Best Baby Buys

 

We’ve almost made it through the first year with our little Lyla Rose! Over the course of that year, we’ve come to know and love baby products that have made our lives easier. There are so many baby products out there, things can get overwhelming fast. That’s why I’m sharing the things we’ve used the most. Of course every baby is different, and what works for one may not work for another. But each of these products is certainly worth a try! I also wrote a post about baby registry tips that you can read here!

Fisher Price Sit-Me-Up-If I had the brain space, I would write a love song to the Sit Me Up. We got so much use out of this thing. Lyla loved it, and it allowed us to be hands-free with her while knowing she was both safe and entertained. I squeezed her in it until she couldn’t squeeze no more. This is truly my favorite piece of baby gear.

Hatch baby rest & portable sound machine-If you’ve read a baby products post in the last year, you’ve read about the Hatch Baby Rest. It’s a white noise machine and nightlight that can be controlled from your phone. White noise is an essential component for baby sleep, and this thing is worth every penny. You’ll also want a portable sound machine for on the go. I’ve heard great things about the Rohm, but I think just about any sound machine that has the option to plug in and use battery will do. We have this one.

Fridababy Baby Basics Kit-We had used everything in this kit by the time Lyla was 4 weeks old. The silicone brush is great for cradle cap, the nail clippers and file are so helpful for those impossibly tiny fingernails, the gas passer saved us on a couple occasions in the newborn days, and the snot sucker is legendary.

Fisher Price Space Saver Hi-Chair-I’m always interested in products that can transition through different phases with baby. This hi-chair can be used for bottle feeding, starting solids/table foods, and as a booster seat in the toddler stage. It also saves space by attaching to a kitchen chair you already have. Every part of it is machine washable or dishwasher safe. I even take the straps off once every couple weeks and run them through the washer in a garment bag. We love this thing!

Aden & Anais Burpy Bibs-These burp cloths cover the most surface area, are soft and absorbent, and have a snap closure for use as bibs. They come in so many cute prints and colors. We’re still using them as we approach one year. I can’t promise you won’t get spit up on (actually I can promise that you will), but I can say these are your best chance for keeping everyone’s outfit clean.

Zarabee’s Daily Bottom Balm– This is the only diaper cream we’ve found that truly keeps diaper rash at bay. Lyla never had a problem with diaper rash until she started solids. This was the cream that cleared it up, and we’ve stuck with it ever since. If she does happen to get some redness, it’s gone within 24 hours. We apply it every night as a preventative. And a bonus–this cream is more like a gel than a thick paste, making application easy. And it doesn’t stick to every surface like some of the creams we’ve used.

Ubbi Weighted Wipes DispenserWe received this as a gift from one of my dear college friends whose eye for practicality I always trust! It keeps your wipes from coming out one million at a time. It fits every pack of wipes we’ve tried, and the simple design doesn’t clash with nursery decor. Trust and believe, it will be a diaper changing game changer!

Hello Bello Diapers & WipesIf you can’t tell by now, diapering is a huge part of the first year of baby’s life. I first tried Hello Bello diapers because they were significantly cheaper than Pamper’s in the bulk size. I’m always skeptical of celebrity brands, but I’ve been so happy with Hello Bello products. Their wipes are 99% water, and I think the combination of their diapers and wipes with Zarabee’s diaper cream is what keeps Lyla’s booty clear of diaper rash. You can bundle their diapers through their site or pick them up from Walmart.

Pampers Wipes For Cleanup-We may be a Hello Bello household, but no shade to Pamper’s. I keep a pack of Pamper’s wipes on hand for clean up because they contain more soap. I also use them in the diaper bag since they are multi-functional. It’s not that Hello Bello wipes don’t work for cleanup, I just prefer to keep all my diaper changing supplies stocked for that purpose only. It makes it easier to grab a 3-pack of Pamper’s, knowing they will only be used for messes and on-the-go. These things work wonders on smeared peanut butter, messy hands and faces, and wiping down surfaces in a pinch.

Gas Drops & Tylenol-Plan to have a few basic medicines on hand before baby arrives. We used these gas drops SO much during Lyla’s first couple months (hello, milk allergy!). Tylenol is just good to have on hand. Obviously, I am not a doctor. Always consult your pediatrician before giving your child medications.

What I wish I’d gotten:

There are a couple items I didn’t get that I will be getting if I have another baby. Learn from my mistakes!

Boppy Pillow-Per the advice of friends, I registered for a Boppy Newborn Lounger and a My Brest Friend pillow. In hindsight, I could have gotten the original Boppy and it would have performed both functions and grown with Lyla. Lyla didn’t care for the Newborn Lounger and it doesn’t really function past the newborn stage. My Brest Friend is a great tool for nursing, but leave it in the package until you’re sure you’re going to nurse. I wasn’t able to, but I couldn’t return it because I had brought it to the hospital. The Boppy pillow is a place to prop baby, a nursing pillow, and will serve as a support when they start sitting up. If I had it to do over again, I’d just get the Boppy and get the My Brest Friend if I needed it for nursing help.

Ottoman-This may seem really out of left field, but I would get an ottoman for your rocker if you have one that doesn’t recline. I love our rocker and I wouldn’t want a different one, but I do wish I had something to prop my feet on for those long nights when baby needs to be held. No matter what kind of sleep training you’re doing, those nights will come!

A Letter To My Pregnant Self

Dear Ashton,

I know you’re restless. I know you’re so ready to meet the sweet baby in your giant belly…to see her, to hold her, to know her and watch her grow. I know it’s hot. And your ankles have fat rolls. And she’s sitting so low in your pelvis, you’re having chronic nerve pain that some (probably male) jerk has eloquently named “lightning crotch.” And I promise not to go all Trace Adkins on you and tell you you’re gonna miss this. Because you’re not. No one misses those things. But I am asking you to do something crazy. Enjoy it.

Enjoy it because it will never be like this again. Go walk around a store and take as much time as you want. Go get an Icee at the gas station because the whim strikes you. Get in and out of the car a hundred times running pointlessly around town. Nap when you’re tired. Watch a movie. Sit your butt on a couch and watch TV and eat snacks uninterrupted and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, CHERISH IT!

