Category Archives: Favorite Things

Baby / Favorite Things / Motherhood

A Postpartum Miracle Find

April 11, 2017

If you are already a mom, then you may know about the wonderful joy of pumping. Oh wait, reverse that — I mean TERRIBLE ANNOYANCE.

Pumping is awful.

I’ve talked a little bit about pumping on here before, but given that I’m currently a stay at home mom, my relationship with pumping is a little different.

First, Lark had zero issues breastfeeding, unlike Prim, so I didn’t need to start pumping right away. And given my intense milk supply, pumping isn’t really the best thing for me to start up in the first six weeks anyway (because your supply is still regulating itself during that time, and anytime you pump it’s telling your body to produce even MORE milk). Also, since I’m not transitioning back to work, I’m not trying to build up a massive freezer stash of milk. Any milk I freeze right now is just a bank for when I (eventually) want to leave the house without Lark. And given the size of European freezers, there’s no way I can stock up frozen milk the way I did with Prim. Which, to be honest, we ended up purchasing a separate freezer just for breastmilk for her because I had pumped so much before returning to work.

Despite the fact that I was able to build up a pretty awesome freezer stash with Prim (I think it was somewhere in the realm of 600oz), I am not someone who excels at pumping. After having Prim, I had a Medela Pump In Style Advanced which worked fairly well while I was home on maternity leave, but returning to work and pumping was a whole other animal. Pumping at work was stressful and unfamiliar so my output was noticeably less; not to mention that I would regularly have sessions where I couldn’t get a letdown to save my life (it was as if my body was like, THIS ISN’T YOUR BABY WHAT ARE YOU DOING).

I did purchase a breast pump for use after Lark as well — the Ameda Purely Yours (called the Lactaline here in Europe), since I don’t have a converter that will work with the voltage of my Medela PISA and my insurance covered most of the cost of the Ameda. I attempted to use the Ameda a handful of times and simply could not get my body to respond to it. I started getting worried that I would have to either shell out €300 for a new European Medela pump, or I simply would never be able to leave the house without Lark during the first year (yayyyy… sobbing face)

I even started to doubt my supply, wondering whether I simply didn’t have any milk left to pump or was suffering from low supply. But given the amount of Lark’s weight gain (and the number of shirts I’m ruining on a weekly basis), I was fairly certain this wasn’t the case. I settled on the idea that my body simply doesn’t respond very well to pumping. Couple that with the fact that pumping is annoying as hell, means that my motivation to get any milk stashed for a “rainy day” was like… zero.

But then I heard about the Haakaa. I was a little skeptical that something so simple and inexpensive could actually work, but I decided to bite the bullet and try it out. I figured even if it didn’t work then at least I was only out $25.

Once the Haakaa was delivered, I sterilized it and got to reading the directions. I looked up a couple YouTube videos too, thinking that it certainly couldn’t be as simple as the directions made it out to be. (Nothing to plug in? No tiny pieces to fumble with? No PUMP? Surely this was a hoax.) I decided to put it next to my bed and test it out during one of Lark’s morning feeds, since you can use it one one side while your baby nurses on the other.

It took a little trial and error to get it on correctly, but once I positioned it correctly, lo and behold 10 minutes later… The dang thing worked.

It’s certainly not going to replace a regular pump for going back to work or skipped nursing sessions, but for those of us who pump just for convenience and to build up a small stash for the occasional outing — I can’t say enough good things about the Haakaa. You suction it onto your breast and leave it there — either while your baby nurses on the other side (which is how I use it) or just by itself. It catches your letdown without any of the actual pumping action (which as any seasoned mama will tell you, IS THE WORST and is so uncomfortable.)

One of the things I’m also super excited about is that it’s so easy to travel with. KC and I are discussing going back to the US for a few weeks in a couple months, and I was sort of dreading having to drag out my Medela pump for the trip (since we would have grandparents around to potentially watch the kiddos, we might actually leave the house sans children!) The Haakaa is perfect for trips like this — I can use it once or twice a day just like I do at home and bank some milk for a day or night out, without having to pack a bulky pump with all the pieces. (Oh yeah, AND somehow find 15-20 minutes each day when one of the two kids is not attached to me or having a meltdown, which, let’s just say that those windows are rare these days.)

In case you’re curious, I use the Haakaa on one side while I nurse Lark on the other — usually during her morning feed(s). I do this once or twice a day and get roughly 50-75ml in about 10 minutes. It’s obviously not as good at draining the breast as a double electric pump, but it helps relieve some of that early morning engorgement and gives me a good amount to build up a small stash in the freezer. Not to mention that it’s so much easier and less complicated to use than any other pump I’ve tried.

