The Importance of “Mom Friends”

When you’re a young mother, there is already a level of anxiety that comes with your baby bump. Instead of getting the “Awe congratulations! When are you due?” from strangers, you get the eyebrow raises, looks of pity/disgust, or my personal favorite, “You’re pregnant? But you’re just a baby yourself! I thought you were like 14!” Pregnancy isn’t easy when you could pass for a high schooler (or if you actually are a teen mom), as I experienced first hand. It’s awkward going shopping, it’s awkward going to the doctors, it’s awkward when you announce you’re expecting. From start to finish there is people whispering behind your back (whether they approve or not) and it couldn’t be any more obvious.

I thought when Genevieve was born things would get easier. I figured oh, maybe pushing a stroller will make me appear older and portray my maturity a bit better. Nope. I can’t count on one hand how many times I have heard high school students gasping when I walked by with Evie in tow in the stroller that it was a “real baby” (versus the doll from home-ec class) and “She’s the cheer coach? I thought she was a student!”. How many times I have been asked if I needed a hall pass or what I was doing outside the cafeteria during lunch hour as I checked some items out of the athletic cage during school hours. People introduce me and it comes out that I have a daughter and the same old, “What! I would have never guessed. You look so young!” comes out. Buying some baby supplies when Evie isn’t with me and I am asked if I need a gift certificate.

You get the idea, I don’t need to continue.

Anyway, I am so thankful to have met some really amazing people working at the bakery when I first moved to Minnesota. They have become some great friends and we always had a blast at work, and outside of work. I still hangout with most of them; we go running, shopping, to concerts, yoga, etc. However- none of them have kids. Which is fine! Each and every one of them are always super supportive and excited when Evie is around, or if I can’t do something because she has to come first they understand. Venting about baby stuff is always encouraged, and they are the first to ask for updates or compliment on how big she is getting or what new skill she has mastered.

My mom and I have gotten extremely close since Evie has been here since she is the first I call to ask a question, get an opinion, or just share excitement. But I miss having someone my age that can identify with what I am feeling or doing, and as much as I love my mom, she can’t. She has encouraged me to go out and “make friends”, but I have been so content with my little circle from the bakery and coaching that I haven’t done so. But, I finally got brave.

There was a mom roughly my age (from what I guesstimated via pictures) that I met online (I know it sounds sketchy but hear me out) through Care.com when I was starting to look for a Nanny for Evie. She was moving up to the Minnesota in December and had a daughter just under a year old herself. After thorough Facebook stalking I messaged her back and we started to chat. Unfortunately, I didn’t need child care until the summer so she ended up taking another job but I reached out because I know how lonely it is moving to a new place and not really having a way to meet friends such as school or work.

We finally ended up going to lunch a few weeks ago and I couldn’t have been more nervous. Will it be awkward? Will we have stuff to talk about? What if I seem to eager or excited? Will we have things in common? What if her kid and my kid don’t get along? Can kids that young even really not like other people? What if Evie throws a fit and I can’t control her, will she think I am a bad mom? I swallowed my fear, drove to TGI Fridays, and got out of the car.

It was the best decision I made in a long time.IMG_6738

We hit it off great! Honestly, it felt like I have known her forever. The list of things we have in common is ridiculous. Our age. The age of our boyfriends. The general age of our kids. Our pregnancy journeys. Our birth stories. Living away from family. Living with our boyfriend’s family. Breastfeeding. Wanting to be a stay at home mom. Wanting a big family. Being new to Minnesota. Not really wanting to finish college, but knowing part of us still wants to. Trying to buy a house in the Fall. Stressors of living with another family while trying to parent. Not having any “mom” friends close by.

You get the idea- it is insane how alike we are. It is such a breath of fresh air and relief to finally have someone who is literally going through damn near the exact same thing as me. I don’t feel crazy when I vent about little things, because she gets it! Just like when she needs to vent, I get it!

Felicity (her daughter) and Evie had another play date just yesterday where we walked to the park and just sat in the shade for a solid three hours. Three.
Whole. Hours.

Who does that? Who on the planet is content with just sitting, watching your kid crawl through the grass? Who?

I’ll tell you who.

Moms. Moms that can finally be in like company and relax.

When Evie got fussy and needed a nap, we walked back home and I put her down and we continued to just hangout over lunch. It was awesome.

One mom friend: Check.

Needless to say, it feels really good to start meeting people I can really identify with, and that Evie can socialize with. Makes me continue to look forward to life here in Minnesota with my little family!

Grains, or no grains?

I have read before that babies aren’t supposed to have grains, and how this contradicts what pediatricians and parents have been recommending for baby’s first food: rice cereal. What I read made sense- grains are very dense and requires amylase to help digest and break down the food. Because their system is so new and has yet to adapt, it cannot adequately digest the food. But at the same time, I couldn’t help but wonder okay so when can they “suddenly” digest grains? Most sources said after a year or so.

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 11.01.31 PM.pngAfter posting a meal I prepared for Evie that contained oatmeal on our instagram (@eviesjourneyblw), I briefly mentioned that some prefer to wait before offering grains, and I noted that I personally didn’t see an issue with it in moderation. A user commented about the dangers and how it should be prepared ground if offered at all. For me, that just didn’t sit right. How can a baby digest red meat, or other complex proteins, but not a grain? While I appreciated the advice and tip- I am always willing to learn and hear other’s perspectives- it was time I really sat down and investigated the issue I had been avoiding for the past three weeks.

After a few hours of internet scrolling and trolling……

Will I be giving Genevieve grains? Yes.

Each parent has the right and privilege to parent how they see fit. Do what you want- if you agree, cool, if not, whatever. For me, I think grains are okay. I’m not going to offer them at say, every meal but I won’t go grain free either. Like anything else, I believe it is all good in moderation. This article by a pHd educated nutritionist pretty much answered the feeling I had in my gut:

The bottom line is that it is safe to feed babies starchy foods. They can digest them, and they are one part of a varied, balanced diet for babies that are ready to begin eating solid foods.

Amylase & Digestion

The scientist explained that although babies do not have much pancreatic amylase to digest Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 11.03.15 PM.pngstarchy foods as well as older children and adults, they do have salivary amylase. Right away? No- but by the time they are old enough to safely be eating solid foods (usually 6 months+) the amount of amylase in their mouth is usually sufficient. Picture this: how does a baby eat? Do they just bite and swallow? No. They swish, gum, chew, spit, play, and mash the food in their mouth first. This messy process not only protects them from choking but also helps their saliva begin the process of breaking down food.

Furthermore, in breastfed babies the amount of amylase working for them is increased significantly. Breastmilk has 25x more amylase than cows milk, and 50% of that amylase stays active when it reaches the stomach, even hours after consumed! Can you believe that? Another amazing fact about breastmilk that I am happy to have learned! So, after the salivary amylase starts the job, the amylase in breastmilk will continue the process before the food continues it’s way through the body.

