Tag: parenting

Survival Guide for Parents with a New Baby

Survival Guide for Parents with a New Baby

You just had a baby or adopted a newborn. Congratulations! This is a momentous occasion and a life-changing event. You may have anticipated the bonding experiences with your baby, those quiet moments of cuddling and cooing, singing and playing. The first time he or she smiles or laughs will warm your heart.

All babies are unique. Some are mellow little cherubs content to eat, sleep, and snuggle with very little fussing. Others may be more of a handful, perhaps due to a more sensitive nature or physical challenges like reflux. Still others can make the first month or so a nightmare, with unconsolable crying for hours on end, barely sleeping for longer than 45 minutes, or being awake for hours during the night.

The first two months, though filled with lovely and wonderful moments, can also be quite difficult for parents. Here is my practical guide for surviving these tough times. If you are new to motherhood or fatherhood, this survival guide will help! (Dads, there is a special note at the bottom just for you.)

1. Sleep!

I know, I know. Everyone tells you about the importance of sleep and to “sleep when baby sleeps”. You are probably thinking right now: “Sure, it is easy to say but I can’t sleep when baby sleeps or nothing would get done.”

Perhaps baby is nursing every hour or you have to pump on a rigid schedule. Maybe just when you close your eyes to rest, the baby starts fussing or your older children demand attention. Maybe baby has finally fallen asleep but it is almost time for dinner and all of your dishes are dirty in the sink. I know how you feel. I have been there. 

But let me also remind you of something you already know: sleep is vital to our physical and mental health. Two to three hours a night, broken up into ten minutes here and twenty minutes there, is not sufficient sleep. The days and weeks after childbirth are already challenging, but if you do not get enough rest, you may unintentionally contribute to postpartum depression.

I was there. I experienced this with my second child. We had an extremely fussy/needy newborn and an 18-month-old who was teething at the same time.

The sleep deprivation contributed to my own postpartum depression, which did not resolve itself until about five and a half weeks postpartum when baby was finally sleeping for two to four hours stretches so I could sleep, too. I was too prideful to admit that I had a sleep problem. I was determined to fix it on my own, but I needed to ask for help. My husband was a lifesaver. He would watch the kids while I napped or drop the toddler off at his parents for the afternoon.

To be able to function, you need to consistently get 5 or more hours of sleep within a twenty-four hour period of time. Have your spouse watch the baby while you take a nap. Ask family to come over to watch the baby. Do what you have to do to get some sleep.

2. Eat healthy and eat often.

With the craziness that a newborn brings, you might find yourself skipping a meal here and there or grabbing a less-than-nutritious snack instead. If it only happens on a rare occasion, you are probably fine, but this can cause problems if it becomes a common occurrence.

You just had a baby so your body is in recovery and you may be breastfeeding as well. Your body needs proper nutrition to fuel recovery and to make the milk your baby needs. If you skip too many meals, your daily caloric intake may drop too low too fast. This can negatively impact your milk production and might even contribute to health problems for you.

Make sure you eat well-balanced meals throughout the day.

You may find that you need to eat a little less but more frequently (like when you were pregnant). Even if you do not feel hungry, eat something healthy. (Oats are good for you and aid in milk production!) Or maybe you have discovered that you have a ravenous appetite and you are afraid you will either gain more weight or not lose the baby weight so you are trying to put yourself on a diet.

Firstly, it is too soon to go on a diet. Your body is already going through so many changes right now, don’t make it have to work even harder. Secondly, if you are breastfeeding, some women find that they have to have a little extra weight to maintain a healthy milk supply. (I am one of them.) Thirdly, it took nine months to gain the weight, allow yourself at least a year to lose it.

If you eat healthy, snack healthy, and do moderate exercise on a daily basis, you will gradually slim down.

3. Shower at least every other day, but everyday if possible.

You may find yourself hyper-focused on caring for the new baby’s needs that you neglect your own most basic needs. Showering not only keeps you clean, but it can help you relax and deal with stress. Find the time to take a shower.

Whether it is in the early morning before the baby wakes up, mid-morning when your mom or sister or best friend comes over to watch the baby, the middle of the afternoon when baby is napping, after your husband comes home from work in the evening, or late at night right before bed. The when does not matter. Just do it. You will be glad you did!

Perhaps you are alone. Maybe you are a single parent, your spouse works long hours or is away from home for days at a time, or you have no family nearby to help. Maybe baby is crying hysterically even though s/he has been fed, burped, and changed.

My advice is to put baby down in a safe place (crib, bassinet, rock ‘n play, etc.) and take a quick five or ten minute shower. Hard though it may be to listen to, it is okay for a baby to cry a little. It is better for baby to cry in a safe place for five to ten minutes while you take a much needed emotional break then for you to become overwhelmed and, perhaps, lose your temper.

4. Understand that some housework won’t get done for awhile.

Dishes may pile up in the sink, toilets may not get cleaned for a week or two, vacuuming may go undone, clothes might pile up in the basket. And it is okay!

If you gave birth, remember that you just gave birth to a human being! Not only do you now have this precious little bundle to care for, but you are also physically recovering from a very physically demanding and sometimes traumatizing event. In the immediate days and weeks after childbirth, your body will be flooded with various hormones as your body shifts from pregnancy-mode to post-pregnancy-mode.

You will be bonding with your newborn, experiencing your milk coming in, figuring out breastfeeding via nursing or pumping, possibly figuring out bottle-feeding, barely sleeping, and so much more. Your body is going through many changes (not all visible) and this can wreck havoc on your emotions.

If you have adopted a baby, you now have this precious little bundle to care for and many of the baby-related things I mention above also apply to you! Bonding with your newborn, figuring out feeding, barely sleeping, emotional rollercoasters, etc. It is okay if the house is not spotless.

5. Ask for help!

Bottom line, Mamas, you have a lot to cope with in the first two months. And if you have older children, it will be that much harder as you navigate caring for your baby and your old children, too. So give yourself grace. Focus on what is most important: your child(ren) are fed, clean, and loved and you also are fed, clean, and rested.

If the mess really bothers you and causes stress or anxiety or you cannot get enough sleep or you need a break, ask for help. From your spouse, your parents, your siblings, your friends, your neighbors. Do not allow your pride to cause you to suffer in silence. It is not good for you, not good for baby, and not good for your family.

Be specific in what you ask for: please watch the baby while I do dishes, can you make us a meal, would you be able to clean the bathrooms, can you babysit the older child(ren) for two hours, etc.

 

Remember, you are amazing! You gave birth or adopted this precious little one. The first two months can be heavenly if you have a more mellow child, very challenging if you have a fussy newborn, or anywhere in between.

Sometimes your newborn maybe quite contented and then, suddenly, s/he cries hysterically. Go through the checklist first: fed, burped, changed, held; and repeat if necessary. Most babies cry for a reason, but it might be hard to pinpoint the exact reason in the heat of the moment. It is okay to feel confused and overwhelmed.

You may or may not know that many babies become more fussy during growth spurts (physical and developmental). After all, baby’s main job during his or her first year is to grow, grow, grow! These growth spurts tend to happen between Weeks 1-3, Weeks 6-8, three months, six months, and nine months. (But all babies are different so yours might hit a growth spurt sooner or later.)

If you are still not sure what is going on with your baby or concerned about a symptom (perhaps excessive spit up, unconsolable crying for hours every day), ask your pediatrician.

As my mom always said, “Motherhood is hard enough on its own, don’t make it even harder on yourself.”

Some women experience a beautiful, storybook newborn stage, and that is wonderful. However, many of us will face challenges, often outside our control, and we have to navigate those challenges carefully.

Do not expect every newborn to be the same. Just because your first was an angel who slept through the night within a week and hardly ever cried, does not mean your second will be the same, and vice versa. Do not compare yourself with other moms or your baby with other babies. Take advice — from people, books, and the internet — with a grain of salt. Do what feels right to you, but always keep your baby’s health in mind.

And, above all, remember that God chose you to be this precious child’s mother. Trust your instincts. If something feels off with you or the baby, get help. You do not have to be superwoman. You do not have to do this alone.

And if you need help, do not think any less of yourself or think you are a failure if you cannot do things perfectly. The fact that you recognized your need and sought the right solution (whatever it may be) means that you are absolutely amazing.

