The {Not So} Beautiful Side of Pregnancy

The Not So Beautiful Side of Pregnancy. Gross things no one talks about.

Pregnancy. A time when you are supposed to feel like a gorgeous, human making, glowing goddess, Right? Well, yes, at times you will. But at other times you may feel not so stunning. While pregnancy can be beautiful and breath taking, it can also be gross. The thing is, no one really talks about the gross stuff. Sure, morning sickness is well known. But there is a whole lot more to it than just that. So let’s get is out in the open and talk about the not so beautiful side to pregnancy.

Bloating and gas

During pregnancy, a pleasant little hormone called Progesterone is on the rise. You are going to here about this hormone ALOT in this post. Progesterone loosens up the gastrointestinal muscles leading to lots of gas. And it may, er, smell worse than usual. Prepare yourself. And maybe your husband.

Acne

A hormone called androgens is to blame here. It is responsible for making your skin a bit more oily in the first and second trimester which can lead to acne. You can try out all natural remedies such as Apple Cider Vinegar. I have been using this since I first found out I was expecting and have been pretty surprised by it’s effectiveness. I mixed 2 parts ACV with 1 part water. I added it to a small spray bottle and use nightly. Simply spray a small amount on cotton ball and apply to face. The smell vanishes in just a few minutes!

Hair. (as in body hair, not the kind on your head)

This is one of those bitter sweet parts of pregnancy. While your locks may have never looked more luscious, you are also sprouting hair in other places that you may have never seen before (hello there, chin whisker).

Constipation

Progesterone, so nice to see you again. We warned you. He’s back again to loosen up those much needed digestive tract muscles, leading to a bowl movement back up. There are foods you can eat to help move things along as well as some gentle, non- stimulating stool softeners. Check with your doctor to see what the best avenue is to get things going again.

Hemorrhoids

Doesn’t the word itself just make your cringe a little. Yeah, me too. For some women, this may not occur until after labor and delivery, but for some, they can come earlier due to constipation and your expanding uterus. Luckily, they will ease up after baby is here, but may have small flare ups for some time. Lucky us! I would suggest pre-ordering some witch hazel soaked pads to have at home after delivery. They will help reduce the inflammation in the hemorrhoids and make them less painful.  You can find them on Amazon here. If you are planning on making your own post-delivery “padsicles”, you can use the witch hazel from that recipe too!

Bleeding Gums

One morning, you are going to spit into the sink after a brush and it’s going to look like you may have just finished a boxing match. And lost. But your bleeding gums are not something to be concerned about. Much like #7.

Nose bleeds

Again with the bleeding. Your increased blood supply can cause your expanded ( and more delicate) blood vessels in your nose to rupture more easily. While it can be scary, it’s usually not cause for concern and can be stopped by just pinching the nose for 20-30 seconds. Reach out to your doctor if they nose bleeds occur frequently or last for longer than a few minutes.

Heart Burn

Get the Tums ready. Heart burn during pregnancy sucks. The same hormone that is relaxing your digestive tract is also causing your muscles in your esophagus to relax, meaning they aren’t controlling the acid as well. A glass of milk always helps.

Skin Tags

You’re body is working overtime to grow all these wonderful little body parts for baby, and in the mean time it might grow a little extra skin for you too. Skin tags are likely to pop up in high friction areas. They are harmless and unless they are really bothersome, can be left. It they drive you bonkers, see your dermatologist about having them removed.

Sweat

So much sweat. Again, your body is working like a machine set to overdrive to make that baby. This may lead to sweaty pits. And sweaty boobs. And face. And anywhere else that may seem unpleasant.

Alright mama’s, it’s time to chime in! I want to know what items you think are missing from this list. What gross things happened to you during pregnancy that you weren’t expecting?


Check out more pregnancy reads:

The Third Trimester Checklist
The {Not So} Beautiful Side of Pregnancy
The Pregnancy Must Haves

23 DIY Kids Halloween Costumes

It’s officially Fall, y’all! Halloween will be here before we know it so it’s time to start thinking COSTUMES! There’s a certain sense to pride every crafty mom takes in making the best and most creative costume on the block. Here’s a list of 23 to get your wheels rolling on what your little one will dress up as this year! Don’t forget to follow LBL on Facebook and Instagram for more Festive Fall posts!

Stick Figure Costume Via All For The Boys

Spider Man from Dollar Store Materials Via Mad In Crafts


Jelly Fish Costume via Almost the Real Thing

Statue of Liberty Via Me Sew Crazy

Uno Card via Super Moms 360

Unicorn Costume from Craftaholics Anonymous

Buzz Lightyear Via Fun At Home With Kids

 

Owl via Hub Pages

Minions via Coolest Homemade Costumes

Easy Mac Via Costume-Works

Jelly Beans Via Wizzley.com

Gypsy Costume via This Mama Makes Stuff

Scuba costume via Artsy Fartsy Mama

Donut via Studio DIY


Cruella De Vil via Pop Sugar Mom

Army man via Wild Ink Press

Pizza Costume via U-Create Craffts

Snail Costume via Oh Happy Day


Baby Owl via Girl Loves Glam

Peacock via The Train to Crazy

Willy Wonka via Mitch and Mickey

Garden Gnome via Sponfull

Designing Baby’s Nursery On A Budget

Designing Baby's Nursery on a Budget

I’m not sure if someone is trying to play a very mean prank on me, but right around the time I found out I was pregnant with baby #2, A Pottery Barn Baby catalog was delivered to my house. I was instantly swooning over these delicious nurseries filled with plush pillows and toys, designer looking rocking chairs, sprawling area rugs that just begged you to lay down and roll on them and wall art that meticulously pulled it all together. Total price tag for the fantasy nursery: half a years mortgage payments.

