Hurdles to jump before breastfeeding gets easy (easier, at least)

When I gave birth to my son earlier this year, I remembering telling a nurse I wish I had six arms to help position my baby to nurse him. The combination of supporting an unstable newborn who might be crying or wiggling or thrashing his arms around plus having to hold your breast just right so your nipple is latchable and waiting for him to open his mouth wide enough and breaking his suck to try again when the nurse tells you it’s not right . . . it felt like madness. Not to mention how often newborns nurse! I wondered to myself when were things going to get easier. Was I going to spend the next 6 months to a year holding my nursing child all day and all night? So here is my personal experience in when breastfeeding got easier for me.

  • Hurdle One: Holding the baby. There are different positions you can use for nursing, and that doesn’t just mean the baby! Cradle, football, cross cradle, cats in the cradle, how is it possible for you to breathe and eat like that cradle . . . Look up pics online and ask for help. Use no less than 6 pillows and your nursing pillow to get all of you just right, and then the baby will have a poosplosion and you will have to start again.
  • Hurdle Two: Latch. I thought this was going to be a lot easier than it ended up being. Just put the mouth on the nipple, right? WRONG. You gotta get them to open up real wide and stuff your whole friggin nipple in there like a sandwich because they have to get your nipple all the way back to their soft palate. This involved a lot more concentration than I had expected. I had to have a nurse or lactation consultant physically help me with this one, which is what you should expect!
  • Hurdle Three: Pain. It’s not enough that you popped this little angel out your hoo-ha or had your body sliced open for them. Now they put their (surprisingly strong!) little gums and tongues on your other most sensitive body part. My doula gave me a little phrase that helped me. She called the first few seconds to minute of pain the “Six second sizzle.” Or the “Sixty second sizzle.” I don’t know. Either way, she was acknowledging that when the baby first latches, it can be uncomfortable while he gets your nipple into the right place to suck. But even after that, lack of knowledge or the anatomy of your unique baby can cause pain and red, cracked, or bleeding nipples. There are several kinds of nipple cream that can help alleviate the pain, as well as a little bit of a cold compress. But the biggest thing to help heal is to learn how to help your baby latch right. This last part ties into Hurdle 6, below.
  • Hurdle Four: Milking coming in. Somewhere between days 2-5 after birth, your breasts will swell to their fullest and your will leak, no spray milk all over your sweet baby’s face, their clothes, your clothes, the couch, the bed – EVERYWHERE. What no one told me about being engorged with your milk coming in was that your breast can be so hard that your baby can’t latch on and you need to do some work to help them out (reverse pressure softening worked for me). Milk coming in is uncomfortable and sometimes painful, but your supply will regulate as your body figures out whether you are feeding one baby or more.
  • Hurdle Five: Asking for help. With the parade of medical personnel in the hospital barging in every 15 minutes (no, really) and family all clamoring outside your door when you get home, you would think getting help would be easier. But it’s not. I so recommend having the number or email of a lactation consultant so you can get more help in the following few weeks. My hospital had a wonderful service where you could call and speak to an IBCLC and even set up an appointment with one in the hospital. I had it even easier, in that my doula was also an IBCLC and we had a follow up meeting to talk about my birth experience and I was able to email her questions about breastfeeding.
  • Hurdle Six: Do I have enough milk? I think every nursing mom has wondered this at least her first time around. My baby is crying and how can I know that they are getting enough? Part of you yearns to bottle feed so you can measure and see how much they are eating. Between spit up, short nursing sessions, marathon nursing, and cluster feeding, it feels like a total enigma. The tried and true ways to know your baby are getting enough milk are – how many wet and dirty diapers are they having and how much weight have they gained. Our hospital had a time each day when you could come and weigh your baby for free, or you can buy a baby scale. Thankfully, relatively few women actually have difficulty producing enough milk for their little one, so talk to you pediatrician about what you can do. Pumping after nursing, allowing your baby unlimited time at the breast, and letting your baby use you as a pacifier are all ways to help boost milk supply. It’s also totally fine to supplement with formula if that is what your family needs – I would just recommend talking to your pediatrician and lactation consultant for other options first if you are really set on exclusively breastfeeding.
  • Hurdle Seven: Night feedings. Holy moly, if there’s something that will break down anyone it is lack of sleep. One of the few things that is so hard about breastfeeding is that YOU are the baby’s supply of food. Even if you want to skip actually breastfeeding the baby during the night, if you want to keep your supply up with your baby you need to pump when he is given a bottle (may as well just nurse in my opinion). Feel free to give your sleeping partner a death glare while you keep your precious child alive and they rest. Night feedings will become less frequent as your baby adjusts to being awake during the daytime, but you also may have to help them give up night feedings when they are older (eg after 4 months).
  • Hurdle Eight: Attached at the boob. Again, since you are your baby’s source of life and all, it can be really tricky to get time away. It can be surprisingly tricky to pump a lot of milk after about 3 months postpartum, so having someone else give the baby a bottle while you are away isn’t quite as simple as it sounds. Especially if you are irrationally protective of your stash of frozen breastmilk like I was. Getting some space from baby may take extra effort and planning, but it’s worth it to have some time to yourself. Whether it’s seeing a friend, going to a movie, or just sleeping without interruption for a few hours, you will want to figure out how to get some space.

