How to avoid spending $$$ on maternity items you’ll only wear once

For my first pregnancy, I avoided buying maternity clothes.

It was a personal challenge — I survived on loose clothing I already owned for as long as possible, and when I had to, I invested in a few maternity basics that I rotated through for the rest of the pregnancy.

Basically, I wore a lot of grey and black outfits. They helped me appear slimmer and also made it slightly less obvious to the casual observer that I was wearing the same outfits every week. (Luckily I was working at a tech startup where I could wear whatever I wanted.)

My reluctance to buy maternity clothes was as much about practicality as it was about frugality; I didn’t want to spend money on clothes I would only wear for a few months–but I also just didn’t have room in my already overflowing NYC closet to store a whole new wardrobe.

For my second pregnancy, however, I faced a problem: I had two special occasion events around the 6 month mark: a business school reunion and my brother’s wedding.

I knew that I couldn’t wear my trusty black maternity hoodie or my maternity leggings to either of these events. I also knew that both celebrations involved multiple days of events where I would likely be photographed and appear on social media.

Basically, unless I wanted to commit a social faux pas and wear the same maternity dress multiple times, I had to invest in several nice maternity outfits. Ugh.

Reluctantly, I started browsing maternity dresses online, and ordered a few from Macy’s and Nordstrom to try on. I didn’t like any of them — certainly not enough to pay $100-$200 for any of them. I returned all of them.

At that point, I decided to look into Le Tote Maternity. For $69/month, I could get a box of 3 maternity garments and two accessories at a time and keep and wear everything for as long as I wanted. Almost as soon as I returned my box, another would be on its way. The best part? I could hand-select what I received in my box based on their real-time inventory. I decided to try it out.

The result? I got a bunch of great outfits to wear for those two occasions for less than the cost of one maternity dress (since both occasions were luckily in the same month). In two boxes (one for each weekend), I received 5 dresses, a cardigan, a purse, a bracelet, and two necklaces. I wore everything at least once except for a red dress that didn’t fit quite right.

If you find yourself in the same position of having special occasions you need to dress up for while pregnant, I highly recommend giving Le Tote a try for these reasons:

  • Renting just makes a lot of sense for something you’ll likely only wear once.

  • Unlike other clothing subscription services, Le Tote lets you choose what you get in your box. And they have a lot of options.

  • If you only need a nice outfit for just one event, you can subscribe for just one month and still spend less than you would to buy that one outfit. The bonus? Since their turnaround is so fast, you can get up to 4 boxes in that one month if you return a box as soon as you’re done with it — meaning a dozen maternity items to enjoy over the course of a month for $69.

My plan was to unsubscribe after that one month where I needed nice dresses. My confession? I somehow convinced myself to stay on for a second month. I’m afraid that I may just continue subscribing through the end of my pregnancy.

After all, as I told my husband, when you’re starting to get really big in your third trimester — looking and feeling great can go a long way.

**Note: I am not affiliated with Le Tote at all! I just found their service to be a great pregnancy hack and wanted to share it with other pregnant mamas who have special occasions to attend during their pregnancy.

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How I Kept My 1-Year Old Happy During a Cross-Country Flight

When my baby neared the one year mark, she was determinedly mobile. In music class, she was the baby crawling out of mommy’s lap to the center of the circle. Her naptime and bedtime routine included exploring every corner of her crib until she got drowsy. And it became increasingly challenging to change her diaper and dress her, as she fought to roll and crawl away as soon as she lost interest in the items within reach.

So I was understandably nervous about a 6 hour flight we had to Boston for my brother’s wedding. I knew I couldn’t count on her sleeping through most of it, as she had done during her newborn days. And I imagined her constantly squirming and squealing to get out of my and my husband’s laps to crawl around.

So I  googled “how to entertain baby on a the plane” and also asked mommy groups I belonged to. Some recommended buying new (but light) toys for the plane. Others said to ask the flight attendants for cups, plastic silverware etc. One mom said that regardless of what we decided to bring, to “wrap” it as that creates another activity. I decided to rummage the house for “found treasures” to wrap. These items all fit into a ziplock bag for my carry-on:

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So what did I end up wrapping?

  • A new “lift the flap” book from the library that I had not yet shown my daughter. This one featured flowers (her favorite) that transformed into animals once the flap was lifted. She loved it.
  • A small rubber ducky. One of her favorite bath toys that I knew she would be excited to see on the plane. She was. It was also of course helpful to have the ducky for her baths in Boston.
  • A small tin spice container with a string of paper clips & a few pads of mini Post-It strips inside. While wrapped, it was a fun rattle. Once opened, she had fun playing with the paper clips and also reaching for the post-its we stuck around her.
  • Some sheets of old stickers featuring farm animals that I found in my crafts box. She loved sticking and removing the horse stickers everywhere.
  • A home-made “puzzle” of a flower I created using items from my crafts box. Entertained her for a few minutes.
  • An old slap bracelet.

