Respect

Motherhood is full of lessons. Starting with learning to aim your pee at a stick, then how to put on shoes with a basketball belly, how to not get peed on changing a diaper, and how to strap a screaming, squirming toddler into a car seat… it goes on and on. One of the biggest lessons for me by far has been learning to respect my body.

Respect is a positive feeling or action shown towards someone or something considered important, or held in high esteem or regard; it conveys a sense of admiration for good or valuable qualities; and it is also the process of honoring someone by exhibiting care, concern, or consideration for their needs or feelings.  -Wikipedia

Let’s break this down.

A positive feeling towards something held in high regard

Photo credit: Fiona Margo Photography

Your body, as a female, is miraculous. Dudes are cool too, but having ovaries and a uterus means you can GROW A HUMAN. Not all women do it and it certainly does not make you any less phenomenal if you don’t. The possibility and reality of your body as a mother though, is truly astounding.

Lately, I’ve seen so many beautiful stories online of women celebrating their bodies in motherhood. From Katrina Scott of Tone It Up, to Chrissy Teigen, to Bikini Body Mommy, and so many others, stories filled with positivity in celebration of the pregnant, postpartum, and amazing female body are on the rise. And that should truly be the focus of all of us. Not stretch marks, not pregnant cankles, not undereye circles or any of the other criticisms we throw at our poor bodies that work so hard for us. But a freaking cel-e-bration, people.

Hold your body in high regard.

This was a huge area of growth for me. I spent years criticizing every little bit of my poor body. If I was out of shape, I would think negatively about my arms, belly, thighs, or butt practically every time I moved or saw myself. If I was in shape, I would pick on my skin, my nose, my chin, or some other thing. Basically, no matter what I did, my body was never good enough. Becoming a mom, particularly to a little girl, made me realize that is NOT how it should be. Through the lens of motherhood, I finally recognize and appreciate that my body is strong and capable of hard things (like really, really hard things!) and deserves praise, not judgment.

The process of honoring something by exhibiting care for its needs

This was even harder for me. My first pregnancy, I was a resident physician working 80 hours or more a week. I was used to being able to disregard my body’s wants and needs, like, ahem, sleep, food, etc… But then, I was so run down I puked until I needed IV fluids and started having premature contractions. I knew exactly what I would tell my own patients, but it took me sitting in Labor & Delivery triage, watching a monitor show me the effects of my actions, to give myself the same respect.

So then, I had it, right? Nope. Decided to whip my poor postpartum bod into shape after having baby number 2. Went on a crazy diet, worked out like a madwoman and what-do-you-know, my milk supply tanked. I struggled with this, refusing to treat my body with kindness, understanding, and yes, respect. Then, I beat myself up some more about having to give that baby formula too. Guess what, she’s healthy and I eventually, through coaching and kindness and respecting my body’s needs, got into the best shape of my life.

Finally, now, with this third baby, I’m *starting* to get it. I took leave from work when my body needed it in pregnancy. I listened when I needed to change my birth expectations. And today? Today I’m spending the whole dang day resting, drinking tons of water, and nursing my baby because I did a little too much the last 2 days and I’ve learned to listen and treat my body with respect.

Photo credit: Jordan Marie Photography

Moving forward

How can you start to show your body more respect? How can you honor it, show care for its needs?

Step 1: Look yourself in the mirror and say, out loud, “My body is incredible!” Or whatever you want your positive message to be. Not only does this make a difference in how you feel, but we are also teaching our children how to view and treat their own bodies. Setting this intention will guide even your subtle, subconscious actions to show it to them, and the world.

Step 2: Treat your body how you would want a loved one to be treated. For whatever reason, I have to get all 3rd person to figure out what is best for me. My internal drive to just soldier on is not always the best thing. If this is you too, imagine your sister or best friend or even your child telling you how they are feeling. What would you tell them to do? Give yourself the same consideration.

What are ways you all treat your body with care? Tell us in the comments so we can share ideas!

Photo credit: Little Wonders Photography

Dr. Annie is a mama of 3, family doctor and lifelong learner of how to follow my own advice.

 

Life & Littles Podcast!

Exciting news!!!

Our own Dr. Annie is on this week’s episode of Doctor Mommy, MD’s podcast talking about second trimester of pregnancy. The Life & Littles podcast may just be your new favorite listen, friends!

Photo credit Fiona Margo Photography

“Imagine your best friend is a doctor and a mom, what questions would you want to ask her over a glass of wine? What questions would you text her in the middle of the night?” Sound helpful?

Grab a coffee or glass of wine and tune in on iTunes and subscribe to get all the upcoming fun times!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/life-littles-with-doctor-mommy-md/id1451847392?mt=2&i=1000429939961

You can also find Shelly on Instagram and Facebook @doctormommymd and should check out her gorgeous blog while you’re at it!

