Time Saving Tricks Every Parent Should Know

There are never enough hours in the day are there?  For every job you tick off your to-do list, another three take its place. And I bet, not one of those jobs is something for you.

Finding time for yourself in the whirlwind that is parenting is always a challenge. You can usually find it late at night once the children are finally sleeping, the house is tidied, the school lunches are made, and perhaps when you’ve finished up some work that you’ve brought home. Then you find yourself staying up in to the early hours of the morning trying to squeeze every last second out of the night – because it’s your longed for free time!

But it’s always a double edged sword, as a late night is no friend to an early morning with children.

While caffeine always helps, there are also plenty of ways to save some time – and sanity – during the day. Here are a few of our favorite time saving hacks that every parent should try out if they haven’t already:

1) Pressure Cooking: The Instant Pot in particular is getting a bit of a cult following from parents across social media. And it really lives up to the hype. It saves time, money, energy – even vitamin loss from food. Imagine getting home at 6pm, realizing you have forgotten to take the chicken out of the freezer for tonight’s dinner, but then still sitting down for that same dinner by 7pm. With a pressure cooker, you can make fall off the bone tender meat from frozen in super speed. There are heaps of fast ‘one pot’ recipes flying around too – which saves all that washing up time as well.

2) Clothes Prep: Every Sunday night, lay out five sets of ready-to-go clothes for both the little ones AND you. Mornings are always manic, so this little tip eliminates some of the cranky breakfast-time drama. Even if you are a SAHM and don’t plan to go out, leave the clothes out for yourself. While pajamas are tempting, you always feel better, and more on top of your game, when you get fully washed and dressed in the mornings.

3) Share the load: Kids as young as two can be helpful around the house, so don’t forget to give them things to do. Not only will it teach them about responsibilities, it will cut down your cleaning time. Make it fun and put special ‘clean up’ music on. Little ones can pick up toys from the floor, put things in the trash and wipe the table clean, while older kids can help you sweep, dust and even fold the laundry.

4) Freeze berries: We all know that a hungry child needs food NOW! A three – five minute wait for it to cool down is not negotiable! If you freeze some berries or applesauce in ice cube trays, they can help you quickly cool down hot foods like oatmeal. Even regular ice cubes will work for soups and steamy stews.

5) Let Lucy Do It:  There’s nothing worse than being on hold when you have other things to do. This clever app called Lucy Phone allows you to connect to your bank, cell phone provider, airline etc and, if you get put on hold, they will wait in your spot for you. When it’s your turn, you will get a call back. In the meantime, you can crack on with another job on the list.

We could go on all day – from dry shampoo to microwave instant cleaning tricks. It’s well worth a google. Just remember to be realistic. While you might free up a little more time using a hack here and there, don’t put pressure on yourself to complete that to-do list every day. You are not a magician – there really aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all. But there are certainly enough tricks out there to make your day run a little smoother.

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Babies in Bloom Birth Story: The Birth Of Our Sonshine

A birth story graciously shared from one of our birth center families…

On Saturday evening, I was sitting on my kitchen counter waiting for dinner to finis cooking, crying my eyes out and texting my midwife because I had decided our Sunny changed his mind and would never be born, that I would be like that South American woman who was pregnant for 20 years (calcified pregnancy). It has always been my mantra that baby will be born at the perfect time for him but those last few days of pregnancy as many already know are so physically and mentally exhausting. I was SO done!

