Month: February 2017

The reality of pumping at work: Supplies

Hey guys! A few of you commented that you were tucking information about cloth diapering etc. away for when you needed it, so I went ahead and added a “Pin It” button to my photos. Just hover over a photo to save the image on Pinterest. I use Pinterest for everything, and just started a Pinterest page for Oh, Sweet Thing where I’m saving things like my favorite baby gear, baby-led weaning foods, and activities for kids.

It wasn’t until I went back to work full-time after Maggie was born that I realized how difficult pumping truly is. With Lily I had an oversupply and a cushy full-time job for about a month before going down to part-time. I’m going to go into (graphic) detail about my pumping routine because I think it’s important to prepare yourself for what this is going to look like and, if possible, talk with your employer about how pumping will fit into your schedule. Since you don’t get paid for pumping breaks unless you work during them and all. But first, I want to start with the supplies.

While I didn’t begin my pumping journey this way, I have become a minimalist pumper. I’m not sure I fully qualify because I have a huge bag of leftover parts from two defunct pumps (more on this later), but at this point in my life as a working mom, I have my supplies down to an incredibly bare minimum. Like, I don’t think you can get more basic than this (except for the Clorox wipes). It seems parents are becoming more and more aware about reducing the sheer number of things they accumulate (or are trying to do their little part to reduce their impact on the environment because they’re terrified what the current administration will try to do to it), and pumping is a really great place to try to cut back because you can either create a huge amount of waste, or get by with a few key items. I’m also partially able to do this because I don’t freeze my milk, but if you read on you’ll see how to freeze milk while still cutting back on plastic.

1)Spectra S2 Plus Electric Breast Pump: I am on my fourth pump. The first pump I got was an Ameda. At first I thought it was okay, but it seemed to just get worse and worse. Ryan bought me a Medela Symphony for our first Valentines Day as a married couple. I was swooning. It was such an improvement over the Ameda. Something happened with the motor at one point, and Medela replaced the entire pump for free because I had been using it under a year. The pump I received is the same one I started off using after Maggie was born. I couldn’t justify getting a new pump (even though they’re mostly free)  from a moral standpoint: you should see all of the pump bottles, flanges, caps, tubing, valves, and general plastic I had accumulated. I had enough parts that I could double pump (both sides at the same time) three times in a day and not have to wash a single thing. Ryan recently said something about how we’re going to kill dolphins with all the toys we have. This is exactly how I felt about getting a new pump. But of course my Medela petered out and I was forced to replace it.

I did some research and with the validation of a lactation consultant chose the Spectra S2 PLUS Electric Breast Pump. It’s  much more efficient, quiet, and compact than the Medela. I have one set of parts which means I have to wash them during the day. I could purchase another set which I did with my Medela but by conscience won’t let me (dolphins and all). This is actually less cumbersome and problematic than trying to keep track of countless parts at home.

2) Nenesupply Duckbill Valves: Breastpump valves are pretty fragile and susceptible to tearing. After I had a valve tear I came across these Nenesupply valves and decided to try them after reading reviews stating they made pumping more efficient. The verdict: they totally do! While they don’t technically increase the amount I pump, I end up with more milk volume because I’m able to express more milk in the 15 minutes I give myself to pump. This is huge when you have low supply like me. They’re apparently compatible with Medela pumps as well.

3) Mason jars: I didn’t realize how expensive breastmilk storage bags were until I was working and pumping full time. I was spending close to $20 a month on bags that, because my supply was so low, were being discarded within 24 hours of being filled. That would end up being upwards of $180 if I pumped until Maggie was one. Now, if you have a strong supply and want to build up a freezer stash you’ll may want to go with bags. But there are alternatives if you want to save money and cut down on plastic either because dolphins, or because estrogen proprioceptors.

After some research I discovered Mason jars can be used to store milk. I had a lot of 16oz jars but ended up getting the smaller 8oz ones because it’s easier to put 5oz in them which is what Maggie drinks. Plus they were onle like $4 and we still use the big ones we have. (PS We were lazy and put the lids in the dishwasher and they rusted. I decided to try out plastic lids and they leaked. I got a full refund from Amazon but no compensation for having the supplement with formula while Maggie had a double ear infection. Just use metal, wash by hand, and boil occasionally). Kelly Mom says you can store milk in the fridge for 3-8 days which is perfect for me right now. However, when I needed to freeze milk I would simply freeze it in the same ice cube trays I used to freeze baby food. After they were frozen, I put them in freezer bags for storage. Then I’d pull out however many I needed for a bottle.

Mason jars are great for storing milk because you can heat the milk right in them much more quickly thank milk will heat in a plastic bottle. Simply fill a pot with a few inches of water, add the Mason jar, and warm up on the stove. It takes less than 5 minutes. If you freeze your milk in ice cube trays you will need to add cubes to a bottle to thaw in the fridge overnight, or you can put them in a Mason jar on the stovetop for quick thawing.

I was always uneasy about thawing and warming milk frozen in bags in hot water because you wouldn’t heat something in Tupperware right? Same thing with heating milk in plastic bottles: we still do it when I’m not able to add just the right amount of milk to my jars during the day, or when timing and communication with the many people graciously feeding Maggie just don’t line up. But using glass whenever possible makes me feel so much better. If more glass bottles had been affordable and available when Lily was a baby we would have used them. However, we were having combined wedding and baby showers so wanted only to register for the essentials. Lily didn’t get fed a huge number of bottles so the plastic wasn’t as much of a concern, and we ended up having a hard time finding a bottle nipple Maggie liked so could have wasted a lot more money had we replaced everything with glass bottles. There are so many affordable glass bottle options out there now that I definitely recommend it for new moms!