Yes, you are AMAZING.

 

Side note to fathers:

Dads, your wife just had a baby. Were you present during her labor and delivery? If so then you realize just how physically demanding giving birth is, and the recovery time can be weeks or even months, depending on her unique situation. If not, just take my word for it.

If you are the kind of guy who normally helps out around the house, then you are already ahead of the game. I want to thank you on your wife’s behalf for being awesome. Keep doing what you are doing and know that you might have to do a little extra for awhile until your wife is feeling better.

If you are not used to helping and have always relied on your wife to maintain the house, then we need to have a little chat. Your wife just had a baby. (I know I already said that, but it needs to be said again.) Her body is recovering. She will be uncomfortable, exhausted, and might even experience pain. She might have difficulty doing things she normally can do. Her emotions might be on a rollercoaster of highs and lows, she is also severely sleep deprived, and if you have older children, she will probably be even more exhausted.

Now is the time for you to step up and be her hero.

Make a meal (it does not have to be fancy), tidy up the kitchen, throw in a load of laundry, watch the crying baby for an hour or two while your wife naps, anything that you can do, now is the time to do it. Sure, you may have no clue what you are doing but you are smart, you can figure it out. And don’t do it for the recognition, do it because you love your wife and you want to help her recovery.

 

To recap: sleep, eat healthy, shower, don’t fret over housework, and ask for help when you need it. This is my survival guide for parents with a new baby. If you are a mom or dad, what tips helped you survive the first two months? Share your experiences in the comments below!

10 Favorite Baby and Toddler Products from Amazon

10 Favorite Baby and Toddler Products from Amazon

Disclosure: The links in this post may be affiliate links, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I may receive a commission for purchases. Learn more. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog.

Our oldest son is just a few months shy of his second birthday and our youngest is now three months. Where does the time go? When you are in the midst of the newborn stage, it may seem like the days last forever, but once you reach the toddler age, it seems as if time is flying by. Peanut, our oldest, is now forming very basic sentences, holding conversations, able to answer questions, and follow simple instructions. Pickle, our youngest, is starting to smile, coo, and try to grab ahold of things like his blanket or bottle.

Over the last two years, we have made quite a few purchases specifically for our children that we absolutely love. To find quality products at affordable prices, we often turn to Amazon. We like that delivery is timely, and we have not had any items arrive damaged. When you are a parent with toddlers and/or babies, ordering from Amazon is often easier and more cost effective than trying pack up the kids to drive to brick-and-mortar stores.

So if you have little ones of your own or looking for gift ideas, I want to share with you ten of our favorite baby and toddler products that we either purchased from or are now available on Amazon.

Boppy Nursing Pillow
We added the Boppy Nursing Pillow to our baby registry at the recommendation of a friend who loved hers. Ours has been used for many, many things but, unfortunately, rarely breastfeeding! (Read Our Breastfeeding Journey and Breastfeeding Challenges, Round 2.) I must say that the boppy pillow was an arm saver during our second son’s extremely fussy newborn stage. I spread a large receiving blanket over the pillow and was able to lay him down on the pillow next to me when my arms got tired. I am so glad that we had this pillow!

 

SwaddleMe Slumber Buddies, Elephant Soother and Sound Machine
When it comes to a soother and sound machine, there are so many choices out there. We saw this adorable elephant soother that plays three different lullabies, the sound of running water, and a heartbeat in addition to projecting the stars and the moon on the ceiling. We have used the music/sounds with both boys to help them fall asleep, and now our oldest also loves staring up at the stars projected on the ceiling.

 

BabyBjorn
If you are looking for a baby carrier, I tried four different carriers and wraps with our first son before settling on the BabyBjorn Carrier Original. We live in the Arizona desert, and in the summer temperatures often reach 110-115 degrees for days (even weeks) at a time. Wraps with tons and tons of fabric was miserably hot for me and our baby. I came close to overheating once! The BabyBjorn also provides a sense of safety and security that the I did not have with the wraps. As for carriers, it is one of the more affordable, especially if you wait for a deal online or find one in good condition at a local secondhand store.

 

Fisher-Price Infant-to-Toddler Rocker
My parents actually purchased this for us, and we are so grateful! This chair was helpful with our first son and a lifesaver with our second! It rocks or locks in a reclined position, and has a nice vibration that helps lulls fussy babies to sleep. Even our toddler likes to climb into it (as long as his baby brother is not already there). I highly recommend the Fisher-Price Infant-to-Toddler Rocker, and it comes in multiple color choices and fabric patterns.

Mom’s Choice: If I had to narrow down my recommendation to just one item, it would be this vibrating rocker. It was tremendously helpful for both of our sons during their infant stage. It is also lightweight and relatively small. We have taken it with us many times while visiting family, especially if we plan to stay all day.

 

Baby Adjustable Head Shoulder Safety Pad
When our oldest started standing, we gave him the nickname “Mr. Wobbles” because he was so unsteady and often fell. After a few hard bonks on the head, we knew we had to find something! We searched and eventually decided to give this adorable head and shoulder pad a try. It worked like a charm! Our son continued to tumble while learning to stand and then walk, but this pad saved his little noggin!

 

 

Tommee Tipee Bibs
We tried many, many different types of bibs, but on the recommendation of our cousins, we gave Tommee Tippee waterproof silicone bibs a try. I absolutely love them! We ended up getting four so both set of grandparents could keep one at their respective houses and we have two at home. These bibs are waterproof, which makes them super easy to clean, and the large scoop shape at the end of the bib catches food and beverages. No kid is ever going to be super clean (Where is the fun in that?) but this does help contain the mess and makes clean up a breeze. Bonus: you don’t have to throw these bibs in the laundry!

Dad’s Choice: My husband absolutely loves the Tommee Tippee waterproof silicone bibs and highly recommends them. He does the laundry in our household and is also a stay-at-home dad, so he understands the value in a fast and easy clean up after meal time! I cannot believe we went 17 months without these amazing bibs.

 

NorthStates SuperYard
If you need some way to contain your crawling baby or walking toddler, I highly recommend NorthStates SuperYard. We initial bought ours after brainstorming what we might need when we were taking our oldest camping for the first time. You can use it indoors or outside! We even put our SuperYard with gate to good use dividing our living room area from the kitchen/dining room areas in order to allow our children a dog-free zone to play. (And to provide our poor old dog some much needed relief from the kids!)

 

 

Eric Carle Bear Backpack, Children’s Safety Harness
I am going to be honest. When my husband first suggested getting our oldest one of those backpacks with a leash, I bulked at the idea. But after our son slipped from my grasp twice and immediately ran towards the neighbor’s driveway and the street, I knew we needed someway to help him learn to “stay with Mama” or “stay with Dada” that would not put his life in danger. Especially when the new baby arrived! So we purchased this adorable backpack. We have used it a dozen times so far, and usually in places where we wanted to allow him the freedom to walk on his own but needed to ensure he stayed close to us for his own safety.

 

Dreambaby Blind Cord Wind Ups
The house we are renting uses old plastic blinds with long cords. Two blinds in particular — one in our boys’ room and one in the living room — pose potential safety risks as our oldest can now reach the dangling cords when standing on his bed or the couch. We knew we needed to get those cords up and out of his reach. Not sure what would work, we gave the Dreambaby Blind Cord Wind Ups a try. Because our cords are extra long, we have to use two of the wind ups per window, but it secures the cords high out of our son’s reach. We just have to remember to pull above the wind ups if we need to lift/open the blinds. Still, for a very affordable price, this safety tool is very useful.

Dream On Me Deluxe Toddler Day Bed
We knew we needed to transition our oldest son to his own big boy bed before the baby arrived, so we searched and searched for the perfect toddler bed at nice price. Eventually, we discovered the Dream On Me Deluxe Toddler Day Bed. Not only is it a good size that he can grow into, but it has a divided drawer underneath. In a house that has very limited storage, the drawer was a nice bonus. Peanut loves his bed, especially climbing in and out of it.

What is or was your favorite(s) baby or toddler purchase? Share in the comments!

