Friday, July 31, 2020

What No One Told Me About Breastfeeding

I had read countless blogs and forums on breastfeeding. And when it was time for my milk to come in and start this beautiful journey, I had many appointments with lactation consultants. On top of that, I had family and friends who had walked me through cluster feeding and my milk finally coming in.

And after the ups and downs of breastfeeding my first child, I thought I was an old soul when it came time to breastfeed my second child. After all, I was a veteran breastfeeding Mama who spent countless hours in bathrooms, nursing rooms, doctors offices, and my home either breastfeeding or pumping breastmilk for my baby.

And just like that, my milk actively came in much faster with my second baby. I don't think I used any formula to supplement this time. I felt at ease. 

The oxytocin produced during the feedings was needed amidst the chaos of becoming a family of four in forced isolation due to COVID-19 (thanks 2020). I can still remember that feeling as I navigated the postpartum discomforts and new life adjustments.

And here we are with still so many surprises. I wanted to make a short list of surprises I learned while breastfeeding.


No One Told Me Children Can be Ready to Move on Without You

My second child is a baby led weaning kid. Here I had this tiny human envying our every single meal. And after he grew his first tooth, he would get actively upset about being excluded from meals. We made it ritual to introduce new foods to him even if only in taste.

He adapted to cow's milk without a blink. And he adapted to water and the sippy cup without many issues. 

Most importantly, he hasn't met a food he didn't like. 

Which brings me to now. No one told me that my child would be the one shrinking my breastmilk supply and not the other way around to "wean" the baby off breastmilk. 

No One Told Me About the Absolute Discomfort Before My Milk Fully Came In

I’ve seen terms like “pain” and ”engorgement” floating around forums, but I had never thought in a million years that it was going to hurt to feed my baby. Or to out on clothes, move around, or just take a shower. 

I remember struggling to feed my baby. I remember my child being hungry and having to supplement with formula. Lots of sleepless nights full of feedings and washing bottles were a new kind of routine. But what I also remember was the absolute discomfort as my milk first came in. 

I think every body is different and no one wants to talk about the discomforts of breastfeeding in order to it scare anyone away, but it’s there at first for some.

Thankfully, this was not the experience with my second child. 

No One Told Me That Babies Can Have Favorite Bottles

It's the grip. Dare I say more? 

The bottle that is the easiest to grasp and hold wins. 

And this requires me to update my original Baby Bottles article with an update. Maybe I should just write a new one, "Bottles Preferred by Babies." The small glass bottles are too heavy. The soft bottles in the shape of an oval don't have the grip. And, insert sarcastic "who knew" that the Kiinde bottle system, the one I used almost exclusively for breastmilk was the favorite and easiest to grasp. Perhaps it became my child's favorite because it was a "sure thing" without a bad surprise of formula once my breastmilk supply dropped from hormonal changes and stress. 

No One Told Me Busy Babies Don't Follow the Same Schedule 

This was a blessing, let me explain. I like to go out into parks and nature that still has enough of an audience and enough of natural dangers that I don't feel comfortable juggling a breastfeeding baby and an active toddler. Sure I could pack a bottle, but then I would have to either train my child to drink cold milk or carry an additional thermos with hot water. 

I was very lucky and blessed that as long as my child was not bored, e.g. we were exploring a lake and there were geese and people fishing and hiking, I was fine. He didn't care for food. And then he adjusted to being hungry when we got home without a change in attitude. And I know why this is happening, we have night feedings and he never goes without although I know that his body can be trained in time. 

No One Told Me Feedings Laying Down Are Easier

It happened by accident with my first. He was laying beside me and just found his way. And that was how I realized that I got a break by feeding while laying down!

Not all babies might like it, I think it depends on the situation. But if it's possible, I will make it happen. 

Using a floor bed was a great way to have this feeding method in our lives because I would just lay next to the floor bed on a cushy fleece blanket and feed my child. 

I am in no way saying it is okay to fall asleep like this, in fact, I think that would be super dangerous if you are on one same uneven surface. There is however, nothing stopping you from relaxing while you are laying down. There are no pillows to arrange, or a comfortable chair to find. There are no muscle aches involved from supporting your child's body in a position conducive to breastfeeding. 

