Month: August 2019

  • Terrible twos, threenager, and f* you fours

    Terrible Twos, Threenager and….

    We have all heard the phrases “terrible twos,” “threenager,” and my favorite “the f* you fours.”

    I always tell my friends with younger kids (or friends thinking about having kids) that you get a baby first because you need to have some time to develop that love before they turn into beasts.

    I’m not going to lie, the toddler and pre-school years are rough. 

    I have found myself on the verge of tears many evenings just watching the clock slowly tick tock it’s way closer to bedtime (but then started to panic a little inside because I knew bedtime was going to be a — show).

    Toddler Behavior

    So while I’ve been there (and I’m sure will be there again). My advice is this; We need to reframe our perception of these years.

    Hear me out.

    You know that idea the power of positive thinking? Well it works the opposite way, too. If you think things are going to suck, they probably will.

    And here’s the thing. THEY WILL SUCK but they will suck a little less if you have the right attitude.

    Part of the reason it feels like it’s so hard is because our expectations are, in a way, too high.

    I often bang my head against the nearest wall after asking my 2.5 year old to listen to a direction, but then I remember she has been on this earth for 2.5 years.

    She isn’t SUPPOSED to listen at this age. She is SUPPOSED to be testing me. 

    Testing boundaries.

    That doesn’t mean I let her get away with not listening, it just means I accept that she is still working on it, try to find the humor in her shenanigans and calmly “help” her do whatever it is I’m asking her to do. ,

    Setting Boundaries

    Setting boundaries for your kids is probably one of the absolute most important things you can do as a parent.

    Not only does setting a healthy boundary help children feel more safe and secure, having solid boundaries allow you to have a more enjoyable parenting experience #winning

    So many struggles with this age group happen because parents are not confident in the boundary they set. They feel responsible for making their child upset or they don’t even set the boundary because they don’t want to have to deal with the inevitably unhappy reaction from their little one.

    I get it, it sucks sitting through those big emotions. 

    It can be embarrassing and overwhelming AF, especially if we are out of the house or have friends or family over. But if we just accept that little kids have big emotions, confidently set clear and firm boundaries and remind ourselves that it isn’t our jobs to make our kids happy everyone will be happier in the long run.

    Understanding the “why” behind kids testing boundaries

    Bottom line. This is what they are “built” to do. They are literally searching for that boundary.

    “What happens if I do this?”
    “What happens if I do that?”

    Where does that line exist and what happens if I cross it. Is my parent going to consistently enforce that boundary?

    Kids thrive on predictably. If you are wishy washy on where that line is, they will continue to look for that line. This will look and feel to you like they are “acting out” or “testing you.”

    Think about it like a box. They want to have very clearly defined walls. Those walls keep them from feeling overwhelmed and unsure.

    We need to keep in mind that it is completely developmentally normal for them to be testing us. It won’t make them stop, but that adjustment in mindset will help us get through it with a lot more grace.

    Strategies for dealing with negative behavior

    Young kids are going to behave poorly at some point or another. That’s just the nature of the beast. But there are definitely some ways we can respond that will help them (and us!) through.

    • Get down on their level. Standing over little kids is intimidating AF. You are big. They are small. They are going to automatically feel things more and act out more if they feel a need to compensate, or like they are being challenged (which they might more easily feel if they have a big adult standing over them).
    • Help them identify their feelings. Acknowledge that they feel sad, tired, angry, frustrated, mad, insert whatever crazy emotion is coming out. Tell them it’s ok to feel whatever they are feeling.
    • Let them feel those big feelings. So many times I see advice to distract kids from what they are feeling. I’m wholeheartedly against that. On a fundamental level we want kids to PAY ATTENTION to their feelings not be distracted from them. How can they learn to manage their emotions if they are constantly being “distracted” from what they are feeling?
    • If they need to release something like anger let them. If they are trying to hit you say something like “I can’t let you hit me but you can hit this pillow”–we are not encouraging violence, we are encouraging healthy ways of letting our frustration. The more control they get over their emotions, the less they will need to physically release those emotions.
    • Stop letting their feelings be your feelings. Don’t let them get under your skin. The more they see you being pulled into their emotions, the more they will feel those emotions. You have to be confident in your role as parent–every little emotion your child feels does not have to invade your own emotions.
    • Get quiet. This works for my high school students, and it works for my kids. If you yell, kids tune out. If you whisper they want to quiet down to hear what you’re saying. It’s a natural reaction that can help be better listeners. The louder they get, the quieter you should get.
    • Stay in control. The more out of control your child is, the more in control you have to be. This goes back to not letting them suck you into their nonsense.
    • Teach them skills to calm their body. We teach breathing–and ask the kids to take a couple deep breaths. My two older ones have VERY big feelings. They have learned to calm their bodies (and can do this fairly consistently), and they have also learned to ask for help calming down. They will be  hyperventilating and yelling “help me calm down!!” It’s both stressful and adorable at the same time.
    • Use a TIME IN not time out. Putting kids in time out doesn’t work. Even if it works in the short term, it doesn’t in the long term. Time outs teach kids that they are alone in their feelings, they bring on feelings of shame (not good for little ones who are just beginning to develop their sense of self), and invite power struggles. The better approach is a “time in”–you can still bring them to a safe space but you should help teach them to calm themselves, remind them that you love them, and then come up with some strategies or compromises that work for dealing with the underlying issue.