You’ve always been such a good student. You’ve read all the books, taken all the classes, asked all the questions, and sought out advice. And sweet pea…none of it will prepare you. Because nothing on this planet can prepare you. You weren’t a mother before, and now you are. A fundamental cosmic shift has taken place. The Lord is doing a new thing. I know you know this intellectually, but I know it experientially, and it cannot be overstated. Don’t worry about being prepared. Walk into that delivery room with open hands and a heart willing to give all of yourself to this child and you will have done everything you need to do. I mean, yeah, build the crib. But don’t get bogged down in some “pre-baby checklist.”

You’re going to wonder if you’ve made a mistake. You’re going to wonder why you wanted this in the first place. You’re going to wonder if you’re cut out to be a mom and know that it’s too late to wonder that. You’re going to sit in the bathroom floor with the fan on to drown out the sound of your baby’s cries, shouting at God that if he controls the whole universe…why can’t he help your baby GO TO SLEEP?!

Your baby’s spit up will defy physics. You will watch as the carpet, the couch, the rocking chair you obsessed over, are all covered with stains you would need a degree in chemistry to get out. Actually, scratch that. Your husband and father both have degrees in chemistry and the stains are still there. You will sit burping her, bleary-eyed in the dead of night, and feel the cups of your bra fill with her vomit. This, despite the fact that you are wearing a tank top, t-shirt, and robe over said bra.

And that bra. While we’re on the subject, it’s your nursing bra. You’re not using it for nursing. You’re using it because you realized it was you or breastfeeding, and only one could win. You made a survival decision for you and your baby both. And now your breasts, the same ones who would not release their milk as your baby screamed a scream so fierce it made you dizzy with nausea, are taunting you by leaking that milk on all your shirts.

You see, dear girl, this mothering thing is not for the weak. So in the moments where you feel weak, remember that you’re not. No one weak could do what you’re about to do. No one weak would go through a 14 step process just to use the bathroom and then walk out and pour love and warmth and comfort over the squirming little creature that tore some very important things on its way into this world. I need you to hear me when I tell you that you CAN do it. You are meant to do it. You are the best person for the job.

And can I tell you something else? It’s not all combat. In fact, when you add it all up together, the hard moments don’t seem to matter much in comparison to the sweet ones. You will hold that baby in the hospital, just a few hours old, and feel more like yourself than you’ve ever felt. You will hold her in the warm yellow glow of her nursery, making silent, awed eye contact with your husband, feeling like if someone were looking in the window at this scene, it would look like something out of 1950’s Disney animation. Yes, your world will burst into Mary Blair-style technicolor when she smiles, when she coos, when she rests her fat little cheek on your shoulder, and when she sleeps peacefully…a teeny tiny burrito in her comparatively giant crib.

Your eyes will fill with tears drawn from a well deep within when she is–all of a sudden–able to do something she couldn’t do before. One day she could only lie flat on her back, and now she can roll! One day she could only scoot, and now she can crawl! And so quickly it will become, “One day they laid her on my chest, and now she’s pushing her walker across the floor, calling me ‘mama.'”

For no cliche has ever been more true than this one: The days are long, but the years are short. There will be long days, to be sure. Days when you pray for a time machine to fast forward past the crying, past the sleepless nights, past the feelings of helplessness you both have. But there will also be days where you are planning her first birthday party, and you actually cannot believe her life can be measured in years now.

So treasure these days, dear heart. Rest as much as you can. The sun is setting on your newlywed days and I want you to soak them up for all they’re worth. You’re about to be broken down and built into something different, so just love who you are right now.

And please, for the love of all, eat something more than a bowl of ramen noodles on the night of September 8th, 2019. Trust me.

How To Make Housework Manageable

Running a household is a full time job. Now more than ever, I think we’re all acutely aware of just how overwhelming housework can be. It often feels pointless and thankless. All the tasks are never-ending. Even if you get it all done, you just have to do it all over again the next day. As things pile up, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and, consequently, paralyzed. And yet, none of us want to live in a filthy house. So how do we make it work? Today I’m sharing tips for how I’ve made housework feel manageable in our home. As you read them, please remember that I don’t have a job. If you’re one of the many who are balancing a job AND managing your home during this insane time, please give yourself a heaping helping of grace. I believe these tips can help everyone, whether you stay home with kids, work from home, or are back at your workplace, but remember–perfection is not the goal!

1. Know your why:

This is a concept a lot of business coaches talk about: honing your purpose so that when things get hard, you can go back to that core “why” statement and focus on what motivated you in the first place. Ask yourself, why am I doing this? Here’s my why statement:

I want my home to be a place of peace for those I love, and a place that readily welcomes guests.

I stay on top of housework because I believe clutter and messiness cause avoidable stress and chaos. There’s so much in the world I can’t control. I can’t protect my husband and daughter from what the world throws at them, but I can make sure the place they come home to is a respite for their hearts, minds, and souls. I can structure the day-to-day realities of our lives to be seamless and serve our needs. I can make our home inviting for guests so we can practice Christlike hospitality. I have a policy that if someone asks to come to my house, the answer is yes. Keeping these core values in the back of my mind makes doing housework feel purposeful and even rewarding.

