Baby & Toddler · Books · Holidays · kid-friendly · Pregnancy · Tips and Tricks

Gift Guide: The Guys

I won’t spoil the surprise even though he doesn’t read the blog, but Mark is definitely getting at least one of the things below for Christmas. And the rest are things he (or my awesome brother) already own and love. Read on and get inspired for the guys in your life!

For makers and DIY enthusiasts

Make Magazine, the home of 3-D printing, robotics, woodworking, programmable LEDs, fiber crafts and canning. It’s all in there! If your guy likes to tinker, build, and code, as my little bro does, you have just finished shopping.

MAKE_magazine

A book for a new dad or papa-to-be

The Faith of a Child, by Stefan Lanfer. The author, a colleague of mine in Boston, says “if you want tips, tactics, and advice for childbirth and parenting, you’ve got dozens of choices. But, if you want real stories that actually let you picture fatherhood, The Faith of a Child is for you.” It’s artistic and lovely to read and appealing for men who are about to become first-time fathers as well as those with a bit more practice who might enjoy a book to relate to on that level.

For tall dudes who work out

We have spent years trying to find workout pants for Mark that have a long enough inseam. When you are 6’4″ tall, this can seem an impossible task. Enter LuLu Lemon, that haven of ‘athleisure’ wear for stay-at-home moms! Miraculously, their pants come extra-long as a matter of course, and they offer complimentary hemming for customers of more average heights. The only other brand we’ve found that does this is Under Armour. I guess that’s why famously tall QB Tom Brady is their pitch man! Places like Old Navy actually make tall athletic gear for men too, but only by special order and only online…and they sell out of desirable styles very quickly. Mark’s favorite for running, dance class, rehearsal and lounging is hands-down the LuLu Kung Fu pant.

kung fu pant

Man-pampering

This organic, all natural shave oil by Honest is sure to leave his face calm, smooth, and razor-burn-free. It smells divine and is good for ladies too (bonus!)

Mark is also a fan of this hand cream for chapped knuckles after working in the yard or doing a tour in the wind. Which reminds me: if you are looking for work gloves for your handyman, these are tops.

Wishful thinking: for men who cook

“Men” and “cooking” are not two words that typically run into one another much at my house, but if yours is different then I envy you. Mark makes one thing: this Spaghetti Carbonara, which I taught him. Somebody help!

heritage

But these two books are supposed to be pretty awesome and I think they’d appeal to men (OR women) who are looking to bring some badassery to their kitchen repertoire.

Meat

The crowd-pleaser

Bose wireless headphones. There’s no way you’ll find someone who wouldn’t like that. I have them, I’ve given them as gifts, and they are about a bazillion times better than beats if you ask me. Especially great, according to Mark, if you have a ginormous head! 🙂

For entertaining

For cookouts, dinner parties, holidays, you name it: a portable speaker is handy, and in the case of this new one from Bose, adorable and available in many colors. The other thing I got Mark about five years ago, which he loves? A retro-looking record player that also has a radio, CD and tape deck hidden in it. Now we actually can listen to the vinyl collection we’ve been growing for so many years, and the sound fills the house.

bose speaker

And speaking of retro, vintage cocktails remain popular. If the man in your life fancies himself an at-home bartender, whet his appetite with these Moscow Mule mugs from Pottery Barn. Enclose the following recipe on a simple note card, and you’re set.

Moscow Mule Recipe

  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 2 oz vodka
  • 4 – 6 oz ginger beer

Squeeze lime juice into a Moscow Mule mug and drop in the spent shell. Add a few ice cubes, add in the vodka, and finish with the ginger beer. Voila!

moscow_mule

For the health freak

They may be getting a tad ubiquitous at this point, but the FitBit is a truly remarkable and effective fitness and weight loss tool. It tracks not only your activity but your food intake, calories burned, and length and quality of sleep, syncing wirelessly with your smartphone and waking you up (silently) every morning. Mark has found his to be the last bit of motivation he needed to drop about 15 pounds of weight that snuck on while I was pregnant, and he wears the thing 24/7. It’s an ever-present reminder to eat better, take the stairs, and forgo the second helping of cookies….so much so that I ended up losing a few pounds too, just by being around it!

fitbit

For the coffee lover/me

I am hoping someone gets this for myself. Once a year, Dunkin’ Donuts unveils the large coffee deal card — 10 of ’em for $14.99! Seriously, I get very little sleep and need this.