As you can see, most of the hurdles in breastfeeding are at the very beginning of your journey. You may run into other issues such as a clogged duct or an infection, but rest assured that breastfeeding does get easier. The biggest hurdle can definitely be Asking For Help, especially if you don’t feel you are getting the care you need. Ask for help again, or from someone else, or ask your partner or a family member or friend to get you help. Breastfeeding can become very easy over time. Now, I can easily latch my son and eat or type on my computer or walk around the house. I can even breastfeed discreetly in public without a cover!  You may not get it the first one hundred latches, but after a few weeks it will get easier.

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How much of your life is it worth? AKA time is money

A new kind of price tag!

 

There is a universal currency that we use in our country to exchange goods, and that is the dollar. A dollar is a dollar wherever you go, and it can be exchanged for items or services with anyone who is willing. So, when you ask yourself “How much does this cost?” or “What is this worth to me?” we naturally think in terms of dollars. A $40 haircut might be reasonable, but maybe not a $65 cut. Or getting a Lyft or taxi to go home might be worth the extra $15 instead of taking public transit. Each individual decides what is worth spending their money on and how much they are willing to part with.

But I want to challenge you to think a little differently. Instead of thinking of items or services in terms of dollars, think of it in terms of hours spent working.

Huh? Let’s break it down.

In most jobs, and particularly hourly jobs, you are literally trading your time (and your effort) for money. Even if you are salaried, you can more or less break down your hourly wage by dividing your salary by your average weekly hours multiplied by 52 weeks in a year.

So let’s say your hourly wage is $25, but after taxes and health insurance premiums it’s closer to $20 (These are just totally theoretical and easy numbers to make visualization easier, btw). Instead of thinking of a new pair of jeans as $40, think of them as two hours worked in your job. Would you work at your job for two hours just to buy those jeans? Realize that those two hours are not going towards rent, food, utilities, gas, or any other necessities in your life – just those jeans, and nothing else. How do those jeans look now?

Or what about eating out with coworkers at lunch – let’s say you spend $10. Would you work a half hour just to have that meal? Or a new piece of furniture for $100 – would you work 5 hours just to own that piece of furniture? And so on and so on.

This may feel silly because you are going to have to work as much as you work regardless of how little you spend – most jobs have a minimum amount of time spent working. But by saving your money, you will not be put in a position of having to get another job because your expenses are too high, as well as gaining the ability to stop selling your time for money at a nearer future point.

The point of this exercise is to shrink the gap between time spent working and money spent on items. You are quite truly trading hours of your life for money for items and services – it’s just hard to see. So when you see the equation: my time = money = items or services you need to also see the flip: items and services = money = my time

Many things are totally worth spending your time on! Many aren’t. Only you can really know what’s worth your own time. Hopefully this will give you another way to evaluate the things you spend time/money on.

WTF do pregnant ladies need?

I have now completed one pregnancy and welcomed my beautiful baby into the world, so I can testify as to what things marketed to pregnant women and genius and which are crap.

Pregnancy is a time of hope, joy (if planned and welcomed), and also a lot of fear and worrying. The internet will be your best friend and worst enemy. If I could tell my pregnant self anything, it would be to not google on any fears and instead call my doctor or read a reputable book (such as What to Expect When You’re Expecting or The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy). But the internet was good for some things – finding which products I “needed” to be able to get through the process of growing a whole new person. Here are the things I used:

Belly Band: If you’re lucky like me, you will have a really small belly and can wear regular pants up to about 20 weeks. I was able to wear a pair of normal jeans with a hair tie around the button and a Belly Band covering the fact that they were not totally closed. After you transition to maternity pants, the Belly Band is also super useful for keeping them from falling off. Though mine were the right size and fit well overall, they were really loose at the hips and one pair I had to hold while I walked so they wouldn’t slide off. Cost: $5 on sale at Target for two.

