Mar 31, 2014

April Goals

I accomplished all my March goals to various extents. I'm not finished with The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest quite yet. Hopefully I'll have it wrapped up in the next week, and then I'll move onto my March read.

I'm actually not done with Zianne's gallery wall yet either, but I've hung every possible thing I had planned for it, and there are a couple of blank spots that need to be filled in. As soon as I realized I would need to buy some more objects to complete the project, I modified my goal to simply get everything up on the wall that was sitting on the floor of the nursery.

I quickly applied six decals to the family room wall and Micah helped me hang the clock... and then I made an executive decision. I looked at the decals, which are not applying properly and some of them are peeling off already, and I looked at the wall and how much I have left to cover, and I decided to scrap the whole project. It was going to take many more hours to finish, and I could already tell I was going to be dissatisfied with the final result, so I decided it wasn't worth any more of my time, despite the $100 I invested into getting the decals shipped to me. Sometimes you just count yours loses and save your time. I took off the first two decals I applied on the edge of the wall, but the ones behind the clock are creating this little border around where it hangs on the wall, so I decided to keep it up as a quirky, shabby chic, clock halo of sorts.

So basically March was a lesson in learning to modify your goals when you figure out they just aren't working for you.

Hopefully accomplishing my April goals will feel a bit more fulfilling...

Get pictures printed for Zianne's gallery wall... Now that all the frames are up, I can see which sizes and orientations {horizontal or vertical} I need for her photos.

Finish first draft of portfolio paper... The good news I received this month is that my first portfolio paper I was working on in January and February officially passed. The sobering news is that I have a second one to turn in. Right now it is slightly over halfway finished, and I'm anxious to get it done and sent to my dissertation chair.

Email committee about comps list... I need to start prepping for my comprehensive reading exam, which I am planning to take in August. I need my committee to give me their recommendations and requirements for my reading list, so I can start borrowing, buying, and downloading the books and articles I will need to read.

Send a letter to my grandma.... My grandma's health has been slowly declining, so I want to send her a letter to cheer her up and some updated pictures of her namesake, Zianne.

Read Insurgent. I still haven't seen the Divergent movie yet, but I've decided to finish reading the trilogy in the meantime.

Send one note of encouragement.

Cake Batter Blondies

Do you want to make the world's easiest "homemade" dessert that's sure to please any crowd, young or old? If your answer is yes, then cake batter blondies is probably the recipe for you. Six ingredients, a bowl, a spoon, a pan, an oven. You don't even have to get out your mixer.

What you need...
1 box yellow cake mix
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 large egg
1/3 -1/2 cup milk {less is better}
1/2 cup sprinkles {the fun part is choosing color, size, style - I used a mix of two}
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

What you do...
Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Spray an 8x8 or 11x7 baking pan with nonstick spray {use a smaller pan for thicker bars; use the larger pan for thinner bars}.

Combine first four ingredients in a large bowl. Add the milk slowly. You want to cake batter to be as dense & thick as possible. Mix in the sprinkles and white chocolate chips. Pour into prepared baking pan, sprinkle a few more sprinkles on top, and bake for 25-30 minutes until edges are just turning brown.

Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes so the center sets, before cutting into squares.

*The blondies will look like they are not fully done because the center will be quite gooey, but that’s what you want! After about 30 minutes of cooling, they will be easy to cut using a serrated knife.

*Do not use BLACK sprinkles swirled into the blondies. It will turn the batter black before baking.

Recipe adapted from: Sally's Baking Addiction

Mar 29, 2014

Saturday Snippets

Children's Artwork Collage
{Playful Learning}

I like reading positive things about marriage...

The former journalist in me loves this piece on the art of combining fonts...

Italian Drunken Noodles. Must make this ASAP...

Some fun ideas to save children's art work without drowning in paper... collage // photo book // stuffed animals

Although I will probably never try a water birth, I appreciated this article...

A convicting post about why to limit kids' electronic use...

A letter to moms of adopted children...

An excellent view on standing up to your kids...

This captures the spirit of the running community so beautifully. This is exactly how I felt the first time I ran a half marathon.

