Stroll into Springtime

Your North County Guide to Stroller-Friendly Ways to Enjoy Spring

If you’re not originally from Southern California, it probably is very difficult to convince you that we have more than one season. For the rest of us, we’re already feeling a change in the wind, the sky is more blue, wildflowers are popping up along the roadways. Breathe it in; March 20 marked the first day of Spring.

The short days are gone, that early morning pull-the-covers-over-your-head chill is fading away, and gone are all those other excuses we use to avoid braving the great (local) outdoors.   

Listen, we get it. You might be a new mama still recovering from childbirth, trying to take it easy. Or, you have your hands full with two under two and the idea of juggling multiple children outside the safety of your home is just too much to think about on such little sleep.

For those of you, baby steps might be the key. Even a short stroll up and down your street could work wonders. Start small. Ten minutes a day for one week will help you work your way up to 30 minutes and beyond. Every little bit, or every little step in this case, counts.

Once you get comfortable enough going out with your little one(s), you may run into a familiar problem — cabin fever. You’re finding any excuse to get out for a drive, run an errand, and inevitably, that often turns to more shopping, and more spending. Before you know it, you’re wondering if these little trips need to be factored into your monthly budget long term.

Doesn’t sound like you? Well, maybe you’re getting tired of your neighborhood walk, walking past the same houses, landmarks, and stop signs every day. You’re itching to get out, but motivation can get hard to come by. We’ve all been there.

You could also be new to the area, and now a new parent with a lot of time alone with a baby, and you’re not sure where’s the best place to go.

Consider our “Stroll into Springtime” Series as your one-stop solution. Every couple weeks, we’ll share with you a few North County spots you may not yet know about, or have forgotten about, that are baby-friendly, free (with some low cost options sprinkled in), and most importantly, outdoors and beautiful. What are you waiting for? Lace up those shoes, pack that stroller into the trunk, and let’s go!

 

Discovery Lake and Hills Loop (San Marcos, CA) – 0.8 mile loop

650 Foxhall Drive, San Marcos, CA 92078

Free & Stroller & Baby Carrier-Friendly

Discovery Lake has a bit of a “best kept secret” feel to it, but is becoming more and more popular — for good reason. This walking trail is the perfect way to integrate yourself back into the outdoor life for new moms. It’s also an ideal walking trail if you want to walk with anyone who can’t handle a hilly or uneven surface.

Tucked in the quiet Discovery neighborhood near Cal State San Marcos, this lake is surrounded by an 0.8 mile paved and relatively flat loop, making it a versatile walking trail. You can bring your dogs on leash, ride a bike, or walk with your little ones via baby carrier or stroller. The loop is just long enough to have a short walk, but short enough to go around a second or third time if you are up for it. The lake and surrounding overgrowth and trees provide shade and picturesque scenery to walk through. Even during high traffic times, the path is wide and long enough to not feel crowded. A little added bonus is the open access dock if you want to get closer to the lake, and a nearby (recently upgraded) park.   

This is also the perfect place to walk if you have multiple children to entertain while getting in your steps. A common sight is kids on scooters or bikes alongside their parents pushing strollers. There are scattered benches, some even a bit tucked away, that are the perfect places to stop and easily breastfeed. If you want to make an afternoon of it, the park has some open grassy areas and picnic tables where you can snack while the older kids play on the playground.

Calm, peaceful, easy. What more could you ask for? Not much, but if you are asking for something more adventurous, there are connecting trails surrounding the loop, to include a moderate uphill hike, Double Peak Trail.

Insider Tips:

  • Weekdays are the most quiet, with less foot traffic, especially if you plan to visit the park area.
  • Sometimes after a good rain or if its extra humid, this trail can get a little “buggy.”
  • The park itself has a small parking lot, but there is usually plenty of open street parking available.
  • Restrooms located next to the park, but they don’t usually have hand towels or dryers, so pack wipes (like we needed to tell you that) just in case.

 

San Diego Botanic Garden (Encinitas, CA)

230 Quail Gardens Drive, Encinitas, CA 92024

Entrance & Parking Fee; Stroller & Baby Carrier-Friendly

9:00 AM – 5:00 PM daily (open every day except Christmas)

If you’re looking for a fun outing for kids of all ages (and adults for that matter), the San Diego Botanic Garden (SDBG) has all the makings of the perfect outdoor experience. Formerly known as the Quail Botanical Gardens, this garden features a diverse collection of plant life like you have never seen before. The 37-acre grounds are divided by 29 themed gardens, highlight regions from Africa to Hawaii, Australia to San Diego, and feature nearly 4,000 different species. There are some semi-steep hills to navigate as you make your way around the garden, as well as some dirt, unpaved trails you can also take, which will give you a little workout as you marvel at the beauty nature has to offer. All in all, the walking paths total about four miles!

