Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Four Months, Four Must-Haves

I know I am no veteran at this mom thing, but in the short time I have served in this role, I have learned a ton. Never before has the meaning of "learning on the job" been more clear to me.

These days, I think back to before our boy was born and remember all the things I was so nervous about....

Will I know when he's hungry? or tired? or wet? or...?
What will I dress him in everyday? How many layers do I need?
What goes in my diaper bag?
How will I get him to sleep?
Am I going to be able to keep him alive?

I giggle a little bit now as I find myself starting to hit my stride (lest you get discouraged by that if things aren't going smoothly for you right now, I'm pretty sure this feeling is simply a product of the fact that my kiddo is napping right now - check back when he wakes up...oh, and I'm still in pajamas at noon, so there's that).

But beyond learning the answers to the questions above (which really are pretty darn basic and thus, not worthy of a huge pat on the back) I have learned that there are (at least) 4 things that make our day run just a little bit more smoothly recently. I am no mommy blog product reviewer, but nonetheless, I feel compelled to share these with all you mamas out there!

Here are my 'Four Must-Haves at Four Months':

1. Baby Merlin's Magic Sleepsuit - When our little guy was born he was a peanut - weighing in at a lean 6 lbs. 2 oz. and 18.5 inches long. The poor thing was always cold; a diaper change was pure torture for him and he constantly wanted to be snuggled up. In fact, the first time I realized he was crying because he was too hot, I did a little happy dance. And then stripped him down by a layer. In that order. He also had a hilarious startle reflex that, while adorable, made it impossible for him to fall asleep without being swaddled like a giant burrito. We learned the tricks of the swaddle pretty quickly. Whether we were using an 'Easy Swaddle' from Aden + Anais or wrapping him in the more traditional Swaddle Designs cotton flannel blanket, his arms needed to be in a figurative straight jacket.  Once he was bundled up though, the kid would sleep like a dream. #thankful #mynextkidwillprobablybeaterriblesleeper (yep, that just happened).

However, around 3 months or so, his nights started to become restless. We would hear him struggling over the monitor in the middle of the night. Hubs and I started switching off running up the stairs to pop a binky in his mouth or to stroke his head to calm him down. We couldn't figure out how our perfect little sleeper had suddenly vanished.

My sister-in-law had mentioned to me that this Magic Sleepsuit existed and after several sleepless nights, though skeptical, I hopped on Amazon and the suit arrived at our door the next day (I heart Amazon Prime).

We decided to try it out with a nap first. I packed him into a fleece coverall that somewhat resembles a snowsuit and while he was still awake, placed him in his crib. By the time I made my way downstairs, he was out like a light.

Magic. Literally.

Since then, every time he goes down to sleep, we have used the suit and I kid you not, it is blissful.

The suit is the perfect tool to transition your little one out of the swaddle. It also helps teach them how to fall asleep on their own. It is snuggly and cozy and heavy enough that he still feels bundled up. His arms are free, but the weight of the suit muffles his startle reflex enough to let him drift off to a peaceful sleep.

I strongly recommend you give it a try if you're struggling at all with sleep patterns.

2. The Sheet Saver - When you're a new mom, one of the things you find yourself doing most often is laundry. I try to do one load of whites and one load of darks every day. Every now and then, I run out of clean burp cloths or pajamas to put on Baby Dex and I realize I've let it pile up for too long.

But the one type of laundry I simply hate doing is sheets - king sheets, crib sheets, you name it, I hate it. For starters, I am downright awful at folding them. No matter how many Martha Stewart How-To Videos I watch on YouTube, I will never be able to fold a fitted sheet. I also find making the bed from scratch to be an incredibly daunting task. Not sure why, but it has always been that way. (I blame my mother - sheets are sort of her forte - not only does she fold the sheets perfectly, she presses them first(!) and can make hospital corners as though she's in the military. Why make the bed when I can ask her to help?).

Enter sheet saver.

This nifty little quilted piece of waterproof fabric is saving my sanity by limiting the number of times I need to strip the crib sheets, wash them and replace them. Our little guy has a charming way of spitting up....all. the. time. If not for the sheet saver, his sheets would be soaked, day in and day out.

I recommend you buy two and always have one clean and at the ready. They tie on to the posts of the crib so they don't pose a suffocation risk and let me tell you, they will preserve your mental stability just a little bit longer.

3. Pumpin' Pal Super Shields - Breast Pump Flanges - I am an exclusive pumper. For two straight months, I worked my (not-so) little butt off at nursing. I was determined to be able to do this successfully. However, after eight straight weeks of the worst pain I have literally ever experienced (Dex had a miserable latch resulting from a severe upper lip tie and a posterior tongue tie), a month long case of thrush and some nasty mastitis, it was time to reevaluate our approach to breastfeeding. It had gotten to the point where I would stomp my feet and sob every time he nursed and something had to change.

If you haven't done it, exclusively pumping can be miserable. I really wouldn't wish this way of life on anyone, but I believe strongly in the importance of breast milk in a baby's early life. Don't get me wrong, we supplement with Organic Formula when we need to, but I am working hard to make his diet almost entirely breast milk. It is hard work. I pump 5 times a day for 30 minutes each.

I have the Medela Freestyle double electric pump, which has made pumping on-the-go much easier because it has a battery pack that basically lasts the whole day. I also have the Simple Wishes Hands Free Pumping Bra which works like a charm, so I can multi-task while pumping (in fact, I'm pumping right now, while I write this)!

But until recently, I struggled to understand which flanges were right for me. The diagrams indicating which size was appropriate didn't help at all and I found myself at a loss. That is, until I discovered  the Pumpin' Pals. They are shaped in a way that allows gravity to help you - no more leaning forward to make the milk drip down - and they draw more of the areola into the tube in order to pump out more milk in less time. I have noticed a real difference in my comfort level since I started using the Pumpin' Pals as well. They send you three different sizes so you can give them all a try - I strongly recommend that you give them a shot if you're a pumping mom.

A FINAL WORD ON PUMPING: While researching how to increase / maintain milk supply with pumping, I came across some helpful websites for women who pump exclusively. One of the big drawbacks to pumping - and you know this all too well if you do it - is having to clean the pump parts every. single. time. you pump. It is maddening to take them apart, wash them and reassemble them five times a day. However, in doing my research, one of the big pointers I came away with was pure genius and needs to be shared. Listen up pumpers...during the day, store your pump parts in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and only wash the parts once at the end of the day. See, I told you, genius!

4. Magnetic Pajamas from Magnificent Baby - Have you ever finished dressing your baby and thought, "they made this thing with one extra snap!". Yup, we've all been there. Matching up those pesky snaps, for whatever reason, can challenge even the most brilliant of minds. Factor in a squirming, slippery little body and your children are bound to spend the rest of their days naked with just a diaper on.

Thank goodness the brainiacs at Magnificent Baby invented magnetic baby clothes! They are so easy to use, you'll wonder why you ever purchased that cashmere footie pajama with actual buttons around the neck and legs (frankly, even if you don't have magnetic clothes, one attempt at the actual buttons and you'll wonder that).

They have footie pajamas, bibs, hats, sleep sacks, blankets, etc. Definitely worth a try - it will change your life (and your husband will be more likely to help with diaper changes!)

So there you have it, my four must haves, four months in to parenting. There are, of course, many other products and secret weapons we've learned to employ, but these four have been game changers for us! I would love to hear your feedback on any of these products, if you give them a try. And if you have your own special list, please share!