3 ways to make special songs for your children

3 ways to make special songs for your children

Some of my fondest childhood memories include music. My mom almost always had music of some kind playing, especially in the car. As I grew up, I would remember bits and pieces of the songs. Songs like Baby belugaThe ants go marching one by one, an early Sesame Street audio tape with songs like Rubber Ducky and Low, Medium, High, and (my personal favorites) Psalty: Kids Praise 1-6. Sometimes there would be classical music or Maranantha Singers albums playing, too.

Now with two little ones of my own, I want to fill our house with music. Pandora has made it much easier to find the good old classic songs and new songs that fit our musical tastes. We created a “toddler” station and have customized it to play the songs we like. We have also created a separate “Sabbath School” station with children’s praise songs to listen to on Friday nights and Sabbath afternoons.

However, what is even more fun is creating your own, specialized songs just for your children. You do not have to be extremely musical to do this. I began making our own special songs when Peanut was just a few days old! Tired of singing the same children’s songs over and over and over to your young children? Maybe you need to change it up a bit! Here are three ways I make special songs for our children, and you can too!

1. Personalize a song you already sing.

This is one of the simplest methods for turning a song you already sing to your child into a special song. Find little ways to personalize the words. This could be adding your child’s name. For example, the little diddy Patty Cake (or Pat-a-cake) can be personalized by switching out the letter “b” for the first letter in your child’s name and word “baby” with your child’s name.

Patty cake, patty cake, Baker’s man
Bake me a cake as fast as you can.
Roll it. Pat it. Mark it with a “B“.
Put it in the oven for Baby and me!

2. Add more verses to a known song.

You can take it one step further and add a new verse or two to a song you sing regularly. When our son reached the age of fussing and wriggling during diaper changes, I began singing The wheels on the bus song because it could be as long or as short as I needed to keep his attention while I changed the messy diaper. He also loved making the various bus sounds. As the weeks turned into months, I began adding personalized verses with my son’s name, mama and dada and, now that he has a younger brother, baby, too!

The child’s name on the bus says:
Hip-hip hooray!
Hip-hip hooray!
Hip-hip hooray!
The child’s name on the bus says:
Hip-hip hooray!
All through the town.

The dada on the bus says:
Sit on down!
Sit on down!
Sit on down!
The dada on the bus says:
Sit on down!
All through the town.

The baby on the bus says:
Waa! Waa! Waa!
Waa! Waa! Waa!
The baby on the bus says:
Waa! Waa! Waa!
All through the town.

The mama on the bus says:
I love you!
I love you!
I love you!
The mama on the bus says:
I love you!
And dada loves you, too!

3. Put new words to a familiar tune.

If you are very bold (or perhaps tired of singing the same songs over and over for years), you can create your own special song using a familiar tune. As parents who sing a lot to your kids, you might have noticed that Alphabet Song, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and Baa Baa Black Sheep all use the same exact tune. Guess what? You can use it, too! You just need to make sure that the syllables in your words match up with the notes close enough for the song to flow.

There is a common nighttime prayer that has many different variations. When our first son was born, we received an adorable little praying teddy bear that recites a version that goes:

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray my soul the Lord to keep
Your love be with me through the night
And wake me with the morning light.

The cadence matches the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star perfectly. It just needed two more lines, which I actually wrote before I had the idea to put the prayer to music. I created these additional lines late at night when trying to lull our firstborn to sleep during his first bout of teething. It is kind of an exhausted mother (or father)’s mini-prayer!

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray my soul the Lord to keep
Your love be with me through the night
And wake me with the morning light.
May I sleep the whole night through
And Mama and Dada sleep well, too.

Then, late at night while trying to soothe our son to sleep and after exhausting all of the other songs, I would sing the nighttime prayer to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle. Here is a recording:

 

Another familiar tune that makes a great melody to personalized songs is Jesus Loves Me. I sometimes sing the above nighttime prayer song to this tune as well!

 

One of our son’s favorite songs is what I call “Little Dino-saurus”. It is a fun action song that uses dinosaur imagery, because what little kid is not fascinated by dinosaurs? Best of all, it is sung to a modified version of “Little Bunny Foo Foo” (sometimes known as “Little Rabbit Foo Foo”).

Little Dino-saurus (lyrics)
Written by Jacquelyn Van Sant

Little dino-saurus
Running through the forest.
Rawr! Rawr! Dino-sawr!
Chasing you and me!

Run, run, run, run
Run from dino-saurus!
Run, run, run, run
Run from dino-saurus!

Little dino-saurus
Running through the forest.
Rawr! Rawr! Dino-sawr!
Chasing you and me!

You can easily customize the song by changing the “dino” to part of your child’s name. For example, a Benjamin could be “benji-saurus” or a Zachary could be “zack-a-sarus” or a Molly could be “molly-saurus” or a Sara could be a “sara-saurus”. It is actually quite fun! Here is a recording I made with two examples.

 

The best thing with these three simple ways of making special song(s) for your children is that you do not need to be overly musical to do so. It just takes time, creativity, and a bit of basic rhyming. You can play around with the words and rhymes each time you sing the song until it sounds right to you. I have spent the last twenty months perfecting the examples I shared above as well as a few other songs. Children love to hear their names in songs and as they get older, they will sing with you!

Have you personalized a song or created a new song for your children? Share in the comments!

Breastfeeding Challenges, Round Two

Breastfeeding Challenges, Round Two

Disclosure: One of the links below is an affiliate link, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission when you click through and make a purchase. I use this product myself on a daily basis. Thanks for supporting the brands that support this blog.

For those familiar with Our Breastfeeding Journey, you already know that we experienced some challenges breastfeeding with our first son Peanut. It began due to his tiny size at birth (only 4 lbs 11 oz) and a very severe tongue tie. To provide breastmilk for him, I pumped from day one and during his growth spurts we had to supplement. He was able to finally nurse on his own by thirteen weeks old, though I continued to primarily pump because I was working full time. I was able to provide breastmilk until my supply dried up on its own at ten months, right around when we conceived our second son.

Our adorable son, Pickle, is now two months old!

I wish I could tell you that this time our breastfeeding journey was easier, but in some ways it was even harder. The first week and half went great. Pickle latched and nursed right away, and his latch was good. Yet when he was a week and half, we started noticing that he would spend 45 minutes on just one breast, fall asleep often during nursing, and would cry hysterically when awake as if he was still hungry. At our two week appointment, we discovered Pickle had not gained any weight. He was born 6 lbs 10 oz, but at two weeks old was 6 lbs 3 oz. The pediatrician was concerned because he had not even regained his birth weight.

We had to start formula feeding right away, and the pediatrician wanted to see him in two days. Two days later, he was 6 lbs 13 oz. We were relieved!

But I was also devastated… again.

Because Pickle latched and we thought he was nursing well, I had allowed myself to believe that this time I would be able to breastfeed and would only need to pump to build a freezer stash for when I returned to work. Unfortunately, Pickle was not draining the milk. This caused two problems: he was not getting the fatty milk to gain weight and my body was getting the signal to make less milk because there was “extra” being left. At two weeks, when I started pumping regularly, I barely was getting 2 oz a session. My supply was almost non-existent!

Baby Pickle at one month old.
Our adorable little Pickle at one month old.

I tried every trick in the book to increase my supply. I pumped long, I pumped frequently, I drank herbal teas, I drank tons of water, I ate foods with oats (and I absolutely detest oatmeal, but I forced myself to start eating it), I even began taking fenugreek tablets and adding milk thistle to some juice. Exhausted and sore, I was still barely getting 2 oz a session. Then I started getting dizzy spells and, after researching, discovered I must be one of the very rare individuals who experience side effects when taking fenugreek. I stopped taking it.

With Pickle not even a month old, I broke down and nearly gave up completely. At this time, Pickle was 90% formula fed and I was pumping so little milk that I came very close to just quitting. Was this torture worth it? Nothing I was doing seemed to be making a difference, and pumping takes so much time and was painful.

You might be thinking: “Why don’t you just let the baby nurse? If he is hungry enough, he’ll figure it out.” When we were forced to introduce bottles, Pickle completely refused to nurse again. I tried many, many, many times, but he completely stopped nursing. Putting him to breast only resulted in him shaking his head from side to side violently and crying hysterically. It was heartbreaking. For my own sake, I had to stop pushing.

