Baby Car Kit Essentials

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You thought you would only be gone from the house for 20 minutes and baby’s just been fed and changed – no need to bring the diaper bag along…Of course, this ends up being the one time you discover a flat tire when you come back out from the store, baby has an unexpected and rather intense blowout, a traffic accident has you basically parked on the freeway 5 minutes from home, insert other unexpected and/or messy situation…. Well, it’s a good thing you’ve got your emergency baby car kit stocked and ready to go!

Maybe it’s because I’m the daughter of a Boy Scout Master, but in my book it’s always a good idea to be over prepared. This post will outline all the essential back up supplies you and your infant would need in case of a mess, change in the weather, delay, mom brain forgetting to re-stock the diaper bag, etc. I hope this visual and list can give you some ideas to create or add to an existing baby car kit.

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Baby Car Kit Essentials

1.Soft book – if you get stuck somewhere unexpectedly having a book on hand would be a great distraction and keep boredom at bay. Taylor loves soft books like this classic Cat In The Hat and they can be easily stuffed into your car kit. The Very Hungry Caterpillar is also a great choice.

2. A Toy – for the same reasons as above, a toy or two will come in handy. Taylor is entertained by these rings for shockingly  long lengths of time, and an Oball is another standby favorite. For more on developmentally appropriate toys for 0-4 month olds read this post.

3. Hand Sanitizer – I have one of these Babyganics hand sanitizer pumps in our change table caddy, nursing station basket and in the emergency car kit. I like this brand because it is alcohol and paraben free, yet 99% effective in killing germs. And, trust me, you’ll wand a healthy pumping of sanitizer after a major, on the road blow out.

4. Baby WipesWater Wipes are my go to – they are natural, gentle and only have two ingredients (99.9% pure water and 0.1% fruit extract) therefore you can use them for wiping baby’s bum, hands and even face.

5. Sanitizing Wipes – You may very well need these to wipe down a carseat, trunk bed, etc. I’ll leave it at that ; ) Our new favorite wipes brand is Babyganics; I have been buying these individually wrapped packets and stuffing them in my car, pockets diaper bag, portable high chair pocket, purse, basically everywhere:

6. Spare Outfit for Mama – I have this striped top in several colors. It’s long sleeved, yet light enough to use as a spare in any season. Add a pair of jeans that can be worn with casual or dressier shoes, and you’re good to go in case of a blowout or spit up emergency.

7. Storage Bin – I bought a cute bin for $5 on sale at Target, but these Ikea boxes are cheap and would work perfectly. I have 4 or 5 sets of these. The rest of the set can be used for nursery drawer organization as shown here:

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8. Extra Pacifier – I like storing extra pacis in small tupperware containers like these or these. Taylor will only take the Soothies brand.

9. Nursing Cover – You may or may not be nursing and/or concerned with being exposed when breastfeeding, but I like having a spare nursing cover in the car just in case. Here are

my favorite styles:

10. Swaddle Blanket – my favorites are these Aden & Anais muslin blankets – I use them to cover Taylor’s carseat to shield her from the sun, and also to keep her warm when it’s a little cold or windy out.

11. Baby Sunscreen & Diaper Creams – these are totally up to your preference, but I personally feel most comfortable using this Neutrogena Pure & Free baby sunscreen on Taylor.

12. 3-4 extra Diapers

13. Diaper Disposal Bags – I have these Munchkin bags and dispensers in my diaper bag, daycare bag and car kit (click on the links to find out exactly what I pack in those bags!).

14. Pair of Socks

15. Burp Cloths – I have 4 packs of 10 of these cloth diapers that I use as burp cloths. The will come in handy when wipes just won’t cut it.

16. Spare Pair Outfit for Baby – Seriously, just grab a onesie, a pair of pants and a beanie or hat that you already have – you don’t need anything fancy. I picked up this spare pair changing set on Gap.com when it went on sale because it was just SO stinking cute, and I couldn’t resist. They still have a couple other cute spare pair sets for boys and girls that come with a neat little zipper pack you could throw into your kit. Make sure to keep the size of your spare outfits/diapers updated for baby! I highly recommend creating a “spare pair” set from Primary.com. They have the best baby basics in SO many different colors, for really reasonable prices (all under $25!) – plus, you get 20% off your first order (click the banner below to shop)! To learn more about Primary and some of my other mama must-haves check out my Resources page.

Here would be my recommendation for a spare pair outfit:

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The outfit and changing pad fit inside this pouch!

17. Changing Pad Clutch – there are so many versions of this available. I have this one and really like it, but here are several other great options like this one or this one.

Other Miscellaneous items I’ve found SUPER handy to keep in the car:

A Restaurant Kitcreate a Restaurant Kit with all the essentials you need to reduce the stress of dining out with babies and eep it in the car alongside your Baby Car Kit. You’ll find a full list of contents for babies and suggested additions for older babies and toddlers, as well as 10 tips to make dining out with a baby less stressful in this post.

Click on the picture to find out more on this bag!

