Friday, August 3, 2018

10 Tips to Establish Healthy Sleep Habits for Your Baby

Talking about baby sleep habits can be such a controversial topic, everyone has their own opinions on what is safe, beneficial, and successful. When trying to develop a sleep habit plan for Lily, I started with the factors I use at the base of all my parenting decisions, research and common sense! Seems pretty simple, right? That's because it is! There is so much information out there about baby sleep habits and tricks (and parenting in general), that you could find articles supporting pretty much any view point. I admittedly research way too much when it comes to making parenting decisions, but the good news is that means I've done most of the work for you. Now, you just need to add in your own common sense. As with every decision as a parent, you can research all you want, but in the end your decision has to feel right for you and your family and it has to be something that you can reasonably obtain in your daily life.

I won't pretend to be an expert on baby sleep, but I do have a lot of tips that have been proven to be effective in developing positive sleep habits from the start. I know when I started my parenting journey, I would look to those that had been through whatever current parenting struggle I was going through and made it out alive. Every tip won't work for every family, but it will provide you with a starting point to build your own sleep habit plan.

#1 You CAN'T Spoil a Baby

-It's so important to start here because although I think that working on sleep habits early on is important, you have to follow your baby's cues. When they are first born, everything is new to them and potentially scary. They will want to be held, rocked, fed, etc. to sleep and for comfort. The first few months can be exhausting for both mom and baby so don't add in another thing to worry about. Take this time to bond, cuddle, and love on that baby.

#2 Put Baby Down Sleepy But AWAKE

-This might be the single most important piece of parenting advice that I ever received! Babies do not come out knowing how to self soothe and put themselves to sleep (it sure would be nice though!). They need to learn this skill and it takes time. When Lily was first born, 99% of the time I would hold her, rock her, or nurse her to sleep, but on occasion when she was really sleepy I would just lay her down and let her try and fall asleep on her own. As she got older, I would continue to do it more and more. After we passed the 4 month sleep adjustment, I did this with more consistency. It's okay if they don't actually succeed in putting themselves to sleep, early on it's just about starting to learn those skills. If they aren't crying give them a few minutes to try.

#3 Provide Your Child Their Own Space to Sleep

-I definitely live by the philosophy that each family is different and what works for some won't work for others. In my personal experience (and every mom I have ever talked to about sleep) there seems to be a correlation between sleep struggles and where baby is sleeping. There is so much controversy around this topic and I want to be very clear that if co-sleeping is what works for you and your family, then this tip isn't meant for you! But if you're struggling with sleep, this may be an area you want to consider.

**I do, however, strongly suggest having baby nearby (but still in their own space: crib in your room, bassinet, etc.) in the early weeks because the world is so new for them and they don't want to be far away, but as they are able to sleep a little longer stretches moving them to their own room can do wonders for their ability to sleep uninterrupted.**

#4 Use a Sound Machine

-I never would have thought such a simple machine could provide such a support to our sleep routine. Not only does the sound machine provide a sense of calm and cue the baby in that it's time for sleep, but it also helps to drown out other noises while baby sleeps. It can also be helpful for travel, to bring some comfort and familiarity from home when attempting to sleep in a new environment.

#5 Blackout Curtains

-Blackout curtains can be a lifesaver for daytime naps. As you develop your sleep routine, baby will start connecting certain cues with sleep. Typically darkness is one of those cues and so attempting to get a baby to nap during the day can be tricky if the sun isn't blocked out properly.

#6 Develop a Routine

-As far as what your routine actually looks like, I'll leave that up to you! It doesn't really matter exactly what you do or in what order you do it as long as it promotes calming down and slowly easing your child to bedtime. A few things you may want to consider including in your nighttime routine: bath, reading books, singing songs, nursing or giving a bottle, rocking, brushing teeth, talking about your day, and turning on the sound machine. Just remember to be as consistent as possible and to provide a slow progression to sleep. You don't want to go from extremely active engaging play to trying to lay them down to sleep.

#7 Consistent Nap Schedule

-This one can be so tough, especially in the early months, but having a consistent schedule and routine can help a lot with developing positive sleep habits. It always feels so counter intuitive, but a poor nap schedule can lead to poor nighttime sleep. If your child is waking up a lot at night (beyond the first few months) I would first look at their nap schedule. Each child is a little different in how many hours and number of naps they need at each age which is why I think it's important to follow your child's lead when it comes to developing your nap schedule. 