    The difference between a “meltdown” and a “tantrum”

    This was an eye opening concept for me as a parent. These two experiences can look the same but they are very different.

    Meltdowns

    A meltdown is typically going to happen when kids are overtired, hungry, thirsty, sick, overstimulated. 

    Maybe a toy isn’t working the way they want it to, or someone took a toy they wanted to play with, or they are experiencing too many feelings at once.

    Often it is helpful to remove the child from the situation and find a calm, quiet place. Help them calm down, suggest to them that they might be hungry, thirsty or tired so they can begin to recognize those feelings.

    I use phrases like “see, you didn’t eat your snack, and you are hungry. When you are hungry it is hard to be control your body.”

    Helping them make that connection between a physical need and their emotional state is going to help them in the long run (even though it may not help them in the immediate situation).

    Tantrums

    A tantrum is a response to not getting one’s way. 

    You tell them they can’t have another cookie and they throw themselves on the floor. They don’t want to leave the playground so they start screaming, kicking, sobbing like the world is going to end.

    The best way to deal with a tantrum to be consistent and not give in to whatever it is that is causing that tantrum. If you give in and give them that extra cookie, they realize “oh hey, I can act this way and get what I want.”

    Acknowledge their feelings, tell them you understand that they want whatever it is and then just let them have their feelings (and it might be ALL THE FEELS). 

    When they are calm enough, help them understand what they need to do to get whatever it is they want. You want that extra cookie, but we are all done with cookies today. We can talk about you having another cookie tomorrow!

    And move on. Don’t dwell. Don’t engage in discussion.

    My kids favorite strategy is to tell me they have a plan! I calmly listen to their plan, thank them for it, and reiterate what I have already decided.

    Often they agree to go along with it fairly easily and they say something like “oh ok! maybe we can do my plan tomorrow” and I’m all like yeahhhhhh maybe….. But for real. I do try to take their ideas into consideration and come up with compromises about things that aren’t safety or health related. It does help them feel like they have some control and it strengthens your bond.

    For further reading

    See below for some of my favorite discipline resources:

    No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame  by Janet Lansbury

    No Drama Discipline- The Whole Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nuture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel

    How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life with Children Ages 2-7 by Joanna Faber and Julie King

    Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

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  • Back to school: Holistic health for kids

    Keeping kids healthy when they go back to school is a fun parenting challenge. I feel like I always have at least one sick kid between the months of November and April. Fortunately, we are all extremely healthy and our kids have built up some pretty good immune systems (I’d like to partially credit this to allowing them to play in the dirt!), so while they may get sick, their bodies usually fight illness pretty quickly.

    My family takes a pretty well rounded approach to our health which includes trying to eat less processed foods, incorporating whole fruits and veggies into our every day diet, staying active, spending time outdoors in all weather, making sure we have medical doctors that are progressive, and complementing our modern conventional healthcare with more natural alternatives.

    One of my dear friends, Kaitlyn, is a holistic health practitioner and master herbalist who founded her own organic skincare line called Zen Society (which you should check out here!) I’m partnering with her to bring you some simple ways to keep your family healthy for back to school and beyond.

    Kaitlyn Gustafson, Holistic Health Practitioner and Master Herbalist, Founder and Owner of Zen Society an organic skincare line. Follow her on Instagram @kaitlyngus

    Foods to help keep kids healthy

    One of the most important things for staying healthy is a strong immune system and in order to maintain that Kaitlyn recommends, “eating real, fresh, organic foods.” She also would encourage you to give a daily vitamin as kids diets often don’t provide them with the nutrition they need.
    Additionally, she explains that “the foods we eat now are grown in soil that’s so depleted it often doesn’t produce food with the same amount of nutrients as it used to.” So that serving of spinach 50 years ago was WAY more nutrient dense than the spinach you’re eating now (pro tip for those who don’t love green veggies: put some raw spinach into basically any smoothie and you can barely taste it–our go to is almond milk, spinach, banana, frozen strawberry, chia seeds and flax seeds).
    She notes that today’s fruits and vegetables are lacking vitamins A and C, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, magnesium, iron, zinc and copper so these are key nutrients to make sure you are getting into kids diets every day. She recommends 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, and while that might seem like a lot, foods like carrots or cucumbers dipped into hummus counts as two servings and you can easily get a few servings in with a fruit and veggie smoothie.
    Kaitlyn says that “there are some specific foods she strives to incorporate into her children’s diet which can help boost immunity.” She notes that it’s important to aim for fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin C like “berries, broccoli, sweet potatoes and citrus fruits.” She also suggests adding walnuts to smoothies, yogurts and cereals as they are high in omega 3 fatty acids that help fight illness.
    Superfoods should be included into the diet whenever possible. Some of her favorites are:

    • Blackstrap molasses (can be used in baking as a substitute for sugar)
    • Manuka honey (anti-bacterial properties and can even be applied to a cut instead of an antibiotic)
    • Hemp seeds
    • Chia seeds
    • Flaxseed (always use ground flaxseeds as whole seeds will just pass through your system undigested)
    • Leafy greens like spinach, kale, Swiss chard (all good in smoothies)
    • Wild caught salmon
    • Blueberries
    • Broccoli (my kids loves this best when roasted with a little olive oil and garlic!)

    Daily supplements for kids to help boost immunity

    One of the best things you can give your kids is a high quality probiotic (live healthy bacteria that help your digestive system). Gut health is SO important and Kaitlyn says “healthy gut means good immunity!” There are some food options that can provide a healthy dose of probiotics such as kimchi, fermented vegetables, kefir, grass-fed yogurts–she prefers sheep or goats milk yogurt to cow as they are known to cause less inflammation. If these are not things your kids will eat (let’s face it, kids can be pretty particular…) then giving a probiotic supplement is a great strategy. She recommends Mary Ruth’s Plant Based Liquid Probiotic–they also make a spray one that’s easy to spritz into your little one’s mouth.
    Some other daily supplements to include are:

    But….your kid will still get sick

    So yes, all these things are amazing and will absolutely help boost immunity but that doesn’t mean your kid will never get sick. So when they do here are some more natural and eco-friendly products to help support them while they fight off illness.

    Just a  couple reminders as we head into cold and flu season. Fevers are not necessarily bad. Fevers are your body heating up to kill viruses and bacteria that are causing illness. Many times people rush to treat the fever, when in reality you should be treating the symptoms. I do use over the counter fever reducers if I feel like my little one is really suffering from a fever (can’t sleep, is super cranky) but that usually doesn’t happen until closer to a fever or 102-103. Most often, they can take a luke warm bath and that will help drop their temp enough for them to be comfortable (don’t use cold water as that can cause their body to heat itself even more to combat the cold). Also, keep in mind a fever is a temperature over 100.4.
    If I use a fever reducer I always try to use one that is dye free like the Little Remedies Dye Free Fever and Pain Reducer or the Infant or Children’s Motrin Dye Free (Depending on age–Ibuprofen can only be used in infants 6 months and up).
    **PLEASE make sure you speak to your pediatrician prior to giving any medications. They can help you decide the best course of action as well as dosing.

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  • Cloth diaper basics


    Save up to 10% with GroVia Cloth Diaper Bundles!

    I’ve had a few local mamas express interest in cloth diapering so I wanted to share some basics for anyone who is even curious about trying cloth. It may seem overwhelming, but once you get started it’s really not much different from disposables. There are many reasons why someone might choose cloth–not only are they absolutely adorable, but they are better for the environment and for your wallet.

    Did you know that you will spend approximately $2000 to diaper ONE baby from birth to potty training? I have probably spent about that but am currently diapering my 3rd baby AND will be able to diaper more babies (if I can get hubs to agree to that….). When we are done with diapers forever, I’ll be able to sell them and recoup some of my costs.

    There is some debate on whether or not cloth is a more eco-friendly choice as there are some cloth diapers that do not meet GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) or use Oeko-Tex certified cotton (a worldwide certification that tells you textiles are safe from harmful chemicals) cotton. So it’s important to choose a brand that DOES meet these standards. I also always try to support smaller family businesses vs large corporations when possible. With that in mind, I chose to use diapers from a company called GroVia. They have multiple systems that you can use depending on your lifestyle or preference.

    GroVia diaper styles


    Save up to 10% with GroVia Cloth Diaper Bundles!

    Top left: O.N.E Diaper–perfect for overnights. SUPER absorbent and stay dry material so baby won’t feel wet. Fits approximately 10-35 lbs. I usually start using these when baby is sleeping longer stretches at night.

    Top right: Hybrid diaper shell and snap in soaker. You can often reuse the shell with a clean insert (as long as it isn’t soiled) so this is a nice option for out and about. There are three types of inserts you can buy–cotton, microfleece “no-prep” and  a disposable insert which is biodegradable (this is what we use when we travel and they are ridiculously absorbent). Fits infant through potty training.

    Bottom left: Newborn all in one–just super soft microfeece that keeps new squish skin dry. I used these from birth to about 2-3 months. They are SO ridiculously soft and easy to use when you’re changing approximately 5000 diapers a day.

    Bottom right: All in one (AIO). This is the most comparable to a disposable in terms of use. Made of organic cotton and super trim but very absorbent.