In addition to the stress of a low milk supply and him not wanting to nurse anymore, Pickle was not an easy going newborn. He refused to sleep at night and often cried unconsolably for long periods of time. Usually these crying sessions were between 8pm and 1am! And when he did finally fall asleep, he would sleep for only an hour or hour and a half. At the same time, our older son Peanut started getting his molars and was also not sleeping well. There were many days where I barely managed to get 2 or 3 hours of sleep… and not in one nice deep sleep. Oh, no. It was ten minutes here, twenty minutes there, etc.

Due to the lack of sleep, the stress of an unconsolable newborn, hardly producing any milk, a teething toddler, and a few other stressors, I was quickly spiraling towards postpartum depression. But more on that in a future post!

We managed to push through with many tears thanks to the prayers of our family and closest friends and also a shipment of breastmilk from Bradley’s cousin-in-law, whose own baby is a few months older than Pickle. He still needed a little supplementing with soy formula at night, but her generosity ensured that Pickle was getting the benefits of some breastmilk during the crucial early weeks when I was hardly making any at all. Since then, we have gotten a second shipment. We are so grateful!

Then I found a method of pumping that replicates a baby’s cluster feeding before and during a growth spurt and encourages the body to produce more milk. I also ate lots of oats every day in the form of Nature’s Path Gluten-free Oatmeal, General Mills Cheerios, and a new probiotic almond/cashew milk with oats by Silk. (Mind you, oats and I have a love-hate relationship. I have to eat them for milk production, but oats cause me considerable digestive discomfort.) Very slowly, day by day, half an ounce here and there, my supply began to increase.

Pickle at two months. Photo by Jacquelyn.
Pickle at two months old! He tends to be a very serious-looking baby.

At almost nine weeks, I am now pumping 19-20 oz a day on average, though I am still trying to get more since Pickle is eating 35+ oz each day now. At a little over two months old, Pickle eats everything I pump, about 8-10 oz of frozen milk from our cousin-in-law, and 5-10 oz of soy formula a day. During growth spurts, he gets more formula. My prayer and goal is to continue pumping whatever I can until he is ten months old (the same age Peanut was when he weaned), but we just have to take it one day at a time.

So it seems that pumping — as tiring, frustrating, and sometimes painful as it is — is our normal.

Being completely honest, there are times when I want to just throw in the towel altogether. Pumping is not fun, it is time consuming, and it is not convenient.

First, you need to buy a heavy duty double electric pump if you don’t already have one. I personally use Medela’s Pump-in-Style (Tote) but there are many other pumps on the market. You lose precious sleep to pump during the night, and during the day you have to plan every little task and activity around your pumping schedule. Need to run an errand? I have to pump right before leaving and right when we get back or I have to pack up the big double electric pump and find 15 minutes to hide in a bathroom to pump for 15 minutes. Delaying or missing a pumping session immediately affects my milk supply, which means I have to pump twice as long the next time to compensate or risk a blocked milk duct and engorgement. (This is extremely painful!)

So… Yeah. I, unfortunately, am one of those women who has to pump if I want my babies to get any of my milk. I just have to remind myself that it is ok and every little bit helps.

Mind you, this is not an anti-formula post. Pickle gets at least one 5 oz bottle of formula a day, sometimes two during growth spurts. I understand even better now the very valid reasons why some women must or choose to formula feed their babies. Not every woman can produce enough milk on their own, or perhaps they have to return to work at three or six weeks, or maybe their workplace is not accommodating for pumping moms. Some women dislike breastfeeding, it can be painful or emotionally challenging for them.

What I am saying is that all reasons are valid reasons and you are a wonderful mother no matter what path your journey takes. You need to do what is right for you and your baby.

For me, I always wanted to breastfeed so not being able to do so with both of my children is disappointing. A dream has been completely shattered and it takes time to sort through the pieces. What truly matters, though, is that the children are well-fed and well loved. Breastfeeding challenges are not talked about often in our society, but they are actually fairly common around the world! I decided to share the details of our personal struggles to let other women who may also be experiencing challenges know that you are not alone, it is ok whatever route you take to feed your baby, and you are an amazing mother.

Our Breastfeeding Journey

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: 35 Weeks

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: 35 Weeks

Now that the holidays are over, you would expect things to slow down around here but that is not the case. We have officially reached 35 weeks with Baby #2 (we will call him “Pickle” today and see how it feels), and there is still quite a bit to do to prepare for his arrival. Also, at our appointment yesterday, my doctor seemed a little concerned he might come early and wants to prepare for that possibilty.

How far along: 35 Weeks

Size of baby: Pretty big, I would say, but that is just me. We’ll know more after our next ultrasound. (Scheduled for this week!) My belly has expanded quite a bit in the last two weeks, but I am right on target for maternal weight gain at 25 lbs.

Movement: He is definitely a mover and a shaker! It seems that the only time I have a little relief from his physical acrobatics is for a few hours mid-afternoon when he must be napping.

Sleep: I admit that sleep is quite a struggle right now, partially due to Pickle’s propensity for movement throughout the night and partially because even lying on my side leaves my body extremely achy. A pillow between the knees helps sometimes, but for a few nights now, I had to move to the couch so I could sleep in a more upright position. The last three nights, though, I have been falling unusually asleep early while putting Peanut to bed and am so out-of-it that my husband could not wake me up when he tried. Not so sure that is a good thing…

Workouts: Ha! Sadly, I have given up on routine exercise. I do try to walk a little, I take the stairs down (not up anymore), and I try to stand every now and then for a little bit while at work. I am in a bit of an awkward situation: I want to do more exercise but I also do not want to encourage Pickle to come too early. Peanut was two weeks early, and I was on bedrest for the week leading up to his birth.

Maternity clothes: Sadly, due to some weight gain in the thighs and derriere some of my work slacks are now a bit too snug to wear comfortably. I’m wearing my bigger maternity jeans more and more now.

Symptoms: Muscle soreness, joint aches, tightening of the abs, random pains here and there, tiredness… I would say I’m experiencing the usual late pregnancy symptoms. Fortunately, I did not experience any feet or ankle swelling until yesterday, and that was probably due to a number of factors (high sodium dinner the night before, a ton of extra walking in the few days before, and not putting my feet up at work like I usually do). Still, I will need to take it easy from now on.

Cravings/Aversions: Though I usually do not have a taste for sweets or chocolate, because of the recent holidays, we made cookies and chocolate fudge. While I did fairly well with being moderate in my cookie consumption, I found myself sneaking extra bites of the fudge when no one was looking.

To be fair, due to my food allergies and plant-based diet, I have not eaten fudge for almost eight years! But this holiday, I wanted fudge and found a vegan recipe that was amazingly delicious and so fudge-y. Even my non-vegan relatives and co-workers who tried it had no idea it wasn’t “normal” fudge and were asking for the recipe. I will share it on the blog later this week.

Missing most: Breathing when bending over, lifting my 15-month-old without straining, sleeping through the night without being kicked or waking due to various pains, and being all-around more physically active.

Preparing for baby: We are getting a toddler bed for Peanut so we can begin the transition from crib to big boy bed now, before the new baby comes. This also means we have to get the boys’ room done in the next week and a half! Since we have limited storage space, I also want to go through all of our baby clothes and keep only the ones we are going to use. We’ll also need to pack a hospital bag, confirm arrangements for Peanut, and get the bassinet assembled again. I should also get out the breast pump and make sure all of the parts are whole, sanitized, and do not need replacing. So much to do!

Cannot wait for: the arrival of our sweet little boy!

I am kind of hoping he will be a little early, because I would love a January baby. We do not have any January birthdays among our close family and there are already two birthdays in February.

Raising children on the principle of love

Raising children on the principle of love

My husband and I are Christians, meaning we are followers of Christ Jesus and strive to live according to His teachings. We both grew up in Christian households that shared similar foundational principles and, as a result, our beliefs have shaped our worldview, guide our thought processes, and influence our actions on a daily basis.

Before getting married — and long before children entered the picture — my husband and I talked about our overarching ideas and plans for raising any future children we might be blessed with. But, as when many things, parenting styles, goals, and philosophies tend to be more abstract until a little one is actually present.