A Grocery Cart and High Chair Cover –  it’s just more sanitary than plopping her down without wiping down the surface with sanitary wipes I may or may not have with me…


Feeding related items

*A spare bottle,single serving of formula and a sealed water bottle to use for mixing. I did not include this in my photos as I am still exclusively breastfeeding, but if and when I switch to formula this will be a must have in my car kit. If you have a toddler or older kiddo, definitely include an emergency snack in case you get stuck somewhere! For babies just starting to eat solids, these Happy Baby meltable yogurt snacks are perfect to keep in the car in case of “hanger” in an unexpected situation:

* I keep a bag of spare pump parts in my car at all times in case I forget to restock  something in my pumping bag the night before work. Read THIS post to find out exactly what I pack in my pumping bag for work. If you’re a nursing/pumping mama I also recommend having a manual pump in your car in case you get stuck somewhere away from baby unexpectedly and need relief.

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So there you have it – everything you need for a well-stocked baby car kit. If you want to know what’s in my diaper bag and how I keep all the little baby things organized, check out THIS POST!

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All the essentials for a baby car kit.

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xo, Ashley (1)

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Mess Free Tummy Time Art Project For Infants

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Are you looking for ways to encourage your little one to spend more time [happily] on their belly, or has your babe now figured out how to roll out of Tummy Time? Well, I found the perfect activity to capture their attention and keep them occupied in Tummy Time….finger painting!! Now ,before you start imagining primary colors all over your baby and your floors, let me tell you that the best part about this finger painting project is that it’s completely mess free. Yeay!

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Supplies you’ll need:

Step by Step:

  1. Squirt finger paint at random onto a plain white piece of paper:

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2. Slide the paper + paint into the Ziploc:

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3. Zip the Ziploc (duh):

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4. Tape the Ziploc to the floor:

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Wider masking tape would be an even better choice.


5. Help baby into Tummy Time and allow them to touch, smush and smear the paint however they like:img_5697.jpg

If your baby isn’t yet independently pushing up into tummy time, you can use a Boppy pillow, rolled up towel, or your lap to support their chest and allow their hands to be free for the project.

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You could also work on the project with a supported sitter, or even using the highchair tray if Tummy Time isn’t working for your little one:

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6. Cut around all the edges of the Ziploc:

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7. Peel up, take out their masterpiece, and lay it flat to dry:

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Voilá – your baby is a regular Picasso!

If you’re feeling adventurous [AKA up for a mess] below are some fun recipes for EDIBLE finger paint you can use for out of the Ziploc fun with your older infants/toddlers. I’m looking forward to those days!

Now that Taylor is a little more physically coordinated [AKA able to roll out of Tummy Time] I really want to start incorporating more sensory-based art experiences like this one for her. I’m hoping to do a couple activities a month with her on my off day and share them with you here. I think we can develop quite the little art gallery!

I hope you have fun with this one, mama.

xo, Ashley (1)

My watch: JORD Wood Watches, the Frankie Series

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5 Tips For Getting Your Newborn To Sleep

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The first three months of a baby’s life is sometimes referred to as the 4th Trimester. They are as much outside their comfort zone as you are out of yours as a new mama. For 9 months they were soothed to sleep by your movement throughout the day, constant whirring of noise in the womb, and the snuggly feeling of compression all around. It must be pretty darn cozy in there (heck Taylor decided to stay an extra 8 days!). It’s no wonder babies have a difficult time settling and falling asleep in the outside world. I think the saying “sleeping like a baby” is actually sort of backwards when it comes to newborns; if someone is sleeping like most newborns, then they’re probably having a difficult time falling and staying asleep! For the 4th trimester, I didn’t worry about sleep training or if I was creating any bad sleep habits – it’s the time to just do whatever you can to help your sweet newborn (and yourself!) get some rest. Give yourself that freedom and do whatever works for you and your baby. Read more about surviving the first weeks with your newborn in THIS post.

When Taylor was born I was naively surprised that I couldn’t just put her down with a pacifier and have her fall asleep. I guess I had never spent enough time around a newborn to know that, with rare exception, it’s just not that easy. In fact, Taylor rejected a pacifier until she was 4 months old. Trust me, I tried every trick and variety of pacifier I could find, all to no avail – little mama just wasn’t having it. It was hard to watch her struggle so much to fall asleep and feel like I had no clue how to help her. However, having a baby who wouldn’t take a pacifier encouraged me to really look into what else (aside from sucking) helps newborns feel soothed enough to fall asleep.

I am by NO means an expert, and obviously every baby is different, but I  do want to share 5 things that really worked well for Taylor. These are 5 things I wasn’t doing for the first month of her life, and that I noticed made a huge difference once I started. Within one week of implementing these 5 things Taylor was sleeping 8-9 hours for her first stretch of sleep followed by 3-4 more, at only 6 weeks old!

If you’re a brand new mama, I hope some of the things that worked for us work for you and your newborn as well.

1. Swaddle

Taylor seemed to fight the swaddle for the first month of her life, so I had her sleep without it. She was waking up every 1-1.5 hours that entire time. No joke, the night I started her back in this Halo Swaddle Sleep Sack, she slept a 4 hour stretch and then 8 hours a couple days later. The more I’ve read, the more I understand that most babies really need that compression to feel cozy and secure, just like in the womb. Swaddling also helps control to Moro Reflex which causes their little arms to flail up and about uncontrollably, which often wakes them in the night for the first few months. I have an entire Pinterest board devoted to Baby Sleep – click the link and give my board a follow for a wealth of info !

