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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Laurel’s Birth Story

It’s taken me a long time to muster the courage to type this story. I worry that I can’t convey the emotions I felt that day, and have felt ever since, as eloquently as they deserve. I think back on the day that my little bundle of perfection was born and it physically hurts. My chest gets tight and my fingers become shaky. Since that special day in April of last year, my heart has been living outside of my body. It’s taken on the appearance of chubby cheeks and wispy hair. It’s vulnerable, so beautifully and terrifyingly vulnerable.

Laurel’s due date was April 20th, but my awesome OB was willing to support us in going past that date before considering induction. Induction was the topic of a discussion we had with her early on, as I had a fear of being induced. I figured that one unnecessary intervention could lead to more and my ultimate goal was a completely natural birth. Since she couldn’t really give us a “medically necessary” reason for it anyways, the option was basically off the table.

At my 40 week appointment, I had my membranes stripped, in hopes of naturally progressing things along. I was already 3 cm dilated at this point and my OB said that it’s a 50/50 shot on whether the membrane stripping will do anything. I guess that makes sense, it either will or it won’t, right? I also started going to acupuncture, during which time I would feel contractions, but the contractions would subside as soon as I left the building. At this point, I was eating pineapple, spicy foods, bouncing on my birth ball, walking, and doing everything short of castor oil to induce my labor naturally.

Pregnant getting acupuncture to induce labor naturally
40+ weeks pregnant at Springs Community Acupuncture in Colorado Springs, CO.

Well April 20th passed, then April 21st, and April 22nd (membranes stripped again), April 23rd, 24th.. there we were on April 25th, two days before Week 41. My OB was really chomping at the bit for this baby to be born. Ryan was feeling a bit anxious as well and would ask me several times throughout the day how I felt, if I had any contractions, and if I could still feel the baby moving. I like to think I was feeling pretty relaxed and patient, but also very excited to meet our little one.

After several serious discussions between Ryan and I, we ultimately decided that I would be induced. I was steadfast on my decision not to receive pain medication, even though I knew that Pitocin can cause intense contractions. I was prepared, both mentally and physically. Read about how I prepared for birth here.

Leaving for the hospital as a family of 2.
Leaving for the hospital as a family of 2.

At around 7am on April 26th, my OB broke my water and I started feeling minor contractions. She had agreed to break my water first to see if that would jump start labor. As part of my birth plan, I agreed to have a hep-lock put in place, but declined an IV. I wanted to be free to move about my hospital room completely unrestricted. I bounced on the birth ball, played cards with my mom and Ryan, ate tons of snacks, walked around, and really just waited. My room was large with a huge window that took up an entire wall, with white plantation shutters looking out over a playground.

Bouncing on the birth ball to start contractions, something I had been doing for months!
Bouncing on the birth ball, something I had been doing for months! Why do my feet look so big?

By 1pm, no “progress” was made, I was still 3 cm dilated. Still confident, I agreed to start Pitocin. My nurse hooked up an IV and started me on a very low dose. It began working immediately. Ryan and my mom had gone down to the cafeteria to grab lunch so I actually had my first real contraction while they were out of the room. My nurse was able to shut the Pitocin off after a little while since it started making my contractions too close together, and boy were they intense!

For the next 6 hours, I labored. I squatted, I lunged, I twisted and turned by body in any way that gave momentary relief. I breathed in sync with my mom and listened as Ryan “counted down” each contraction. As I would feel the pressure and discomfort building, I would ask him “How much longer?” and, although I realize now that he was completely guessing, he would start counting down from ten. Before he reached one, the contraction was subsiding. Laurel’s heart rate was perfect the entire time, I felt so fortunate. Over the hours, I could see my belly get lower and lower, as our baby moved deeper into the birth canal. She was getting ready to make her debut!

It’s interesting to think about the comfort measures that I thought I would want during labor: massage, counter-pressure, touching, bouncing on the birth ball, walking around, music. I wanted none of these. I did not want to be touched and music was irritating, almost like it was over-stimulating. During our birth class, we practiced all of these techniques and Ryan knew exactly what to do and say; however, when the time came it all went out the window! We even made a birth poster with “reminders” and little sayings that Ryan could refer to. I remember the best thing for me was keeping my eyes closed, breathing deeply, and rocking back and forth on the bed, go figure. My foot actually fell asleep several times because I had it tucked under me on the bed. My mom would massage it when it would get tingly.

Weeks prior, Ryan and I had a conversation with my OB about different laboring and birth positions, mainly to get a feel for what she was comfortable with. I’ll never forget her response because it still makes me giggle to visualize, “You can swing from the lights during labor if you want but I’d prefer you near the bed when it’s time to push.” I appreciated her for being so supportive of our birth plan (minus the swinging from the lights thing).

Eventually, I was almost fully dilated, I lunged on the side of the bed and pushed past a cervical lip. When my RN told me I was 10 cm I said, “Are you sure, you’re not joking right?!” I was so happy! She told me to push whenever I felt the urge to. For the next two hours, I pushed and pushed and pushed. I started in a squat position, using the squat bar on the bed. This helped Laurel pass my pubic bone, which she was stalled at for a bit. We didn’t know at that time how big her head was, gulp.

It started to feel good to completely relax, or should I say collapse, between each contraction & push, so I ended up on my back while pushing. Throughout my pregnancy, when I had visualized giving birth, I saw myself on all fours, or even in a squat position so gravity could help me. When I would collapse between pushes, that was when Ryan would stick a straw in my mouth and tell me to sip water, which I was so thankful for. He also reapplied my chapstick which was a Godsend! (#1 thing to pack in your hospital bag: chapstick!) Read about what else I brought in my hospital bag here.

