Motherhood Update: Levi at Seven Months

Levisevenmonths
Levi at seven months.

Our baby is seven months! There are moments when I can’t believe how quickly time has passed, but then there are times I feel I’ve earned every single day. Being a mom is hard work, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying, doesn’t remember, or is doing a lot of outsourcing. Don’t get me wrong, Levi is the sweetest little boy, but he’s also now at an age where he’s able to express both his likes and dislikes, and believe me — when he doesn’t like something — he lets us know.

His current likes include: stroller rides, playing in his activity center, putting everything in his mouth, “walking” with daddy, his lovey, and eating.  His dislikes include: his afternoon nap, drinking milk from a bottle, diaper changes, tummy time, and avocado.

One of the biggest changes since my last update is that Levi is eating solids and really loving it! I’m not quite sure why, but I was a bit intimidated by the whole thing. That said,  with the help of my Ninja food processor and this super helpful online eating guide — feeding him has been a wonderful , albeit very messy experience for the both of us. I’m proud to say he’s a real gourmet just like his mama!

When you’re first starting out, pediatricians recommend introducing one new food at a time over a period of 3-4 days to test for allergies, but once a food passes the test then you’re free to mix ingredients. Levi has already tried and enjoyed pureed carrots, sweet potato, squash, zucchini, banana, pear, peas, plum, chicken and turkey. The only thing he doesn’t  like so much is avocado. He’s eating about eight ounces a day, spread out over two meals. If you’re about to start your baby on solids, I highly recommend these genius suction plates,  and these adorable bib/smocks.

Continue reading

Motherhood Update: Levi at Six Months

Levi22weeks
Levi at 22 weeks in his activity center.

As I’m writing this Levi is almost six months. He’s becoming increasingly more social which makes playtime much more fun for us as parents. Levi’s also started laughing and making these hilarious bird-like noises which we mimic back to him much to his delight. He’s losing interest in his swing and keeps trying to pull himself up from his playmate. However, he enjoys his activity center and is fascinated by the trees and the sky. I place him by the window and he just stares out into our backyard. Free entertainment folks.

A couple of weeks ago he started rolling onto his side which made for a bit of a rough week sleep-wise because he would roll over and either get scared or uncomfortable and start to cry. Thankfully it passed, and now we get a kick out of seeing him fall asleep in the most awkward positions (the things that entertain us these days, oye!).

It’s been over two months since I’ve pumped breast milk and given it to Levi in a bottle (I don’t like pumping very much), and I’m getting a little worried he’s going to reject the bottle. I know I have to get on this asap, but I seriously enjoy holding him close to me while nursing him, while also being too lazy to pump. That said, the older he gets the more comfortable I’ll be leaving him for extended periods of time and I’m definitely going to want him to take a bottle of breastmilk or formula when I do.

In about one week we’re going to start offering him pureed food which I’m both nervous and excited for. It’s going to mean more work for mom and a lot more cleaning, but I’m looking forward to getting him started on his culinary journey. Hopefully he’ll be an adventurous eater just like his mommy!

Continue reading

Why Everyday Should Be Don’t Forget About Mom Day

Levi18weeks
Levi 18 Weeks

When you’re pregnant, everyone asks you how you’re feeling. People hold the door open for you and engage you in friendly banter. You’re showered with attention and it feels good. But then you give birth and — poof — just like that those same folks start caring less about you. A lot less. The baby is the focus of everyone’s attention, and rightfully so — babies need tons of attention. They’re fragile, new, and adorable. They also smell incredible. How can anyone, let alone a tired, rundown, and hormonal new mom compete with that?

But here’s the thing: please don’t forget about Mom. She needs you almost as much as the little baby. Her life has changed completely, and if she’s anything like me, chances are she sometimes feels anxious, lonely, and confused. She’s also tired. Really tired.

Continue reading

Motherhood Update: Four Months

Levi16weeks
Levi at 16 weeks.