Xoxo!

Sexy as a M*ther

There’s a new sexy in town friends, and I would argue, it’s even better than before. It’s mom-sexy. We may not have the bouncy bounty of hair and bikini top filling of yesteryear, but we have some new moves that can light the 🔥🔥🔥 of romance like none other. (Literally. Because no one who’s not a mom would do this stuff…)

Wardrobe

Those young folks are all rocking flowy, low-cut tanks and dresses that show a hint of side or underboob here and there. The sexy implication being a nipple could be exposed at any moment. Enter: nursing tanks. This garment has the significant advantage of being able to actually whip out a titty in 1 second flat. Hey-yo!!!!

Shock Value

Sure Victoria would have you think your partner wants you in lacy little get ups 365 days a year. Let me tell ya, when all they’ve seen you in for months is spit-up stained sweats and then you slip on a real nighty? Firecrackers!!!

Naughty Naughty

Remember those teenage trysts making out when you knew your parents might walk in and bust you any minute -so hot, right? Well, as a parent, you get to turn the tables! You never know when a kid might wake up with a need for an escort to the bathroom and discover you and your partner “practicing stretching” or “having a tickle fight” 😳

Exploration

Another level of kink factor is available for all you cosleepers. Kid is in your bed so that’s off limits (at least I hope, because, wow! Boundaries, people). Hello, laundry room! Or take it to the bathroom counter. Nothing makes for creative sexcapades like having a literal cockblocker in your bed.

You said it!

New Turn Ons

Totally aging myself here, but… Remember when Devin Sawa’s bowl cut was the hottest thing (or were you a JTT gal?)? And then a few years later, it was boy band moves, then Abercrombie store dudes in barely-not-showing-pubic-hair-low cut shorts? What turns you on changes with time. And let me tell ya, once you’re a parent, there is basically nothing sexier than your partner going above and beyond with home & childcare.

Tell Me What You Want

What you really really want…. I’ll tell you what I want, what I really Really want. Because I’m a mom. And ain’t nobody got time for that Oh-let’s-pretend-this-is-fun-because-I’m-too-shy-to-be-honest sh*t. We know what works (hopefully!!) and we know how to get it and THAT, my friends is sexy.

Pregnant Sex

Ok, this one is transient, but can be ahhhhhmazing!! Increased blood flow? Yes please! Embracing your new curves? Oh yeah! Those pregnant boobs? 🙌🏻🙌🏻! If comfort allows, this can be one of the biggest perks of gestation. Get. After. It. There is a big ol’ dry spell (literally, so dry down there) coming up after baby. Store up some good times to last you through!

As always, keepin it Real

Real Talk

In all honesty though, it can be hard to feel like your former sexy self as a mom. Your body is different. It might feel better, it might feel squishier, it might feel completely foreign – no matter what, it changes. You may not have time for basic self care, much less a “beauty routine”. But instead of beating ourselves up about it and missing out on the fun, why not embrace it?! Your body can LITERALLY grow human beings. It’s miraculous. This is a special season in life and won’t last forever. Get out there and have a spicy Valentine’s Day, mamas! I, for one, think you’re SMOKIN!!! 😘

Dr. Annie is newly a mom of 3, a family doctor and finding new ways to be sexy all the time 😜

 

 

How to Spoil A New Mama

The transition from expecting, to being a new mom of a babe outside the womb is one of the absolute craziest life changes a human can experience. One day, you’re the object of everyone’s attention, being helped and fawned over by friends and strangers alike. The next thing you know, BAM! All the attention is on the new little miracle and you’re left in the shadows with your deflated-balloon belly and under-eye bags for days.

crescent moon and cloud wind chimes

As mamas to a collective 10 little people, we are often asked about the best things to bring, give, or do for a new mother.  Assuming that family and friends have already set the new mama up with the basic necessities to survive those first couple months (registry items, meals, diapers, etc.), we’ve listed here a few ways to go one step beyond and make that new mom feel not just like she’s surviving but that she’s spoiled and loved as much as the adorable little being she just birthed. Here are some of our favorite recommendations for new mamas, from mamas who have beentheredonethat.

The Spa Treatment

New moms obviously won’t likely get to go TO an actual spa while they’re on the feed-change-rock rollercoaster of newborn life. Here are a few easy gifts to make her feel pampered in the same way.

Good Dry Shampoo

Showers can be few and far between.  Let alone showers long enough to wash one’s hair. Help a mother out by getting her one of these top dry shampoos to fake it:

R+Co Death Valley Dry Shampoo, 6.3 oz.
R+Co Death Valley Dry Shampoo
Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Dry Shampoo 4.0 oz Pack of 2
Living Proof Perfect Hair Day

 

 

Excellent Lip Balm

When you’re trying to keep hydrated for two, your lips get chapped like no other. Treat a mama to one of these:

it Cosmetics je ne sais quoi Color Awakening Balm in ‘your perfect pink’ starts out clear but changes to the perfect rosy tint to complement you once it’s on. And Smith’s Rosebud salve is a classic, but the tin can be hard to open one-handed, go with the tube trio!

