The Benefits of Formula Feeding (That No One Tells You)

The Benefits of Formula Feeding | Writing Between Pauses

Formula feeding has a somewhat bad reputation. And it doesn't help matters that there is so much bad or just plain false information out there regarding formula. I know when I was pregnant, I felt adamant and absolutely sure I would never need the samples of formula I received from my doctor. The thought of having to use them left me feeling cold and confused, as if I was plunged into a world I had never stepped for into before. 

Friends, as we well know, I used those samples of formula and more. (You can read my blog post about my postpartum depression, partially caused by my difficulties breastfeeding, here.) 

When I wrote this post idea down on my editorial calendar, I found myself getting very, well, nervous about actually writing it. Writing about formula on the internet is dangerous business indeed; lots of women like to pop in to give their unsolicited opinion about formula, about women who use formula, and the horrible things formula "does" to infants (we'll get to this last point in a bit). I don't like confrontation and I don't like arguments; it takes a lot for me to stick me neck out and argue with somebody. But when it comes to formula feeding, it's one of the few things that really, really gets me going... probably because I believed so many lies about formula feeding before I even gave birth. 

Let's start from the beginning, shall we? 

My Experience with Formula

To briefly summarize, my son, Forrest, was born premature due to my severe preeclampsia. He is what is called a "late term preemie"; he was 36 weeks, which is "technically full-term," but not actually full-term. See, infants develop, and practice, suckling inside the womb at 37 weeks. Since Forrest was not in the womb at 37 weeks, he never learned to latch correctly. (It should be noted: some babies develop this earlier, which means they can be born at 36 weeks and latch successfully. But this is relatively rare; 36-weekers are notorious for being poor feeders, even with bottles.)

So, not only was he not developmentally able to breastfeed, he also developed severe jaundice (he had 2 forms of jaundice at once) and extremely low blood sugar; these two things made it very difficult for him to stay awake and effectively feed. We had to feed him in his sleep and he stayed in a bilibed for 6 days. We weren't allowed to dress him for the first 10 days of his life, because moving him around too much caused him to use too many calories. 

I, rather heroically, pumped for exclusively for the first 2 months of his life. But as we got home and got settled, my needs for sleep outweighed my ability to pump. Finally, my doctor, at my 8 week appointment, sat me down and told me that if I didn't sleep more than 2 hours a day, something bad would happen. She told me to stop pumping at night and sleep. So I did. After that, my supply plummeted; I was more rested, but I was still a wreck, constantly anxious about how much milk I was producing. 

So, I started supplementing with formula. I knew it was the only way. And it was very successful. I became less stressed about how much Forrest was eating and how much I was producing and I was able to more enjoy motherhood. I was still very depressed, wishing that Forrest could breastfeed like other babies (and trust me, packing a bag with formula, breastmilk, my pump, and everything else was an absolute pain when we left the house), but my anxiety was reduced. 

At 6 months, I developed mastitis after a dramatic shift in my production. I went from producing about 10-12 ounces a day (my supply had always been very, very low) to about 2-4 ounces. I had a 104 degree fever and felt absolutely awful all day. Finally, it was time: I had to go all formula.

It was hard at first, because I felt like I had failed... but when I tell you that life became so much easier with formula, it's the absolute truth. No more monitoring my pumping schedule! No more constant washing and sanitizing of pump parts! No more worrying about taking my pump to work, or pumping while I drove, or trying to figure out which bottle of breastmilk I put in the fridge first. It was like a weight lifted off my shoulders. 

And honestly, Forrest thrived on formula. He thrived on any milk after the first 6 weeks, really, but once I became less of a mess, he truly became a different baby. I started reading about formula and trying to better understand the myths I had heard--I still worried that I wasn't giving him "the best," that I was going to be absolutely destroying his absolutely perfect insides. And you know what I found out? 

Nearly everything I'd been told about formula was a lie. All the myths about the correlation between diabetes and obesity? Lies. All the myths about tooth rot? Lies. All the myths about formula and breastmilk being shockingly different? Lies. I want to talk about them, because it's important. 

The Worst Formula Feeding Myths

This blog post isn't intended to talk anyone out of breastfeeding. However you choose to feed your baby, the most important thing is that 1) you feed your baby and 2) you are as happy and healthy and thriving as your baby. If I've learned anything from motherhood, it's that we matter as mothers and people as much as our children matter. We can hurt ourselves just for the sake of our child; it's not worth it. 