2. Break it down:

Once you know WHY you’re doing housework, the next thing to tackle is HOW to get it done. I believe this will look different in every household, but here are some broad principles that can be tweaked to your lifestyle:

  • Make a daily list: This is a list of chores you want done every day. Think through what things are the most urgent, pain points in your daily routine, things that get the dirtiest/messiest, etc. My daily list is: make the bed, tend to laundry whether that’s washing or putting away, pick up in each room, sweep main living areas, wipe down kitchen surfaces, wash dishes, clean out litter box, and shake out small rugs. I make the bed in the morning and the rest gets done during naps and after Lyla goes to bed. Remember that tidying goes a long way. Oftentimes if you just pick up in a room you’ll realize there’s really not much to do other than quick, basic cleaning. Create a habit of picking up after yourself as you go about your day. Build from your daily list until you have tasks you tackle daily, weekly, and monthly.
  • Be realistic: Set yourself up for success by having realistic expectations. The point of this exercise it to make housework manageable, not stress yourself out even further. For example, I’ve heard some people say to do laundry every day to stay on top of it. I tried that method and it didn’t work for me. I need to be able to feel a sense of accomplishment when I complete a task in order to stay motivated. Finishing laundry each day knowing I was just going to turn around and have to do it again the next day was so depressing. I now do laundry on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Mondays to start the week fresh, Fridays to get us through the weekend, and Wednesdays to catch up in the middle. If I don’t manage to get it put away day-of, Tuesdays and Thursdays act a buffer. Think about yourself laying down to sleep each night. What completed tasks would make you breathe a sigh of relief? Focus on those as your daily tasks and prioritize the rest based on your working style and household needs.
  • Take time off: The cold, hard truth is: housework is never-ending. Has anyone else gotten the hamper empty only to pick up dirty clothes to put in and thought about running away and starting a new life? Just me? The point is, you have to take time off or it will drive you crazy. I take off weekends just like you would for a 9-5 job. My “job” is being a stay at home mom. That means I never clock out. I never get a lunch break. I don’t get a drive to and from work to decompress. I am at my job 24/7. If you’ve been working from home during COVID, you know what I mean! We all need permission to play, and there’s no bigger fun suck than housework. Have a designated time where it’s allowed to fall by the wayside, and don’t feel guilty!

3. Give it grace: Once you have your list of daily, weekly, and monthly tasks, remember that none of it is rigid. A couple weekends ago I had a burst of cleaning mojo on Sunday evening. I usually take weekends off, but I was feeling productive so I tackled a few things that ended up saving me time on Monday. Breaking everything down is just a tool to give you a starting point. Know that some days the housework is just not going to happen. Life is for living, not cleaning. Some days your kids are going to be needy. Some days work is going to demand your time. Some days you need to sit motionless on your couch eating snacks because you just NEED A MOMENT. As with any good habit in life, if you are disciplined and faithful most of the time, you can afford to be lenient some of the time.

I hope these tips will inspire you to tackle your housework with a new mindset. What tips have helped in your house? Share them in the comments!

Helpful Household Rhythms

The uncertainty and turmoil in the world right now can feel like such a heavy load. I wanted to share some simple, non-strenuous habits that have helped me care for myself and my household well. Now more than ever it’s important that our homes feel like a refuge. These tips can be implemented in any home.

1) Self-care before chores: You know how you’re supposed to put on your own oxygen mask before helping someone else on an airplane? Running a household is kind of like that. You can’t care for your loved ones if you’re constantly depleted. I used to turn into a Tasmanian devil of productivity during Lyla’s naps. She would wake up and I’d be frustrated because I hadn’t gotten to do anything for myself. I was acting like Cinderella pre-Fairy Godmother—a servant in my own house. I re-prioritized. I read my Bible, eat something decent, and try to move my body before doing housework. I check in with myself. If I’ve got cleaning mojo, I turn on a podcast or music and see how much I can get done during a nap. If housework sounds like a huge bummer, I rest or do something creative.

2) Help with hydration: If you’re reading this, you’re dehydrated. When Andrew and I were newlyweds, I would tease him about being obsessed with hydration. But during my pregnancy, I became really intentional about staying hydrated. And y’all…I felt so much better! Ever since Lyla was born I’ve had the hardest time drinking enough and I can tell a difference. Dehydration can cause headaches, fatigue, kidney problems, digestive problems, and so much more. If you’re like me and you have a hard time getting water down, here are some tips:
-Use a straw. I drink so much more when I use a straw. You can get re-useable straws everywhere now.
-Make up a pitcher of water with fruit slices to keep in your fridge. Having that little bit of taste will make you more likely to drink. I use orange slices. If you don’t find this realistic, try buying Hint water, which doesn’t have added sugars.
-Use a water bottle with hours. You can find these on Etsy. This has helped me be mindful about how much I should be drinking.
-If you’re really struggling, try making unsweet, decaffeinated tea and adding fruit slices or fruit juice. This isn’t ideal as there is a lot of sugar in juice, but it’s better than a Coke or nothing at all.

3) Donate unwanted items: I’ve been asking myself recently “Doesn’t anyone just give things away any more?” Every time I get on social media, someone is selling something. I understand wanting to be frugal and get money back from an item you’ve purchased, and I’m certainly not judging anyone! But I also wonder if it’s worth the time and energy. For me personally, there’s no way the money I would make could justify the time I’d spend. Look for a charity that is currently able to take in-kind donations, or pass the items along to someone in need.

4) Set smartphone limits: I had to ask myself, “Do you really not have time to do everything you want to do in a day, or do you not have time to do it AND scroll your phone for hours?” I’m still a work in progress, but I set boundaries based on what I didn’t like. My ideal phone use in a day would look like: no scrolling first thing in the morning, no scrolling in bed at night, and no scrolling during Lyla’s awake time. I don’t nail this every day, but setting those goals keeps me mindful and accountable. It’s incredible how much I can get done when my phone isn’t slowing me down.

5) Slow it down: Speaking of slowing down, be intentional about things that force you to slow your pace. Quarantine has given us all this opportunity. After living in Lexington for four years and having our time there end so traumatically, the slower pace of life in Western Kentucky has been so soothing to my soul. Sun tea steeping on the porch, picking blackberries, playing under a shade tree on a tattered quilt, and trying new recipes have all felt like such luxuries.

I know there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel with COVID and it can send us spiraling from time to time. But even as the months wear on, I’m convinced there is goodness to mine from the slowed down pace we’ve been forced into. What’s something from your childhood you can bring back now? What’s something your grandparents taught you? What’s something you always wanted more time for? It’s now or never! I hope these suggestions will be helpful and encouraging. Even as we all battle the fear and hardship that so permeates our world right now, I am hopeful that each one of us can find some sense of peace by living intentionally. How are you doing this? Let me know in the comments!