4) Ziplock bags: I store all my clean pump parts and my Mason jars in Ziplock bags to avoid contact with other things I may occasionally stow in my pump bag (Tupperware from lunch, running clothes, tablecloths I need to wash for work…)

5) Bottle brush and dish soap: Because we don’t have a kitchen at one of our offices, and because my regular office has a sink right inside it, I bring my own.

6) Disinfecting wipes: These are a new addition to my routine. I only use Clorox wipes during norovirus/rotovirus/flu season, and I try to wear gloves because like hand sanitizer, these things also kill beneficial bacteria.

7) Tote bag: Another bonus about the Spectra is that, unlike many other pumps, you can carry it (and your supplies) in any bag. Like i mentioned I often carry other things in the same bag as my pump so I typically use a pretty spacious tote.

What’s in your pump bag?

 

Living Local: Dog Ears Bookstore and Cafe

Happy Friday! Today I’m here to share Dog Ears Bookstore and Cafe as the second local business in my Living Local series. I first discovered Dog Ears while I was running. I kept passing by this eclectic little spot nestled between Potters Rd and Abbott Rd in South Buffalo, right on the other side of Cazenovia Park. I finally stopped by for a coffee and have gone back at least once a week ever since. I’m highlighting Dog Ears today because it’s Free Coffee Friday! You can get a free small coffee before 2pm every Friday. Need a bigger caffeine boost? A medium is just $0.25. Did I mention they also have a coffee card you get punched each time you order coffee? Between this and Free Coffee Fridays I’m in there all the time!

I reached out to the director of the non-profit bookstore and cafe, Thomas McDonnell, and then had a chance to meet him in person a few weeks ago. He shared a ton of information about various community literacy projects they’re running and showed me the upstairs space where they hold programming. They also do a great job of supporting the local community which is receiving a boost from South District Council Member Chris Scanlon. I always check out the flyers covering their entryway for upcoming events. While I could go on and on about this, I know you want to hear more about why it’s my favorite kid-friendly bookstore and cafe in all of WNY. The menu is fresh and healthy (don’t worry–you can follow it up with one of their baked goods), and the entire place is open and welcoming. Their kids menu options all come with a side of fresh fruit. They have this cozy space for kids in the back where I have spent many a hot afternoon enjoying an iced coffee while Lily perused their books. If you’re looking for a publication they don’t have in stock, they can order it–I’ve chosen to do this instead of Amazon-priming myself. They also meet my criteria for baby-friendly space: you can maneuver a double-wide stroller through the bookstore and cafe (plus they have a ramp in the back where their outdoor seating is), and they have a huge, spacious, clean bathroom that also has extra diaper-changing essentials if you forgot anything! It’s the perfect spot to relax on your own, or to meet some moms and babes for a mommy date.

I asked Tom a few questions and he shared some more info about current and upcoming programming for families and youth. So here we go!

Dog Ears Bookstore and Café is a really unique place. When you walk in, you’re met by the perpetually friendly and down-to-earth staff, and the aroma of freshly baked cookies. Coupled with the homey assortment of seating options and walls lined with books for all ages, you can’t help but feel welcome. Tell us more about the café and bookstore, and what they have to offer.

 What we really want the community and our customers to know is that we are a non-profit, and choosing to spend your money here helps us with our mission which is “Our programs are designed to develop life skills through reading with encouragement, facilitation and education while offering a bookstore to cultivate and support the reading and writing process.” My cry to all my fellow teammates is customer service and being part of something special. I never mind hearing good or bad stories about the place–it makes me feel good and gives me cause to improve. Here’s more about our establishment, from our mission statement:

It is the classic “around the corner” bookstore that is quaint, inviting, and a place where all readers want to go. Knowing that major bookstores can crush small neighborhood stores, it is necessary to apply for grants and operate on a not-for- profit basis. The sales from the bookstore help to pay employees and more importantly, the furtherance and continuance of the programs. With the bookstore generating 50% of our revenue, we show the community that we practice our preaching and offer more to the people than just programs. We offer a place of knowledge, gathering, shopping and friendly service out of dedication to books. Employees are not people that just point customers in the right direction, but readers who care about what customers are reading. How you are treated in a store and what you read are key factors in the return stages of any successful reading environment. The programs are very successful because of the bookstore as young and adult readers need encouragement and direction.

What does it mean to be a Literary Enlightenment Center?

It means that we are community-minded and want to give people the best opportunity to succeed in life, the workforce, school and being a contributing member of mankind and helping others. The Enlightenment Literary Arts Center is vastly different than the for-profit institutions to send children for help when they are faltering at school, which are usually in suburban communities and cost money.  Our goal is to staff the programs in a similar manner as learning centers but  offer facilitation paid for through the grants and bookstore sales, and not of the pockets of our community members with a desire to learn. We won’t just provide books. We go beyond that – as a center to encounter reading and writing.

What kind of programming do you offer families and kids in the community?

Our Puppy Tales program for 2-4 year olds is a 6-week program that includes stories, crafts, and snacks. Each child gets a book at the end to build their “Libraries for Life.” South District Council Member Chris Scanlon sponsors our Family Literacy Nights (the third Monday of each month) where family members get together to read, do crafts, and have a healthy snack. We also do movie nights the third Friday of each month, and have a free summer reading and writing camp. There’s always more information on our website and Facebook page about our program and upcoming events.