Our little Levi is four months old! I wish I could say these months have flown by but then I’d be lying to you guys and that would defeat the purpose of this blog. The truth is being a mom is tough. It’s hard work and right now it’s my full-time job. And Levi is actually an easy baby! He’s always smiling and is happy to chill in his baby swing or stroller, or lay on his play mat. He is absolutely delicious and makes me smile whenever I’m with him.

The hard part right now really has to do with his sleep or lack thereof. At 17 weeks he’s still waking up twice most nights to eat, which is considered normal for his age and wouldn’t even be so bad IF he actually napped during the day! Since about nine weeks his napping has gotten worse and worse. I have read Dr. Weissbluth’s book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and have spoken with two sleep consultants who both told me I could start nap training at 16 weeks because that’s when biological rhythms for naps emerge (I’ll discuss night sleep training in another post). This means babies are biologically programmed to sleep at certain times and be awake at other times. More specifically, nap training involves putting your baby down in his crib (drowsy but awake) after a consistent soothing routine and leaving them in their bed for one hour regardless if they’re sleeping or not. The idea is to teach them to fall asleep on their own and fall back asleep when they wake between sleep cycles.

Continue reading

On Banishing Mom Guilt Once and for All

LEVI14WEEKS
Levi at 14 weeks.

I had heard a lot about mom guilt before having Levi, but hearing about it and experiencing it are two very different things. Prior to his birth, I promised to give myself time to adjust to motherhood without putting pressure on myself to be a full-time mom and still do all the things I was doing before. I’m referring to things like preparing home cooked meals, freelance writing, blogging, going to the gym regularly, etc. While I have been kinder to myself than usual (yay me!) given my type A personality, I still often find myself feeling bad/guilty about not doing certain things.

During my many walks with Levi I’ve been listening to the audio book version of Bringing up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman. I highly recommend this funny, fresh, and insightful look at parenting in France, however, the reason I’m mentioning it now is because there’s an entire chapter dedicated to doing away with the dreaded mom guilt. French mothers are vigilant about not giving into it. They accept the fact they can’t do it all and that the perfect mother simply doesn’t exist. Consequently, a giant weight is lifted off their shoulders and they can approach motherhood with a greater sense of ease. In this regard, I absolutely want to be more like these women. I realize feeling guilty virtually all the time is unhealthy, and that it’s not beneficial to me or my family. You’d be surprised by the seemingly trivial things I’ve felt bad about these last couple of months (I assure you this is all true), and so now my hope is that by writing it out I will be more likely to stop feeling guilty about certain things.  Here’s to a relatively guilt-free 2018!

I will no longer feel guilty about:

1. Not making the bed everyday.

2. Going a full week without “cooking” anything beyond tuna melts, eggs, and maybe pasta if I’m feeling fancy.

3. Not always having a fully stocked fridge because I don’t want to spend my limited free time at the grocery store and don’t want to pay the pricey delivery fees every week.

4. Missing a workout, or two, or three.

5. Declining dinner with friends because I want to be in bed by 9p.m.

6. Wearing yoga pants daily.

7. Trolling social media while nursing. I made a resolution not to go on social media or text while breastfeeding but that was before I realized just how often I would be breastfeeding and that it’s actually the best time to catch up on my reading. In fact, following other moms on Instagram has been especially comforting as a new mom.

8. Politely declining visitors.

9. Politely declining sexual advances (occasionally)!

10. Sometimes feeling bored while playing with my baby even though I love him truly, madly, deeply.

11. Missing a wax, or two, or three.

12. Not breastfeeding for the full year because I want to go on a mini vacation with my husband sans baby this summer.

13. Letting my baby cry it out as part of sleep training for nighttime and naps. I’m doing it because I know that by learning how to self soothe he will have better quality sleep which will only benefit him.

14. Saying no to plans because of nap training and sleep training. I’m committed to making sure Levi gets the rest he needs.