Another coffee related idea, or I should say a more serious one, would be a pour-over set. Both Hario and Chemex make popular versions. Custom-brew your cup and enjoy!

chemex-8-cup-coffee-maker

Got any great ideas that I missed? Do tell!

If you’re still shopping for others in the family, don’t miss my guide to eco-friendly baby gifts, my list of must haves for little ones from birth through toddlerhood, and my own Christmas wish list from last year, a guide to gifts for new moms.

**Psst! If you’ve been waiting to buy any VTech toys, today is your day. They are on sale for up to 50% off on Amazon, right now!**

And if YOU are newly pregnant right now, like I was this time two years ago (SOB!), check out my maternity shopping guide and my tips for beating morning sickness (I am a straight-up expert). Later on, when it no longer feels like you need 20 hours of sleep a day, my prenatal fitness post may come in handy.

 Good luck finishing your shopping, everyone!

2744-twitter 2744-twitter 2744-twitter 2744-twitter 2744-twitter

Baby & Toddler · Pregnancy · Tips and Tricks

Tips on Pumping

Yes, I know: strange coming from me, who hated pumping (then again who doesn’t) and stopped breastfeeding when Georgia was 9 months old. But I’ve found myself in the odd position of helping others who’ve struggled with pumping and low supply a lot recently, even though I myself tried everything and had pretty spotty success. So I decided to write it all down, in case you can benefit, too.

At least I had a constant companion in Tasha to cheer me up.
At least I had a constant companion in Tasha to cheer me up.

I’m certainly not encouraging anyone to skip breastfeeding. By all means, do it and pray for an easy time — I want that for you. But let me be the one to explicitly tell you: it IS possible to try everything the lactation consultant, pediatrician and mom blogs tell you, and still not make it to a year (or longer) nursing. I don’t know who set that deadline, but I can’t tell you the hours of undue stress it caused me (and my husband) when I felt I was “falling short.” And trying isn’t just OK, it’s downright heroic. Because you grew a child in your body, and you are continuing to give it life today, whether that’s with breast milk or formula.

Nursing 24/7 and having the doctor tell you your baby isn't growing properly: devastating.
Nursing 24/7 and having the doctor tell you your baby isn’t growing: I’m not sure there’s a worse feeling.

Formula, though not ideal when compared to Mother Nature, is quite literally life-saving for some babies. I’m aware of all the things people don’t like about it, and I am definitely troubled by statistics showing that only 16% of women nationwide are able to continue exclusively breastfeeding by the time their babies are 6 months old. But I think the solution will come via national change at the policy level, when this country decides to support all mothers’ and  babies’ health by providing high-quality prenatal, postnatal & pediatric care (plus lactation consultants and dual-phase, double electric breast pumps), at least 6 months of paid maternity leave for all parents, and access to high-quality, affordable child care. It’s shameful that one’s race, finances or address have anything to do with breastfeeding outcomes, but this chart has the latest data and it’s pretty damning:

breastfeeding_who

breastfeeding_where

breastfeeding_numbers

Personally? As a mom to a baby labelled with “failure to thrive” just two weeks home from the hospital, I feel like a freakin’ champion to have lasted 9 months. I know breast is best, but I won’t apologize to everyone I meet for not being able to “EBF” (exclusively breast feed, for those of you with better things to do than follow internet mom jargon). My breastfeeding experience is not the totality of who I am as a woman. Plus, where does this debate leave adoptive parents? Or gay dads? I could go on. But I won’t; I’ll just cut to the chase and give you my tips.

Tips on Pumping

Tools of the trade

First, you’ll need (ahem) a pump. Call your insurance to see what Obamacare will provide to you for free, then order it from an approved vendor. Or, ditch that route and do what I did — get the one you want on Amazon. In my case, that was a hands-free, double electric, hospital quality pump from Medela (affiliate link). I used and loved the Freestyle, but the Pump In Style is another great option (key difference is that the Freestyle clips to your clothing so you can walk around, whereas the Pump In Style is built into a tote that you carry and sit with. Both have multiple speeds and shield sizes and are relatively quiet and fast).

Second, you’ll need a hands-free breastpump bra. I tried and returned a lot of these. Thanks to friends, I finally settled on this one by Simple Wishes. Women of literally any size can wear this thing, because it’s so adjustable, which helps as your boobs change size gradually; it’s also extremely easy to put on and to fit the pump flanges into, and the seal is really secure.

For a basic introduction to setting up and using a breast pump, check out this step-by-step video by FitPregnancy.