Where do you get the inspiration for your cafe menu? My personal favorite is the Turkey Garden Club, but you have a huge variety of options that I really enjoy and feel good about offering to my kids. Plus your hot drink menu and seasonal specials are a sleep-deprived mom’s dream come true.

We originally named all of our stuff after authors and still strive to listen to our customers and please them (while still being cost effective) . We had a teaching chef some time ago who managed the café and helped design the menu, but now Lainie is diligent in staying on top of trends and tweaking new and original ideas. Krista Van Wagner, formerly of Curly’s, is now helping and we look to stay fresh, relevant and here for the community. And we only use fresh and the best products for our menu.

What else would you like to share with families who might want to visit Dog Ears?

Just that we are here and have a mission and can help anybody through books, stories and words. We give people a chance and just like a Christmas song we work with 2-92 year olds. You can come in as a toddler and walk up our stairs of programming and we will be here when you are 92 ready to make your life fulfilling.

Maybe I’ll see you at Dog Ears today when I grab my free coffee!

Resolving an eat/sleep association, and what it means for breastfeeding (or, our un-maternity leave policies)

After I posted about our struggles with Maggie’s sleep, someone suggested I join the Respectful Sleep Training/Learning Facebook group. I was hesitant to do this and put off posting after I was accepted into the group. I only received a response from one person, and after asking a few questions she definitively stated “She has an eat/sleep association.”

This wasn’t the answer I was looking for. I didn’t think this was her issue as she hadn’t really wanted to nurse at night the previous few nights. I also didn’t want to hear this because Lily had very clearly had this problem, and we weren’t able to push through it. If I hadn’t been going out to dinner a few days later and missing bedtime, we probably wouldn’t have considered trying to push her last feed until 30 minutes before bedtime like the poster suggested. But I was, and I asked Ryan to give her her bottle in the living room with the light on before bringing her up to her room for stories and then bed.

“How did it go?” I asked when I got home. “She drank 6oz,” he said. 6oz. There is no way I could ever produce 6oz. She then proceeded to sleep through the night. Of course I didn’t because I was sick after not sleeping for a week, but we’ll get there.

DMFeeling strong after a good night’s sleep.That was Friday. We’ve followed the same routine since then (so 3 more nights). She wakes once between 1am-3am for her pacifier, and then once around 5am to nurse. She’s had a 5+ oz bottle each night, which again is more than I can produce.

I’ve considered trying to nurse her downstairs but this is problematic because she gets so distracted. And I think getting more milk from a bottle is really helping her sleep through. This means I only get to nurse her once a day except on weekends, which makes me so sad. This also means I have to pump more often and we have to supplement with formula. What I think I’ll try is nursing her in her room with the light on, and then going back downstairs to finish up with a formula bottle while we hang out with Lily. After both girls are in bed, I can pump again. But my supply is already dwindling after just a few days. For someone who breastfed for 26 months the first go around and wants to soak in every snuggle with a baby I only see a few hours a day, this is heartbreaking.

Like I’ve said before, I don’t have anything against formula. I use it! But I use it because pumping isn’t working out. Pumping isn’t working out because at 13 weeks postpartum I went back to work. And I went back to work because the United States has maternity leave policies similar to those of developing nations. Everyone knows this, and everyone knows the benefits of paid maternity leave (and subsidized childcare to help ensure women re-enter the work force), so why isn’t anything being done? Oh, I know, 12 weeks paid leave by 2021 blah blah blah. It’s embarrassing that anyone is “proud” that policy makers are taking this step. So yes, I’m angry and frustrated that I have to give my baby formula, but not because I think formula is bad or unhealthy. I’m angry because I have no choice in this matter.

I recently read this article, which articulated my frustration about things like being forced to go back to work so soon and how we aren’t paid for pump breaks, and opened my eyes to some concerns I had never considered before, like the deliberate decision not to mention breastfeeding in NYC’s Latch-on campaign. I feel like there’s nothing we can do except complain, because the dial is only moving in 2-week increments and that’s in NY which op have the most progressive family leave policies in the country when they’re enacted. So here I am complaining and feeling frustrated, and I’ll continue complaining and feeling frustrated. But at least I’ll be getting some sleep.

The lazy mom’s guide to cloth diapering

Where do you fall on Crappy Mommy’s Crappy Mohs Scale of Crunchy Mamas*? Okay, so hopefully that made you laugh and you realize it’s meant to point out a fatal flaw of many mamas: wanting to be crunchy, and wanting other moms to know just how crunchy you are. I remember being a few months into motherhood and somehow finding myself at a 5, which is completely laughable for two reasons: I was trying to do exactly what Crappy Mommy was poking fun at, and PS there’s no way I was ever higher than a 3.5.

Anyway, I’m not crunchy. I wish I were, but it can be so expensive which is kind of ironic (pretty sure you either have to make twice as much as we bring home a year to be able to send your kid to the Waldorf or Montessori schools, or not work at all so you can manage half-day preschool schedules). I’d love to have a giant vegetable garden, not let my kids watch TV, make real dinners from scratch every night, and home school. I know some moms are able to do this while working full time with more kids than I have, so if you’re one of them tell me your secret now. Something we do that a lot of people equate with crunchiness though is cloth diapering. In reality it’s more like rectangles and squares: you don’t have to be crunchy to cloth diaper, but you have to cloth diaper to be crunchy. And if you’re really crunchy you use prefolds and unbleached cotton and maybe even sew your own diapers from wool you wove on your loom. By candlelight. Beeswax, of course.