No One Told Me I Would Be Dreading Stopping Breastfeeding

I remember the first few months after I stopped breastfeeding my first child. Everything became better and easier. It was easier preparing for daycare. Then, my day was easier at work because I did not have to break to pump nor judge my food intake. It was easier going places with a bottle or a sippy cup without worrying about finding a quiet corner or a private room. 

I was thinking the second time around would be similar. And again, I was surprised I did not want to move on. I did not want to have easier mornings, better days at work, or easier planning. 

I know that the time is going to come soon enough, but this year has taken my sense of chronological order away from COVID-19 and personal chaos of adjusting to being a family of four. Stopping breastfeeding at the one year mark would force me to admit that my baby is no longer a baby but a toddler. Toddling onward to his next chapter towards independence.

No One Told Me Pumps Would Just Break

A pump is a working breastfeeding Mama's best friend. And I thought that it was a technology mainly free of hiccups. 

Well, I am four pumps in. 

I used the first two while breastfeeding my first baby and now I went through two more with my new one. And it is not the pump's fault by any means. They had just worked really hard. 


Not All Pumping At Work is the Same

While I think it would be nice is every working and nursing parent received a safe and relaxing space to pump at work, this simply is not the case across many states. Some parents have even stopped breastfeeding their children because the logistics of pumping at work just didn't work out. 

I have pumped in bathrooms, in restaurants, in designated nursing rooms, in my office, in conference rooms, in my car, and in storage closets.

It is rough out there and you have to adjust. It might mean you have to carry spare batteries because there being no plug, or it might mean just manually expressing milk if a pump is not an option at all. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Book Review: Montessori From the Start

I wanted to take the time to talk about one of my favorite parenting books. This book is called Montessori from the Start by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen.

As a mother of two, I grow to value this book more and more each day. I think that I reread it twice now and I can honestly say that it was a really good guide for teaching my two children life skills.

It was also the first book and first major resource that I found to include everything from before birth to three years of age. I have framed many resources that I have found on the internet within the timeline and content of this book.

The book content is divided into 10 wonderful chapters that cover an overview of human development from the lens of Montessori education including: the environment of a newborn, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, communication development, and life skills involving multiple sequential tasks.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is on page 18. It summarizes our endeavor as parents, "Today, although some of us enjoy the greatest affluence the world has ever known, we find that developing a home environment that serves the human spirit, a home of beauty, order, and simplicity, remains a very challenging task."

Reading that sentence puts things into perspective. Many adults crave an environment such as this themselves. And to be quite honest, there are a few good habits and life skills that I would like to build on. Everyone keeps learning some things regardless of age. Similarly, as we get older, our environments change potentially in surroundings or the people surrounding us.

I found the beginning chapter covering the preparation of the nursery for the child to be very enlightening and made me appreciate the book immediately. Instead of promoting that themes should be ever-present and all linens should match, or that the latest gadgets are required, this chapter goes back to basics. You are the most important person to your child. Things help, but a child can still be happy and develop a good sense of self with just the basics.

Using this Book with One Child in the Home

My eldest is now almost out of the age range covered in this book and I can confidently say that I have tried the majority of lessons with my child, and the majority of them were helpful.

He got to experience a nursery with a floor bed, a few toys, an adapted mirror, a changing area on top of a refurbished dresser, a rocking chair, mobiles, and a side table for essentials. We did include a humidifier, a fun color on the walls and some other things that were not completely Montessori, but for the most part, it was simple.

I think a lot of people would highly enjoy the middle chapters covering practical life and personal care skills. I can tell you that I had the sequence of "toddler knives" planned out for a long time. And I was a lot more excited than he was when I adapted the Duktig from ikea to allow him to store child sized things and complete child size meal preparation. It was special to watch my child make parts of a meal or make a snack. And I think these chapters guide the parents to allow their children to become more independent than before because it can be a bit emotional to watch your child outgrow a stage.

There were ups and downs following this book. I had tried all of the advice on potty training and it was still hard. Some things will always be harder than others.

Using this Book with Two Children in the Home

I was lucky to have read this book before any of my children were born because I would not have been able to implement anything otherwise. It is hard to manage the needs of two children at once and it is even harder to manage these needs while also teaching them and helping them become more independent people. It is much easier to just take care of them when you are constantly running around. And it is harder to patiently watch your oldest put on a shirt with his head and arm coming out of the collar when his younger sibling is fussing over a toy that he threw just out of his reach.

