Gwendolyn’s Birth Story

In the early hours of that warm morning in May, my mind was consumed with the task of birthing my baby. It didn’t matter what else was going on in the world because, during those intimate, seemingly unending moments, I could neither see nor hear anything besides the voices of my team, including my husband who never left my side. They were supporting me, encouraging me, and guiding me toward the ultimate goal of meeting my newest daughter.

It all started around 6am the previous morning, when my husband and I left our apartment to head to the hospital for an induction. My mother had flown in from Florida a few days prior to stay with our daughter when it was time. I will admit I was torn on whether or not to be induced. I really wanted my daughter to come on her own, but I ultimately decided to be induced to reduce the risk of tearing as badly as I did with my first daughter, Laurel. Read her birth story here. She was over ten pounds when she was born (almost a week past her due date). I was steadfast on my decision to forego pain medication, as I had with Laurel, whom I was also induced with.

Gwens Birth3
In my birth robe, waiting for our induction!

We were checked into the hospital by 9am and Pitocin was started right away, at the lowest dose possible. I was already 4cm dilated at that point so that was encouraging. I requested intermittent fetal monitoring so I would not be confined to the bed. My husband made it clear to my nurse that I would be eating as I pleased, since he understands that my hanger (hunger = anger) is real. She obliged and actually encouraged me to order food from the cafeteria, reminding me of the meal times. The next 12 hours were pretty uneventful. My nurse would increase my Pitocin every 30 minutes but it didn’t seem to be doing anything. I felt no discomfort at all, a sure sign no “progress” was being made. I walked around my room, I walked the halls, I bounced on the birth ball, had plenty of snacks, lunch, and dinner, still nothing. There were moments I would feel nervous that other medications might be offered to speed things up and that I would ultimately be given a timeline and feel rushed. That didn’t happen, phew.

At around 9pm, my midwife started her shift and came to visit me. I was so happy to see her since she had been the person I saw during my prenatal appointments. She knew and supported my birth plan inside and out. I think she was sensing that I was getting tired. When she checked my cervix and discovered that I was still 4cm dilated, even with the max dose of Pitocin, she asked me if I wanted her to break my water. I had a feeling that would do the trick and boy, did it! I immediately started feeling contractions. I was actually pretty excited since I knew it was all happening now.

Over the next few hours, my contractions were getting stronger and stronger. I remember telling myself that I still had a long way to go and to save as much energy as I could. I was still able to converse between contractions but would have to breathe deeply, and occasionally moan, during them. My husband would “count down” each contraction. I found this so helpful, as it gave me something to listen to, something to focus on, and an endpoint. He would put my straw in my mouth and remind me to drink water every so often as well.

Eventually, the contractions were so powerful that I stopped talking between them. I was bent over the side of the bed at this point, with my face and chest on the bed and my feet on the ground. My husband and midwife were right by my side, encouraging me and praising my efforts the entire time. My midwife asked if I wanted her to check my cervix, and offered a cervical sweep in the process. When she did this, I felt a little gush of water and an enormous amount of pressure. She told me that I was now 7cm dilated. That news was encouraging since I was surely feeling progress being made and my baby getting closer and closer to making her debut.

After that cervical sweep, things moved rather quickly, (relatively speaking). After a few more contractions, I questioned whether my baby would ever come. I shed some tears and told my husband that I couldn’t do it anymore. I think my midwife was reading my signals and realized that I was probably fully dilated at this point. I announced to the room that I was pushing and she encouraged me to push as my body told me to. Pushing didn’t provide relief, as it had when I birthed Laurel, whom I pushed out for two and a half hours. Although it was painful, I realize now that it was likely because this baby came so much quicker.

During each contraction, I would push with all my might. I would roar into the bed and imagine my baby sliding out of me. She eventually started to crown and I remember comments about how much hair she had. I reached down and felt it. My legs grew shaky, I was still standing at this point. Ryan was on the other side of the bed, holding onto my hands so I could pull on them for leverage. After I would finish pushing, my legs would nearly collapse from under me. Someone in the room suggested we raise the back of the bed and I kneel on all fours. While on top of the bed, I begged for help. I pleaded with whoever was listening to pull my baby out of me. I pushed probably three times on that bed, each time belting out a low and deep groan, a noise I couldn’t replicate today if I tried. A slow and steady final push and her head was out, followed by her perfect little vernix-covered body. She was passed through my legs and placed on the bed right in front of me. Ryan caught this cherished moment on video, the moment I looked down and laid eyes on my new baby. With a voice of shock, amazement, and gratitude, I said, “Is that her? Oh my God.” I slowly lifted her up, gave her a kiss on the cheek, and snuggled her close to my body as I turned to lay on the bed. My sweet Gwendolyn Rose was born at 2:54am, weighing 9 pounds and 21.5 inches long.

Gwens birth
My beautiful Gwen, only moments old.

Things I love: Pregnancy Edition

Hello second trimester! Since I announced my pregnancy back on Halloween, I’ve received so many sweet messages from old friends and new, sharing their story with me. I’ve heard stories of struggle and loss, but also stories of hope and happiness. I’ve even learned of several newly pregnant friends who are excited to venture this journey together. Whatever your story, it’s beautiful and unique, and makes you who you are. I know my personal struggle has shown me what dark days can look like. It’s also shown me how breathtakingly beautiful the sunrise is on the other side.

2nd trimester2
14 week (+1 day) bump pic

If you read my previous post about how I was feeling during my first trimester then you know that I was nauseous… a lot. Due to this, I survived on bagels, pretzels, and fruit, carbs galore. I also made my coco-nut date balls occasionally, as a convenient and delicious snack between meals. I drank a lot of San Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral water (the plain one in the green glass bottle), because the carbonation helped to settle my stomach a bit.

During my first trimester, as I always have, I really enjoyed roasted vegetables, especially if they were smothered with minced garlic. My go-to vegetables to roast were cauliflower and sweet potatoes. I just love the delicate flavor of cauliflower, drizzled with olive oil, minced garlic, and sprinkled with a generous pinch of sea salt, roasted to perfection until a crunchy golden edge appears on each floret. I enjoyed the roasted sweet potatoes more than usual, possibly due to the exorbitant amount of ketchup I used when eating them, a condiment I rarely use at home. I also enjoyed sweet potatoes in a grain bowl like the one below, simple, colorful, nutritious, and delicious.

cilantrocreme
Roasted tomato and sweet potato with peas over brown rice topped with a scoop of cilantro cashew butter.

The first few months of pregnancy can often put you in survival mode. Just a few more weeks, I would tell myself, because the glorious second trimester is when women often start to feel like themselves again. Even during the days when I was feeling blah (yup, that adequately describes it), I would remind myself to be thankful. I was so thankful for that feeling because it meant things were happening, good things. No matter how crappy I felt, I knew there was a woman out there that would trade anything to be in my position, with a healthy growing baby inside her belly.

There were a few items that I used time and time again over the past few months, and continue to use regularly. Things I highly recommend you have at home while surviving thriving in the mysterious first trimester include:

body pillow

A Body Pillow I’ll be honest, I wanted to buy one of those huge fancy pregnancy pillows but decided that 1. they were expensive and 2. we have no storage for it after I have this baby, thank you apartment life. Instead, I opted for a body pillow and I love it. Before I bought this pillow, I would use a regular pillow and just put it between my legs to help align my hips while I was sleeping, since I’m typically a side-sleeper. A regular pillow is not long enough to support, not only my legs, but also my feet and top arm. Since it’s recommended that pregnant women sleep on their side starting at 20 weeks, I realize that a pillow is crucial for hip, and eventually, belly support throughout the entire second half of pregnancy. It could also be helpful to have behind you if you tend to roll onto your back when sleeping, as it will help prevent this by acting like a wedge between you and the bed. Find a similar pillow herefor all you Amazon junkies.

humidifier

Crane Cool-Mist Humidifier This humidifier is not only adorable (we have Lily the Ladybug), but its also super high quality, easy to clean, and very effective. Why do you need a humidifier? Humidifiers help to keep the air moist which makes breathing easier, especially if you have congestion, runny nose, cough, cold or flu. We lose moisture through our skin so a humidifier can help to keep skin smooth and reduce dryness. Moist air is also really important for newborns, as they breathe out of their nose when they sleep and eat. While I typically put the humidifier in Laurel’s room at the first sign of a stuffy nose, I had it right next to me in bed during my first trimester. With this and the sinus rinse I mention below, my congestion cleared up in record time.

Neil Med

NeilMed Sinus Rinse When I say that this simple little device has saved my life, I mean it. It’s actually saved me on many occasions, including during my pregnancy with Laurel. I’m not sure if it’s just the time of year that I get pregnant or if it’s the pregnancy itself, but I tend to get very congested in the first trimester. I end up having to breathe out of my mouth at night and then feel sinus pressure during the day. If you suffer from frequent sinus infections and are looking for a natural alternative to treat them, get this rinse and get it now. I’ve avoided antibiotics on multiple occasions being diligent with this product. At the first sign of a sinus infection, I start using it every morning and my symptoms eventually go away. Magic.

A Pea In The Pod Splendid Maternity Leggings My dad actually gave these to me as a gift when I was pregnant with Laurel. He’s the type of guy to walk into a store and ask the salesperson for the most popular outfit so he can buy it and leave as soon as possible. I’m glad he’s that way because these leggings are a dream! I’ve already started wearing them again this pregnancy, so they more than pay for themselves over time. I actually just ordered them in the charcoal color because you can’t have too many pairs of leggings, right?! For exercise during pregnancy, I only wear Lululemon Align crops or pants. While not technically “maternity” pants, they feel like butter on your skin and don’t squeeze at the waist. Come to think of it, I love them pregnant or not!

Earth Mama Organics Belly Butter and Belly Oil Some say that stretch marks are genetic, some say that they’re due to lack of hydration, some say they can be prevented while others say they cannot. I’m not sure what the right answer is, but what I do know is that there are little things you can do that might help prevent them. One of those little things include rubbing Earth Mama Organics Belly Butter and Belly oil all over your growing belly. Not only does this lotion and oil feel so smooth going onto my skin, but they smell delicious, and I know they’re completely natural and safe for me and my babe. As your belly grows bigger and skin starts to stretch, your belly could have the tendency to itch. Enter belly oil. This hydrating and moisturizing oil calms itchy skin. I find myself rubbing these on my chest and arms as well because they’re just so yummy. I love and trust these products and look forward to sharing more from this brand with you.

Surprise! We’re Pregnant!

I’m pregnant with baby #2… and IT’S A GIRL!

We shared the news on Halloween (see below), when I was 13 weeks pregnant.

I found out I was pregnant on August 27th when I took a home pregnancy test. I couldn’t believe my eyes to see two lines! It was three days before I was expecting my period so I don’t know what compelled me to take a test, (well, I take that back- if you’ve ever been “trying” then you know the waiting game is so tough). The second line on the test was very faint, but it was there! When Ryan got home that day, he was playing a puzzle game with Laurel on the floor in our living room. I sat down across from them and said, “So today I did a thing.” Ryan looked at me and said “You took a pregnancy test?” and I just stared at him with a goofy smile as tears welled up in both of our eyes. He asked, “It was positive?” and I said “Yes!” We both stood up and gave each other the biggest hug.