But I’m lazy, and I wanted to cloth diaper for environmental and financial reasons. When I was researching which diapers there were all these comments about how “____ is my favorite because they have so many cute patterns!” Okay, cute patterns are a perk, but let’s be serious: baby butts are adorable no matter what you dress them in. My approach to cloth diapering is wholly practical, from cost to the process surrounding the use of the diapers we chose. Cloth diapering can be incredibly overwhelming. There are so many types and brands, and the variety of inserts is mind-boggling. Thankfully if you’re taking the practical approach, it’s a little more straightforward. So here is the breakdown of our stash and process:

baby with balloons
My favorite cloth diaper photo.
Diaper Type

There’s really only one type of cloth diaper to consider if you’re lazy and practical: the All-In-Two. AI2 diapers have a reusable outer shell that you wipe clean between changes. You either snap an insert in, or lay an insert in flat. They’re less expensive than pocket** and fitted diapers because of the fact that you can reuse the shell. While you purchase the inserts separately, they are relatively inexpensive so don’t add to the cost very much. Also, I don’t know this for a fact but I think refurbishing Ai2s is probably easier than pocket or fitteds. We used Bum Genius pocket diapers for a while and I found replacing the elastic to be nearly impossible.

Diaper Brand

We are currently using Best Bottom Diapers, Blueberry One Size Coveralls, and a few Rumparooz One Size Diaper Covers. All of our Best Bottoms are left over from Lily, and about half have been refurbished (read: we replaced the elastic in the leg gussets, and the Velcro in the diapers that had them). Some are newer than others because we did a really bad job of maintaining the Velcro on our diapers. While Velcro is easier to close up when you have a squirmy baby, it’s also much harder to maintain and much easier for a baby to rip off. Lily always had to have snaps if I wasn’t going to put clothes or a cover on her (hot summer days, dresses). For this reason, I recommend only getting snap covers. We have about 12-15 diaper covers. This is plenty.

The Best Bottom diapers are fantastic and the leg gussets are so secure, but I absolutely love the Blueberries. While they’re more expensive, if I could go back and re-purchase everything, I’d only get Blueberry One Size Coveralls. The Rumparooz are pretty bad. They are just so bunched up and fit really poorly. You get what you pay for.

girls
Blueberry Coverall
Lily with a diaper cover over her cloth diaper with Velcro closure. The velcro on this one was so worn out and she kept ripping her diaper off.
Inserts

Unlike the other two covers, Best Bottoms use a snap-in insert. We use their microfiber inserts which are very soft and absorbent. These also fit very well in the other two covers, with which you can use any “lay flat” insert. Rather than purchasing new inserts when we replaced our Bum Genius diapers with the Blueberry and Rumparooz, we just reused the Bum Genius inserts.  I recently learned that they are not intended to be in contact with your baby’s skin, so I purchased some very inexpensive Oso Cozy doublers. We ended up purchasing extra Best Bottom inserts to make up for the fact that we didn’t have 3 inserts for every cover.

3 inserts per shell is the magic number.

Overnights

With Lily, we used Best Bottom Overnight Inserts. These were not enough for Maggie, who is a heavy wetter. We used disposables for a few months overnight before the cost got to me. I purchased some hemp doublers (I don’t think the brand matters), and these have worked so well. Hemp is more expensive than microfiber or cotton, but it is much trimmer and more absorbent. I use one of our Bum Genious inserts, and two hemp inserts: one on top. and one on the bottom. OR one Best Bottom insert on top, with two hemp inserts below (the microfiber-cotton combo absorbs more quickly than the hemp, which is much more absorbent but takes longer to absorb which is why it should go on the bottom).

Diaper Cream

You can’t use just any diaper cream with cloth diapers. Many people recommend using a liner every time you use diaper cream. We tried a Burt’s Bees cream we were gifted once that was supposedly cloth safe but it absolutely wasn’t. We use Weleda Diaper Cream without a liner. We don’t have staining or repelling. Our wash process helps with this, too.

Dirty Diaper Storage (wet bags)

We have two Thirsties Diaper Pail Liners. You don’t need to use any special diaper pail. We have two large Planet Wise wet bags. When I needed to get a few more because two wasn’t enough for full-time childcare, I got Alva Baby Wet Bags. I’m not sure why, but these are much less expensive and way better at preventing leaks. The Planet Wise bags leaked all the time and were so stinky. We have four wet bags.

Washing

Let’s start with poop. If you breastfeed only, you can throw poopy diapers in the wash without scraping the poop off. Once your baby starts solids (or if you combo or formula feed), you have to flush the poop. Because we are lazy and practical, we use toilet paper or a spatula to scrape the poop off if it doesn’t easily come off. Maggie was on amoxicillin twice in two months, and I admittedly had to dunk and swish multiple diapers. Like as many as I did the entire time Lily was a baby. Some people have diaper sprayers that attach to their toilet, but because I dunked like 5 diapers with Lily, I can’t justify the investment. This does mean that, while our diapers are clean, some are stained. It’s not like anyone is looking, so it doesn’t matter.

