Family

Baby Sleep // Independent Crib Sleep

September 20, 2017

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I’ve been really hesitant to talk about the topic of baby sleep, despite the large number of requests I’ve gotten on the topic, because I’m afraid the second I talk about sleep my baby will decide she hates sleeping. That’s the way these type of things usually work, right? So I’ll preface this by saying that there are plenty of aspects on baby sleep that I don’t have mastered, but both Ainsley and Collins were/are babies who loved to sleep in their cribs and they both are now really great at putting themselves to sleep. So, without further preamble, let’s talk about how to get your baby to enjoy sleeping in their crib and go down easily!

To lay the groundwork, we are big believers in Babywise. Joe and I are both “sleep sensitive” individuals, meaning that we don’t do super well with very little sleep and thrive on some degree of routine. I also believe that babies and children need good, restful sleep for optimal health and brain development. Those two factors led us to Babywise and our implementation of a schedule at an early age for both girls.

When Ainsley was little I got frustrated and discouraged by the fact that I had lots of friends who didn’t follow a schedule and had babies who were sleeping through the night much earlier than my baby. I (wrongly) assumed that if I followed the book and a schedule that I would see the results in night time and nap time sleep. But, as moms know, A + B doesn’t always equal C. For us, the greatest benefit of Babywise wasn’t that our children slept longer stretches sooner than other babies, but that implementing the strategies made for very independent sleepers who were easy to put to sleep without a lot of extra “stuff” or routines.

Creating an Independent Sleeper 

Crib Sleep //
With both girls, we started them off in their cribs from day 3 and day 1 respectively. I know that goes against the AAP’s new recommendation, so that’s ultimately up to your own comfort level. It only took three days for me to realize that I couldn’t sleep with Ainsley in the room with us. Every noise or grunt woke me up and I found myself interfering too quickly when she wasn’t even awake but was going through a period of less restful sleep. For new moms, I should stress that there is a difference between true crying and fussing between sleep cycles. That will different from baby to baby, so give it some time and you’ll start to learn your baby’s cries and noises.

All that to say, the crib was a familiar and comfortable place for the girls from the start. I also found it easier to get them used to their cribs when they were very sleepy newborns rather than waiting until they were older and sleep became more challenging as they “woke up” from the sleepy newborn stage. With Ainsley, I let her take more naps on my chest or in my arms, but with Collins I just didn’t have the time with a busy toddler so she took most of her naps in her crib from the start.

Our Crib Set-Up //
-Black-Out Curtains
-Crib with nothing attached to it, no mobiles, nothing to indicate the crib is a place of “play”
-Baby snugly swaddled* (we liked this swaddle and this swaddle best)
-Sound machine running (we have one of these for both our girls)
-Once we were ready to drop the swaddle, we transitioned into the Zipadee-Zip since babies can safety be in one when they are able to roll

*The most recent safe sleep recommendations say to drop the swaddle at 8 weeks due to a rolling risk; we dropped it closer to 10 weeks.

Routine // Eat, Play, Sleep
As anyone who follows Babywise knows, the routine is Eat-Play-Sleep. They recommend that you feed baby, then allow them to have their awake time (which as a very little baby, will be pretty much non existent at first) followed by sleep. This prevents baby from getting into a “eat to sleep” cycle where they need to eat in order to fall asleep. Because, if they eat to fall asleep every time, when they are older your baby may have an eat-to-sleep association that results in more frequent night wakings.

Beginning Stages of Independent Sleep // Birth – 8 Weeks 
During the early days and weeks I would put the girls down to sleep awake but very drowsy in their cribs, swaddled, and then proceed to play paci-pong until they fell asleep. A paci is technically a sleep prop, but for both girls this worked well during the early days when they needed some way to soothe themselves but I didn’t want to feed or rock to sleep. Of course, there were plenty of times when the girls were little when I would end up holding them to extend a short nap or let them fall asleep on my chest or in the car seat. I’m just saying this as a general rule of thumb, aiming for at least a couple naps each day in their crib.

Around 10 weeks (8 weeks with Ainsley) we dropped the swaddle and the paci at the same time cold turkey. It made for a rough couple days with both girls, short naps and more night wakings, but it was well worth the effort in the end. We transitioned Ainsley into a Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit after the swaddle, but that’s not approved for when they can roll, so with Collins we decided to go straight to the Zipadee-Zip and it worked like a charm. Plus, that’s one less thing to worry about transitioning out of since they can wear it until they are much older.