I called my doctor the next day and she ordered blood work which I had done that day. It was confirmed, I was pregnant! I went back two days later to make sure my HCG levels were rising appropriately and, to our relief, they were. Phew. I was pregnant and it was an incredible feeling.

pregnancy bump 11 weeks
A bump visible at just over 11 weeks pregnant. To think that I didn’t start showing with Laurel until after 20!
TMI Details
If you're currently trying to get pregnant, you'll appreciate these TMI details. If you're not sure why I'm sharing this information or you're thinking to yourself, "This is TMI" then go ahead and skip on to the next section. I want to add that I'm not a doctor, I'm just sharing my personal experience in hopes that it can be helpful for someone trying to get pregnant.
I was testing for ovulation using these strips and got a positive on CD15, (which means that I likely ovulated 24-48 hours following that positive). I assumed that I ovulated the next day, on CD16, which was "normal" for me since my cycles are typically 30 days. I want to note here that the fertility app I was using did not accurately predict when I ovulated, which is something to keep in mind if you've been trying for a while.

Toward the end of the month, (CD27, 11DPO and 3 days before my projected period), I took a pregnancy test and got a positive, a very very faint positive but nonetheless, it was positive! 

The next day (CD28, 12DPO, 2 days before my projected period) I had my HCG level checked and it was 26. Although an HCG of 26 technically meant pregnant, it was on the lower end, which made me very nervous. My HCG was checked again 48 hours later and it was up to 92! This was a great sign since you typically want to see it double every 48 hours. 

I continued to take pregnancy tests almost daily (overkill, I know) until I was 4 weeks + 5 days pregnant, since that day the test strip on the pregnancy test was finally as dark as the control line. The lines were progressively getting darker each day (a good sign that HCG is rising) but had never actually matched the control and it was driving me crazy.

CD = cycle day
DPO = days past ovulation
HCG = the "pregnancy" hormone

Background

(Warning: I write about my previous miscarriage which might be a trigger for some people)

You might be wondering why my doctor ordered an HCG level to confirm my pregnancy. HCG is the “pregnancy hormone” (a level of 25 = pregnant) and you want to see it double about every 48 hours. You’re probably thinking, my doctor didn’t check that. So what’s the deal? Well, in March of this year I found out I was pregnant! Ryan and I were ecstatic, as it was a baby conceived the first month after my period returned from giving birth to Laurel (about 10 months postpartum). We were actually in Aruba at the time so we joked that we might have to name the baby Aruba, chuckle. Anyways, this was truly a miracle because we had traveled a long, stressful road to conceive Laurel. Needless to say, we felt very lucky this time around.

Our luck took a turn for the worst when I went in to have blood work done, they checked my HCG, and I received a call from my doctor four days later telling me that the numbers weren’t looking good and I would likely miscarry.  Heart. Broken. From that day on, I was in and out of the doctor’s office almost every other day for more blood work and ultrasounds. Oddly, my blood work wasn’t reassuring but it was also keeping hope alive, which put me in a really weird place emotionally. I didn’t know whether to feel sad or happy, hopeful or hopeless. You see, my HCG levels were rising, but not as fast or as high as they should have been. We couldn’t really see anything on the ultrasound but my doctor kept telling me it was probably just too early. Until one of the last ultrasounds, we actually saw a gestational sac, a very good sign! That hope was crushed the next day when I started bleeding, at 7 1/2 weeks pregnant. I knew what this bleeding meant. Although I bled in the first trimester with Laurel, when I started bleeding this time, it felt different.

That miscarriage really rocked my world. At that time and the time following it, I felt that I didn’t properly grieve my loss. I was numb during the weeks in and out of the doctor’s office since I truly didn’t know how to feel. I wanted to just allow myself to be happy and hopeful, but I couldn’t help but guard my heart from potential bad news. It hurts me to type this now, but I don’t know how else to explain the feeling of, dare I say, relief, when I started bleeding and I was no longer in this emotional limbo. I was able to just let go of the hope. Because I went from being emotionally numb to then relieved, I felt this looming grief that I didn’t know how to deal with. It wasn’t until I received a gift in the mail, a gift more meaningful than I can really explain, that I was able to purge my emotions and confront my feelings head on. I’ll explain more about this gift in another post.

Due Date

Baby #2 is due May 8th 2019, (12 days after Laurel turns 2!)

Early Symptoms

4-5 weeks: I would feel a dull ache in my lower abdomen that was pretty constant. This ache was different than cramps, as it wasn’t painful. I also felt slightly bloated in that same area, sort of like an “impending period” feeling. I would wake up in the middle of the night some nights wide awake. I’m not sure if this was due to excitement or the pregnancy, is pregnancy insomnia a thing?

6-12 weeks: When I opened my eyes the morning of week 6, I felt nauseous. The nausea was constant, 24/7 for the next 6 weeks. It was ironic because I remember complaining to Ryan when we first found out I was pregnant that “I didn’t feel anything.” Boy would I soon eat my words. I basically felt like I was in a constant state of being hungover, minus the fun stories from the night before. The nausea subsided during week 12 and it was a miraculous feeling.

Ultrasounds

We had our first ultrasound when I was 6 weeks + 5 days pregnant and we were able to see and hear the baby’s heartbeat! It was magical and healthy at 136 bpm. This ultrasound wasn’t standard but my doctor agreed to get me in early for reassurance, given my history of the miscarriage. I was so so thankful for this.

Ultrasound at 6 weeks + 5 days pregnant
Ultrasound at 6 weeks + 5 days pregnant

Our next ultrasound was when I was 10 weeks + 1 day pregnant and we saw a squirmy little baby wiggle and stretch his/her legs. Laurel seemed to be watching the ultrasound screen and know that we were looking at a baby. We have the ultrasound picture on our fridge and she constantly points to it and announces, “Baby!”

Ultrasound at 10 weeks + 1 day
Ultrasound at 10 weeks + 1 day pregnant

At 12 weeks, I received the results of some blood work I had done, which also revealed the sex of our baby! Keeping this information secret all day until Ryan got home was hard but his reaction to the news was priceless. He was genuinely happy to hear that we are having another little girl and it melted my heart to see him so excited.

img_7235
I told Ryan the news with a plate of rice crispy treats!

Supplements

I take a prenatal vitamin, a prenatal fish oil supplement, and a Vitamin D supplement. I used these same supplements before, during, and after my pregnancy with Laurel, so I will continue to take them now. I take them with my breakfast, since taking vitamins on an empty stomach can cause nausea. I’ll likely continue to take them throughout breastfeeding and beyond. Remember that it’s important to take prenatal vitamins even if you eat a healthy diet. With increased needs during pregnancy, it can be difficult to get all of the micronutrients you need, especially if you’re experiencing fatigue, nausea, or vomiting. Although it’s never too late to start a supplement regimen, ideally you’d start these before you get pregnant.

Foods I’m Eating

This pregnancy has thrown me for a loop because I am actually craving things this time around. How cliche – I’ve been loving pickles! Since most of this trimester I’ve been feeling like I’m constantly hungover, I want anything and everything greasy or fried, which I know is the opposite of what would make me feel better. I’ve definitely indulged more this time around, which makes me feel a little guilty, but I remind myself that it’s temporary. Once the nausea started getting less intense around week 11, I was consistently incorporating salads back into my diet. Before that, even though I was feeling ick, I would make smoothies with veggies like cauliflower and spinach, since drinking them was easier than eating them! Simple berry smoothies were my go-to, a spin off from my smoothie bowl.

blueberrysmoothie
A mixed berry smoothie with banana, milk, and cauliflower.

Although I’m not typically one to count calories, I remind myself that I don’t actually need extra calories in the first trimester. Instead my focus is more on making sure I’m eating foods rich in calcium (nuts and cheese), folate (brussels sprouts and broccoli), Vitamin D (eggs), probiotics (yogurt), and omega 3’s (salmon and skipjack tuna). I’m also focusing on drinking extra water throughout the day. I find that cooler weather leaves me less thirsty, so I make sure to always have my water bottle with me as a reminder to drink. As I come into my second trimester, I’ll add an extra 350ish calories to my day, which is a bowl of cereal and a piece of fruit. Third trimester calls for an extra 450ish calories per day, just when your belly gets big enough to make eating extra difficult 🙂 I gained 35 pounds total during my pregnancy with Laurel, and so far I’ve gained about 5 pounds. I’m curious to see how this pregnancy will be similar and different from my last one!

Foods I’m Avoiding

Once I found out I was pregnant, I made sure I was avoiding the foods not recommended during pregnancy, to include alcohol, excessive caffeine, high mercury seafood, under-cooked eggs, raw seafood, and cold cuts (all of which are favorites of mine!)

Alcohol: Because doing a randomized control trial on pregnant women looking at the effects of varying levels of alcohol intake on their fetus is unethical, there’s no research that says “x amount of alcohol during pregnancy is safe.” I personally don’t think it’s worth the risk, so I avoid it completely and that’s what I recommend. If I’m going to a gathering, I’ll bring flavored sparkling water so I can still have a festive drink with my friends. You can also order a “mocktail” when out at a bar or restaurant, especially if you’re not ready to share your news and you don’t want people getting suspicious!

Excessive caffeine: Non-pregnant me has one cup of coffee in the morning. With Laurel, I avoided coffee during my first trimester and had 1/2-1 cup in the morning after that. This time around, I limit my coffee to about 1/2 cup in the morning and fill the rest of my mug with frothed whole milk, yum! As the weather has been cooling down, I’ll drink hot tea in the evenings. I’ll choose herbal teas without caffeine, like Earth Mama Red Raspberry Leaf tea or Traditional Medicinals Pregnancy Tea, both of which are delicious, safe during pregnancy, and contain Raspberry Leaf which is nourishing to the uterus.

High mercury seafood: During pregnancy, you’ll want to avoid high mercury seafood like shark, swordfish, ahi and albacore tuna, and king mackerel. Mercury can build up in your body and become toxic to your growing baby. Therefore, choosing low mercury alternatives like skipjack or chunk light tuna, tilapia, salmon, shrimp, scallops, crab, and others make for a safer choice. Remember that low-mercury seafood is an incredibly healthy protein choice for you and your baby!

Under-cooked or raw eggs/meat/seafood: You want to avoid under-cooked or raw foods that have a high risk of contamination, such as eggs and meats. Imagine how awful it is to get food poisoning, now imagine that while you’re pregnant. Not only is it extremely uncomfortable for you, but it’s deadly for a fetus. Again, not worth the risk. You can still eat sushi if you order cooked options (like a baked scallop roll or shrimp tempura roll) and avoid the ahi tuna (due to the mercury). You can ask the waiter if they would make you a custom roll since you’re pregnant, and they’ll likely oblige. I usually substitute cooked salmon or shrimp where raw tuna might be. Also, choose pasteurized eggs or cook them all the way through to avoid illness from salmonella. Did you know that hens lay eggs out of the same hole they poop from? Sorry for the visual, but that’s why it’s important to cook your eggs when you’re pregnant!

Cold cuts/hot dogs: For the same reasons you want to avoid raw and under-cooked meats during pregnancy, you’ll want to avoid cold cuts and hot dogs. You can, however, heat up your cold cuts in the microwave until steaming (about 15 seconds) then throw together a sandwich headed to the panini press. My favorite is a hot turkey “Reuben” with sauerkraut, avocado, and muenster cheese on an everything bagel.