The final stop for nutritional break down is the small intestine, where glucoamylase works as an enzyme further dividing the glucose from the starch in the molecules of food. It’s ironic, because the levels of glucoamylase is “very active” in babies!

Whatever does not get processed by then, moves on to the large intestine where it actually helps feed the microbes that keep the villa thriving. This regulates bowel movements, further digestion, the whole bit.

It’s a good thing I am #TeamGrains since Genevieve already loves her carbs!

For this crunchy mumma, I will be continuing to stick with the philosophy that drew me towards baby led weaning in the first place: I will give my baby the same food I give myself.  That means I have gotten better about what I eat (reducing sodium, watching preparation methods such as frying vs. baking or grilling, organic and all-natural when available, etc.) I don’t  try not to overload on carbs or proteins, so neither will Evie. She keeps me in check to make sure I provide an environment where she learns to love and eat healthy, nutritious food. Years from now when I cannot control what she eats I want the habits and example we leave now to make a mark that if she is hungry, and apple or cucumber is a delicious snack instead of chips or snack mix. I know it is inevitable that she will eat junk food- I myself at six chocolate chip cookies I baked today, but being a parent means you don’t always get to be fun. I don’t and won’t give her crap food. She will get enough of it when we go out to eat, she buys lunch at school, special occasions, and her own choice when she is older. When I no longer have control, I just can hope she sees good examples and makes good choices.

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3 Reasons to Use a Weaning Glass.

Giving your baby a real glass.

One of the concepts of the Montessori method I have briefly touched on is the weaning glass. It discusses giving your baby (yes even your 6 month old!) an actual glass, glass. For Evie I purchased this glass set for roughly $11. They are the perfect size for her! She can grab them with both hands, and if she spills it isn’t dumping a ton of water everywhere. But isn’t that scary? It could break and shatter everywhere! They are just going to throw it around anyway! How expensive it must be to keep replacing them!

So, why give your baby a glass-glass?

1) Control of Error

IMG_5040For me, one of the biggest appeals of the weaning glass was teaching “control of error”. In Montessori, they encourage the child learning cause and effect, action and reaction, from a very young age. When you give a child glass, they learn that if it is thrown, knocked off the table, or slammed that it will break. In order to use the control of error, you need to make sure when a dish breaks that you handle it correctly. I.e., remaining calm, collected, and expressive. So, instead of yelling/scolding (“No! We don’t throw dishes!”) the advise the parent or guardian to softly express the cause/effect (“Uh-oh, we weren’t careful and the glass broke. Let’s clean it up now and try not to break the next one.”). It may seem silly to explain that to an infant, but they will soon realize that breaking a dish is undesired and be careful. Some parents choose to wait closer to a year to start the weaning glass, since their motor skills are more precise.

Conversely, when a child is given plastic the consequences of hurling it across the room, or slamming it in front of them is significantly lower. So when they consistently bang their plate or throw their sippy cup, they will not be able to quickly out grow the phase even as they age.

2) Confidence and Trust

Giving your child glass dish ware reflects in them confidence and trust! Maybe not right away, but as they get older they will know that you can give them precious items and know they can handle it.

This will transfer into their ability to be independent and self-sufficient. They can then be able to carry their tableware to their table setting, and proceed to bring it back to the sink or dishwasher when their are done. When they go out to eat or visit a friend, you won’t have to be concerned about making sure they have “kid friendly” dishes.

3) Safety

There are so many countless studies that have linked BPA and cancer. Hence, the sudden wave to make dishes, toys, bottles, etc. BPA free. The good news is the a majority of products are now safe from that harmful chemical. Unfortunately, there are other chemicals that are still present in plastic dish ware. For instance, melamine is found in that durable, shiny, tableware many families use especially with children since it is so strong. While eating off the material itself is not harmful, microwaving it can release the chemical and lurk into the food.

Glass as been known to be safe and non-toxic. While it may be breakable, if kids can learn to be careful it is a smart option to consider! Using a weaning glass is a great way to get your child used to being careful before approaching larger items like bowls and plates.

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Baby Led Weaning: Day One

Today Evie officially started solid food!

Her first meal was watermelon, scrambled eggs, black beans, and a little bit of water. She seemed more interested in her bib than the food in front of her, but once she got a handle on her weaning glass she really enjoyed it! I can’t help but think of how adorable she is, even when she is swiping watermelon slices to the floor…

The Philosophy

We are doing a combination of Baby Led Weaning and Montessori. Since I am a stay-at-home mom, I have a bit more time to devote to the process of weaning, and after researching a bunch of different methods, I identified with these the most. They seem to fit into the lifestyle and morals Tyler and I want to encourage in Genevieve, and seem safe and fairly simple to do. I encourage anyone to research both concepts to learn more about them!

Baby Led Weaning is simply giving the child the same table food you eat. You accommodate it based on their skill level and age. For instance, since Evie is only 6 months she gets stick shaped foods that are easy to gum around in her mouth. So things like steamed vegetables, whole fruits with skin on for easy gripping, and meat in strips. The stick shape helps her grab the food, since at this age she grasps objects with her whole palm.

Montessori goes with the pureed method, but also includes using tableware in the weaning process. A true Montessori weaning involves the use of a weaning table and chair, but also flatware, glasses, and placemats. It encourages the child to learn manners and table etiquette but also practical skills like drinking from a glass, being careful with plates, and using silverware.

We are adapting the things we like from both methods. So, for us that means having Evie at the table with us (BLW), feeding herself independently the same foods we eat, prepared age appropriately (BLW), learning to use an open up (BLW & Mont.), and using tableware when age appropriate (Mont.). When out and about, I have reusable snack bags that have fold-over tops (no ziplock seal) so Evie can reach in and grab her own snacks. As far as cups on the go, we have Munchkin 360 cup. It sports the open-end we like about the Montessori weaning, but the parent-friendly anti-spill top. This way the drinking concept is the same as at home, but less mess!

I don’t see anything wrong with the traditional pureed weaning method, I think it is a great option for busier parents and mainstream babies. Particularly those who have to go to daycare or be watched for a decent part of the week. It is more common therefore child care providers are more comfortable with what they already know! Plus, it doesn’t take as much time (you could argue the other way here, since it involves spoon feeding and possibly preparing baby specific food), and is cleaner in the sense that the parent has control of the food, and liquids are bound to a closed cup.

However, in our case I am home with Genevieve virtually all day, every day. I have ample time to devote to giving her an open-ended chunk on time to play with her food and safely explore and eat, clean up spilled water and liquids, and bathe her afterwards. Its truly a blessing! Being a stay-at-home mom gives me the opportunity to use extended time and energy on weaning, something not very many people can. Since I have the time, I want to use it towards a weaning philosophy I believe will help in the long run, so we are giving it a try!