I must mention that throughout the entire process, Ryan had our GoPro strapped to his head. He started the video on our drive to the hospital. One of his main jobs was to take pictures and videos for me to watch later. I’ve watched the videos probably a hundred times. I would highly recommend that to anyone. Even if you’re not loving the idea of having your experience filmed, at least have someone snap some pictures so you can remember those moments we quickly forget afterward.

The time came when our OB entered the room, the bottom of the bed was dropped, and the whole world (it seemed) was staring at my crotch. I even had a nurse intern right next to me, holding one of my legs. I could feel the poor guys arms shaking the entire time. I had agreed to allow the intern in on my birth because I figured, and my nurse confirmed later, that they don’t get to see many unmedicated births. He definitely had a story to write home about!

My precious baby girl entered the world at 9:39pm and, after a very brief once-over by the doctor, was placed on my chest and not moved for the next two hours. Ryan and I were crying, she was screaming, and the entire room cheered. It was the happiest day of my life! I have tears as I type this now. Her vitals were checked as she stayed curled on my chest. She latched on to breastfeed right away, umbilical cord still attached. After about three minutes, Ryan cut the umbilical cord and then said what later become an infamous phrase in our house, “I helped! I did something!”

After hours of skin-to-skin contact on both me and Ryan, Laurel was brought to the scale just on the other side of the room, while I went to the restroom. While in the restroom, I hear, “Whoa! No way!” and Ryan informed me that our baby was 10 pounds 1 ounce and 22 inches long. I think we all just started laughing. After we settled into our new hospital room, Ryan and I just stared in awe at the miracle we created. I don’t think I slept a wink that night.

Laurel, Ryan, and I stayed at the hospital for two nights as we acclimated to life as a family of 3. The hospital was amazing and let me order as much food as I wanted. Surprisingly the hospital food was delicious and my appetite was ravenous, thanks to breastfeeding, so I really appreciated that. My nurses were wonderfully doting which made the middle-of-the-night blood pressure checks as enjoyable as they could be. My mom stayed at our house to take care of our dogs and would come and go from the hospital throughout the day. My dad sent us a few Edible Arrangements, tons of balloons, and stuffed animals. My mother-in-law flew in the day after Laurel was born. Friends visited us at the hospital and brought meals to our house, which was so appreciated. It all feels like so long ago now but what a wonderful time it was! I hope to never forget these moments. I plan to tell Laurel about her birthday as often as she’ll want to hear about it. I can just imagine her now, asking me, “Mommy, tell me about the best day of your life.”

Coming home from the hospital as a family of 3.
Coming home as a family of 3.
baby 8 days old.
Laurel, 8 days old.
baby 8 days old
Laurel, 8 days old.

 

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.

Easy Baked Falafel: A Healthy Twist on a Middle Eastern Classic

My love of falafel started in Key West. My parents would take our family there every summer growing up and we’d walk along Duval Street to explore and eat. We’d rent jet skis and my brother would take pleasure in throwing me off by going really fast then taking a sharp turn. My dad would usually charter a fishing boat and we would fish, snorkel, and enjoy our time in the sun. He always reminds us of the time when my sister and I had our feet hanging off the back of the boat and he casually tells us to bring them in. It wasn’t until years later my dad informed us that he saw an 8-foot hammerhead shark swimming in our direction. I’m glad he didn’t tell us at the time, since I had seen the movie Jaws one too many times at that point and probably would’ve had a heart attack.

My mom was the one who always insisted we get falafel while in Key West. If I remember correctly, that was the only time we ate it. Maybe they didn’t have good falafel in Jupiter. Maybe it became more of a tradition while we were there. I know my mom looked forward to it all year. Needless to say, we’d always make sure to stop at the little stand and get our falafel, wrapped in a fresh pita bread with lettuce, tomato, and Tzatziki sauce. Yum.

Sprouted whole grain pita stuffed with falafel, cucumber slices, tomato, and Tzatziki sauce, garnished with cilantro.
Sprouted whole grain pita stuffed with falafel, cucumber slices, tomato, and Tzatziki sauce, garnished with cilantro.

I found a place in Manitou Springs, CO that served authentic Middle Eastern food. You better believe every single time I went there I ordered falafel because it was so dang good. The place was called The Sahara Cafe and I think I probably ate there 20 times while we lived in Colorado. We took all of our visitors there, because it was delicious but also because Manitou Springs was a really cool town to explore. I went to Sahara a couple times after hiking The Incline, an intense hike that starts at 6,600 feet and goes up 2,000 feet in less than a mile. I had heard about this hike before we even moved there so of course I had to conquer it.

Falafel is a Middle Eastern food and traditionally deep fried. As we all know, deep fried anything is delicious but probably not something you want to eat regularly. Fried foods are not only a lot higher in calories (versus the same food baked or grilled), but also likely contain trans fats, which are the bad fats that you want to avoid. Trans fats contribute to everything from heart disease to diabetes to infertility.

Before you think that you can never enjoy some of your favorite foods again, the good news is that most foods that are traditionally fried can also we baked or grilled– like falafel! This recipe uses the same ingredients as traditional falafel, but is baked in the oven. This allows you to enjoy falafel regularly, as it’s actually a healthy option for the entire family, kids included! So what’s in it?