Moisturizer

Same goes for skin! A non-toxic, yummy smelling lotion or body oil can make you feel refreshed even if you just used a baby wipe to towel off a massive spit up in lieu of showering. Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse can be used on every outside part of your body – face, hair, and body – making it super easy to slap some on when you’re jumping out of your 2 minute shower when your baby’s crying, and smells like you just went to Paris and spent the day in a fancy boutique. (A girl can dream…)

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At Home Facial

Help mama look a *little* less tired than she is with one of these easy treatments – all wearable while walking around bouncing a fussy babe:

Sheet masks! Go simple with a variety pack from Target or deluxe from Sephora – no matter what, these pamper and then can be tossed in the trash. For the inevitable under-eye (ahem, Prada) bags, Nerium hydrogels and eye serum – we’ve talked about this wonder duo before. No need to beat a dead horse but if you want to knock out some serious undereye bags in 20 minutes flat, this is how to do it!

Aromatherapy

A well-placed candle or diffuser has the power to make a room feel clean and fresh even when it’s nothing close to that.  (Because, well, did we mention the feed-change-rock rollercoaster?) Here are some faves:

 

The Baies Dyptique candle makes any space smell as fresh as a garden, even when you are feeling anything but fresh, and the Noodle and Boo diffuser is subtle enough for the nursery, and sweet enough to make you forget about your toddler’s crusty mac and cheese plate in the sink.

Bebe Luxe

Having a few luxury baby items can also brighten the most mundane baby care moments and new mamas may not want to spend the money on these, admittedly nonessential but oh-so-nice-to-have, items.

Monogrammed Burp Cloths

Burp cloths literally become part of your wardrobe as a new mom. Why not make them cute?! Personalized cloths make for a lovely gift, and one that keeps on giving for years – we’ve been known to wipe toddler faces, noses, and just about everything else with these pretty little things. After all, if you’re going to be covered in baby (toddler, and child) puke, why not feel monogrammedly-fabulous about it?! Exactly.

monogram cloth
This thing has been trashed and washed about 14,000 times and is still looking fab.

 

If you have the skill set to make these yourself – you win. If you (like us) don’t, there are fortunately a variety of styles available from a number of sellers on Etsy. We purchased ours from a lovely shop called The Letter Garden.

The Fancy Baby Lotion

Babies, especially newborn babies, smell amazing. Their sweet fuzzy heads and little toes… Oh! Too. Much. Sweetness.

babychair
Photo credit: Deanna Casey Photography

However, babies have their share of smelly moments too. (If the phrase “baby blowout” means nothing to you, take our word for it.) Here are some of our favorite, fancy,  “sweet-baby-smell” lotions that are safe and wonderful for newborn skin and effective enough for a new mom’s chapped hands (you wash your hands A LOT with a new baby).

 

Noodle and Boo Super Soft Lotion is the sweetest smelling, and most effective baby lotion we know of! It’s darling packaging doesn’t hurt either. We also love the California Baby line. The everyday lotion, overtired and cranky, and calendula cream are both also divine.

Beyond Sustenance

Meal Trains are a Godsend for getting dinner (and hopefully leftovers for lunch!) taken care of. You can register for, and set up a Meal Train on their website, here. However, new mamas also need yummy, nutrient dense snacks in the early days of recovery from birth and nursing. (And often end up balancing a sleeping baby in their arms in search of an easy to grab snack!) Here are a few ideas.

person carrying a baby

Energy Bites

These are like a healthy nutrient packed version of cake balls. Easy to grab and wolf down even with a crying baby in one arm. Mix ingredients together, basic recipe amounts below, there are endless possible combinations, chill for 30 minutes then roll into balls and coat in final ingredient. We love chocolate-coconut and cashew-butter-cran-raspberry!

  • 3/4 C organic old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 C nut butter of choice
  • 1/2 -1 C chocolate chips, craisins, shredded coconut, chopped nuts, crumbled freeze dried berries or whatever else sounds good
  • 2 TBS sweetener: honey, maple syrup, agave or whatever you fancy
  • Coating: peanut butter powder, shredded coconut, pulverized freeze dried fruit, hot chocolate mix…

cookies on square white ceramic plate

Lactation cookies

Yes you could get store-bought versions of these, and no, they probably won’t triple her milk supply. However, letting a new mom indulge in homemade cookies and imagine they’re healthy is what a real friend does! This recipe is from Genius kitchen.