Maternity pants: I bought three pairs in the end – one pair of maternity leggings from Target, and two different pairs of maternity jeans from Gap. These are my two favorite places to find regular leggings and jeans respectively, so they were the perfect options. My recommendation with the jeans is the get the side-inset ones – the full panel I bought looked less nice and were SO hard to keep on (I mean, they slide over your hips, don’t have a fasten, and have an elastic waistband for goodness sake), whereas the side-inset jeans were much cuter and fit me better. Here are both from Gap: side inset and full panel. I waited for a sale to buy them. Cost: $40 for each pair of jeans and $25 for the leggings.

Maternity shirts: I bought one and was able to borrow about 6 from a friend. Honestly, any looser fitting shirt was fine for me. I bought a workout shirt or two that were a size larger than normal and wore more flowy clothing for the most part. I was able to wear a medium tee shirt all the way up until delivery, but I am tall so my belly was little and i delivered at 37 weeks. If I had gone full term I might have been a bit bigger. Cost: $12.

Nursing bras: I swear, the instant I got pregnant my ribcage waist grew several inches for no good reason and my bras were insufferably tight; they made me feel nauseous. True story: I was so nauseous at my sports bra touching my belly that I started taking it off under my shirt at a stoplight. The man in the car in front of me was looking in his rear view mirror like “WTF?” and I proceeded to drive to the grocery store and buy my food with no bra. My regular bras were too tight and I hated the idea of buying bigger ones just for pregnancy, so I found nursing bras to wear instead. My favorites are this two pack from Costco, but I also bought a two pack from Target. Cost: $15 for each two pack.

Food: This is a weird one, but hear me. Pregnancy nausea might kick your ass like it did mine. That plus first trimester exhaustion meant I spent the entire month of June in bed or hiding in a corner at work. I had to set alarms on my phone to force remind myself to eat or else the nausea would get worse. I seriously survived on pizza, oreos dunked in milk, and triscuits basically the whole month. If something seemed the slightest bit appealing, I would eat it because the feeling of wanting to eat wouldn’t last. So, the thing here is do what you gotta do. Don’t feel guilty about spending more on food or not eating healthy because you just need to eat, PERIOD. Cost: girl, whatever it takes.

Comfy shoes: I used to hate wearing t shirts and sneakers. Then I was third trimester working retail through the holidays. So I decided my sneakers were my bestest friend and got over my lack of fashionableness. My baby bump was just going to have to be cute enough to make up for it. Cost: free

Pregnancy pillow: Okay, I thought this was bogus until I hit 30 weeks and stopped being able to sleep. After acquiring nearly every pillow in the house to try and help me out, my husband suggested springing for a pregnancy pillow. It might have had something to do with me tossing and turning and keeping him up all night. So I perused Amazon and chose this pillow and it was a GAME CHANGER. Though my sleep was still not amazing (damn you heartburn), I could actually relax and be comfortable. I also was able to use it to sit on the couch comfortable, and I still use it for that and breastfeeding. I’m using this pillow right now as I type to hold my baby across my lap while he sleeps. Cost: $40

Yoga ball: With all the strange weight of a baby on your hips, you start to feel weird. I had restless legs and a strange need to wiggle my hips – I would lie down on the couch to snuggle my husband (quite the feat with a belly to fit on there) and would have an undeniable urge to wiggle my hips. The yoga ball made sitting so much more comfortable because I could have good posture and swivel my pelvis around while resting. It was a weird thing that just felt so good. You also might use the ball during labor – I did for all of 10 minutes. Cost: $25

Maternity coat: Just get a coat a size or two bigger than normal. Cost: $30 from Costco

Though it may seem like a lot, there really aren’t a lot of products you need while pregnant. In fact, many of these you could borrow from other people (and should!).

What were your must-haves during pregnancy?

Corners to Cut – for your wedding

Hint – no one will notice or likely care!

I’ve posted about our wedding previously, including how much it cost and our thinking behind the whole event. To recap: figure out what your wedding is for and then prioritize. Unless you have $100,000 specifically earmarked only for your wedding, you can’t have everything that you’ve seen on Pinterest. We prioritized my dress and beautiful photography. But would you believe that even those we optimized to save on? Here’s how.

The dress: You are only going to wear this dress one day, but it’s arguably the most important and most loved item of clothing you will ever own. So don’t skip it, but be smart about it. You can find absolutely INCREDIBLE dresses at sample sales and secondhand. Here are some photos of dresses I tried on:

I ended up purchasing a dress from a secondhand store for about $500. What is cool is that the previous bride received part of the profit! This is something to keep in mind after your wedding – you can sell your dress. Something to know about the dress is that alterations are almost always necessary – your dress is not going to be the exact right length, or cup size, or you might want to add a feature. I added beautiful short lace sleeves to mine, which had been strapless previously. Alterations are usually several hundred dollars, but should be done by someone who REALLY knows their stuff.