Sunday morning, we all awoke before the sun per usual thanks to my two lively Wild Flowers. I didn’t have much of an appetite and felt completely restless! I had a lower backache so I decided to soak in the bath for a while and hey since I was already there I might as well wash my mane, too. I noticed I was having very irregular contractions but I had been having those for about two weeks so I ignored them. We decided today was a great day to clean out the garage and spent all morning organizing and sweeping. At nap time we all laid down to rest, I had sort of been in a strange fog all morning and was sure I was just really tired. I couldn’t sleep. I noticed I was having more and more contractions, more than I had had in the last few weeks. I wanted to get excited but I felt nervous instead and then decided I’d just be in denial. Jason had been watching me like a hawk all day and I kept telling him to “stop being a freak” but he could see all of the things that I couldn’t (he’s basically a birth and breastfeeding professional at this point). And even though it was football Sunday with his favorite team playing, he made the beautiful suggestion of going to get milkshakes at my favorite place, all hail In-N-Out Burger. It’s been a little family tradition of ours that when I’m in labor we go eat at In-N-Out and then magically a baby appears a couple of hours later! But it didn’t matter because I wasn’t really in labor. By the time we got back home though I was having to shift my focus on breathing through my contractions so I suggested IF this was the real deal maybe we should take a walk around the neighborhood. We strapped our hyperactive sugar crazy Wild Things into our snazzy double stroller and started walking. We didn’t make it far, maybe an eighth of a mile, so I had another great idea! Lets go back home and cook dinner. I was slicing chicken and preheating the oven so J lovingly brought a fan down to help cool the kitchen (me) down. Then the swaying started. With each contraction I was having to move with them, in my mind it was like the movement was breaking through the wall of pain. By this time I was trying (failing) to cook dinner in order to shift my focus away from my labor, my shirt was off, I was in my favorite skirt, and swaying with a piece of raw chicken and a knife in my hands in front of a fan. But it was fine because I wasn’t in labor. Jason wanted me to text our midwives but I didn’t want to. So…he did. And our friends to watch the girls if needed, and our birth photographer. That guy had it all together!

After dinner was finished baking, which no one ate because apparently it was the worst dinner I have ever made so the girls at PB&J’s instead, I was hanging out on my birthing ball in the living room. Painter arrived at my knees and climbed into my lap and hugged me while we rode the waves of a few more contractions together. The love and power I felt in those moments really energized me. I’ll cherish that memory forever.

With my new burst of energy I had my best idea yet, My hair was still pretty damp and in a messy bun from my bath earlier in the day. Obviously this was the prime time to blow dry it! I carried my birthing ball upstairs and busted out my blow dryer which I haven’t used in four years and went to town. Shifting my focus away from my contractions while swaying on my ball and blow drying my hair. I wish I had a picture of that, really.

Jason got the girls into the bathtub. With my hair dry and the way I wanted it, I moved into our bed. I could hear the girls giggling in the bath tub and wished I could be in there with them too. I love them so much. Which reminded me of my favorite birthing story from Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin. In the story the mother thought about all of the people she loved and appreciated while she was working through each contraction. I really loved that idea and decided that was a great thing to try out. Labor was getting challenging and I was very tired. With my next contraction I was rocking from side to side with my eyes closed really focusing, “I love my family. My children and my husband. My marriage. I am so grateful to be able to give this gift to my baby. I am so happy to meet my son soon. I am so grateful for my midwives and their support.” I repeated these over and over in my mind until my contractions would subside.

The girls came in to kiss me goodnight, Vaughn looked at me and said “You can do it mom, I love you!”.

I love them, I love them, I love them.

Labor was getting more intense and I was starting to feel nervous again. Jason arrived at the perfect moment. I moved over to my birthing ball and held onto the bed while I swayed through the energy of those contractions. Jason was reading my birthing affirmations, timing my contractions, texting my midwives, and bringing me a lot of peace. This guy. The perfect Dude-la.

At some point our friends arrived and were watching TV downstairs which was reassuring because the girls could stay asleep in their own beds. So grateful to not have to worry about them.

Here is the realness. Birth is hard. Labor is hard. As I find out each time I give birth, you do not have to be a Super Woman with super powers. You are able and capable as a Wombman. There is a strength within each of us that we can not channel until we are right there in the thick of it. It’s a power that is thousands of years old that lives within us and it is pure magic.

In between contractions I was very aware and lucid, Jason and I were chatting. “I can do this right?” I kept asking him. I had read a quote that I loved once, it went something like..your contractions aren’t stronger than you because they ARE you. I was thinking about this through my next contraction. My focus shifted then to “I can do this”. I repeated that to myself in my mind and out loud for the next several minutes. Jason said to me, “Lashel says we can go to the birthing center whenever we’re ready.”

I waited for another five minutes and then I realized that IF she did really say that…then I must really be in labor….AND  I  must be fairly close to birthing him….if she said that.

“Okay.”

