There are few things more unpredictable than a newborn, especially their sleep schedule. My daughter was a notoriously bad sleeper through the first year of her life. Every night she'd wake at least two times to either nurse or require soothing. There were a few breakdowns where I whispered to my husband "I can't take it anymore!" Even though I knew I'd be right back to being woken up the next night, I never actually dreaded the bedtime process.
Now, clearly that sounds insane, but I promise, I'm not a secret masochist. I knew the middle of the night could be rough, but putting my daughter to bed has always been surprisingly easy. We've never had to do much coddling to get her to sleep. Even now, as an almost three-year-old, she easily occupies herself in her bedroom until she's ready to fall asleep, only coming downstairs if she needs to use the bathroom. How did we manage to make this happen?
Well, I definitely think it's a little bit of karma because overnight was so rough and thankfully it's no longer that hard. However, I think the real secret is we started Tess on a bedtime routine when she was one week old. I know that sounds more than a little crazy, but we firmly believed if we could establish a nighttime routine early enough, we'd have fewer issues down the line. So far, it seems to be paying off in spades.
I'm sure your first question is, "How do you put a one-week-old on a bedtime routine?" Well, it was actually pretty easy. We started by eating dinner at roughly the same time every night, mostly so we knew when to get started on our nighttime routine. Next, we'd give Tess a bath, rub her down with some lotion, put her in her pajamas, read her a book (because it's never too early to start), nurse and then go right into her crib. All this would be done so she'd be in her crib and we'd be exiting the room each night by 7 p.m.
Timing was crucial for us, because as Tess got use to her routine, failing to get her into bed at 7 could mean a cranky kid. We were very upfront with friends and family that any evening activities had to end with us at home by 6:30 p.m. so we could meet our 7 p.m. bedtime schedule. Truly, everyone was more than accommodating, with friends even routinely coming to our house for dinner so it would be easier.
Crankiness was not the only reason timing was so important to us. To be completely honest, a dependable bed time was really always about routine for Jordan and I. Regardless of when Tess would wake up again, some nights earlier than others, we always knew we had a couple of hours to be child free. This was so crucial for us and something we're so glad we started from the beginning of our parenting journey.
Those few hours each night were completely ours. We could use them to have an at-home date night to reconnect or get some much-needed alone time. Even more crucial, we could use those hours to study, because yes, we were super insane and both working our way towards a Masters degree not even a month after our daughter was born. Regardless of what we used the time for, it felt good to have dedicated space to not be a parent for a little while.
That first year is a wild ride. As much as you are in love with your new child, little sleep and lack of hours for yourself can really take their toll. Being a parent is my favorite job, but I still prioritize and relish in the hours that I get to have with just my husband or completely by myself. I crave those hours because they make the time I spend with my daughter seem even more special. And sometimes, I need them because being a parent is hard work and you just need a little break!
Having that time to refresh each night made dealing with middle-of-the-night nursing sessions, teething, sleep regressions, developmental leaps and growths spurts much more tolerable. Even during the worst nights I was able to remind myself it was only temporary, tomorrow night would be different, but I'd still have a few glorious hours tomorrow to be myself again, not just a parent, and help me regain some sanity.
Hygge is really hot right now. This Danish word describes that magical feeling of coziness, comfortability, feeling of contentment and overall well-being. Google hygge and you're likely to come across a lot of blogs talking about how to integrate it into your life. So, what I'm really saying is, "look how super original I am!"
As I read about this Danish word, I've learned it's a goal to aspire to. How can the choices I make in my daily life help me achieve a feeling of hygge? It's as aspired to as love and happiness. With that in mind, I thought I'd walk through some of the choices I've been making this winter to help me find that feeling of hygge, prioritize self care and try and beat the inevitable winter funk.