Photos: We were able to find an up and coming photographer in our area who did our engagement and wedding photos. She had a lovely portfolio on her website, so we were able to peruse her work. Many people opt for a second photographer, but that’s not a huge deal (though they can get shots that one person alone can’t, such as both the bride and grooms faces during the ceremony, etc.).

Plates, napkins, table decorations: My parents were paying for the whole wedding and knew this for about a year before the date. Since they weren’t surprised and knew how much things cost, they got busy with garage sales and thrift stores. We had a beautiful wedding that was a little bit eclectic with lots of personal touches. They picked a general theme for the tableware (off white napkins, glass plates) and just went nuts. They found used cloth napkins and plates for super cheap to use at our venue. They also purchased glass hurricanes, ribbon, candles, and inexpensive flowers to use as centerpieces. Note – since we didn’t cater the wedding, we had to provide the dishes. If you choose to cater, this is usually irrelevant.

Food and alcohol: We didn’t bother with booze at all. Between liquor licenses, religious views, having small children at the wedding, and the potential of guests to get rowdy, it wasn’t worthwhile to us. For food, my mom ordered trays of croissant sandwiches from Costco and she and my husbands’ grandmother made some simple desserts – lemon bars and cake pops. These were a really cute touch, because they added little signs so you knew they were family recipes. Much cuter than the usual square pieces of wedding cake . . .

Cake: You are not going to have more than two bites each of your cake. Skip the enormous, decorated, wedding cake and just get a specialty cake made by your local grocery store. Don’t mention “wedding” when you tell them about it either! I would recommend getting a small, fun cake just for you and your partner to cut. We bought a little 4 inch cake at a local grocery store for less than $6 the day before the wedding, put it on a platter with some flowers, and it was perfect.

View More: http://bethaney-photography.pass.us/amber-daniel

Even this tiny cake didn’t get completely eaten!

Venue: We did not choose a venue that was only for weddings since those are SO pricey. We chose a music venue that also does other events and weddings only occasionally, and also chose an off peak day. We were married just days before Christmas and on a Monday afternoon. Part of this was family travel logistics, but part of it was just cost – we saved hundreds by choosing a weekday as opposed to a weekend.

Time of day: While partying in the evening is lovely, we wanted our wedding to be about us and that included getting to our hotel at an earlier hour. We wanted to get to process the wedding day and relax into our honeymoon, as opposed to crash in our hotel room at 2am after drinking and partying for hours on end. There’s nothing wrong with that, it just didn’t fit what we wanted from the day. If you have a morning or afternoon wedding, you don’t have to bother with a sit down dinner, alcohol, and you can keep things much more casual and light.

 

Wedding favors: Skip em. Unless you can figure out something that is less than $2 per guest and is thoughtful, no one will care. I attended a wedding where the bride loved chocolate, so there was a little glass bottle of M&M’s in the wedding colors at every place at the banquet. Cute, thoughtful, unique, inexpensive, BOOM.

Wedding party outfits: Listen up. No one really cares what your wedding party is wearing. They are looking at the bride and the groom, and mostly just the bride (how could you not when she’s so stunning in her gown?). Don’t torture your friends and insist on a specific tux rental or $200 dress and matching shoes and manicures and paying for hair and makeup. This plus their travel expenses to get to your wedding, bachelor/bachelorette parties, a gift for you . . . it gets to be a lot. Give your friends the gift of not financially going nuts for the wedding. We asked our wedding party to wear black suits for the guys and black dresses and shoes for the girls. The girls did their own hair and makeup or helped each other out, and we gave the guys beautiful purple ties that matched the wedding color. No one cared what our wedding party wore. Besides, the whole coordinated but mismatched wedding party is a trend and looks great in the photos. For ring bearers and flower girls, give the parents a guideline and let go. We asked for my nieces and nephews to wear purple and look nice, and our siblings went all out which was adorable. But kids are super cute no matter what they wear (or don’t) – so ditch the expensive, coordinated outfits.

View More: http://bethaney-photography.pass.us/amber-daniel

Separate venues: Unless getting married in a specific location where you can’t party (such as a cathedral or temple) you can do the whole thing in one place. We were able to have the ceremony and reception in the same room – the guests went outside for 15 minutes and were able to grab food and drinks while the venue staff flipped the room and then welcomed everyone back in.