Jason grabbed our bags and hustled down to the car and came back upstairs to get my ball and help me down the stairs. When I got to the bottom of the stairs I see our friends hanging out on the couch (I’m so tired I really wished I was doing that too) and I give them a thumbs up. We made a pit stop by the front door so I could work through another contraction and then slowly got outside and into the car. With my eyes closed I kept trying to keep my body relaxed. I started to feel discouraged because all of the sudden my contractions which were pretty intense then became managable. And then we were there! The birth assistant arrived shortly after we did and unlocked the doors for us, as I was getting out of the car one of our midwives arrived and walked in with us, I looked at her..”I am so glad to see you.” And I was.

We walked into birth room number Two. It was dark and quiet, it was perfect. Safe.

I put my hands on the bed to ride through another contraction and

POP

my water broke. And then I felt something strange but familiar and totally out of my control. He was coming and my body was pushing him out.

“I can do this, I can do this, I can do this”.

I climbed onto the bed and stayed on all fours, I couldn’t imagine being in any other position (which is interesting because I have said before I have no idea how women birth this way and I could never see myself doing that..but I was).

“I can do this, I can do this, I can do this”

“You ARE doing this!” my midwife said. Was I really?

“This is really hard.”

It was really, really hard.

Jason was kneeling on the other side of the bed, our faces smashed together. That was the only  way I was able to get through the most intense moments of my entire life. It was easily the most challenging few minutes of my life, even having given birth before, every birth is different.

In between these massive waves that were helping me get closer to meeting my son, I had a thought and said to Jason “I CAN NOT BELIEVE OUR BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER IS MISSING THIS! WE PAID SO MUCH MONEY!”

Our wonderful midwife was coaching me through each contraction, I loved her so much and was so grateful for her especially in those moments, I needed her voice. “He has blonde hair!!”.. oh my god, I have another blonde baby. Hearing those few words filled me with love and happiness and the final burst of energy I needed to welcome our sweet boy into this world.

Then our birth photographer arrived. Oh my god, she arrived!

“I can see his face!”

And then the whole energy of the room shifted. I could physically feel the power in the air. The love and strength of every woman who has ever been. Leaning on my rock for strength feeling the intense energy vibrating through the air and my heart that felt like it was literally bursting with love, I roared my son into existence.

I could not believe it. I looked around at each women in that room, looked at my husband, looked at my new son.

My heart had burst wide open, shattered into a million pieces in this moment and I was born again too. I have never known Love until now and I am sure every single person felt it too.  It was electric.

“Peace on Earth begins at Birth”

Today our Sunny is one week new and I still am in disbelief over what we all experienced but what I can tell you, the love I have inside of me it’s life changing.

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Parenthood: A New Era Of Valentine’s Days

Valentine’s Day. A day of romance, indulgence, spontaneity, and if you’re lucky, a night of very little sleep (wink, wink!)

But now you’re parents. Granted, you are still getting very little sleep, but that’s all thanks to the adorable little sleep thief that you both made.

For new parents, the first Valentine’s Day can be overwhelming. After all, it’s the first time where you will have more than just one love of your life in front of you. Processing and balancing that amount of love is darn hard.

Life with a new baby is exhausting any time of the year (yes it’s amazing, but you’re tired, time-short, grumpy, worried, perhaps not feeling your most attractive – the perfect cocktail for arguments).  But at this time of year in particular, beyond the diapers and feeds, you also have added pressure from Cupid telling you to up your romance game too. It’s enough to shake even the most competent multi-tasker! And the truth is, it’s all too easy to become so engrossed in being parents that you forget to be a couple as well.

As parents who have been through this and come out the other side, we’re here to tell you not to fall for it. Don’t fall for the hard ‘perfect Valentine’s’ media sell. Don’t believe that you have to live up to the extravagance of your pre-baby life. Don’t believe that you have to spend lots. And don’t believe that you won’t be able to enjoy it with a little one in tow.

Here’s a few simple low-stress ways to treat yourselves on your first family Valentine’s:

Snooze – Nothing says I love you like letting your sleep deprived partner sleep in! Plan ahead (pump extra milk etc), pick a day and take turns to let each other recharge. There is NO better gift.

Stay in – Don’t feel pressurized to go out for Valentine’s Day. If you are not ready to leave your baby at home, then don’t force yourself to go out as you won’t enjoy your night. Couch cuddles, candles, dinner, wine, movie, pajamas – it’s a cliché, but a good one.