*This post is not sponsored or anything, I just thought the Haakaa was so awesome I wanted to share!

Baby / Favorite Things

Baby Registry Redux

March 14, 2017

You don’t generally get to have a registry and multiple baby showers for a child that isn’t your first. I know some people have a “sprinkle” the second (or third…) time around with a few close friends, especially if they’re having a baby that’s a different gender; but that’s usually more to get “fun” gifts like clothing and diapers –not the whole mess of gear and accessories you register for the first time around.

But really, building a registry would be so much easier if you could do it after having a kid. Because do you need a wipe warmer? Should you splurge on the stroller you really want or register for the more economical option?

I’m firmly planted in the “less is more” camp when it comes to baby gear, but even “minimalist” babies need quite a bit of stuff. Now that I’ve got two kiddos, I’ve revised the list of what I would register for if I could do it all over again. Here are my thoughts for all of the major categories to cover in your baby registry.

(There are tons of awesome options for each of the categories below, my recommendations are just based on items I’ve used or seen and really like.)

Bathtime

I like to keep the products I use on Prim as natural and basic as possible, but she’s developed a bit of eczema which tends to flare up in the colder months, so just anything won’t do for bath time. I use the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database (there’s also an app) to see which items are low-hazard and will work for her sensitive skin.

Diapering and Health/Safety

I used cloth diapers on Prim until we moved to Amsterdam and absolutely loved them. Unfortunately, cloth diapering in the Netherlands is a bit trickier (I still can’t find cotton prefolds here) and there’s no service available like there is in California to come pick up your soiled diapers, so I would have to do all the washing myself if I were to continue using them. Given that our washer/dryer fits like a single shirt at a time and takes approximately 1,000 years to do one load, I’ve made the switch over to disposables (but honestly, I would switch back to cloth in an instant if it weren’t such a giant hassle!)

If you deliver at a hospital they should provide you with a standard rectal thermometer, which is why i would recommend registering for an ear thermometer if you decide to put one on your registry.

When looking at diaper pails make sure to note whether you have to buy special bin liners for the one you want (looking at you, Diaper Dekor). We registered for the Ubbi even though it was more expensive because you can use regular garbage bags in it, which actually makes it cheaper in the long run, especially if you are planning on having more than one kid.

*The Keekaroo changing pad doesn’t require a cover, so you could avoid buying covers and liners if you register for that option.

Eating

I ended up going with the Kiinde bottle warmer after doing a bunch of research and finding out that it’s the best bottle warmer for use with breastmilk because it uses water rather than steam to warm the bottle. It takes a little longer than other bottle warmers because of this, but I like knowing that it’s maintaining as much of the nutrients in the breastmilk as possible since it’s not heating too quickly or getting too hot. If you’re going to be heating up formula, I’d recommend a different bottle warmer (one that’s cheaper and faster) because formula isn’t as easily compromised by heat as breastmilk is.

The nursing pillow was really helpful with Prim, but I have to admit I haven’t used it once since having Lark, so if you can borrow a friend’s that might be a better option than adding it to your registry.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the size of your registry, feel free to cut out things related to feeding baby solid food. Babies don’t start solids until 4-6 months, which means you’ll have plenty of time to buy baby food-related items yourself during the first few months. I do recommend putting a high chair on your registry though — you get a completion discount on remaining items not purchased from your registry, so given that it’s a higher-priced item it’s nice to have the discount!

Play

We try to stick to toys that are made from natural materials like wood, natural rubber or food-grade silicone, since we know that most (or all) end up going in the kids’ mouths at one point or another. We ended up buying the IKEA play gym on a whim shortly after Prim was born, as I wasn’t really into the crazy neon play mats/play gyms I saw everywhere else, but also didn’t want to spend $150 on a beautiful wood one. The IKEA one ended up being an awesome purchase (it’s only $30!) — Prim still plays with it, and I love that it’s not a hot-pink eyesore in the middle of the living room.

Out and About

I think there are plenty of strollers out there that are awesome, and what works for you is really personal. You should research strollers based on what you like to do and your family’s living situation. Someone who hikes frequently or runs outdoors is obviously going to have different needs from someone who needs a stroller for a tight, urban environment (hello, Amsterdam). We wanted a general, all-purpose stroller that was both compact and easy to maneuver. We ended up choosing ours because I have severe restrictions on how much weight I can lift due to my bad back, and our stroller was the lightest all-terrain, urban stroller we could find. However, now that we have two kids under two, if I had to do it over again I would register for a stroller than can convert from a single to a double (like the Uppababy Vista or City Select). If you plan to have more than one kid but think you’ll space them out a bit, a single stroller with a ride-on board is a good option. (If Prim were a year older, I’d hang onto our current stroller and add this.)