There are just so many articles out there about breastfeeding. When I was struggling, I felt like there were no resources out there for me! Everything was about breastfeeding! I want there to be one voice for formula feeding, so that if you're struggling, you have another voice to here. 

Alright, let's jump into those myths, shall we? 

1. Formula feeding is pushed by hospitals. 

Formula feeding was incredibly popular from the 1960s through the 1980s. If you were born in a hospital in the United States between 1960 and 1990, you were probably formula fed. It was just what everyone did. Why? Formula feeding was associated with wealth; it was expensive, but it was incredibly reliable. Prior to the invention of mass-produced formula, infant mortality was much, much higher; those who had the resources to afford formula were much more wealthy. 

To say that formula feeding was pushed by hospitals during those years isn't wrong. Formula feeding was considered the norm and it was very popular. However, most hospitals now receive grants through the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI). What does that mean? If they have higher rates of breastfeeding, they receive more grant money and maintain their status as "baby friendly." Overwhelmingly, it's much more difficult to receive formula in hospitals these days. I had to sign a waiver to receive formula for Forrest and they pressured me to choose breastmilk from the Portland Milk Bank instead. 

2. Formula feeding is correlated to higher rates of diabetes, obesity, etc., and can lead to lower intelligence in children. 

These myths are all combined into one, but basically all have to do with the same thing: formula fed babies are stupid and unhealthy. This myth is so boring and so clearly aimed at guilting mothers, I debated even including it. Formula feeding is associated, now, with lower income women and families. Why? Because these families are more likely to receive formula via programs like WIC. They are also more likely to have to return to work within 4-6 weeks of giving birth (sometimes even less), they are more likely to not have health insurance that covers things like breast pumps or lactation consultants, and they are more likely to have employers who don't provide them with the necessary breaks. (In the United States, technically all employers must accommodate breastfeeding mothers; however, most workplaces only have to provide 1 30-minute lunch period for every 8 hours worked, as well as 2 10-minute breaks. If you're still pumping every 2 hours or so, that's just now enough.) 

Associating formula feeding with increased health problems and lower intelligence, you are linking and stereotyping these issues to lower income families, while ignoring the reasons that many lower income families have to rely on formula for the sake of their children. This myth is a whole mess of problems and false correlations, but more than anything else, it's just plain wrong. 

As I said, almost the entirety of the United States was formula fed for 25 solid years. That means almost everyone we know was formula fed. Most of my friends were formula fed and I'd say they are as smart or much smarter than me. Repeat it with me: formula feeding has no impact on health or intelligence. It's just food. 

3. Formula causes tooth decay. 

Tooth decay in children is called "bottle rot," because in the 1970s and 80s, it was associated with babies and toddlers being put to sleep with bottles of formula. Many mothers in this time just didn't know this wasn't wrong; their babies slept and everyone was happy! Until their teeth started to rot. Pediatricians learned quickly to warn mothers of formula fed babies to always brush their teeth after bottles and to never let them sleep with a bottle. The issue is that when a baby or toddler falls asleep drinking a bottle, the milk often pools in their mouth, staying on their teeth and causing rapid decay. 

So, bottle rot is associated with formula feeding. But you'll be surprised to know that cases of bottle rot have rapidly increased in breastfed babies. 

Why? Because mothers of infants who are breastfed are not warned to brush their children's teeth and, in cases where mothers are following attachment parenting, are encouraged to let their children breastfeed all through the night. But a child that lies all night with milk on their teeth that isn't brushed or rinsed away is going to get cavities. That's just how dental hygiene works! If I drank a glass of milk before bed every night and didn't brush my teeth, I will get cavities too!

Breastmilk and formula are both just fat and sugar; at the end of the day, that's what they are. If that is left on the teeth, it will cause cavities. All parents should practice good dental hygiene with their children, regardless of what they are fed. 

4. Formula feeding is lazy. 

This is, to me, the most hurtful myth. It presumes that if you choose formula feeding, you are lazy and therefore, don't love your children. It dribbles out of people's mouth and probably is followed by, "I bet you let them watch TV" and more. It's judgmental, it's stupid, and it's wrong. 

Formula feeding, especially from the newborn days, is difficult and time consuming. You boil water; you prepare bottles; you have to sanitize everything. There is powder everywhere. It's awful! And worse, in the middle of the night, you have to mix up bottles, warm them if your baby takes them warm, and then wash it so you don't have a disgusting surprise in the morning. 