Cry-It-Out //
Eventually, with both girls, we did have to do small amounts of controlled crying to work through some sleep issues. It’s my personal belief that “self soothing” isn’t possible until babies are actually able to soothe themselves by intentionally bringing their hands to their mouth, moving around in their crib, etc. Others probably have different opinions on the topic, and that’s okay! To me, it just didn’t make sense to leave a small baby, swaddled and unable to do anything to “soothe” themselves, left to cry for any extended period of time.

Once Ainsley and Collins were transitioned out of the swaddle and could bring their hands to their mouth and move around in their cribs to find a comfy spot I felt more comfortable allowing them to cry in intervals of 5 to 15 minutes.

So, if I knew that baby was fed, changed, and tired, I would give them some time to work it out on their own. I would pick a time interval that felt comfortable for me, 5 minutes when they were on the younger side, and eventually longer as I got to know them and their patterns and needs more. If they were still crying after the set interval, I would go in and verbally soothe or pat baby on the tummy for 30 seconds and then leave and start the interval process again. Rinse and repeat until sleep happened. With Ainsley’s strong-willed personality it took more intervals that Collins who was an easier baby to sleep train, at least up to this point.

Night Time Sleep // Feeding Before Bed
Prior to working with a sleep consultant, our bed time routine was bath, jammies, book, bottle and bed. It was the only time of day when we fed a bottle right before sleeping. When we worked with our sleep consultant, she strongly recommended we mix up the routine so we weren’t feeding right before bed to prevent the eat to sleep association from forming.

Now (at 4 months) we aim for Collins to be awake at least 2 hours before bed time. About 30 minutes before bed time we give her the bed time bottle, followed by her bath, jammies/Zipadee, reading a book and prayers. Then we lay her down in her crib awake, kiss her on her forehead and say “Have a good night! Love you!” turn off the lights, turn on the sound machine and close the door. At this point she rarely cries at bed time but will fuss and wriggle around a bit and fall asleep.

Practice Makes Perfect //
Really, there is no magic to getting your baby to sleep easily and independently in their crib. It’s really just a matter of practice. Consistently putting baby down in their crib awake and allowing them to be comfortable with putting themselves to sleep, getting comfortable and familiar in their crib and room, etc. Like anything with kids, I’ve found it takes consistency and time.

I’m sure I’ll get some questions about WHY it matters to us that our kiddos go to sleep easily in their crib. Joe and I really want to prioritize our marriage and make sure we can still get away on date nights, weekend trips, etc. And for me, it’s much easier to leave the girls with babysitters and family if they are predictable and their sleep routine is easy for others to replicate – both for baby’s sake and for the sake of those who are caring for them. Plus, like I said earlier, restful sleep is a gift for everyone in our family when we can make it happen.

Like I said earlier, I’m not the expert on this subject. I recommend reading Babywise first, then seeking out resources like this amazing and thorough blog as well as the Babywise Moms Facebook Page for extra support!

**Affiliate links used when applicable 

Family, Fashion

Volumizing Hair Tutorial

September 18, 2017

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I’ve been asked time and time again to do a tutorial on how I get volume in my hair. I guess it seems second nature to me at this point, since I’ve been faking voluminous hair for years now. If you’re in the same boat as I am – where you love the look of voluminous hair but aren’t blessed with naturally thick, beautiful hair, or maybe you had a baby and you used to have beautiful hair but feel it’s now thinner and more lifeless than before, then this tutorial is for YOU.

Over the last year I’ve really become a product minimalist. The only products I used in this tutorial is this split end serum and this volumizing mist. And if you’ve been curious, my hair has really been thanking me for switching over to a new shampoo and conditioner than I can’t stop talking about. I personally use the Volume + Shape Shampoo and Repair + Nourish Conditioner.

Family, Pregnancy

Formula Feeding // Your Questions Answered

September 14, 2017

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The number of questions I’ve gotten on Instagram about formula feeding have been too many to count. It appears that when you talk openly and honestly about your decision to stop breastfeeding and switching to formula, people send their questions in large quantities. I’m so thankful to be able to help moms who are struggling with the decision, wanting to know it’s OK to formula feed, and help squash any of the mom guilt associated with formula feeding these days.

As most of you know, I had a tumultuous feeding journey with Ainsley and wrote this post about the topic. The second time around, I was really reluctant to breast feed at all and wrote another post on the topic when I was feeling very conflicted about making the switch.

