Clever Baby Gifts You Won’t Find on the Registry

Mother-Daughter 12th Woman head wraps from Harts & Pearls !

Mother-Daughter 12th Woman head wraps from Harts & Pearls !

Registries are great for the essentials, but sometimes it’s fun to get something a little outside the box.

After months of road-testing, here are my favorite innovative, adorable, unique, and nifty gifts guaranteed to make baby AND mama happy!

 

MAM Glow-in-the-Dark Night Pacifiers

These little buggers are life-savers for binky-aholics. They glow in the dark so baby or mama can find them in the middle of the night. A new mom wouldn’t even know to think about this, but once she uses them, she’ll be thanking you from head to toe for the genius gift!Mam Glow in the Dark Pacifier

 

Bebe Bottle Sling

The bottle sling is the perfect gift for the busy mom on-the-go. This brilliant contraption allows infants to self-feed when parents needs to tend to other things (like countless loads of laundry). Jason and I found it especially handy to keep Lo content when we went out to eat.Bebe Bottle Sling

 

Harts & Pearls Accessories

If you follow me on Instagram or Pinterest, you’ve probably noticed my obsession with locally-owned Harts & Pearls. From scarves to head wraps, H&P has mama and baby covered with fashion forward accessories. The matching mother/daughter headbands make for ridiculously cute gift sets, or score brownie points with any mama by getting her a custom-made nursing scarf in one of H&P’s trendy prints. Below is just a small sampling of what you can find at H&P.

 

 

Amazon Prime/Amazon Mom Subscription

Attempting to get out of the house with a finicky newborn is exhausting. With Amazon Prime you can order anything you could possibly need and get it quickly (within two days) with zero shipping costs. The subscription comes with additional perks like 20% off baby necessities via the Amazon Mom program (click here for a free 30-day trial) and includes video streaming for on-demand movies. You can order Prime as a gift with a one-time charge of $99 for the year.Amazon Prime Gift Subscription

 

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What’s Up at Five Months?

Baby Lo and MamaA lot has happened since I blogged about The Three-Month Turning Point. Lo’s first two teeth came in, her sleep got better… and then worse, and she found her voice (lots of happy screams and adorable babble).

The biggest change has been bringing formula into the picture. After calculating the number of hours I was spending on pumping breast milk, cleaning the supplies, heating bottles and physically feeding Lo, I realized it was a third of my day. I was starting to feel like a slave to the pump. (Check out this blog if you’re curious as to why I pumped instead of feeding on the breast).

Slowly but surely, I started subbing in formula, realizing that it would alleviate some of the exhaustion I was feeling and allow more flexibility when we were out and about (no racing back home to keep on a pumping schedule). I also secretly hoped it would help Lo sleep better because I had heard such tales (it didn’t). And let’s be honest, I was also excited to no longer have gale force suction tugging on my boobs several times a day.

Not all babies transition well to formula, but my little piggy chowed down like a champ on the first try. If it had been a struggle I probably wouldn’t have been so keen on feeding Lo formula, but she was as happy and healthy as ever.

There is a certain stigma from those who believe you should breastfeed exclusively, but I never really fell prey to that pressure. If you can breastfeed and enjoy it, then by all means keep it up, but if using formula makes you a happier mama for your baby, than that’s as valuable as any benefit that breast milk may have.

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The Three Month Turning Point

IMG_1564Lo turned three months this week, and what a difference it’s made. She is now consistently getting four-hour stretches of sleep at night, no longer pooping through every diaper change, and really starting to show off the Stordahl charm with her adorable, toothless smile. She even manages to entertain herself for periods of a time in front of the mirror (I have no idea where she got that from). 🙂

I’m starting to get the hang of things too. I no longer dread trips to the grocery store in fear of Lo crying out of control, and getting out of the house doesn’t seem as daunting a task as it used to. I’m also back to work with steady freelance gigs, and just started interviewing nannies so I can take on more hours.

But perhaps the biggest turning point is that I’m finally really enjoying motherhood. I know I’m not supposed to say this, but the first few months weren’t all butterflies and roses. I had a borderline-colicky baby who wanted to be held 24/7, a husband away at work from 6am to 8pm, and on top of everything else, I was averaging about two hours of sleep a night.

