My First Year with Baby Must-Haves

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I remember feeling fairly confident going into motherhood though I was told soon before my daughter’s birth that nothing can truly prepare you for the challenges of parenthood – you just have to experience it. While the parenting book I read did give me some idea of what I was doing, this was accurate – I mostly learned as I went. It was stressful at times during the first year, but along the way, I found a few items that my baby and I loved. Maybe they can help you and provide some comfort on your parenting journey!

  1. Baby Dove Tip to Toe Body Wash Sensitive Moisure and Baby Dove Face and Body Lotion Rich Moisture

When my daughter was a couple of months old, patches of eczema started showing up on her limbs and torso. After doing some research and reading tons of reviews, I decided to try these Dove products that I saw many moms raving about. I used Dove products when I was younger because of my sensitive skin, so I figured it might be more gentle on my baby. We use these a couple of times a week and my daughter’s eczema has decreased dramatically. I’ve since heard of several other eczema products that mamas swear by but these provided a quick fix for us!

2. Silicone Bibs

Starting solids is an exciting time, but it is also an extremely messy time. When Cora started finger foods, I would watch again and again as she practiced her pincer grasp, went to put a piece of food in her mouth and then dropped it before it got there. While we were using normal bibs when feeding her pureed foods, I bought a couple of silicone bibs to try because I liked the idea of having a little pouch to catch fallen food. It worked! Now when Cora has eaten all the food on her tray, those sticky fingers grab pieces of food that fell in her pouch (instead of falling on and staining her clothes). I also appreciate how easy these are to clean!

3. Silicone Fruit Teethers

The silicone fruit teethers aren’t a necessity, but they were a favorite in our household! I found as we were transitioning from pureed foods to finger foods, these helped her get more texture out of fruits that she couldn’t easily pick up and chew yet, but could smush around in one of these teethers! With these, she was still able to get some mango, peaches, etc. in her diet while getting used to eating foods with more texture.

4. Sleep and Plays

With how much Cora hated to change clothes and how wiggly she was from the get go (coupled with my fatigue), I really didn’t have much energy to put her in anything but sleep and plays for the first month or two. Zippered sleep and plays kept her warm, provided easy transitions when changing diapers or going into naps and came with cute designs!

5. Hatch Sound Machine

We LOVE our Hatch sound machine. It also acts as a night light and time-to-rise, but we only use it for the sounds and lights. I love how you can customize your favorite sound and light pairings to find something that soothes your little one best. We like to use the rain sounds at night and the waves for naps!

6. Portable White Noise Maker

If you want to visit a friend, go for a walk, or go on a car ride and you know your baby will need a nap somewhere in there, this portable white noise maker can help make them feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar place. When Cora was still sleeping in our room, we put the Hatch by her bassinet and used the portable white noise maker for naps in her crib.

7. Blackout Curtains

So many articles will tell you to make your baby’s room as dark as possible to limit any distractions that might keep them awake at night or during naptime. These work so well – better than the blackout curtains I bought from a department store for our room.

8. NoseFrida

This is not a glamorous topic, but at some point, your baby might catch a cold. The usual nasal aspirators were difficult for me to use. Even with as a gross of a concept as this is, the NoseFrida worked so well for us. Even the pharmacist said she loved it for her grandkids over the bulb syringe.

9. Stroller Fan

It stays hot in the South for a looonnngg time. This stroller fan brings relief on our trail walks and on car rides!

10. Halo Swaddle and Sleep Sack

A local pediatrian recommended the Halo Swaddle for us during our first visit. At almost a year old, Cora still uses Halo products but is now in the sleep sack. It’s like a wearable blanket. With the Halo swaddle, we liked that it was designed in a way that you didn’t have to buy another product when transitioning your baby to arms-free sleep.

11. The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies

This is a bonus item! The days are long but the months are short, and pretty soon, your baby burrito will be an always-wiggling, never-sitting-down, picking-up-every-crumb toddler who will want to explore everything. And you know what? It’s an exciting time as a parent. You’ll still be tired but you’ll be watching your toddler’s personality bloom as they experience so many firsts.

The Montessori Toddler taught me the benefits of letting my child lead. It reminded me that when we let a child try and try again, get messy and explore the world around them on their own terms (with the limit’s of their safety and the safety of others), instead of rushing them through the process, they can actually learn to be more independent. I believe that mindset can help strip away any perceived frustrations of parenting a toddler. I’m excited to try out the suggestions in this book as my little girl grows into toddlerhood.