But every baby deserves an adorable little nursery to come home to. so what’s a mama to do? I can’t bring myself to sell a kidney just to furnish a baby room. So I set out to create a nursery on a budget! Here’s some of the quick tips I’ve gathered and plan to use!

Don’t be afraid of DIY

on a scale of 1-10, my DIY skills are around a 4. I can do simple projects, but anything to complex usually lands in the fail pile. When I think DIY for a nursery, I usually think wall art and mobiles. I did a semi DIY project for Emmy’s room that I’m pretty proud of! I purchased the prints below from Etsy for $4 and had them printed on semi glossy paper at kinkos. I ordered 4 white frames from Amazon for $29 and created this wall art for above her crib. It was simple and somewhat one of a kind for a low price! I also like the idea that I can switch out the art work in the frames as her room changes in the coming years.

DIY Projects for Baby's Nursery on a Budget!

Here are a few other favorites when it comes to nursery DIY (all of them are level 4 or less in the easiness category).

Decorating Baby's Nursery on a Budget- Easy DIY Decor Projects

Hot Air Balloon Wall art from  724 South House

Decorating Baby's Nursery on a Budget- Easy DIY Decor Projects

Paper flowers from craftaholicsanonymous.net

Decorating Baby's Nursery on a Budget- Easy DIY Decor Projects

Easy Name Craft from PaperBlog.com

Embroidery Hoop Wall Art from Mom Machine.

Decorating Baby's Nursery on a Budget- Easy DIY Decor IdeasAlphabet Wall Art. Picture source unknown. I know Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, Walmart, Target and Joann’s all have a selection of letters that could be painted to suite your nursery theme. Most of those locations usually have pretty good coupons available so if you wait for the right time you could do this project for a small chunk of change!

Decorating Baby's Nursery on a Budget- Easy DIY Decor Ideas

One of my favorite DIY projects because no two will EVER be the same! A Shadow Box with all of baby’s birth keepsakes. First outfit, hospital bracelets, birth photo… there are so many options! I ordered this shadow box to make Emmy’s and I was able to fit a good amount of items inside. I do wish I would have gone just a bit bigger though. It was not large enough to fit her coming home onesie.

Repurpose and refurbish

In some cases, there is no need to go out and buy new furniture for baby’s room. A dresser or bookshelf could easily come from another room and be painted to fit the theme of the nursery. If you don’t have pieces, start searching garage sales and online sites for used items. You aren’t looking for the perfect items, you are looking for items with potential! Check out Spot of Tea Designs 1980’s dresser make over!  This was her husband’s childhood dresser that they had just lying around the house! There were no fancy tools used here! Just a can of primer, paint and sealer plus a can of spray paint to re-vamp the hardware! Even I could do that!

Decorating Baby's Nursery on a Budget- DIY Decor Ideas

 

Buy Used

In the case that you have written off any chance of you getting crafty for baby’s room, there is a HUGE selection out there of discounted baby furniture. Craigslist, eBay, and local websites. If you don’t see exactly what you are searching for, don’t be afraid to create a “wanted” post listing the materials you are looking for. Someone may have one lying around and had never thought of selling it! Reach out to close family and friends too and let them know you are on the look out for great deals on baby furniture. They can be an extra set of eyes for you while shopping or may know someone looking to sell items. My all time favorite place to buy used: Just Between Friends consignment sales. They have a franchise in just about every major city in the US. We have sales twice a year here in Houston and I just told Kay last week that we couldn’t go on a trip on a suggested weekend because that was the weekend of the sale. I seriously look forward to it all year-long! Here’s a link to search for a sale in your city: JBF Sale search.

Put Everything On a Registry (but not just ANy registry!)

Everything. Literally. I missed out on this BIG opportunity and I still kick myself for it. A few of the big retailers (Babies R Us, Target) offer some awesome benefits with your registry. Here’s the breakdown of the benefits:

Amazon: I don’t know that there is a single store you could walk into that has the selection size that you will find on Amazon. Most major brands you would find in Target or Babies R’ Us is available on Amazon. They offer a 90 day FREE return policy. Here’s the icing on the baby registry cake: you receive 10% “completion bonus” for any items purchased within 30 days of your due date. So if you register and receive $2,000 worth of gifts, you would receive $200! That could easily pay for a crib, glider or décor. Plus it’s easy for family and friends to send you gifts- no driving around to different stores! It all ships right to you! Plus you literally have HUNDREDS if not thousands of vendors to choose from and the prices are almost ALWAYS cheaper than in store. Sign up for an Amazon Baby Registry HERE!

BONUS TIP: If you are not a member of Amazon Family, you should be! Your completion bonus jumps from 10% to 15% if you are. Plus it gives you the option to have diapers and wipes sent straight to your door every month which is a huge #MomWin! I receive 20% off my diapers and wipes each month by subscribing. You can try it for free for one month by signing up below:
Join Amazon Family 30-Day Free Trial

Babies R Us: Babies R’ Us is probably the first place that pops into your mind when you think “baby registry”. Any store that is entirely dedicated to baby is bound to have a great selection of items! While the prices are usually a big higher than you might find on Amazon, it is nice to have a physical place you can go to look at the items you want to register for. You may want to see the finish of a crib in person or slip the diaper bag you’ve been eying over your shoulder to try on for size. 10 weeks after your due date, Babies R Us will give you a gift card with 5-10% cash back of the items purchased on your registry. (5% for the first $300 spent, 10% anything over $300). I personally had a small registry at Babies R Us and the gift card came at the perfect time! The cash back is for ANYTHING purchased on your registry, even if you buy it for yourself! The negatives to Babies R Us is the prices ALWAYS seem to be higher and I frequently have trouble finding exact items in store. They offer a 1 year return policy for your unwanted baby items. They also have a great points system that gives discounts and tracks your purchases in the case that a receipt is lost.