#8 Self Soothing

-You can't force your baby to learn to self soothe, it's a process and it can take time. I think this step can be so different for each child. If your child takes a pacifier or sucks their thumb, that might be the way they initially start to learn to self soothe. Of course, those are habits that would eventually need to be broken, but I believe that it can help them transition from needing you to get to sleep and falling asleep on their own. 

#9 Swaddle or Sleep Sack

-Swaddling can be a lifesaver in the first few months when the startle reflex is strong and baby needs that feeling of security. Some babies, however, don't like to have their arms restricted (we have a thumb sucker) which is where swaddle sleep sacks and regular sleep sacks can come in handy. With many of the swaddle sleep sacks you have the option of swaddling with the arms in or or out. There are so many gadgets out there that people claim helped their baby sleep through the night. As parents, when we are exhausted and don't think we could possibly make it through another sleepless night, it's easy to feel desperate and start buying every sleep product there is. My suggestion for this is to start simple with a swaddle blanket and eventually a sleep sack, if you feel like you need to try another product, reach out on your local Facebook Mom groups or to friends and see if someone has one they would be willing to lend you before throwing away money on a product that may not even work for your child.

#10 Video Monitor

-Those of you that know me, know that I am a worrier by nature. Is a video monitor actually necessary in order to help your child sleep? Well, probably not, but it goes a long way to give you piece of mind. Plus, there have been countless times where my daughter was making noise and I would have gone in to get her had I not seen on the monitor that she was laying down attempting to get to sleep. 

So, how do I get my baby to sleep?!

It's not as simple as one trick or one product that you can buy in order to help your child sleep better, unfortunately! However, there is always room for improvement in a sleep routine. If your baby isn't sleeping as much as you think they should be please consider trying any of these tips that you aren't already incorporating. 

A few disclaimers, there are a lot of sleep regressions and sleep changes that baby will go through in the first year so even if you adjust your sleep routine there can still be plenty of hiccups along the way. Just remember, it's completely normal and it will pass. There are also many other factors that could be influencing your child's sleep such as: teething, sickness, a food intolerance, not eating enough before falling asleep, shots, working on a new milestone, and honestly that list can probably go on forever. If you have a solid sleep routine established then you should be able to get back to good sleep after the cause has passed. Also, be sure to follow all the current guidelines on safe sleep regardless of how you choose to tackle establishing healthy sleep habits!

Please feel free to post in the comments if you have any additional tips! Go ahead and enter your email address off to the right where it says Follow By Email in order to get the latest updates!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Why I Wish I Started Cloth Diapering Sooner

While preparing my home (and life) to bring my daughter home I researched a crazy amount. I wanted to be prepared, but I also wanted to do things as naturally as possible. I stumbled upon cloth diapering several times. My initial thoughts were: "eew, what would I do with the poop?" "how could I find the time to do that in addition to everything else?" "how would I really know they are getting clean?" and so many more! The more I searched about it the more intimidated I became and it didn't take long for me to decide that it wasn't the route for me.

When my daughter was about 10 months, life was starting to become a little less chaotic, we were starting to get a good routine down, and I had finally started meeting other moms. I realized that there is a surprising amount of people that cloth diaper these days! After asking a lot of questions and learning more about the process it started to seem pretty manageable. Plus, the more I learned the more reasons I found why cloth diapering is beneficial. Before we get to the tips, here are just some of the many benefits to choosing to cloth diaper.

Benefits of Cloth Diapers

*Environmental: 16,000,000,000 diapers are thrown out in the U.S. each year!
(honestly this reason alone in enough to make cloth diapers worthwhile)

*Health: Cloth diapers are more gentle and make baby come in contact with less chemicals.

*Financial: Not only do you save money by not having to continually buy disposable diapers, but you can also reuse them if you have more kids, and potentially sell them if they are still in good condition (or pass them along to another family).

*Fun Patterns: Okay so this isn't exactly a benefit, but it sure is fun to collect fun patterns :)

Some of my favorite patterns from Cloth Diapers for Less

Tips and Resources to Get Started with Cloth Diapers

#1: Find Support

-As with everything to do with parenting, support is the key to success! I have several friends as well as a Facebook group (Fluff Love & CD Science) that I can go to when I have questions or concerns with my wash routine. My friend Kim Smith essentially sent me a step-by-step guide on how to get started and Kim and Brittany Lumley have both been available for answering my questions along the way which has been a lifesaver! Having this support is what inspired me to write this post in hope that it will make it a little less intimidating and more manageable for beginners!

