Thursday, September 5, 2013

Evening Primrose Oil to Prepare for Labor

(Disclaimer: I am NOT a doctor or in any way medically trained. Please consult your doctor before you try ANY method of inducing or helping labor!)
When I was pregnant with Lila and hit my due date, my midwife suggested I try Evening Primrose Oil to help my cervix soften and prepare for labor. I had never heard of Evening Primrose Oil, but trusted my midwife, so immediately after my appointment I went right to the store to find some. (I also did a little research of my own. A few informational sites here and here.) Evening Primrose Oil doesn't induce labor, but it does help to soften and ripen the cervix, which will help with dilation.

I followed my midwife's prescribed regimen, which is as follows:
Day 1: 3000 mg (6, 500-mg capsules taken at 6 different times during the day)
Day 2: 2500 mg (5, 500-mg capsules taken at 5 different times during the day)
Day 3: 2000 mg (4, 500-mg capsules taken at 4 different times during the day)
Day 4-baby comes: 1500 mg (3, 500-mg capsules taken at 3 different times during the day)

(Note: I started the capsules on a Friday night and went into labor Sunday night! I think the EPO capsules definitely helped with dilation)

I found my EPO caplets at Smith's (the Kroger store in my area); EPO capsules can also be found at health food stores and perhaps other grocery stores, as well.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Bottled Cubic Zirconia: Another Amazing Use for Lanolin

Ah, Lansinoh Lanolin. When Reed was born and I was blissfully unaware of the pain that can accompany breastfeeding, I had never even heard of lanolin. In the hospital postpartum, when I was cracked and bleeding, I quickly learned of the miraculous power of lanolin when a lactation consultant gave me a tiny trial-sized tube of Lansinoh lanolin--and when I say tiny, I mean tiny. By the time we left the hospital, the lanolin was already gone. So Ryan and I left Reed in the care of my mom--we really needed to get out of the house--and went on a date to Target. When we saw the price of the lanolin, Ryan declared it "Bottled Diamonds"--then edited that to "Bottled Cubic Zirconia" when we realized we were exaggerating a little on the price. At the time, Ryan was still in school and we were living on a very small budget, so I almost passed on the lanolin. But Ryan made me buy the lanolin and I was so grateful I did because many painful breastfeeding days were ahead of me. 

Anyway, you probably know of the benefits of lanolin for breastfeeding mothers. But in the hospital, I learned another use for lanolin: lanolin makes the absolute best lip balm for dry, cracked lips. My four year old has eczema and also has lots of trouble with dry, cracked lips. His poor little lips get very cracked and very sore very quickly. But, after only 1-2 applications of lanolin, his lips are completely back to normal. Nothing else works even close to that well when his lips are bad. We just call the Lansinoh our "special chapstick" and no one bats an eye. He might find the use of lanolin a little odd once he gets to, say, middle school, and pays attention to the tube...but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Making Baby's Room {Super} Dark: A Few Ideas

I'd realized that Lila's room needed to be super dark for her to sleep well (which was of my own accidental doing, yes). I'd also realized that the black guitar blanket, though effective at blocking out the light, wasn't doing the d├ęcor in Lila's room any favors. So I started researching my room-darkening options.

Option 1: Blackout Curtains (Purchased or DIY'ed)
Perhaps the most obvious option, no? I found several options available, like these curtains at Target. But, honestly, I couldn't find any I loved that looked okay with what I already had going on in Lila's room (not that the black quilt did)--and I didn't want to shell out the $$ for something I didn't really like.
Eclipse™ Twine Thermaback
I did find this tutorial to make your own blackout curtains--and then was super disappointed when I found out Joann's no longer carried the fabric line my mom had used to make Lila's bedding. Sad day for me, yes. If I find a coordinating fabric, I still may make curtains. You know, in all my free time.

Option 2: Window Film
I didn't know window film was a thing (beside window tinting for cars) but apparently it is. Ryan, my go-to resource for researching any purchase, found mainly really good reviews: the film blocked out light well, reduced heat, etc. Home Depot and Wal-Mart both carried a 3 ft. x 6.5 ft. roll for only $16.87, so we decided to give it a go. We purchased a roll of Gila 3 ft. x 6.5 ft. Black Privacy Window Film. The film is simple yet somewhat annoying to hang up. First we cleaned the window (easy). Then we cut the film to size (easy again). We sprayed the window with water (use A LOT) (and easy again), then stuck the film on (easy). The difficult part came when we tried to smooth all the bubbles out of the film. Yikes. There are still bubbles, but luckily, the blinds in the room cover the bubbles so I don't have to look at them every day.

Gila 3 ft. x 6.5 ft. Black Privacy Window Film
We hung the film at night, so had to wait until the next morning to see how well it worked. The picture below is a pretty accurate portrayal of light levels, though somewhat deceiving due to my lack of photography skills (picture Lila's room just a touch lighter). The office and Lila's face the same way and have the same blinds installed--the only difference is the window film. Impressive, no? The film did help with heat reduction, as well. (By the way, don't mind the messy office. Who has time to clean their office just for a picture of lightness levels? Not this girl.)

The next day, though, Lila's naps were horrible. And the day after that. And the day after that. I held strong for a while, knowing that it takes time to break habits--but finally I gave up. Ryan hung a blanket between the window and the blinds and guess what? Long naps once again. At least you can't really see the blanket now! I do think that if Lila weren't used to such a dark room, the film would have darkened the room sufficiently for her to nap well. Note to self: next time, darken the room with film, not a blanket, from the beginning.