Target:  Moms love target. Target loves moms, too! They will give you 15% off anything LEFT on your registry 6 weeks before your due date. Just a heads up, you can’t add things 6 weeks before and then try to use the discount (tried it, doesn’t work!) so add EVERYTHING you think you might need from the get go. Downside is that the 15% off coupon does have to be used in 1 day. I have personally been disappointed by the baby selection in my local Target. Online is a different story, they have so much more! They usually have a minimum purchase amount to qualify for free shipping which can be a pain. I did a baby registry at Target with Emmy and do not plan on doing it again with baby #2.

I did some research into a few other stores (Walmart, BuyBuyBaby and Pottery Barn) but they either had prices that were way too high to list them on a money saving post or they did not offer any sort of completion savings.

Accept Hand Me Downs

If I had to guess, I would say 80% of the baby gear we have is hand me downs. Emmy’s crib belonged to my niece and she is now 10… you would never know it looking at the crib! It’s in great shape! Accept any hand me downs that are offered to save a bundle!

What tips would you offer to save money when it comes to building your baby’s nursery? Comment below and share! Be sure to read more articles like this one below!

The Glider Guide

 

The Pregnancy Must Haves

Pregnancy Must Haves from Swaddles n' Bottles

Welp,  baby #2 is on the way! Little Emmy is beyond ecstatic to be a big sister (read: she has no idea how much her world is about to change) and Jay is convinced we are bound to have nothing but girls! All the while, I am over here trying to prepare myself for the months ahead. The morning sickness has been making itself very present (all day, every day) since about 6 weeks and my body is already starting to ache! As soon as the test came back with two pink lines, I began gathering my pregnancy must -haves. Here’s what I will e depending on over the next couple months to make this wonderful experiences even more wonderful!

Prenatal Vitamins

As soon as the test came back positive, this was the first thing that went through my mind! I need to start taking vitamins! Luckily, I had about 10 days of supply left over from Emmy and was able to order more on Amazon. Of course, there are dozens of brands of prenatal vitamins that will do the trick, but always make sure they have DHA! This brand has been my go-to now for both pregnancies. I like that they are soft gels and easy to swallow. Find them here.

Natual Prenatal Vitamins with DHA

Fight Morning Sickness

The morning sickness may only last for a few months, but it makes its presence very strong in that short time. I did an entire post on all my favorite snacks and home remedies used to fight morning sickness with Emmy. While I continued using these methods for baby #2 (including the Pink Stork Morning Sickness Tea)  I added in a few new Pink Stork products as well. My new favorite: the aromatherapy necklace. It’s basically a diffuser you are able to wear around your neck! Pink Stork has an awesome essential oil just for morning sickness and it works wonders! I never wore my necklace at night, but I would use the same essential oils in my bedside diffuser to help with the 4 A.M. nausea that seemed to happen every. single. night! A few other products I used daily were the Prenatal Probiotic (for general gut health), Cocolaurin and the Away Bars. The Away Bars were basically protein bars for pregnant woman! They don’t contain any drugs or unnatural foods that you might find in other protein bars.  I was a little worried that they were blueberry flavor (didn’t sound good to my pregnant appetite), but it was surprisingly mild and tasted a lot like a blueberry muffin!

Pink Stork Away Bars to Fight Morning Sickness

Pink Stork Away Bars- Blueberry Flavor

The Pink Stork Aromatherapy Necklace. I placed a few drops of their essential oils onto the lava rock inside the necklace and the small lasts all day!

The Pink Stork Aromatherapy Necklace. I placed a few drops of their essential oils onto the lava rock inside the necklace and the small lasts all day!

Pregnancy Pillow

To my dismay, my hip and sciatic nerve pain returned WAY earlier than I had first encountered when pregnant with Emmy. Isn’t it funny how one of the biggest symptoms your feel in your first trimester is exhaustion, yet you cannot sleep to save you life?! I tossed and turned all night in my first trimester attempting to get comfortable and ease the pain in my back. The pain almost completely disappeared when I started using the Snoogle. I actually learned about this product before I was pregnant through Facebook. A friend posted how it was the only relief she could find in her third trimester. With Emmy, I had used one of those straight body pillow and with the little relief it had provided, I had written off pregnancy pillows all together thinking they didn’t work. Wrong. This one seriously works! Plus I love how many different ways I can use it. I’m currently using it with the long part across my stomach. Once I hit the point that I can no longer sleep on my back, I plan on flipping it to keep me from rolling over in the middle of the night.

The Snoogle- Sleeping Support for the expectant mama

 

Belly Support Band

As baby gets bigger, the bump gets heavier. Around 6 months, I started wearing a maternity support band with Emmy. It really relieved a lot of pressure from my back. I bought one that sat below the belly (like this one) and it was not visible under my clothes.  I have also seen them at Babies R’ Us as well! Make sure it is adjustable in size so you can continue to wear it as you grow and BREATHABLE! When you add your maternity pant waist and a shirt ON TOP of the band, it can get very hot quickly if it is not a breathable material.

