10 Things I’ve Learned From My Baby’s 1st Year

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It’s so hard to believe, but my sweet baby girl turned 1 this past weekend! As we celebrated her big day, I found myself alternating between intense excitement and bittersweet nostalgia. Older and wiser parents really aren’t joking when they say time flies by with little ones.

I’ve also been reflecting about what I’ve learned during Xaviana’s first year of life, and–wow–I learned a lot! Pre-pregnancy, I knew nothing about babies (and, in fact, found them so intimidating and “breakable” that I was afraid to pick up other people’s kids). Now, however, I feel like an expert on all things baby, and I’m perfectly at home in a roomful of Xaviana’s busy little friends.

Xaviana is all smiles at age 1 :)

Xaviana thinks age 1 is fun 🙂

Having a baby has shown me the miracle of life firsthand. I think any mom will agree–raising a baby is the greatest gift we’ll ever receive, and being an awesome mom is the greatest gift we’ll ever give.

With that in mind, here are 10 things I’ve learned during Xaviana’s first year of life.

  1. Every moment spent with baby is precious – Each day is full of elusive, fleeting moments that last for mere seconds, but create memories that last a lifetime. Capture them in your mind and your heart. Appreciate the privilege of spending time with your baby, even on those inevitable rough days when you’re feeling exhausted or irate… which brings me to the next lesson I learned…
  2. Everything, good and bad, is just a phase and will pass – Teething, fitful sleeps, picky eating, and 5 PM meltdowns are unpleasant for mom and baby alike. We can try our hardest to keep baby happy all the time, but 24/7 Baby-topia is just not possible. Our (rare) rough patches with Xaviana have felt like being trapped in a dark tunnel with no end in sight, but just when I’m about to go crazy, they always seem to end. Growing baby or nature’s way of keeping mama sane? You make the call. 🙂
  3. Getting out of the house is key – Sometimes it feels next to impossible to get moving, especially with very young babies. However, it’s crucial to go out and about. Interacting with people not only stimulates babies, it makes mamas happier. Outings that last 2 hours or less are the most pleasant for Xaviana and me. Stroller rides, short trips to the beach, park, or pool, mommy and me exercise classes, and baby rhyme time at the library are some of our favorite activities. Going out allows baby to explore fun new environments and make new friends, and I’ve also found that Xaviana appreciates her toys and books more when we return home from our adventures. My husband and I have been bringing Xaviana to parties, on dates to restaurants, and to various special events since she was a newborn, and she’s an amazing little companion because she’s used to being out and about.
  4. Flexibility is super important – It’s an inevitable fact: as soon as you think you’ve established an eating/nap time/bedtime/fill in the blank routine, baby will throw you a curveball and totally change his or her habits! Flexibility is so important in parenting. Xaviana is growing and evolving every day, and my routine changes with her. Naturally, this comes with some sacrifices–most notably that her new one-nap-per-day schedule means I’m taking a short hiatus from writing ebooks–but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
  5. Meeting other moms and babies is crucial – It can be pretty difficult to meet other moms who have: a.) common interests and b.) babies around the same age as yours. Meetup.com has been the best way for me to expand my mom and baby network. I discovered a Fit Mama group, where I met several awesome moms and babies who love to exercise as much as I do! I’ve also met other moms and babies at Xaviana’s swim class, the park, and the library. The kids love to play together (or, more often than not, trade toys and play alongside each other), and I enjoy chatting with the moms. Win-win.
  6. Raising a child is individualized – There’s no right or wrong way to raise your baby; the most important thing is what works for you and your family. I listen to everyone’s advice about bedtime, feeding, etc, but in the end, my hubby and I make the final decisions based on when we think is best for Xaviana, not necessarily on what is easiest for us or most commonly accepted.
  7. It gets easier – When Xaviana was a newborn, life was delightful…but difficult. There was just so much to learn, from changing diapers to using the car seat and stroller to breastfeeding. Factor in the sleepless nights, and I was one mind-boggled mama. However, taking care of her became much easier with time, and now I can honestly say that it’s second-nature!
  8. Comparisons are odious – It’s tempting to compare your baby with others or against the developmental norm, but I resist the urge and let Xaviana grow at her own rate. Of course I make sure that she’s on track for the major milestones of her age, but I don’t worry if she accomplishes them a little earlier or later than her friends. I just let her be herself, and take things one day at a time.
  9. Books are the best toys – They’re cheap, they take up very little space, and they’re the perfect way to interact with baby while teaching him/her! I love reading, and so does Xaviana. Whether it’s nature or nurture, I’m not sure, but she has learned so much from her books–more than she’s learned from any of her other toys. I read her the same books every day, adding new ones periodically. This repetition has proven to be key in her language development. She’s making new sounds and saying new words as I reinforce the material in the books.
  10. Breastfeeding is amazing – While I was pregnant, I had a pretty laid-back attitude toward breastfeeding. I’d decided to try it out, but if Xaviana or I didn’t like it, I planned to switch to bottles and formula. Although I didn’t have strong opinions on breastfeeding then, I’m a total advocate now. Not only does breastfeeding nourish our little mammals with the nutrients they need, it soothes anything from tummy aches to teething pain. Check out this interesting article about why African babies (who are generally breastfed on demand and held close) don’t cry. And the health benefits to mom and baby are countless. IMHO, the coolest one is the immunity that baby gets from mama. Check out this article with some little-known facts about the subject, and prepare to be mind-blown.