#2: The Holy Grail of Cloth Diapering

-Fluff Love University has been an incredible resource for me! It has an index for washing machines and laundry detergent to help you develop your wash routine. It's incredibly important to develop a successful wash routine in order to: extend the life of your diapers, make sure your diapers are getting clean, and avoid stink issues. It can be intimidating when you are first starting out to figure out how to wash your diapers, but Fluff Love makes it pretty simple. Plus, it's FREE!

#3: Test Your Water

-Testing whether or not you have hard or soft water is an important step in developing your wash routine and knowing it can help you determine what (if anything) needs to be added to your load.

#4: Pick a Style (Or Decide to Try a Few)

-When you are first starting out it can be hard to pick what style diapers to go with. I will list some of the options below with a brief description, but we decided just to go with pocket diapers so those are the only style I have tried.

-Flats: Large squares of single-layer fabric that can be folded in a variety of ways, usually made
     of cotton. They are the cheapest, but must be used with a cover.

-Prefolds: Rectangular piece of fabric folded in three sections. You must always use a cover with         prefolds. (These are often times used as burp clothes)

-Fitteds: Usually made of cotton, bamboo, hemp, or fleece and are very absorbent. They do not           require folding, but they do need to be used with a cover.

-Pockets: These do not need a cover or folding, but they do need to have absorbent layers stuffed         into the pocket section of the diaper.

-All-in-Twos (AI2's): Similar to pockets except instead of stuffing inserts into a pocket, the absorbent layers are snapped inside the diaper.

-All-in-Ones (AIO's): Require no extra work (stuffing, snapping, folding) and are ready to be used (just like a disposable), but are usually more expensive and can take longer to dry.

****Descriptions found at The Humbled Homemaker****

#5: Fleece Liners

-Fleece liners can be easily made or bought. They make cleaning up poop easier because the poop slides off easier. And they help create a dry feeling for baby because it pulls the moisture away from the body into the insert. I made mine from cutting out strips from a fleece blanket from Wal-Mart that was only $2.50. The liner fills the entire inside of the diaper (I used an insert as a guide) and I was able to make about 30 from one blanket. It's a very forgiving project because it doesn't need to be perfect (as you can see below!) and since fleece doesn't fray there is no need to sew! Be sure to use micro-fleece, not polar fleece which would repel moisture and cause it to bead up rather than soaking through to the insert!

Homemade Fleece Liner

#6: Rinsing

-Some people use sprayers that you can attach right to the toilet and they are relatively inexpensive. We have a utility sink in the basement that doesn't get used for anything else so we make sure that all the solids are dumped into the toilet (wiped with a little toilet paper if necessary) and then we rinse the rest off before adding it to the wet bag. We started late in the game, but apparently if you have a baby that is exclusively breast fed (not eating ANY solids) their poop is water soluble and so you can add those diapers right into the washer without rinsing!

#7: Wet Bags

-You'll want a couple at home hanging wet bags to put the dirty diapers in until wash day, we have two so that I can just throw one in the washer when I am doing a load and then have one to use on wash day. We also have several on the go wet bags for diaper changes when we are out. I like the ones from Alva Baby because they have two compartments so you can use one for clean diapers or even wet clothes or swim suits.

#8: Cloth Wipes

-We had a lot of disposable wipes left when we started cloth diapering so we haven't switched over yet, but I have started a cloth wipe stash. We plan to use cloth wipes for pee diapers and still use the disposable for poop. They can be thrown in with the diaper laundry so it doesn't add any more work.

#9: Inserts

-If you decide to go with pockets, I strongly suggest getting hemp or bamboo inserts. Microfiber is the least absorbent and tends to have compression leaks (also can't be used against the skin). Charcoal bamboo is really just microfiber between layers of bamboo so it's also typically not recommended, but we have had luck with them.

#10: Have Fun 

-There are so many different fun patterns and it feels so good to know you are taking a big step towards creating less waste!

