Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Advice For My Sister-In-Law


In a few short weeks, Jack is going to have a little cousin to play with! My sister-in-law is expecting her first child, a little girl. They are going to be wonderful parents, and that little princess is going to be very well-loved by the whole family.

When I was buying presents for the baby shower a few months ago, I tried not to buy them frivolous things. Just the stuff that I didn't even think needing before Jack was born. That got me to thinking about the stuff I wish I would have known before I had a baby. Rather than just lecture her to death over this, I'd thought I'd make a post so she can read it as she needs. And any other mom can share in the advice to.

Advice For My Sister-In-Law:

Labor and Delivery
  • Childbirth is a pain you cannot compare to anything else. I am not even going to try to explain or compare it. It's something unique and you need to experience to understand. But the phrase hurts like a mother f**ker doesn't even begin to explain it. And I had an epidural! 
  • But you will feel like a goddess for doing it. A gross, sweaty, fat, exhausted goddess. But a goddess nonetheless! You created a life! You are superhero!!
  • Listen to your body. Trust that your body knows how to do this (because it actually does!). If something doesn't feel right, tell someone. I did not want to lay flat on my back during labor because it didn't feel right. So, despite the doctor insisting, I stayed on my side because Jack and I were just fine. Later on the pain was different and I wanted to be on my back, suddenly Jack started to crown. My body knew what to do and I am glad I trusted it. This also includes if something doesn't feel right. Tell your nurse immediately if you even have the slightest bad feeling. Be your own advocate. 
  • Don't be upset if your birth plan doesn't work out. All that matters is your baby is healthy. Vaginal unassisted, epidural, induction, planned c-section, emergency c-section---all just semantics.  I suggest having a good birth plan so you know how to be your own advocate and can make informed decisions when issue arise. My birth plan went out the window as soon as I was admitted. I just stayed focused on my baby and everything worked out fine.
  • Bring snacks for your husband. Whether your labor be quick or slow, it will be hours  before he can walk away to get food. You are really going to need his support and he is gonna need his strength to do so. 
  • Bring something to pull your hair back. Hair ties, headbands, scarves or whatever. Not only will hair in your face piss you off, it might get in the way of medical procedures. I had to put my hair up for the epidural and when the they put the oxygen mask on my face. 
  • Push like you have to poop. Seriously. Push like you have to take the biggest poop of your life. I did not get pushing until a nurse said this to me two hours later. Save yourself the trouble, do it from the start. And if you actually poop in the process, that's okay. The doctors and nurses have seen it all before! 
  • If there is not a medical emergency, demand skin to skin contact right away. Pop that baby out and plop it on your chest right away! It is one of the most magical moment in your life. This tiny human that you made will know who are instantly and snuggle up. This time is also important as it helps regular baby's temperature, breathing, and heart. And encourage the needs to nurse. And if by some chance you can't do it, have your husband do it. Tell him to take his shirt off and snuggle that baby as soon as possible. Your baby needs that comfort! 
  • Try breastfeeding as soon as possible too.  Not that you can't do it if you don't try right away, but you will have a higher success rate the soon you try. 
  • No visitors until baby and you are situated in the postpatrum room. Your needs that family bonding time. A visitor will interrupt your skin to skin contact and breastfeeding time. They will want to hold the baby and hog up this vital time. No offensive to them, I know they probably mean well, but this is not their place. The only thing that baby needs is mama and papa for the first hour or two. Everyone else can wait. And if they aren't respecting this, call security. And I am so not kidding, they need to respect your wishes bottom line. Everyone respected this for me so there was no issue. My mom while Jack (followed by Michael) went to the nursery for testing. She helped me get situated in my postpartum room, which was a really nice bonding experience for us. Once Jack came back to me and we had a few more nursing attempts, then I invited the rest of family to come see. 
Hospital Stay Advice
  • You will probably get little rest at the hospital. Between the nurses come to check on both of you and the baby wanting to nurse all the time, it's exhausting. But try to rest as much as you can. I regret not sleeping more the first day so much. I was excited to show off my baby to everyone, despite being exhausted. Don't be afraid to visitors out when you are ready to sleep. Like I said, they need to respect your wishes bottom line. No one was rude and stayed later than I wanted, I just should have asked them to leave sooner. 
  • Going to the bathroom for the first time after birth is scary. Everything hurts down there (and if you had a c-section, the incision hurts when you walk too) and you will probably be exhausted. I'm pretty sure I looked like Bambi walking for the first time, I was so glad the nurse goes with you. The nurse will show you how to wash and clean yourself (especially if you have stitches). Take your time, listen to the instructions, and let them help you. I was still a little numb and needed my nurse to help me do everything.  
  • Don't be scared by the giant pads and mesh panties. They will probably put them on you right after birth. I was so fixated on Jack that I didn't even notice. But I was horrified when I saw I was wearing a GIGANTIC pad. I had heard about them but they were way bigger than I Imagined. They are really more like open diapers. But once I saw how much blood had come out of me, it made sense and I got over it. And the mesh panties---they totally do not look like the ones stripper's wear. They are more like mesh shorts. But they are soooo comfy and easy to put on. I took a few pairs with me when I left and wore them for the next few days until I was less sore and less bloated. Embrace them, they are amazing. 
  • Eat everything you can. Once you relax and your appetite comes back, you are probably going to be starving. Eat all you can! Eat the food the hospital gives you. Demand your family bring you something from your favorite restaurant. Pack plenty of snacks. You just burned as many calories as a climbing a mountain. Stuff your face, you earned it! Plus proper nutrition will help you milk come in.
The Fourth Trimester (The first three months postpartum)
  • Limit visitors for the first two weeks after birth. This is my biggest regret after Jack was born. Too many came over the first few days and I got very very overwhelmed. I was beyond exhausted and ended up crying after people left one day. And Jack wasn't happy either. He just wanted to be held by me and nurse, most visits ended with him screaming. It also interfered with us getting nursing down quickly. My advice is after immediate family has their initial meeting, close off visitation for two weeks to give everyone time to settle in. 
  • Do not accept uninvited visitors. It doesn't matter than Aunt So-and-so happens to be in town and wants to see the baby. It's not about her! She is a grown up who will get over it and can come see the baby later. If you let her come over, I guarantee other people will think that mean it's an open invitation for everyone to come whenever. Or they will get mad they didn't get special treatment and cause drama. Spare yourself, you have enough to worry about. So when Auntie knocks on the door, ignore it. 
  • Require people to either bring food or do a chore for you if they want to see the baby. I read this piece of advice before I gave birth and thought it was rude. How could I ask my guests to do that? After Jack was born I got it. They aren't guest, you just had a baby and have no reason to play host to them. You are doing them a favor to see the baby, so they should be paying you back for your generosity. When they contact you about coming to visit and you approve a set time, ask them to help you by bringing food. Even if it's just a loaf of bread or a cake. You will be so happy to eat a big piece of cake when you are nursing the next night at 2 AM. Or, ask them when they show up if they can please throw the load of laundry in the dryer while you nurse the baby first? That way the baby will be content and you will be free to chat instead of running around. Please you shouldn't be running around, you need to recover. Your  visitors should understand that. And if they chose not to come when you ask them this, that person isn't nice and shouldn't be around your baby.
  • Don't be afraid to kick visitors out. If you are tired, baby needs to nurse, or you are simply just annoyed, tell your visitors good-bye. Thank them for coming and let them wave bye to baby, then kick them out. And if they won't leave, take the baby into another room and don't come out until they are gone. It's not rude, you are doing what is best for your family. It's rude that they didn't respect your wishes! 
  • You don't have to listen to every piece of advice. You are going to get a ton of advice. Some good, some bad. Some wanted, and some very unwanted. Listen to it, and say thanks for sharing. If you like it, give it a try. If not, forget it and never give it a second thought. This includes my advice. 
  • Hold your baby, hold your baby, hold your baby!!! I know I said please to ignore advice you don't like, but please listen to this one. You cannot spoil a baby this young. Please hold your baby all you want. Your baby only has a few needs the first few months, and your comfort is one of them. Don't listen to people who say you should let your baby cry it out and learn to not be held. It's horrible advice, your baby will become very stressed out and not develop properly. I also suggest babywearing, they make some very simple carriers that are easy for anyone to use. Or give woven wraps a try, I love mine. 
  • You are going to get very little sleep. Between all the feedings, diaper changes, and taking care of yourself---sleep will become a luxury. And of course try to sleep when the baby sleeps, but you will probably spend it worrying the baby is breathing. 
  • Breastfeeding is hard. While it is the most natural thing your body can do, it doesn't come naturally to most women. You will need a lot of time, patience, knowledge, and support to be successful. It might hurt, your baby might gave tongue or lips ties that need to be surgically addressed, or you might have a medical reason interfering. All that being said, breastfeeding will become natural overtime. Now I can nurse Jack anywhere, anytime. I love Jack and I breastfeeding relationship, it's such a powerful bond. 
  • But don't give up when it gets hard. But with the proper help, you CAN overcome most issues. It might not be easy and it might not be a quick fix, but keep going. I almost gave up 3 weeks in, but I turned to La Leche League's website and gained the knowledge to overcome our struggles. Do everything possible. If one thing doesn't work, try something else. Keep trying, you CAN do it!
  • Join La Leche League. Or some other breastfeeding support group. You don't have to struggle alone. Do you know why the official book or La Leche is called "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding"? Because breastfeeding is an art! You need to be taught by someone with experience on how to do it and talk to your peers on how to advance your knowledge. Obstacles will come up that will blindside you, your fellow lactating mothers will talk you through it. 
  • If breastfeeding doesn't work out, that's okay too. After you have given it your all and you realize breastfeeding just won't work for you, it's okay to switch to formula. Your baby will still thrive. You didn't' fail, you just tried something that didn't work. All that matters is your baby is fed and happy. 
  • Don't look at the clock or follow a schedule for nursing.  "Your baby should nurse 15-20 minutes every 2-3 hours." THIS IS THE BIGGEST LOAD OF CRAP EVER! Most babies do not nurse like this. Nurse your baby whenever they show you hunger cues (rooting, hand sucking, fussiness) and nurse them as long as they want (and you are comfortable).  The best advice I ever got was "Never unlatch a suckling baby".  Who cares if it's been 45 minutes, your baby needs it. Even if they are not eating that whole time, they are comfort nursing---which is just as important as eating. It stimulates your milk production and comforts your baby. However, if your baby keeps popping off after a minute or two, make sure you at least keep trying to latch your baby for 15 minutes. Likewise, if it's been more than 4 hours without your baby nursing (like they are sleeping), latch them on and get them fed. There isn't really a thing as too much nursing, but they can nurse too little. That's the only time you should watch the clock. 
  • Give yourself time to heal.  The first few weeks the only things you should be doing sitting on the couch nursing your baby or laying in bed nursing your baby. Nothing else. Cooking, cleaning, work, etc.---that all can wait. You are gonna be sore ALL over. You are going to be exhausted. You are going to be worried about your baby constantly. Just sit down, hold your baby, and rest. 
  • Don't worry about losing the baby weight quickly.  Odds are you will not be that one out of a million woman who looks exactly like she did before she got pregnant right after birth. But that's okay. Just focus on caring for year newborn and healing yourself. Once you are cleared by your doctor, start taking some small steps back like walking with your baby and eating a healthy diet. It took 9 months to gain it, give yourself at least 9 months to get it off before you go crazy. I have lost all my baby weight plus 7 pounds by doing nothing but eat whatever I want within reason that is healthy, walk and nurse. And I'm only 8 months postpartum. 
Other Stuff that I can't explain, but you will understand soon enough:
  • You are going to love your husband even more now.  
  • You are going to love your mom even more now too. 
  • You are going to be a different person from now on. 
  • Your body will never be the same, but you will respect it's power. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Two Months of Baby-Led Weaning


