Baby & Toddler

It feels like spring!

There’s still a solid two and a half feet of snow on the ground, but that hasn’t stopped me from all but declaring it Summer Vacation this week, because it is nearly in the 40s outside and you can actually see some pavement for the first time since late January. Except, of course, for those a-holes who never shoveled their sidewalks at all and will now block the rest of us from walking to the train or taking our cooped-up babies out in strollers until June.

Georgia practically can’t wait to go for walks again. The last time we were able to go to the pond was the week after Christmas, when we all only needed fleece jackets and we kept remarking on what a nice winter it had been so far. I even said that I wondered whether the snowsuit or hat and gloves I bought Georgia would ever get used! Ha.

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One sure sign of spring, albeit an early one, is the switch to Daylight Saving Time. You may remember in the fall I was worried about how it would affect Georgia’s sleep schedule. We managed to survive then with no hiccups thanks to a strategic effort to nudge her bedtime forward during the two weeks preceding the time change so that it was an hour later (8 p.m.) than normal on the night before “falling back” to the old time (7 p.m.) You can read more about ways to do that here. Or, you can opt to do nothing, which was my route of choice this week because the time change totally snuck up on me! And boy, did I pay for that decision dearly yesterday, when she did not nap at all for the first time in probably a year. This led to me frantically rocking, feeding, and patting her in futile attempts to induce sleep, until after an hour I just yelled “abort! abort! abort!” and took her for a long drive. During which she did not sleep, but every few minutes would let out a maniacal cackle or shriek. Scary times.

nah, she doesn't look tired at all.
nah, she doesn’t look tired at all.
here I am giving up
here I am giving up
snacks...snacks will fix it, right?
snacks…snacks will fix it, right?

So that’s what has been new with us. Mark has been busy shooting a couple of different commercials, and next week he starts up rehearsals for Shrek the Musical. He’s playing Lord Farquaad…..eheheheheheh. Mark has been watching clips of the show so many times this winter that now Georgia does all the arm motions along with the music. And if you’re interested in how a 6’4″ man becomes that short, here’s a video that shows the costume magic behind the Broadway production. Did you know? That character is almost always played by a super tall actor, who sings and dances on their knees, attached to a complicated back brace with springs. It’s crazy how they pull it off. He’s been working out really intensively all winter to prepare for the physical challenge, and I can’t wait to see it.

Another definite sign of spring? The Honest Company’s new diaper patterns finally came out this weekend! I set our bundle to ship ASAP. Love the bumble bee one especially.

diaper screen shot

Since I totally missed the boat on going to see a hockey game this year, I’ve turned my attention to the Red Sox season. Finally they sucked enough that the prices came back down to Earth. If it wasn’t already sold out, you could get bleacher seats to see them play the Yankees for $40!

Looks like someone needs a new onesie!
Looks like someone needs a new onesie!
I only root for the Sox in super-unflattering pictures of my parents.
I only root for the Sox in super-unflattering pictures of my parents.

I have seen some bad winters, but I’ve never been more ready for spring and summer than I am this year. How about you — what’s got you most excited for nicer weather? Playing in the park? Picnics? The Marathon? Grilling?Gardening? The beach? All of the above for me!

Have a great week 🙂 xoxoxo

Baby & Toddler · Tips and Tricks

Coping with a sick baby

It’s that time of year again: germs are circulating, snot is flowing, and everywhere you look it seems like someone has an ear infection, croup, or the stomach flu (or all three)! And it’s no wonder, given how cooped up we’ve all been this year. Our house has caught more than a few bugs during this unusually cold and snowy winter, but by far the weirdest illness we’ve experienced to date is what Georgia came down with last week…scarlet fever

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Total lethargy: a sure sign of a sick baby

Did mentioning that make anyone else think of The Velveteen Rabbit? Just like in that book, G woke up from her nap one day with a really hot fever and a bright, splotchy body-wide rash. She was actually at day care, so they understandably made us come get her right away, because it was hard to tell what was going on. Though it sounds scary (note to self: next time lie to grandparents) we learned that it’s no longer a serious disease because of the availability of antibiotics. And, it’s caused by the same bacteria as strep throat, so coming into contact with someone who had that (maybe on the plane?) is probably where she picked it up. The poor thing.