The Decision to Wean // 

Soon after writing that post, I decided to bite the bullet and wean. I wanted to wean, I knew it was the best decision for me emotionally and for our entire family, and yet I continued to waffle between pumping and formula feeding – deciding to wean one minute and then changing my mind the next. Ultimately, what drove my decision to wean was the following:

  1. Breastfeeding made me feel crazy. I don’t say that lightly, it really did do a number on me emotionally, and I remembered how once I weaned with Ainsley it was as if the sun started shining again and I felt like myself. I wanted to feel that way this time around.
  2. I am a modest person, and I didn’t see myself getting comfortable with public feedings. Maybe over time I would have gotten more comfortable with feeding in public, but to me, it felt daunting always wondering when/where I would be when Collins needed to eat. Would I be able to find privacy? Should I just stay at home around all feeding times? What would I wear that could accommodate feeding in public?
  3. I didn’t want to. This sounds incredibly selfish and I struggled with that the most. Shouldn’t I be willing to sacrifice everything for my baby? Yes. And no. I remembered all the effort that went into getting pregnant with Collins. The acupuncture appointments, doctor’s visits, preceding miscarriage, 30 weeks of shots in my booty, pills and supplements. I came to peace with the fact that I had sacrificed my body for over a year and that it was OK to draw the line somewhere, to regain some piece of myself in my own body.
  4. I had a living, breathing example of how you can feed a child formula and they can thrive. Having the perspective of having done this before really helped give me the freedom and confidence to wean.

So that’s that! I don’t feel the need to justify my decision to anyone, but for the sake of this post I wanted to explain. Because a lot of the posts you read on the topic are from women who can’t breastfeed – who struggle with supply issues or who have children who aren’t gaining weight or won’t latch – and go through every effort to make it work but physically it just isn’t working. And that’s not my story. Maybe it’s not yours. And I want you to know that it’s okay to stop breastfeeding even when everything is going really well.

Some of you asked me to address the stigma of formula feeding and how I deal with that. The short answer? I don’t! In today’s “breast is best” culture there is significant stigma around formula feeding and I can’t see why people feel the need to justify their choice not to breastfeed, but for me I just didn’t let that worry seep into my mind. The day I made the decision to wean I felt SO much freedom and peace knowing I made the right decision for myself and my entire family, and that was enough to override the thoughts and/or judgements of anyone else.

Making a Formula Choice // 

One of the questions that’s been asked most often is what formula we are using. I wish I could say that, in true crunchy fashion, we are using the best, most expensive, most organic option around. But we aren’t. I aimed to make a decision based both on quality, price, and convenience. We are using Similac Pro Sensitive for Collins and she has done really well with it! I went with the sensitive formula as a precaution since she had a sensitive tummy during the first few weeks she was breastfeeding and I didn’t want to rock the boat, though I’m sure she would do just fine on the regular formula.

I’ve heard awesome things about the Holle brand of formula out of Europe (like many things, they are ahead of the health and wellness curve here) but price, ease of getting it at my local Target, etc. really kept me from going that route.

We use these bottles. And this article is helpful as a guide for how much to feed your formula fed baby. I’m not sure if this is true, but if Collins is consistently draining her bottles at every feeding for a couple days, then that’s when I increase how much she is taking at each feed. I do try and track how much she eats in any given day make sure she isn’t eating too much or too little but generally I let hunger be the guide.

Comfort Nursing, Tummy Troubles and More //

Everyone has different opinions about baby feeding schedules, and while we do follow a pretty nice little schedule, during the early weeks and months Collins did like to nurse for comfort. I was worried how we would get through the fussy hours of the evening if comfort nursing wasn’t an option. Introducing a pacifier was a really easy way around that. I would cuddle Collins close and hold a paci in when she wanted to be comforted and it worked like a charm – and I didn’t have to be a human pacifier which was an even greater benefit.

I did some reading on the topic of cluster feeding, and some experts have indicated that cluster feeding can actually make stomach issues worse in fussy newborns and babies because it overstimulates their digestive system, causing more gas, which causes more fussiness, which causes more comfort nursing. Basically a cycle that never ends!

I had an oversupply issue and overactive letdown, which really compounded the tummy issues Collins was having. Almost as soon as we switched over to bottles, Collins was happier and less fussy, and I was a lot less stressed out. I spent a lot of unnecessary time thinking about my diet, if that was causing tummy issues, what I was eating or not eating, etc. I don’t think any of that was to blame for Collins’s tummy troubles early on, but having the control of formula rather than the variable of breast milk was a relief.