Accessories

Unless you’re a celebrity, the new-mom uniform is stretchy pants, nursing tank, messy bun, all day, errryday. However, it’s amazing what a little accessoried “flare” can do to make a girl feel more human. (And fake an actual outfit with minimal wardrobe changes. #score)

Sweaters and Wraps

Mama can toss one of these over a legging/nursing top “mom-suit” and suddenly, voila! You’ve got yourself an outfit!

 

Earrings

A stylish drop earring can make that messy-bun look like its purpose is to show off some ear flare instead of disguising the spit-up in momma’s ponytail. (Not that we’ve ever done that before…)

 

We love the casual look of the leather  Zia earrings from Magnolia Market, and the Aragon hammered drop earring from Kendra Scott for maximum versatility and style.

Fancy Hair Ties

Uplevel that pony or mom-bun with one of these. Bonus – nursing mommas can also use them as cute bracelets to remember which side she last nursed the baby on! Win win!

 

 

Happy shopping mom-friends and congratulations on being the favorite person of the lucky new mom in your life!

This post contains affiliate links to help you find the products we recommend. We may receive a small contribution from your use of the links, but the recommendations are all our own and unsolicited.

018 (1 of 1)The Real As A M*ther crew, mamas to 10 littles; a doctor, lawyer, doula, and financial planner; and happy spoilers of Dr. Annie, a glam new momma to her brand new baby boy.

Pregnant MD: Third Trimester Woes

As always, this post is meant as information and a personal account only and does not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. This post contains affiliate links to help you find the products I personally recommend which may provide small compensation for me.

Rounding out this pregnancy-blogging adventure, I have had a rodeo of all the discomforts of third trimester to remind me what to warn other mamas is coming for them. I had forgotten a few of them, so it’s lucky for you all I decided to go for #3 to be truly up to date on all of this (jk). Every woman’s experience of pregnancy is different – you may get none of these, all of them, and then some more – but I’ve tried to hit the most common highlights here for reference.

Braxton-Hicks

These fun semi-contractions may have started earlier for you than 28 weeks, the official kick-off of third trimester. However, if they didn’t, most women will start to get them more noticeably now. You might start to wonder if these are “the real deal” and whether you should worry. In general, the main difference is BH contractions are a tightening not a pushing down sensation. Think a fist squeezing closed around something rather than trying to push down. It’s hard to know the difference until you’ve had the real thing sometimes, but trust me when I say – you’ll know the real ones when they come.

They can range from barely noticeable to quite strong, stopping you in your tracks. Talk with your provider about when to go get checked, but in general if you’re having more than 4 per hour despite resting and being hydrated with an empty bladder (I do realize those last 2 are hard to balance….), you should check in with your person.

Snissing

I learned this fun term in my first pregnancy and have been giggling about it ever since. Snissing is pissing when you sneeze. As that baby pushes more on your bladder and your pelvic floor loosens up more, you may start to lose control with episodes of pressure – aka sneezing, coughing, laughing, having a toddler jump on you…. Doing Kegels regularly through the pregnancy can help avoid this, but for some it’s your anatomy and you’ll just have to make do with wearing pads and prioritizing emptying your bladder very regularly. Hooray!

Hemorrhoids & Constipation

Everyone’s least favorite body part to talk about – your butthole. These are 2 separate issues but very related, so I’ll address together. Some lucky people (ahem, me included) struggle with constipation at baseline and pregnancy hormones make that so much worse. The worse the constipation, the more you might be straining to get that BM out. I mean this 100% literally: I have had multiple poops that were harder to push out than my actual babies. The more you strain the more pressure you put on the veins around your anus and at some point, they can start to bulge out – this, my friends is a hemorrhoid.

Image result for hemorrhoid illustration

What’s a preggo girl to do?? Stay aggressive about constipation management. Aim for 1-2 easy bowel movements per day. Talk to your provider about a regimen you can use, for me it’s been high-fiber diet, hydration with at least 2 liters water a day, Smooth Move tea most days and high-quality pre/probiotics. The best I’ve found are these Prolistic ones by Nerium, not just saying that because I work with the company, they are superior (link is not even for my own business to keep this separate).

Heartburn and Reflux and Vurping, Oh My!

Me after drinking orange juice

Downward pressure has it’s problems as above, but at some point the upward pressure gets to most people as well. Fun fact – the old wives’ tale that babies with more hair cause worse heartburn is for completely unknown reasons statistically true. The safest methods for managing this are natural:

  • Avoid large meals, don’t eat anything more than a few bites of a snack for 2 hours before bed.
  • Avoid acidic foods: coffee, tomato, citrus…
  • Manage constipation (backing up the whole system)
  • Avoid carbonation

Some people also do well with Papaya Enzyme after meals. And up to 6 Tums regular strength tablets a day are safe – but beware!! These can worsen constipation turning into a self-perpetuating issue. If it’s bad beyond that, talk to your provider about other antacids.

