How I play with my 8-month old

Let’s face it, many days with a baby can be downright boring! The first six months, at least for me, were all about recovery, sleep, and survival. My little one wasn’t doing much playing. He was pretty much eating and sleeping, sleeping and eating; while I was mastering the art of exclusive pumping and bottle feeding. Since he started rolling around though, there has been a considerable less amount of sleeping and a whole lot more entertainment required.

There are many days that I find myself stuck at home with nowhere to go. I live out in the suburbs – where a car is required for pretty much any venture out of the house. While the weather was still warm, we would go for a walk around the neighbourhood, but now that winter is here, we are pretty much cuddled indoors always. It’s also just me and the Bebe most of the time, so it’s important that I’m also enjoying myself as much as possible. My hardest and most tiring days are those on which I find myself surrounded with boredom and house tasks. I have learned to get a little creative with our activities in order to help us pass the time.

Below are some of the things that Bebe and I do to keep ourselves entertained. Most of these activities are probably already part of your routine, but if you alter them just a bit, you should be good to get them to last anywhere between 20 – 30 minutes. Note that we definitely do not do all of these activities in one day. I try to spread them out so that Bebe doesn’t get too bored of things and I don’t have to come up with new activities.

Car Watching: Bebe loves to wake up in the morning and stare out the window watching cars go by and neighbourhood kids go off to school. We can do this for a pretty solid 15 minutes! I’m usually the one that gets bored of this activity first.

Eating: We take our time eating. I try to make our mealtimes last at least 20 – 30 minutes by playing little games while eating and/or holding back some of the food. I’m doing half/half puree and baby led weaning so Bebe is often getting little bits of food put on his plate. I know from too many scary episodes that he can’t have everything on his plate at once or he’ll put it all in his mouth, so going slow helps a lot.

Cat Watching: Bebe T loves our cat, Judaea. He loves to watch him walk around the house and do his thing, but he loves it more when Judaea is playing with a toy or cuddling with mama. We try to do this as often as possible, but at least once a day, as baby Jude is definitely feeling left out most of the time.

Couch Climbing: T loves to be put on the couch and crawl as fast as possible from one end to the other. He finds it so funny to be up there and goes back and forth at least ten times. We do this multiple times a day.

Roomba Chasing: This one is extra fun because not only is it entertaining, but it’s getting some housework done at the same time. I put the Roomba on and let Bebe T chase it all along the main floor.

Laundry Folding: Also a productive one. Bebe T likes to pull clothes out of baskets, so I often bring up a load of laundry to be folded and do it with him. He definitely undoes a lot of my work, but it extends the activity. I also like to think that he’s learning about housework while we are doing this.

Dance Party: Bebe T loves music and he loves to watch me dance around the house. I’ll put on some of my favourite tunes and start dancing away while he watches or I’ll pick him up and we’ll dance together. Extra credit for a Youtube Zumba class!

Floor Workout: Similar to the dance party, T seems to find it funny when I do some floor level workouts, such as pushups and leg raises or yoga. I don’t always feel like doing this activity but it’s good once it gets going. I’m hoping that one day he will join me.

Watching the News: I know it’s screen time, but whatever! He’s going to watch TV at some point. This helps keep me up-to-date and it gets another voice in the house. T is really into this one, of course.

Bath Time: I definitely don’t do this one every day, unless I have to. I don’t think that soap and cleansing your skin is necessary on a daily basis unless you are obviously dirty and stinky. T loves the water though so I’ve moved him into the big tub where he can move around and splash more.

Reading: T loves a good cuddle and reading. He definitely has his favourite books. To keep it entertaining for me I will: read the book backward, in funny voices and accents, or sing it like a song.

Napping: This one is my personal favourite. We nap together, and by together I mean, cuddled up in bed. I try to do this for at least one of his naps per day. It’s a great bonding and skin-to-skin opportunity. Best of all, it allows me to get some rest and I find that he often naps for 1.5 hours as opposed to his regular 40-minute session.

Playing with Toys: when we play with toys, I like to get down on the ground with him and play too. He can, and definitely does, play on his own, but I think it’s extra fun for him when I get involved. I like to: stack lots of his toys on top of each other for him to knock down; roll balls around and at him, in hopes he’ll roll it back to me; make teddy bears talk (he LOVES this); hides his toys and help him find them; put them all away in his basket so he can take them all out again.

