What Every Mom Secretly Wants for Mother's Day - courtesy of Birdsong Brooklyn

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by Erica Livingston & Laura Interlandi of Birdsong Brooklyn  

Though the wonderful world of Social Media we have found many friends and kindred spirits. This post was written by two such souls in Brooklyn, NY. We hope it encourages your heart as it did ours. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram - Lauren Barnes | Executive Director | The Motherhood Collective

 

What Every Mom Secretly Wants for Mother's Day - courtesy of Birdsong Brooklyn

The most important holiday of the year is upon us…Mother’s Day.

If you had to guess what every mother wants for Mother’s Day what would it be? The cheap guesses are flowers, chocolate and jewelry…. More creative might be: that wooden teething necklace she pinned last night, a new Sakura Bloom silk ring sling she tried to win on instagram, a new bag for her breast pump, a gift card to the coffee shop around the corner from her work, a bottle of tequila with a pack of salt and a lime, a bi monthly cleaning service, a bag of every single flavor of M&M’s, the seasons pass to MadMen on iTunes, a homemade coupon for a night out with her bestie… Still however, we think the material exchange of thanks is always going to fall short and somehow miss the mark (and for the record… this is a “never instead of, always as well as” scenario so please do get us all of the above plus all of the following….)

What we think every mom is hoping for on mothers day is… to be mothered.

What does this mean? Rocked in a cradle and held and sung to? That sounds nice. But no- not exactly. What we want is to be considered, thought of, and shown in small moment to moment ways that you appreciate us by mirroring back the care we output the other 364 days of the year.

Think about it… its the way she is always thinking several steps ahead of everything going on,  with the burp cloth in her pocket to clean the inevitable impending mess or setting the kettle to brew before anyone has even thought they wanted tea. The way she remembers the kids ever-changing clothing and shoe sizes and knows exactly where everyone left their favorite hat or put the keys or stowed the diaper bag. She wants someone to make the itinerary for HER and make and execute all the choices that day and not be the one who decides what everyone eats and and when they eat it and where. And she definitely doesn’t want to clean it all up afterwards. She wants someone to metaphorically clean off her high chair, to figuratively get her favorite toys out and to symbolically wipe her butt.

Dads, friends, kids here’s what you can do for mom this year: sure, make her the cute card and buy her the gift you were saving up for but also…put a cup of tea or coffee in her hand as she rises. Have the three meals of the day planned, prepped and magically appearing before she can say “What should we do about lunch?”. Do not ask her where anything is that day. If you’ve lost something, find it, or wait and ask her on Monday. Don’t expect her to tell you what she wants to do or pick the kids outfits or make sure everyone eats at least two vegetables. For Mother’s Day this year don’t ask her to make any choices. You make the choices today and make the ones you know she loves: take the route that’s prettiest, decide to eat your lunch outside, and have the picnic blanket and basket all ready to go to her favorite spot in the park or backyard. Have her favorite movie or the bad reality TV show she secretly loves to watch already queued up and set to play after dinner when the littles are put to bed (or maybe while you do bedtime), draw her a lavender bath and put on her favorite pandora station while she soaks. Don’t offer to massage her feet or back just do it. Pick up those tired legs, set them in your lap and get rubbin’.

Don’t wait until 10AM and ask “Do you want to go for brunch?” and then wait in line with hungry kids making her feel like the day was an after thought. If you don’t have the time or money to plan an outing then make the day easy and special for her- get up and out of bed as soon as you hear the baby cry, change the diaper and let her sleep while you prep coffee (with the brown sugar and extra cream you know she takes).

Do the things she wants before she knows she wants them. She spends her days juggling schedules, commitments, expectations and clingy toddlers all the while trying to be 10 steps ahead reading everyones minds… or in other words- being a mom.

Today- be hers.

Happy Mother’s Day-

by Erica Livingston & Laura Interlandi of Birdsong Brooklyn

Does our work matter?

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Does the unnoticed, messy, relentless, thankless, work matter? In a world full of big and grand, I have been dwelling on this recently. We applaud high attendance at events, we worship those with millions of Instagram followers, we praise leaders who bring help to thousands, and we yearn after bigger houses, bigger cars and bigger paychecks.

But what about the small? What about the mother with several children at home who bathes, feeds, and dresses the same little bodies every day? Does her work matter? What about the mother who balances daycare, employment, and bedtime routines? Or the mother who just gained custody of the older children? Does her work matter?

I would argue that, YES, her work matters immensely. For her investment is not in something that quickly depreciates or that will fade away with time. Her investment is generational. Her investment is in something greater than herself. Her investment leaves a legacy. Her investment, though quiet, teaches the most beautiful of all lessons. Her investment teaches how to love.

So keep up the good work today, my friends. I see you. THEY see you. You are changing lives in the most beautiful way.

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To the mom of only one child… and for those who wonder why she doesn’t have more…

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Last week I tried to buy a bike rack. I found a good deal on a quality one and had dreams of family bike rides through Lynchburg trails with the summer wind blowing in our faces. All those dreams came crashing down when I realized my husband’s truck hitch wouldn’t fit the rack. Today, I bought another rack, one that fit my trunk and our budget and my expectations for quality. After school, I picked up my son and we took our bikes to a local park to ride our hearts out before a spring thunderstorm was to strike. I’m not sure what makes an 8 year old boy ride through every mud puddle, but he did and the whole backside of him from ankles to head was covered in splatters. It delighted him (and me) as his laughter and whistles competed with the wind.  