Nourish Your Body
One of the biggest ways I've tried to practice self care hygge-style is by really nourishing my body. To me, this is a two-fold process. First, I've really focused on trying to eat nutrient dense foods that taste delicious and nurture my body. It's especially important to really pack in the foods rich in vitamin D, since we're not getting our regular dose with the ample sunlight of summer. Some good examples are fatty fish like salmon, tuna or shrimp. Don't eat meat? Egg yolks and mushrooms are also great additions!
Fueling your body with nutrient-dense foods is very important, but so is the second part: eating foods that make you feel warm and happy. Life is too short to not have foods that warm you from the inside out. Think yummy soups like pho or ramen, chunky stews with veggies and oxtail, congee topped with mushrooms and a perfectly pouched egg. Don't stop there! Drink that coziness with bone broth, herbal teas and even a perfectly brewed cup of coffee. Your food shouldn't just nourish your body, it should nourish your soul, so choose options that make you feel warm and happy.
Check out some of my favorite nourishing recipes over on my Pinterest page!
Slow Down Just Because
I'm busy, you're busy, we're all super busy. One of the most important self care lessons I've learned is to listen to when your body needs rest. Embrace that sometimes, it's okay to do nothing. Find the things that you've been meaning to make time for. Do you have a book list you've been waiting to tap into? Light your favorite candle, put on some snuggly socks and get reading! Is your Netflix watchlist a mile long? Snuggle up with a warm blanket and enjoy an episode of a show that makes you happy. Great British Baking Show, anyone? You could also try setting aside time to journal. Writing down your gratitude for the day is shown to improve your outlook significantly; who doesn't want that?
It's really easy to make excuses for why we're too busy to give ourselves downtime. The truth is, there will always be something that needs to get done or that we should be doing instead. Sometimes, it's more important to give yourself the space to rest and do something that serves no other purpose but making you feel happy.
Need a cozy blanket to add more hygge to your Netflix binge? Check out Love Your Melon, which also gives back with each purchase!
It feels a bit opposite of the cozy nature of hygge, but getting outside is an important aspect of living a hygge-minded life and giving yourself important winter self care. It can be super daunting to imagine heading outside during the coldest months of the year, but getting fresh air can make you feel like a whole new person.
Take advantage of those sunny winter days and get outside! Take a short hike or try a new outdoor activity like cross country skiing. Even better, get outside with your kiddos! Get snowy and sweaty. Breathe in that amazing cool, crips air and get those warm and fuzzy feelings about winter.
Check out a few of my favorite winter outdoor spots: Dodge Nature Center and the Minnesota Zoo!
Pampering myself is critical in the winter for self care. Face it, most of us don't have that budget to hit the spa on a regular basis, but you can always bring the spa to you. Hygge is all about the importance of a total feeling of well-being, which pampering yourself can definitely achieve! Sink into a warm bath and embrace that feeling of contentment you get by just being. I love to put a cup each of epsom salt and baking soda in my baths, then choose an essential oil that fits the situation, like lavender or eucalyptus. Just be careful to choose an oil that is okay for direct skin contact. Peppermint oil may be a bit much! Also be mindful of which oils aren't appropriate for you if you're pregnant or breastfeeding! You can learn more about what oils may irritate your skin or be harmful during pregnancy here.
Don't want to DIY a soak? Honey and Sage Co. has some of my favorite soaks!
The most beautiful thing about hygge and self care is that it can be so easily blended into your daily life, even by devoting 15 minutes each day. It's easy to use the excuse that you have so much to do or that parenting takes priority, but you'll never be able to fully give yourself to those important roles unless you feel like your cup is full.
So, wrap yourself in a cozy blanket with a hot mug of tea and binge that next episode of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Go ahead, hygge it up.
If you're interested in learning more about hygge, check out "The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living."
The time has come for the first swaps of 2019! If you don't already know, each month I'll be swapping out five products to make them more eco friendly, non toxic and zero waste. Welcome to the Eco Simple Challenge. You can learn more about my goals by checking out my first blog post here.
