh batch of cookies whenever I want (and it keeps me from eating way too many of them in one sitting.)
If you're in a rush, you can also make these as cookie bars. Simply grease a 9-by-11 pan, pour the batter in, smooth the top and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Because this is a thick, dense cookie bar, test them with a toothpick before pulling them out of oven. Only a few crumbs should cling to the toothpick when they are done. Let them cool completely before cutting.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hot Butt

See what I did there?  I have an email!

I want a hot butt and bod, just like the rest of everyone.  However, in my experience, pregnancy does not make ones body in better shape than it was pre-pregnancy (information - I haz it).  I was willing to do just about anything I could do by doing close to nothing to keep my body put together in the early days after pregnancy.  Since the hot butt part would be hard to manage until I truly had time to work it out (and am still working on it 4 months pp), I considered the part of the body changed most by pregnancy - the abdomen.

I had heard about belly binding peripherally through the years.  Natty and I talked early on about our plans to possibly try it, something we were both interested in but knew not a lot about.  In theory, it sounds like a good deal - no working out + doing very minimal work in order to help your body back to it's former shape.  I was game.  So, I embarked on some research.

I scoured the Internet, first looking for stories of women with experience and success in binding.  There was a ton of anecdotal evidence on archived pregnancy and fitness community forums indicating success.  Even media personalities know for their hot butts have used in belly binding with great results (in addition to a personal chef, trainer, etc, I'm sure).  It didn't take much to sell me on it, especially because besides wanting any helpI could get, I also wanted to secure my floating organs in my post partum baby-vacated belly.

After deciding that belly binding was for me, I started considering what type of wrap I wanted to buy.  Yes, I truly lost my mind and gave into my hormone fueled compulsion - I bought or tried each of these different wraps.  Please, learn from my mistake!  It's worth mentioning here that I did end up having a c-section (that story is for another day), so that does possibly change what I ended up liking.  Here is what I found:

The 12" binder
I'm a tall gal, so I thought the 12" aspect of it would be good.  I figured that something soft like this would possibly look decent under clothing and even help a bit with the hips, which I learned can also be helped by binding postpartum (due to the relaxin softening the joints).  I bought a medium (usual shirt size).  It was too big and too soft to really provide any real support even in the first days after birth, though the width was the right one or me (5'8").  It also rolled up on the top and bottom.  I did not use this wrap at all.

The Bengkung Mia
I got very interested in the Malaysian art of belly binding.  Belly binding is largely a cultural practice and many women still routinely do so in many other countries.  I actually bought two of these bad boys, imported from Malaysia.  They were very reasonably priced and as I already mention, I lost my marbles.  I got one thick, one thin so I could switch them off while one was in the wash.  Because I was totally going to wear them ALL THE TIME.

Sadly, that is not what happened.   This wrap is very well made and is probably a good option if you are not a fair weather fan of belly binding.  The Bengkung is very long, even though I bought the shorter version, so once you tie it up (which is simple), sitting is difficult.  Also, it was tough for me to wear this wrap and breastfeed.  I was doing a lot of sitting in the early days so I had to undo the whole contraption if I wanted to sit or nurse.  I did wear this wrap at times, but if I were going to only buy or wear one, I would personally choose something else.  A good option if you're very serious about this, though.

The No Frills Hospital Wrap
I actually got two of these wraps in the hospital for free and it's the one I ended up using the most. It was one size fits most, very tight if I wanted it to be, did not roll or shift too much.  It did show under clothes, but really, it wasn't that bad.  I wore this wrap from day 1 and for nearly 2 months post partum, all day, every day, including while I was asleep, unless I was going somewhere nice, in which case I put on my spanx.  I put them through the washer/dryer over and over and they held up nicely.  Not bad for free.

Spanx were fabulous for me from about month 2-3.  I wore them almost all the time because I liked the feeling of being sucked in.  Now, I don't know that they really helped size me down at all, but if you are anything like me and do not like feeling "loose" around the middle, you can wear these as often as you see fit.  As far as sizing goes, I squeezed myself into the same size spanx that I wore pre-pregnancy right away, although I would not have been able to put on the same size pants.

Now the burning question - did it help?  Yes, yes it did.  My stomach isn't back to where it was (it will take working out for that), but I'm confident that it went down much faster than it would have otherwise.  Can it really hurt?