Aches and Pains

You can get upper back pain from the weight of belly and breasts, round ligament pain from your growing uterus, and low back pain from basically doing dead-lifts all day long with a 20lb plyo-ball. I read in residency that 80% of women experience back pain in pregnancy. That seems unreasonably low. I have never, ever talked to a woman who didn’t have some degree of back pain by the end of pregnancy. If you’re out there… what’s that like? What are you made of? Are you descended from Amazons? For the rest of us, a few things can help…

  1. Prenatal yoga. Exercise in general is helpful, but prenatal yoga in particular is INCREDIBLY important for the health and comfort of your back.
  2. Prenatal massage. Make sure you’re seeing someone trained in this specifically and with a table set up to accommodate a growing belly.
  3. Topical creams. Distracting the nerves with something tingly can help temporarily. My go-to is BioFreeze because it’s the tingliest (is that a word?).
  4. Belly and hip supports. See if you can get one through your insurance first, if not, the most popular ones are in This NY Magazine Review
  5. Warm showers or baths or heating pad. I say warm, I mean VERY warm. There is no exact temperature cut-off – just stop as soon as you feel “Hey, I’m hot”.
  6. Tylenol. Yep. That’s all you get. Plain tylenol. Always good to double check with your own provider if this is ok for you, but most pregnant women can take this for bad pain.

If your pain goes beyond what can be managed with the above, talk to your health care provider. Some will have you see a specially trained chiropractor who knows Webster technique, work with a physical therapist or use other medication to manage it.

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Labor Scares

We will do a whole post on ‘How to Tell When to Go To The Hospital”, but in short, many women experience bouts of ‘Prodromal labor’ or ‘False labor’ prior to the real deal.

  • Contractions: The Braxton Hicks can get pretty strong and somewhat regular towards the end and as prenatal providers, we get a lot of “When are they labor?”. The general rule is 5-1-1: if you have contractions that stop you from doing what you’re doing every 5 minutes, lasting 1 minute for 1 hour and getting stronger despite resting and hydrating, you should check in with your person.
  • Breaking Water: This seems like it would be straight forward, however, as explained above with Snissing, plus how much vaginal discharge you might have, it can be tricky. It is often not the Hollywood gush of a gallon of fluid that is obvious, but a slower trickle when your water breaks. If you’re not sure, go empty your bladder, put on a clean, dry pad and walk around a bit. If your water is broken, you’ll keep leaking. Still not sure – go get checked.

Cankles and Varicose Veins

It’s a cruel joke of the universe that just when it becomes super awkward to try to put on any socks, much less super tight compression hose, you start getting ankle swelling that is treated by exactly those socks. Do your best to wear them if you know you’ll be on your feet a lot and certainly if you’re traveling where you’ll be stationary in a car or plane for more than an hour at a time. There are lots of options with better breathability and cuter designs these days, these are affordable and the appropriate 20-30mm pressure rating.

Screen Shot 2018-12-14 at 11.23.38 AM

If you are able, also take 20-30 minutes a few times a day to put your feet up at heart level and let gravity help you out here. If you get the ankle, or in particular hand or face swelling that comes on suddenly, go see your provider right away as this can be a sign of pre-eclampsia.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also warn you that you can get swelling and varicose veins everywhere south of your uterus – including your lady parts. Some women have the special experience of these throbbing, painful veins or swelling in the vagina and labia at the end of pregnancy. While there are also some interesting medieval-looking support contraptions that can help with this, the main thing that will make it less-bad is resting on your side or in puppy-dog pose type position for 10-15 minutes throughout the day.

Image result for puppy dog yoga pose

Lightning Crotch and Sciatica

Ever get a reallllly good zinger plugging something in that the wires were a bit stripped or your finger was on the plug? Imaging that in your labia. Welcome to lightning crotch, the fun pregnancy-version of good ol sciatica. Both of these can happen as baby moves lower in your pelvis toward the end of pregnancy. The same things that help with back pain described above can help with these particular issues as well. Some people also find acupuncture very helpful – but again – check with your provider about if and with whom that would be safe to do.

Pregnancy Brain

Yes, you’ve probably had this all along. Scientists have actually figured out that part of this is due to the hormones circulating around. However, with third trimester, your sleep starts to be very disrupted – most people wake 3-6 times a night to change positions and go pee. This makes the fog worse, of course. My own theory though, is that it’s also due to the now much stronger little being inside your squirming around. I told my husband to try to imagine concentrating with a little elf riding around poking you, elbowing you, going, “Hey! Hi! It’s me! Hey-yo!! Yoohoo!! Hi!” allllllll day long. Now… What was I writing about here…? Oh yeah. Help yourself and write things down! Consider a tracking device for keys, make sure “Find My iPhone” is on and maybe slap some GPS watches on your other kids while you’re at it.