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So, a few hundred hours of sleep and several key oatmeal baths later, she is feeling a million times better, and we are infinitely more thankful for good health, even when she wakes up at 3 a.m. for no reason or throws a tantrum while getting dressed. (Which P.S., we are living in tantrum hell right now! Did anyone else out there go through this around 18 months? And P.P.S., all these germs and tantrums are what’s been keeping me from the blog all week. I’ve missed you! )

It’s no secret that having a sick kid sucks, for you almost as much as them. Their sleep is disrupted, they go through ten times as many clothes in a day as normal, they whimper and cry and you just can’t fix it…it’s the pits. And that’s not even including the hours you spend waiting at the doctor and pharmacy, or cleaning up once it’s all over with. So what are the key things we’ve found that help relieve stuffed noses, upset tummies and feverish foreheads?

To Relieve Sniffles

  • Elevate the crib mattress. Just like adults stacking pillows, this really helps when they are congested and coughing or struggling with thick post-nasal drip. Just tuck a rolled-up blanket between the springs and the mattress; never elevate the whole crib. At day care, they let the stuffed-up babies sleep nestled in a boppy on their backs, but that’s because someone is always watching them. You could do this at home if you plan to be in the same room the whole time.
  • Stock up on baby saline mist and use it with the NoseFrida snot sucker, which is gross but works miraculously to clear gunk from teeny nostrils.
  • Wipe crusty noses with baby wipes, to prevent chapping. Lots of folks like Boogie Wipes for this purpose, but I see no reason to purchase an additional product when the ones you already have will work just as well!
  • Shower with them to de-congest them before bed or in the morning, or do a eucalyptus bubble bath.
  • Since you can’t use Vicks VapoRub on kids under two, the next best thing is something like the Honest Company’s organic breathe-easy rub, which I slather on Georgia’s neck, chest, behind her ears, and on the bottoms of her feet inside her footy PJs. It contains eucalyptus and tea tree oils with lavender and rosemary, and does not have menthol.
  • Run a cool mist humidifier in their room. We like this one by Holmes, available at Target and on Amazon. We used to have this popular Crane humidifier, but it broke within 6 months and we had to send in for a replacement, which took forever. The Holmes model is easy to fill with a water bottle with one hand and the light can be more easily covered up in a baby’s room,which is the one flaw in so many humidifiers we looked at! Georgia really sleeps better in a darker room, so this was important to us.
  • Zarbee’s natural syrup is great for babes over a year. They have options for other ages, too. That was what our pediatrician recommended when Georgia had a persistent cough earlier this fall.
  • If they will drink it, water with lemon and/or honey is also OK for babes over a year, just like it is for adults.
  • Give plenty of fluid if they want it, including more milk, formula or electrolyte solution if they seem extra thirsty. Don’t push food; their appetite will come back when they’re better.
  • Just like us, eating healthier foods (Georgia likes fresh berries cold from the fridge) can help speed along recovery.

For Reducing Fevers

Note: newborns need to see the doctor immediately for any type of fever. The following tips are for infants and older.

  • Dress your baby in whatever they find most comfy and cozy. G likes her footed fleece PJs when sick and I don’t see any reason not to let her stay in them. Don’t follow the old advice to bundle a baby with a temperature in the hopes of “breaking” it. Outdated info!
  • Use a no-touch thermometer to check their temperature while they’re sleeping. It won’t wake them, and it can remember the past few temps you’ve taken, in case you need to give your doctor a history when you visit.
  • Offer baby tylenol or ibuprofen. Georgia, we learned the hard way, reacts badly to ibuprofen. So we stick to tylenol, even though it only lasts 4 hours instead of 6, and (I’m told) isn’t as effective on lowering fevers. We actually buy the Target brand because it’s much cheaper and G actually prefers the dye-free grape flavor it comes in. Get the correct dose from your pediatrician, not from the box.
  • For a fever over 104, call your doc or head to the ER right away. Read more info here.