It's been two months since Jack start eating solid food using the Baby-led Weaning method. I've gotten lots of questions from people, so I thought I would do an update. First of all, I just want to say it's been going great! Jack is slowly learning to feed himself well and it's be wonderful to watch him learn. He will try almost anything we put in front of him, and is starting to eat a good amount too. Last night he ate all his dinner and wanted a little bit more! I was shocked, who knew a 7-month -old would devour 5 layer dip and lil smokies?
Bean dip, a tortilla chip, and 2 lil smokies. 99% actually
 went in him and he looked around for a little more. 
I want to stress that this didn't happen over night and he doesn't always eat everything we give up. It's a learning curve and he's just now is on the upward slope. So don't panic if your baby doesn't clean their plate right away.

I also want to address some of the questions I've been getting lately too. I have to say everyone has been super supportive of our choice to feed Jack this way, but they still have a lot of questions. But questions are good, it's how everyone learns. Here are the most common ones and some answers:

Baby-Led Weaning Questions:

  • What does he eat?
    • Jack eats almost everything we eat. This morning I had toast with avocado spread on it, and Jack had the same thing. This does require me to meal plan and make sure that we are eating nutritious with little sodium and sugar---which is not a bad thing at all! I try to make sure we offer him one protein and one fruit/veggie every meal. And one or two starches/carbs a day. I will post a meal planner next week so you get some ideas. I also want to state that Jack totally know when we are eating something different. If he likes what we offered him, he will glance at our food but not care. However, if he decides our food likes better, he will demand it. Like hands out and screaming until we give it to him. So don't eat thing in front of your baby that you don't want them to have. 
  • How many meals a day does he get?
    • Gave him a lick of frozen yogurt,
      he wasn't too impressed.
    • Before I answer, I want to stress that this varies from baby to baby. So what works for Jack and our family, might not work for you. We offer Jack three meals a day---breakfast, lunch and dinner. But this is not a strict rule. Someday if he wakes up late, I skip breakfast for him.Or if we are out on the weekends and are too busy to sit down a for a real meal, nothing bad happens. And he often takes long naps right through dinnertime too. We just make sure he has all the milk he wants and that he's happy. Likewise, he can have more if he wants. If I am munching on a snack in between meals and he seems interested, I will offer him some. I was eating mango on a hike a few weeks ago and Jack was all over it. He ate a big wedge and still wanted dinner a few ours later.  
      He eventually ate that entire wedge of mango--and
      almost threw my keys into the ocean.
  • Does he use utensils?
    • He can use a spoon, but not that well yet. He manages well without it, even with liquidy things.
      Yogurt, no problem. I'll just lick my finger.
      I try handing him a pre-loaded spoon, but I think he gets too excited and becomes too distracted. I will carefully give him a bite off my fork on occasion, but I'm holding off on giving him his own fork until he masters the spoon. But once again, this is just my baby. Maybe your baby will be a pro with utensils right from the start. 
      He was so excited when I gave the spoon,
       he totally forgot about the yogurt.
  • Do you serve his food on a plate?
  • No plate needed for now. 
    • I've tried a few times, but he gets too distracted. He either chews or throws them (along with all the food). I usually just place his food right on the tray for his highchair. If we don't have the highchair, I place the food on a small plate and hold it down so he can't grab it. Or I just put the food in my hand and let him grab what he wants. According the the advice I've read off the Baby-Led Weaning Facebook page, around 9 to 11 months babies tend to ignore the plate, so I will try again later. 
  • How does he chew, he has no teeth?
    He was determined to eat that broccoli...
     There's a video on Instagram too.
    • When we started with solids two months ago,  Jack had no teeth in site. The book said teeth were not necessary and I could still offer him normal, not pureed foods. This honestly confused me, but I decided to give it a try. At first  made sure the foods I offered him we soft enough to be gummed or sucked. Like raw cucumber sticks and chicken chunks. And it worked! After a month he did get the hang of the chewing motion. It takes him forever to actually break down the food, but he does. One day he totally demolished the top of a steamed broccoli floret (though it took 15 minutes). Now he is on the verge of his bottom central incisors cutting through. Then I will start offering him slightly harder things. He really loves roasted parsnips and sweet potatoes, but he usually just sucks them down to mush. I think he will love to actually take a bite and taste the flavor. 
  • Aren't you afraid he will choke?!?!
    Bigger than choking size and smaller than choking size offered.
    • This is the question I get asked the most. Of course I am worried he will choke! I would be worried about it even if we did pureed foods! I'm his mom, I worry about everything that could possible happen to him! The key to not stressing over Baby-Led Weaning is trust. I trust that Jack has natural instincts to survive. I trust that he will try to gum/suck/chew his food as best he can before swallowing. I trust he will know when it's okay to swallow and when he needs to spit it back out. I trust that if he gags on something caught in his throat, he will cough it back up. And most of all, I trust myself to know when to intervene if this all goes wrong. You also need to understand the difference between gagging and choking. Gagging is when something gets caught or tickles your esophagus, causing your gag reflex to react and cough up what you swallowed. It's a normal survive instinct and it is important that babies learn this---as scary as it might be for you to watch. Choking is when something gets lodged in your windpipe and you cannot breath. Your gag reflex will react and you may be able to get it out quickly on your own, but probably will need assistance to clear it. I make sure I offer him foods larger than or smaller than choking size. Either small pieces about the size of a dime that he can chew, or chunks the size of his fist he can suck. Matchstick shapes are a great shape and size to start out with. I also make sure that I don't give him really hard foods that he can't breakdown in his mouth first, like raw carrots.
      He shoved the whole pancake in his mouth,
      but spit out what he couldn't swallow.