What I learned was that my at one time useful mobiles now got more attention from my toddler than captivation from my newborn. And as a result, these shapes were often thrown across the room. Likewise, my younger child liked to bite on my older child's animal toys as much as his own teething toys. And my older child was happy to provide them.

Limited intentional lessons, those typically presented on a tabletop, in a basket, or a tray, are now almost seamlessly integrated with the rest of the house. My youngest child has a zone where his lesson items live and that only includes mobiles, teethers, and shapes, while my oldest child has the command of the rest of the house where he knows where everything lives.

So there have been times that required more perseverance than others. It is not easy to be a mom when you are outnumbered and it is not easy to Montessori when you are outnumbered. 

I will cover how I have adapted and implemented the techniques, toys, suggestions, and lessons within this book and others.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Learning Through Meaningful Play with the Russian Alphabet Puzzle

As a disclaimer here, I am not following any tried and true advice regarding bilingual education or any experts on linguistics. I am simply following my child. And for now that is enough of a fun and enriching journey.

I understand that there is so much to a language than the written words themselves. There are contexts, subtexts, intonations, etc. My focus now is to enable my child to read books that he might find interesting. We are a long way from that in any language, but I think finding a fun way to introduce specific letters might be the way to go for my child.

My child is no stranger to alphabet puzzles and had received an English alphabet puzzle for a birthday gift. I wanted him to find both the English and the Russian alphabets familiar because he enjoys being read to in these two languages already. And so my search began.

After window shopping on Etsy, I came across this puzzle from BabyGiftBusyBoards. I loved the fun colors and decided to order it. The puzzle looked like it was made with a toddler or preschooler in mind. The letters are easy to handle for hands that might have fine motor control and dexterity, but still have undeveloped control required for writing.

I was very happy to find a Russian alphabet puzzle with carefully designed letters that were easy to read while also easy for small children to handle. This is easier said than done. The Ё and the Й letters are fundamentally challenging due to the level of detail. I loved the way that the artist incorporated these details into the puzzle.

So far, my child has enjoyed learning about the different sounds that each letter makes. He has completed the majority of the puzzle and I hope that he soon learns that he too can read connected letters that comprise words. But that will have to be a story for another day.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Baby Bottles: Plastic, Glass, and Silicone

Baby bottles can be hard to choose because they're not one size fits all and some are better than others for your situation and your routine. There are sooo many products on the market that you can’t try all of them out. 
I think I saw one bottle video that was super comprehensive, but most parents try a few bottles of interest that fit their lifestyles and then call it a day. There really are too many products out there. I wanted to share my experience hoping that it saves someone else a headache and a half.
I also added a small update that you can find at, Baby Bottles Revisited: What I Learned From My Babies

My bottle journey started before my two children were born. I had gone through the effort of creating registries and got a few free bottles as a result. These were the Philips Avent and the MAM bottles. I also reasearched systems that would enable me to be a good working parent moving forward and those that could grow with the child. 

My lifestyle is that I am a working parent who pumps to ensure that my child has an adequate supply for the entire work day from 9am-5pm. Other than that, I breastfeed my child and only leave a bottle for a babysitter on very rare occasions that are even far rarer now due to the quarantine.

I am not a minimalist by even the loosest definition, but I was a fan of having only a small supply of necessities, which while being lifesaving one moment, would be ignored and in the way once the child outgrew that stage.



     Lifefactory Bottle

     The first set of bottles that I wanted to love were the Lifefactory 4oz bottles. They were glass and the promise of the easy carefree cleaning, the cute silicone sleeve, and other functional attachments made these bottles exciting to use.

     They’re glass but come with a silicone sleeve. The sleeve comes in trendy colors. I had first purchased them in the reasonably gender neutral green and blue, but have noticed the last series of silicone sleeves more aesthetically appealing to me including the a coral, a teal, and a purple. They are easy to clean and sterilize. Their nipples are compatible with other brands. A variety of attachments are also available. I had tried: the nipples of different flows, the sippy cup attachment, and the caps.