Nothing terribly exciting in that bag – but it was a lifesaver! She only slept 45 minutes during the almost 6 hour flight, but because we had that bag of random wrapped surprises to fall back on as soon as she started getting fidgety and restless, she only had one breakdown (when my husband tried to change her diaper in the bathroom).

What tricks do you have for keeping your baby entertained on the plane?

6 Tips To Enjoy Reading To Baby… Without Actually Reading

As a new mom, I so desperately wanted to do everything right. Make sure Baby ate and slept well. Make sure she was engaged. Make sure she felt loved.

Since she was a newborn, I followed the advice to read to Baby every day, and made reading part of the bedtime routine. I rotated through her book collection, reading absurd lines such as “Goodnight mush.” and “Three singing pigs say la la la.” I showed her pages and pages of farm animals she had never seen in real life.

I tried to convince myself that I was setting her up for success — even when she stared at me blankly or pushed the book away.

Recently, though, I had an epiphany — you don’t actually have to read to Baby to get the benefits of reading. And since then, reading has been way more enjoyable for myself and Baby!

1. It’s not about the story — it’s about the pictures

Some books have beautiful, heartfelt stories but surprisingly grey and drab illustrations (looking at you, On the Night You Were Born). These books never kept my baby’s interest. News flash: babies are visual, and they could care less about the story at this age.

Choose books with bold, colorful images to keep your baby’s attention – even if the stories are nonsensical. (We go to the library often to pick up new books to read.)

2. Point, point, and point some more

At the 9 month appointment, I told my daughter’s pediatrician that she wasn’t babbling that much. The doc told us to read to her frequently, and said offhand, “It’s not really about the reading at this stage though. Just point to things.”

Wait — what? Mind blown.

Since then, I’ve focused less on the lines in the book, and instead pointed to “familiar” objects (“familiar” as in they show up repeatedly if not in baby’s life, in baby’s books: pigs, sheep, flowers, stars, etc… you know what I’m talking about).

Before I knew it, I moved from saying, “Flower. This is a flower.” to “Where’s the flower?” and waiting for Baby to point herself. Lately, our reading sessions have been less about reading but more about pointing… she loves it!

3. Show her the same object in different books

You know that First 100 Words book on every baby book list? I didn’t get it at first — we’re supposed to read these words, one after the other, to baby as a book? Isn’t that incredibly boring?

After our favorite activity became pointing, I realized that showing her the same object depicted differently in different books helps her learn what they are. When I see a duck in a book, I now pull out First 100 Words and another book or two with a duck and sequentially point to each duck: “Here’s a duck. Here’s another duck. Here’s another duck. Duck.” It’s amazing when you see Baby’s brain connect the dots and understand what you’re trying to teach her.

4. Ask Baby to turn the page

Before we started pointing, we found that asking Baby to turn the page helped engage her more while reading. At first, you can lift the page a little, and bounce it, while saying “Turn the page?” or “Next page.” She’ll eventually get what you want her to do. Now, sometimes Baby will crawl away while we’re reading, but come back when we say “Next page, please.”

5. Lift the flap dramatically

One book that Baby loved early on was a lift the flap book called Woof! Woof! Pop-up Peekaboo! When she was too young to lift the flap on her own, I would tease the flap open gradually, bouncing it, while saying “Peeka Peeka Peeka BOOOO!” She loved the anticipation and the final reveal. She also loved the breeze the flipping of the flap created across her face.

6. Make up your own story

Again, it’s not about the actual lines of the book right now. Ditch the official story and tell whatever story you like to make “reading” more fun for you. As long as Baby is seeing pictures, hearing words, and engaged, your reading time is a success!

Of course, as Baby gets older — and you’ll need to start thinking about teaching her how to “read” herself — you’ll probably want to move towards actual reading. Until that point though, have fun reading without reading 🙂

The Life-Changing Magic of Shush Pat

 

I. Rock a bye baby… (please please please go to sleep)

I sway my hips, take a few steps, and dance slowly around the room. I do ten steady squats — my thighs have never been stronger. I dance again, softly singing, “Mary had a little lamb.”

I peer at the swaddled baby in my arms after doing this for five minutes. Her eyes are fluttering. They’re closing. They’re closing. Closed.

I take a deep breath. I do a few final squats. Then I gently, ever so gently, lower my daughter into her crib, pressing the back of my hand into the mattress so that I can slowly slide it under her neck without disturbing her.

