July 21, 2016

Getting on the water with a baby

Adjusting to life with a baby involves figuring out how to continue much loved activities, like getting out on the water during the warm-weather months. Boating is a big part of our summer, and a pastime we hoped to introduce our son to. 

photo credit: Millennial Mama blog

As a newborn and within the first few months, our son didn’t like his car seat – Was it too hot? Was it a wet or poopy diaper? Perhaps a general discomfort with being away from Mom? His fussiness in the car made it difficult for us to travel anywhere with baby.

Boating, we quickly learned, has a magical effect on babies. We first took our baby out on the boat at two weeks in order to introduce him to life on the water. The loud sound and vibrations of the motor coupled with the movement of the waves must have reminded our new baby of life in the womb where the loud beat of my heart accompanied his daily rhythms. In this way he always slept soundly on the boat, and great nighttime sleep resulted from these days of long naps and plenty of fresh air.

Travelling by water quickly became our preferred means of getting around with a newborn baby, and we came up with some creative ways to do so. We would boat to the town docks and walk to the nearby grocery store, buy ice cream cones, or pick up some wine for dinner with friends at the lakeside liquor store. Once we took weekend guests through waterways and locks to a restaurant only accessible by water. Another time we anchored on the shores of a popular island where we picnicked on snacks and enjoyed the company of other boaters. Feeling more adventurous, when Finn was seven weeks old we boated through a series of lakes to camp overnight on an island. Knowing Finn was comfortable boating at an early age gave us confidence in resuming our lifestyle outdoors.

photo credit: Millennial Mama blog

Here are some tips for boating with a baby

  1. Start them young. A baby accustomed to the sounds, smells and feeling associated with boating at a young age is less likely to develop anxious feelings about boating.

  1. Choose a good lifejacket. During our first boat ride, we borrowed a lifejacket that wasn’t a good fit for us. It rode high around our new baby’s head and was padded all around making it difficult to hold baby comfortably, making him fussy. Our infant lifejacket is made by Salus, which fits babies 9-25 pounds well and is easy to get on and off.

  1. Bring coverage against the elements. Grab a muslin blanket for even those hot days on the water. Wrapping your sleeping baby in the thin layer will help protect him from wind while on plane while still allowing breathability. Coverage from the blanket doubles as protection against sun exposure, especially when babies are too young for sunscreen.

  1. Take swimming lessons. When baby is old enough to do so (our private aquatics instructors recommended after 4 months) take swimming lessons to acquaint your baby with the feeling of water. Most babies love the weightlessness and comfort of water. It might surprise you how babies instinctually close their eyes and hold their breath come when submerged properly. Lessons will get baby ready for swimming and activate baby’s instinctual behavior in water.

  1. Have fun! Parents who are comfortable doing so will encourage children to enjoy boating as well. Be creative and boundless in how you and baby can explore lakes and waterways near you.

photo credit: Millennial Mama blog

Becoming parents is transformative, but having a baby doesn’t have to mean an end to much loved pastimes. We may have to rethink activities we used to do with ease, but with a little reimagining it’s certainly possible. You’ll be happier as a result and your baby will benefit from a richer life outdoors in nature.

What tips do you have for getting out in nature and back to activities you enjoy? Share your boating babes with #sweetstellas on Instagram.

Danielle is a high school teacher who is currently enjoying her days listening to baby boy giggles at her home by the water that she shares with the love of her life.

She and her family call lake country of Ontario, Canada home, where they spend their days on the water, walking in the woods, and living mindfully.

While always known for her devotion to reading and writing, motherhood inspires Danielle to tend to her passions and to unapologetically make meaning of her life.  She is mindful of the importance of wellness for herself, her household and the environment we all rely on.

Danielle is the writer and creator of the beautiful Millennial Mama blog.

July 19, 2016

5 Questions to ask a New Mom

We've all been there. A friend has a baby and we immediately want to swoop in for a snuggle, go ga-ga over buying cute baby gifts and maybe even make a meal or two to bring to the new parents.

Before you head over for a visit, consider the following questions and tips that we've compiled for you.

Did you know that one of the things that new mom's crave most is adult conversation? So often at our weekly Moms Get Social group we hear stories of motherhood, women coming forward and talking about their birth experiences and the first few weeks postpartum, and really what rings true is that they want to get back to being themselves.

Here is a list of questions to ask a new mom when you pop over for a visit, and a snuggle.

What would you like for breakfast/lunch/dinner?

Chances are, Mom doesn't quite remember the last time that she had a full meal. Bring something with you that is either something she has been craving since being pregnant or something that is exceptionally tasty and good. If the response is I don't know or Oh, don't bring anything, we are fine....bring something anyway. Coffee and donuts. Breakfast burritos. Her absolute most favourite meal. Sushi. Butter Chicken. Anything. She will love you for it even if she doesn't want to ask for it.

What setting do you use for the laundry?

