There are so many different mothering styles, and I am a big believer in finding whatever style is right for you. Don't try to be another type of mother; be you! That's the reason God gave you the babies He did - because they needed you and all your specific traits and idiosyncrasies.
It took me precisely one year and one week of motherhood to figure this out. I always thought I wasn't organized enough as a mother. Other moms had their babies on schedules, and had textbook Babywise babies, or still others were working moms and seemed to somehow do it all. Meanwhile, I didn't work outside the home and still couldn't manage to keep the house clean. I heard a lot of moms almost brag about how tough they were as moms; that if their kid fell down, they didn't really coddle them for fear of babying them too much, or they had no problem letting their kids "cry it out". As a new and completely insecure mother, I thought I must be babying Ellery too much. Part of my personality is nurturing (hello, I would rescue every shelter animal if I could), and as a mother I was very nurturing. Hearing people talk about how tough they were made me think I was doing something wrong.
Then at one year and one week old, Ellery had her seizure and I stopped caring if other moms thought I was too soft. I stopped comparing myself to those moms, and realized that I was the perfect mama for Ellery, just as I was. That doesn't mean I don't have room to grow, or that I always make the best decisions for Ellery. It just means that I finally found my confidence as a mother. I realized that what we went through was tough, but I survived, and that God gave me the tools I needed to mother her through that scary time. And I realized that when you watch your one year-old have a seizure, you quickly realize that being tough isn't all it's cracked up to be, and you nurture and comfort your scared baby as much as possible.
Wow...that was a really long tangent that sort of came out of nowhere. Here I meant to talk about alternative necessities for moms of little ones, and somehow ended up with the above paragraphs. Sorry. All that was meant to say that my style as a mom is more the baby-wearing, cloth-diapering, essential-oil using style. (You can say I'm a hippie, but trust me, I've known some hippies and I'm not nearly hard core enough to be a hippie.) Below are some really great products I've loved as a mama, that fit my style, and that aren't necessarily things you'd normally find on baby registries. If you find yourself as the same sort of mother, or if you're pregnant and have no idea what type of mother you'll be (like I was!) then hopefully these can be good ideas for you!
1. Essential Oils
I didn't start using essential oils with Ellery right away, but once my friend Marci told me how well they worked with her little boy, I tried them and have never gone back. As most of you know, Ellery was not a good sleeper at all, so we started using Lavender on the bottoms of her feet, and got increasingly longer naps and nighttime sleep as a result. I recently started using Cedarwood instead of Lavender and am getting even better results! You can also diffuse these oils into the nursery, which I intend to try once I buy a diffuser. We've also used Onguard, which helps keep illness at bay. Once we took Ellery to visit Marci's family, and she developed a cold right when we got to their house. Naturally, I felt horrible that I'd unknowingly brought my sick baby around her baby. Ellery played with Caleb and slobbered all over his toys, but still Caleb didn't get sick! In fact he didn't even get a cold or fever at all during his first year! That's when I really got into using Onguard, because Marci faithfully used it on Caleb and it clearly worked. Clove has been extremely helpful on Ellery's gums when she's teething, and Melaluca is great for diaper rashes! (Especially if you cloth diaper and can't use diaper cream.) Melaluca and Clove are also great for little cuts and scrapes on little ones (or, in Ellery's case, minor cat scratches). And as a mother, I've been loving Balance, which totally helps mellow out my crazy hormones. I just put a little bit on the bottoms of my feet and behind my ears and somehow the little things that normally send me into a frenzy aren't that big of a deal! I highly recommend essential oils to mothers of little ones. We use doTERRA, but I've also heard good things about Young Living. But whatever you do, don't buy the cheap ones at the health store - get good, quality oils, because that makes all the difference! (If you're interested in trying out oils, comment below and I can get you some.)
2. Baby Babble
This DVD has been a lifesaver. It was developed by two pediatric speech pathologists, whose job it is to help toddlers learn to speak. The DVD teaches babies simple sign language and words, and even has parent tutorials to show parents what they can do at home to help their kids with their speech.
I really don't like Ellery watching television, so for most of her first year, she never watched it. Every now and then when I really needed her to just sit still, I'd let her watch a little bit of this DVD. It quickly became obvious that she loved it. In my first trimester of this pregnancy, when we were also packing and preparing to move, I was desperate for time to just rest or get some packing done, and Ellery watched more of this than I intended. I started feeling guilty for letting her watch it once a day, but then suddenly realized her vocabulary started to explode. She started mimicking mine and Sam's words, and surprising me by knowing words I didn't teach her. I realized that I had Baby Babble to thank, and felt so much better about letting her watch it. Rather than sitting her in front of mindless entertainment, she was being educated, and I was able to get us moved, without feeling guilty. I highly, highly, highly recommend the Baby Babble DVDs for all mothers, regardless of your parenting style!