Garbanzo beans. Fear not carnivores, in 1/2 cup of garbanzo beans, also called chickpeas, you get a whopping 20 grams of protein. The beauty of plant-based protein is that you typically get a healthy dose of fiber too, about 15 grams to be exact. They’re loaded with vitamins and minerals as well. Chickpeas are a great addition to your salad or bean chili but are the star of the dish in falafel.

Fresh herbs. Speckled with green, falafel is not only healthy, but it’s pretty, thanks to the fresh herbs in this recipe. Cilantro and parsley add flavor that make your taste buds sing. Herbs are the best way to add flavor to a dish without adding a bunch of salt. They contain an array of healthy stuff as well, including anti-inflammatory properties and several essential vitamins.

Garlic. Just do a quick online search for the health benefits of garlic and you might be surprised at the millions, yes millions, of articles you find. Garlic has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties and it’s widely used for the tremendous amount of flavor it provides. To put it simply, garlic is good for you: your heart, your blood, and your GI tract too.

The ingredients of falafel minced in the food processor.
The ingredients of falafel minced in the food processor. Almost done!

When I was making my falafel, I probably said 10 times “Mmm it smells so good.” When herbs, garlic, lemon, and onion are minced together in the food processor, the aroma is intoxicating. I wonder if they sell a falafel scented candle… 

Forming the falafel is easy by hand, although I’ve heard they sell fancy falafel-making scoops. I emptied the minced falafel ingredients into a bigger bowl which made scooping by hand easier for me. Bonus: Your hands will smell delicious during this process.

falafel patties ready to be cooked
The patties have been formed, now to be brushed with olive oil and put into the oven.

After I made these for the first time, I broke open a steaming hot falafel and dunked it into a bowl of hummus. Falafel + hummus = a match made in heaven. Ryan is always amazed at my ability to eat food straight out of the oven, when in reality, I just don’t have the patience to wait for it to cool. Most of the time, I can’t even taste whatever I’m eating because I’ve burned the inside of my mouth. Why is it that I continue this habit? I’ll never know.

falafel with hummus
Falafel atop a bed of creamy homemade hummus, garnished with cilantro.

 

Easy Baked Falafel

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried garbanzo beans, soaked overnight
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 5 cloves of garlic, roasted
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped and roasted
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for greasing pan and brushing falafel

Suggested sides/toppings: Homemade Tzatziki sauce, hummus, cucumber slices, whole grain pita (warmed), sriracha, minced onion, diced tomato, shredded lettuce

Directions: 

  1. Put garbanzo beans in a large bowl and cover with 3-4 inches of water, (the beans will expand as they absorb the water). Let sit for 18-24 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and drizzle some olive oil on a baking sheet.
  3. Place the onion and garlic cloves on your baking sheet, roll the onion and garlic with your fingers to coat with olive oil. Roast in the oven for 8-10 minutes. The onion will be slightly translucent and the garlic with be slightly charred.
  4. After they have soaked, drain the garbanzo beans and add to your food processor. Pulse the beans alone for 5 pulses to break apart.
  5. Add all other ingredients to food processor and blend until minced (not pureed), scraping down the sides as necessary.
  6. Scoop falafel mixture with your hand and form “patties.” The mixture is very delicate so handle gently. Gently brush the tops of your falafel with olive oil.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes, flip, then bake for 10 more minutes.
  8. Enjoy your falafel warm from the oven, dipped in hummus or cool in a pita with cucumber and Tzatziki sauce. Falafel can be frozen, but try to consume within 2-3 weeks.

Adapted from: Just a Taste

Homemade Tzatziki Sauce

If you’ve never heard of tzatziki sauce (pronounced: tut-ziki), I’m glad you stopped by. I could eat this stuff by the bowl. It’s a sauce that’s healthy, incredibly easy to make, and can be used for a variety of purposes, such as a dip for veggies or crackers, drizzled over grilled meats like chicken or lamb, scooped onto salmon before baking in the oven, or my personal favorite, as a sauce with falafel. If you’ve never heard of falafel… oh my… read about that here.

There are many different variations of Tzatziki sauce, as this sauce is made all over the world. Perhaps it’s best known for it’s use with Greek and Middle Eastern foods. I usually don’t measure the ingredients, but just throw them all in a bowl and let it sit in the fridge overnight. It actually tastes better the longer it sits.

Tzatziki sauce in a sprouted whole grain pita with baked falafel, cucumber slices, and tomato.
Tzatziki sauce in a sprouted whole grain pita with baked falafel, cucumber slices, and tomato.

Homemade Tzatziki Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 small seedless cucumber, peeled and grated
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp dry dill or 1 Tbsp fresh dill
  • the juice from 1/2 lemon
  • a pinch of both salt and pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil (for garnish)

Directions:

  1. Peel and grate cucumber. Remove excess liquid by wrapping grated cucumber in paper towels and squeezing.
  2. Add all ingredients to bowl and mix with fork. Let sit in fridge for at least 30 minutes, preferably overnight. Garnish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil before serving.