Snug as a bug in her swaddle

2. Use white noise

Did you know that inside the womb sounds just a bit louder than a vacuum cleaner!? It’s no wonder that babies are comforted by loud white noise. Again, I started incorporating loud white noise as a component of Taylor’s bedtime routine around 5 weeks old, and she began sleeping through the night shortly thereafter. I didn’t think it would work, but it really did! I think it helped her be soothed back to sleep when she did wake in the night as well. We use THIS sound machine and love it. It is portable and can run on batteries, which is perfect for travel. For more items, like the sound machine, I wish I’d added to my baby registry read THIS post.

3. Establish a bedtime routine early on!

I wish I had started a bedtime routine for Taylor even earlier than I did.  The first few weeks I was totally baffled about the whole baby sleep thing and flew by the seat of my exhausted, new mama pants. However, within one week of establishing a bedtime routine for Taylor, at 5 weeks old, she began sleeping through the night! Routines help babies to understand that it is time for nighttime sleep – they’re used to sleeping during the day for the last 9+ months when you were moving around, lulling them to sleep. It makes sense that a lot of babies are confused between day and nighttime for a while, hence the waking all night long.

For newborns, a routine can be something super simple such as:

  1. Dim the lights or turn them off completely and use a nightlight (during the day I always had her nap in a bright room)
  2. Turn on loud white noise
  3. Change baby into an overnight diaper even if you just changed their diaper 30 minutes before (I use regular diapers one size larger, and cover her bum in this natural Butt Paste)
  4. Put babe into his/her PJ’s
  5. Sing a lullaby or two while swaddling
  6. Nurse or bottle feed baby while rocking
  7. *Put baby in crib drowsy but awake

*I have to pat Taylor’s belly a little bit until she drifts off, and sometime she falls asleep while nursing so I put her in the crib already asleep. From 9 weeks until about 15 weeks, we would usually need to bounce her on a yoga ball after nursing to help her get drowsy before going into her crib.

4. Make sure baby is well burped/gassed

This may seem like a no brainer to some, but I truly didn’t realize how much I would need to burp Taylor in order for her not to have gas that would keep her up. Sometimes the simplest things can have a huge impact on your babe’s ability to fall and stay asleep. They rely solely on you to make sure they aren’t experiencing discomfort. Burp, burp and burp that newborn some more until you are certain there is no gas trapped in his or her little tummy. There are also techniques to help newborns get rid of any gas that may keep them from sleeping comfortably. Sometimes Taylor would wake in the night making little grunting noise and all I would need to do is “gas” her by pumping her legs  in a bicycle motion and gently up toward her chest until there was no more gas. Then she would fall right back to sleep. I used the technique the parents show in THIS video and the massage shown in THIS video.

5. Use a swing

I’ve heard that some babies don’t like their swings, but I absolutely swear by this swing. Taylor learned to fall asleep on her own in this swing. At first you’ll have to have the swing setting on fairly high, but then you can progressively lower the speed until your baby can fall asleep with little to no motion at all. We did not have Taylor sleep in the swing at night, but it really helped her to learn the skill of falling asleep on her own, which then generalized to her nighttime/crib sleep.

You can read more from the baby sleep experts at Precious Little Sleep on getting babies (even the most sleep resistant!) to sleep in a swing HERE.

Now THAT is “sleeping like a baby”!

So there you have it – my top 5 tips for getting your newborn to sleep and stay asleep. Hopefully these tips work for your baby, and for you!

What other techniques, routines or tips do you have to get your little one to sleep?

xo, Ashley (1)

*Disclaimer: Taylor turned 4 months and the regression hit immediately. Although she is not sleeping 8-9 hours a stretch right now at 5 months (I wish!), she is still sleeping 5-6 hr stretches and waking only twice at most. We were super spoiled with her sleep as a newborn, and I still think it had much to do with these 5 tips.

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How To Be Confident In Your Postpartum Body

Postpartum Body Image

Have you lost all the weight you gained during pregnancy, or maybe none at all? Maybe you’ve even gained a few extra pounds? Is your skin looser, your belly softer? What about stretch marks? Are your muscles less defined? How about finding cellulite in places you don’t remember having it? Do you wake with heavy, dark-rimmed eyes from lack of sleep?

Well, I have something to tell you and I want you to really hear it – you are BEAUTIFUL.

Society puts so much expectation and value on “getting your body back” or keeping up with a certain standard of postpartum put-togetherness. But the truth is that your post baby body and self really is beautiful, in the very truest sense of the word.

When you get down onto the floor to play and interact with your little one even though your knees and back ache, you are beautiful.

When you wake in the middle of the night – eyes half closed in delirium – to nurse or warm a bottle for your sweet baby, you are beautiful.

When you hold your little one after they’ve fallen asleep until your arms ache and burn, just so you can savor the closeness for even a few minutes longer, you are beautiful.

When leggings are all that fits comfortably over your new, softer shape as you get ready in the morning for your 24/7 shift of mommyhood, you are beautiful.

When the muscle you worked so hard to build has dwindled away, but the extra hours you once spent lifting in the gym are now spent lifting and nurturing your babe, you are beautiful.