     Their bottle thread is also the same as my standard breast pump container, so I could theoretically use it without waste as in the case of the kiinde system. It was heavy and required me to hold it the entire time, but it was an option nontheless. The caps (sold separately) allowed me to have a sealed container without worrying about decreasing the shelflife of my breastmilk.

     I ended up using them on playdates, at playgrounds, on long car trips, walks, daycare, everywhere. I had dropped them several times and so had my child. They were pretty solid and I am fully comfortable with thier construction.

     What ended up not working out was the sippy cup attachment once my child was interested in using straws, cups, and other sippy cups. He had a better time using a cup instead of this sippy cup, and we had moved  onto other products that suited my child's preferences better.

      If anyone at Lifefactory is reading this, I wish you would make an attachment for these bottles similar those for your waterbottles.

T   Evenflo Glass Bottle


     The next set of glass bottles that I have tried were the Evenflo (8 oz). I really wanted to like these glass bottles. I wanted to use them, but I only used them a few times before putting them on the shelf. Once or twice to be honest. They may be perfect for someone else, but I was working with a daycare that was not comfortable with glass bottles without a silicone sleeve and I could not find suitable silicone sleeves nor did I have the mental energy to make my own. My children also took smaller portions when they were younger and moved onto seeping small portions when they were older to feed themselves. 



     The Kiinde Bottle and System

     The biggest and only issue with the Kiinde bottle is that you cannot just get a Kiinde bottle by itself. It is a commitment. And to be clear, if you are a fan of leaving not trace or you do not plan on ever freezing your breastmilk, then you may not like this bottle or system.

     That's right. You buy an entire system including, at the very minumum, bottles that come with a slow flow nipples and nipple covers, and the pouches. It is these pouches that savey you time and stress in the long run!

     I am not sure if this brand could make it any easier to pump at work. These pouches are well made and can stand up on thier own after you fill their base with about an ounce of milk. They can be easily stored in the bottle structure without opening them and compromising the seal, or they can be directly frozen and thawed for immediate use without the need to transfer.

     The included nipples are wide and are shaped to reflect the design of the milk bag and bottle structure system more so than the child. That said, both of my children adjustted to these after one or two tries and never went back.

     The starter pack may retail somewhere between $30 and $40 dollars. I personally did not really use the stockpile structure, just the bags, attachments, bottle structures, and nipples. I have not nor do not plan on trying nipples from different brands using adapters so I cannot speak on that.

     I have tried the spoon and the squeeze pouch attachments and found that they were not the route I wanted to go for introducing purees to my children, but they would be valuable for someone who loves the pouch system and wants to adapt it long after the breastfeeding chapter has ended. 

  MAM Bottle

     I got the 4 ounce MAM anticolic bottle as a sampler. To say that it was great for small portions would be understating its pivotal role in my first few days as a mother. This bottle was a lifesaver during those first few days with my first child before my milk had fully come in and I was supplementing every feeding with one or two ounces of formula. This bottle was easy to wash and disinfect while sleep deprived in the middle of the night. 

     I love this bottle and would highly recommend it. The assembly is a bit involved, but you do get used to it.

Philips Avent Bottle     

     I love the Philips Avent bottle as well. It was also a freebie. I had replaced the nipples and I bought another bottle. It is easy to clean. I do think that I would have gotten more of these in this size if I did not breastfeed.

     Mixie Bottle  

     The next bottle that I have gone out of my way to try is the 8 oz Mixie formula bottle. It is made from mulitple necessary components and the effort in cleaning and assembling them is worth it if you are using formula. Otherwise, this is really not for you unless you might be adding rice cereal as a solid to the liquid. I have used this product and washed it extensively with my first child. It shows quite a lot of wear, but the mechanism still works. I have not used formula with my second child, but I can see doing so in the future especially if my circumstance changed and I had to rely on formula. This is perfect for anyone using formula.


Comotomo Bottle

Comotomo bottles were another great addition to my bottle collection. I did not have them with my first child and I was excited to try something new with my second child. They were great. My child who was not acustomed to bottles adjusted to them quickly and finished his bottles without a fuss. Honestly, I really like this early experience and I think I might invest in some of the transitional attachments so that I can use this bottle for longer.

This bottle does take some time to get used to. Due to its sleek design, some care givers have seen issues assembling and dissassembling these bottles for the first time. Don't let that stop you! The comfort of your child finishing every last drop of milk or formula is worth it.