    Laundry Basics

    This is usually where people freak out. “WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THE POOP!?!” Seriously y’all. You’re going to deal with poop either way–you are a parents and it’s pretty much a right of passage. Hello disposable diaper blowout on your favorite little onesie or potty training kid who  his pants. BY THE WAY. I think I can count on less than one hand the amount of blow outs we have had with cloth–but I remember like one a day when we used disposables for the first three months with our first little one.

    But for real. Poop really isn’t a big deal. Breastfed baby poop is totally water soluble so the whole diaper, poop and all, goes into the diaper pail. Once they start solids we have liners and a sprayer that makes dealing with poop simple.

    Laundry must have check list:

    Once baby starts solids and if things get real you can use a disposable liner to catch the poop. What’s nice about these is that they are biodegradable. You should still shake off as much poop as possible prior to tossing it though (you know you’re supposed to do that with disposables too, right?). These ones don’t absorb any liquid so you can use them all day even if they get peed on…. pretty cool. I’ve had the same roll for four years. You can also invest in a diaper sprayer that easily attaches to the water line on your toilet (my hubs did this in under 15 minutes). You just clip the diaper onto the shield and spray into the toilet then toss the diaper into the diaper hamper.

    Wash routine

    Another reason I LOVE GroVia is because they keep things simple with their wash routine. You don’t have to do all these complicated rinse, wash, soak, wash, strip etc…. That’s totally not necessary to get clean diapers and I think it often makes people shy away from using cloth because they think they are going to have to do this insane wash routine multiple times a week. That just isn’t true. I’ve been washing these diapers for four years using a very simple process.

    1. Turn diaper pail inside out into the washing machine
    2. Use half the amount of recommended detergent (Line “2” on the powdered Tide) and do a regular wash cycle.
    3. Follow that with a long wash or heavy duty wash cycle with the full amount of detergent (Line “4” on the powdered Tide).
    4. Throw in the dryer. You can hang dry them to extend their life but not sure who has time for that….

    Wash every 2-3 days, use mighty bubbles every 6-8 weeks or so and that’s it. My diaper look and smell as good as the day I bought them (we are starting to get some wear but that just means they are well loved!!)

    Caring for bums and such

    We use cloth wipes. We use them for EVERYTHING. To clean bums, hands, faces, counters…..the are extremely versatile. GroVia makes a great cloth wipe. I’ve been using the same wipes for 4 years now and they are still in perfect condition.

    We make a very simple cloth wipe spray using these amazing little cubes from one of our other favorite diaper company called Sloomb (they also make all the wool pants my kids wear ). We just boil water, pour hot water into one of these amber spray bottles, throw in a few cubes and that’s it. We just spray out wipes as needed. We also use this spray for wiping dirty hands and faces (it’s all natural ingredients).

    None of my kids have ever gotten a diaper rash and I think that’s partly due to using cloth diapers–they get changed more often and there are no chemicals reacting to their pee and then sitting on their skin. That’s not to say you’ll never get a diaper rash using cloth. You CAN but many times it’s from ammonia build up or using a detergent that your baby is sensitive to. But if you use the mighty bubbles a few times and then switch up your wash routine that usually does the trick. When we do have a little bum redness we use Boudreaux’s Natural Butt Paste in the GREEN tube as it is cloth diaper safe (won’t stain or cause anything to repel). We also use the magic stick by GroVia as an every day balm for the diaper area.

    Get the best in natural baby products at The Natural Baby Company

    Have cloth diaper questions? ASK ME! I’m happy to help. I’ll be posting some video tutorials so let me know if there is something specific you feel you need to visualize!

    #clothy

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  • Infant sleep: Understanding the secrets of sleep

    SLEEP! One of my favorite topics. Helping mamas figure out how to get their little ones to sleep is one of my passions. I have helped so many friends and mom’s group friends that people now tag me on sleep posts…And I LOVE IT! After countless hours of research and working with a sleep coach here are some of my greatest findings.

    The science of sleep

    Yes, y’all. There is a science to understanding how little ones sleep. If you can understand the basics you can greatly impact your ability to help guide them to better sleep. So here is an overview of what I have learned through all my research:

    •  It isn’t that babies don’t know HOW to sleep (hello newborn that can barely keep their eyes open during a feeding), it’s that they need to learn how to FALL asleep and get themselves back to sleep when they wake at night. Once babies become more alert their brains are stimulated, and more often than not, OVERSTIMULATED. They need to learn how to shut down and fall sleep. This doesn’t mean that you should be expecting your infant to know how to do this immediately, it’s a gradual process but there are some simple ways you can help it along.
    • Learning to fall asleep and get themselves back to sleep if they wake in the middle of the night is a DEVELOPMENTAL process. It’s important to pay close attention to their sleep cues, following recommended wake times, and understand that babies need WAY more sleep than most people realize.
    •  Babies sleep cycles are different from ours and they don’t start producing melatonin (the sleep hormone) until around four months. This is a HUGE change for their brains and can cause one of the first major sleep regressions. This is when sleep cycles start to become more pronounced. So they come out of deep sleep and have a hard time falling back to sleep (and a sleep cycle for an infant is about 45 minutes…so that is why so many babies start waking either every 45 minutes or every 1.5 hours during this 4 month sleep regression).
    • Sleep regressions are REAL. They happen when babies make developmental leaps (read more about these here), are learning new skills, are going through a growth spurt. This means it’s important to pay attention to what your little one is going through. By observing their behavior you can often understand what is causing the sleep disturbance and then figure out an approach from there.
    • You can build good sleep habits from day one. One of my go to references is Alice Callahan Ph.D and you can read some of her tips here. She has also written a book called The Science of Mom which you can order here. One of my all time favorite blog posts about sleep is written by Dr. Callahan and posted on Janet Landsbury’s blog. I specifically love that it talks about how you can build healthy attachment with your child while also encouraging independent sleep.

    How much sleep do babies need? Way more than you think

    Seriously. WAY MORE. And the more they sleep the better they will sleep. Being overtired or overstimulated is one of the biggest problems in infant sleep. Babies who are overtired have a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep. They are fussier, clingier and less content in general. Babies aren’t the only ones that need more sleep–in fact the American Academy of Pediatrics says most kids are not getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep can not only make kids generally cranky but it can impact their social, emotional and academic development, and can have an effect on their physical and mental health. So laying foundations for healthy sleep when your little ones are little, is a big deal.  Also keep in mind that a day should be broken into two parts: day and night–each being 12 hours. So if they wake “for the day” at 7am, then they should be asleep for “the night” at 7pm. Once you get into toddlerhood this changes a little and their night becomes a little shorter.

    Below is a chart the helps you visually see how long infants (and toddlers) should be awake in between sleep.

    Sleep cues

    Babies gives us many clues that they are tired and I’m not talking about yawning (if baby is yawning you have missed your sleep window and are moving into the overtired stage). Sometimes we miss them because, let’s be honest, we are busy AF and overwhelmed as new parents or as parents with multiple kids. But if you have these cues in mind, and are following wake times, it makes it easier to spot a baby that’s starting to show sleep cues.

    • Looking away from you if you try to engage
    •  Rubbing their eyes
    • Rubbing their face against your shoulder
    •  Staring off/seeming very calm

    An overtired baby is a baby that can’t sleep

    Sleep begets sleep. That means: the better baby sleeps, the more baby sleeps. If you want baby to sleep, it’s best to put them down WELL before they “get tired”–this is the perfect time for them to start learning to fall asleep. If they are happy and just starting to get tired, they may be able to drift off. If they are overtired and cranky, not so much. Once your little one is yawning, they are overtired.

    Sleep regressions

    Sleep regressions suck. Seriously. One minute you have a baby that is sleeping great and seemingly out of nowhere they are waking up more often or can’t seem to settle themselves. Sleep regressions often go hand in hand with developmental leaps or when your little one is learning new skills like sitting, standing or walking. Basically their little brains are on overdrive with developing and learning and it makes it harder for them to settle. During a sleep regression the best possible thing to do is try to stick to you routine as much as possible. Comfort baby when needed but also try not to begin any new habits.

    Good sleep habits from day one

    Everyone always asks how I ended up with “such good sleepers”–the truth is, I worked to provide them with opportunities to develop good sleep habits from day one. I think that all babies have the ability to become good sleepers–it might come more naturally to some than others (because all babies ARE different) but if you begin introducing solid sleep habits from day one you’ll be in much better place than someone who doesn’t. And it isn’t all that hard, I promise!

