BabyFest NW: What Goes On At Baby Expos

There is no question that America is an consumerism-drive country. I have a love-hate relationship with this idea, especially in terms of parenting. You really don’t need a lot of stuff to raise a child. And it gets overwhelming for parents to decide what stuff is the best for their child. Part of my life’s mission and the purpose of this blog is to live a more simple life.

 

But that being said, stuff does make parenting easier. And easy is definitely a big part of a simple life. I have come to terms with the idea of parenting with a few, good quality items is vital.

 

These vital items will look different based on your lifestyle, parenting choices, and family’s needs. Thus, it is hard to make blanket statements on what is the “best” this and best “that”. Just like I say when I am teach babywearing, there is no such thing as the perfect carrier for everyone, but some where is a perfect carrier for you! You just need to look, try, and think to find it—baby carrier or any other product.

 

This is why I highly suggest baby/kid/parenting expos. Events where many retailers, businesses, and organizations have tables, displays, and demonstrations of their services and products. They usually have a mix of local and national companies. It’s a great way to see what products and services there are, and even compare offerings.

 

One such event in BabyFest Northwest. This year was my second year attending and it’s truly a fun, jammed-packed event. Last year I taught in the Babywearing Lounge for Babywearing International of Portland and attended as normal attendee. This year I was very busy working/teaching at the Wrapsody booth and covering it as a blogger.

 

Speaking as a retailer/organization representative, we put our heart and soul into these events. We want everyone and anyone to come to our booth. We want to talk to you and hear about your family. We want to share how our product can help your family. And sometimes we event want to give you stuff or offer you a discount for coming to talk to us. So please stop by every booth possible, we are there for YOU!

 

At BabyFest this year, I stood in front of the booth greeting everyone and handing out as many Wrapsody stickers as possible. I truly wanted to hear everyone’s story and see if our product could help them. And honestly, for some people our product was not the best fit. I pointed them to another booth and thanked them for chatting with me. This is a great way to not only share our product, but to gauge the needs of our customers. Hearing directly from them what they want and need. So please, talk to the booths! We want to share and have you share with us.  

 

Now, speaking as an attendee/blogger, all this booth visiting can be overwhelming! There can easily be 100+ retailers, organizations,and companies to check-out. If you are pregnant, bringing kids—or both— it might be impossible to talk to everyone! Don’t feel bad if this doesn’t happen.  

 

My advice is to make a plan. Find the list of who is going to be there beforehand if you can. Check out each booth and see if it’s something you might like. When you get to the event, check out the map when you first get there. Find where the booths you don’t want to miss are and plan a simple route to include as many as possible. That way you don’t miss something you really want to check out! While you follow your route, don’t forget to check out all  the booths you can along the way. You might find something awesome you didn’t even know about!

 

You don’t have to spend 30 minutes chatting at every booth, or even 5 minutes really. But don’t just snag the swag and run off. Say hello! Ask about the product or service. Are they local? Can you find them in store? Order online only? Suitable for what ages? You get the idea. You may discover this was the exact thing you were looking for, if you take a little time.

 

For example, across from the Wrapsody booth was Grapple. I was so busy I never got a chance to walk over to say hi. I saw the toy on their table, but didn’t think too much of it. Later on I noticed one in my gift bag. It’s exactly the toy I’ve been wanting for Bear! I had no idea because I never asked.

 

BabyFest had amenities to make navigating the crowds easier too. Many booths had places to sit if you needed a break.

 

There were plenty of bathrooms. Concession stands and Snack Bars for food and drinks (though you are welcome to bring your own food too).

 

A nursing/pump lounge with plenty of chairs and tables for your comfort.

Whether you come for a few hours or the whole day, expos like BabyFest are a great way to learn what you want in terms of baby products. So brave the crowds and come see for yourself!

 

 

 

 

Washing Cloth Diapers

After some trial and error, we have a cloth diaper washing routine that works great for our family. This post is intended as a guide, not a strict code. Feel free to try any or all, maybe something will work for you. But don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t, you just have different circumstances.

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Right now I wash my diapers approximately every 3 days. Enough time that I don’t let the diapers pile up too much nor I feel overwhelmed washing all the time.

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The routine starts with the diaper change. Wet diapers get liners pulled out from the covers and everything tossed into a hamper with a pail liner. Dirty diapers get the poop dumped into the toilet and I remove the liners, then put into the hamper.  If they are really messy, I take the liners out and then swish the cover around the toilet a few times to get as much poop off as possible. I know there are fancy diaper sprayers and shields, but I personally find them unnecessary. Just another thing to spend money on and take up space in my bathroom. Check out this link for more info on removing poop.

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Once I have enough diapers to wash (or I realized I am about to run out), I wash. I start by soaking them in hot water with a little tea tree oil. I set it a large load when soaking, this adds plenty of water and room for the diapers to soak freely.

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Since my washer doesn’t have a soak cycle, I start it on a normal wash and stop it once it starts to agitate. I usually let it soak an hour…but a lot of times I forget and it soaks longer…maybe overnight a few times…no big deal.

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I know a lot of people will say tea tree oil every time this is unnecessary to do every time and there are better oils for antibacterial cleaning. Or to not use oils at all (more info here). I find it makes a big difference in my diapers. They feel cleaner and come out with a neutral clean smell. I tried other oils and Oxyclean, but it wasn’t the same for me. I add maybe two or three drops at the most. I start the water and let it fill up a few inches, then add the drops to the cap and hold it under the running water. Then I start adding the diapers as it fills.

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After the soak, I set the dial to rinse. It drains the water and gives it a good rinse. Next the actual washing. I set the machine to normal wash,which for my machine is a HOT/Warm/Cold cycle. I add 3/4 of a cap of free and clear detergent and the machine do it’s thing. Lastly, I do one final rinse cycle.

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Not cool. It ripped the snap off.

My dryer is kind of evil. It likes to eat clothes, especially diaper covers. No matter how far you push them back, they work their way to the front and get caught on the lip between the door and barrel. I have lost three snaps and got some weird black/red marks on several liners. It even tried to eat a hemp liner! So I never put covers in my dryer. And I check liners every 5 minutes if I put them in.

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Michael made me a clotheslines so I hang them up to dry. Works great. I plan to sun them on the patio in the summer.

And that’s it. If I am paying attention, I can have them washed in 1-2 hours (including soaking). They are dry in the next morning on the line or in a few hours if I hang the covers and stick the liners in the dryer. Easy and works great for us.

 

 

Progress with Night Weaning

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Two months ago I posted about how I was ready to gently start night weaning Jack.  You are probably wondering how it’s been going. Maybe even wishing I had some amazing story where I just snapped my fingers and he slept through the night. I wish. I so wish I had a great and easy story with some magic secret. But sadly no. But I do have a story of love, understanding, and a pretty happy ending!

So the night after I published my night weaning post, I implemented my plan.  We had a good routine before we got to bed. Bath time with lots of play to tire him out, pj’s and brush teeth, and a few books in bed and snuggles with papa. Then I nursed him to sleepy and unlatched him and rubbed his back to get him to go to sleep.

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It did not work at all. He screamed and screamed! So I relatched him. Nothing changed that night. Or the next night. Or the next night. Or for the rest of the week. I kept trying though. I would unlatch and if he freaked out, back on he went. I just gave him the suggestion, but he clearly wasn’t ready so I did not force him. And yes, I was still VERY exhausted and frustrated.

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Then the next week one day he accepted it. He nursed to sleep, I popped him off and he laid down next to me and let him rub his back to sleep. It took FOREVER though. He just kept jabbering away and wiggling. But no tears and it did work eventually. He woke up several time to nurse that night, but it was a start.  During this time I also started a part-time job where I work 2-3 evening a week, so Michael or my mom puts him to bed. I think this was key, he learned that there are other ways to go to sleep besides milk. At first they had a hard time getting him to sleep, but they were just patience and loved him through it. They do offer him a bottle before bed, it’s hit or miss if he takes it.