A close friend and I recently chatted about the pain of only having one child when our arms ache for more. For me, the years of infertility and the experience of an angel baby has left me a bit dried up and searching for who I truly am, when I was “supposed” to be the mother of a houseful of noisy children, who made Christmas dinners entertaining and left dirty socks in every corner. It doesn’t help that we live in a city where having children is almost a religion and only having one child entices many to ask… “Are you going to give that boy a sister?” Or the pitying looks from those wondering if I’m every going to conceive again. When Ethan was 5 or 6, the questions of when we were having another seemed to fade away. If we lived in a metropolitan area, I’m pretty sure no one would bat an eye at our only having one child. But today, it took me off guard when the owner of our favorite Mexican restaurant asked me that very question. In all fairness to him, we haven’t seen him in years as he runs multiple eateries, but it still surprised me.

 

A few years ago after we lost our baby, we went through fertility treatments. Physically and emotionally, I knew I was done, one afternoon. Sitting in the waiting room full of eagerly expectant moms with swollen bellies sealed the deal for me. I was done trying. Done with painful procedures. Done with daily temperatures. Done with ovulation kits and intimacy for the point of procreation, and that horrible two week wait after ovulation, wondering if I had conceived that month. Moving on from these lifelong dreams, however, cut me like a knife. Would I ever have a daughter to dress in bows? Would Ethan feel like he was missing out on life without a brother? Had I failed him in some way? Would I grow old one day and live alone in a nursing home with no one to visit me if Ethan lived across the country? How was I going to wrestle with my maternal instincts that seemed to be on overdrive? That wrestling led me to a new career pursuit of becoming a Lactation Consultant. Never in all my years of practicing my nursing career would I have dreamed I would work with breastfeeding babies and mommas. But it fits somehow, like a puzzle piece. This love for babies and nurturing has redemptively turned into a love for educating women and loving on their babies.

 

Yet, There are moments when I see adorable, chubby faced babies in bows, or that picture of a perfect family with parents surrounded by multiple cherubs in a field of grass with the sun casting a warm glow on their little family… that my heart aches. I have cried many tears in the shower over the loss of my baby almost 4 years ago…of the loss of my dreams of how I thought my family would look. Death of dreams demands attention.

 

I inwardly cringe every time I hear someone refer to a newly expectant baby (after the loss of another baby) as a rainbow baby. Perhaps because rainbows do not happen for everyone in that manner. It hasn’t for me… I went for a walk last week at the park and ran into a woman I had cared for at the hospital. Her adorably chunky baby was smiles and sweetness. I knew this woman had wrestled with difficulties in conceiving and had experienced a miscarriage. Some women exude joy in parenting. This momma is one such woman. She loves being a mother and is doing an amazing job. But she was wrestling with whether or not she wanted another child or not. She asked me the pros and cons of having one child, aware of my story.

 

I love that Josh and I have been able to parent Ethan with such individual attention. That my son has his passport and has been able to travel to other countries. He absolutely adores Mexico and wants to go to Europe. That he plays the violin, and I can actively participate in that experience with him. That we can have calm bedtimes and snuggles with him. That he doesn’t have to share our attention with other children at this time in life.  But I ache that he doesn’t have a brother to share a room with and be scolded with for whispers past bedtime. That I am the playmate at times on lazy Saturday afternoons, instead of a brother or sister. My heart is incredibly grateful for the neighborhood kids and the dear friends (who are like brothers to Ethan) who Ethan has shared incredible memories with. Mercies for my heart…

 

When that first bike rack did not work out, I was disappointed. But then another one came across my path a few days later. I chewed on this… This thought that one rack was not better or worse than the other. They were...simply different.  And so it is with my family and every other family with one child, whether by choice or not. We are not better or worse than any other family structure… we are simply different. We are us… and our child is an absolutely precious gift. Perhaps society can begin to accept the variations of families that don’t all look like alike and lay aside any personal judgements and ideas we hold others and ourselves too. And perhaps as mothers we can begin to address that our identities as women supercede being mothers. That who we are is more than the chores of changing diapers and washing dirty laundry. That we have a loving nurturer inside of us. And we can throw that love into raising our families…whether with one child or 20. And we can spread it to others outside our family too… as for me… breastfeeding mothers and their babies. Because we are strong and loving women who need the support of one another and need to extend grace to ourselves and our differences.

 

And speaking of washing dirty laundry… a little boy’s muddy clothing and shoes are asking to be cleaned.

 

Julie Brown, Mother to Ethan, RN, BSN, Breastfeeding Educator, IBCLC candidate

Julie serves as a leader for The Motherhood Grief Group which meets the 2nd & 4th Wednesdays of the Month at 12 noon. Please visit their page for more information.

 

 

 

New Dreams

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One of my most treasured parts a a Café morning is having opportunity to sit in a small group with the women who attend. Last Monday in the late infancy group we discussed our well-being as women. How has motherhood changed us? Are we the same women we were before? Each of us said that we had difficulty discovering the new woman who is the mother. Our identity has changed, and with that; our hobbies, interests, and dreams.

We spoke about the struggle to surrender to the new woman who has been birthed through motherhood. Some of her life goals may remain, and how wonderful! Some of her life goals may have shifted, and that's wonderful too! But we must give ourselves the freedom to dream new and more incredible dreams. We must give ourselves the freedom to grow and expand with each new season we encounter.