Nursery Organization Tips

I’ve been obsessed with organizing ever since I can remember. I used to spend way more time setting up and putting away my Barbies than I did actually playing with them (I may or may not have used a small tackle box to store their shoes by color). When it came time to set up Lyla’s nursery, I wasn’t sure where to start. I had never had a baby. How was I to know where all that tiny stuff should go?! Now that I have eight months of experience under my belt (baby months are like dog years), I’m sharing my tips on how to organize your nursery storage!

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Grab and go: Many things babies need, they need urgently. Make sure those items are stored where you can grab them quickly. For example, bibs and burp cloths for spit up, blankets for tummy time, and a diaper changing station stocked with everything you need. You’ll need to be able to grab things with one hand, so avoid containers with lids or fasteners. Pictured above is our diaper changing station. The bin contains diapers, wipes, diaper cream, hand sanitizer, and lotion. The top drawer of the dresser is always stocked with an extra container of wipes, extra diapers, extra disposal bags, and clean changing pad covers.

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At a glance: Make staples easy to see so it’s obvious when you’re getting low. There’s nothing quite like realizing you just put the last diaper on your baby’s bum to strike fear into a parent’s heart. I keep our diapers, wipes, and extra changing supplies on this cart.  You can use them creatively in so many ways. They’re attractive enough to be out in plain sight, but the wheels allow you to tuck them away if needed.

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Out of sight: There will be a lot of things you need for baby eventually, but you don’t need them front and center right away. Store those items in a place that allows you access to them fairly easily, but keeps them out of sight and mind in your day to day routine. This cube storage worked perfectly for me. The top three cubes hold clothing in sizes she hasn’t grown into yet, the bottom three hold feeding supplies, bedding, and towels. Things I do need are easy to grab (like a towel for her bath each night), but infrequently used items are neatly stored away all within the same piece. I like that cube storage can grow with her needs as she gets older, and we can swap out bins as her tastes change.

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Bonus Tip: Baby things are so small! Drawer dividers or small bins will go a long way in helping you keep it all sorted. I use these in Lyla’s drawers to separate her clothing by type so I can get her dressed quickly and easily. I use tape for labels so I can switch them out as the seasons change.

Babies are constantly changing, but these storage solutions have grown with Lyla and served her ever-changing needs. I’m a firm believer that life will throw you plenty of chaos you can’t control, so you might as well organize the chaos you can control!

 

I Gave Up On Breastfeeding And I’m Still A Great Mom

Breastfeeding was the most difficult part of my postpartum experience. I’m sharing my story because these are the words I needed as a brand new mom. If you are wrestling through these feelings right now, please know you are not alone.

I gave birth at a “baby-friendly” hospital. If you’re not familiar with that term, it’s a healthcare initiative started in 1991 by UNICEF and the World Health Organization. It encourages newborn care practices like round-the-clock breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby, and rooming-in (the baby spends most of his/her time at the hospital in the room with the parents instead of the nursery). It is considered prestigious for a hopsital to achieve this distinction.  I am not against baby-friendly care. I can, however, say from experience that in pursuit of the “baby-friendly” label, the care of mothers is sometimes set aside—yielding potentially dangerous consequences.

I cannot fully articulate the amount of pressure I was under to breastfeed. At every prenatal appointment, I was asked at least once if I planned to breastfeed. Each time I gave the same response: “I’m going to try my best!” There was no acknowledgement on the part of my healthcare providers that breastfeeding might not work. I was reassured that lactation consultants would work with me to overcome any issues that may arise. I was given stacks of literature on breastfeeding. Ever the rule follower and authority-figure-pleaser, I took multiple classes at my hospital where I was given even more breastfeeding info. Each pamphlet contained a seemingly endless list of “don’t’s”—things not to do if I hoped to breastfeed successfully. The amount of information overwhelmed me. The ideology surrounding breastfeeding was dogmatic, requiring an on-demand feeding approach, exclusively offering the breast until feeding had been firmly established (at least one month but probably longer), and forbidding the use of the pacifier lest the baby develop “nipple confusion” and start rejecting the breast. I left our breastfeeding class saying to Andrew, “Wow…breastfeeding is the hardest thing I’ve ever heard of.”

For every message I received about how incredible breastfeeding is, I received two about how inferior formula-feeding would be. Bottle/formula feeding was treated as an afterthought in conversations, classes, and written materials. The attitude was that formula feeding would be a last resort only for those who stubbornly refused to feed their babies breast milk. I was even given one pamphlet that said, “Breastfed babies’ stool will be fairly sweet-smelling. A formula-fed baby’s stool will have a foul odor, more like an adult.” So…quite literally…if you breastfeed your baby, their poop won’t stink.

In spite of all this, I tried to keep an open mind toward feeding during my pregnancy. I planned to breastfeed but knew I might not be able to. But  nothing could have prepared me for the way my hospital’s messaging about breastfeeding would seep into my thinking.

Lyla’s birth was not long, especially for a first birth, but it was challenging. For the duration of my labor, there was reason to believe the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. The high risk doctor was called in. I had a small hemorrhage during and after the birth. I prayed and fought with everything I had to get her here safely. I was physically and emotionally spent by the time they laid her on my chest. I think it’s safe to say all women are spent after giving birth. During our initial skin-to-skin contact, Lyla latched and seemed to feed well. There were a couple times in the hospital she breastfed successfully. The rest of the times (and there were many) were complete disasters.

Lyla was born over eight and a half pounds. She was hungry. Everyone kept assuring me that she just needed the tiniest amount to fill her tummy. The shrieking baby on my chest begged to differ. Over the course of our time in the hospital, we saw five different lactation consultants. After working with us, each one confirmed that both Lyla and I were “doing everything right.” We always got her latched after some work, her suck was strong, she had no physical issues preventing her from feeding well, and I was doing all I could to help her get what she needed. My body simply was not responding. After one particularly traumatizing feeding, the lactation consultant asked me if I had tried something I had already tried a hundred times, as if that was going to be the solution to all our problems. I opened my mouth to calmly respond, and instead began sobbing uncontrollably. The consultant suggested, very timidly, that we supplement Lyla’s feeding with formula. I said, “I just want my baby to have what she needs, I don’t care how she gets it. She needs to be fed!” At the hospital’s suggestion, we began syringe feeding her. The mindset of syringe feeding is that if you give them a bottle to start, it will be difficult or impossible to get them back on the breast because the bottle is so much easier. So, in my weakest moment, I was yet again reminded that our goal was not to get this baby to eat, but to get her to breastfeed.