There you have it! Keep doing a great job Mama!

Must-Haves, Not Needed & Wished I Had: 0-6 months

Below are a few of my favourite products, must-haves, wishes and a list of things I really didn’t need for a newborn, up to 6 months!

Let’s start with the must haves!

Baby Brezza Sterilizer: If you are using bottles, you need this machine. It’s a fantastic stand-alone sterilizer. There are definitely cheaper sterilizers that you can get, but I would say swing for top quality if this is something you are going to be using all the time. I sterilized my bottles daily up until bebe was 7 months. The drying feature in this machine is the best. Have you ever tried drying bottles with just the air or by hand? #timesuck I’m sure there are other machines with a dryer, but seriously, get a machine with a dryer if you are using bottles. You will need distilled water for this machine or the hotplate will get covered in calcium buildup.

Breast Shells/ Milk Savers: These are crucial if you are a breastfeeding mom: nursing or pumping! These have been, hands down, the item that has stopped me from going 100% insane. They catch all the milk that falls during breastfeeding, and if you’ve been following along with my blog, all day for me! I catch about 40ml every 2-3 hours with these and then pour it into a bottle. Get multiple sets so you are not constantly washing and drying and increase their lifespan!

Zipper sleepers: are you using button up sleepers? #stopitnow try a zipper sleeper, you will never go back. I refuse to use button up’s at night. They are a huge pain for you and Bebé when all you want to do is go back to sleep.

Pampers Pure Diapers: I really wanted to use Cloth diapers and spent a fortune on them too. But with the level of exhaustion I was feeling I just couldn’t bring myself to do laundry two times a day… It’s more expensive, but I’m not compromising on quality, baby friendly diapers. Pampers Pure diapers match all of my requirements for a healthy diaper with far fewer chemicals than other brands. They’re comparable to Seventh Generation and Honest. Plus you get rewards with their rewards app! I’m saving up for a starbucks giftcard! Coffee Please! I highly recommend getting an Amazon Family/Prime Account and then getting these on a monthly subscription so you never have to worry about having diapers and you get 20% off!.

Coconut Oil: this is not necessarily a baby product, but I use it for everything! Baby bum, nipples, flanges, dry skin, hair mask, pancakes. It’s so good for you and baby. You want to make sure that you get organic, virgin coconut oil and not any highly processed versions. For baby bum protection, I melt some coconut oil, add into a bottle and then either squeeze it out or keep it warm and liquid by leaving it on top of my wipe warmer.

Wipe Warmer: Imagine you’re lying in bed, cocooned in your warm blankets, maybe someone has just fed you a warm glass of milk and you’ve settled yourself back into a slumber. All of a sudden someone is taking off your clothes and putting a cold wet towel on you. You’d be screaming and crying too right?! Those tears aren’t necessary if you have a wipe warmer! In the first few weeks of having my babe at home, those night time screams were the worst. They were so loud and heartbreaking, but once I got the wipe warmer they turned only into a whimper of being slightly awoken to have his diaper changed. I originally thought “ok, he’ll get used to the cold wipes” but it’s just so much nicer when they are warm.

Pack and Play Play Pen with Bassinet and Change Table: I would recommend purchasing one of these for the floor where you and baby aren’t sleeping. During the day, when you aren’t sleeping yourself, you’re still going to want to have baby close to you and with this playpen, you have the bassinet and change table right there. You won’t need to climb any stairs to get to the nursery, change station or crib.

Baby Brezza Formula Pro: I didn’t need this until just recently (6+ months), but I add it here because if I had been formula feeding at this time, this would have been my #1 BFF. Night feedings, warming up bottles in a bottle warmer, the waiting, the crying, etc. – it’s hard. The formula pro gets it done within seconds. You just press a button and 5 seconds later the bottle is ready. Give it a good shake to ensure everything is mixed and then feed your bebe. Simple. Done. I use this now that baby is getting half his bottles from formula and it is great. There are some people that struggle with this machine, but I find it to be simple and amazing. I’m sure that there are manufacturing duds and you definitely need to shake the bottle once everything has been poured in, but I’ve never had any issues. There are 500+ reviews on the product on Amazon and most of them are great.