My take on a turkey "Reuben" with sauerkraut, avocado, cheese, and spinach on an everything bagel.
My take on a turkey “Reuben” with sauerkraut, avocado, cheese, and spinach on an everything bagel.

Exercise

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that pregnant women exercise for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. I highly encourage women to continue exercising if they were before getting pregnant and to start if they weren’t active before. Most women can safely adopt a walking regimen during pregnancy, after of course talking to their doctor beforehand.

Before I found out that I was pregnant, I signed up for a relay race with the workout group that I’m a member of. I ended up running my leg of the race (4.6 miles) while almost 9 weeks pregnant and it felt great. I won’t lie, training was very difficult because I was feeling consistently nauseous at that time. I basically swore to myself that I would never run again after the rely was over. I was never really “a runner” before I started training for that race. I’m not sure if I consider myself one now, as I would definitely prefer a spin class or yoga session over running.

Before my relay race at almost 9 weeks pregnant.
Before my relay race at almost 9 weeks pregnant.

For now, I workout 3-4 days per week, mostly with the group I mentioned earlier. Workouts include cardio and strength training, as well as yoga. I also take Laurel for walks around the city most days. It feels so good to move and get the blood flowing when you’re pregnant. I know from my pregnancy with Laurel that exercising helped me to prevent the common aches and pains that women often complain about. It helps combat constipation and it can even help you sleep better. There really is no down-side to staying active, pregnant or not!

@GordonPlacePhoto
We didn’t know at the time that this was our first photo as a family of 4! Laurel at 16 months old. @GordonPlacePhoto

Tell me what you like hearing about as I share my pregnancy journey with you!

Things I Love

Welcome to my very first “Things I Love” post! These are where I’ll share various products, foods, etc I’m loving lately. These items might be baby-related, food-related, pregnancy-related, beauty-related, who knows. Although I’ve linked to the item and I do benefit if you click and purchase it, all of these items are truly things that I use, love, and recommend. I plan to do these posts often, so let me know if you use and love something that I should try.

earth mama organics diaper balm cloth diaper friendly

Earth Mama Organic Diaper Balm. Get it. Love it. Not only does this diaper balm smell wonderful with hints of lavender and melaleuca, it’s made with organic ingredients including calendula, and it’s cloth diaper friendly- hooray! I have absolutely no qualms about rubbing this on Laurel’s delicate skin. I love this product and I love this company. They truly care about the health and safety of moms and babies.

whey protein grass fed non gmo powder unflavored

Reserveage Grass-Fed Whey Protein Powder, Unflavored. As a dietitian, I’m often asked what protein powder I use, seeing as it’s one of the most commonly consumed supplements out there. Because there are so many on the market, fear, confusion, and suspicion surround this supplement. I advise people to make sure you find one without a bunch of added “junk,” such as sugar, caffeine, and/or artificial sweeteners. I love this specific protein powder because it’s 1. grass-fed and 2. tasteless (or at least damn close). This is one of the few protein powders I’ve tried that didn’t actually taste like protein powder. The beauty of this unflavored option is that you can add it to anything for a quick protein boost.

prenatal vitamin vegetarian gluten free multivitamin probiotics

Rainbow Light Prenatal Vitamin. This is the prenatal vitamin I took before, during, and after (still currently taking) my pregnancy. This prenatal vitamin stands out from many other “natural” options I looked at for a few reasons. First, I loved that it was only one pill daily. I will admit that the pill is fairly large, but that wasn’t an issue for me. Secondly, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women get 27 mg of iron daily and this vitamin provides that (while many other natural options are lacking). Finally, this prenatal vitamin is vegetarian, gluten-free, and contains no artificial preservatives, colors, or sweeteners.

self tanner natural organic earth sunless

Beauty by Earth Sunless Self Tanner. My search for a natural sunless tanner started recently when Ryan, Laurel, and I were heading to Florida for vacation. I was still breastfeeding at the time and, since I had sworn off tanning beds a long time ago, I wanted to find a self tanner. My skin is naturally fair and I knew I was going to be in a bathing suit quite a bit (with loads of sunscreen on) so needless to say, I needed a tan beforehand! I found this, made with organic ingredients including shea butter and witch hazel, and I haven’t looked back. I’ve used it a few times now and it continues to impress me. I feel confident using it knowing the ingredients are safer than your average tanning lotion but, the best part is that it actually works!

foogo thermos straw cup bottle insulated stainless steel

Thermos Foogo Insulated Stainless Steel 10-oz Straw Bottle. I offered Laurel her first straw cup with water at 6 months old and she was able to use it within minutes. I tell people to just offer a straw to your child and you might be surprised at how quickly they teach themselves how to use it. Remember that babies under one year should only drink breastmilk, formula, or water. This is now the cup that I keep in my stroller, as it’s leak-proof and insulated, it’s stainless steel since I try to avoid plastic when I can, it’s dishwasher safe, and they offer different spouts so the cup can “grow” with your child. Winner!

Pictures are from Amazon.com. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

 

Peanut Butter & Love Letters

Are you a peanut butter junkie? Yes, that’s a thing. If the thought of a peanut-butter-smothered-anything tickles your fancy, then you’re in the club. As a peanut butter junkie myself, I’ve come to appreciate the simple, yet complex, taste of peanut butter made from fresh, wholesome peanuts. Seriously, have you ever looked at the ingredients in most store-bought peanut butters? Many include partially & fully hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil, sugar, palm oil… yikes. With peanut butter being an adult- and kid-friendly staple in many households, we have to do better!

If peanut butter is your go-to but you’d just like to have other options, look no further. You can swap peanuts in this recipe for any other type of nut or seed OR a combination! Peanut allergy? No problem, feel free to substitute almonds, sunflower seeds, or cashews for a delicious homemade nut butter that’s sure to please! Looking for a cute gift idea? A jar of homemade peanut butter will make family, friends, and teachers smile.

homemade organic peanut butter
Creamy. Smooth. Homemade. Add chopped peanuts for a crunchy twist!

I love knowing exactly what ingredients are in the food I’m eating and feeding to my family. I was so surprised at how easy it is to make my own peanut butter! The fact that peanuts are fairly cheap made this recipe a no-brainer.

organic peanuts in bulk
Dry roasted organic peanuts. Yes please.

Let’s talk about these nutritional powerhouses: Peanuts.

In a serving of peanut butter (about 2 Tbsp or the size of a ping pong ball) you get:

  • 12 grams healthy fats (monounsaturated + polyunsaturated)
    • These healthy fats are good for our eyes, brain, heart, and hormone production, among other things!
  • 2 g fiber
    • Fiber helps to keep us full longer, keep our blood sugar stable, and keep our bowel movements regular.
  • 8 g protein
    • Protein is necessary for our body to build and repair tissue, including skin and muscle.
  • 200 mg potassium
    • Low levels of potassium can contribute to constipation, fatigue, and muscle weakness.
  • 10% DV magnesium & Vitamin B6
    • Vitamin B6 plays a role in our immunity and metabolism. Vitamin B6 deficiency is linked to depression.
    • Magnesium plays a role in blood sugar control, nerve and muscle function, and blood pressure regulation.
    • Source: USDA Food Composition Database

Peanuts are:

  • Delicious
  • Vegetarian & vegan
  • Versatile
  • Gluten-free
  • Diabetic friendly
organic raw peanuts used for homemade peanut butter
Organic raw peanuts that I purchase in bulk.

So how are love letters related in any way to peanut butter?

Well, back in February of 2010, Ryan volunteered to go to the United States Army Ranger School. We were about 6 months into our courtship at the time so his Army lifestyle was all still new to me. I didn’t realize then that Ranger School is one of the Army’s toughest combat leadership courses. It was over two months long and included intense, physically demanding training paired with food and sleep deprivation. Needless to say, he wasn’t going to be able to visit me or even call me at all while actively training at Ranger School. He said that he would be able to write and receive letters. Letters!

I wrote Ryan a letter every single day he was at Ranger School. I used brightly colored paper and put stickers all over them to bring some cheer into his life and maybe a smile to his face. He had told me that he wouldn’t be given his mail every day. I couldn’t bare the thought of everyone else receiving mail except him, so I wrote him every one of the 63 days he was there.

I received 19 letters from him and as I was sifting through them last night before writing this post, they made me smile, laugh, and cry. They brought me back to our early dating days when I would only see him on weekends that he wasn’t training. He’d drive down to Tallahassee with friends (I was in my senior year at FSU and he was stationed in South Georgia at Fort Benning) and his friends and my sorority sisters would hit it off. The first year of our relationship was a big party. Ryan had told me early on that he would deploy to Iraq when he was done with his initial officer training, so that was always looming in the back of my mind. I vividly remember conversations with my sorority sisters, late in the evening as we all huddled around each others’ bunk beds, where I voiced my concerns about dating a guy in the military. I wasn’t sure I could “handle” a year-long deployment. I didn’t think I could handle dating a guy in the military.

letters from my soldier
The letters I received from Ryan while he was at Ranger School, sent to my sorority house where I lived.

Maybe it was the poems he wrote me or the crossword puzzle he made for me or the itemized list of what I should look for in a grad school (yes, he included “me” on that list since one of my school choices was close to where he would be stationed at the time). Maybe it was how often he called me “sweetheart” or scribbled little hearts and kissy faces in the corner of those letters, designated by an arrow and “I kissed this spot.” Maybe it was the romantic lines in French he included with parentheses to show the English translation, including “Your Dreams are my Dreams” when he wrote about getting a puppy and our vacation we’d take after he returned. Maybe it was all of those things he wrote, but most likely it was because he is the type of man that would write those things, that kept me close to him.

love letter
Letters of love, love for me and for pancakes.

So you may still be wondering, where does peanut butter come into this picture? Remember how I mentioned that an aspect of Ranger School was food deprivation? Ryan was hungry, very hungry, and often his letters would include fantasies of what he was going to eat after he graduated, to include Twinkies, a burger, and pancakes. He would go into detail as to why a certain MRE (meal ready-to-eat) was his favorite and he’d mention things he would want me to include in his care package (that they would receive at the end of the last phase). Included in the items he wanted me to send him were Red Bull and… here it comes… “cinnamon raisin swirl peanut butter.”

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The moment I read those words I began to panic. As you can see, he wrote that letter on April 12th, which means I didn’t receive it until after that and I had to have his care package to him before the 25th. Back in early 2010, nut butter varieties weren’t a huge craze like they are now. I don’t think you could find honey almond butter or sunflower seed butter on regular grocery store shelves. Needless to say, all I knew at that time was I had to send his package with cinnamon raisin swirl peanut butter and I wasn’t sure it even existed. Three stores later and probably a few mmHg up on my blood pressure, I finally found the elusive cinnamon raisin swirl peanut butter, thanks to Peanut Butter & Co. I was able to put it in his care package and all was right in the world. He later told me that he and his buddies dipped Snickers bars and Twinkies directly into the jar and devoured the whole thing. I guess you can say it was appreciated.