The Set Up

For her set up, we have the Stokke Tripp Trapp and coordinating baby set, EZPZ Happy Mat Bowl, some towel bibs I purchased on Easy (I plan to make my own since they are fairly simple, but since my sewing machine is buried in the downstairs renovation its a bit impossible right now), and this First Glass Set.

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I liked the high chair because I wanted one that could pull up to the table, a concept that is important in both Baby Led Weaning and Montessori style weaning. Having the baby at the table gives them confidence in their ego (Montessori), and includes them in mealtime by allowing them to observe and copy their family while eating (BLW). I went with the placemats since she would be at the table, and although Montessori encourages giving bowls and what not right away, since she wasn’t at a lower weaning table I decided the placemats would be more user and mommy friendly. We have the bowl, regular “plate”, and snack size happy mats. For now I just used to bowl since she isn’t eating all that much.

The weaning glasses are a concept I am very excited about! both BLW and Montessori encourage the use of open glasses, i.e. no sippy cup for a few reasons. 1) The open glass is better for their developing teeth 2) it is more friendly for breastfed babies because the way they suck in a sippy is different, so many of them have a tough time at first 3) by using glass, the child learns control of error in their environment- meaning they will soon learn that glass breaks & breaking is IMG_5049undesirable, and will learn to be careful. It does take a change in mindset to get used to giving your baby glassware, because yes- there will be a few broken dishes! But I think in the long run it is worth it. I read a few different articles about the concept, and a great one is At Home With Montessori. She goes into detail on all the full-fledged Montessori weaning items and philosophy.

Eating Time

For her first meal, as I already mentioned, I chose watermelon sliced in stick shapes, scrambled eggs, black beans, and water. Most people probably will flip out since I gave her eggs, since eggs are an allergen item. However, BLW encourages introducing common allergens, and not doing the traditional “one new item at a time”. Unless there is a family history of an allergy, they advise just watching baby and treating allergens as normal food items. The watermelon was what we had in the kitchen as far as fruit, and since it was juicy I figured she would like it. I wanted to give her a protein option, and since we didn’t really have any meat, but black beans were leftover from quesadilla night, I decided why not! They are smaller, so an older baby with a pincer grasp would do better with them (8 months+), but since they are soft and mushy I figured it would be a good item to practice that motor skill with.

During the age 6-7 months we are going to do one meal a day, and for right now that is breakfast. I have the most time early in the morning since I am not rushed to run errands or cook dinner for the rest of the family. Since eating with baby and having an open-end of time is critical to BLW, I didn’t want to worry about rushing her, the chaos of having to cook and clean up a big family meal, and inconsistent meal times of dinner. Plus, Evie is always in a good mood when she wakes up, and is already full from her morning nursing. Since all her nutrients come from breastmilk, BLW emphasizes giving the baby a bottle or nursing prior to their solid food meal. That way they don’t fill up on hard-to-digest food and miss out on the nutrients from their milk. Each family is different! I am sure lunch or dinner might work better for some people, but for us breakfast works great.

Around 8 months I plan to add lunch into her schedule, and then around 10 months start her at dinner. But, like I said, some families might do dinner first since that is when they are home, then breakfast, and lunch last since it is with a child care provider. Or maybe mid-day is when they have the most time, so they will do lunch first. Who cares! Whatever works, works!

That’s all for today!

More to come on Evie’s BLW/Mont. weaning journey 🙂

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Bear Turns One!

I have never been a baby person.

IMG_4994Since we moved around a lot, I was never around any of my cousins when they were little, and never really was friends with anyone with little siblings. I remember holding my cousin Brayden for a few minutes, but other than that not much. I think due to this lack of social interaction with babies, they made me fairly uncomfortable when I got older. My older sister was always keen to babysit, (I mean who doesn’t want a pay day right?), and my parents pushed and pushed me to get into it when I became of age. I did it a few times more than once because my mom agreed I would for me but that is beside the point, but once I could start working at a regular part-time job I stopped.

Never really hung out with babies after that.

Then I met Tyler. I remember flying out to go to the Marine Corps Ball with him, and we stayed with his brother and sister-in-law (the same ones we now live with). It was the first time I met his Niece, Abigail. She was 2, and for some odd reason we got along really well. We played barbies, she played with my clothes from the suitcase, she snuggled with Winnie since she was a cute little puppy. I was surprised at myself for enjoying my time with her, but even more surprised she liked me (then again, I think anyone playing barbies would be fun for her!). Its amazing to think that she was so little when I first met her, since now she is 5!

So as I watched Abby get older, really without realizing how fast she was growing up since Tyler and I lived in Wisconsin and saw her a few times throughout the year, it was a different experience with Elyse. We were living in the same house when she was born, so I was a little stressed about the whole baby situation (let alone being pregnant myself). I had no idea how to hold a baby, talk to a baby, entertain a baby, keep them from crying, nothing. I wasn’t really nervous for my own child- I knew my maternal instincts would kick in. But someone else’s? It gave me a whole other bout of anxiety.

She was born while I still had finals, which I was happy about to give them some time to get settled in with their new baby before I moved in officially. The first night I got back she was asleep in the master bedroom, so it wasn’t too different at first. Then she woke up, and after eating Joe asked if I wanted to hold her.

I was terrified.

But, Joe & Tyler were persistent that I “practice” so I sat down in the recliner and they put her in my lap. She was sleeping, and super calm. I just didn’t want to wake her up!

I am not sure if it was because she could tell I was pregnant, or if she was just in that sleepy newborn phase, but she slept, and slept, and slept. The guys helped me recline my seat, covered us in a blanket, and we both conked out. So, my first experience with a baby was a good one!

Living with their family has taught me so much about parenting, and motherhood. I basically got to watch first hand what I was going to be going through and doing in the next six months, and I was soaking it all in like a sponge. I don’t think anyone will realize how much having Elyse in my life impacted me as a mom. She was the perfect little squishy snuggly baby to observe and “practice” my mom skills on. Heidi was so open and nurturing about answering my questions and letting me interact with her new baby girl, I couldn’t have had anyone else better to learn from.

Everyone says time flies and that your baby will grow up right before your eyes.

I knew that’s what they said. As I saw Abby grow up, the aging was more obvious since I didn’t see her everyday. One day she was playing “puppy”, and the next time she was saying words like “compliment” and forming long, articulate sentences that even my college peers would struggle with. But with Elyse, the time was subtle. You’d realize when she hit another milestone, or when it was time to take the belly-sticker-month pictures, but since we saw her everyday it was just Elyse being Elyse. Making dinosaur noises, laughing at people coughing, gagging at invisible (like there was literally nothing in her mouth) pieces of food. Just being goofy, cuddly, Elyse.

And then just like that, it was her birthday.. 

Happy First Birthday Lyse-Bear. You might not really care or notice me, but you have left such a wonderful impression on my heart. We love you!!

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Splurging on a Budget

Both of my parents grew up frugally.