Every mama has her own tried-and-true products that she loves. What were yours? If you are a mama-to-be (congratulations!), what is on your registry that you are excited to try?

Traveling from Zurich to Liechtenstein

Zurich

Our short stay in Zurich in 2017 was comprised of good eats, several walks (particularly to the grocery store to get some AC) and people watching. This bustling city was different from our stay in the quaint Lucerne, but it had a youthful vibe, which made me reminisce of college years spent getting late night snacks and chit-chatting with friends not so long ago.

If you saw my Instagram feed before our Swiss trip, it would make you salivate. I followed both the Taste of Zurich and Zurich Food Guide in preparation for our trip (Instagram is my local food guide) and I would scroll through posts of hearty sandwiches, scoops of colorful gelato melting in waffle cones, and bowls filled with a rainbow of veggies and noodles. It was AWESOME. While we only visited one spot of the many well-reviewed restaurants, it was one you don’t want to miss.

Kafi Dihei outside Zurich Switzerland

Kafi Dihei was less than a mile from our AirBnB, so we decided to make the stroll. Ivy streamed down the front of the cafe and we were excited to see the neighbor cat, Sira, chatting up nearby birds. When we sat down, Sira instantly came to greet us and tell us what was best on the menu. As the waitress joked, “If it tells you it hasn’t eaten in a week, it’s lying.” Sira recommended the pork schnitzel, so I got the dang pork schnitzel. It was the right choice. Seth got the open-face ham and cheese sandwich with the soup of the day. We devoured our food, leaving nary a crumb, as we listened to some college students studying French and kept Sira purring. I have a feeling if we were locals, this would be a go-to spot.

There were several sites to see in Zurich, but we were pretty worn out! We wanted to save our strength for our journey to Liechtenstein – the sixth smallest country in the world!

Liechtenstein

This day-trip from Zurich is well worth it! It is just an hour train ride to Sargans, Switzerland, and a 10-30 minute ride (depending on which line you take) on one of Liechtenstein’s lime green buses. The best part – it’s all free with the Swiss Travel Pass! As you ride the bus, you don’t even know when you’ve gone from one country and entered the next.

Liechtenstein’s population is nearly 38,000 (about the size of Tupelo, Mississippi) and it’s capital, Vaduz, has about 5,500 folks (that’s about 1,500 less than the small town where I grew up).

Vaduz castle Liechtenstein

Prince Hans-Adam II is the country’s leader, and you can actually walk to his castle! We were dripping with sweat as we made the walk up the steep,  cobblestone path and then trekked through the wooded trail, but we were smiling at the top! You get to learn about the history of the country every few steps. Moments like these are worth the climb.

Trail to Vaduz castle

We ate at Brasserie Burg (delicious) and I had my first ever gelato at Dolce Vita! Dark chocolate gelato with golden flakes.  Since Liechtenstein gets a lot of visitors from both Switzerland and Austria (the countries bordering it), lots of stores accept both Swiss francs and Euros. Dolce Vita was about the only spot that didn’t accept credit cards, which we found out AFTER the guy behind the counter scooped our gelato into cups. So, Seth had to go find a bank and get some Swiss francs while I waited, trying not to look awk.

Art in Liechtenstein

We spent a lot of our time checking out the local art in the city streets, meandering through a museum (also free with the Swiss Travel Pass) and being in awe of the staggering mountains.

View of the Alps near Liechtenstein castle

Thanks for reading!

Adventuring through Switzerland’s Lucerne, Interlaken and Lauterbrunnen

Swiss flag with Mt Pilatus in background

Lucerne

The city of Lucerne takes you back in time with remnants of centuries past lurking around every corner. But before we dive into the city’s history, I want to tell you about one of my favorite experiences – a day trip to Mt. Pilatus.

Mt. Pilatus

In medieval times, tales of scaled and winged beasts spread through the cantons on which Mt. Pilatus is centered. Legend has it, the dragons who took refuge in the great mountain massif’s caves possessed mystical healing powers. Should you happen to be about when one soars by, count yourself lucky if you find yourself feeling healed.

Taking a trip to the summit of Mt. Pilatus is well worth the experience! It was one of my favorite days of the trip. You can either take the full tour (free with your Swiss Rail Pass) by taking a boat ride across the sparkling blue-green waters of Lake Lucerene, creeping to the summit on the world’s steepest cogwheel train and then going down the mountain on aerial cable car and a gondola OR you can take the whole trip the other way around. A local gave us the tip of taking the route less traveled – a trip up the gondolas and cable car first. After seeing the line of people waiting to go up the cogwheel train, we knew we made the right choice.