Adapted from: What’s Gaby Cooking

Secret Ingredient Smoothie Bowl

I have to admit, I’m not a huge smoothie person. I read an article years ago that argued we don’t feel as satisfied when we drink our calories versus when we eat them. It suggested that the actual sitting down for a meal, tasting our food, and being mindful of what we’re eating helps us to stay full longer. I get it. It’s so easy to drink our calories that people often wonder why they’re slowly gaining weight when they drink over 400 calories per day in <insert sugary beverage here>. Dr. Cheung a lecturer at Harvard School of Public Health, suggests that mindless eating is contributing to the national obesity epidemic we see today. Why is this smoothie different? Why does this smoothie allow us to eat mindfully? Because you eat it out of a bowl

A smoothie contains ingredients you likely already have at home. You can even put your smoothie ingredients together the night before, so in the morning it literally takes you 5 minutes to blend. A smoothie is a great option when you’d otherwise skip your meal because you’re in a hurry or you don’t feel hungry. Smoothies are also kid-friendly! They’re a great way to sneak fruits and vegetables into your child’s diet.

I always talk about blood sugar regulation and how it affects everything from our mood to our energy. Smoothies can be “dangerous” in the sense that it’s easy to add a lot of sugar into one. Most of the ingredients that go into a typical smoothie have carbohydrates aka sugar, including the fruit, milk, juice, and yogurt. The problem with this is that people don’t balance those carbohydrates with protein. Protein is the secret weapon in a smoothie. Protein helps those liquid calories keep us full longer, but most importantly, it helps to mitigate the blood sugar spike we get from drinking a fruit smoothie. I add a scoop of grass-fed whey protein to my smoothie. It’s flavorless so I can’t even tell its in there. The protein is crucial, as I’ve mentioned, and ultimately transforms your smoothie from a snack into a balanced meal.

cauliflower berry smoothie with coconut
Smoothies are versatile and can be sipped from a cup or eaten with a spoon from a bowl!

The smoothie I’m about to share with you checks all of the boxes I look for when building the perfect smoothie:

  • taste
  • carbohydrate-to-protein balance
  • includes vegetables
  • color
  • texture

The best part about this smoothie is that it contains a secret ingredient that you can’t even tell is in there: cauliflower. Although cauliflower may seem boring, its actually a nutritional powerhouse. Cauliflower contains anthoxanthins, which give this vegetable its creamy white color, as well as its antioxidant properties. Antioxidants fight damage within the cells of our bodies, helping to prevent cancer and degeneration of our eyes and brain cells. Although “green smoothies” are often praised for their health benefits and antioxidant capabilities, other colors including white, offer just as many benefits. Cauliflower also contains Vitamin C (which also acts as an antioxidant), potassium, folic acid, and fiber. Needless to say this often underrated vegetable is the nutritional star of this smoothie.

Cinnamon. The cinnamon flavor is subtle but gives this smoothie a special hint that makes you say, “Mmmm, what is that?” Cinnamon is sweet and spicy at the same time, teasing your taste buds but allowing the other flavors in the smoothie to shine through. Cinnamon might also help to keep blood sugar down for people with diabetes, high five!

Almond butter. Creaminess, protein, healthy fats, and flavor. I can’t think of a better combination than almond butter and banana. To me, the nutty, earthy flavor of almond pairs so perfectly with a sweet banana. This smoothie has both. Throw the cinnamon on top and oh. my. gosh. Enough said.

Avocado. Who would have guessed that this beautifully purple smoothie had avocado in it? Avocado adds creaminess which makes this smoothie spoon-worthy. It also adds monounsaturated fats, potassium, and fiber. Yes please.

I love the idea of eating a smoothie out of a bowl. It’s almost like eating ice cream, but healthier. I love that this smoothie is thick which allows you to scoop a heaping spoonful into your mouth. Feel free to top it with whatever you like- I chose hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, and coconut flakes. Because I eat mine out of a bowl with a spoon, I don’t have to worry about my toppings getting stuck in a straw.

smoothie bowl with coconut, pumpkin, and hemp seeds
I topped my smoothie bowl with hemp & pumpkin seeds for crunch and coconut flakes for flavor, yum!

Secret Ingredient Smoothie Bowl

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cauliflower, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 banana, frozen
  • 1/2 cup berries, frozen
  • 1 cup liquid (I did 1/2 cup whole milk, 1/2 cup water)
  • 1 scoop of protein, plain or vanilla
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 2 Tbsp almond butter
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Optional toppings: pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, coconut flakes, cocao nibs, berries, banana slices.

Directions:

  1. If using frozen cauliflower, add that to the blender or food processor first, by itself, to start the blending process. Blend until small (bite-sized) chunks before adding other ingredients.
  2. Add the banana and blend.
  3. Add all of the other ingredients and blend until thick and creamy.
  4. Pour into bowl or cup and top with your favorite toppings.

Makes 1 serving.

Estimated nutrition facts via MyFitnessPal per serving: calories 375. protein 21 grams. carbohydrates 40 grams. Results will vary based on specific ingredients used.

Does What You Eat Affect Your Fertility?

As a dietitian, I strongly believe that what we eat plays a huge role in our fertility. I mean, food affects everything when it comes to our health, reproductive health included. There are so many physiological functions that have to run smoothly in order for conception to occur. Giving your body the nutrients it thrives on might not only help you conceive, but could also help you enjoy a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby to boot!

There are countless stages that couples find themselves in when starting or growing their family. You might be wanting to start trying to conceive in the next couple of months. Maybe you’ve already been trying for a few months. Maybe you’ve been diagnosed with infertility, because you’ve been trying for over a year. Maybe getting pregnant isn’t even on your radar! If you’re not actively trying to get pregnant, but you’re considering it as an option within the next few years, it never hurts to start making healthy lifestyle changes now.