You should wash your diapers every 2-3 days. Thank god for my mom because this can be really difficult. I think it’s kind of a routine thing like exercising though: once you get into it, it’s not hard to keep up. My parents have been out of town for two wash cycles, and I just got them done nbd. Here’s how washing works:

  1. Detergent: it must be cloth diaper-friendly. The “pure” versions of mainstream detergent brands (Tide, Arm and Hammer) are. We used Arm and Hammer until after Lily was one with no problem. Then everything started stinking. I did a lot of research and came upon Charlie’s Soap. It solved all of our smell problems, and we use it on all of our clothes. I am a firm believer in detergents that can be used with every item you launder.
  2. Wash process: Cold rinse, then hot wash with as much water as possible, and finally an extra rinse. At our old house we had an awful washer machine (that was also two flights down and on the opposite side of the house as the nursery), but adding a towel to our washes made everything work out okay (diaper washes are smaller than regular washes which can mess things up). This washer did the job fine, but we did have to go up and down the stairs a few times. We had to get a new washer a few months after moving into our new house. It was really reasonably priced (read: under $900), but has awesome wash functions including one of those sensors that tells it how large the load is. I can put in the detergent, select the type of wash (“Towels”), and prewash, and “Water Plus” (you should get as much water involved in the cycle as possible–sorry, Californians) all at the same time. I do have to go back down to do the last rinse, but this only takes 17 minutes with my washer.
  3. Special treatments: Sometimes things get stinky. I’ve started to throw some baking soda in every wash and this has helped so much.
  4. Drying: Hang dry shells, and tumble dry inserts on high.
Travel

The only 2+ night trips we would bring cloth diapers on were trips to my parents. They live in town now, so any trips of this length will involve disposables in the future. We use Seventh Generation. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect other people to be comfortable with you washing your baby’s dirty diapers in their washer, or to expect that there will be a reliable washer and dryer available. If I was renting a house or condo with a washer and dryer I would probably bring our cloth diapers, especially if it was something like a week long. You should always have at least a handful of diapers on hand in case you run our or the power goes out on wash night (both have happened to use more than once).

Swim

We use reusable swim diapers. I think the disposable ones are super gross.

Swim diaper! Also, an overnight trip (several nightsl ) during which we used disposables.

One final note: I often put my kids in one pant-size up with cloth diapers.

*Can we talk about family cloth? WTF. I’m all about reducing waste, but toilet paper has hygienic purposes and let’s not forget there are still plenty of people in the world who reserve one hand for wiping.

**We have one FuzziBunz One-Size Pocket Diaper. I got this because I wanted to see what pockets were all about. So expensive ($16.95 for a diaper that must be washed after every use), but so soft and cute. Not for someone who has other caregivers, because there is no way a non-parent will want to fish a liner out of a pocket.

Sleep trials

After posting about our sleep trials, I received an outpouring of feedback and support. Some suggested co-sleeping which worked for us with Lily some nights, but is impossible with Maggie because she is so nosy and curious. Others agreed those first few nights of crying are really difficult, but worth it, and more than a few suggested the Dock-a-Tot. First off: thank you for sharing your sleep struggles. There’s nothing like hearing you’re not the only one going through a difficult phase. And thank you for all of the ideas you shared. While we decided to do our own thing for the first three nights, there were two potential solutions I plan on discussing with Ryan, and those came from you guys! In the meanwhile, I wanted to give an update on what we decided to do, and how it’s going.

We chose to do some variation of cry-it-out (CYO). This worked really well with Lily when she was a baby, and only took 2 nights of going in at graduated intervals to give her her Wubanub and pat her back. I struggled with it at the time, but I’m so exhausted now that I didn’t have any qualms about doing this. Because this worked well with Lily and has for so many other families, I really thought I’d be sharing our success story today. Disclaimer: I’m not.

Night One

Our schedules were already thrown off on the first night because of how poorly we slept the night before. I got home after 5pm, and Maggie was on her second long nap of the day. My mom said Maggie was exhausted and she just couldn’t keep her awake. I woke her up at 5:45pm, we had dinner, and then played a little before starting the nighttime routine.

I tried putting Maggie down at 7:15pm (usually goes down between 7-7:15pm), but she stayed awake in her crib a good 15 minutes. I went up to try to nurse her since she hadn’t before I put her down earlier, but she just rested her head on my shoulder and looked up at me. She finally nursed a few minutes and we rocked, and she was in her crib asleep by 7:45pm.

I slept in the basement with Lily (an adventure of its own), while Ryan stayed in our room. He said she cried on and off from about 9:30pm (her typical nursing time)-12:30am when he gave her a formula bottle. Then she slept until 5am (skipping a usual early morning waking), and fell back asleep after he gave her her Wub (btw she uses a regular pacifier but we can’t get away from calling it a Wub for some reason). She stirred briefly at 7am, then fell back asleep and was still out when I left at 7:26am. I considered this night a success, and left the house feeling optimistic.

Night 2

Maggie nursed and went down nicely at 7:15pm. She woke at 11:45pm and Ryan gave her a formula bottle. We decided to try this after she slept so well the night before, and because she sometimes only takes milk for a minute or two before comfort nursing. I also don’t have enough of a breastmilk stash to risk her not finishing a bottle.

She woke at 12:25am. I went in and gave her her Wub, turned on her sleep sheep and Fisher Price Soothe and Glow Giraffe (she loves this thing), and patted her back until she calmed down. I was in the room tops 2 minutes. She slept until 3:30am (another typical feeding time), and I had to pick her up when I went in because she was standing and there were blankets under her. Big mistake. I was able to put her back down and walk out within 2 minutes, but I think this fed into our difficulties during Night 3. She was just waking up at 7:40am when I was getting out the door.