Nested Bean Sleep Sack: This really works and when I got it things changed for the better! Bebe would finally sleep on his own in his bassinet for part of the night and napped really well. The light weighted chest is perfect and the stretchy, velcro arm straps hold in even the strongest of startlers! Bebe T would always be waking himself up with his startle reflex and in a regular swaddle, he’d be out of it in minutes. I can’t wait to purchase the 6+ sleep sack!

Below are some of the items I wished I had!

I wish I had purchased the Halo Bassinet, or something similar. The first five weeks, Bebe slept in his Pack & Play bassinet out in our family room, and I slept on the couch. This was mostly because bebe wanted to sleep in my arms and on my chest the whole time. After the first five weeks we transitioned to the bedroom where he slept in the bed beside me. This was terrifying as I was constantly worried about whether he was breathing, not getting too close to him, etc. I think I would have been much better off getting the halo bassinet, sleeping in the bed and positioning the halo so that it was a close as possible to me. Everyone wins!

A rocking chair! My nursery was too small, as we had a queen-sized bed inside, that I wasn’t going to take out because I knew I would be sleeping in that room with the baby. I, therefore, decided not to get a rocking/nursing chair, but I wish I had. I spent a great deal of time on the couch in the living room, sitting on my bed to nurse (in the first 3 weeks) or in an office chair. All of these squishy surfaces did a number of my back.

A Rock and Play Sleeper. Bebe used one of these at a friends house and he went from super hyper to calm and melow in an instant. He calmly lied in this thing for a good 45 minutes! It has some a few different rocking settings and is set at an incline, which is great for those bebes that suffer from reflux, like mine did. I will 100% be buying this for any future babies to enjoy.

Below are a few items I didn’t need:

  • Baby Shoes – babies don’t walk, so you don’t need to waste money, or closet space, on shoes! The only time they are going to need shoes is when they are walking outside. Otherwise, they should be barefoot or if it’s chilly, with a nice pair of warm socks and a blanket.
  • Specialty burp cloths – this is a waste of money and you will likely never use them. Those swaddlers you got, those are going to be your everything, just use those!
  • Sink Flower Bath Pillows – your baby is going to outgrow this super fast. You’re better off investing in a staged baby bath that can fit over your tub. I really loved my Fisher Price Baby Bathtub because I was able to use it from day one and still am!

Maternal Separation Anxiety

I haven’t posted in about three weeks. I’ve been going through some non-mama related things that have kept me unmotivated and blocked my creative thought process. I haven’t been able to think of anything worth sharing. But with Christmas come and past, I feel like I’m getting back into the swing of things.

Lately, I’ve been struggling with the thought of leaving my bebe with someone else. As we head into month 7 I’m starting to think about what my life is going to look like when my maternity leave is officially over. And it’s freaking me out. I know all mamas go through this and everything turns out fine. There are some hiccups as everyone adjusts, I’m sure, but everyone does adjust, eventually. I’m with my baby pretty much 24/7. Non-stop. I hear every whimper, every scream. I change almost every single diaper, I feed him almost every single meal. I’m the only one that sleeps with him. I’m the one that cuddles him the most. I’m the one that plays with him the most. We have our own secret little language that helps us communicate with each other all day long. I’m really struggling with the thought of putting him in daycare so that I can return to work.

But I’m also struggling with the day-to-day possibilities of leaving him with someone other than me. Like his father, or his grandmothers. It’s not that I don’t trust these individuals. They love him beyond measure. I just don’t want to do it. I have, but it really hurts. I feel guilty, I worry, I want to check in every 20 minutes to know what he’s doing, how he’s feeling. I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t trust them and be offended, but the truth is I don’t trust them. Not because I think they will neglect him or do him any harm, I just can’t trust anyone else to protect him, soothe him, play with him, like I do. And this drives me nuts! I want so badly to have an hour to myself, but when I do get it, I immediately change my mind about leaving him and have to re-convince myself that everything will be ok. This happens even when I’m upstairs and he’s downstairs with his daddy or grandmother! Isn’t that silly? I sometimes feel a lot of internal and external pressure to leave him, to allow him to bond with other individuals and to take opportunities for self-care. I know these are healthy and necessary things, but I just can’t prioritize them in my brain.