On our trip on the gondola, Seth and I were amazed at the views of Mt. Rigi and the towns linked to Lake Lucerne. We went through a few stops up the mountain and thought we were almost to the top. Then, our faces widened in surprise when we realized we still had a loooonnnggg way to go. The trip to the tip-top is accomplished by an aerial cable car, where you are sardined for a short ride. Take a chance and look down! It’s shocking to see how far you’ve come!

We walked a couple of the trails around the summit, spotting paragliders in the skies and taking in the jaw-dropping views of the Swiss Alps laid out on the horizon.

I then had the bright idea to hike to some rocks I spotted in a valley. Yes, in blue jeans and a cute shirt, with my purse and phone in hand and barely a grip on the soles of my shoes, I hiked down that trail at a snail’s pace, watching as folks going up took their strides in hiking boots and with hiking sticks steadying their climb. It might have been one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done – hiking down Mt. Pilatus alone – but I would do it again for the chance to spot blooming wildflowers, make friends with cows meandering the mountainside, take in views from the valley and earn the bragging rights to say I hiked in the Alps.

Going back up the trail was a feat as the thin air got to my lungs and my breaths just didn’t feel quite satisfying. Needless to say, I stopped several times along the path but eventually made it back to the top. Where I’m from, it’s really flat, y’all.

Lucerne’s Old Town

Exploring Lucerne’s Old Town only takes a few hours and is easily accomplished with a handy “Official City Guide” book. I assume you can pick these up at the train station. Luckily, our AirBnB hosts already had one available.

The Kapellbrücke, or Chapel Bridge, is the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe and spans the Reusse River. While walking along it, follow the stories painted on the bridge’s interior. These paintings date back to the 17th century, though many of them were destroyed in a fire in 1993. The bridge is lined with flower boxes, which were full of summer blooms when we visited.

The Jesuit Church sits along the Reuss River in Lucerne’s Old Town. It’s picturesque on the outside and the inside (be sure to look up!). It was founded by Ignatius of Loyola in 1534.

Dying Lion of Lucerne statue

The “Dying Lion of Lucerne” is a reverent spot where you might want to sit and stay a while. It represents the 300 Swiss soldiers who died while attempting to protect the Tuileries Palace in Paris during the French Revolution, hence the fleur-de-lis and the Swiss cross shields by the lion’s side.

Zyt tower Musegg Wall Lucerne Switzerland

The Musegg Wall stands as part of the rampart walls built in the 1300s. Four of the nine towers that dot the wall are open to the public. The Zyt Tower (pictured above) houses the city’s oldest clock. The clock is carried by two giants and chimes on the hour one minute before any other in Lucerne.

The Spreuer Bridge is the oldest timber bridge in Switzerland. As you walk along it, the paintings overhead depict a Dance Macabre.

Interlaken Switzerland dessert restaurant

Interlaken

We strolled the streets of Interlaken (locked between the blue-green waters of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz) in search of the Funky Chocolate Club, which had enticed my eye through several Instagram posts. The mountain views in Interlaken were outstanding, but the bustling city center made us glad we chose Lucerne for the majority of our stay in Switzerland. Though if you are looking for outdoor adventure, Interlaken is the place you want to be. On our hunt for Swiss chocolate, we walked by a park where several paragliders were landing after a trip in the skies.

The Funky Chocolate Club, I feel like, is a must! I got their cold chocolate drink and picked up a half dozen variety of chocolates (golden champagne chocolate, mocha, nutty nipple, salted peanut butter, lemon and caramel) to eat on the train ride home.

Lauterbrunnen panoramic

Lauterbrunnen

Have you ever wanted to live in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Elven realm in The Lord of the Rings? Visit Lauterbrunnen and you’ve found Rivendell. It’s said that Tolkien drew his inspiration for Rivendell while hiking through the Lauterbrunnen Valley back in the early 1900s.

Swiss Alps Lauterbrunnen Switzerland

Honestly, step away from the train station in Lauterbrunnen and you are stunned by the mountains towering above you (which have even bigger, snow-capped mountains looming behind them) and waterfalls cascading close-by quaint cottages.

