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How I Survived Babydom | 17 Must-Have Baby Items

14 Nov

Ah, babydom, that magical time in a mother’s life where everything she buys, wears, eats, drinks, touches and even sleeps in has something to do with her baby. Babydom is an intensive season for new and experienced mothers alike, and just when you think you have babydom all figured out, along comes another child to create havoc on your delicate babydom ecosystem. Take heart, you will get through it – even if it’s with a little help from your friend crazytown. :)

You and I both know every mother has a unique sense of what items are needed for her particular family’s well-being. It goes without saying your must-have baby items might be completely different from mine, but one thing is for sure  – having certain items (ahem, a swing or a stroller) do not indicate how well a woman mothers her child (it’s the internet I have to say this, cuz there are crazies out there, y’all). Okay, with that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get to it. In no certain or particular order, I give to you my 17 must-have baby items:

1. Arms Reach mini co-sleeper: Having your baby near you at night is just common sense, especially if you’re breastfeeding. This co-sleeper is the right size and shape, not too big and not too little. It slides up snug against your bed, and keeps your little one within arms reach. (Get it?) A bonus for me was that I was able to keep my night-stand at the top of my bed and then add the co-sleeper just underneath it without it taking over the entire room.

2. Phil and Teds Double Stroller: I love, I mean really, really love my Phil and Ted’s stroller. There are so many ways this stroller can be used, including varieties that my kids can sit in, or even lay down in. Plus, it moves through tiny spaces on a dime, it’s compact, sleek, and I can maneuver it with just one hand while both my kids are in it, and while I walk my dog on her leash with my other hand, so what’s not to love! I’ve even jogged with mine…on rare occasions…like when stuck in rainstorms and stuff. Anyway, if you’ve got more than one child, or plan on having more than one, get this stroller.

3. HoMedics Sound machine: This hot little number has saved my sanity. I’ve tried several sound machines and this one is my favorite. It has 6 different sounds available, including a heart-beat (which most newborns love) rain, and ocean (just to name a few). Your new baby is programmed from the womb to be comforted by rhythmic shushing noises (think dishwasher). After all, imagine what they’re hearing as they sleep tight inside your tummy: your heart beating, muffled noises from the outside, and your blood pumping through your body, it’s loud in there! White noise mimics that noisy, comforting environment for your baby and helps them fall asleep and stay asleep. Plus, it’ll drown out the noise of the neighbors dog barking, or maybe it’s your dog barking.

4. Dunstan Baby Language: Not every mother is gifted with an innate ability to understand her newborn’s cry. If you’re one of them, then you need to write a book and make some money. If you’re like the rest of us, who during those first few weeks struggled to make heads or tails of the cries of your little love, then this DVD is for you. Essentially, your newborn, and every newborn on the planet, has five universal cries. This DVD teaches you how to identify and decipher these five cries, allowing you to better understand your newborn’s needs. For instance, a “neh” sound in your baby’s cry means they’re hungry, and an “owh” sound in your baby’s cry means they’re tired. Dunstan Baby Language sets you on the right track for those first 12 weeks of a newborn’s life.

Don’t just take my word for it, check out this video clip to get a better idea of Dunstan Baby Language!


5. The Baby Book, by Dr. Sears: This book is the grand poobah of baby books. Inside you’ll find tips for sleep, and breastfeeding, and understanding your baby’s cues, and even what to expect and when. It’s a great general resource to have on hand for any parent – no matter your parenting philosophy. Actually, I recommend all of Dr. Sears’ books (you can find a list of them here). He writes in simple everyday english, keeps his writing charming and to the point, and offers a clinical aspect that’s tempered with a parent’s heart. Make sure this book is in your library before you have your baby!

6. Aden + Anais Muslin Swaddle Blankets: Ack! I love these blankets. They’re big, they’re light-weight, they’ve got adorable non-babyish prints, they wash and dry in a cinch, they’re not too hot, and they swaddle like a dream. Go get you some, momma!

7. Mei Tai Babyhawk carrier: This is my favorite baby carrier, and I’ve used a lot out there! I like how light weight it is and how it’s easy to use. I like that I can wear my baby on my front or my back. Plus, I can throw mine in the wash (gentle cycle), not to mention, it fits easily in my diaper bag. Oh this too –  I can wear my newborn in it or my toddler. Did I mention it comes in great colors and prints? Are you sold yet?

8. Howling Wolf Herbs Bottoms Up Salve: If a girl could have a love affair with an all natural diaper cream this would be the one I would run away to Costa Rica with. I’ve written about Regina’s products before, Regina is the Owner of Howling Wolf Herbs and she doesn’t pay me to rave about her work. I believe in her products and have seen the amazing difference her care line makes. Especially this diaper salve. It’s all natural, smells a little like lavender, isn’t a white sticky cream, and it glides easily on to your little baby’s bum. And it seriously delivers! After a long and tiring battle fighting diaper rash with my first baby, I tried everything I could get my hands on – even an RX. After one application of Bottoms Up Salve, the volatile rash on my daughter’s tush started to fade dramatically. Since I’ve used Bottoms Up Salve I’ve never had a problem with diaper rash with either of my kids. Plus, you can use it with cloth diapers.

9. NoseFrida: This is the best invention that has ever happened to babies with drippy snots and the mothers who love them. If you don’t believe me, just go read these reviews on Amazon.

10. Olive Oil: When babies are fresh from the womb, for the first few days of their life, they have a very strange type of poo called meconium. This poo, while very normal for newborns, is black and tar-like, and sticks like burnt cheese on a frying pan to your baby’s soft little buns. In other words, it is a chore to clean. However, if when you change your newborn’s diaper, you apply with your finger or cotton swab, an ample coating of olive oil to their clean tushy, the next time they poop, the meconium will wipe up easily – making your diaper change a hundred times faster, and you’ll be so happy about this that you may come back and write me a thank you note – and I hope you do.

11. Kiddopotamus SwaddleMe Blankets: Swaddling is getting some mixed reviews in the childbirth community, and with reason. For one, there is a lot a baby can tell us about how they’re feeling based on what’s happening with their hands. Open palms with tense, rigid fingers mean that your baby is distressed, you’ll miss this cue if your baby is swaddled. On the other hand, soft, open, gentle fingers when nursing mean that your baby is getting full. In general it’s not a good idea to keep your baby swaddled all the time, especially when nursing – that’s actually when you want your baby skin-to-skin. However, my personal judgment tells me there is a time and place for a swaddle, and for my babies, swaddling at the end of the day calmed them down and helped them sleep. That said, sometimes my swaddles wouldn’t last the whole night through, but these SwaddleMe blankets with their velcro tabs kept the swaddle in place and kept my little ones from jerking awake with those random sleepy newborn arm waves (trust me, you’ll know what I mean when you see it happen).

12. Waterproof Lap Pads: You know how I slept with my babies right next to me, right? That meant that in the middle of night I would change their diaper right there on my bed, and these waterproof pads made that possible. I kept a small stack in my diaper caddy, (which I kept on my night stand) and at three in the morning after that 20 minute nursing session when the baby’s BM would arrive shortly after, I would lay this waterproof pad on my bed, grab a diaper and get ‘er done.

13. The 90 Minute Baby Sleep Program: Why isn’t this book more well-known? I just don’t know! It offers practical and sure-fire ways to get your baby to sleep without tears and gnashing of teeth. You can read Mommypotamus’ review and her experience with this book’s sleep suggestions here. I love this book so much – I think I loaned it to someone a while ago, because it’s been burning a hole in its empty spot on my book shelf. If you have it, can I have it back now, please?

14. Happiest Baby on the Block:  You would be surprised at how many of us out there aren’t savvy to the brilliant concept of the fourth trimester this book shares and why this matters to us and our little ones.  Essentially, the fourth trimester is the first three months of your baby’s life, and these 12 weeks or so need to mimic the life your baby experienced in the womb as much as posible. So how do we do that? With the five “S’s”: swaddling, side/stomach position, shushing, swinging and sucking. These simple comfort measures trigger our little one’s calming reflexes and allows our baby to find their happy place. The author teaches us exactly how to do the five “S’s” and explains why they’re necessary for our babies during their first three months of life. To learn more about the fourth trimester and the five “S’s”, click here for a great blog post.

15. Baby Swing: While not everyone agrees that swings are necessary, most everyone can agree that they’re useful. With my first child, we didn’t need a swing much – if ever, but with my second it gave me a chance to have uninterrupted quality time with my daughter. Plus, it was pretty much the only way I could get my son to take extended naps during the day when he was very young.  My favorite swings are the kind that swing from side-to-side rather than front-to-back. Consumer Reports has a great piece on finding quality baby swings here.

16. Radio Fuzz: Can white noise on the radio be considered a baby item? Well that depends on if your baby cries like it’s doomsday every time they’re inside a moving vehicle. Try this trick out and let me know if it works to calm your baby like it did mine. Find a non-station on your radio dial – you know that white-fuzz-static noise station and add it to your radio’s memory. The next time your wee one begins to cry at full volume in the car while you’re driving 70 miles an hour down the highway – switch the radio to your white-noise station and turn it up … loud. Your little one should stop crying very quickly and your cortisol levels should begin to decline in moments.

17. Baby Glider: Every mother should have a corner set up somewhere in the house that is her designated love, rock, nurse, and gaze at the baby station. Mine has always been in my baby’s room. I love having one spot that I can take my baby to when it’s time to sleep and nurse. In order to make my spot comfy, I looked for a great baby glider. Simple right? Well, not really. If you know me very well at all, you know I don’t make any purchase without researching it first, including rocking chairs. And according to Consumer Reports, there’s a few things you need to know when choosing one for your nursery. Look at the seat of the glider, pick up the cushion and look under it. Are there springs there? If so, perfect. If it’s just wood, it’s going to make your tush sore – especially directly postpartum. So find a quality rocker that has springs on the seat. Next, look at the arms. Are they just plain wood? If so, that’s going to be uncomfortable for you and your baby. Find a glider that has padded arms. Also, don’t do what I did and buy a white glider…children and white just don’t mix, find a nice dark shade that hides the grub and you’ll be just fine.

There you have it! My 17 must-have baby items. Did you see anything you liked? Did you see something that didn’t work for you? What are your must-have baby items? Let me know what worked for you and why!

P.S. Stay tuned for my must-haves on postpartum care and breastfeeding – coming soon!

My Favorite Pregnancy Products – Part II

13 Feb

So, I’m still handing out imaginary awards here.  My number two award goes to yet another Howling Wolf Herbs Product.  It is the Heartburn and Indigestion tea.  For any woman who has been pregnant or is pregnant now, you understand the misery of heartburn, the type of heartburn that wakes you from a sound sleep at three in the morning and cannot be relieved from Tums, Papaya Enzymes, or both.  This tea makes it all better.  I make a large batch of this once a week and drink it cold. I enjoy a glass with dinner and usually have a glass before I go to bed, as well.  Generally that’s enough to prevent heartburn from showing up at all, but if it does, I keep a glass of it by my bedside and drink it if I wake with heartburn, and after a few moments the heartburn is gone.


My Favorite Pregnancy Products – Part I

13 Feb

I’m giving awards to my favorite pregnancy products. My first award goes to Howling Wolf Herbs Energy Herbal Tea for Pregnancy (red raspberry leaf tea).

Since June of 2010, I have attended approximately 45 or so births (I’ve kinda lost count, so I’m not exactly sure anymore). Around 30 of those being at the birth center where I work as an assistant to the Nurse Midwives.  As a Birth Assistant, directly after the birth of the baby, I massage mom’s uterus (a woman’s uterus should feel like a ruby-red grapefruit after giving birth) and I observe of the amount of postpartum bleeding she has (I know glamorous, right?). Continue reading

Zoe’s Waterbirth Story

27 Apr

Zoe Hallel, ten days old. In her daddy’s arms.

Friday morning, March 6th, 2009, nine days past my due date. I do a few things around the house, including pumping for a while (till the pump finally broke – Yes, I officially broke the pump, I own a new one now), and take apart the car seat to wash it. I then change and get ready to take a walk to help induce labor. Just then Peter comes home from class. It’s near 2pm, and I ask him if he would like to come with. So Peter, Nutmeg and I take a long walk through UNT campus. It is a beautiful sunny day, the weather is perfect.

We are mostly quiet during the walk. At one point I confess to Peter how I have concerns that if I am not able to go into labor naturally, or be induced via the birthing center way (since they had tried once already and it was a no go) that I may have to go to the hospital to be induced and that was a frightening idea since I had so desperately wanted a natural birth with a midwife. Peter understood my concerns and comforts me without denying my emotions. I always appreciate his thoughtfulness.

Water Breaks?

We begin our way back home. While walking down a small hill to cross the street I suddenly feel a gush of fluid and my heart practically stops. I grab Peter and say, “My water just broke!” I am in shock, I never expected to be someone whose water broke and then labor started. Peter asks if I want to stay there and he would come pick me up with the car and I say, “No, walking home is probably a good idea.” I am so excited, I instantly call Alysa (my sister who lives in Austin 4 hours away) and tell her the news.

We get home, and my dad is in the living room resting on the couch and mom is in the kitchen and I say, “Wake up, my water just broke.” My mom instantly appears in the living room with a big smile, and they both say, “Really!”

41 weeks. Officially over due.

I call the midwife and tell her that I think my water broke and she says, “Better get you in here and check you out.” Before leaving the house, I take a shower, stupidly put on makeup and a sun-dress and finish putting my bag together, all the while mild to moderate contractions are setting in. I am so annoyed with myself for not having put my bag together prior to this, though I had it all on top of my dresser waiting to be packed, it is just not what you want to do while you are in labor.

From there Peter and I leave for the birthing center. When we get there Lynne asks if my water had broke, and I say yes. She tells me to go put on a depends (sexy, huh?) and tells us to wait for Jean. A couple from our childbirth class were in the exam room with Jean, they walk out and congratulate me. I could barely muster a smile at that point; I was leaning over in pain from a contraction.

Jean leads us into the exam room and checks my cervix, I am dilated to three but I am almost fully effaced. She tells me that the bag of water is still intact and that I must have just peed on myself, but that either way I was in labor. I tell her if that was pee that was the most I’ve peed in a long time. We talk a bit further and she advises us to go home and labor until Betty would arrive at the birth center at 7pm.

Early Labor

By the time we get home, around 4 PM, my contractions are very consistent, five minutes apart and fairly uncomfortable. I am somewhat disappointed to be going home, but also glad to be back in the comfort of my house. Peter puts on some music and I get on all fours on the bed and rock through my contractions. By 6 PM my contractions have gained a considerable level of intensity, we pull out the balance ball and the rolling-pin. Peter and mom help me get through my contractions by massaging my lower back through the rushes. Dad is busy taking pictures and eating Churches chicken fingers.

Peter applying counter pressure to my back, and my mother massaging my hip through contractions.

During a contraction my dad asked me to give him a smile. This was all I could manage.

In between contractions. A big (fake) smile.

At this point, I am still able to laugh in between contractions. At 6:30 Betty calls to let me know she would be at the birthing center in about in hour. I am starting to get a little concerned, because I feel I am progressing pretty quickly, she reassures me that I will be fine and to hang in there.

It’s 8:30 pm (we were waiting for my sister to arrive from Austin before we left for the birth center) and I am still laboring at home, though I am in a LOT of pain during my contractions. They feel like the worst cramps ever, my muscles in my lower back and abdomen are twisting unbearably with each rush. I also begin to get labor shakes – that cause my whole body shake uncontrollably, from head to toe. Betty, my nurse midwife has called and asked us to please come in, and we agree, by now, we feel we can’t wait any more for my sister to arrive and we leave for the birth center. Mom and I get in the back of the truck and Peter drives. Laboring in the truck is NO fun, I’m glad mom is with me. Fortunately, the birthing center is not that far away. Just as we leave Alysa arrives. Dad and Alysa follow us there.

Arrival at the Birth Center

When I arrive at the birthing center, Betty checks me in the exam room. I am dilated to six and fully effaced! YAY. I settle in the birth room, sit on the birthing ball and ready myself for the next contractions. The room is perfect – Betty has lit candles and turned down the lighting. Peter brings in the iPod and we are listening to Emilou Harris. I remember at one point lying on my side on the bed with Peter behind holding me in his arms. I was in the worst pain I had experienced yet. I kept thinking inside, I’m not sure I can do this, and as soon as I would think that, I would say out loud, “I can do this, my body is created to do this, I have nothing to fear.”

I found that laying on my side was too uncomfortable for me, and it was better for me to move through my contractions. I would squat down or sway from side to side, but the best position was on the birthing ball – as Betty would squeeze my hips together during a contraction.


Just then, I immediately knew I was going to puke, Betty brings the trash can over and, whew, there it all went.  At this point, Betty decides to check me again. She said typically puking is a good sign, means your on your way into transition. Sure enough, I am dilated to an 8. Betty suggests I get in the shower or the tub, I know I need the tub. As soon as there was just a little water in it I get in. Mom uses the spray massage on my back while I rock on all fours through the contractions – with a low, loose moan, (kinda like a cow bellowing). For some reason, this vocalization helps me ride the contraction. Once the tub was full, I float through each contraction. I had read that it was good to keep your body completely relaxed during contractions, that it made your body labor faster and helped lessen the pain.

And there is pain for sure. It is about midnight, and it is around this time that I begin to think I am stupid for going natural and that drugs seem like a really good idea right about now. These transition contractions are by FAR the most painful, I can literally feel Zoe pushing down through my body – the pressure in my bottom is almost unbearable. At this point, no one can do anything for me but wait.  Again, I puke, Betty gives me medicine to help stop puking. Eventually, I feel a need to push and tell Betty. Betty encourages me to go ahead and try pushing. Sure enough, pushing feels right and that’s what I start to do. Betty calls Charity, the birthing assistant and tells her it is time to arrive.

As a side note, all along, Betty had been checking Zoe’s heart rate. And Zoe was a handling labor like a champ, even through the contractions Zoe’s heart tones remained strong.


It was time to push! I sit up in the tub and lean my chin down to my chest and begin to bare down. It really did feel like I was pooing, all the same muscles are involved, but it’s much harder. Pushing is equally the best feeling in the world and also unnerving, at this point I really feel as though I have NO control over my body. Pushing is the only thing I can do, and I lose all fear. I hold Peter’s hand throughout the entire pushing and birth. I remember Betty telling me that she could see Zoe’s head, and that she has dark hair. She tells me I can put my hand down and touch the tip of her head. I did, this inspired me to push even harder. My baby needs to come out!


Zoe arrives after 27 minutes of pushing. I remember Betty gently coaching me through the rushes, to push longer or harder, and then to slow my breathing down in between. Finally the push came where Zoe begins to crown, Betty and Charity are very excited because Zoe is still in her sack – en caul. They comment on how rare this is and that it is a sign of good luck. I could have cared less at this point. I just nod and keep pushing. But with the very next push, the sack breaks with such a force that it scares me and I stop pushing and my eyes pop open and I look up at Betty, she explains that there is nothing to worry about and that it was just the sack had broken. So I keep pushing. There is a burning sensation when she crowns, but not half as bad as I thought it would be. In one quick motion, Zoe’s head and arm come out together in what’s known as a compound presentation  (in fact it was so fast that Betty wasn’t able to finish putting on a clean pair of gloves to catch). Betty tells me to push again, and woosh, Zoe’s whole body comes out.

Holding my daughter for the first time and crying my eyes out, a moment I will never forget.


Feeling Zoe’s body leave mine was the most incredible, indescribable feeling I have ever known. There’s nothing like it in the world. Instantly, Betty scoops up Zoe and places her in my arms. I start bawling of course! As I sit in the warm water of the tub, I fell Zoe’s little body move in my arms. I feel the umbilical cord dangle from Zoe and tug inside of me. Zoe isn’t crying, but cooing and making sweet little sighs, her arms jerking slowly from side to side. It is the most precious, tender moment I ever known. At one point somebody actually asks me if I am okay, because I just can’t stop crying. Zoe is born after ten hours of labor, on March 7, at 12:57 AM.

Falling in love with my child.

Once the cord stops pulsating, Betty asks Peter if he wants to cut the cord. He does. Later he tells me it felt hard and took a lot to cut it. I hand Zoe to Peter and they lead me out of the tub in order to push out the placenta. I stand there in the tub shaking, while they take off my wet sports bra and wrap me in white soft towels (I feel so helpless and weak, but completely drunk with happiness). They help me step out of the tub and towards the bed. I am shaking uncontrollably still. I take another step forward towards the bed when, woosh – a gush of blood leaves my body. I am shocked. I am standing naked in a huge puddle of my own blood and it has splashed all over my legs and feet and onto the hardwood floor. What a sight, like some horror flick. Betty immediately explains that everything is fine and that it was gush of blood letting us know the placenta had detached. I keep apologizing, I feel really bad that they have to clean up that mess.

Third Stage, Repair and Nursing

They lay me on the bed and have me push out my placenta. Two gentle pushes and it is out. Then the rough part begins, inspecting my “bottom” to see where I have torn and stitching me up. It takes Betty about 10 minutes to stitch me up. This is a PAINFUL experience. The shots of lidocaine are not nice going in – prick and burn. I feel the tugs of the stitches and the needle, but the worse part is when Betty pulls a stitch through where the lidocaine had not reached. “OOOOOW ow ow ooow” I yell! I make more noise in that moment than in my entire labor, she apologizes immediately but explains that she needs to pull the stitch through and then add more lidocaine. I practices my breathing at this point. They also bring over Zoe so that I could look at her for distraction. VERY HELPFUL.

Distraction during the repair.

Zoe nursing for the first time and Auntie “A” meeting her newest niece.

Once that is all done, it is time to nurse. Charity helps show me how and Zoe latches on perfectly. It is a beautiful moment for me. Throughout this whole time Charity pushes on my stomach to check my bleeding and my uterus, this is uncomfortable but not too bad. Charity continues to comment on how little bleeding I have. This is good news – which I accredit to drinking red raspberry leaf tea from Howling Wolf Energy Herbs.

Newborn Exam

After Zoe finishes nursing, Betty begins her newborn exam.  Zoe is 7 lbs and 6 oz. I’m shocked. I expected her to weigh more, especially because I was overdue by 10 days and at my 41 week ultrasound the technician said Zoe weighed 8 lb and 6 oz. But this again proved that my due date was wrong, otherwise, I think Zoe would have been a bigger baby if I was truly ten days past due. The Dr. in Israel gave me a due date of March 4th and once I was in the states, the ultrasound indicated that my due date was February 24th. Obviously, my Jewish doctor had it going on.

Newborn exam given by the midwife.

Depends, I say

Meanwhile Betty has two phone calls in a row. Two other moms are in labor and are on their way to the birthing center. Which means they have to get me out of this room fast. So they start to pack up the room, but before I can leave, I have to pee. It’s part of the procedure, to make sure your plumbing is okay you need to pee before you are, no pun intended, discharged. So Charity, the birthing assistant, leads me, stark naked mind you, to the bathroom helps me sit on the toilet and waits with me while I pee. I feel somewhat funny that I am not bothered by the fact that I’m completely naked in front of her and sitting on the toilet to boot. Not exactly the most flattering moment in my life, so I comment on it, and Charity agrees that there is something about childbirth that temporarily takes away all your body worries. So not only did Charity help me to the toilet she also helps to rinse me off and pull up my Depends, yes I did say, “Depends” because of the post pregnancy bleeding they advise you to wear depends the first few days to avoid ruining your favorite pair of granny panties.

From the bathroom, Charity takes me into the main room and my midwife and Alysa help dress me. I keep asking when I can go home. But there’s a requirement that you have to stay at least two hours post delivery. So they lead me to the office where they’ve made up the pull out bed, the first time it’s needed to be used I’m told (since the other two rooms are being prepped for the other moms coming in). Charity comes in and reads me all sorts of stuff and has me sign all sorts of things. Peter has left to get the car (since we came in Dad’s truck and the car seat is in our car) and also bring me an egg sandwich back. So I’m eating the sandwich and talking with Charity, mom is holding Zoe and Peter taking stuff out to the car.  Once the car seat was ready, we put Zoe in the seat, she is soooo, sooo tiny, and we head out the door.

Zoe, a few hours old, ready to head home.


I get home and I am in la-la-land. I can’t believe that I have just birthed my child. I post a note on Facebook, step on my bathroom scale, I am already down 20 lbs, and go to bed. Though I can hardly sleep. There she is, Zoe, perfect little Zoe, like a little cherub, asleep. The most amazing day of my life ended with the most amazing gift possible, a beautiful, healthy little girl and she’s all mine (and Peter’s too).

Thanks be to God.

So much love, so little sleep.

Zoe Hallel, asleep on her daddy’s chest

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