    • Help them figure out days and nights. During the first few weeks make sure that the lights are on and the house is “noisy” during the day. Once it’s evening, turn the lights low or off and have the house as quiet as can be (harder if you have crazy toddlers running around, I know). This helps babies learn that daytime is for being awake and nighttime is for sleeping. We used to put the older kids to bed and then turn the lights totally off and watch TV in the dark with the sound on low.
    • Pay attention to wake times and do whatever you need to do during the first few months to get babies sleeping by those wake time windows. Don’t worry too much about habits, but also pay attention to what habits you might be creating…..it’s a fine line
    • Start letting baby attempt to put themselves to sleep. Whether it’s once a day or once a week, try to put baby down well before the wake time window closes (so they are at their most relaxed) and see if they start to drift off. If they don’t or they start to fuss, no worries. Pick them up, rock them, nurse them. Just try again, and again. The more chances they get to practice the more likely they will learn to sleep independently (it’s a process!)
    • Pause before you respond to every little noise. I don’t mean let them cry. I mean pause. Like wait a few seconds. So many times a baby will just make a little gurgle and we will run over to pick them up. It could be that baby is just making a little noise but that they are still asleep. Also, a note on “crying” in older babies….Listen for a minute to see if your baby is actually crying. If they are just fussing or protesting going to sleep, or babbling to themselves or practicing their pterodactyl screeching (like my 6 month old is currently in the habit of doing) don’t rush in. Let them be alone for a little–even if it’s just a minute or two.
    • Make the room as comfortable for sleep as possible. This includes a white noise sound machine (not one that makes actual sounds like rain or crickets!). We love the Marpac Dohm one because it’s an actual little fan inside so it doesn’t loop. Everyone one in my house has one, including us. I notice a HUGE difference in my sleep if I don’t have it on. We also use black out shades.
    • Swaddle in the early months (0-3 months). Pay attention to whether baby likes their arms in or if they seem to want access to their hands. Babies will sometime “fight” the swaddle but stick with it–they have a reflex called the Moro reflex that makes their little arms flail and will wake them up (that’s why swaddling is so effective at helping babies stay asleep longer. Also think about it this way. you baby was just all squished up inside your uterus for 9 months. Having the pressure from a swaddle helps them feel more secure. There are two swaddles that I would recommend. We love the Woombie for arms in. It zips from both ends, which makes middle of the night diaper changes much easier (don’t unzip their arms and they will fall asleep faster!), and they can’t break out of it. They also have a vented one for warmer weather and a convertible one that can help you transition out of the swaddle. If you find baby likes to rub their face or is starting to try to get their hands close to their mouth they may prefer an “arms up” type swaddle like the Love to Dream–both my daughters preferred getting to their hands and this worked much better for them. It does take a little trial and error.
    • Use a wearable blanket when babies are ready to transition out of the swaddle–usually around 3-4 months. We own many different wearable blankets but my favorite BY FAR is the Woolino.  Wool is a natural fiber that helps regulate body temperature. This sleep sack also grows with baby so you don’t have to buy multiple sizes (so while it’s more expensive than some, you will only be buying ONE vs every size while baby grows). They also have one with feet which is great once you have a walker. If you want something that’s cotton I would recommend the BabyDeedee sleep sack. The quality is amazing, they have really durable zippers unlike some of the other cotton sleep sacks we have tried–and they also have snaps on the top of the shoulders for ease of use.

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  • Eco- Conscious: Simple ways to be a more environmentally friendly family

    Eco-friendly is a mindset

    Being environmentally friendly isn’t just a thing you do–it’s a mindset. A way of looking at all aspects of your life. But it doesn’t have to be intimidating and overwhelming. There are many ways in which you and your family can be more eco-friendly. You don’t have to do ALL THE THINGS. Doing something (even something small) is always better than doing nothing at all.

    Importance of being eco-friendly

    The most important reason for us as parents to be more conscious of how we live is because we need to keep our planet as beautiful as it is for future generations. It’s about not being selfish and understanding the long term impact of our decisions. That said, there are a few very simple ways we can adjust our lifestyles and habits.

    Respecting nature

    One of the simplest ways we can be more eco-friendly is helping our children develop a love of nature. Spend time outside enjoying the little things–smell flowers, touch rocks, stare at clouds… these are all things kids do anyways–they are programmed to see beauty in nature and it’s part of our job to try to take a step back and allow them to appreciate their surroundings. If kids develop a love of nature, they will instinctually want to make choices that help our planet.

    Here are just a few things you can do with your kids to help them develop better sense of respect for nature.

    • Go for walks and point out interesting finds (flowers, rocks, moss, bugs etc.)
    • Visit your local nature center or farm
    • Head outside in all kinds of weather (there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing choices!)
    • Teach them to clean up after themselves when they are outside (talk to them about what it means to litter)
    • Plant a small garden (bonus: often kids are more willing to try fruits and veggies that have helped plant and grow)

    Ditch plastic as much as possible

    Seriously. STOP BUYING SO MUCH PLASTIC NON-SENSE. Please. Not only is it bad for our environment, it’s bad for your health.
    Single use plastic water bottles, plastic kids plates and cups, plastic snack baggies, plastic wrap to cover left over toddler dinners, plastic toys. Plastic, plastic everywhere.
    There are so many comparable options that can easily eliminate all this plastic we consume.
    Here are a few of my favorite items to swap out.

    • Buy everyone stainless steel water bottles. My favorite is the Pura Kiki. It’s more expensive, I know. BUT it’s literally a birth to adult cup. Seriously. Check out my post about it.
    • Invest in silicone “plastic” bags. Not only are reusable but you can cook food safely in them (hello sous vide!). I got these ones by Stasher. They have multiple sizes–I love the gallon ones for storing half eaten things of bacon. The sandwiches size is perfect for storing cut fruits and veggies (or sandwiches!) and the snack size is great if you like to portion out snacks for your kids.
    • Buy some beeswax wrap instead of using plastic wrap or tin foil. I love the smell (smells like honey) and they are easy to take care of–just wash in cold water with a little soap. We have a bunch of different sizes all made by Bee’s Wrap.