Weird question, right? While it might catch Mom off guard for you to be asking about their laundry habits, it makes perfect sense to ask if there are any special instructions for their washer or dryer
before throwing in and completing a load for her. 

How do you install the carseats?

Important information for you to have for when you pick up the older kiddos and take them to the park, museum, splashpad or library! Giving a new mom some peace and quiet, time to nap, and space to breathe is an incredible gift and she's lucky to have you do that for her!

When is the best time to visit?

This is something that people often forget. Babies have schedules and parents like to stick to them if they are working. While certainly, babies sleep a lot, there are certain times that don't make for great visits. Bath time, feeding time and nap time are definitely times to steer clear of as they add a level of stress to the parents that they simply do not need.

Is there anything you need? 

If the answer is no, I'm ok...ask more questions. Advil? Hygene products? Wine? Chocolate? Formula? Diapers? Go through a list of essential mom and baby items, and even if the answer is still no, I'm ok...bring chocolate. And wine. Always chocolate and wine.

At the end of the day, never arrive to a new mom with empty hands. Bring something with you whether it is coffee or a meal, a gift card and instructions for her to take herself out shopping for a half an hour while you get your snuggles in, or even candles and a bath soak for mom. Bring something for mom specifically....she matters so so much.


July 13, 2016

Doula Bag Tour: Phone Chargers

Seems like a no brainer, right? Sure, but it's something that can easily be forgotten when rushing out the door at 2am to meet you at the hospital!

And it's not just that we pack a charger block and cord for our own phone. We often pack an additional block and some of us have portable energy sources (ie: Mophie chargers) that we slip, fully charged, into our bags.

It's just one of those things that we know if it's not in the bag, it will get forgotten and when you are rushing to the hospital or calling the midwife, you aren't thinking how much battery power does my phone have?

This way, whoever needs a charge, has access to one when we are there.

It also means that we are able to play podcasts for you if that is your wish, can look up information for you while walking the halls with you, even send messages out for you if you need or want to keep friends and family updated of your progress or arrival of the baby (with your phone of course, which it charges on our Mophie!)

Phone chargers. Super important to pack, often forgotten on your rush to the hospital, but always in our doula bag!


July 11, 2016

Why You Need A Doula: A Dad's Perspective

Recently a few skeptical Dads-to-be have scoffed at the notion of using a doula. Given that I was once a (very) skeptical Dad myself, it seemed pretty reasonable that I could provide some perspective, so my wife asked me to pen a few thoughts. The elephant in the room here is that, at present, your wife (or baby-mama) is presumably giving some consideration to utilizing my wife’s services as a doula. If, because of this, you think my opinion is too tainted to provide an objective opinion, you might as well stop reading. Seriously, just stop now. I won’t be offended (I also won’t know).

If you’re still here, it means you’re willing to accept the fact that I can give an unbiased account from the guy’s perspective of what utilizing a doula is all about.

An important item to acknowledge is that before we used a doula for the birth of our second son, I had only an extremely vague idea of what a doula was. I pictured someone who would push herbal remedies and be against modern medicine assisting with my son successfully navigating his way into the world. Basically I pictured someone you couldn’t even pay ME to have at my son’s birth, let alone the other way around.

With that said, I conceded a meeting to my wife with the doula she wanted. While this was to placate her, to a degree, I also admittedly was coming to the process with an open mind (despite what I wrote above). To understand the full story (and understand why I even gave consideration to my wife’s request that we use a doula), you need a little context. This was our third pregnancy, and it would be hard for the first two to have gone much worse.

In 2010, we had our first son, Owen. His arrival was more than a little rocky. A few months into the pregnancy, we had a pretty major scare. We had to rush to the hospital, and really weren’t sure if he was going to make it. Fortunately, he was ok and we trudged on.

Things really came to a head when she went into labour. The day was seemingly going according to plan, but once she delivered we were missing that expected sound of a crying baby. They whisked him (and me) away from my wife and began fervently working on him with some emergency measures.

It was a total freaking whirlwind. I had absolutely no idea what was going on and nobody was telling me anything. It was pretty clear that the umbilical cord had wrapped around his neck and had seriously inhibited his breathing. Looking back on it, they clearly didn’t have high hopes for our little man pulling through. At one point all the doctors stopped their work on him and just asked me to stand with him, hold his hand, and wait. At the time, I seriously had no idea what was going on. Looking back, thinking about what they were having me do, I can’t even type the words.

After that, things started to go downhill (you think I’m kidding, just keep reading). For the first few months of Owen’s life, my wife battled pretty severe post-partum depression (PPD). Her biggest “trigger” at that point was the (ever controversial) topic of breastfeeding. She couldn’t do it. Given that this is completely out of her control (maybe her physiology wouldn’t do it, maybe Owen wasn’t latching properly, etc.), this seems like something you’d try to have roll off your back. But for so many women, and my wife in particular, there’s a huge amount of guilt associated with not being able to successfully breastfeed.