We are ever evolving and ever growing women. We are mother. What dream will you grant yourself the permission to dream today?

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Dreams

Café Recap: Homemade Baby Food

Our chefs: Melissa Kan, Kerissa Williams, and Laura Walker, and our moderator: Erica Wolfe.

Today's cafe is a "discovery" format, with hands-on participation from the audience. In this instance, we'll be taste-testing! Erica will provide some background information on feeding babies and toddlers, and recipes will be included for the foods available today. Baby food recommendations seem to be constantly evolving as our understanding of nutrition changes, and so we remind you to always check with your pediatrician before making decisions about your child's diet.

The AAP's current Infant Feeding Tips are as follows:

  • Breastfeeding: Exclusive breastfeeding for the first year (see specific language from “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk”)
  • Bottle Feeding: Avoid bottle propping; Only breastmilk or formula in bottle unless otherwise directed by physician
  • Food Introduction: Introduce solid foods around 6 months of age; Expose baby to a wide variety of healthy foods; Also offer a variety of textures
  • Healthy Snacking: After 9 months, offer 2-3 healthy and nutritious snacks per day; Maintain fruit and vegetable consumption after finger foods are introduced
  • Foster Self-feeding: Babies are encouraged to use spoons and fingers to feed themselves; Babies are encouraged to drink from a cup starting at 6 months of age; Parents recognize hunger and satiety cues
  • Healthy Drinks: Babies should drink breastmilk or formula for the first year of life; Try to avoid introducing juice until child is a toddler. If juice is introduced, wait until 6-9 months and limit consumption to 4-6 ounces; Avoid introduction of sugar-sweetened beverages

The website Wholesome Baby Food is a great resource for new parents. There are suggestions for when and how to introduce new foods, as well as recipes and advice. When making homemade baby food, they recommend the following:

  • ALWAYS consult your pediatrician prior to beginning any new food for your infant. Discuss making homemade baby food with your pediatrician. Learn more about infant feeding at the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics websites.
  • THINK about following the 4 day wait rule when introducing a new food to baby - offer your baby the same new food for 4 days to test for allergies to that food. This applies even when you are making homemade baby food. Never introduce more than 1 new food at a time when first beginning solid foods.
  • ALWAYS use clean hands, clean cooking utensils, preparation surface(s), pots/pans etc when making and and preparing homemade baby food. Cleanliness and Food Safety is a MUST when making homemade baby food.
  • REMEMBER that all babies are different and will not like/tolerate the same foods or food textures. DO NOT DESPAIR! You should be willing to experiment with baby solid food for your baby. Offer your baby different foods, use different ways of preparing those baby foods and be willing to have a huge store of patience.

As we begin introducing babies to solid foods, it can be difficult to know how much to feed them. Remember that breastmilk or formula should still be the main source of nutrients. The purpose of introducing solid foods before one year of age is to get baby used to new tastes, textures and consistencies of food, which will later help them develop a healthy and balanced diet.

How Much Food Should My Baby Eat?

Remember the catchy phrase, "Food Before One is Just for Fun".

It is most important to ensure that your baby is still receiving proper amounts of breast milk and/or formula. Early solid foods are meant more for practice than nutrition.

4-6 Months: Always offer solids after bottle or breast. Baby may eat anywhere from 1-3 tablespoons of food at 1 or 2 "meals"

6-8 Months: Formula and/or Breast Milk is still most important at this age and stage. Babies in this range may be just starting solids so the above for 4-6 Months would apply. Some babies may be eating up to 8 ounces of solid foods between 2-3 "meals" during a day.

8 Months and on: Many babies will be eating 3 "meals" per day at this stage; including a grain, fruit, veggie and a meat or protein source such as eggs.

-Pay attention to your baby's cues as your baby's feeding patterns will change daily and may be affected by the goings-on around him. Your baby will eat just the right amount for YOUR baby. Watch his signs for being both hungry and full.

-Pay attention to diaper output and have your child weighed regularly if you are concerned about weight gain.

How Do I Prepare Early Foods?

Mash It: Many foods can be mashed with a fork or potato masher. Foods such as ripe bananas, avocados and soft cooked foods such as sweet potato, apples or squash can all be made with a fork or potato masher. Using a fork or masher will depend on what type of texture your baby requires.

Use a Food Mill: Cut the food into pieces. Put the cooked food through the food mill. (The skin and seeds will stay in the mill.)

Chop or Grate Baby’s Food: Foods can be finely chopped or grated (with a cheese grater), then mixed with liquid. This is great for babies who are self-feeding.

Food Grinder: A food grinder can be used to grind up foods for your baby. This is a simple way to prepare meats and more textured foods. The food grinder is also great to take on vacation or when dining out with baby. You can quickly and easily grind up fresh baby food in your hotel or at the restaurant.

Blender or Food Processor: Add your cooked food to your blender or food processor and blend to the consistency your baby requires. If needed, add liquids such as breast milk, formula, water or the cooking water from the food you cooked to thin out the baby food.

Sieve or Strainer to Finish Homemade Baby Food: Many parents like to use a sieve or strainer to further thin homemade baby food. These gadgets may be particularly useful for foods that have stubborn skins, such as peas and green beans. Put the food into the sieve or strainer and push it through into a clean bowl. Repeat the process as many times as you need.