Ten things to excel at in your 30s. Advice from older generations.

Mar 27, 2014

A Day in the Life

I've heard from many young moms that you don't start to feel normal after having a baby until 4-6 months postpartum {and sometimes longer, so please don't freak out if you've hit six months and still don't feel back in the groove yet}, and I must say that's been true for me. Sometime during the fourth month I started to feel like maybe I could accomplish some school work finally. Around month five, Zianne started taking a consistent, long morning nap and that was a game-changer. Having a two hour-ish window to get things done in the morning has started to make me feel human again, and gives me stamina to get through her two afternoon naps that are sometimes long, sometimes short, and sometimes non-existent.

Being a mother is grueling and often unpredictable. I've learned to take a deep breath when changes happen unexpectedly, and I'm slowly disciplining myself to sit down and work on school stuff the instant the baby goes down for her first nap, instead of folding laundry and cleaning bathrooms and all those chores around the house that easily distract me. I wouldn't say we're on a schedule yet, but Zianne and I have rhythms and routines that are working well for us right now. I know things will change as she gets mobile, when she drops her early evening nap, and as we introduce more solids and "meal times" into her diet, but for now I am enjoying each day we spend together. I am loving the six month age so much. I love seeing Zianne's personality emerge each day and getting to watch her develop new skills, but I also really enjoy that she still can't crawl or walk, and I'm trying to savor my days with an immobile baby who will sit on my lap and laugh at my antics.

I want to share a peak into our days together. My reasons for posting this are twofold. First, I want to capture these memories and moments of life at home with my six month old daughter. I know I'll look back on this time with hazy nostalgia, so I want to paint a picture for the older me as clearly as possible. Secondly, if and when we are blessed with another baby and I feel lost and overwhelmed in those first weeks and months, I want to look back on this post and remember what six months is like... because six months is pretty sweet.

I try to wake up at 7:00am, approximately an hour before Zianne. This is my quiet hour to drink coffee and read the Word as Micah gets ready for work.

Zianne wakes up around 8:00, ideally. I feed her and then she does some tummy time on the floor of my room as I make the bed and pick up any lingering clothes on the floor.

Zianne's wake time is super short in the morning, so about an hour after she wakes up, I give her a quick bath and then it's right back in her crib for her morning nap.

Thankfully, Zianne's first nap has become a consistent 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 hours, so I try to privilege working on school work during this time. The one exception to this is Mondays when my mom comes over during nap time and I run errands, go to the gym, and go grocery shopping for the week.

When Zianne wakes up, I feed her and then it's play time. I try to do some floor time with her, and she also enjoys her jumper, her play mat, and her exersaucer. I usually rotate her through these "centers" every ten minutes or so, as soon as she shows signs of boredom. Her favorite place to be, if I'm not actually holding her, is in her Prince Lionheart chair up on the kitchen counter. She is perfectly content sucking on a teething toy and watching me cook or unload the dishwasher. Now that we've started solids, I give her a few bites of food before her afternoon nap.

I usually devote Z's second nap to housework... folding laundry, cleaning bathroom, etc. As I mentioned, this nap is much more inconsistent - sometimes 45 minutes, sometimes an hour and a half - but regardless, I can get one or two big tasks done during this time. I also usually try to scrounge something for lunch at this point. I am really bad about finding something substantial and healthy to eat for lunch on days I'm home by myself.

After Z's second nap, she eats again, we do more play time, and I might start prepping dinner. Every once in awhile we'll run an errand in the afternoon or go for a jog around the neighborhood. Usually she will go back down for a super quick nap {30-ish minutes} around 5:00pm. I try to finish cooking dinner during this time, so we are ready to eat when Micah gets home.

I've been successful at getting to the gym three days a week. This usually happens on days my mom watches Zianne, so if it was a gym day, I try to squeeze in a shower during her afternoon or early evening nap.

Around 5:30, dad gets home! I feed Z again before we eat our own dinner. I've started giving her solids during our dinner meal, and she seems to like eating them the most at this time of day.