IMG_3908My father’s parents are notorious for saving money, and its amazing to see the fruits of their labor as they do loads of traveling in their retirement. It must’ve been hard for my father and his siblings growing up though, because they certainly did not have the newest toys and gadgets, and had to DIY as much as they could (before DIYing got popular).

My mother grew up on a farm, before her parents divorced making their finances even dimmer. She put herself through college by working two jobs and eating ramen noodles every night, paid for her own wedding, and bought most of her baby necessities herself when she got pregnant.

To 95% of my peers, I grew up extremely fortunate. I wouldn’t disagree.Especially here in the Midwest (not saying there is anything wrong with the midwest), our lifestyle was luxurious. But that isn’t to say my parents didn’t work their asses of to achieve it. My dad was an officer in the Coast Guard after attending the academy, and when they decided to have children my mother was a stay at home mom. If you think you make a lot of money by being in the military- even on the officer side -please reevaluate your perspective and think again. That is by far not the case. Yes, the military blesses you with ample benefits. You have wonderful healthcare, housing (should you so choose to live in) or a housing allowance, dental insurance, are eligible for USAA Banking which provides excellent resources for car loans, mortgages, etc. So yes, the military is fabulous! But my parents certainly never made us grow up spoiled (at least not in the stereotypical “bratty” spoiled)

I have had chores since I can remember. I was taught how to balance a checkbook when myIMG_2914 dad opened a debit account for me when I was 13 (or somewhere around that age). I had to get a job as soon as I was able to (that means 15 with a work permit!), and from then on purchase my own gas, make up and toiletries, clothing, and outings with friends. I was also supposed to save for college. Now, granted, my parents were very helpful. They would buy my school supplies, if I went through a growth spurt and needed a bunch of new clothes they would give me $100 for new jeans/etc.

(What is her point in telling us all this?)

Well, now that I am on my own with Tyler, we don’t exactly make much. Having a baby is expensive. Currently, we are living with his brother and sister-in-law and their two daughters. Its fine- for now. But everyone knows tensions eventually run high when you live with family, especially as adults when you each have your own family, parenting styles, and finances. After delivering Genevieve, I was feeling down. Long story short I was feeling depressed, insecure, and lonely. I decided to treat myself, something I whole heartedly believe in. You are always going to have bills to pay, always going to be in a “crappy” financial situation. While it is important to work towards paying off debt and getting to a better state, if you are going to go about it unhappy, it defeats the purpose. I bought myself a pair of Tieks designer ballet flats with some money my Grandma had sent me. When they finally came in I was so thrilled I posted them everywhere- Facebook, Instagram, and just ranted about how amazing they were (because they are fantastic). Well, I guess I offended some people. I guess to some people I was irresponsible and rude for spending that much money on shoes when I should be putting it away for future rent or bills, or what have you. Little did they know that those shoes were the one thing I had done for myself in months after spiraling into a depression in an attempt to cheer myself up and have something positive. It was brought up that I should explain that I used gift money to purchase them, that they were in a sense a giftI am sorry but I do not, and will not, explain my purchases to anyone so that they are justified. It is nobody’s business but my own and Tyler’s how I afforded something. So, instead of feeling excited and pleased with my purchase I spent the next few weeks debating on returning them, deleting all posts about them on social media, and feeling like I had to walk on eggshells.

"Never get so busy making a living, that you forget to make a life."

Aaaaaaaaaanyway,

So in order to force motivate myself to get back into the shape I used to be in, I signed up for a Spartan Sprint Race, a few 5ks, and a 10k this upcoming year. The Spartan Race sin June, and is going to be the most intense for me since it involves obstacles that are damn difficult to do. But I wanted something to intimidate me into getting fit (the pricey registration fee makes me want to get my money’s worth too). Thankfully, I have a few friends and Tyler is in it with me too! So it is going to be exciting.

I have been trying to start running, since the race is about 5 miles long. However, now that Tyler is working in the busy season a moment without baby is few and far in between. A creature of habit I am, so I like to do the same things at the same times every day. When Tyler can’t consistently be home on time on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I can run, I get bitchy cranky, even though it is something I know he can’t help. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until baby is at least 6-8 months old before using a jogging stroller due to the jostling of the stroller at faster speeds, to make sure they can stabilize their core and head better.

Well my friends, Evie will be 6 months next week!!

So the past few weeks I have been trolling Craigslist and Yard Sale groups on Facebook for a good deal. After ample research (because ya’ll know I am a planner), I wanted to go with a “good” brand. Not that there is anything wrong with the “cheaper” brands for joggers (Graco, Schwinn, Jeep), but the design is just not there. I personally have a Grace Travel System myself, which I love! Its convenient, lightweight, and stylish. But for jogging, I personally am not comfortable with Graco. Read up BabyGearLab‘s review of 13 different ones, and make your own opinion! The “better” joggers had a better suspension system to make all the high speed bumps smoother for your little one, as well as varied steering options (swivel vs. fixed wheel), and were lighter in weight.

I immediately knew I wanted the #1 or #2 rated stroller- unfortunately both were over $400 brand new. I figured I would have to deal with a budget brand stroller in the meantime, and continued my search. I was minutes away from purchasing a used Schwinn for $40, when I came across an add for the BOB Revolution. It’s like God had answered my prayers. It had a swivel wheel- with the option to lock into a fixed position (perfect since I couldn’t decide which I wanted), a large canopy sunshade, was lightweight, and in a gender neutral color. It. Was. Perfect. 

It was only $200.

$200.

Okay- I get it. I was aiming for under $60 really. But come on! A $480 stroller for $200?? That’s a steal! And the quality is impeccable. We all know you get what you pay for! I wanted something to last me through Genevieve, and potentially even my next child! It had to withstand taking Winnie on two-three walks everyday (I use my other stroller for this currently, but it would be nice to have something a bit more “rugged” and not have to unload/load it into my car everyday #FirstWorldProblemsIKnow), going on runs three times a week, and the occasional race or trail hike. Do you really think a Graco Jogger or cheapo already used one is going to withstand all that? Nope, because I don’t.

So, I bought it.

The Catch?

Tyler was going to be irritated I spent that much. He would say I should have waited until the next paycheck (but by then it would have been snatched by someone else!), and I knew that there would be people seeing me with a pricey stroller wondering how and why I purchased such an expensive item when we can’t afford to get our own place.

But you know what? I don’t care. Not saying I don’t care about Tyler- he was actually only mad about the fact that I didn’t communicate, which is 100% fair. But I don’t care what people think. If you want to sit there and assume I am spending my money irresponsibly, or that I am naive and have no realistic grip on reality and finances because I am young and my boyfriend/baby daddy basically pays for everything, fine.  But the fact of the matter is, I don’t owe them, or anyone else, an explanation, justification, or reason for my purchase.

I know that I am going to use it every day, and get my money’s worth. They can just take their opinions and shove it up their ***.