**The preferred method for cooking baby foods are steaming, baking, roasting and pressure cooking because these methods all have the least amount of nutrient loss after cooking.

Rice Cereal

You CAN skip cereals altogether if you want to. Many sources now recommend beginning a baby with fruits or an orange veggie like sweet potato as first food(s). Studies are now revealing that grains may not be good starter foods for baby to digest. Starting with a fruit like avocado or banana or a veggie like sweet potato is a great alternative to cereal(s).

There is no medical need to start baby out with cereals; unless your pediatrician has indicated your baby may need extra iron due to less than overall good health or due to being pre-term. In this instance, you should use a fortified commercial infant cereal and consult with your pediatrician on the best foods to offer as "first" foods; you may be surprised to hear your pediatrician recommend adding meat to baby's diet!

Dr. Frank Greer, from the Committee on Nutrition, American Academy of Pediatrics recently noted in an interview that "Rice cereal has traditionally been the first complementary food given to American infants, but “Complementary foods introduced to infants should be based on their nutrient requirements and the nutrient density of foods, not on traditional practices that have no scientific basis."

"Rice cereal is a less than perfect choice for the first complementary food given to infants. Rice cereal is low in protein and high in carbohydrates. It is often mixed with varying amounts of breast milk or formula. Although most brands of formula now have added iron, zinc, and vitamins, iron is poorly absorbed—only about 7.8% of intake is incorporated into red blood cells." - Read Rice Cereal Can Wait to learn about the new thinking from the AAP.

"For most babies it does not matter what the first solid foods are. By tradition, single-grain cereals are usually introduced first. However, there is no medical evidence that introducing solid foods in any particular order has an advantage for your baby." Source: 09/2008 - Starting Solid Foods (Copyright © 2008 American Academy of Pediatrics)

Always use brown rice when making homemade cereals, it's just more nutritious!

Baby Led Weaning (BLW)

Baby Led Weaning means letting your child feed themselves from the very start of weaning. The term was originally coined by Gill Rapley, a former health visitor and midwife.

**Language clarification: “Weaning” is meant in the British sense, not the American. In the UK, ‘weaning’ means ‘adding complementary foods’, whereas in the States it means ‘giving up breastfeeding’.

According to the most recent research most babies reach for food at around six months, which is also the time that mothers are being encouraged to wean* by their pediatricians, in accordance with the WHO guidelines. Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is skipping thin and runny purées and not feeding your baby with a spoon.

Baby Led Weaning means offering your baby (age appropriate) foods that are soft-cooked and cut or mashed into small easily manageable pieces. You may choose to offer your baby a large hunk of apple that she can easily hold and gnaw on or a bowl full of soft cooked mashed apples; the choice is yours. The foods are then given to your baby to eat without being pureed and without being spoonfed. You do the cooking, the cutting or mashing and the offering of the foods and your baby does the rest. It is important to note that your baby should be in control of what he is eating and you should never actually feed him by putting the foods into his mouth!

Recipes

With that advice, Erica reminds us that baby food does not have to be homemade. Give it a try, and find the balance that works for your family. Finally, recipes! Below are links to the recipes we sampled this morning.

Café Recap: Taking Care of Mama

Our panelists: Stephanie Fournier (PT, DPT, WCS, CLT-LANA), Jilayne Luckey (PPMD Support Group Leader), Debbie Perdew (DONA) and Lisa Wixted (LLL Leader and Yoga Instructor), and our  moderator, Lauren Barnes.

Being a mother means caring for others, sometimes above yourself. Today we are talking about the importance of taking care of yourself as a mother. Below are a few difficult but necessary pieces of advice for your new role as a mother: 1. Be realistic - you have less time now that you have a baby 2. Simplify your life - focus on what is most important 3. Establish a new routine - it takes time to find a regular rhythm after having a baby 4. Ask for help - let family and friends assist you 5. Learn to let go - trying to do too much doesn't leave enough time for what's most important

Stephanie emphasizes number 3, establish a new routine. You will not be able to jump back into your former way of life like tv and media would let you think. Debbie says that simplifying your life is crucial; trying to do too much will not be in the best interest of you or your children. Jilayne says that keeping each of these items in mind will help you balance your new lifestyle. Lisa encourages asking for help and then accepting help. She knows our natural instinct is to say "oh no we're all fine", when really there are plenty of things we could use help with. Via show of hands, our audience acknowledges that we all struggle with each of these items.

Physically, our bodies have been through a lot after birth. Stephanie says that our pelvic floor muscles have been "running a 9 month marathon". During delivery they are under even more stress, and stretched up to 120%. We need to give ourselves a break and rest so that our bodies have a chance to recover.

Lisa encourages deep breathing exercises as a way of relaxation. It is a simple way to give yourself a quick few seconds of rejuvenation. Jilayne finds that remembering to stretch can feel so much better physically that it will help mentally as well. She also actively pushes the negative thoughts away, not letting herself get trapped under a messy house or other superficial worries. Our audience suggests simple things like having a snack (mamas get cranky without energy, too!); reading a non-parenting book; getting outside to let kids get out their energy and yelling; doing something that makes you feel like a person outside of being a parent; spending time with your spouse (put the baby down early and relax together).