I’ve already posted about baby wraps here. As for structured carriers, we initially got the Ergo 360 carrier, but I couldn’t put the freaking thing on by myself (which, uh, is kind of a deal-breaker), so we returned it and tried on a bunch of other carriers. I liked the Baby Bjorn, but we ultimately chose the Beco Gemini because it fit KC better. The Beco is really comfy and easy to use, and it’s awesome that it has the option of four different positions (front facing in, front facing out, side carry, and back carry).

Bedtime

I registered for two mattress protectors and three crib sheets when I was pregnant with Prim, which, I will admit, at the time felt a little bit greedy. Now that I’ve been through a night with a puking child, I know that this is the absolute MINIMUM amount of bedding you want to register for. Just trust me on this one.

Also, I felt like the bedding we registered for (aside from the crib) was somewhat pricey, but now that I’m almost two years into parenting, I totally see the value in spending money on your kid’s sleeping situation. They spend so much time sleeping on those sheets and mattress that you really see your return on investment on those items. So if you’ve got your eye on some pricey, well-made sheets for baby’s crib — I say go ahead and go for it.

You’ll notice that I didn’t include any baby clothing on my registry, because whether or not you have clothing on your registry people will buy it for you. If you’re really committed to a certain outfit or aesthetic, you can obviously add those to your registry, but I don’t really think adding clothing to your registry is necessary.

After the jump is the full registry list with links sans comments in case you want to print it out or copy/paste it into a Word doc as a checklist. The items in bold I think are not strictly necessary — they’re either “nice to have” or could be purchased after baby is born.

Happy registering!  read more

Baby / Favorite Things / Pregnancy

Pregnancy Post: 5 favorite things for the second and third trimesters

March 3, 2017

^^ end of pregnancy style: a t-shirt that barely fits and “I can’t be bothered” hair ^^

My second pregnancy was a bit different from my first (and not just because my first took place in the US and the second took place in the Netherlands). The second pregnancy I was chasing a toddler around and didn’t have as much free time to really revel in being pregnant. Not that I didn’t enjoy it — I actually really enjoy being pregnant (aside from those first weeks when I was puking every second of the day); but with your first pregnancy there’s a lot more preparation to be done. I read a bunch of pregnancy books while pregnant with Prim and did all sorts of research on what gear to purchase and who made crib mattresses that weren’t filled with toxic chemicals.

The second time around I read part of a book that was pregnancy-related — not even the whole thing. I think I used belly butter to prevent stretch marks like five times total. And I hate to admit that I was less than diligent about keeping up with my prenatal vitamins (I mean, I remembered to take them most of the time…)

Here are the five things I actually did use during my second pregnancy that I would recommend:

  1. Dr. Teal’s Lavender Epsom Salt Bath Soak: I’ve said it before and I will say it again — there is nothing like a bath when you’re pregnant. Towards the end of my pregnancy I would fill up the tub and toss in some of these bath salts (which are so affordable by the way, you can even get two huge bags for $17!) I would chill out and listen to a podcast, feeling little Lark kick and roll around in my belly. Total bliss.
  2. Breathe Right Nasal Strips: A weird and not-so-fun fact about pregnancy — many women suffer from swollen sinuses, which makes it hard to breathe at night (it’s like having a sinus infection ALL THE TIME). These strips work wonders so you can breathe at night without resorting to probably-not-safe-for-pregnancy medications or the ever so attractive sleeping with your mouth wide open.
  3. H&M Mama Maternity Wear: You guys already know about my love for H&M maternity jeans, but I have to say that I wore H&M maternity wear almost exclusively during my second and third trimester this pregnancy. Their maternity wear is inexpensive and on-trend; and while I won’t say that it will definitely hold up through multiple pregnancies, the price point makes it worthwhile in my opinion (because you never know if you’re going to be pregnant in exactly the same season next time!) And yes, I’m totally tempted to purchase these even though I’m no longer pregnant. (KC’s nightmare — my baby fever + overalls. Wedded bliss!)
  4. Hypnobirthing, Fourth Edition: The Mongan Method: I have to admit that I did wayyy less birth prep this time than I did when I was pregnant with Prim. I didn’t even read this whole book, but I did read through the breathing techniques and found them really helpful during labor. If you’re looking for a book to read to prepare for a natural birth, I would definitely recommend this one.
  5. Wireless Bluetooth Speaker: We didn’t purchase this speaker because I was pregnant, but I loved using this speaker during both of my labors. As I mentioned in both Prim’s and Lark’s birth stories, we played music throughout both of my labors which really helped me chill out and relax. We have gotten so much use out of this little speaker (outside of the delivery room also!) that I can’t not mention it. I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase it again.