I’ve counseled countless people on the many benefits of living a healthier lifestyle, but no patient population is more engaged and dedicated than those women, and their partners, trying to get pregnant. At some point during the baby-making journey, especially if it’s taking longer than expected, an assessment of diet and lifestyle choices is imminent.

While an overall healthy diet itself can boost fertility, there are some specific recommendations that those aiming to get knocked up should focus on. These recommendations come from the research led by Drs. Jorge Chavarro and Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health, which was ultimately published in a book, The Fertility Diet. Previous to their findings in 2007, research on the topic of nutrition and fertility was scarce. They used information from the Nurses Health Study, which looked at tens of thousands of women through their reproductive years, many of whom were trying to get pregnant. They were able to identify risk factors for infertility, specifically relating to anovulatory infertility, (when an egg is not released from the ovary as expected). Here are some of the specifics they discuss:

  1. Switch all grains to whole.

    Whole grains provide enormous nutritional benefits, such as fiber, protein, and vitamins that you won’t get in refined grains. The fiber itself helps to fill you up faster and for longer, a huge bonus if you’re one of those people that’s “always hungry” or never really feels satiated. By switching to whole grains, you are now omitting many simple carbohydrates from your diet. Why does this matter? Simple carbs cause blood sugar spikes -> blood sugar spikes can lead to insulin resistance -> insulin resistance is not good for fertility. Think of insulin resistance as your body not being able to regulate your blood sugar properly. A fluctuating blood sugar means that your energy level and mood will fluctuate as well. If you suffer from chronic “blah” feeling (yes, that’s a medical term I just made up), low energy, have been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), or have stubborn fat around your abdomen that you can’t seem to lose, you could benefit tremendously from switching to whole grains.

  • How to get started: Mix it up, literally! The next time you make white rice, make wild or brown rice as well and combine the two. Do the same with pasta, mix white pasta with whole grain varieties. Check cooking times on the box, as you might start one before the other. This could be a realistic way to ease into the transition to whole grains… and bonus, your family might not even notice!

    A bowl of brown rice (simmered in broth) topped with steamed peas, roasted tomatoes & sweet potato, and a scoop of cilantro cashew butter.
    A bowl of brown rice (simmered in broth) topped with steamed peas, roasted tomatoes & sweet potato, and a scoop of cilantro cashew butter.

2. Swap unhealthy fats for healthy ones.

Notice that I used the word swap. Don’t just start downing avocado and guzzling olive oil without eliminating fertility-killing fats, called trans fats. Trans fats are found in items such as fried fast food, powdered coffee creamer, donuts, some margarines, and “movie theater butter” popcorn. You’ll know if trans fast are in a product if the ingredients list contains “partially hydrogenated oil.” Limit foods high in saturated fats too, as excessive intake of these contribute to insulin resistance as well. These foods include processed meats like bacon and sausage, fried foods, butter, shortening, and coconut oil. As you work on limiting unhealthy fat sources from your diet, focus on increasing foods like avocado, nuts, seeds, and seafood like salmon and tuna.

  • How to get started:
    • Instead of -> ribeye steak choose -> salmon filet
    • Instead of -> chips choose -> nuts
    • Instead of -> butter, bacon grease, or coconut oil choose -> extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, or canola oil
    • Instead of -> salami, bologna, or spam choose -> sliced turkey breast or lean ham
    • Instead of -> deep fried choose -> baked or grilled

      wild Alaskan salmon with vegetables and salad greens
      Wild Alaskan salmon topped with goat cheese & pumpkin seeds + roasted asparagus, beets, and sweet potato (drizzled with EVOO and freshly cracked black pepper) over a bed of mixed greens.

3. Add one serving of whole-milk dairy daily.

This one seems contradictory since I just talked about limiting saturated fat, but according to the Nurses Health Study, it could decrease your risk of anovulatory infertility. The underlying mechanism is unclear, but you can’t deny the findings– in the study mentioned above, there was an inverse association between dairy fat intake and anovulatory infertility.

  • How to get started: Next time you’re tempted to reach for that fat-free yogurt for your mid-morning snack, instead choose the whole milk version and enjoy every scrumptious spoonful!

    Whole milk plain Greek yogurt topped with berries, pumpkin seeds, chocolate chips, chia seeds & ground flaxseed.
    Whole milk plain Greek yogurt topped with berries, pumpkin seeds, chocolate chips, chia seeds & ground flaxseed. Oh hey, I’m in the spoon!

4. Eliminate processed meat intake, limit red meat intake, and increase plant protein intake. 

The bottom line here is to try to replace some of the animal protein in your diet with plant-based protein. Intake of vegetable rather than animal-based protein was a dietary factor prospectively reviewed and related to lower risk of ovulatory disorder infertility. Processed meats like sausage, bacon, salami, and hot dogs contain loads of sodium, saturated fat, nitrates, and nitrites, which are all known fertility-killers. Excessive red meat intake can cause you to take in excessive amounts of saturated fat, potentially leading to inflammation and weight gain. Healthier protein choices than the aforementioned options include lean poultry, seafood, beans, peas, lentils, eggs, nuts, seeds, dairy, and nut butters.

  • How to get started: The next time you plan to use ground beef in a recipe, use half the amount you normally use and combine it with ground turkey breast or diced mushrooms.

    A sprouted whole wheat pita half stuffed with baked falafel, cucumbers, tomato, and creamy tzatziki sauce.
    A sprouted whole wheat pita half stuffed with baked falafel, cucumbers, tomato, and creamy tzatziki sauce.