After a few more days, I decided to try to drop his first feeding of the night. And it worked! When he woke up, I just rubbed his back and told him “the milkies are asleep” and he eventually went back down. After a few days he didn’t wake up at that time at all.

Then I got greedy. I decided to drop the next two feedings. It all blew up in my face. He would wake up around 3-4 AM demanding milk and I mean DEMANDING. Screaming at the top of his lungs and ripping at my shirt to get a boob out. I tried that for two nights and it was horrible. The second night he got so frantic that when I finally gave him my boob back, but it was too late. He worked himself into a state and would not calm down. I lost my patiences and had to go sleep on the couch while my husband calmed him (to no avail). He passed out from exhaustion at 5:30 AM and I came back to bed feeling horrible. Clearly this was not the way to do it. I got ahead of myself and did not consider Jack’s feeling.

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Luckily I had a La Lech League meeting that morning. I got some great words of encouragement and wisdom. They suggested that I stick to just dropping the one feeding for awhile until he’s ready to do more.  That night back to nursing to sleepy and encouraging him to drop the first wake-up. After two weeks,  he was doing great. No more tears or screaming. He would go down on his own and sleep until 3 AM. After that he awoke every 2 hours to cluster feed, which I could handle better after several hours of sleep.

Not a well baby.
Not a well baby.

Just when I was thinking of trying to drop the 3AM feeding, it all fell apart again. As I mentioned in the intro to my guest post last week, Jack has been having some allergy issues for months now. Hive, rashes, and diarrhea on and off. We think that coupled with a stomach bug going around really upset his tummy. He had a constant rash and had the worst diapers I’ve ever seen. This lasted for 10 days! He barely ate and nursed like crazy. He couldn’t sleep at night because he was having stomach cramps. He would wake up screaming and holding his belly. It was the first time he ever signed hurt to me. I threw all the night weaning out the window and spent 5 nights holding him on the couch all night barely sleeping.

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No idea what it’s from yet.

After some trips to the doctor and 2 solids weeks of antihistamines, he went back to normal. But it was back to square one with night weaning. I was very frustrated, but was better educated this time. I finished the book “Night Time Parenting” and gained a lot of perspective on toddler sleep habits. Plus this time I knew he could sleep for longer periods of time without milk. I was armed with knowledge and patiences to try again.

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Frustrated papa, baby, and mama!

One night he woke at 1AM and would not unlatch for anything. He was just nursing and nursing. I was so tired that I started to cry. I unlatched him and we had a talk. I explained that momma is too tired and not happy. He deserves a happy mommy who plays with him all day. He said yes. I said if we only nurse when the sunshines, the whole family—including him–will be happier. He said yes. I told him I will hold him all night and so will daddy. If he’s thirsty or hungry, he can get up to get something. All he has to do is ask nicely. He said okay. Then we laid down and snuggled. It took a long time, but he did falls asleep and stayed asleep until 7. When he woke up, daddy opened the window and I told him the sun is shining so he can have all the milk. We all snuggled in the bed smiling. I knew we turned the corner.

The next night I told him he could all the milk he wanted, but once he got sleepy, it was time for sleep so the milkies would go to sleep to. He said okay. Then when he was starting to close his eyes, we said good night to the milkies, and he rolled over and went to sleep. I couldn’t believe it! That night slept till 5:30, I offered him a little milk and he went back to sleep until 8 AM!

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This general pattern of sleeping until 4 or 5 AM, then cluster feeding until 8 AM has continued for almost two weeks now. It’s not perfect, but it’s so much better.  I can handle the cluster feedings after a several hours of sleep at least now. And he’s taking 2-hour naps all on his own! I nurse him down, then leave him the bed and get to do something else for a bit.

So my advice? Just love your toddler and respect their feelings. Talk to them. Keep talking. Keep the idea of nursing only during the day out there. Ask them how they feel about it. Talk them through their feelings. Try it every night, but back off if they resist. Try again the next night and back off again if they resist. One day—maybe not right away— they will accept it. It’s not easy, but it will be worth it. Your toddler will respect you and know you still love them. There is no point in forcing them into something they are not emotionally or mentally ready to handle yet. I know you are tired, but remember this is only temporary. They will only be a nursing toddler once, and it lasts for such a short time.

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Good luck with your family’s night weaning journey!

Guest Post, Jaleen Vickerson: We are going Vegan (+ fish!)…

Jaleen Vickerson is a fellow Brand Ambassador for Wrapsody. I have offered her a guest post on my blog to discuss her parenting struggles to a baby with allergies and eczema.  I haven’t posted about it yet, but over the past 6 months I have been struggling with suspected allergies with Jack. It is nice to hear from another mom going through it as well. 

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My youngest son, Carlos, has been an alert and active baby since day one. But over time, his sunny disposition started changing for the worse. At 2 weeks old, I noticed his cheeks were becoming mottled and red. At week 6, I realized that, instead of clearing up, his skin irritation was only becoming more serious, and—worst of all—it was affecting his mood.

He was screaming more than cooing. He was frowning more than smiling. My friends would joke with me that he looked like the famous painting “The Scream.”  This was not the easy, contented little dude I had met in the delivery room!

We knew that dairy was part of the issue, but even after cutting all lactose out of my diet, his skin problems persisted. At 6 months of age, he was finally old enough to be tested for more than one allergen at a time.  

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I was surprised to learn that, not only did he react to milk, he is also allergic to:

  • peanuts,
  • Eggs,
  • Chicken,
  • Beef,
  • cats, and
  • dog fur.

The strangest discovery was that chicken and beef were irritants to his system; I had never heard of anyone having an allergy to either of these foods!

As we all know, parenting is not one-size-fits-all. For myself and my child, I believe strongly in the developmental benefits to be gained from breastfeeding. As a personal choice, I had already decided that I want to continue to breastfeed until my son detaches on his own.

With this in mind, Carlos’ dietary limitations have become mine.

The diet Carlos and I are now restricted to be largely a vegan one. Being Puerto Rican, veganism and vegetarianism are not practices I am used to in my life (until now, there have been no “Meatless Mondays” in my home, for example). The one big exception is that I still can eat fish and shellfish, as he is not allergic to them (little wins!).

During our visit, his allergist went on and on about how important is to moisturize his skin to help fight his eczema—but that, until I change my diet, we won’t see any significant progress with his skin. His allergies are so serious, I was told, that he will need to have an EpiPen on him at all times by the time he turns 1.

While trying to take in the flood of information from his doctor, reality sets in.

For the first time since his birth, I consider ending my breastfeeding journey. And yet, as the doctor is giving me all of these instructions, Carlos is latched on to me, just feeding and feeding and feeding. I take a step back, and realize that going the route of formula feeding is not right for us.

Though it was a lot to take in, my feeling is—this needs to change for my son’s sake, and it needs to change now. I don’t have time to be emotional about it. So I do what I do best: make a list!

  1. Call the husband & inform him
  2. Call my mom to get some much needed support
  3. Go shopping for veggies, fish, and other Carlos-friendly foods
  4. Make arrangements to give the family cat up for adoption
  5. Buy Lysol to disinfect and clean the ENTIRE house once the cat is gone…

A list is something I can work with. It’s factual, I can follow it step by step, and if I forget (because I will!) I can always check my iPhone, where I keep my amazing lists (phew!). Without an organized plan of attack, I know I will get overwhelmed and emotional.  I think to myself, I can focus on this list and it will help me deal.