Fondue pot

We ate lunch at Hotel Oberland in Lauterbrunnen as we tried to find a place to cool off from the summer sun. You won’t find AC in many European spots, and it was just as hot walking the streets as it was sitting indoors. While the prices were steep at this restaurant (as they are in most of Switzerland), the Swiss fondue was good! This picture was taken right before a bee rolled all up in Seth’s spaghetti. We felt defeated trying to get away from the heat and couldn’t help but laugh as Seth tried to free the bee from the spaghetti monster entree.

We were hooked by Lauterbrunnen’s charm and spent a couple of hours exploring this beautiful town, trying to keep the memory of it forever in our minds.

Long Weekend in Colorado Springs

Colorado was a thrill – an adventure I miss. Seth & I planned a mini-vaca, just four days in Colorado Springs in October 2016. The Rocky Mountains greeted us even before we landed, peeping up over the clouds on our plane’s descent. The view each morning as we stepped outside into the crisp autumn air was a perfect picture of golden Aspen trees and towering mountains.

Our main activities were the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Seven Falls and the Garden of the Gods.

The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was a great start to our vacation. It was the first zoo we had ever visited together!

Zoo Perks:

  • You get to feed giraffes. MUST do this. It’s hilarious to watch their tongues roll around and stretch out for your handfuls of lettuce.
  • Stand 5 feet away from wallabies – no barrier between you.
  • Have parakeets willingly perch on you as you give them snacks.
  • Random animals, like peacocks, walk the zoo trails by your side.

Next up, we went to Seven Falls. There are a couple of ways to do Seven Falls – take the tram to the bottom of the waterfalls or hike it. We wanted the full experience, so we hiked, taking time to appreciate the wildflowers and spot the various characters in the canyons. It’s about .08 miles up from where the bus drops you off to the bottom of the falls.

Hike to Seven Falls by Where Woman Wanders

Tips for Seven Falls:

  • If you can, hike it. Let nature soothe you as you meander through the canyons.
  • Climb the stairs to the top of the falls, but take your time. There are 3 flights of what seems like 100 stairs – the elevation might get to you.
  • As you come down the stairs… clutch the rails because oh my gosh, the vertigo!

You can’t go to Colorado Springs and not do the Garden of the Gods!

Garden of the Gods panoramic

We found a comfy spot on the rocks and got our picturesque view of Pike’s Peak in the distance. You can see where the tree line stops on the mountain, and though we would have liked to visit Pike’s Peak, we didn’t get a chance. If you get to, I recommend trying the Cog Railway. Book it early though, because it fills up fast.

View of Pikes Peak mountain from the Garden of the Gods

Why You Should Visit Montréal

Church in Montreal Quebec Canada

It’s a difficult task to sum up in a few words the adventures you experience while traveling. So, allow me the opportunity to express the wonder of the welcoming city of Montréal, Québec.


Montréal was a captivating blend of Old World beauty dashed with New World charm. Staggered throughout it’s towering skyline were highlights of the city’s beginnings, some of which were breathtaking churches heavily influenced by European architecture.

Inside Notre-Dame Basilica

Notre-Dame Basilica

The most mesmerizing building to me was the Notre-Dame Basilica located in Old Montréal. Standing under the gaze of the giant Virgin Mary, Saint John the Baptist and Saint Joseph peering from the church’s façade made me feel incredibly small. As if the sight of the Gothic architecture on the outside wasn’t enough, the view when walking the rows of wooden pews inside is astounding. The stained glass windows along the left and right tell the story of Montréal’s founding as Ville Marie, the intricate ceiling depicts the heavens, the statues in the archway up front coincide with Biblical sacrifices and the organ at the back overwhelms with its might.

Top of Mount Royal in Montreal Quebec

Mount Royal

It’s not a trip to Montréal without a birds-eye view on Mount Royal. We were dropped off at the bottom of the mountain by our Uber driver and began the slow hike up the mountain. It was hilarious how sloth-like we were as we slid (but never busted it) along the icy path while people in spiked sneakers zoomed past us on their morning run. We stopped at the student center to admire the view and get in on the #mtlmoments action.

Lunch at Tommy Cafe by Where Woman Wanders

Montréal Food Scene

To warm up during our adventures, we popped our heads into local cafes and hung out in the Underground City. As Seth describes it, Montréal is a hidden foodie gem. The city thrives off of cafes and the food is delicious. The big point of our trip was to make it a culinary adventure and live like the locals. From Cacao 70 in the Gay Village where I had the best hot chocolate I’ve ever poured down my throat to O.Noir where Seth and I dined in pitch black and were served by blind waiters, Montreal’s food scene alone was worth the trip.