That also doesn't take into account that many, many formula feeding mothers start as wanting to breastfeed. They may have tried very, very hard to breastfeed. They pumped, or they went to lactation consultants. They tried and tried and tried. Is that lazy? No, absolutely not. 

And even if a mother choose formula as the best choice for her family, it is often because of a lifestyle choice--not because she doesn't want to put in any effort. This myth is so offensive; it allows those who repeat it put themselves on pedestals while disparaging other mothers. And, frankly, I'm tired of it always being a competition. 

All the Benefits of Formula Feeding

You know the myths. You know they're wrong. So what are the benefits of formula feeding? 

1. Travel is much easier. 

Forrest was an Enfamil baby and when he was about 7 months, I found out that Enfamil makes these on-the-go packets of formula. They are pre-measured for a 4 ounce bottle, so all you need is 4 ounces of water. It was genius. No messy dispensers. For us, travel became so much easier when I wasn't pumping; plus, Danny could feed Forrest in his car seat while I drove, so our trips didn't get disrupted. It was also so much easier to be out and about, because Forrest could have a bottle as I walked around the mall or store. 

2. Transitioning to whole milk is easier. 

Formula and whole milk are very easy to mix. For us, making the switch at a year was so effortless and easy, Forrest didn't even notice! It was much harder to transition to sippy cups, but at least we knew he would take whole milk, and therefore get all the fat he needed! 

3. Being able to accurately measure intake is amazing. 

Having a preemie meant that we were always a little paranoid about measuring his intake. I counted diapers until Forrest was 8 or 9 months old, and I still have spreadsheets of his intake for months. His pediatrician always wanted to know and so being able to tell him that he averaged 25 ounces of formula a day and 10 wet diapers felt so easy. We always knew how much he was getting, so if his growth stalled, we didn't have to wonder if my supply was low or what. We just had to increase his bottles! 

4. Mothers don't have to do all the feeds. 

This is the best part. With most breastfeeding mothers, the onus is on the one who breastfeeds to do every feed. And for the first 3 months, that's every 2 or 3 hours, around the clock. It's easy to get touched out in that scenario. With formula feeding, anyone can feed the baby. Dad? Yep. Big brother or sister? Sure! Grandma? Yes. Grandpa? Absolutely! It gives mothers some free time to relax, or do some basic chores, and can be a huge help in reducing anxiety and depression. 

I hope this blog post has been illuminating! If you're considering formula feeding, don't be afraid to send me a note, either on social media or via email. I want to hear about you and answer any questions you may have. 

3 Genius, Last Minute Kids Halloween Costumes

3 Genius, Last Minute Kids Halloween Costumes | Writing Between Pauses

Originally, for Halloween, Forrest was going to be going as one thing... but then, my mom found my vintage, circa-1989, pumpkin costume. And considering Forrest is absolutely bonkers for pumpkins, it was meant to be. However, we have his other costume as a back up for pre-Halloween parties and activities; it's much easier to wear than a pumpkin costume! 

This got me thinking though: sometimes, it's just not practical to dress a toddler or young child in their "official" Halloween costume, either because it is too bulky or not appropriate for school. (An example is one of my friend's is dressing her child as the Little Mermaid; it has a flesh colored netting that isn't allowed at a school function, so she can only wear it trick-or-treating.) 

So here are 3 easy, last minute kids costumes: things you can make with just a few hours notice or that you already have. 

1. The ABCs

This was Forrest's original costume! I bought a black long sleeve and a pair of black sweatpants from Target, plus foam sticker letters and fabric glue. Wash the clothes, then unstick the letters and fabric glue them. (Make sure to put a piece of cardboard inside the shirt to prevent it from gluing it together!) Once they're dry, voila! You're the ABCs. Quick, easy, education, and affordable; the entire thing cost about $14. 

2. Cat (or dog) fan 

This costume sometimes gets called "Crazy Cat Lady," but I hate that term. (It's ableist and sexist.) Even more fun, you could make this cat or dog Instagram star! Basically, dress in normal clothes, carry around a dog or cat toy, and either a toy phone, an old phone that you're not using anymore, or make one out of cardboard. Perfect! 