There are many changes during pregnancy that are to be expected and many of these issues will continue 6-8 weeks postpartum. If there are still issues after 6-8 weeks postpartum, or new issues, check in with your doctor. If something doesn't feel right, don't hesitate to talk with your care provider.

How do we find time to shower and cleaning during motherhood? Debbie recommends putting infants in a safe apparatus, and teaching older children how to behave and help you around the house. They can get their own snacks, help pick up, etc. Lisa did the familiar "put the baby in the bouncer right outside the shower and play peek-a-boo while you clean off" routine. Audience members remind us that a baby crying will be okay for two more minutes while you rinse out your shampoo. Others find that they need peace in the shower and will create a new routine, or put the baby tub in the shower with them.

The following self-care tricks can help you refocus and relax: 1. Mommy Break/Mommy Time Out 2. Mom's Night 3. Pamper Yourself 4. Relax

Exercise can be a challenge for mothers. Finding time to work out is not easy, but Lisa suggests getting your kids involved. Wear a baby sling and do simple toe-raises or squats. Mommy and Me Yoga incorporates moms and children working out together. Stephanie says to do kegals, tightening your pelvic floor muscles. To do it correctly: breathe, don't use your butt muscles, don't bring your knees together, and squeeze gently. Do kegals when nursing, before standing up and while sitting down, and as often as possible during the day. Make an effort to keep your posture correct throughout the day as well. Don't bend at the waist and hunch over to pick up kids' toys; instead, sit on a stool and keep your posture upright or squat (if your body is ready).

Debbie suggests living room dance parties as a way of exercise- kids love it! Try sit ups with a baby on top of you, push ups with a baby on the floor, etc. Stephanie cautions that if we have diastasis (splitting of the ab muscles), we need to be careful about the exercises we do. When the ab muscles separate during pregnancy (normal in the 3rd trimester) they sometimes come back together naturally after birth but other times require special steps to recover. If you do situps and see a little bump in your abs, you have diastasis and should see a physical therapist.

Neck and shoulder pain are also common postpartum; because of the way our weight is distributed during pregnancy, our posture suffers. If you don't take care to actively work on your posture after birth, then neck, shoulder, back and wrist pain are likely. Using good posture when nursing and feeding baby is important: put a small pillow behind your back (lumbar spine); add a boppy or nursing pillow to your lap (bringing the baby up instead of slumping down to meet him); roll your shoulders up and back, then down; and finally, bring your chin up and back instead of tucking it down.

In preparation for your first child, here are some suggestions to get yourself ready mentally: 1. Learn as much as you can 2. Talk to people you trust 3. Think positive 4. Don't be afraid to ask for help

Remember, mamas, that by taking care of yourself you can take care of your children. Set the example of living a healthy, balanced lifestyle and your children will learn to do the same.

Feeding New Parents

Our Hospitality team does a wonderful job of providing meals for new parents in our community. If you'd like to gift a new mom with food during the first few weeks, here are a few resources and ideas to get you started.index

Recipe Resources

 

Meal Ideas

  • Double Meals: Do half the work by doubling a recipe and making enough to feed your family and theirs
  • Snacks, Breakfast, etc.: Who says you have to send dinner?? Muffins, fresh fruit, oatmeal, granola bars...I know all of these healthy and easy-to-grab snacks would be appreciated by any new parent.
  • Favorite recipes: I find that the best type of dinners to take are soups, casseroles, or a meal kit (think: taco box, pasta box, etc.). Each of these comes together fairly easily, freezes well and transports smoothly.
  • Gift Cards: Grab a gift card from your favorite take-out or delivery spot. Or, send a grocery store gift card (Relay Foods and other delivery services are especially convenient). You could go in with a group of friends to with this idea, too.

If you would like the opportunity to prepare meals for new parents, join The Motherhood Collective meal team! Email our Hospitality Coordinator for more information and to sign up: hospitality@themotherhoodcollective.org.

 

*This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Motherhood Collective!

Café Recap: Babywearing

Photo by Liz Cook of Sincerely, Liz, Inc. Our moderator and panelist: Erica Wolfe (wearing a Ring Sling above)

Erica welcomes and encourages mothers who love babywearing and want to learn more, those who have never heard of it, and those who know it is not for them. Strollers are great! ;)

One of the main benefits of babywearing is convenience. Being hands-free and keeping your baby close is very helpful. You can get things done while still nurturing and comforting your baby. If you need further convincing, the article Ten Reasons to Wear your Baby, by Laura Simeon, MA, MLIS, lists several more benefits!

The most important aspect of babywearing is safety. Always be aware of baby's position and that their airway is clear for breathing. Use the same safety measures you would when carrying your baby in your arms. When back-carrying, always stay aware of baby's movements and check them in a mirror periodically to ensure they are safe and comfortable. Erica reminds us: do not do something that you don't feel comfortable doing. If you're not ready to back-carry, then don't. Wait until you can get a spotter or a support person to ensure the safety of your baby. There are online groups and resources (both local and international) where you can get feedback and information on how to safely wear your child. For more excellent information on babywearing safety, see Earthy Crunchy Mama.

