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How I fixed my baby’s weight gain problems (and the one mistake I made that you should avoid)

Let me set the scene for you, I’m pregnant with my first. And I’m freaking out.

Let me set the scene for you, I’m pregnant with my first. And I’m freaking out. Mind you my husband had done it before (he has one child from before my time) so that should put my mind at ease, right? Wrong. I don’t know if it’s the mommy in me, or my type A personality. Either way, I’m reading every book about parenting that was put in my hand. But it doesn’t stop there. It quickly went on to include every magazine, every Mom blog, every article. You name it, I read it. At about 7 months in I realized the hospital I’d be giving birth at offered free educational classes. Guess what my husband and I did the whole month of October? I’m not kidding, I legitimately took time off work just to attend every single class I could.

So in all my research I had decided I wanted to breastfeed because that was best for baby, right? It helps protect your tiny baby’s fragile immune system, it even reduces the chance of SIDS. So come hell or high water I was doing this. No matter what.

I took the classes, read the books, yadda yadda. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I also knew that the payout was huge. So I bought all the accessories; the breast pump, the nursing tops, hell- I even had ice packs for the girls. I was ready.

Or so I thought.

Let me tell you now, breastfeeding is not for the faint of heart.

I had read that you shouldn’t sign up for free samples of formula because in the middle of the night you’d be tempted to fall back on it. So I didn’t.

Mistake #1.

Not because I wanted to use it late at night as a cop-out, I was completely and totally dedicated to this breastfeeding thing. But because of the weight gain issues.

Now I’m fully aware that babies lose a few ounces right after birth and then gain it back within a few weeks.

But that didn’t happen with our baby.

And we didn’t understand why. I had met with lactation consultants several times and he had a great latch from the get go (I was so incredibly lucky and I knew it). He was eating every two hours like he should and having the right amount of dirty diapers, so why was this still happening?

We’re talking he wasn’t back up to his birth weight for a whole month. Every other day we had to go have his weight checked just to make sure he wasn’t losing. They had me pumping after every time he nursed and trying to feed him all the extra I could get with a bottle.

Getting this kid to gain weight began to consume my life.

We were up all hours of the night feeding on demand and trying to force him to take the extra bottles (my husband was way better at this than I was- thank God or I would’ve lost my mind). Finally at one of his many, many appointments in the first few weeks the doctor asks if I’m willing to “try something.” At this point anything sounds great- I just want a happy, healthy baby.

…And then she walks in with a can of formula.

Cue the emotions. I mean, I’m doing everything in my power here and now I just feel like a failure. How did I let this happen? I thought I had set myself up for success by being ready, having everything on hand…

I quickly tell her I don’t want to ruin my milk supply from feeding formula and I don’t want to deal with all the negatives of formula feeding either (the cost, more spit up, constipation, tummy troubles…). Not that I’m against formula, it just wasn’t the right fit for me and my family.

She quickly calms me and says, “no, add it to the milk you’ve been pumping. It’s a high calorie formula for premies, let’s just see where we get.”

SERIOUSLY?!?

But it was a small amount (half a teaspoon per ounce is what she suggested) and it was mixed with my milk which calmed me a bit. And if it didn’t work by the next appointment (literally two days later) then we could ditch it.

So we continued to feed, pump, feed, pump, feed, pump, but this time adding a teaspoon or so to each bottle for some extra calories. And guess what?

It worked.

And guess what else? I was so happy my baby was gaining weight that my pride no longer mattered. I quickly realized that my “purely breastfed baby” was just not going to be a reality and that was ok because he was finally healthy.

Fast forward, he’s now 2 months old and is gaining just fine and he no longer needs the formula supplement. But man, those free samples sure would’ve been helpful in the first few weeks while we were floundering.

What I’m trying to say here is that no matter how prepared you think you are, you just never know what life will throw at you. And as much as I swore that my baby would never have any formula, sometimes that’s just not what the good guy in the sky has planned for us. We needed a little extra tlc, but we’re on the right path. And there’s no shame in doing what you gotta do as a mother, even if it goes against everything you’ve prepared for.

I really strongly encourage you to not turn down those free samples regardless of your feeding plan. You really just never know, and have you seen those outrageous prices?! Every mama needs to know that Enfamil will send you a nice sized box full of several different kinds of formula which includes some of those pre-mixed bottles you get at the hospital, which were perfect for an extra ounce or two when he needed a top-off. (You can get your samples here)

You just never know what could happen, but knowing that it’s there if you need it sure takes some stress off. If you don’t need it, even better! Donate it so that you can help less fortunate mamas and babies. A fed baby is a happy baby, and a happy baby makes a happy mama.

Updated 4/9/2018: At 4 months my baby is still breastfeeding, is now 12 lbs 11 oz and is finally in the normal range for his age group. The doctor gave him the all-clear to begin trying baby food because she feels he’s ready! He has met and exceeded all of his 4 month milestones. It’s been a long hard road, but we made it! Thank you to everyone for your prayers, positive thoughts, and good vibes!

Thrush in Breastfeeding Women- What it is, how to get rid of it, and how to prevent it.

…I was surprised around month 8 of breastfeeding when I started experiencing severe pain when he latched.

This post contains affiliate links.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve taken every class available to me before the birth of my son. I read all the books recommended to me. So I was surprised around month 8 of breastfeeding when I started experiencing severe pain when he latched. It felt like his mouth was full of tiny razor blades. I kind of muscled through it at first, thinking that maybe my skin was just dry and cracking, so I kept using lanolin thinking that it would heal eventually and we’d move on.

Oh my Lord. Was I wrong.