From 6:30-8:00pm Zianne and Micah hang out as much as possible. They play around the house and sometimes he'll take her for a run around the neighborhood. In the last half hour or so before bedtime, she gets increasingly cranky and we both try to keep her super stimulated and distracted until it's time for bed.

Bedtime starts around 8:00pm, but Z nurses FOREVER during this time, so she's often not actually asleep in her crib until 8:45 or 9:00pm. But if that means she'll keep sleeping in until 8:00am, I have no problem with it!

So this is what a day at home looks like. Of course, not all days work the same way. On Thursdays, I teach at ASU and Zianne spends most of the day at grandma and grandpa's house. At least once a week we try to get together with friends for lunch or a play date. And usually, at least once a week, we have an evening event to go to, and Z goes to bed a little bit later. I'm glad we have a full calendar to keep us busy, but I usually find our sweet, slow, monotonous days at home are my very favorite...

Mar 26, 2014

Finish This...

This game is called "Finish This," and all you have to do is finish the following prompts and link up your post below! You can also visit the other hosts of this party on their fun blogs: Nicole {Three 31} Lisa {Coastlined}, and Becky {The Java Mama}.

1. I know it's a little weird but... I kind of enjoy cleaning my bathroom. I don't actually like the process {who actually likes cleaning a toilet?}, but the result is so thrilling for me that I religiously clean my bathrooms every single week without fail. 

2. When stopped at a stoplight, I... tend to look at my phone. I've turned into one of those cannot-just-sit-still-for-a-minute people in the car. I will check my email, read a text, or even just pick it up for no good reason. I realize this is a bad habit I should break pronto.

3. My guilty pleasure is... ice cream. I typically eat a few bites of ice cream out of the carton every night before bed. When I told a trainer this at the gym, she marked it down as an "unhealthy habit," but I think I disagree. I honestly only eat a few spoonfuls at most, sometimes only one. I don't think a few bites of reduced fat ice cream is that big of a deal as an evening snack, so maybe I don't actually feel guilty about this.

4. My favorite way to unwind... is probably on my computer. Reading a few blogs, writing a post, editing pictures, etc.

Prompts for next week:

1. I don't get enough...
2. My favorite indulgence...
3. I made a major change in my life when...
4. You should read...
5. ____ is my secret ingredient in...

An InLinkz Link-up

Mar 25, 2014

Toys Your Baby Will Actually Use

The first six months of a baby's life are tricky. Typically during this time, your child sleeps a lot, cannot sit or crawl, and is mostly content being held or staring at the ceiling fan. However, as the weeks go by and your baby is awake for longer stretches and more alert and attentive to his or her surroundings, it's nice to have a few toys for your infant to engage with. The minimalist in me has a fear of baby gear taking over my house, so I like to keep toys and baby paraphernalia as simple as possible. However, I also want Z to be able to play with some toys as her brain develops so rapidly, to see different colors and shapes, to hear various sounds, and, of course, to have some plastic and rubber to cram in her mouth as she teethes. Here is my short list of toys your child will actually play with during the first six months of life...

Toys for Baby {0-6 months}

{Toys for Baby {0-6 months} by jenrussum on Polyvore}

Sassy Wonder Wheel - This is the FIRST toy Zianne engaged with when she was 8 or 9 weeks old. Micah held it above her face and taught her how to reach out her tiny, uncoordinated hands to spin the wheel. Now this gem attaches to the tray on her outdoor swing and her Prince Lionheart seat, and she spins it all day long!

Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes - This is the first toy that made Zianne smile. Around the same time we introduced her to the wheel, we started using this little music toy. It lights up as it plays music and Zianne's face lights up right along with it. Now she knows how to push the button and start a new song on her own.

Sophie the Giraffe - This is one of the top ranked teething toys for a reason. It's soft and rubbery and every child loves it. At my ladies' book club last year, we use to watch all the kids, even toddlers who were too old for her, fight over Sophie. We would joke that there is something magic about this giraffe... except it's not a joke. She really is magic.

Zoli Gummy Teething Sticks - When Zianne received these for Christmas, Micah thought they were going to be a total waste of money. He admits now that he was wrong. Zianne loves to gnaw on these things. We keep them in the freezer and pull one out for her when she gets fussy around dinnertime.

