Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Helping Baby Sleep

With my return to school, there have been a surprising number of new blog post ideas popping into my head. It has been a little frustrating to be stuck doing school work when I have so much I want to be writing about and sharing!

My post about homemade organic baby food has quickly become more popular than any other post on my little blog, and that says a lot to me. Realizing how much people have been reading that post (or at least clicking on it) has made me want to do some more baby posts. I have learned so much from friends, family, research, and my own experiences, and I feel a little bad for not sharing more of it with the world!

Today's post is about something every parent will want to do at some point: help baby sleep. Granted, some babies are always really good sleepers. But I dare say most are not. Anyway, today's post is all about ways to help baby (and you) get more sleep. Win-win.

0-3 Months Old

At this age, baby is probably going to be sleeping a lot during the day, but that might not always be the case at night. Her tiny tummy gets hungry every 2-3 hours during the early days, and nighttime feedings are usually frequent. Tips that helped us at this stage:

  • Keep baby close. 
    • We used the Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper for quite a while, and we loved it. It keeps baby close, but you don't have to worry about rolling over on her. It also has nifty storage pockets for diapers, wipes, nursing pads, and all the other things you need in the middle of the night. The short side attaches to the side of the bed. It's very secure, and it's fine to use until baby starts rolling over a lot. We used it for about 4 months and off and on for another month or two after that.
    • When Baby Z went through a stage of wanting to eat more often, we would let her sleep in the bed with us. We liked having her in bed with us, and it worked for quite a while. 
  • Feed baby to sleep. Enjoy the relaxing time you can spend with baby. Nurse or bottle-feed her to sleep at this age. Nursing coma is a great way to get babies to fall asleep when they are still tiny (and even when they're older).
  • Swaddle. Since baby is so used to the warm, all-encompassing surroundings of the womb, the outside world can seem a bit cold and...loose? What I mean is, baby feels comfortable when she is wrapped up. 
    • Swaddling blankets come in many different styles. The tiny flannel ones are most common, but they don't work well if you gave birth to Baby Houdini like I did. If you don't mind spending a little bit, we have loved  the larger Aden and Anais swaddling blankets. You can also make some of your own using this tutorial. I made some that way and liked them almost as much as the Aden and Anais ones. The fabric isn't quite as soft, but they are SO much cheaper that way.
      From day one, the hospital staff swaddles your little one. They know what they're doing! Zia loved being all snug--though she did like to have one arm out a lot of the time. :)
    • Swaddlers are perfect for the rest of you who have a Baby Houdini in the family. We loved and religiously used SwaddleMe wraps until Baby Z was around 4 months old.
       For a DIY approach, you can make your very own swaddlers from a large t-shirt! Just use this tutorial. I kind of wish that tutorial had stumbled across my path before Z was weaned from swaddling, but that's okay. At least I can make some for next time! I have also heard very good things about the Woombie, but we never tried it. I found this tutorial for a peanut swaddler that looks very similar. I will definitely try it out next time! It has a two-way zipper, so you can open just the bottom half of the swaddle for diaper changes! Brilliant!
  • During the day, let them sleep wherever and whenever works. Most babies aren't picky at first. When Z was new, I loved to let her sleep on my chest for at least some of her naps. There is nothing quite as yummy as a newborn sleeping on your chest. If you need to get things done, let baby spend some time in a swing, bouncer, or even in a baby carrier. Zia loved to sleep in our Moby wrap while I ran errands or did chores.
  • As baby gets older, start to implement a few naps in the crib. Making sure she gets at least a few naps in the crib here and there will help ease the transition from your bed (or play pen or whatever) to her own crib.
  • Don't wake baby up for feedings. There is an exception to this--DO wake her up if she struggles with low blood sugar or weight gain. Zia did at first, so we made sure to wake her every three hours or so for the first few weeks. When her blood sugar was staying up and her weight was on the rise, our pediatrician told us that we didn't need to wake her anymore. After that, she slept pretty well at night! Honestly, those first few months of nighttime sleep were better for Little Z than the 3-6 month stage. Some doctors will recommend that you keep waking baby to eat, but it has been a common consensus among me and my other mommy friends that it isn't necessary in most cases.
3-6 Months Old 

