5 Tips for Bringing Baby to Special Events

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This August, Antonio and I brought Xaviana to three weddings, an engagement party, a fancy French dinner, and countless smaller parties. As a result, I feel like I’ve become an expert on the topic of bringing baby to special events. ūüėČ

Xaviana is bright-eyed at a recent wedding.

Xaviana is bright-eyed at a recent wedding.

Often, Xaviana is the only baby at these gatherings, and other parents giggle with her and tell me how much they miss their little ones, who are inevitably at home with their babysitters, nannies, or grandparents. While I totally understand the need for couples’ time–and an uninterrupted party once in awhile–I always bring Xaviana to special events. Not only does she¬†benefit from the stimulation and excitement, she is included in all of our important family milestones!

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With that in mind, here are 5 tips for bringing your baby to special events:

  1. Pinpoint a nursing/changing station¬†–¬†As soon as I arrive, I identify¬†a private area where I can breastfeed and/or change Xaviana when the need arises. This¬†gives me peace of mind,¬†since it saves me from¬†wandering around later on¬†with a screaming, hungry and/or soiled baby on my hands. When I can’t find a nursing/changing station, I ask an employee. I’ve never encountered anyone who was not eager to help, and even come up with a creative solution if need be. For example, at a resort in New Mexico, an employee guided me to¬†a quiet unused banquet hall across from the wedding reception. There, I was able to take care of all of Xaviana’s needs–and retreat there for quiet mommy-daughter time when she needed a brief break from the excitement.
  2. Bring reinforcements –¬†Loving grandparents, aunts, and uncles can take over baby duty for short stretches, allowing¬†you and your significant other to enjoy some time celebrating sans baby. Antonio and I were able to dance and party almost to the end of his cousins’s wedding last week because Antonio’s mother sat at the table with Xaviana. The baby slept while grandma admired her and mommy and daddy got crazy. Win-win-win.
  3. Condition baby ahead of time –¬†The¬†secret to a well-behaved child at special events is to avoid¬†springing anything on him/her. We were able to take Xaviana to a nine-course French dinner because she is accustomed to going out to nice dinners with us. We felt comfortable taking her to a peaceful wedding ceremony in a church because she attends¬†church with us every week and is used to mellowing out in the Baby K’Tan during services. And we were able to take her to wedding receptions with pumping music because we throw house parties and have taken her to similar parties and galas.¬†Condition your baby for these kinds of events by doing several similar but smaller scale activities in the months before.
  4. Stay flexible –¬†Sometimes, all of the festivities will be too much for the little one, so watch for his/her cues and give baby a break from the action if needed. For example, Antonio’s good friend’s wedding day was a marathon: a huge luncheon that resembled a Lebanese festival, followed by a ceremony in the mountains, then more festivities at the groom’s house before the reception itself, which lasted until the wee hours of the morning. We took Xaviana to the lunch, but when we followed the party to the mountains, Xaviana fell asleep¬†in the car. I elected to stay in the car with Xaviana while she caught a much-needed nap, and we skipped the trip to the groom’s house, resting at the hotel until the reception instead. As a result, Xaviana was bright-eyed, alert, and happy at the lunch and reception, and we had a great time even though we couldn’t make all the scheduled events.
  5. Expect the unexpected –¬†Kids will be kids, and even the best-behaved ones will do crazy things sometimes. In this case, the two most important things are to be prepared and to keep your cool no matter what. For example, Xaviana was perfectly behaved all through the outdoor ceremony of our friends’ gorgeous wedding in New Mexico, but when everyone applauded after they took their vows, she burst into tears! I felt horrible, but I was able to quickly calm her down with a soft voice and her beloved pacifier, and the show went on.

There you have it: 5 tips for bringing your little one to special events! Which do you find most helpful? Do you have any to add? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

5 Awesome Baby Hangouts Around San Diego

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Like all inquisitive 9 month-olds, Xaviana adores¬†being out and about.¬†I’m a lucky mom, because there are so many family-friendly places to take her, right here in the San Diego area. Here are 5 of my favorites. If you’re a SD (especially North County) mom, take note…or check out these places¬†next time you’re in town!

