"Something" Holiday Gift Ideas

I've mentioned in previous holiday posts that Keith and I started a new gift exchange tradition several years ago. I proposed the idea as a way to reduce the amount of gifts and money spent. But I mainly warmed Keith to the idea by suggesting that once we did have a kid, this would be a great way to make this time of year less about the overabundance of gifts and (hopefully) more focused on the quality family time. I've been meaning to share some ideas for others interested in incorporating this into their own family's traditions, so here's my holiday gift guide for everyone on your lists "something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read". This may be a little last minute, but I know several of the shops I listed are still shipping in time for Christmas, so it's definitely worth reaching out. Everything on the first three lists is U.S. made, geared toward a variety of ages and genders. I tried to link directly to all seller or maker's websites (in the fourth list of books for example), so you can shop locally if that's your preference.

It can be a bit of a challenge to differentiate between what someone wants and what they actually need, and often I find that these overlap with the other categories. Because of this, we rarely actually gift each other four gifts. For example, several years ago Keith gave me the entire Anne of Green Gable Series, which fell under "read" and "want" for me (I totally teared up). This year, both Keith and Adeline's "wear" gifts also fall under "need", so they each have three to open next week. First up, some U.S. made items that some on your shopping list may "want" this year.

  • Posie Girl by Pockets with Posies
    I love these gorgeously made dolls, and if you're interested, the shop is doing a release tomorrow morning. Jump on it fast, because they always sell out in seconds!
  • Wooden toys by Bannor Toys
    They have state-shaped rattles, push toys, etc. and I think these would make such great stocking stuffers, shower gifts, and for a child's something you want or need.
  • Caramel Salted Caramel Chews from Napa Valley Chocolate
  • Bath Salts from The Little Flower Soap Co
    These could totally go under the want or need category for most people, and everything in this Etsy shop's inventory looks wonderful and relaxing.
  • Feminism is Cool pin by Modern Girl Blitz
    Everyone needs this pin (and hopefully wants it). 
  • Wine Bottle Gift Bag by Hen House Originals
    I love that this bag can be reused, brought out at the holidays, or even incorporated in your home decor. Plus, it's just an added bonus if you include a locally made wine or beer too!
  • Engraved Wooden Music Box by Soundbarrel
  • Script Initial Ring and Snap Front Leather Wallet from James Avery
    I love this lowercase initial ring and leather wallet by this Texas-based company (that my sister works at!).
  • Wooden Blocks by Uncle Goose
    These were one of Adeline's gifts from my sister-in-law and brother-in-law and they are beautifully made! The shop also has customized blocks available, so you could gift these for a child's room with their name on them or as holiday decor for fa amily or friend.

We all need a variety of things - food, new socks, a foot massage, a clean house, so sometimes I've found that gifting "something you need" can be as simple as a handmade gift certificate good for one week of loading and unloading the dishwasher (*hint hint* Keith). It could also be a homemade meal or offering to walk the dog all weekend. But, if you'd like actual items to wrap and exchange with your loved ones, here are a few locally made items that might fit the bill.

  • Pretzel Bandana Bib by Deeks and Me
    How adorable is this bandana bib?!? Also, this is a perfect example of "something to wear" and "something you need". These come in handy when you have a newborn that spits up and then again once they start teething (so much drool!). Keep their face dry and have the most stylish baby!
  • Burp cloths by Heavenly 4get Me Knotts
    Oh man, when you have a new baby, you need burp cloths in every single room of your house! So, why not have some cute ones too? These are made by a high school friend of mine who also makes adorable clothing, bedding, and hooded towels.
  • Beard Oil and Essential Oils by No Tox Life
    Keith currently uses a beard oil we bought in Brooklyn, but we're planning to check out Smorgasburg LA this weekend and this is one of the vendors there. I'm also a big believer in using essential oils to help with headaches, anxiety, relaxation, etc (I use lavender essential oil drops on my pillow every night).
  • Shaving Mug by Miri Hardy Pottery
    Keith has let me know this is a necessity for any hairy man. Pair this with some shaving soap for your favorite bearded or beardless man.
  • Vermont Maple Syrup by Dorset Maple Reserve
    I gifted small bottles of this Bourbon Barrel Aged Syrup to family last year and it was a big hit. I don't know how much everyone necessarily "needs" this, but as someone who always grew up with genuine maple syrup (no cheap stuff for us!) on my pancakes, I think this is an important addition to everyone's home. Plus it's not just for pancakes, they have cocktail recipes on their website too!
  • Olive Oil by Lincoln and Berry
    Everyone needs some good olive oil in their home!
  • Fun socks by The Sock Drawer
  • Small Lap or Wall Quilt by The Bottle Tree
    When you're looking for custom wall decor or a new quilt for your bed or child's room, check out this Texas-owned company. The Bottle Tree is owned by a dear friend, who made a similar wall hanging to this for Adeline's nursery, and she sells beautiful custom quilts, teaches classes, and has a lovely blog.
  • Christmas Coasters by E Line Creations
    I feel like coasters and tea towels always make great gifts. Those are two things that get lost or dirty over time and it's always nice to get fresh new ones.
  • Giving Thanks Tea Towel by Indigo and Snow
    These might be part of some gifts I'm giving out this year. Shhhh!