So. The first step I take on is to review my entire food intake. Since we were already dairy-free at this point, I try to pick out the other irritants to Carlos that I have unknowingly been exposing him to. Looking through my food diary, I realize that nearly every time I sat down to a meal, I was taking in something that was basically poisoning my child. I feel responsible. I become hard on myself. This is not an easy thing to wrap my head around.

If I think about the next few years it seems like too much to handle. I feel like my normal lifestyle is about to be turned upside down, but I also know that being a good parent is about doing what is best for your kids, not what is convenient for you.  

On the way home from the doctor, I stop and get some fish and some salad ingredients, and we start with just that: simple.  One meal at a time.  One step at a time.  

Lobsters

Until…the next list!

-Jaleen Vickerson

Traveling Baby Series: Camping in Yosemite

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After learning from our test-run camp trip to Point Reyes, we were much better prepared for a big camping trip. When we decided to move to Oregon, we knew we needed one last great family memory in California. And we knew it had to be Yosemite. It was calling us, begging our souls to come.  So I planned this time. I researched the campgrounds and booked a good campsite. I planned a route there, and an alternate if we him Bay Area traffic. We also planned to leave at non-commute time. I made packing lists way ahead of time, looked up camping supply lists to make sure I wasn’t missing anything, and had Michael double check, too. There was no way I was forgetting anything this time, let alone important things like pillow and blankets. We even packed up most of the car the night before. We were ready this time.

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My little car loaded to the max!!

So that morning came, and we left right on time. I planned to leave around Jack’s nap time, so he fell a sleep shortly after we hit the freeway. We woke up right around lunch time, so we stopped in Manteca for lunch and picked up a few more supplies before we headed into the Sierra. It was all going great…

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SO glad we brought his dump truck!

…then  Jack fell apart. He would not go down for his second nap, just kept crying. So I pulled out my phone and put on Curious George for him, but we lost signal and he got pissed. He was screaming and screaming. Then we started to go up Priest Grade and hit the winding part. There was no where to pull over and I needed to keep the stuff in the front seat from smashing into Michael. All the sudden I heard a weird sound and looked at Jack, he was puking. A lot. All over the carseat. And now crying even harder. I pulled the basket off his dump truck to catch the puke and calm him down the best I could. I yelled to Michael to pull over as soon as possible, and he did as soon as he saw a side road. We both knew he inherited Michael’s motion sickness and felt so bad for him. We got him out, let him breath some fresh air and rebalance his equilibrium. Sadly we had no choice but to load him back in the car and continue on.

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He fell asleep for a bit, but the Park Ranger accidentally woke up him when we got to the entrance to the Park. And then he threw-up some more. We got to the campground and got him out as fast as we could. He was much happier out of the car, and even asked for a snack.

Back to when we entered the park, I was stunned. Yosemite is even more beautiful than I ever imagined. Half Dome took my breath away. Every waterfall, every creek, every tree. Beyond words.

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We got there around 3 PM, so we set-up camp and went for walk in the woods around the campsite. I was so happy to babywearing in the wild. We found a log by the river and started to watch the pink sunset on the granite walls.

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Then we went back to for dinner and got Jack ready for bed. I put him in a base layer of a oneies and leggings. Then we put a big fleece sleeper suit over it. Then I wrapped him in my thickest woven wrap and nursed him to sleep. He was out within 15 minutes. Michael and I sat by the fire (we bought PLENTY of firewood from the store at Curry Village as soon we arrived this time).

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All bundled up and slept great!

After awhile, we went off to bed. We had a much better sleeping arrangement this time. We bought a queen-sized air mattress, brought plenty of blankets and pillows, and good warm clothes. Jack slept between us, so to practice safe co-sleeping, Michael and I each had our own blanket so Jack didn’t get covered up. We were all nice and warm, which was amazing considering that night it dropped to 25 degrees!

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After breakfast in the morning, we headed off for hiking. We check out Yosemite Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, the Lodge, and Yosemite Village. Then Jack had a meltdown. He was exhausted but would not falls asleep in the carrier. He was too excited by all the stuff around him.

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I knew he would go ballistic if we put him back in the car so I decided to walk the 2.5 miles back to the campsite wearing Jack in the Tula.  Michael drove the car back to the campsite and waited patiently for us and hoped we didn’t eaten by a bear (we had no phone reception).

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He fell asleep quickly and I had a wonderful hour-long stroll back to the campsite. I got to stare at the glory of Half Dome the whole time. When I arrived, Jack woke up and we just relaxed around the campsite.

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He has some manners…lol

Later that night, we got dressed up a little and went to dinner at Yosemite Lodge. Michael and I order big fancy drinks and big fancy dinners. It was nice to do something special as a family, Jack had mac and cheese. But he quickly became interested in Papa’s roast duck. After a few bites he decided he needed to entertain the restaurant. So Michael and I took turns, one eat while the other walked him around. He had to stop at every table, say hi and dance a bit, then move on to the next table. Luckily everyone thought he was adorable and was very nice to him. It was a great special night out with my boys. Then back to the campsite, for beer around for us and nursing to sleep all bundled in the wrap for Jack.

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It’s so exhausting getting carried up a mountain.

The next day was our big hiking day. We hiked up Vernal Falls, Jack slept most of the way up. That is a wonderful hike, I highly recommend it! It’s steep, but paved so very doable. Took us about 2 hours around trip going slow.

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Right after the best nursing session ever!

Then I had the most beautiful moment in my breastfeeding career to date. Michael ran up closer to the falls while Jack and I chilled on the rocks. We gazed out over the valley, nursed, and basked in the California sun. Then some snarky teenage punk made a nasty comment about me breastfeeding in public. And before I could even think of a response, this older woman snapped at him for me. She told him it is rude to insult a mother good a nothing but a good job. I thanked her profusely

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We walked back down the trail smiling, Jack even walked some of it too! Then we had a picnic lunch at the Ahwahnee. Just so you know, if you are nursing, babywearing, and hiking at the same time—-you  can eat ALL THE LUNCH you want.

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It started to rain so we went inside to explore the lodge and get a drink at the bar. Jack once again needed to wander around, so one of us drank while the other walked him.

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The back to the campsite for dinner. Jack was thrilled to eat spaghetti outdoors! Then snuggles by the campfire for the last time. That night went below freezing again and there was a little thunder, but we cozy and warm in out tent.

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“I’m helping pack up!”

In the morning we packed up and said good-bye to Yosemite. We timed leaving so Jack be asleep for most of the winding part of the road back, but we didn’t know about the construction. We got stopped for 15 minutes and he woke up. He was not amused. By the time we got moving again, he was screaming to get out of the car. Then the road got windy again and he turned green. I yelled for Michael to pull over. We let him calm down for a bit, but we needed to get going so I put him back in and kept his bucket near by. We just had to make it 30 miles down the road to Mariposa to stop for lunch. But it felt like an eternity. I tried to keep him looking out the window so he would keep his bearings and not get sick—but that is easier said than done with a one-year-old! Just as he started crying again and kinda gagged a little, we made it into town. I told Michael to pull over into the first thng possible and I ripped him out of the car. Crisis avoided.

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Poor baby, no way he was going back in the car that soon.

But were we pulled over was about a mile away from downtown with the restaurants and shops. No was I was going to put him back in the car yet, so in the Tula he went and Michael drove downtown to wait for us. It was a lovely walk, the Sheriff even stopped to ask if we were okay. He totally understood when I said baby was not having the car ride and told me a faster way to walk to downtown. We had lunch, strolled around bit until Jack was good and tired for a nap. Then we got back on the road and went home without any more issues. It was a wonderful trip (throwing up aside) and the perfect send-off for California.

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I don’t really have any different advice from my previous post. Maybe just bring a bucket just in case your baby gets sick. And if your baby can walk (Jack decided to walk about a week earlier), bring a carrier. This was the only we kept Jack out of the dinner when we were cooking. Major lifesaver!