You’ve heard of separation anxiety, but this is usually used to refer to the feelings experienced by the child. Well, it turns out that mamas can experience this too and it’s called Maternal Separation Anxiety: when a mother experiences feelings of worry, sadness, or guilt while separated from her child. Many mothers experience this in the first few months and years of post-partum. However, if left unchecked it can cause significant emotional and physical challenges for the mother and the child including anxiety attacks and unhealthy attachment and development issues.  If you do a google search for this term, you’ll likely only come up with scholarly articles, as I did. These delve into scientific theories and observations, as well as animal studies, about how separation from a child affects the mother. These studies are so important, but they do little to help a mother understand what is happening. A lot of people are quick to dismiss the feelings that a mother has when she is separated from her child as hormonal or something that she can handle, bus as one article abstract adds: “it is the couple that becomes separated and not just the child.” While the child is clearly immediately stressed, they often go on to play with toys or friends and feel a sense of joy and distraction from the absence of their mother. The mother on the other hand, perhaps because she has a higher level of mental maturity and awareness about what has happened, often continues to feel stressed, worried and guilty throughout the entire time that she is separated from her child.

Is separation from your child necessary – yes. They need to independently grow and have their own experiences. They are eventually going to go to school and you can’t go with them. But how does a mama get used to this? Often they are just left to tough it out on their own, day in and day out. I haven’t experienced this yet, but I’ve been told that it is really difficult to return to work. That many mamas are never able to return to their pre-baby efficiency or capacity because there is way to many other things going on in their lives and in their brains. I think this makes sense and i’d love to see how this is addressed in the workforce here in Canada. More to come on that as I explore this in the coming months!

So what am I going to do? For now, not a whole lot. He’s still a baby and I’m still a new mama, learning all about what motherhood is. I’m going to start by focusing my attention on my needs as a new mother and less on what “society” or others might react to how I am currently feeling. He’s my baby and it’s my right and my role to be overprotective of him and want to be with him all the time. I will focus on accepting my feelings and working through them first. In partnership with my husband, we will need to make some lifestyle choices and make decisions about child care. I’m going to try to start dropping him off at one of his grandma’s for an hour to two while I go to the gym or attend an appointment. Then, when he’s about a year old or so, I’ll start playing with the idea of having him sleep over at grandma’s house. What a feat that would be! As he grows more independent and more confident in his own abilities, I’m sure I will begin to relax, knowing that he will be able to advocate (protest, most likely) for his wants and needs and that others will be able to adequately respond.

I’m adding Formula to the mix

Just as soon as I typed the last word in the last sentence of last week’s post, about my 1200ml supply, I felt my supply start to dip. Is it a coincidence? Overconfidence? Did I jinx it? The next pump was just not the same, and then the next and the next. Each time I was getting less than I was used to. Not tremendously less, I still get enough for a whole bottle, but there wasn’t that little bit extra. Regardless, I’m still in a good place. As I remove from my freezer stash I’m still adding in every other night. Is this the beginning of the end? I can’t help but feel a little bit of relief… and guilt. But most importantly, relief.

Don’t get me wrong. I love feeding my baby with my body and I have prioritized that over every single other thing for the last six months, but I’m tired and I don’t like my body anymore. I know many mothers go through this feeling, of looking at themselves in wonder at how they let “this”happen to themselves.. the flabby skin, the saggy boobs, the dry hair and the large dark circles around their eyes. I haven’t lost any weight since bebe T was born and I’m actually starting to put some more on.  “Your body is a powerhouse”; “you’ve just made a human, a miracle”; “you’re beautiful, Mama”; “love the skin you’re in.” I get it, I got it. I love that there are women out there who are truly happy with themselves and confident with their post-partum bodies. I think it’s beautiful and I wish I felt this way. But I don’t. I’ve tried really hard and did a good job of it for the last six months to live by those words, to think that my body can wait. But I’m also human. I’m also a twenty-first-century woman. I’m also surrounded by the fit and beautiful, I used to count myself among them. I just want to feel a little bit like that again and I’ve felt like I couldn’t get to that while I was pumping. I couldn’t jeopardize my supply by prioritizing my “self”.So is my body telling me its time? Is it naturally trying to wean itself? I don’t know, but it’s brought me that sense of relief, that maybe I’m not choosing my body, but my body is choosing me instead. We shall see.