Tummy Butter

Ahhh, the tiger stripe scars that come with pregnancy. They are your warrior stripes that show you have done a task only a woman can do and created life. But it’s still nice to try to combat them from taking over! This pregnancy I am giving Tummy Butter a try! I like the fact that the products are 100% natural. Did you know it only takes 26 seconds for toxins to make their way into your blood stream? That fact was enough to make me decide I wanted to play it save and go the natural path. You can find it here.

Tummy Butter- a 100% natural stretch mark prevention cream

Water Bottle

If you aren’t a water drinker, you better get used to having to down allllot of h2o everyday. It’s a great way to fight stretch marks and also essential to healthy breast milk production once baby is here.  With this pregnancy, I found that anything other than ice cold water didn’t sit well. It would usually make me pretty nauseous. So I ordered an Artic cup and  special straws for it. It seriously keeps my water cold for like 12 hours straight. I keep it on my night stand and it is so nice and refreshing in the middle of the night. I aim to drink about 5 full cups a day. Some days it happens and some days is doesn’t, but I can definitely say I am drinking more than I used to!

Maternity Leggings

These are not just a pregnancy must have, they are a mom life must have. I own more pairs of leggings than I ever have before! While I’ve got a bump, I practically live in my Blanqui Maternity Leggings. Motherhood Maternity also makes a great pair and they are a fraction of the price of the Blanqui brand! Maternity leggings are also great for after baby comes and you are breastfeeding. They hide your belly well in the case that you have to lift up your shirt when it comes time to feed!

 

The Shock and Awe of Baby #4

This is guest post from Kayla at SimplyBurch.com. Be sure to check out her blog after reading her post!

I was feeling nauseous when I woke up from a mid-day nap. With three rambunctious children I don’t normally have that luxury but this day I couldn’t fight it, I was exhausted. I woke up with the thought, I am pregnant. But I couldn’t be, could I? We were done, I was on birth control and life was already crazy.

You know those times when you just stare off into nothingness and every thought and fear you have ever had flash right before your eyes? Yeah, I had that the day I saw that big fat positive. We were now expecting baby #4. FOUR…..that is one more than three, one more mouth to feed, one more little tiny human wrecking ball. How was I going to do it? I do not have enough hands or energy.

I was full of so many emotions and it was absolutely overwhelming. I have always wanted four children but I had given up on that dream with health issues and a hysterectomy in my near future. My scheduled appointment with my OBGYN to get the surgery on the books would actually turn into my first prenatal appointment. Talk about a  shock.

As soon as I saw the positive sign, I went straight outside to tell my husband. There was no time for a cutesy announcement, I needed to know his reaction and I needed to know now.  Was he going to be just as shocked as I was? Would we share the same fears?

I tell him, he responds with a smile and “Maybe it will be another girl.”

Wait? Another girl………oh man, what if it is another girl? A sweet little baby girl wrapped in pink, that newborn smell, her precious little head resting on my chest, her innocence as she discovers the world around her and the unbreakable bond she will have with her older brothers and sister. “What if it is another girl?”

A new rush of emotions came over me. The thought of our new and changing future didn’t seem so scary. The emotions were still overwhelming but not near as knee shaking. We were going to have another baby. I honestly didn’t think I would ever say those words again.

My nerves instantly turned to gratitude. I almost lost my husband in a line of duty accident two years ago. Through that time and in his recovery I could have never dreamed we would be adding one more member to our family. I am internally grateful for the gift of his life and the gift of this new life growing inside of me.

My family has been given the gift of life in so many ways and not a day goes by that I will take that for granted. This doesn’t mean that I don’t carry fears around. I still question my ability to care for four children, I still worry I won’t be enough for them but I am steady in the thankfulness to prove myself wrong. I know this growing love in my heart will be enough to sustain my fears.

It doesn’t matter what emotions you have when you find out, don’t feel guilty about it. I went from being shaken from shock to standing in awe in a matter of minutes. Even if it takes you hours, days, or months don’t worry, you got this. You are going to rock on this new journey of motherhood. Sometimes our greatest blessings come when we expect it the least.

Oh, and baby is a girl in case you were wondering. Our little family is looking forward to meeting Miss Maebri in June.


The Third Trimester Checklist
The {Not So} Beautiful Side of Pregnancy
The Pregnancy Must Haves

The Difference Between Postpartum Depression and The Baby Blues

Postpartum Depression vs. Baby Blues. Know the Difference.

This is a guest post by HealthyPregnancy.com. Read more about them at the end of this post.

For many new mothers, a striking change of mood in the weeks following a birth can be a bit unnerving, especially after months of hectic schedules and major life changes. Indeed, a sense of sadness, loss of energy and bouts of crying can be an unwelcome series of events when a mother is already trying to adjust to a new life with a baby. However, a sudden change in mood is a regular part of having a child, with up to 80 percent of new mothers experiencing a period of “baby blues.”

When Sadness Becomes a Concern

It is when this sense of sadness and lethargy does not go away in a reasonable amount of time that a case of “baby blues” may start to become what is known as postpartum depression. While everyone goes through periods of sadness every once in a while, particularly when a person has experienced a big change in life, prolonged periods in this state may be a cause of concern and a sign that a person should consult their physician. Here are just a few differences between a brief case of the baby blues and postpartum depression.

When Feelings of Tiredness and Sadness Don’t Go Away

The period following the birth of a child is a time of great happiness for a new mother. However, it is also a time when the body must naturally readjust itself to a new form of care for a baby. As the body naturally adapts to feeding and taking care of a newborn, the brain’s response can often be to go into a state of clinical depression.

