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 / Motherhood / Primrose

Motherhood Update: Prim at 23 months

April 10, 2017

Saying: Everything. Ev-er-y-thing. Prim spends the whooole day talking, and has gotten very good at explaining exactly what she wants at any given moment (“Prim do it!” “Mama help!”) She narrates everything (“Larky sleeping!” “Lark awake!”) and speaks to Lark in her little gibberish language, as though they’re sharing secrets or she’s explaining just how all of this “life outside the womb” business works. It’s heart-achingly adorable and I hope these two are always as thick as thieves.

Doing: Prim is absolutely loving our new bakfiets, which she calls “Daddy bike” since KC rides it. I ride behind the bakfiets on my own bike and watch as she hangs one arm over the side, narrating the ride in her own nonsense language and occasionally pointing out “dog!” or “people!”

Reading: Barnyard Dance, Tree, The Night Gardener, King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub, The Napping House, Jamberry, and Peace is an Offering.

Latest trick: With Prim’s expanded mastery of the English language has come the first bedtime and naptime manipulations. Prim is always asking for “more song” before I leave her room at bedtime or naptime. Singing to Prim before putting her down for the night is one of the sweetest parts of the day, so it’s always a struggle balancing the consistency of the bedtime routine with my own wishes to extend the time where she snuggles up to me, laying her head on my chest as I sing her “Edelweiss” or what she calls “movie song,” which is one of the songs from Frozen, Tangled or Moana — the soundtracks we listen to on Spotify on repeat on a daily basis.

Favorite toys: I’ve equipped Prim’s little kitchen with some empty spice jars, as I had emptied them into my own decorative spice jars which sit on the kitchen counter. Prim loves “cooking with spices” and “making coffee” in her kitchen, which involves an unused metal IKEA coffee press and her stacking cups (one of the very best toy purchases from when Prim was a baby!)

Sweetest things: Prim is so, so sweet with Lark. Everyday is full of her giving Lark kisses and hugs and sweetly announcing “Larky sad!” whenever Lark starts crying. She’ll often sidle up to Lark when she’s in the crib or the bouncy seat while I’m busy cooking or doing dishes, and I’ll hear Prim’s high-pitched “Hiiiiii Lark!” followed by a string of gibberish words, complete with accompanying hand gestures.

Favorite thing about this age: Because Prim recently went through the language explosion developmental milestone, she loves pointing out and naming just about everything. If she doesn’t know the word for something she will make it clear that she’s searching for the word until I name it for her, when she will triumphantly repeat it back to me. She loves snuggling up to me while I hold Lark and pointing to and naming body parts (“Larky ear!” “Mama eyebrow!” “Prim neck!”) The most hilarious example of which came while I was getting dressed one day and she walked up behind me and announced, “Mama buns!” and lovingly tapped my behind, just like I will occasionally do to her. I couldn’t help but burst out laughing and scoop her up for a hug.

Baby / Lark / Motherhood

Motherhood Update: Lark at 1 month

March 22, 2017

We’re a little over one month in with Lark now, so I thought I’d put together an update on how she’s doing and how we’re adjusting to our newest family member. These updates will be a little different from the ones I post about Prim (because, yeah, there’s not a whole lot of huge developments to cover the first 6-8 months) so these posts will be a little bit about Lark and a little bit about what’s working for us two-kids-wise and how Prim is adjusting to being a big sister.

Sleeping: Don’t worry, we don’t have some magical unicorn child who is sleeping through the night at 5 weeks (don’t you kind of want to punch those parents? Just a little? I mean… good for them though.) Lark is exclusively breastfed and is on a pretty standard breastfed schedule (meaning: no schedule.) She eats on demand and we have been lucky that she generally sticks to 3 hours between feedings at night (sometimes she’ll do a 4 hour stretch, sometimes she’ll do a 2 hour stretch — it’s not an exact science). It’s tiring, but I’ve found that if you go into the first few months expecting to be up most of the night, it’s not so bad. And I’m very lucky that Lark is a champion breastfeeder and came out of the womb that way (such a difference from Prim!)

How we’re adjusting: I really prepared myself for the transition to two kids to be monstrous. I thought I would get zero sleep, be completely irritable, expected to have a baby who cried and cried and couldn’t be calmed, and thought Prim would have a really difficult time adjusting. Luckily my “worst case scenario” mentality worked out — none of those things have happened. I did get really thrown into the deep end when, after having help for the first couple weeks, KC went back into busy season where he would work until 10:30pm or later, meaning I was alone with both kids alllll day (and most of the night, really). Tackling Prim’s naptime and bedtime routine (including her bath) are the most challenging parts of the day, but I’ve been feeling pretty accomplished that we have been sticking to Prim’s schedule and I’ve managed to keep the house clean, laundry done, and even cook dinner most nights.

I’m definitely still in the process of figuring out what Lark likes these days. Unlike Prim, who loved to be swaddled, Lark is not a fan of being wrapped up burrito-style. Luckily she seems to sleep well with her arms free, so I’m currently in the process of trying to figure out a newborn sleep sack situation, since I didn’t put Prim into a sleep sack until she was 4 or 5 months. Lark also did not take to the Avent Soothie/Wubbanub pacifier the way Prim did. I finally found a pacifier that she likes, but she’s still not crazy for it like Prim was at this age.

Lifesavers: There’s no way I would be able to tackle two kids effectively without baby wearing. The Solly Wrap is such a lifesaver. I keep the Solly Wrap tied on me all day and pop Lark in and out as needed. It’s the quickest way to calm her down and get her to sleep if she’s tired (not to mention it’s basically the only way I can tackle Prim’s nap and bedtime routine without having a baby screaming in the next room). I’ve been pretty strict about Lark sleeping in her crib in our room at night, but during the day we’re still in the “whatever works” phase of getting her to nap. Newborn sleep is all over the place and they luckily aren’t forming strong habits at this age, so I’m not sweating the lack of daytime routine.

New sibling: Prim has adjusted phenomenally well to having a new sibling. From the moment we brought Lark home, Prim was smitten with her and this really hasn’t changed. She asks for “Baby Lark” as soon as she wakes up in the morning and loves giving her kisses, snuggles, and “pets.”

Sweetest things: Prim will cuddle up with Lark under the IKEA play gym and speak to her in her little gibberish language, which we’ve dubbed “Primglish.” Lark has started cooing back, which is simultaneously adorable and a little terrifying — Prim didn’t start cooing until around 6 weeks and now talks a mile a minute all day long, so I’ve already warned KC that it’s likely we’re going to have two little chatterboxes on our hands.

Favorite thing about this age: There is nothing sweeter than newborn snuggles. And the frog position they get into when they’re so sleepy after breastfeeding (feet up, arms bent with fists by the face) makes me want 100 more babies every time.

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!)