Oball Rattle - I would always watch the older babies in our community group play with these balls and I knew Z would want one. It rattles and can be gripped easily by little baby hands.

Rock-a-Stack Stacking Rings - Micah and I bought the classic Fisher Price stacking rings for Zianne as a Christmas gift. I can't say she full engages with them yet, since she still can't sit up, but she likes to kick the stack and watch it topple over and sometimes she even manages to get a ring wrapped around her wrist or ankle. Sometimes I sit with her and tell her the color of each ring. I know she'll get more use out of this in months to come, but I'm glad we got it for her when we did.

Carseat toy - Zianne has this Taggies Lion attached to her car seat. She likes to cram it into her mouth as we drive around town. She also got to "borrow" her twin friends' Lamaze Firefly toy {aka... they left it at our house} and she really likes the way it crinkles. Hopefully I can convince her to give it back to them...

Lovey travel blanket - Zianne has just started to enjoy her lovey blankets in the past few weeks. I keep a plush gray one in her crib now and an elephant lovey in her toy basket. She likes to stick the elephant's trunk in her mouth, of course.

Jesus Storybook Bible - This is actually recommended for children ages 4-8, but it's never too early to start reading the Bible to your kids in my opinion, and this one is FAR better than most children's Bibles out there. Zianne has one board book Bible that skips the death and resurrection of Christ. What? This Bible is all about Jesus. I read it to her before nap time, and I'm just careful not to let her infant hands tear the big kid paper pages.

And that's it... those are the toys our baby girl actually engaged with over the first six months of her life. Of course, we read lots of board books and she has an activity center and jumper to keep her occupied too, but when it comes to actual toys, we've kept is simple. The ones on this list have been perfect for us!

Mar 24, 2014


Working on getting teeth and eating solids...

Aunt Wanda came for a visit...

Morning coffee and afternoon baking...

Surfing with dad...

Nap for baby; laundry for mama...

Sneaking a little March Madness into a busy day...

Celebrating six months with this sweet girl...

||To see more of our life lately follow @jenrussum on Instagram||

Mar 22, 2014

Saturday Snippets

Thinking of our children as our littlest neighbors...

When a stay-at-home mom needs hired help...

Speaking life to those coming behind you...

Erasing entitlement...

What would you do if your son loved ballet?

BBC believes you've only read six of these books... {I've read 23 of them, which is probably not too impressive for an English major/PhD student!}

I know washi tape has been trendy for a few years now, but I've been liking it more and more lately, especially for decorating snail mail.

One of the newest parenting debates is whether or not screen time is appropriate for young children and babies. This article says NO to handheld devices for kids. Zianne's pediatrician says technology with boundaries is fine. What are your thoughts?

Mar 19, 2014

Sister Style: Mint on Mint

I know these posts are supposed to be about mama style... but sometimes the baby is napping, your sister is in town for spring break, you are coordinating in green for your St. Patrick's themed community group that evening and you decide to take some pictures in the backyard. We snapped these pictures on the fancy cam, before we resorted to the iPhone for ease, because as my sister put it, "I'm not above selfies."

Also, don't think my sister's shirt made it all the way to our green-themed dinner. No. She got pooped on by Zianne long before dinner time...

P.S. It's my sister's birthday today... Happy Birthday, Katie!

Jen's look:
Striped tee // LOFT {similar or similar}
Jeans // Wit and Wisdom via Nordstrom 
{These are the best and most comfy skinny jeans in the world and super affordable too!}
Necklace // Curated by Kelly {similar or similar}

Katie's look:
Tank // Target
Cut offs // Similar
Black and gold bangles // Similar

|Linking up with The Pleated Poppy and Because Shanna Said So|

Mar 18, 2014

Finish This...

This game is called "Finish This," and all you have to do is finish the following prompts and link up your post below! You can also visit the other hosts of this party on their fun blogs: Nicole {Three 31} Lisa {Coastlined}, and Becky {The Java Mama}.