15. Not being a perfect mom because such a thing does NOT exist.

XOXO

Val

New Mom Challenge: Sleep Deprivation

Levi11weeks
Levi at 11 weeks. This boy has stolen my heart… and my sleep. 

Never ask a mom of a newborn if her baby’s sleeping through the night as hearing this question will only remind her how tired she is. And for God’s sake please don’t tell a new mom she looks tired, even if your intention is to acknowledge her plight. The truth is I knew I would be tired the first few months of Levi’s life, I  just didn’t realize all the emotions and challenges that would arise from being in a constant state of sleeplessness.

The first month of Levi’s life he essentially ate every two hours and slept whenever he wasn’t nursing. The constant breastfeeding was tiring and took some getting used to, however, because he was sleeping so much and fell asleep so easily — it was easy for me to nap while he napped. This was crucial for me at this point and I was diligent about it. Of course, it must be said I had hired help cleaning the house a couple times a week and family members bringing us dinner and fetching our groceries. If not I definitely would’ve been more tired. Still, the combination of hormones and a lack of sleep during this first month definitely made me more prone to bouts of crying for seemingly no reason. I would snap at David only to burst into tears and apologize moments later. It wasn’t exactly fun.

Once Levi turned six weeks, a new challenge arose: it became harder to get him down for naps and for nighttime sleep. Suddenly I was way more tired than I had ever been in my life because not only was I  sleeping less overall, but I was exerting more energy trying to get him to sleep. This included endless walks around the neighborhood. Want to know how I lost the baby weight? I literally walked for hours everyday. What’s more, when he wouldn’t go down for hours at a time I would get stressed and anxious which only made it harder for me to fall asleep for naps and at night.

Continue reading

New Motherhood Challenge: Finding Balance While Breastfeeding

LEVIINBATH
This face though…Levi at 9 weeks.

I  knew that breastfeeding can be quite painful at first, and I had heard many stories about moms who had difficulties due to a poor latch or low milk supply. Fortunately, Levi latched on immediately and my supply was sufficient. Any pain I felt also went away after about the first week. What I’ve been finding tough about breastfeeding is how big of a commitment it is.

For the first month or so I felt I was nursing non-stop. While I loved having Levi snuggled up so close, feeding on demand was exhausting both during the day and especially at night. It also tied me down making it hard to leave him for more than an hour. The lactation consultants tell you to wait at least three weeks before introducing a bottle of expressed milk so it was only three weeks after his birth that I felt comfortable enough to leave his side to go for a quick dinner with David. That night it felt like I was re-discovering the world for the first time.

If you’ve been following my blog, you probably read about the big mistake I made with regards to nursing when I went too long without breastfeeding or pumping during the night. I thought I could pump in the morning and have David give Levi a bottle at night so I could get more consecutive hours of sleep. Turns out, when you’re not able to physically nurse your baby you have to pump around the same time so as not to diminish your milk supply. This was a tough pill to swallow for me; how was I to get any relief at night? Thats when it really sunk in just how big a commitment breast feeding can be.

Continue reading

Motherhood Update: No Naps and Breast Battles

levismiling
Levi started smiling (for real not because of gas) at 7 weeks. When I see this happy face, it makes all the struggles worth it. Truly. 

Remember how I said some days are tough and some days I feel I’ve got this whole new Mom thing in the bag? Well, last week (week 7) was the toughest thus far. Levi basically gave up napping and some days would go as long as five hours without sleeping. The times he did sleep, it was usually only for an hour or less. What happened to his 2-3 hour naps I wondered desperately? And I must also mention that any nap he did have happened in his stroller (after a looong stroll), or in the swing, or in the car seat after driving around for a while. His best nap of the week was, of course, a three hour nap while he was with my mother-in-law and I went out for a birthday lunch. If I’m supposed to nap when baby naps but baby doesn’t nap, well, you do the math…