That brings me to the reason I think of Ranger School any time I think of flavored peanut butter. Since my recollection of Ranger School includes fond memories of love letters and happy reunions, when I made peanut butter for the first time I naturally wanted to make a cinnamon raisin swirl variety. Ryan was the one who actually suggested it. Yes sir!

Underneath the recipe for homemade peanut butter you’ll find my cinnamon raisin swirl recipe. The first time I made it I ate the entire batch. I kid you not. It is so delicious. It took several, five to be exact, attempts to get it perfect. I hope you have more self control than I did so you can share your peanut butter with a friend. Either way, enjoy it!

Bonus, I’ve also included a recipe for Cacao Hazelnut Butter aka kNockoff Nutella. It’s healthier than the store-bought version, it’s chocolatey, and it’s delicious. Put it on a sandwich, dip your pretzels or crackers in it, or make the apple nachos shown below. Cue drool.

Apple slices topped with homemade peanut butter, cacao hazelnut butter, shredded coconut, and cinnamon.
Apple slices topped with homemade peanut butter, homemade cacao hazelnut butter, shredded coconut, and cinnamon.
Apple slices topped with homemade peanut butter, cacao hazelnut butter, shredded coconut, and cinnamon.
Flavors of pure bliss: peanut butter, chocolate, and cinnamon.

Homemade Peanut Butter

Ingredients (Yield 2 cups)

  • 2 cups peanuts (raw or roasted, preferably unsalted)
  • optional pinch of salt (if using salted peanuts, do not add more salt)

Directions

  1. If using roasted peanuts, skip to Step 2. If using raw peanuts, you’ll want to roast them before proceeding. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and place your peanuts on a sheet tray in an even layer. Roast for 5-7 minutes or until peanuts become golden and fragrant. Allow to cool slightly.
  2. Place peanuts (and salt, if using) into your food processor and turn on high.
  3. Each minute or so, scrape the sides of your food processor with a rubber scraper.
  4. In the span of 5-7 minutes, your peanuts will go from ground to chunky to clumpy to a ball then magically, it will transform into peanut butter. You might question whether it will ever happen, but give it time. If your machine starts to overheat, turn if off for a minute and continue.
  5. Once your peanut butter becomes smooth and creamy, turn your processor off, scoop your peanut butter into a jar with a tightly fitting lid and resist the temptation to eat the entire thing… or don’t, it’s up to you.
  6. You can keep your peanut butter in the cabinet if consumed within a week, transfer to fridge if storing longer.

Tip: Use room temperature peanuts to facilitate them releasing their oils. Since I keep my nuts in the freezer, I let them sit on the counter for about an hour before making my peanut butter.

Recipe inspired by Sproutly Stories

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Peanut Butter.
Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Peanut Butter. What dreams are made of.

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Peanut Butter 

Ingredients (Yield 1 cup)

  • 1 cup peanuts (raw or roasted, preferably unsalted)
  • optional pinch of salt (if using salted peanuts, do not add more salt)
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon + 1/2 tsp to swirl in
  • 1 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-3 Tbsp neutral-flavored oil such as canola or peanut oil, more as needed for desired consistency

Directions

  1. If using roasted peanuts, skip to Step 2. If using raw peanuts, you’ll want to roast them before proceeding. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and place your peanuts on a sheet tray in an even layer. Roast for 5-7 minutes or until peanuts become golden and fragrant. Allow to cool slightly.
  2. Place peanuts, cinnamon (minus 1/2 tsp), maple syrup, and vanilla (and salt, if using) into food processor.
  3. Turn food processor on high and each minute or so, scrape the sides with a rubber scraper. If your machine starts to overheat, turn if off for a minute and continue.
  4. In the span of 3-5 minutes, your peanuts will go from ground to chunky to clumpy to a ball. When this happens, slowly drizzle in the oil, as needed, to thin out your peanut butter until you reach your desired creaminess.
  5. Once your peanut butter becomes smooth and creamy, turn your processor off. Add the 1/2 tsp cinnamon and, without mixing, gently scoop your peanut butter into a jar with a tightly fitting lid. This will create swirls of cinnamon, allowing some bites to be cinnamon bombs in your mouth, while other bites are more mild cinnamon flavor.
  6. You can keep your peanut butter in the cabinet if consumed within a week, transfer to fridge if storing longer.

Tip: Use room temperature ingredients to facilitate them releasing their oils. Since I keep my nuts in the freezer, I let them sit on the counter for about an hour before making my peanut butter.

Bonus Recipe

nutella
Cacao Hazelnut Butter

Cacao Hazelnut Butter aka kNockoff Nutella

Ingredients (Yield 1 cup)

  • 1 cup hazelnuts (raw or roasted, preferably unsalted)
  • pinch of salt (if using salted hazelnuts, do not add more salt)
  • 1/8 cup cacao powder
  • 1/8 cup + 1 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup milk (I used whole cows milk)
  • optional 1 tsp oil for creaminess

Tip: Use room temperature ingredients to facilitate them releasing their oils. Since I keep my nuts in the freezer, I let them sit on the counter for about an hour before making my nut butter.

Directions

  1. If using roasted hazelnuts, skip to Step 2. If using raw hazelnuts, you’ll want to roast them before proceeding. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and place your nuts on a sheet tray in an even layer. Roast for 5-7 minutes or until hazelnuts become golden and fragrant. Allow to cool slightly.
  2. Remove skins on hazelnuts by rubbing them together between a paper towel. You don’t have to get all of the skins, just the majority that comes off easily.
  3. Place all ingredients, minus the oil, into food processor.
  4. Turn food processor on high and each minute or so, scrape the sides with a rubber scraper.  If your machine starts to overheat, turn if off for a minute and continue.
  5. In the span of 3-5 minutes, your hazelnuts will go from ground to chunky to clumpy to a ball. When this happens, slowly drizzle in the oil, as needed, to thin out your nut butter until you reach your desired creaminess.
  6. Transfer your finished product into a jar with a lid. You should keep your cacao hazelnut butter in the fridge, as there are no preservatives and your nut butter contains milk.

Recipe adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie

Feeding your Infant: Common Questions Answered

When your little one is approaching that age where he or she will start eating food, most likely you’re either feeling nervous or excited. You might have forgotten that babies start eating real food at some point, especially if you were like me and had a hard time remembering your name those first few months postpartum. I was so thankful we registered for a high chair and received it before Laurel was even born. That was one less thing I had to think about when food came into the picture. Although I was excited for Laurel to start eating, it definitely took some critical thinking as to how I would go about starting this process. I know the pediatrician mentioned something about it, but those appointments always seemed like a blur. I’d leave with a handout of milestones and a list of unanswered questions that I’d kick myself for forgetting to ask in the moment.

As a dietitian, I felt that it was my duty to expose my baby to all the healthiest food this planet has to offer. I devised a plan to start with all the vegetables I could think of, then add yogurt (for probiotics and fat), then seafood, legumes, poultry, fruit, and whole grains. I always knew I wanted to make her baby food and you’ll read why below.

Are you intimidated at the thought of making your baby’s food? If you feel like the process is too difficult, expensive, or time-consuming, continue reading to see how I was able to make Laurel’s baby food with minimal effort. It can actually be fun, I promise!

When should I start feeding my infant food?

Unless otherwise instructed by your baby’s pediatrician, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. At 6 months old, it is recommended to begin introducing food into your baby’s diet, while still continuing to provide breastmilk (or formula) as their main source of nutrition. To make sure that food remains a compliment to your baby’s diet, try to always breastfeed or formula feed your child before offering food. That way, the food is seen as extra and they are able to have fun with it without the pressure to eat. Remember that food at this age is also about developing fine motor skills, exposing them to different flavors and textures, as well as eventually teaching manners while fostering family traditions, such as sitting at the table for dinner.

Laurel obviously loved pureed broccoli.
Laurel obviously loved pureed broccoli at 6 months. Now at a year she gobbles it up!

How much should my baby eat?

In the beginning, as in the first couple weeks or so, your baby might only take 2-3 spoonfuls of food. I remember Laurel’s first feeding being somewhat anti-climactic, as she only took one or two bites and seemed to lose interest. It’s normal if your baby refuses food altogether. Never force your child to eat, just try again the next day.

As a rule of thumb, 6-7 months is when food is introduced and your baby is becoming accustomed to new flavors and textures. At 7-8 months you might try to consistently feed your child one “meal” per day. It’s normal for a child between 6-8 months to eat anywhere from 2-6 tablespoons of food. At 8-9 months you can increase to two “meals” per day then at 9-10 months your child is eating three “meals” daily. Remember that they are still drinking breastmilk or formula for the entire first year of life. At 9 months old, as her food intake increased, I was able to drop one of Laurel’s breastfeeding sessions. From 9-12 months, I breastfed her four times daily.

What foods should I offer first?

Ideally, one of the first foods offered to your child would be an iron-fortified option, such as baby cereal or baby oatmeal. Many vegetables provide iron as well, including broccoli and spinach. Start with simple purees of a single food, such as pureed spinach. I mixed my purees with filtered water to thin them out. I had actually used pumped breastmilk to make some of Laurel’s first foods but since most of the food ended up on her bib and face anyways, I quickly learned that it wasn’t really worth it for me to use my saved milk.

Every a few days, I would offer Laurel a different vegetable. I actually kept a log of her very first foods and they include: broccoli, carrots, sweet potato, and spinach. I continued with the routine of offering a new food every couple of days to include legumes (such as peas), avocado, corn, seafood (Laurel’s firsts included lobster, scallops, salmon, and light tuna), plain full-fat Greek yogurt, beans, a variety of fruits, ground turkey, chicken, and ground beef, eggs, beets, sauerkraut, and cauliflower.

I fed Laurel pureed foods until about 8-9 months, at which time she became interested in eating small pieces of soft foods. Laurel is now 1-year-old and I have yet to find a food that she does not like!

Laurel at 6 months eating organic baby oatmeal.
Laurel at 6 months eating organic baby oatmeal.

What about the common food allergens?

The current recommendations are to introduce the common allergen foods to your child between 6-9 months.* This includes eggs, peanuts (not whole nuts due to choking hazard), wheat, shellfish, tree nuts, and dairy (such as yogurt or cheese). Cow’s milk is not recommended until after 12 months of age.

*If food allergies run heavily in your family, consult your child’s pediatrician or a registered dietitian for specific advice and supervision before introducing these foods. Wait at least three days between all new foods to watch for signs of intolerance, including diarrhea, rash, or fussiness.

Ways to incorporate these foods include adding them to a puree with a food your child is familiar with. For example, I made a puree of cauliflower and added a few small dollops of peanut butter. Peanut butter and almond butter also pair well with several fruits, especially banana or apple. You can add wheat germ to a puree for wheat exposure, as well as added fiber. Scrambled eggs are easily incorporated into purees and are also a good finger food, as small pieces tend to be soft and easy for small fingers to handle. Add scrambled eggs to a puree of strawberries and the Vitamin C in the berries will aid in the iron absorption from the eggs, high five!

Does my child need water?

Your baby gets the water he or she needs from your breastmilk or formula. Since constipation is common when food is incorporated into the diet, feel free to offer your child 1-2 ounces of water from a cup daily. Offer the water after they have finished eating.

What about juice?