When you sacrifice your sleep, your time, your figure, your career, and even your sanity sometimes, all for the benefit of that precious gift you’ve been given, you are so very beautiful.

You held and sustained a life within you for 9+ months, and you give your all to nurture that same life now. Eventually the weight will come off, the bags under your eyes will lighten up as you’re able to get more sleep, the stretch marks will fade, and some day {when your little one isn’t so demanding} you’ll have the time to “get your body back” if you choose to. You may also decide that goal is not as important as you thought it would be, if at all.

You are a different woman now; you’ve changed from the inside out, just as your body has. You are more compassionate toward yourself and able to see more clearly what truly matters. You appreciate what your body was able to accomplish and are in love with the product of your labor, quite literally. Your priorities and perspectives have shifted and you know in your bones that you are beautiful just as you are, physical reminders and all. If you can’t feel this right now, allow yourself to start to. It’s the truth and a foundation for confidence worth cultivating.

You are beautiful, Mama. Believe it.

xo, Ashley (1)

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10 Breastfeeding Must-Haves For New Mamas

10 Breastfeeding MUST-HAVES For New Mamas

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First of all, let me start this post by saying that however you feed your baby – be it exclusively pumping, breast or bottle feeding – is awesome. I have no opinion on what is “best” and I don’t think that’s something for anyone to judge. I know many women who wanted to breastfeed their baby but couldn’t, and others who could have but chose not to. All of their babes are growing and thriving because they are being FED. So, to each mama their own!

If you are able and choose to breastfeed like I have, it really helps to know which of the MILLIONS of products out there are actually useful, since there are so many on the market.  The list below includes the exact items I have used, liked and had success with. Some of these items I also included on my baby registry essentials post as well. I hope this list is helpful to new mamas who are going the breastfeeding route!

1. Burp cloths

We use Gerber disposable cloth diapers in lieu of burp cloths. I swear at one point I had one of these hanging off every couch arm, chair and bedpost in our home. Taylor had reflux so we may have used more than the average family. I bought three pack of  10 which makes it so that I’m never without several on hand, even if I haven’t done laundry in a while. They are cheap, soft, super absorbent, and I don’t care if I have to throw one away occasionally. You can also place one under your baby’s head for side-lying nursing, so that you don’t get any spills from their little mouth onto your sheets! I think cloth diapers are a pretty good substitute for their oftentimes more expensive burp cloth counterparts, even though these are really, really cute!

2. Breastfeeding pillow

 The designer of the My Brest Friend nursing pillow is seriously a genius. As a new mom, you and your baby both are trying to figure out this whole breastfeeding thing. It’s not easy by any means, so at least you can be as comfortable as possible during something you’ll spend A LOT of time doing in those first weeks and months. The adjustable, noiseless release {trust me, this comes in handy} buckle allows the pillow to wrap around you to provide nice lumbar support. Unlike a Boppy or other nursing pillow, the surface is very sturdy – I called it my baby tray – that your babe won’t sink down into which really helps you keep good posture.Lastly, the pocket is perfect for storing items you’ll want handy (i.e. TV remote, cell phone, baby nail clipper/file, nipple cream, natural hand sanitizer, mini lotion, etc.). I do recommend having an extra slipcover for it for when you have to change it due to the inevitable spit up, blow out, et. al. They even make a My Brest Friend for nursing twins!!

3. Bra pads

Protect your bras/camis {and your dignity if you’re leaving the house} by throwing a pair of these in. If you don’t, especially in the first few months of breastfeeding when leaks are bound to happen, the milk can leave stains on your clothes. It’s a good idea to keep a couple spares in your diaper bag and/or pump bag just in case you’re out and about and have forgotten to pop them in before leaving. These disposable nursing pads by Hey Mama are soft,absorbent, reasonably priced, and can we talk about the adorable packaging?  They also make a cute tin of all natural, nice-smelling nipple salve!

4. Breastmilk storage bags

 I recommend these storage bags for any pumped breast milk you will not be feeding your baby right away. I store them in 2-3 oz increments and lay the bags flat in the freezer union they are frozen, which is a big space saver. When it’s time to use the milk, you can easily defrost it under some warm water, pour into the bottle and voilá! These are great if you want to create a stash of your breastmilk for when you go back to work.

 

5. Nipple shields

 These look a little bizarre when they’re in your bra, but I swear you will not regret having these for those first few weeks while your body is still getting used to breastfeeding. Trust me, having raw skin rubbing on the inside of your bra and shirt has to be one of the most uncomfortable feelings ever, and these were the only way I was able to alleviate that discomfort. Even if you only need to use them a couple weeks, they’re worth the small investment. I didn’t know about them until one of my best girlfriends clued me in, so I’m hoping I can pay that forward!

6. Lanolin Cream

That same girlfriend of mine once compared the feeling you have the first few weeks of nursing to a thousand fire ants. Need I say more?  The Lactation Consultant at the hospital gave me a sample tube of this Lansinoh cream and told me to use it before and after every feeding, which at the time I thought seemed unnecessary/overkill.Some women have better or worse experiences than I did, but all I can tell you is that using this cream before and after every nursing session was the only way I was able to persevere through the initial discomfort. Don’t get discouraged if it’s painful for several weeks – it was for me. Stick with it, because it truly does get better. If your pain seems greater than normal I would definitely suggest talking to a Lactation Consultant if you can, as soon as you can – they can help with latch and/or positioning issues that could make the difference.