This month I started with products from all over the house, choosing a couple simple fixes and a challenge or two. Part of being eco friendly is choosing options you can buy in person, rather than online, which helps reduce your carbon footprint. That little detail made things a bit challenging, but I tried my best! I know that's not easy for everyone, so I've included where you can buy each product in person, as well as links to purchase online. Keep reading below to learn about my swaps.
We're lucky enough to have a dishwasher, but I still rinse dishes before putting them in and really scrub when we've had sticky dinners. Sponges are so wasteful and can be germ traps. I'd been using the Scotch Brite natural sponges, but I didn't really feel I was doing anything less wasteful.
When choosing a dish brush, I wanted to make sure I was using something that was responsibly made, with little waste and recycled materials. There are many amazing wood, bamboo and natural bristle brushes out there, but most can only be found online and I didn't want to increase my carbon footprint just to order a sustainable dish brush. Enter the Fullcircle brand dish brush. It's made from bamboo and recycled plastic, so I felt pretty good about it. Plus, I could pick it up at Target, rather than ordering online. It was only packaged with a small, recycled paper tag, so very little package waste as well!
You can pick up a Fullcircle dish brush at Target, or order it here.
I just finished up my tube of mascara, way past the three-month recommended expiration date, and I knew it was time to start makeup case eco swaps. When I really stop to think about all the crazy things that are in mascara, the stuff that I put so close to my eyes and inevitably flakes into them, I shudder.
I had been using Soap & Glory's Thick & Fast mascara, purely because it was a gift, therefore convenient. When I checked it on the EWG app, it wasn't rated too terribly, a 4, but it wasn't great. This product contained parabens, which most people know are big no-no's. And get this: it also had an ingredient rated highly to irritate your eyes. Ummm, OK? Glad I was putting that so close to my eyes.
Swapping was made pretty easy using the EWG app, which shows products that are EWG verified. I decided to go with Mineral Fusion's lengthening mascara in graphite. There are literally zero harmful ingredients in this mascara. Big win! I also chose this because I knew I could pick it up at Whole Foods, again, lowering my carbon footprint. Even better, this mascara doesn't come in any unnecessary additional packaging, meaning no ridiculous cardboard container. As for cost, it's relatively inexpensive, especially compared to many brands you find at Sephora.
You can pick Mineral Fusion mascara at Whole Foods, or order online here.
I'm already so pumped about where this journey is going to take us over the next year!
Follow along on Instagram from more behind the scenes of the Eco Simple Challenge, including how these products are working for me. You can also share your own swaps by tagging @thesownseed and using the hashtag #ecosimplechallenge.
Let me know some of your January swaps or ask some questions below in the comments!
See you at the end of the month for the five items I'm donating and the new organization I've chosen to donate to.
It's on the internet. People have seen my big lifestyle challenge for the New Year, now I actually have to do it! Eco Simple Challenge. Let's do this.
If you're new here, I've set a lofty challenge for myself in 2019. Each month, I'll swap out five products or habits to be more eco friendly, nontoxic and zero waste. I'll try to choose products that are easily accessible and affordable. Then at the end of each month, I'll up-cycle, repurpose or donate five times, choosing a new donation location each month. It's going to be major.
As I was brainstorming ideas for the eco side of my challenge, it seemed like it might be a lot harder than I thought. In that moment I thought, "But I'm already making so many eco friendly choices!" I knew I was kidding myself. Both as someone who prides myself as environmentally conscious and as a certified Eco Parenting Educator, I knew I was turning a blind eye to a lot. Sure, many of my product choices may appear eco friendly, but I knew they weren't that nontoxic and certainly weren't very zero waste.
So, I swallowed my pride and did some serious reflecting. I'm really going to strip down my current choices and make the right decisions. Not only will I tell you why I've chosen certain products each month, I'll also take myself to task and describe why my previous choices were pretty terrible.
Let's start by digging through my cabinets and examining some top products I'm using that will definitely be getting an overhaul in 2019!