I recommend avoiding juice for at least the first 12 months of age. Children should be encouraged to consume whole fruits and vegetables. After 12 months, if you decide to offer your child juice, limit intake to less than six ounces daily and always encourage water intake.

If your child is underweight, I highly recommend avoiding juice. Children often fill up on this “empty calorie” beverage, then eat less food at meal times. On the flip side, if your child is considered overweight, I would encourage fruit and vegetable intake instead of juice, as juice provides the sugar without the fiber benefits of whole foods.

Are there any foods I should avoid giving my child?

Yes, you will want to avoid giving your infant (<12 months old) honey, under-cooked or raw meats, under-cooked eggs, and choking hazard foods, to include whole nuts, popcorn, raisins, large “chunks” of food, marshmallows, and whole grapes. I also recommend avoiding highly processed foods or any foods with added salt.

Can I season/flavor my baby’s food?

Although you might feel like plain carrots or plain broccoli is boring or bland, remember that your child has never tasted food. They do not have the mature and experienced palate that you have. This means that they might initially reject a food (ie. spit it out) just because it’s new and different. This doesn’t mean that you have to flavor it with salt, sugar, or butter to get them to eat it. Just put it aside and try again the next day. Refrain from habitually adding sugar, salt, or butter to their food just because that’s the way you like it. The best thing you can do for your child is help them avoid those habits from the start. If a baby starts eating plain, fresh foods, they will develop their palate to appreciate those pure flavors. After a couple months of trying a variety of foods and eating is established, feel free to add flavor to their food to include cinnamon, garlic, and mild herbs and spices. I recommend you always avoid salt, any seasoning with sodium, and anything too spicy.

Why make my own baby food?

The three main reasons I chose to make Laurel’s baby food were because homemade baby food is:

  • Fresh, which means better quality and taste. We all obviously want to feed our babies the best food possible. I figured that if I would prefer fresh food versus food from a jar, then I assume my child would too. My hope is that her exposure to fresh food from the beginning will develop her palate and foster a love for the flavors of whole foods. I think this can be lacking in children, and adults for that matter, today. I consider frozen fruits and vegetables fresh options, as they are flash-frozen shortly after they’re picked, which is usually at their peak ripeness. This means that the nutrients are locked into the food, nutrients that might otherwise be lost in transit from the farm to your grocery store. I actually preferred using frozen fruits and vegetables since it allowed for variety with minimal waste. For these reasons, frozen foods are wonderful options when making your baby’s food.
  • Cheap even when buying organic options. I bought a ton of frozen foods to puree for Laurel. Even organic options of frozen fruits and vegetables are cheaper than buying baby food jars. I also realize now that I would have wasted a lot of food (aka money) if I opened a new jar every time I fed Laurel, since she only took a few bites per feeding in the first few weeks.
  • Easy as long as you have a steamer basket and a blender. I didn’t use any fancy baby food making equipment, although I’m sure those things can be helpful. You don’t even need a food processor! All I used was a pot with a steamer basket and a blender. Writing this post now as Laurel is 12 months and I am no longer making her baby food, I have since purchased this food processor (which I used for the pictures you see). However, when I was making her pureed food from about 6-9 months, I used a regular blender.

Following the more detailed directions below, add food to your steamer basket or pot.

Frozen green beans waiting in the steamer basket.
Frozen organic green beans waiting in the steamer basket.

Once food is fork tender, transfer to food processor or blender.

babyfood2
Food + liquid + food processor = baby food.

Blended until there are no chunks remaining and food is completely smooth, transfer to freezer-safe container.

I would freeze my purees in these trays with silicone bottoms.
I would freeze my purees in trays with silicone bottoms for easy removal.

How do I make baby food?

Tools needed:

  • Blender or food processor
  • Rubber scraper
  • Freezer-safe jars or ice cube trays (I prefer silicone trays like these)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 c liquid (either water,* breastmilk or formula) *Water can be any type of clean water, tap or bottled
  • 1 cup fruit or vegetable, fresh or frozen

Directions:

  1. Thoroughly wash, peel, and de-seed fruit or vegetable as necessary. Chop into smaller pieces.
  2. Steam in steamer basket or boil in water until soft, about 5-7 minutes or until fork tender. You can also bake/roast vegetables in the oven.
  3. Allow fruit or vegetable to cool slightly then add to blender or food processor.
  4. Add the water, breastmilk, or formula into blender. For thicker puree, use less liquid. To thin the puree, add more liquid until desired consistency.
  5. Blend until completely smooth. Scrape sides of blender with rubber scraper and blend again.
  6. Carefully pour into ice cube trays or jars, cover, and freeze.
  7. If freezing food in an ice cube tray, feel free to transfer the cubes into a freezer-safe bag after they are completely frozen.

To thaw:

Place 1-2 cubes in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 10 seconds. Stir and repeat as necessary.

Tips:

  • You want to cook (steam, boil, or roast) most fruits and vegetables before pureeing, with the exception of banana and avocado, in order to make them easier to digest (break down the fibers), as well as kill any bacteria that may be present on the food.
  • Vegetables like carrots and sweet potato take longer to become fork tender than broccoli, for example. Keep this in mind if combining and steaming foods.
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables, even if peeling, to include avocado (in case bacteria is present on the peel). I keep a spray bottle with vinegar next to my sink to spray fruit and veggie skin before peeling. Always use clean utensils and equipment, including knives and cutting board.
  • I liked to make single-ingredient purees, even as Laurel got older, so I could combine them in different ways to prevent boredom. Example: spinach + pear for breakfast, spinach + cauliflower for lunch, cauliflower + sweet potato for dinner.
  • I would sometimes add small amounts of baby oatmeal to reheated purees as a way of thickening them and adding iron.
  • Label your baby food with the date it was prepared and the ingredient(s) used.
  • Homemade baby food, if stored properly, should be safe in the fridge for 48 hours (fruits/vegetables) or 24 hours (meats/dairy/fish/eggs).
  • Use frozen baby food within three months, ideally within one month for best flavor.

Did you make your baby’s food? What are your favorite baby food combinations? 

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Preparing for your Natural Birth

For as long as I can remember, I knew I wanted to be a mom. I’m one of four kids so I grew up in a big family. I thought I’d be starting my own family around 22, when my mom did, chuckle. Although I didn’t start having babies when I was 22, I did have a few things ingrained in my head from a young age. First was that I was going to have natural births, meaning no pain medication for vaginal births, just like my mom did four times. I remember her laughing when we’d see movies where the woman was giving birth and screaming while calling her husband all sorts of profane names. She would always shake her head and say, “It’s not like that.” Don’t get me wrong, she admitted that labor was painful (she actually compared the pain to getting shot) but she always assured me it was nothing I couldn’t handle. My mom’s strength instilled a confidence in me that never really went away.

Growing up, I’d hear bits and pieces of stories from my dad’s youth. He was somewhat of a hippie, or a “freak” as he’d call himself. He had long black hair, read poetry, practiced yoga, and was a vegetarian for most of his life. You wouldn’t think so if you saw him, as he’s 6 foot 8 inches and has the muscular build of the general contractor he later became. He traveled the world, hitch-hiked, slept in a tent at the ruins of Machu Picchu and in a

My mom gave me her copy of Ina May Gaskin's book, Spiritual Midwifery
My mom gave me her copy of Ina May Gaskin’s book, Spiritual Midwifery.

hammock in the jungle of Guatemala. He talks about “spiritual leaders” he had in his former life, the same life he attended ceremonies within sweat lodges. He even spent time with Ina May Gaskin’s husband at The Farm. My mom actually gave me Ina May’s 2nd edition Spiritual Midwifery book that I have and cherish, all while trying not to giggle when I look at the pictures.

 

I think it was in grad school that I became very in tuned with my body, through practicing a lot of yoga and through my academic studies of Human Biology. I did yoga as both a form of exercise and a way to manage the stress of school. Being in grad school for Nutrition allowed me to dive deeper into human physiology and metabolism in a way that was purely engrossing. I developed a deep respect and trust for my body during this time.

I’m not a doctor or midwife or nurse. Every single woman, baby, and pregnancy is different and has different needs. I am wholeheartedly grateful for modern medicine and feel strongly that it has a place in our society. That being said, it makes me sad that the birth process has become so clinical. For so many women, fear surrounds birth. I want to encourage anyone reading this to know that there are options, and you can have an amazing birth experience.

Here are some of the steps I took to give myself the best chance at a natural birth:

  1. Get informed. Although obvious, this is the single most important thing you can do when planning your birth experience. You have to know your options before you can start making decisions. I would suggest signing up for a natural birth class. Look within your community for a birth class geared toward building knowledge and confidence, covering the basics but also covering relaxation and comfort measures during labor. Ryan and I took a 6-week birth class that met for almost three hours once a week, (oh how I love that man!) The class was held at a local yoga studio in Colorado Springs called Enso and it was amazing. It was the same group throughout the entire 6 weeks so we got comfortable with each other and I actually still keep in touch with a few of the ladies. Two of the biggest benefits of the class were that it built my confidence tremendously and that it raised questions for Ryan and I to discuss with our OB (topics that we may not have thought about otherwise). I also loved how Ryan and I were there together; we learned about the process, our options, and discussed things on our drive home. It really helped us to stay on the same page.
  2. Make a plan. You’ve probably heard of a Birth Plan but maybe have never seen one before (mine is pictured below). All it is is a written or typed hard copy of your preferences during your labor, birth, and after. It’s a piece of paper you can literally hand to and discuss with your OB or midwife, as well as your nurse on delivery day. You can hang a copy on the wall or door of your hospital room so everyone knows exactly what your expectations are. Ultimately, your birth plan acts as your guide when you’re enthralled in the emotional, exhausting, and sometimes unpredictable labor experience. It reminds your husband (or birth partner) what you discussed and agreed upon so if the nurse were to ask him a question and his mind blanks, he doesn’t panic. There are a ton of topics you can have on your birth plan, from whether you want an epidural or not to your request for delayed cord clamping. I would strongly encourage you to make your birth plan with your birth partner, whether that’s your husband, friend, mom, doula, or someone else. You and that person should be in agreement with each item on your birth plan. For me, it was so important to have Ryan’s support for the decisions surrounding Laurel’s birth. It’s really hard to go against “the norm” and if your birth partner isn’t 100% supportive, it could be tough to stand your ground or even maintain your confidence during the time you are most vulnerable.
birth plan for natural labor
If you read Laurel’s birth story, you can see that not everything went exactly as planned.

3. Talk to your OB or midwife about your expectations. Early on, when choosing our OB, I voiced my intentions for my labor, mainly to get a feel for how comfortable she was with them. From the get-go, my OB was supportive, as she had two children herself whom she birthed naturally. Ryan and I were elated with our OB from the first meeting. If we hadn’t been, we would have kept searching. One thing that people don’t understand is that your doctor is working for you, not the other way around. If you speak with a doctor that doesn’t seem to respect your wishes, find one that does! This can make the difference between the birth you always imagined and a nightmare.

4. Make a 100% decision, before you go into labor, on the things you can usually control. For example, if you don’t want to get an epidural during labor, be 100% about it. If you’re thinking, “Well, we’ll see how it goes” or “I’d love to do it without pain meds but I like to have the option,” chances are you’re going to get the epidural. You cannot see it as an option. What might happen is your contractions will really kick in and your nurse will politely ask you if you want pain medication. At that point, only a crazy person would turn them down! Instead, have a conversation (or have your birth partner have the conversation) with your nurse about not asking you if you want pain meds, because remember, they’re not an option. After all, it’s on your birth plan!