Andrew, ever my hero, asked that Lyla be taken to the nursery and syringe fed so I could get some sleep. The consultant agreed. I cried as they wheeled her out in her plastic bassinet, feeling like a failure but simultaneously knowing in my bones that I had nothing to give her. Andrew helped me to the bathroom as my legs were still weak from the epidural. He brought me a cup to use to brush my teeth because I couldn’t stand up long enough to do it at the sink. I did my best to get comfortable and closed my eyes for the sleep I needed more than I had ever needed it in my life.

Less than one hour later, the door opened. It was a nurse wheeling Lyla into the room. “Time to feed the baby!” she said. Andrew said, “I think there’s been some miscommunication. We have to supplement with formula so she was supposed to be fed in the nursery so Ashton can get some sleep.” The nurse replied, “Oh they did feed her, but we still want her to keep breastfeeding, too.” I cannot express what came over me in that moment. It’s something I try to block out when I think back to those first days with Lyla, which should have been some of the happiest of my life. In that moment, I knew on a cellular level that I was alone. Even if I had the best husband in the world. Even if I showed every lactation consultant at that hospital that I was giving it my all. Even if I hadn’t slept in days and wasn’t strong enough to stand up on my own, and had wept like a baby myself begging for help. None of that mattered. Unless I continued putting that baby to the breast, I was not going to receive any support from my caretakers. When I had that realization, I went to a place of survival mentality. Getting out of the hospital became my sole objective. I made another unsuccessful attempt to feed Lyla. I didn’t ask for the lactation consultant. I asked Andrew to go to bed and I stayed up holding my baby for hours. It was us against the world.

When we left the hospital we were given a syringe feeding plan and an appointment at the lactation clinic. When we got home, the first thing I did was try to feed Lyla. I honestly don’t even remember how it went. It’s all a complete blur. After a day at home, my milk came in but wouldn’t let down. I was severely engorged. No one at the hospital had mentioned engorgement. Everyone I worked with kept saying, “It will be so much easier when your milk comes in!” It wasn’t easier. It was extremely painful. I pored over the literature I had been given. There were very few mentions of engorgement. Suggestions for remedies included alternating hot and cold compresses, pumping around the clock and feeding around the clock. I tried all of the above to no avail. My breast pump literally got out vapor. VAPOR. Lyla was screaming bloody murder because she was trying her best but not getting anything from me. All of it hurt like hell. In the midst of all of this, the syringe feeding was causing Lyla to suck down a ton of air during feedings. This gave her painful gas and was making life a nightmare for all three of us. Still determined to feed my baby the “right” way, I locked myself away in the guest bedroom to try to hand-express breastmilk. After days of trying, the maximum I had been able to express was 1.5 milliliters. I rushed to Andrew with the syringe filled with it. I was so proud watching Lyla drink it. I had finally given her breastmilk! But I knew it wasn’t enough.

I laid there in the guest bedroom weeping. I felt like I was failing my baby in every possible way. I felt angry at my body. I knew if I went to the lactation clinic, I would be asked to strip myself topless and strip my baby naked. Lyla would be weighed. The consultants would then watch me attempt to feed her. They would weigh her after the feeding to confirm what I already knew in my heart. Lyla was not getting food from me. Then they would give me the same tips they had given me at the hospital. They would tell me that I was doing everything right and I just had to keep trying. I couldn’t imagine anything more humiliating. Sensing my distress, Andrew came in the room with Lyla. He told me how amazing I was. How I was the best mother he had ever seen. How I had given this baby every single thing I had to give and then some. I cried and cried because none of that seemed to matter if I couldn’t breastfeed her. We both knew we had to make a decision right then and there. Once I had calmed down enough to speak, I said in a moment of clarity, “I feel like right now I have to choose between breastfeeding my baby and enjoying my baby. And I’m not prepared to sacrifice this time with her just to be able to say I breastfed. Not when formula is a perfectly viable option.”

After discussing it at length, we decided we had to call it. We were pursuing an exercise in futility. Our baby was literally starving and I was severely depressed. We decided to start bottle feeding. I knew if I called the hospital, they would try to pressure me into changing my mind. Andrew called and explained our situation. They STILL insisted we go to the lactation clinic and continue with the syringe feeding. Finally, fed up with the whole thing, Andrew spoke very firmly. “We have done everything you told us to do and it isn’t working for us. Now I want you to stop counseling me as someone you’re trying to convince to breastfeed and tell me how much formula I can give this baby in a bottle.”

Then and only then were we given a straight answer.

Lyla is almost eight months old now and she is thriving. Except for a milk intolerance that required us to switch formulas, she has had no issues with formula feeding. Formula has met her needs and has worked well for our family by allowing Andrew to be an equal part of her routine. It has taken me every bit of that eight months to heal from the trauma I experienced surrounding breastfeeding. And yes, I think calling it trauma is appropriate. There are still days I mourn the fact that it’s something I couldn’t do for her. The further and further I get from my decision, the more I realize it was a decision I made for my mental health as much as anything. My hospital spent so much time preaching to me about watching for signs of postpartum depression and telling me to ask for help if I needed it. But when I asked for the help I needed, they didn’t support me. Because the help I needed didn’t look the way they wanted it to look. Because if they admitted I couldn’t breastfeed, they had to admit their methods might not work.

If we’re going to support women postpartum, we have to support all of them. Not just the moms who breastfeed. If we’re going to talk about mental health and PPD, we have to acknowledge that it’s not just hormonal. It’s external. Breastfeeding is just one example of the mountain of pressures heaped upon new and expectant mothers.