When I need help with life's mysteries, I turn to... the Bible. It doesn't always give a specific answer, but it reminds me that I can trust God, who is always working out everything for my spiritual good.

My next challenge is figuring out... how to write my second portfolio paper for grad school. This paper is all the stands between me and moving on to the final parts of my PhD program... my exams and dissertation!

I shake things up... by never following a recipe exactly. I always improvise by adding or subtracting ingredients or mixing two recipes together to make my own creation.

High heels are... something I used to be able to rock for 9 hours straight when I worked at Nordstrom in my young 20s. Now I can hardly stand to wear them for an hour. Flats for life. 

An InLinkz Link-up

On Breastfeeding {Part Two}...

I am back for part two of my breastfeeding series {read Part I here}. These are the items I've used over the past six months to help my nursing journey go smoothly. Every lady is different, of course. I would recommenced keeping the receipts for anything you buy related to nursing, because you might find that a product or a method that was highly recommended just doesn't work for you or your baby when the times comes. Nonetheless, here is what worked for me. I hope this list is helpful to you!

Milkies Milk Savers - This little cup is a genius way to catch all the overflow milk you produce for the first few weeks of nursing. You slide the cup in your bra on the side where the baby is not nursing, and it catches your letdown. I honestly saved bottles of milk with this contraption.

Nursing Cover - Honestly, Z hates to be covered when nursing. At first, I didn't like using a cover because we were still working on our latch and positioning and I wanted to keep my eye on what was going on. I think she got so used to be uncovered that once I tried to use one later on, she would bat it away instantly. However, I still use my cover for when I pump. If you are full-time working mama who pumps a lot throughout the day, I would recommend having two covers {if your baby uses one} - one in the diaper bag, one in your pumping bag.

Pump - I have the Ameda Purely Yours pump and it works great for me. You can most likely get a free pump from your insurance, so call them before you purchase anything on your own.

Bottles - I heard that Tommy Tippee bottles were great for breastfed babies, so that's what I registered for, and I really like them. We introduced Z to bottles right at two weeks and she's always been fine with them. I'm home with her most of the time, but I would say she now takes 4-6 bottles throughout the week when Micah or my mom watch her.

Lawn drying rack - This is where all the baby bottles and pump parts dry on the counter.

Lanolin cream - I barely had to use any cream because nursing went so smoothly for us, but I would recommend having at least a tube of this on hand for cracked or sore nipples. It also works on your baby's neck rolls, if his or her chins are chafing. True story!

Lansinoh storage bags - These are awesome bags for storing pumped milk.

Lansinoh nursing pads - These are the disposable nursing pads I still use. I have a set of Bamboobies as well, but I prefer the disposable type. 

Elle McPherson bra - This is my favorite nursing bra. It's supportive, comfortable, and not atrociously ugly or bulky. I've heard it recommended by women of various sizes, so I think it's very versatile for almost any body shape.

Panache "Sophie" bra - This is the other nursing bra I love, but they only make it for bigger sizes. It's supportive and the only nursing bra that comes close to the "sexy" category.

Cheap Target nursing bras {like this one} - Don't even bother buying a real nursing bra or tank for the first two months, because your size will go up and down as your milk supply stabilizes. I used two inexpensive bras from Target during this time. They aren't super supportive, but they work for those first crazy weeks when you are around the house most of the time anyway.

Nursing sleep cami - These are the best things to sleep in during the first few months of nursing, especially when you are still waking up for night feedings. You feel like you are covered when you go to bed, but you can easily slide the top to the side to nurse, and the stretchy cotton gives you room as your milk supply builds up during {hopefully} longer stretches of sleep at night.

Hands free pumping bra - This thing is amazing. Ignore the awkward cartoon photos of a pumping woman on the packaging. I don't know how to pump anymore without this bra.

Aden and Anais swaddle blankets - Keep one of these blankets in your diaper bag at all times. It can be used as a cover if needed. It can wipe spit up when you can't find a burp cloth. It can even be used as a pillow to prop the baby's head into the right position when feeding on the go.