Add it all up, and first 6 months were just brutal.

Flash forward now to the summer of 2013. My wife had been trying for quite some time to convince me to have another kid. For so many of the reasons above, I was skeptical. Why would I want to do that again? The only (not-so) logical answer was how amazing a person our little guy had turned out to be. It was all “worth it” goes the cliché (clichés don’t become clichés without being true).

So I agreed to give it a go (the process of bringing the baby about was also a drawing card).

My wife got pregnant pretty quickly (my boys can swim!) and we excitedly began to picture our lives with two little ones. In late August, we had a scare very reminiscent to the one we had during Owen’s pregnancy. Perhaps because we had pulled through the first time, I actually didn’t think much of it when we went to the hospital. I assumed everything would be fine. Well, it wasn’t. We lost the baby. Essentially all of the fears that I had going into the process had been realized. So that was nice.

All of that brings us to pregnancy #3. A few months after the miscarriage, we tried again, and again my obvious baby-making proficiency came through in relatively short order. By the winter, we were through the first trimester and things were well on their way.

That’s when my wife introduced the concept of utilizing a doula. I did a little bit of research (ie. Wikipedia) to understand what a doula was, asked my wife a few questions, and agreed to the previously referenced meeting. My wife was convinced that using a doula would help to alleviate a number of the aggravating factors that had challenged our first birth experience. I was less so convinced.

But I attended the meeting nonetheless, and much to my chagrin, the girl was super nice and not at all weird. She spoke at length about providing support for both parents through the process to ensure everything went off without a hitch. It became clear to me that a GOOD doula (at least by my definition) does not push their own views on the parents, does not fear-monger about breast feeding, and certainly does not add another stressor to the process.

A good doula takes stress off the table. A good doula provides support in whatever size, shape, or form you need.

My wife became fast friends with our chosen doula and our interaction with her was very comfortable. We built a strong rapport very quickly (which was good, given that she would soon be there to witness my wife passing a human out of her vagina).

Our birth experience with Graeme was night and day different from that with Owen. It was stress-free. It was positive. I dare say it was easy.

Through the labour with Owen (just under 13 hours from when we arrived at the hospital to when he arrived), I was the only resource available. Anything she needed, any comfort measures, any complaining, it was all me. I was the gopher, the sounding board, everything (which is fine, because it’s what you do).

Through the labour with Graeme? Umm, well basically I had a 3 hour nap while our doula stayed up with my wife. It was glorious. I think they woke me about 20 mins before Graeme was coming (enough time to shake out the cobwebs and fix my hair). He arrived happy and healthy, without any issues.

I realize if you’re a skeptic you’ll (fairly) note that the doula’s presence had nothing to do with us avoiding the trauma we had during Owen’s birth, but in truth the biggest misgiving I had about the first experience was how little of an idea I had of what was going on. I’d never done any of it before, didn’t know what I could ask, or what I was allowed to do/say. A doula reminds you that you’re the ones having the damn baby and have a right to know what’s going on. Believe me, I’m very much of the mind that we should get out of the way and let the very-well-compensated doctors do the work that they’re so well-compensated to do – but communication is nice, and having a voice there to help us through the first process would have been huge.

This experience has been totally different. I’m sure a big part of it is that having a second kid comes without the shock factors of being a new parent, but this experience has been so much easier, and I’m certain that part of the credit for that goes to us having worked with a doula.

To be clear, this is not a blanket endorsement for doulas. This is an endorsement for expanding your support system with someone that you are comfortable with, someone that will improve your personal experience (and that of your wife/baby-mama) with the crazy, challenging, amazing, insane process of bringing a human into the world.

So if you’ve read this far, you might as well at least agree to sitting down with my wife to hear what she has to say, to see if you think there’s a fit, and to see if you think she might bring a positive element to the process for you. If after that, she’s not for you, no hard feelings. The best thing you can do right now is at least have an open mind. Having a baby is the hardest thing you’ll ever do, and you don’t even have to physically HAVE him/her. The fact that you’re reading this tells me that you’re a logical, sensible person at least willing to consider all angles of something before passing judgment. I’d encourage you to give this some consideration as well.


July 4, 2016

Take Pause and Reflect on Motherhood

No matter where you are in your journey, whether you are just starting to plan for conception or you are adding to an already large family, or are in the stages of welcoming grandchildren; take time this month to pause and reflect.

You've come a long way, and should be proud of the mother that you are.

Take pause

Those moments where you were tearing your hair out trying to get them to eat their vegetables, or to not wake the baby during naptime....

You made it. You survived.

This journey is yours, no matter what path you are on. It is beautiful and amazing. It is difficult and tests your limits like nothing else.

It is yours.

Take pause

You are an incredible human being, and your children are lucky to have you. Be proud of where you are in your journey of motherhood, for we are certainly proud of you.


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