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I hope this inspires you to take your little one some awesome family adventures!

Traveling Baby Part 4: Camping with Baby Test Run

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I married a man who loves the outdoors. Good thing I am a lady who loves the outdoors, too! So naturally we were chomping at the bit to take Jack camping.  We had talked about doing something big like Yosemite or Big Basin, but weren’t sure how to go about it with a baby. One day when Jack was 6-months-old, I mentioned to Michael one Wednesday night I really wanted to drink beer by a roaring fire. He said okay, make it happen that weekend! So after a quick search I found all the popular places in the Bay Area were booked solid until the winter. I eventually found a small private campground outside Point Reyes that had tent only drive-up spaces up. Booked it for one night to give camping with a baby a try.

Jack Played while we set-up
Jack Played while we set-up

We left bright and early Saturday morning, hoping to spend most of the day at the beach. But we hit tons of traffic as soon as we approached San Francisco.

'Are we there yet!!"
‘Are we there yet!!”

What should have been a 2 hour drive turned into 4 hours. But we got to the campsite around 2 PM, so the day wasn’t totally wasted. We set-up camp, had a late lunch, and headed out to the beach.

“What is this stuff?”

Oh, it was glorious. Jack’s first real time at the beach. He played in the sand, we strolled down the beach as a family, and he touched the ocean for the first time.

It was warm, but not hot. A slight breeze bringing in the sweet smells of the ocean. It was perfect…minus the fact that later I found out I was bitten by a tiny spider and ended up getting a terrible infection.

Sleeping Jack snuggled up on my lap by the fire.
Sleeping Jack snuggled up on my lap by the fire.

Then we headed back to camp and I started to make dinner. Then we found out the office closes at 5 PM and no other place in the area sells firewood! I drove all around the area looking, not even branches on the side of the road to pick up! Luckily there was a very nice couple next to us who brought an insane amount of extra stuff, including firewood. They generously gave us some. After dinner, we sat around our small fire (not the roaring one I imagined) and I nursed Jack to sleep on my nursing pillow. We chatted and sipped our beers until the stars came out.

"Please don't make me sleep in a box! I want to be warm snuggled between my parents!"
“Please don’t make me sleep in a box! I want to be warm snuggled between my parents!”

Then we moved to the tent. I had this idea to have Jack sleep in a box with a side cut open next to us, like a co-sleeper. Yeah, he wasn’t having any of that. He wanted want to be snuggled in mama’s arms. I went to put him down between us and I realized something horrible…we forgot pillows and warm blankets! So I quickly wrapped Jack in an extra sleep sack to keep him warm. And settled him down onto my sleeping pad, giving him most of the space. Michael I made makeshift pillows and blankets out of the clothes, wraps, and towels we brought. It ended up being a very cold night for Michael and I. We got hardly any sleep. Also, I was so concerned with keeping Jack warm, but not smothering him with blankets that I could not sleep. Jack kept having night terrors and screaming every time I relaxed, too. So when the sun came up at like 6:30 AM, we all just got up.

The trail along the beach.

After breakfast, we packed up and drove off to explore the rest of Point Reyes. We checked out the historic ranches and the light house.

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Teaching Jack about sandstone formations at the Light House.

On the way out, we stopped at the park and walked the earthquake trail. It was so much fun, despite being tired (and at this point my spider bite started to swell).

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Jack and I are on the North American Plate, Michael is on the Pacific Plate.

After that we headed back…and hit the Bay Area traffic again almost immediately. It took 4 hours to get home again (plus a stop at In and Out for dinner).

So what did I learn from that trip? A LOT!

  • Make a list and check it three times! I cannot believe we forgot pillows and blankets. And we forgot several other smaller things, too. It worked out overall, but it made it more complicated. Would you believe I only brought 15 diapers? It was just enough, I used the last one when I changed him at In and Out.
  • If your baby can’t walk, bring a Pack ‘n’ Play with a crib sheet to cover it. That way you can set baby down in the safe place while you do stuff like start the fire. And the sheet keeps bugs and leaves from falling in.
  • Bring enough toys. I only brought a few toys and Jack got bored of them quickly.
  • Although spare of the minutes plans do work out, I suggest giving yourself more than a few days if you have a baby. Less likely for things to go wrong and you can book a good site well in advance. Our site was great, but it would have been nice to have been in the actual park.
  • Don’t leave at peak traffic times and avoid busy routes if you can. Babies and traffic do not mix. Especially breastfeed ones, Jack was mad I ran out of pumped milk and was screaming for boobs. If we had planned it more, I would have left late Friday night, got there late with a sleep baby to avoid the rush of weekend travels. I also would have gone around the East Bay, and avoided the city.
  • Plan for all types of weather. I was worried we would be too hot at night, so I didn’t pack a lot of warm clothes. Well, I forgot about the fog in the North Bay. It makes everything moist, cold, and damp. If I had brought more warm clothes for Michael and I, it wouldn’t have mattered that we forgot blankets.
  • Lastly, bring a carrier. It will be save your sanity. We can walk, nurse, feed baby, put them down for a nap, and keep them warm while you go about your trip. Plus it is way easier to transfer a sleep baby to bed from a carrier than a big cumbersome nursing pillow.

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    Cold morning, warm mama and baby.

Check out my next post of how our next camping trip to Yosemite a few months later was a major hit from using what we learned on our test-run.

Baby-Led Weaning Menu

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Enough people have asked me for it, so here it finally is! A detailed sample menu on what I usually feed my son with baby-led weaning. Before I start, I need to make several things very clear. I am not a nutritionist. I am not a dietitian. I am not a pediatrician. And I am not a doctor.  I am a mom sharing what worked for her child. I based my decisions on the advice of my son’s pediatrician, a nutritionist we saw briefly, the book “Baby-Led Weaning”, the book ” My Child Won’t Eat” , advice various moms shared with me during La Leche League meetings, and my own instincts. Please talk to your doctor, do your own research, and listen to your own heart first.

So, say now you decide baby-led weaning is right for your family and your baby is ready to start (see this post on the signs of readiness). Where do you start? I had no idea! So I just started offering Jack foods that made sense to me and eventually figure out what worked for us. As he got bigger, things changed so I just went with his cues. Overall I never made him eat anything he didn’t want to. Likewise, I let him try almost anything he asked for, within reason.

I have divided things up into two menus, one for no-teeth and one for teeth. When Jack was ready for solids, he had no teeth so he didn’t like things that required a lot of hard chewing (and babies can absolutely chew with no teeth, just takes awhile). Once he got teeth, he was happier to have a bigger variety. And as he got older, he also wanted more options. I tried to keep things simple when he was first starting out so he didn’t get overwhelmed.

Both menus are not vegan, since Jack is not all vegan. But you can easily change the menu to any dietary need. Replace milk yogurt with any non-dairy yogurt. Do scrambled tofu instead of eggs. Do more beans and lentils instead of beef or ham. Vegetable soup instead of chicken soup.

image-0001No-Teeth Menu: I offered Jack three meals a day, but it was hit or miss if he would play with the food or eat it for the longest time. Overtime he started to eat more.

Breakfast:

  • Mango Slices: cut them into big wedges and you can even leave some skin on to make them easier to hold. No, they will not eat the skin. And if they try, tell your baby nicely no no no.
  • Avocado Toast: Cut a strip of toast that baby can easily hold.  You can also do just toast or just avocado as well.
  • Oatmeal and Fruit: I’m not talking that gross runny baby cereal. I mean real, stove top old fashioned oats. Add some mashed or puréed fruit instead of sugar. No need for a spoon or bowl either, just place some on tray in front of baby. They will scoop it up and eat what they want.
  • Plums: Soft, easy to chew and tasty. Just cut into smaller pieces.
  • Strawberries: Cut them up or mash them a little.
  • Bananas: Leave the peel on one side so baby can pick it up easier.
  • Scrambled Eggs: Cook them hard and don’t add salt. This is still Jack’s favorite breakfast.
  • Yogurt and fruit: Go for full fat, unsweetened Greek yogurt if you can. Add some fruit for sweetness. Then just place it front of them, let their little fingers scoop and dip to their delight.