Boppy pillow or Brestfriend - You will want some kind of pillow to make breastfeeding comfortable. I have both of these pillows. Lactation consultants will usually recommend the Brestfriend, and I found it the most helpful for the first few weeks, especially when figuring out how to feed at home without the help of an adjustable bed and 18 million pillows at the hospital. Around week eight, we transitioned to using the Boppy, which we now use all the time. I would not buy both pillows, but if you can get one as a gift and then borrow the other from a friend, that might be the perfect combo.

Boppy cover - I splurged on a Pottery Barn Kids Boppy cover, and I'm so glad I did. It's so soft and such high quality. The Boppy gets covered in all types of questionable fluids, and this cover washes perfectly clean every time. It's also fairly easy to put on and take off, which I appreciate.

So there is my list of breastfeeding must-haves. Yes, the things on this list will cost you a bit of money, but they will make your journey so much more enjoyable and most of them can be used for multiple children. And remember... the milk is free!

*Some affiliate links used throughout.

Mar 17, 2014

On Breastfeeding {Part One}...

Yesterday, Zianne had her first taste of solids {aka one part rice cereal, four parts breast milk.... we'll be starting veggies in a few days}. She loved eating. Mainly, I think she was elated that we were giving her a new piece of plastic {the spoon} to put in her mouth. I honestly tried to savor her last full week of being fully breastfed, because introducing solids is the first step in weening and it was a tiny bit bittersweet.

Now that I'm six months into this breastfeeding gig, I thought I'd take a step back and assess what worked... what didn't... and which products I actually used to make this once full-time {now part-time} job easier on me and the baby. I know I am already forgetting details from the newborn stage and I'm on a mission to write down everything I can, so I have something to look back on if and when we are blessed with baby #2 and I'm feeling overwhelmed or hazy on how the first six months go down.

And if you are about to embark on the breastfeeding adventure for the first time or you are in the midst of the first few crazy weeks or months of nursing, I hope these posts are helpful and encouraging. I know every woman's experience is different, so I don't offer up this information to claim that my way is the right way or the only way. But I know as I've had questions as a mom, I've liked jumping online, reading about different methods and experiences, and then making my own decisions and forging my own path based on what seems to work best with my child and for our family. I'm only here to add to the conversation...

1. It will get easier. There is nothing like the first two months of nursing. You are typically feeding 8 or more times a day. Feedings might last an hour or more. You are getting up multiple times in the middle of night. It is literally MORE than a full time job. When you do the math, you will discover you are feeding your child well over 200 hours in a month, so don't do the math, unless that kind of thing motivates you. You also might be trying to overcome latching problems, cracked nipples, or any number of difficulties or discomforts. And your boobs are just weird. They get engorged and uncomfortable. You are spilling out of bras and shirts. You doubt any of your clothes will fit again. You can't imagine you will ever find a nursing bra that actually fits and you are constantly leaking and spraying milk on yourself, on top of all the times your infant regurgitates milk back onto you. For the first two months, you will be a milky mess. But eventually all that changes. Suddenly your baby will sleep longer stretches... you will drop feedings... seven, six, down to five a day {usually by five months}. Your milk supply will stabilize. Your baby will sleep through the night. The leaking will become minimal or stop all together. Feedings will take 15 minutes. You will find a bra or tank that supports you well... and all of a sudden you'll realize one day during a quick and painless feeding... "Oh, we've got this."

2. Educate yourself. I highly recommend taking a breastfeeding class before your child is born, even if you've watched videos or read a book. There is something about learning in a classroom with a group that is so beneficial. Take your spouse to this class too, so he understands the benefits of breastfeeding and some of the challenges that are ahead. Micah has been a huge reason that breastfeeding has gone so well for our family. Anytime I would sit down for one of those hour long newborn feedings, I would realize I forgot something {my phone, my Bible, the remote, water, food, etc.} and I would only have to ask him once for help. He would drop whatever he was doing immediately and fetch anything I needed to make the feeding go well. I am so thankful for him, and I think it's something he realized he needed to do because he attended the class with me. Additionally, you shouldn't be pessimistic or worried about breastfeeding, but educate yourself on things that can go wrong and various solutions. Find out what are signs of tongue tie? What foods can you eat to increase your supply if it seems low? What are some common foods you might have to eliminate from your diet if your baby reacts poorly to something you eat? Give yourself a decent knowledge base, so you don't have to figure out everything when the baby is crying on your lap and you haven't slept through the night in the past week. There will still be many things to figure out when the baby is born, but try to do some of the preliminary research beforehand.