In Conclusion,

This whole post was basically a big vent-sesh in an effort to reassure myself that I am doing the right thing. I don’t owe anyone anything, I owe it to myself to stay healthy and happy and that is what this purchase is doing. Does is blow spending $200 instead of paying that towards a credit card? Yes. But, it is going to allow me the opportunity to exercise consistency, exercise my dog, and get my baby fresh air. In my eyes, it will pay itself off in a jiffy.

Plus, Genevieve looks cute as shit in it. Just saying’ 😉
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10 Reasons to Choose Baby Led Weaning

This nugget is going to be 6 months old in just IMG_4140a little under three weeks. 6. Whole.
Months. 

Where did the past half of a year go? How did I manage to exclusively breastfeed this long minus a few instances of formula when I didn’t have enough milk in the freezer?

However I managed to survive the first six months of motherhood, I find myself faced with the onset of weaning, and introducing solid foods. My original goal was to breastfeed for six months, then after that I would take it one step at a time. While I have come to dislike breastfeeding (See Why I Hate Breastfeeding) I know that it is the best for my child, and I know I can make it work. So, my new goal is to breastfeed until she is one year, and no longer physically needs (I do know it is beneficial to breastfeed longer) my milk.

If you know me, you know that I am a planner. I love to do research, and figure out all the options out there before committing to something. When I first found out I was pregnant, I figured I would get an epidural even though I am terrified of needles. After researching and hearing more about the benefits and success of natural unmedicated births, I decided to switch gears (Read my birth story here). I assumed I would formula feed, since I have always been self conscious and awkward about my breasts and body. Again, after reading, and discussion, I set my sights on breastfeeding. So, why would it be any other different for feeding my child solids?

To be honest, I planned on going the common puree method. I pinned baby food recipes, my mom got me baby food cookbooks, and I added a food processor to my baby registry. Until on day, amidst all my pinnings, I came across baby led weaning.

What is Baby led weaning?

That my friends, is something I would need to write an entire post about. To keep things brief, it is simply feeding your baby whatever food you and your family are eating in its regular form. So, taking a scoop of mashed potatoes and some steak and putting it on the high chair. You cut the steak into strips, and thats it. Baby has his meal. Baby feeds himself. You get to eat your meal. Voila!

To learn more about what Baby Led Weaning is, I highly recommend this book. It might be a bit repetitive, but it explains the concept clearly. Here are the top ten reasons why I am going to use the BLW approach, and why I would recommend it to anyone.

I have yet to begin feeding my daughter solid food- although I plan to use the BLW approach, keep in mind I have not yet started the process. More posts about our experience to come!

1. It is the safest method for baby.

What? If it is the safest why do so many families do purees? Here is the thing- majority of families will introduce purees or rice cereal (with formula or breastmilk) at age 4-6 months. Pediatricians recommend waiting until your baby is 6 months or older to begin solids of any form, because her digestive tract is still immature to properly digest and absorb nutrients from substances other than milk or formula. So it isn’t the fact that spoon feeding itself is dangerous, it is the fact that many families start their child far too early. Unfortunately, feeding a baby rice cereal or purees (which many start early in hopes of their child sleeping through the night, when research shows that this does nothing in relation to sleeping longer) can strip the child’s intestine of villa needed to absorb nutrients. Therefore, the baby struggles to digest it, and it can cause issues absorbing nutrients later on.

2. Easy!

How much easier can it be to simply take what you already cooked for yourself, and just give some to your baby? Nothing can top that! Eating out? Easy- just share your plate. There are some guidelines to BLW- obviously food should be soft enough to be mashed by the gums (you wouldn’t give your 6 month old a raw carrot for instance, rather a steamed carrot), but it is far easier than purees and spoon feeding.

You don’t have to feed your baby- no more airplanes, or coaxing your child to eat. No more scooping the food back into his mouth out as he spits it out (probably naturally due to the thrust reflex if you are starting before 6 months). They will grab the food and play with it, and eventually learn to put it in their mouths.

3. Cheap.

Im a penny pincher. Yes, I splurge on items I will use often and think should be good quality (I will advocate strongly for my Tieks Ballet Flats, Aveda Shampoo and Conditioner, Kitchenmaid Mixer, etc.). But, when it comes to saving money and doing it yourself, I will. Why spend money on jars of pureed food with added sugar and preservatives when you can give your baby part of the nutritious meal you made?

4. Fun learning experience!

Your baby will thoroughly enjoy BLW. Its messy, its fun, and exciting. They will get to experience new flavors and textures (you don’t need to shy away from spices besides anything overly spicy or salty), colors and food groups. Instead of fighting you to grab at the spoon and explore what you want to shove down her throat, baby will get to eat at his or her own pace and examine their meal.

5. Self Control.

BLW puts baby in control. They eat when they want, and stop when they want. No more “just one more bite” or “they didn’t eat X tablespoons”. It promotes them listening to their body and cues of when they are hungry or full. When baby gets older, they will be able to understand when they need food or not, just like they know when to ask for the breast or a bottle. When we spoon feed, we take that away from them. I truly think that this is a contributing factor to obesity in children (not saying that every spoon fed family is promoting obesity- I just think it is a factor) since the child loses control of the ability to express when they are full. This is along the same lines as to why parenting experts are no longer promoting the “clean plate” guideline.

6. Promotes Family Time and Manners.

Manners? For an infant? Not exactly. But it promotes including them in meal time, versus feeding them before or after the family meal. They get to watch their family members, enjoy conversation, and pay more attention to your habits (i.e. good manners or bad manners). From the research I have done, BLW children learn to use utensils earlier, and mimic other habits of their families and parents. It brings the baby to the table instead of eating before or after everyone else, therefore they will mimic and learn faster!

7. Less likely to be a picky eater!!

Picky eating. I can’t stand it. I once knew a mom who made three separate meals for her kids- one who wanted mac n cheese, another chicken tenders, and a third rice. No. I won’t do it.

When you give your child what you eat, and no other option, they will eat it! You give your baby what you eat, and they trust you so they will eat it! Granted they will most likely not like a few things and that is normal- but a child who is extremely picky normally does so because of watching their parents. If you don’t make a big deal about “giving veggies” they won’t know any different. Plus, they will see you eating it and want the same thing!

8. Convenient.

Eating out? Awesome! Baby can share your meal. No need to buy off of the nasty kids menu (i’ve seen how they make the kids meals- its packaged precooked macaroni and reheated veggies) only to have your child refuse to eat it and waste the money. If you are worried about your kid eating most of your food… get real. They will probably want to play with it yes, but they won’t realistically eat so you won’t get enough. Besides- restaurant portions are oversized anyway 😉

In the car? Forget buying the little puff snacks or yogurt melts. Give the kid a banana! The peel makes it naturally easy to hold on to, and its perfect for gnawing on. Or what about a pear? Need something dry and packaged? How about a hard boiled egg? Veggie sticks? It is easy to keep things healthy with BLW since they are used to eating the same items at dinner.