It wasn’t that I didn’t love my sweet Lo Lo- I absolutely did- and there are tons of precious memories that I’ll  cherish forever about those first couple months. But now that we’ve both gotten into the groove of things, I’m able to really appreciate the fact that I’m able to stay home with my little one.

To any new moms out there struggling to get through the first challenging months, keep your head up. It does get better. And don’t feel guilty if you’re not as infatuated with being a mom as your friends are or as you think you should be; it doesn’t mean you love your child any less.

In fact, you may need to book a little time away from your baby. The first time my mom watched Lo overnight it was amazing. Not only did I feel re-energized and reconnected with my hubby, but I woke up the next morning super excited to see my little one. Sometimes a little time away is just what the doctor ordered.

 

 

Use This, Not That: Baby Edition

Use This Not That BABY EDITIONI’m a laidback mom, but when it comes to what I put on my baby’s skin, I don’t mess around.  Despite labels that read “gentle”, “tear-free”, or “for sensitive skin”, many baby care products contain irritating ingredients such as fragrance, added colorants, and volatile essential oils.

With a background in skincare research, I know the ins and outs of what’s good or bad for skin. Use my cheat sheet for popular offenders to avoid and what to use on your little one’s fragile skin instead.

USE: Babyganics Shampoo + Body Wash, Fragrance Free

NOT: Johnson’s Baby Head-to-Toe Wash

Use This Not That BABY SHAMPOO

 

USE: Eucerin Daily Replenishing Moisturizing Lotion

NOT: Johnson’s Baby Lotion

Use This Not That BABY LOTION

 

 

USE: Triple Paste Medicated Ointment for Diaper Rash

NOT: Desitin Diaper Cream

Use This Not That Diaper Rash Cream

 

USE: Burt’s Bees Baby Bee SPF 30 Sunscreen Stick

NOT: Hawaiian Tropic Baby Sunblock Stick SPF 50

Use This Not That BABY SUNBLOCK

 

 

USE: All Free Clear Laundry Detergent

NOT: Mrs. Meyers Baby Blossom Laundry Detergent

Use This Not That FRAGRANCE FREE LAUNDRY DETERGENT

 

MOMtrepreneur: Spotlight on Harts & Pearls

Harts and Pearls Desiree Burgess

Harts & Pearls owner Desiree Burgess with her adorable daughter Hartley.

Last week at the Spring release party for Harts & Pearls I fell head over heels for the custom-made accessory line and the inspiring story behind it. Harts & Pearls is the brainchild of Desiree Burgess, a thirty-something, single mama who was determined to follow her dreams of being a successful business woman AND stay-at-home mom.

Intrigued by her journey, I caught up with Burgess to find out how she does it all. What follows is not only an insight into what it takes to run a business as an independent woman, but inspirational advice for aspiring MOMtrepreneurs and single mothers everywhere.

How did H&P get started?

I had previously studied fashion merchandising at FIDM in LA and obtained a business degree at San Diego Christian College, but it wasn’t until eight years later that my two educations came together. I was on a three-month maternity leave, and started to create things for my daughter to wear. Before I knew it people all over were asking me where I got them.

 Instead of going back to work, I made a faith decision to sacrifice materialistic and superficial things to be home with my baby. I had such a strong desire to be by her side, and right away I could see the choice to start my own business was one of the best life decisions I’ve ever made.

How do you manage the work-life balance of running a business and being a single mom?

 I have to admit my work-life balance is very unbalanced, but I see this as a temporary thing. The busy-ness of my life is best managed with prayer. I have very few minutes of downtime but if I am spiritually fit I can handle anything.

 Do you still have time for a social life?

 To be successful at what I do, I have to take care of myself. I know at times I am deprived of “girl time” or  “me time” but I evaluate my need and if I can see it is a must, I make sure I take a break.

 What’s the most difficult part of running your own company? What’s the most rewarding?

The most difficult part is having to care for the parts of my business I am not passionate about.  One of my goals is to start delegating each business task I am not passionate about so I can put all my energy into my passions of designing and creating.