Option 3: Whatever you have on hand
You may not want to invest any money into darkening the room, especially if you aren't sure a dark room is the reason behind your child's sleep problems. I have heard (sorry, no first hand experience) that tinfoil and cardboard are both excellent at blocking light. Or you could go with the blanket over the window method, like me. Maybe that will become a trend, right?

Hopefully reducing the light in your child's room will help him or her sleep longer--it certainly worked for me!

Monday, August 26, 2013

What Worked for Me: Making the Baby's Room (SUPER) Dark

To start this post off, let me direct you to My Baby Sleep Guide's Top Sleep Tips Post. This post is seriously life changing--or at least it was for me.

Sleeping Reed, three days old
Two weeks after Lila was born, we moved (great timing, I know). The house we moved into had zero window coverings and, well, we live in the desert so it's essentially bright all day long. Lila's room was one of the worst as far as brightness-factor goes. Ryan was at the beginning of busy season (he's a tax guy) and I was two weeks postpartum and trying to keep three small children alive, so window coverings were not extremely high on our priority list. So we did what anyone would do: we nailed a blanket over Lila's window. Her room was instantly uber-dark.

A full month later, we had family coming in town who were kind enough to help Ryan install the blinds we purchased the day before they came. Blanket down, blinds up, check. That weekend, there were a lot of people who wanted to hold Lila (of course)--they were meeting her for the first time. So when her naps started to be an issue after everyone left, I just assumed she was used to being held. However, despite my best efforts, her naps kept getting shorter and shorter until she was only napping for 30 minutes at a time. I tried everything, to no avail.

I read My Baby Sleep Guide's Top Sleep Tips Post yet again and the part that explains creating a good sleep environment--including a dark room--slapped me in the face, essentially. The new blinds? Yes, they blocked out light, but not nearly as effectively as the blanket had. Ryan re-hung the blanket over the blinds when he got home that night. The next day, each of Lila's naps were at least 1.5 hours long. Hallelujah.

So there you have it. Perhaps it's a little ridiculous, but I'm willing to make the room super dark to get my baby to sleep. Have you tried anything crazy to get your baby to sleep? Does your baby need a dungeon-like darkness to stay asleep?

Stay tuned for my next post, where I'll highlight a few slightly less ghetto options to help darken the room.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Why I Value Breastfeeding and Bottle Feeding: Part 1

Let me preface this by saying that I am by no means a breastfeeding expert, nor do I think I have all the answers. If you have breastfeeding questions, I am happy to give you what advice I can, but I also recommend talking to a lactation consultant. and La Leche League are also both amazing resources for breastfeeding moms.

Reed, 4 Months

Before my first baby, Reed, was born, I planned on breastfeeding. I went to the class offered by the hospital and read a few things (but not many), but basically assumed breastfeeding wouldn't be an issue. I had no idea that many women struggle with breastfeeding. I had no idea that breastfeeding wasn't simple, as it seemed it should be. And I had no idea that breastfeeding might would hurt, at least at first. Essentially, I was super uniformed, but had no clue as to how uniformed I was.  At the time, I was finishing my final semester of college, was working 20 hours at an internship, and, until my seventh month of pregnancy, was working 30 hours as a waitress, as well--so honestly, I didn't have a ton of extra time to become informed. 

I digress. Reed was born on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. He had breathing issues at birth, so was rushed away only for the breathing issues to resolve themselves within a few hours. But I didn't get to breastfeed him for the first time until a few hours after birth, which was late in the day. I thought he was latching okay, and so I continued doing what I had been doing. 

By Sunday afternoon, we realized that perhaps he wasn't latching very well after all--breastfeeding really, really, hurt, and I already had the beginnings of sores on my nipples. I finally got to see a lactation consultant, who helped me figure a few things out, then we left the hospital the next morning.

Those first few weeks of breastfeeding were a nightmare. Because of the damage caused from Reed's first day of a poor latch, every time he latched thereafter hurt so badly that I would cry. I couldn't even wear a shirt or bra for the first few days at home because anything at all touching me made me cry out in pain (and I'm not just a wimp). I dreaded Reed waking up because I knew him waking meant I had to feed him. My mom was staying with us and she went to the store and got a nipple shield and a bottle for me, just in case--but the shield was too big and I didn't want to try a bottle because, well, I'm really stubborn. Already, I really didn't like breastfeeding. 

At Reed's two-week appointment, he was barely over his birth weight but the doctor assured me that all they hope to see is the baby reaching the birth weight by week two--so no one was concerned. Gradually, my  nipples healed and breastfeeding became much better. I could actually feed my baby without crying. Right when I finally felt like we were in our grove, though, breastfeeding got much, much worse.

Reed started crying every time he latched. He would latch, suck for a few minutes, scream, latch, suck, scream, on and on. This cycle was exhausting. I didn't know if he wasn't getting anything, wasn't really hungry, was having reflux, what was going on. It was Christmas and I was eating a lot of treats, so cutting out chocolate and a few other gas-inducing foods was my first solution. No luck. I tried Mylicon, which seemed to help a little, but not much. I bought a pump and found that after 15 minutes, I could pump 5 ounces from my right breast and 0.5 from my left. I knew the left didn't produce as much--here was proof--but he had to be getting milk because my right was obviously producing just fine. He didn't spit up a ton or arch his back, so reflux didn't seem to be the issue.

Why didn't I take him to the doctor? I had health insurance through the university I attended, which ended when I graduated (a little over a month after Reed was born). We were in the process of getting private health insurance coverage, but I didn't realize how long that would take, so we were currently not covered. I didn't want to go uninsured to the doctor if there wasn't really a problem. Sometimes Reed ate just fine. Why didn't I see a lactation consultant? I thought about it, I really did. I even called, but it happened to be after hours. Honestly, I didn't know if I was making a big deal out of nothing, since I was a first-time mom and didn't know what to expect. I didn't want to take him in for no reason.