9. Anyone can feed baby!

I’ve heard nightmare stories about “Grandpa is the only one who can get him to eat his peas” or “She will only eat potatoes if I give it to her”. Well, thankfully with baby led weaning it doesn’t matter who gives baby the food, because they are feeding themselves! Anyone can put the food on the plate and they will just go to town.

Along with this, is that they can eat anywhere. This might fit better in the “convenient” tip- but you don’t always need a high chair. Plop baby in your laps and sit at the table and they are good to go. No need to worry about having a method to prop them up so you can shovel food in their mouths.

10. It is tried and trusted!

Many people don’t consider baby led weaning a new concept. Families have been doing it for years. The thing is- no one talked about it. Everyone struggled with coaxing their kids to eat purees because it wasn’t natural. But if they talked about giving table food right away instead of the puree-lumpy-soft-solid food graduation program, they were gawked at. When they gave their child table food and things went better, they just kept it to themselves.

If you ask grandmas and grandpas, they often won’t know any other way. Purees weren’t really a thing until mid-century when microwaves and blenders became popular. Until then, they weren’t an option. Your only choice was to give your baby developmentally ready food choices like soft vegetables and fruits, and tender meats. Isn’t it amazing how consumerism can change our parenting methods? We can control it by taking things back to the basics!!

Size Matters: Breastfeeding

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Senior Year of High School (I am on the left)

For as long as I can remember, and in everything I have read, the size of your breast does not matter in regards to breastfeeding. While I agree with the scientific backing that it is all about how much and what kind of breast tissue, I disagree that size plays absolutely no role. As a mom with extremely small breasts (I was a AA prior to getting pregnant and didn’t even fill out those bras, and I am now just an A and I am exclusively breastfeeding my 4 month old). While I am sure women with large breasts have their own trials and tribulations with breastfeeding, I obviously cannot speak for them. What I can speak on, is how having small breastfeeding plays a significant role in my breastfeeding journey.

 

Anatomy

When Evie was born, the nurses were quick to help me to get started breastfeeding. I had done my reading and knew that I wanted to see a lactation consultant prior to leaving the hospital to ensure that I got the right latch, was holding baby correctly, blah blah blah. The nurse I had during my delivery was quick to assure me I had the “perfect” anatomy for breastfeeding (my nipples weren’t flat or inverted, etc.). However, when Genevieve attempted to suck she struggled. Her tongue would push out rather than pulling in as a result of sucking her thumb in utero. Consequently, we had to do some suck training, and breastfeeding was off to a rocky start.

Furthermore, an issue with the anatomy of small breasts, requires you to hold your baby much higher in order to reach the breast. This might not seem like that much of an issue- but when you have a small, fragile newborn who needs body support to make sure their body is completely “in line” and in addition neck support to guide them to latch correctly, your arms quickly tire of hoisting them up and onto your boob. Especially after you are dead exhausted from labor!! You are encouraged to sit bolt upright to ensure good posture and avoid the pain from hunching while feeding your baby. They explain to bring the baby to the breast, not the breast to the baby, but when your boob is flat to your chest, your core muscles shot from pushing out a child, and your arms unaccustomed to holding said baby for hours on end, that is a huge feat to overcome.

Genevieve-37

Gadgets & Gizmos

Now, you might be thinking why not just use a nursing pillow to raise your baby? Duh. Hmm.. not so much when you have small boobs. In theory, breastfeeding or nursing pillows seem like they can solve world hunger with this issue. However, for me the luck was not in my favor. I bought the ever-popular-boppy pillow, in hopes of making nursing a breeze. I brought it with to the hospital and it let me down. The “U” shape fit snuggly around my postpartum waistline, but sank all the way to my hips. So, my average-7lb-child laid towards my belly button rather than right at my breast. Stacking a pillow underneath was not helpful because then she just rolled into the “U” and angled away from my boob. It was useless.

The lactation consultant immediately advised against the boppy, and recommended the my brestfriend pillow instead. She said the firmer, wider pillow would be helpful in not only propping up my baby’s head, but would also avoid her sinking in. When we left the hospital, Tyler immediately went out and bought the pillow. Boy was in a change!! It was much better in holding Evie’s body in line, and made nursing so much easier. However, the cons were that I could not really do the football hold, and because of my smaller tits, the pillow was still too low for Evie to reach my boob. I had to stack another pillow underneath in order to avoid not having to hold her up the entire 45 minute nursing session.

Pumping

So, now that my milk has come in my boobs did not grow in size. They were still only a full A- maybe a B- cup. I wanted to start pumping so I could have tons of milk in storage if I returned to work. I purchased the Spectra S2 after researching what pump was the quietest, most baby-like, and painless and the Spectra S2 had been ahead of the others by a landslide. Let me tell you- pumping has never hurt! I don’t know how many moms have said they hate pumping because it hurts, and I am so thankful I have never had that issue. Is it fun? No. Is it 100% comfortable? No. Is it manageable? Yes. I don’t dread pumping. The pump itself doesn’t hurt my boobs, pinch my nipples, or anything like that. (Make sure you have the proper flange size if your pump is hurting, and experiment with different suck cycles). However, having small breasts makes pumping a challenge. Why?

Well, imagine this: you hold the breast flange up to your breast, and the pump pulls milk out and down into the bag/bottle. With larger breasts, they naturally “hang”- thus the nipple is naturally pointed downward so the pump flange is utilizing gravity to ensure the milk flows down into the collection unit. With smaller breasts, the flange is virtually held flush against your chest running vertical, rather than at a downward angle. Therefore, even though the milk still runs downward, milk tends to drip down the breast tissue breaking the seal of the flange, and running down my chest. Literally, I have to physically hunch or bend over to ensure milk goes into the pump, rather than pooling in the bottom of the flange. (Yes I have made sure to measure my nipple to make sure I have the correct fit, etc. etc.) This, as you can imagine makes pumping extremely uncomfortable, and also eliminates the opportunity to use a “hands free” pumping bra, since the flange would not be secure.

Attire

Another issue I have dealt with, is that nursing attire is incredible biased towards those with large bosoms. I understand that the majority of nursing mothers will have large breasts due to an abundant supply of milk. However, there should be resources for those with small breasts too! Nursing bras are all geared towards a C-cup or higher. The “sleep” nursing bras (which are not only hideous, but also can’t be worn underneath regular attire) usually run in sizes “Small, Med, Large” of which the small still dwarfs my chest and no one wants to wear a bra that bags underneath your clothing! There are nursing bras for 32B size- but HELLO, I AM A 32A HERE PEOPLE!

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This is a 32A Push-Up swimsuit

So how am I supposed to get nursing-friendly undergarments when there are virtually none (unless you spend upwards of $40 a bra!) for people my size? Hence, I purchased some target sports bras a size bigger than what I needed to make sure they were stretch enough to be pulled up. Even then- many women simply pull their breast out and over the fabric of their sports bra or bra to nurse. This works if your breast is large enough to “hook” the fabric underneath. With small boobs- there is nothing to hold that fabric down. Meaning with one hand you have to manage to support your baby, then in the other find a way to pull your shirt up, and at the same time pull down and hold the sports bra in order to leave access for your baby. This is not only damn near impossible, but also extremely difficult to be discreet in doing, making nursing in public out of the question.