Some other things that help:

  • Extra bottles. I got another set of the Medela bottles that came with my pump, so it wouldn’t be as problematic if I left full bottles at work or clean bottles at home accidentally, but they are small. So you may have to transfer the milk to a larger bottles for feedings, or get extras in a bigger size if your supply is really high and you fill these really quickly (alas, not my personal case, but I suppose I have other talents). You can also use special freezer bags if you’re pumping enough to put some away for later. These store flat and can be marked by date so you don’t let them expire, and are great if you travel for work or go away for the weekend. Most day cares will take either bottles or bags, as long as they’re clearly labelled.
  • Bigger nipples as baby gets older. You can get faster flowing nipples for the Medela bottles (or whatever brand your pump requires) so that your baby doesn’t get frustrated trying to drink from a tiny newborn opening. This helped Georgia a lot. We couldn’t seem to overcome nipple collapse, however, because Medela bottles (as well as Dr. Brown’s) share a nipple design that just didn’t work for her (and in my opinion, looks nothing like an actual boob!) To work around this, I only used breast milk straight from the Medela bottles at bedtime, when she wasn’t as ravenous and thus didn’t drink so forcefully, which caused the nipples to flatten or cave into the bottle.
  • At least one ice pack. My pump came with a reusable cooler pack and a contoured ice pack (meaning it could fit in between four round bottles) but it couldn’t hurt to have a spare in case you lose or forget it. There was a point, before I realized I just wasn’t going to be one of those women who could pump enough to replace three 8-oz. bottles during the workday, that I considered getting a mini fridge or an extra freezer for our basement, since the fridges we have at home and at work are pretty tiny.
  • Cleaning supplies. You can use any number of products to clean your pump in a hurry, but I always found that it performed best when I took everything apart and washed it with good old fashioned warm water. Then you just dry it with some paper towels and pack it up for next time. Other options: wipes and steam bags. I had access to a microwave and a sink near my pumping room at work, so I tried all three methods.
  • A nursing cover. This comes in handy if you have to share a nursing room with someone else at work, or pump in your own cubicle/office discreetly, or in the car. It’s good to have on hand if you’re headed to a meeting or conference where you don’t know what pumping accommodations can be made (it never hurts to call ahead). I have one by Bebe Au Lait but I’ve heard good things about Udder Covers as well.
  • You might also find hand sanitizer, extra makeup for touchups, spare napkins for spills, and nursing tea plus a mug to be helpful items to keep around. I also found that breastfeeding made me really thirsty with very dry skin and lips, so I stashed lip balm, hand cream and bottled water in my diaper bag and pumping tote.

Getting set up at work

I was very fortunate. My company set up a privacy room for nursing mothers to use two years ago, and then expanded it when we had a bit of a baby boom. With a solid computer terminal, a full-length mirror, a rocking chair, fridge and plenty of locked cabinet storage, it had essentially everything you needed to pump while working or resting. The only thing it lacks is a private sink to wash the pump parts, but with a bathroom and kitchen down the hall, those resources were in close proximity. What companies are obligated to provide varies by state and workplace size, but it can never hurt to ask for more. That’s how we got an improved setup at my place!

I was also lucky that my workplace offers nursing mothers extra breaks or unbilled time in the day during which to pump, which is crucial to being successful at breastfeeding, no matter how much supplementing you’re doing at home. The main challenges I encountered? Rescheduling meetings around my pumping time, without extending my workday beyond 9 to 5; people texting me questions while I was pumping, so as not to “bother me” by phone; having to eat lunch while pumping because I had no other time to fit it in; eating and drinking enough before pumping so my supply didn’t drop; and keeping the stress of work problems at bay so they wouldn’t affect my letdown or my yield. While the pumping room was awesome, fitting in the actual pumping in a workplace that values long hours, no lunch breaks and tight deadlines was beyond tense.

What to wear

At home, this was easy: leggings or a stretchy skirt plus a nursing tank top. Drop the front panel, attach pump, and go! At work, this was harder to figure out. Some days, I simply made a nursing camisole my base layer under a blazer, sweater or cardigan, and then took off the top item to pump; other days, I wore a dress that unzipped in the back instead of going over my head, and that was equally comfortable. It turns out that dresses make great wardrobe staples for busy mornings with crazy toddlers, too, since you don’t have to think about matching separates. Thus, I continue to build my professional wardrobe around them, and hardly ever wear pants anymore at all. I found it helpful to keep a pashmina or other soft scarf in my office in case it got cool in the nursing room at work.