5. Eat more vegetables.

Do you eat enough vegetables? If you hesitated before the answer to that question popped into your mind, you could probably benefit from eating more. While all vegetables are nutritious, those higher in iron and folic acid, including spinach, kale, and asparagus should be included into your daily diet. Although iron and folic acid may not necessarily increase your fertility, these nutrients are essential for a developing fetus, especially during those early weeks before some even know they’re pregnant. Vegetables promote health due to their high fiber content, high vitamin and mineral content, and their antioxidant benefits. It’s also a good rule of thumb to take a prenatal vitamin if you’re trying to get pregnant, but remember that a supplement does not replace a healthy diet.

  • How to get started: Add a salad to your lunch and dinner meals. If you often find yourself buying salad ingredients but they go bad before you use them, try this. Find the biggest bowl you have and make one huge salad. Keep it covered in the fridge.* You can scoop from this bowl over the course of a few days (depending on how much you make) until it’s gone. You’ve made it once but you benefit from it over and over. *Put a paper towel in the bowl with the salad to absorb any moisture that might accumulate. This keeps the veggies fresh for longer.

    A salad of mixed greens, Brussels sprouts, carrots, tomato, onion, sunflower seeds, and garbanzo beans.
    A salad of mixed greens, Brussels sprouts, carrots, tomato, onion, sunflower seeds, and garbanzo beans. Salads don’t have to be boring!

6. Exercise & maintain a healthy weight.

The physical and mental benefits that exercise provides makes it an essential ingredient in the recipe for getting pregnant. Not only does exercise reduce stress, improve blood flow, and regulate blood sugar, but it also aids in weight loss. For both women and men, obesity is associated with infertility. Maintaining a healthy weight is easier when exercise becomes a part of your lifestyle. Interestingly enough, exercise, regardless of your current weight, has fertility-boosting benefits in itself, according to the National Infertility Association.

  • How to get started: You know yourself. Set realistic goals for how often and how long you will exercise. Start with going on a daily walk and eventually make that walk longer and faster. If you don’t have a ton of motivation to work out on your own, consider joining a gym with group fitness classes. Enlist a workout buddy. Hire a personal trainer. It’s worth the money if you actually use it! Your body, and future baby, will thank you.
Pictured below: Laurel and I practicing yoga, an exercise I did frequently before, during, and after my pregnancy.

Veggie Lover’s Quiche

Tired of boring eggs in the morning? Looking for the perfect dish to bring to your next potluck brunch? This veggie quiche is a game changer. Make it once and you’ll find yourself going back to this recipe time and time again. It’s fresh, vibrant, and flavorful. Quiche is a one-dish meal, making clean-up easy. I also love how versatile it is. You can literally add anything to a quiche, or omit any ingredient you don’t care for, except the eggs of course. You can also eat it for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner.

This quiche recipe is full of fiber goodness (aka vegetables) and sprinkled with a little bit of tangy goat cheese for flavor. Feel free to substitute feta for the goat cheese, or omit it altogether. Most people don’t tend to think of vegetables as a “breakfast food” but in this recipe, they’re the stars. I love when I can load my breakfast with veggies, as it sets my whole day on the right path.

When we have company stay with us, chances are I’m making a quiche. It’s always a crowd pleaser, or at least I can say I’ve had no complaints. I stock up on pie crusts when they’re on sale and keep them in the freezer. You could make this recipe without the crust and call it a frittata, but the crust makes it extra special and delicious.

Have you ever made quiche? What do you like to put in yours? Let me know in the comments!

quiche2

Veggie Lover’s Quiche

Ingredients:

  • 1 pie crust, preferably without shortening or hydrogenated oil. I love Immaculate brand.
  • 8-10 large eggs, depending on how many people you are feeding
  • Splash of milk, about 1/8 cup (I use whole cow’s milk)
  • 1 oz goat cheese, crumbled (or substitute with feta cheese)
  • About 2 c vegetables*
    • 3-4 mushrooms, sliced
    • 2-3 asparagus spears, chopped
    • 3-4 cherry tomatoes, halved
    • 1 handful of fresh spinach
    • 1/2 onion, diced
    • *Other veggies I’ve used include: bell pepper, zucchini, broccoli, potato
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Prepare the pie crust in a pie dish according to package directions. I usually just bake it at 350 degrees for 7-9 minutes.
  2. Cut vegetables as indicated above. Add to pan on medium heat with olive oil and garlic. Sauté for up to 5 minutes to slightly soften vegetables and wilt spinach.
  3. Pour vegetables onto plate covered with paper towel to soak excess liquid from vegetables, then transfer to prepared pie crust.
  4. Whisk eggs and milk in a separate bowl.
  5. Add egg mixture to pie dish.
  6. Crumble goat cheese onto quiche. Salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes until center is no longer jiggly.
  8. Enjoy by itself or paired with sliced avocado and a drizzle of sriracha, yum!

Tip: Prepare (cut and sauté) the veggies the night before to make assembly super easy in the morning.

8 Tips for Eating Healthier Meals at Home

I am often asked if I meal plan. Not only is meal planning a very trendy thing to do, it can help people eat healthier, save money, and achieve their health and fitness goals quicker. Although meal planning has a ton of benefits and I definitely think it’s a great idea for a lot of people, I do not do it. The reason I don’t meal plan is because I’ve found a good system of being able to make “last minute” meals based on the foods I have at home. I determine exactly what I’m craving for that meal or snack, and I make it on the spot! I typically eat 3 meals and 2-3 snacks daily.