This category is always the most challenging for me when buying for Keith, but when it comes to buying for our daughter, I think I bought her gift about four months ago. The great thing about "something to wear" is it can go beyond just clothing. Think about shoes, ties, headbands, mittens and hats, etc. This is also a great gift category that might allow you to make a gift instead of buy something. Even if you're not a seamstress or knitter, there are tons of ideas on Pinterest for making your own headbands and bowties!

  • Knotted gown and donut beanie from Candy Kirby Designs
    I always meant to buy a few of these before Adeline was born and sadly my pregnancy brain spaced it, but the next baby shower I'm invited to, I'm definitely gifting a few of these. Their shop also has blankets, crib sheets, and the cuddliest looking dolls!
  • Squid Unisex Shirt and Dino/Robot Onesie by GnomEnterprises
    That dino/robot onesie was one of my favorites of Adeline's 3-6 months clothes, and I really hope we get to pass this down to a friend or family member.
  • "Hello darkness my old friend" shirt from The Handmade Home
    This home design blog is great, but they also have a really fun line of tee shirts. There were too many to even share here and would be fun gifts for everyone on your list.
  • "It is well with my soul" shirt from Pike Road Southern
    Sadly this style sold out, but I included these on my list as a source for future celebrations or next year's "something to wear" gifts. They have styles for both men and women, and the main thing I love is that a portion of all their sales go toward helping cover local families adoption costs.
  • Chunky Cowl Scarf by Hanson Street
    This scarf looks gorgeous and, in the right color, could be feminine or masculine. I totally want a few of these for next winter in New York!
  • "Stay little" tee from OneTwentyTwoKids
  • Baby Red Moccasins and Bow from By Sophia Baby
    These are insanely adorable! I keep almost buying them for Adeline, but since she's not walking yet, and just pulls off anything I put on her feet in minutes, it seems a little pointless. But oh man, once she needs shoes I am all over these!

Books are of course very much based on personality and preference, and for someone on your list that perhaps isn't a big reader, you could gift them a "book on tape" or even an Audible gift card to download some on their phone or tablet for their daily commute or future travels. Some of these books I've already gifted, some on are my own reading list, and some I thought might interest my readers.

If you implement your own "something you want/need/wear/read" tradition, please share some of your favorite shops or items from past years. Stay tuned for our post-gift exchange rundown in the coming weeks, along with our "word of the year" for 2017!

Three Weeks on the West Coast

Back in August, I shared that our family was relocating to Los Angeles for 4 - 5 months and now that we've been here for three full weeks, I thought I'd share my initial feedback. Don't worry any New York friends reading this, we're definitely coming back to you when this film project is complete. BUT - I actually have been really enjoying LA. I'm honestly a little surprised at how much I've been enjoying it. We have a furnished house in Culver City - just 20 minutes from Santa Monica, LAX, 15 minutes from the LACMA, and 10 minutes from a college friend of mine! Instead of writing one long, wordy post of exactly what I like, I thought I'd do a breakdown based on this experience of my likes and dislikes between our home (Brooklyn) and our temporary home (LA).