Finally, we got insurance coverage and I took Reed to the doctor just after he turned two months old. And I found out that I had reason to be worried. Reed, who was born at 7 lbs., 9 oz., was only 8 lbs., 13 oz. at two months old. In other words, he was failure to thrive. Can I pause for just a moment to vent about the term "failure to thrive"? Seriously, whoever coined that term must not have children. Because when you tell a mother her baby is failure to thrive, that mom feels like the worst mother to have ever lived. Ever. Especially when she has no idea that there was a problem. (Stepping off my soapbox.) Anyway, the doctor suggested I start supplementing with formula and gave me his daughter's number, who happened to be a La Leche League consultant.

I talked to his daughter that night and, though she gave me good advice, nothing she told me to try really helped. That night I also gave Reed his first bottle. The formula can with it's proclamation that formula is not as good as breast milk felt like a personal attack. "Yes, formula company, I know that what I'm feeding my baby is sub-par. Please stop reminding me." And then Reed drank so fast it was as if he'd never been offered food before. Which, of course, made me feel even worse.  Thereafter, I would offer Reed the breast and, if he didn't eat well, give him a bottle. He usually took about 2-3 bottles a day. And guess what? After one week, we went in for a weight check and Reed weighed 9 lbs., 13 oz. A full pound increase in just one week. 

We continued supplementing and, over time, Reed stopped being willing to even attempt breastfeeding. And the whole situation had been so emotionally draining that I stopped really trying. My feelings of guilt concerning Reed being failure to thrive far outweighed my feelings of guilt concerning not breastfeeding. So Reed became an exclusively formula-fed baby right around four months. And at his four month mark, he weighed 13 lbs., 15 1/2 oz.--well within normal range.

Honestly, I'm still coming to terms with the guilt I've felt about the entire situation. Writing this post was difficult, because I can see now how many mistakes I made and how the situation could have been prevented. But I have also realized that I'm not a bad mom, and I was doing the best I knew how to do. And, because of Reed being failure to thrive, I will forever value formula and bottles because they gave him what I couldn't--the calories he needed. Bottles and formula are not bad and formula-fed babies aren't inherently at a disadvantage--because my Reeder? He's as smart and clever and creative as they come.

(Asher's story to come in Part 2.)

Monday, August 19, 2013

What Worked for Me: Noise maker (or that time I realized I had been wrong all along)

Before we had kids, Ryan and I thought that noise makers were a little bit weird and a lot annoying. So with Reed, we didn't buy a noise maker. When Reed was about eight months old, I happened to mention that I thought Reed would like one of those light-up things that plays music for 15 minutes or so, then turned off. Ryan's mom was on her way to the store and happened to pick one up for me. She's awesome like that (Seriously, I wasn't looking for her to buy it for me--she just knew I wanted one and got one for us!) Reed's "fishie songs," as they were lovingly referred to, were our only form of noise maker.

When Asher came along, we didn't pull out the "fishie songs" right away. We did around 7-8 months, and he liked them well enough. We do happen to live in the desert, so once summer hit, we put a box fan in his upstairs room so he wouldn't melt during nap time. Fast forward a few months to late fall, when we took the box fan out. Asher suddenly started napping poorly. And I realized that I had inadvertently turned his box fan into a noise maker. I didn't want a fan blowing air around his room in winter, so we weaned him off the noise--by first putting the fan in the doorway, with the door ajar, then in the hall right outside the door, with the door shut, to finally a little down the hall from his room, and then turned it off all together.

When Lila was born, I again didn't want to buy the noise maker. But when she started napping poorly and I started trouble-shooting, one thing that I concluded was that perhaps a noise maker would help her. He brothers are not exactly quiet. First we tried the "fishie songs"--in addition to playing songs, they play a water-like white noise. But once the white noise turned off, she immediately woke up. I tried downloading a white noise app on my phone and it actually helped--but I was tired of having my phone with her during every nap. So I gave in. We bought a noise maker and put it in Lila's room. (Side note: A white noise machine is also one of My Baby Sleep Guide's Top Sleep Tips.) And guess what? That noise maker, coupled with a darker room, helped Lila start taking longer naps.

So I was wrong. A noise maker for baby? Not weird. And actually not too annoying--the noise maker has helped me sleep better, too, even hearing it through the monitor. Who knew?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Potty Training Part Two: Tips for Success

If you missed the first part in this series where I describe my potty training method, go here.

After potty training two boys at the age of two, I learned a few things that I wish I had known at the outset of potty training. Here are my most helpful potty training tips, in no particular order:

1. Wait until your child is ready 
I know, I know. Typical advice. But I mean it--be sure your child is ready. When I potty-trained Reed, he was showing every single sign of potty training readiness. But when we tried to potty train? He flipped a lid. Oh. My. Goodness. He would NOT have anything to do with the potty. So I waited three months and tried again. And guess what? He was potty trained in three days. I had a very similar experience with Asher. Here is a great (though somewhat extensive) list of readiness signs. The signs that were most telling for my boys: they started to hide somewhere whenever they had a bowel movement (Reed's place was under the stairs. Ryan called it "the pooping closet"), they stayed dry for long periods of time, they'd tell me when they needed to be changed, and they were both communicative enough to let me know they needed to go potty.