      You also should NEVER leave your baby alone when they are eating, in case something does go wrong.  That being said, Jack has not yet choked on food. But he has gagged on his food several times---and yes it scared me a little. The first time was on a slice of steamed zucchini. Michael, his parents, and brother-in-law were all over for dinner. We were chatting and eating, Jack all happy to have company. He was sitting on my lap chomping away on the zucchini when suddenly he cough forcefully several times. I quickly put my hand up to see if I could open his mouth when he suddenly coughed it up into my hand. He fussed a little because he was scared, but  reached for some noodles off my plate when he calmed down. I didn't panic and trust he knew how to save himself. And if he didn't get it up quickly, I was totally ready to intervene with the Heimlich and CPR if needed. Yesterday he also gagged on the tortilla chip (he ate it too quickly). He got it out quickly and threw up some too. He cried a bit because he was scared again. But after a sip of water and some reassurance from us, he went on to finish his whole plate like I said before. He's learning to slow down and chew his food properly. 
  • How do you know he's getting enough food?
    More on him than in him, and no idea how much
     actually went in but he had two helpings offered.
    • If you are type-A, controlling person this answer might drive you nuts: I have no idea how much he actually eats. I let him decide. I just make sure I offer him a reasonable amount each meal and he can eat as much or as little as he wants. Some days he eats with gusto like he's never been fed before---and still tries to steal my food. Other days he screams the minute he gets in the highchair, claps his mouth shut and throws his food at me in. Most of the time he takes a few bites and plays with the rest. All of this is normal. At this age, babies only need around an extra 200 calories from solids (data from my local La Leche League meeting), which is the equivalent to snack for adults.. And their tummies are still small you can't just expect them to eat 200 calories at once either.
      He spent 30 mins pushing the oatmeal around then wanted out.
      He knows his body better than I do. I just offer him healthy, nutrient-dense foods each meal. Maybe he wants 50 calories for breakfast, 100 at lunch and 100 at dinner? Maybe in the morning he will be too full from dinner still and want to breakfast, 150 at lunch and 50 at dinner. Or it could be growth spurt time and he super hungry so 150 calories at breakfast, 75 at lunch and 100 at dinner. But he can't tell me any of this so I just need to trust him. However, if your baby isn't gaining any weight or gains too much weight suddenly, then something might be wrong and you should talk to your doctor. 
  • What if he doesn't like what you offered him?
    I DON'T WANT THE ASIAN STIR-FRY!!!
    • Then he doesn't have to eat it. If he just too distracted, I will try to put a tiny piece in his mouth first to make sure he's tasted it. Quiet a few times I think he just gets overwhelmed by something and forget to eat. Once he gets a taste, he usually will start eating. But if his lips are sealed shut and he turning his head away, I let it go. Forcing him to to eat it is only creating stress and who wants to eat when your stressed out? Food should be joyful, not torture. 
      This day all he wanted was chicken.
      Guess he needed protein!
      Then I will usually try offering him something else to eat. Maybe he didn't like my black bean enchiladas that night for whatever reason, he can have some cucumber sticks instead. Or maybe his body needs protein and he actually wants some chicken. He usually will munch on something eventually after a few samples. And this so rarely happens that it's really not an issue for us.
  • What if he won't eat anything?
    I can't remember what I offered him,
    but he really could have cared less.
    • That's okay. "Food before one is just for fun." My milk is his main source of food so if he just wont eat, then he can have milk instead. Like I said, skipping meals at this age is okay. Maybe his tummy is upset, or he's already full? Why force him and make him throw up. It's just creating stress on both of you. Your baby also might not be ready for solids and this is queue to hold off. But, if you baby wont eat or nurse at all, something else might be wrong and you need to take them to the doctor right away. 
  • Do you take him out to restaurants?
    Our mini bear went out for breakfast!
    • We sure do! We don't eat out a lot but Jack does eat with us when we do. We make sure we order things he can share. Like I ask for a side of veggies instead of fries. Or dressing on the side of my salad. No heavy or rich sauces. And nothing too greasy or salty. The first restaurant he ever ate at was Black Bear Diner (besides the cafe at Ikea I mentioned in the last post). We went for breakfast on my birthday. We sat him in the highchair and asked for a little plate for him. He LOVED Michael's bacon, but munch on some spinach and potatoes from my hash too.
      He didn't know what to pick first at Veggie Grill
      He was big fan of  Veggie Grill too, especially the piece of tempeh and tomato from my burger. He almost forgot about the plate this time because he was so excited for food. 
      He mostly just played with the menu and
      watched the waitress run around.
      Sometimes he gets overwhelmed by all the people, lights, and decorations so he wont eat much. We went to Red Robin last week and he was more interested in the drink menu and the waitress walking by. 
  • Is it hard to not help him eat?
    He can hold a rip bone by himself, he doesn't need my help.
    • It was at first. I grew up with the standard of spoon-feeding a baby a certain amount, so it was hard to not try to help him. Especially when he would miss his mouth or spit it right back out. I have to tell myself  "It's not about the food, it's about him learning the skill of eating. He will get it in eventually, if he wants it." I do help him if he struggling to pick up something he wants and is getting frustrated. And I must confess, when we are eating out I either hand him one piece of food at a time or place it in his mouth for him. I don't mind him getting messy when we are out, but I don't want him to throw it at someone. And at home we have a towel down so I can pick food up and give it back to him. I can't give him something he dropped on the floor of a public building. And at home I get him more food easily if gets dirty, I can't afford to do that out. So it's not quiet within Baby-Led Weaning guidelines, but it works for us. I don't make him eat anything he doesn't want to and he still learns how to eat. 
  • Isn't this just wasting good food?
    This is actually not a lot of food on
    him, maybe 1/2 tablespoon?
    • And spoon-feeding doesn't? Spoon-fed babies still spit out, throw, and smear their food everywhere. Plus it's not like I'm making him a whole separate meal. He gets a small portion of our food, I don't make any extra or do anything special (except not put salt, sweetener or heavy sauce). Sure that's maybe 100 calories we would have ate, but we are adults and can get other food later if we want. So yeah he's thrown an small omelette at me and wasted it, but it was half an egg's worth from my husband's bigger portion. Not a big deal. Plus, I personally think jarred or pureed baby food is more wasteful. All the time, money, and energy spent on cooking, mashing/pureeing, and jarring. Then reheating and separately from your own meal getting them to eat it. Too much for me. 
I hope this answer some questions and helped you decide if Baby-Led Weaning is right for your child. By the way, it's never too late to try this with your child. Even a 10-month-old who was spoon-fed rice cereal from 4-months-old will still like to try eating with their hands for fun!