Knowing the Signs of Postpartum Depression

When this state of depression persists for longer than two weeks, it may be a sign that additional help is needed for a new mother to get back to a normal emotional level. While the following is by no means a complete list, consulting a physician should be a priority for mothers who experience any of the following symptoms for over two straight weeks:

  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Feelings of hopelessness or anxiety
  • Loss of interest in passions
  • Inability to sleep or extensive oversleeping

What Can Be Done to Combat Postpartum Depression

Fortunately, physicians can do much to aid new mothers in overcoming a case of postpartum depression. Discussing options for treatments with a physician such as counseling or a program of anti-depressant medication can do much to make healing manageable. (It is especially important to discuss a plan for anti-depressant medication with a doctor, as anti-depressants can affect what chemicals a child receives through breastfeeding.) For these reasons, knowing how a case of the baby blues can tip over into a spell of postpartum depression can significantly help new mothers to be prepared after the birth of a child. After all, a new birth is a time for celebration and happiness and no one wants to spoil a bonding period with their child with the added difficulties of low mood and energy. Fortunately, there is much hope for mothers who want help for postpartum depression and a wealth of professionals and natural remedies to assist them.

Healthy Pregnancy Guest Posts On Swaddles n' Bottles

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6 Secrets of a Happy Mom

This is a guest post from Talida, the creator of  Magical Mom.  She’s an international traveling mama to three and one incredible writer. We are so thankful to have the opportunity to feature her on our site! Read  more about Talida at the end of her post.

6 Secrets of a Happy Mom

“Happiness depends on ourselves.” said Aristotle, exploring the idea that happiness is a central purpose of human life. But what if you lost it somewhere in between the exhaustion and overwhelm of being a mother? Or perhaps between unreliable sleep patterns and toddler meltdowns?

In this article, we will analyze the secrets of a happy mom — simple, actionable steps and minimal habits to embrace to increase our happiness every single day.

1. YOU come first

“Put your oxygen mask first before helping others” was the key sentence of my 20s. I probably said it thousands of times in my 7-year aviation career. I never got what it meant until I became an overwhelmed mother of 3 kids under 3.

Sleepless nights holding sweet breastfeeding babies or pink fluffy monsters scared toddlers, foggy mornings of fixing everybody’s breakfast before my own, tired TIRED days of paying attention, comforting, playing, working and trying to function. Go, go, go, until one day when we simply cannot anymore.

We start to resent our partners for not being as sleep deprived as we are. Or our kids for not being “better” sleepers, eaters, sharers, fill-in-the-blank-ers. We judge other mothers who seem to have it more together than us by picking up on what they do differently.

All of this because of something that seems to be ingrained into our DNA: us women, and even more so mothers, we tend to put the needs of the people we love ahead of our own. It comes more natural to us to care about others than to care about ourselves. It’s more intuitive to feed our kids first and then inhale whatever is left on their plates. Without ever sitting down. Or using grown-up cutlery. Or chewing.

2. Plan ahead

There are moments in my day when I am simply not equipped to make decisions. That happens when I lack the resources (emotional, mental or simple logistics). As a result, it will end up being a draggy miserable process and some unfortunate decisions on my part.

When it comes to small decisions such as what to eat, what to wear, what to read, I batch plan ahead when I know I have the mental capacity to do so.

During Saturday or Sunday afternoon quiet times, I go through my calendar, then do the meal planning for the week ahead. I don’t reinvent the wheel. I just have 3–4 weeks worth of meal planning and the respective shopping lists.

In the night, right before tucking in the kids, I lay down the next day’s clothes. I do the same for myself after I take a shower.

3. Special time

“Special time” is a dedicated block of time we spend with our kids: without complaining, being distracted by other activities or people and with sheer enthusiasm, we give our children the precious gift of undivided attention and willingness to just be with them. It worked miracles with my kids.

After my commitment to put my needs first, I decided I will offer myself special time. 15 minutes of giving myself permission to do whatever I wanted to be doing, without beating myself up for not being more productive, procrastinate less or do something for the house and the kids. I would ask myself “I’ve got 15 minutes. What do I want to do?” Some days I would nap. Others I would be on Instagram. Sometimes I would just meditate. No matter what I chose to do, I would stop the auto-pilot inner dialogue telling me that it was not ok to take this time and waste it.

Initially, I would spend the first 10 minutes worrying about the non-ending pile of other must do on my list — must put a load of laundry, must start peeling carrots, must pay this bill. In time, however, I learned to silence the lizard brain. Slowly, my mind caught up with my soul, and I valued this time more and more.

What would you do if you have 15 minutes? Put on that timer. Do it.

4. Special time with our partner

It happens in every single home after having a baby: we are so in love with the tiny human who grew in our bellies, we tend to forget all about the big human who made it together with us.

My husband Steven has an another theory about this: “we spend so much time cuddling and giving our babies love, attention, and closeness, our cup of physical contact and cuddles is full. So we no longer feel the need to cuddle with our partners as much as we used to.” If my man felt this way, you can only imagine how I felt.

When a new baby joins the family, the beginnings are rough — sleepless nights, emotional roller coaster, physical pain, animal desires to protect and care for the tiny. Nothing and nobody else matters.

While connecting with our children is vital for their development and even survival, it is sometimes done at the expense of disconnection from our partner. By the time we wake up from our foggy period of bonding-feeding-adjusting, we don’t know anymore how to reconnect with them.