I tiptoe out of the room and close the door.

Before I make it back to the monitor, I hear:

“WAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”

I sigh. I try to “pause” — wait a little to see if the crying will stop. It doesn’t. At least, it doesn’t during the one minute I can tolerate. I go back into the room, pick W up, and start the dance again.

II. Yeah, right.

When my daughter was around 6 or 7 weeks old, it became harder and harder to put her down for naps. Sometimes it would take over an hour of repeated attempts dancing and squatting until she finally fell asleep. And even then, she’d only stay asleep for 30 minutes — if we were lucky.

It wasn’t sustainable. She was getting heavier. My arms were becoming permanently sore. She wasn’t sleeping well. And I was grumpy.

I went to my best friend during the newborn stage, Google. Most of the articles and forums I read strongly recommended putting baby down “drowsy but awake.” It’s the only way baby will learn how to fall asleep on her own, they said.

But when I put my baby down in the crib awake, she started bawling. There was no way she was going to fall asleep on her own.

Another method I read about was called “shush pat.” Apparently if you lay your baby down awake, you can pat her steadily, while repeating a drawn out “shush” sound, until she falls asleep.

But when my husband and I tried it, we felt self-conscious and, well, more than a little bit ridiculous. As our tongues got dry from shushing, and as our baby wailed in confusion, we couldn’t help but feeling like we were being scammed.

I’d much rather rock her, my husband said.

He had a point. At least we got to cuddle our sweet baby while we were rocking her, and she usually got sleepy within 5 minutes. Shush pat could take an hour or more for all we knew, and it felt like torture — for us and the baby.

My husband came up with an alternative strategy; before she fell asleep, he would stop rocking her and hold her still before laying her down in the crib. He would stop rocking earlier and earlier until she only needed to be held to his chest to calm down and get sleepy.

III. Epiphany

One day, my nanny told me she got baby to fall asleep without having to rock or hold her. She told me that all she did was lay her down in the crib and shush pat her. I told her I wanted to see her do it.

Sure enough, she was able to put W down in the crib wide awake and shush pat her until she fell asleep. She fell asleep, and she stayed asleep. After I saw her technique, I was able to do it too after a few tries.

How to shush pat:

  1. Swaddle baby.
  2. Put her in crib awake on her back. She’ll cry.
  3. Softly pat her on her chest, while shushing. Adjust the volume of the shush and the speed of the patting based on how intensely she is crying. (E.g., as she stops crying and starts drifting to sleep, slow down the shushing and soften the pats as you prepare to leave the room.)
  4. It helps to lift her legs up and down with one hand as you pat with the other. This relaxes her body and creates a sensation of motion similar to rocking.
  5. Continue doing this until she falls asleep. It may take 10-15 minutes at first, but the time required will very quickly decrease as she learns that shush pat means sleep.

Because I couldn’t find a good video on how to shush pat when my husband and I first tried it, I made a video to demonstrate here.

The magic in shush pat lies in your baby’s inability to multi-task at a young age. She can’t process the sensations of the patting and the sound of the shushing while also crying. Shush pat becomes less effective as the baby gets older, so should only be used on babies younger than 4 months.

IV. Wonderful, magical, sleep

It took about a week of shush-patting W to sleep before she didn’t need it anymore. By 13 weeks of age, we could lay her down in her crib awake, give her quick pat and a kiss, and leave the room — and she’d fall asleep on her own within 5-10 minutes with minimal fuss. It was truly mind-blowing.

Even now, with W almost a year old, I’m still amazed at how good of a sleeper she is. She gives us a big smile when we put her in the crib, then embraces her two loveys. She might sit, roll, toss and turn, or play for awhile before falling asleep, but she always falls asleep on her own. I am so grateful because good naps and easy bedtime means more free adult time for us.

Since shush pat was the single biggest breakthrough I’ve experienced so far in motherhood, I wanted to share it with other sleep-deprived mothers out there. Happy to answer any questions you have.

Did you use another method to teach your baby how to sleep? Please share your story in the comments!

Quack quack quack quack

This past year since my daughter was born has been wild, frustrating, beautiful, tiring, and mind-blowing to say the least. And in four short months, I will be a mom again — this time to a son.

Before everything in my life is split to pieces once again, and this first year as a mom becomes a  distant blur, I want to write.

How will my blog be different? I’m not quite sure yet, but I do know that every mom and child’s experience is uniquely theirs, and most of parenting is making it up as you go — or taking bits and pieces of what’s out there and making it your own. I will start by writing about some of the breakthroughs, or hacks, that I personally learned as a mom. I hope that these posts can be helpful to other moms. After that, we’ll see where this goes.

Thanks for reading.