For an upset tummy

  • Liberally use Pedialyte, either the traditional variety, these more natural versions, or the fun freezer pop kind, which are messy but may be better received, and can be awesome in the hot summer. Georgia had the stomach bug so bad right after her first birthday that she couldn’t even keep down milk or formula, so we had to give her straight Pedialyte for almost three days, then build her back up to regular bottles over the course of a week by mixing in 1 oz. of milk at a time until there was no more Pedialyte. By the way, you can also make your own electrolyte solution.
  • Wait a good half day since their last time throwing up before you even offer bland food. Start with something simple like oatmeal, a banana or toast, or of course breastmilk/formula if that’s all they are eating depending on age.
  • Keep a good stain remover handy for pre-treating bedding, clothes and rugs, and try to stay ahead of the laundry when they zonk out so that you don’t run out of clean sheets or sleepwear. And whatever you do, don’t let them get into bed with you, even if you occasionally co-sleep as we do, or you WILL end up with no clean bed for anyone to rest in!!

For ALL Types of Illness

  • Have lots of fresh sheets, pajamas and clothes on hand & already washed. I recommend owning three crib sheets and at least four seats of pajamas in the right size. A baby with the flu could require three or more changes per night if they toss their cookies, cough until they vomit, or have a runny enough nose that it gets an entire end of the crib messy. Easier said than done, right? The baby getting sick is a guaranteed way to put my laundry timeline into a tailspin for weeks.
  • Offer lots of extra cuddles and as many naps as they want! When Georgia has been sick, I’ve known her to sleep in until 10 then take her usual nap at 1 and stay down until 4, then go right to bed for the night at 7. Just like us, they may need to literally sleep the day away in order to recuperate.
  • Little babies may want to nurse overtime for comfort, and you should let them. G got her first bad cold a few weeks after I had weaned her, and I nursed her again because she needed the comfort. It worked (and I still had milk, which was totally weird and cool).
  • Clean all the toys and play areas when everyone is well again. And don’t forget to buy a new toothbrush!
  • Don’t send them back to school before they are better, for their own good and for the health of all the other families. It just contributes to a cycle where everyone is sick all the time.
  • It shouldn’t have to be said, but everyone in the family needs to get a flu shot every year, including grandparents who babysit, and do your best to get all your child’s vaccines on time. We haven’t had much trouble with ear infections, but our doc always reminds us that a good preventative tip is to let baby drink their bottle/sippy only when upright, not lying down.
  • For the love of God, if you and your spouse are both sick at the same time, call in reinforcements. It will have to be a family member who really, really loves you, or someone who doesn’t care about the fact that they will probably come down with whatever gross illnesss you have, but what else are you going to do when both of you are vying for the bathroom and can’t stand up to do a diaper change without passing out? Not that I say this from experience.

So what did I miss? What works for you? Are there natural remedies out there I should know about? 

Cross your fingers for me that Georgia being sick so often in her early years means I’ll have an easier time of it come Kindergarten, when the babies who never went to day care or preschool tend to catch everything like we are now!

Tips and Tricks

Shaving Time

Happy Friday everyone! And Happy Belated World Vegetarian Day, which was this week (October 1). I found this handy HuffPo article with 22 new vegetarian recipe ideas to share, and I’m definitely going to try the pumpkin mac n’ cheese and the sweet potato pizza this weekend, which is the only time I can really plan ahead and pre-cook things for the week to save time after work. We’ve been doing a great job at eating out less, and encouraged by our success I am now trying to tackle a few other areas where I waste time and money. Though we’ve saved a lot through inertia of not having to buy formula and being able to serve Georgia table food, I feel there’s always more I can do to save my sanity.

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Not going to lie: I sometimes multi-task bathtime by giving her a bottle in the tub and cleaning down surfaces with baby wipes while she plays.

What do you do to streamline life? I’ve always been a lover of efficiency, but nothing has made me more organized and adept at shaving time off of things that used to eat up my entire day than having Georgia. To think that I used to shower and blow dry my hair every single day before work, and spend 15 or 20 minutes putting on makeup! To be honest, the post-partum body changes from having Georgia were another tool for me to simplify my life, too, because I was forced to eliminate anything that didn’t work for me and to reduce my wardrobe to the key essentials. In turn, it has allowed me to feel OK about buying things that really do work for us, even if they are a little more expensive (case in point: the convertible car seat we just bought, which was more expensive than other models but is so simple to install that I don’t know how it took someone this long to invent it. Anyone who’s wrestled one of these things into a cab or rental car will feel me on this). So how else do I, a not-so-new-but-still-frazzled mom, shave time in my daily life?