LOS ANGELES

Likes

  • I haven't really driven since we moved to Brooklyn, that's a year and a half! Funnily enough, this was one thing I was really dreading about LA that, so far, I'm actually enjoying (at least on shorter, nearby drives). Plus, LA drivers are nicer than New York drivers! Yep, I said it. I have heard two cars honk here, and people actually will slow down to let you in front of them. Crazy, huh?
  • Even though it's hotter than I like this time of year, it's so dry here that it feels comfortable in the shade and absolutely amazing at night.
  • I have had two awesome breakfast burritos here already. Now I just need to find the best taco place around. Recommendations, LA folk?
  • The area we're in (Culver City) is SO great. We're walking distance from the main square, which has an awesome movie theater (we just had a date night there last Saturday!), great restaurants, coffee shops, frozen yogurt, and a really pretty historic hotel that the Wizard of Oz cast stayed in!
  • It's kind of exciting being surrounded by all these film lots (Culver City's Lot is beautiful!).
  • I'm actually really enjoying being in a house again. To be fair, it helps when you're not paying the bills or weekly gardener (owner pays both).
  • People are a lot friendlier here than I expected. I had a ladies night out last week and all the Uber and Lyft drivers chatted with my friend and I - like made small-talk (???). Also, I have really been enjoying grocery shopping because of this too! Everyone fawns all over Adeline and she pretty much just giggles and laughs the entire time.

Dislikes

  • While driving isn't as scary here as New York, there is a lot of traffic and it can take a long time to get places. I had to take the 10 to the 110 to the 101 yesterday (look at my LA lingo - what what!!) for Adeline's flu booster at our pediatrician's one LA office location and it took 45 minutes (vs our 5-minute walk to the doctor in Brooklyn). Ugh!
  • I actually like this a little bit, because when we go for walks there is no one else around, but it's also sad - no one walks here!
  • Going out is just as expensive here as New York.

Hiking in Culver City Park

Hanging out in our backyard

Family Time in Downtown LA

BROOKLYN

Likes

  • The subway system is amazing in New York. I haven't had a chance to take the metro here yet, but it does require driving there and walking to entrance - definitely less convenient.
  • Culver City Park is good-sized, but I miss Prospect Park. The walking/running trail around Prospect Park is a much smoother ride than the sidewalks here with the jogging stroller.
  • Everyone walks everywhere!  
  • Four seasons - I left all my pea-coats in NY and I'm so jealous of all my friend's fall foliage in winter coat photos right now. And yes, I'm even sad to miss the first snowfall. 
  • Don't tell my husband, but maybe, just maybe, I miss the produce prices at the Park Slope Food Co-op vs the produce prices at grocery stores here.
  • The house we're renting in LA is so cute and feels huge to us, and Adeline has been enjoying exploring, but we are missing that feeling of hominess from our Brooklyn place. Plus, it always takes a while to figure out someone else's kitchen and organization style. For instance, why are there four drawers of kitchen utensils but only one spatula??

Dislikes

  • We live in a predominantly family-friendly area in Brooklyn, so there are kids everywhere. Perhaps that's why no one cares that we have a baby. And honestly, some restaurants (and people) can be a bit rude sometimes about accommodating a baby. So far, here in LA, everywhere we go, someone is fawning all over Adeline and bends over backwards to help with highchairs, find food she can eat, and smile when she lets out loud "animal noises" over lunch hour.
  • I'm definitely over all the construction that's been happening in our brownstone. And I do not miss that teeny tiny bathroom one single bit. Adeline loves bath time here - the large tub is like her swimming pool!

LA has already been quite an adventure, and I know that I'm going to be a bit sad to leave, but I'm already looking forward to next fall and winter in NY. Culver City is great, and yes I'm enjoying the greetings on our morning runs and at the grocery store, but there is an energy to NY that I've never experienced anywhere else. In the year and a half we've lived there, it's become home. And right now, I can't imagine wanting to live anywhere else.

Learning to Embrace You

We arrived safely in Culver City, California this past weekend and are pretty much settled in now. I'll share more on the house and area soon, but for now, I wanted to talk about something else entirely. Yesterday I finally got to see the documentary Embrace. I sat in the theater listening to the stories, reading the statistics, mostly in tears. There is a comfort to knowing others have similar struggles, but at the same time, it's devastating that so many people go through life hating their body and their appearance. I want everyone to see this movie, I want to talk about it with friends, I want to have a consensus that body shaming ourselves and others is never okay. But, I don't know how to get to that point with others.