  1. UTC Mall¬†– Babies and malls don’t usually mix, but the Westfield UTC in La Jolla¬†boasts a clean, futuristic-looking¬†family lounge. The curtained feeding cubicles, huge family bathroom, stroller “parking lot,” and cute play areas all ensure that baby will be fed, changed, and rested for a day of shopping heaven.
    The stroller parking at the mall

    The stroller parking at the mall

    The huge family restroom

    The huge family restroom

    The feeding rooms

    The feeding rooms

    The play area

    The play area

  2. Alga Norte Pool – This pool¬†is heated to such a comfy temp that moms and babies alike won’t want to get out! We took Xaviana to swim classes (only around $45 for 8 lessons), and enjoy open swim from time to time. Just don’t go before noon in the summer.¬†Mondays through Thursdays, the pool is swamped–literally–with the summer camp crowd.
  3. Dove Library – Like her mommy, Xaviana loves to read, so this is the perfect hangout for us. Not only does it host educational kids’ activities like Baby Rhyme Time and Toddler Time, there is¬†a secret garden outside the children’s section, perfect for little ones to enjoy an afternoon frolic while moms sip delicious coffee drinks from Cafe Muse.
  4. Xtend Barre Encinitas – Xaviana and I rarely miss a¬†Baby on Board barre class here–they’re just that awesome.¬†The instructors make classes challenging and fun for moms, and most of the workout is performed while wearing the little ones in their carriers. It’s the perfect way to meet other moms and babies while working up a sweat.
  5. Poinsettia Park РThis park has a cute playground and scenic walking trails, perfect for a stroller jog. There are also tons of benches and wide grassy areas, which are ideal for picnics and playdates. If you have older kids, they can play various sports here, such as tennis, basketball, soccer, and baseball. There are also free concerts on long summer evenings. We just attended a reggae one, and had a great time sprawled out on blankets with friends, babies, food, and wine. What could be better?

Moms out there, what are your favorite family-friendly hangouts in your area? Have you been to any of these in SD? I’d love to hear what you and you little ones do for fun. ūüôā

Happy, Healthy Baby: Why We Love Mommy and Me Exercise Classes

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Xaviana and I have a long history of exercising together; when I was pregnant, I delighted in feeling her little movements as I did the All-Belly Pregnancy workouts and practiced prenatal yoga. Now, Xaviana is an active participant in my at-home workouts, laughing at my burpees and ab exercises, and even throwing in some planks and tabletops of her own every now and then. I swear, I caught her doing an upward facing dog the other day!

Even though I love exercising¬†at home, I had to admit that it was beginning to feel¬†a bit monotonous. I wanted to return to the gym, but our schedule only allows me to go once or twice a week. This is a common complaint for so many moms–and that’s why mom and baby exercise classes are so fabulous. You don’t have to worry about childcare or coordinating schedules with your partner. Plus, it’s the perfect way to meet other moms and babies, and to teach your little one the benefits of fitness from an early age!

I found a group of fit moms on meetup.com, and started attending biweekly¬†exercise classes…and it was revolutionary.

Here I am (5th from left) with this fun group of fit moms and babies in my first-ever barre class.

Here I am (5th from left) with this fun group of fit moms and babies in barre class.

The first class I tried was a Babies on Board Barre class at Xtend Barre Encinitas.¬†I was new to barre, and never took ballet as a kid, but it turns out that dance background doesn’t matter all that much. True, you might have prettier form (I’m still working on that, admittedly.), but you really don’t have to be a prima ballerina to reap the benefits of this intense¬†cardio and toning workout. In the class, we wear our¬†babies in their carriers for the barre portion, and let them loose for the core and ab training. The kids love the upbeat music and the constant movement, and the class is punctuated by whoops, giggles, and the occasional cry. Because of the bouncing and closeness to their mommies, many of the little ones fall asleep. Barre is a full-body workout and burns tons of calories,¬†plus the dance moves and overall grace make it fun and rewarding. Xaviana and I are both addicted, and we go to class¬†every week!