Prep the night before

I make Georgia’s food and bottles and lay out her clothes every night before bed. This means chopping fruit, bagging up crackers, cheese and yogurt, slicing meatballs or shredding rotisserie chicken and packing it all in her lunch bag. Even just taking 5 minutes to pour whole milk into her bottles and sippy cups saves you from a hectic morning. That way, when we are running out the door, I just grab leftovers or an Amy’s Frozen Organic Meal for my lunch, take her day care bag out of the fridge, and then buy a breakfast sandwich & coffee or myself on the way to the train after school drop-off. This is the one meal I routinely eat out; everybody has one. If I do make my own breakfast, it’s either a smoothie, a slice of casserole, egg muffins or an overnight yogurt and oatmeal fruit parfait.

Hungry Girl’s Overnight Oatmeal Parfait

Develop some go-to second day hairstyles

Shop online

This is a biggie for me. From getting our diapers and wipes every six weeks from The Honest Company, to ordering gifts, toiletries, toys and craft supplies from our Amazon Prime membership (free 2-day shipping! Instant streaming for those nights in with a sleeping toddler!), we try to minimize our trips to any store because we have one car and zero shared days off per week. We also recently joined Costco, so that we can really stock up and not have to make extra trips to Target or the grocery store for another 12-pack of toilet paper or seltzer, and I’ve recently been considering checking out other subscription product membership services such as Fabletics, PopbasicStitch Fix and Dollar Shave Club (which I am dying to try; I feel like we spend so much money on razors). I even order stamps from the postal service by mail now, and I long ago switched almost entirely to shopping online for clothes (both ours and Georgia’s), especially via consignment sites like ThredUp, Kidizen and my favorite place for well-priced trendy baby duds, Old Navy and Gap. (And if you try any of the services above, I’d be tickled if you use my referral links!)

Get off social media

Seriously. If you need more convincing, read on. You can’t spend more time with your family, your hobbies and your home improvement projects until you minimize screen time. And this is coming from a blogger who manages websites and social media platforms for a living!

Minimize your beauty routine

This happened out of necessity both while I was pregnant (read: exhausted) and after Georgia came along. Of course in those first few weeks you don’t wear any makeup, good clothes or basically anything clean or flattering; about a month in, though, you start to want to venture out, and realize this can only happen if you drastically lower your standards for your appearance and/or consolidate a few aspects of your morning routine. I did this in a few key ways: eliminating steps, and buying products that do double duty.

As I already said, I started showering every other day, taking advantage of simple buns, dry shampoo and (let’s be honest) hats, and by picking up multi-tasking products like this Benefit blush that doubles as eye shadow, or this blush that doubles as a lip stain. This concealor can cover up under-eye circles and blemishes, and then I just swipe some mascara and I’m good to go. At night, I reach for a do-it-all makeup remover and cleanser that can handle tough mascara, like these Kat Von D wipes (amazing). I take my skin care routine seriously, so whenever possible, I wash with Cetaphil (can double as baby wash in a pinch!), tone with witch hazel wipes (good for you-know-what after childbirth, plus bug bites, cuts & scrapes) and moisturize with Olay Regenerist. In the shower, I share my Honest shampoo and body wash with Georgia, and we also both use the Honest conditioning detangler now that she’s got some wavy, crazy hair. Finally, if I need to polish my nails in a hurry, I’m a huge fan of this Sally Hansen insta-dri fast color (like literally dry in 30 seconds, and has a huge color selection).

A couple other quick tips: diaper rash cream can also be used to dry up a breakout; Rosebud salve can tint your lips, tamp down flyaways and frizz, and soothe your cuticles, dry elbows and paper cuts; and things like dryel and febreeze fabric freshener can really cut down on the time and expense of all those trips to the dry-cleaners.

Work out in short bursts

I wouldn’t get any exercise at all if I tried to make it to an actual yoga class twice (or being real here, even once) every week. I also suck at getting up early enough to exercise before my unpredictable child decides to start her day, which can happen any time between 6 and 7:30 a.m., so that’s out. What’s a girl to do? Well, I’ve come up with a couple creative solutions, and they all revolve around cramming shorter workouts into more days per week.