**BONUS TIP**: If you're trying to get your husband/partner on board, pick out some patterns that they would like!

Superhero themed pocket diapers from Cloth Diapers for Less

This is a very basic overview of cloth diapering! My hope in making this post is that it will help to introduce you to cloth diapering without intimidating you. There is so much more to learn to so hop on over to the Fluff Love University website! Throughout my experience so far, I have been really surprised that I haven't really had to add more work to my daily routine and the benefits definitely out way any minor inconvenience.

If you have any questions or have anything to add, please post in the comments below and don't forget to subscribe to keep up with my latest posts!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Easiest Homemade Vegetable Soup Formula

I love to cook, but the truth is, now that I have a child I typically can't commit to a recipe that takes more than 30 minutes to make. I'm passionate about making homemade, healthy meals for my family, but it needs to be something that I can reasonably accomplish at the end of a busy day chasing around my daughter.

 Homemade Vegetable Soup is one of my favorite meals to make because it's EASY, HEALTHY, and CHEAP! Plus, it's a great way to introduce kids (or picky adults!) to a lot of different foods or to get them to eat foods that they may otherwise refuse.

This is more of a formula than a recipe because you can use whatever foods your family enjoys and/or the foods you happen to have on hand! If you don't like to measure ingredients, then this is the perfect soup for you!

*Deciding on Your Ingredients*

-Pick a Broth

My absolute favorite way to make broth is adding Better Than Bouillon: Seasoned Vegetable Base paste to boiling water. Simple and so delicious! It also comes in many other flavors as well! Another option is just to buy already made broth from the store, such as: Pacific Foods Vegetable Broth. I prefer that one because it is made of  only vegetables, seasonings, and water.

-Pick a Protein

Often times I will add beans to our soup (pinto, black, cannellini, chickpeas, etc.) if I have them on hand already cooked, but for those times when I don't already have beans prepped and ready to throw it I like to use lentils. The great thing about lentils is they don't need to be soaked (unlike most beans) and they have a relatively low cook time.

-Add Substance

When making a meatless meal it is important to make sure there is enough to it that you won't leave the meal feeling hungry. Protein is a good start, but here are some other options to add to help make the meal more hearty: quinoa, rice (wild rice is a delicious addition), pasta, or potatoes.


There is just about an endless amount of options for this category, but I will include some of our favorites. Broccoli, zucchini, carrots, onions, garlic, peas, green beans, cauliflower, bell peppers, celery, sweet potato, spinach etc. Read ahead to the Steps section to find out important tips when using some of these vegetables!


Another benefit to using the Better Than Bouillon paste is that you really don't need to add any seasoning, but feel free to add your favorites for added flavor. A few options: salt, pepper, garlic powder, italian seasoning, rosemary, etc.


#1- Soften Vegetables: If you decide to use any of the following vegetables, I suggest putting a little butter or oil in the pot and add the vegetables in for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft. I do this right in the big pot I plan to use for the soup, because, well, who needs more dishes to wash! Do this for: onions, raw carrots, garlic, celery, and bell peppers. If using potatoes, bake in the microwave in order to speed up cook time. If using spinach, add at the very end!

#2- Add Broth: Now you'll want to either add in the broth or fill up your pot about 2/3 full with water and add in the Better than Bouillon paste.

#3- Add Protein and Substance: Cook lentils, quinoa, pasta, and rice about 5-10 minutes less than package directions suggest. This will allow you to add in the rest of the ingredients without overcooking the protein and substance ingredients.

#4- Add Vegetables and Seasoning: Simply add in the rest of the vegetables and cook until they have reached your desired tenderness.

#5- Allow Soup to Cool and Serve!

Serve With Any of the Following or On it's Own:
-Bread (if you're feeling ambitious homemade bread is delicious or store bought buns would work well too!
-Baked potatoes (especially if you didn't add potatoes in the soup)

Most Importantly It's Baby Approved!!

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Share in the comments below if you try out the recipe or if you have any requests for future posts!

Monday, July 23, 2018

22 Ways to Make the Most of Summer with a Baby

We only have so many summers to spend with our kids so let's make the most of it!

Before we get started it's important to remember that every day doesn't need be Pinterest worthy or a big adventure. I think all mothers can agree that it can be so overwhelming to be constantly bombarded with all the things we should be doing with our children, but the reality is some days keeping the kids fed and loved is all we can do. So if you're having one of those days where you feel as though you just can't muster the energy to leave the house or prep an activity, please feel free to bookmark this post and come back on a day when you're ready for an adventure.