Mrs. Meyer's Products
I'm sure many of you are looking at this and going, "But Mrs. Meyer's is so green and natural." Nah, they're fooling you. According to the Environmental Working Group's Healthy Living app, few of this brand's products actually get an "A" rating. What does that mean? Well, that you're using a product that has known carcinogens, hormone disruptors and allergens. Not. Great.
What's really embarrassing is that I knew this, yet I still chose those products. Why? It was convenient for me. I ignored that fact that "fragrance" was listed in each product because I also saw "made with essential oils." For eco newbies, "fragrance" is a dangerous ingredient in your products! In the US, brands don't have to list the multitude of ingredients that go into their fragrances, so even if your product is free of a bunch of other terrible ingredients, they still may be hidden in the fragrance.
This year I'll be looking for products that get an "A" rating from the EWG. Not only that, I'll be trying to go as package-free as possible!
Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap
We've been on the Dr. Bronner's train for a long time. The product itself is super clean and nontoxic, but just take a look at that big bottle. So much plastic waste.
Again, I'd been choosing the large bottle out of convenience. I'll be looking to minimize my waste with Dr. Bronner's products over the course of a couple swaps, so stay tuned! It's not as simple as ditching the bottle.
Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent
Much like the Dr. Bronner's, the Seventh Generation detergent is an amazing, nontoxic product, but it's the waste that bothers me. These bottles are absolutely huge. When Tess was still wearing diapers, we were going through jugs of this on a monthly basis keeping up with her cloth diapers.
Now that we're diaper free, I'd like to look for a more concentrated, waste-free solution to ring in 2019.
Not everything we're doing is a complete dumpster fire, which feels pretty good!
Reusable K Cups
When Tess was first born and I was drinking an unhealthy amount of coffee, I used the biodegradable K Cups. I still didn't feel great about it, so I finished up my wasteful one-use cups and switched over to the refillable K Cup. Not only am I not throwing things into the garbage, I'm also able to use my coffee grounds for compost. Also, this is a lot cheaper than buying a Sam's Club box of K Cups.
Could this still be better? Absolutely! I may add a bonus swap into 2019, moving from the plastic bonanza of the Keurig, to a french press or slow drip system. We shall see!
Get a reusable K Cup here.
We don't buy still water in bottles, it's just never something we've done. Now, we really need to be better about filtering out water and not losing water bottles, but nobody is perfect. We love the S'well water bottles because they keep things super cold or nice and warm. I use them for both my water and coffee.
The same thing cannot be said about my sparking water addiction. Don't worry, we'll get to that this year.
Get a S'well water bottle here.
Dr. Bronner's Toothpaste
With zero surfactants (what makes something foamy) and no added sweeteners, Dr. Bronner's is the best. We've found our niche with the cinnamon flavor and love it dearly, plus it's incredibly effective. I do know we could switch over to toothpaste tablets, but they don't fall in line with my desire to be affordable, plus, try getting a toddler to use those, not going to happen. I will try a DIY version this year as a test, but I want to feel confident I'm not whispering coffee and morning breath into a pregnant client's face.
Get Dr. Bronner's toothpaste here.
Plastic Produce Bags
I'm going on at least 10 years of not using these bad boys. To be honest, I don't even see the point. I wash every item of produce I purchase, so sticking them in the cart or a mesh bag feels just fine to me. Somehow, I still get looks from people that think it's super weird I'm not using those pointless bags, but whatevs.
I can't wait to have this adventure with you and hope you use it as a little inspiration to make some improvements in your life as well! It's going to be hard, sometimes humbling, but super fun.
You can also follow along on Instagram from more behind the scenes of the Eco Simple Challenge. You can also share your own swaps by tagging @thesownseed and using the hashtag #ecosimplechallenge.
Let me know some of your planned swaps or ask some questions below in the comments!
See you in 2019 with the first list of swaps!
As the end of 2018 approaches, I've been thinking of tangible ways I can make 2019 a year of both change and self-love. I've noticed I feel more connected to the world around me when I'm not drowning in excess or noise. I also feel better when I know I've made choices that are healthy for myself, my family and the planet.