I wish my story had been different. I wish the information given to me about breastfeeding had been empowering rather than lecturing. I honestly think if I had been given the space and support to figure it out in my own way, I could have done it. But I’ll never know. My body literally could not perform under the pressure. There is a part of the experience of motherhood that I will never have, and I can’t get it back. But I know in my heart that I made the choice I needed to make to be the mother I wanted to be. And no one can make me feel ashamed of that.

I wish every mom in the world was able to breastfeed. If you breastfed your baby for any amount of time, I fully and genuinely believe you have done the hardest thing in the world. I literally think you should win an award. But if you find that you can’t, please hear me say that it is OK. No one told me that, so now I’m telling you.
Please note: I take no issue with any individual doctor, nurse, or staff person who administered my pre-natal and postpartum care. I know they were doing their jobs and I truly appreciate and respect all those in the medical field. My birth experience was wonderful and I loved my nurses and doctors. The lactation consultants were trying to help me, I know it. My concern is with hospital policies made at a corporate level by people who are not medical practitioners that affect the mental health of new mothers.

Lyla’s Favorite Things

The two types of content that have been most helpful to me during these quarantine times are: 1) Deep Feels and 2) What people are buying/using. In light of that, today I’m sharing a list of Lyla’s favorite things. These are the toys and baby gear we’re getting the most mileage out of as we spend our days stuck at home.

Learning blocks

These blocks are soft enough for Lyla to chew and bonk herself in the head with, and they have lots of play options for when she’s older. Each block has a number or math symbol, an animal, fruits for counting, shapes, and textures. I love toys that can grow with her so we’re not constantly buying something new. And, selfishly, the colors on these are to die for, which is a nice break from the usual loud and gaudy baby fare.

V-Tech Sit to Stand Walker

Speaking of loud and gaudy…I finally broke down and bought a toy that makes noise. As much as I hate background noise, I had to face facts. Poor baby was getting bored, and this thing is a feast for her little senses. I pull this out when things are getting desperado and I need her to be entertained for a hot minute. This is another toy that can grow with her, as the activity portion can be attached to a walker for when she starts pulling up.

Silicone teethers

I’m sure every baby has their own teething preferences, but for Lyla’s money you can’t go wrong with a silicone teether. The other things she chews on most are wood and metal, but I don’t find those as easily. I’m linking this teething blanket that she munches on in the carseat and stroller. I ordered it because she hadn’t really taken to a lovie, but she was always putting blankets and burp rags in her mouth. And the fact that it’s a rose for Lyla Rose didn’t hurt, either.

Fisher Price Sit-Me-Up

Alas, Lyla is on the verge of too chunky for this seat, but I’m going to squeeze her in it as long as I can. This has been my favorite baby seat we’ve had. It has toys attached but also has a tray where she can play with other toys. I linked our gender neutral one here but I love this one and this one that are new since we registered, too.

Excersaucer

There are a million varieties of these bad boys. It’s a stationary play gym that allows your baby to stand and jump without going anywhere. They come in every theme and DEFCON level you can fathom. The barnyard theme spoke to me. I like that this one has multiple different types of motor skill and sensory activities, but it doesn’t look like some insane sproingy thing that a Who child would get for Christmas in Whoville.

So that’s how we’re surviving these days! I just move her from toy to toy as she starts getting bored. On nice weather days we go for a walk outside. It’s so hard to wrap my head around navigating the first year of my baby’s life during a historic event. How are you all making it? Are there any products that are saving your sanity right now? Let me know in the comments!

What I Packed in my Hospital Bag

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Packing our hospital bag was one of the things I stressed about most during my pregnancy. The only way I had a clue what to bring was by reading blogs, so I thought it might be helpful to share what I packed. I wanted to wait until after Lyla was born so I would know what we actually ended up using. Taking a childbirth class at our hospital was also really helpful because it gave us an idea what the hospital would provide. I highly recommend taking a class if your hospital offers one!

For mom:

-Phone charger

-Toiletry bag (you’ll want your own shampoo, soap, etc. and contact solution & glasses if you wear contacts.)

-Basic skincare products (face wash & moisturizer)

-Makeup (I just brought the basics)

-Nursing bra if you plan to breastfeed

-Nightgown if you want to change while there. I ended up just wearing the hospital gown because I was too exhausted to even think about changing clothes until we were leaving. Make sure it is nursing friendly if you plan to breastfeed.

-Loose outfit for going home. You will still look about six months pregnant at first. If you end up having a C-section, you won’t want anything tight pressing on your incision.

-The biggest pair of shoes you have. Your feet will most likely be even more swollen than they were in pregnancy.

-Grippy socks or slippers for walking around your room

-Sweater or sweatshirt. I ended up not needing mine because it was 100 degrees the day Lyla was born, but it may be cold in your hospital room.

-Pillow & blanket if you want your own. The hospital will provide both.

For dad:

-Phone charger

-Toiletry kit

-Snacks (so he doesn’t have to leave your side during labor but also doesn’t faint from not eating. Make sure they don’t smell too strong in case you have nausea during labor)

-Pajamas

-Going home outfit

-Slippers for walking around hospital room

-Pillow & blanket if he wants his own

-Contact solution & glasses if he wears contacts. Andrew’s eyes got so dry he was glad to have his glasses.

-Socks & underwear

-Comfy shoes. He may have to do a lot of walking depending on how large the hospital is.

For baby:

-Onesies in varying sizes (I brought preemie, newborn, & 0-3 month since I wasn’t sure how big she would be. Before we left I donated the preemie onesies to the NICU.)

-Socks

-Mittens (baby’s nails will probably be long & they’ll want to scratch their face)

-Going home outfit (we just did a plain onesie and wrapped her in a pretty swaddle for photos. Just keep in mind you have to unswaddle for the car seat if you go that route.)

-Portable sound machine. We put this in Lyla’s bassinet and she slept great.

-Nursing cover if you want any type of modesty. People will be in and out of your room constantly.