Early Birds – If you are up for getting out of the house (and good for you!) but like most new parents, you need matchsticks to stay awake past 9pm, then why not switch Valentine’s dinner for a lunch date? The restaurants will be less busy during the daytime too, so it’s win-win. If baby will be with you, plan it around nap time and go for a walk – a sling will let you be all cute and hold hands.

Change the day – Go a step further to changing the time and change the whole day. If Valentine’s Day falls on a weekday and your partner is working, then change it. Pick convenience over calendar and make it more enjoyable and stress-free for everyone.

Remember, it’s not about perfection, it’s about connection. Your main goal is to step away from the chaos of parenthood, recharge a little and be together, even if it’s only for an hour. And even if it’s at home.

Valentine’s Day with a baby will be like nothing you have ever known before – but like most family ‘firsts,’ it can be so memorable. You can and you will still enjoy it – just in a new kind of way!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

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5 Tips For Starting Your Infant On Solid Foods

By Rachel Rothman, MS, RD, CLEC

At your baby’s four-month visit, your pediatrician may have talked to you about starting your baby on solid foods and probably recommended to start between 4-6 months. It’s usually recommended that baby can be started on solids when they are sitting up mainly on their own, seem interested in food and open mouth when food is offered. As a pediatric dietitian, I answer many questions about infant nutrition and starting baby on solid foods. Here are just a few of the things to keep in mind when your baby is ready for real food:

  1. At the beginning, it’s just for fun.Your baby will still be getting most of his nutrients from breast milk or formula, so your goal should be to help him learn these new behaviors. Eating should be a fun experience, and not stressful. If you begin feeding solid food and your baby has a hard time with it – she’s gagging or fussy – wait and try again. You will not do any damage by waiting a bit.
  2. Consider some key nutrients and focus on variety. Key nutrients for babies and toddlers include vitamins A, C, and D, iron, total fat and omega-3 fats, and calcium. Each of these nutrients serves a specific purpose within the body; around 6 months of age, babies require these in other forms, above what is in breast milk or formula. Don’t be afraid to be creative with the foods you are offering to meet baby’s needs for these nutrients. Infant rice cereal may be what your grandmother recommends, and it’s no slouch – its high iron content is helpful. However, variety is important for teaching your little one to appreciate different food tastes and textures, so try purees of spinach, beans or lentils.  To help baby intake additional omega 3 fatty acids, try adding chia seeds, ground flax or ground walnuts to purees.
  3. Some foods should be avoided at the beginning.A few foods you will want to avoid until baby is 12 months include honey (because of the risk of botulism), cow’s milk (it contains too much protein and some other nutrients), and small solids (small chunks of raw vegetables, grapes, sausages, whole nuts and seeds can all be choking hazards). Allergens are another consideration. Recommendations about the foods to avoid (in order to minimize risk from allergic reactions) have changed over the years. A 2008 review of research by the AAP concluded that the top 8 allergenic foods (cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat) need not be avoided unless you have a family history of food allergies. In that case, it is best to speak with your pediatrician before proceeding.
  4. Serving sizes are small. I hear a lot from parents that their baby is not eating enough. But how much is enough? A typical serving size when starting solids is 1-2 tablespoons of a puree or food, or a few bites of a soft piece of food – it’s a small amount.  And you will want to start by offering one to two meals per day. Remember, baby will still be getting a good portion of her nutrition from milk or formula until age one. As baby gets older the serving size will increase, after 12 months the amount of food per meal should be around ¾ to 1 cup.
  5. Division of Responsibility. Renowned feeding expert Ellyn Satter gives parents the helpful suggestion of division of responsibility. Parents are responsible for the “what, when,and where of feeding; children are responsible for the how much and whether of ”  Do not force your child to eat more or stop eating if you feel they have had too much. Babies have the amazing ability to self-regulate (many of us adults have long since lost this ability). Eating is a behavior that does need to be learned but does not need to be rewarded.

When feeding baby don’t forget about mom and dad. All too often I see mom and dad focused so much on baby’s health and wellness that the parent’s health and wellness falls by the way side. Remember to practice good nutrition for yourself, this will not only help you to feel better, but to set a good example for your child. Healthy and happy mom and dad lead toward a healthy and happy baby!

Want to learn more about starting baby on solids? Join me at Babies in Bloom on February 14th at 11:30am.  Registration and details are here.

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