Monday, November 3, 2014

Traveling Baby Part 3: Traveling Without Baby


The last part of my Traveling Baby Series is traveling without your baby. That's right, I dared to leave my baby for a few days! It was nerve racking at first and I worried about losing my breastmilk supply, but it all worked out pretty well in the end.

I wanted to do something nice for our first anniversary in September, celebrate the amazing and challenging first year we spent as husband and wife. It's enviable that once you have a baby, romance becomes a scare thing between couples. I figured if we wanted to stay married, we needed to celebrate. Then my parents offered to fly down so we could go somewhere for the weekend. I love my baby very much, but my first instinct was, "YES, I COULD GET SOME SLEEP!!!" Only someone who has raised a child can understand what I am talking about. Jack wakes up at least twice a night still and gets up bright and early each morning. I am so tired all the time that I hardly even notice any more. I know this is normal and won't last forever, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't love a chance to get some baby-free sleep!

We settled on Reno and booked a room at Harrah's for 3 nights. Close enough to drive but far enough away to feel like a vacation still. Plus we love driving through Gold Country (see my Babymoon post). We could gamble, drink, relax, and sleep! We were both really looking forward to it.

How could I leave this cuteness?!?!?
Now I know what you are thinking, "How could you leave your 5-month old? Especially an exclusively breastfed one who likes to co-sleep? And with your parents that he doesn't see often!" First of all, let me say I did worry A LOT about going. A LOT. I kept thinking he would start screaming and not eat until I returned. So we made the deal that at any time, for any reason, we could call it off. Even if we were already in Reno, just jump in the car and haul it back home. Second, my parents came a few days early so Jack had time to adjust. I also made a detailed outline of Jack's daily routine to help them keep him happy. Lastly, I completely trust my parents. I think this is key to leaving your child with anyone. If you have any reservations---even a teeny tiny voice that says "Ehh..."---then don't leave your child with them. Plain and simple. That right there will make it less stressful for everyone.

I think it's safe to say he loves his grandma...
Oh, and the breastfeeding thing. Remember that freezer stash I determined to build up before I went back to work then ended up not needing? Well, my parents now had plenty of milk to feed Jack while I was away. And no, my parents did not co-sleep with him. But they were prepared for him to wake every couple hours for a bottle at night. My brother and I never slept through the night as babies, they knew what to expect.

Nothing says romance like drying pump parts in your hotel room...
I also planned on pumping every 2-3 hours to keep my supply up. However, I decided I didn't really need to replenish my freezer stash and I didn't want to deal with a bringing a big cooler to bring it all home. So I decided to donate it a local mom in Nevada through Human Milk 4 Human Babies. It's a wonderful donation network that allows moms with extra milk to directly donate to moms (and other caregivers) who need it. It's so easy too, just find your state Facebook page and post an ad. A mom or whoever will reply, then you set-up a place to meet and give them the milk directly. I posted a month before and set-up to with a mom who was struggling with a low supply on our way home.

So, we planned it all out and were ready when the time came. My parents arrived late 3 days before. That night we just went about everything as usual, just with them here. The next day they watched him while I went to work in the afternoon and helped put him to bed. The next day they watched him the whole day while I went in for a normal  8-hour day shift.  Jack was happy and comfortable with them, so we went ahead with the trip. We left for Reno the next morning and Jack didn't even care! He was sitting on the porch with grandpa looking at the flowers. I was sad as we drove away but knew it would be alright.
This is how much fun pumping in the car is....
The drive was lovely---until we hit the smoke. A massive wildfire was burning near South lake Tahoe and had shut down HWY 50. We had planned on taking HWY 80 all along, but it was smokey as hell in North Lake too. Like at one point it felt like we were driving through fire and brimstone. And it kept getting dark out the closer we got to the lake! But once we turned away from the lake and headed towards Reno, it cleared some and we saw daylight again. It was still smokey in Reno but I didn't care. We didn't plan on being outside there too much and all I really wanted was some sleep!

Once we got our room, we took a long nap. It was glorious. I love co-sleeping with my baby, but it was soooo nice to cuddle up with my man and pass out for once. That night we walked to Noble Pie Parlor and got pizza and beer. I found this place on Yelp. It was good, but weird. Like a college house party that this one guy you talked to in class a few times invited you to, but it turned out awesome, but you feel awkward still because you know no one there. Made us feel like kids again, worth checking out if you can handle that sort of atmosphere. We got back late and passed right out again. I woke up 7 hours later to rock-hard, aching boobs. I pumped 9 ounces each side that morning. But it didn't effect my supply at all, just painful.