3. Bat

Almost every kid has a slightly raggedy, almost-outgrown sweatshirt somewhere. It's so easy to turn into a bat costume! Just cut fabric into two triangles, with a triangle-scallop on one edge. Then fabric glue one straight edge to the torso of a sweatshirt, and the other straight edge to the arm; repeat on the other side. Voila! You've got a quick-and-easy bat costume. You can add a black hat with ears (you can fabric glue these on too or find one with ears at Target or TJ Maxx). With a few changes, this would also be a cute vampire costume: just add teeth, a little bit of make up (pale face, dark under the eyes), and all black clothes. 

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 Meal Ideas for Picky Toddlers

picky toddler meal ideas

Before Forrest turned 1, he was an excellent eater. He would regularly eat meals of chicken, broccoli, and potatoes, or pasta, or just about anything. He ate protein and vegetables great. 

But a few weeks after he turned 1, everything changed. Like most toddlers, he became increasingly more picky--and any change in his temperament (say, a molar cutting or a cold) made him unwilling to eat just about anything.

As he's gotten older, I've found ways to sneak in everything he needs: fruits & veggies, vitamins, protein, meat, and more. Here are a few meal ideas that I always return to. They're easy, they produce the least amount of waste, and they make it easy to hide things!

1. Quesadillas, Grilled Cheese, or English Muffin Pizza

Forrest will eat carbs and cheese all day, every day. These three foods all fall into this category: carb + cheese + the capability to hide other foods. When I make quesadillas, I will mash black beans (a great source of protein) with some veggie puree and then mix it with cheese; that's the filling of the quesadilla. All he cares about is the cheese, anyway!

For grilled cheese, I layer a little turkey or chicken, as well as an leftover roasted veggies, between layers of cheese. English muffin pizzas are so easy to make and if you mix the pizza sauce with veggie puree, you can easily hide an extra serving of veggies--but all he knows is there is cheese, as usual. 

2. "Snack Lunches" 

This is an infinitely popular toddler lunch that I think every mom has done before: you let your toddler have a variety of their favorite snacks. A lot of Forrest's favorites are "sneaky" healthy things: he really loves the Ella's Kitchen oat bars (the carrot + mango flavor is his favorite), as well as the Nature's Bakery oat bars which has whole wheat and real fruit. One of these bars, plus a banana and some yogurt mixed with a pack of Similac Mix-In, is as well-rounded of a lunch as I'll get sometimes! 

3. Mac & cheese 

You know that carb + cheese equation I posted above? This is the same principal. I like the Annie's Organic Mac & Cheese bowls because I can make a single serving (although Forrest usually only eats about half). I make him a bowl and then add half a packet of vegetable and meat puree. (Yes, I know that sounds great.) But he eats it, loves it, and gets a serving of veggies and meat in! 

4. Green Juice

Having a day where you simply cannot get your toddler to eat anything that isn't in the form of white bread? Been there! Forrest had croup recently and all he wanted to eat was milk. Seriously. I decided to take a chance and bought a bottle of Naked Green Machine juice; I mixed half juice and half water. He drank it up in barely 10 minutes. Hey, it's a serving of fruit and vegetables if nothing else. Smoothies and homemade juices are a great way to get some nutrition in your kiddo who is refusing everything else. 

5. Pancakes

If it is in pancake form, Forrest will (usually) eat it. I make both fruit pancakes AND oatmeal pancakes. Here are my basic recipes: 

Fruit Pancakes

  • 1 banana, mashed 
  • 1 packet of fruit + veggie puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • About 4 tablespoons of flour
  • Vanilla + cinnamon

Mix well and cook like normal pancakes. 

Oatmeal Pancakes

  • 1 serving of oatmeal, cooked
  • 1/2 packet of fruit + veggie puree
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • About 3-4 tablespoons of flour
  • Vanilla + cinnamon 

Mix well and cook like normal pancakes. 

The possibilities for adding to these recipes are endless. I will often use leftover oatmeal, add a bit of yogurt to up the calories, and try new combinations of fruit and vegetables. Forrest will eat them, covered in peanut butter, every day. 

Are you enjoying Writing Between Pauses? Good! Take a moment to subscribe to my newsletter here

Is It Too Pushy to Ask for More Gender Neutral Options?

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed 2 or 3 weeks ago that I sent out a tweet about Freshly Picked's celebrity collaborations. 

I love Freshly Picked. If you're a parent, you've probably seen an ad (or five) for them on Instagram. You've probably seen a baby wearing them on Instagram. Michael Phelps's son, Boomer, famously wore a red-white-and-blue pair with gold heels at the Olympics. They are small, leather moccasins, soft soled, for babies and toddlers. Freshly Picked is everywhere, becoming almost as popular among InstaMoms as ModCloth is among the indie crowd. 