First lesson: DO NOT IGNORE THE SIGNS YOUR BODY IS SENDING YOU. I literally wrote off every symptom of thrush for whatever reason.

Symptom 1: a blotchy red rash around the nipple. I wrote this off because it’s been a humid summer so, you know. Boob sweat, heat rash. It made sense to me.

Symptom 2: itching. Again, boob sweat, so I thought, eh, it’s pretty normal.

Symptom 3: cracking and splitting nipples. My thought, “he’s been nursing for comfort a lot lately. I’m sure it will heal soon.” I’m talking they were so terrible that when I pumped it looked like strawberry milk. Gross.

Symptom 4: cracking lips at the corners of your mouth. I had been sick, so I just thought this was due to the amount of time I had spent over the toilet recently.

Symptom 5: deep pain when latching. This one I just assumed had to do with the cracked and split nipples.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, do not ignore them like I did. It only gets worse. Trust me.

So what is Thrush? Simply put, there’s an over abundance of a bacteria called Candida present in your milk, causing the cracking and splitting of the nipples, the skin rash, and can even be passed to your baby and cause mouth sores which makes them hesitant to eat (judging by the amount of pain I was in, I can definitely see why). I let it go so long both the baby and I had to be put on antibiotics, but there are ways to prevent it from happening, and if you catch it soon enough, get rid of it on your own. Even if you have to be put on antibiotics, these things will help you feel better by your next feeding. And if you’re as miserable as I was, you’re willing to try just about anything. Even if you don’t have these symptoms, I strongly suggest making a habit of doing these things in order to prevent thrush. I’m telling you, I have a very high pain tolerance, but I was ready to scrap breastfeeding all together over something that could have been prevented if only I had known about it before hand.

1. Drink kombucha. This was recommended to me by one of my doula friends that helped her get through it. It promotes good bacterial growth that combats the bad.

2. Wash your nipples after each feeding. I use a 50/50 blend of white vinegar and water. Use a clean wash cloth every time. The alkalinity in the 50/50 mixture kills the bacteria and stops growth. I really wish someone had told me this before I began breastfeeding, because I feel like this alone would have prevented the whole ordeal.

3. A shot of apple cider vinegar a day keeps the doctor away. I’m not going to lie to you, it’s disgusting. But I really believe this is what helped me the most. The first day when I was really trying to kick the infection I drank 3 oz (1 oz, 3 times a day). I currently take 1 oz in the morning and 1 oz at night. I feel like it really helps with my energy level throughout the day as well.

4. Wash your bras in hot water. It kills the bacteria.

5. Sanitize your pump parts regularly and let them air dry completely before putting them away. I was notorious for putting my pump parts away wet at work because I was in a hurry. DON’T DO IT. Warm, wet environment= more bacteria. I have a sanitizing spray by Medela that I use at work for a quick and easy clean up, and at home I boil my parts for 3 minutes, then leave them out to air dry. Medela also makes sterilizing steam bags that you put in the microwave and sterilizing wipes. It’s really whatever is convenient for you, but you absolutely can’t skip this step. Not only are you infecting yourself, but your baby can end up seriously sick as well.

6. Take ibuprofen or Tylenol for the pain. If it’s severe enough, call your doctor and ask for something stronger. Most doctors are more than willing to help you persevere on your breastfeeding journey.

7. Nipple shields. They not only help dull the pain, but they also keep you from passing the infection to your baby. I like these because it has a carrying case that I can slip into my diaper bag and I’m not left digging for them while baby is screaming for milk.

8. Do NOT use lanolin if you think you might have thrush. While it’s great for chapped nipples, it keeps the skin moist and allows bacteria to grow. Unknowingly I created the perfect environment for the bacteria to grow and spread. Which created more open wounds. Which means more pain.

If you have thrush or suspect you do, check your baby’s mouth for sores. Both of us ended up being put on Nystatin because I had let it go for so long and I was in so much pain. The poor kid didn’t want to eat anything acidic because of the open wounds in his mouth.

This article is in no way, shape, or form meant to replace a doctor visit or medical attention, however this is what helped me wipe it out and keep it from coming back.

If you have any secrets that you use, please share them with me below!

It’s World Breastfeeding Week!

This week is World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7) and coincidentally not too long ago it was finally made legal to breastfeed in public in all 50 states (don’t get me started on how ridiculous this is. Utah and Idaho, yes I’m talking to you).

This week is World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7) and coincidentally not too long ago it was finally made legal to breastfeed in public in all 50 states (don’t get me started on how ridiculous this is. Utah and Idaho, yes I’m talking to you). This week will also make the 8th month that I have breastfed my baby!

It hasn’t been all sunshine and butterflies, especially lately. I will admit I was extremely blessed to not have an overly difficult journey in the beginning. We had a few struggles like suspected low supply when my son first had weight gain problems but other than that we had minimal issues. Recently I’ve been dealing with Mastitis, chapped nipples, clogged ducts, milk blisters, you name it. It’s been extremely painful. Like I recently just told my husband that if it had been this hard in the beginning I might not have stuck with it. The amount of money I’ve poured into this whole, “Lord Jesus please make my boobs stop hurting,” fund is a little ridiculous, but we’re working through it.