I try to grab a snack when G is eating dinner around 5:45, then it’s digested by the time she goes to bed between 6:30 and 7, and this fuels me for a quick workout after her bedtime and before my own dinner. We do a long walk every weekend together, then twice a week, we walk home one mile from her daycare. Once a week my office hosts a short yoga class in one of our conference rooms, which I don’t always make it to, but which is great to have. See if your company is willing to do the same!

Cook in bulk

This goes for big things like making stuffed shells, chili or a huge batch of risotto so there’s plenty of leftovers throughout the week, all the way down to slicing and mixing Georgia’s daycare meals on Sundays so I can grab and go in the mornings. We bought (and labelled) a ton of food containers that we can stock up on weekends and just plop into her daycare bag every other day when she goes. I also like to pick up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store one night, then make the leftovers into chicken salad for Mark to have for sandwiches throughout the week. Since we often eat dinner separately, he either buys his on break from work, or I make a huge pan of shepherd’s pie or spaghetti carbonara for him to take every day (and I pretend like he’s having a side salad with it, but probably it’s more like a side soda).

This week, to get Georgia more veggies in her diet, I bought a pre-cut butternut squash at Costco and then roasted and mashed it with a touch of pumpkin butter. She devoured it, and the whole thing lasted us an entire week!

Last but not least, keep baby wipes in every single corner of your house — preferably fragrance free and eco-friendly — and use them to do everything. I’ve washed my walls and baseboards, wiped down kitchen counters and the high chair, dusted the car interior, freshened up the sink and toilet, and even cleaned all my vinyl siding before Georgia’s birthday party this summer, using just baby wipes. They are also amazing post-workout when you don’t have time to shower, and I’ve grabbed them in a panic when the cat has gotten sick or walked through something gross and tracked it into the house. I honestly don’t know how I ever survived without them.

So what did I miss? I know there are some great life hacks out there waiting to be discovered and shared. I’d love to hear about them.

Special thanks to Dollar Shave Club for reaching out to us to create this post!

Baby & Toddler · Pregnancy · Tips and Tricks

Newborn Essentials

Miss Georgia Vivien is now two weeks old, and just beautiful. She’s got such a sweet, good-natured temperament, and we fall in love with her about twenty times a day. Expecting, delivering and breastfeeding her has been without a doubt the most challenging and rewarding experience of my life, and we are learning more about how to nurture her every day. I’ve been amazed at how effortlessly some aspects of parenting come to first-timers like us, and equally surprised at how difficult certain “perfectly natural” things have been (nursing comes to mind).

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The first few days home were overwhelming: she had her days and nights mixed up, she fed constantly, our cat was totally freaked out and we were zombies from lack of sleep. Thanks to the generosity of family & friends who brought over food, cleaned our house, or held Georgia while we showered, Mark and I survived. I don’t know how anyone does it alone, or with a partner who isn’t also your best friend — you need to divide, conquer, and laugh when things get crazy!

A few of the other key items we couldn’t live without in these first few weeks?

FOR SLEEP
The My Little Snugabunny Rock n’ Play sleeper by Fisher Price (it now comes with a vibrating feature; ours didn’t have that, and we wouldn’t have used it anyway).

We can’t imagine not having this. Georgia naps in it during the day in our living room, and she seems to prefer the slight incline and self-rocking motion of this to her flat bassinet or her co-sleeper. It keeps them hugged around the sides in a safe way, which newborns seem to prefer to a big crib or play yard. It’s also portable, so you can move it to another room (or another story, if you have an upstairs) or even take it to a friend’s house, and the center comes out for easy cleaning (we’ve already had one diaper blowout in it, and you’d never know). This is great for times when the baby falls asleep in the living room and you need to quickly move them to your bedroom or the nursery to sleep overnight without waking them.

We also use this Summer Infant sleeper on our couch and on the bed, and will likely take this with us when we fly to see relatives in a few weeks. Until she transitions to her crib, Georgia is sleeping nightly (sort of) in the Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper, which is attached to the side of our bed (by a strap under our mattress) for easy access for 2 a.m. diaper changes and feedings. Later, it can convert to a four-sided bassinet or a play yard, and it’s portable for travel. We’ll see how well that works out because it seems kind of heavy and not-so-simple to break down so far. This comes with one sheet (though you can buy more on their website) and that sheet Velcros to the thin mattress on its underside, so there’s no SIDS risk.