When To Get Help

There are 6 main things we never want you sitting at home with:

  1. Bleeding that is any more than spotting
  2. Concern your water has broken (see above)
  3. Persistent contractions (see above)
  4. Feeling less baby movement – there’s no perfect rule for this, if you’re worried, we are worried.
  5. Signs of pre-eclampsia: Persistent pain in the belly or back, headache, blurred vision, sudden increase in swelling of feet/hands/face, or difficulty breathing.
  6. Depressed mood or bad anxiety, or any threatening or abusive behavior from your partner. These all, sadly, go up in pregnancy – don’t stay silent! We can help!

The bottom line on this one is any time something is beyond a minor discomfort, we want to hear about it. Have a low threshold for asking for advice from your healthcare provider – we VERY much would rather you come in for something small than miss something big.

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Now, then… Who’s ready to have a baby??

 Dr. Annie is a family physician and 3 time mama in California.

 

Bringing Home Siblings

This post contains affiliate links to help you find the products we have found helpful. We may get a tiny reward if you use our links but the recommendations are our own. Pretty Photo above credited to Jordan Marie Photography

All of us Real Mothers have gone through the fun adventure of bringing home a second or third baby to the family and I think we’ve collectively had just about everything go wrong that the rest of you could expect. The inspiration for this post was a friend’s recent experience of her 2-year-old trying to help “calm” a fussy 1-week old brother by very silently and sneakily feeding him an almond <cue full mom panic by proxy>. Luckily she was watching and everyone is ok.

We thought we’d put together a rundown on what will help avert disaster in sibling-land and make the transition as smooth as possible. Most of this is directed toward families bringing home a new baby with a first child (or multiple children) between the ages of 1-5 years old. Older kids are generally a bit easier to explain about baby safety, mom’s recovery, etc… hopefully.

Talk early and often

IMG_3444Being pregnant while managing a tiny terrorist is hectic in and of itself. If this is baby #3 or more for you on the way, that craziness is compounding. It’s easy to forget to talk to your kids about what to expect with a new baby ahead of time because frankly, you’re just in survival mode 90% of the time as it is. However, it makes a HUGE difference and it is much easier to manage baby’s arrival at home if you have had a few convos ahead of time and set realistic expectations for big brother(s) and/or sister(s). Some strategies include using books (see suggestions below), children’s shows (also below), incorporating a little Q&A or “talking to baby” session into bedtime, or talking about it for a bit when you see other people with small babies.

Don’t Miss Topics:

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Photo credit: Fiona Margo Photography
  • Where Babies Come From: This is bound to come up in one form or another. Rather than just avoiding the conversation, do yourself a favor and have these books: What Makes A Baby and Hello in There!, for a low-level detail, kid-targeted, but medically accurate way to explain how the baby got in there and how it gets back out. Some other great books are in This Fatherly Blog Post.

 

  • Shows: This is a parent and sibling win-win situation. Your kid feels like they are being treated to TV time, and you get help explaining the sibling transition from familiar children’s characters. Some of our favorites include “We Can’t Wait to meet the Baby” and “The Baby is Here!” (also books!) from Daniel Tiger. You can also view some great short videos about welcoming baby on  PBSKids.org.

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  • Baby Safety: As reviewed above, kids love to “help” mom with baby and are often distressed by the baby’s distress. Go over specifically:
    • Never put anything in baby’s mouth (including pacifiers because you don’t know where that thing’s been when the toddler finds it). If your kid is older the rule could be “without asking a parent”, but err on the side of never. Since younger kids understand positive “DO” commands better than negative “DON’T” commands – you can frame this as always bring things to a parent BEFORE giving to baby.” This also is important because younger kids may want to share small (CHOKING HAZARD) toys that they may not understand are dangerous to baby even if they are not put near the baby’s mouth. More than one sibling in our crew has tried to share a lego or two to cheer up their new baby, and they need to understand that sharing with a baby is ONLY okay when a parent approves the toy.
    • Never put anything over the baby’s face. Kids also love to “play peekaboo” or give stuffed animals to the baby which can smother tiny nostrils easily. Again, the positive spin on this is that blankets/toys/etc always go on the legs, NOT the face. Include not putting things in the crib/basinet with baby – little kids are remarkably good at “sharing” when you least want them to.adorable baby beanie bonnet
    • Never pick up the baby without a parent’s help. If your kiddo is much older, you can adjust this to their ability. But again, err on the side of caution when baby is tiny and needs head support. A positive way to frame this is “always ask for a parent to help you pick up or hold baby.”
    • We also find it helpful to have a “no-touching-on-the-face or hands” rule to manage germ transition. Point out they can kiss the toes or top of the baby’s head. And keep antibacterial spray such as this kid-safe one from CleanWell ALLLLL over the house.close up of baby feet
  • Mom’s Body: As a second (or third or fourth)-time moms’ belly grows larger, it somehow becomes an irresistible target for kids’ boisterous jumping, bouncing and otherwise projectile launching. You can be reassured, the baby is very well protected in there – but of course if a direct hit results in ongoing pain or bleeding, go get checked! Talk a lot about ways to be gentle with mom’s belly each time this happens.