The next day we went to Virginia City. We may be nerds who love history and geology, but this place was TOTALLY awesome. You need to check out everything, but I really suggest the Washoe Club. We took the ghost tour and had a drink too. Really fun and not too expensive. We wish we had more time there There was still so much more to see. I foresee a family vacation there when Jack is older. I pumped on the way there in the car, about 3 hours later, and again on the way home. I brought a soft mini cooler and an ice pack to keep the milk cold. It was kinda annoying to have to go back to the car and waste precious time there, but it wasn't that big of a hassle overall.
I drank it all, I was drunk and I have no regrets!
The rest of the trip we just relaxed in Reno (and slept a lot). When we were just hanging out in and around the hotel, I just used my double electric pump back in the room. It wasn't a hassle and I just popped the milk right in the mini fridge. I did pump twice when I was drunk, and that milk was dumped right away.We went out for a nice sushi dinner the night of our anniversary. We planned on getting very drunk and going crazy afterwards, but I forgot the flanges to my pump so went back to the room. After I pumped, somehow we ended up falling asleep watching TV instead...oops.

The milk to donate on my lap while we drove to Carson City.
The next morning we got breakfast (Hash House A Go Go is AMAZING, giant plates with tons of flavor) and headed off the Carson City to meet up with the mom I was donating milk to. Before we left the hotel, I placed all the  milk storage bags in a large zip-lock back, then placed that bag in a bag of ice. We met her in a store parking lot right off the highway, gave her the milk (72 ounces) and she gave me replacement storage bags. Not every mom will offer storage bags, HM4HB is a free service, so don't expect this every time. The mom was very grateful and I was more than happy to help her little one thrive.

That's not clouds, it's smoke.
We had drive through that shortly after I took this. 
Highway 50 was still closed from the fire so we took a long back way south through the Sierra. I ended up pumping two more times in the car. That milk became Jack's bottles for when I was at work the next day. We got home around 5 PM and I expected a big reaction from Jack....but I got pretty much nothing. They were waiting on the porch for us and he just calmly looked at me like, "Oh, hi. Where you gone?" I didn't care though, I snatched him up and covered him in kisses. I was happy we went, but more than happy to come home.
We bought Jack a coyote puppet in Carson City,
he was sort of amused by it when we got home.
It all worked out well and we had a lot of fun. I have a few tips on how to handle traveling without a baby under a year old, especially for the first time.

Traveling Without Baby Tips

  • Leave your child with someone you completely trust. And I mean completely. Someone you know very well and has extensive experience caring for children. And, I know this may sound harsh, but sometime older grandparent or family members may have health problems that could inhibit proper childcare. Don't feel bad if you have to turn down someone you love because you are worried about them falling or forgetting to do something. Just be nice about it, but your child's health is more important. My parents are in good health so I wasn't concerned. 
  • Make sure you leave with them clear instructions. Don't just chuck the baby at them and run. This will stress them out and cause them to not do a good job. And it will stress your baby out to vary so far from their normal routine without you. Babies can perceive and expect some consistency, even right from birth. This is why I left my mom the outline. So she knew about when he naps, eats, and plays. At the time he had also just started Baby-led Weaning and she needed to know what foods he could have as well. Give instructions for everything possible to avoid a major issue. 
  • Make a list of important contacts and numbers Pediatrician, Urgent Care, Hospital, a relative or friend nearby, and where they can reach you. I left a list with full names, addresses and phone number in case of an emergency. I know that you could just say "Nearest Urgent Care" to Siri nowadays, but a quick list make it easier on everyone. I also left my parents with Jack's insurance cards, vaccination record, and identification---plus I took copies with me. 
  • Give your baby time to adjust. If the person isn't normally around baby much, odds are they might flip out to suddenly be left with a stranger. If possible, have the person come a few days over and stay with you so the baby becomes familiar with them. Like I mentioned earlier, Jack didn't seem to care I was even gone in the end because he was comfortable with my parents. 
  • Leave enough supplies, where to get more supplies, and what to get.  It's can be stressful to watch someone's child, give them a break and leave them with everything they need so they aren't running around town. I left plenty of breastmilk. And I left a can of formula in the event something happened to freezer stash. I also left plenty of diapers, wipes, shampoo, lotion, & etc. I also told her all the brands we use and where should could go get more. For example, Pampers are the only diapers that fit  Little Mr. Fatty's thighs well enough to prevent blow-outs. I would hate for my mom to buy Luvs and her end up washing poop off everything. Likewise, Jack has never had formula before, the brand I have is designed for breastfed babies. If she bought another brand, he might get sick and not eat it. And that formula is only sold at Babies 'R' Us around here so I wouldn't want her to waste time and money going to a store that doesn't carry it. Or her buying a brand that he won't eat. 
  • Have regular check-ins. My mom sent me updates and photos every couple hours to reassure me everything was okay. It calmed my nerves and it made me happy to know he was still happy. How can a mom expect to have fun if she doesn't know her baby is happy!
  • If you are breastfeeding, figure out how pumping before you go. I tried to pump as close to Jack's normal nursing schedule as possible, in order to milk my established supply stable. If this is not possible, make sure you pump at least every 2-3 hours during the day. And if you miss a few sessions, nothing will happen. Especially if you skip it because you are getting some much needed sleep! I suggest bringing an electric and manual pump since you never know what might happen during traveling. And bring more storage bags than you think you need just in case. Also, consider what you want to do with the milk afterwards. I suggest donating if you don't need the extra. But if you do, make sure you keep it cold. Bring a cooler and buy enough ice to get it home.You can even pack on dry ice to keep it frozen if you like. If you are flying, you can carry breastmilk on a plane (even in a giant cooler). Look up the current laws first and make sure you declare it to the TSA agent at security.
  • It's okay to worry. You are leaving your tiny little love behind, it's okay to worry and be upset! You can even cry as you drive away. You are this little person's whole world and you spend every waking minute caring for them, you are supposed to miss them like crazy! But take assurance knowing you little one will be loved and cared for, and enjoy your small break from the stresses of parenthood (and get some sleep!)








Friday, October 10, 2014

Traveling Baby Part 2: Airplane

Next in my traveling baby posts is airplanes. After my major fail from Jack's first road trip, you can imagine I was very nervous about flying with him a only few weeks later. My parents wanted us to visit and I was invited to a sorority sister's wedding reception, so I figured it was worth a flight. When I told my mom the dates we were coming, she was sad it was only for the weekend. I was still on maternity leave, but Michael had to work and couldn't take that much time off. Then my mom pleaded that I come up with Jack first, then Michael joins us for the weekend. So now I had to brave flying ALONE with a baby!

I was hellbent on avoiding this again at all costs.
I came up with a good plan and was hellbent on executing it properly this time. Jack is the least fussy in the morning so we picked an early flight. Jack is young enough that he doesn't need his own seat either, so I didn't need to worry lugging a carseat along too (my parents bought one to keep there for when we visit). I wanted to get to the gate about an hour early so didn't have to rush but wasn't waiting around getting anxious. I wanted plenty of time to change him, nurse him, and maybe get in a short nap if needed. Plus you know get through security and such. And I knew I needed to wear him in the Boba Wrap through the airport to keep him calm and happy. I chose the Boba over my woven wrap because I can pop him in and out easily. I was advised by my La Leche League to nurse him during takeoff and landing to help with his ear pressure. And they also told me it's required he be out of the wrap during flight for safety, so make sure I bring a pillow or something for him to sleep on (and not kill my arms). I planned to take my time getting off and get him back in the wrap, to keep Jack calm and happy. Then walk off, hug mom and dad, then jump in the car back to their house. For the flight home, it was later in the afternoon---after Jack's nap time---so I figured a similar protocol would work. Get there with just enough time, wear him, nurse him on the plane, hope he sleeps, and not rush getting off the plane. Plus this time I would have Michael to help.