2. Learn the value of a bare bottom (and do NOT use pull-ups!) 
Honestly, it may seem a little odd to have your child running around bare naked all day (it may also not seem odd at all--some kids refuse clothes anyway, am I right?). But it's important! When you put a child in underwear right away, the child doesn't really understand yet that the underwear is not just another receptacle for their pee. And when you put a child in pull-ups, you're really sending mixed signals. To me, pull-ups give this message: "Here is something to cover your bottom that feels quite similar to a diaper. But, though it feels the same, you're not supposed to use it as a diaper." It's not so easy to remember to use the potty when you're wearing a diaper or pull-up. The bare bottom will help a child remember to use the potty.

3. Don't give up after day one
Potty training, day one with Asher was an absolute nightmare. He was whiny and grumpy and had ZERO successes. Zero. In one one-and-a-half-hour period, despite taking him potty every twenty minutes, he had three accidents--two of which involved poop. I was extremely discouraged. But I decided to give potty training one more day before I decided he wasn't quite ready and to try again a few weeks later. The next day, after a very long morning with no accidents or successes, Asher had his first-ever pee in the potty. Hallelujah. Everything got better from there until, two days later, Asher had his first accident-free day.

4. The first success is the hardest
For both of my boys, the initial success was the very hardest one. Once they had actually used the potty successfully, they realized that going potty really isn't that big of a deal. And they just did it. After their first success, both boys had very few accidents--Reed only had one accident after that first success. So though the first several attempts are pretty trying and honestly, quite frustrating, just hold on until you get to a success. I promise potty training will get easier after that first success (and if it doesn't, let me pre-apologize now).

5. Know who is in charge
Here's a truth: your child likely will not want to start potty training and will avoid the potty at all costs. When it's time to go potty, don't be surprised if your child tells you he or she doesn't have to go or doesn't want to go. They will likely try to resist. But guess what? You're in charge. You might have to fight with your child for the first few tries or possibly even the first few days. But it will get easier and it will be worth it. Don't let your child determine when it's potty time until you've made it through a week--because they likely won't realize they need to go potty soon enough to make it to the potty.

6. Use a reward system, treats or otherwise
For the first three days of potty training, I gave my boys one small treat (like an M & M, a candy corn, or something else small) for every successful pee in the potty, and two small treats for every successful poop in the potty. After three days, they got one sticker for every pee in the potty and two stickers for every poop in the potty. We used the stickers to fill up a chart and, when their chart was full, we let them pick a small toy from the toy store. I realize not everyone wants to give their child a treat for every success, and I don't think you need to. But something tangible (be it a treat, a toy, a sticker, or whatever) is very helpful. My kids loved being rewarded. And, for the first few days, a tangible prize for every success was key to their willingness to try going potty. Later, when they filled up their sticker sheets, they were so proud of their accomplishment and so pumped to pick out a toy. After that, we didn't need a reward system because going potty was just part of our routine. Choose a reward system, whatever you like, and implement it.

7. Have a method, but be flexible
You may find that my method doesn't work for you. Maybe you just don't like my method. But I think it's important to at least have a general method before you start. And while I think consistency is extremely important, I also found it important for me to evaluate and change my method as needed. After an abysmal day one with Asher, I decided to change my approach somewhat. He doesn't have to pee as often as Reed does--still, to this day, he uses the bathroom fewer times than Reed. So instead of taking him potty every 20 minutes, I took him every 40 minutes. And while Reed didn't mind the timer going off signalling potty time, the timer really upset Asher. So I kept time myself, without the timer. I found that Asher was much more willing to try going potty when he wasn't already upset about the timer and when we didn't go quite as often. I still used my general method, but changed it a bit to fit Asher's needs.

8. Don't get angry about "accidents"--but do talk about each one
Accidents are a normal part of potty training. But, I'm not going to lie, sometimes accidents are terribly frustrating--especially when you've gone a few days without an accident. But getting angry about an accident doesn't help at all. Keep it together (which, trust me, can be so hard) and don't yell. But you do need to discuss each accident. I tried to use the same dialogue each time we encountered an accident--repetition works wonders. If an accident happened, I'd ask, "Where does our pee pee go?" I'd wait for them to answer "in the potty," and prompt them if needed. Then I'd ask, "What do you do if you need to go potty?" I'd wait for them to answer, "Tell Mommy" and, again, prompt them if needed. Your "talk" doesn't need to be long, but it does need to happen.

Good luck!
I hope my advice helps and that you are able to potty train successfully without going too crazy!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Potty Training Part One: My Method

Every time I feel like I'm in over my head, I turn to a book (or a blog). So when it came time to potty train Reed, I first turned to a book: The Ultimate Guide to Potty Training for Boys & Girls by Johanne Cezar. Why did I choose this book? Easy: The book was only $2 to purchase for my Kindle and, well, I'm kind of cheap. I was happy to find, though, that in addition to being cheap, this book proved to be very helpful in potty training both my boys. I base my method heavily on this book as well as on a few modifications that proved helpful to me. Here is my method, in a nutshell:

1-2 Weeks Before Starting:
Buy a potty or potty seat and explain to your child what it is and what it's for. Let you child watch you and your spouse use the bathroom. Put the potty or potty chair in the bathroom so your child can get used to seeing it there. This process is basically a soft introduction to the potty so that you don't drop a huge bombshell on the child when you tell them it's time to start training.

You need to be prepared for day one of potty training with your potty, a timer (I used the kitchen timer on my oven), and your rewards. Plan on not leaving the house at all with your child for a few days. (Yes, it's going to be a long few days.)

Day 1:
The basics
1. You're going to be taking your child potty every 20 minutes today. Get excited.
2. No diapers, no pull-ups, no underwear. NONE. We want a bare bottom.
3. Accidents are going to happen. Keep your cool, but be sure to talk about each accident when it happens.
4. Be sure your child pushes each time he or she sits on the potty.