Lunch:

  • Cucumber and hummus: Cut the cucumbers into match sticks and remove the seeds. Put some no-salt added hummus on the tray for them to dip. It may take awhile before your baby gets the dipping motion, but no worries. They will probably just eat them separately for awhile.
  • Roasted Veggies: Roast up some fresh seasonal veggies in a bit olive oil and other spices. Get them soft but firm enough to be picked up. Then let our baby gnaw and suck away.
  • Soba Noodles and Bell Pepper Sticks: Cook up some soba noodles or other whole grain pasta, coat lightly with a little sesame oil or coconut oil. Add bell pepper sticks to gnaw on too. Baby can play and slurp up the noodles and feel the contrast with the crunchy peppers. Check out my recipes here.
  • Bone Broth and Rice/Quinoa/Barley: Make your own homemade bone broth and serve it with a tasty whole grain. Sometimes I do spoon feed Jack soup if he asks me to. But no reason why you can’t put the bowl in front of them and let them scoop it out with their hands. Or place some rice soaked in the broth on the try in front of them to pick up.
  • Smashed Sweet Potatoes: Boil or roast some sweet potatoes until they are tender. Then take a fork and lightly smash them. Not mashed into a puree, leave some chunks to grab. Add some butter, oil, or bone broth for flavor, too.
  • Beans: Cook your favorite kind of beans (we like Pinto and Kidney beans in this house). They are perfect size to pick up and and chew with no teeth

I also use some breakfast options for lunch too.

Dinner:

  • Chicken and Brown Rice: Make your favorite chicken recipe for dinner and cut off some small chunks with no skin or bones for baby. And make a flavorful rice dish on the side, or just serve some plain rice.  Just go easy on the salt and hot spices.  Your baby might not be able to chew the chicken all the way at first, but they can suck the juices out of the meat easily.
  • Ham and Green Beans: Make a nice ham steak and some tasty pan-fried green beans (easy on the salt). Just like the chicken, baby can either chew or suck on the meat. And green beans are already the perfect sized stick for baby to pick up!
  • Lentil Soup: I either make classic lentil soup and veggies in a tomato broth, or Indian dhal. Jack loves both! Sometimes I do spoon feed Jack soup if he asks me to. But no reason why you can’t put the bowl in front of them and let them scoop it out with their hands.
  • Beef Stew: I make my a nice pot of beef stew (seitan stew for me) with carrots, potatoes, celery, and peas. Throw it in the slow-cookers in the morning and it’s ready for dinner. The meat is tender enough for baby to chew or suck on. The veggies are soft enough to eat but still be picked up.

I also use some lunch options for diner.

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Teeth Menu: Once Jack got some teeth, I noticed a big difference in what he wanted to eat. He started to eat close to three meals a day and wanted more complex foods. I could also serve foods on plates and bowls without him flipping them over. He also slowly developed more dexterity and could use a spoon or fork. He still liked some of the simper foods from the no-teeth list, too.

Breakfast

  • Nut Butter Toast: My nutritionist said unless you have a family history of nut allergies, then you are okay to give a younger child nuts. That being said, please ask your pediatrician first. I waited until Jack could communicate better  (a few words and signs) to me before I offered any to him. I tried peanut butter, cashew, and almond. He loved them all. I cut the toast into strips like with the avocado toast.
  • Mango and Strawberries: No need to mash up the berries anymore. And I started to cut bigger wedges of mango since he could actually bite into them now.
  • Pancakes and Bacon: I make whole wheat silver dollar pancakes. Sometimes I use fruit puree or jam as syrup. And he loves sharing bacon with daddy. Already comes in a strip form too! At first he just sucked it, now he can eat a whole piece on his own. I buy organic and nitrate-free.
  • Waffles Dippers: Make normal waffles and cut them into strips. Offer some yogurt, jams, or nut butter to dip.
  • Cereal and Milk:  Buy some no-sugar, whole grain organic cereal and non-dairy milk.  At firs they may just scoop the cereal out with their hands, but eventually they will get how to do the spoon.

Lunch:

  • Mac N Cheese with veggies: Make your favorite mac and cheese (try mine), then add some frozen veggies. We like Amy’s Cheddar and Shells with frozen peas and carrots.
  • Fried Rice: Take left over rice, add some veggies and chicken or tofu. Lightly season with soy sauce. For fun, add some pineapple.
  • Fish Cakes: We were on WIC for awhile and got a crazy amount of canned fish each month. So I made from salmon or tuna cakes with grated carrots, panko, and eggs. I popped them in the freezer for an easy lunch whenever we were busy. I made them small so Jack could pick them up easily and bite them.
  • Sandwich: Turkey and Swiss, Ham and cheddar, grill cheese, avocado and tomato, PB&J… you get the idea. I made little fingers sandwiches so he didn’t get overwhelmed. He still usually deconstructs them though, but gets the general idea.
  • Veggies Pancakes: Similar to Fish cakes. I grated up carrots, radishes, parsnips.  I added cornmeal and eggs to make little pancakes. I froze them and used them when we were too busy to cook.
  • Pasta Salad: I like to use spiral pasta since it’s easy for them to grab. Add some black olive slices, cut up artichoke hearts, grated carrots, haled cherry tomatoes, and dress with some olive oil and spices. Easy to make and tasty for everyone.
  • Chicken Nuggets: I buy organic, all white meat nuggets (sometimes I make my own if I have time). I give him either no-sugar added ketchup or hummus to dip them in. Easy and already bite-sized.
  • Hot Dogs and Celery: I get nitrate-free organic hot dogs and cut them into pieces and cut the pieces in half (so they aren’t circular to choke on). I cut the celery into short sticks for him to munch on (great for teething!).
  • String Cheese, Crackers, and Turkey slices: Easy lunch on the go. String cheese is easy to hold and eat. Get some whole-grain, no salt crackers that are easy for baby to pick up. And cut up some turkey or other meat slices.
  • Quesadillas:  Cheese and whole wheat tortilla, and some mild salsa to dip. Cut into wedges to make it easier to pick up.
  • Chicken Soup: Add some bone broth, veggies, and chicken to a pot. Cook until veggies are tender and season lightly. Make some noodles or rice. Either let baby scoop the soup out by hand or try a spoon. Messy but usually a hit with every baby! This is our fall back when Jack is cranky and refuses other foods.
  • Curry Noodles: Check out my recipe. Easy and a great way to introduce spices to your baby.