Night 3

The third night was a total nightmare. She didn’t nurse before going down, which meant she woke up again around 8, at which time Ryan gave her formula. She woke up around 9pm just whining, and I went in after about 30-40 minutes and gave her her Wub. She whined and woke up several times throughout the night. At 3:30am, I gave in and nursed her. I just couldn’t be awake any longer.

So where do we go from here? Some options:

  1. The Dock-a-Tot. Actually, an Etsy knock-off on recommendation from a fellow mommy (thank you!). Ryan isn’t a big fan of spending $80 on something that may not work, though.
  2. Actually dedicating time to the graduated interval approach. I’m not sure how I would function at work after a night of this though.
  3. Seek the support of the online Facebook community, also a recommendation from a fellow mommy. I was accepted to the group yesterday so will be familiarizing myself with it today.

I think one of the biggest challenges is that Ryan and I are so tired, we can’t stick to a plan at night. Graduated intervals worked well with Lily, but I literally would not be able to go to work the next day. It’s possible to try this weekend as my mother-in-law graciously offered to watch one of the girls on Saturday since Ryan is working. This makes the Dock really appealing because it doesn’t require us to do anything. But if it doesn’t work, or we decide it’s too expensive, where do we go from there? If you found an approach that you and your partner were able to agree on, please share here!


 

Sleep, or a lack thereof

When you’re pregnant for the first time, people warn you of how exhausted you will be during the newborn stage. Your baby won’t sleep through the night. She’ll wake up every two hours wanting to eat, and you’ll wake up every two hours to feed her. You won’t shower. You’ll only eat granola bars and coffee. But then she’ll be four months old, and you can sleep train her.

We didn’t sleep train Lily until she was, I don’t know, 10 months old? I can’t even remember. I’m so tired that I didn’t realize until typing this that Maggie is almost 10 months old now. I mostly worked part-time when Lily was little, so this wasn’t an issue. I’d sleep until she woke up in the morning, and this was enough for me. But sleep training for us meant she only woke once during the night, not that she necessarily slept through. Sometimes she slept in our bed, and this was fine. We went through periods of her waking incredibly early but they were short-lived. Once she was potty-trained, we expected her to wake up at night because even I can’t sleep through the night without using the bathroom. But we weren’t exhausted. I knew we had gotten lucky, and I didn’t take it for granted.

Then we had Maggie. She may have had colic, we’re really not sure. Until she was 7 weeks old she could cry for 3-4 hours in the evening inconsolably while struggling to latch. Then suddenly it stopped. She started going to bed really nicely in the evening. Even now, she goes down at 7pm like clockwork. But then, like clockwork, she wakes between 9:45pm-10pm. I’d like to be asleep by 9, but this nagging in the back of my head won’t let me because I know I’m going to be up in an hour anyway. And then she wakes up again. And again. And again.

Last night she woke up at 9:30pm, 11pm, 12pm, 1:15am, and then I stopped looking at my phone. Cry-it-out isn’t working. Ferber, graduated whatever, nothing is working. You can’t let a baby scream all night when you need some semblance of sleep, and you have a preschooler in the next room over who will end up in your bed, sleeping with her leg draped over your neck night after night as her sister wakes her up. So we go in and pick her up and she giggles up at us before immediately falling asleep on our shoulders, a perfect, warm puzzle piece just wanting to slip her nose into the familiar scent of our necks and settle her fleece-covered body into our arms. And we get up the next morning. We forgo running, we forgo a clean house, barely functioning. We stumble through the day hoping we don’t forget an important meeting or budget submission, and then lay awake in the dark as the minutes tick by waiting for the other to go in and make her stop crying, or to drift off to sleep for a moment before she wakes her sister.

So what do we do with the baby who won’t cry it out? How do we make her sleep? Do we have a family slumber party in the basement without her, rotating who gets to join Lily on the futon every hour? What’s your sleep training advice?

sleeping baby
We need more of this at night.

Valentine’s Day Crafts

Ryan and I don’t really do gifts for each other (experiences, not things and all), but I still like to commemorate birthdays and other occasions. One of my favorite ways to do this is to make hand-print or foot-print art with the girls. It’s a fun way to see just how much they’ve grown. I admittedly haven’t done this as much with Maggie because unlike Lily, she won’t sleep through me pressing her hands into salt dough or an ink pad. We made a pretty successful tree for my mom’s birthday last month, so we’re giving hand-print Valentine’s Day crafts a go. Here’s a roundup of some of my favorite ideas (hand-prints and beyond!), and tips for semi-successful final products.

Tips for Doing Hand/foot-print Art with Kids under 4

  • Use ink pads instead of paint. This cuts down on the mess a ton, and you get a much cleaner hand-print.
  • Have a wet washcloth or small towel ready. Like right next to you so you don’t have to take a step away from your paint covered baby.
  • If possible, strip the kid down to their diaper or underwear so they can go directly into the tub afterwards. This is a great plan for babies, who are much harder to just wipe paint off of.
  • If you’re using paint, have your project set up and know exactly where you are going to put it to dry. Have paper and paints in reach that they can use immediately after they do their hand prints. Kids get really excited about painting so being able to show them “this is where we’re doing our special project” and “this is your paint to play with” is helpful.
  • Have zero expectations. If you think you’re going to end up with a Pinterest-worthy picture, you might be disappointed. It’s best to recognize that your baby/toddler/preschooler is much more interested in covering his body in every paint color than sitting still while you paint his hand and press it to paper.
  • If it ends up absolutely terrible, you can always let it dry and then cut it into little pieces and make a collage. This works great as part of a card.