The Arm’s Reach Mini Co-Sleeper.

Georgia was born at 7 lbs 7 oz, which is very average; nevertheless, we still found ourselves without enough newborn-size outfits for daytime, so we made a run to Babies R’ Us after her first pediatrician appointment to pick up some Carter’s onesies on sale. We also grabbed more sleep outfits — in particular the Halo Sleepsack, and some Gerber Sleep n’ Plays which kept her feet warm. I found those little mittens utterly useless, so if you’ve got a face scratcher, just get outfits that have fold-over cuffs on them instead. We also got these fabulous swaddling blankets by Aden and Anais as a shower gift, and I can’t say enough about how indispensable they are. You can swaddle them during the day for comfort, tuck them tightly into their crib or bassinet, cover them up in the car seat and stroller, wipe spit-up, block the sun in the car, use as an emergency diaper-changing pad if you forget yours, and drape over yourself while nursing in public. I used this so much more than my nursing cover, stylish though it is! They are SO soft and get more so with each washing. If you’re ever in need of a shower present, these should be tops on the list. You can never have too many! (Well, you probably need a max of about six).

Aden + Anais Swaddle Plus Wrap Blankets.
FOR FEEDING

OK, I am going to level with you — breastfeeding is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Despite my baby having what the doctors and nurses called “a perfect latch,” I still found the first week and a half to be constantly painful. AND WHEN I SAY PAINFUL, I MEAN REALLY PAINFUL. Newborns feed even more frequently than I could have imagined, especially overnight, and often want to nurse for comfort when they get startled, overtired or over-stimulated. I feel like I’m finally turning a corner in terms of the pain now that she’s two weeks old, but I find it very psychologically trying to  be the only source of food and soothing for such a tiny being. It makes recovering from labor and delivery that much harder, too, and because you’re not supposed to pump for the first few weeks, nobody else can step in to give you relief  unless you decide to supplement with formula. Add to all this the fact that society is super judgmental about the choice to breastfeed or not, and moms can be left feeling guilty, inadequate and exhausted. If I said I hadn’t considered giving up in the first few days, I’d be completely lying. Thanks to the kind words of many moms in my life, I am trying to keep going. Here’s what’s helped.

The “My Brest Friend” pillow. Essential.

Screw the Boppy, this is the best breastfeeding pillow around. It straps around your waist and perfectly positions the baby in your lap so you don’t have to hold her up against your tummy to latch. It offers back support and has a little pouch for your water bottle, cell phone, snack, lanolin cream, etc. I use it on the couch, in bed, in the rocking chair, you name it. What you don’t need: extra covers. They sell them, and they’re very pretty, but use your money on something else. Like diapers.

$21.98 nursing camisoles at Motherhood Maternity. Comes in six colors.

Good nursing tanks and bras will make you the most comfortable while breastfeeding. A friend sent me these from Motherhood Maternity, and I really like the snap-down front. I also bought this bra for day and this one for night at Target, and wear both with regular shirts (although having a v-neck or button-down neckline helps when baby’s frantic and you’re in a hurry to nurse). I’m only wearing leggings, yoga pants and cotton skirts on bottom, since I still have sutures that need to heal and comfort is paramount. Nursing tanks are great because you can layer them with a pretty cardigan if you have to leave the house or have visitors over and want to look human. Other great options for colder weather include hoodies, soft cotton button-downs, henleys that can be undone, and scoop-neck shirts that can be pulled down in front.

A super comfy and stylish henley from LL Bean.
A super comfy and stylish henley from LL Bean.

What else do you need for nursing? Snacks are key, as is lots of water. Breastfeeding is dehydrating and also requires between 300 and 500 extra calories per day, so I even leave granola bars, dried fruit and oatmeal raisin cookies on the nightstand for middle-of-the-night feedings. Most babies vary between 10 and 40 minutes per feeding, and those long sessions can really leave you starving and shaky if you don’t stay ahead of your appetite. I also like to keep my Nook, some fluff reading (think People magazine) and my iPad handy. Sometimes I play music to relax us both, or I catch up on Netflix if I need to keep my hands free to help her latch.