Dinner:

  • Rice Pilaf, Veggies, and Chicken: A step-up from plain chicken and rice. Make your favorite pilaf recipe, chicken recipe, and roasted veggies. Just go easy on the salt. Cut the chicken into reasonable-sized pieces. If they are going to use a fork, make them smaller. Pick them up, a little bigger.
  • Spaghetti and Meatballs: Get your favorite space pasta, sauce, and meatball recipe. Cut the meatballs into half or quarters. You may want to noodles in half if they long, but usually they figure out how to slurp it up anyways. No fork needed, let them have fun!
  • Tacos: Meat, beans, tortilla, cheese and some mild salsa. At first I made deconstructed ones, now he gets built ones (that he deconstructs on his own). Who doesn’t love tacos?
  • Pizza: We usually have pizza every Friday, so check out one of my recipes here. Mostly homemade, sometimes who buy it. At first I took the toppings off,  pulled the cheese into pieces, and  cut the crust into pieces. Then let Jack pick what he wanted. Now he likes his own small slice to pick up. He likes Hawaiian pizza, but try whatever pizza you like.
  • Lentil Burgers and Sweet Potato Fries: Check out my recipe here. I usually just offer him a mini patty, sugar-free ketchup, and a few fries. Easy to pick up and packed with nutrients.
  • Enchiladas: Make a low-salt version of your favorite recipe. I like either white enchiladas with white beans or smokey red sauce with sweet potatoes. Again messy, but a usually a big hit.
  • Stir Fry with Brown Rice: Clear out all the veggies in your fridge and freezer. Add some soy sauce or teriyaki sauce. Throw some tofu or chicken in, too. Make some brown rice and enjoy an easy dinner. Just make sure everything is bite-sized and no round so baby can choke.
  • Ravioli: Make your favorite frozen ravioli (or make your own if you can) and your favorite sauce. You may want to cut the noodles in half if they are big, but another easy but big hit dinner.
  • Barley Vegetable Soup: Check out my recipes here. Like I said, soup is usually a big hit and easy to make.
  • Lasagna: Easy to make and very versatile. Meat or all veggies. Cheese or no cheese. Red or white sauce. And fun for baby to take apart and eat.
  • Chili and Corn Bread: Throw beans, spices, tomato paste and water into a slow-cooker in the morning. Make some corn bread in the afternoon. Easy and fun to eat.
  • Tamales: I suck at making tamales (see here), I opt to buy them fresh if I can. But they are small enough to pick up, but big enough to bite into easily. And a variety of filings for a fun surprise for baby.

I hope this helps you and your baby on your own baby-led weaning journey! Feel free to comment with your own suggestions as well, I’m always looking for new toddler food ideas!

Here are a few more suggestions as well:

So That’s Why My Nipples Are On Fire….

In my Night Weaning post, I said I would explain why I had so much nipple pain in a later post. First of all, no, I’m not pregnant (sorry family and friends who thought that). Nipple pain and even nursing aversion is very common during pregnancy though, but not my issue. My issue is one I’ve had my whole life and is only getting worse as I get older: Raynaud’s Phenomenon. In a nutshell, I have frequent poor circulation in my extremities. It causes my fingers, hands, feet and toes to get very cold and change color. People touch my hands all the time and go, “AH! YOU’RE FREEZING!” and I just shrug. I am so used to it that I don’t notice it that much anymore.  It can be painful as times, but mostly it’s just freaks out other people when I have blue fingers. It never dawned on me that it could effect breastfeeding.

Jack latched himself on my breast for the first time with no trouble at all, but he latched incorrectly. It was pretty painful, but I was so overwhelmed with everything I just let him suck away. The next day (and two very badly lacerated nipples) later, a lactation consultant came to my postpartum room and corrected it all. It was so much better, but at the point he injured me so bad it was still pretty painful. But I pushed on. Pumped if I needed a break but never gave up on latching him, no matter how much it hurt. My nipples healed very slowly, slow enough that my doctor was getting concerned. But they did heal and I didn’t think too much of it. My mom told me breastfeeding hurt for her and other women in my family, so I just accepted that it was my genetics.

Every once and awhile it would still hurt when Jack nursed.  I get this weird tingling/burning sensation in my breasts and my nipples turn white. But it wasn’t that bad, so I just kept ignoring it. I assumed he had a shallow latch or maybe a minor tongue tie. I joined La Leche League and got to meet other moms with nipple pain problems. Most of babies did have a tongue or lip tie, but what the moms described didn’t sound like my pain. They said it felt like a tiny clamp on their nipple. Never felt like that for me. And we had no other signs of tongue or lip tie.

As time went on, the pain would come and go. Some days it would be unbearable and then nothing for days. Still didn’t think too much of it. Then one day my friend post a link on Facebook called “That Latch Looks Great! Really?!?! Tell That To My Burning Nipples!”  from the Milk Meg. And there it was, number seven on the list of causes common nipple pain:

“Raynaud’s Syndrome! This is when a woman will experience vasospasm in her nipple. Women will actually notice their nipples turning from white to blue or red. This will happen immediately after a breastfeed and is not helped with correcting the latch. It is related to temperature changes on the nipple after the feed and can be exacerbated when a woman has nipple damage.”

Mind blown. My nipple pain is from stupid Raynaud’s! So I did more research and my mind was blown even more. This is why it took so long for my nipples to heal when Jack first bruised them. This is why it hurt even though Jack had a wonderful latch. This why it felt like my boobs were on fire  sometimes after Jack nursed. When I was having a bad Raynaud’s day, my pain would be worse. It all made sense now. This is just a minor disorder and I wasn’t in that much pain, so I didn’t did do too much to change it. Now I try to keep warm, stay relaxed, and apply nipple ointment after nursing if possible. It was just nice to know the reason why it hurts.

Then we moved to Oregon, which was very stressful. We had to help Jack settled in to his new routine, which was stressful. And the temperature kept going from cold to hot when we first arrived, making it hard for me to figure how to stay the right temperate. Also, Jack went through a big mental leap and growth spurt during this time. He needed lots of milk and wasn’t sleeping well. No sleep+too cold+stress+constant nursing= nipple pain city! It’s worse at night because of not sleeping well. No problems during the day, he could be latched all day and I wouldn’t mind. But at night my hands are like icicles and I want to cry when Jack is done nursing.  Things are settling down so it’s getting better. And the night weaning is also going well and hasn’t been too stressful on anyone. Overall, I am glad I know what’s causing my pain and what I can do it make it better.

I want to share this story to encourage other moms to not just ignore nipple pain. Of course check your baby’s latch first, it’s fairly common culprit. If that isn’t the issue, then consider an underlying condition. Breastfeeding should be comfortable for both you and the baby. Just because you heard that magic phrase, “That latch is perfect!” doesn’t mean you should ignore pain. I am lucky that my condition is minor and I can get through it. If you are in a lot of pain and struggling, don’t just brush it off. Talk to Le Leche League, talk to a lactation consultant,  or even talk to a doctor. You can figure it out and get through it! You just need some help and understanding.

Resources:

Vasospasm and Raynaud’s Phenomenon, BreastFeeding Inc.

Raynaud’s Phenomenon Of The Nipple: A Treatable Cause of Painful Breastfeeding, American Academy Of Pediatrics

Seeking Relief, La Leche League

Vegan Parenting

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I am a vegan.  I am a parent. Does that make me a vegan parent? It sure does! Hence the name of this blog.

Jack does not exclusively eat a vegan diet. This was a compromise between my husband and I (see here). But since I am his primary caregiver, he eats a lot of vegan meals with me. One of his favorite meals is my Dhal and Aloo Mattar. But veganism is a complete lifestyle, going vegan chances many aspects of your life besides just diet. So, the other day this lead me to think about just what does being a vegan parent mean? How does veganism affect they way I raise my son?

"Why do you keep telling me eggs from chickens?"
“Why do you keep telling me eggs from chickens?”

Before Jack was born, Michael and I discussed the major parenting choices like punishments and sex education. This lead me to think about what kind of parents we would be, so I looked up parenting styles.Oh boy, there are a lot! And there are some very strong opinions out there (the whole Tiger Mom controversy). I was overwhelmed and kind of turn off by the whole idea of defining the care of my child in such blunt terms.