I also went back to work as a bartender this summer, which is a whole other feat in itself when you’re breastfeeding. I’ll be really honest with you; I hate pumping. Of course there’s just no way around it when you’re working. And don’t even get me started on building a supply… You just have to sit tethered to a machine for what feels like hours of your day. It never fails, the second you sit down to pump the baby decides they want to nurse. To me it felt as if I’d never get there. Thankfully I now have a few little gadgets that help make it more bearable, but before I figured it out, it was rough. I really have a whole new respect for working moms, it’s so hard. That being said, I was also a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom for about 5 months, and let me tell you, it’s so hard. I honestly can’t tell you which is more challenging for me. There are definite up-sides to both, but the struggles are so different it’s hard to compare. My decision to go back to work came shortly after I was diagnosed with Postpartum Depression after hitting my all-time low. I thought it was important to do something that reminded me of who I was before the baby. I really had no clue the emotions that would evoke (we can talk about that later).

The real purpose of this post is to celebrate breastfeeding, whether you’ve had to pump to feed your baby or you’re able to nurse your baby. It is so much work, but so rewarding. One of my doula friends recently posted a link on social media with the cute little ribbons like the one above and I love love love them.

I’ve shared before that I was the first to breastfeed in my family, and that makes me extremely proud of myself. I really didn’t have a whole lot of support in the beginning because no one understood why I was so adamantly for it (and to be honest I think they doubted me a little, knowing full well how difficult it can be) but now that 8 months has passed people have started to accept it. So I have to say, this is by far and wide my personal favorite, because I really didn’t have anyone backing me and cheering me on (besides my lactation consultant- have I mentioned lately how amazing she is?). It was a pretty lonely journey for awhile, but I’m so glad I didn’t give up.

Please go check out the whole slew of these little metals on La Leche League’s Facebook page and share your favorite with me in the comments! We really do deserve a metal for this stuff. It’s hard work. Don’t be afraid to give yourself a pat on the back. If you need some support, check out www.LLLUSA.org. They host all kinds of events all over the country as well as have some inspiring blog posts that will keep you going, in addition to being a great resource for all kinds of breastfeeding information. And remember; you’re amazing, you’re beautiful, and you’re a badass! Just keep at it!

My Silent Battle with Depression

Because of the recent events I feel that this is of upmost importance to talk about, possibly now more than ever.

 

I’ve always battled anxiety and depression. I remember it really setting in about middle school. The anxiety was so bad I would literally make myself sick worrying about little things; how a test was going to go, if we would return safely from our family vacations, and so on. Things that definitely should not make a kid physically ill worrying about them. In high school I was prescribed medicine for it which I continued to take through college.

My freshman year of college I attempted to kill myself. It was a combination of the stress of a whole new routine, the loss of a boyfriend, and feeling like nothing was consistent any longer, and the immense pressure to succeed. Thankfully, my roommate was home at the time otherwise I probably would’ve been successful. She saved my life that day. It landed me more meds, trips to a psychologist twice a week, and caused my roommate to move out. I felt even more ostracized and alone. As I sit here just recalling that time of my life and the hopelessness I felt it brings me to tears. It was by far the most lonely time of my life. I was at this huge college surrounded by people, yet had never felt more alone.

Fast forward a few years. I’m married, still taking the medication I was given in college. We didn’t live in the greatest part of town. Actually, that’s an understatement. The cops didn’t even want to be out there. There had been a few shootings in the stairwell, the family living underneath us was robbed blind while I was at work. This was something I had never had to deal with before coming from a small town. I vividly remember being at the neighbors house during one shooting, listening to 16 shots go off, and with each shot it got closer. I remember when the silence came afterward and I thought for sure they were reloading, about to come through the door at any time. I remember silently crying thinking I would never see my family again. The stress from that event alone was enough to send me into a downward spiral, but then I got the news that one of my friends that had gotten me through my rough time in college had passed away suddenly. I felt like there was no end to my sadness, my stress, and my worry. On top of it all the medicine I was taking had a side effect of blackout periods. There were several hours in a day I would have no recollection of. My marriage suffered. I asked for help and got none. Ultimately I decided I needed to do what was best for me, because I just couldn’t continue down this path. I packed up my car and moved across country for a change of scenery and to be closer to the one person that was there for me when I really needed it most.

Don’t think that this move just solved my problems. It definitely made more, and life was still hard, but my mind was finally clear of all the clouds and I started to work toward my own dreams and goals. I lived out of my car for awhile, working as many odd jobs as I could find. I had a gym membership just so I could shower before work so no one knew my struggles. I also had to do something about this marriage that was no longer, but I felt good, for whatever reason, so I just kept at it. I eventually acquired a dog (I’m a failed foster mom… but she’s the greatest thing that ever happened to me). I worked on a ranch for awhile, I served and bartended, I was able to find a place and pay rent eventually. I was finally granted a divorce (he refused to sign the papers I sent him several times so the court finally ordered it an abandonment and I was awarded my maiden name back). But the important part was that I was genuinely happy and unmedicated for the first time since high school.

Around year three of my new-found life I got a call I never expected to receive. My dad had passed away while on vacation in the Virgin Islands. My whole life was swept up in this whirlwind of emotions I had never felt before. Because of my past history with anxiety and depression I was again prescribed medication. A daily antidepressant as well as some panic pills to be taken when I felt out of control. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. I would watch the hours tick by on the clock next to the bed at night. I spent two weeks with my family before flying back home when I was expected to return to my daily life like nothing had happened. I remember feeling like I just wanted the world to stop spinning. That the most heartbreaking thing was that life continued on without him. I was so heavily medicated I felt like I was watching myself go through the motions of everyday life. I no longer feared death, it was something I fantasized about. Some days were darker than others. I developed unhealthy coping mechanisms to numb the pain. I didn’t want to feel anymore. I picked up a second job and went from one shift to the next, hoping to busy myself to the point where I didn’t have time to think about it. I tried again that year to end my life. I woke up on my kitchen floor in a pool of my own blood, a massive headache, and my dog’s head on my chest. She became my reason to get up in the mornings. I forced myself to get out of bed to walk her and take care of her. She saved me from myself. As strange as it seems the thought of what would happen to her if I weren’t there any longer made me focus on taking care of myself and getting better. I started going out with friends again and living a somewhat normal life, instead of just holing myself up like I had been. I stopped taking the medicine and began to deal with my emotions on my own, and positive ways to redirect my thoughts and feelings. Life began to even itself out again.