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    Photo Credit: Kimberlin Gray Photography
  • Birth and Recovery: Also take the opportunity to talk about what the plan will be while mom is at the hospital or birth center. Go over how mom will be very tired and have some “ouchies” after the baby comes out and talk about ways the kids can help out – getting ice packs for you, rubbing feet, making faces or telling stories to the baby, helping to fetch diapers, etc…. Most kids love being able to help. Emphasizing their “big kid-ness” helps them feel special. If your kid is reward-motivated, you can even set up a points-chart that they earn a sticker for each helpful act to earn a new toy or privilege.

Gift From Baby

Picking up a special time-occupying gift for big kid “from the baby” goes a long way to establishing the baby-is-your-friend status we all want. Some good ideas can be found in this post: Plane Travel with Littles: Carry-On Packing List. Do yourself a favor and DO NOT buy toys that make noise. Boys and girls alike usually like to have their own babydoll of some kind to “mirror” what the parents are doing with the real baby, here are a few other options by age.

1-2 year old: Buckle Toys, Latch Board or Latch Barn

 

 

2-5 Years Old: Magnatiles, Dollhouse and Green Toys Cars + Track

Also consider a tablet loaded with educational games, see Fave Fridays: Smart Screen Time for ideas!

 

Of course, you know your kid best, get them something you know they’ll be excited about and will play with relatively independently for a while. Avoid toys with choking-sized parts even for bigger kids until you know they’re on board with the “nothing-in-baby’s-mouth” rule.

Lower Your Expectations

Most kids go through some form of regression when a new baby comes home. That can take a lot of forms. Potty-trained kids might have accidents again. Kids who have no trouble sleeping alone at night might suddenly be getting up. They will want to play in the baby’s bouncer, ride in the stroller, suck the pacifier. It’s a normal phase and will pass if you don’t overreact. Acknowledge it, talk about it briefly and move on.

Also lower your expectations for getting stuff done. Enlist more help. You will not get those luxurious “nap when the baby naps” moments as easily as when there was just one little being taking your time. (Did those really ever happen anyway?!) Set yourself up for success with a decluttered house, easy food in the freezer and loved ones on board to help as much as possible. If you have trouble asking for help, make a list ahead of time of things that would be helpful or set up a MealTrain or other chore-registry to delegate.

love sweet face portraitThis post is about preparing the kiddos, but part of that also involves preparing your coparent and other family/friends who will be helping. Make sure they know the priority is helping with the housework and the big kid(s). Your job is the new baby. They’re NOT there to hold the new baby while you ‘get stuff done’. I repeat: THEY ARE THERE TO GET STUFF DONE and only as much of the new baby stuff as you want to delegate. Liberally use the phrase, “My doctor/midwife said I need to be holding the baby as much as possible for bonding, immunity and milk production, so can you please <do the dishes, fold the laundry, go to the store, make dinner, take Jimmy to the park, etc…> while we go take a nap together?”

IF and only if you desire a moment away from new baby to shower, snuggle your big kid or whatever else, then others get to hold new baby. No one has a “right” to new baby time except YOU.

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Photo credit: Stacey Petersen Photography

If you don’t have family or a community to help, look at neighborhood list serves like NextDoor to hire a middle or high school aged “mommy’s helper” – cheaper than a nanny or babysitter, literally they just come over and do chores or play with your big kid while you’re home taking care of baby.

Enjoy the Before

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Photo credit: Jordan Marie Photography

The one guarantee with bringing another little life into the family is that things will be different. Better in many ways, harder in many ways, and just altered in many, many ways.

Watching siblings grow together and love one another is one of the greatest joys of parenthood.

Try not to worry too much about how you’ll manage it, because you just will. Do your best to try to soak in the remaining time while the newest addition is still easily portable, fed and clean on the inside of your body. Plan special outings that will be harder with a new baby like going to a movie or kids’ museum. Take a moment every day to pay attention to the little life on the inside as you did with the first baby without even realizing you were doing it.

Good luck multiples parents-to-be, enjoy the ride!

Anne is a mom to three (including one beautiful brand new baby) and family physician in California. Christiana is a mom to three, military spouse, attorney, and currently a stay-at-home mom in New England.