Frequency of Nursing

While it is true that both large and small breasted lactating women produce the same amount of milk within a 24 hour period, the amount a breast can store at one particular time varies. Meaning, someone who may be a size F cup (yes I am not exaggerating here folks) can store perhaps 6oz per side, making a total of 12oz available for the baby or breast pump. Meanwhile, someone like myself may only be able to hold 3-4 oz per side, leaving only 6-8oz total. (Here is a great article that explains this concept) What that means is that my baby might have to nurse more often than say a baby of the same age from a mom with larger breasts.

The issue I have with this, is that larger breasted women may be able to fill their older babies up more, and thus nurse less frequently perhaps making outings a little more manageable. Although I cannot verify this, I know in my experiences that Genevieve will often need to nurse during an outing.

Nursing Positions

As I touched on before with the differences in nursing pillows, I was limited really to the cradle hold due to having to hoist my baby so high up in order to nurse. The football position was not really plausible with my new pillow, and prior to switching pillows it was very difficult to manage since I had to prop pillows behind me to support my posture (my core was so weak after delivery that holding myself upright without support for 45 minutes to nurse was exhausting!), to my sides for her body, and my front for her head. Laying down was also impossible early on due to my small breasts. As a newborn, Evie was too small to reach my nipple when laying on my side. This was because my breasts literally didn’t hang. So when I laid on my side, they were still 3-4 inches above bed level, and her mouth was at about 1 1/2-2 inches. That meant if I were to nurse side-lying, I would have to hold myself over her in a plank (you try some crazy things in sleep-deprivation mode to get your baby to stop crying!), or hold her up with my arm.

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It would be about two months until we were successful in side-lying nursing. I still had to angle my body towards her to get my boob to reach her mouth, but as she grew bigger it go easier and more comfortable. Now, at four months we greatly enjoy our side lying nursing and it is the only way I manage to get sleep since we bed-share around 2am when she wakes during the night for a feeding.

Overall

Genevieve_lowres-36.jpgI do not by an means want to make the assumption that women with medium-large breasts don’t have their own share of issues during breastfeeding! All I am saying is some issues I have had during my experience, and some ways to combat the issues to make life a little easier for my fell itty-bitty-titty members!

 

5 Tips for Traveling with an Infant

IMG_3163I braved my first big trip with Genevieve this past Wednesday, traveling from Minnesota to Florida to visit my parents. Tyler was unable to come with me, so it was up to me to haul all of her baby gear and my own items across the USA.

 

(1) When traveling without a partner, make everything one-hand accessible.

One thing is certain, unless you are wearing your baby, you will only have one hand free. I checked both bags, and chose to bring: the stroller, car seat (both of which we gate-checked), my diaper bag, and another small bag that held my arm cuff nursing pillow & Moby carrier with me on the plane. I thought it would be nice to bring my carrier, but when I fly home I am just going to leave it in my checked suitcase. IMG_3161.JPGIt has a lot of straps, and really I require help getting it on so it is more inconvenient than convenient for me. That will eliminate an extra bag to hold on to.

Anyway, having only one hand makes breaking down the stroller (separating the car seat and the stroller base) rather difficult when you’re halfway down the jet bridge holding your 3 month old, diaper bag, extra bag. So, after relying on other passengers and employees to help me on my first flight, I thought ahead for me connection. I placed Evie in the car seat, broke it off the stroller and set her on the ground, then picked her up, and set the car seat back on the stroller without “clicking” the two parts together. That way, I could take the break it down with one hand.

(2) Wear a nursing-friendly outfit [if breastfeeding].

I do not personally own any nursing tops or bras. I usually just wear a sports bra (yeah I don’t dress up much…) but if you plan to nurse at the airport in public or on the plane, you’ll want your outfit to be accessible for your baby. For some that might mean a nursing bra and nursing top, bu

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Tired Baby! This was actually on our way home

t for me a loose shirt I can pull up and a sports bra works just fine.

I struggle to nurse without a pillow since I have small breasts (a post on nursing with small boobs to come later), so I bought the arm cuff (link in bullet point #1) and it works great. I can squish it under the stroller and it is just enough support to prop up her head.

Another thing I learned was to wear your hair up. I at first just had mine half up half down, but quickly learned that I would get hot and flustered because Genevieve would be yanking on my hair, or it would be dangling in my way making me look less put together! So I pulled it up into a bun and whew was I not only cooler temperature wise, but it was also out of the way!

(3) Carry yourself with a smile.

If there is one thing that is a big turn off to others, it is naturally resting bitch face. I’ve got it, and you probably have it too (sorry not sorry). People are naturally going to avoid you or get a negative vibe if you look pissed off or angry, so if you can manage to smile or make friendly eye contact then do so! People will smile looking at your baby, and if you smile back or at least look friendly they will be more likely to help you wether its boarding/deplaning, using the restroom, etcIMG_3305There was a family with twins on my first flight, and I watched them and took their lead when boarding the plane (i.e. do I board in family boarding, priority boarding, when my boarding group is called… do I sit in the isle or the window seat… etc.) and we exchanged silent smiles with our babies. When welanded in ATL, I bumped into her in the women’s restroom. Her husband must have had the babies, and I was waiting with my stroller for one of the handicap restrooms to be open. At least half a dozen people I ushered in front of me because I couldn’t fit my stroller into the tiny stalls, and after she used the restroom and seeing me wait for a solid fifteen minutes, she offered to watch Evie so I could pee. You should always use your best judgement in trusting strangers to watch your child, there is a huge risk involved since someone could easily walk off with your baby! However, I know moms like to help out other moms and I took her up on her generous offer.

Needless to say, I had a lot of help from strangers when traveling! A retired couple carried Evie down the jetway so I could pick a seat, the woman who sat next to me and allowed me to have Evie lay down across both of us so I could change her diaper, the woman in the bathroom, the TSA officer when I went through security, etc. Never underestimate the power of a friendly face!

 (4) Schedule Flights with Normal Nap Times

On our first flight to Tampa, it was right when she normally takes her nap. For us, it was at 930am, and 2pm. It worked out great, because although she only dozed, she was happy to nurse and be held in Mommy’s arms. On our layover she was nice and awake, but I could play with her on my lap or stand to bounce her. Same with our second flight to Tampa. When we arrived I even had an appointment at the Apple store for my computer, which took at least two hours, plus another 40 minutes home in the car, and she was rested and calm enough to make it through without too much fuss. Granted, she was extremely tired, but she wasn’t overtired to the point of a meltdown.

Coming home we weren’t so lucky.