I’m not stopping, but I will start the long process of weaning myself off pumping. I expect this to take a few months still as I’m not a tremendous rush to end my supply. My first priority is reducing my nighttime pumps down to one instead of two so that I can get in more sleep and longer stretches of it. My pumping routine is now, 8AM, 12PM, 3PM, 6PM, 10PM, 3AM. In a few weeks, I’ll try to move it to 3AM pump to 4AM and continue until my body can handle no overnight pumping. Hopefully that will work, although I’m nervous because thatMOTN pump was always my largest.  I will also start to take a closer look at what I’m eating. I haven’t thought twice about what I have been eating, or how much. I haven’t been eating take-out every night or munching on pizza pops or anything. It’s been healthy, but I can probably scale it back a bit, cut some of the less healthy things out and start to see some results. I’m also really looking forward to going back to the gym. I thought that I would be able to do some things at home, but I just find other things to do that are taking priority and my leaky boob is my worst nightmare.

For now, and in consultation with my pediatrician, I’m going to start slowly adding formula to bebe T’s daily nutrient intake. He is still always asking for food every two hours and often asks for more, so hopefully with this addition, plus the solid foods we have been adding, he will be satiated little more and I will have the comfort of knowing that he is getting all the nutrients and bulk that he needs, while still getting my breastmilk.  I have a few bottles of ready-made Enfamil, which we purchased in the summer for our travels that I will use up first and start utilizing at night so he’s not waiting too long on a warming bottle. After that, I brought back some formula from our trip to Portugal that I will use andI’ve ordered one of the best formulas on the international market – Holle Cow’s Milk OrganicFormula.  

If you haven’t looked into it, European formula is quickly growing to be a preferred substitute for north American formula because of the stricter regulations around infant formula ingredients within the EU. The brand I chose, specifically, is Demeter Certified, which means that the benefits of the formula production go beyond the ingredient list. Not only is the formula adherent to EU guidelines, but it’s organic, GMO-free and the milk ingredients are taken from cows that have been raised on a sustainable, organic, pesticide-free farm and in humane conditions. These are all things that I have been passionate about for a long time and, honestly, was a huge part of my anxiety to add a formula in the first place.  It is more expensive to do it this way, but with a little extra penny-pinching in other places on my end, I am doing what I feel to be the best option within my means for my child and for myself.

Mama + Bebé

I am a wife, daughter, sister, and mama to one little boy. I believe in the greatness of the female body, the healing powers of mother nature, the sanctity of the family and the unconditional love of a mother for her babies.

I am learning how to be a mother, a role model, a gentle and accepting person. I am still learning to always be grateful for myself and all that I have achieved in my short life.  I am learning how to be unselfish and how to give everything of myself without asking for anything in return. I am starting to learn how to heal, how to accept and how to let things go.

After giving birth to my son, I quickly found myself in the midst of postpartum depletion, anxiety, and depression. Despite months of preparation, self-study and countless hours of research and reading, I still felt unprepared for my son’s birth and the subsequent self-care and baby care that was required. I realized that others in my circle must feel this way too and so I decided to begin sharing my experiences with my community. Having a handful of friends who have also given birth recently or were about to, I thought it was important to share what I was going through and how I was handling motherhood. My journey began on Instagram and evolved into this blog.

My intention for this blog is to continue sharing about my motherhood journey including all the highs and especially the lows. Our society doesn’t talk about the lows nearly enough and I believe that it is a great detriment to new mamas. I think it’s also important to hear a number of different perspectives and I, therefore, encourage anyone reading or following this blog to comment and add their thoughts, perspectives, and experiences so that other mamas may learn from you too. It takes a village to raise a baby and a new mama, but many of us don’t have a village of support people around us. If you need it, you can add me to your village and I will do all that I can to support you. 

I hope that you enjoy what you find here and that you stick around for more. 

With love,
Mama + Bebé