The other class I love is the FitMama and Me Fitness class at IgniteMe in Solana Beach, which incorporates babies into a strength-training interval workout. It turns out that babies love being used as weights. ūüôā Xaviana’s favorite exercises are the wood choppers and squats, punctuated by lifting her high overhead. The energy level of the class, coupled with the timed intervals of activity and high-octane soundtrack, make this type of workout a favorite for moms and babies alike. Xaviana enjoys her active involvement in the exercises as I swing and lift her in various fun and stimulating ways.

Moms out there, have you tried mommy and me exercise classes, and if so, which ones are your favorites? Which ones do your babies seem to prefer? I’d love to hear your experiences!

Baby on the Go: 5 Family Travel Tips

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I have this feeling that Xaviana is going to be a jet-setter… Before she was even born, she’d been to more places than I had in the first twenty-four years of my life! Check out the blog post I wrote about the many voyages of Baby C here.

Since her birth, we’ve taken Xaviana on road trips to Big Bear, Baja California, Ojai, and Laguna Beach. We’ve also flown to Mexico City, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and soon London and Lebanon.

Here's Xaviana reading a map during our recent trip to Seattle.

Here’s Xaviana reading a map during our recent trip to Seattle.

Traveling with kids is often looked upon as a nightmare. People with kids tend to avoid it because they see it as annoying and inconvenient, while people without kids dread sitting anywhere near a baby on the plane and fix little ones with a death-stare that seems to say, “Cry if you dare.”

But staying home is not the answer. Antonio and I love to travel, and we weren’t ready to give it up. Furthermore, we wanted¬†to give Xaviana the privilege of¬†seeing the world, and learning about different cultures and locales. We were convinced that she would be a good traveler if we made it a familiar and fun occurrence.

It turns out that Xaviana loves traveling as much as we do! I’m not sure whether it’s genetic, or whether it’s the way we exposed her to it. (Her first road trip was at one month, and her first flight was at 3 and 1/2 months.) My theory is that it’s a little of both. Regardless, here are my 5 tips for traveling with babies!

  1. Don’t stress –¬†I listed this one first because mommy and daddy’s attitudes set the tone for the entire trip. If the parents are (relatively) relaxed and smiling, baby will think traveling is fun. But if mommy and daddy seem stressed and miserable, baby will be fussy and irritable. Antonio and I find that the best way to avoid that hissy-fit feeling is to plan ahead. We check in for our flights the night before, and make sure that everything is packed and ready to go in advance. We also leave enough time to get to the airport, and make sure to stay well-fed and caffeinated. ūüôā This ensures that we will be happy, and so will Xaviana.
  2. Pack the minimum –¬†It’s so easy to overpack when there are babies involved, but I’ve found that it’s best to resist the urge. Sure, you have to bring enough diapers and clothes, but you can¬†go light on everything else. We leave the big books and toys at home in favor of the little ones. Xaviana’s favorite travel toys are her Very Hungry Caterpillar teether, her rattle, and her P and Q chewy tubes. Xaviana is still breast feeding every two hours, which¬†makes packing food a breeze, since I don’t need to bring bottles. Also, we leave her homemade baby food at home, and buy her the Gerber kind when we’re on the road. We bring her car seat and a folding travel stroller, which we check at the gate, and we fit all of our clothes and other necessities in two mid-sized roller bags. This makes schlepping through the airport pretty easy.
  3. Anticipate baby’s needs –¬†It’s easy to lose track of time on vacation, but it’s crucial to keep an eye on the clock, so that feedings and naps stay relatively consistent. An overtired or hungry baby will make you–and everyone else–want to hide away in the tiny plane bathroom and never come out. Another concern is the discomfort that many babies have on flights, due to the buildup of air pressure¬†in their little ears. I’ve found that giving Xaviana her pacifier helps her to stay comfortable throughout the flight. Sucking the pacifier at high altitudes works for babies much the same¬†way that chewing gum helps adults to alleviate that¬†uncomfortable air pressure.
  4. Plan for rest periods between activities –¬†It’s tempting to over-plan your vacay to get the most out of every minute, but babies do not respond well to this! Antonio and I keep our daily itineraries pretty relaxed. Sure, we have destinations and activities in mind, but we stay flexible and keep in touch with Xaviana’s moods. For example, we might go out for brunch, but then take Xaviana back to the hotel room for her feeding and nap. Then, we’ll go sightseeing for a few hours in the afternoon, return to the room for another leisurely nap, and go out for dinner in the evening. That way, Xaviana has time to recharge between activities, and the chance of a meltdown is significantly reduced. ūüėČ
  5. Keep baby entertained –¬†A bored baby is a recipe for disaster. Especially as kids pass the six-month mark, they need something to do. So, how do you keep baby entertained if you’re packing light? Introduce fun new items! On our last flight, Xaviana played with a small bag of peanuts for about an hour, passing them back and forth between her hands and shaking them. Look for random (and safe, of course) new objects to introduce to baby. Also, be prepared to bounce, sing, tell stories, and talk to baby–constantly if need be. Most kids will fall asleep on planes, but some are pretty hyper, and that means you have to be, too. I used to enjoy catching a nap on a plane; this is a pretty rare occurrence nowadays, but traveling with Xaviana is so rewarding that I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Parents out there, what tips do you have for traveling with kids? What is your favorite tip that I listed? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Our Babies, Our Moods: How Our Little Ones Pick Up on Our Moods