Sign in Montreal Quebec restaurant

Montréalers

Speaking of locals, Montréalers were so kind. Québec is primarily French speaking and while Seth was delighted in every encounter he had to speak French, most of the people switch between French and English with ease. If I had to go alone, I’d be completely comfortable. All the signs are in French, but it isn’t difficult to understand the message they convey. Truthfully, I thought Montréalers had a very Southern-esque spirit in that they are incredibly polite and cordial, even more so than actual Southerners.

It’s a beautiful city I think everyone should take the chance to visit (and the locals really harp on coming in the spring when festivals are in store).

Interactive Seesaws in Montreal Quebec
Montreal Quebec scenery Notre-Dame Basilica

Bon Appétit: Our Top 10 Montréal Eateries

Perhaps incredible food isn’t the first thing you think of when planning a trip to Montréal. It should be. Not well known to most Americans, Montréal is a hidden foodie gem. Seth and I made our trip to this wonderful city a culinary adventure while also living like the locals. Armed with Instagram and a few Pinterest posts, I spent each night planning out which cafes and restaurants we would visit based on what the locals shared.

Cantinho de Lisboa by Where Woman Wanders

Cantinho de Lisboa

Our first cafe stop was actually by accident, but it was an accident with a delicious outcome. We were headed to Olive et Gourmando, which we learned to be closed for a couple of weeks. Across the street sat Cantinho de Lisboa, so we took the chance and went inside. It had a charming atmosphere, bright yellow with giant roosters posted on one wall and local goods scattered throughout the store. The waitress said we made a great decision when we both got the porc mariné (a marinated pork sandwich). She wasn’t kidding. Pork, cheese, aioli and yellow and orange tomatoes made the best blend of flavors.

Toi et Moi cafe

Then we hit up Toi et Moi cafe where Seth got a Croque Monsieur and I had Eggs Benedict. Can I please go back just for this one meal? The Hollandaise coating the Eggs Benedict was the bomb and every corner of the plate was filled with something yummy, including roasted potatoes and fresh fruit.

Hot Chocolate at Cacoa 70 by Where Woman Wanders

Cacoa 70

At Cacoa 70 in the Gay Village, I had the best hot chocolate ever. We both got the Peru, a slightly bitter chocolate with nodes of dried fruit. It was on point. The dish came with a giant goblet coated with chocolate on the bottom and chocolate on the sides. It got all over my face, but that brought me little worry as I downed the drink and warmed up from the snowy streets.

Shawarma and Pizza, Pizza Plus

There were a couple of times we had food delivered to our AirBnB (shout out to Coco’s place). We had Shawarma one night – so good with pickled beets, tender meat, tzatziki sauce and more – from Shawarma and Pizza. Another night, we American-ized the Canadian dish of poutine by getting it on a pizza from Pizza Plus. GREAT DECISION. Probably Seth’s favorite.

M Cafe

It wouldn’t be a trip to Montreal without some macaroons. We picked ours up at M Cafe. I got tiramisu (favorite, tasted like ice cream), lime basil (true to its name and awesome), lemon (mmm..lemon squares, anyone?), salted caramel, chocolate and raspberry.

Lunch at Tommy Cafe by Where Woman Wanders

Tommy

We also adventured to the cafe Tommy, partly because many folks our age hung out there and partly because so did Rihanna. We had the butternut squash soup paired with a roast beef and cheddar sandwich. Both were delicious and the atmosphere (books, desks and tables, art) reminded me of local cafes back in Oxford, MS. I also had my first cannoli – yum!

Kantapia lunch by Where Woman Wanders

Kantapia

Once when we were desperate to get warm, we slid into Kantapia, a Korean restaurant. They gave us kimchi and potatoes soaked in soy sauce “on the house” (still thinking about those potatoes). We had fried dumplings as an appetizer and I got Raymun avec fromage (Ramen with cheese…and egg and veggies) for my main meal. It had a wonderful spice to it and warmed me up for more time out on the town.

Schwartz's deli by Where Woman Wanders

Schwartz’s deli

One morning, we walked to Schwartz’s deli to eat the smoked meat sandwich, as recommended by the late Anthony Bourdain. Layers of smoked brisket sat between two slices of rye bread slathered with mustard. It was so good and the restaurant has been a staple in Montreal for so long that it even has it’s own musical (no joke). The atmosphere reminded me of Bill’s Hamburgers in Amory, MS.