Day of coordinator: A friend of mine from high school was getting into event planning, so I reached out to her about being the day of coordinator for our wedding. This was so my mom and I could enjoy the day as opposed to putting out fires when something inevitably would go awry. This person is the one who makes sure the wedding party enters at the right time, helps keep you on schedule, and switches things up when things go too long or too short. For example, our wedding coordinator came and asked me if we wanted to cut a few songs from our set list so we could keep talking to guests; after we chatted with her for about 15 seconds, she went and got it all done. She also made sure people who gave speeches received their microphones and had a heads up, kept photos from going too long, and made sure food and drinks were replenished. Basically, she did all the shit and it was the BEST money we spent on the wedding. Make sure you get someone reliable, capable, and meet with them before the event and have them at the rehearsal. We could have found a “professional” online, but this girl was just as good as any more experienced planner.

Music for the reception: We had our wedding at a music venue, so this was a bit easier for us, but we opted to have their staff play a short playlist of about 5 songs at the reception. We knew that our crowd wouldn’t be into dancing and there wouldn’t be alcohol, so trying to get people onto the floor for 45 minutes or an hour would be futile. We decided we could convince friends to dance with us for about 15 minutes and we picked a few GREAT songs. Having a live band is beautiful, but unless you have friends who play instruments and will do your wedding for free, a playlist and someone who can push a button or two is the way to go. Caveat – there needs to be someone who understands the sound equipment there in case something goes wrong with the speakers or connection.

Overall, you can take some calculated cuts with your wedding by downgrading slightly. Did a single person know that my dress was secondhand? Nope. Did people care that we didn’t have a big, elaborate cake to cut? Not at all. Were folks insulted that there was no alcohol or fancy favors to take home? Probably not, but they sound judgey and probably would have found fault with something else.

You may look at my list and think, “Wow, but that one is really important to me!” That’s great! You’ve found a priority! Now you need to see what you can add to balance that expense. Maybe you want to have booze or a live band – can you make sure to save on the flowers or the dress? It’s all about picking what you want and balancing it to fit your budget.

Where can you cut corners with your wedding? How did you save on the big day?

Save money by – waiting on gadgets

Working in technology, I’m surrounded by people who love to geek out on the newest consumer gadgets. My coworkers have every Apple product possible from the moment it’s available – the latest iPhone, accessories like expensive headphones, an iPad and a MacBook, not to mention Apple Music and every streaming app. This isn’t a problem if you can afford it, but most people can’t. Just this fall, a family member called me to ask which iPhone he should get. He loves tech but consistently has financial difficulties, so I kept that in mind while we spoke. “Well, the X is really cool because of the screen and the cameras. It’s just SO expensive. You get a lot of the same features on the 8 Plus for a lot less.” My family member ordered the 8 Plus, but then when I saw him several months later I noticed he had the X. “Wait – didn’t you have the 8 Plus?” I asked. “Yeah,” he responds, “but you convinced me to get the X instead!”

Listen here. I still have my 6S from two years ago and it’s perfectly adequate, thank you very much. I would love to have the newest phone – think of the amazing baby pics I could take! Not to mention I work for Apple and was at the iPhone X launch event in Cupertino – if anyone gets the hype, it’s me. When I first see it, I also covet the latest and greatest. But I learned something not long ago that changed my thinking on buying technology.

First off, anything you buy is basically obsolete as soon as you buy it. That’s why so many people get frustrated – they just purchased a device, and the next generation comes out a year later and theirs is no longer the best! As annoying as this feels, that is how companies run right now. It’s an arms race of who can implement the newest feature or best camera or most storage. It’s actually great for the consumer since we receive such awesome products, but it causes us to feel like we are missing out when something better comes along. You need to ignore this feeling, because of the second principle:

You should only ever upgrade your technology when it will actually improve your day to day life. Here’s an example: my iPhone 6S has plenty of storage space, acceptable battery life, works quickly and reliably, and takes great photos. The iPhone X does all those things better – more space, lasts longer, is faster and more reliable, and takes incredible pics. But none of those will noticeably change my day to day life. If, for example, my device was out of space or wasn’t working reliably or I needed to take phenomenal pictures on the go for my business, upgrading my device would make a significant change. But when I have the bases covered well enough, getting them covered better won’t improve my life and is not worth my money.

Here’s a few more examples of when to get something fancy and when not to. A family member of mine loves technology and also travels all over the world for work. He has two sets of really nice, expensive headphones – wireless AirPods for talking in his office and over-ear Bose noise-cancelling headphones for flying. But as far as his phone goes, he has the tiny, basic iPhone SE because it gets the job done. He might think about upgrading to the X or buying a drone because it’s cool, but neither of those things will change his day to day life the way a nice set of headphones would.