About 2 years after I lost my dad I decided to move closer to my mom. I packed my car up and did the cross country journey again, this time with my dog in tow. I moved in with my boyfriend (now husband). We soon found out I was pregnant. While I was scared shitless he was ecstatic. We got married, moved into a house that was of more appropriate size for our growing family. It was the happiest time of my life. I had a great job, we were excited for our baby to come in December. I still had some emotional days because I wished so badly that my dad could be a part of all this excitement, and moving back to where I grew up really stirred up some memories but I got through it with the help of my husband.

December 7, 2017 I will never forget. It was one of the best days of my life to date. I finally was able to hold my healthy baby boy in my arms. The first few days I was on cloud nine. He was perfect. I couldn’t believe he was mine. He was everything I had ever hoped for and then some. The hospital quickly screened me for signs of postpartum depression and then released us. The first few weeks I would have weepy days, post baby blues, but nothing overly serious.

Let me interject here and tell you I had decided that I was not going to do postpartum depression. It wasn’t going to happen to me. After all, I had the most perfect little baby, what did I have to be sad about?

Then the realization set in. I was depressed. I was constantly angry. I felt out of control. There was immense pressure to go back to work from those around me, or at least I felt there was, but had no idea where to even start to look as far as childcare. I didn’t want to go back to work. I didn’t want to leave my baby. I felt guilty for not working, but then I felt guilty for leaving my child with someone else while I was out looking for a job. I felt guilty for feeling depressed when I had so much to be thankful for.

The guilt turned into anger. I was angry I couldn’t control it. I was angry that I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do with my life anymore. To tell you the truth there wasn’t anything that didn’t make me angry. It all came to a breaking point that left me feeling useless, unwanted, and like everyone was better off without me. It was familiar to me, and I finally reached out for help to a postpartum hotline I had heard Aarti Sequeira talk about a few times. Within minutes I was in touch with two local therapists who coached me through my feelings. Both of them talked to me briefly and immediately diagnosed me with postpartum depression. They called around and found local support groups for me where I could talk about it with other women and know that I’m not alone. They sent e-mails with videos for my husband to watch explaining what I was going through and how to handle it. They also continue to check on me on a weekly basis. It literally saved my life.

This isn’t me throwing a pity party for myself. What I’m doing is normalizing mental health issues by being open and honest about it. My goal is that people will stop being afraid to ask for help. There’s this huge stigma around these things, but get this; it’s ok to not be ok. If you’re hurting, let someone know. If no one is readily available, I’m dropping hotline numbers below. I know it feels strange to reach out to someone you don’t even know sitting on the other side of a phone of God-only-knows-where, but I did it, and it helped so much.

On the flip side, if you have never struggled with depression, anxiety, or postpartum depression, you need to know that this is not a choice. We don’t choose to be this way. In fact, most of us tell ourselves every day the same things you do; “I’ll be fine. I have so much to live for.” “You’re being selfish, so many other people have it so much worse than you do” and so on. See, I know that. I get that. But that doesn’t pull me out of the darkness. If anything it pushes me further into it, I just make the decision to stop saying anything to anyone about it for fear I’ll be made to feel even more guilty about something I can’t control. Which brings me to another point; don’t stop dropping the suicide hotline number. Lots of people have been saying lately that you just need to check up on your friends. While I get that, I’m not about to open up to anyone about much for fear they don’t understand how depression works and they use one of those magical phrases that make me feel like a big worthless bag of shit. I would rather reach out to someone educated on how mental illness effects people than be guilt-tripped and made to feel worse.

Just soak that in for a second. I would rather talk to a complete stranger than talk to my friends about what I’m going through.

I know what you’re thinking… “Well, Kayla, it sounds like you need new friends.” That’s not true, I have great friends. But we’re all at different places in our lives, we all have our own struggles, and we’re all guilty of belittling other people’s struggles. It’s frustrating to pour your heart out to someone and feel like you haven’t been heard or that they don’t understand, or even worse, pushed even further into that dark cloud of depression.

In summation, yes, check on your friends. But please, for the love of all things good, continue to drop the number of helplines. Many people struggle in silence and won’t talk to their loved ones for fear of their response. There is help and you don’t have to feel like this forever.

The suicide hotline is: 1-800-273-8255

Or text the crisis line. Just text the word “home” to 741741 from anywhere in the U.S.

The postpartum helpline is 1-800-944-4773 or text 503-894-9453

Visit Postpartum Support International for more information on postpartum depression.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, it’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.

Stop the Mom-shaming!

So recently I was working at an event and since I breastfeed I told the other women working with me ahead of time that about every 4 hours I need to go pump. This of course sparked discussion about their own children and their choice to breastfeed, how they felt about it, how much work it is, etc. The discussion ends and we start to go about the rest of the day and I casually sip my Mountain Dew. All of a sudden one of the women looks at me and goes, “And you’re pumping?! Shame on you! You shouldn’t be drinking that!” And proceeded to tell me all about how it made me a horrible mother.