I haven't tried the other silione bottles on the market, but perhaps I will be more open to them in the future. There are a few bottles that I was curious about. The first is the Boon Nursh because it is simlar to the comotomo. And the Nanabebe bottle--for the same reason. I think these bottles are great designs in concept, but cannot speak of my experience with them.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Tips for Choosing the Perfect Daycare

I want to talk about selecting a daycare that works for your family. 

The first thing that I want to mention is that it is a very unique choice. All families are different and may have different needs so a perfect setup for someone else might not be the best option for you or even a liable one. The three big umbrella options are to have your child watched by someone in your home, to have your child watched by someone in another home, or to have your child watched by multiple caregivers in a center environment. And here, I am using centers, churches, preschools, and daycares interchangeably because they all accomplish the same goal but in a different way while including multiple children and multiple caregivers.

A center was the right choice for my family based on set hours, reliability, and price point. There are many other benefits for our family as well, but these variables were the driving force for our decision.

Below is a sample worksheet of the type that we used.

Below is our story.

Since my family was looking at centers, we wanted to find one that was affordable, had a good parent-caregiver culture, was close to our home, and most importantly was licensed. And it was the combination of licensing and location that dwindled down our list right away. We did not want to drive more than 5 miles in a heavy traffic area and especially not during snowy weather. We felt a sense of safety and comfort with state licensing given training requirements. At the end of the day, I did not want my child watched by someone not certified in CPR and first aid. That is how we limited our search to 18 center!

Other essential questions dwindled down the list like, do they have infant care starting at a certain age, and do they have a spot exactly when we need the spot? Believe it or not, some centers only offer spots for toddlers.

Another big question was whether the increased work commute was fair for both my husband and I. For example, there was a daycare that was super close to my husband's workplace that ended up not being convenient for me in any way.

Our list got shorter and shorter.

From there, we scheduled tours and focused on the less tangible but very important aspects such as family center culture, toy and playground fun for the children, and curriculum. Now here I do want to say that while some of this information is available online, it is hard to tell what your child will gravitate to. As an example, some centers had bigger slides than others and while the rule of thumb is the more the better, there is no guarantee that a child will be able to use one or enjoy it. We ended up touring around 7 schools.

My husband and I considered it a very important choice and we took two vacation days to complete these tours after routine medical appointments part of our prenatal care. We asked questions about schedules, food, curriculum, discipline, and cultural ducation. We did not want to do this again, so we asked about infant, toddler, and preschool children’s experiences. We did not want to have to find another school in a few years when our child outgrew a curriculum.

At the end of the tours we had our top three choices and we would have been very lucky and grateful to end up at any of them. We ended up with our first choice. It was largely based on the easy and safe drive just one neighborhood over and the relaxed happiness of the toddlers and some of the parents we saw. Also, I grew up going to lots of playgrounds and my husband played extensively outside and we found a center that could offer those same experiences when our child got a bit older.

I want to say that there are very high caliber educators out there and I hope that everyone who is looking for a safe and fun child care center finds that for themselves, and especially during this time with Covid-19. Some of the things that we had appreciated during those tours were good communication, huge playgrounds, attention to hygiene, well thought out curricula, organic lunches, gentle teaching, small classrooms, indoor physical play areas for gross motor skill development, libraries, good relationships between parents and teachers, and so much more.

Are there some things that I would change about my current daycare? Yes and no. I would adjust the curriculum slightly to reflect life skills in contrast to the present more traditional preschool curriculum; however, I am also completely happy with the present more traditional methods for my child because I do think it prepares children for the more subject centered schedule in most schools.

So, how to select your daycare center? Location, price point, curriculum, and overall vibes are just a few ideas. I do want to say that we had toured schools that were very expensive and almost price point prohibitive altogether. And don’t get me wrong, you get what you pay for so you are not simply getting a mystery upcharge. While I do think that people should do what they consider right for their child, I don’t think it is right to live beyond your means and essentially borrow time and resources from your future in order to provide an above and beyond daycare experience for your child. While it might be one of the best investments you ever make, I think it creates an unhealthy precedent for your family.              

The Great Outdoors with Toddlers

  The Great Outdoors with Toddlers   One great way to ensure that toddlers appreciate out beautiful planet is by giving them increasingly mo...