-Swaddles if you want to change them out of the hospital swaddle. Keep in mind, the American Academy of Pediatrics cautions against swaddle blankets that could come loose during sleep and cover baby’s nose and mouth. The safest options use Velcro or zippers. If you put your baby in a plain swaddle blanket without fasteners, make sure to monitor them closely.

Even with this relatively small list, there were still items we didn’t use. Honestly, our hospital stay was terrible because we couldn’t get ANY sleep with all the people in and out of our room. So there were a lot of things that went out the window, like changing into a nightgown and changing Lyla’s outfit. But every person who took care of us was wonderful, and I’m so thankful for the nurses who helped me! Moms out there, any items that made your hospital stay better? Items you wish you’d left at home? Let me know in the comments!

 

Lyla’s Birth Story + My Epidural Experience

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Our baby girl is finally here! Lyla Rose Cude joined us at 5:37 pm on Monday, September 9th, 2019. I’m sharing her birth story today because it was so special and I always enjoy reading birth stories from other mamas. I chose to have an epidural, and I’ll also share how that impacted my birth experience. Please know that I would never try and sway any woman toward any particular choice when it comes to birth. I just think the more information you have, the more informed your decision will be. I had a completely positive experience with my epidural and I feel like most of the things you hear about epidurals are negative. So…without further ado…the story of Lyla’s birth!

They say every labor is different. My labor progressed over a period of weeks. Lyla was head down and VERY low for most of my third trimester. This made the waiting extra hard because it felt like my body was teasing me. I was so uncomfortable. Every contraction I would think “Is this it?!” but it would inevitably subside. I wanted labor to be like a checklist, and I had completed every step except the baby coming! I reached the point every pregnant woman talks about…I wanted that baby out! We had discussed the possibility of induction on September 10th with my doctor, but for some reason an elective induction just didn’t feel right for me. As much as I wanted to meet our daughter, I wanted her to have every chance to come on her own. I ended up going into labor on my own at 39 weeks, 5 days pregnant.

Andrew and I spent all day that day just relaxing around the house. We were both trying not to be anxious, but we were so ready for her to come. I paced the house, did squats (yes I tried to squat my baby out), and tried my best to stay somewhat comfy. I was so sad when we were getting ready for bed because I had the whole weekend with Andrew and she didn’t come, and there it was time for him to go back to work the next morning. As we lay down to sleep, I began to pray. I prayed that God would help me to trust his timing. I prayed that if Lyla wasn’t ready, that she would stay in my belly. I prayed that he would help me have peace knowing that if she wasn’t coming, that meant she needed to stay in there for some reason. I prayed that if she was ready, that he would compel my body to respond to her so she could make her way into the world. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that as soon as I prayed that sentence, my water broke. And this was no maybe. Lyla has a flair for the dramatic and there was no denying that’s what had happened. I gasped and said, “I think my water just broke!” Andrew turned on the light and confirmed what I already knew…this baby was coming!

Andrew packed the last minute items in our hospital bag while I showered and tried to figure out what to wear while my water was actively breaking (Spoiler alert: there is no right answer). During the drive to the hospital I was nervous, excited, anxious, and everything in between. We checked into triage where they confirmed that my water had, in fact, broken and admitted me to labor and delivery. By that time I had been in labor for about two hours. My contractions were painful but nothing I couldn’t handle. I chose to labor for a little longer without medication while I felt like the pain was manageable. We watched The Golden Girls on the hospital TV to distract me. After three more hours of labor, I decided I was ready for the epidural. I wanted to get it before the pain got too intense just in case there were any complications and we needed to re-do it. Even as confident as I felt about my decision to get the epidural, I was absolutely terrified. My entire body was shaking. Andrew helped me calm down as much as I could. My anesthesiologist was patient and reassuring. Thankfully my epidural “took” on the first try. The only tiny hiccup was that it didn’t numb my contractions at first because it didn’t get up high enough. We consulted the anesthesiologist and all it took was for me to lay completely flat for about half an hour and we were in business!

I know every woman, every labor, and every baby is different. For me personally, the epidural was the right choice. I was completely lucid and fully present for the whole birth. I didn’t have any complications with the placement. I was able to feel everything I needed to feel to push. And most importantly, the relief provided by the epidural allowed me to focus on my baby instead of focusing on the pain. Had I opted for natural childbirth, I would have had to devote all my energy to dealing with the pain. I’m not sure I would have had enough remaining energy to push. I also have anxiety, and I was concerned that if I went natural, the pain would get to a point where I could no longer cope and I would enter a state of panic. If that were to happen, I knew there was no way I would calm back down because the pain would only intensify as labor progressed. For me, the epidural was the most empowering part of my birth experience, because it provided me the relief I needed to take on the task ahead without fear.

After I had labored another several hours, my dilation stalled at five centimeters. Since my water had already broken and time was of the essence, they gave me Pitocin to speed up dilation. At my next check I was up to seven centimeters. Lyla didn’t love the Pitocin, so they stopped it and allowed me to progress on my own from there. The next time they checked me it was time to start pushing. This is where things really got interesting.

What we didn’t know until it was time to push, was that Lyla was in a position called LOP. Her head was turned sideways with her chin tilted upward. They couldn’t just turn her because they couldn’t tell where the umbilical cord was. My whole labor, Lyla’s heart rate had dropped with every contraction. This led to concern that the cord may be around her neck. My doctors wanted to give me a chance to push, but they also had to act with an abundance of caution for Lyla’s safety. My doctor explained everything to me and said, “Babies in this position can be delivered vaginally. I’ve seen first time moms do it…It is very hard.” She let me know that if at any point they felt I was exhausted or Lyla was in danger, they would do a C-section before the situation turned into an emergency. I was so thankful for her honesty and I trusted the team of people in the room to make the right decision if a C-section became necessary. But there was just something in me that told me I could get my baby here by pushing. She had been so low for so long, I just felt sure that she knew what to do and that I had the strength to help her.