Our baby doesn’t seem to respond to pacifiers yet, but the pediatrician told us it’s fine to give them one if they’ve been fed and are demanding the breast for comfort soon after. It’s more important to preserve your tender skin for the next session and not let them use you as a pacifier, as long as you know they’re full. We got lots of brands as gifts, but have been told Soothies are the best for breastfed babies to minimize nipple confusion. I’ll update this post in the future when I know what we ended up using. Along those same lines, we bought Phillips Avent bottles designed to have a slower flow that mimics the way milk “lets down” from the breast, so you can offer pumped milk to your newborn and not cause them to reject your nipple. So far we are using the newborn nipples but they have a wide range of “flows” so that you can keep increasing as the baby gets older. We based our bottle decision off the top-rated brand in the Bible (by which I mean the Baby Bargains book, a.k.a the only book you need when you’re pregnant). The top-rated bottles in there were Phillips Avent and Dr. Brown’s, and it comes down to personal preference on which to choose between those two. I know of folks who swear by Dr. Brown’s for fussy babies, but honestly, they have about fifty bazillion pieces to dissemble and wash, and with a 100-year-old house, we have no dishwasher (plus a dad who’s often gone 12 hours a day and not able to help wash bottles). Maybe if you’re a stay-at-home parent or have a dishwasher (mechanical or human), but otherwise, ain’t nobody got time for that. I also have friends who have loved Tommee Tippee and Playtex bottles, so those come highly recommended as well. If you’re interested, here is the Medela hands-free pump I bought. It’s the fastest and most hands-free/portable option short of a hospital grade pump. Sadly insurance does not pay for this one (at least not public employee insurance like we have), so you’ll have to pony up for this one if it’s important to you to be able to do other things while pumping, and to do it as quickly and quietly as possible.

The Medela Freestyle, a hands-free double electric hospital-grade pump.

Last but not least, if you find yourself with bleeding, cracked or burning nipples, it can’t hurt to keep a ready-to-feed bottle of newborn formula on the nightstand. If it can buy you 4 or 5 hours to heal, it might make all the difference in you continuing to breastfeed your baby long term, even exclusively. Two things I found useful for soothing wrecked nipples: reusable cooling gel pads, and Lansinoh lanolin cream.  The cream is particularly nice because you don’t have to wash it off before feedings.

I also found it helpful to have a reference book on breastfeeding handy, and the bible on this seems to be The Nursing Mother’s Companion. I read it before having Georgia, and found it twice as useful after she came home when I was having a lot of trouble.

FOR BATHING

Talk about scary — bathing a newborn?! Luckily they don’t get that dirty so you only have to give them a “bath” 1 or 2 times a week. And until their umbilical stump falls off, it can only be a sponge bath. All you really need here are some soft washcloths (I find homemade has been best), a couple hooded bath towels, and baby hair & body cleanser. The hospital gave us Johnson’s Baby Wash but we are not wild about its ingredients, so we have purchased natural products from The Honest Company, BabyGanics and California Baby. In my opinion, the softest, best-sized hooded towels come from Pottery Barn Kids. We registered for a set of Winnie the Pooh towels and washcloths from Babies R’ Us, but they fell apart after just a couple washes, and were scratchier than we’d hoped they would be. Save your money — spending more up front really does make a difference!