Wear your baby through the airport! 
Then the day came. We got up early that morning, but let Jack continue to sleep. Just when I finished getting ready, he woke up and we got him ready too. There was traffic getting the airport, but we planned for that so we had plenty of time. We parked, got Jack in the wrap, got our tickets, said good-bye, and went to security. By that time Jack was asleep. I calmly went through security to my gate.

First class his first flight!
As I was waiting at the gate, they kept offering upgrades to first class for only $50....so I texted Michael and he said I could treat myself. I was so excited! I know that families travelling with infants board first anyways, but it was nice to board with first class. The minute I stepped on the plane, one flight attendant was eyeing my baby.  She offered to hold him while I got situated. I know some people might be worried about letting a stranger hold their baby, but I wasn't too concerned. I figured she must be a mom herself and knew the troubles of travelling with a baby. And she wasn't going to hurt him because she probably wanted to keep her job. Plus, it's not like she could run off with him, we were stuck in a metal tube! I was nervous about how the person sitting next to me would react to a baby. It was a middle-aged man on a business trip. As he getting out his laptop, he noticed Jack. He said "Hi little guy!" So I faced Jack towards him and said "Hi, I'm Jack! I'm only 4-months-old and this is my first flight, I apologize if it doesn't go well." He smiled and said, "No problem Jack, I remember what 4-month-olds can be like." I was relieved.

He met this pilots and got his wings!
Then something awesome happened! The flight attendant told me bring Jack to the cockpit to meet the pilots before the doors sealed. So I quickly brought him up there and we snapped a photo. Then they gave him his wings and a certificate. I showed them to Jack and he just tried to suck on them, but I was so excited for him!

Tired from screaming and playing with his toy.
Shortly after I got back to my seat, we began to taxi. I put Jack on the nursing pillow and began to nurse him. He was all happy until we began to pick up speed. He began to scream once we lifted up. I kept trying to latch him on, but he wasn't having it. Five minutes later, I gave up and sat him up. He calmed down instantly and reached for his toy in the bag. Duh, he is a very alert baby. He likes action. He wasn't mad about taking off, he was mad I wasn't showing him the take off! He played with his toy for awhile, then made the milk face so I nursed him. Then he fell asleep and slept right through the landing. I waited there in my seat until half the plane left, then I gently woke him up. The flight attendant held him while I got my wrap on and bags together. Then we happily walked off the plane.

I was surprised to only see my mom. My dad had to run into work for a bit. My mom doesn't like driving to Portland so we had to take the MAX home. Jack fussed a little on the train, but I just nursed him to sleep.

The rest of the trip was great, got to see friends and sorority sisters I haven't seen in years. And Jack got lots of grandparent time. Michael joined us that Friday too.

He had a solid hour nap on the plane.
The flight home went just as well. We got to the airport with just enough time (I love that there is hardly any traffic in Oregon). I wore him through security and everything went smooth. No cheap offers on first class this time sadly. However, I decided to not take him out of the wrap this time. He was sound asleep and he needed a good nap. If the flight attendants asked me, I would of course comply. But we boarded, got comfy in our seats, and the plane took off. No one said anything. Every airline has a different policy on this so I looked up Alaska's beforehand and they indeed to do not allow babies to be in carriers during flight. They either need to held or in a carseat in separate seat. I am not advocating breaking any airlines policies or saying the crew didn't do their jobs. But it worked this one time, and I am glad I got away with it. Jack needed that nap. To be honest, I probably won't do that again now that he's older anyways.

He couldn't just wait until we landed...
He woke up halfway through the flight, so I took him out of the wrap. He was all happy and very interested in looking out the window. Then, he farted really loud and we knew he pooped his diaper. Really kid, you couldn't wait a little bit longer until we were back in San Jose? Some airplanes do not have changing tables, and I didn't want to risk hauling Jack and the diaper bag all the way to the bathroom for nothing. So I changed Jack on Michael's lap quickly. The guy next to Michael was asleep and Jack's poop didn't smell yet. Plus, I did it so quick I doubt anyone noticed.

He loved looking out the window!
I tried to nurse him as we descended, but once again he wasn't having it. So I sat him up and showed him stuff out the window. Look Jack! There's the Bay! There's 280! Oh, there's the Santa Cruz Mountains! Oh, right there baby, is Loma Prieta were a big earthquake came from! There's Gilroy where all the garlic is! and etc. I'm sure I sounded like a crazy lady, but it made Jack happy. And we landed with no screaming or tears.

We got our bags and met my sister-in-law out front. It all went very well and I have no more worries about flying with a baby anymore. Hopefully he stays this good as a toddlers...

Here is my advice for flying with a baby under 6-months-old:

  • Plan for every possible scenario. Too hot, too cold, running late, running early, flight cancelled, sick baby, sick parents, tired baby, tired parents & etc. And expect that one of these WILL happen. That way you aren't stressed out when it does happen. I didn't panic when my mom said we had to take MAX instead because I kept that option in mind. I didn't panic when he pooped, because I knew that the pressure might upset his tummy. 
  • But don't over pack. Have back up things in your diaper bag or carry on, like extra diapers and clothes for sure. But don't bring unnecessary stuff. If your bag is too full, you won't be able to find stuff easily. And it will be a pain to lug around an airport while holding a baby. 
  • Don't rush, leave plenty of time in case something does happen---like Bay Area traffic. No one wants to be that person running to the gate with a screaming baby. Horrible way to start or end your vacation.
  • Wear your baby. If you only remember one thing from this post, make it this. Whether it be a wrap, ring sling, soft structured carrier, buckle carrier, mei tai, or any other type---get that baby on you so you can easily move about the busy airport handsfree. 
  • Take care of your babies needs right away. Keep them comfortable as possible to avoid a meltdown.  Feed, change, play and get them down for a nap as needed, don't delay. Would you be happy sitting in your own pee for a whole plane ride? Or told you can have food as soon as we land when you are starving? I'd sure throw a tantrum too! This is why we changed Jack's diaper right away. 
  • Try to plan with baby's schedule in mind.  That way there is even less chance of a meltdown. We flew around times that Jack naps so he could sleep most of the ride. It worked very well. 
  • Ask for help if you need it.  If that nice flight attendant offers to hold your baby while you sit down, let them. If the person next to you asks if you need help getting a bottle from your bag, accept it. Don't stress yourself out doing it alone. 
  • Help baby with ear pressure. Nursing, a bottle, pacifier, or anything else they can suck during takeoff and landing is a must. Jack was content with just sucking my finger---but he sucked hard, his ears must have really popped.
  • Keep in mind every baby is different. Jack didn't want to nurse, but was happy looking at the window. Maybe your baby will need to nurse the whole flight. Maybe your baby will scream the whole time no matter what you do.  All of this is okay, so don't panic if your baby doesn't cooperate. 
  • Upgrade to first class if you can afford it. And I mean only if you can afford it, don't go broke because I told you it's better. But it really was nicer. More room, free snacks and drinks, and just overall more relaxing with a baby. 