7. Extra storage bottles

If you plan to pump, you will definitely need extra bottles to go with your pump. I store 4 empty Medela bottles/lids in my pump bag every day, as well as a couple extra lids just in case I forget. You can pop these in the freezer or transfer the pumped milk into storage bags. You can see the rest of what I pack in the pump bag I carry back and forth to work in this post.

 

 

 

8. Nursing Tanks/Bras

A nursing cami and yoga pants was my uniform for the first month after Taylor was born. It just makes life easier – who wants to fuss with anything else when you have a hungry, screaming newborn in your arms?

There are so many out there but here are the tanks, bras and sports bras I actually like that have held up to many, many wears and washings. The Cake bras are by far the most comfortable, in my opinion : )

{I bought some cheapy ones early on but they were not supportive or functional enough. It’s worth the investment, especially if you plan to nurse for a while}:

9. Nursing cover/scarf

There are all different styles to choose from, many of which can be disguised as just another part of your outfit. I have several different nursing covers; I store one in my pump bag, one in my diaper bag and one in my car just in case.  I love wearing my black infinite nursing scarf for travel days – super convenient. And, hey, if you don’t want to cover up at all then don’t. I’m all for normalizing breastfeeding in public if that’s your comfort level!

Below are 4 different styles to consider:

10. Water bottle

Last but not least, a good water bottle WITH a straw. One of the most important things you need to do while you’re breastfeeding is to stay hydrated! You  You will be especially thirsty in the first few weeks as your supply is coming in. If you become dehydrated, your supply may dry up as well.  So yeah, water {and lots of it!} is pretty darn important. Just when you thought you’d get a break from the pregnancy induced 20 bathroom trips a day…. The straw piece just makes it easier to hands-free, lean over and sip on while nursing or especially if you have to pump (i.e. when/if you return to work.). I have two of these, and plan to order two more to keep at work so I can cut down on one thing to schlep back and forth.

 

There are my top 10 breastfeeding must-haves for new mamas! Enjoy the special bonding time of feeding your babe, however you choose to : )

xo, Ashley (1)

 

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5 Tips To Survive Your First Weeks Home With Baby

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Before giving birth to my daughter, Taylor, I thought I was equipped for our first weeks home together. My husband and I had her nursery furniture all arranged, I’d washed and put away the tiny clothing and accessories, stocked up on diapers/wipes/etc, and had the carseat installed.I thought I was ready to rock….

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All of the aforementioned certainly helped me feel like less of a chaotic mess, but looking back now, boy was I in for a big awakening those first days/weeks! There truly is no way to prepare for the new skills you’ll need to instantaneously acquire once your baby arrives: soothing them when they cry, surviving on minimal (or no) sleep, breastfeeding/pumping/bottle-feeding, keeping up with your own health whilst giving 110% to your baby, etc.

In the hopes of helping other new mamas navigate those first few weeks with your new bundle of joy, I’d like to share five of my new mama survival tips:

1. Take care of yourself, please –

Get enough to eat and drink. Keep snacks and a water bottle (I highly suggest a big one with a straw like this one that I have two of) next to where you nurse since you’ll be there pretty much around the clock. I can’t stop eating these protein bars. Seriously addicting.

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We actually utilized a meal delivery service for the first several months we had Taylor to supplement cooking, and were also blessed with parents and friends who brought us tons of fresh and frozen meals that lasted for weeks. Instacart is a grocery delivery service that can be lifesaving as well – I know I did NOT feel like going grocery shopping for quite some time, and they’ll shop for you and deliver to your door for a fee – perhaps not something you’d continue on with forever, but definitely helpful in the first weeks with a baby. If there is a Door Dash food delivery service in your local area, I would also recommend signing up for it -For a small delivery fee, you can have your favorite local restaurant’s food delivered right to your door. When I come home at the end of a particularly tough or long workday, the last thing I want to do is cook and clean up a meal. Those are the nights I hop on the Door Dash app (sometimes even on the way home at a stop light – eek), order a local favorite for my hubby and I, then get on to playing with my baby girl for the couple precious hours I have with her before she falls asleep! I’m so glad I found out about this service. Lastly, I know isn’t a “green” choice, but having a stack of paper plates (100 for only $13 HERE) for those first weeks saves you dish washing time. Any ways to make your life easier during those tough first weeks help!

Lastly, when you’re physically up for it, get outside for a walk . I can’t tell you how helpful it was to take daily walks, even if it was only around the block once or twice the first couple of weeks. You can progressively walk for longer stretches and you’ll be logging the miles [and shedding those preggo pounds] before you know it.

2. “Sleep when the baby sleeps” –

Everyone told me this, and I didn’t listen until I started feeling like I was losing my mind from exhaustion! Seriously, leave the laundry and TAKE A NAP.  Don’t stay up to get in alone time, even though you’ll want that too. Those things can wait a couple weeks. Elicit help from your partner, friends and family so that you can get some sleep. Your sleep is SO critical to being that best mama you can be! Another suggestion is to pump so someone else can bottle feed in the middle of the night every once in a while – it’s amazing how great you feel when you get even a 4-5 hour stretch of sleep in those first weeks!