Back in October of last year, while six months pregnant, I shared some of my own past struggles with weight and some of the ways I've worked to overcome them. This has definitely come up for me again after giving birth to our precious girl, and especially with the holidays coming up in the next few months. Family is a key stress factor around weight for me, especially since so many family members told me while pregnant all about losing weight after giving birth. This is just one more reason having the opportunity to watch Embrace last night has been so therapeutic for me. It was a wake-up call that I had started to allow myself to sink back into my past body shaming mindset. I don't need to lose five pounds before Thanksgiving! I need to get to bed earlier. I need to get back into a workout routine, after taking a three week break to recover from a nasty cold. I need to eat foods that properly fuel my body for starting up morning runs again. And you know why I need to do those things? Because they make me happy. They remind me that I'm strong. And a well rested, well fueled, energized Alanna is a happy, positive, better wife and mother.

I want to be a voice of love for myself, my husband, my daughter, my friends and absolutely every person that I come in to contact with. But I don't always know how to do that. When a friend calls themselves "fat", I want to respond by yelling "You are beautiful inside and out!" But often I find that we don't truly absorb or accept compliments about our physical appearance, especially when we don't believe them about ourselves. So no matter how many times someone pays a compliment about our physical appearance, they fall on deaf ears. The best compliment I received this year was when my father-in-law told me (after first meeting our granddaughter back in February) that I was a great mom and was doing a great job. Oh man, it still makes me tear up even typing that. That made me feel more amazing than any other compliment!

So, perhaps part of the process of us learning to embrace and truly love ourselves is learning to celebrate some of the other beautiful things about ourselves - being a good friend, a good wife, a good parent, a good cook, a great listener, having a wonderful sense of humor, being a great teacher, etc. That's my challenge to myself and my readers. Every time you look in the mirror this week and find yourself starting to pick out each minor flaw - STOP! Pick out one completely non physical thing about yourself that your best friend would say makes you beautiful - your laugh, you give the best hugs, your sense of style, those homemade cookies, your sweet dance moves, etc. It might feel like a small thing, but it's a start on the path of eliminating those inner demons. And once we learn to love ourselves, we can truly start to appreciate everyone else around us too.

For further tools and help, check out Body Image Movement, the Body Lovin Guide, The Unstoppable Program, or reach out to a therapist near you for help.

 

Baby-Proof Decorating on a Budget

Back in January, I wrote a blog post on baby proofing our apartment, because yes, I'm that person who starts baby proofing before there is even a child in the house. We didn't add cabinet locks, outlet covers, or furniture padding until she started scooting (about two months ago), and we still don't have oven knob or door covers or all the wiring hidden, but that's definitely going to be needed soon since she's now crawling and pulling up. On a related note, I thought it might be helpful for other parents to hear some of the inexpensive ways I've found to keep our apartment feeling stylish yet both adult and child-friendly. I mentioned some of these back in January, but now that we have an all-out crawler (with constantly sticky fingers) in our house, I have a better idea of what works and what may not.

First of all, it's not rocket science or the most unique idea, but I have found that storage ottomans are awesome with babies. We have a round patterned one from Target's Threshold line that I bought over a year ago and it's still holding up well to a baby, two adults and a dog. You can see it next to the couch in the picture (with our new baby-proof bar cabinet to the left) below.

I have this ottoman packed full of the majority of Adeline's toys, about half her picture books, clean burp-cloths, and two throw blankets. When I take the cover off, she loves to pull herself up on the side and toss all of her toys and books out. She weighs 18+ pounds and it's sturdy enough with four peg feet to support her pulling up on it, is the perfect size as a side table for our small living/dining room, and is easy to clean off all the sticky baby hand-prints. Unfortunately it doesn't look like this style is still available online at Target, but I thought any of their below storage ottomans, all under $80, would work similarly well for toy and book storage.