So launches my two-part 2019 goal: At the beginning of each month, I'll swap out five items in my home for more eco-friendly and non-toxic products. Then, at the end of each month, I'll donate or up-cycle five things in my home that aren't used or are unnecessary.
My goal is to take a big step back to really assess how I can be making longterm changes that will improve my well-being, the lives of my family members and make me a better steward of this planet. Some months it might be super easy; other months it will be a challenge. Regardless, each month, five items will be replaced and five items must go.
I believe in setting goals that are attainable, but that are going to make you reach a little! But, because I want to really make myself reach (partially because I'm insane and take on way too much), I'm going to work to make my swaps be affordable options and search for new places to donate my goods.
My hope is that as a family, we'll learn the importance of choosing items wisely and living a simpler life.
Each month I'll also share what items I've swapped and the new things in their place. Plus I'll share a little about what things we've said "goodbye" to and the new non profit we've donated to!
Have you and your family tried one of the above ideas? How did it go?
You Do You: How a Milk Bath Session Affirmed the Importance of Unapologetically Parenting My Own Way
The moment I saw these photos, I burst into tears. It was such a visceral reaction of emotion, belonging and empowerment that I couldn't control.
That is not me or my children in the photos.
No, instead, witnessing another woman embrace her choices, her children and do something for herself that may not be completely embraced by others, made me feel empowered and, for lack of better words, all the feels.
It's hard being a woman and a mother in today's society. With a wealth of information and picture-perfect posts on social media, it's easy for people to develop strong opinions on parenting and what role you should inhabit as a mother. This can be such a toxic environment that limits our ability to really come into our own as parents and as grown women.
What I've strived to do for myself, my daughter and other women stepping into parenthood, is lay out a mantra: listen to your gut, do what you need to do and be who you need to be. When you're following your own north star, you're bound to be a better parent and a happier and more confident person.
It's not easy. We're naturally inclined to feel self-doubt. But there is a freedom that comes with making your own life choices and diving in completely. As a parent, you do this regularly.
What made me feel so hopeful and happy about this beautiful milk bath session, is how I am able to see myself in the images, even though very little about us is the same. I have one child, not two. My daughter weaned herself at two and half. I didn't have the pleasure of having our nursing relationship captured. But I did see someone who is embracing who they are, passing this to their children and giving shrug shoulders to people who may not like the way she parents. I saw a lot of love, both for her babies and for herself.
Could I be getting everything wrong? Absolutely! I can't begin to know a stranger's story. But the more we see beautiful, real and raw images of parenthood and womanhood, the more we feel comfortable sitting in our own realness.
I'm so grateful that people want to capture and share their real experiences of parenting and womanhood. It can be an eye-opening experience for many and a very validating experience for others.
I'm also so proud there are photographers like Meredith who strive to capture the glorious, beautiful messiness and imperfection of life. Photos like this help us realize it's okay to be confident in our choices and ourselves and come as we are.
See more from this amazing milk bath session and other real postpartum session at Meredith Westin Photography.
Interested in a team that will not only build your confidence for birth and parenting, but also capture it? Meredith and I partner together to offer birth support and photography for an exclusive deal. Find out more here.
Many of the Minneapolis and St. Paul parents I work with are interested in having a waterbirth. The amazing news is that in the Twin Cities, families can choose a waterbirth at home with a midwife, at one of our many freestanding birth centers, or even in a hospital.
Providers that support Twin Cities' families during birth know the evidence around waterbirth is strong, which means the option is widely available in the area. Unlike many other states, a majority of the hospitals here in the Twin Cities support a family's desire to have a waterbirth.
If you're interested in having a waterbirth, start by double checking with your provider to make sure the entire practice is comfortable with supporting a waterbirth. While most midwives are incredibly supportive of waterbirth, it can be hit or miss with OBGYN practitioners. If you do have an OB, ensure they're supportive of waterbirth as well as the rest of their team, as you never know who may be at your birth. If it's not guaranteed you'll get a supportive provider, consider switching to a different birthing location.