If I hadn’t read famous sleep doctor and pediatrician Dr.Weissbluth’s book (Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child) where it says that week six (or six weeks after the due date so week seven for Levi) would be the toughest, I would’ve been feeling insanely confused and desperate. He calls it the six week peak and says at this time all babies are the most wakeful and the most fussy and parents should do whatever it takes to maximize sleep and minimize crying. So while we don’t want Levi getting used to sleeping in his car seat, swing, or stroller for that matter — we were in so-called survival mode. Dr. Weissbluth says after week six babies are supposed to calm down and their biological circadian rhythms are supposed to evolve so they start differentiating more between night and day and should begin sleeping longer stretches at night. I’ll report back. Here’s hoping (and praying).

Meanwhile, during week seven Levi also began a pattern of crying while nursing and pulling away frequently during feedings. When I would try to put him back on my breast, he would suck for a little and then pull away and keep crying. When we then offered him expressed milk in a bottle he would take it, indicating to us he was still hungry but wasn’t getting what he needed at the breast. Naturally I began to freak out. It was physically hurting me to see my baby in such a distressed state while nursing. I longed for the sweet look of satisfaction he used to have. What was happening? Where did I go wrong?

Then we weighed him on his smart changing pad which doubles as a scale and saw he hadn’t gained weight all week. I started to freak out even more. Then it hit me: what if my milk supply was dwindling? I was pumping once or twice a day and giving Levi a bottle so I could go out without him for a bit and/or get more sleep at night while David fed him a bottle. However, as a result there were several nights that I had gone more than four hours without pumping or nursing (I was trying to get some much needed sleep!). That said, by doing so I was signaling to my body that I needed to produce less milk to feed my baby because he was sleeping more, when in reality this wasn’t the case — someone else was just feeding him a bottle. I had neglected to make up for the missed nursing session with a pumping session.

Once I realized this was likely what had happened I became inconsolably upset. To make matters worse it was the weekend so I couldn’t call the Doctor or a lactation consultant. How did I mess up so badly? How did I not realize such an obvious point? I was angry at myself and deeply upset/stressed that as a result of my negligence and selfish desire for sleep I was unable to fill Levi’s tummy up without topping him off with a bottle. I  had read so much breast feeding literature yet in my tired state must’ve totally missed this part.

So what to do? Well I’ve learned the hard way that until he actually starts sleeping longer stretches in the night, I really shouldn’t be going longer than four hours without pumping or nursing him. Farewell five/six hour stretches of uninterrupted sleep that my husband was graciously giving to me.

Thus I spent all of New Year’s weekend feeding him as much as possible and pumping my breasts whenever I could to indicate to my body it needs to produce more milk to meet my baby’s current demands. In fact, I’m writing this post while pumping. Fun times.

Hopefully my supply will get back to where it needs to be in a couple of days and I can put this upsetting episode behind me. I spoke with my friend’s father who is a pediatrician and a leading breast feeding researcher and he said I shouldn’t worry and my supply would regulate in a couple of days. I’m also hoping at our next pediatrician appointment on January 15 the doctor will tell us whether his weight is ok and let me know if I need to keep pumping to increase my supply or supplement him with formula if needed.

Whatever it is, I’m ready. If there is indeed a problem with my supply that I cannot fix without driving myself crazy — I will make the switch to formula or I’ll supplement with formula. I will remember that fed is best and that at least I tried nursing, even though I messed up a bit in the process. What’s important isn’t so much whether I give Levi breast exclusively or formula, or a combo, but that he’s fed and happy and gaining weight as he should be and that I in turn can be a better mom because I’ll be less stressed and happier. I wholeheartedly believe that happy Mom equals happy baby.

Thank goodness for David’s unwavering support throughout these rough few days. I’m sure I’m not the only Mom who beats herself up when they make a mistake or experience a setback. I want to be less hard on myself, especially because stress not only affects my milk supply but my ability to be a good wife and Mom. I have to forgive myself, attempt to fix things as best I can, and just move forward. I’m trying and I’ll report back.