In my family, I once again embraced the idea of special time. And while it is starting with just what the other person wants to do or talk about, it is a way of re-connection and becoming intimate again.

We have date nights every couple of weeks, and the rule is to talk about anything and everything except KIDS, MONEY, HOUSEHOLD. You’d be surprised to find out how little we talk about outside these topics. A bit scary and embarrassing. This is happening to you too, right?

Start the night with what is going well for you personally, or for your family. Take turns.

Continue discussing random stuff, such as “What would you rather have in your life: a pause or a rewind button?” or “If you could live inside a tv show for a week which one would you choose?”.

Listen. Try not to give advice. Put the phones away. Hold hands.

5. Special time with each child

Human beings flourish when they feel connected to each other. When we feel listened to, understood, not judged, loved for exactly who we are, we thrive. Every single person is wired for connection. It is even more important for children. Any break in connection can signal to them they are not safe. This, however, is not a one-time thing we do. It’s a nurturing mixing pot of actions, dialogues, and habits.

Before I had kids, I thought love was a grad. You love some people a little bit, some a little bit more, some none at all, and some we love so exhaustively, we can’t even imagine breathing without them. But as I grew in experience and wisdom, I realized that love is just LOVE. Love can’t be measured in quantity or quality. We either love, or we don’t. As it comes to our kids, every single mother loves her children (ALL of them) to the absolute best of her capacity. The trick comes when we have to show that love to them. It’s not enough to just love our kids. We must show it.

I tried many things to make all my children feel loved: I listened to what they asked for (more mama), I gave them things they asked for (more mama, more treats, more books at bedtime, more time playing, one more of …). However, they were always asking for MORE. And in time, their demands for more only made me feel stretched too thin.

When a child is misbehaving, many adults say “She’s just asking for attention, ” but they rarely take that literally. She’s asking for attention because she needs it. Giving attention to our kids will not spoil them.

Every single child needs individual connection — maybe not constant, not at the expense of a sibling and certainly not used as a currency, but they do need it.

I used to reconnect with my older daughter when the babies were sleeping. Nothing fancy, just sitting down next to her on the carpet and telling her I have some time and would like to spend it with her. I did whatever she asked. I pretended to be Elsa, or the pink pony, or her base for acro yoga. And when that timer went off, we were both happier in our respective roles.

With the twins, I take one at a time after the bath to read a story and do some rough play (my boy has different connection needs).

After these times, each one of the kids feels special, loved and cared for. Individually. Every day. It should be in our calendars.

6. Prioritize sleep

After the kids go to sleep, there are a million other things to do: clean the kitchen, prepare the lunch boxes, take a shower, read, talk to our partners, catch up with social media, friends or family members, iron, laundry or exercise.

For many years, I convinced myself I was a night owl. I would stay up really late, and binge-watch “Sex and the City” or “Friends.” Unfortunately for my inner owl, my kids didn’t seem to function the same way — they wake up at 6:30 am without fail, and none of us can function past 7 pm. Not to mention that school starts early and all the classes during summer break are in the morning.

It was easier to breathe through the initial tiredness and celebrate the fact that my portion of the day was just starting after the kids went to sleep, but I was deeply regretting it the next day. If we allow it to continue (as I did), chronic tiredness will become the new norm. I will not announce here all the downfalls of sleep deprivation, but the one that kicked me back to reality was my inability to cope with early morning demands.

I shifted my entire perspective, and instead of having my portion of the day at night, I swapped it for the first part of the day. I go to bed ridiculously early, and I wake up even more ridiculously earlier. I’m an introvert fueling on solitude. My current settings (3 kids under 4, one louder than the other) doesn’t promote this kind of environment. So I start my day early, fuel my needs first, and then I can proceed to attend to the needs of the ones around me. It’s a very simple shift and just a decision to put my phone down at 8. In another room. I then take a book and read in bed until my eyes almost close. I have a silent alarm on my wrist at 5:15. I wake up and meditate, exercise, drink my tea and write before anybody else moves. I love the silence of the house. I love the sun rising. I love the peace. Even more than that, I love that when my kids are finally awake, I can be present, engaged and generous with my attention. You can sustain that only by taking care of yourself FIRST.


February Giveaway + Review: Finn + Emma Unisex Clothing Line

I have become obsessed with gender neutral baby items! I’m not sure if it is my thoughts that future baby #2 could be a boy? Or maybe I’m just starting to transition away from all things pink? Either way, I have been purchasing all items in gender neutral colors lately! I was beyond excited to find that Finn+ Emma had an entire unisex clothing line! Emmy is rockin’ this elephant romper with matching wrap and I just can’t get enough of it! I love what Finn + Emma stands for when it comes to their products! Organic, eco- friendly, non-toxic, fair trade materials. When I first opened the package I thought the fabric was sooo soft. That was before I washed it. It seriously felt even softer after a run through the machine! Finn + Emma also has some of the most adorable knit toys I’ve ever seen! Here are a few of my favorites.  I just can’t get enough of this brand!

Want a Emma + Finn romper for your little one? Well, lucky you! We have teamed up with Finn + Emma and are giving one away this month! Details below on how to enter and WIN!

p.s.- I’ve got about a gazillion other items in the works for giveaways in 2017. I’m aiming to do one a MONTH, if not MORE! Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out!

 

Sanity Saving Tips for New Moms- from a Twin Mom

This is a guest post written by Robin Lloyd, mom to adorable twins, from The Mama Playbook. Read more about Robin at the end of this article.