The most rewarding is by far seeing or hearing from a happy customer. Knowing anything I did had any kind of positive impact on anyone. I feel completely blessed that I get to do something I am passionate about every day, and if that passion provides for my family, even better!

 If you had one piece of advice for aspiring MOMtrepreneurs what would it be?

Fear is your greatest enemy. Don’t allow fear to stop you.

When I see fear, a part of me likes it because it is a personal challenge to feel that fear and proceed in faith anyway. This doesn’t mean I don’t evaluate decisions and go into them blindly believing it will be “OK”. It’s the opposite; I evaluate, pray, get help from others, and if fear is the only thing holding me back, I proceed. 

Any advice for fellow single mamas?

 I will never be able to give my daughter what she can only get from a father figure. All I can do is my best. Don’t let an ounce of guilt reside in you.

 I think single mothers are some of the strongest and most courageous women in this world. We all had a way out if we wanted to give up (abortion, adoption). I chose to take on the role knowing I would be doing it solo. I wouldn’t have a successful business without the life of my daughter, and I wouldn’t be half the woman I am. She awoke my soul and softened my heart in a way no one else ever could. That is enough purpose for me.

Click here to check out Harts & Pearls handmade accessories including headbands, hats and scarves for little ones and adults.

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So Much to be Thankful for!

17-DSC_0608-37 Despite genetic testing and ultrasound results that showed the precursors to Cystic Fibrosis, the results of Lo’s screening came back and she’s in the clear! Praise the Lord! A huge thank you to everyone who poured out their prayers over our little baby.

As challenging as these first few weeks as a new parent have been, getting the results back from her test reminded me of how blessed we are to have a healthy baby.

By no small coincidence, earlier today I was watching a Joyce Meyers broadcast on raising special needs children. As I sat there with tears streaming down my face, I was reminded of just how precious and purpose-filled EACH and EVERY life is. One of my personal favorite examples is a girl at my church who stands at the front to pray over anyone who comes forward and has need. Despite having down syndrome, she understands God’s love better than most people in this world and wants to help others in their struggles.

If you know someone with a special needs child I highly recommend watching this video. Even if you don’t, watch it anyway and get your Kleenex ready.

Breast Friends

Jan BWPrior to becoming a mommy I had no clue how much work breastfeeding would be. The pain, the time, the leaking, the engorgement. By the second day in I was already bleeding and in so much pain each time I nursed that I shivered in pain. It was difficult to bond with my baby knowing that every couple hours she was about suck the life out of me. By day four I gave up and switched to pumping so I could feed Lo my breast milk via bottle.

Giving my boobs a break from my little mother sucker was the best decision I could have made at that point. I was able to once again enjoy my precious baby and it gave my nipples ample time to recoup. Another huge benefit was that it meant someone else besides me could feed Lo so I wasn’t chained down to her feeding schedule (plus daddy got to bond with her more).

Though some women enjoy breastfeeding, for the rest of us it can be a daunting task (especially in the beginning). With the help of a lactation consultant I regained the charisma to nurse again, but I couldn’t have done it without the aid of some essential products…

Dr. Brown’s Disposable Breast Pads

In the first few weeks I was leaking like Niagara Falls! These disposable nursing pads are way thinner than any others I tried and absorbed the excess milk like a champ. They contour naturally to your bra so there’s no strange looking bulkiness.

Lansinoh Soothies Gel Pads

These disposable gel pads soothe and heal sore, cracked nipples. My lactation consultant had me use these pads in conjunction with nipple cream, and I was completely healed within days.

Medela Easy Expression Hands-Free Bustier

If you’re using a double breast pump this bustier will come in really handy. It allows you to strap in and free up your hands while pumping. Perfect for the multitasking mama!

Medela Nipple Shield

Some women use nipple shields for inverted nipples or latch difficulties. In my case I just needed an extra barrier for my sore nips. This product has been a life-saver and I continue to use it to keep my boobs in good shape.

Medela Tender Care Lanolin Nipple Cream

I tried nipple creams from a variety of brands including Medela, Lansinoh, and  Mustela. Each did the trick, but this was the one recommended by my lactation pro. The secret to success is to put this on after you breastfeed, and combine with the gel pads above for best results.