Then it becomes real.

Since becoming parents to our son, we have had numerous discussions on how to parent. Not just the when and how to discipline conversations, though it is very important for both parents and any additional caregivers (like grandparents) are all on board with the decided methods of discipline. No, we began talking about the far-reaching results — some might even say consequences — of certain parenting styles, attitudes, behaviors, etc. Then we compared our childhoods and our parents’ parenting styles with all of the positives and negatives we could recall.

Every time we had one of these deep, self-evaluating discussions, we found ourselves circling back around to very simple but crucial questions:

  • How do we want to raise our children?
    • What kind of childhood and home environment do we want to provide for them?
    • What character traits do we want to nurture in our children?
    • What kind of people do we want them to grow up to become?
  • What parenting methods would achieve these goals?

In continuing my exploration into the idea of a heavenly home, I will attempt to share some of our answers to the above questions.

First and foremost, the type of childhood we desire for our children is one of joy, love, laughter, and learning in a home environment that is warm and nurturing.

To achieve that goal, we decided that we want to raise our children on the foundation of love. Deep, self-sacrificing, understanding, patient, resilient, courageous, unconditional love as modeled by Christ Jesus.

Out from this foundation of love grows other important character traits, such as respect for oneself and respect for others. We want our children to grow up with an understanding that, in spite of their flaws and mistakes, they are precious, valued, and loved for who they are as uniquely individual human beings.

Their worth and self-esteem is not based on what they do, how well they do it, how much they succeed or achieve, nor based on the opinions of others. That does not mean we will not have expectations for them, but we want to give them realistic expectations that encourage them to be the best version of themselves that they can be.

By extension, we want to instill in them a respect for others as precious individuals. We want to demonstrate this love and respect every day in our interactions with each other, with our children, and with those outside our family.

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8, ESV

We want to raise our children with the knowledge that God is love. We believe in a loving Creator who originally created this world perfect and intended for humanity to live perfect lives in peaceful harmony with Him, each other, and the nature around them. Because He is love, He did not create us as robots pre-programmed with a specific set of directives that must be followed.

He gave humanity the freedom of choice: free will. Because of free will, we each have the freedom to choose whether to love God and obey Him or not.

It is our hope that our children will come love God as we have but not out of fear or obligation or tradition. We desire for them to have an intelligent faith of their own and love God as a personal response to His love for them.

 “We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19, ESV
From this love, they will choose to follow His example and apply His teachings in practical ways in their daily lives. All of the teachings of the Bible can be summarized in these two principles:

“And he [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”” Matthew 22:36-40, ESV

Next time I will share some of the specific character traits and values we hope to instill in our children.

Join the discussion

What are the principles that guide your parenting style and philosophy? What type of childhood are you aiming to give to your children?

Peanut is getting a promotion…

Peanut is getting a promotion…

About two weeks ago, our little Peanut celebrated his 1st birthday. He is not really a little Peanut anymore. He is such a big boy now in many ways. He wants to feed himself, he is playing with toys more intentionally, he will find his favorite books for us read, and he loves to talk! (Sometimes it is words we can recognize!) He even took his first steps last week all on his own!

We actually had to postpone his 1st birthday party because he came down with his very first cold, which caused an ear infection. Poor little guy! In the end, he unintentionally gave his cold to me, both of his grandmothers, and even one grandfather and his dad had a few days where they were a little under the weather (though not nearly as sick as his grandmas and I were!).

Around the same time we were celebrating Peanut’s birthday, we also began sharing the news that he is getting a promotion to big brother!

Yes, that is right. We are having another little one!

The due date is still a little up in the air. We originally thought it was around January 28, 2018, but a recent ultrasound may suggest closer to February 10th. However, Baby #2 was not very cooperative during the scan so the tech was unable to get the full measurements that they like to have. We are going back in a few weeks for another try. I do not mind one way or another, because as I learned with Peanut, babies come when babies are ready to come.

So we could be anywhere between 18 and 20 weeks along, but I am showing much earlier with this pregnancy. (To be honest, this time around I feel and look huge.) Granted, this pregnancy has been extremely different from our first. With Peanut, I had the occasional nausea and some fatigue during the first trimester. This time I was sick all day long, from the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep, for a little over three months! The fatigue and aches and pains have been a bit challenging, as well.

Fortunately, I have been doing much better the last three or so weeks. I have gotten a lot of my energy back and am starting to exercise again. Nothing strenuous, but I need to get into decent shape to prepare for Baby #2’s arrival. I lost some weight during the first trimester when I could barely eat anything, but now I feel like I’m gaining a little too quickly. I’m already at the weight I was when Peanut was born! (To be fair, he was only 4 pounds 11 ounces at birth.)

So I’m gradually increasing the number of times I climb the stairs as work (I’m on the fourth floor), trying to walk more (I want to get back to a mile a day), and standing at my desk more (alternating that with propping my feet up!). I think these small changes will help.

We do know the gender of Baby #2, but I will save that announcement for next time.

If you have had multiple pregnancies, how have your pregnancies differed? What was similar between them?

Our children are watching: a response to hate

Our children are watching: a response to hate

Personal note from Jacquelyn: I have written and re-written this post a dozen times over the last few days. It is time to share it. I know this post is imperfect and, in spite of my humble efforts, cannot hope to grasp the entirety of the situation. Many books can and have been written on this topic! However, this is the coherent part of what has been weighing on my heart and mind over the last few days. (I have been a bit sleep deprived due to a teething baby.) My only hope is that it provides comfort and encouragement to those who need it and prick the hearts of others to take time to seriously re-evaluate their opinions and beliefs.

A response to hate

The violent and tragic acts of hate groups in recent days have deeply sadden me. It has taken me time to be able to put my thoughts into words. First, let me start by saying that my heart goes out to the family and friends of Heather Heyer, who was murdered by a man filled with hate and evil, and all of those who were injured in the same attack. Heather gave her life standing up for what she believed in: that all people are equal and should be treated with respect. I also pray for the family and friends of Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M. M. Bates of the Virginia State Police killed in a helicopter crash while responding to the situation. They gave their lives while serving and protecting their community, fulfilling their duty and serving with honor.

Let me be very clear: anyone who embraces ideology steeped in hatred, intolerance, and violence is NOT patriotic. White supremacists, KKK, Neo-Nazis… these people are pathetic COWARDS, filled with hate and fear — fear that they displace on others. Their contemptible words and vile actions reveal to the world that they have embraced evil.

We need to stand firm against hatred, fear, and intolerance. We need to stand for justice, equality, and freedom. However, remember that the world, the country, and our children are watching. We need to resist the temptation to return hatred for hatred, violence for violence, fear for fear. If we behave as they do and commit our own acts of violence against them, we become no better than the very groups we condemn.

We need to rise above knee-jerk, anger-filled reactions. The emotional response of anger itself is not necessarily wrong, but anger needs to be controlled or it will control us. We need to take the high road. Hard though it will be, we need to show compassion for hatred, peace instead of violence, love and unity in response to fear and division. Let us put aside arrogance and superiority, and start to esteem others as equals. Let us win with our words and actions, through our voices and our votes. Let how we respond lift up those who are downtrodden, encourage the discouraged, seek true justice, and show mercy towards the poor and vulnerable.

Our children are watching.

You CANNOT be a Christian (a proclaimed follower of Christ Jesus) and harbor hatred for others, especially whole groups of people based on arbitrary or imagined differences (skin color, ethnicity, religion, etc.). Let me repeat myself: you cannot be a Christian and a racist.

The Bible is very clear: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8, NKJV)

Christ Jesus Himself said: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27, NKJV)

And He also admonished His followers: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…” (Matthew 5:43-45, NKJV)

Our children are watching.

The Declaration of Independence, though written by flawed men, states a truth that is vital to be reminded of, especial at times like these: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

And I would like to add that among these unalienable Rights endowed by the Creator is the right of ALL people, especially those who have historically been marginalized and greatly mistreated, to respect and being treated as a valued human being. Native American, African-American, Hispanic-American, Asian-American, Arab-American, certain minorities among European-American have all experienced turmoil in our country’s history (including recently), though some groups (such as the Native Americans and African-Americans) have born more atrocities, persecution, degradation, and disenfranchisement than others. Sadly, to this day many communities still struggle with the aftermath of bias government policies and social prejudices.