Monday, October 15, 2012

How We're Living: October

Living with a baby is like serving a tiny little foreign dictator, an itty-bitty Kim Jong-Il, if you will. There's a language barrier, unreasonable demands, tantrums, and you sometimes move through the night wondering if you will live to see another day. In an effort to have something close to sanity, most parents try and follow their kids to a schedule that works for both of them. This is the first of a series where once a month we'll be posting how we're living these days. Sometimes we'll have questions, sometimes we'll have triumphs, and we'd love you to chime in too.
Cori & Everett
October is Everett's fourth to fifth month here on Earth.  It's a good one for both of us.  Since about month three, he has put himself on a fairly predictable schedule.  His schedule generally looks something like this:
6:30am: rouse to nurse, then cuddle back to sleep
6:40-8: sleep for Everett and DH, I pump then take the dog for a jog then shower if I can
8-9: awake for the day, drink bottle*, smile, giggle, coo, settle down I put him in his crib at first tired signs
9-10: nap
10-12: awake, nurse, drink bottle, giggle, coo, bathe, read, smile, laugh inappropriately at my burps, play, flail, startle, catch glimpses of RHWONY much to my chagrin, kick, smile some more, stare at Henry the dog, then settle
12-2: nap
2-5: same as 10-12
5-6: nap while mommy drinks a beer
6-8: DADDY'S HOME!  more activity, more eating, more smiles, more screams, more guffaws, start to settle, dim the lights, offer baba, story time, change diaper, put on Snuza, put on SleepSack, rock the baby, cuddles and lullabies
8pm: Daddy puts Everett to bed
8:01:  Parentals eat dinner and watch Homeland
10:00:  My bedtime
12:00:  DH does a dream feed then goes to bed
Admittedly, my baby is a good sleeper.  Natty says that you either get a good sleeper or a good eater, and I got the good sleeper*.  I put him down to nap any time he starts to seem cranky, look glazed over, or seems the slightest bit tired.  He generally goes down without a fight, but if he does fight it, I pick him up and soothe him, because that's the way I roll.
This schedule is a loose generalization of a day.  I try to be as flexible as I can within his parameters - if I go out to lunch with a friend, he'll usually take a shorter midday nap and take a longer afternoon nap. This works for both of us.  Times of naps may change, but there are always 3 or 4 amounting to 5ish hours of napping.  Bed time may be a little early or late, but he usually sleeps 12 hours.  We have yet to experience teething, though!
*more on all this (PITA) pumping/bottle feeding later
Natty & Georgia 
Georgia is three months old and just settling into a reliable schedule. I wasted a lot of time and energy by trying to get her into a rhythm before then. Three months is a long time to live at the whim of a person who weighs less than your average Thanksgiving turkey, but it felt even longer because I was trying to hard to make things predictable too early.
6:45/7:30 a.m. - Georgia wakes up and wants to nurse (pretty much all of her naps are flanked by a nursing session on either side.) The family hangs out in our bedroom while she starts her day and we drink coffee. She usually has lots of smiles and giggles for Patrick before he leaves for work for the day around 8.
8:30/9 a.m. - Time for her first nap of the day. I nurse her then plonk her in her crib while I eat some breakfast and start my work day. In a perfect world, she naps for about two hours, but too often, she wakes up after 45 minutes and wants out. I don't rush in at the first signs of consciousness - she sometimes rolls around for a bit, talking to herself and chewing on her blankie, then passes back out.
10:30/11 a/m. to 12:30/1 p.m.. - She's up and wants to nurse, then play. It used to be I could put her on her playmat or in her bouncy seat and work while she stared and swiped at her toys but no longer. She'll still play independently but not for very long and she really wants to be Doing Stuff. So, we go for walks or I carry her around while I tidy up around the house or we read books and play with Captain Calamari. It's also a good time to go for a quick errand or visit because then she can do the all important Looking at New Stuff.
12:30/1 p.m.- Nurse and a nap. I never know if this will be a long nap (2-1/2 hour) or a shortie (45 minutes), so I scramble to get some lunch and work done while I can. Once she is up from her nap, she's ready to nurse, then is usually more amenable to some independent play than she is in the morning, so I can get a few work things done while she plays, but she wants me in her line of sight.
4:30 p.m.- This is her most dependable nap and it usually lasts an hour. I think we both need this break towards the end of the day. If I forget to lay her down and she's been playing, it will suddenly get quiet and there she is, passed out in a heap of her toys.
6/6:30 p.m. - Patrick comes home just after she wakes up. She nurses, then he plays with her while I finish up my work for the day (hopefully). We put something together for dinner and Georgia usually starts to grump a bit just as we're finishing up.
7/7:30 p.m. - Georgia gets a bath, lotioned up, pajamaed, read a story, then nursed. This is when things kind of start to degrade and I'm often left nursing and rocking the girl until she's in a light coma, ala Buster Bluth. I don't want to have her dependent on nursing in order to sleep and during the day, I can lay her down in her crib awake and she'll babble a bit and pass out in 5-10 minutes, but if we try it at night, she screams bloody murder and gets so worked up, so quickly, it takes about 30 minutes just to calm her down.  Plus, it makes us feel terrible. (Even if she is asleep when we lay her down, she rouses almost immediately and is pissed.) Sometimes we lay her down and think we're in the clear but she wakes up 45 minutes later, screaming in a way she never does at other times.
So for now, I rock and rock and nurse and nurse and pat and pat and all the while, in my head I cycle through all the things that it could be and all the ways I'm making mistakes and in general, it's a hard way to end otherwise good days. When I think about it in the cool light of day, I realize she's just a little baby who is still learning to self-soothe.
Once she's asleep, I'm usually so exhausted myself, I head to bed before 10. She generally gets a good stretch of sleep, then wakes any time between 1 and 3 in the morning to be nursed. We get another few hours of sleep until sometime between 4 and 5:30 in the morning when she wants to nurse again. Then it all starts again around 6:45/7:30 the next day. It's really hard to live on so much broken sleep but I keep reminding myself that this won't last forever. Even if she sleeps this way for the next two years (please, Lord, have mercy) it isn't forever.