5. Bring the essentials, including snacks. I was told by several friends that I wouldn’t be “allowed” to eat once I arrived at the hospital. Since not eating was not an option for me (my hanger is real) I made sure to pack foods I could eat and digest easily, like yogurt, crackers, organic Gatorade, and a pb&j. Eating during labor was a topic that we discussed thoroughly in my birth class. Although the general consensus was that a woman in labor needs fuel for her body, it seems that most hospitals discourage a woman to eat during labor. I thought this was absurd! When we arrived at the hospital, Ryan informed my nurse that I would be eating as I pleased. Her response? She smiled and said, “Just wait until I leave the room.” Thinking back, I don’t know if I would have physically been able to push for two hours had I not eaten highly nutritious foods throughout the day.

Another essential to think about is what you will wear during your labor, keeping three things in mind: comfort, color, and ease of removal. You don’t want to wear something that might squeeze you when you go into different positions, such as a squat. You most likely don’t want to wear anything light-colored, as there are several different bodily fluids flyin’ around during labor (sorry for the visual) that might end up on your clothing. I decided to wear the hospital gown upon arrival. I ultimately gave birth in a simple black nursing bra that I still wear to this day. I brought a nursing robe that I put on after Laurel’s arrival. Other things you might consider bringing include essential oils (like Lavender and Orange), chapstick, hair ties, the breast shields from your breast pump so the Lactation Consultant can confirm a proper fit, your nursing pillow, towels (hospital towels can be pretty sketchy), and extra pillows (to increase comfort and promote relaxation since they smell like home).

6. Prepare yourself for labor, both physically and mentally. The benefits of staying physically active during pregnancy are endless. When it comes to giving birth, physical strength and endurance are essential. Stay active during your pregnancy, whether this means walking daily or attending yoga class a few times a week. Generally, walking and yoga are safe for anyone during pregnancy, even if you were not active before getting pregnant. I highly recommend yoga during pregnancy for several reasons. The deep breathing in yoga helps with physical and mental relaxation, which can decrease blood pressure and improve overall mood. Many of the positions in yoga allow baby to get into the perfect position for birth: head-down, chin tucked, and facing your back (anterior). Several yoga poses allow your body to open and let gravity work in your favor. For this reason alone, yoga could be very beneficial for pregnant women, especially in the third trimester.

walking while pregnant in colorado
I went on walks frequently throughout my pregnancy. Here I am at 31 weeks on a windy day in Colorado Springs, CO.

If you are already active going into your pregnancy, feel free to maintain your current exercise routine. You might want to modify certain workouts after 20 weeks, such as any that have you flat on your back, crunching with your abdomen, or jumping. As always, discuss this with your doctor before making changes to your exercise routine. For me, staying active helped keep my weight gain under control (I ended up gaining 35 pounds total), it helped me sleep better at night (when I wasn’t getting up to pee 3x a night), it prevented swelling, and it helped minimize the classic aches and pains of pregnancy. It also helped keep my mental state clear, positive, and confident.

I mentally prepared for labor in a few different ways. I think the main benefit of putting energy into mental preparation is that it helps build and maintain confidence. I didn’t want to be scared of giving birth, I wanted to be excited for it. First and foremost, throughout my pregnancy, I made an effort to avoid negativity surrounding pregnancy and birth. I never understood why people felt it was appropriate to tell me their horror birth story as I’m sitting there, big belly and all, about to embark on the journey myself. I have literally walked away from groups of people when the conversation turns negative. You don’t have to say anything or be rude, just remove yourself from the situation and you’ll be glad you did. Sometimes all it takes is one negative comment to cause your confidence to plummet.

To build my confidence, daily starting around 25 weeks pregnant, I listened to an audio track called Positive Pregnancy Affirmations from the Hypnobabies program. Although this can sound bogus if you’re skeptical, I would highly recommend you give it a try. Search for any sort of positive affirmations, this can be something you read or listen to, and read or listen to it every day. I would sometimes listen to it multiple times a day, especially in my last couple weeks. Call it brainwashing, but I’m a believer that hearing positive things really helps your mind connect to them and embrace them.

birth poster with birth plan reminders
Ryan & I made a poster in our birth class with motivational reminders. We hung it on the wall in my hospital room. Ryan said it was very helpful while I was in labor.

I think it’s important to note that even with ample preparation, both physical and mental, there can always be unexpected things that arise during pregnancy and labor. Sometimes these things are completely out of your control. When making your birth plan and discussing topics with your birth partner and doctor, try to remain flexible. Know that you’re not a failure if things don’t go exactly as “planned.” Ultimately, the purpose of making a “plan” is so you take the time to inform yourself of your options. As a first time mom especially, you really have no idea what to expect when you go to give birth. The main objective that every parent wants on their child’s birth day is for their baby to be born healthy. However your baby enters this world is the right way, but my hope is that you were informed of your options and felt comfortable with whatever decisions were made.

Cloth Diapering 101: How

Welcome to the second part of this blog post, where we talk all about the how of cloth diapering. Read about why you should considering cloth diapering in Cloth Diapers 101: Why. You’ve made the decision to cloth diaper, or maybe you’re still on the fence, but you don’t really know how to get started. Maybe the cost savings is intriguing to you but the idea of increased laundry has you feeling skeptical if cloth diapering is actually worth it. I’m here to tell you, it’s worth it. There are a few materials you’ll definitely need to begin your cloth diapering journey but others you can get by without. It all just depends on the level of ease you want when cloth diapering your baby.

Cloth diapers in various colors
Cloth diapers come in adorable colors and patterns, to match every outfit!

Ryan jumped on the cloth diapering train pretty quickly after I brought the idea up to him. I think he was initially skeptical but then became curious because he didn’t personally know anyone that cloth diapered their child. After I explained the many benefits, he was sold. I think he takes pride in the fact that we cloth diaper, and I do as well. It feels good to do something good for the environment while also benefiting your baby and your wallet. Cloth diapering is a great conversation starter too. When people notice Laurel in a cloth diaper, one of the first questions I get is, “Do you like it?” People always seem surprised when I start raving about how great it is. I think there are a lot of misconceptions about cloth diapering that need to be dispelled. Below I’ve answered some of the questions I had before and throughout my cloth diapering journey. These answers come through experience and talking to friends. But first let’s cover materials..

Things you will need:

1. Cloth Diapers. 

Surprise! but seriously you might be wondering about brands and types of diapers, as well as how many you’ll need. The number of diapers you have will determine how often you have to wash them. For example, a newborn goes through up to 12 diapers in a 24 hour period. You could buy 36+ diapers and wash every 2-3 days, or you could buy 12-18 diapers and wash daily, (remember that you need diapers even while some diapers are in the wash.) Basically you can’t go wrong with more diapers, however, budget might hinder you from buying a ton. You also want to remember that you want to wash the diapers at least every 3 days, or they might start to smell icky. Regarding the laundry, don’t be overwhelmed-  you get into a routine with it and it’s easy. This is coming from a girl who despises doing laundry, but you know the worst part about laundry for me? The folding. With cloth diapers, there’s really no folding, just the washing (which the machine does for you.)

Cloth diapers in different colors
I tried to stay gender neutral on my color choices but the pink diapers were just too cute!
  • How many diapers do I need?

As I said earlier, the number of diapers you have will determine how often you wash them. Ryan and I started our stash with 16 diapers, which was a perfect amount for us. I’ve read about people getting by with 12, but I would find that hard to believe. Maybe I changed Laurel’s diaper more than necessary, I’m not sure. In the beginning, I would change her diaper before each feeding, which was about every 2 hours. This was beneficial for me in the middle of the night because it helped to wake her up a little bit so she would eat. I recently purchased two more diapers as I saw them on sale, because why not? So bottom line is I recommend starting your diaper stash with at least 16.

  • Which brand should I purchase?

This is completely personal preference and could be based on many things – from the style, to the reviews, to the cost. The diapers we use are BumGenius Elemental all-in-one diapers. Maybe it was the name that got me! The BumGenius Elemental diapers are made from organic cotton, so they are a bit more expensive than other diapers that are the same style, but different material. This is the only brand I have purchased and tried on Laurel. I have friends that bought a few diapers from different brands to determine which ones they liked best. There are also stores that will let you rent diapers to test before you buy. Laurel’s diapers accommodate a child up to 35+ pounds, which should take her through potty training. Her diapers use snaps that adjust the openings around her legs and waist as she grows (see pictures below).

  • What type of cloth diapers should I get?

This is an important decision to make before buying your diapers. There are several different types of cloth diapers, including all-in-ones, pocket style, and fitted diapers. Your choice here will depend on how much money you want to spend for convenience. If you basically want the cheapest cloth diapers you can find, look into prefold diapers. These are the least expensive option, but also the least convenient. Think about a cloth diaper as having two main parts, the cloth inside that touches baby’s skin and absorbs the liquid, and the waterproof outside or “shell” that keeps everything in. A brief description of the three main types I mentioned:

All-in-one diapers (pictured above): These diapers have everything attached, the inside soft material is sewn into the outer “shell” or waterproof part. These are generally the most convenient and therefore, the most expensive.

Pocket style diapers: These diapers have an opening or pocket between the waterproof shell and the soft part that touches babies skin that you add absorbent material, called inserts. Benefit: you can customize absorbency.

Fitted diapers: These diapers are two completely separate parts, the inside soft part and the waterproof shell. You first put the soft part onto the baby, as you would any other diaper, then put the shell on afterwards.

I mentioned that I use all-in-one diapers on Laurel. Because the idea of using cloth diapers was a little intimidating to me before we started, I figured that the easier they were for me to use, the happier and less stressed I would be. I definitely stand by our choice to use all-in-ones and I would highly recommend them if your budget allows.

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Laurel at 9 months in a white bumGenius cloth diaper.

2. Wipes.

I started my stash with 12 wipes and quickly purchased another 12 to add to the rotation. I use these Grovia wipes and love them. They’re soft and they hold up well to frequent washing. I roll them and put them into a wipes warmer that I received second-hand. I’m able to fit 12 into the wipes warmer, which now lasts about 1-2 days. When I was registering for baby products, I read mixed reviews about wipes warmers and questioned whether I actually needed it or not. In my opinion, its invaluable! Being able to pull out a warm wipe for those middle-of-the-night diaper changes is so wonderful. I think that it has always helped to keep Laurel calm and comfortable during diaper changes. Watch below as I roll all 12 wipes in less than a minute!

3. Diaper pail.

I use this brand, in the “plus” style. It’s perfect. I wash diapers every 1-2 days and I find it to be the perfect size. The lid covers a little trap door that allows the diaper to slip in quickly, keeping smells contained inside. It also has a foot petal for hands-free opening, a must for any diaper pail.

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Cloth diaper pail, stylish and functional.