    Simple ways to be more green

    Compost!

    Seriously, this isn’t as hard as it sounds. Buy a little guy for your kitchen (we have this one) and one for your yard. I like this one for the yard because it has two chambers so you don’t have to wait for it to be done “composting”–you can dump your steady stream of half eaten veggies, eggs shells, apple peels and produce that goes bad because you forgot it was sitting at the back of the fridge into it without worrying. You can read more about composting strategies here but don’t be intimidated. We just throw all our raw stuff (no cooked foods allowed) and some leaves in and turn it every few weeks. Done. Amazing soil to use either for gardening or just to let your kids play in…my kids LOVE dirt.

     

     

    RUN to buy this rain water collector.

    No joke. My kids will play with this for hours. Filing up bowls and dumping them into other bowls. Making mud pies. Helping me water the plants. It fills up with one rain. Just FYI it collects the rain from your gutter! I didn’t realize that until it arrived.  Yes, it’s plastic. But it’s recycled plastic–and you are conserving water vs using the hose all day. You can also buy this little stand which makes it easier for the kids to get access to the water.

    Try to use more natural fiber materials like organic cotton, wool and bamboo.

    Or buy from Buy Sell Trade groups on social media. That way you are saving money and also reusing materials.

     

    Consider cloth diapering!

    I promise it isn’t as hard as people think it is–in fact, it’s pretty much the same as using disposable diapers now that we have more modern cloth diaper options. If you use disposable diapers, use a brand that is eco-friendly like these ones–they are bamboo and biodegradable.

    Use cloth wipes when you are home.

    We use them for cleaning wet bums, wiping dirty hands and faces, wiping counter spills, wiping our kids down when we don’t have time for a bath….the list goes on. This is an EASY way to stop using paper towels and excess baby wipes. We love these cloths wipes by GroVia.

    Watch your toy buying habits

    Consider either not buying so many toys (research has actually shown that too many toys inhibits children’s creativity and  hinders focused play) or if you feel compelled to buy, try to look for toys made from sustainable materials or buy from companies that value sustainability in their production of products.
    One of my favorite places to buy toys is The Natural Baby Company.  The company is owned by a mama who does an amazing job of finding and bringing high quality and eco-friendly products to her customers.

    Make your own cleaning supplies

    There are many simple ways to make cleaning supplies. Not only is it better for the environment because you’re not going through so many plastic bottles, it’s also better for your health to use less toxic cleaning ingredients, and it’s cheaper in the long run. We bought a bunch of these glass bottles with chalk labels and we make an all purpose cleaner, a glass cleaner, a tea tree oil cleaner, and we also make “bum spray” which we use to clean wet bums and dirty kids. All the cleaning recipes I use are going to be posted here.

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  • Sibling rivalry: How to stop all the fighting

    Healthy sibling relationships

    People always ask if I’m crazy when I say I want more kids. I guess the short answer is, yes, yes I am. But seriously, I think one of the best gifts I can give my kids is their siblings. That’s not to say it is a cake walk–one of the hardest parts of having more than one kid is managing the relationship they have with each other. Some days it seems like they wake up with the goal of destroying one another. After a few rough weeks and after hearing a bunch of mamas talk about having some of the same issues, I decided to re-read one of my favorite parenting books called Siblings Without Rivalry (you can buy it here) but I will break down some of the most important take aways.

    Don’t Compare

    It’s so hard not to compare your kids to each other. But doing so pits them against one another. Instead just DESCRIBE what you see, what you like or don’t like, or what needs to be done. Keep it based on your observation of that particular child.

     Things can’t and shouldn’t be “equal”

    Instead of worrying about trying to make things equal, it’s more important to focus on what each kid NEEDS (nothing is EVER going to be equal, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fair). The last thing you want is kids feeling like one is the “favorite” and to avoid this you need to provide for each kid uniquely.

    Avoid placing kids in roles

    It’s important not to label kids with qualities whether good or bad. Pointing at one for being social and the other for being shy only brings a bigger divide.

    Does this picture look familiar? One kid puts their foot too close to the other, and all of a sudden it’s on.

    Okay but they still fight…

    Yes, unfortunately some fighting is inevitable but here are some strategies to help get them to work things out on their own.

    1. Describe what you see. “Oh wow, looks like you’re really angry that Charlotte is using your truck and you want to hit her with that block.” (this is where you take the block)
    2. They will likely start telling you what happened. Listen to each side with respect and without judgement.
    3. Show you understand how difficult the problem is (and remember that even though a problem may seem small to us it can seem HUGE to them…) Say something like: “Yeah it’s really hard when someone is using something that is special to us.”
    4. Express confidence that they will be able to work it out on their own. If they are toddlers, prompt them with something like “Hummm you guys can figure this out together. Maybe Charlotte will play with the truck and you can play with [insert some other popular toy] and then you guys can switch?”
    5. Leave. Kids will work things out MUCH better on their own. If they aren’t hurting each other let them work it out. If it sounds like it’s getting too rough I will usually call out something like “It sounds like people are angry. Do you need me to come in there or can you figure it out yourselves?” More often than not they want to figure it out themselves.