3. Make friends with dry shampoo –

Maybe I’m the only one, but I think I only took a shower including washing/conditioning my hair 3 times in the first few weeks. Slightly hobo status, but between using nap time for a shower or sleep, I chose SLEEP! This brand is my favorite  for keeping your hair looking fresh(er) when you don’t have time for a shower. This is also a great, less pricey option that works well too.

4. Maintain good posture –

All the bending and slouching can really do a number on your back. I know you’ll be thinking of your baby’s needs before your own, but trust me – you need to be preventative with this so that you can continue to give your all to your babe. Invest in  a good nursing pillow like the My Brest Friend (my fav which I talked about HERE) and be cognizant of bending at the knees to pick things up, tightening your core when you lift baby off the changing table or out of the crib,  ot slouching, etc.

5. Soothing the baby tool kit –

This was probably the most difficult thing to figure out, and every baby is so different, but here are a few of the ways we were able to successfully soothe Taylor when she cried or need to go down for a nap/the night:

  • Taking walks with her in the Ergobaby Carrier with the Infant Insert – maybe it was all the running/exercise I did whilst preggo, but the girl LOVES her some motion!

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    • Bouncing on a yoga ball – this in combination with patting her bottom if she was really upset was a sure fire way to soothe her and even get her to fall asleep. Similar to rocking, but for Taylor, much more effective. Plus, you can actually travel with a deflated yoga ball/manual pump if needed.
    • Swaddling – I thought Taylor hated swaddling, so I let her be “free” for the first 5 weeks of her life. And guess what? Neither of us slept longer than 1.5 hours that entire time, UNTIL I tried out the swaddle again and low and behold she start sleeping 6-8 hours at a stretch at night and the 20-30 minute crap naps extended to 50-90 minutes! Give swaddling a try – I am lazy and uncoordinated so I use the cheater’s swaddle (Halo Sleepsack Swaddle) Taylor has two at home, and one at daycare, and I swear this is the single best thing for calming her down and readying her for sleep now [4 months old at the time I write this].

  • “Shhhing/Patting” – this is the latest way we’ve been able to soothe Taylor and get her to fall asleep without the need for motion (rocking, bouncing, walking, etc). It’s really been a game changer. Read more about the method in the book, which is now my baby bible, The Baby Whisperer.

I’m still a total amateur mommy and every baby is different, but hopefully there is one little nugget you can use or share with another new mama! If you have any questions please email me at ashley@taylor-mademama.com. I’d love to help new mamas in anyway I can!

What other ways did you or are you surviving the first several weeks with a newborn?

xo, Ashley (1)

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A Letter To My Baby Girl

Sweet Taylor,

This time next week I’ll be back at work, and our sweet time of being together all day, every day will have ended for now. It went by way too fast.

These have been the 15 best weeks of my entire life, and I don’t want them to end; If I could freeze time, or put it on a loop so that I could continue experiencing the joy and wonder of getting to know you these last few months, I would. We spent mostly simple days together, learning how to be a mama and baby, but they were absolutely perfect. I will treasure every minute of this precious quarter of a year forever.

Figuring out how to meet your needs has been the most challenging job I’ve ever had, but the one that has given me my greatest sense of purpose. I had the privilege to change hundreds of your diapers, nurse you whenever you felt hungry, and comfort you when you [and sometimes I] cried because we were both getting used to everything being so new/disorienting. I spent countless hours just watching you in awe, and sometimes disbelief, that I really get to be YOUR mama. I haven’t been perfect, but I have tried my very best to take care of and love you well.

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It has been amazing to watch you literally grow and change every day. I loved “chatting” with your 8 pound little self after reading stories on the big bed in your room. I was so thankful to you for the gift of rest when you slept through the night at only six weeks old! I felt as if my heart would explode when you unexpectedly giggled for the first time on our walk to Starbucks downtown – I’m waiting to hear that again. Even when I knew I had things to get done, I chose to nap with you in my arms in the middle of the day – I would let them go numb because I didn’t want to move and wake you.  I was so proud of you when you discovered your hands and the things they could begin to do – you’re so smart!
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When your cute little side smiles turned into big, whole body grins I absolutely melted.
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I felt so excited when one day I rolled you over and you pushed up from your tummy and happily looked around at your toys after screaming for 12 weeks every time we tried…I can’t wait for you to figure out how to translate your crazy hip thrusts into a roll or something – please save that for a day I’m home, okay? Every day it’s something new and exciting with you, and my heart swells with pride.
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In a week I go back to work, though thankfully part time so that I have more time to be with you. It’s going to be tough on both of us at first, but I also know that you’ll love having special time with Grammy, your Daddy is working at home and can play with you during the day, and that you’ll meet new friends at your daycare. I hope you’re inspired by and proud of me someday for being strong, independent and successful; when you grow up I want you to take advantage of opportunities and pursue your dreams, education, goals and passions just like I have. But the most important thing you should know is that I love you to the moon and back; Thankfully, I do like my job, but I LOVE being your mama more than anything in this world.
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Since your birth I have spent almost every hour of every day by your side, and never once did I wish to be anywhere else. Know that when I’m not with you, each second I’ll wish I were.
Every day of maternity leave my full time job has been to make you feel like you are the most loved baby in the world. I PROMISE you that job will not end because I go back to work – that’s for life!
I love you with all of my heart, and I can’t wait to continue getting to know you every day and being your mom. It is such an honor.
Love Always,
Mama
P.S. I’m so thankful to your daddy for making it possible for me to take this time off to be with you, and learn how to be your mom. He supported me every day in many ways [filling my water bottles, giving me a yummy glass of adult grape juice, playing with you in the middle of the day so I could take a shower, etc.]. He loves you so much, and I know he would do anything for you. When you smile, his faces lights up with happiness. I’m so glad he is your daddy and my husband. We both love you so much.
Mamas, I would love to know how your transitions from maternity leave back to work went. What helped with the adjustment? Leave me a comment – I would really appreciate your advice : )
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A Lesson On Letting Go Of Control