Many Twin Cities' hospitals offer waterbirth with certain circumstances for when it isn't advised. Double check with your birthing location to make sure you'll be able to not only labor in the tub, but also birth your baby there as well. Few hospitals do not offer waterbirth, or have very strict guidelines, these include Maple Grove Hospital, Mercy Hospital, Fairview Ridges and Southdale Hospital. Though amazing places to have your baby, if you're looking for a waterbirth, you may want to check elsewhere. Woodwinds Hospital in Woodbury, St. John's Hospital in St. Paul and Methodist Hospital in Minneapolis are all really well-known for waterbirth, though many Twin Cities' hospitals can be a great option!
For families looking at midwifery care, a freestanding birth center may be an excellent option! Twin Cities' birth centers really emphasize waterbirth with amazing amenities, including gorgeous, large birthing tubs! Check out the Minnesota Birth Center, with both Minneapolis or St. Paul locations, Willow Birth Center near Lake Calhoun, Roots Birth Center in North Minneapolis, or Health Foundations Birth Center on Grand Avenue in St. Paul.
Lastly, if you're seeking the comfort of home, Minnesota embraces home birth options. The Twin Cities and suburbs have many wonderful home birth midwife practices! From Nourish Midwifery who serves the East and Southeastern Minnesota area, to North Star Midwifery right here in the Twin Cities, there are many choices for families looking for a home water birth. Often times, these practices will also offer birth tub rental for your home.
If you're looking to have a wonderful waterbirth here in the Twin Cities, you're in luck!
All of the gorgeous waterbirth photos included in this blog are by my photography partner, Meredith from Meredith Westin Photography.
Looking for the perfect team for your home birth? Book Birth Doula Support with me and receive a special discount with Meredith. You'll get awesome support and receive amazing photos of your mermaid baby in all their glory!
It took many years and being the busiest I've ever been to say "I think I'm just going to sit and do nothing for 15 minutes at least once a day, every day."
I started to meditate because I'd noticed I was more stressed, easier to anger, overwhelmed, scatter-brained and hard on myself. Ehhem... doesn't this sound like every parent ever?
No matter what you have going on, I'm sure you've felt the above feelings and most likely spiraled into cycles of these negative vibes that have left you wrung out, tired, eating poorly and unhappy.
I'm not trying to be super new age, but meditation yanked me out of this spiral and helped me get back in touch with the awesome things in my life and in me.
Carving out a little time each day made it easier for me reconnect with myself, think about all I am grateful for and get the much-needed me time I was craving.
I've noticed I'm much slower to anger, I have much more energy, I make smarter choices during the day, feel more creative and less cloudy, all because I took time to start my day with a blank slate.
All of the wonderful benefits of meditation not only made me happier, but it made me a better parent and partner. Who do you think was benefitting from my patience and increased energy? The people around me, especially my husband and daughter.
So how do you get started? There are so many ways to build your own meditation practice, but here's some tips on how I started mine.
Make it Routine
If you're going to commit, actually commit. Set aside 15 minutes of your day, at the same time every day to meditate.
Get your family on board. Let your partner and children know that during that small window of time each day, you're busy.
When you tell other people of your intentions, it makes it more likely you'll stick to your plan.
I meditate first thing in the morning after I've washed up. My husband and daughter both know I'll be available to them when I'm done.
Get Some Help
Starting off meditating can be really tricky, so try using guided meditation to start your practice.
You can find a lot of wonderful guided imagery videos online. I really love using the app Calm. There are several free series, including a 7-day introduction to meditation for beginners. I sprang for the subscription and am so happy I did.
If listening to guided meditation isn't your thing, at least set a timer for yourself. It will be much easier to clear your mind and focus on your breath if you aren't constantly wondering if it's been 15 minutes already?
Be Kind to Yourself
You are not going to be perfect right away or maybe ever! Your mind will wander thousands of times and that's okay! The point is that you're taking time to check in with yourself.