Scheduled Eating //

Some of you asked about schedules vs. feeding on demand. Whether we formula fed or breast fed, we didn’t really do much “on demand” feeding and followed a 3-hour schedule from the start with both girls. Now that Collins is a bit older we’re stretching to 3 1/2 to 4 hours between feeds. We have found that our girls, and our whole family, really thrives on a predictable schedule. Do I get upset or out of shape if things don’t go perfect? I try not to! And trust me we have our days, but following “eat, play, sleep” a la Babywise really helps me to know that she is getting full feeds when she is awake an alert and if she is fussy outside of her feeds then I can problem solve other causes. This is one area where I don’t see much difference between breast or bottle, especially if you are following and eat-play-sleep routine and encouraging full feeds.

Bottle Warmers, Specialty Items, Etc. //

In our house, we avoid all specialty things that would get our girls accustomed to something we can’t recreate on the go, which means no bottle warmers or water warmed to the perfect temperature or baby wipe warmers, etc. I can’t imagine taking a road trip and having a baby that required her milk be warm. How does that even work?! I’m sure there are plenty of moms who make it work, but we just got both girls used to room temp or slightly cold water for their bottles from the start and they’ve taken it that way ever since!

And Finally…

YOU know what is best for you and your family, momma. Deep down in your mom gut, you know. If that’s breastfeeding until your child is two, then go, momma, go! And if you decide not to breastfeed at all, that’s more than OK, too. As moms I genuinely believe that we are all just trying to make the best decisions for our families, and because we are all unique individuals what is right is also going to vary greatly. I hope that we can continue to build one another up rather than tear each other down.

Family, Fashion

Let’s talk safer skincare (and why it matters)

September 11, 2017

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Friends, if you follow me over on Instagram, chances are you’ve seen snippets of my recent trip to Santa Monica with Beautycounter. I’ve worked with Beautycounter for nearly two years and over that time the issue of safer skincare choices has become something I’m increasingly passionate about. We evaluate our diets with precision, reading labels and books about how what we eat impacts our health, workout on the regular and take vitamins. But if we don’t take the time to evaluate what we’re putting on our bodies, we are selling ourselves and our families short.

So, let’s state some facts to get this little party started.

  1. Your skin is your body’s largest organ.
  2. What you put on your skin is absorbed into your body and can have negative implications on your health. Don’t believe me? Just Google “dermal absorption” and do some reading. It’s how things like nicotine patches and birth control patches work. The medicine is absorbed through your skin into your body. The same is true for your skincare and makeup and the chemicals they contain.
  3. The cumulative effect of that repeated exposure from dozens of products is HUGE. Is a little bit of a toxic ingredient in your makeup going to kill you or cause serious diseases? Probably not. But think about how much makeup, body lotion, body wash and shampoo you use on your body over the course of a year, a decade, your lifetime.
  4. The personal care and cosmetics industries in our country are the wild, wild west. They are extremely un-regulated/under-regulated, especially in comparison with other industries in the US and with the personal care regulations of other countries. You can read more here and here.

Now do you see why I’ve become so passionate about safer skincare and makeup? Not because makeup has ultimate importance – it doesn’t – but because if I’m going to take all the effort to live a healthier life, I’m selling myself short if I don’t examine what’s going ON my body, and so are you!

I don’t say any of this to scare people into making a change, but to educate. For years, I didn’t think twice about the $2 lip gloss I was using or the cheap drugstore face wash. The cheaper the better! I naively assumed that what I was using was safe and regulated if it appeared on store shelves, which is not at all true. The more I researched after I started having fertility issues (and later, when I was pregnant) I realized how little I knew or understood about my skincare and makeup.

But even after I learned more about skincare and the importance of what we put on our bodies, I was weary to make changes to my routine. Why? Because I didn’t know where to start. I could read and understand a food ingredient label with the best of them, but ask me to break down ingredients in my trusty face wash and I was a deer in the headlights.

I didn’t have time or interest in making my own beauty products. I felt overwhelmed with all the information I didn’t know. At the end of the day, I just didn’t know where to start, so I didn’t start at all.