With each push, Lyla made progress. Then she promptly scooted back up and all progress was lost. That pattern went on for an hour, with her heart rate continuing to drop each time I had a contraction. They put me on oxygen to give her as much air as possible. At that point they brought in a high risk doctor. I also had a whole team of nurses ready to prep for a C-section if the need arose. They all cheered me on and, no matter what happened, they never gave up on me. I really think that made all the difference in helping me not feel defeated when I kept losing progress. I told them I could keep pushing and we decided to go for one more round and then assess the situation.

I have never been so focused on anything in my life. I kept my eyes closed and listened to Andrew in one ear and my doctors and nurses in the other. Andrew said I was like Lebron James before a big game…completely in the zone. I prayed and prayed that the Lord would be near to us and help us as he had so many other times during my pregnancy. Finally, during that last 30 minutes of pushing, Lyla began to keep her progress after each contraction. Andrew said, “She knows you’re in charge now!” After 30 more minutes of pushing, Lyla made her entrance into the world! I was so relieved and overjoyed! She weighed 8 pounds, 9 ounces and had the chubbiest cheeks.

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I’m so grateful for my birth experience. The epidural helped me feel empowered to face labor, delivery, and the after-birth care I needed. The team of doctors and nurses around me were encouraging and positive. I trusted them to make the medical decisions necessary, but still felt like they let me have as much say as possible. Andrew was incredible. He never left my side. He comforted and supported me during labor and cared for me so tenderly during my recovery. We are so blessed with a healthy baby, and all of my prayers for my birth experience were answered.

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If you’re nervous about giving birth and you have any questions for me, don’t hesitate to ask! I’m an open book. Whatever type of birth you want to have, you can do it! My only advice is to stay open-minded because you truly don’t know what will happen. Every birth is different. Make sure you’re comfortable with your doctor and be willing to take their input, knowing they want you and your baby to be healthy and happy. And know that you’re allowed to change your mind as circumstances change. If you wanted a natural birth but it starts to get overwhelming…get the epidural! Don’t suffer. There’s no award for whose labor sucked the most. If you thought you’d get the drugs for sure but the time comes and you feel like want to go natural, do it! If you end up needing a C-Section to get your baby here, then thank God for C-sections! That is MAJOR surgery and could potentially save your baby’s life or avoid dangerous complications. Don’t let anyone tell you a C-section is somehow “less” than a vaginal birth. My wish for every woman is that she would come out of her birth experience feeling strong and empowered. I’ll get off my soapbox now, but I really mean it when I say to reach out with any questions.

Mamas, what are some of your sweetest birth memories? Any pieces of advice you wish you’d been given beforehand? Share them in the comments!

Baby Registry Tips + Lyla’s Showers

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We were so blessed by family and friends with baby showers for Lyla. Andrew’s family threw us one, one of my childhood best friends threw us one at my home church, and our Sunday school class here in Lexington threw us another! As first-time parents, we truly would not have been able to get everything we needed for baby if it hadn’t been for the generosity of loved ones. We are so grateful that Lyla is already so loved and cared for!

When it came time to create a baby registry, I was completely clueless. Now that we have everything ready and waiting for little miss to make her debut, I wanted to share the tips that were helpful for me!

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Do your research

Do not…I repeat…do NOT just walk into a baby store and start scanning. They will have you convinced you need every gadget on the planet. Before you register, do some research on what you’ll actually need. I asked friends and posted a new mama SOS on Facebook. I found Lucie’s List helpful. She’s practical and her info keeps up with current safety regulations.

As far as advice from others, remember that every baby is different. Try to take in what’s helpful and forget the rest. I’ve personally found that other moms are happy and willing to offer their insight in a non-judgmental way. Don’t feel bad if you get overwhelmed. Learning about car seats alone made me feel like I was earning an online degree. No one knows what they’re doing the first time around, but thankfully there are lots of great resources out there.

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Register for everything…except clothes

We had serious sticker shock as we realized a lot of our baby must-haves were big ticket items. We didn’t expect people to spend tons of money on our baby, but we also wanted to be honest about what we needed. We registered for everything from our crib and rocker to small items like baby shampoo and Infant Tylenol. Having a range of price points on the registry will allow people to select a gift in their budget. Having larger items will be helpful for family who want to gift you one of your major needs, and allows groups to go in together on a gift.

Some people advised me to register for clothes so people will know your style. Truth be told, baby clothes are the most fun thing to shop for, and people are going to get you the clothes they think are cute regardless of what’s on your registry. I registered for a few basic onesies in varying sizes to make sure she had simple things to wear at home. Other than that, I personally wouldn’t use my time to pick out clothes. Trust me…you’re going to get them anyway.

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Location, Location, Location

Think about where your baby item buyers live before you choose where to register. The truth is, there really aren’t that many options when it comes to baby stores. Make sure the places you select have a user-friendly online option where people can view and purchase from your registry. We registered at Buy Buy Baby and Target. Our hometown doesn’t have either of those stores. I tried to register at Walmart, but their registry system was so difficult to use I gave up after three attempts. I explained to friends and family back home that they could view our registries online and were welcome to purchase similar items at Walmart instead. Many people chose gift cards, which allowed us to complete our registries after the showers without spending much money. Also be mindful of the customer service at the places you are registering. Do they offer any discounts on non-purchased items? How do they handle returns? For example, Buy Buy Baby was very easy and fun to register with, but their return policy is very strict. I ended up having a much easier time returning things purchased from Walmart.

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Don’t be afraid to edit

Don’t be afraid to make updates to your registry as your pregnancy progresses. I took items off and swapped things out as I learned more about baby gear. You may also have to make updates as you receive gifts if those shopping didn’t scan your registry. If your registry gives you a coupon for items that didn’t get purchased, make sure to add anything and everything you may need as those coupons are often for a one-time use and only apply to items on your registry. I ended up adding a floor lamp and a storage cart to our Target registry before completing it. Discounts on larger items like that really adds up.

Remember, at the end of the day, all your baby actually NEEDS is love, food, a car seat, and a safe sleep surface. Everything beyond that is just for convenience and…let’s be real…fun! Other mamas, what are your baby registry tips? What do you wish you’d known when you were registering? What are your must haves and what did you never use? Spread that mama wisdom wealth in the comments!