Taking care of you

Not getting adequate sleep (ha, HA!), drinking too much caffeine and too little water, stress, and exhaustion can all drastically reduce your supply. Same goes for waiting too long to eat lunch, or not eating the right things. Sound like anyone else’s typical day at work with a newborn at home?? Right. Do the best you can not to guzzle an XL coffee or engage in a tense discussion with your boss before pumping, and block out enough time for the full phase of expression on your pump to get what you need (for me, this was the full 30 minute cycle just to get 2-3 ounces per side, so the whole affair took a solid hour after setting up the pump, disrobing, cleaning the pump in another room, rearranging myself and storing the milk). If you have to pump more than once per day, which is very possible, then I suggest doing one when you first get in and another in the late afternoon so you’ve eaten a meal before each session and you don’t go so long between nursing that you get engorged on the way home. Other moms I know had better luck pumping at home while they were getting ready for work, or just before bed, in addition to once during the workday. It all depends on your supply and your baby’s appetite!

Eating right

Good foods to eat: oatmeal, soup, lactation cookies (seriously!), granola bars, good fats like nuts, olives and avocados, and cold-water fish rich in DHA such as salmon, shrimp, catfish and crab. Fenugreek is a supplement that several lactation consultants suggested I take to boost my supply. Keep a reusable water bottle at work wherever you pump, so you can’t forget to fill it every time. As a general rule, have healthy snacks on you at all times. And keep taking your prenatal vitamin.

Bad foods to eat: salad, unless topped with any of the foods mentioned above to round out the meal; too much alcohol, which enters your breast milk and can affect your let down; excessive caffeine, in the form of coffee, tea or energy drinks; any soda; and anything that may irritate your baby via the bottle, such as garlic, beans, onions, peppers and broccoli, all of which can cause gas and fussiness. The last thing you want to do is pump all that milk and have baby refuse it (been there — Thai takeout, we cannot be friends until baby is weaned).

Here are two helpful charts to help you meal plan while pumping:

food chart breastfeeding

chart breastfeeding

Overcoming hurdles

You know, I wish that all women were as supportive as some of my friends and family. At one point, when I really felt like a failure for all of this nursing business not going the way I had planned (so what else is new with babies), Mark just turned to me and said “where are you feeling all this pressure from? It’s not me. It’s not our parents. It isn’t even Georgia’s doctor. So what is it?” And I didn’t know what to tell him, except that I spent my entire pregnancy being indoctrinated that breast is best so intensely that I never even considered the possibility it wouldn’t turn out to be so simple. I know I was lucky to give birth at a hospital that didn’t give formula in the nursery after birth, and that made so many lactation consultants available in the first few days. That coaching was invaluable. If you’re running into problems with nursing, pumping, or both, I would highly encourage you to reach back out to your OB, or your child’s pediatrician — that’s who connected me with my local LCs, when Georgia was a few weeks old and we were really struggling — or search online using the International Lactation Consultant Association’s web tool. Insurance is obligated to cover these services now. And, please, never hesitate to reach out to me directly. When I confessed how much trouble I was having nursing over social media, loads of women reached out….but what killed me was how many said I could never tell anyone  about it, because they had lied to their own families and friends about supplementing!

This madness has got to stop. Surely there are better things women can be doing than judging one another for this crap. Do you know what’s actually important? This.

Georgia and Dad

Now on to a few reasons you might pump (other than to make bottles). Even after I stopped pumping at work, I used my Freestyle to “pump and dump” after I’d had migraines that required medication Georgia couldn’t safely ingest through my milk. Because I continued to nurse her before and after work and on the weekends, I had to pump off any contaminated milk that resulted from taking my migraine medication. The same would go for having drank too much alcohol (generally one glass of wine or beer is considered safe while nursing) or for any other non-nursing-safe meds. Of course, you could also keep a simple hand pump around for times like these.

You might also want to pump just to “take the edge off” when your baby first sleeps a good long stretch at night, until your body gets used to going 6+ hours without nursing. Within a couple days, your body should regulate, just like it will as you gradually wean (whenever that happens). I’ll never forget pumping for 10 minutes while blow-drying my hair on the way out the door just to make sure I wouldn’t leak during the opening night of my husband’s show last fall. The things we do.

