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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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).
I’ve been so preoccupied blogging about my pregnancy and babies that I haven’t done a home design post in months (excluding my most recent post on the nursery). That said, if you’re wondering what we’ve been up to in terms of our house the answer is A WHOLE LOT. We’ve been trying to get as much done as possible before Baby Lease arrives (any day now!), and I’m proud to say with the exception of our joint office and living room bar we are virtually done. It hasn’t been easy but it’s been a real team effort and we’re both very pleased with the results.
Let’s start with the entryway:
By our front door there are two dark wood columns, so when I saw this Crate & Barrel entryway table I told David I thought it would tie in nicely with our exterior. Our door is see-through and this table is the first thing to catch your eye. Our floors are also very light and I liked the contrast of the dark wood and steel black legs.
My original idea was to hang a mirror or a piece of art above the entryway table and call it a day, but David had other plans: installing a moss wall. He’s a big fan of plants and greenery inside the home and there’s a company in Miami called Plant the Future that designs beautiful arrangements and installations using dried plants and moss. The moss you see here is real but preserved and it’s nailed to the wall via a wood backing. It requires no maintenance, because if it did — believe me I would’ve resisted this idea. Two months later there’s still a bit of an odor from the moss, however, I have to admit the wall does a great job of adding color, dimension, and a hint of wow factor to our entrance.
Custom built-ins cost a fortune, but we decided to splurge on a wall unit for our family room to hide our media equipment and complete the large open space. I looked at images on Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration and we made sure to get at least three different quotes from cabinet and mill working shops. We worked with Viking Kabinets in South Miami on this wood piece which took about a month to build once the design was approved. The hardware is from Restoration Hardware, and the built-ins are painted the exact same color as our walls (Benjamin Moore White Heron).
The fun part was styling the shelves by combining books, picture frames, and decorative objects of varying heights and sizes. David had certain pieces he absolutely wanted displayed like a deer skull he had found and spray painted neon green; a Wallstreet themed chess set, a train with his name written on it in graffiti, and a robot sculpture. Meanwhile I wanted to put out these two Rodin-esque sitting men sculptures I had bought a while ago, plus some pretty cookbooks, and family photos. We also had an alphabetized classic book set from Penguin in a neon color palette which my mother-in-law had purchased, as well as an antique bronze clock. I knew I wanted a cohesive color palette, and somehow without trying all that hard it worked out to be bronze (to go with the hardware), silver, and whatever color books we could find (the brighter the better to pop against the white). Any objects that didn’t fall into either category got nixed. The cost didn’t make this an easy decision, but I have to say the wall unit makes the entire house feel so much warmer, put-together, and to be honest with you — grown up.
Our living room is right off our entrance and is quite long so we were really unsure how to decorate it. Fortunately, we had hired Montreal-based designer Scott Yetman to help us create a furniture layout plan for part of the house. Getting professional design help is expensive, but if you can afford it it’s often totally worth it, particularly when it comes to conceptualizing the layout of challenging spaces. Because the room is long and rectangular, Scott suggested creating a sitting area around a circular coffee table and rounded swivel arm chairs and we loved the idea.
A friend of ours told us about the brand Room & Board and while in New York this summer we went to their store and tested out their Otis swivel chair that I had spotted online. Chairs are one of the most expensive furniture items so it’s important to try them out before buying. We picked up a bunch of fabric swatches and brought them back to Miami with us, ultimately deciding on “Vashon ink”.
Two of my favorite furniture brands are West Elm and CB2 because their products are stylish and fairly priced. We ended up ordering the Darbuka black coffee table from CB2 for our living room and I think the sleek, steel piece pairs nicely with the plush chairs, as well as our entryway table.
Our living room layout plan included a daybed style sofa so as not to block the window while simulatneously creating another sitting area in the rectangular space. What’s more, our family room is right off the living room and since we were putting a traditional sofa there across from the TV, we needed another type of couch for this particular spot.
I discovered the American furniture brand Joybird via Instagram’s targeted advertising and liked their designs and direct-to-consumer concept. The Hughes daybed was just what we were looking for so ordered a swatch kit and David picked this charcoal color in the Bennet fabric. The couch is right by the window and makes for an ideal reading nook.
A few months ago I thought we’d never be done furnishing our house because we had to wait almost two months for nearly everything and that’s only after we actually agreed on what to get in the first place. Fast forward to today and I can’t believe all that remains to be done in the living room is installing a custom bar where the bar cart currently resides. It’s definitely not a priority and I actually think the bar cart looks pretty good for the time being. Besides, with baby arriving any day now it may be a little while before we’re hosting an open bar night.
Less than two weeks to go till Baby Lease’s official due date and I wanted to share our nursery design with you. As previously mentioned, we wanted the room to feel like an extension of the rest of our home and to be a happy and cozy space for our little boy or girl. It’s why we opted for a white and grey color palette with the addition of light wood tones to compliment the maple floors in the room.
Once we got the color story down, I used the online design service Havenly to help me with the layout because I wasn’t sure where the best place for each piece of furniture would be. Plus, this way I could see a 3D rendering of the layout before making any purchases and would feel more confident going forward.
We had set a budget and after some extensive research I decided I wanted to get the crib and dresser from Babyletto. I felt their designs and price points were right on and I had seen their pieces featured on several design blogs I admire. I showed David different crib/dresser combos and we picked the Hudson crib in white with natural railings (to coordinate with our light wood floors) and the all-white Hudson six drawer double dresser.