Even when I was working full-time and hitting the gym after work, I was still able to get home and prepare dinner for myself and my husband. I continued throughout my entire pregnancy, while I was still working full-time and exercising regularly. I still continue to cook meals for my family which now includes an almost-toddler. My point is that no matter what season of life you are in, if you prioritize your health, you’ll “find” the time to eat smarter. Healthier eating has endless benefits from boosting energy, battling bloat, clearing brain fog and acne, weight loss, menstrual cycle regulation, boosting fertility, and so much more!

If you’re serious about trying to cook and eat healthier meals at home, I would encourage you to have a conversation with the other people in your household. I’ve seen numerous relationships where one partner was trying to eat healthier and the other would bring home tempting desserts or complain about the changes. If you and your partner are on the same page with starting a new routine, chances are you’ll be more successful long term.

My Grocery Shopping Habits & List

There are 4 main places I buy groceries: Whole Foods, Mom’s Organic Market, Harris Teeter, and Costco. When farmer’s markets come back around in the Spring, I’ll buy produce from there as well. Everywhere we’ve lived, there’s been a place like Mom’s Organic market- it’s a health food store, comparable to Natural Grocers (where I went in Colorado). Harris Teeter is a typical grocery store, comparable to Publix (but obviously not as good), King Soopers, or Safeway. I go to each place for various reasons, either due to quality, availability, or price. This winter, I’ve gone to Whole Foods only once or twice since I typically walk there when it’s warmer out.

Weekly I shop at either Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, or Mom’s Organic Market for everyday items including:

  • Proteins: sliced turkey breast, sliced cheese, canned tuna, almond butter, shrimp, plain Greek yogurt, nuts (mixed, walnuts, almonds), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower), grass-fed organic beef, ricotta cheese
  • Vegetables: sauerkraut, onions, garlic, others (seasonal)
  • Carbohydrates: taco shells, fruits (seasonal), potatoes, whole wheat pasta, whole grain tortillas, rice cakes
  • Snacks: I try to avoid that aisle
  • Other: condiments (mayo, mustard, ketchup, sriracha, jelly), butter, honey, seasoning packets (Simply Organic brand of spicy chili, vegetarian chili, fajita, and fish taco)

    Baby helping with groceries
    Laurel “helping” with the groceries.

Bi-weekly I shop at Costco for large amounts of certain items including:

  • Proteins: eggs, fresh cheese (mozzarella or goat), seeds (chia, hemp), organic meats (chicken breast, ground turkey), seafood (scallops, salmon), peanut butter
  • Vegetables: lettuce (Spring mix, spinach), asparagus, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, frozen varieties (broccoli, cauliflower)
  • Carbohydrates: whole grain bread (Dave’s Killer Bread), frozen varieties (peas, berries), apples, kiwi, avocado
  • Snacks: cheese sticks, dried fruit, pretzels
  • Other: chicken broth (low-sodium), extra virgin olive oil, pasta sauce (red, pesto), pure maple syrup
IMG_1515.jpg
A recent Costco haul of some of our staple foods (+ books for Laurel).

