Things I Love

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

earth mama organics diaper balm cloth diaper friendly

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

whey protein grass fed non gmo powder unflavored

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

prenatal vitamin vegetarian gluten free multivitamin probiotics

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

self tanner natural organic earth sunless

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

foogo thermos straw cup bottle insulated stainless steel

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

Cloth Diapering 101: Why

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

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

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

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

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Laurel at 9 months.

Reasons to Cloth Diaper:

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

 

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

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

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

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

A Breastfeeder’s Guide to Nutrition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meal Ideas:

Breakfast:

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

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

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

Lunch:

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

Dinner:

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

Snack Ideas:

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

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

a small handful of nuts & unsweetened dried fruit

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

a piece of fruit with a cheese stick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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