So this brings us to the last principle that pulls the first two together: only upgrade (or buy new) technology when absolutely necessary, and don’t worry about timing it to take advantage of a new product launching soon. Remember that your device will be outdated in the near future and don’t splurge for features that won’t improve your day to day life.

How do you feel about your technology? How do you manage buying (or not buying!) new gadgets?

WTF do babies need? Month One

Hello readers!

When you are going to have a child, there is a bewildering amount of information about products you need to have for your kid to be the next Stephen Hawking (or at least not die a horrible death due to lack of snuggling). A lot of these websites are obviously sponsored by incredibly expensive brands and products – that’s why you see so many $600 UppaBaby strollers as the “best pick for most parents” instead of the $160 Graco ones that are probably 85% as good for about one fifth of the cost. The only websites worth looking at to compare and pick baby gear are: Lucie’s List, The WireCutter, and the product reviews on Amazon, in that order.

Early in the month of January, my husband and I welcomed our baby boy into the family! We had been anticipating him coming much closer or even after his due date, so when I was admitted to the hospital to be induced 3 weeks early we were woefully unprepared. I’m talking we didn’t have diapers, crib sheets, or appropriate clothes. Thank goodness for Amazon prime and two day delivery! Anyways, we’re six weeks into this parenting gig and pretty much experts. And by experts I mean this child is different every three days and I have no idea what’s going on. But we did make it through month one and I can share my experiences.

There are many types of products: those you thought you needed but didn’t really, those you didn’t think you would need but did, those that fit your expectation for being needed or not, and those you bought because you personally wanted them but may not be necessary for everyone. Here are my items and what they cost.

Necessities

  • Crib: We were lucky enough to receive a beautiful crib from a coworker for free, so we decided not to spring for a bassinet as well. We are really big on safe sleep, so we strictly follow the AAP’s guidelines and don’t cosleep but instead room share with baby in his crib next to our bed. Cost: FREE
  • Changing table: The first few days we plopped a portable changing pad on my yoga mat in the living room and changed him on the floor. This is totally a viable option, but the changing table is also great for organizing all your baby crap: clothes, blankets, diapers, burp cloths. We registered for this and it was given by a family member. Cost: FREE
  • Burp cloths: holy muffins, you will not believe how much your baby spits up! However many cloths you think you need, you are wrong. Unless you think it’s 100, in which case you are right. You need 100 cloths. My mom is a sewing fiend and loves to make gifts for her grandchildren, so she made a bunch for us as soon as we got pregnant, and then was thrilled to make even MORE when we realized how useful they were. Cost: FREE
  • A boppy or other kind of pillow: If you are breastfeeding your baby, you will want some kind of pillow with a cover to keep you both comfortable. You can even use some pregnancy pillows (like the one I bought) to position you. We registered for the Boppy and it’s pretty great; my husband also uses it to hold our baby. We like that is has a cover so you can wash it once the spit up starts to get crusty (ewww). Cost: FREE
  • Zippered jammies: Listen. All sorts of well-intentioned people are going to give you cute baby clothes with 10,000 buttons, snaps, and ties on them. You need to take a look at those clothes, appreciate how cute they are, and then return them immediately for jammies that zip up from the leg. We bought some in three packs from Target for $12, and he either wears those or nothing. It makes dressing them and changing diapers significantly easier, and I love that I don’t have to pull clothes over this childs’ ENORMOUS head. Less shrieking = happier family. Cost: $4 each, about $25 for 6, which is plenty.
  • Diapers and wipes: No shit you need these. But if you’re planning on cloth diapering, I would recommend sticking to disposable for now. Newborns poo all the time; we changed about a dozen diapers a day for a bit, and it’s a lot to transition to having a new baby and adding diaper laundry loads to the rest of it. Buy a ton from Costco or Amazon and just stash them in the closet. Also, people like to buy you these so don’t be afraid to ask for them. Cost: try to get them for less than $0.20 per diaper and $0.02 per wipe.
  • Velcro or Zip Up Swaddles: There’s a billion options – we love the Halo Sleepsack and SwaddleMe ones, and we’re iffy on our Love To Dream Arms Up zipper doo dad. You can of course use swaddle blankets, but our little one is very wiggly and loves to break out, so these keep him cozier and safer. Some were given to us, some were borrowed, one we bought using a gift card. Cost: FREE
  • Baby wearing device: So it turns out that babies love being snuggled and parents love having their hands free occasionally (who knew??). Babywearing is honestly like magic for little ones – you put them in their carrier and the ZONK OUT and you can walk around or eat a sandwich or cruise mindlessly through your phone. My favorite for the little stage is the baby K’tan, while my husband loves the Moby. Now that he’s getting bigger, I’m starting to use our Lillebaby more. I have a Lalabu shirt but I don’t like it that much. I recommend looking for things that are breathable. Some things were given to us by my mom from Craigslist, one I bought with a gift card, and one I bought on Black Friday. Cost: $80
  • Breast Pump: Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurance providers must provide a breast pump to expectant mothers at no cost. If having to talk to your insurance company makes you want to run for the hills, I discovered a company called Aeroflow Breast pumps, where you give them your insurance info and you use their handy website to shop for whichever one you want that is covered by your plan. Bonus – I got the same pump brand that my hospital uses, so when I pumped in the hospital and they let me take home the parts I had extra ones! Less washing! Cost: FREE
  • Baby bath seat: He hated sponge baths but loved having his hair rinsed from the very beginning, so we borrowed a bath chair from a friend to help us give him a fun, relaxing bath. Baby loves bath time now! Well, he doesn’t scream during bath time which basically means he loves it. Cost: FREE
  • Diaper rash cream/thermometer/other baby first aid supplies: There’s a lot of moisture in baby’s diaper, so rash cream can help prevent or treat any sores that come up – we use Boudreaux’s Butt Paste. The thermometer is great for those first few weeks when baby starts acting differently or has a big spit up incident and you’re not sure if something is really wrong. Keep in mind it has to be under arm or rectal at this age though – none of the ear or forehead thermometers work at this age. Some things we received as samples, and some we bought on Amazon or from Target. Cost: approximately $25
  • Freezer meals/dinner from friends: We cooked nothing but breakfast and freezer or crockpot meals from friends, and it made a huge difference. There’s a lot to do when baby arrives – recover from childbirth, organize all the baby supplies, learn to breastfeed, try to sleep, handle medical bills and insurance claims and pediatrician appointments. It’s hugely luxurious to not have to worry about grocery shopping or meal planning. Usually a friend will step up and create a MealBaby calendar and share it with your local community. Cost: FREE