3. Baby Carriers
This is one you probably will find on baby registries, but I wanted to talk about a few carriers in particular. First, the Moby. The Moby did not work for me. But! It worked for Sam. Unfortunately, the Moby ties around your waist right around where my cesarean scar is, so when I tried carrying Ellery in the beginning, it was too painful after my surgery. Not to mention, she was born in late May, so carrying her got really hot. I'd be sweating and she'd be sweating and we'd both be crying when I used the Moby. But for some reason, when Sam used it, she loved it and went right to sleep. We eventually got an Ergo, which both Sam and I loved and used a ton. I'd walk Ellery around the neighborhood in it, and Sam would use it to get her to sleep when we weren't home to put her in her crib. It wasn't painful on our backs or shoulders, and was fairly easy to use. It is more expensive than the Moby, but we easily got our money's worth.
Ellery wasn't a big fan of strollers, so baby carriers were huge for us. Not to mention, it's much easier to navigate while wearing your baby, rather than trying to push a big stroller around. Studies also show that babies who are worn are generally happier and cry less. In her first year, when Ellery was particularly fussy, I'd put her in the Ergo and she'd calm right down. It's so important for bonding with Daddy, too! I'm a big believer in the importance of human contact, and I love this easy way of connecting with my baby while also having my hands free to do things around the house.
With Abel, I'm hoping to try the Sakura Bloom ring sling. You can use it from newborn all the way up through toddler years, and you can even breastfeed in it. It doesn't tie around the waist like the Moby, so I'm hoping I'll be able to use it right away, even if I have another c-section. I've heard lots of great things about this sling, so hopefully I'll be able to use it and review it once Abel is born.
4. Baby Moccasins
I love baby moccasins. They are the only shoes Ellery will consistently keep on her feet without trying to take them off once we get in the car, or while we are walking in the middle of the grocery store. I didn't put Ellery in shoes until she could walk, except for soft booties to keep her feet warm. Once she started walking, we got some moccasins from an Instagram shop and have loved them! There are tons of shops to try, but we have used Littlelookershop and Mybeautifulittleshop moccasins and both are great. They run about $30-40 per pair, depending on the size and style. You could always buy Freshly Picked moccasins, but I'm kind of a cheap skate and couldn't justify spending $60+ on baby shoes, especially because you get the same product from other shops for half the price. I know for some people it's more about the status symbol, but I don't care much about that. (Neither does Ellery.) Also, I'm pretty sure Sam would have a heart attack if I spent that kind of money on Ellery's shoes, or if I spent that much on a pair of shoes for myself! Seriously, we're cheap. Anyway, once your baby starts walking, baby moccs are fabulous!
5. Baby Led Weaning
This isn't really a product, but more of a trend. We didn't start this with Ellery right away, but I found some information about it on Pinterest, tried it, and loved it. We will definitely be doing Baby Led Weaning right from the start with Abel. Basically it just means you skip the whole baby food phase. No purees, just regular food. Typically babies start eating solids around 4-6 months, and at that age most of their nutrients and calories are coming from breast milk or formula, so feeding isn't so much about them getting enough food as it is about experimenting with eating.
I'm just a fan because BLW was so much easier. At first I was making all of Ellery's food in our Vitamix, which wasn't a ton of work, but still extra work with a baby. Once we started BLW, I'd fix the same thing for Ellery as I fixed for me and Sam. If we were having chicken curry with potatoes, so was Ellery. If we were having tacos, so was Ellery. (Or rather, she was having taco ingredients, like black beans, olives, and avocados.) The idea behind BLW is that babies learn to chew first, rather than simply learning to swallow, like with pureed baby food. In this way, it helps babies learn that they need to chew first, which reduces the chances of choking. (If a baby is used to swallowing purees, then is suddenly given a cracker, he might try to swallow it and start to choke.) You can give your six month-old baby any (healthy) soft, small piece of food, and they can learn to feed themselves. If you can easily squish the food between your thumb and forefinger, the baby can easily mash it with his gums. In the beginning, Ellery's favorites were avocado, black beans, and bananas.
Babies also learn how much they need to eat, and learn to regulate their hunger that way. Rather than stopping once the baby food jar is empty, they stop eating when they're full. It also helps them learn to eat flavorful foods right from the beginning, which can help them be less picky eaters later on. As I said, Ellery ate exactly what Sam and I ate, and I was just careful not to use too much salt. It even helped me fix healthier meals for Sam and me, since I wanted to be sure Ellery was eating as healthfully as possible.
BLW is much cheaper because you're not buying additional baby food, you're just sharing your meals with your baby. You also don't have to worry about spoon-feeding your baby, which allows you to sit and enjoy your meal along with baby. It gives you some free hands and baby learns confidence as she realizes she can feed herself! Win win. Of course, some things still need to be fed, like yogurt or cottage cheese. But for us, the experience with BLW was a great one! For more information and ideas, click here.
Okay, so this post became much longer than I intended - sorry! It's just something I've been thinking about as I'm trying to compile a list of things I'll need for Abel. I remember how overwhelming it was to register was when I was pregnant with Ellery, so I thought I'd put together a list of things that have been invaluable to me! Things that aren't necessarily on everyone's radar. Hope this was helpful to some new or soon-to-be mamas!