Xoxo

Val

Ten New Mommy Must-Haves

Levinbouncer
Little Levi at 7 weeks in his Fisher Price Deluxe Bouncer 

There are so many products out there geared towards babies and parents that as a first time mom it can be downright overwhelming to figure out what you actually need. I’m so happy I asked around and got opinions from as many moms as possible regarding what I should buy. That said, every mom and baby will differ and new products are constantly coming out making it hard to keep up. Below are ten items that have worked for our family and that I would highly recommend.

1. The Dock-a-Tot

We were fortunate enough to be gifted the SNOO, i.e. the fancy pants smart sleeper bassinet that’s all the rage. While it’s brilliantly designed, we haven’t found Levi sleeps better in it than in the simple Dock-a-Tot ($175). The dock is essentially a super cozy baby lounger with no legs that babies can use to sleep virtually anywhere. We’ve been using it mostly in our bed but Levi has slept in it on the couch and even once on the dining room table during a family dinner. It’s very portable making it ideal for moving around the house or for travel. It was originally designed for co-sleeping and is especially great for moms recovering from a C-section who struggle to get in and out of bed initially.

These last two months Levi has been sleeping in our bedroom because I find it more convenient given his frequent night feedings and because he’s still so little I want to keep him close. However, now that he’s eight weeks I’m going to try to move him to his room so he can get used to sleeping in his crib. I would say get the dock in lieu of a bassinet to keep in your room if you like the idea of sharing a bed, or if you don’t, I suggest getting an inexpensive bassinet to keep in your room as well as the dock for its convenient portability.

Side note: the Dock-a-tot cover is annoying to wash so we just put a blanket over ours and wash that when/if it gets wet/dirty.

2. Comotomo Baby Bottles

I’m breastfeeding, but since Levi turned three weeks he’s been taking one bottle of expressed milk per day. David usually gives it to him so I can get some rest. Or if I need to go out whoever is babysitting can give it to him too. The lactation consultants tell you to wait a couple weeks to offer the bottle so that breast feeding is well established. I was nervous as to how it would go but Levi liked the bottle right away. I’ve been using the pretty Comotomo bottles and their design makes it super easy to feed him. The wide shape of the bottle also makes them a breeze to clean which is another key element. For newborns start with the smaller, slow flow bottles.

3. Doona car seat stroller in one

Nowadays car seats can clip onto strollers for a complete “travel system”. This means if your baby falls asleep in the car seat (which they often do) you don’t have to take them out of the car seat and put them into a stroller — you just clip the car seat onto the stroller. That being said, you still need to have your stroller in the car with you for this to work. With the Doona, however, it’s a car seat and stroller all in one piece so you don’t even need to pack your stroller in your car! I’ve never put my stroller in my car with this and the only time I  will is if I’m taking Levi on a long outing where I know he will be more comfortable in a bigger stroller, or if we’re going somewhere where he will be sleeping for a while in which case I’ll pack the bassinet stroller attachment so he can be flat on his back. The Doona is expensive at $499, but incredible convenience always comes at a price.

4. Fisher Price Deluxe Bouncer

Babies love to be carried and held, but for those times when parents need to actually get stuff done (or just need a break) you need places to park your little one. Levi has daily chill sessions in his bouncy chair while I eat breakfast, apply makeup, read him a book, etc. It vibrates and plays music and the best part is I can move it all around the house depending on where I need to be. We also bought the Fisher Price cradle ‘n’ swing which is a great product and Levi has had some good naps in there when he wouldn’t sleep anywhere else. However, I’m not listing it in my top ten because it’s super bulky (read: unattractive) and can’t be moved easily thus making it less convenient than the chair. If you have the space and funds consider getting both (you can sell them later or use for subsequent babies) but if you’re just going to buy one I suggest the bouncer.