We need to admit that our country is not perfect and has made many mistakes… Some downright and absolutely horrible, such as the removal of native people from their lands, the enslavement of Africans, the internment of American citizens of Japanese heritage, and more. We need to stand firm on the side of Truth and Justice for ALL and move forward together to fix what is broken in our country.

Hatred and violence is learned. So is peace and compassion. Let me repeat: We need to resist the temptation to return hatred for hatred, violence for violence, fear for fear. How about we try leaving the world — or even just our small piece of it — a better place?

Our children are watching. What are our words and actions teaching them?

Our children are watching. What are our responses and reactions to times of great upheaval saying about our hearts and our characters?

Our children are watching. What legacy are we leaving for them?

Our children are watching.

Camping with a baby

Camping with a baby

My husband and I love camping!

We usually camp on our own or with family and friends a few times a year. We also usually camp twice a year with our church’s Pathfinder Club. When our little one arrived last August, we knew that he would start camping with us pretty quickly. We want him to grow up loving the outdoors, exploring, and learning a respect for God’s creation.

Horton Creek in Arizona. Photo by Bradley Van Sant.
Lower Cascades along Horton Creek in Arizona. Photo by Bradley Van Sant.

On a recent Friday afternoon, we loaded up our vehicle, put our little one in his carseat, and drove two hours away to one of our favorite camping spots northeast of Payson, Arizona, and below the picturesque Mogollon Rim for a three-day, two-night camping trip.

This particular campsite is what is call an “established campground”, meaning that it has toilet facilities (little buildings with a hole in the ground but no sinks or showers), has a spicket for non-potable water, designated camping areas with picnic tables and metal fire-rings, and is maintained/monitored by a camp host.

For our first camping trip with an eight month old infant, it made sense to go to an established campground. We had the peace of mind that we were only about 20 minutes away from Payson proper and we could pack up quickly should we have to leave early. We also were figuring out how to pack our vehicle with less available space (carseat!) and more items (baby things!). In the end, we had to leave our canopy behind as it just did not fit this time.

Camping with a baby is easier than we thought it would be, and we were fairly positive about the experience going in. If you have been thinking about camping with your baby, do not be afraid trying it. All babies are different, but if you know your baby well and prepare, you may find camping with your baby is quite fun.

Mommy and baby posing at campsite in pine forest.
My little peanut and I after his first night sleeping in a tent.

As with all aspects of life after a baby, you do have to make adjustments to your plans to accommodate a little one. Here are nine tips based off what we learned while camping with our eight month old.

1. Clothing: Be prepared for the weather

It is always a good idea to know the weather forecast of the location you will be camping at, whether you are taking a baby or not, but with a baby, you need to be even more aware of weather.

Remember, out in nature, night time temperatures can vary significantly from day time temperatures. Babies lose body heat faster than adults, so you need to take the proper clothing for day and night. You also do not want to over-dress the baby and have them overheat. So I highly recommend packing clothes that can be layered.

Pack a hat or cap that fits closely over the baby’s head and, if possible, covers the ears. Hoodies are too lose around the head to keep body heat in. Also consider a floppy or wide-brim hat and sunglasses to protect the baby from the sun. We live in the southwest where the sun, even in spring time, can be quite intense, so sun protection is very important.

Long sleeves and long pants are important to protect against bugs, especially mosquitoes. Depending on the weather, you may need to pack little mittens or a snowsuit or rain jacket. And don’t forget the socks and shoes! Especially if the baby is at the crawling stage or likes to “walk” with assistance from Mom or Dad, you want them to have proper shoes so their tender feet are not getting cut by rocks.

Also remember that babies tend to get their clothes dirty fast. You should pack an extra set or two of clothes just in case of an explosive diaper or excessive spit up, but don’t sweat the little things like good old dirt. It is good for their budding immune system!

2. Food

If you are exclusively breastfeeding via nursing, just be sure to pack extra water and snacks for Mom and a comfortable place to sit (a camp chair) for those nursing sessions that will happen every 3-4 hours. Back support is important to keep the sore muscles away. If your baby is six months or older, try side-lying nursing in the privacy of your tent. In this position, babies have to be a certain size and have some head control to be able to reach the breast and nipple in a way that is comfortable to both of you.

If you are formula feeding, be sure you pack enough formula and filtered/sterile water to cover the usual amount of meals that your little one has during an average day. You may also want to take along whatever is necessary for cleaning the bottles. Hot, soapy water before washing the rest of your camp dishes works and so do the cleaning wipes.

Mommy using a heavy duty baby carrier.
Enjoying an easy Sabbath afternoon walk along Christopher Creek. Photo by Bradley Van Sant.

If your baby is old enough to eat solid food, pack some baby food and a spoon and try to keep on your regular schedule when it comes to how much or how frequently the baby gets the solid food.

For those moms who, like me, breastfeed via pumping, you want to make sure you pack your electric pump. Many come with a battery adapter. My Medela Pump-in-Style uses 8 AA batteries and runs through them very quickly so be sure to pack extra batteries. Or, the option I prefer, get yourself a power inverter (like this or something similar) to run your pump from your vehicle. If you do not have an electric pump, you can buy a less expensive hand pump for your camping trip. It is not as effective at emptying the milk completely as the electric pumps (more on my experience a little later). It can work in a pinch, though. No matter what type of pump you have, it may not always be feasible to clean your pump parts and accessories thoroughly in hot, soapy water. So be sure to pick up some cleaning wipes especially designed for getting breastmilk residue off breast pumps and accessories. Personally, I love Medela’s Cleaning Wipes and always keep a package in my pump tote.

Our son currently eats a combination of breast milk (pumped and nursing), formula (supplemental to the breastmilk when he is especially hungry), and solid foods. He has been improving in nursing on his own, and I thought we would be fine for the three days with the breastmilk I had pumped previously, a few bottles of formula (for emergencies), and the baby food so I took only a hand pump.

I regretted it.

While we had plenty of food for our son, I was in pain and discomfort by the end of the trip. Our little one was so excited that he had a hard time staying focused long enough to nurse (except during the night when he sleep-nurses), and the hand pump was not draining the milk completely. By Sunday morning, I had hard lumps in my breasts and the hand pump had caused some minor bleeding. So, in hindsight, if you are a mom who pumps exclusively or regularly, it is worth the hassle of taking your familiar electric pump with you.

Not draining the breast completely tells your body that demand for the milk has decreased so milk production will start to decrease. For nursing mothers, you can simply add a few extra nursing sessions in when you get home. But for those of us who rely on pumping, it can be a challenge to get our supply back. It is over a week since we returned, and I am only just getting my milk supply back up to pre-camping levels.

3. Diapers! Wipes!

When it comes to diapers, I recommend packing a few more than you think you will need. Our little one ate a little less on our trip and, therefore, had fewer messy diapers. However, it is better to be prepared then to find yourself needing one more diaper and not having one.

If you are cloth diapering, you will have to bring enough water to rinse the diapers and a wet storage bag for soiled diapers until you return home. If you are brave enough and have enough water, you can take soap, wash the diapers there, and let them dry in the sun.

If you are using disposable diapers, please dispose of them properly.

I also recommend bringing a baby wash cloth just in case you need to give the little one a sponge bath after a particular messy diaper or if they end up really dirty playing in the dirt. A plastic bin can double as a small bathtub if need be.

4. Somewhere safe to sleep.

Camping is a perfect example of co-sleeping. Co-sleeping basically means sleeping in close proximity to your child, but most people associate the term with bed-sharing.

Bed-sharing, where the child sleeps in the same bed as the parent(s), is actually only one type of co-sleeping. If you plan to bed-sharing while camping, you will need to be extra vigilant. Sleeping bags can be tight for one or two adults, and adding a little one can pose additional challenges. Sleeping bags can also be heavy so you need to be sure that the baby is not too restricted and can breathe.

However, if done correctly, bed-sharing while camping can be a wonderful experience for you and your baby.