This stage holds a big sleep transition for babies. Around 4 months, you can start sleep training (if that is part of your plan for baby). Babies are also usually weaned from swaddling during this stage to make sure that they don't accidentally roll onto their tummies while in the swaddle and get stuck face down. Near the end of this stage, baby will stop startling herself awake (thank goodness). That's another reason you don't need to swaddle anymore. Tips for this stage:
  • Find a good swaddle transition tool. The Zipadeezip is a wonderful tool that helps baby feel safe and enclosed without keeping her arms stuck against her sides (remember that rolling thing I was talking about?). If you want to make your own, I posted a tutorial for my own version a while back.
    That thing was a lifesaver! You can read about why I decided to make my own in that post. I highly recommend them. I have seen many other swaddle transition helpers, like sleep sacks, a Woombie with arm holes that can zip open or shut, and many other name-brand items. We have used sleep sacks (like these ones) for Little Z, and we like them. They are nice for when baby wants her hands free to put her binky back in. That is a wonderful day, by the way. Moving on!
  • Put baby in a place where everyone will get the most sleep. Z slept well for a couple months, but this stage brought about nighttime struggles that we hadn't experienced before. Moving Z to the co-sleeper then to the crib was the right thing for us, but only because she didn't sleep well in bed with us anymore. That meant I didn't sleep, so something had to change. We missed cuddling with our little cutie, but I was a much happier mama with a few hours of good sleep under my belt.
  • Co-sleeping is a good choice for many families. We loved having Zia sleep with us, and we let her stay in our bed for a few months until it became apparent that it wasn't the best choice for us anymore. Some babies sleep very well next to mom and dad, and I think that's wonderful! Now that Zia is older, she tends to do better when we occasionally let her sleep with us. But we decided to move her to the crib to help us all get more sleep. Your baby will give you clues showing you how she will sleep best.
  • Sleep Training may be a good idea. That is totally up to you, but it worked for us. If you decide to go this route, keep in mind:
    • It will not be easy. The first few days, maybe even weeks, will probably make you cry. Hearing your baby cry is possibly the worst thing ever as a mom. Once you and your spouse have committed to doing it, stand strong. It will be worth it!
    • No two babies are the same. Just because Z went through sleep training around 5 months and did very well doesn't mean your baby will be the same. If it seems like it's not working, stop and try again in a few weeks.
    • We did sleep training for naps before we tried to do sleep training at night. Naps were a real struggle for Z for a while, and she slept alright at night, so we decided to work on her problem area first. We did nap sleep training around 4 months and the rest around 5 months, if I remember correctly.
    • Start a routine. Pick activities that baby enjoys that will help soothe and relax her. Some parents bathe their child before bed each night, others read or tell stories, rock baby in a rocking chair, snuggle, nurse, sing lullabies--whatever works for you. Keeping a consistent routine helps baby recognize that it is bedtime, and that seems to make a world of difference. Helping her wind down for a while before she goes to sleep is very beneficial.
    • When I say "sleep training," I mean the cry-it-out method. From everything I have ever read, and from our pediatrician's own research, babies do not suffer negative side-effects from being allowed to cry themselves to sleep. They may, however, suffer long-term negative side-effects if they are never able to establish a healthy sleep schedule. Learning to self-soothe at an early age pays off in the long run, in my opinion. As I said above, though, it's totally up to you. I am not judging, just sharing my own experiences. :)
    • When you first try the cry-it-out method between 4 and 6 months, make sure no major changes have happened recently, like new teeth, rolling over, learning to sit up, etc. From what I have heard, it is not a good idea to try to sleep train a baby who has recently gone through what is, for her, a major change.
    • Tough it out. Once you start, don't look back. Z cried for at least an hour or two the first few nights that we let her cry herself to sleep. A few days into the process, my husband turned to me and asked if we could just bring her back into bed with us. Since Zia and I were the ones who weren't sleeping with that arrangement (Austin didn't wake when she wanted to nurse a million times a night), I had to stand my ground for the sake of both of our sleep schedules. We both deserved to be well-rested and happy. I would say it took two weeks for Zia to finally realize that she was okay and understand that her nighttime routine meant that it was time for bed. Mommy and Daddy were not going to go in and comfort her, pick her up, or play with her. It was just time to sleep. And what do you know? She loves sleep now. So don't give up. It does work!
    • Give baby something to love. A soft stuffed animal or cozy blanket can help baby soothe herself back to sleep during naps and at night. We didn't try this trick until more recently, but it has really helped! I think it is fine to let baby have them once she can roll over both ways on her own, but some parents don't feel safe about putting things in the crib with baby because of the risk of suffocation. That is entirely up to you, but this trick has helped us. I love watching Z nuzzle her favorite blankie (a gift from her great-grandma), and her elephant stuffed animals as she falls asleep. She loves to be cuddled up in the middle of them, and it is so cute. She never wakes up that way (she is a BUSY sleeper!), but it helps her fall asleep and stay asleep if she has her buddies and blankies in the crib with her. (These pictures were taken around 10 months old, but the idea is the same! :) )

6 Months to 1 Year

We are almost to one year, so this is the last stage I am going to write about for now. This is just a continuation of the previous stage. Baby becomes more active and will learn to sit, scoot, crawl, stand, and maybe even walk. It is such a fun, busy age! It does come with some new challenges, though.
  • When baby first starts sitting and standing up on her own, she may get stuck in an upright position. 
    That has been a very common problem for Zia over the past few months. She is often still half-asleep, just sitting or standing in the crib, crying for us to help her. She would love to be picked up, I'm sure, and it is tempting sometimes, but it is important to respect her need for sleep and simply lay her back down and let her go back to sleep. Now that Z is getting better at getting back down on her own, we are slowly going back to the cry-it-out method. 
  • Babies might start having nightmares around this age. Thought it's impossible to know what babies are thinking, we have noticed that Zia sometimes wakes up very traumatized lately and will not be comforted. Sometimes we rock her until she calms down, but usually we bring her into bed with us to nurse and cuddle. It's okay to let baby sleep in bed with you. Even though we usually let Zia spend the whole night in her crib, we let her sleep with us once in a while. We like having her in bed with us sometimes, and she is such a sweet little cuddle bug. I don't think there is a right or wrong answer when it comes to where baby sleeps, so just follow your gut. You're not going to ruin anyone's sleep schedules by having baby co-sleep off and on, in my opinion.
  • Remember, milestones and sickness might mess up your routine. This has definitely been a struggle for us, though I have heard it isn't for all babies. When Zia is sick or teething, she has a very hard time sleeping. When we know she isn't feeling good, we often let her sleep with us, nurse for comfort, etc. At that point, we feel like it is more important to make sure she is comfortable and happy than that we stick by our sleep-training guns.
And when all is said and done, just follow your gut. Mom instincts are usually pretty good, so I think doing what you feel best about is going to be the best option. :)

I think that wraps it up! Keep in mind, this is just one mom's opinion. I am not a doctor or sleep expert--just a mom! :) I hope some of my experiences can help you and your baby get more sleep! 

Thanks for reading!


My Baby is Growing Up...

Zia doesn't get enough love here on the blog. I could write about her everyday, but I am not sure the world would be quite as enthralled with her antics as I always am. But as we are getting closer and closer to her first birthday, I am getting seriously nostalgic. I can't believe how huge she has gotten! Just today she decided that she can stand on her own for a good ten seconds or more. She was so proud of herself every time she did so, and I was both completely proud and a little bit sad that she is growing up so fast. I think every parent can understand what I mean by that. Every milestone is so fun, but you still don't want your baby to grow up!

Just recently, Zia discovered how to turn the light off. It is definitely one of her favorite pastimes now. She also has suddenly started loving books. It's so sweet! She will crawl over to me, scooting a book on the floor with one hand, and do her "I want something" face until I read it to her. I love it. Once in a while she claps when she is really pleased with herself, though her hands sometimes miss each other (so adorable). She has also started doing a few signs, like "more," "all-done," and "eat." When did my giggly little girl get so stinking smart? It's hard to wrap my brain around how quickly she is changing and learning. She is one smart cookie. :)

In other news, Z's third tooth finally came in. Hooray! Now the other side of her face seems to be bugging her, so hopefully the fourth tooth will make its appearance soon. The first two were about a week and a half apart, so we're hoping for similar timing this time around. I'm not sure what the average ages are for teeth to come in...but I am pretty sure Zia has been putting hers off for as long as possible. I don't blame her, poor thing. She teethes FOREVER before each one pops through. Drool, pulling on her ears, biting everything in sight, pointing to her sore gums...all the symptoms make for one unhappy baby.

Anyway, I didn't get on here to complain. I wanted to announce some posts I have in the works to celebrate Zia's upcoming birthday and share a little bit about what I've learned in my first year of life as a mommy.

With any luck, I'll soon be sharing my second post about baby food, some tips for helping babies sleep, Zia's favorite toy (and how to make it), a dress I just made for Z, mommy-baby matching Easter skirts, a baby tutu tutorial, DIY baby photo shoots (with only your smart phone and things you have on hand), and lots more!

Now, here's the good stuff. My sweet Zia. :)

This is what happens when I try to do homework or blog when Zia is awake. :)

Z has rediscovered her feet and loves them more than ever. She sucks on her toes once in a while, which cracks us up! She even tries to eat her feet when she's in the high chair if her tray isn't on. Silly girl! I actually have a very similar picture of me doing this around that age. I will have to find it. :)

Mirror time at church is sometimes the only portion of church that Zia is happy for. She loves it.

Remember that DIY baby photo shoot I was talking about? Here's a sneak peek at some of the adorable shots I got.

She's my little dancer. That last picture cracks me up. The shoes were somewhere in the room when we started, and she kept on leaving our setup to find them. I finally decided to use them as a prop, but she picked them up and made puppy dog eyes at me, so I eventually put them on. She loves those shoes so much! They have been a life saver. Her chubby little feet don't fit into most baby shoes, so I was happy when I found this pair at Target. They're like her little ballet shoes. :)

I can't get enough of my cute girl, but it's getting late, so I better sign off.

Thanks for reading!


Monday, March 24, 2014

Too Many T-Shirts...

Can you believe it's spring? Spring is such a wonderful time of year. I absolutely love it! It's beautiful, fresh, and happy. I am always a little sad to put my winter wardrobe away, but this year I am trying to put a positive spin on it. Since I have gotten rid of so many things post-baby, this just gives me a chance to refashion and make some fun new spring/summer clothes for the warmer weather ahead.

I don't know about all of you, but I have a TON of clothes waiting around to be refashioned. They are leftovers from our closet and a few things that my siblings or parents didn't want anymore, and the pile has grown rapidly. It now fills a large gray tub and a banker box with a little leftover.

I got my stash out a few days ago to get going on some shirts for spring, and Zia was almost as excited about it as I was. She went to town on the clothes and scraps, happily pulling every single piece out until she was up to her armpits in fabric! According to my parents, that is exactly what I loved to do as a child--un-organize and make a mess out of every single thing I could get my hands on. They have the pictures to prove it, too! Like mother, like daughter, I guess! ;) Anyway, here are some cute pictures of Z's antics.

This was just the beginning. She didn't stop until she was up to her armpits in fabric! :)

Anyway, digging through all these scraps gave me lots of new ideas. I wanted to start off with some of these gems. Most of them are old shirts from Austin's pre-mission days. He was tiny back then! One of them is an old shirt of my brother's.

As you can see, they are all pretty big on me! I already have a few refashions in the works, and I am excited to share them soon!

Have a great Monday!


3 Ingredient Chocolate Mousse (No Heat Method)

As many of you know, I have a bit of a sweet tooth. Sometimes I'm willing to put an hour or two into a yummy project (cookies are my usual treat of choice), but sometimes I need something with minimal prep time that can still give me my chocolate fix. This recipe fit the bill.

I'm a little bummed that I can't find the original blog that I found this recipe on...I have searched and searched with no luck. I think I found the pin I used to get to the recipe, but the blog has been changed from public to private. Anyway! Never fear, I still found the recipe for you.

For this chocolate mousse, you only need one cup each of cream and milk and a packet of chocolate pudding mix. It whips up quickly and just needs to chill for an hour before serving. I have wanted to try making other flavors--cheesecake mousse, anyone? ;)--but I haven't gotten around to it. Just warning you, it is pretty rich! I would recommend a small serving or combining it with something tart like raspberries or strawberries to break up the sweetness.

The recipe can be found here. It was posted by JanH over on CakeCentral. The recipe serves 4.

I made this recipe a while ago while my husband was at work, and I left it chilling in the fridge until after dinner. We were pleasantly surprised by how yummy it was for being so simple! I hope you whip up this quick, yummy treat! We really enjoyed it.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Rainbow Kabobs with Fruit Dip

Can you believe St. Patrick's Day is just around the corner? This year has been flying by. I think the holiday calls for a fun recipe that I've been wanting to post for ages...but it wasn't really winter appropriate. I originally saw it at a party about a year ago. A total stranger made the beautiful kabobs, and I just had to make my own! Introducing, Rainbow Fruit Kabobs!

The perfect (not dyed green) St. Patty's day snack. They are almost as pretty as they are delicious! They make a perfect rainbow, and the dip makes a fabulous pot of gold. I paired these kabobs with  "The Best Fruit Dip EVER!" from Iowa Girl Eats and was very pleased. :) I made them for a neighborhood picnic last summer, and they were a big hit! I would recommend making the dip before you get started on the kabobs. Just stick it in the fridge until you're ready for it.

To make your own Rainbow Kabobs, you will need:

Skewers (I used bamboo skewers.)
At least one fruit for each color of the rainbow:
Red--Strawberries, raspberries, blood oranges, watermelon chunks, ruby red grapefruits
Orange--Oranges, canned mandarin oranges, clementines, cantaloupe chunks
Some could work for orange or yellow, depending on which variety you get: Mangoes, peaches, nectarines, apricots
Yellow--Bananas, pineapples
Green--Kiwis, green grapes, honeydew chunks, star fruits
Blue--Blueberries, blackberries
Purple--Red grapes (that look purple? haha), plums

I'm sure there are other fruits that would work, so be creative!

Simply wash and cut each of your fruits into bite size pieces. Start with a red fruit and work your way down the list, using one or two of each fruit, depending on how full you want to make the skewers. Arrange the kabobs on a dish as you like. I just laid them flat, but I have seen people form a rainbow shape with the skewers before--cute!

Now just bring out your dip and enjoy!

I hope you guys try these. They are so yummy and so fun. I'd love to see a picture if you do!

Happy (early) St. Patrick's Day!


Linking up to Artsy Corner Thursday.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Give Your Old Jeans a Skinny Jean Makeover! Tutorial

I have this pair of pants that I have owned since high school. They are the most comfortable pants in the whole entire world, but they are a very loose flare fit, and after the weight loss that has been going on around here post-baby, they were basically falling off. My favorite jeans were in serious need of a refashion!

I had a similar pair of pants that I ended up chopping off into shorts last summer (which was awesome--I love them so much), but I was thinking of something a little different for this particular pair. I have been thinking about turning them into skinny jeans for months now, and I decided it was finally time to do it! I have a really hard time finding pants that fit me right. I am on the short end of average, height wise, but I have pretty long legs and a short torso for my size. The skinny jean craze that has been sweeping the nation over the last little while has been leaving me a little frustrated. I would go jeans shopping and end up finding a million pairs that fit well in all ways but length. They always fell an inch or two short of the ankle. If I went a size or two up to get the length right, they didn't fit well everywhere else. Since capris are only acceptable during the summer, I usually bought a pair or two of the high-water fit then ended up sacrificing perfect fit for a little extra length and wore a belt the rest of the time. Point being, it's been something I have struggled with for quite a while.

The pair of jeans shown below was stretchy enough to accommodate a pretty narrow leg, and the legs would definitely be long enough! So I thought it was the perfect chance to make some skinny jeans that actually fit!

I have done this to pants once or twice before, and I have seen dozens of pins on Pinterest and various tutorials about doing so, but the main tutorial I followed to refresh my memory was this tutorial from Maybe Matilda. I did things a little differently, but the idea is the same.

Anyway, here's how to to give your old jeans a skinny jean makeover!

You will need:
An old pair of pants, preferably with a little bit of stretch.
Sewing machine and thread
Serger (optional)

Put your pants on inside out and pin along the outside of one (or both) leg(s). My initial plan was to just sew one then use it as a guide on the second one, but I ended up just pinning and sewing for both sides. :) After you're done pinning, sew, sew, sew!

skinny jean refashion, flare to skinny jeans, diy skinny jeans, pants refashion

Check the fit of your pants (still inside out). If there aren't any spots that are too tight, go ahead and trim off the excess fabric, leaving half an inch or so of seam allowance. You may spot a few places where you want to take it in a little more at this point, but if you don't, flip your pants right side out and see what you think.

skinny jean refashion, flare to skinny jeans, pants refashion, diy skinny jeans, skinny jeans tutorial

I had a few spots where the seam wouldn't lay flat (see the wavy spots on my calf?), so I marked the problem spots with pins and turned the pants inside out again.

This was my problem. This isn't a very good picture, but you can see how the seam isn't very smooth--it kind of juts out. I took a pen and marked a smoother curve and sewed away.

Try on one more time. Once you are satisfied with the fit of the jeans, simply serge or zigzag stitch the seam allowance to keep it from fraying. (Don't skip this step--jeans tend to fray pretty easily.)

My old hem was torn up in the back, so I decided to chop it off and make a new one. They were long enough to do so, thank goodness. To hem the bottom, turn up the edge 1/2 inch, then about 3/4 inch. Pin in place and sew 1/2 inch from the bottom. Pick a thread that will match the original stitching on the jeans.

And there you have it! An easy refashion that will make your old jeans as good as new again.

skinny jean refashion, flare to skinny jeans, pants refashion, diy skinny jeans, skinny jeans tutorial

skinny jean refashion, flare to skinny jeans, diy skinny jeans, pants refashion, skinny jean tutorial

I am in love with finally having some skinny jeans that are long enough to be worn with wedges...



...anything! Normally I have to hide my skinnies inside boots since they are barely too short, so this is a wonderful change.

But, if I'm being totally honest with you, I think I love them most of all with my Converse. They didn't make it into my pictures for this post, but I snapped a quick pic on my way out the door the other day. Love.

These pants are such a great fit, and they are even comfy. I would highly recommend tailoring your own pair to give your old pants a second chance. :)

Linking up to Artsy Corner Thursday.