O.Noir blind restaurant by Where Woman Wanders

O.Noir

One night, we decided to dine in pitch black at O.Noir restaurant where blind waiters guide and serve you. The whole idea is to experience what it is like for those who are blind while awakening your other senses of taste and smell. Seth got a surprise appetizer and loved it! It turned out to be scallops, something he would have never tried had he known. His lobster pasta was also great and I had a delicious time experiencing the flavors of my balsamic glazed shrimp with bacon, cucumber salad with fresh lime sour cream and an avocado puree. I topped it off with a delightful dark chocolate terrine.

If you ever venture to Montréal, I definitely recommend all of the places mentioned!

Experience the Bluebonnet Trails Festival in Texas

Most small towns have a unique feature or event that makes them charming. For Ennis, Texas, there’s the National Polka Fest, but better yet, there’s the Bluebonnet Trails Festival.

The Bluebonnet Trails Festival is typically in mid-April with the dates changing slightly each year depending on when the wildflowers are supposed to be in full bloom.

Growing up, I’d often hear my mother, a native-Texan, talk about how beautiful the bluebonnets were during the spring, though I’d never seen them on our vacations (that I remember). So, I put “see bluebonnets” on my “live-it” list.

During a trip to Dallas, Seth (my husband) and I loaded up in our friend’s van along with her Texas buddies and made the 30-minute drive to Ennis to see the blooms during the festival.

When we arrived at the trails, I got tickled watching moms desperately trying to get their kids, sun right in their faces, to make genuine smiles as they snapped photos in the flowers. Of course, we also took advantage of the rows of blue and red (red coming from the Indian paintbrushes) that covered the fields near Ennis.

Of course, there’s more than just flowers at this festival. In downtown Ennis, away from the flowers, vendors line up to sell everything from woodwork to brisket. There are children’s activities, arts & crafts and rides to keep you busy. Or, stop by the stage to hear some live music. Don’t forget to step into some of Ennis’ downtown shops – they have cute bluebonnet souvenirs for you to take home!

Here’s where you can get the latest information on the blooms. Also, stop by the visitor’s center in downtown Ennis (right by the railroad tracks) to get a pamphlet of all the wildflowers in the area.

1st Year With Baby: Things You Need to Know that Aren’t Talked About

My first year as a mom was full of learning experiences. I read baby books and thought I had a good grasp of what to expect, preparing my husband and I as best as I could. But, the old adage remains true: You won’t know until you experience it. Here are some things I learned THE HARD WAY. I’d like to save you the trouble.

Where Woman Wanders Founder Photo
  1. Every baby is different, but mine would often refuse to take the bottle for various reasons. As a new mom, it took me a long time to figure out why. Here is what I learned with feeding that will hopefully help you if your good eater suddenly refuses to feed.
    • When our daughter was 3-weeks-old, she suddenly stopped wanting to feed – from the bottle or from me. When bottlefeeding, I would see that she took an ounce and would immediately pull off, cry and arch her back. We were worried that it was reflux, but our pediatrician didn’t seem that concerned. After a couple of weeks of this, I finally called the nurse’s line and received helpful advice. We switched to a sensitive baby formula and I cut dairy out of my diet while breastfeeding because my baby was lactose sensitive.
    • When you become a parent, you will soon learn that these tiny humans have PREFERENCES. Keep all of the baby bottles you received from friends and family at your baby shower, because the standard baby bottle might not suit your baby. You might end up with a graveyard of bottles as you work to determine what your baby likes the most (at least I did), but it will be worth it. My daughter actually preferred these Nuk bottles until I stopped breastfeeding and she decided it was time for Dr. Brown’s bottles at 5 months.
    • If your baby all of the sudden stops finishing a full bottle after a couple of months or downs a few ounces and pulls off and on the bottle, you might need to choose a faster nipple flow. My daughter would usually transition to a higher flow about every 3 months. However, some babies are content with keeping a slow flow for many months.
    • Your baby will likely eat less when they are sick. To get the calories in them, offer smaller, more frequent feeds. If your baby has recently had a cold, seemed to recover and then gives you trouble with the bottle again, you might want your doctor to check for an ear infection. Helping a baby through an illness can be incredibly stressful, especially if you are a parent who fretted over your baby’s weight gain like I did. If you EVER feel concerned, call your doctor. You will not be a bother, you will not sound silly. They are there to help.
  2. As soon as you are home with your baby, get some noise going. Get your baby used to sleeping while you are drying clothes, washing dishes, or having a conversation in the background. This was golden advice from my mom. Our baby could sleep through sounds of lawnmowers, cats knocking glasses off shelves, tornado siren drills, construction in the neighborhood – you name it. While you’re at it, get a sound machine. We loved our Hatch, which acts as a sound machine, night light and time-to-rise.
  3. Something I’ll try with future babies down the road – sleep training from the time they are newborns. Sleep training from early on will be helpful during those oh-so-real sleep regressions.
  4. I received golden advice from a friend when it comes to diaper rashes. When your baby has a diaper rash, you’ll often be recommended to leave them diaperless as long as possible to get air on the rash and dry it out. That’s great advice, but where do you put your bottomless baby in the meantime? When your babe isn’t old enough to move around the house, buy puppy pads and stick your baby on it. It’s easier to clean up accidents as you give the rash time to dry and heal.
  5. I can’t stress this one enough. When help is offered, take the time for yourself. As a new mom, I tried to do as much as I possibly could during those first weeks when my mom and mother-in-law were here to help. They both said they could have helped more, but I was determined to do it all – already feeling the mom guilt if I took what I considered was too much time for myself. But, having an hour to myself in the morning to shower, have breakfast and get ready felt SO good. I also wish I would have taken more naps. You can never have enough naps.