Necessary, but less utilized

  • Swaddle blankets: We didn’t love swaddling with blankets because they got loose too easily, and babies can suffocate in blankets (we know a family who tragically had this happen to a little one). We use them a little to keep him warm if he’s just in a diaper. I anticipate they will be used more when he’s older as a stroller or car seat cover, a blanket to lie on in the grass, a lightweight nursing cover, etc. A four pack of Aden and Anais blankets were gifted to us by a family member. Cost: FREE
  • Carseat and stroller: I searched and researched endlessly for something that was safe, easy to use, high quality, but not excessively expensive or heavy. We were generously gifted our chosen stroller and car seat by a family member. Cost: FREE
  • Rocker and ottoman: The same family who gave us their old crib also gave us a lovely upholstered rocker and matching ottoman. With a run through the laundry, it was good as new, but I mostly hold our baby on the couch. When he’s older we will likely move it to his room and reading a book in the chair together will be part of the night time routine. Cost: FREE
  • Nursing cover or bras: You will eventually need to wear clothes again, but in the immediate post partum period you are un-fucking-touchable. Take advantage of it. Breastfeeding is not shameful and is the most natural way to feed your infant – anyone who comes over to your home is subject to see your tatas if you don’t care. Also, you may want to hold off on buying nursing clothes until you better see how your body recovers, as well as buy clothes for what’s appropriate for your lifestyle (going back to work, exercising, staying home, etc.). We were gifted a nursing cover and I purchased several nursing shirts and bras. Cost: Approximately $75
  • Swing or bouncy seat: You will definitely want these, but if you have enough hands to hold baby someone will just snuggle the little one. When you stop having family help or your spouse goes back to work, a swing or bouncy chair will get utilized a LOT more. I like having both (borrowed from friends) – the swing is more effective, but the bouncy seat is portable. Cost: $10 for swing parts
  • Diaper bag: I’m sure this is really useful, we just didn’t leave the house much. There are so many specific ones, but you could pretty easily use any backpack or larger purse as a diaper bag. This was gifted to us by my best friend. Cost: FREE

Things you don’t need at all – yet!

  • Toys: Your baby can’t see very far, and their favorite thing to look at is your face! They also don’t have the dexterity or physical awareness to reach for things or grab on purpose. Save these for later.
  • Fancy clothes/shoes: The only time you need these is for pictures. Or, as I did one day, to put your baby in so the screaming is less obnoxious – babies that are dressed up cute are scientifically proven to be less grating when screaming.