Alright firstly, I gave up a ton of things I enjoy during my pregnancy including but not limited to; deli meats, unprocessed cheeses, rare meat, shellfish, alcohol, coffee, sprouted grains… you get the picture. Most of those things I primarily lived off of up until that point (the shellfish and the cheese, mostly) so I literally changed my whole diet for 9 months. And you think it’s appropriate to continue to tell a mother what she should and should not do with her body and that going against whatever your personal opinion is makes me a bad mother?

Sweetheart, that’s just not how it works. I’m not saying that I’m right or wrong for drinking caffeine in the fourth trimester. To be honest there is a lot of conflicting research out there, so moms are split pretty 50/50 on the issue.

I’m going to venture out and say that there is not a single person you will agree with on every issue, 100%. That’s just how it is. We all are different; we’re raised differently, come from different cultures and backgrounds, have different beliefs. Just because you don’t necessarily agree with someone doesn’t make them a bad mom. We’re all out here doing the best we can to make the best decisions for ourselves and our babies and while some moms choose to completely give up caffeine while breastfeeding (some infants are intolerant of it, thankfully not mine) I only choose to limit it.

I’m not here to complain about my experience, I’m just here to say, stop freaking mom-shaming each other for being different. What works for my child may not work for yours, and vis versa. We’re all out here trying to do what’s best for our children. I respect your right to make your decisions on what’s best for yours. But can we please build each other up instead of breaking each other down and making each other feel worse? Moms are extremely hard on themselves, that’s no secret. I’m constantly second guessing myself with every decision I make. I don’t need someone else in my ear, thank you. Chances are if you’re bringing up your concern, I too have questioned it several times, done my research, talked to my doctor as well as my lactation consultant, and then come to a decision. I know I’m not alone on that.

I recently read a comment thread on Facebook where it was basically a Formula feeders vs. breastfeeders debate and it truly saddened me. The malicious comments made by both sides were hurtful, and I really had a hard time believing that these were full grown adults that are going through the same thing (parenthood), yet choosing to attack each other.

What’s good for you may not be good for your neighbor. There is no right answer in parenting.

What if instead of arguing we just supported each other? How amazing would that be? What if we respected the decisions other moms made for their kids instead of lecturing them?

This whole parenting thing is hard work and we’re all in it together. Be kind, build each other up, and work together. We can do this!

Stage 1 Baby Food And What To Keep In Mind While Making It

I’d love to tell you I’m that mom. You know, the one that seems to have it all together, they make all their own baby food, because “who knows what goes in that other stuff. If you make it yourself you know exactly what goes into it.”

Spoiler alert. That’s not me.

I do make my own baby food, don’t get me wrong. But that’s not the reasoning behind it. I make my own baby food for the same reason I breastfeed; it’s cheaper.

Judge me all you want, but it’s the truth. Babies are expensive and I know how hard my husband works to make his money. I’m not about to spend it frivolously, so this is me doing my part, ya know? Think about it. For $1 you can have a bag full of fresh carrots, or you can have one jar of baby food.

It’s just a no- brainer to me. I can use that bag of carrots in a few recipes to feed my family and make a fair amount of baby food. All for only $1.

Plus my sister-in-law gave me this super cool blender for Christmas so I didn’t have to use my margarita machine to make baby food anymore (stop judging me, I’m a bartender, what do you expect?) Anyway, shout out to Kailey for that one. You’re the best.

So since we all know where my priorities are at (frugal living) let me go on to say I don’t have a fancy-smancy baby food maker. You don’t need one. I don’t have fancy-smancy baby food storage, either. Once again, you don’t need that. I use a regular blender, dollar store ice cube trays, and ziploc bags. Really simple and cost effective. To be honest, it doesn’t take long either. But that’s because I try to utilize my crockpot as much as possible. I’m all about throwing it in a pot and forgetting about it. There are a few things that it doesn’t work with but just hang with me here.

There’s a few things you need to know before diving in to making your own baby food.

1. Everything needs to be cooked. Even if it’s something that’s easy to mash (like bananas). Babies little bellies need as much help breaking down the food as possible and roasting and steaming their food beforehand is a lot easier on their digestive system.

2. Before you start feeding them blends you need to make sure that your baby has tasted every ingredient on its own and you’ve looked for signs of a reaction. When my pediatrician told me that he could begin eating puréed fruits and veggies she made sure that she made it crystal clear. If you feed them a blend and they have a reaction you don’t know exactly what they’re reacting to.

3. You’re going to need a liquid to add to your fruit or veggies in order to be able to purée it. I like to use almond milk, but you could use breast milk or formula if you wanted to, or reserve some of the water you used to cook the fruits and veggies. Do not use cow’s milk. You should not introduce cow’s milk to your baby until they are at least a year old.

Ok, moving on. So what I really like to do with anything that has a high water content is peel it and put it in the crockpot for a few hours until tender. This works well with apples, mangos, blueberries and strawberries. When they’re tender scoop them out and put in a blender with a little bit of your liquid of choice and blend. Slowly add more liquid until you reach the desired consistency. Once it’s done, I grab my dollar store ice cube trays and pour the purée in them. Each cube is about one ounce. Once frozen I pop them out and put them in a ziploc bag labeled with the date made and what it is, and into deep freeze it goes. If you can’t get the cubes out run some hot water over the back for a minute and they’ll pop right out. Then I just grab a few out of deep freeze the day before I want to use them and let them defrost. I have little glass mason jars I use for this (I bought them awhile ago for some jam I made and had a few extras). I also save my plastic Gerber tubs for this purpose (yes, I do buy baby food when it’s on sale or I have a great coupon, I just don’t make a habit out of it). Side note, did you know it’s actually just as expensive to buy those little jars with nothing in them as it is to buy the baby food and reuse the jars? I can’t make this stuff up… anyway, if I need the jars I’d much rather buy them with stuff in them than without if it costs me the same price either way. That’s just me though.

