How to Stay Healthy As A New Mom [+Free Printable!]

Being a new mom can be really overwhelming. I've written about this before, but my experience in the first 6 months after having my son was really tough. I spent a lot of time having to track everything I did: pumping, feeding, ounces, diapers. Beyond that, I needed a way to track things for myself. 

Unfortunately, there is no app that combines tracking your baby's feedings and diapers as well as tracking your meals, medications, and more. In an ideal world, I'd be developing just that app because I believe there is a huge place for an app that does that! Most baby tracking apps were clunky to me and either didn't have all the features I wanted or those features were hard to use. 

Instead, I made these printable tracking sheets. I stuck one to my fridge every morning and jotted notes throughout the day. I have a binder full of these that I can't bring myself to throw away. They were infinitely helpful with tracking patterns when Forrest was tiny and my memory was very hazy, especially when our pediatrician would ask questions like, "How many diapers does he have a day? How much is he eating every day?" 

Beyond that, they helped me remember to take care of myself too. For me, that was the hardest part of being a new mom. A whole day would go by and I would realize all I'd eaten was Cheez-Its while holding Forrest for a nap or a hasty dry piece of toast as I pumped. I forgot my vitamins more often than not, didn't remember to drink water, or just plain couldn't remember when I last showered. 

That's why there's a section for you, the mom! Eating healthy, taking care of yourself, remembering to take those vitamins... it's all important when you're taking care of a newborn. Why? Because they need you to be healthy! You can't take care of a baby if you yourself are starving. 

Often, printables like these focus on one thing or the other: just pumping, just breastfeeding, or just formula. For me, I was doing a little bit of everything! So whether you're formula feeding, trying to keep up with pumping, or settling into a good breastfeeding relationship, these tracking sheets work. 

If you'd like to check it out, click below to download and learn more! 

5 Gift Ideas for New Moms

One of the most common questions my non-mom friends ask me is, "What should I get so-and-so for a gift? Once she has her baby?" It's sometimes hard to know what exactly to give someone when they've just had a baby--and you don't really want to bug the new parents by asking what, exactly, they'd like. I thought I'd share a few ideas. 

1. Food. 

When in doubt, give food: gift cards for their closest pizza place, meals to shove in the freezer, groceries that make easy meals, or pre-made snacks. One thing that I ate pretty much non-stop when Forrest was a newborn was turkey sandwiches. So if you really don't know what to do, make some food, buy some groceries, or pick up a few gift cards so they can pick up take out. 

2. Gift cards

Again, gift cards are one of the best gifts you can give, either for food or groceries, or, alternatively, places they would need to pick up something quick. I basically fell in love with everyone who sent me a Target or Wal-Mart gift card in the newborn days; my husband and I ended up going to Target at least once a day for the first two weeks to get things we just hadn't thought of (more diaper cream, Vaseline, diapers, a head support for the car seat). A few ideas include Target, Babies'r'Us, Wal-Mart, WalGreens, their local grocery store, or Amazon. 

3. A clean house. 

People really underestimate how nice it is to have a clean house. I remember feeling like I would never have order again when we brought Forrest home; I'd been in the hospital for over a week and a half, I hadn't seen my house in days, there was mail and stuff and boxes everywhere from people sending us things, bringing us things, and trying to organize without me being there. Plus, we had all this baby furniture moved around. So here's my piece of advice: hire a cleaning service for your new mom friend OR go and vacuum, pick up, and clean for her. 

4. Time.

When Forrest was around 3 weeks old, my mom came over one afternoon so that I could take my first shower in like 8 or 9 days. It was the best 40 minutes of my life. If you have a new mom friend, sanitize your hands and body incredibly well, make sure you don't even have an inkling of a cough, and ask if she'd like you to hold the baby while she showers, or pays bills, or lies in bed. Holding a newborn is pretty great tbh.  

5. A necklace. 

All of these gifts are great. But some people really, really want to get moms something more... substantial than just useful. If you're this kind of person (which is awesome), I highly recommend something commemorative. It doesn't have to be super expensive. I have a bracelet with a little blue bead that my mother-in-law gave me after Forrest was born and I love it. A necklace or simple bracelet is a great idea. I like this simple stone necklace. This personalized Tree of Life necklace is gorgeous. This simple ring is perfect for a mom who doesn't wear a ton of jewelry. Confession, I'm actually thinking of ordering this super cool necklace for myself

None of these gifts tickle your fancy? Most importantly, you know your friend better than anyone else. Give something from the heart, whether that means a gift card, a big hug, or a pizza. One note I'd like to include is please don't get new moms anything "feeding specific": if your friend is struggling with breastfeeding, it can feel like a lot of pressure to review a breastfeeding pillow, breast milk bags, or a breastfeeding shawl. 

5 Things I've Learned as a Working Mom

Being a working mom is hard work. I've written before about being a working mom, but it's worth repeating. This isn't to say that stay-at-home moms have it easy; I honestly don't know how SAHMs do it sometimes. I'm in awe of them. Each mom's journey is totally unique and that's what makes motherhood so incredibly special. 

I find being a working mom incredibly fulfilling. While I don't believe in "having it all" (a concept that is both baffling and impossible-to-achieve), I think working and being home gives me the opportunity to have the best of both worlds. To have my cake and eat it too. 

Before June, I worked part-time. During the summer, I went back to full-time, leaving Danny at home with Forrest all day. (This was a little bit of a taste of what my maternity leave was like for him. The results were... amazing.) In September, I'll be returning to part-time hours, something that is both exciting and a little sad. I love my job: I love working in content marketing all day. I love being able to learn how to do new things. But I also want to be able to take Forrest to baby reading time at the library, to go on walks in the park, and more. I want those days with him, I really do. They're the best days, even if they are hard. 

Before my full-time working mom status comes to a close, I wanted to share a few things I've learned along the way. 

1. Every hour is valuable. 

I'm lucky to work a job with incredibly flexible hours. I leave every morning at 6:30am, which means I get to make Forrest his breakfast and maybe give him a few bites before I leave it to Danny and rush out the door. I'm home by 3pm, giving me time to play with Forrest for an hour, make dinner, feed him, and then play a little bit more before it's time to bed. He's asleep most days by 6-7pm, giving me time to clean up dinner, clean up the living room and kitchen, maybe do a few chores (laundry or picking up the house, nothing intense), and sit down to work on my blog or freelance work. Then it's time for bed and I'll do it all over the next day. Why am I telling you our schedule? I get an hour and a half of time with Forrest each work day. I have to make it count, so I do. 

2. It's incredibly stressful to relinquish control. 

Nothing stresses me out more than knowing something is wrong with Forrest (a bad rash, teething, a cold coming on) and not being the one taking care of him during the day. I want to be the one making sure to put on the diaper creams each diaper change; I want to be the one giving him saline and ibuprofen every 4 hours. I want to be in control so that I know it's done correctly. I'm Type A. What can I say? 

3. There's never enough time for me unless I let things fall to the side. 

One of those things, truthfully, is keeping my house immaculate. I love a clean house. I'd love to have time to clean my oven, to scrub my floors, to repaint spots that have been stained or chipped. Truth is, I do have time to do those things... but it would be at the loss of the few hours of me time I have every day. So I let it go. I'll have time for it someday. Forrest probably won't judge me for the unpatched spots on my walls. 

4. I'm really bad at prioritizing myself. 

Related to number 3: I'm very bad at putting myself first. Funny, since I had a good 26.5 years of doing it before hand. I've been meaning to buy myself new clothes and new make up (and new shoes) for ages. I've been meaning to clean out my closet and all my clothes in storage for ages. I have done neither of those things. Whenever I get a bit of spare money, I spend it on Forrest; he needs pajamas more than I need new jeans. He needs fall outfits more than I do. Those are complete lies, but it's what I tell myself. I feel guilty treating myself to the smallest of things--but I'll splurge big on a set of pajamas for him. 

5. No one understands how busy you are. 

Working moms: no one else knows the struggle quite as well as other working moms. Sometimes, my coworkers will set a meeting for 3pm and ask, "Oh can't you just stay an hour longer?" No. I can't stay an hour longer--that's the hour I get to sing and have music time, play, and read books. No, you can't have it. You get 8 hours of me a day. Use. Them. Wisely. No one quite gets the bedtime routines ("You can't meet for drinks at 6pm? Bring the baby! Why not?") or the hectic weekends or the mad dashes to the grocery store for formula. No one really gets it but other moms. That's ok, though. They'll get it someday. 

5 Products I Love (Right Now)

The things I use on a daily basis change as I try new things and settle into different routines. As a mom, I budget really heavily, but there are some non-necessary items I like to include in our lives every day. These are them. 

1. Plum Organics Baby Hello Morning Cereals

Forrest loves these cereals. They're little packets of baby-friendly oatmeal: not too sweet, but not too bland (like a lot of baby food tends to be). They're actually made from both oatmeal and quinoa, which means he's getting a pretty good helping of oatmeal as well. He's quite partial to the apple cinnamon & banana blueberry flavors. 

2. NYX HD Photo Concealer

Concealer is extremely hard to find at an affordable price point, but, per usual, NYX comes through. The best part is that the lightest shade matches my skin perfectly, instead of being an unsightly orange color. (What is with pale foundations ending up orange?) 

3. Tazo Organic Chai Tea

I tend to bop back and forth between drinking tea and then not for months at a time. I recently have been struggling with anemia and started needing caffeine in the afternoon to keep me awake. I started drinking chai tea again and I wonder really why I ever stopped. 

4. e.l.f. Studio Contour Palette 

When I first tried this palette, I was not impressed--but the more I've used it, the more I fall in love with it. Contour palettes are expensive, though, and for $8 at Target, this one is a winner. I thought I wanted a cream palette, but the one I ended up getting, I found difficult to blend. With the right brushes (I use a fluffy eyeshadow brush to apply and then a kabuki brush to blend), this one is easy to use and looks great. 

5. Happy Tot Organics Smoothies

Another baby food product--but I use these ones as well. These smoothie blends, meant for toddlers, are great for watering down and giving to Forrest in a sippy cup (I'm hoping it motivates him to hold the cup himself). As well, adding one to my own smoothie adds an extra helping of fruits and vegetables, which is a win-win! They taste pretty good too. 

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On Going Back to Work

I went back to work January 4, after about 14 weeks away. In those 14 weeks, I had had an emergency induction, had Forrest, spent at least 500 hours pumping (seriously, that's about 24 days in total), and had attempted to rapidly adjust to my life as a new mom. 

At first, I went back part-time and we settled into what I like to think as a Very Good routine. However, as Forrest got older, his sleep deteriorated and I was left feeling just as sleep-deprived and vulnerable as I had in the beginning... with the added bonus of being the sole content marketing team member at a promising startup (and wearing multiple hats, like Content Entry Specialist and Graphic Designer and Marketing Strategist/Analyst/Copywriter, etc.) After we decided to sleep train, things improved rapidly, though

The best part about Danny being a teacher is that he gets summers off. At the end of June, Danny started staying at home with Forrest full-time while I went to work. The role reversal has been eye opening for both of us. 

What Danny's Learned

I don't write this to call Danny out or anything, but he really didn't understand how difficult it was to stay home with Forrest all day, provide 100% of the care, and not get any help in the evenings. It's a really common attitude among men, especially new fathers (and even experienced fathers!). The logic Danny had was that he was at work, while I was at home pumping, feeding, and taking care of a baby--all while watching TV. Was it that hard? In the evenings, if I asked for help, Danny would often respond that he was 'tired' or he had had a 'long day.' Which very well might have been true--but I had long days with Forrest too. In fact, every day was a long day, even if there were fun parts. Cooking, cleaning, getting groceries with a newborn, pumping, feeding bottles, holding him for hours and hours of naps... it wasn't a walk in the park. 

I think to Danny, he really didn't think that taking care of Forrest all day would be difficult or tiring. In fact, I think he thought he would have all kinds of time for things. 

The first day though, the minute I walked into the house, Danny said, "I'm sorry I wasn't nicer to you." He genuinely meant it and, you know what? He wasn't nice to me during my maternity leave, or even when I was a part-time  stay-at-home-mom. He expected me to do the majority of the housework, the cooking, and all of the care for Forrest, just because he went to work. He didn't seem to understand that being a mom and dad are 24/7 jobs--even if you go to a "real" job the rest of the day. I forgive him, though, because everyone has to learn sometime. 

And I like to think I'm being nicer to him than he was to me. 

What I've Learned

I have a very difficult time finding balance in my life even at the best of times--but especially now. My day starts at 5am and I don't really stop working or taking care of Forrest until he goes to bed at 6pm. And then, once I have time for it, I find myself putting off housework. I bounce between work-Michelle, mom-Michelle, and rest-Michelle--without ever being able to stop and do the things I need to, like vacuum the house or make the bed or fold the laundry that's been sitting at the end of the bed for a week. 

Working full-time is a true challenge for me. But I also find myself being happier than I have been. I love being able to go to work, to succeed  in my career while also being a great mom. I find a lot of personal satisfaction from working and having a career--and as much as I love Forrest, I'm not totally willing to give up being both a competent mother and writer. Being both, however, is a real challenge. 

What We've All Learned

Every day, around 1:30, right as I'm starting to pack up my office... I get a text message that says, "Forrest misses you." From 6:30am to 1:30pm is about as long as Forrest can go without seeing me. I'm sure if he had his way, Forrest would be able to spend all day playing on me or near me, but that's not the world we live in, kiddo, sorry. 

A few other lessons include the fact that, when I let go of things, Danny is perfect capable. Danny has so far kept Forrest fed (both bottles and table food, although he's nervous about feeding him things other than Gerber puffs) and has kept him entertained. They've also done lots of fun stuff together, like read books, go on walks, and drive into town.

I worried when I went back full-time in late June that Danny wouldn't be able to handle things without me--but the reality is, it's harder for me than it is for him. 

Follow Up: Is It Possible to NaNoWriMo with a Newborn?

Months ago, in the time I refer to as "pre-Forrest," I wrote a little post about attempting NaNoWriMo the month after Forrest was born. At the time, I really felt like NaNoWriMo was both possible and totally impossible. So much of it depended on "how things were going" with the baby and, as I've written before, I had no reason to believe I wouldn't have the absolutely perfect little darling newborn. 

I got a comment recently on that old post about whether I succeeded at NaNoWriMo. In November of 2015, I had fully planned to write follow up posts--but if you go back in my archives, you'll see I posted only 3 times in an entire month. So that's how that went. 

I realize, however, that I never actually wrote a follow up. So here it is, nearly a year later. My NaNoWriMo with a newborn follow up. 

Did I Succeed? 

When it comes to success at NaNoWriMo, the deciding factor is, obviously, did I hit 50,000 words? The answer is no, I didn't. So I failed. 

However, I did write about 20,000 words in the first 2 weeks of November. That is obviously Not the Goal, but it's a sizable enough number, especially given the fact that I was caring for a very fresh little human, pumping every 2 hours, and taking care of a house. For the first 2 weeks of November, Forrest still slept relatively well in his swing for naps, so I could squeeze in 30-40 minutes of writing before I had to hold him and watch TV. (Not that I minded.) By the second week, however, he was rebelling against the swing, so I took to wearing him in my Boba wrap to write. This worked reasonably well until he started to hate the Boba wrap, so I was relegated to the couch again. 

In November, Forrest was still quite small and sleeping a lot--like, most of the day. If I got a few spare minutes, I was eating or making another pot of coffee or trying to clean up my house. I stopped worrying about NaNoWriMo and thus, gave up on it. 

I got about halfway there, which is farther than some people get. And, full disclosure, I also pumped about 800 ounces of breast milk in November, so who's a failure really

What I Learned

Life is nothing without lessons. Whenever I don't do as well at something as I expected, I try to at least take some kind of lesson from it. So, if you're expecting a baby and thinking of attempting NaNoWriMo with your newborn (or just-out-of-that newborn stage baby), here are my suggestions: 

  • Be realistic. Not every baby will nap independently as a newborn. Some babies are great sleepers, but poor eaters, which means you have to keep a diligent eating schedule. If you are having your baby right before November, you have no idea what kind of baby your baby will be, so set realistic goals for yourself. 
  • Know that you'll be exhausted. This goes without saying, but if you have a few spare moments to sleep, you'll take them--versus writing.
  • Get a good wrap or baby carrier. I love my Ergo (I wish I'd gotten it instead of the Boba wrap). I still wear Forrest for naps in the Ergo now. It's easy to sit and work, or wash dishes, or do all kinds of things while you baby wear. 
  •  It's ok if you don't "succeed." Realistically, you might not hit the goal, but if you try, you've still at least tried something
  • At the end of the day, flexing your creative muscles, in whatever capacity you can, will keep you feeling human, even when your life is taken over by the tiniest, meanest boss you've ever had. 

Have you attempted NaNoWriMo with a newborn or young infant? Tell me about it on Twitter @michellelocke_

I Stopped Trying to Have a Perfect Home

In college, I watched the TV show Hoarders every week. I obsessively planned to watch each new episode. And after each episode, I would mop my floors, vacuum, fold my clothes and put them away, make my bed, reorganize my bedside table, clean out my drawers, etc. I cleaned, in short. I cleaned my house from top to bottom. 

As time went on, each episode got harder and harder to watch--and my post-Hoarders cleaning spree got longer and longer. I realized that Hoarders made me way too anxious. There is no reason to go through life making yourself miserable over and over again, so I vowed to never watch Hoarders again. 

Despite the fact that I stopped watching Hoarders, my obsessive cleaning didn't stop... and my sense of never having a clean enough house increased. After I moved into my new home in December 2013, I have ping-ponged between "it's not so bad" and "I should just burn this house down." 

But sometimes, it just didn't feel like enough. When my house is dirty, I feel very anxious and easily angered, very on-edge. It drives Danny crazy. At times, I felt like my house would never be as clean and cute as I want it to be.  

But then, someone will come over and I'll mention how messy or disorganized it is, and they'll give me this look of vague disbelief. "Michelle," they'll say, "your house is, like, nearly perfectly clean and organized and decorated. You're crazy." 

My due date group recently had fun making home tour videos: everyone walked through their house, filming with their phone, and posted it. When I posted mine, I, of course, included, "It's so messy." And you know what? Most people said it wasn't messy. 

I look around and I see stuff; I see the dog hair I've been meaning to vacuum up for a week; I see the trash that needs taken out, the book shelf that needs gone through, the Goodwill piles I need to just load up and move. But other people don't see those things. 

My house is never going to look magazine-ready. My living room has been taken over by primary colored baby toys and a monstrous baby gate; my kitchen has a high chair in it, the counters are covered in bottles and formula, and I have a massive bottle drying rack next to the sink. Martha Stewart is never going to come here and compliment that. 

Growing up means giving up things that were important to you. One of them, for me, is the perfect house. As people, we are messy and disorganized. We don't always keep the counters clean or our desks organized into perfect still lifes. And that's ok, really. It doesn't need to be. It's ok to be messy sometimes. 


An Ode to Working Moms

If you'd told me, 10 years ago, that when I had a baby there would be something called "mommy wars" on the internet, I would have said two things: 1) you're a liar because I'm not going to have kids, duh and 2) that sounds seriously stupid

Well, surprise 17-year-old Michelle, both those things are real.  

One of the many, many mommy wars (ugh) is the working moms and the stay at home moms. Those who participate in the (totally ridiculous) battles believe that, ultimately, they have it the hardest. The truth is, both working moms and stay at home moms struggle, just in different ways. 

I walk the line between being a stay at home mom and a working mom. When I go to work, I am at work: I have my work hat on, I try to dress in something other than sweatpants (a struggle), and I try not to think or talk about Forrest unless I'm asked.

It's easy to think that working moms just, you know, go back to work. They just get right back on the horse and work and go home and that's it, easy peasy. But it's just not so. Before I was one, I had a hard time conceptualizing why it was hard to be a working mom.

When you're a mom, the work doesn't really stop.

I get up everyday around 5am. I shower. I put on my makeup. I get dressed. By 6am, Forrest is starting to stir in his crib. I get him dressed, feed him a bottle if he hasn't had one for a while. I get him ready for the day before handing him off to Danny (if it's summer) or driving him to my mom's (if it's not). In the time I'm taking care of him, I get my coffee ready, put my breakfast and lunch in my lunch bag, and gather everything I need for the day. I go to work and when I get home, I keep working. I take care of Forrest, cook dinner, and feed him. I change diapers, play, and give him a bath. Once he is in bed, I clean the kitchen and living room and then do any freelance work I need to do. By 7 or 8pm, I might be able to sit down and watch a little TV, but I try to be in bed by 9pm at the latest. 

Spending all day away from your baby is awful.

The first few days I went to work, I cried the entire drive there. Some mornings, I still do. When Forrest has slept good and is in a great mood... I can't help but want to stay home! It's difficult to know that someone else is having fun with your baby while you're working, cuddling them, making sure they eat and sleep. It's hard for me to let go of the responsibility of being the primary caregiver. Since Forrest was born, I did most of the feedings. I got him to sleep for naps. I played with him and took his picture. Stepping away from that, and relinquishing control of his care is difficult for me. But it makes getting home to him even better. 

It's hard to feel like you're doing a good job at either thing. 

I sometimes feel like I rush through my days. I rush through my morning routine to try to get to work earlier. I rush through work to try and get home to Forrest. I rush through the evening to get to cleaning and to have everything ready for the next morning. In the end, I wonder how effective I am at being both a mom and an employee. I think about Forrest when I'm at work and I think about work (and all the things I didn't get to) when I'm with Forrest. It's stressful to try and do everything. 

Being a working mom is hard, it's true. But it can also be really fulfilling. I firmly believe that I need to work to remain happy in my life. I find fulfillment both in being a mom and in my career. I think it is absolutely possible to do both things--it just takes a little bit of sacrifice and finding what works. I'm getting better at balancing my work and my life. I'm getting better at reducing my stress outside (and inside) the office. 

But to all the other working moms out there: you aren't alone. We're all trundling along, doing the best we can. This is for you, you hardworking, professional ladies.