Hooray! Start the day excited. Take your child into the bathroom first thing after they wake up and remind them that it's potty training day. Have them sit on their potty and try to go. (They likely will have a wet diaper from overnight an may not need to go, but it's important to try.) If they go, awesome! Give them their first reward, whatever that may be. If not, that's okay. Set your timer for 20 minutes and go about your day.

You need to leave your child bare-bottomed today. Seriously, it may seem weird, but it works. Pull-ups are just confusing--it's a diaper that they aren't supposed to go in? Yeah right. Underwear, at this point, are still just another place for them to go to the bathroom in. Leave them bare--it will help them to remember to go potty in the potty.

When the time goes off, don't act annoyed or frustrated or like it's drudgery (which, by the end of the day, it will be). Be excited--it's time to go potty, hooray! Have your child sit on the potty and push. If they push, they can't hold anything in. To explain what you mean by "pushing," try tickling your child's belly. When they laugh and their muscles tighten, they are pushing. It might take a few attempts to explain "pushing," but they will get it. If they go, great! Give them the reward. If not, have them sit on the potty for 5-7 minutes trying, then let them get off. Set the timer for 20 minutes after you leave the bathroom. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Day 2:
The basics
1. Today you get to move the timer back to 25 minutes, hooray!
2. Still no diapers, pull-ups, or underwear.
3. Accidents will still likely happen.
4. Continue to be sure your child is pushing on the potty.

Today will continue as yesterday did, but with slightly longer intervals: 25 minutes between each potty trip. Continue to use the timer, continue to be excited, and continue with your reward system.

Day 3:
The basics
1. By today, you should be having more successes than accidents. If so, push your timer back to 30 minutes.
2. Still no diapers, pull-ups, or underwear.
3. Your child may still have accidents today, but should have far less than days 1-2.
4. Be sure your child is pushing on the potty!

You've got it down by now, I'm sure, but just be sure you're still using that timer and still being vigilant.

Days 4-7:
The basics
1. You can stop using the timer, but I'd enforce an hourly potty break.
2. You can put underwear on your child, hooray!
3. By the last half of the week, accidents should no longer be the norm and really shouldn't be happening at all.

You made it! UPDATE: Click here for part two of my potty training posts, which has tips about how to deal with accidents, potty training for naps and night, and the best things I've learned from my potty training experiences.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Pregnancy Back Saver: Cat Cow Pose

I took Bradley Method classes when I was pregnant with Lila. (Side note: if you're in the Southern Utah area and interested in Bradley, call Trisha Baird. She's amazing. And she's not paying me to say this, I just like her that much.) In the very first class, you learn a few exercises that you're instructed to do two to three times every single day to help prepare your body for labor. At first, the multiple-times-every-day thing seemed a little excessive. But soon, I realized that the exercises--particularly the cat-cow or the "pelvic rock," as Bradley calls the exercise--were saving my back. I had major sciatic pain with Lila and found that when I neglected to do my daily cat-cow exercises, the sciatic pain was much worse.

I can't describe the cat-cow effectively in words, so here is a picture diagram of the stretch.

Fig 1 shows neutral position. Fig. 2 shows the "cow" position. Fig. 3 shows the "cat" position. And Fig. 4 goes back to neutral.

If pictures alone don't help, you can see a video of the stretch here.

I did the cat-cow three times a day, ten reps each time for the first few weeks, and gradually built to twenty reps each time I did the stretch. If my back was particularly sore during the day, I'd throw in an extra cat-cow session.

The cat-cow is a traditional yoga pose. I found that prenatal yoga really helped me during pregnancy, especially if I was particularly sore. Many areas offer prenatal yoga classes, but because I had the boys I didn't really have time to make it to an exercise class. I usually watched a program that was broadcast on TV and did the exercises right in my living room. If you'd like to do other prenatal yoga exercises, you can check out my favorite prenatal yoga exercise program here. This show has several fantastic yoga workouts, but includes other types of exercise, too (like aerobics and kickboxing). And, while the program is not prenatal only, there is almost always a pregnant woman showing how to modify the exercises for pregnancy.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sleep Props (or that time we quit the pacifier cold turkey)

I've got three different scenarios for you--have you experienced anything similar?

Scenario 1: Lila, age six months, is falling to sleep calmly in her bed, happily sucking away on her pacifier. As she eases into a deeper sleep, her sucking slows until...out pops the pacifier. All is well for a few minutes until she stirs, doesn't have the pacifier, and wakes up. Soon she starts crying and won't fall asleep again until I reinsert the pacifier--at which point she (generally falls right back to sleep). Repeat five times. In the middle of the night.

Scenario 2: I'm rocking Asher, age four months, to sleep--he won't fall asleep by himself in bed yet. He soon falls asleep, but I keep rocking because if I quit too soon, he'll soon be awake again. About fifteen minutes later, when I'm positive he's completely out, I slowly walk toward his bed, still rocking, but slowing down a little. I carefully lower him into his crib, careful not to make any quick movements or loud noises (or noises at all), and...success. I turn around to leave the room and am just reaching for the door handle when he starts crying. And won't stop until I pick him up again, spend fifteen minutes calming him down, fifteen more getting him to sleep, and fifteen more deciding if I should try putting him in bed again.

Scenario 3: Reed, age two months, has fallen asleep at the end of a nursing session (as planned). When I'm sure he's asleep, I carefully break his latch, give him the pacifier when he fusses, then put him into his crib. Within five minutes he's awake again and won't go back to sleep until I give in and re-latch him. At which point he falls asleep...until we break the latch again.

What do these scenarios have in common (beside a frustrated mom)? All three babies (yes, all mine) are relying on a sleep prop to get them to sleep.