4. Diaper pail liners.

I use these diaper pail liners. The same brand as my diaper pail, these reusable liners fit perfectly and are sturdy enough for daily washing. I’ve had the same two liners, washed almost daily for the past year, and they have held up nicely. I just empty the diapers from the liner, turn it inside out, and throw it in the wash with the diapers. I highly recommend having at least two diaper pail liners, so you can keep one in the pail while the other is in the wash.

5. Wet bag (to keep in your diaper bag).

A wet bag is the same idea as keeping a large plastic ziplock bag in your diaper bag, but this is washable and reusable. You’ll need a wet bag to contain your dirty diapers when you’re not at home. After you change your baby, you’ll place the dirty diaper and dirty wipes into the wet bag. The wet bag will contain any liquid and smell until you get home to wash them. I use the bumGenius outing wet bag. It holds 3-5 diapers easily, however, I’ve only ever had 2-3 in it at one time. I throw this in the wash with the diapers as well, inside out.

6. Laundry Detergent.

You’ll want to use a laundry detergent without perfumes, dyes, optical brighteners, and fabric softeners. These can leave residues on your diapers and not only irritate your baby’s skin, but decrease the absorbency of your diapers. I use this Charlies Soap brand. I started with their powdered form when we lived in Colorado since I added it directly to the wash, but now I use liquid form since my current washing machine has a separate compartment for detergent. I’ve tested several “natural” laundry detergents and found this one to be the most efficient.

7. Wipe “solution” (optional).

This is basically your way of dampening your wipes before you clean your baby. Discovering the perfect wipes solution for Laurel took some trial and error on my part. The reason I label wipes solution as optional is because one option is to use plain water on the wipes to clean your baby. I tried this and found that Laurel didn’t get as clean as I would like, as her skin down there started to smell like pee, all the time. I also purchased pre-made little essential oil cubes that I added to water, then poured into my wipes warmer onto my wipes. I noticed that these cubes caused Laurel to form a little rash. I then switched to Dr. Bonner orange-scented castile soap and this too gave Laurel a rash. I discovered that she is sensitive to the essential oils, even when diluted. I now use Dr. Bonner’s unscented baby soap and her skin is a smooth as a baby’s butt… okay you get the picture. I load my 12 wipes into my wipes warmer, fill a pitcher with 2 cups water and a squirt of the soap, then pour the liquid onto the wipes and close the lid. Another option is to keep the liquid in a spray bottle and dampen the wipes as needed. 

Dr Bonner castile soap for cloth diaper wipe solution
Water with Dr. Bonner’s unscented castile soap for wipes solution works wonder

8. Diaper Sprayer (optional).

Because Laurel was exclusively breastfed her first 6 months of life, I was able to leave her poop inside the diaper and put it directly into the washing machine. That’s right, breast-fed poop is water soluble! You don’t have to worry about it clogging your machine or leaving your diapers “dirty,” the mess completely dissolves during the washing cycle. When I added food into her diet at 6 months, I purchased this diaper sprayer which attaches to the toilet, to spray the poop from her diapers, before adding to the washing machine. Once you add food into your child’s diet, you must then discard the poop before washing your diapers, as this poop can mess up your machine. I’m torn on whether I feel like the sprayer is absolutely necessary. I say this because I really only used the sprayer a handful of times. From about 6-9 months, it did come in handy for those soft and messy poops. Now at 11 months, Laurel’s poops are more “solid” and typically just fall off the diaper into the toilet, or I use toilet paper to gently scoop it off, TMI I know. Another option during these short months after adding food is to use flushable diaper liners. Picture something that looks like a dryer sheet, that you lay in the diaper. When your child poops, you easily peel the liner off the diaper and flush it along with the poop! I’ve personally never used them but they could be very useful.

Frequently Asked Questions: 

When can I start my baby in cloth diapers?

Depending on the brand, one size cloth diapers usually run from 8-35+ pounds. Some brands also sell “newborn” diapers that are for babies under 12 pounds. Since Laurel was already over 10 pounds when she was born, I didn’t have to think about her weight as a factor for when we started. I basically transitioned her from disposables when we ran out of the pack that we received in the hospital. It was perfect timing, as she was done with her meconium poops, which I’ve heard can stain your diapers.

How do I wash the diapers?

Each brand has specific washing instructions that you can likely find on their website or on the tag when you buy your diapers. You’ll want to make sure you follow washing instructions precisely, as straying from this can void your warranty, (if your diapers come with one).

If your baby is breastfed, you do not have to clean the poop off the diapers before washing. Breastfed poop is water soluble! After food is added to their diet, you’ll want to remove the poop from the diaper before washing (see Diaper Sprayer under “things you will need”). If your baby is formula fed, simply remove the thick or solid poops from the diaper before washing. Liquid or runny poops can go into the washing machine.

How you wash can also depend on your washing machine. When I first started using the cloth diapers, we lived in Colorado and had a standard washing machine. I would wash the diapers twice, first on warm with a scoop of powdered detergent then on hot with 2 scoops of detergent and an extra rinse. I would then drape the diapers over a laundry basket and lay them in the sun to dry. Since we’ve moved, we now have a high efficiency washing machine that I can program to automatically do a pre-wash, hot wash, and extra rinse. I fill a detergent cup with liquid detergent and add about 1/3 of it into the pre-wash section, then the other 2/3 of it into the main wash section. I then transfer the diapers into the dryer and dry on low for about 90 minutes. The main idea when washing is to do a pre-wash or first wash to get all the junk off the diapers, then a main wash to actually clean them. An extra rinse ensures junk and detergents are washed away.

Once a month, you may need to “strip” your diapers, which is basically just an intense wash to remove any residues that may build up over time. You know your diapers need to be stripped if you start to smell an ammonia smell when changing your baby. If this happens, I wash my diapers using 1/4 cup bleach in the pre-wash, detergent in a hot wash, then an extra rinse. I actually called customer support when this happened and they gave me these specific instructions for my diaper brand. Be sure to contact your diaper company for specific instructions on how to strip your diapers.

What if my baby gets a diaper rash?

Although not common with cloth diapers, diaper rash can occur for various reasons. I noticed that occasionally Laurel’s skin between her thigh rolls would sometimes look pink. Moisture can hide between baby rolls and cause irritation. Because you shouldn’t use regular diaper rash cream with cloth diapers, you’ll want to be sure to find a “cloth-diaper friendly” alternative, which will help to create a barrier between your baby’s skin and moisture. I use this Earth Mama Organics brand. It smells great and is made with organic ingredients so I feel comfortable putting it on my baby’s delicate skin.

Laurel with Earth Mama Organics Diaper balm
Laurel holding her Earth Mama Organics diaper balm.

How do I remove stains from my diapers?

The best way to remove stains from your diapers is to lay them in the sun! In direct sunlight, your stains should be very faded or completely gone in about 10-15 minutes. In dry climates, feel free to completely dry your diapers in the sun, which also doubles as a natural bleacher. When we lived in Colorado and I would dry my diapers outside in the sun, they were usually a little “crispy” when dry. I would just throw them in a low drying cycle for about 30 minutes to soften them up.

Can I cloth diaper when I’m traveling?

Absolutely! The main thing you’ll have to think about when traveling is your access to a washing machine. Depending on where you stay, most hotels have a shared laundry facility you can use to wash your diapers. Always call to check on the availability of this. When staying with friends or family, it depends on your level of comfort on whether you would wash your diapers at their house. Remember that you’ll need to bring detergent and enough diapers to last through the traveling phase of your trip, that is, until you arrive at your destination. We usually use disposable diapers for Laurel when we travel and I regret it every time. I’ve found that disposable diapers really aren’t easier and Laurel always has at least one major blowout when we travel. When we went to Florida for Laurel’s baptism, although we used disposables for the trip, I made sure to bring a cloth diaper for her to wear while she had her baptism dress on. I wasn’t taking any chances!

Laurel in her baptism dress
Laurel in her baptism dress on her grandpa’s lap. Jupiter, FL August 2018

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million times, I absolutely love cloth diapering. Regardless of the many reasons to cloth diaper, I think it instills a personal satisfaction that no one can take from you. I hope my daughter grows up loving her environment and strives toward a lifestyle of reducing waste. I hope she respects her body and chooses the foods she eats and products she uses wisely. I hope she is economical and plans for her future, while still enjoying the present. As parents, our actions speak louder than words. Our children are watching and absorbing every single thing we do. We have a huge responsibility to raise them, teach them, and guide them toward becoming the type of adult that makes the world better.

If you cloth diaper, what has your experience been like? Are you thinking about it but still have questions? Let me know in the comments!

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Cloth Diapering 101: Why

Cloth diapering is one of those awkward topics that people are either really interested in or have no desire to even hear about. If you’re curious as to why you should cloth diaper or how to start, I’m glad you stopped by! Cloth diapering has come a long way since our grandparents’ time. Safety pins and buckets of bleach have been replaced by velcro or snaps and a toilet sprayer and wet bag, respectively. If “wet bag” and “toilet sprayer” are foreign words to you, that’s okay. By the time you finish reading this, my hope is that you understand the many reasons to cloth diaper, feel comfortable with the idea of cloth diapering, and know where to start if you decide to do it.

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Cloth diapers come in a variety of cute colors and patterns!

I knew I wanted to cloth diaper before I even got pregnant. I started researching cloth diaper brands and reviews, reading blogs just like this one with how-to information, and watching YouTube videos on cloth diapering. When I officially became pregnant, that was the time I started accumulating diapers and related items, as I knew I had time to wait for sales and deals.

Ryan and I have been cloth diapering Laurel since she was about a week old and have loved every minute of it. I have never once regretted our decision to cloth diaper. Before we pulled the trigger and started investing in materials, I was a bit nervous that it might be more difficult than I thought. For all of the reasons listed below, cloth diapering is truly a gift that keeps giving. Whether you’re 9 weeks pregnant, 39 weeks pregnant, or you have a 9 month old, it’s never too late to start!

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Laurel at 9 months.

Reasons to Cloth Diaper:

  1. Cloth diapering saves money. Although this wasn’t the main reason Ryan and I decided to cloth diaper, it was definitely a cherry on top of our decision. While buying the cloth diapers and accessories can be a bigger upfront cost, in the long run you save a lot of money. The fact that you can use the same cloth diapers if you have more than one child compounds your savings. The fact that you can also usually sell your used diapers when you’re done with them saves you even more. On average, a baby uses 2700 diapers in the first year alone, and at 0.15-0.39 cents per diaper, well that could be anywhere from $400-1000+ (depending on the brand). That doesn’t even include wipes! Some might argue that the laundry for the cloth diapers causes your water bill to increase, which could negate the cost benefits of cloth diapering altogether. We haven’t found this to be the case, as the increase in our water bill has been negligible. There’s no question that cost savings is a huge benefit of cloth diapering.
  2. Cloth diapering is better for the environment. This was one if the main driving forces behind our decision to cloth diaper. Cloth diapers = zero trash. General consensus says that a diaper takes about 500 years to decompose in a landfill. Yikes. Remember how I mentioned that a baby uses about 2700 diapers in the first year alone? That’s a lot of diapers in the landfill. Need I say more?
  3. Less blowouts. Notice in the picture below that there is elastic at the top of the cloth diaper in the back (left). This prevents poop from flowing out of the diaper up your child’s back (right). A baby’s poop is soft and able to escape out of gaps and holes in diapers for about the first year. Ask any parent about blow outs and they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about. These rarely happen with cloth diapers. The only times we have had leakage with our cloth diapers have been due to user error, when we were figuring out the proper size setting for her. Leakage often means that the diaper was on a setting that was too loose, an easy fix with a cloth diaper.