Pottery Barn’s Gingham bath set.
FOR POOPING

Changing diapers: probably the least difficult newborn skill to master. Mark did the first few in the hospital and now he does the lion’s share of changes at home, too, since I’m on 24/7 boobie duty. My top suggestion here is to buy plenty of diapers and wipes before you go into labor, because you’ll go through them faster than you can imagine when baby is home. Dozens a day at least. We explored the option of cloth diapers, both the kind you wash yourself and the kind you send out with a service, but for a variety of reasons we decided it wasn’t right for us. If you want to know more about my reasons, I’m happy to share, but I know people feel passionately about this issue (as with all things baby-related). If you are committed to cloth, MamaNatural has a great guide to selecting the right option, plus tutorials for cleaning them. If you’re in the Boston area, Diaper Lab is the best in-person resource. So, we are trying all the eco-friendly, non-petroleum-based brands available, and at this stage are sticking with the ones that fit her best physically to prevent messy blowouts. I’ve already had to put all three bassinet pads and her changing pad in the wash due to bad blowouts with ill-fitting diapers, so fit is critical — brand be damned! As for wipes, we are also buying the “sensitive” and eco-friendly versions of each brand, and so far we like The Honest Company and Seventh Generation Free & Clear, available at Target or online, as well as Costco’s Kirkland brand wipes. We bought a changing pad that we mounted to her dresser, but to be honest we only end up using the portable changing pad that came with my diaper bag because you can slap it down on the couch, the guest bed, the back seat of the car, wherever.

Carter’s Zip Front Diaper Bag. Doubled as a hospital bag for me! $50 at Babies R’ Us, often marked down to $39.99. Mark has a more gender-neutral, messenger-style diaper bag from Skip Hop that is awesome.

To leave the house, all you need is the pad, a couple diapers, a spare outfit and a pack of travel wipes. If you want to use diaper cream with each change to prevent a rash and make cleanup easier, we recommend Butt Paste and California Baby. While I started out not wanting to use any product with oil refinery by-products, such as Aquaphor, a couple of multi-week bleeding diaper rashes forced me to adopt vaseline as a healing ointment, and it truly was the only thing that worked. So I’ve changed my tune. Last but not least, get a diaper pail such as Diaper Genie (what we have and like so far) or Ubbi. Ubbi is more stylish looking and doesn’t require special refill bags, but the Diaper Genie was taller — important to Mark — and had a foot pedal for hands-free operation.

FOR EVERYTHING ELSE

There are so many other little things. Such as: hand sanitizer for you and your guests to use before touching the baby and after diaper changes; newborn hats, even in summer; fragrance-free laundry detergent for baby’s clothing (we use Honest Company); and a nightlight for your hallway to make middle-of-the-night diaper changes and feedings easier (even if the little one is in your room, you’ll appreciate having this ambient light from the hallway instead of turning on your bedside lamp and waking everyone up completely). We haven’t used our baby carriers yet, but we got an Ergo Baby and a Moby wrap, and I’ve heard great things about the Baby K’Tan. If you’re interested in what we use for our car seat and carriage(s), we have the Chicco KeyFit (awesome) and caddy (BEYOND ESSENTIAL), and the City Mini GT (which has a height-adjustable handle to accommodate 5-foot-tall Mom and 6’4″ Dad!) We also considered the UppaBaby Vista or Cruz and the Bumbleride Indie, which are much pricier and (if I’m being honest) a little bit snobby and status-y, but ruled out both because they were significantly heavier and also — critically — too wide to fit on the MBTA (Boston’s 100-year-old subway system), so we stuck to the one everyone in the city seems to have. (Read a funny rant on this from another Boston mom blogger here). Friends seem to also love the Britax B-Agile and the Bob Revolution, so those might be worth checking out. We keep the fold-able caddy in the car, pop the car seat in for errands, and we’ll use the City Mini just around the neighborhood until she outgrows her infant seat. The City Mini also has an optional, affordable car seat bracket mounter.

The ErgoBaby carrier can be used from birth with the newborn insert. Baby can ride front, back or on the hip, always inward-facing. Newer versions, such as the Ergo 360, allow even more positions, including forward-facing when baby is worn on your front. Another popular brand is the Tula.

Last but not least, remember to take care of yourself, Mama. Minimize visitors (we learned this the hard way) so you don’t over-tire baby or miss out on naps yourself, and accept any and all requests for help in cleaning your house, doing your laundry, or bringing you food. The hospital will tell you to take home a supply of the maternity pads, mesh underwear and witch hazel wipes they provided during your stay, and you should take them up on this offer. In fact, ask for extras. If you are really uncomfortable healing from a tear, I can’t recommend Dermoplast spray highly enough for the pain and itching. It’ll help you sit and sleep while the stitches are dissolving and making your life impossible. And, call your doc to see if you’re allowed to take sitz baths, which can help tremendously (provided you can find someone to hold the baby for long enough to go take one). Healing takes time and every little bit helps. Take care of yourself. XOXO

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