Another safety reminder is TICKS:

TIGHT
IN VIEW AT ALL TIMES
CLOSE ENOUGH TO KISS
KEEP CHIN OFF THE CHEST
SUPPORTED BACK
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Types of Carriers

Wraps - the most basic and sometimes most complicated of baby carriers. A wrap is just a long piece of fabric, ranging from a long towel to a $1000 hand-dyed piece of fabric. There are both stretchy and woven wraps. Stretchy wraps are 100% cotton knit fabric. Stretchy carriers are most comfortable for young babies under 20 lbs. Stretchy wraps are ONLY to be used for front carries (back carries with a stretchy wrap are not safe). A woven wrap (seen above) is supportive and versatile, though does require a bit of skill to use. They come in a wide variety of lengths, and front, side and back carries are all possible. A size 5 or 6 is a common beginner size that will give you a wide availability of carries. Woven wraps are made of cotton, linen, hemp, wool, silk and various blends of each of these. Woven Wrap Sizing - Size 1: 2.2 meters (also referred to as a rebozo length or shorty) - Size 2: 2.7 meters (also referred to as a rebozo length or shorty) - Size 3: 3.2 meters (also referred to as a long shorty) - Size 4: 3.7 meters - Size 5: 4.2 meters - Size 6: 4.7 meters (common beginner size, “standard”) - Size 7: 5.2 meters Photo by Liz Cook of Sincerely, Liz, Inc.

Mei Tais - ("may ties") is a popular Asian carrier (seen above). It is a basic design consisting of a square or rectangular piece of fabric with 4 straps. Like a Soft-Structured Carrier (see below), but without the buckles. Can be used for front, side and back carries, and used for newborn through toddler aged children.

Ring Slings - a single piece of fabric with a hemmed shoulder and two rings, worn on either shoulder. Many ring slings are made from woven wraps, and come  in a variety of fabrics. Thin fabrics are not as supportive for toddlers, and the way you hold the child in a sling is not evenly distributed which can be difficult after extended periods. Ring slings are convenient for newborns and you can easily breastfeed a child in a ring sling.

Photo by Liz Cook of Sincerely, Liz, Inc.

Soft-Structured Carriers - sometimes called "backpack carriers", this carrier has padded straps and buckles. They can be worn in back or front. Less difficult to learn than a wrap, they are easy to get on and into position. While men can wear any carrier, most prefer a soft-structured carrier. When selecting this type of carrier, select a wide base to support your baby's bottom (this keeps their weight from being too heavy on their hips/legs). These carriers often include an insert for carrying newborns and small babies, though your child may be more comfortable in this type of carrier once they have better head control.

Toddler carriers - many brands make toddler-sized carriers, if you feel your child is outgrowing your wraps and slings.

Wrap Conversions - these styles have been created with woven wraps (as mentioned above in Ring Slings). They are very customizable, but can be expensive. If you have a woven wrap that you love but your child no longer wants to be wrapped, you can have it converted to another style (like a Mei Tai, etc.). There are a plethora of acronyms in babywearing, but those that start with WC indicate a Wrap Conversion.

Where to buy new carriers:

- Abby's Lane - Birdie's Room - Marsupial Mamas - Mom's Milk Boutique - Pax Baby - Specific brand pages

Where to buy used carriers:

- The Babywearing Swap on Facebook - Babywearing on a Budget (under $100) on Facebook - TheBabywearer.com (account required)

Local Babywearing Groups:

- Babywearers of Lynchburg - Roanoke Babywearers - Blue Ridge Babywearers

Online Resources:

- TheBabywearer.com - Create a free account and gain access to tons of babywearing resouces, forums, details on all carriers, geeky threads about brands, and B/S/T boards. - Babywearing 102 - Babywearing 102 on Pinterest - DIY Babywearing

For even more detail, view Erica's babywearing notes here.

Photos by Liz Cook of Sincerely, Liz, Inc.

'Tis the Season: Volunteer!

Christmas-14 In this season of giving and holiday cheer, I wanted to write a bit about some local nonprofits and groups that could use your help. The weather is getting colder and going without is even harder in the winter months. Combine that with the holidays, a time when we often count our blessings and reach out to those with less, and this is a popular time of year to volunteer.

How to Get Involved

If you're looking for a place to start, consider starting here! The Motherhood Collective is a nonprofit, volunteer-run organization. If we have aided in your journey as a mother (or mom-to-be, or grandmother, or whatever journey you are on), then we are thrilled. Our group is constantly growing and changing, and we have several roles that need to be filled in 2015. If you have found a passion in motherhood and would like to help others along their way, please contact us, we would love to hear from you.

The Motherhood Collective was fortune to be awarded 5th place in the recent Giving Back Awards by Lynchburg Living. We were in the company of some amazing nonprofits that are bettering our community in so many ways. Some notable organizations recognized in the Giving Back Awards that could use your help are listed below.

Why You Should Volunteer

In addition to the obvious benefits of helping those in need, volunteerism is also a wonderful thing to do for yourself. Often mothers find themselves suddenly spending their days without adult company or intellectual stimulation (babies are cute, but not great conversationalists). While going back to work full time may not be an option, volunteering a few hours a week can be a welcome relief for stay at home moms. It is an opportunity to spend some time away from your child, helping them gain independence and giving you a chance to miss them and better enjoy the time you have together. Even in times of struggle (and we have all struggled as parents), helping others brings a sense of pride and perspective that can give you strength.

Whether you work or stay home with your children, volunteering sets a great example. We all want to raise good, helpful children and leading by example is the best way to achieve that goal. Older children may be able to go with you to volunteer as well, and learn the importance of helping others. This time of year is especially ripe with opportunities for kids to give back:

I hope you find an organization that can benefit from your strengths and kindness, and that you both prosper. And remember, these groups need your help ALL year long. Start now, and continue your involvement throughout the new year!