Thursday, October 2, 2014

Traveling Baby Part 1: Road trip


Our family is lucky enough to have people who love us all over world. Seriously, we have family and friend all over the United States, Australia, New Zealand, The Middle East, and South America. Michael and I love to travel, and are very excited to take Jack on many adventures. I tried to find blogs from other mom's about traveling with a baby, but most of them were for ones over 6-months-old. I wanted to know what it was like traveling with a baby that can't even sit up yet. So I hope this post helps someone who is up at midnight the night before a trip with their very little one and finds some relief.

This will be a three part post. Next will be air travel, then traveling without baby for the first time.

For the Fourth of July weekend, we went up to Michael's sister's house just outside Sacramento. To avoid the insane traffic from the people heading that way to Lake Tahoe, we decided to leave at 8 PM Wednesday night. Jack goes to bed around that time and usually can fall asleep in the car easily. So, I thought we would get him all ready for bed, put him in the car drowsy and he'd be asleep by the time we hit the freeway. Then he would sleep for the 2 or so hours there, wake for a feeding when we take him out, and then he'll go right back to bed for the night.  We did something similar when we went to Sonoma for the day. He slept most of the way their so I thought this would be just as easy.
He was good and sleepy, so we got in the car.
Wrong. I was so wrong. So very wrong. I blame my husband for his one entirely. I told him very clearly that we need to leave as soon as I am done nursing Jack, while he is still sleepy. I thought I made it clear we had a small window of drowsiness to get to the freeway to lull him to sleep. I told him to pack the entire car and have everything ready to go while I got Jack ready for bed. So I took him the bath and Michael started packing. I thought all he had to do was put the bags in, feed the cats, and get in the car. Well, once Jack was all ready for bed and nursed to drowsy Michael was still running around. I told him we needed to leave and got in the car. I waited 10 minutes in the car and was getting mad. Jack lost his drowsiness and was WIDE AWAKE. Once Michael finally got in the car, he tells me we need to go drop the garage door opener off at his other sister's house so she can feed the cats while we are gone. I was very mad. Why didn't you tell me to do this before!!!! So by the time we drove down the street to her house, Jack was overtired and screaming.  I pulled out a bottle to try to calm him and began to sing to him.
Daddy took too long and now I'm wide awake.
Once were on the freeway, we instantly hit a ton of traffic. Stupid Tahoe traffic.... It took an hour for Jack to fall asleep. I know he would have fallen despite the traffic if we had left when he was drowsy. So between the traffic and being mad at my husband, I was really stressed out and did not want to be stuck in a car for 3 hours. Michael apologized and explained he didn't understand why I was adamant we leave so quickly. But after seeing how Jack reacted, he got it.
This last about 35 minutes.
So I calmed down and decided to close my eyes for a bit .Then I saw little feet moving out the corner of my eye. He woke up! So I spent the next two hours trying to get him back to sleep. Nothing worked, he was wide awake and pissed off. He was crying and reaching out for me. I knew nothing was wrong, he just needed a calm place to go to sleep. But nothing was going to put him to sleep as long as we was in the seat. Of course as soon as we pulled up to the house, he was got quiet and calm. Michael quickly put the pack n' play together while I swaddled and nursed him. He slept like an angel that night, only waking once at 5 AM.

Jack had a very fun first Independence Day otherwise. We drove to Lake Tahoe on Saturday to see some friends. Jack did better on that ride. He slept longer because we left right at his nap time. And this time we pulled over when he got crabby. I also brought toys to amuse him when he woke up. On Sunday when we left, he did better as well. There was less traffic so he slept more and only fussed when we were 15 minutes away from home.

Going home was a lot happier. I covered him
up to block the sun so he would sleep longer.
We learned so much from that trip so Jack is doing a lot better in the car now. He has been back to Sacramento and a bunch of other places since then. We will be attempting another night drive in a few weeks for a cousin's wedding. It's going to be about an 8 hour drive, I'm hoping that we execute this one properly. I'll let you know how it goes.

My Advice for Road Trips:
  • Plan for everything to go wrong. That way it's not stressful if it happens. I was so sure everything was going to work out great that I was not prepared for it to fall apart.
  • Make a plan and STICK TO IT. Improvising will only add stress to you and the baby. If you plan on putting the baby down sleeping in the car like I wanted to, make sure you actually are on the road so they actually go to sleep. I should have made sure everything was packed and done before I ever put Jack in the bath. I should have not put Jack in the car until Michael was in the car first. I should told him his sister didn't need the garage door opener (she has a key to house she should could still get in) and made him just get on the freeway. I still believe it would have worked (or at least gone better) if we stuck to the plan. 
  • Check traffic conditions. I didn't check traffic until we hit a major backup. I thought for sure we would have missed all the commuters and people who left for Tahoe right after work. We would have taken a back road out the Bay Area and gotten on a different freeway if we had checked first. It probably would have cut 2 hours off our trip. Two hours less stress for Jack. 
  • Pull over if baby gets too mad. I don't know why I didn't yell for Michael to pull over so I could comfort nurse him back to drowsy. Then he would have been happy and quiet stuck in traffic at least.
  • Bring more milk than you think you need. I only brought one 2 ounce bottle with us. Jack downed that pretty quick and wanted more. And he was even madder when there wasn't more. I didn't plan on him being awake and demanding milk! I should have either brought a bag from my freezer stash or just brought my pump to pump as needed in the car. 
  • Keep the baby at a good temperature. I bundled Jack all up and once he started screaming, he was dripping in sweat. I ended up pulling off layers through the carseat to cool him down. Likewise, if you are blasting the AC to stay cool, make sure you are not freezing your baby. Try for one simple base layer then adding blankets as needed. 
  • Bring entertainment. I also did not pack Jack any toys for the car because I assumed he would be asleep. So when he woke up and had nothing to do, he became bored. An angry baby that is also bored is never a good thing. 
  • Bring something soothing. We gave Jack Michael's old cell phone (deactivated most of the settings) so we can play soothing music for him. This didn't help much driving that night since Jack was way overtired, but on most other road trips it helps lull him to sleep.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Beginning Of Baby-Led Weaning


  *Follow our BLW journey on Instagram @vegan_babymama

In my last post, I explained all my reasons for wanting to do baby-led weaning. I think it's a natural way to introduce solids to an infant without all the stress and drama of spoon-feeding purees. Plus I get to continue to breastfeed Jack on demand for as long as he and I want. Win for everybody!

The key to successful baby-led weaning is to only start it when they meet all the milestones, which I will recap:
  • Sit up unassisted. 
  • Reach out for objects and bring them to their mouth easily
  • Loss of the tongue-thrust reflect (when they automatically force something out of the back of their mouth)
  • Chewing on toys or mimicking you while eating
  • Reaching for and/or taking food to their mouths, if given the opportunity
Most babies do all these at 6+ months. In the book, many moms said they didn't start until 7-8 months even. In most cases, feeding babies solids before 6 months can have major health consequences. Their tummies simply aren't ready to handle anything other than milk. The saying is "When their outsides are ready, their insides are ready." If they can do all these milestones, their tummy can handle solids.