Ok, ok. I’m getting off topic. What I was saying was, if I can get away with it I use my crockpot. I turn it on high for awhile and let it do its thing. It works great for frozen fruit as well as the above mentioned fruits. When they’re soft, put them in the blender and add a little of your liquid of choice until it forms a smooth purée.

For veggies I love those steam in the bag kind. It’s so easy. Just a couple seconds in the microwave, and into the blender it goes with some almond milk (or whatever you chose). If you want to buy fresh veggies I suggest boiling them and then puree. This is also how I make his sweet potato baby food, which he absolutely loves. I was told to stay away from regular potatoes as they don’t really have a whole lot of nutritional value. Just something to keep in mind.

Bananas are a little different because they have to be oven roasted. I’ve heard of people using them raw, but haven’t personally tried it. Sometimes the acidity in fruit gives him belly problems anyway, and I’m just not willing to risk having a grumpy baby. But I just turn the oven on to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and cut the banana in half length wise (you know- the long way). I put it in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes until the banana starts to release its juices and the house starts to smell delicious. I remove it from the oven and use the parchment paper to dump the banana (and the water it released) into the blender. You’ll still need to add some sort of liquid until the purée is smooth.

I will admit the one food I serve him raw is avocado. This is by far the easiest baby food to make and probably my favorite because it always turns out luxuriously smooth. I just pit and scoop out the avocado and add it to the blender with some almond milk. He hasn’t seemed to have any trouble digesting it so I don’t plan to change it any. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Ya know?

Anyway, when it’s all said and done Just pour purees in an ice cube tray and freeze.

Once frozen pop those suckers out and into a labeled plastic bag with what kind and what date. My freezer is literally full of baby food, and I’ve spent next to nothing because I always buy what’s on special that week.

That means instead of one serving for $1 I get at least 6-8 servings per $1 I spend. I’ve got quite the stockpile going. And really, it takes next to no time at all, especially when you can just throw it in the crockpot and forget about it.

Since my son is only 5 months old, we haven’t gotten real creative with blends yet. It’s just one main ingredient (your fruit or veggie) + liquid of choice (almond milk, coconut milk, breast milk, formula) to thin out the purée, added slowly while blending.

But what if you add too much liquid? Easy. Add some oatmeal and keep blending.

I added way too much liquid to the blueberries and it was more like water. I added some oats and continued to blend for a minute so all the large pieces broke up, then continued on with the ice tray routine. It worked great! And I didn’t have to throw out all my hard work. You could also add baby cereal to it if you wanted, but why use the expensive stuff if it’s not necessary, you know?

Side note, I’ve also made my own baby cereal. You just grind up oats into a flour consistency (I use my blender but you could do larger batches in a food processor). I read somewhere on Facebook that rice baby cereal contained formaldehyde so I freaked out about it for awhile (it’s Facebook, who knows if it’s the truth, but just the thought of it scared me). Upon more research rice cereal also causes constipation so we stick with barley, oat, and multigrain cereals.

I know most people start their baby eating cereal with some milk mixed in, but mine was not having any of that. So instead, I mix some cereal in with his serving of fruit in the morning and he gobbles it down. I feel like it keeps him a little more full throughout the day. All babies are different, but this is just what I’ve found that works for us.

Next month after he’s tried all the individual ingredients we will start to mix them. He’s not a fan of broccoli so I’m already trying to figure out how to disguise it and sneak it into his diet. If you have a baby-approved broccoli blend recipe, please let me know! Don’t forget to leave your questions and comments below. I love hearing from you!

Money Saving Apps Round-Up

This post contains affiliate links.

A few months ago I did a quick little post about an app that I started using to save money that helped us pay for my step daughter’s birthday party. Since then I’ve found a couple more apps that I use to cut down on the amount of money we spend on groceries. It takes a few extra minutes but last month we were running a little short since we had to pay to get plates on my car renewed, and I was able to transfer an extra $60 out of the apps, into the bank account in order to get us to pay day. Totally worth the extra time. Here’s the list of the apps that totally saved our ass last month. Download them and try them out! It all adds up quick!

1. Ibotta

I already did a quick little blurb about this one, you can find it here. But to be honest it’s the app that adds up the fastest. They offer more cash back offers than any other app including “any item” offers; where it can be any brand. They even do free product promotions where they give you 100% of the amount you spent, back on that item. Last month I got free yogurt, this month I got free mayonnaise. You can withdraw your cash after you’ve saved up $20. I save mine for a rainy day and then transfer it to my paypal account when I’m ready. Another cool thing is that Ibotta gives you your first $10 for free if you type in the referral code, kmnofyn. That means you only need to redeem a few offers to be able to cash out and have a nice, new, crisp $20 in your pocket.

2. Fetch Rewards

This one made it to the top of the list because you earn points just by uploading your receipts. You don’t even have to buy any of the brands they promote. They’ll still give you points which you later decide how you’d like to receive that money (I always chose Amazon gift cards- surprise, surprise!). Another plus is that you don’t have to collect points forever to be able to cash out. You only need enough points to add up to $3, which I earned a few days after downloading the app. It doesn’t get any easier than this! They also run a promotion where they give their new users 2,000 points (it translates to $2) with the code V6NJQ. Upload a few receipts and you’re already at your $3 mark!