Cafe Recap: Toys & Technology

Panelists: Maria Hayden and Jessica Reagan, and our moderator, Lauren Barnes.

We recently had a Cafe about playtime and creative parenting that focused on non-media related activities. The goal for today's mom-to-mom panel is to get the conversation going around technology...not to bash or applaud one way of parenting, but simply to provide you with resources, ideas and different perspectives.

The AAP suggests that "Children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day, and that should be high-quality content. It is important for kids to spend time on outdoor play, reading, hobbies, and using their imaginations in free play. Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child's brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens." Jess agrees with this guideline but it is not a hard and fast rule in her house. She finds that having a strict rule is unproductive but she does generally limit screen time for her kids.

One study suggests taping tv shows so that you can pause and discuss the content of the show as a family when pertinent. Maria's family has a weekly dinner and a movie tradition. She finds herself screening movies before introducing them to her two-year-old, and seeing them through new eyes as a mother. She also suggests Netflix for finding content that is easy to pause and discuss.

Jess does not have limits on TV usage, in an attempt to keep TV from becoming something that her children covet and see as the ultimate treat. She has reached a point that her children will watch a little bit of TV when they want to, and then after a little bit they decide they are done and move on to something else. At one point she found her family watching more TV than desirable, so she put a blanket over the TV and said it was resting. Her kids adorably ask if the TV is sleeping, but it is not something that has become a battle in her house. She thinks that by allowing them some control over their TV time she has decreased the value of television.

TV can be used as a tool for educational purposes as well. Lauren's child was excited to see winter sports on YouTube during the excitement of the Olympics, and since these sports are not available locally it was an opportunity to learn about them. Some suggestions for getting the most out of TV:

  • Look for programs, specials, documentaries, etc that explore areas of interest to him/her.
  • Use events in the news and subjects of fictitious programs as springboards for discussion.
  • Encourage your youngster to broaden her horizons by watching programs that transport her to other times and places, or that expose her to different perspectives or philosophies.

Some favorite TV shows from our audience members: Doozers (Hulu), Dinosaur Train (PBS), Magic School Bus (Netflix), Word Girl (Netflix), Daniel Tiger, Clifford, and Sesame Street (Netflix and Amazon).

Some parents use Facetime to give grandparents and family members that live far away the opportunity to see and interact with the baby. Both of our panelists used the term "survival mode" as a time that they use TV to keep their own sanity and take a needed break.

Jess knows that her children will be exposed to and involved in media and the online community, and she wants to be the one to introduce it to them. Fighting social media is a futile battle, so she wants to educate her children on how to use it responsibly when they reach an appropriate age.

Educational apps and tools can help us make the most of the limited screen time that our children are exposed to. Some examples include sign language apps and personal care apps (bath time, potty training) . Many phones have child locks that either keep your child locked inside an app (so they don't have access to the rest of your phone), and/or allow them to only access specific parts of the screen. Educational app resources:

With the holidays approaching, we wanted to gather some ideas for children's gifts. Some of Lauren's favorites for her daughter, as well as suggestions from audience members include: costumes, puzzles, books, dolls, art supplies, memberships (museums, etc.), blocks. More gift guides and ideas:

Further resources for study: This article in Pediatrics Journal describes the impact of TV on young children's development. The AAP shares this article on Media and Children.

14 Things Moms Need to Get Over Immediately

The Motherhood Collective is grateful to Brittany for allowing us to share her post today! Being a mom is no easy task; I am one, so I know. But I also think there are certain things we moms hold on to that are kind of ridiculous, and it’s about time we give them up.

If we want to be sane/happy, that is. And if you’re sane and happy you have fewer excuses for eating chocolate, so you’ll have to weigh this decision carefully. If you decide to choose the path of sanity (I will if you will!) here’s what you’ll need to surrender:

Your husband will love you for #3!

1. Get Over… Pinterest Shame

I considered not even including this one because it’s so obvious, but it had to be said– just please, for me, assume that all those moms making gourmet organic dinners and designer birthday cake backdrops are employing small armies of Oompa Loompas to help make it happen. Ok? Ok.

2. Get Over… French Kids

I swear, if I read one more article about how french children eat brussels sprouts and poop butterflies, I might have to slap someone. Sure, people in other countries do things differently than we do. Sometimes it’s good different and sometimes it’s bad different. Who cares? You aren’t French and that’s okay. (Unless you are… in which case, yay for you!)

Trade your french guilt for French fries. And don’t feel bad about those either. tweet

3. Get Over… Spontaneity in the Bedroom

If you’re waiting for the stars to align and the elusive “mood” to strike, you might be waiting forever. With kids in the house and distractions everywhere, you might have to give up on “the mood” and settle for “the moment of privacy in which you cultivate the mood.”

It’s only fair.

4. Get Over… Your Pre-Baby Body

Some women are able to make it look like they never had kids. No stretch marks, no lower abdomen pouch, no sagging anywhere… but those women are secretly wizards. Lady wizards. You need not concern yourself with them, because you are a human.

Does your tummy look like you just came from a street fight with Wolverine? Right on! Rock those baby scars like a boss! You have nothing to be ashamed of. You are a warrior!

