Baby Fair

As some of you know, I recently exhibited my nursing necklaces and toy slings at the Baby Fair in Bloomington, Indiana! It was special event, not only as my first time exhibiting something other than my oil paintings, but also on a more personal note.

After visiting the Baby Fair in 2013 I went into labor with Fox! So they definitely have some super sweet baby mojo!

BABS, the organization hosting the fair, has been such a huge help throughout my adventure into motherhood. We took our childbirth class there, received a lot of comfort and support from the new moms’ group I joined there, and their lactation consultant is a miracle worker who helped us solve our oversupply issues.

Seeing everything come together for the fair, as I gathered display items and decorations, then filled them up with new slings and necklaces, was so very exciting, fulfilling, and motivating. Too much fun to feel like work. I’m loving all the new fabric I’ve ordered from other Etsy shops! (If you can’t seem to find the perfect fabric at a local shop, I highly recommend browsing Etsy)! The Art Gallery Fabrics in particular are so soft and have some seriously adorable and stylish prints. I absolutely love playing with color and pattern! Picking out things I like and putting it all together is so much fun!

My booth at The Baby Fair!

My booth at The Baby Fair!

I never would have done all this just for my Etsy shop. It wouldn’t have seemed like a good use of time that could be spent making more items for the shop and listing them. However it was very motivational in a much more tangible way. So I’m very glad to have had this event to inspire me and provide a sense of accomplishment.

On the day of the Baby Fair I had help from two very amazing women, (who traveled two hours here and back), and my very patient husband! Russ’ mom came to help load everything up, unload it at the convention center, and help with Fox while I set it all up. When he got tired of being at the fair she took him to WonderLab with Russ. His step-mom came to help with my booth during the fair and loading everything up and taking it back to our place when it was over. I honestly don’t see how it would have been possible for me to take part in the Baby Fair if it hadn’t been for their help! I also must say that all the support and encouragement from my mom in Florida has also been key in my being able to follow my dreams. Thank you so very much!!!

It was great fun to get to meet and chat with all the moms and families at the Baby Fair! I’m very grateful for all who stopped by my both. It was an honor to be part of such a wonderful event that helps so many moms and babies. So wonderful to connect with others along this journey of motherhood.

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What I Wish I’d Had

It’s easy to be overwhelmed with all the baby stuff out there. The absolute must-haves are generally pretty obvious. But what about the things just beyond that?

I recently came across a list I made a few months ago of baby essentials I wish I’d had from the start or soon after, as a reminder to myself for next time. I’m sharing it here to save other mama’s the trouble.

  1. Exercise Ball – for bouncing baby to sleep. Fox preferred bouncing over the rocking chair. I used to walk back and forth from one end of our apartment to the other, bouncing, shhhing, and singing him to sleep. Bouncing on a ball is more comfortable and less work, especially with a bigger baby or toddler. We still bounce to sleep most nights and naps at 17 months. Our exercise ball even comes with us when we stay at Grandma’s.
  2. White Noise Machine – to help baby fall asleep and stay asleep. I thought the app on my phone would’ve good enough, and it worked in a pinch, but a separate white noise machine has been a staple for us. The phone app would cut off if someone called. Plus, if I used my phone while he was sleeping on me that so… Drowning out sounds, like the dog barking, that might otherwise wake him up.  Ours also shines stars and a moon up onto the ceiling, so there’s the added bonus of a cute night light.  Fox loves to point up to the ceiling and talk about the stars.
  3. Pillow for Back Lying – Co-sleeping for us meant sleeping on my back with Fox in the crook of my arm, usually latched on. Before being pregnant I’d been a stomach sleeper, so this was a bit of an adjustment for me. Exhaustion beyond belief helped me get used to sleeping on my back, but it was still tricky. For a while I’d use two extra pillows on either side of my head to keep from straining my neck and back. It required frequent adjustments, trying to keep from waking my sleeping baby while attempting to get comfortable myself. When I finally got a pillow meant for back sleepers it not only helped me fall asleep faster, but so much strain and pain was alleviated along with the hassle of getting three pillows just right all the time.
  4. Coconut Oil – The first time Fox had thrush we took him to the doctor and filled a prescription. Treatment involved multiple doses per day combined with spot treatments with a q-tip. It was heartbreak, 4 times a day. I was seeing a WIC peer counselor for breastfeeding help just after noticing another white spot on his lip. Luckily I happened to mention it to her, along with how I dreaded having to give him more medicine. She recommended I try coconut oil, as a spot treatment for him, on myself and even once the symptoms were gone, to keep it from coming back. It worked! The thrush went away without medicine and it never came back! Coconut oil also helped with his cradle cap. I’d simply rub it on his scalp a little bit before giving him a bath and just wash it off when I washed his hair. Slowly but surely his cradle cap went away.
  5. Water Bottle with Straw – Wish I’d had one of these in my early pumping days. I was so very thirsty while pumping, but both my hands were occupied. My mom put a straw in my old water bottle, but it was too short and kept falling in. This type of water bottle also makes it so much easier to get a drink while co-sleeping, when I’m unable to sit up, and without the sound of opening and closing a lid like my previous water bottle.
  6. Button-less Cardigans – Without sashes or ties of any kind. I had a couple, but wish I’d had more from the start. They’re snuggly, without buttons or zippers against your baby or in the way when they want to nurse NOW. Plus, with all the split up and leaks leading to impromptu wardrobe changes, it’s nice to have extras on hand.
  7. Teething Tablets – I’m super grateful to the friends who recommended these to me. Tiny tablets dissolve quickly in baby’s mouth, easing the pain on those extra fussy days.
  8. Baltic Amber Teething Necklaces – I wish I’d had one to wear starting during pregnancy and one for Fox when he started teething around 3 months. I was skeptical at first, but I had been giving Fox teething tablets 3 to 4 times a day during rough teething days and since he started wearing his necklace I’ve only had to give them to him once or twice on a bad day. (The rough days are also much less often, even now with molars coming in). Since babies and toddlers don’t know about the placebo effect, I’d say they work.
  9. Nursing Necklaces – Right away I knew I wasn’t going to be able to wear most of my necklaces for a while. But I still wanted to wear necklaces that fit my style while being safe for my baby’s mouth and tiny hands. Nursing necklaces are wonderful for use while breastfeeding and babywearing! They provide visual stimulation for baby and encourage fine motor skills, giving them something pretty to play with while nursing, being worn, or just snuggling. Plus they’re so cute I’d wear them even without my baby.
  10. Ring Sling – I wish I’d started babywearing sooner and more often around the house. I had a borrowed ring sling, but its’ padding kept me from being able to tighten it enough. Fox wasn’t big enough for the Ergo without an infant insert, (which probably would’ve been too hot anyway), and the Moby I had got too hot. I needed a basic ring sling, but didn’t know it until much later.