3. SavingStar

I like this one because you only need to save $5 before you can cash out, and you can also hook it up to your paypal. There aren’t as many offers as Ibotta, but you also don’t have to wait for that $20 mark. It’s the same general setup up as Ibotta as well, you pick the offers, scan the products to make sure they match, then submit your receipt. Unfortunately, unlike the first two, SavingStar does not have a new customer bonus. But they do run different promotions so even though they aren’t giving you anything free to use their application, I’ve still saved plenty of money.

4. Checkout 51

This one is another app a lot like Ibotta, but they generally have more coupons on fresh items, and I feel more of a variety. They change their offers weekly, often depending on the time of year and what people are buying the most of. This one you do have to wait until you hit $20, but same deal- you can send it to your paypal account (or use it as a great excuse to shop around on Amazon… Not that I know anyone that does that or anything… Cough, cough). Checkout 51 doesn’t have a new customer bonus but you can submit any grocery receipt that’s over $60 for a chance to win $500. They allow you one entry per week, so there’s some potential for a pretty great payout.

5. Krazy Coupon Lady

I check this app every time before I go shopping. Pick the stores you visit the most and they tell you exactly what coupons to use to get items for cheap and sometimes free! This is the one I used constantly in my extreme couponner days. If it’s a printable coupon she even includes the link for you! She’s a life saver, let me tell ya. Another great thing about the app is that you can search for what you need. Let’s say you’re running low on toilet paper, you can search deals for toilet paper and see where you can get the most bang-for-your-buck this week.

6. Coupons.com

This is a relatively new app. I’m still getting used to it to be honest, and since I’m a Kroger shopper I really haven’t gotten much practice. But I have used it a few times when I went to Walmart. The tricky thing with this one is that you have to select which offers you want before you buy them… So it requires a little bit of planning. This is where using your Krazy Coupon Lady app comes into play. Use the KCL app to figure out what’s on sale and what deals you want to cash in on, then select those offers in your Coupons.com app. Go to the store, buy the items you need, and upload your receipt. The great thing about this one is that they deposit the money you saved directly into your paypal account within days. That’s right! You don’t have to request your money, they automatically give it to you. No waiting until you’ve saved, $5, $10, or even $20. Now the bad news, if you’re a Kroger shopper like me, Kroger doesn’t participate in this app (bummer, I know). But when I do make my occasional Walmart tip, this is a great go-to. You can also use their app to print coupons from your phone (as long as you’re hooked up to a wireless printer). You should know that Coupons.com started as a website that allows you to print all the coupons your little heart desires. Different retailers have different rules on how many of the same printed coupon you can use in a trip (I know this because Kroger only allows you to use two of the same printed coupon). So before you go crazy printing all the coupons, make sure you check your favorite store’s coupon policy (which can all be found on your Krazy Coupon Lady app).

Those are all my couponing apps that are in heavy rotation! If I find any more that are worthy of being on this list I will most definitely continue to update it. For that matter, if you have a couponing app that you love that I didn’t mention, tell me! I’d love to try it out!

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Say the F Word

Hi friends!! First of all, let me start by thanking Kayla for asking me to do a guest post. Today marks the beginning of National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) and I’m stoked that she and I are teaming up on this! For the purpose of this post, I actually won’t talk in depth about our exact story. However, the nitty gritty details can be found on my own blog if you’re interested in knowing more about us. Hopefully this post brings awareness to those on the outside, and encouragement to those who know the journey. I’ve picked a couple of topics I think are so important to talk about. Let me just say, this post was so hard to actually write because infertility awareness has so many different areas to discuss. Picking just a few was hard! Let’s get started, shall we?

When I was a little girl, I owned an exorbitant amount of baby dolls. I remember breastfeeding my dolls and caring tenderly for them. I was 5 & 7 respectively when each of my sisters were born and one of my favorite things was watching my mother care for them. My mom had this newborn care tape that I used to take to my bedroom and watch. Honestly, pregnancy, birth, and babies have always enamored me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been referred to as the “little mama.” Moral of the story? Babies are my jam. For my entire life, I couldn’t wait to grow up, find an awesome husband, and have amazing little babies. But it doesn’t always happen that way. For 1 in 8 of us, that’s not how it happens at all.

I did grow up and find an awesome husband. Joshua is my rock and makes me laugh constantly. He is truly my best friend and I’m super jazzed that I get to spend forever with him. Joshua is exactly what I’d define as an awesome husband. We were married on August 6, 2016. We both wanted a family, and we knew we’d probably struggle, so we started trying to get pregnant the day we got married. To make a very long story, very short: our parts don’t work all that well. In fact, there’s a 0% chance Joshua and I will ever conceive naturally. Our only option is IVF.

As of April 9th, I was medicated for 84 days in 2018. Fifty-two is the number of hormone injections I have received this year. 31069062_10211888297584808_3259240974861205504_nThis does not include the needle pokes from blood draws, which were done every other day (and sometimes daily) during the ovary stimulation process before egg retrieval. Forty-five is the number of follicles I carried on my ovaries during stims. Twenty-eight is the number of eggs they retrieved from those follicles.31117797_10211888308905091_5744116770935930880_n  Seven is the number of eggs that actually fertilized. Five is the number of embryos we ended up freezing. One is the number of embryos we transferred. Zero is the number of babies still inside of my body.

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IVF is a lot of numbers, but even more, it’s a lot of emotions. For one, you’re pumped full of hormones and generally you spend most of your time crying. Sometimes you know why you’re crying, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes that reason is rational, sometimes it’s not. There’s so much pressure on your body to perform at a certain level. I’ve always struggled with anxiety and let me tell you, IVF did nothing to help with that. Every other day I had an ultrasound and bloodwork. Are my hormone levels where they should be? Is my estrogen rising like it should? How are my follicles? Are they growing? How many are there? You’re increasing my meds HOW MUCH? You’re increasing my meds again? 31061481_10211888297384803_8414562487369728000_nQuestions I asked myself and the nurses. Over an over. Analyzing every single detail. This was huge. I’ve dreamt of motherhood my entire life and now the chance to have that was right in front of me. And can we talk about the waiting? Aside from waiting to have a baby, you’re waiting on lab results, appointments, procedures, milestones, and phone calls. Sometimes when you’re going through infertility, it feels like all you do is wait. You wait, and you grieve.