 

4. Cloth diapers are better for baby’s delicate skin. Disposable diapers can contain perfumes, dyes, chlorine, along with several other chemicals I can’t even pronounce. This was one of the other main reasons Ryan and I decided to cloth diaper. With the rise of issues potentially stemming from childhood these days, from allergies to infertility, I didn’t want to expose our baby to harmful chemicals that early. A baby’s skin is so absorbent and delicate that they often get diaper rashes when using disposable diapers. Natural fibers and fabrics allow for more “breathability,” (versus plastic-blend disposables) helping regulate scrotal temperature for boys and preventing yeast growth for girls, not to mention increasing overall comfort. Would you rather where a shirt made of organic cotton or “synthetic material?”

5. Is there anything cuter than a baby in a cloth diaper? You tell me..

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Laurel at 9 months.
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Laurel sleeping on the beach at 4 months.
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Laurel at 9 months.

If I have you convinced that there are several good reasons to cloth diaper and you’ve made the decision to do it. Look for my next post – Cloth Diapering 101: How.

A Breastfeeder’s Guide to Nutrition

The #1 question I hear from postpartum women is: How do I lose my baby weight while still maintaining my milk supply? Oftentimes, when women try to lose weight by restricting their calorie intake, it impacts their milk supply. Exhausted and frustrated, this is about the time they come to see me. So what’s a mama to do?

Ultimately, the reason we choose to breastfeed is to provide our babies with the best nutrition this planet has to offer, right? Although you might feel pressure to get your “body back” right away, remember that the main goal during this time is optimizing your nutrition. Why? You want to have energy, feel emotionally stable, provide all of the nutrients your baby needs, and of course bond with your baby in the process. Are you ready to have your mind blown? A woman needs more calories when she’s breastfeeding than when she was pregnant! A breastfeeding mom needs approximately 450-500 extra calories per day. Yes, you need more calories to produce milk than you did when you were growing a human being. Your newborn is growing at an exponential rate, so it only makes sense that your body will be working overtime to facilitate this growth.

Women are often torn because they want to lose the baby weight so badly, but they don’t realize the impact that excess calorie restriction can have on milk production. Think about it this way, the average ounce of breast milk is about 20 calories. A new baby could drink up to 32 ounces of milk in a day. That means that in one day your body can produce over 600 calories worth of liquid gold! Goosebumps.

I’ll break it down and share some of the most important nutritional tips I tell breastfeeding women. These tips are not only important for maintaining a healthy supply of milk to nourish your little one, but also to facilitate healing your own body.

  1. Drink water. Lots of water. Remember those 32 ounces of breast milk you’re producing in a day? If you’re dehydrated your body would have a really hard time doing that. I recommend you add 32 ounces of water to the typically recommended 64 ounces daily. This means you want to drink about 96 ounces (or about 12 glasses) of water every. single. day while breastfeeding. An easy way I keep track of my water intake is by filling my 32oz EcoVessel at least three times a day. I actually received it as a gift and now I swear that it’s the absolute best thing anyone can give a postpartum woman.. along with food, banana bread muffins, peanut butter-filled anything.. okay I’m getting off topic. Bottom line: keep a water bottle or cup of water at each place you might rest your body during the day and night, such as the couch, next to your bed, the bathroom, everywhere.
  2. Have 2-3 snacks daily. Although you might feel like you’re always eating (which can’t be too bad right?) keep snack items at home and in your diaper bag for between meals. Snacks are optional but provide a nice energy boost and help to prevent you from going into your next meal ravenous. The key to a snack is that it has carbohydrates and protein. You can even add veggies for a bonus dose of fiber. *Snacks are crucial if you find yourself losing weight too quickly after having your baby.
  3. Try to eat two 6 oz servings of omega-3 fatty acid rich fish per week, such as salmon, anchovies, or chunk light tuna. The omega-3 DHA is passed through your breast milk so your baby can reap the benefits of optimal brain and eye development. If fish isn’t typically part of your diet, I would suggest a fish oil supplement that provides at least 200mg DHA. Looking for a vegetarian option? Incorporate nuts and seeds, such as walnuts and flaxseeds, along with DHA-fortified eggs into your diet, or consider taking a vegetarian DHA supplement, usually made from algae. Continue taking your prenatal vitamin throughout breastfeeding and beyond, as those vitamins and minerals are beneficial for healing and overall health.salmonbowl
  4. Eat three meals daily. Since life with a baby can seem like a blur and you’re not sure if it’s 6am or 6pm or what planet you’re on for that matter, the main idea is to eat a meal every 3-5 hours. This keeps your blood sugar stable and keeps a steady influx of calories your body can use to produce lots of milk. Every time you eat, you want to be taking in quality calories so your body can function as best it can, even on top of sleep deprivation and lack of personal hygiene. Ditch the empty calorie foods like chips and sodas that leave you still hungry and even more exhausted.
  5. Try to eat from all of the major food groups every day (is peanut butter a food group?) so you get a variety of beneficial macro and micronutrients. These include:
  • Fruits & Vegetables: Try to consume a ton of fruits and vegetables throughout the day so you can benefit from the antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber (ahem… help with going #2) they provide. Stock up on frozen varieties so you have plenty of options to pair with a sandwich for a quick lunch, (microwave steamer bags are your friend). When your neighbor asks if she can bring anything when she comes to meet the baby, ask for a veggie tray or a homemade salad. That’s an easy task for her but a huge help for you since making a salad is the last thing on your to-do list right now. Other quick ways to get in more fruits and veggies:
    • Keep celery and carrot sticks in the fridge to dip in hummus for an easy late-night snack.
    • Fill little baggies with nuts and unsweetened dried fruit, such as raisins or apricots, to munch on during your afternoon feedings.
    • No time to cook eggs in the morning? Slap some peanut butter on a slice of whole grain bread and top with a 1/2 banana for a quick breakfast.
    • Enlist your significant other, mom, or friend to cut up a bunch of fresh fruit to keep in a bowl that you can just grab as you walk by.
    • Roast a ton of vegetables to keep in a container in the fridge, since they taste even better the longer they’ve been sitting in garlicy goodness. Spread chopped onion, bell pepper, zucchini, squash, broccoli, and/or cauliflower on a sheet tray and coat with olive oil, minced garlic, and salt & pepper. Bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes or until you see a slight char on the veggies.

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  • Grains/Carbs: You want each meal you eat to contain starchy vegetables or whole grains, such as potatoes with the skin, corn, wild rice, oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, or beans. Repeat after me: carbohydrates are my friend. The key is selecting high fiber carbs like the ones mentioned above, while limiting refined carbs like white pasta. Tip: Buy convenience items, such as the microwave pouches of brown or wild rice, just make sure nothing besides oil and salt are added. Also look for frozen varieties of chopped squash, potatoes, peas, and corn.

*Anecdotally speaking, women I’ve counseled seem to notice the biggest drop in their milk supply when they limit carbs. Although this tends to be the go-to diet practice when trying to lose weight, it seems to be the most detrimental when trying to maintain a plentiful milk supply.

  • Protein: Lastly, don’t forget the protein. You have increased protein needs when you’re healing and breastfeeding which is why it’s important to incorporate protein into meals and snacks. Chicken, turkey, lean beef, and seafood are all wonderful options to cook up with your meals. Meats, poultry, and seafood can be purchased in bulk, separated into single serving bags, and frozen. Remember that you also get protein from yogurt, milk, eggs, nuts and seeds, nut butters, beans, peas, cheese, and tofu. Hard-boil a dozen eggs and keep them in the fridge for a quick, protein-rich snack. Canned beans are a versatile pantry staple, as you can add them to everything from chili to salads. When purchasing canned goods, always look for “no salt added” or “low sodium” varieties.

Meal Ideas:

Breakfast:

Option 1: 1 slice of whole grain toast smeared with avocado, topped with 2 eggs and a side of strawberries

Option 2: 2-3 egg omelette with spinach, minced onion, and bell pepper with a whole grain English muffin or

Option 3: Slow Cooker Oatmeal (Before bed, put 1 cup steel cut oats in your slow cooker, along with 4 cups milk or water. Turn on low and cook all night. Keep extra in fridge, reheat by adding a splash of liquid and microwave until hot. Suggested toppings include: walnuts, slivered almonds, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon or nutmeg, a scoop of peanut butter, diced apple or banana, chia seeds, or hemp seeds). Pair with 1-2 boiled eggs.

Lunch:

Tuna sandwich (tuna mixed with avocado, diced onion, and celery on whole grain bread), a salad (with a variety of vegetables, topped with sunflower and pumpkin seeds), and a pear. *Substitute diced hard-boiled eggs for tuna for another sandwich option.

Dinner:

Baked chicken breast (marinated in olive oil & garlic pepper seasoning) with a medium sweet potato (skin on; drizzled with olive oil), roasted asparagus (coated in olive oil and minced garlic), and a salad (with balsamic vinaigrette dressing). *BONUS: this entire meal can be cooked in the oven!

Snack Ideas:

yogurt (preferably plain; Greek or regular) with berries added

6 whole grain crackers with 1-2 scoops natural peanut butter

a small handful of nuts & unsweetened dried fruit

a rice cake topped with 1-2 scoops of almond butter and cinnamon

a piece of fruit with a cheese stick

1 cup of edamame pods (often sold in the freezer section in microwave steamer bags)

A granola bar (look for ones with lots of nuts, such as KIND bars) or protein shake

*Consider meals/snacks that can be made in bulk, separated into containers, and frozen such as chili, lasagna, and soups.

The recommendations above are what I personally think should be your focus if you are trying to eat healthy while breastfeeding. If you’re overwhelmed in any way, remember that the important thing is keeping your sanity and providing your baby with what he or she needs. Sometimes this means that you might supplement with formula or transition your baby to formula altogether. From one mom to another, that is okay. You are still a rockstar.

I truly understand breastfeeding is not easy and that all of this can be overwhelming. #thestruggleisreal. I’m going on eleven months of breastfeeding my baby girl, the first six were exclusive breastfeeding, and I too have experienced its trials and tribulations. Although Laurel latched within minutes of being born, my first five days of breastfeeding were absolute torture. I felt like her mouth was full of razor blades and every time she would latch, my face would turn beet red and tears would flow, ugh. After seeing a Lactation Consultant I learned how to get Laurel to latch deeper and our problem was solved (Thank you baby Jesus!). It took the next four weeks for my nipples to heal, since they were so scabbed and tender from that first week. Just as things were starting to get easier, and actually enjoyable, I was hit with mastitis. Uncontrollable shaking, a fever of 106, and a trip to the ER.. if you’ve ever had mastitis you know it’s not fun.

When I was pregnant I was told that the first six weeks of breastfeeding are the most difficult and that if you can get past that time it gets easier. In many ways I agree with this statement and I think it’s good advice. As things like breastfeeding and learning your role as a new mom gets “easier” with time, new challenges enter the scene constantly. I guess that’s what motherhood is, new challenges to conquer all while trying to keep your heart from growing out of your chest.

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