letting go of control quoteTruth time guys…Although I’m working around it, I’ve honestly been SUPER pretty frustrated that my postpartum recovery hasn’t been what I planned for it to be. This whole Pubic Symphysis Disfunction business completely derailed my schedule and method for getting back into shape and being able to do things I love in and out of the gym – things I worked hard throughout pregnancy to be able to jump back into quickly and easily postpartum. I felt assured that my plan would work and I would “bounce” right back. My labor and delivery were also NOTHING like what I planned, but that’s a whole other post…

It has always been challenging for me to be out of control of an element of my life, and to LET GO/ not over analyze when things don’t work out as I expected/hoped they would.  I’ve realized for some time that this is not a productive use of heart + brain space, but I have the strong sense that NOW is the time to learn how to really let go of the desire for control and be at peace, humbly grateful, no matter the circumstance. Because -WOW – I have so much to be grateful for, and there is ALWAYS a way to adapt and still achieve my goals.

I’m so thankful to my sweet daughter – from her very birth, she is already helping me grow and evolve closer to the example I hope to be for her in this life. 
I know I’m not alone in the ongoing quest to refine and become the best version of myself.  Today, let’s let go of what we can’t control and do what we CAN to take the best care of ourselves and our little ones.
Below are three different workouts for you, targeting the same muscle group and taking about 50 minutes:

A] what I did at the gym
B] what I would have done at the gym if I was cleared to : )
C] an at home option.
Workout A
Workout B
Workout C
If you try any or all of these workouts out, let me know how they go! Go Mama!
xo, Ashley (1)
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Maternity Leave Routine for Mama + Baby

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The first 3-5 weeks with Taylor were an oxytocin-laced, exhausting haze. Normally one who loves routines and schedules, I had none. I was nursing and changing diapers around the clock, often didn’t even know what day or time it was, was recovering physically/emotionally in big ways, and certainly didn’t have time to even think about a routine or what that might include.

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Solo coffee run w/ 2 week old = I’m a bad @$$.

The first few weeks with a newborn are pretty much survival mode – you just do whatever you have to do to make sure your baby is getting enough to eat and sleep, and that you are getting some amount of food/sleep in yourself. If that means spending way too much money on takeout every night, co-sleeping when you intended to use a bassinet, not leaving the house ever, feeding every 45 min because that’s what baby needs, etc., well, so be it! – whatever works for you and your sweet baby, right? Not to mention, many newborns [mine included] pretty much sleep ALL day long, so trying to complete some sort of activity or outing during their über limited wake time seems ridiculous. Thinking back, it was pretty amusing how accomplishing the simplest things made me feel SUPER proud of myself in those first few weeks – like the first time I left the house with Taylor without my hubby for a coffee run and neither of us was in tears the entire 45 minutes.

It took about a month for me to emerge from the haze and get into a groove with Taylor [and AJ], but I love what we have going on now. We have been loosely following an Eat, Play/Activity, Sleep routine that shows up in a lot of popular baby-management books such as Baby Whisperer and BabyWise. I say loosely because, as much as I want to help Taylor develop a predictable routine and give our days some structure, I am actually on HER schedule and sometimes she has needs that don’t line up perfectly with my plan [duh]. For example, when she goes through a growth spurt, or has a short feed upon waking up, I know I may need to break the routine and feed her again before she goes to sleep so that she doesn’t get hungry and wake up from the nap prematurely. Overall though, non-militantly following an Eat, Play Sleep routine has worked well for us and I imagine it will be even more useful as she gets a bit older.

Obviously, the strategy that works for us certainly won’t work with every baby + mama for any number of reasons, but I do think establishing a routine when you feel ready is really helpful. The whole point of this post is to share an outline of one of our days to give you some ideas for the of the sort of routine you could establish early on in your maternity leave, with one baby [you supermoms with more than one simply amaze me – how do you do it?!].