What is a sleep prop?
Ah, sleep props. Truthfully, I hadn't heard the term "sleep prop" until my third baby came along. So what is a sleep prop? A sleep prop is something a baby uses to fall asleep that she isn't able to provide for herself. Some common sleep props are nursing to sleep, rocking, bouncing, driving in the car, etc. Sleep props can be any number of things, though. What's the problem with sleep props? A sleep prop will help a baby to fall asleep initially but, generally, the baby will wake up soon after the sleep prop is removed and will be unable to fall asleep by herself.

Using a sleep prop is an easy habit to fall into and may not seem like a problem at first. You may be able to use the sleep prop for a few days or even weeks without a problem. But, with the majority of babies, sleep props become a detriment to sleep and don't tend to improve without assistance.

Transitioning away from sleep props
What becomes a sleep prop for one baby might not be a problem for another. For example, Reed and Asher both used pacifiers to fall asleep, but were (generally) fine once they spit the pacifier out. I remember going to give each boy his pacifier in bed maybe a handful of times, total. Lila, on the other hand, refused to fall back to sleep if she didn't have her pacifier. One night she woke up literally every hour through the night, in need of her pacifier. The next day, we decided we were bidding the pacifier farewell. We went cold turkey, because I couldn't think of an effective "gentle" way to lose the sleep prop (if I let her use the pacifier while I rocked her, then took it away before putting her into her bed to fall asleep, things would turn ugly--fast). I was surprised to find that though Lila took a while to fall asleep the first night sans-pacifier, once she did fall asleep she slept through the night. For the first time, ever. She took a little longer to fall asleep for her naps the next day (about 15-20 minutes as opposed to about 5), but the second night she slept through the night, again. The second day for naps was a little better, and by the third day she was falling asleep within about 10 minutes. We took the pacifier away three weeks ago and Lila has slept through the night every night since then. Pretty good for a baby who previously woke at least 2-3 times a night!

There are other, more gentle ways to transition away from sleep props. If your baby is used to being rocked or bounced to sleep, you could try rocking or bouncing him until he is very drowsy, but not asleep, then putting him into bed. You could decrease the amount of rocking time each night, until you are only briefly rocking before putting him into bed and he is falling asleep by himself.

Transitioning away from sleep props will likely require some kind of sleep training. Your baby won't just suddenly start falling to sleep and staying that way by herself! There are many approaches to sleep training--and no, not all of them involve crying. Cry-It-Out Methods include Ferber (Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems) and Ezzo (On Becoming Babywise), among others. A few gentle methods include Hogg (The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer) and  Pantley (The No-Cry Sleep Solution). There are, of course, many different methods of sleep training, so you should choose whatever works best for your family. Know that while you are working to remove sleep props, you are in for a rough 3-5 days--but it will be worth it in the end!

Transitional Objects
A great alternative to sleep props for older babies is a "transitional object" such as a small stuffed animal or a blanket. The object stays in bed with baby, so if he wakes up during the night he can easily find the object and use it to soothe himself back to sleep. (Please note that young babies should not have anything in the crib because of suffocation hazards.)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

8 No-prep, No supplies needed Car Games for Toddlers & Preschoolers

We have been traveling a lot this summer and, let me tell you, traveling with a four-year-old, a two-year-old, and an infant is not exactly a walk in the park. Our sanity saver is our built-in DVD player. But, because we don't want the kids watching movies for hours on end (cough *we haven't done that* cough) and because sometimes movies just can't beat the "I'm bored" chorus from the back seat, we've come up with a list of games we can play with our little ones in the car. And the best part of all? No preparation, no supplies! These are all games that Reed (who is 4.5 years) can play easily; Asher (2.5 years) can play most of the games easily, and some of the games he can join in on with a little help.

1. ABC game
This game is very simple. You start with the letter "A." You look for the letter on billboards, street signs, license plates, restaurants--in any printed form. When someone spots the letter, they yell out the name of the letter and you move on to the next letter in the alphabet. Our boys also like to spell out words--we'll look for "R" "E" "E" "D" then
"A" "S" "H" "E" "R." If your kids are older,
they can compete to see who can find all the letters in the alphabet first. This game works best in areas that have a lot of signs or billboards around. We generally use it on our drives to California--once we hit San Bernadino coming down I-15 N, there are cities non-stop to Grandma's house! This game is one that Asher has a little more trouble with, but he still loves it. He generally picks out whatever letter he wants (in order or not!) and looks for that letter.

2. Family Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Story
This game is a recent find for us. Either Ryan or I start telling a made-up story. We usually give a few sentences and set up a cliff-hanger in the plot. Then Reed picks up where we left off in our story and adds whatever he feels would be exciting. Next, Asher usually adds a line or two to the story. Then Ryan or I wrap the story up somehow. We've come up with some quite interesting tales, and the boys are generally cracking up with laughter by the end.

3. I Spy
This game is a favorite in our car. One person is chosen to be "it." They choose an object inside or outside the car, then say, "I spy, with my little eye,!" (Insert whatever color the object is that they spy). Then everyone else in the car tries to guess what the object is. So, for example, Reed might say, "I spy, with my little eye, something...GREEN!" We'd guess: "Trees?" (NO) "Bush?" (NO) "Exit sign?" (YES!) Whoever guesses correctly gets to "spy" the next object. This game is great because it can be played essentially anywhere, especially if you include objects inside your car as fair game to "spy." Reed can play this game quite well; Asher is good at guessing and, after a few rounds, got the hang of "spying."

