Welcome. Are you pregnant? Or are you figuring out your way through new parenthood? This is the blog for you! As a mother to a 3 year old boy and 1 year old boy/girl twins, I've been there, done that. From breastfeeding to potty training. From natural labor to c-section. And from swaddling to car seats. I have advice and I'm not afraid to share it! If you have a question, just ask me!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How to Do Your Own Baby Photo Shoot!

Wondering how to photograph a baby? I am by no means a professional photography. I'm not even an amateur. But I'll tell you, when it comes to getting some nice shots of your baby, it's not as hard as you think. All you need is a camera that you can set to "portrait" mode. If your camera can be set to a "continuous" release mode, that is even better. By continuous release, I mean you press and hold the button, and it just keeps taking tons of pictures. You want continuous release, because you want to be able to get those great shots in between potential crying. I've gotten some amazing shots in the middle of a complete fit, because the camera can shoot so fast. Portrait mode will give a blur to the background, which will put focus on your beautiful baby. You will also want to make sure you turn your flash OFF. I can't set my camera to portrait AND no flash, so I set it to portrait, and before I press the button all the way done, I close the flash. A flash will not give you a natural looking photo, so it's better to choose No Flash over Portrait if you have to make a choice. If you don't have a camera like this, ask some friends, you're likely to find someone who would be willing to let you borrow it for a few days.

The great thing about taking your own photo shoot, is you can do it when your baby is happy and ready. Be sure to set up your background and props before your child wakes up. Be sure to set up your shoot near a bright window or door. If you don't have one, you can set it up outside or in a garage, just don't do it in direct sunlight if you can help it.

I have had the best luck in the morning or afternoon, depending on when the sun hits the window/door you want to use. 9AM or 3PM are good times to shoot for. (no pun intended.)

The key to taking a nice picture is GET CLOSE. Don't be afraid to GET CLOSE!

I have found for small babies/newborns, it's best to use a bouncy seat with a blanket over it. I bought a twin size white throw style blanket from TJ Maxx for $20 and have used it a lot. You want plenty of blanket behind the bouncy seat. You then want to use whatever you have to drape the left over blanket up. So I set a chair behind the bouncy seat and draped the white blanket over the chair and the seat. You then put the baby in the seat and you have a nice backdrop:

You can also drape a blanket on someone, and have them hold the baby. In this picture we had the blanket also draped on the couch behind the baby.

You can also put the blanket right on the floor (or couch if good lighting there.) to get some tummy time or back photos.

You can also put the blanket all around the face for a peek-a-boo look.

For older babies who can lift their head, you can put a cushy blanket on your coffee table, and put the table right next to the couch. Then drape the white/solid blanket over the coffee table and up the sofa back (over the cushy blanket so it's soft for baby.) Here is a picture using this technique:

Then you can get creative. Here is one of my favorite shots I've taken. It's got $1/yard black fabric that is draped on furniture near a bright window. I used a bucket and some pillow filling. Under the filling, I put some throw pillows to prop the boy up. I actually took this picture w/ a canon point & shoot!

If you having trouble getting a smile for your little one (6-18months or so), try a feather duster.  "Dust" their face and pull the duster away.  It's sure to make them smile!

If your shot is not quite right, you need to edit something out, or you want to blur out the background even more, download GIMP.  It pretty much does what the WAY too expensive Photoshop does, but it is free.  The above picture needs to be edited...see on the right where I didn't have enough black fabric?  GIMP can easily fix that.  There is a learning curve to this software, but I've found lots of tutorials online, which has helped me do what I want to do.  With GIMP, you can even do some Anne Geddes style pictures (like a naked baby out on a tree limb or flower petal.)  Some of my favorite tutorials are Here.  Check out this one that I haven't tried, but think is pretty cool. 

Here I used GIMP to blur out the background just a little.  You can see the before and after:

The key is to not expect too much! If you want to try different setups or different outfits. Just do one thing a day. Otherwise, you and baby could get frustrated. This is a great way to save some money on newborn portraits. Will you get 50 great shots? Probably not. But you will get enough for announcements or to print into wallets, etc.  DON'T FORGET TO GET CLOSE!  :)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

No Sunscreen for Newborns!

I don't know why it's not standard for pediatricians to tell parents certain things. When my first son was born, I had no idea that you weren't supposed to use sunscreen on a baby under 6 months old. At around 3 months of age, I had started using it, and then a few weeks later, I happen to stumble on the subject on an online Moms' forum. So I researched it, and sure enough. A baby's skin is thinner, and their body to weigh ratio is higher, so they absorb more. (per Dr. Sears) It's recommended to wait until 6 months of age before slathering sun protection on the skin. So until then, use sun shades, and lightweight long sleeves and pants if you need to.

But if you're going on vacation and the baby can't be under shade, then it might be better to use sunscreen, so check with your own pediatrician.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Night Leg Cramps During Pregnancy

Oh my! During my twin pregnancy, I had HORRIBLE leg cramps in the middle of the night. So bad I had to get out of bed and would end up flopping around the floor like a fish out of water. They were completely debilitating, and lasted several minutes. Even after the episode, my calf was left hurting.

My doctor said that it's not really known why leg cramps during pregnancy happen, but it's common. He said taking extra calcium seem to help some women. My doula (also an RN and homebirth midwife) also advised calcium. She recommended an extra 1200 MG. Don't take calcium w/ other vitamins, as it can block their absorption. 1200 MG needs to be broken up, since the body can only absorb 600 mg at a time. So, I broke it up into 2 doses, with my last dose right before bed. It didn't stop them, but it GREATLY reduced the number of episodes I had, and they definitely were not as severe. My doula recommended BlueBonnet liquid calcium, because she claimed it absorbed better. It seemed to work, so I didn't dare try anything else.