If all else fails

I practiced pumping between feedings in the weeks before I returned to work, so I’d get used to it, and so my supply would ramp up. I pumped twice a day when I got back to work full time. My supply fell bit by bit every month until eventually, no matter how many times I pumped or what I ate and drank, I was only getting an ounce or two total — and my baby was drinking three (!!) 8-ounce bottles while I was away. So, I made the decision to stop pumping when she was 6 months old, right after we went to Florida, and then two months later she started to refuse nursing at the two remaining times I offered every day (6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.) I continued to offer her the breast until it became clear, between 8 and 9 months, that we were done. Apart from nursing her for comfort when she had two bouts of the flu at the end of May, that’s been that.

Do I miss it? Not really. She’s not an infant anymore, and by 9 months she was standing, crawling and investigating her world, not cuddling up to me for hour-long feedings. Also, I got my body back. The last pregnancy pounds dropped off, I had freedom to go running early or take yoga late, and I didn’t physically “belong” to someone else anymore. I could reconnect with the greater world again. No more rushing home to do bedtime or risk my milk drying up, or going into work late on those days Georgia decided she really missed me and needed an extra-long nursing session in the morning, or hiding in someone’s bedroom during a cookout or family gathering. Nor do I miss having to craft my outfits around half-undressing at lunch to put on a pumping bra in a cold office every weekday.

But, not knowing whether or not we’ll have more kids, I am sad that I may never again have the lovely feeling of nursing a tiny baby to sleep, or of smelling that musky scent they get after eating, or have a tiny hand reach up to stroke my cheek when it’s just the two of us in the wee hours. Those things are really, really, profoundly special, and I’m blessed that I got to experience them at all.

My boobs shrank back to their previous size (sigh) and I’ve packed away all my nursing tanks. There are days I can’t believe it’s over, and then there are days when I trip over my pump — still sitting in my office at work — and wonder how the heck I did that for so long. And I know so many with babies Georgia’s age who are still going! It’s an individual journey, ladies, and no two experiences are the same. If I have another baby, I guess I will see how it goes for me next time… for now, I’m simply enjoying my perfect, beautiful, precious joy-filled miracle of a baby.

20140606-154518-56718823.jpg
‘Later ta-tas, it’s been real.

Psst: If you love data and can’t get enough breastfeeding stats, you can read the CDC’s full 2014 Breastfeeding Report Card right here. Other great web resources for pumping and nursing in general are KellyMom.com and La Leche League. Special thanks to the staff at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Melrose-Wakefield Hospital for critical coaching, literature and support. And, of course, my friends who sent supportive Facebook messages, texted advice, drove me to lactation consultant appointments with a screaming, hungry newborn in back, or recruited me into local breastfeeding support groups. It’s mind-blowing that some women have to go this alone, and I am thankful every day that I don’t.

Baby & Toddler · News · Pregnancy

Why don’t doctors talk to pregnant women about toxic chemicals?

I recently read something that I think most mamas would find disturbing.

Boston Globe via iStock

Acoording to the Boston Globe, reducing pregnant women’s exposure to environmental toxins was recently deemed ‘critical’ by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to prevent birth defects and other fetal health problems. But a recent survey of more than 2,500 physician members of that group found that fewer than one in five ask pregnant patients about any exposure they have had to unsafe levels of toxic chemicals.

“It’s not surprising that they’re avoiding these discussions,” said Dr. Alan Woolf, director of the pediatric environmental health center at Boston Children’s Hospital, who was not involved with the study. “Very few doctors feel comfortable in their knowledge of this issue to discuss it.”

A 2011 study found that pregnant women are exposed to at least 43 chemicals known to affect fetal development including pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), and phthalates that interfere with hormones.

For this reason, ACOG recommended last year that its physicians “identify specific types of exposure that may be harmful to a developing fetus” during the first prenatal visit. Doctors should be asking about workplace exposures — such as chemicals used in a lab or factory — and whether a patient lives in an older home, which could contain harmful lead paint, or has undertaken do-it-yourself home renovation that involves toxic agents. (And a Huffington Post story about this study pointed out that many women are at increased risk for exposure during pregnancy precisely because it’s a time when many families move or undertake renovation projects to prepare for baby’s arrival.

Yet half of the obstetricians-gynecologists surveyed in the new study said they rarely take this kind of environmental health history.

“Doctors told us they have so many more pressing issues to talk about,” said study leader Naomi Stotland, an associate professor of obstetrics-gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco. “Their patients may be cigarette smokers, drink alcohol, or eat fast food every day, which they need to deal with first.”

But those who serve highly educated populations often find themselves flummoxed by questions from pregnant patients about which cosmetics, cleaners, and sunscreens to use.