So when I finished the Baby-Led Weaning book when Jack was 3.5 months, I had no plans on starting him anytime soon. At that time he could mouth objects and barely sit up assisted. Then a few weeks later he reached out for a toy and grabbed it. Just laying on his side, nonchalantly grabbed it and brought it to his mouth to suck on. Maybe a weeks after that, he sat up very well assisted. Another week later or so, I noticed his tongue thrust was gone. He has always loved suck on my finger, but this time he brought it to the back of his mouth with his tongue deliberately. No gagging or forcing it back to the front. Next came the curiosity. He would STARE at us while we ate. I mean like stop everything he is doing and focus on our food. Then he began to smack his lips together as he watched us. I started putting his swing next to the table when we ate. He'd munch on toy and stare the whole time. I knew was growing fast, but still thought the other milestones were months off.

At his 4-month check-up, she said we could start solids if we wanted to, but waiting 2 more months is ideal. I still wasn't even considering it. The that week, he sat up unassisted. I let go of him and he didn't fall in any direction. Granted he was leaning way over and cried 30 seconds later, but he did it. This really put me through a loop. He was only 4.5-months-old!

I still thought I could hold him off, then this started happening:

He tried to steal my food! At first it was just wanting to see what was on my plate. Then he wanted to be held or lay in front of me while I ate so he could watch more closely. This led to taking the plates and later sucking on them. Then he tried grabbing our food. If appropriate, we let him hold a piece, but he usually just dropped it.

Then the day came when I couldn't ignore it anymore. He was super fussy and wanted to be held, but I was hungry. So I put him in the wrap and made some lentil soup. I sat down with him still wrapped to eat. I got a text and started to read it when I noticed my hand was moving... He grabbed the spoon (top right on the collage) and put it in his mouth! It was mostly just the broth, but he moved it around his mouth and swallowed. It had curry powder and red pepper flakes in it! What are you doing kid? You shouldn't be ready for that! I told my husband and he said he's still too little, but knew I couldn't keep putting it off.

Then the next day I made a smoothie and he demanded it (center of the collage). I mean squealing and failing around on my lap to get it. So I gave him the straw and he quickly put it in his mouth. It took him a minute, but he did suck some down. He coughed, then smiled and took another little sip. I was stunned. After that he wanted to hold the cup while I drank and intently watched me. That was the last milestone. I couldn't ignore it. He was telling me was ready, 4 days shy of being 5 months old.

I did some research. Other baby-led weaning moms said their babies were ready a month early and they ended up doing great. But I was still worried about his gut not being totally sealed up yet. I researched that too, recipes for bone broth came up. Apparently the natural gelatin in helps everything close up (even in adults with leaky guts). Plus the vitamins and minerals from the vegetables help replenish his stores (babies are born with a certain amount that they leached from mom that lasts them until they are to get them from food). It sounded like a good starting food. The only probably is it wasn't vegan! I know I said that Jack will be raised eating both foods , but I didn't exactly want his first food to be from an animal. But I knew it would be the best for him. And it wasn't the end of the world, he might still end up a vegan. I got over the worry and decided to make some bone broth.

My house smelled like turkey for days,
not appealing to a vegan.
That's right, I said make my own. The "broth" they sell in stores is not the same thing. It's made from meat scraps and has a lot of sodium added for flavor. Real broth is made from roasted and boiled bones. If I was going to start my son on food, I was gonna do it right. So I bought a roasted turkey breast from the store (I was not in the mood to roast my own and turkey was all that was left when I got off work). I picked the meat off and gave it to Michael. Then put the carcass in with celery, onion, carrots and garlic. I let it simmer overnight. I added a touch of salt, pepper, and a sprig of rosemary for flavor. I let it cool and drained it.

Little man was very happy afterwards.
The large photo is him licking his lips.
I got my lunch ready and then put Jack in the highchair. He was so happy to be at the table for once and not next to it. I need to explain why this is the only thing I will spoon-feed Jack. Everything he will feed himself. The reason I am doing this is because I actually do want him to ingest some to seal up his gut. But I let him have all the control. He got to pick which spoon or to drink from the cup. He chose the Asian spoon. I let him open his mouth and lean forward to take it. He instantly started slurping. A lot of it went down his front, but he got some. He started hitting the tray asking for more. I gave him more and he took the spoon to lick up all he could. So I turned to my food, had a few bites then gave him another spoonful. I only poured maybe 3 tablespoon into the cup. He maybe had 1? It doesn't matter with baby-led weaning. He had just nursed so he wasn't hungry. It was just a little top off. He told me he was done when he turned his head away. But he wanted to play with the spoon so I let him while I finished my food. It was calm and happy. I had lunch with my son for the first time. So beautiful, proud momma moment. My husband had dinner with him that night and he loved it too.
Definitely more on him than in him.
We did only bone broth for 2 more days. Then I introduce the first real solid food: egg yolks. Again not vegan, but high in iron. Iron is the first mineral babies deplete. I hard-scrambled just the yolk. I let it cool and place it on his tray. We sat down for our first Sunday morning breakfast as a family. I put one piece of egg in his mouth just so he had a taste, he brought his hands up to hold it. He didn't eat too much of the egg, mainly just played with it and licked his fingers. He got it everywhere, we even found some under his neck later on that afternoon. But it was still fun and I was proud he was learning.

My wrap ended up covered in lentils. But he was so happy.
That afternoon we went to Ikea to check-out this bed frame we are thinking about getting. We had lunch at the restaurant there and Jack wanted some too. I first offered him a piece of my tortilla wrap, he just held it. I offered him some lentil soup. He played with the spoon and ate a few (like seriously maybe 4 lentils in the end). He mostly made a mess. But it was still fun.
He kept making faces but going back for more.
The next day I gave him avocado slices for breakfast. I sliced them into strips. I left the skin on a few pieces and took it off on the others. The ones without were too slippery and he dropped them. He could pick up the ones with the skin, but couldn't get his mouth around them. Then he did something amazing, he pulled off the skin and took that to his mouth. He licked off the bit of remaining flesh very easily. That is when I convinced I was doing the right thing. He was ready and this was the best way to introduce food to him. Even if he was all covered in green like a mini Hulk afterwards! We did bone broth for lunch and dinner again that day.

He LOVED the cucumber. 
A few days later we stepped it up a notch. Cucumber stick, bell pepper stick, and some cold soba noodles. When I set the food, down he just stared. Then he realized I was eating the same thing and watched me for a minute. Then he slowly picked up the cucumber stick (I learned from the avocado and left the skin on and cut off most of the flesh) and he began to suck on it. He loved it! After a little while he reached for the bell pepper stick and sucked that too. He liked it, but not as much as the cucumber. He then threw both sticks on the floor, then he noticed the noodles. He grabbed the little pile with his hand took it to his mouth. Most fell in his lap, but a few made it in. His face lit up, this was his first experience with real flavor. He just sucked them and coughed a little. But overall was very happy.

Then came bananas. I cut off about an inch from the one I was going to put into my cereal. Then I cut it into quarters lengthwise and left the peel on for him to grab. He picked them up easily but instantly was not a fan. He kept making a major puss face. He did get one big bite in and spit it out very quickly. He played with them mostly, which is fine. We will try again another day. And if not, I won't make him eat them if he doesn't want to. He was much happier with the bone broth for lunch and dinner instead.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. As he continues to grow, we will try more and more things. And he will learn how to eat better and start telling me what he wants. I look forward to this journey with him!