Tips for Planning & Eating Healthier Meals at Home

  1. Keep a running list of items you need now or are running out of. I keep my list on my phone in the Notes app. I refer to my note often and add items to it frequently. Right now, my list includes honey, taco shells, walnuts, and cream of mushroom condensed soup (I like Pacific brand). I used the last of the honey the other night making spicy Thai peanut chicken. A few nights before that I made tacos and used the box of taco shells we had. Taco shells are a staple item I always have for a last minute dinner, since we also always have frozen meat, seasoning packets, avocados, cheese, and “sour cream” aka Greek yogurt to complete the meal. (Ryan didn’t notice for the longest time that we top our tacos, quesadillas, and chili with Greek yogurt, as I usually just put some in a little bowl with all the other fixin’s.) Be sure to look for taco shells and tortillas without shortening or hydrogenated oil.
  2. Always keep staple foods at home. What I mean by this is, always have foods at home you could throw together to make a complete meal, if in a hurry or you get home late. Since these will be foods you “always” have on hand, they will need to either be shelf stable or freezable. Build your meal by picturing your plate containing a protein source, a healthy carb, and vegetables. For protein, I always have chicken and seafood (usually shrimp and scallops) in the freezer and canned beans in my pantry. I also always have rice (wild, long grain brown, and short grain brown), quinoa, and whole grain pasta varieties on hand (and I always have red pasta sauce in the pantry and pesto in the freezer). For vegetables, I typically have salad ingredients in my fridge, along with several fresh vegetable options but I also always have vegetables in the freezer that I could steam in a pinch. Remember that a meal doesn’t have to be an intimidating fancy concoction with special sauces and exotic seasonings. Throw some chicken, veggies, and brown rice in a stir-fry with some salt and pepper and call it a day.
  3. Keep convenience items on hand too. Okay, so obviously the idea of cooking at home is so you can eat healthier, cut back on sodium, etc, but that doesn’t mean that every item in the meal has to be homemade. If you pair convenience items with lots of vegetables, lean protein, and/or whole grains, “semi-homemade” is still way better than eating out.  Some of the convenience items I usually have on hand include: seasoning packets, microwave steamer vegetables, microwave steamer grains (like rice or quinoa), meats/seafood/poultry that come in marinade or seasoned already, jarred pasta sauce, minced garlic, and canned beans. Throw a meal together incredibly fast by thinly slicing chicken breast and throwing it in a pan with canola or olive oil and a seasoning packet (like fajita, one of my favorites). Load the cooked chicken onto a bed of brown rice and sliced red and yellow bell pepper and Voila! The seasoning packet did all the work for you by flavoring the meal. Forgot to thaw your chicken and you’re hungry now? Make a quick bean chili with canned beans, seasonings, a splash of chicken broth, and top with avocado chunks and shredded cheese.
  4. Don’t buy something unless it fits into a meal or snack. People often tell me how they spend so much money at the grocery store but then get home and feel like there’s nothing to eat. Or they get home from work starving and stuff their face with “junk” foods. I ask them why they had the junk foods in the house in the first place. “For the kids” is a typical response. You know my response to that? Your kids shouldn’t be eating junk either! Don’t keep chips, Little Debbies, Oreos, soda, or Fruit Loops at home if you’re likely to eat them when you get hungry. I’m not saying that you should never have a treat or a dessert but spend your time, energy, and money more wisely when at the grocery store.
  5. Always cook enough for leftovers. It can be frustrating when you take the time to cook a meal and its gone in the 5 minutes it takes you to scarf it down. What makes it worth the effort is being able to enjoy that meal again, especially if eating those leftovers saves you from yet another takeout meal. My husband usually takes our leftovers for his lunch the next day. I know if he didn’t bring those leftovers with him, he would likely either skip lunch or grab fast food.
  6. Pack your lunch. Step 1: Buy a lunchbox. This is not a joke. I know you might think that using a grocery store plastic bag will suffice, but you’ll enjoy your lunch a whole lot more if it’s not squished or hot from sitting in your gym bag all morning (this is true, it’s scientifically proven). Seriously, go to Target and get yourself a cute lunchbox or cooler and grab one of those gel things you freeze and put inside to keep everything cold. Personally, I’ve found that having a lunchbox encourages me to actually pack it. Bringing your lunch to work could prevent you from skipping lunch or grabbing fast food, both not ideal options.
  7. Prep ingredients, not necessarily whole meals. What I mean by this is wash and cut fruit, slice or dice onions, clean mushrooms, chop vegetables, and/or mince garlic. Keep all of these items in a container in the fridge until you can eat or use them. You’re more likely to reach into the fridge and grab a few strawberries to eat if they’re already washed and stemmed, right? Are you more likely to eat an apple if its sliced? I noticed that sometimes Ryan’s apple would come back in his lunchbox whole, but if I sliced it, it never did. You’d be more likely to eat a salad if the ingredients were already prepared, right? I always keep sliced onions in my fridge. 50% of the time I have sliced cucumber and carrots too. I like to slice my veggies using a mandolin so its quick and uniform.
  8. Always eat breakfast. I never skip breakfast. If you typically skip this meal, it should be one of the first things you add to your day. If you’re thinking, “I’m not really hungry in the morning” or “I don’t have time to cook a breakfast meal,” my answer is, you still need to eat breakfast. Breakfast doesn’t have to be this elaborate meal like you’d get at IHOP. For me, breakfast is something quick. I’m usually getting ready to run out the door to workout, but before I can do that I get Laurel and myself ready and fed. Breakfast is important because it physically regulates you for your day. By eating breakfast, you’re stabilizing your blood sugar which in turn stabilizes your energy, mood, and stamina. This is especially important if you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), insulin resistance, or diabetes. My daily breakfast is one of three options: toast with avocado and eggs (takes an extra 5 minutes to cook the eggs), toast with peanut butter and cinnamon (quick & easy), or chia seed pudding (made the night before).
toast
Toast with avocado and egg & toast with peanut butter and toppings.

Implementing Healthier Meals with Kids

To put it simply, your kids should eat what you cook them. Yes, I understand that kids can be picky eaters and temperamental when it comes to food. I’m here to empower you to offer your kids healthy foods, whether they like it or not. Notice, I used the word offer. It’s their choice to eat or not. Will your child scarf down all the asparagus on their plate the first time? Maybe not. That doesn’t mean that you should stop offering it. If your child throws a tantrum because they wanted a hot dog but you made salmon instead, for goodness sake, don’t then make them the hot dog. You’ll have just reinforced that behavior and non-verbally told your child, “If you throw a tantrum, I’ll give you whatever you want to eat.” It’s okay for a child to go to bed without dinner one night because they refused to eat your veggie chili. Under normal circumstances,* a child will not starve themselves. When they realize that they won’t get mac and cheese after refusing what you cooked, they will eventually eat their dinner. It might take time. It will take consistency. It definitely takes you and your partner being on the same page. Kids watch and model their parents behavior. If dad complains about the meal or doesn’t eat his vegetables, why would 7-year-old Timmy want to?

baby eating vegetables (broccoli, peas, carrots, cauliflower)
Laurel loves vegetables! I keep them frozen and heat them as needed (in the microwave).

Don’t make a big deal about the changes you implement and they might even go unnoticed. For example, if you switch to whole grain pasta from white, your family might not notice the difference once the sauce is added. But if you start the meal with, “This is a new healthy thing we’re trying…” you’ve already set the tone for the meal as Proceed With Caution.

*If your child is picky to the point of eating less than 10 different foods, throws tantrums when offered new foods, doesn’t want certain foods on his/her plate, or avoids certain textures of foods, discuss these issues with your pediatrician or registered dietitian.

 

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.

Ltoy
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.

cloth diaper pail
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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