So I asked myself what values that my husband and I both share do I want him to learn? After some soul searching, I came to that we want to teach him compassion, understanding, and patience. I also want encourage our love of science, nature, and education. Then I realized I kind of gave a broad definition of what vegans stand for overall. Compassion towards all living things! And to understand such ideas, you need to know science and nature—which is done through education.
After searching the web and reading a bunch of articles, I found this one from She  Knows Parenting the easiest to follow with great definitions. The article lists 5 main styles:

  • Instinctive: Based on the way you were bought up, following your parents’ example. Trusting your instincts that you know what is right for your child.
  • Attachment: Focused on creating a deep emotional  bond and encouraging them to express their feelings. Some see it as a holistic parenting approach.
  • Helicopter: Being deeply involved in every aspect of the child’s life. Overseeing and sometimes controlling their actions and experiences. Know to shielding and prevent all obstacles from ever even reaching their child.
  • Authoritative: Clear and direct rules and expectations. And if they are not obeyed, direct consequences will be enforced. However, the rules are usually fair and are in place to protect the child’s development. Are nurturing when need.
  • Permissive: Letting the child be who they are with little rules and expectations. Very open, non-confrontational, and nurturing. Based on the idea that children do not have the mental capacity to understand maturity and responsibility.

But without a baby, we had no idea what kind of parents we would be. Like I said, I was not going to pigeonhole myself, so I read read over those options with skepticism. Nothing clicked. Instrictive kind of sound nice, we both had nice childhoods, maybe just did what our parents did? Overall those were all just words and abstract idea. We needed a baby in front of us and to figure out what worked for us.

Once Jack arrived, I slowly fell more and more into attachment parenting without even realizing it. I just did what made sense for our family. I decided to exclusively breastfeeding for the health benefits and to save money. Then I bought a baby carrier (and later many more), since Jack wanted to be held all the time and I want free hands on occassion.This lead to me attending (and later becoming a member) of both La Leche League and Babywearing International meetings. Extended breastfeeding and babywearing are two huge aspects of attachment parenting, so these groups naturally led towards other attachment ideas. Now we embrace co-sleeping, baby-led weaning, gentle discipline. And last week we started on cloth diapers. So here I am one year in, an attachment parent by accident. Michael is on board with all of it too. He sees how happy and healthy Jack is, so he has no complaints

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Attached daddy wearing his son for a daytrip to Napa, melts my heart!. 

What does attachment parenting have to do with veganism? Well, it stresses compassion and understanding of your child. Hopefully one day he will spread this idea of ever-encompassing love towards every living thing on the planet.

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Jack LOVES animals so far. Especially our cats. This was the first time he pulled himself up, to pet Zoey!

I am trying very hard to explain veganism to him a simple and non-invasive way right now. Right now the greatest thing I can do is treat him animal compassion. I show him every animal we come across and explain why it matters to the planet. For example, “See the duck on the pond, Jack? It says quack quack. Ducky eats the plants and algae in the water to help keep the pond healthy. See her little ducklings following her? She takes care of them like I care for you.” That way the duck is something is way more than a restaurant menu item to him. I want him to understand why that duck and all over ducks matter.

"Yeah yeah, the dhal is made  from lentils that come from plants...thanks mom..."
“Yeah yeah, the dhal is made from lentils that come from plants…thanks mom…”

Then there is the dietary stuff as well. When he eats lentils, I tell him those came from a plant. When he eats cheese, I tell him that is made from a mama cow’s milk, like the milk you get from mommy. When he eats meat, I tell him that is from the body of an animal.

This is exclusive to being vegan or attachment parenting? No, you can meat-loving attached parent or a vegan tiger mom. Nothing wrong with either one! But overall, attachment parents and veganism share a lot of the same ideals.

Overtime I will explain more and more why I do not eat animals and why daddy does. I will never force him to be vegan, it will be his choice. I hope one day he does decide to go vegan. But overall I hope he always leads a life full of compassion and always seeks out knowledge, the true vegan spirit.

Advice For My Sister-In-Law

In a few short weeks, Jack is going to have a little cousin to play with! My sister-in-law is expecting her first child, a little girl. They are going to be wonderful parents, and that little princess is going to be very well-loved by the whole family.

When I was buying presents for the baby shower a few months ago, I tried not to buy them frivolous things. Just the stuff that I didn’t even think needing before Jack was born. That got me to thinking about the stuff I wish I would have known before I had a baby. Rather than just lecture her to death over this, I’d thought I’d make a post so she can read it as she needs. And any other mom can share in the advice to.

Advice For My Sister-In-Law:

Labor and Delivery

  • Childbirth is a pain you cannot compare to anything else. I am not even going to try to explain or compare it. It’s something unique and you need to experience to understand. But the phrase hurts like a mother f**ker doesn’t even begin to explain it. And I had an epidural!
  • But you will feel like a goddess for doing it. A gross, sweaty, fat, exhausted goddess. But a goddess nonetheless! You created a life! You are superhero!!
  • Listen to your body. Trust that your body knows how to do this (because it actually does!). If something doesn’t feel right, tell someone. I did not want to lay flat on my back during labor because it didn’t feel right. So, despite the doctor insisting, I stayed on my side because Jack and I were just fine. Later on the pain was different and I wanted to be on my back, suddenly Jack started to crown. My body knew what to do and I am glad I trusted it. This also includes if something doesn’t feel right. Tell your nurse immediately if you even have the slightest bad feeling. Be your own advocate.
  • Don’t be upset if your birth plan doesn’t work out. All that matters is your baby is healthy. Vaginal unassisted, epidural, induction, planned c-section, emergency c-section—all just semantics.  I suggest having a good birth plan so you know how to be your own advocate and can make informed decisions when issue arise. My birth plan went out the window as soon as I was admitted. I just stayed focused on my baby and everything worked out fine.
  • Bring snacks for your husband. Whether your labor be quick or slow, it will be hours  before he can walk away to get food. You are really going to need his support and he is gonna need his strength to do so.
  • Bring something to pull your hair back. Hair ties, headbands, scarves or whatever. Not only will hair in your face piss you off, it might get in the way of medical procedures. I had to put my hair up for the epidural and when the they put the oxygen mask on my face.
  • Push like you have to poop. Seriously. Push like you have to take the biggest poop of your life. I did not get pushing until a nurse said this to me two hours later. Save yourself the trouble, do it from the start. And if you actually poop in the process, that’s okay. The doctors and nurses have seen it all before!
  • If there is not a medical emergency, demand skin to skin contact right away. Pop that baby out and plop it on your chest right away! It is one of the most magical moment in your life. This tiny human that you made will know who are instantly and snuggle up. This time is also important as it helps regular baby’s temperature, breathing, and heart. And encourage the needs to nurse. And if by some chance you can’t do it, have your husband do it. Tell him to take his shirt off and snuggle that baby as soon as possible. Your baby needs that comfort!
  • Try breastfeeding as soon as possible too.  Not that you can’t do it if you don’t try right away, but you will have a higher success rate the soon you try.
  • No visitors until baby and you are situated in the postpatrum room. Your needs that family bonding time. A visitor will interrupt your skin to skin contact and breastfeeding time. They will want to hold the baby and hog up this vital time. No offensive to them, I know they probably mean well, but this is not their place. The only thing that baby needs is mama and papa for the first hour or two. Everyone else can wait. And if they aren’t respecting this, call security. And I am so not kidding, they need to respect your wishes bottom line. Everyone respected this for me so there was no issue. My mom while Jack (followed by Michael) went to the nursery for testing. She helped me get situated in my postpartum room, which was a really nice bonding experience for us. Once Jack came back to me and we had a few more nursing attempts, then I invited the rest of family to come see.