Plus, how’s anyone supposed to go easy on carbs when there are sandwich crusts EVERYWHERE!? Who’s going to be the human garbage disposal if not you? There are starving children in Africa, for heaven’s sake; the least you can do for them is eat your kids’ discarded food. Because somehow that will help, right?

5. Get Over… Giant Baby Bows

I don’t have girls, but I really feel for my peers who feel the need to plaster giant flowers on their little girls until they’re old enough for pigtails.

Really, guys, the pink clothes are enough. Those of us who aren’t colorblind can tell she’s a girl. No need to also make her look like a flower pot.

…and come to think of it, even if she isn’t in pink, who cares? She’s a baby! Are we really concerned if the random lady at the store thinks she’s a boy? Let’s take it easy with the gender stress, shall we? Parenthood is stressful enough.

6. Get Over… Having Nice Things

That way, when your kid barfs on it, poops on it, colors it with permanent marker, kicks a ball into it or uses it as a weapon until it’s destroyed, you will get the satisfaction of saying, “See? That’s why we don’t have nice things.”

7. Get Over… Fear of Posting Too Many Baby Photos on Facebook

Sure, there are people who don’t want to see your beautiful children. But I do! I love babies! If Facebook were one giant festival of baby cuteness, that would be okay with me. If you’re really worried about overloading your friends with adorableness, you can just send those beautiful photos to me and I will smile at them all day long. And so will your grandma. Post ‘em for Grandma to enjoy… when she’s not busy playing Farmville, of course.

Your husband will love you for #3!

8. Get Over… Hiding Your Crutches

Let me guess… your kids are watching too much TV and eating too much fast food. It’s okay, so are mine. And chances are, so did you, when you were a kid. We all know it’s not the best, but you know what? It could be a lot worse, too. When we pretend we don’t rely on these and other “mom crutches” all we do is perpetuate a culture of shame and guilt that isolates us and makes us feel inferior to each other.

That said, if you’re one of those moms whose kids read Dickens all day and eat kale salads for dinner, more power to you. If you want to invite my kids over and teach them how to be awesome, please do. When your kids are at my house, I’ll teach them how to make poop jokes.

I think it’s a pretty good trade.

9. Get Over… Giving More Than One Present at a Time

When did this become a thing? Is it really a happier birthday or merrier Christmas when we get 5 presents, or even 10? Or can it be just as special, if not more so, if we give each other one gift per holiday? Just a thought…

10. Get Over… The WebMD Rabbit Hole

I know it’s scary when our kids are experiencing symptoms we don’t quite understand. Naturally, we want answers and we want them NOW. But before you start treating your kids for a rare disease, you might want to consider consulting a doctor. Because… um… you aren’t one.

11. Get Over… Parenting Debates Online

Debating about how to be a good parent is like debating about which is the tastiest dessert. Clearly, there is only one right answer on both issues and the answer is chocolate chip cookies.

No, that’s not right. (Or is it…?) What I really meant to say is that parenting is SO subjective. What works in one family or even for one particular kid will not be the best thing for the next, and that’s okay. As long as everybody’s making these decisions out of love and respect for their children, doing the very best they can, do we really need to fight about the details?

And even if we’re right, do we really think we’re going to change some stranger’s mind about such a personal subject with our impassioned (albeit anonymous) comments? Is that really the best use of our time and energy? I think not.

In fact, let’s just not argue… in general. That would be lovely.

12. Get Over… Suffering in Silence

Being a mom really sucks sometimes. Don’t believe me? Read my other post, 10 Things that Suck About Motherhood.

Motherhood is the suckiest thing you’ll ever love. And it’s okay to be sad and frustrated sometimes. It’s okay to be lonely. Here’s what’s not okay: Being a Martyr. There are people out there who can and will help you, if you ask. Please ask for help. Don’t pretend like you don’t need it. We all need it.

13. Get Over… Being Squeamish About Anything

Anything you think is too gross to fit your job description will inevitably cross your path as a mom. I’m talking, someone else’s barf in your mouth, pee in your nose and blood everywhere. Sometimes, the harder we try to fight it, the grosser things get. And the moment you think you’re not squeamish anymore… your kids will make you squeam.

Eww, that’s kind of a gross word. Squeam. *shudder*

14. Get Over… Being Cool

Sorry guys, the time to be cool has come and gone. Welcome to the age of being a fuddy duddy. And being the kind of person who knows what a “fuddy duddy” is, makes you one.

Gone are the days of doing/wearing hip things, going to hip places, and staying awake until the hip hours of the morning. Sure, you can still do that stuff and from time to time you will, but if you’re anything like most parents I know, you’ll feel a little bit like you’re in costume the whole time and BOY, will you be sorry in the morning!

This is not something you need to be sad about. Because, you know what’s cooler than being cool? Ice cream in bed! And Netflix! And jammies! And having a quiet house so you can do important grown-up things, like fall asleep mid-sentence while you scroll through your Pinterest feed! Party on, party people.

Over to You

So, what do you think? Is there anything I missed? Anything you think it’s time we should get over? Let me know in the comments! I love hearing from you. Until then, good luck getting over this stuff. I’ll work on it too. Together, we’ll find a way to become sane.

Or not. =)

The Problem with the Post-Baby Body

The Motherhood Collective is grateful to Kathryn from Life Spruce Blog for allowing us to share her post today.