Our first flight returning wasn’t until 4:40pm. It gave us more time with my parents before leaving, but it was not smart traveling wise. We had to leave for the airport at 2pm, and then we didn’t board until 4:10pm. Upon boarding, she was already quite cranky! I was hoping she would sleep since 4-430 is another prime-time nap time, but because she had already been so stimulated throughout the day she as not having it. She didn’t wail, but she certainly moaned and groaned the whole flight with the occasional scream, and refused to nurse.

We had a two hour layover, and were lucky enough to have access to the Mother’s Room at Midway airport, and then head over to the USO lounge. She laid around on the couch in there and it was much quieter! I think that really helped, because when we headed over and immediately boarded the plane for the second leg of the trip she fell right asleep and slept the whole flight!

Moral of the story: fly during nap time earlier in the day!

(5) Don’t Make Immediate Plans After Getting To/From Your Destination

When I flew in to Tampa, I had an appointment for my computer at the Apple Store (as I already mentioned). Thankfully, she did okay. She was tired from traveling, but since we landed at 3:30pm it wasn’t took bad. We didn’t land in MSP on our way home until 9:15pm. Her normal bedtime is 7-8pm, so she was not only overtired from traveling and being up since about 2pm, but she was also cutting into her deep sleep time. She did finally conk out for our second flight, but then was awake for part of the way home.

IMG_3336Dad was so excited to see her! But her exhaustion had taken its tole. Right when we got home he went to change her diaper, and All. Hell. Broke. Loose. 

She screamed bloody murder. The high-pitched, tears streaming, face-is-red, vocals on high blast, screaming. Poor Genevieve had reached her limit, and I don’t blame her. Her body was exhausted, and I can’t imagine the headache she had when we finally pulled into the driveway let alone change her diaper around 11:45pm. If you do the math, she hadn’t slept in over ten hours nine hours, considering her sleeping on our last one-hour flight.

If you are traveling with your baby, I don’t recommend making plans for the day you arrive. Even if you get to where you are going within say, five hours total travel time (which is insanely quick!), I still would plan on hanging at the hotel, or home. It will give your baby time to adjust and take in the new, stimulating surroundings. Also give lots, and lots, and lots of on-demand snuggles to make them feel secure!

You know your baby best! Traveling is not the end of the world, and 80% of passengers have or know kids, so they will understand if your baby cries. Have faith, relax, and look forward to your trip and giving your child the amazing experience of travel!

Diary of a Young Mom.

People look at me and their eyes fill with judgement.
IMG_1181They immediately glance to my finger- assuming I won’t notice– and then their face shifts from “Oh look at that adorable baby” to, “Oh, that poor girl, battling motherhood on her own.” Just because I don’t have a ring on my finger, and my face looks immature, I get the weak assumption that I was a knocked up teenager forced to battle the struggles of parenthood on my own. Or maybe some of them don’t, maybe they just assume I am unmarried, but the comments I get about my age never fail.

I should be used to it, you’d think. My entire life people have assumed I al 3-5 years younger than what I actually am. “Did you get your schedule?” young high school freshman would ask me as I tumbled at the local cheer gym in my summer off before college. Then, thinking when I got to college I would suddenly fit in, at parties (the only two that I went to, both were during the first week) “Are you sure you’re 18? You could pass for thirteen!” I was so sick of it. I would laugh it off, pretending that it was okay but it was aggravating. Annoying. People treated me with little to no respect, overlooking me for my presumably older, more mature friends.

When I moved to Wisconsin, I was thrilled for a new start. I purged my wardrobe, getting rid of all immature brands like Hollister, Forever 21, etc. I only kept the garments I splurged to purchase or got for a deal at TJ Maxx- brands like Michael Kors, Ann Taylor Loft, Lou & Grey, Express. I made sure I looked polished, and avoided teenage style like crop tops and skanky shorts. For a while it seemed to work, until I applied for a head coaching position at a local high school and was essentially told they’d only hire me for assistant, since I was too young and couldn’t deal with the parents of the athletes. Again, I put a smile on my face and acted gracious for the opportunity.

When I got pregnant and we moved to Minnesota, I again was happy to try at another clean slate. I got another coaching job, and a full-time position at a bakery. Things were going well. No one at work asked my age, and it felt good to feel like I was an adult. I would get insecure with my pregnancy acne which made me once again look like a fourteen year old, but no one seemed to say anything.

Then one day one our work conversation shifted to alcohol. They knew I was pregnant, and so we joked about how I couldn’t wait for a bloody mary again. Before I knew it, I was faced with the question, “If you don’t mind me asking, how exactly old are you?” My face got hot and I tried to play it cool, “I’m 20, but i’ll be 21 in April.” I know 20 years old in the big scheme of things is young. I get it. But to me, when my boyfriend is 26 and I’m phased out of partying and staying up late, I don’t want to be 20. “Oh wow I thought you were like 23!” She laughed, and for the first time someone thought I was older! Wow! It was too bad after that conversation I immediately saw a shift in how I was treated by her. She would call me “Sweetie” and talk down to me in such a passive condescending tone that I felt the urge to bite my tongue and not tell her I am not your “sweetie”. I am not a child. I am about to have a child of my own. I do not need to be spoken too like I do not know what I am doing. but my face held that smile, pretending once again that I didn’t notice my maltreatment and that everything was fine.

Finally, Genevieve was born. I was excited to talk about “adult” things like parenting. It was refreshing and fun. So in that aspect, parenting has made me appear older. But in the majority, taking her to doctor’s appointments, or grocery shopping, or to the high school where I coach, anyone over the age of 30 looks down upon me and assumes the worst. I know it because they don’t even realize their faces they make when they look at me. I attempt to hold my head high, smiling at them when they glance over my diaper bag and stroller. I pretend I don’t hear the high school students I walk past on my way to the gym saying “No she’s the cheerleading coach…” as someone assumes I am a student they haven’t seen before. To the elder woman at the target checkout who asks me “Do you need a gift receipt?” when I purchase anything baby related while Genevieve is at home, and I shake my head and say “no thank you”, if you could only believe I am purchasing something for my own child. When I meet someone new and I casually bring up my daughter in conversation, and their eyes go wide and their mouths drop open as if it is the most surprising factor before blurting out: “I would have never thought you had daughter- you look like you’re twelve!” Thank you for making me feel embarrassed about my appearance. 

You see, all of these things on their own are small. But day after day when you hear them, it gets harder to put that smile on your face and pretend the comments don’t bother you and that the judgmental looks don’t make you insecure. For the love that all is holy, I know I will appreciate it when I am older. But right now, when I want to be treated with respect and mutual equality, I do not take looking young as a compliment. One of these days someone who says something like that to me is going to get me to blow my cap, and I will say something rude and curt because it sucks. So to everyone in the world about to tell someone that they “need another form of ID” to purchase tobacco products or an R-rated movie, or “Did your mom say you could have this?” in the retail store, please think before you speak.