However, when Freshly Picked announced their most recent celebrity collaboration, I found myself getting a little, well, flustered. The newest collaboration is with Ayesha Curry; she created four designs of moccasins. Three of them are holographic: they are gorgeous and insanely impractical for the average baby, but who cares! You can get gold holo, pink holo, or silver holo. They are also obviously for girls. They are little girls shoes. They are only shown on girls in Freshly Picked ads. There is another pair of moccasins in the collaboration: they are plain blue. Plain blue! Not blue holo. Not green holo. They are... blue. That's it. They're blue. 

They are for boys. 

During the summer, Freshly Picked had another celebrity collaboration with a professional skater. 5 styles of shoe were released; 4 styles were obviously for girls (floral, polka dots, etc) and one was for boys. The boys styled was plain black with a lime green sole. Plain. Black. That's it!

The girls get fun designs, cute patterns, pretty colors. Boys get plain blue or black or brown. 

That's it. 

We can get into the "for girls" argument all we want. I'm there with you. I think saying florals are for girls and girls only is total bunk. However, Forrest depends on me to dress him; I can dress him however I like at this point. When he's older, he can choose. But my goal for getting him dressed in the morning is not to make him the object of negative attention. 

But that doesn't mean I wouldn't like a cute pair of shoes to put on him. Shoes that aren't covered in the Ninja Turtles or Superman. Shoes that aren't boring or plain. 

I'm not asking for a miracle here. I'm just asking for more gender neutral--or even, perhaps, overtly "boyish"--options. 

Walk into a Target. Look at the toddler girls section. Look at the toddler boys sections. Notice anything? Yeah, the girls section is 3-4 times as big as the boys section. 

It's incredibly frustrating. 

Also, when you look at those clothing sections, notice another thing; there are almost NO boys shoes for young toddlers. Under size 5 boys shoes are the hardest thing to find in the world. I might as well be attempting to purchase the Mona Lisa. There are racks of tiny girls shoes--fake Ugg boots smaller than my hand, sandals and tennis shoes and Mary Janes--but there are no boys shoes. None. The boys shoes that are available tend to be covered in characters--the Ninja Turtles, Cars, and more. 

It is endlessly frustrating. 

It is hard to find things that are gender neutral or that aren't overtly girly. What am I supposed to tell Forrest? Sorry, kid, you can't walk right now because I couldn't find any shoes in your size? Sorry, I know your feet are cold because you need boots, but they don't make them for you despite the fact that there are 20 varieties of boots for girls? 

This is my plea to brands to please, please, make more options for boys or options that are gender neutral. 

Freshly Picked has many plain colored moccasins that work just fine--Forrest has the velvet mocha style--but it would be nice if, for once, a collaboration came out that was for primarily boys or gender neutral and didn't feature just solid colors. It is entirely possible to make cute, exciting clothes for boys or that are gender neutral. You just have to try. It's easy to sell girly themed things--overwhelmingly, because girls have more options, parents buy more--but I promise, boy moms (or moms that are choosing a gender neutral route) have money too. 

3 Fall Projects Just for Toddlers

It's difficult for me to accept that I'm now the mother of a toddler--not a baby. A toddler! I can't believe it, honestly. 

As the colder months rapidly approach, I've been looking for fun, not-too-messy projects for Forrest and I to take on together on my stay home days. Here are a few I've found on Pinterest that I can't wait to tackle. 

1. Making Fall Wreaths 

Are these not the cutest little wreaths you've ever seen? All of the supplies are affordable and available at a dollar store. Plus, you can use something like Glue Dots (from Hobby Lobby or Michaels) instead of actual glue--cutting the messy factor waaaay down. 

2. A Fall-Themed Sensory Bin

I love sensory bins! They're so much fun, especially when color-themed. Right now, I keep a box of jar lids that Forrest loves to sort through and bang around. I love the idea of creating a Fall-themed box together out of different wooden shapes, pumpkins, leaves, and more. It will be fun to look for stuff to include at our favorite craft stores. Undoubtedly, Forrest's favorite part will probably be dumping everything out and then, you guessed it, banging the box around the living room. I know him well. 

3. A Cork Painting

This one has the potential to be incredibly messy. But I think with the right supplies (a tarp? A full-body bib for Forrest?) it would be very fun. I'm thinking of cutting out the middle man and making some edible paint for Forrest to use with his hands. Then it will be easy to just rinse him off in the bath tub afterwards! 

Got a toddler? Share your favorite projects with me on Twitter

5 Things You Absolutely Need for Your Baby's First Year

I've written quite a few posts about items that we love for Forrest. Looking back over the last almost year (really, almost a year now), I can pick out a few distinct items that we absolutely love, use every day, and cannot live without. 

My usual disclaimer, of course, stands: not every baby is the same; not every baby will like the things Forrest likes, and not every parent will like the things that Danny and I like. But that being said, I really feel like these items have made our lives easier--and that's why I say, you absolutely need them. 

1. the myBaby Sound Machine 

This is a sound machine and projector for baby's specifically. We didn't get it until June and let me tell you--I wish we'd bought one sooner. We used an app on our phones for the first 8 months of Forrest's life, but it was hard to leave him in his room with our phone, with an app that needed restarted every 30 minutes. This sound machine... it's amazing. In all honesty, we don't use the projector; I don't like the idea of him having a light playing images all night, it seems odd. But the sound machine. is. amazing. There are a ton of sound options, including heart beat (very popular with newborns) and rushing water (Forrest's fave). Totally worth the $24. 

2. HelloBaby Wireless Monitor

I had said I wouldn't get a video monitor because I thought they were unnecessary and weird. But when we started sleep training Forrest, we knew we needed one. Forrest could already stand up by then and so would often stand in his crib; I just wanted to be able to see if he'd hurt himself or genuinely needed help. This one is affordable, incredibly light, and has absolutely zero fancy features. It's perfect. You don't need a $200 camera to watch your baby sleep. 

3. OBall Rattle

This is a $4 ball that rattles. It is one of Forrest's favorite toys and has been for ages. He can chew on it, crawl on it, throw it, bounce it, hit it, offer it to Remus, and use it in the bath tub. It's a multi-use toy and he freaking loves it. $4. Drop the $50 activity centers and grab a bunch of Oballs. You'll thank me. 

4. Munchkin Microwave Sterilizer

I never imagined I would need so many bottle supplies, but here I am. Washing bottles is a huge pain in the butt and sterilizing them is worse. I sterilized until Forrest was 6 months old because I was paranoid like that. This microwave sterilizer was a constant on our kitchen counter. It was easy to use, easy to clean, and didn't take up too much room (not any more room than our bottle drying rack which I can't wait to get rid of). Even if you think you'll be exclusively breastfeeding, having a good bottle sterilizer on hand is good for pump parts, bottles, and toys (in case you end up getting thrush). 

5. Mommy's Bliss Gripe Water

Gripe water is used to help calm colic. Some babies live on this stuff. For the first 12 weeks of Forrest's life, we would give him this every evening to head off his crying streak that occurred from 6pm to 9pm. If he was crying, it would stop him in his tracks just long enough for him to go to sleep. It was a total game changer. Affordable, easy to use, and mostly non-medicinal. 

Have items your baby couldn't live without? Share with me on Twitter!

Taking a Toddler to Disneyland

It's pretty well-established that I love Disneyland. I went on my honeymoon to Disneyland. Danny and I went to Disneyland the Christmas before I got pregnant with Forrest. I've been to Disneyland at least 6 times now and I always leave crying because I'm not 100% sure when I'll return. 

I even wanted to go to Disneyland in August, when I was pregnant. As a reminder of what I was like in August, my arms and hands were so swollen from preeclampsia that my hands would go numb and I couldn't bend or feel my fingers all day. And yet, I wanted to tromp through Disneyland just one more time

Danny and I have decided that we do want to take Forrest to Disneyland next June. The most often heard reason for not taking a toddler to Disneyland is that they "won't remember it." That's absolutely true. Forrest also, however, won't remember our music time in the morning, the books I read to him, the times I sing and dance with him or play with him. He won't remember any of that. But does that mean it's a waste and he won't enjoy it? 

The logic fails there. And trust me, I used to repeat that too. "Why take a child who won't remember it?" But I get it now! He won't remember it, but I will--and that doesn't mean he won't have a blast. 

I'm so excited to be planning this trip--although it's also totally overwhelming. Which is why I'm opening things up to you! If you've taken a toddler to Disneyland, share your best tips and tricks! You can comment here or send them to me on Twitter