The biggest selling point about this place is how kid-friendly and educational it can be. Kids have a special part of the garden just for them called the Hamilton Children’s Garden, which features Toni’s Tree House, a wonderful playground in the form of a tree-house that will sure to be a popular attraction for any active child. Garden Rhythms features musical instruments made out of natural materials that kids can use to make their own special melodies. There’s even a small mountain stream that kids can play with. The garden also has some boats and small toys around the stream. Just the other day, we caught sight of a couple children working together to build a dam out of blocks and other items at the stream site.

SDBG also has the Seeds of Wonder Children’s Garden located on the other end of the grounds that features all sorts of kid-friendly areas of play. They also put together a program for children that includes arts and crafts days, and preschool stories and songs depending on the day of the week. These activities are included with the admission price, or if you are an annual member.   

On top of being kid-friendly, this place is also mom-friendly. There are many different seated areas, and a few picnic style tables in the Hamilton Garden area and Seeds of Wonder Garden to rest, breastfeed, or have a nice snack or lunch comfortably.

SDBG’s mission is to “inspire people of all ages to connect with plants and nature.” It’s clear that they really take to heart the desire to reach people of all ages including our littlest humans. For adults, in addition to the intrinsic benefits of walking through such beautiful grounds, SDBG also hosts events year-round like their Chocolate Festival on May 12 and various classes on Sustainable Gardening and how to make a Vertical Living Wall, just to name a couple.

Insider Tips:

  • Even though this is a popular spot to visit, the vastness of the grounds makes it hard to ever feel crowded.
  • If you are a local, we strongly recommend considering a season pass. The family/dual pass covers admission for two adults and their children (and/or grandchildren) under age 18 in the household and costs $85 for the year, or $160 for two years. Membership offers many perks to include discounts on birthday parties and other events, discounts to the gift shop, free parking, two free guest passes per year, and more.
  • SDBG also has an upcoming special for Active Duty U.S. Military Personnel and families. From May 1, 2018 through Labor Day, September 3, 2018, they will be admitted FREE to the Gardens.  Another special is offered to San Diego County residents.
  • On the first Tuesday of every month, local residents get free admission with a photo ID (parking fee of $2 is still required).

 

Self Realization Fellowship Hermitage & Meditation Gardens (Encinitas, CA)

215 W. K Street (between 2nd and 3rd Streets)

Free & Baby Carrier-Friendly

Open Tuesday – Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Sunday 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Closed Monday

The name of the game this week is calm, easy and peaceful. The first two spots are just that. But, the Meditation Gardens in Encinitas might take the cake. This expedition, however, will not work too well with a stroller since the walkway includes areas with a few steps. Still, what better excuse to get more acquainted with your Solly Baby Wrap or Tula Baby Carrier?

The internationally renowned gardens offer a relaxing, yet awe-inducing kaleidoscope of plants and stunning ocean views. The tranquil grounds feature meditation nooks, koi ponds, and though the walking path is not very long at all, it is the perfect spot to take your time and cycle around as often as you’d like. Once you step foot into these gardens, you’ll appreciate moving a little slower and taking some time to breathe in the fresh ocean air.

Like the other two locations featured this week, this quiet place also has great shaded seating  where you can peacefully feed your baby or practice some quick meditating while your little one sleeps (IF they are sleeping, that is). While this may not be the most exciting spot for toddlers to spend a lot of time, it is generally a family-friendly location. Just be sure to respect the other guests, some of whom are trying to tune out noise and meditate to the sounds of the ocean.

One perk about the Meditation Gardens is that it is the closest location this week to a beach, Swami’s Beach. Something that sets Swami’s Beach apart from the rest is its tide pools. You’ll have to make sure to visit during low tide if you want to see fossil shells embedded in the hard rocky reef. You also might catch a glimpse of some sea hares, octopi, and brittle stars in the pools.  

Another noteworthy add-on to this trip? The gardens are within walking distance of downtown Encinitas and the 101. If you want to grab a bite to eat for breakfast or lunch in the area, this is a great stop before or after your walk, especially if you prefer vegan, farm to table, and healthy eating options.