Focus on your in and out breath. Let thoughts cross your mind, think them, then let them go. Try again.
Nobody will ever be perfect, but it does require daily practice to get better.
Even if you feel today's meditation was a hot mess, just thank yourself for showing up and taking time for you.
You really can have it all" was definitely something said by a man.
That being said, it really can be possible to return to work, pump and still breastfeed your baby, it just takes mastering this art so you don't drive yourself crazy.
I'm sharing a couple of tips I learned both as a working and pumping mama, as well as a doula who has worked with mamas to make their goals a reality.
Tip 1 - Invest in Mobility
At some point, you're going to find yourself in a position where you need to pump and there are no outlets available. It will happen, but if you're prepared, this event will be a lot less stressful.
You can prepare to be outlet-less in one of three ways: purchase a pump that is chargeable and doesn't require an outlet to run, invest in a car adapter, or buy a quality hand pump you feel comfortable with.
Knowing you have a back-up option will do wonders if you need to pump in an odd location, are out and about, need to pump in the car or just forgot your plug-in at home.
Tip 2 - Make Your Pump Pieces Work Overtime
I'm a firm believer in in life-hacking my way to success, so I'm a big fan in using your pump pieces in multiple ways.
No one wants to spill their freshly pumped breastmilk, it's definitely something worth crying over. Instead, use your flange as a funnel when combing your breastmilk into one bottle. You can also use the flange to help funnel milk into your pumping bags as well, not wasting a single drop.
If you forgot your ice pack, use one of your pumping bottles or bags as a make-shift option. Fill a bottle or bag with cold water or ice to help get you through until you get home.
Tip 3 - Avoid Unnecessary Cleaning
First, rope your partner into cleaning pieces. You're already doing the legwork taking up to an hour and a half each day to pump, get them involved by having them clean and sanitize your pieces at the end of the day.
Don't want to wash your pump pieces at work in-between pumps? Place your pieces in a gallon bag, then into a lunch box and place them in the fridge. This tactic helps you avoid that awkward moment in the office kitchen and can keeps your pieces sanitary. Plus the cool pieces feel wonderful when pumping.
Being a working and pumping mom is hard work! My last tip is a big one: be kind to yourself.
Remember you're doing a really great job providing for your family in more ways than one.
Try to move on from spilled milk. Don't start measuring your worth by how much you pump. Remember your baby loves you and is thankful for what you're doing.
Need additional support? I offer breastfeeding support to moms in Minneapolis, St. Paul and the greater Twin Cities area. Learn more about my Working Mom Wellness & Success Support package for some extra help.
A friend gave me the best reality check before I became a mother. She said, "It took me almost a year to start feeling like myself again, like how I did before I became a mom."
That little comment help set expectations for what I could expect from myself as I navigated my first year as a mom. It made me a little kinder to myself and helped me remember I'd figure out my identity as a mom all in good time.
I've received a lot of wonderful and candid advice from moms that helped me through that crazy first year, the one where at times, you feel like you're just surviving. I wanted to share some of that wisdom, plus some of my own experience that has colored what I share with my clients becoming first-time moms.
Have Zero Expectations
Literally, zero. A very wise mama I worked with told me this and it helped me make it through many sleep regressions, fussy periods, witching hours and public outings.
Your baby will appear to get on a pattern. You'll think, "This is great! I know exactly when she'll wake up, this will make my life so much easier!" Then your baby will go from waking up at 7 a.m. every morning for two weeks, to waking up at the butt crack of dawn four days in a row. Babies don't care if you're expecting them to be on a schedule.
When you think about it, the amount of developmental leaps and sleep regressions that happen over that first year make it difficult to assume a pattern. At some point, your baby will be learning something new, which throws them off, which then throws that expectation you assumed for nap time, feeding or fussiness out the window. Throw in teething and you've really got a free-for-all on your hands.