 

Hand-print Art Ideas

Thumbprint Love Bugs Card

  • This cute card:

Easy Peasy Valentines Day Card ~ Your children's hands and feet prints always make for really awesome keep sakes and it's fun for them too.:

  • One I think the grandparents would appreciate:

  • Just came across this and I’m definitely tackling it this weekend!

Blowing Lots of Kiss Handprint Valentine's Day:

What will you be making for Valentine’s Day?

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes

Do you have a favorite kids’ movie? There are plenty of kids shows and movies I can’t stand. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse ranks #1 on that list. Lily was probably 18 months old when she started watching this incessantly. I considered Little Einsteins, with its plot lines and dash of cultural exposure in the form of classical music and sometimes discordant art choices, a refreshing change from MMC’s vapid characters and gender stereotypes. Also, you can’t even spell “Mickey Mouse” instead of saying it in front of your kids because it’s in the theme song.

Before Sunday morning there were only three children’s movies/shows I actually enjoyed watching: The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child, and Room on the Broom. I’ve even let Lily watch all three in sequence because I wanted to watch all three. Anyway, Sunday morning Lily woke up at 5:45am. Usually she’ll just stay in her room reading or go back there after using the bathroom until I say she can get up. This morning she was complaining her stomach hurt and she didn’t eat either snack I brought her in bed so I knew it was real. We went downstairs and I asked if she wanted to finish watching The Snowy Day which we’d started last night. I’d sort of tricked her into watching a show of my choosing by coercing her with a new app because I couldn’t deal with 15 minutes of Paw Patrol. Anyway, I set her up with the iPad and covered my head with a blanket in an attempt to fall back asleep. It wasn’t long before I discovered it was another Gruffalo’s Child and I couldn’t stop sneaking peeks. It was a snowy day out here in WNY and those snowman pancakes looked so darn cute so…this happened:

Snowman pancake
Snowman pancake

I enjoyed making these pancakes way more than Lily enjoyed eating them. Pretty sure she didn’t appreciate the connection to the movie. This is the second time in my life I’ve made something cute out of food, and the second time Lily didn’t quite get it. Last time it was flag toast on the 4th of July. She doesn’t even know what a flag is.

I love Sally’s Baking Addiction for everything baked-goods. When I Pinterested “whole wheat oatmeal pancakes” and saw this recipe pinned, I knew it would be good. I never think twice about baking something from her site because it always comes out well. Thanks Sally’s Baking Addiction!

I always try to have pancakes in the freezer because they are so easy to pop in the microwave and serve up. This recipe is packed with whole grains, and the Greek yogurt provides some protein. I actually cut the sugar down so I wouldn’t feel so bad about feeding them to Maggie, and no one noticed the difference. You could cut it out completely, but just make sure to replace it with a little bit of something dry like ground flax.

PS: Do you have an electric griddle? You can get a good one for under $30 and it is so worth being able to quickly cook pancakes and French toast in big batches. Also, if you’re like me and burn everything, it’s well worth the investment.

Print Recipe
Whole Wheat Oatmeal Muffins
Course Breakfast
Servings
Pancakes
Ingredients
Course Breakfast
Servings
Pancakes
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Toss flour, oats, salt, baking powder, and spices together. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and milk together. Add sugar and yogurt and whisk until no lumps remain, then add vanilla and mix until well combined.
  2. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Don't overmix or beat! Fold in add-ins until just combined.
  3. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Generously coat with cooking spray. Add batter and flip after bubbles start to appear. Make sure to re-coat pan before adding more batter, or if you're like me and burn everything, use an electric griddle.
  4. Serve with powdered sugar, maple syrup, or your preferred toppings. These freeze great!
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Momfession: My basement is a war zone

As a parent there are some things I do that make me wonder, “Does anyone else do this too, or am I way out in left field here?” Certain things I let my kids eat or wear, items I’m okay with them putting in their mouth, my list of acceptable sleeping spots.

So, Momfession #1: My basement is a war zone.

Anyone else’s kids terrible at picking up? Okay, maybe Lily isn’t bad at picking up and it’s more like I completely fail in the “teaching my kid responsibility” category. I know this because she told me. Not in those exact words of course, but we’ve had plenty of conversations about how she cleans up at school but won’t do it at home. My problem is really consistency. Sometimes I’m really gung-ho and won’t let her watch Paw Patrol until she’s put away her play dough, but most of the time I just don’t have the energy to make her do it. I know how you’re supposed clean up together and that they’re more likely to learn to just put their things away without being asked that way but holy crap have you ever watched a 3 year old pick up crayons? In the time it takes us to do it together, I could have easily gathered them up on my own and then washed my car and put away the five loads of laundry sitting upstairs.

We try to keep the main level of our house reasonably tidy by putting the toys and miscellaneous child items away after the kids go to bed. Sometimes before story time I’ll quickly put away the books lying all over Lily’s floor and close the closet door because it bugs me when her room is chaotic. There are always random loads of laundry and kid items strewn about our bedroom and that really gets under my skin. But the one place in our house that I don’t care about being in complete and utter chaos is the basement.