Extras that I love

  • Owlet baby monitor: I’m one of those paranoid people who is very consistently checking to see if baby is breathing. The first four nights of his life, my husband and I stayed up all night holding him because we weren’t ready to put him in the crib and not have someone watching him all the time. The Owlet tracks heart rate and oxygen levels so you can see that your baby is okay, and it will alert you if any of those readings get whacked out. We received a few hundred dollars in cash from a family member to put towards something we wanted, so that covered the Owlet. Cost: $300, but used cash gift.
  • Car seat mirror: When you’re driving you want to be able to focus on keeping safe, but you also wonder what baby is up to. Since you can’t speak to each other yet, the car seat mirror is so great to glance and see that everything is fine. Or just marvel at the perfect little person squished in back there 🙂 Cost: $20, used Amazon gift card.
  • Sterilizer: Most breast pump and bottle manufacturers will have recommendations on how often to sterilize their products – ours said daily! There was no way I would boil water each day, and a nice sterilizer was on sale for half off. It can also be used for pacifiers, teething objects, and small plastic toys. If you are bottle or formula feeding, this is more of a necessity. Cost: $35, used Amazon gift card.

So, those are most of the things that got us through our first month! As you can see, we were fortunate enough to have received many of them as gifts, or we waited for sales and used a gift card balance. Hopefully you have a community and family that will rally around you and help you prepare everything you need to welcome your little one home.

What would you add to this list?

Things that actually helped me get fit

Hint – it wasn’t an app!

 

I have had my ups and downs with fitness. I am currently in a down – as of the writing of this post, I’m 16 weeks pregnant and living across the country from my husband, who is much better at cooking and eating healthy food than I am. I have gained some more in my thighs and hips, and it’s not necessary weight – it’s more that the entire month of June I couldn’t stomach the idea of anything other than oreos, pizza, and triscuits, and I needed to eat to survive. I also was in bed every possible moment that I didn’t HAVE to be out of bed. I think I exercised twice, and that’s if you include things like taking a long walk.

But there are some things that have helped me get pretty dang fit after struggling to find routine/motivation/whatever you want to call it, for quite a long time. I really hadn’t had much of a long-term (longer than 3 months) commitment to any kind of fitness before a couple things helped me out. So, without further ado, here they are!

  1. Get someone to work out with you who you can’t stand to disappoint.

For me, I hired a personal trainer. It was a really amazing situation, because it was a friend who was starting her own business and was looking for clients to get off the ground. I was one of her first few clients, so I also got a really great deal on our personal training sessions. I also can’t stand the idea of missing a workout when I have a “coach” of some sort – I never really allowed myself to be too sick or too tired to miss a workout, and I would be so ashamed to ditch out on my friend. It didn’t motivate me that I was spending a lot more money than I ever had on fitness (though I was), but it motivated me that I knew she would be there and would be disappointed if I wasn’t there. And dammit, I didn’t miss a single one!

2. Do something you actually like.

I am not a good runner. I’m pretty slow for the level of athleticism that I’m at. I also think it sucks and I totally hate it. Lots of people talk about how cathartic it is to run, but I just can’t relate. I’m sure if I buckled down and kept some consistency I could grow to enjoy the sport, but why? There are SO many other things I like and I’m pretty good at! I love swimming, dancing, spin classes, group exercise classes, HIIT, weight lifting, body weight training – why in the world would I need to start running? I instead chose something that I enjoy (a combination of HIIT and body weight training with my personal trainer friend) and had a great time and got really fit!

3. Do something you are already good at.

Listen. It’s great to expand your horizons and learn new things. I really have grown a lot from some of the new activities I’ve taken on and stuck with. But it takes another extra level of effort for that, and let’s be real, we can’t always handle that. Sometimes, it’s nice to do something where you already have confidence and great form and can enjoy yourself. I have wanted to get into yoga for years – I think I have the right kind of flexibility and body for it. But every time I go to a class I feel frustrated afterwards – there is so much I just can’t do and it irks me! Whereas when I do something that is more focused on weight training, I have more confidence. I may not be picking up big weights, but I know how to squat! And put me in a pool? Please. I will wipe the deck with most of the people there. It’s such a great boost to do something you are good at. Get stronger and fitter first, and then try something different. You will already have built up muscle or cardiovascular endurance, and you will have better success in your new endeavor.

I value all the other tips out there for getting into fitness – keeping it short, using an app, walking or biking places you might usually drive, working out with a friend, etc. But those things never really moved the needle for me. But the three things above? Those gave me more muscle and consistency and desire than anything else!

What about you?