4. Freeze Dance!
From the time the boys were little, we've played music that Ryan and I like while we drive in the car. All the songs we play are clean and aren't anything too heavy or loud; they're kid-friendly without being adult-annoying. The boys' current favorite bands are Jimmy Eat World, Dave Matthews Band, Coldplay, and Lost Lander. Luckily, each of these bands lends itself well to a game we all love: freeze dance. The game is simple: everyone dances when I yell, "Dance!" and freezes in place when I yell, "Freeze!" This game is great for all ages and help get some of the wiggles out.

5. 20 Questions
When Ryan decided to try playing 20 Questions with Reed, I thought Ryan was crazy. But Reed ended up loving 20 Questions and now asks to play it all. the. time. 20 Questions is pretty simple: one person chooses a person, place, or thing. The other person can ask 20 yes-or-no questions, and, at the end of the 20 questions, guesses what the person, place, or thing is. We use a simplified version of 20 Questions to help Reed out. First, we always choose a tangible object (no places or people, generally) he can see while we're  playing. Second, Reed generally has a "team mate" who can give him ideas for questions if he gets stuck (e.g. maybe you should find out what the object is made of, or maybe you should find out what color the object is). Reed also likes to be the person who chooses the object and answers the questions. He generally has a team mate for this role, as well, but, honestly, he's really good at answering the questions himself. Asher can't really play this one, but is always game to listen and chime in questions when he comes up with them.

6. Rainbow Game
This game is similar to the ABC game above, but is a little simpler for younger children. One person calls out a color, then everyone looks at objects outside or inside the car to see if they can find an object in that color. For example, if I chose the color "brown" someone might find "dirt" or "mountain" or "tree trunk." Try to find all the colors of the rainbow! If you have a wide age variety, you could require the older kids to find three or four objects of the color while the younger kids are only required to find one.

7. Cloud Shapes
A classic game, right? I had kind of forgotten about this one until Reed was pointing out how cool the clouds looked one day. A light bulb went on,
and we have been playing the Cloud Shape
game ever since. If you haven't played this
game, here are the basics: everyone searches
the clouds in the sky and tries to see shapes
in the clouds. For example, the cloud
pictured could be a whale, a submarine,
a ski-doo, or anything! Kids come up with some fantastic shapes in the clouds.

8. Tell jokes/Play "What if"
My boys love to hear jokes. And they always laugh, even if the joke makes no sense whatsoever. Lately, they have started to make their own jokes, which, truth be told, aren't exactly "funny" yet. (Reed's latest: Here's a joke! Lila can swim by herself! [Lila is currently 6 months old and is not at all close to swimming]) If I don't laugh, Reed says, "Mom, start laughing now." Anyway, you can tell your kids jokes, you can "laugh" at their jokes, you can be generally goofy and your kids will (likely) love it. One sure way to get my kids laughing is to play the "what if" game when we're telling jokes. You say "What if (insert person's name) (insert hilarious situation)" For example: "What if Reed turned into a dog!" "What if Asher ate the car!" Hilarity ensues.

There are, of course, many games you can play with supplies or materials prepared beforehand. But, if you're in a pinch (or too busy/lazy, like me!), these games are fantastic.

For an extensive list of car games and activities for all ages, check out of great ideas there!
Moms - Road Trip games and car travel games for kids!

{Linking up here!}

Monday, July 29, 2013

My First Guest Post: Lila's Birth Story!

Reed and Asher were both born in hospitals. For various reasons, Ryan and I decided to use a birth center--The Birth Sweet in St. George, Utah--for Lila's birth. I'll write a post about why we made the decision later. We loved our experience at The Birth Sweet, so when my midwife, Cyndi, asked if I would write Lila's birth story for her to use on her blog, I immediately said yes. You can find Lila's birth story here if you'd like to read it!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Baby Whisperer's "Four S" Pre-nap Routine: What it Looks Like for Me

(Sleeping Lila, 5 Months Old)

Have you heard of the "Baby Whisperer"? Before I had my third baby, I had heard nary a whisper of her. But when the term "Baby Whisperer" started popping up on my two favorite baby sleep blogs, I knew I needed to find out who this Baby Whisperer was and to read her book so I could understand her full method. The Baby Whisperer is a woman named Tracy Hogg who knows a lot about baby sleep. (You can find her two books here and here.) I really liked both books but, honestly, they are a little bit wordy, so I will summarize a few of my favorite Baby Whisperer methods in the next few posts.

One of the best things I got from the Baby Whisperer was the Four S pre-nap routine. I know that everyone has a different pre-nap routine that they swear by, but this routine is a great general routine that could be personalized by pretty much anyone. Here are the basics:

1. Set the Stage: Setting the stage essentially means giving baby cues that bedtime or nap time is coming. If you use the same cues every time, baby will associate those cues with nap time and when those cues come will start preparing to sleep and won't be surprised to find herself in her crib. How do I set the stage? I'm glad you asked. I take Lila into her room, turn on her noise maker, and turn off the light. Boom. Stage set.

2. Swaddle: Lila girl loves her swaddle. After the stage is set, I swaddle her tightly. My current favorite swaddler is the SwaddleMe. The SwaddleMe is perfect for summer because it's so lightweight, and Lila generally can't unwrap herself super quickly, enabling her to fall asleep more easily.