Labor of Love

TheUneditedMamaIt’s crazy to think that a week ago we welcomed Lo into our lives. From the moment I took the pregnancy test to my first contraction and last push, it’s been a wild ride. This is how the last few days in utero played out…

The Friday before Lo was born I was convinced she was on her way and went into full on nesting mode (which included cleaning out the junk drawer as if that had anything to do with her). When no signs of labor had shown up by Sunday I was at my wits end so I decided to hit the elliptical for an hour to burn some energy and hopefully speed things up.

That must have done the trick! A few hours later (2am Monday)  we got to the hospital after two hours of regular (but not super painful) contractions. Rookie mistake. I was sent back home at 3.5cm dilated and told not to come back until I could no longer walk or talk through my contractions for two hours.

I labored at home until around 10am, when I could no longer take it. Sure enough as soon as we got to the hospital my contractions slowed down once again and I still wasn’t dilated to 4cm yet so they wouldn’t  admit me. Rather than go home again, the doctor suggested we walk down to the café for lunch and see if the contractions progressed.

I couldn’t even get through my salad without gripping the table in pain and breathing hard. How appetizing for everyone else in the cafeteria trying to eat! I didn’t care what the doctor said, I was walking up to labor and delivery and demanding to be admitted. At that point I was at 4cm dilated (thank God).

Once I got the epidural, labor went from miserable to enjoyable. For any of you debating on getting an epidural I highly recommend it! It made the experience sooooo much better, and I was able to joke around and smile instead of grimace in pain every few minutes.

It wasn’t until 5:30pm on Monday that the urge to push came. Because Lo’s head was already so low, they thought I’d be one of those freak women who only has to push for five minutes. No such luck, but an exhausting hour later she was out!

19-DSC_0614-39Hearing her first cry was one of the best moments of my life, and holding her in my arms filled me with an indescribable joy. Seeing Jason hold and kiss her as a proud daddy was (and still is) the sweetest thing ever.

Fast forward a week later- there have been restless nights, blowouts galore, engorged breasts, and many first-time parent mistakes already. But Lo’s adorable cheeks, precious lips, sweet baby smell, cute little buns, and charming grunts make up for all of it and then some!

Desiree Stordahl

Lo at one day old.

New Year’s Resolution: 3 Things I Vow NOT to do as a New Mom

New Years 2013We’ve all encountered a mom on the brink of insanity from devoting every spare minute on her kids. While a noble cause, it’s plain to see that this takes a toll on her happiness, confidence and relationships. The lesson learned is that if you truly want to make your family happy and instill confidence in your kids, you’ve got to do a little something for yourself every now and then.

That’s why I’ve decided to put these vows into writing- not because I think I’m going to be any better at accomplishing them than any other mom, but in hopes that if I say them publicly I’ll be more likely to stick to ’em. Wish me luck!

I vow not to be afraid to ask for babysitting help.

I HATE the feeling of imposing on people which tends to hold me back from asking for help, but when it comes to being a mom, this is something I’m going to have to get over. Whether that means hiring a babysitter or asking friends/family to watch the babe for a bit, for my own sanity, marriage, and the child’s well-being, I just have to do it.

I vow not to neglect myself.

Given that we’ll be living on one income for a while, I know I’ll feel like I shouldn’t spend money on myself. After all, when there are diapers to be bought, a new pair of shoes or a pedicure won’t seem so essential. Still, it’s important to treat yourself to life’s little luxuries every now and then… even if that means they come from TJ Maxx instead of Nordstrom.

I vow not to neglect my husband.

When a baby enters the picture, there’s a new dynamic at play that can take the heat of your romance and move dad down a notch on the priority pole. No matter how much extra effort it takes, I want to make sure my marriage still has all the laughable moments, passion, and love that it always has. Jason, you’ll have to give me a few weeks for the passion part. 🙂

Baby Name Hints

Hello-my-name-isWith Chawchie’s due date just a couple weeks out, we’re still keeping her real name hush hush, but I can reveal a few that were in the running and DIDN’T make cut.

What would your favorite have been?