Holiday Baking Hacks

“Twas the night before the holiday party and all through the fridge, not a stick of butter could be found, not even a smidge…with the children in bed and the dog in her crate, I’m wondering if Amazon delivers this late… “

 

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“No butter?!?!” It would be nice if the big man delivered late night baking essentials too…

The week of last-minute-everything

It’s the last week before Christmas, y’all. The final countdown. The week that in our home is unofficially known as “the week of last-minute-everything.” Between the perpetually forgotten stocking stuffers, out-of-stock toys, procrastinated holiday cards, cookie exchanges, white elephants, and school holiday performances; the office, classroom, and social holiday parties that often tend to occur during this same chaotic week have a tendency to sneak right up on me. Which is bad enough when you can’t find your ugly sweater, but even worse when you realize you’re on the hook to bring holiday treats for two dozen preschoolers and are plum out of a key ingredient.

We all wish we could bake cakes out of rainbows and smiles, but in reality, we need butter. and sugar. and eggs. And sometimes… we run out. So, here are a few ways to save yourself if you come up in a bind in the kitchen.

Favorite “Baking Hack” substitutions

Here are some of my favorite ways to get the job done when a run to the store is just not going to happen.

  • Heavy cream – for every 1 cup of heavy cream, substitute 3/4 c. whole milk and 1/3 c. butter. Melt butter and mix into milk.
  • Eggs – Substitute 1 tbsp cornstarch whisked together with 3 tbsp water, whisked together, per egg.  I use this substitute all. the. time. It’s great in a pinch, but also for saving eggs for brunch, for when that one vegan relative comes over, or even for cookie dough you know the kids will be sneaking. (No raw egg to worry about here!)person peeling the egg
  • Baking powder and Baking Soda – Contrary to popular belief, you can substitute baking soda for baking powder, and vice versa. ON ONE CONDITION. The substitution is NOT ALWAYS EQUAL. Baking soda is much more powerful than baking powder and contains an acid. Read carefully!
    • Baking Powder: Substitute 1/2 tsp of baking soda and 1 tsp vinegar or lemon juice for every 1 tsp baking powder needed.
    • Baking Soda: You may substitute baking powder for baking soda at a 3:1 ratio. So simply use three times the amount of baking powder as you would baking soda.
  • Sugar – Both honey and maple syrup (or a combination of both!) are good sugar substitutes in baking. Use 3/4 cup honey or syrup per every cup of sugar needed. Color will be darker if you’re subbing for white sugar here. (Note: Some recipes suggest reducing liquid and adding 1/4 extra tsp. of baking soda for each cup of sugar replaced. I haven’t done this, but you may notice less of a difference in texture with these adjustments)
  • Vanilla – Equal amounts of maple syrup, slightly less almond extract, or (something I always have in the fridge) vanilla almond or soy milk. When cooking for adults you can also spring for a boozy dessert by equally substituting any dark liquor like bourbon, rum or brandy.yellow pastry on white powder on brown wooden table
  • Butter – You have a few great options here.
    • Greek yogurt: For every 1 cup of butter required, substitute 1/2 cup of greek yogurt.
    • Coconut Oil: Substitute in equal amounts, but note that taste can be noticeable (I think this can be a bonus, but non-coconut lovers should proceed with caution). A combination of coconut oil and greek yogurt is also fantastic!
    • Applesauce: For every 1 cup of butter, substitute 1/2 cup of applesauce.
    • Avocado: Substitute equally.
  • Shortening – Coconut oil is the same texture and subs really nicely here. It will give your baked goods a coconutty flavor, as noted above, so not the choice for you if you don’t want that. You can also substitute butter (if you’re not out!) at equal parts plus two tablespoons per cup. But expect a softer dough if you’re making roll-out dough for cookie-cutting. making gingerbread cookies christmas cookie cutters

If it’s healthier holiday treats you’re after, some quick (and sneaky) ways to make seasonal sweets less sinful are to:

  1. Reduce sugar. You can do this without being skewered at the cookie exchange by adding extra vanilla and/or cinnamon if applicable. You can also cut up to 1/4 cup of sugar from most sweet bread and muffin recipes simply by sprinkling a teaspoon or two of sugar on top before baking.
  2. Choose healthy fats. Butter, coconut oil, avocado, and whole milk yogurt are all good fats that top hydrogenated shortening, vegetable or canola oils in our kitchen any day.
  3. Add fiber. You can easily add fiber to bread and muffins by reducing flour and adding flax, wheat germ, chia seeds, and/or oats in its place.  These substitutions not only add fiber but naturally cut calories and boost other nutritional benefits too.
  4. Add protein. You can squeeze protein into bread and muffins (and even cakes!) by adding a scoop or two of your favorite vanilla or unflavored protein powder. Chia seeds are a nice addition to some baked goods as well.

Turns out you can have your holiday cake (and cookies and muffins) and eat it too.  Now that’s some joy definitely worth spreading.

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fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and amateur late-night holiday baker. (Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography)