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Mother-Led Weaning: How and Why I Gently Weaned My Son

22 Feb

Mother led weaning

I really loved breastfeeding both my children, the benefits and the ease and the simplicity, and oh those tender bonding times untouched by the world. Ah, sweet bliss.

But, I was done. D.O.N.E. (Imagine me saying “done” with my eyes bugging out of my head, and waving my arms around in circles like a mad scientist with crazy hair who hasn’t slept in years.)

Sixteen months into it, my breastfeeding relationship with my son was starting to take a toll on our mother/child bonding relationship. You see, I was no longer happily breastfeeding, a lot of times I was just plain-ol’ resentfeeding (I just made that word up, but you’ll know it if you’ve done it).

I really needed to focus on taking care of my needs. (You can read bits of that experience here, here and here.) In order to properly love my family I needed to pick my burnt-out self off the ground and get my groove back, for the sake of my sanity, for the sake of both my children, for the sake of my husband, and for me. Quite honestly, I knew that the first step in focusing on my own needs involved weaning my son. (Gulp.)

And while I understand the WHO recommendations of nursing a child till they’re at least two (you can read about that here), I also know that a healthy breastfeeding relationship should continue for as long as both mother and baby desire. Both.

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You see, I would step into the living room, hoping to sit down and enjoy my kids, play with my daughter and son together, and upon setting eyes on me, Noah would simply burst into frantic screams until I nursed him.

This happened all the time: happy baby boy without momma around, the moment momma comes near, unhappy baby till boobies arrive – even if he nursed five minutes ago.

I could no longer handle the emotional and physical hesitation I felt approaching my son anymore. It wasn’t fair to him! In my heart I knew what I needed to do.

Mother-led weaning, with gentle compassion for my son, but also gentle compassion for me as a mom. (Yes, I deserve that much! We all do!)

My personal goal was to breastfeed Noah till he was 18 months old, and or finished with teething,  whichever came first (nothing soothes a cranky, teething baby faster than a little nursing session) and at 16 months Noah’s teeth had all arrived (two-year molars withstanding, those started at 20 months).

Here’s how we approached gentle mother-led weaning in my home.

Nursing my son for the first time moments after giving birth. He's eating, and I'm eating too. This is my mom feeding me my postbirth hamburger. I like to call this 'generational feeding.'

Nursing my son for the first time moments after giving birth. He’s eating, and I’m eating too. This is my mom feeding me my postbirth hamburger. I like to call this ‘generational feeding.’

Plan of Action

First I made a plan, and gave myself about 8 weeks to fully wean Noah. I decided not to implement a new phase until the first phase was successful for at least a five days or more. Here’s what worked best for our home:

  1. Remove random feeds scattered throughout the day that don’t follow a pattern.
  2. Remove morning feed.
  3. Remove feeds before naps and bed-time. (Starting first with naps, then moving onto bed-time.)
  4. Remove night-time comfort feeds.
  5. Be flexible and go slow. Give extra special care and attention to help my child adjust peacefully through these changes.

Phase 1 – Random Feeds

At 16 months old, Noah was breastfeeding around ten times a day, if not more. My goal was to cut back his nursing sessions to about six feeds a day. That meant we needed to cut back on the breastfeeding that happened randomly in a day, like when he would fuss, or fall down, or want a snack, or just hollar at me for boobie, “Maaaaaaaaaa, the boobies!”

I felt these would be the easiest to replace with distractions, like a sippy cup of water, a toy to play with, or a bite of fruit (if he was hungry). What Noah did not want instead of nursing, though, were cuddles from me. Having mommy so close and not having “a nurse” (that’s what we call it in our house) only frustrated him.

Believe it or not, phasing out those extra nursing sessions were simple as pie. Noah didn’t seem to even notice the change-up and responded well to the alternatives. (Whew!)

Phase 2 – Morning Feed

The next step was removing the morning feed. No sweat! Instead of my husband bringing Noah to my bed to nurse when he woke up (we stopped co-sleeping when Noah was 9 months old), Peter simply brought Noah to his high chair, offered our boy a sippy cup with water and a yummy hot breakfast. (Noah does not like cows milk, almond milk, coconut milk, you name it. So, water it is. We supplement with cheese and kefir/yogurt.) Sweet boy was happy as a clam with that change. Not even a bit of fuss over that.

Big sister loved to nurse her baby too whenever mommy fed Noah.

Big sister loved to nurse her baby too whenever mommy fed Noah.

Phase 3 – Sleepy Time Feeds

The next step was to remove the sleepy time nursing sessions prior to his two daily naps and bed time. We did this by really focusing on our routine before bed.

We’ve had a bed-time routine since Noah was about 9 months old. And the last step of our routine always included nursing Noah till he was this close to being asleep (and then I laid him down in his crib). The plan was to simply remove the last step in the routine (yeah, easier said than done, I know!) and give extra cuddles and lullabies instead.

I read him a book, sang lots of songs, said bed-time prayers, and gave all those warm mommy lovin’s in the rocking chair. I did add a new “lovie” to the bed-time routine (a little yellow blanket), and I also offered Noah a sippy cup with water to hold during our bed-time routine, he would take sips from that here and there while we sang and read books.

This stage was a little touchy for about three days – the worst being the first day. Noah fussed and let me know he wanted to nurse. However, I committed to comforting his heart with extra mommy love instead of nursing. I knew there really wasn’t an easy or quick fix to this stage, only through it. (Just like labor, ladies!)

After about three to five minutes of fussiness and tears for a few nights, Noah would settle into me and relax, allowing himself to be soothed by my touch and voice. After three days, we successfully transitioned out of those sleepy-time feeds.

Flexibility

After cutting out those feeds, we were left with just our night-time comfort sessions. Things were moving on as planned.

Then we had a curve ball. Noah suddenly showed signs that he wanted to nurse in the afternoon, usually after his second nap of the day around 4 PM.

I believe in following my children’s cues whenever inherently possible. Since none of my distraction techniques worked to keep Noah from wanting to nurse late in the afternoon, I made peace with the extra session. I think he liked the cuddle time after his nap and it appeared he was hungry. I was fine with this, I knew we we’re taking things slowly.

However, after a few days, it seemed like Noah was happy to have a snack instead of an afternoon nurse. At 4 PM he and his sister (to this day they still do this) sit at the table together and enjoy apple slices, or carrot sticks and humus, or whatever sounds yummy and won’t spoil dinner. This has become a regular routine in our home – Zoe and Noah’s 4 PM snack time and mommy’s cup of coffee!

One of my favorite candid shots of me nursing Noah. A picnic with friends on the square in Denton, TX.

One of my favorite candid shots of me nursing Noah. A picnic with friends on the square in Denton, TX.

Phase 4 – Mid-Night Comfort Sessions

The next step was to cut back on the comfort sessions in the middle of the night. I’ll be honest these were the ones that had me worried the most. When Noah woke up at night crying, it was so easy to simply pick him up, nurse him and viola, two minutes later he was back in dreamland, which meant I got to go there too just as quickly.

Weaning him off of those nightly comfort sessions took some effort on my part. I had to make peace with the reality that I would be up for at least 15 minutes each time he woke. It was challenging, but not any harder than it was to remove the feeds prior to his daily naps – it’s just that in the middle of the night we were both really tired and less patient.

But I stuck with, we stuck with it, Noah and me. I talked to him all through it telling him what was happening and why, and how much I loved him and how he could have mommy cuddles any time he wanted, but that nursing had to go bye-bye. Our children understand far more than what we give them credit for and it’s very important that we talk them through these types of changes.

At night, I would pick Noah up in my arms, sit in the rocker and sing to him, patting his bottom all the while. Sometimes I would offer a sippy cup of water if he seemed thirsty.

(FYI, my miracle cure to stop Noah’s tears were, and still are, songs with short, choppy, rhythmic words sung in staccato style. As soon as I start singing this way, he quiets down and falls asleep – no matter how loud he’s crying.)

However, If Noah didn’t calm down after trying all those things within 5-10 minutes of me offering other options, I’ll would then offer him the breast, just until he calmed his little soul down (not till he fell asleep), then once he stopped crying, I would unlatch him, cuddle him close, sing to him, and then lay him down once he showed signs that he was ready to stretch out and sleep. Sometimes, like his sister did at that age, Noah would sign “all done” when he wanted to lay down in his crib.

I sat down to nurse Noah and Zoe brought over her rocking chair and nursed her stuffed dog, too. Just like mommy.

I sat down to nurse Noah and Zoe brought over her rocking chair and nursed her stuffed dog, too. Just like mommy.

Saying Good-bye to Breastfeeding

Six weeks later, we had finally reached that point where I knew Noah had successfully weaned. At 17 months he was no longer showing interest in breastfeeding any more.

He also stopped crying when I would walk into a room, and instead he would simply smile at me, jump up for a hug and then go back to playing with his blocks!

I also started to enjoy more personal time to attend to my needs, and our daily life seemed to settle into a peaceful rhythm, with less crying for Noah, and less stress for all of us.

Even so, the emotional implications of letting go of breastfeeding were very hard. I knew this would be the case. I also knew that no matter when I weaned Noah, I would never *not* feel that deep tug on my heart – that ache that comes from saying good-bye to something so intimate, so maternal, so universally indicative of mothering a tiny child.

When I recognized that there would never be a magical moment when it would feel easy to say good-bye to breastfeeding, it made coming to terms with the process of weaning my son a little easier on my heart.

The Very Last Time I Breastfed My Son

My last nursing session with Noah was in the dreamy hours of a crisp September night, and I knew…

I sat down with him in the rocker, the sound machine offering its rainy tune, the night-light casting little golden flecks across his sleepy face. With his squishy cheek pressed into my breast, his starfish hand clasped around my index finger, and the gentle metronome of his breathing – in and out like waves on my heart, I allowed myself to become fully aware of it all – his very body being nourished by my own.

I turned our intimate space into an altar of worship – saying feel this, let your spirit acknowledge this holy place. I wrote my feelings down with love along the walls of my heart saying to my mind, “remember this moment, forever.”

Noah fell into a deep sleep, as he had so many times before, nestled securely in my arms, latched onto my breast, filled with contentment and quieted with sleep. Ever so slowly his mouth opened, slack-jawed and loose, lost in his slumber, my son took a deep breath stretched out his arms and … unlatched.

I leaned down and pressed my lips against his doughy cheek and I knew. I knew. I knew.

It was the end.

But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother,

like a weaned child is my soul within me.

– Psalm 131:2

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This is one of the last pictures taken of me nursing my son. He’s a little over a year here and we were out as a family visiting the Art Institute in Chicago.

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Parenting Tips Shared on Facebook and The Implosion of a Million Emotions

7 Feb

Tips for Talking to Children

On Wednesday evening I shared the above infographic* that I created on my Facebook page, The Joy of This. Within a few hours it was quickly shared over 600 times.  A lot of people seemed to really love the tips, but also, not surprisingly, a lot of parents were outraged by the tips. Tips which I gleaned and compiled from two different books, Secrets Of The Baby Whisperer for Toddlers, and How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk.

But some people just didn’t care that these tips came from recognized experts in the field. Some folks were down right angry – at me – for suggesting these tips.

In fact, I even had one mother attack me personally for posting it on my page, making mean-spirited claims about me and my children. I chose not to respond to her comment, but rather ban her from my page (along with a few other miserable beings who had really uncouth things to say). Mean parents who don’t know how to express a differing opinion without using verbal attacks get banned – that’s just how it goes!

Joking aside …

There was one comment that really soured my milk, it was this:

fits are unacceptable

“Number four is out of the question in my house. Fits are unaccepbtle [sic] under any and all circumstances and will not be rewarded with a hug.” 

Yowzers,“any and all circumstances” you say? How very authoritarian of you. That’ll teach ’em!

Last I checked it was “liked” 18  times, and that just seriously bummed me out. But, got me thinking…

On further reflection, and seeing that a lot of people just weren’t getting it, I came to the conclusion that the infographic did a poor job explaining the reasonings behind the tips and the importance of using these tips with our children; unless you are already aware of the concepts behind this advice you may not understand the value of these suggestions.

So I wrote a lengthy and heartfelt response and shared it as a status update on my Facebook page in hopes to shed light on the issue. That “status” has now been shared over 180 times from my page, gained more than 1200 likes, and has been viewed by more than 10,000 people. Holy smokes! This tells me something I need to remember: when we open up and share our parenting failures and victories with authenticity and vulnerability, it impacts our hearts in a way that an idealized infograpic just isn’t able to.  (Another lesson learned by yours truly.)

I’ve included here below the status update I shared on my Facebook page:

My Parenting Lesson

I learned a valuable lesson when I weaned my two-year-old daughter from her pacifier. The first nap time without her pacifier she cried hard at not having her (life-long) established comfort method, but I felt like she would just have to learn the hard way, and without thinking I shut the door and walked away from Zoe because I thought there was nothing {else} I could do – just rip the Band-Aid off and get it over with.

As I stood alone in the kitchen trying to wash dishes, I could hear my daughter screaming painfully through her confused tears.  That moment, lightning struck my heart, and I thought to myself, “What am I doing? I would never walk away from a friend, or my spouse if they were miserably crying like that alone in a room! Why do I think it’s okay to do this to my own child?”

I turned on my heels, and rushed into her room. I got in bed with her, and held her close to me. I told her first that I was sorry, and then I told her that I could see how hard it must be to have to nap without her pacifier, but that I was there to hug her and hold her until she felt good enough to go to sleep without it. With great relief she quieted and sank into my arms and fell tenderly asleep.

After that nap, she NEVER asked for her pacifier again.

That day I learned that a mother’s compassion will lead her child to acceptance far easier than a mother’s silence.

Make no mistake, I am a momma bear with my kids, but I’m one mamma bear that always strives (often imperfectly) to consider the feelings of my children in the moment of their learning.

A-mother's-Compassion

Please be gentle with me and this personal experience I just shared with you. This is my story, and my learning experience, shared with vulnerability and honesty. Please do not attack my parenting skills, and feel this is your opportunity to use *MY EXPERIENCE* as a platform to teach *YOUR LESSON.*

There was a lot of gentle weaning that happened prior to weaning from naps. I did approach other ideas, (giving her paci away, etc.) and I did speak to my daughter over the course of a few weeks and months about how we would say good-bye to her paci at nap-times.

*A line of the “Tips for Talking To Our Children” infographic was edited  based on a Facebook commenter’s suggestion to say, “When you’re done eating…” instead of “Once you finish eating…”  Thanks for the tip, smart momma!

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!

Ten Tips for Smart Thrifting

15 Aug

A few months ago I gave myself a challenge: get dressed in something other than yoga pants for 30 days straight. I did fairly well, and managed to get dressed in real clothes every single day of that challenge (and have continued since). Much of what I wear, probably 75%, is thrifted. A lot of readers noticed this during my 30 day fashion challenge and asked me to share some of my thrifting tips. Here are my ten tips for smart thrifting.

1. Find the right store for your particular needs. We go to most of the thrift stores in the area to get a sense of what they offer. We find out which ones carry good prices and clean inventory on things like furniture, kitchen ware, baby items, clothing, electronics, and books.

Some thrift stores have great prices on clothes but poor prices on furniture; we make note of these particulars and keep them in mind when we’re making our rounds. If there’s something we’re looking for, like a piece of furniture, we’ll skip the ones that have outrageously priced used furniture and head to our local Savers. They always have good prices on furniture (but not so great on clothing). We found this vintage armchair for 20 dollars last week. Score!

My new vintage armchair works perfectly in my living room!

2. Go often. For any good find to be had you have to be there at the right time. Visiting your local thrift stores frequently helps ensure that you’ll find that diamond in the rough. Peter and I make a point to go to our local thrift stores about once a week. We don’t always need something when we go, and we don’t always make a purchase, but we always enjoy our venture out. A quick once through the store to see if there’s anything that looks like a winner – meaning the right item at the right price takes no time at all.

3. Make a quick sweep through the store. Walk quickly through the main departments of the store. Scan through the aisles, as you do pick up what you like and place it in your cart. Don’t worry, you won’t be buying it all, hopefully! This quick run through helps you find any stand out items right away before someone else does.

4. Find a specific section of the store that you’re interested in and focus your time there. Once you’ve done your quick sweep through the store, making sure that you didn’t miss any golden opportunities, focus your time in the place that you enjoy the most, or need the most. Maybe that’s looking at household goods, books, or baby items. You decide. And when you come often you can easily spot what’s fresh on the store shelves.

5. Don’t waste time by sorting through clothing racks.  This is the one thing that has changed my world as a thrift shopper. A lot of people will tell you the one way to find good clothes at thrift stores is to go through each clothing item on the hanger one-by-one. I disagree.

Instead, slowly walk through the aisle, and look at the top and the bottom of the clothing that’s hanging from the racks. If you know you hate polyester blended prints, than you can immediately see those items hanging and skip them. If you know you love cotton stripes, polka dots, or cornflower blue, when you see those things, stop, pull out the hanger, look it over, see if you like it, and if you do place it in your cart. (Don’t deliberate over the item, just keep moving through the aisle.)

Let me explain further. With jeans, I know I love a wide waist band and dark denim. I don’t have to look at every pair of jeans on the rack to see which ones have a wide waist band and or are a dark wash. I can see those details as I walk through.

Additionally, I may also slowly walk my fingers across the rack of clothing to get a sense of the texture of the clothing. I like worn cotton and soft linens. My sense of touch tells me when I found a winner just as much as my eyes do.

Scanning the jeans aisle with my son in tow.

6. Know your size and fit, and skip the dressing room. Unless absolutely necessary, I don’t try on clothes. You may think that’s a pricey mistake to make (potentially) but I’m okay risking it – especially when I know the return policy of the store. I have learned which brands fit in what way. I know when I see Gap “Curvy” jeans, which size is good for me. Likewise, I also know when I see Target brands which fits run big and which ones run small, and I make my choices accordingly. I only go to the dressing room when I really need help figuring out if something is worth it or not, or if I am really stumped on the fit of an item.

Scanning the women’s shirts, I found a color and texture that I like, so I pulled it out for a closer look. Unfortunately, it wasn’t right for me.

7. If you must use the dressing room, dress with quick changes in mind. There was a time when I always tried everything on. That was before I shopped with children. Now my time is too valuable, and my children don’t have the patience to wait on mommy while I sort through ten different items in the dressing room. If you can’t give up the dressing room, I suggest you dress with simplicity for your thrift shopping adventures. Slip on shoes and a tank dress were my go to uniform when I was shopping for clothes. I could try on jeans without even taking off my dress, and I would know just by the way the jeans hugged my thigh if they fit right or not – that move takes all of ten seconds.

8. Sort through your items at the end of your shopping experience, not during. When we’re finally ready to go, my husband and I meet together and pow-wow over the items that are in our carts. We show each other our selections, ask each other what our opinions are on things. We talk about the price of an item, its value to us, and then we glean through and get rid of anything that doesn’t keep our attention or affection. We always try to put everything back that get’s vetoed, however for clothing if we can’t remember where we found it, we place any unwanted items on the rack outside the changing room.

Sorting through the items in my cart. This shirt didn’t make the cut. I already own too many like it.

9. Sign up for the mailing list and get the membership card. A lot of thrift stores have special sale days like 50% off the entire selection in the store. You’ll know about this deal ahead of time by joining the mailing list. Many thrift stores will offer a discount card offering deals based on how much you shop there. Some thrift stores even offer a shopping discount if you donate items, so be sure to know what perks are available to you.

10. Make friends with the owner and shop workers. Keep the store’s number in your phone and call in if you’re looking for a specific item, this can save you a trip. Also, don’t be afraid to ask when new furniture gets placed on the floor or when amazing donations are made that highlight certain items you’re looking for. Being a loyal customer and getting to know those who work at the store are good ways to get inside information.

I hope my thrifting tips help you in your own second-hand shopping journey. Now go out there and find your bargains!

P.S. For the time being I’m taking a Facebook break, so if you would like to comment please do so on the blog (and not on Facebook) so I can see your thoughts. Thanks!

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