If you’re expecting or trying to get pregnant, I hope this list is at least a little helpful. And since I’ve gone from one kiddo to two, I’ll try to do a baby-gear recap on what I would recommend if you’re planning a registry and hoping to have more than one child (because I would definitely get a different stroller if I could do it over!)

Favorite Things / Pregnancy

Maternity Jeans

October 27, 2016

img_0041As I mentioned last week, I have been searching for maternity jeans that are both comfortable and don’t fall down. While I love how comfortable my J Brand pair is, I clearly purchased the wrong size because they are constantly shimmying down my hips. Not only that, but I feel like the back doesn’t quite come up as high as I would like, so I’m always worried that I’m going to find myself in a plumber-type situation (if you catch my drift), which, while that may have been a hot thing in college, is definitely not my current scene at 23+ weeks pregnant.

I also have a pair of JCrew maternity jeans, which are my sister’s (we pass maternity clothes back and forth, since we seem to trade being pregnant every 6-12 months). They are also super comfy, but since my sister is a bit taller than I am, they are not the right size and end up baggy and unflattering by the end of the day (which is great when you already feel like your whole body is kind of baggy and unflattering).

I posted a question on Facebook recently about maternity jeans and got a bunch of great responses. The number one consensus, though? Maternity jeans, just like regular jeans, are totally personal. While there were a couple of repeat votes for a few brands, overall everyone had different opinions on who made the “best” maternity jeans.

The other issue I ran into is that maternity brands seem to be sort of few and far between here in the Netherlands. I never felt like the US had tons of maternity options or anything, but maternity sizing did seem much more readily available there than it does here.

img_0039Luckily, over the weekend KC, Prim and I took our bikes into the city center to check out a sale that was happening at a large department store. We ended up wandering into an H&M which carried maternity sizing and I walked away with three (!) new pairs of maternity jeans.

Finding these jeans felt like such a win, because they’re comfortable, stay skinny all day long, and don’t fall down! Hallelujah. Plus, they were a whopping €30 per pair, so walking away with three didn’t feel like I was burning our bank account to the ground.img_0040I never thought I was an over-the-belly maternity jean kind of girl (because generally I find anything digging into my belly to be incredibly uncomfortable), but these are actually super comfortable and the extra layer is great for the cold weather here in Amsterdam. Plus, the additional fabric means I never have to worry about being mistaken for someone who fixes drainage problems for a living.

*In case you’re curious, I picked up the H&M Mama Super Skinny in blue and grey, and the Mama Bikertregging in plum (color not currently available online). US version of the Super Skinny is available here. Bikertregging doesn’t appear to be available on the US site, but similar pants available here.

Baby / Favorite Things

Music and Children’s Books: Favorites

October 25, 2016

img_9972We don’t allow Prim to watch TV (aside from on plane flights — because pleeeease just stop screaming) so we do a lot of reading in our house. Prim is obsessed with music and books, and a lot of our day is spent reading on the couch and having Pandora dance parties.

I thought I’d share some of our favorite Pandora stations, as well as some of Prim’s favorite books, since I’m always looking for a new station to groove to (or cook to…) and new kids books to introduce to Prim.

Pandora Favorites:

  • For sing-a-longs: Disney
  • For singing and dancing parties: ABBA
  • For dance parties: Elastic Heart or Electric Love
  • Indie background music: Miike Snow or Hozier
  • Upbeat instrumental: Film Scores radio
  • Good for rainy mornings: Yann Tiersen
  • Best for nostalgia: Rick Astley, Peter Gabriel or En Vogue
  • Best for family gatherings: Dinner Party radio
  • Holiday favorites: Spooky Symphonies, Halloween Party radio, Friendsgiving radio, Christmas radio, Classical Christmas radio, Christmas Choral Classics, Christmas Traditional Radio, Swingin’ Christmas radio

Prim’s Favorite Children’s Books (right now)

*Ahem, please excuse the little potty chair in the picture above. Someone has been quite insistent about “no diapers” lately.