    And what about when they physically hurt each other….

    1. If they are about to hurt each other, then it’s important to physically separate them. Remind them that they need to cool off first before they figure out a plan forward.
    2.  If you weren’t fast enough (which we all know is most of the time because these little suckers are fast AF) and they have already kicked, bit, hit, slapped, stepped on etc…. Make sure to focus on the one who was hurt vs the one who did the hurting. Give a quick but firm (not angry) “We don’t [insert violent action used]” and that’s it.

    Building a positive relationships from the start

    Obviously if kids have good feelings towards each other it will be MUCH easier for them to settle disagreements because they will want to get back to the positive relationship vs harping on the bad.

    A couple tips for building those positive sibling vibes

    1. Let them overhear you talk about how great they are as a team. “Wow, today Henry was teaching Charlotte to draw a face and Charlotte was helping Henry mix all the paints. They were really creating some great art together!”
    2. Direct them to ask for help from each other vs you.
    3. Instead of having them compete against each other as in “who can get upstairs to brush teeth the fastest” (which pits one against the other) it’s better to have them work together against you or the clock. So say something like “Do you guys think you can get upstairs and brush teeth before the timer goes off? Or before I count to 30?” Something that gets them working AS A TEAM not against one another.

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  • Road-tripping with toddlers

    Tips for Toddler Road Trips

    So this isn’t going to be your typical “Top 10 Tips for Road-tripping with a Toddler” post where I tell you the best toys to bring in the car and encourage you to load your kid with snacks to keep them happy in the car…but bear with me.

    We are going on a road trip tomorrow to a beach house. We will spend at minimum 4.5 hours in the car to get there. You know how many things I will do to entertain my kids in the car….. ZERO. I will do exactly zero things. Seriously. I can count on one hand the amount of toys I have given my kids to play with on car rides. They typically get a book or two and a small toy like a stuff animal, doll, match box car or small truck.

    We don’t do a DVD player, we don’t do an iPad, we don’t even do toddler music.

    Why? Because, I like to torture myself. No. Seriously, because I really feel like we, as parents (and as a society), are responsible for giving our kids plenty of opportunities to be bored. Being stuck in a carseat is boring AF. But my kids are so used to not being entertained in the car that they don’t even think twice. They sing, look for colors, ask us questions, point out trucks, sleep, they look out the window and daydream.

    Now listen, I’m not saying throwing on a DVD if you’re driving a ridiculously long way is a bad idea–I just think we need to intentionally seek out opportunities that allow our kids to be bored–and the car is a great place to start.

    It’s never too late to start letting your kids get bored…

    •  Limit the amount of toys they have access to in the car
    • Try to keep toys to basic open ended things that don’t require batteries
    • Books, books, books!
    • Don’t provide toys for shorter trips

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  • Understanding developmental leaps

    Developmental leaps. What are they? Why should I care about them?

    They are one of the biggest factors that will impact your infants behavior from birth to about 18 months–from their mood to their sleep. My 5.5 month old is currently going through a “leap”–she is super clingy, fussier than normal, constantly wanting to nurse but just sort of staring into space half the time–just generally acting a little off.

    What is a “developmental leap”?

    A developmental leap is a time during infancy when a baby is going through a big change in their understanding of the world and how things work. During this time your baby will begin to develop new skills.

    Why should I care about “leaps”?

    So you can stop stressing so much! Often times knowing that your baby is about to go through or in the process of going through a leap will calm your nerves. When you notice your little is a little off it could be a sign they are going through a leap–and it’s always reassuring to have some knowledge about WHY they are acting the way they are….

    What should I be looking for?

    • Crankiness
    • Clinginess (Wanting to be held more than normal)
    • Crying/Fussing
    • Restless sleep or change in sleep pattern (or changes in sleep–for example: my daughter has been putting herself to sleep by sucking her fingers but now all of a sudden wants to nurse to sleep)
    • Practicing a new skill

    What else do I need to know?

    Understand that these leaps are NORMAL and should be WELCOMED! This is your baby growing and changing. As hard as it is, it’s what they do….right?

    Also, understand that not everything is exact. It’s not like the leap starts on a specific day at a specific time–it’s a timeframe. Also note that there are often other things going on during these times too! Some of these leap phases are also accompanied by growth spurts (fun!) or sleep regressions (super fun!) or BOTH at the same time (the most fun ever!).

    If you want more information about these developmental leaps I suggest buying a copy of the book The Wonder Weeks. There is also an app you can download to help you track your baby’s leaps.

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