Insider Tips:

  • Like most beautiful places in North County, this location can get a bit busy and more noisy on the weekends, especially afternoons. Weekdays and early mornings are best times to hit this spot.
  • Parking also becomes a little challenging during peak times, but there is free parking available along the 101 if you are willing to walk a block or two.
  • Don’t bring a stroller as there are stairs along the walking path at the Meditation Gardens.
Why BabyFest is the Easiest Parenting Decision You’ll Have to Make

It takes a village to raise a child, so the proverb goes. If you have been a parent for more than a minute, you would probably agree.

Parenting is hard. It’s difficulty often lies in the constant decision making that goes along with the territory. By some estimates, the average adult makes some 35,000 decisions per day. Adulting while parenting must increase that amount tenfold. From the moment you get that first positive pregnancy test, you have to be ready to make decisions regarding everything from prenatal testing to birth plans.

When it comes to preparing for labor, do you go with Hypnobabies, the Bradley Method, or are the classes offered at the hospital sufficient?

Do you want a more natural birth experience? Do you choose a birth center, or home birth? Can you still give birth in a hospital and get a comparable experience?

Should you get a doula? What does a doula do anyways?

What about saving the placenta? Should you try encapsulation? Is it safe? Did you know there are other ways to consume the placenta?

What is your opinion about delayed clamping, skin-to-skin, antibiotic eye ointment, and circumcision?

Are you interested in cord banking?

Once the baby arrives and you’re on your own, will you go with disposables or cloth?

Cloth? Okay, will you use all-in-one’s, prefolds, or inserts?

Will you wear your baby? Sling, wrap or carrier?

What about your stroller? There are like 1,000 to choose from at Target alone. They surely must be different from one another and have their own special feature, right? Why do they all look the same?

Don’t even get us started on car seats.

What will you do if you experience trouble breastfeeding? Do you know how to contact a lactation specialist? If you need to supplement, will you use donor milk or formula?

Did you get your breast pump already? Did you know your insurance should cover it? Why do you even need a breast pump? When do you start pumping? Do you even NEED to pump?

Trying to breastfeed but can’t get comfortable? Let’s get a nursing pillow…but which one?

When your baby is ready for solids (Wait, when is baby really ready for solids?), do you go with purées or baby-led weaning?

When it comes to self-soothing tools, pacifier or not? What about a lovie? To swaddle or not to swaddle?

Time for sleep training? Will you Ferber or Sleep Lady Shuffle? Why is everyone saying NO to cry it out? Why is everyone ELSE telling you to do cry it out?

Overwhelmed yet? Do you even know what everything referenced above is? Even if you do, you aren’t out of the clear. The decisions don’t end there.

Our generation of parents is both blessed and cursed with the endless amount of choice there is out there. Yelp doesn’t always cut it, and how much time do you really have to read and sift through Amazon reviews before clicking your wallet away? Furthermore, by now, you probably are well aware that the combination of baby plus Internet is a rabbit hole you DO NOT want to go down.

Sure, part of parenting is trial and error, but what about that village we mentioned in the beginning? Aren’t the people in your village there to help save some of that wasted “trial and error” time? Can’t we learn from their mistakes?

What does your village look like? Does it include your parents, partner, closest friends, siblings, cousins, and other neighborhood moms? Sure, they and more of your extended family are all vital parts of that ecosystem.

But why not also your local birth center, lactation specialists, yoga instructors, midwives, baby-wearing specialists, car seat experts, sleep coach, doulas and more? Imagine how amazing and functional that village looks.

This is why Baby Fest descends upon Babies in Bloom each year. Whether you are a new parent, just learned you are expecting, have a second (third or fourth on the way), or are an extended family member looking for a way to help some soon-to-be parents find their footing, the opportunity to explore all things BABY in one location over a six-hour period cannot be beat. As an attendant, you also get the added peace of mind in knowing that every product, expert, and service there is vetted by the Babies in Bloom team, and has received their seal of approval.

Doctors go to medical conferences. Teachers go to professional development seminars. Why shouldn’t parents attend their own expo to get up to speed on the latest and greatest resources, merchandise and services for their families?

Still not convinced? We hear there will be food trucks, prizes, and Babies in Bloom will be donating proceeds from the event to a great cause.

Expand your village Saturday, April 14. For more info, visit: http://www.babies-in-bloom.com/babyfest/

Viral Video: Contractions

A loving aunt recently made a quick video for her niece, an aspiring midwife, but it’s gone far beyond its intended audience, it’s gone viral! And it’s not hard to see why! It’s honestly one of the best visual explanations of contractions and labor that we’ve ever seen. And oh so simple.

Liz Chalmers, using just a ping pong ball and a balloon, first demonstrates the difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and labor contractions, and then shows the ‘arrival moment.’