You can read the rest of the article here. In it, doctors went on to say that they don’t want to “stress their patients out” by mentioning environmental exposure issues, and that there are other concerns they’d rather focus on — such as getting more women to eat the “good” kinds of fish that are free of mercury. But some of the things that should be no-brainers during pregnancy, like avoiding aerosol room fresheners or antibacterial soaps and products containing triclosan, just aren’t on most women’s radars.

Here’s a helpful guide to avoiding environmental toxins at home. You can also visit the Environmental Working Group website for more resources.

On one hand, I can see the doctor’s point of view on this. Americans do seem to be riddled with so much extra anxiety around pregnancy and childbirth, and to be seen as adding to that — especially when so many patients deal with poor working conditions, food choices and home lives that are beyond their control — must be stressful for OBs. But I think lots of people aren’t worried about the issue of environmental toxins because they assume the government is protecting us from harmful ingredients, when the reality is quite the opposite. As consumers and as parents we have to be so careful about what we bring into our homes and bodies, and our income level shouldn’t preclude us from being empowered to make educated choices. It sounds to me like the doctors in this study who suggested enhanced training to equip OBGYN’s to discuss toxic exposure are right on the money.

How about you — did your doctor ever discuss this with you? What do you do to avoid contaminants in your food, cleaning products, home life or workplace?
Baby & Toddler · News · Pregnancy · Tips and Tricks

Happy Mother’s Day!

Just in time for Mother’s Day: a cute picture of daddy with our 8 1/2-month-old Baby G 🙂

20140506-122051.jpg

We hit the mall last weekend to buy mom some clothes in her (ahem) new size.

If that’s my Mother’s Day present, I’ll take it. It’s worth it to feel good about yourself in new clothes that fit well — not wasting time trying to shoe-horn yourself into old outfits if it’s just not going to happen. A wider rib cage and pelvis is a small price to pay for that lovebug up there.

What are you all doing for Mother’s Day? I hope my fellow moms get to relax, and maybe take some time for themselves.

If I get to sleep past 6:30 and maybe read the newspaper, I’ll be happy! Speaking of which….I saw this interesting series on pregnancy health in the Boston Globe last month, and I really wanted to share it. Some of its findings were astounding (at least to me). In particular, the advice on what the flu or a high fever can do to mom and baby when you’re expecting shocked me. Not surprisingly, it says the biggest problem in maternal medicine right now is the fact that two-thirds of expectant moms are overweight or obese. yikes.

But the article said a few more nuanced things, too. One doctor pointed out that simply avoiding the flu while pregnant by getting your flu shot prevents a five-fold increase in the risk of baby having a psychiatric illness, such as schizophrenia, later in life.

Another explained that recent findings show children of women who spike a high fever in pregnancy are more likely to develop autism, among other conditions, and that prenatal vitamins taken just before pregnancy, along with spacing pregnancies out by at least a year, can help reduce the likelihood that a child will develop autism. 

Really?

These are hefty claims. I’m no doctor, but I read the article with my mouth hanging open. It left me kind of frightened, to be honest. At least it was accompanied by a checklist for maximizing baby and mom’s health that I found helpful…

 Maximizing fetal and maternal health

  • Quit smoking, drinking, and drug use before getting pregnant. This includes second-hand smoke.
  • Get regular, moderate exercise before and during pregnancy. (Couldn’t agree more).
  • Eat a diet based largely on fruits and vegetables; if obese, reduce weight before pregnancy and limit weight gain during pregnancy.
  • Avoid eating fish that have high mercury levels.
  • Get illnesses such as diabetes, seizure disorders, sexually transmitted diseases, and auto-immune conditions, under control.
  • Prevent infections by getting immunizations, particularly against the flu, hepatitis, pneumonia, and pertussis, which can be dangerous for baby.
  • If you get a fever, take anti-fever medications.
  • Take prenatal vitamins, starting at least 3 months before pregnancy.
  • Space pregnancies allowing enough time for your body to recover. At least 36 months between pregnancies is ideal.
  • Consider tapering off any anti-depressant medication.
  • Eat organic whenever feasible.
  • Try to stay clear of insecticides and chemicals such as solvents and paint removers. When possible, minimize exposure to air pollution from traffic and fires; BPA, found in some plastics and canned foods; phthalates, in cosmetics and beauty products; and flame retardants in furniture and clothes.