Tufted Storage Ottoman in Charcoal (Available in Other Colors)

Flared Leg Storage Ottoman in Blue Print (Available in Other Color)

Round Tufted Storage Ottoman in Gray Textured Weave

Now for a well-rounded and honest post, I have to share the one thing that is not currently working as well in our living room with a mobile baby. I have this giant textured basket from Crate & Barrel (that I think I bought at the outlets in San Marcos) that used to hold throw blankets and decorative pillows in our master bedroom in Austin, and now holds baby blankets and a pillow in our living room here. I love the look and texture next to our tv stand, it can hold a ton of stuff, but Adeline also wants to pull up on it and it's not as sturdy as the ottoman. It is also made of these rustic woven leaves and she regularly tries to break little pieces off to stick in her mouth.

I am not ready to give up this piece, but I'm trying to decide if either I can somehow anchor it to the wall so she can't pull it over, which doesn't deal with the eating it issue, or if I need to relocate it to our bedroom and find a different storage piece for this corner. I'll let you know what I figure out and share some updated apartment photos when we return from L.A. in the spring. I also have some paint and new decor ideas for this place come next year, so I can't wait to share further over the coming months. In the meantime, I guess at some point I have to start packing and prepping for our short-term move. Wish me luck! 

The Newborn Must Haves

Yesterday we went to lunch with friends, currently expecting their first baby this winter, and they asked for our list of baby must haves. I couldn't initially come up with anything. We're in the 8-month "getting into everything" phase and goes from smiling to screaming in seconds mode, so I haven't thought much about the first few months in a while. But once we returned home, and I was turning on her noise machine to put her down for an afternoon nap, I thought "oh yeah, a noise machine is totally a must have!" So once she was asleep, I sat down at the computer and put on my "early days with baby" memory cap to come up with a list of the things newborn and 1 - 2 month old Adeline (and I as a new mom) totally couldn't live without. First, let's start with the most obvious items: everything we used to put Adeline to sleep the first few weeks and months. 

#1. White Noise Machine
Multiple friends recommended various noise machines and in the end, we registered for the Marpac Dohm white noise machine. It has been great! We still use it consistently today. I especially like the two different noise level settings, I use the softer one for naps and louder ones for bedtime to give her a little more distinction between the two. Bonus tip for dog owners: we actually got Aurora her own noise machine (a less expensive version) and we turn it on all night above her kennel. It actually seems to keep her calmer at night and she stopped the random 3 AM "barking at a stranger on the street" fits.

#2. Velcro Swaddle Wrap
I know everyone feels differently on this, but I had several friends recommend various brands of the simple, no frills swaddle blankets and we received a few. I found these helpful in the early days to tuck around her in the bassinet at night (similar to how the nurses did around the bassinet mattress in the hospital). But beyond that, a few days out from the hospital, neither of us could remember how to use those blankets to actually swaddle her like we were shown in our baby prep class. I am so glad that friends recommended the Summer Infant SwaddleMe Velcro Blankets. They were super easy to use, kept Adeline nice and snug, and she slept so well in them for the first few months. The Velcro eventually gave out, and once she was getting close to turning over, we had to transition out of them, but oh man, these were the best thing ever. 

#3. Video Baby Monitor
Even in a small apartment, we have found a video monitor really helpful, especially in the early days, when our neurotic new, lack of sleep parenting worries came up and we wanted to check she was still breathing without sneaking into her room to check and accidentally waking her. I won't reference our monitor here, because there are tons of options and price ranges to choose from and none seem particularly terrible. Ours is pretty small and simple. The second monitor type purchase we did just make a few weeks ago though was for a home security system. It's wifi enabled so we can check in on her from our phones when out, and that has given us a lot more peace of mind when leaving her with sitters (we obviously trust the sitters, it's just easier to glance at our phones and see her peacefully sleeping, instead of texting/calling the sitter hourly). I'm happy to share further details on that in private messages if anyone is interested.

#4. Pacifiers
This is completely a personal choice, as we did hear a lot about things like "nipple confusion" and not giving the baby a pacifier or bottle for at least 6-8 weeks. Thankfully Adeline didn't have any issues with that, because she had so many latching issues in the beginning, I had to pump and give her bottles regularly and pacifiers totally were part of our bedtime process after the first week and into the first few months (she gave up pacifiers around 3 or 4 months when she discovered her thumb). The Avent Soothie Pacifiers were great and even when Adeline stopped using them, she still enjoyed chewing on the outside rim, until we figured out what she was doing. And yes, we totally had the super popular WubbaNub, which are adorable, and I was honestly a little sad when she stopped using that one.