I also found that if I could catch the cramp before it really took hold, and flex my foot (point toes UP), it could curb the cramp. Your reaction is to point your toes, but do the opposite!

So if you find yourself with awful cramps during pregnancy, ask your doctor about taking calcium!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pregnancy and Sleep...Great Sleep!

If you are 7+ months pregnant, you just won't sleep well, right?  Not necessarily!

Amazingly enough, with my twin pregnancy I slept full nights of sleep right up until the very end at 38 weeks.  On top of having 60+ pounds on me, I was due in July.  And it was the hottest summer on record for where I live in the hot south.  How was I getting such amazing sleep?  Hypnosis!

No, not hypnosis like you've seen as an entertainment act.  I used the Hypnobabies Self Study course.  I listened to a hypnosis track every night going to bed, and it helped me relax and feel good and if I got up in the middle of the night and wasn't asleep after 10 minutes, I just turned my ipod back on and listened some more and would soon be out again.  And yes, I can boast that I was well rested going in for my c-section at 38 weeks and 1 day!

If you'd like to try this for free, Hypnobabies offers a free "Relax Me" track.  This track has nothing to do with pregnancy.  So if you're not pregnant, but just need a nice way to fall asleep, try it!  If you are pregnant, try it too.  And if you like it, I recommend looking into Hypnobabies for childbirth course.  It made my twin pregnancy such a positive one.  There is also a free track that explains what Hypnobabies for childbirth is all about. 

Happy sleeping!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

My Favorite Newborn Gifts/Items

So everyone wants to know what to buy for a baby shower. I can tell you not to buy baby blankets. It seems I got about 10 and used only 1 or 2. Also pacifiers. We got a ton, and none of my kids took them, so what a waste. Here is a list of what I think are the best baby gifts.

Happiest Baby on the Block - I got the DVD from our local library for births.  DH and I wanted a refresher when our twins were born.  This DVD will show you how to sooth a fussy baby.  The tricks take some practice, but they work.  The DVD is by Dr. Harvey Karp, a well known pediatrician.

The Miracle Blanket - We swaddled DS1 for 4.5 months.  DS2 for 5 months and DD for 3 months.  I have tried 3 or 4 different swaddling blankets.  This is the best one hands down.  Babies will find their way out of other types leaving parents to believe "my baby just doesn't like being swaddled."  Well, get the Miracle Blanket, and this will work wonders for your baby's sleep!  Note:  The first month I just used a regular blanket from the hospital to swaddle.  That seemed to work then best.  We used a very different method than what is taught by most nurses.  We had one nurse who showed us a different way, and it was MUCH easier.  I will try to get a video w/ a doll to show you that method.  Swaddling is something Dr. Karp says is ESSENTIAL in the first 3 months, or "the fourth trimester."

Sound Machine - We like the one we have from Brookstone.  You could also get a CD like "Infant Calm" and just play one of the sounds on repeat.  Babies are soothed by constant white noise.  But make sure it isn't too loud or right on the baby's ear.  We don't want to hurt those little eardrums!  White noise is another tip from Dr. Karp.

Triple Paste and Aquaphor - Two types of diaper rash creams.  Aquaphor is cheaper and great for a daily ointment for those little red spots that come up every now and then.  Triple Paste is THE BOMB when it comes to the bad rashes that won't go away.  If Triple Paste doesn't clear it up in a day or two, check w/ your doctor to make sure your baby doesn't have a yeast or other type of rash that would require a prescription.  Triple Paste is EXPENSIVE, but worth it.  Sometimes you can find a coupon for it on coupons.com.

The Moby Wrap - May not be the best if your baby is born in the summer months in the south, but otherwise, The Moby Wrap is a wonderful wrap to hold your baby.  It truly is hands free.  Surf the web, do laundry, but DON'T cook, while you cuddle your baby.  I would often take my shirt off and undress the baby down to their diaper and wear them like that, so we could have some "skin-to-skin" time.  DS1 often napped while I wore him.  I also found baby wearing to be a great alternative grocery shopping.  Screw putting the baby in the cart!

Ear Plugs and Sleep Mask - You're probably laughing at this, but I'm not joking!  Let's face it, if our baby is crying, we aren't sleeping.  So, when another person is on baby duty, like your husband, a grandparent, or friend, put some earplugs in, put on a sleep mask, and go take a nap.  The first time I did this was around 6pm, when DH was handling the baby.  I woke up w/ drool down my chin and my DH shaking my shoulder waking me up and telling me it was time to breastfeed the baby.  It was AWESOME.  Please DO NOT use ear plugs, if you are needing to hear the baby.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child - This book, written by Dr. Marc Weissbluth, has been a godsend to me and my family.  I won't talk much about it here, as I will talk about it plenty in the future.  But if you read nothing else, read the first 2 chapters during your last month or two of pregnancy.  If you follow this book from the beginning, your child will have wonderful sleep habits, and you will be well rested to be the best mommy you can be.  If you follow this book from the start, you will not have to deal with "Crying It Out."  (You may have some what I call "fussing it out")  This book is right on the money as to the sleep cycles from infancy to 6/7 years of age.  It even worked for my twins.  (I also have a copy of "Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Twins" too.)  My DD was sleeping thru the night 1 month of age, and my DS2 was sleeping thru at 5.5 months of age, and they haven't looked back.  10-12 hours of sleep at night, and 2-3 hours of napping during the day.  The best part of keeping a good sleep schedule is that it eliminates "The Witching Hours" in the evening.  I had those w/ my first DS (before I knew about this book.) and trust me...you don't want to deal w/ The Witching Hours.  They're awful!  And it's nice to have a child wake up from a nap happy, instead of screaming...you know they're well rested.

So there are my favorite newborn items.  Hope you enjoyed the post.