3. Get help. Although breastfeeding is natural, it's not necessarily easy or straightforward. I know, as mammals, our babies are supposed to come from the womb ready to nurse, but that's not always how it goes down. Over the past year I've watched so many friends struggle to breastfeed their children. I've seen mothers wrestle with low supply, tongue tie, resulting frenotomy surgery, blistered, bleeding and inverted nipples, latching problems, and the list goes on and on. I've also watched all these friends overcome these challenges in one way or another. But it was hard for them for a while. Z and I had a really smooth breastfeeding experience, but I still spent my first two weeks wincing at the start of every feeding, and at night I would lie face down on my engorged chest and ask Micah to massage my back because it ached with the pain of around the clock feedings. Yes, it truly does get better, as mentioned above, but that doesn't mean it's any less overwhelming when you're in the thick of it at the start. I highly suggest having a recommended lactation consultant on speed dial for when you arrive home from the hospital. Hopefully, your hospital {if you use one for delivery} has a lactation consultant team that you can call after you are discharged, but, sadly, lactation consulting departments at hospitals are overworked and understaffed, so I would recommend considering a private lactation consultant if you are struggling. They are like magic baby whisperers who will come to your house and sit with you during feedings to give you advice, reassurance, check your baby's latch, your posture... everything. Many times insurance will pay for them, but even if they won't, it might be the best $50-80 you ever spend on yourself and your child. Also, learn about La Leche Leagues and other breastfeeding support groups in your area. And finally, find a few friends that successfully breastfed their children that you can call or text for advice or help if you need it. Basically, have a handful of people or groups you can call on for help. Maybe you won't ever need to... but it's good to have the phone numbers ready just in case.

4. Don't worry. Yes, breastfeeding is often hard at first. Yes, it hurts for the first few weeks, and don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise. Yes, you might have to do some troubleshooting while you and your baby adjust to your new way of life together. But breastfeeding is a natural and beautiful thing. There are tools and medicines and professionals to help you overcome almost any problem... and there's also a very good chance there won't be any problems at all. Many women, other than the initial latching pain for the first week or two and the discomfort when their milk comes in, don't experience any setbacks with nursing. Zianne and I transitioned to breastfeeding so easily that I didn't even have to use all the lanolin and other pain soothing devices I had bought. I'm glad I was prepared to combat the pain, but I was so thankful that I got to return almost all my breastfeeding aids to Target a few weeks after she was born. So buy some supplies to get you through the first few weeks, but don't actually open any packages and save all your receipts, because you might be one of those mamas who gets to take it all back to the store when everything goes smoothly!

5. Feed your child. My goal is to breastfeed Zianne for at least a year, and we are halfway there. I don't take our success for granted at all. I was prepared for difficulties, and I still keep two sample size containers of formula in the pantry in case we ever have an emergency. I hope we never have to use them, but I will be thankful they are sitting on the shelf if we ever need them. If you are determined to breastfeed, my hope for you is that all goes smoothly, and that you have resources to help you if you run into problems and people around you who support your decisions. But, like anything in this fallen world, breastfeeding isn't guaranteed to happen for your and your child... or at least not in the ideal way you've planned it. Because of sin, we live in a broken world, where things like premature birth, disease, sickness, low supply and misshapen mouths and bodies affect the ability for a woman to nurse her child. When it comes down to it, you are a good and loving mom if you feed your child... whether it happens at the breast, through a bottle, with milk, formula, or a combination of the two... whether you nurse around the clock, use your pump, get donated milk, or supplement because you don't have a sufficient milk supply. No matter what you do to feed your child, you are doing the right thing.

I'll be back tomorrow to share some of the products that have helped my breastfeeding journey go smoothly...
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