#5. Overnight Diaper
I don't even remember who recommended overnight diapers to me, but whoever it was, thank you! Once our pediatrician said Adeline could sleep through the night without being nursed (around 10 lbs I think), we switched her to overnight diapers so she didn't need to be changed in the middle of the night either. And she started averaging 8 - 9 hours at night around 2 months (if my memory is correct)! We've also used overnight diapers for travel (plane and 2-hour car rides) in case of blowouts and (knock on wood) haven't had one in the middle of a trip yet. They aren't available in newborn sizes, but that makes sense since you'll still be changing their diapers at night for the first month or so anyway.

#6. Daytime Sleep - Rock N Play Sleeper
I had multiple friends recommend the Fisher Price Rock N Play Sleeper to us, and it was seriously a lifesaver in the beginning. I know this seems annoying, because they don't fit in it for very long (especially if you have a long baby), but Adeline took the majority of her naps in this the first two months and I even put her in it and brought her into the bathroom so I could shower a few times early on. I've heard some people also have them sleep in this at night in the beginning, but Keith read mixed things on that (babies should sleep flat, could potentially fall out, etc) so I can't recommend that, but for the daytime naps it's amazing! It folds flat which is great for smaller spaces, and if your baby is anti the rocking feature (like ours was), just keep it unplugged.

#7. Nighttime Sleep - Bassinet
We initially planned to put Adeline in her crib from day one. Then we got home and she looked teeny-tiny in the crib, and even though her room is directly off ours, we freaked ourselves out and didn't do it. Keith ran out and bought the Chicco Travel Crib and it worked perfectly right up against our bed in our narrow room. It was easy to collapse, the sheet was removable for cleaning, and I liked the mesh liner that allowed me to peak in at her throughout the night in the beginning. She only slept in this for 6 weeks until we transitioned her to the crib, but it was such a comfort to have her alongside us at night, and it made the constant nighttime feedings that much easier in the beginning.

Those are the main items I could think of that were most helpful in the first month or two for Adeline's sleep. Babies sleep a lot in the beginning, but after a few weeks they gradually are awake more during the day, and then you need a few things to entertain them. Adeline is actually not a huge fan of most toys, she's all about those empty water bottles and crinkling the plastic container of wipes. However, there are a few toys she has continued to like from about a month onward, so I recommend the following:

#8. A Rattle
I still remember when Adeline figured out how to pass the Oball Rattle ball from hand-to-hand. I didn't even realize that was a big developmental milestone, but I happened to catch it on video and was totally "that parent" at her next check-up who showed it off to the pediatrician. This was one of the first toys she really interacted with, she still loves chewing on it, and now that she's crawling, she flings it across the floor and then crawls after it. Of course, every kid is going to be different but for Adeline, this one has been a hit.

#9. Sophie the Giraffe
I know $24 seems a little pricey for a rubber chewing toy, but seriously, ALL kids seem to love this giraffe. And yes, Adeline even loves her still today!

After the sleep-time necessities and a few toys, here are three things I didn't get in advance, even though pretty much every friend (and every baby must have list) said to get the first two. Don't be like pre-baby me. 

#10 + #11 Nasal Care
Adeline had SO many boogers in the beginning (for some reason, she doesn't as frequently now) and there were definitely times we would put her to bed at night and one nostril would whistle because the other was stopped up. I recommend having some baby nasal spray (#10) on hand for occasions such as this. The spray helps loosen up the boogers and makes it that much easier to get them out with the Nose Frida (#11). Yes, this thing looks totally disgusting and I refused to register for one. I got some other nasal aspirator, which totally didn't work and after a few tries, I sent Keith to our local pharmacist for the Nose Frida. Sure it seems gross, and the first few times, it may gross you out a little. But it totally works and no you don't inhale any of the snot. Seriously, just get it.