3. Sit: This step was confusing to me when I read a summary of the step on a sleep blog. At first, I thought Hogg meant to have the baby sit on your lap and just kind of hang out--which seemed weird. After reading the books and other sleep blogs, though, I realized that "sitting" was referring to me. I sit in my rocking chair with Lila and pat her back. I usually get a burp out of her, which is good because I know gas won't bother her as much during her nap. Some babies like to be held upright during this step (like you are burping them up at your shoulder), but Lila likes to be held cradle-style. You don't want to rock, bounce, or sway with your baby during this step--which is super counter-intuitive, I know. The idea is for them to relax, not to fall asleep. And bouncing/rocking can actually overstimulate a baby--which is also counter-intuitive, right? Hogg suggests sitting for up to 10-15 minutes, until baby is very relaxed. Honestly, now that we've been doing the Four S routine for a while, Lila and I usually only sit for about 2-5 minutes before she is starting to fall asleep.

4. Shush-pat: Hogg's shush-pat method is one key she talks about repeatedly. The idea is that your baby can only focus on two things at a time; so if you are shushing (pretty loudly) and patting firmly, your baby doesn't have enough focus left to think about crying. However, I have found that shush-pat is not ideal for us. After several days of shush-patting (and nearly passing out because I was so out of breath from all the shushing), I realized that for Lila, at least, shush-patting was actually winding her up more and making her cry harder. So I pat her during step three (sit), then I put her in her bed. I leave my hand on her chest for 30 seconds or so, then I let the noise maker do the shushing for me. She is usually asleep in about five minutes. Some babies love the shush-pat, and will need to be patted after put in bed--experiment and see what works for you!

So there you have it: my version of the Four S routine. This routine takes about 5-10 minutes and has worked wonders for me--I hope it helps you, too! I started using this routine when Lila was about one month old and by two-and-a-half months she was falling asleep in her bed by herself within 5-10 minutes of putting her down! Please feel free to leave questions in the comment section below.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Heat Rash: What It Is and How to Treat It

I live in the desert. From mid-June through August, the temperature is almost always over 100 degrees and, lately, we've had temperatures hovering around 115 degrees. These extreme temperatures combined with my children's uber-sensitive skin inevitably lead to heat rash. When Lila got a particularly bad case of heat rash this summer, I decided I should learn a little more about heat rash and what to do to treat it (other than "wait for it to go away," my old standby method). And, luckily for you, I've decided to share what I learned.

What is Heat Rash?
Heat rash is, essentially, clogged pores. We sweat to cool down. When we sweat too much, our pores can clog, causing small red bumps to erupt on our skin. Anyone can get heat rash, but babies are especially prone to heat rash because their pores are so small. Heat rash is not usually painful, but it is a sign that your baby is overheated, which can lead to more serious problems.

(I like this article from for a more complete description of heat rash, if you're interested.)

How Should I Treat Heat Rash?
I used the list of treatment options from the BabyCenter article I referenced above and took the ideas for a test drive. Here is what I did and what I found to help the most:

1. Remove Baby's Clothing {Super helpful}
One of the first things I did was to strip Lila down to a diaper only. Removing her clothing helped so much that now--at least for the summer months--she basically only wears a diaper, unless we are going out. Then I dress her in loose, lightweight clothing. I have also tried just putting her in a onesie, but she still gets quite warm during her naps with any clothing on.

2. Lose the Swaddle {Utter Failure}
After removing Lila's clothes and still finding her warm upon waking from a nap, I decided to remove all that was left: her swaddle. Worst. Decision. Ever. We had one hellish day where she only took 35-40 minute naps before I decided to find a different solution.

3. Crank Up the Air {Helpful}
After I realized that getting rid of the swaddle was not an option, I decided to try making Lila's room cooler. Lila's room already has a ceiling fan that I always run at the highest setting. I don't want to even imagine what our A/C bill would be like without ceiling fans! Anyway, I decided to add an extra floor fan to her room to add a little more air flow. Honestly, the fan didn't really seem to make a difference. However, I recently removed the fan when we had guests staying at our house and I found a noticeable difference in the room temperature when the fan was gone--apparently the fan was helping cool the room more than I had realized.

4. Lukewarm Baking Soda Bath {Super helpful}
For two days (during the worst of Lila's heat rash) I gave Lila a baking soda bath using cool water. I used about 2 teaspoons of baking soda per gallon of water. I implemented the baking soda bath on day two of my heat rash treatment and almost immediately noticed a difference in the heat rash. In addition to reducing the amount of heat rash on Lila's body, the baking soda bath also really helped to cool her down.

5. Air Dry {Hard to tell--certainly didn't hurt!}
Instead of rubbing Lila dry post-bath, I patted her down with a towel. Also, per my pediatrician's suggestion, I ensured that her creases (like under her neck and between her arms) got plenty of air time. Sometimes, that meant holding her arm in the air so she could dry. If areas remain wet, baby's skin is more likely to get irritated.

6. No Lotions/Creams {Oops.}
At first, I thought Lila was just having eczema issues--all three of my kids have dry, sensitive skin, so redness is common around here. And the way I usually treat eczema is by applying aquaphor topped by a moisturizing lotion, per my pediatrician's advice. Apparently this treatment was actually making the heat rash worse by trapping moisture in to Lila's skin. Once I realized that I was dealing with heat rash, I stopped using the lotions until the heat rash cleared up. Now, while it's still so hot, I've been using a very scant layer of aquaphor as necessary for dryness.

7. Cornstarch {Super Helpful}
I didn't actually use cornstarch in my initial heat rash treatment. But, a few weeks after Lila's heat rash cleared up, her creases started to get quite irritated. So I used a very light dusting of cornstarch. The irritation cleared up immediately. Note: Do NOT use talcum powder, which is dangerous for baby to breathe!

By day two of my heat rash treatment efforts, Lila's heat rash was much improved; and by day four, the heat rash was gone altogether. We've had a few small breakouts since then, but with these treatments we've been able to avoid anything too bad.

What's your best trick for treating heat rash? Anyone have a swaddle fail like I did?