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My seven-month-old daughter Xaviana is a happy little person. She smiles and giggles her way through each day, and rarely fusses. Even as her first two bottom teeth began to poke through, she remained pretty much unperturbed.

One day last week, however, she was super-whiny. She didn’t want to play, or nap, or do much of anything, for that matter. I’d started my morning¬†in a grumpy mood as well, and as the day progressed, I became¬†more tired and grouchy by the minute. I don’t know whether the root cause of my bad mood had been¬†hormones, lack of¬†sleep, or the “May-gray” that had hit San Diego with a vengeance, but I was definitely not feeling like myself.

Happy mom = happy baby!

Happy mom = happy baby!

I discussed my random irritations with Antonio, and he was able to lift me out of my doldrums. He said something that made me laugh, and Xaviana, who had been watching the whole exchange, looked at me and giggled, too. At that moment, it hit me: my bad mood had rubbed off on her. She’s used to seeing her dad and me¬†relaxed and upbeat, and my annoyance with nothing in particular had caused her to be just that.

It turns out that there’s a scientific basis to this phenomenon of mood mirroring. A recent study measured the heart rates and emotions of 12 to 14-month-old babies whose moms were given stressful tasks, and found that the little ones seemed to “track” their moms’ stress responses. Moms’ and babies’¬†stress responses (increased heart rates) mirrored each other.¬†Researchers theorized that moms’ cues, such as vocal tension and facial expression, had¬†influenced their babies’ moods.

Moms out there, do your good and bad days seem to coincide with those of your little ones? Have you heard of any other interesting studies on mood tracking in moms and babies? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

10 Baby Products I Can’t Live Without

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Choosing items for your baby registry is one of the most mind-boggling parts of pregnancy. There are so many baby products out there, so how do you know the best ones?

If you’re like me, you’ll comb through Amazon and blogs for reviews, and, of course, you’ll ask your mommy friends. This is what I did, and I must say, Xaviana is well-equipped, but our house is minimally cluttered, since I picked space-saving products that will grow with her. Here are the 10 baby products I can’t live without:

  1. Baby K’Tan –¬†A must-have for parents and babies on-the-go,¬†the K’Tan is worth more than its weight in gold. (It’s so¬†freaking light!) It’s easy-to-use–no wrapping required. Also, baby can be placed in multiple positions as he/she grows, and it¬†takes up minimal space in your baby bag. I love it for church, travel, and running errands…and Xaviana loves it just about any time, since she can snuggle up to me like a little kangaroo. The only caveat: the K’Tan is sized according to the wearer, so my hubby can’t use my size X-Small carrier, and would need one of his own if he wanted to carry Xaviana this way.
    The Baby K'Tan carrier grows with your little one. Here Xaviana is at 3 months...