#12. Coconut Oil (buy in the oil section at your grocery store)
On all the baby must have lists, I never saw this and yet, I still to this day use it so frequently. Best part? This is for both baby and mom! Our pediatrician actually recommended using coconut oil on every crease and crevice after bath time (behind knees and elbows, around neck and tummy line, behind ears), because Adeline would get a bit of dry spots in those areas. Also, the pediatrician recommended coconut oil for diaper rashes, and we never wound up having to use butt cream again after we started using the coconut oil for that. This is also the perfect segue into my final and most important must haves for the first few months. Coconut oil isn't just great for babies skin, it's also great for mom's skin! My lactation consultant recommended coconut oil to aid in nipple healing (yep, I said nipple on my blog...) and it still comes in handy today. Breastfeeding is immensely easier now than it was in the first two months, but there are still times where Adeline is a little too hungry, eager or aggressive and I need a little oil application for several days in a row afterward. Totally does the trick, much cheaper than lanolin, lasts a really long time, and is totally fine for baby to have too.

#13. Nipple Shields  
No, not everyone will need these, but it's something that is rarely mentioned to expectant moms and I think would be helpful to have on hand just in case. This is not one size fits all, so buy different sizes and keep them in the packaging with receipt in case you don't need them. Adeline had lots of latch issues for the first two months and breastfeeding was excruciating. I do not say that as a scare tactic, because our breastfeeding journey changed so dramatically thanks to lots of external help. I only share this, because for some reason it seems like a lot of woman don't talk about the discomfort, pain, awkwardness, engorgement, chapping, and yes, even blood. Some are very fortunate and don't experience most of that, but the majority seem to experience some if not all. And if you don't have help and foresight, it would be really easy to feel alone and even give up. Which leads me into my final two biggest and most important recommendations for the early days with a newborn.

#14. Hire a postpartum doula
If you have a great community of family and friends nearby that are more than ready to lend a helping hand, and your partner can take some time off to be home with you, then you may not need a postpartum doula. Mine was a lifesaver though and I fully credit her with helping me not give up breastfeeding after one week (she introduced me to the nipple shield). We don't have family in town, and our closest friends here had a baby as well, so having the help of a doula was so wonderful in the first few weeks, especially when Keith went back to work after a week. My doula went grocery shopping, prepared meals for me, took Adeline on walks so I could nap. Seriously, so wonderful! And if I had suffered from postpartum depression, I can only imagine how even more amazing it would have been to have her around. Remember that you can't take care of your baby, unless you're taking care of yourself too.

#15. Finally, and most importantly, get several names of amazing lactation consultants. I waited two entire months before contacting one that a friend recommended. The nipple shields helped Adeline latch, but they didn't take away the pain. And sadly, it took me getting to the end of my rope and just about ready to totally give up breastfeeding, before I contacted the lactation consultant. I honestly didn't expect at that point that anyone could help. My goal originally was to nurse for six months, then once I started, it reduced to 3, maybe 4 months at most. The consultant showed me five new nursing holds and within one hour, the pain was gone. Gone! Not only that, but now she's on call for me any time I have a question (like about clogged ducts - ugh!), she FaceTimed with me the day after to help remind me of some of the things we discussed, and offers regular nearby meetings if you want to do a baby weigh in and just check in on progress. No it's not cheap, but some insurances will cover the lactation consultant up to 100%, so it's definitely worth checking. And look at it this way, if working with a lactation consultant completely changes your breastfeeding experience and allows you to nurse for 12+ months, that actually winds up saving you a ton on never having to buy formula! And no judgement whatsoever on giving your child formula. I just know it's expensive and if you really didn't want to, then hiring a consultant could be the saving grace. I only planned to nurse for six months before even giving birth, and eight months in now, I have no plans of stopping anytime soon. Also, for the first two months, I dreaded nursing. It wasn't bonding or some beautiful experience for me, it was painful and difficult. I didn't experience the bonding feeling until about 3 - 4 months in, and now, after eight months, it's actually difficult for me to imagine weaning her. That is a HUGE change from six months ago!

As I said earlier in this post, don't be pre-baby me. Buy the Nose Frida and have a few names of highly recommended lactation consultants to call if your breastfeeding experience isn't improving after a few days. There are plenty of items I bought and wound up not needing, or used for a short time and haven't used since (like the pump and bottles in the first few weeks of establishing my supply), so perhaps I'll write another post soon about the newborn must-not haves.

What items or resources did it take you having a baby to realize you actually did need? Anyone else anti-Nose Frida and now you've also seen the light? Please do tell.