Motherhood will teach you many things, in fact, in my experience it has been the greatest learning curve of my life. Having twins smashed my preconceived notion of being prepared for this motherhood gig. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve changed my opinion on parenting tactics…never say never truly applies to being a twin mom! (Or a mom at all for that matter).

One of the biggest lessons I have learned so far is to compromise on things in order to preserve my own sanity, because let’s face it…a sane, (or at least somewhat sane) mother is always a better mother than one who has completely lost all semblance of sanity. And frankly, I do still have those pretty insane days, but I do try to remember what is important and what is not, and hold on to what’s left of my brain that way. So, here’s a list of a few tips I want to share on how I stay (mostly) sane being a twin mom!

Prioritize prioritize prioritize!

Really, this is the MOST important tip of all. Hardly a moment goes by that I don’t have to decide which task to accomplish and which to let go. Let’s just say I run the vacuum a lot less these days because my family wants to eat so making food takes priority (I know, the nerve of them right) and sometimes/oftentimes food is a far simpler offering than I would prefer (nachos and baked potatoes as a diet staple anyone?) but at least our tummies are full…mostly.

Say no and don’t feel guilty

Or really really try to not feel guilty. I am a work at home mom to fourteen month old twins. I full-time ‘mom’, teach piano, sell books and handmade baby items, and blog. My life is nuts, it just is. While a play date sounds fun, and in theory is only a scheduled hour, quite honestly I often don’t have the time, let alone the energy. I feel bad saying no to people who truly care about me and just want to see me, but the facts are, despite my best efforts, I am not Super Woman. My energies are not a limitless resource and I’ve learned the hard way that saying no is far easier than picking up the shattered pieces of my babies, my schedule, and myself because I caved out of guilt and said yes. As much as I would love to do so, I just cannot do a lot for other people right now. I would love to be able to take my niece and nephew out for the day, or drop a surprise dinner off at a sick friends. One day my twins will grow up.  Then I will once again have time to make homemade cookies for the mailman and surprise a friend with coffee. However, today is not that day my friends. And as my mom says, those who love you WILL understand.

Shower

No really, shower! This doesn’t happen every day and often I have a baby or two in there with me, but when my husband is home I have him watch both babies (even if that means letting them watch a Veggietales or Little Einsteins so no one is screaming and ruining my peaceful vibe), shut the bathroom door and actually take the time to really wash my hair. Sprinkle some lavender in your tub, light a candle, own that fifteen to twenty minutes and make it YOURS. It’s amazing how drastically that small slot of time can change your perspective and recharge you.

Don’t try to do it all

Return phone calls in a timely manner? Ha. Maybe next year. Be on time every time? Right, maybe when my kids stop pooping. Organize the kitchen? Ok… now that’s really funny. A dear friend who also has twins recently said her motto is ‘ain’t nobody got time for that,’ and is she right. Before kids, I was that person who had thank you cards stamped and in the mail practically before the gift had been placed in my hands. Want to know the last thank you card I sent? Let’s just say… it’s been a while. I care just as much as I did before kids but it is REALLY hard to write a thank you with babies squirming all over you let alone make it to the post office. As every mom knows, babies love to eat paper and thank you cards are tempting treats (hopefully that’s not just my offspring…). So I try to send a text, or an email (because talking on the phone is actually just as hard most days) and I don’t even always get that done in a reasonable amount of time. And yes, I still feel bad about it. But mamas, literally, ain’t nobody got time for that. At least not right now.

Accept help

Even when you cannot reciprocate (just make certain it’s not from someone who is going to make you feel bad when you can’t!). If you have someone offering no strings attached help (and it’s actually really helpful), say thank you, accept, and move on with your life. This is really the hardest one for me: I’m fiercely independent and I’ll admit quite the control freak so allowing others to do things for me really gets my goat. But as I mentioned before, being a twin mama has made me realize, I cannot do it all. To my disappointment, I am not omnipotent and all-powerful. And being a mama, it’s not all about me. I cannot force my babies to poop BEFORE we leave the house or expect them to go hungry waiting for lunch because getting somewhere five minutes early was more important than their needs. And that’s ok. I am a mom now. It’s ok to not be perfect at everything or… anything. Remember, you’re doing your best. And nobody (including yourself) should ever make you feel bad about that.


How Much Tummy Time Should Your Baby Do Each Day?
The 5 Best Toys for Baby’s First Year
The Difference Between Postpartum Depression and The Baby Blues

How We Avoided the Baby Helmet and Fixed Our Baby’s Flat Head

How we corrected our babys flat head without a helmet

Big disclaimer for our story: I am not a doctor and cannot suggest you use any of the methods or products listed in this post. Information shared is not intended as medical advice.  If you are concerned with your child’s head shape, consult with a physician.

I’ll never forget the moment that the scan of my child’s head popped up on the screen. HOW had I not noticed how flat it was? And it wasn’t only flat, it was kind of crooked. The mom guilt started to wash over me instantly. The pediatric therapist who had taken the images of Emmy’s head asked if I had noticed her favoring one side of her head while sleeping. Um, no? Well maybe? I couldn’t be sure.  I mean I had watched her sleep so many nights, how had I not noticed something like this? Turns out that Emmy had a tightness in her neck that caused her to favor facing her left side while snoozing. This caused her brain to grow through the path of least resistance, resulting in a sort of bulge on the right side of her head. The photo below compares a normal babies head shape to Emmy’s head. It also shows that I have one chuuuuuunky baby 🙂

How We Avoided The Baby Helmet And Fixed Our Baby's Flat Head

The pictures spoke for themselves. Something had to be done to help our sweet girl. It was recommended that Emmy be placed in a Doc Band, aka, a baby helmet. The band would be worn for a minimum of 6 weeks and a maximum of 3 months. We contacted our insurance company to see what our out of pocket cost would be… a whopping $2,800! The good news was the cost would go towards our deductible. Bad news- there was only a month and a half-ish left in the year! While we were willing to do what we needed to for Emmy, we also didn’t want to be rash with our spending. We consulted with the PT and asked if waiting until the first of the year to start Emmy in her band would be a bad idea. He advised us that an additional time would not cause great harm, but he suggested we do some exercises to help Emmy in the mean time. I left the doctor’s office that day with a list of instructions on how to help Emmy get straightened out. I was a mama on a mission!