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{Credit: Precious Little Sleep}

Before getting to that, I have to say that I made a lot of mistakes didn’t know a lot of things that were impacting our ability to get into a routine in those first few weeks – particularly related to sleep. I’ve since spent a lot of nursing sessions reading up on helpful baby sleep stuff and pinning articles to my Baby Sleep Pinterest Board. The HANDS-DOWN BEST baby sleep resource I have found is the Precious Little Sleep Blog, Podcast and Facebook group. I would seriously like to bear hug the author. Her 0-3 Months Newborn Baby Sleep Survival Guide has been invaluable for me; when I read through one of the posts in the series which included the chart, “Baby Sleep: How Much, When, How Long,” I realized just how short a newborn’s wake time actually is. I was actually keeping her awake too long, which was leading to a lot of unnecessary fussiness – the poor thing just wanted to sleep. Live and learn! I have used that chart, in addition to getting to know Taylor’s cues, to structure and adjust her Eat, Play, Sleep schedule according to her wake times.

Now, on to a typical day-in-the-life of Taylor [11 weeks] + Ashley, Maternity Leave style!

7:30AM – EAT, PLAY

When I notice Taylor is awake on the monitor I usually turn on her beloved projection mobile, which I can do from my iPhone [soooo 2016.]. This buys me about 15 minutes to wake up myself somewhat, and it absolutely delights her to watch those little woodland creatures floating around up there. One of my favorite parts of the day is saying good morning to her.

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T lovin’ her “Woodland Animal” friends.

Next, I change her out of her overnight diaper [I just use a diaper one size larger than she wears in the day] then feed her, unless her last feeding was more than two hours prior to waking [at this point she typically eats once during the night between 3:30 and 5:00 AM]. I watch the Today Show/news during her feeding and think about the day ahead. Once she is done with her breakfast, she sits in a bouncy chair [or her Daddy spends time with her if he is available!] while I grab coffee and something quick to eat -narrating my actions to her all the while. Following our breakfasts we lay on the bed in her room and read a book or two and “chat” – which is adorable.

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Baby Bjorn Bouncer on loan from my BFF.

9:00AM [or as soon as she shows her “I’m sleepy” cues] – SLEEP

At 11 weeks old, Taylor is usually awake an hour and a half – give or take 30 minutes so, we get ready and go for a walk through the park to downtown where I [more often than I should] grab a decaf Americano at Starbucks and she takes a snooze. One of her daily naps is in her stroller for the duration of a 2-4 mile walk, usually in the morning. Yes, I have read this is not as restorative as a stationary nap in a bassinet or crib, but Taylor is getting in her sleep and I’m getting in my cardio – win, win!

If she is still sleeping when we get back to the house I start some laundry, tidy up the house and/or myself, scroll through social media or work on blog stuff.

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Must be nice to be so stinkin’ cute!

11:00AM – EAT, PLAY

After Taylor wakes up from what is usually a fairly long nap, she eats her second breakfast. While she eats I think, pray, brainstorm, watch TV, read Pinterest articles, etc. I change her diaper after she eats and put her in an outfit for the day which is inevitably more stylish than my own. And, yes I usually keep her in her Wondersuit most of the morning because they are so darn comfy and cute.

Next, Taylor has playtime under her play mat – this includes a few minutes of “tummy time” which is as much as she will tolerate at this point. But, we’re working on it!

She loves this play mat!

12:15PM – SLEEP

Taylor starts acting sleepy [yawning and looking off into the distance] so I take her to her room, turn on her white noise machine, swaddle her in her Halo sleepsack swaddle and bounce her on the yoga ball until she nods off, then transfer her into her DockATot in the crib. I think I will eventually [4+ months] use some type of sleep training to help her learn to self-soothe, but for now I’m doing whatever works to help her get all the sleep she needs.

3:00PM – EAT, PLAY

Yes, she does take one really long nap most days – hence, how I’ve had time to develop this blog; the girl likes her sleep! When she wakes up, she eats again and then I change her diaper. We’ll usually spend some time on the floor working on motor skills – I like to go through the daily suggestions on the Baby Sparks app. At this time I’ll usually take her out for a Target, Whole Foods or other errand run.

4:00PM – SLEEP

Taylor almost always falls asleep in her carseat during our errand-ing. If we haven’t run an errand I’ll do our quick nap routine of sound machine/swaddle/bounce/put down in crib or swing and she’ll take her nap at home. This is when I’ll usually sneak in a quick workout in the house or outside in our garage gym [watching the monitor, of course!].

5:00PM – EAT, PLAY

Time to eat and have her diaper changed again! She tends to cluster feed/tank up between 5:00 and 7:00, and sometimes even grabs a cat-nap, so I just follow her cues and feed/put her down for sleep on demand between now and her bedtime. AJ is typically done with work by now, so Taylor gets to spend special time with daddy [lucky baby!]. If I didn’t workout earlier, and it’s a day I’ve planned to, I’ll get that in while they have their time together.  Oh, and if it’s a bath day, this would also be the time we give her one. I tried giving her a bath as part of her nighttime routine a couple times, but she gets so pumped up in there it didn’t  seem like a  very good “wind down” activity for her.

7:00PM – SLEEP

Taylor’s bedtime routine and how we spend our evenings once she is down is a whole other post, so stay tuned!

I know that our current routines and rhythms will change once my maternity leave ends at the end of July, so I’m soaking up our sweet days together – the ones when we do a whole lot, and especially the ones where we do a whole lot of nothing but be together.

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Precious time with T.

What kind of routines and schedules do you use with your littles?  I’m curious to hear about your experiences with Babywise, Baby Whisperer, or other methodologies. What has and hasn’t worked for you? 

xo, Ashley (1)

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