Joshua and I did our first transfer on March 28th. 31100334_10211888309505106_3474165974486220800_n

We traveled two and a half hours to pick up our baby from frozen daycare in secret. No one, not even our parents, knew we went to do it. It was exhilarating!! Seeing your tiny baby go into your body on an ultrasound screen and getting a photo of that baby is magical. I remember choking back tears as I watched it all happen, seemingly in slow motion. I was finally pregnant! Of course, we had to wait and hope that the baby would actually implant. In the infertility community, we refer to my post-transfer status as “PUPO,” or “pregnant until proven otherwise.” We came home and we encouraged our little embryo to stick. We told that tiny little baby how much we wanted to meet him or her. A few days later, I got a very faintly positive pregnancy test. I wasn’t willing to trust it just yet. However, the tests continued to be positive for the next couple of days.. until the positives just stopped. Ultimately, we experienced a very early loss, called a chemical pregnancy. Devastated doesn’t even cover how that felt.

It’s no surprise to me that mental illness statistics among the infertility community are as profound as they are. Let’s take account of the physical pain, discomfort, and exhaustion that infertility treatments provide. In addition, the emotional toll and financial strain we’re affected by is outrageous. Do you know how few companies offer infertility coverage, and how many states mandate it? Only 15 of 50 states in the US mandate some sort of infertility coverage, be it diagnostics or treatments. A study by Fertility Network UK was done on the effect infertility has on individuals. The study  showed some pretty staggering statistics.

“For example, those who responded to the current survey reported feeling on average sad, frustrated and worried nearly all of the time and 42% had experienced suicidal feelings compared to 20% in the 1997 survey. Those most in danger of experiencing high levels of distress and suicidal feelings were those who had unsuccessful treatment, who spent longer trying to conceive, who experienced some relationship strains, and who had less support from friends and family and from their employer. This suggests that additional counselling beyond IVF counselling may be needed for some couples, especially as 70% reported some detrimental impact on the relationship with their partner.“

I personally have friends who have attempted suicide after miscarriages and/or failed fertility treatments. This should really light a fire in people to raise awareness, and for some reason, it doesn’t. In fact, I myself have been accused of being “dramatic” when speaking about our struggles.

First of all, how dare you. If someone opens up to you about their infertility, you’re doing them a huge injustice by criticizing them for how and what they’re feeling. It’s even more disappointing if you’ve never experienced infertility yourself.

Second, someone going through infertility is battling grief in one form or another on a monthly basis. There’s nothing dramatic about grief. Raw? Definitely. Dramatic? No. Any human being with an ounce of compassion inside of them should be able to sympathize with grief. To quote my sweet friend, Emily: “If you are a parent who didn’t struggle to conceive, look at your child. The child you’ve raised and love so much. Now, I want you to imagine that you knew your child was out there, somewhere, but you had no idea how to get to them. Imagine the pain and desperation you’d feel wanting to get to them. That is exactly what infertility feels like.” She hits the nail on the head there. This is true of both primary infertility (trying for a couple’s first child) and secondary infertility (infertility after the arrival of one or more children). Contrary to what some people may think, secondary infertility is still infertility. The desire to have a child is still there and it still hurts. And even when someone beats infertility and has their miracle baby, they’re still part of this community. This journey never stops being part of your life.

Now that I’ve overwhelmed you with my feelings and some troubling statistics, hopefully you’re feeling enlightened and ready to advocate. So, what can you do? Plenty! If someone you know is experiencing infertility, I urge you to reach out. Offer your sincere support. Get educated on some basic infertility information like conditions and treatments. This is a link full of reliable info. You can also send a thoughtful card or gift to the person in your life affected by this. Gas cards are great because often times, there’s a lot of travel to and from appointments. Get creative! I guarantee they will be so appreciative.

Another thing you can do that is a huge help is raising awareness. There are awareness walks held all the time, so look for one in your area. Form a team and get out there. The reason infertility is such a taboo subject is because people don’t talk about it. Because no one talks about it, others remain uneducated and unaware. There’s progress to be made in changing the stigmas surrounding infertility.

If you’re the individual experiencing infertility, reach out! To myself, a support group online or locally, to a trusted friend or family member, or to a trusted doctor. Know that you don’t have to do this alone. Know that you’re a warrior and that this WILL be worth the wait. We’re all in this together. I originally “came out” about our struggles a year ago in the hopes of connecting with others struggling in the dark. But my biggest driving force was the desire to educate others. If you’re reading this and you have questions or want to know more, I’d be stoked to chat with you. Please reach out!

And there you have it. My real, raw feelings this NIAW. This year’s theme is #flipthescript encouraging us to talk about infertility. So here I am, trying to do my part. And how amazing is Kayla for doing hers? So grateful for awesome friends like this! I stand for the 1 in 8 because I AM the 1 in 8. Who’s going to stand with me? #saytheFword

31165842_10211895169476601_817915197980147712_n (1)Mallory and her husband, Josh, continue to fight the good fight every day on infertility. Not only do they go through their treatments and support each other, but they continue to give hope to the rest of the infertility community. Follow their story, and help them achieve their dreams.