To be honest, bed-sharing makes me a little nervous. Perhaps it is because I am a first-time mom. I don’t bed-share at home very often, and I did not plan to bed-share while camping. When it comes to co-sleeping, I prefer him to be in his own safe bed within arms reach.

Daddy posing with baby in nature.
A little bit of daddy and son time Sunday morning. Photo by Jacquelyn Van Sant.

So we brought the Moses basket from the bassinet we used when he was newborn to 5 months old. It is large, has sturdy sides, and good mattress to keep him off the ground. It also collapses flat! We put the Moses basket right next to my side of the air mattress in our tent.

It was cold at night so even with his super warm pajamas, I did have to swaddle him loosely with a blanket (arms free). He was very comfortable in the basket. I could see him every time I opened my eyes and I could easily pick him up for cuddles and night-time nursing. In the early morning hours, I did end up bringing him into the sleeping bag with me, but I kept him cradled in my arm and only lightly dozed.

If you do not have a suitable place for baby to sleep and do not want to bed-share, research travel bassinets, co-sleeper beds, etc. to find one that will fit your needs.

Just as at home, you need to create a safe sleeping environment and be vigilant with not allowing anything to obstruct your baby’s breathing. Ideally, dress baby in warm layers and avoid soft or heavy blankets, especially if your baby is unable to lift and turn their head on their own yet. Always put the baby on their back and on a firm surface without loose pillows, stuffed animals, or blankets near the face.

5. Somewhere to sit and play.

We were camping in a pine forest so the ground was littered with pine needles, pine cones, and rocks. W planned on stretching out an extra tarp, putting an old duvet cover down, and letting our son play on that with adult supervision. When we reached the campsite, we let our friends borrow the extra tarp and I did not want to put the duvet cover down directly on the dirt. We ended up holding our son the majority of the time. Fortunately, there were plenty of adults around to hand him to.

Before our next camping trip (hopefully next month!), we decided to buy a camping chair for babies. We bought Summer Infant Pop ‘N Sit Portable Highchair, because we wanted a chair that had a security belt for when he is very little, a real tray (not cloth), and that folds up. We will test this out the next time we camp, and I will update with whether or not it worked for us.

Update: We have used the Pop ‘N Sit Portable Highchair many times, including many picnics and another camping trip. It works quite well. The only thing that I dislike about it is that the leg “holes” are rather small but the buckle is attached to these so once our son’s legs were too think for the “holes”, we could not secure him in with the buckles. We just attached the tray and kept a close eye on him to make sure he did not climb out.

A tarp and blanket can work for a play area for younger babies. Our little one has mastered crawling, and he is extremely fast! Even with supervision, he is like a little bullet and he loves getting into everything. (I can just see him trying to eat pine needles and dirt…) So we also decided to invest in a North States Superyard with an easy access door. This “playard” can be used both indoor and outdoor, and we needed something for our living room anyway to keep him from getting himself into trouble while we are doing chores. The nice thing about this particular one is that it folds up and has a carrying strap, so it should be easy to take on our next camping trip.

Update: We love the Superyard, and we actually have it set up permanently to divide our living room from the kitchen area. This keeps the children (two under the age of two) and the dog separate and safe from each other.

As for playing, you do not need to bring a lot of toys to occupy the baby. Just being outdoors, somewhere new, and the regular hustle of camp activity will keep them occupied. Also, do not be too worried about the little one getting a little dirty. There is so much to see and touch!

6. If teething, bring whatever usually soothes baby with you.

If your baby is currently teething, you need to bring whatever it is that you usually use to soothe the pain. If it is teething toys, pacifier, clove gel, extra cuddles with Mom, or even baby medicine — baby will need relief from the pain in some way.

Squirrel sneaking seeds we left out for it.
One of the many squirrels that entertained us around camp. Photo by Bradley Van Sant.

Fortunately, if your baby is at the stage where he or she is alert, they will probably be easily distracted by the camping experience. Our little one was fascinated by everything. He watched the squirrels try to sneak snacks, the birds flittering here and there, the branches and leaves rustling in the wind, and other campers walking their dogs. (He loves animals.) So we only had to give him medicine once, and the rest of the time, he was fine with chewing on his pacifier and teething toys and the occasional clove gel on his gums.

If baby gets fussy, nurse, cuddle, or go for a little walk around the campgrounds to distract them.

7. A baby/toddler carrier

We took two different baby carriers along with us.

I used our BabyBjörn Original for keeping our son close while doing things around camp, for walks in the immediate area, and for a longer hike. He is getting close to outgrowing it, though.

We also tried out heavy-duty baby carrier for hiking. This carrier has a collapsible stand so you can load baby in the carrier before hoisting it to your back. There is a wide waist belt and a strip that goes over the chest to more evenly distribute the weight. It was very useful on one of the longer hikes along the creek, but I did find it was a challenge to hoist this carrier from the ground to my back by myself.

It was also useful as a chair when we were breaking down camp and loading the vehicle, since we did not have anywhere else to put our son when we were doing the tasks that required two people: getting the air out of the air mattress, shoving our double sleeping bag back into its carrying bag, and putting up our tent.

Our son, though, did not like this carrier as much. It could be because he was a tad small for it so he could not see well, or it could be because it was on my back and he has only ever been carried on my chest before this. Either way, this heavy-duty hiking carrier will take a few more times to get used to.

8. Adjust your schedule and activities.

We found that having our son with us meant that everything was done at a slower pace. Someone had to hold or wear the baby at all times and certain activities, like breaking down the tent and packing up the car, took twice as long as before because we had to take turns watching the baby. This slow pace was actually a blessing in disguise because I was able to really relax and enjoy the quiet serenity of the woods. There was no rush to go anywhere or do anything, but at the same time, I had to be a little more aware of the time in regards to how long it takes to prepare food.

Mommy hiking with a baby in a carrier on her back.
We love visiting the pine forests up near Payson, Arizona. Photo by Bradley Van Sant.

When we went for a walk by the creek, we had to make sure he was wearing socks and shoes and protected from the sun with a hat. It is logical, but if you have never had a baby with you on a trip before, you will find that your schedule needs more flexibility. I found myself going to bed and waking earlier than I usually do, even for camping trips.

Also remember that your little one has a routine and try to keep to that familiar schedule. Babies are quite adaptable, but familiarity does help them adjust to being outdoors. So if your baby naps at a regular time, eats at certain times, etc., plan your activities around the baby’s schedule.

9. Important odds and ends

If you are camping, you should always have a first aid kit. With a baby, you should add a few more items such as a nasal aspirator, a medicine dispenser/syringe, infant Tylenol or the equivalent medicine, and a baby thermometer.

Bring plenty of cleaning wipes for hands, faces, and bums — for you too! Mosquito netting may also be useful to bring to keep the pesky bugs away.

Have fun!

Most importantly, relax and have fun. Enjoy this special time out in nature with your little one. Sing! Sing! Sing! Babies love singing anyway, and singing and camping go hand in hand. Do not be shy. Sing away.

The Van Sant baby went camping at only 8 months old.
Our little one’s first time wear sneakers! Photo by Jacquelyn Van Sant.

If you do not sing, hum or tell silly stories. Narrate your activities to the baby. Describe what they are seeing around them, what is making that curious new sound. Tickle and play “peek-a-boo”. Let the baby fall asleep in your arms while you relax in the camping chair or in the tent.

Camping with a baby can be a little challenging but it's also very rewarding. Click To Tweet

Camping with a baby can be a little challenging, but it is very rewarding. At eight months old, our son was at the crawling, standing, and trying to walk stage and that was the perfect time to take him on his first camping trip. He recognized that we were somewhere new and was fascinated by everything: the squirrels eating the seeds we threw out to them, our camping neighbors’ walking their dogs, the rustling of the winds through the tall pines, the crowing of the large ravens, the rushing of the creek over rocks, and so much more!

Was I a bit sleep deprived by the end of the trip? Yes, but it was worth every moment to see his smiling little face as he woke up in my arms, played hide and seek with the camping bag, and then crawled/climbed on his daddy. It made my heart swell with joy when he giggled hysterically. Sunday morning, I set him briefly down in one of the camping chairs, and he threw his head back and howled like a coyote!

Happy baby sitting on the ground in a pine forest.
Our little peanut looking quite dashing on his first camping adventure. Photo by Jacquelyn Van Sant.