I went into the first year assuming every pattern my daughter developed would be quickly changed. You know what, they were. Having the expectation to have zero expectations helped me weather that storm a bit easier. I knew eventually even this bad period or early wake-up call would soon be a memory.
Even better news, as you start to wind down your first year with your baby, patterns start sticking. You can start developing more expectations on when your baby will go to bed or when they'll wake up. As they become a toddler most of those surprise moments start to fade away and you get predictability back.
You Can't Fill Someone's Cup if Yours is Empty
I had just gotten back from maternity leave and was freaking exhausted. I remember sitting in my office with several moms and one very patient dad, complaining that I felt like the life was being sucked out of me. Now, as a pumping and working mom, it really was, but everything else felt depleted as well.
That's when my coworker turned to me, who at one time made it through mothering the first year of twins along with a toddler, and said "You can't expect to give to other people if you feel drained. It will help you and everyone around you if you prioritize time for yourself." If that mom, who definitely has her hands full, could figure that out and felt it was important, I thought I should listen.
I came back home that day and told my husband I needed to start prioritizing self care. At the time, I had a new baby, was back at work, taking classes and starting my business, clearly I was over-stretching myself. He was immediately supportive of my need for me-time and put a plan into action.
Since that day, every morning, my husband gets Tess breakfast, unloads the dishwasher and gets everyone out the door. Each morning he brings me coffee in bed. The man is the best and I'm super lucky to have him. That new routine of getting hot coffee in the morning and being able to get ready for the day was life-saving.
Each morning I know I get me time and it made coming home to chaos and staying up late to side-hustle worth it. It also helped me save my sanity, which made me more patient with my husband and daughter, making me more giving in the process.
Self care is crucial.
Know What You Need & Ask for It
Never be afraid to ask for help. Our culture today places a very unfair expectation on moms to do it all on their own, all while smiling. Where this expectation came from is beyond me, because not even a century ago most women were immediately surrounded by help after their baby was born. Every woman knew there was no way this new mom could make this through these first couple of weeks, months and year without support.
When you need help, ask people for it. If you need a girlfriend to come over and chat with you while you're on maternity leave so you don't go crazy, do it! If you're really struggling with breastfeeding, ask for help. You're not expected to know how to breastfeed right away! It's super hard, man. Get advice from professionals and friends. Do you need someone to bring you some coffee and dog food? Call up your mom, I'm sure she'd be happy to help her baby.
Most importantly, let people know what you don't need. Often times with new babies, we feel obligated to let people into this moment with us, but never give ourselves the space to experience it. If you know that you don't need visitors today, let people know. If someone is putting up a fuss, they obviously don't care about supporting you the way you need. Buh-bye, now.
It's okay to set boundaries with people, your friends and family will understand. We had a hard and fast rule about bedtime with Tess: we had to be home to put her down at 7 p.m. Tess was use to a 7 p.m. bedtime and my husband and I depended on that time to reconnect or get personal work done. We let our friends and family know and they were amazing. Dinners were planned earlier so we could be home on time. Friends came to us so we could put Tess to sleep then hang out like adults.
Your tribe will support you, but you have to ask for it.
You'll Start to Feel Like You 're Not Just Surviving
This is the number one thing I say to every family I work with. I say it during our prenatal visits & postpartum visits. I say it to mamas I'm supporting as they breastfeed. I say this to couples I do photoshoots with. Little by little, you'll start to feel like you're not just surviving. You'll feel like maybe you can actually kick ass at this parenting thing after all.
We had a little victory early with my daughter. Headed out to her two week appointment, I made sure to grab another outfit, just in case. We get to our nurse practitioner's office, start to strip her down to be weighed and she has blown out absolutely everywhere. As my husband begins changing her, I started pulling out her back-up clothes. Our nurse said, "Wow! You guys are so prepared, way to go!" My husband and I looked at each other and high-fived. We did it! We parented!
As the year goes by you become more confident. You get more little wins. You'll have hard moments too, but at the end of that first year, you'll look back on how far everyone has come and be super proud. You did it! You survived.