5. Zippered footed pajamas

Newborns, especially boys pee through their diapers and clothes frequently meaning there are many diaper and outfit changes throughout the day. I love footed pajamas because socks are annoying and they’re the easiest to put on (no need to put anything over baby’s head). I especially like zippered footed pajamas because they’re even faster to put on than ones with snaps and make outfit changes less of a hassle — especially in the middle of the night when you’re half asleep. I stocked up on ones from Old Navy.

6. Hatch Baby Grow Smart Changing Pad

I decided to buy a smart changing pad from Hatch Baby because for about $100 more than a regular changing pad you get a product that doubles as a scale. As a first time mom who is breast feeding this helps reassure me the baby is gaining enough weight. For more superficial reasons, I like the sleek look of the Hatch Baby Grow and the fact you can easily clean it with a wipe rather than having to wash countless changing pad covers (anything to do less laundry!). Plus, the accompanying app is amazing and lets me time and keep track of Levi’s feedings, sleep duration, and even pumping sessions.

7. Lots of Burp clothes

Babies spit up all the time so it’s wise to have many burp clothes scattered throughout the house. I put them on my shoulder to burp him and give them to anyone who wants to hold him. I  also use them to pat his bum dry. I  use the Gerber cloth diapers as burp clothes.

8. Hands free pumping bra

If you’re going to be pumping breast milk, a hands free pumping bra or tank top is bound to be your best friend. I pump from both breasts and with my free hands I can blog, shop online, or check my emails. I never would’ve thought my 15 minute daily pumping session would turn out to be one of the most productive parts of my day!

9. Disposable changing pads

Did I  mention that babies pee a lot? Yup, even through their clothes. I have a changing pad in Levi’s room but I  bought disposable diaper pads to set up a changing station in our bedroom. I also always put one down in his stroller’s bassinet attachment because washing the bassinet’s mattress cover is a pain. It takes time and it has to air dry, however, when a diaper pad gets wet I can simply toss it. These are also practical to have in your diaper bag.

10. Puj Flyte Compact infant bathtub

The Puj compact infant tub was created for traveling but I’ve been using it as our regular bathtub since Levi graduated from sponge bathing to real baths (after his circumcision and belly button healed). It fits perfectly in our under mount sink so we can bathe him without any uncomfortable kneeling. It has good grip and there’s a line that indicates how much you should fill it. The tub also has a convenient hole, so once we’re done I simply hang it to dry in our shower. It’s only good till they’re six months, after which I’ll  be using the Boon Soak infant tub in our adult bathtub. I’ll definitely have to get a pad for my knees.

Other products  I like:

Uppa Baby Cruz stroller with bassinet attachment

Kiinde bottle warmer

Water Wipes

Aquaphor healing diaper ointment

Corn starch for diaper area

CeraVe baby shampoo/body wash and baby lotion

MZ Wallace backpack (to use as a diaper bag)

Bamboobies nursing pillows and reusable nursing pads

Halo sleep sacks

Target nursing camis by Gilligan O’Malley

Motherhood Monday: Levi’s Birth Story and Other Musings From a New Mom

LEVIFIRSTPHOTO
Levi Alden Lease’s second photo (the first is very bloody). 

Hiiiii,

I cannot believe my baby is six weeks old today! Time definitely flies when you’re busy with a newborn. For those of you who don’t know, our son, Levi Alden Lease was born on November 6 at 3:09 p.m, weighing six pounds and six ounces. I could’ve sworn we were having a girl but I’m so excited to be raising this delicious little man. He’s named for David’s maternal grandmother, Leatrice, and my paternal grandfather Leonid, while his middle name is in honor of David’s maternal grandfather, Albert.

Levi was born via an unplanned C-section because at the last moment the doctors saw he was breech. I pleaded with them to do a vaginal birth (I’ve heard some really bad C-section recovery stories) but they told me because I was 5cm dilated and had already received an epidural — there was no other option. FYI: once the contractions startedthey were so painful I begged for the epidural even though before I went into labour I thought maybe, just maybe I could do without it (I couldn’t).

Continue reading