These are just some lessons I learned in my first year as a mom. Every baby is different, but maybe this will spark an idea for you when you experience a rough patch. What is some advice you’ve recieved that you actually found helpful? Did you learn any lessons the hard way with your baby?

At-Home Date Night Ideas During a Pandemic

My little family has been spending much of our time at home as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. With a baby and an ongoing pandemic, there isn’t much time for my husband and I to get out for a date. To be honest, it’s not something we are quite comfortable with yet. So, when we want to switch up our routine after putting our daughter to sleep for the night, we’ve gotten creative with our at-home dates! It’s good to take a break from binge-watching YouTube or the normal streaming services to spend quality time with each other. Let me know if you’ve done any of these yourself!

Take personality tests. One night, we buckled down for an hour to take all the go-to personality tests. We had fun answering and discussing questions as we discovered our love language with the 5 Love Languages quiz, our Enneagram type and took the Myers Briggs test (this one was painfully accurate for me). It was fun learning about each other through these quizzes. For reference, my love language is Words of Affirmation, my Enneagram type is a 2 and 3 and I’m an INFJ-T. We also spent some time on Buzzfeed finding out which Disney princess we were, but we won’t go there. 😀

Make a new food together. I am a dessert connisseure while my husband would rather eat a second helping of dinner. Despite this fact, we tackled our first ever chocolate mousse together! Though we did most of the recipe while our baby was awake (not about to turn on the mixer as she sleeps), we each enjoyed a bowl full topped with tiny chocolate chips after she went to sleep.

Start a fire. There’s something so mesmerizing about a fire. We put some logs in the fire pit and spent a couple of hours chatting as we watched the flames turn to embers, baby monitor closeby. This has been a favorite pastime for us when camping, spending late nights with friends and, now, for when our daughter goes to sleep. 

Do a blindfolded taste test. This night was hilarious! Each round, one of us would fill a plate with five random condiments or foods in our kitchen and spoonfeed the other one, who was blindfolded. It was so funny watching the blindfolded person’s reaction as they got a spoonful of ranch or a piece of pickled okra, stifling laughs as we waited on the person to guess what they ate. It was funny when we mentioned this to our family and some of them responded, “Nah, fam, I have trust issues.” Who else feels the same? We also did a blindfolded chain pizza taste test one day with a friend. You’d be disappointed in my accuracy.

Watch some of the classics. Not sure why, but there were so many popular movies I didn’t see when I was growing up. Since we’ve been together, Seth has taken it upon himself to introduce me to these films. Recently, we watched The Godfather, The Godfather II, Pans Labyrinth and Airplane. If there’s a movie or series your significant other hasn’t seen (ESPECIALLY if it is Star Wars), take this time at home to sit back and watch it together and discuss how they feel about it afterward. I think Seth delights in seeing how I respond to these classics.

Have you gotten creative with your date nights? Share in the comments! We could all use a switch-up in our day-to-day pandemic life.