It is utterly addictive viewing – and the perfect tool for understanding what’s happening inside during labor. Chalmers said it was something she was taught in a workshop called ‘Stomp Out Boring Childbirth classes.’ (High five to that, and LOVE the name!).

This simple visualization can go a long way in helping moms-to-be stay calm and focused during delivery – because understanding what their body is doing, and why, can help them feel in control.

Like people often feel about childbirth, it looks seemingly impossible at first to get the ping pong ball out of the balloon….you sit there just waiting for the balloon to pop! But it doesn’t. Slowly, steadily and surely, that little ping pong ball makes it way down the neck of the balloon, which first ‘thins’ out just as a cervix does, and then starts dilating until one last push…. And voila. A ping pong ball is born.

Like Chalmers suggests, it’s not just a great exercise for moms-to-be, it’s also a neat and unintimidating way to show older kids how babies arrive – and just how phenomenal the female body is!

Here’s hoping that Liz makes some more videos after this triumph! What a cool aunt.

The Third Trimester

Welcome to T3!

The rest of the world thinks your pregnancy is flying…. whereas you have never known, days, weeks and months to drag soooo long! Am I right?

Just think of poor elephants if it helps at all – they’re pregnant for nearly TWO years!  You can do a few more months….or maybe it’s only a few more weeks you’ve got left now? How exciting!

This final chapter certainly doesn’t come without its challenges though. Here’s a few of the things you might be in the midst of…or that might be coming next! Hang in there mama-to-be, you’re doing great.

Backache – You might have already felt some discomfort in earlier months, but now all that extra weight is really adding the pressure to your back. As well as your breasts. Did you know that by the end of a pregnancy, breasts can grow by as much as 2 pounds? Discomfort in your pelvis and hips isn’t all that uncommon either – that’s just your ligaments loosening up for labor. Practice good posture, sleep on your side with a pillow tucked in your legs, get a better bra, wear low heels, try a heating pad or speak to your doctor if you really find yourself struggling.

Braxton Hicks – This is the warm up guys! Mild contractions which are preparing your uterus for the big day to come. It can be ultra-confusing trying to figure out if this is a drill or not, because they may feel a lot like labor. One real difference to keep in mind between BH and labor is that contractions gradually get closer and closer together – and more intense. Don’t feel embarrassed to call your midwife or health care provider if you need reassurance!

Breasts again – Close to your due date, you may start to see colostrum – baby GOLD- leaking from your nipples. This yellowish fluid will nourish and fuel that newborn bundle in its early days.  It’s not glamorous, and it’s not ideal in public, but get yourself some absorbent breast pads for inside your bra and you’ll be just fine.

Discharge – Again, it’s not glamorous, but pretty normal in this phase. If you are worried about the volume, don’t hesitate to call your health care provider. Close to your delivery date, you might also see a thick, clear or slightly blood tinged discharge – this is your mucus plug, a sign from your wondrous body that your cervix has begun dilating in prep for labor. Hooray!

Fatigue – You regained your energy in the second trimester….only to see it dwindle once again. You might also find yourself short of breath thanks to your uterus rising up under your rib cage. Sorry lungs! It’s frustrating as well as exhausting, but try to embrace this slowing down – eat healthy, nap often and stay calm!

Urination – It’s not just your lungs getting squashed, your bladder is getting more of a squeeze nowadays too. Laughing, coughing, sneezing, or exercising…. It’s all a bit more of a gamble in T3 as chances of leaking increase. Avoid pre-bedtime drinks to minimize night time bathroom visits, and try a panty liner to absorb any day leaks.

Veins – not just varicose veins caused by increased blood circulation and pressure on your legs from baby, but also hemorrhoids – swollen veins that form around the anus. You can make yourself more comfortable with the help of support clothing, warm baths, ointments, and even stool softeners, but don’t worry, this symptom will soon improve after delivery.

Swelling – Tight rings? Puffy ankles? Bloated face?  Again, blame the pressure.  To reduce swelling, put your feet up whenever you sit for any length of time, and elevate your feet while you sleep. If the swelling is sudden however, seek medical attention as it may be a sign of preeclampsia.

Following months of body changes and hormone surges, it’s quite the finale isn’t it? You might have rolled your eyes when people told you how much they miss being pregnant….but believe us, one day, you will look back and miss all those kicks and waddles too. While you are in the thick of it, it’s all too easy to forget the wonder of it all. WHAT A JOURNEY! And my goodness, it’s worth it!

Best of luck Mama – those first cuddles and snuggles are almost in sight!