We want our son to grow up with a love for nature. He has already gone on a night hike (during the super moon at just three months old), a couple of hikes, and now his first weekend camping trip. We are planning another camping trip next month. It is never too early to teach him to take only pictures and leave only footprints.

Happy trails!

3 Things I Did Not Expect Postpartum

3 Things I Did Not Expect Postpartum

When you are eagerly awaiting the arrival of your first child, there are many things that you anticipate and mentally prepare yourself for: sleepless nights, dirty diapers, cries and giggles, spit up and smiles, and so much more.

In the first six months after our little one’s birth, I discovered a few very interesting things that I did not expect postpartum. I can honestly say that these three things blindsided me.

Excessive Hair Loss

This first one you may have read about in pregnancy books or on mommy blogs, but I did not fully grasp what it would mean to me until it happened. Every lady is different, but for me, I had excessive hair loss between about Week 3 postpartum until Month 5. I am not talking about a few strands here or there; after all, everyone sheds on average 75-100 strands of hair a day.

No, I was loosing hair daily in the hundreds! My shower walls would be covered in hair, hair would stick to my shirts and sweaters, and I would have to carefully examine little Peanut’s fingers and toes to make sure none of my hair had gotten tangled around his little digits. My once thick, luscious hair was suddenly thin, scraggly, and pathetic looking.

So why do some women lose large amounts of hair after childbirth?

Hair has three stages: active growth, resting, and loss (shedding). During pregnancy, the raise in certain hormones slows down the natural life cycle of our hair so more hair stays in the growth or resting stages and less strands shed. This gives pregnant ladies that thick mane many people notice and comment on. Unfortunately, after childbirth when the pregnancy hormones decrease, all those strands start entering into the shedding stage – often at the same time. This can lead to excessive shedding and what seems like hair loss.

Be comforted that this phase is not permanent. It may take a few months, but your hair will get back into a normal cycle and the excessive shedding will stop. While I waited for my hair to stop shedding, I cut it to shoulder length. Previously my hair was layered so the thinning made it look scraggly and awful. Cutting it helped to give my hair a little bit of shape again.

Fortunately, by six months postpartum, my hair stopped the excessive shedding and began to regrow.

Severe Gas Pain

The first episode struck about 10pm on the sixth day after little Peanut was born. It was the first day I ventured out of the house – Bradley took us to visit my parents (twenty-minutes away). It was a day that was full of success and achievement, as I had finally been able to pump milk successfully and relieve my poor, engorged breasts.

Around 10pm, though, I began to experience a strange pain in the center of my chest, located directly beneath/behind my sternum. As the minutes passed, the pain intensified. I tried lying down but the pain radiated around my ribcage. It felt like I was being stabbed in the chest while, at the same time, all of the muscles of my core (abs, sides, lower back, shoulders) were completely frozen or locked in place.

A few hours later, the pain had worsened to excruciating, beyond even the pain of childbirth, and it was terrifying because I did not know what was causing it. I leaned against the bed, praying for relief and groaning, wavering in my mind on whether I should ask Bradley to take me to the emergency room or not. What if we did go – call my parents, pack up our six-day-old infant, drove to the ER – and the mysterious pain vanishes as we are in the waiting room?

Bradley was very concerned. Our little one was fussy that night. It was the first time he scream-cried inconsolably for hours, and I was in too much pain to move, let alone help with the baby. Just when Bradley was about to call my parents and take me to the ER, the excruciating pain suddenly – Yes, it was very sudden! – vanished. One moment I was frozen in searing pain and the next: Poof! It was gone. All that was left was a little ache in my muscles.

This debilitating pain in my sternum seemed to happen once or twice a week for the first month postpartum. By the third episode, I was terrified that something serious was wrong with me. I tried gas relief tablets, but they had a marginal affect on the severe pain. It was about a month postpartum that I discovered that the unbearable pain was gas getting stuck in the upper part of my large intestines and putting pressure on a nerve.

When the gas started to built up, I would feel a strange pressure in my sternum and middle back. I remembered what the nurses told me in the hospital about walking, re-enforced by advice from my mom. To my relief, I found that when I took some gas relief tablets and went on a long walk, the walking helped to move the gas along and prevent it was getting stuck in that spot.

Also, I had to overcome decades of training on appropriate and inappropriate lady-like behavior and allow myself the freedom to pass gas. My poor husband! And what an embarrassing issue to discuss in public, but I am bearing my soul in the hopes of helping some other new mother who might be experiencing a similar situation. It is better to “toot” then to feel like you are being torn apart from the inside out.

With the walking and passing gas, the excruciating, feel-like-I’m-dying, pain was avoided. By the end of the second month postpartum, I no long experienced the gas pains.

Difficulties breastfeeding

If you have read Our Breastfeeding Journey, then you know some of the challenges we faced breastfeeding. I will not repeat the entire story here but just the main points.

I was not expecting our little Peanut to be born small, with a severe tongue-tie, and be unable to nurse. For the first month, we tried unsuccessfully to nurse at least once a day and each time he could not latch, I felt like a failure as a mother. The whole time, I was pumping every 2-3 hours and there were a few times when he had to be supplemented with formula because I just was not making enough milk. Finally, at the end of the month, I had to give up trying to nurse for my own sanity’s sake and for the happiness of our little family. I had to realize that him might never be able to nurse and that it was ok, as long as he was getting food and growing healthy.

During month three, he latched very weakly. With some help from a pacifier to strengthen his sucking muscles, he was able to nurse a few ounces by month four. I began nursing him through the night. At seven months, he is now a nursing pro. I still pump every 3-4 hours, as I work outside the home and need to keep my supply up, but he is also eating baby food twice a day now and he gets a bottle of formula when needed.

I was not expecting challenges with breastfeeding and, I will be brutally honest, it was an extremely difficult hurdle to jump emotionally during a time when my emotions were already all-over-the-place (postpartum hormones fluctuations!). I made it through due to the love and support of my amazing husband and my parents, especially my mom. If I could go back and do those first month over again, I would. Because of my stress and self-deprecation, I did not have the energy to leave the house more, see friends and family more, and do those precious “memories” things with Peanut… like take infant photos and stamp his little hands and feet. I have no footprints of when he was 4 lbs 7 ounces except for the one foot stamped on the certificate the hospital gave us.

My advice to other moms who might be facing difficulties with breastfeeding is something my older sister shared with me when I was very low: Fed is best. A fed, happy, and healthy baby is best, no matter how you end up providing that nourishment: through breastfeeding, pumping and bottle feeding, or formula feeding.

While the first few days may seem to drag on, they really go by so fast. Do not waste that time with anxiety and needless stress over things beyond your control. You are amazing! You birthed or adopted this adorable precious little one so cherish every moment you have together.

Bonus: Just how much I love my little Peanut!

Okay, okay. When expecting a little one, most women are likely to be excited and eagerly anticipate the bonding that will happen between mother and newborn. However, what really surprised me was just how quickly this bonding occurred and how much I love my little Peanut. Even when he is crying and fussy, even after the fifth time he has woken me up in the middle of the night and I rolled out of bed, stumble to his room, and pick him up like a zombie, even when I find myself momentarily frustrated or overwhelmed, I just love him so much!

Baby cuddles, toothless smiles, little giggles, and the first time he said “Mom-ma” (even though he was crying and I’m pretty sure he did not do it on purpose) get me through the sleepless nights, the fits of crying, the explosive diapers that only the shower can wash away, the spit up all over my work clothes and the couch minutes before I was supposed to be walking out the door.

After all, who could not love this adorable little face?

Jacquelyn's baby on his third trip to the zoo!
Little Peanut and his daddy on his third trip to the zoo at six and a half months old.

I just love being a mom — especially his mom — and I would not trade this experience for anything.

So, in summary, when it comes to childbirth and its immediate affects, perhaps the old adage says it best: Expect the unexpected. In addition to these three things that blinded me, I also had some great experiences.

So remember this: no matter if you are losing your hair in clumps, experiencing severe gas pains, having trouble breastfeeding or whatever it might be — you just gave birth to a beautiful and precious little one. Cherish this gift that has been given to you. The other things will sort themselves out.