I love these organic plant-based prenatals and these cleaning supplies. Of course, you can always go with things you already have on hand, like baking soda and vinegar. We also made the switch to glass bottles and lunch containers before we had Georgia. I even went the extra mile and made my husband start cleaning the cat box … just to be extra safe 🙂

I also read this awful article about how many toxic chemicals are in products marketed to babies and families. I know it’s an issue, and it’s why we’ve avoided certain brands, but I was still surprised at how pervasive the problem is, and how little some stores and sectors of government seem to care.

How about you — what do you do to avoid toxins? Do articles like this make you feel scared? or empowered to keep your family safe?

I’ll leave on an inspiring note. If you haven’t seen this beautiful photo series by Jade Beall on real women in all stages of pregnancy, nursing and beyond, it’s worth a look. Here’s one of my favorite images.

The photographer’s new book of photographs, “The Bodies of Mothers,” comes out on Mother’s Day, May 11, 2014.

I hope you all have a restorative, restful Mother’s Day full of MANY cuddles, NO chores, NO cooking (who’d ever think I would say that??) and, if you’re lucky, some PAMPERING in the form of a bath, a pedicure, an exercise class, or whatever makes you feel relaxed and loved.

Cheers to all my fellow moms. Shouldn’t every day be Mother’s Day?

 

Baby & Toddler · Holidays · Pregnancy

Eco-friendly baby gifts

Sending a care package a new mom’s way, or putting together a gift for a new arrival this holiday season? Here are my fave picks for the eco-conscious, non-toxic and environmentally friendly baby and mama. These are all companies and products we use and love for our family. But first, Georgia’s first visit to Santa!

Now on to the gift ideas you came here for.

Under the Nile

underthenile.com

This company makes one of Georgia’s favorite loveys, the pink baby buddy. All of their products are organic, from apparel to toys, and they also use PVC-free dyes. None of their products include flame retardants, Formaldehyde or other chemical fabric finishings.

Baby Soy

babysoyusa.com

We love their kimono style outfits. This green clothing line is made from sustainable and organic soybean fiber, making them soft on baby and low impact on the planet. The kimono line is their signature, and makes for cozy sleepwear with easy diaper access and convenient fold-over sleeve mittens to prevent overnight face scratches from flailing little hands. We also love their soft, knotted hats, especially for sleep.

Georgia has this in purple with pink trim.
Georgia has this in purple with pink trim.

NaturePedic

NaturePedic.com

This is where we got Georgia’s mattress (and mattress pad). It is certified organic and Greenguard certified (meaning it’s been tested for chemical emissions) and free of allergens. It meets all crib regulations, also fits a toddler bed, and is made in the USA. Best of all, it’s comfortable and firm and she loves sleeping on it. A mattress and mattress pad weren’t things I was willing to compromise on, since she spends more than half her living hours breathing them in.

LifeFactory

lifefactory.com

Creators of shatterproof glass baby bottles with colorful silicone sleeves, LifeFactory designs their products to grow with your child, so you can add a sippy cup top for toddlers and eventually a regular flat cap. There are tons of colors to choose from.

51id7swdsrl-_sx522_

The Honest Company

honest.com

I love, love, LOVE their products. I started out using their laundry detergent because I’m sensitive to fragrances and other ingredients in commercial soap, and now that I’ve had a baby I use nothing else. We tried and loved their diapers & wipes, and now I purchase my household cleaning products from them, too. That way, I don’t have to worry about fumes or residue affecting Georgia (or me, as a breastfeeding mom) when I clean our counters, toilets and windows. In fact, their stain remover is so amazing that I was able to get a HUGE smear of black ink — from a dropped mascara wand — out of our white nursery carpet(!) Find their “welcome baby” gift package here. I also use their antibacterial hand gel at Georgia’s changing table and in my diaper bag, and at bath time their baby wash and body oil is all we use. I even use those two products on my own body so that I don’t put any toxic chemicals near her little mouth while nursing!

Honest makes a badass diaper cake with 92 newborn diapers and essential baby products in the center. What a shower gift!
The Honest Company makes a badass diaper cake with 92 newborn diapers and essential baby products tucked in the center. What a shower gift!

Anna Naturals Tea

drinkmamatea.com

Teas that are usually recommended for nursing moms are, in a word, nasty. Not these. With organic blends for preconception, childbirth recovery, nursing and weaning, there’s an option for every stage of pre- and postpartum life.