Tummy time

Before the suggestion to put Emmy in a helmet, we did about 20 minutes of tummy time a day. I had assumed this was enough. When I asked her doctor how much we should be doing moving forward he responded with “25 hours a day is too much”. So from there on out, almost every minute that Emmy was not sleeping or nursing was spent on her tummy. Like alot of babies, Emmy was not a fan of just plain old tummy time on the floor. Her PT had advised that any position where Emmy’s head was going against gravity would be beneficial to her. So any time at home was spent rotating between a few different “tummy stations”. I would set her up on the boppy pillow with a books and toys close by.  When that got boring I would move her to where she was laying on her tummy on top of my chest and we would make silly faces at each other. I would also cross my legs and lay her across them while we read a book. I would carry her around the house superman style.  We were constantly moving from room to room to keep things interesting. Tummy time outside on a blanket was a huge hit and she could usually do that for 20 minutes straight! We also started using a water mat which was just fascinating for Emmers. Emmy never spent another minute in her baby swing. We had previously been using a travel system for her stroller but switched to one that she could sit up in if we were on the go versus laying in her car seat.  We made an effort to make sure every minute was beneficial to her head.  Her muscles did need a break every now and then and that is when we would move to neck stretches. But besides that, it was tummy time all day, every day.

Tummy Time On Vacation in Florida

Tummy Time On Crossed Legs

Tummy Time Outside

Neck Stretches

The tightness in Emmy’s neck the caused her to favor one side needed to be loosened. Luckily for Emmy, this was easily done during play time or by mom and dad holding her. The play time stretch: I would lay Emmy on her back and place her favorite toy on the right side of her body. I would sit on her right side too to keep her neck stretched in that direction. We would play like this for 15 minutes or so before rolling over and going back to tummy time. This was done multiple times a day.

The Football Hold:We were able to hold Emmy a certain way that would really get her neck muscles stretched out. Unfortunately I do not have a photo of me doing this with Emmy, but I do have this wonderful example photo the doctor provided me with. I will say that this one takes practice. Jay and I would take turns holding Emmy while the other one looked at this picture to make sure it was being done correctly. We would do this one a few times a day, but it was the least performed exercise over the month and a half.

How We Corrected Our Baby's Head Shape Without a Hemlet

Crib Adjustments

I did alot of research in the days after seeing Emmy’s scan on products we could purchase to help her. I read countless reviews and looked through a ton of before and after photos. We ended up purchasing a Merry Shop Head Shaping Pillow. Now before anyone freaks out that I put a pillow in my child’s bed, let me give you some facts. Emmy was 5 months old when we began using this product. She has yet to roll over and she hardly even moves once she hits the mattress. If she was a busy body type sleeper, I would probably have decided against this product. Second, the pillow is made from a heavy memory foam type material that caused it to stay put pretty well.  We took the pillow with us on long car rides, on vacations, basically every where that Emmy would be sleeping. An alternative that Emmy’s pediatrician recommended was taking a roll of foam like this one and cutting a small area to go under her crib sheet where she lays her head. He suggested to put the bumpy side down and this would help correct her flatness. Here is a picture of the product in Emmy’s crib.

How we avoided the baby helmet and fixed our baby's flat head

As soon as the New Year began, we scheduled a follow up appointment for Emmy. The doctor  took one look at her head and told us a helmet was not necessary. I almost cried tears to joy! He advised us that her head still had a mild flat spot, but nowhere near severe enough to need correction through the Doc Band. He advised we continue our efforts we had been making over the past month in order to make sure we stayed on the path towards a round little baby head.

Is a helmet right for your child?

If your baby has been recommended for a Doc Band or another form of baby helmet, know that so many other moms are in your same position! in 1994, the Back Is Best campaign was launched by the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the US National Institutes of Health. Before this time, it was common for mothers to place babies on their stomach to sleep in order to prevent choking on spit up. Since the campaign, there has been a HUGE increase in the baby helmets. There is still alot of debate on the subject and whether or they are completely necessary. Some argue that it is strictly cosmetic, while the doctors who prescribe the bands usually cite scary issues such as jaw and nasal complications as the child grows. I know many people whose children have been in or are currently in a Doc Band. I also know many mothers who were told it was needed and went completely against the decision and their kids are still cute as can be. That’s the hard part about being a mom. The decision is yours to make for your family. We decided we would do the helmet but at a time that made sense financially for our family. In the mean time we did what the doctors suggested and the results were more than we could have ever imagined! So if you are here searching for an answer on what do to about fixin’ your kids flat, I don’t have one for you. Know that I, like many other mother in this situation, spent many nights lying awake wondering what to do. The decision you make for your child will be the right one.

I’d love to hear from you in regards to the baby helmet discussion! Please feel free to comment below or email me at [email protected]

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