Kids have a lot of stuff. Our kids have a lot of stuff, but they also have a ball pit, mini trampoline, and rocket ship. I love these indoor versions of play equipment, but they take up a lot of space. Not even kidding, we looked at one other house before buying ours and one of our concerns was, “Where will the ball pit go?” When we moved out of our old house, I found plastic balls under every single piece of furniture and in all the corners. But now that we live in a house with a finished basement, all of that big stuff is down there and I don’t care how messy it gets. I just wait to pick up all the balls until Lily gets concerned about the dwindling supply actually still in the pit. The magnatiles stay strewn across the floor until she wants to build something with them. The mattress was a completely unnecessary addition, but why throw out your old mattress when you can use it as part of an obstacle course or dance floor?

Sisters in the ball pit.

And you see the fort in the corner? I’ll occasionally tear it down but Lily inevitably demands we put a new one up immediately upon noticing this. And why fight it when she plays independently really well in the various forts we build, and Maggie loves crawling in and out of them?

Plastic ball pit balls
Balls everywhere.

Possibly the most significant basement-related confession: we’ve been in our house for over 10 months and only vacuumed it twice (the carpet that is–we’ve never vacuumed the basement stairs).

It’s strangely liberating turning off the light and closing the door to the basement every evening. I’m not even that embarrassed by it, which mostly stems from not having the energy to care, and convincing myself that there must be someone else out there who has a room in her house that looks like is. So, os it you? Let us know in the comments if you have a room in your house where the kids can run wild!

 

 

 

Living Local: The Blue Eyed Baker

Hi everyone! When I started writing this blog (again), there were a few things I wanted to do. Since my first pregnancy, I’ve been so curious about other mom’s experiences: how they chose their OB/GYN and what they thought of them, how they did or didn’t prepare for their births, what their hospital experience was like, what their day looks like as a SAHM or WOHM or WAHM mom, what their childcare situation is like. Part of this is because I was completely new to Western New York when I had to choose my OB. I literally picked the first OB that showed up on Google, and I ended up leaving the practice after one visit. I had a really hard time finding helpful info about providers, and stories about labor and delivery in specific hospitals. I know others are curious too, because these are often the topics that get conversations started between us as moms meeting for the first time. That’s why I’m going to be featuring a Birth Story series, and a Day in the Life series. I would love for you to share your unique experience, from natural home births to planned C-sections, and stay-at-home-moms to single parents working full time. Contact me if you’re interested!

But the other thing I wanted to do with this blog was to create a place to showcase some of the awesome places to eat, shop, and play in WNY. There are so many fantastic restaurants, independently owned stores, and places for kids to get out and move, but half the time it takes stumbling across one or a chance encounter to find out about them. Today is the first feature of my Living Local series, which will explore what WNY has to offer! Do you have a favorite locally-owned clothing line for kids? A nearby art studio that offers low-cost lessons for little ones? An outdoor space with hiking trails perfect for preschoolers? Let me know in the comments section and I’ll feature them on the blog!

But today I am so excited to introduce Alex, also known as the Blue Eyed Baker! When I thought about who to feature for the first post in this series, Alex automatically came to mind. She’s a Western New Yorker and mommy-to-be who went out on a limb and started her own business in her early twenties–phew! The Blue Eyed Baker creates some of the most beautiful and delicious cakes, pastries, and, of course, French macarons you can find. I admit I let Lily have a French macaron every Saturday morning during the East Aurora farmers market season, where the Blue Eyed Baker has a tent. So without further ado, meet the Blue Eyed Baker!

Hi Alex! Can you start by telling us a little about yourself?

I am a mama to be who owns a small bakery business. I operate out of a commercial kitchen we put in our basement, doing mostly farmers markets, weddings, and supplying desserts to restaurants. I also take on personal orders. While it can certainly be challenging at times owning your own business, I love what I do and feel very lucky to bake for a living. 

Before you moved back to WNY and devoted yourself full-time to baking, you were living in California and working in a completely different field. How did you get into baking, and what made you decide to start the Blue Eyed Baker?

I was working a corporate job for 5 years and eventually moved out to California for it. I’ve always loved baking but my love really grew when I moved to LA and found myself venturing into all the beautiful pastry shops. I knew I wanted to leave the corporate world, that it just wasn’t for me. I began searching for an education in pastry and found a school that worked with my schedule, allowed me to go at night while continuing to work, and study French-style pastry. From there my love for baking took off and while studying the business of food I began creating ideas for my own business. When my now husband got into school back here in Buffalo, the time was right for us to move back and in turn I decided it was also the right time to take a leap of faith, leave my job and start my business.

What are some of your favorite events and occasions to bake for?

I love creating dessert bars for weddings and showers / parties. My favorite thing to make are my French macarons. They are decadent and its fun to get creative with flavors!

What do you get the most requests for?

Mostly French macarons! I also have a lovely following at the East Aurora farmers market.

What is your favorite thing about living in WNY?

I love that we have seasons, living in California will make you appreciate that! And the cost of living is great for raising a family. I also love the people here!

A lot of us will be celebrating our little one’s first birthdays soon. How can we reach out to you to ask about ordering a cake?

Email me! alex@blueeyedbaker.net … I don’t work with fondant but can certainly create a cake, smash cake, or cupcakes for the celebration!

Thanks, Alex, for being our first Living Local featured business, and congrats on your growing family!