MightyNest.com

mightynest.com

The “mindful gifts” offered at this site are free of lead paint,  heavy metals, and Formaldehyde, and are hand-picked for any age range you’re looking to buy for. Parents of school-aged children can even donate a portion of their purchase to their own district’s classrooms.

Sophie the Giraffe

Georgia can’t get enough of this teether. She loved cuddling and nuzzling it before she was teething, and now it provides a safe, soothing surface to gnaw on when her gums are sore. Free of phthalates and BPA, Sophie features natural rubber and food-based paint that naturally wears away over time. Each one is hand-painted so they are all unique! Available at most baby stores, including Babies R’ Us and on Amazon.

Babies love to chew on her feet, nose, mouth, ears…

Aden + Anais

adenandanais.com

Their organic crib sheets, changing pad covers and easy swaddlers have a trusted place in our nursery. They are available at Babies R’ Us and Amazon. Read more about why I like them in this post about newborn essentials.

California Baby

californiababy.com

We use their calming natural and organic products, especially the diaper rash cream, on G before she does her overnights. It prevents rash from wetness when she’s sleeping the longest. It has a lovely peppermint scent that really is soothing. All their products are certified organic, made in the US, allergen tested and free of peanuts, soy and dairy, with no animal testing. You can find their products at Target or Amazon.

Angel Dear blankies

angeldear.net

Georgia has two of these: an elephant and a bear, both pink. (See her cuddling one of them in this post). This San Francisco-based company is committed to organic fibers and their products are luxuriously soft to the touch. I wish I had gotten G a curved pillow to match her blankies, because I think it would have come in so handy with tummy time!

Georgia loves cuddling this elephant blanket.

A Mighty Girl

amightygirl.com

This awesome site, dedicated to matching parents with empowering, educational and fun toys for girls, has lots to choose from — but I particularly think it’s cool that they have an entire guide to children’s books about the environment. Check it out.

Baby Gap Organics

We have a new baby coming into our extended family this year right after Christmas, and I’m loving some of Baby Gap’s organic cotton gift sets for the little guy or gal (it’s going to be a surprise). This collection takes gender-neutral baby clothing beyond the realm of green and yellow, which is one reason I love it!

I also love this handmade plush toy from ABCHome, and I really want this frame from Pottery Barn Kids to commemorate G’s first year. It’s so beautiful.

What are your favorite products and brands? Did I miss any?

***

I am not affiliated with or endorsed by any of these companies. In some cases, clicking specific product links will earn me a small commission. I never recommend any brand or item I don’t believe in and personally use.

Baby & Toddler · Beauty & Fashion · Pregnancy

Our Maternity Photos

Back in July, I convinced Mark to have some maternity portraits taken. Though he was hesitant at first, I think he’s glad I convinced him to do it. Now we have a record of this very special time in our life, and even better, we can show it to Georgia some day when she’s older!

DSC3523-Mark-and-Amanda-Holding-Booties-Portrait

At the time, I was about to no longer fit in any of my shoes or jewelry, and I felt awkward and clumsy. Now, when I look at these photos, I think: “what shiny hair and clear skin!” and, “How well-RESTED we look!”

Yup, we told them the name for this shot -- they were sworn to secrecy!
Yup, we told them the name for this shot — they were sworn to secrecy! And my mom made these booties. How beautiful are they??

Click here to see the Shutterfly photo book I made of our shoot.

Special thanks to our friends Scott and Jena of Dengrove Studios in New York for providing our maternity shoot last July in the Boston Public Garden.
Baby & Toddler · Pregnancy

Blogging with Bebe

Well, I swore I wouldn’t let it happen, but new motherhood has officially encroached on my ability to update the blog. I held it together pretty well at first, but 8 weeks of limited sleep and a demanding newborn are conspiring to make regular posts impossible! While I try to get back on track, enjoy a few photos from our recent trip to bring Miss Georgia to visit her Florida family.

20131011-171930.jpg
Flying with a newborn: not as bad as I’d feared.
20131011-172051.jpg
Key to calming a baby in a hectic airport? Wearing them!
20131011-172226.jpg
En route to the wedding that brought us to Sarasota in the first place.
20131011-172318.jpg
How cute is my party bow??
20131011-172433.jpg
A much-needed stroll on the soft sands of Siesta Key beach.
20131011-172456.jpg
Kid has a good-looking Dad.
20131011-172509.jpg
Vacations. Never as long as you need them to be.

Going to Sarasota sometime soon? In my next post, I’ll share my favorite picks for food and fun in the area. I love the Gulf coast of Florida!