1.) Facebook Mom groups for your town are a great way to meet mom friends, ask questions, get suggestions, and plan play dates.


2.) Beach- swimming and meeting up with friends or family
3.) Parks- we're all about the swings these days, picnics, and playing in the grass
4.) Go for a walk
5.) Zoo (look for free days or discount days or find a friend that has a pass)
6.) Festivals- there are so many free festivals in summer!
7.) Farmer's Market- Lily loves people watching!


8.) Local Library- Most local libraries have story time, some also have a play space set up for kids, and if all else fails you can just go to pick out a few books. Reading is so important for babies and young children and it can be a lot easier to get them excited about it if it seems like a special treat to go pick out a book or read a new book.

9.) Museums- Depending where you live this may or may not be free, but even museums that cost money often times have discount days or free days. Kenosha Public Museum is free and although it's small there is still enough to entertain a baby. There is also a kids program called Museum Munchkins every Wednesday.

10.) Play Groups- Search online or ask in your local Facebook groups about where you can attend play group in your area. The KAC runs a program called Sprouts in Kenosha! Some hospitals run free play groups as well.

11.) Indoor Play Centers- There are versions of this all over, but our local favorite is Nest Playspace in Racine.


12.) Play dates can be so fun for your baby, but let's be real sometimes it's just nice to have another adult to talk to.

13.) Mom and Me Classes- Definitely not for everyone, but it can be really helpful to have scheduled activities to look forward to each week. Some examples: swim class, music class, etc.

14.) Support Groups- La Leche League, MOPS, hospital support groups, etc. the best part is that some of these can be online supports or in person whatever works best for you!


15.) Water Play- Use a shallow tote or baby pool and add a small amount of water at the bottom. Give baby some spoons, small bowls, bath toys, etc. Another option is to have several smaller containers with a little water in each so baby can dump them over and splash in them without having to be in the water. We like to do water play outside or in the bathtub!

16.) No Mess Painting- This is one of my favorites because it requires very little prep time, don't have to worry about baby eating the craft supplies, and it's fun. Squeeze a few dots of paint onto a piece of paper or tag board, put it into a ziplock and seal it up, and let baby go to town.

17.) Tugging Box- Poke a bunch of holes into a sturdy, small, cardboard box. Then cut a section of yarn (ribbons, lace, etc.) and tie it on both ends several times. You can also put a knot or two in the middle of the yarn in order to make it a little trickier to pull through.

18.) Velcro Board- There are so many possibilities for this one! Lily loves pictures of people so for hers I laminated some photos of her family. You could also print or cut out shapes, colors, letters, etc. and laminate them and add velcro. Hang up some fabric (just be sure that it's something that can stick to velcro like felt, fleece, etc.) or put the soft velcro up on the wall. You could also cover a piece of cardboard with fabric or velcro in order to make a portable version.

19.) Spider Web- Weave string or yarn through a laundry basket to look like a spider web, add some small toys at the bottom, and let baby explore and try to figure out how to get them out.

20.) Sensory Play- There is an endless number of sensory activities to do with a baby or toddler, but one of my favorites is using leftover baby cereal, mixed with some water, and either food dye or natural dyes (beet juice, blueberry juice, etc.) and let them use it as finger paint. For that one I put a laundry basket in the bathtub and then let her paint in there so that I could just spray her down when she was

21.) Colored Ice- Another sensory play idea is to put a few drops of food coloring in each section of an ice tray and then fill each one with water. When they are frozen take them out and put a few into a shallow dish of water and let baby explore. It's fun to play with and then dyes the water once the ice has melted.

22.) Discovery Baskets- One of Lily's favorite activities is pulling everything out of a basket (or pulling all the books off the shelf). Sometimes I set her up with a basket full of objects she doesn't really get to see often and let her explore. One of her favorites is the basket full of all her headbands!

Pinterest is full of a never ending stream of activities to do with little ones, but often times it can be so discouraging to search through a ton of activities, find something that sounds fun, prep it, and then realize that it isn't baby safe or is more work than it's worth. I love doing activities with my daughter, but I don't want to spend a lot of money or time preparing or cleaning up. If you're interested in this kind of post let me know and I'll be sure to do a trial run with a few more activities to share!