    The Baby K’Tan carrier grows with your little one. Here Xaviana is in the newborn kangaroo position…

    ...and at 5 months, in a new position in the carrier.

    …and a few months later in the hug position.

  2. Diaper GenieIf you’re going to use disposable diapers, you must get one of these. The Diaper Genie¬†has revolutionized diaper pails forever. It’s lightweight and easy-to-use, and best of all, it prevents the area next to your changing table from smelling like a litter box, which leads me to my next must-have…
  3. PooPoose –¬†This compact changing pad features an indentation in the middle where baby easily settles in, plus it has a velcro strap to pin down your little wiggle-worm. It can fit on any dresser, so you don’t need to buy a special changing table that you’ll sell in a few years!
  4. Baby Bullet –¬†If you want to make your own baby food, the Baby Bullet is a must-have. It’s more than a blender–it’s a total solid food meal-planning system, with a freezer tray that allows you to prep ahead, and cute little jars to use right away. The enclosed booklet is invaluable as you plan baby’s first meals.
  5. Fisher Price Snuggabunny Cradle and Swing –¬†This swing is freaking amazing. It plays music or ambient sounds, rocks back and forth, and has a rotating mirrored mobile above baby’s head. Xaviana loved it as a newborn, and it was the perfect way to calm her down if she was fussy or help her to sleep if she was restless. At six months, she still grins¬†every time I strap her into the swing. It’s her favorite place to spend a bit of mellow down-time.
  6. SkipHop diaper bag –¬†This bag is both stylish and practical. We have the gray chevron design, which is the ideal unisex style–neither my hubby nor I mind carrying it. It has multiple compartments, and is the perfect size for all of baby’s essentials. It’s also very durable; we’ve lugged it around nearly every day for the last six-and-a-half months, and it still looks great.
  7. Nook PebbleLIte mattress –¬†It’s a high-end mattress, and it’s worth every penny. It’s safe, breathable, and lightweight. The firm, pebbled texture assures that baby will have a comfortable night’s sleep, and that translates into a happier, more well-rested you. What could be better?
  8. Fisher Price Whale of a Tub –¬†Cute tub takes up minimal space in your bathroom and grows with your baby, since it has a removable insert that you can take out when baby is able to sit up. It also comes with a fun sprinkling toy–Xaviana loves when it “rains” on her.
  9. Bob Revolution jogging stroller –¬†This stroller is made to be used with the Britax BeSafe car seat (which should also be on the must-have list, by the way) with the purchase of a simple adaptor. Bouncy tires and superior suspension give baby a cushy ride, and it folds up easily for storage. Plus, it comes in cute colors. (We have it in orange.) It has an area underneath to store all your walking/jogging essentials, and a baby shade for sunny days.
  10. Philips Avent BPA-free Soothie Pacifier – I’ve seen so many babies with these gummy pacifiers, and it’s no wonder. The soothie is the perfect shape, size, and texture for baby’s mouth, plus it’s vanilla-scented. It’s advertised for ages 0-3 months, but Xaviana still loves hers. She can put it in her own mouth, and also likes chewing on it every so often. Try it with a Booginhead pacifier holder.

Moms out there, what are your baby must-haves? Have you tried any of the products I recommended, and if so, which ones did you like? I’d love to hear your opinions!

5 Ways to Take Care of Baby…While Taking Care of Yourself

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I’ve decided to return to this blog, not because I’m prego again, but because I realized that many of you who follow the blog have probably had your babies as well, and are now in the post-prego stage. Therefore, I’ve created a new “Post-Prego” section, which will be filled with all things mommy!

Today,¬†I’m super excited to share my reflections about how to take care of your baby while still taking care of yourself. One of the top complaints I hear from many new (and not-so-new) moms is that it’s nearly impossible to find the time to raise¬†your child, work, perform all your normal household chores, and do the little niceties that make life more bearable, such as exercising, fixing your hair, and putting on makeup.