Hospital Stay Advice

  • You will probably get little rest at the hospital. Between the nurses come to check on both of you and the baby wanting to nurse all the time, it’s exhausting. But try to rest as much as you can. I regret not sleeping more the first day so much. I was excited to show off my baby to everyone, despite being exhausted. Don’t be afraid to visitors out when you are ready to sleep. Like I said, they need to respect your wishes bottom line. No one was rude and stayed later than I wanted, I just should have asked them to leave sooner.
  • Going to the bathroom for the first time after birth is scary. Everything hurts down there (and if you had a c-section, the incision hurts when you walk too) and you will probably be exhausted. I’m pretty sure I looked like Bambi walking for the first time, I was so glad the nurse goes with you. The nurse will show you how to wash and clean yourself (especially if you have stitches). Take your time, listen to the instructions, and let them help you. I was still a little numb and needed my nurse to help me do everything.
  • Don’t be scared by the giant pads and mesh panties. They will probably put them on you right after birth. I was so fixated on Jack that I didn’t even notice. But I was horrified when I saw I was wearing a GIGANTIC pad. I had heard about them but they were way bigger than I Imagined. They are really more like open diapers. But once I saw how much blood had come out of me, it made sense and I got over it. And the mesh panties—they totally do not look like the ones stripper’s wear. They are more like mesh shorts. But they are soooo comfy and easy to put on. I took a few pairs with me when I left and wore them for the next few days until I was less sore and less bloated. Embrace them, they are amazing.
  • Eat everything you can. Once you relax and your appetite comes back, you are probably going to be starving. Eat all you can! Eat the food the hospital gives you. Demand your family bring you something from your favorite restaurant. Pack plenty of snacks. You just burned as many calories as a climbing a mountain. Stuff your face, you earned it! Plus proper nutrition will help you milk come in.
The Fourth Trimester (The first three months postpartum)
  • Limit visitors for the first two weeks after birth. This is my biggest regret after Jack was born. Too many came over the first few days and I got very very overwhelmed. I was beyond exhausted and ended up crying after people left one day. And Jack wasn’t happy either. He just wanted to be held by me and nurse, most visits ended with him screaming. It also interfered with us getting nursing down quickly. My advice is after immediate family has their initial meeting, close off visitation for two weeks to give everyone time to settle in.
  • Do not accept uninvited visitors. It doesn’t matter than Aunt So-and-so happens to be in town and wants to see the baby. It’s not about her! She is a grown up who will get over it and can come see the baby later. If you let her come over, I guarantee other people will think that mean it’s an open invitation for everyone to come whenever. Or they will get mad they didn’t get special treatment and cause drama. Spare yourself, you have enough to worry about. So when Auntie knocks on the door, ignore it.
  • Require people to either bring food or do a chore for you if they want to see the baby. I read this piece of advice before I gave birth and thought it was rude. How could I ask my guests to do that? After Jack was born I got it. They aren’t guest, you just had a baby and have no reason to play host to them. You are doing them a favor to see the baby, so they should be paying you back for your generosity. When they contact you about coming to visit and you approve a set time, ask them to help you by bringing food. Even if it’s just a loaf of bread or a cake. You will be so happy to eat a big piece of cake when you are nursing the next night at 2 AM. Or, ask them when they show up if they can please throw the load of laundry in the dryer while you nurse the baby first? That way the baby will be content and you will be free to chat instead of running around. Please you shouldn’t be running around, you need to recover. Your  visitors should understand that. And if they chose not to come when you ask them this, that person isn’t nice and shouldn’t be around your baby.
  • Don’t be afraid to kick visitors out. If you are tired, baby needs to nurse, or you are simply just annoyed, tell your visitors good-bye. Thank them for coming and let them wave bye to baby, then kick them out. And if they won’t leave, take the baby into another room and don’t come out until they are gone. It’s not rude, you are doing what is best for your family. It’s rude that they didn’t respect your wishes!
  • You don’t have to listen to every piece of advice. You are going to get a ton of advice. Some good, some bad. Some wanted, and some very unwanted. Listen to it, and say thanks for sharing. If you like it, give it a try. If not, forget it and never give it a second thought. This includes my advice.
  • Hold your baby, hold your baby, hold your baby!!! I know I said please to ignore advice you don’t like, but please listen to this one. You cannot spoil a baby this young. Please hold your baby all you want. Your baby only has a few needs the first few months, and your comfort is one of them. Don’t listen to people who say you should let your baby cry it out and learn to not be held. It’s horrible advice, your baby will become very stressed out and not develop properly. I also suggest babywearing, they make some very simple carriers that are easy for anyone to use. Or give woven wraps a try, I love mine.
  • You are going to get very little sleep. Between all the feedings, diaper changes, and taking care of yourself—sleep will become a luxury. And of course try to sleep when the baby sleeps, but you will probably spend it worrying the baby is breathing.
  • Breastfeeding is hard. While it is the most natural thing your body can do, it doesn’t come naturally to most women. You will need a lot of time, patience, knowledge, and support to be successful. It might hurt, your baby might gave tongue or lips ties that need to be surgically addressed, or you might have a medical reason interfering. All that being said, breastfeeding will become natural overtime. Now I can nurse Jack anywhere, anytime. I love Jack and I breastfeeding relationship, it’s such a powerful bond.
  • But don’t give up when it gets hard. But with the proper help, you CAN overcome most issues. It might not be easy and it might not be a quick fix, but keep going. I almost gave up 3 weeks in, but I turned to La Leche League’s website and gained the knowledge to overcome our struggles. Do everything possible. If one thing doesn’t work, try something else. Keep trying, you CAN do it!
  • Join La Leche League. Or some other breastfeeding support group. You don’t have to struggle alone. Do you know why the official book or La Leche is called “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding”? Because breastfeeding is an art! You need to be taught by someone with experience on how to do it and talk to your peers on how to advance your knowledge. Obstacles will come up that will blindside you, your fellow lactating mothers will talk you through it.
  • If breastfeeding doesn’t work out, that’s okay too. After you have given it your all and you realize breastfeeding just won’t work for you, it’s okay to switch to formula. Your baby will still thrive. You didn’t’ fail, you just tried something that didn’t work. All that matters is your baby is fed and happy.
  • Don’t look at the clock or follow a schedule for nursing.  “Your baby should nurse 15-20 minutes every 2-3 hours.” THIS IS THE BIGGEST LOAD OF CRAP EVER! Most babies do not nurse like this. Nurse your baby whenever they show you hunger cues (rooting, hand sucking, fussiness) and nurse them as long as they want (and you are comfortable).  The best advice I ever got was “Never unlatch a suckling baby”.  Who cares if it’s been 45 minutes, your baby needs it. Even if they are not eating that whole time, they are comfort nursing—which is just as important as eating. It stimulates your milk production and comforts your baby. However, if your baby keeps popping off after a minute or two, make sure you at least keep trying to latch your baby for 15 minutes. Likewise, if it’s been more than 4 hours without your baby nursing (like they are sleeping), latch them on and get them fed. There isn’t really a thing as too much nursing, but they can nurse too little. That’s the only time you should watch the clock.
  • Give yourself time to heal.  The first few weeks the only things you should be doing sitting on the couch nursing your baby or laying in bed nursing your baby. Nothing else. Cooking, cleaning, work, etc.—that all can wait. You are gonna be sore ALL over. You are going to be exhausted. You are going to be worried about your baby constantly. Just sit down, hold your baby, and rest.
  • Don’t worry about losing the baby weight quickly.  Odds are you will not be that one out of a million woman who looks exactly like she did before she got pregnant right after birth. But that’s okay. Just focus on caring for year newborn and healing yourself. Once you are cleared by your doctor, start taking some small steps back like walking with your baby and eating a healthy diet. It took 9 months to gain it, give yourself at least 9 months to get it off before you go crazy. I have lost all my baby weight plus 7 pounds by doing nothing but eat whatever I want within reason that is healthy, walk and nurse. And I’m only 8 months postpartum.
Other Stuff that I can’t explain, but you will understand soon enough:
  • You are going to love your husband even more now.  
  • You are going to love your mom even more now too. 
  • You are going to be a different person from now on. 
  • Your body will never be the same, but you will respect it’s power.