“The honest truth is, the world doesn’t need another beauty brand. What we need is safer products and for families to be healthier.” – Gregg Renfew, Beautycounter Founder and CEO 

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And then someone (a blog reader!) told me about Beautycounter, and it changed my life, my skin, and my family’s health. What first attracted me to Beautycounter was their mission. Getting safer products into the hands of everyone. And, let’s be real, the fact that they did some of that overwhelming work of screening ingredients for me, banning 1,500 ingredients (!!) from their products as part of something called the Never List. Add into the mix the fact that their products are pretty, high performing and felt like I would find in a department store and I was totally sold.

Over the last two years I’ve learned more and more about safe skincare and cosmetics, and the more I learn the more I’m thankful to have partnered with Beautycounter. After a weekend away, I can say for certain that this company and the people behind it are the real deal.

So, you might where I was at two years ago, sold on the concept that you should clean up your skincare but not sure where to start. Overwhelmed with the options. May I make some recommendations?

Skincare // I have normal/slightly sensitive skin that can be combination in the colder months. I love this face wash, and this do-it-all wonder cream (which will be back in stock very soon!), and this eye cream that makes me look less tired, which is saying something for a new mom. 😉

Makeup // I’m a minimalist, but even a minimalist can get excited about this makeup. I rely heavily on this tinted moisturizer, concealer in a handy little pen applicator, this blush in whisper and tawny, and a really awesome mascara.

Friends, knowledge really is power. I know there are snarky articles on Facebook about safer sunscreens, and decision fatigue because making healthy lifestyle choices are hard and numerous, and when is enough enough, right? But Beautycounter has made this big change SO easy. I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing anything – in fact I love these products more than what I was using before.

When we know better, we can do better, and to me that’s the most empowering thing!

Madison

Fashion

Mom Wardrobe 2.0 // Capsule Edition

September 5, 2017

capsuleimageI’ve been going through a little bit of what you might call a “style crisis” lately. Maybe other moms out there can relate? When your body is growing, changing, shrinking, expanding, it’s really hard to find a style that works and stick with it. While I don’t follow a strict capsule wardrobe, I have a very curated wardrobe that is free of excess and things I don’t absolutely love.

A few readers messaged me, asking if I would be willing to share what my must-have items are in my wardrobe. So here you have it! While my style is still growing and changing, this is a list of my favorite basics to build a foundation of a great closet.

Although there are some pricier items listed below, quality absolutely trumps quantity in my opinion. And if you love a brand or store, I would highly recommend looking on ThredUp! I’ve found a lot of my favorite Anthropologie brands for a steal on the site for much less than what I would pay in store – some of the items even have their original tags!

Madewell 9″ High Rise Skinny Jeans 
These jeans feel like a warm hug. I don’t know any other way to describe them. I love wearing them and the high rise is a mom’s best friend. So good for getting down on the floor and playing with your kids!

Casual + Pretty “Everyday Dresses” 
I think my definition of “everyday dress” is probably a little fancier than others, but I love a good, flowy dress for looking put-together yet able to play with my kids at a moment’s notice. This Trimmed Peasant Dress from Anthropologie caught my eye, as well as anything from Sonnet James. I have this Softspun T-Shirt Dress from Gap that is on regular rotation. Bonus for dresses that can be dressed up or down with the right shoes and accessories.

Comfortable, Substantial Layering Tanks 
When you are postpartum, or if your stomach doesn’t resemble a washboard, I think that layering tanks that are a little looser and made of a more substantial material are a must. I love this stripe softspun scoop neck tank from Gap.

Structured Crew Sweatshirts 
I love these crew sweatshirts from Everlane. I wear them with jeans, with athletic shorts, with jean shorts, etc. They are both casual and put together all at once and wear well. My tip? Size up!

Peep-Toe Booties 
I have a flat pair of peep-toe booties (a similar style shown here) and I wear them all. the. time. They are comfortable and work great for the fall transition.

Comfortable Joggers for Lounging 
I love the Gap Modal Joggers. I have them in two colors and can’t recommend them enough! Great for looking put together when running errands with the kids.

Classic, Comfy Sweaters 
Everlane is also my go-to for sweaters. I love this style, as well as this chunky, oversize one.

Utility Jacket 
I have a favorite and well-worn utility jacket from Banana Republic that I got on a sale rack four years ago and have worn so many times. This one looks promising, as does this one.

Tunic and Peasant-Style Blouses
I’m a huge fan of tunic-style tops and peasant-style blouses. This one from Anthro caught my eye and is similar to one I have in my closet, as well as this top.