As mothers, we know that in order to take the best possible care of our children, we must take care of ourselves first, but it’s not easy. It’s a give-and-take sort of equilibrium and every day is different, but after six¬†months, I’ve found some¬†balance, which I’m eager to share with you.

So, without further adieu, here are five ways to take care of your baby while taking care of yourself.

  1. Exercise with baby – There are tons of amazing toning and cardio exercises that I can do right in my living room¬†with my baby girl. Find some excellent at-home workouts at flaviliciousfitness.com. I put Xaviana on her mat, and she rolls, kicks, creeps, and giggles as she watches me do circuit training and toning exercises. Plus, she’s the perfect weight to carry while I do squats, lunges, and calf-raises–and she loves it! Even if she’s fussy, the close body contact and repetitive movements calm her down every time. I also take her out for brisk walks/runs in the jogging stroller, and frolic with her on the beach, lifting her up and spinning her in circles. My exercise-with-baby regimen works for me because I like working¬†out alone, but if you do better in a group, check out¬†mommy-and-me yoga, barre, and stroller jam classes in your area.

    Lifting your baby high overhead and spinning her around totally counts as exercise!

    Lifting your baby high overhead and spinning her around totally counts as exercise!

  2. Do your makeup with baby –¬†Weird as it may sound,¬†Xaviana really enjoys watching me do my makeup, probably because I’ve been giving her “makeup tutorials” since she was a newborn. When she was younger, I would place her on the bed and sit next to her, pulling out the items and explaining what I was doing. Now that she’s more mobile, I do the same thing–but bring her and the makeup case to her play mat. She loves the pretty shapes and colors of the eyeshadows, lip glosses, and¬†my Too-Faced Sweethearts Perfect Flush Blush, which comes in a cute little heart-shaped container. It’s the perfect bonding experience for a girly mom and girly-girl, but I think boys might be interested as well, since makeup can be¬†like a really fun¬†art project for your face!

    After a makeup session, beauty mag and all. ;)

    After a makeup session, beauty mag and all. ūüėČ

  3. Cook with baby –¬†Most of the time, I sit¬†Xaviana in her high chair or her Rockaroo¬†when I cook. I sing to her, listen to music or an audiobook, or just talk to her. Often, I explain¬†what I’m cooking step-by-step, as if she’s in the audience of my very own cooking show. She’s interested in the colors and textures of the food, and I hope that our cooking time will inspire her to be involved in mealtime prep as she gets older, and to have a lifetime of healthy eating! If she’s fussy, I wear her in the Baby K’Tan, and sing and dance a little as I cook. The combination of movement and singing always does the trick!
  4. Read with baby – Xaviana and I are total fans of baby books, especially her favorite,¬†The Very Hungry Caterpillar.¬†But that doesn’t mean I want to get behind on my adult reading. To keep my brain stimulated, I read adult books aloud to Xaviana. She enjoys listening, and it’s the perfect way to boost her early language skills. When I’m editing my own books, I often read her excerpts, combining work and play.

    My favorite little officemate... While editing my eBooks, I often read them aloud to Xaviana.

    My favorite little officemate at 3 months… While editing my eBooks, I often read them aloud to Xaviana.

  5. ¬†Involve baby in your hobbies –¬†Ive played the piano for Xaviana ever since she was¬†in utero. Not only is it a soothing and pleasurable hobby for me, but she really enjoys it, and we all know that classical music is an amazing way to boost higher order thinking skills in mom and baby! When I practice, I either place her in her swing or on her play mat. Antonio and I also do “Artist Colony” sessions outside on our patio. He is learning guitar, so Xaviana listens as he strums and I sketch or paint. It’s the perfect way to stimulate Xaviana’s mind as well as our own, involving every member of the family in the fun!

    An "Artist Colony" session on the patio

    An “Artist Colony” session on the patio

New moms out there, what creative methods have you devised to take care of your babies while taking care of yourselves? I’d love to hear¬†what you have to say!