I’m grateful though, because by wading through this sea of baby stuff I learned a lot about what I needed and what I didn’t. I hope that by sharing I can make life a little easier for other mommies out there.

Was there anything you wished you’d had sooner or couldn’t imagine going without?

My Breastfeeding Journey

 

While it hasn’t always been easy, it was important to me to get breastfeeding to work for us. We’ve had our share of bumps in the road, but I’m delighted to say we’ve made it to 16 months with no signs if stopping.

This is our story.

 

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The day my son was born a lactation consultant visited our hospital room and taught me how to hand express colostrum and feed it to him with a flexible little cup. Throughout our stay various lactation consultants helped us learn about proper latch and gave us bottle/nipple recommendations for a breastfed baby who was still getting the hang of it. They taught me how to use a breast pump and got me set up pumping for 15 minutes every 2 hours, around the clock.

I am exceedingly grateful for lactation consultants.

Since he was jaundiced we had to set alarms to wake him up for feedings. And we had to keep him awake long to get enough to eat. Tickling him or removing his swaddling blanket.

We had to use donor milk for a couple days, to help get his bilirubin levels down, while waiting for my milk to come in.

I’d wake up my husband and have him start warming a bottle while we’d try to nurse. He’d usually get too frustrated and need the bottle, but sometimes we’d get a good latch and he’d nurse for 15 minutes to an hour.

I continued pumping for about two weeks. I was so exhausted I remember closing my eyes, for just a moment, while pumping and instantly dreaming. I also recall feeling a bit like a cow, hooked up to that machine when I just wanted to hold my baby. (My hat’s off to exclusively pumping mamas).

12 days after his birth, he had a bottle in the morning then successfully nursed the rest of the day. And he hasn’t had a bottle since.

At first I could only nurse sitting up, with the football hold, but we gradually transitioned into the cradle hold and I was excited to learn about laid-back breastfeeding from The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. That was a game changer for us. Especially at night. Being able to nurse while lying down meant I could latch him on and go back to sleep, barely having to wake at all.

Once we got on a roll, our biggest hurdle was managing my over supply and overactive let down. My little guy would often arch his back and cry while nursing. It was awful not knowing what was wrong or what to do to make it better.

My husband and I tried to determine the issue and remedy online, but found contradictory advice.

In desperation I called the WIC breastfeeding line and left a voicemail for the WIC peer counselor. She returned my call shortly after, listened to my story and gave me some suggestions to try before our appointment.

I also made a lactation consultation appointment at BABS. It was there we discovered my little guy had a tongue and lip tie. Fortunately it was minor enough that he was still able to get a good latch and, since he was gaining well and nursing wasn’t hurting me, we decided not to have it lasered. It merely caused him to nurse more often, since he’d get tired with the extra effort of moving his tongue.

I learned that block feeding was the answer to our oversupply issue. (Keeping him on one side for a time, still nursing as often as he wanted, then switching to the other side for the same length of time). I had been trying that at 2 hour intervals already, but I had to gradually increase the time I kept him on one side until I was at 5 hours. I think it took about a month to get my supply under control after implementing my block feeding plan with my lactation consultants.

You might think that oversupply would be a good problem to have, (FEED ALL THE BABIES), but in addition to a fussy baby, it made for plugged ducts and mastitis. Luckily the remedy to those issues is more nursing, (and antibiotics for mastitis). What a beautiful design!

At 16 months, we’re still nursing on demand, often to and during sleep. Not only for nutrition, (along with solids), but also for comfort and bonding.

My soft goal is three years. That’s how long my mom nursed me. We’ll continue to nurse as long as he wants to.

My story is not meant as a substitute for professional advice. Everyone is different. If you or someone you know is experiencing difficulty breastfeeding I highly recommend making an appointment with a lactation consultant.