There you have it… 10 things I learned during baby’s first year. Moms out there, what have you learned? Which of my lessons is your favorite? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

How I Started Unintentional Baby Led Weaning

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The introduction of solid foods is one of the most important–and potentially fun–milestones in baby’s development. I say “potentially fun” because it’s amazing to watch baby discover new flavors and textures in food…except when it’s not.

Let me explain. When we first started Xaviana on solids, she ate everything we offered, and seemed to love every bite. I used the Baby Bullet to concoct a variety of fresh and delicious purees, and she happily ate them right off the spoon. It was an immensely pleasant experience for all involved, and people often marveled at Xaviana’s adventurous eating.

Then, around month 10, she began to refuse spoon-feeding. If I let her hold the spoon and feed herself, she was fine (although covered in food). But if I tried to help her eat, she usually cried and grabbed for the utensil.

At first I thought she just needed something to occupy her busy hands during feedings. After all, she enjoys rubbing and pinching my skin while nursing. (It feels awesome, almost like a myofascial release massage, but that’s a subject for another blog post.) So I tried giving her toys or a spoon while using another spoon to feed her. This worked for a while, but unfortunately, my little monkey is too smart to accept that trickery for long. I decided that I would simply let her feed herself, and we thus began our unintentional journey into the world of baby led weaning.

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Baby led weaning (BLW), sometimes called baby led feeding, is the technique of introducing solids into baby’s diet as soft finger foods, without using a spoon or making any purees. Non-finger foods may be offered with a spoon so that baby can learn to use one. I was skeptical of this approach when I initially introduced solids, mostly because Xaviana was eating so well from the spoon, but since her mini-rebellion, BLW has been a lifesaver.

Technically, we’re doing a variation of BLW, since I still serve Xaviana some of her favorite purees, like sweet potatoes and avocado, but I let her go to town with them instead of spoon-feeding her. She eats these, as well as her Greek yogurt and oatmeal, with a combination of her fingers and a spoon. I also began serving her small portions of the family meals, such as salmon, chili, and chicken, either cut into small, manageable chunks or shredded in the Baby Bullet. Finally, I introduced her to veggie spears, baby carrots, fruit chunks, toast strips, pita bread, and other easy-to-munch finger foods.

Our mealtime flexibility paid off–Xaviana seems to love self-feeding, and she’s getting better at it every day. Sure, some food gets dropped, but I’ve noticed that more and more has been making it to her mouth lately. Yesterday, she fed herself a heaping spoonful of sweet potatoes–yay for hand-eye coordination! Mealtimes are more pleasant, and best of all, Xaviana is eating well at the table and at the breast!

Moms out there, what are your experiences with introducing solids? Are you a fan of BLW, traditional spoon-feeding, or a fusion of the two? I’d love to hear your experiences!

Awesome Educational Activities for Your 10- to 11-Month-Old

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I adore all of Xaviana’s phases, but her 10th month has been a particularly momentous one for us. It seems as though every day brings not one but several new developments. She’s preparing to walk, vocalizing in innovative ways, and learning new concepts like opposites, animal sounds, shapes, pointing, and clapping her hands. I can only wonder what marvels her impending 11th month will bring!

With that in mind, here are some of my favorite educational activities to stimulate young brainiacs.

  • Music Time – Every day, I sing Xaviana her favorite songs, which range from “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to “We Will Rock You.” To keep her interested, I accompany my voice with the maracas, tone blocks, and clapper from her Melissa & Doug Band in a Box set. She loves to play along, often grabbing the instruments and adding her own spin to each song. She also enjoys tunes like “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “If You’re Happy,” which incorporate hand movements. Finally, I play piano for her and let her experiment with various sounds and tempo settings on our MIDI.
  •  Animal Sound Activities – Xaviana and I go through her soft Fisher Price farm book every day. I sing her “Old Macdonald Had a Farm” while turning the pages, pointing to each animal as I make the animal sounds. Now she’s pointing, and also making some of the sounds! I also make animal sounds while reading some of her favorite books, like “Thank You Bear,” “If Animals Kissed Good Night,” and “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”
  • Shape Matching – I’m a huge fan of the Bright Baby Big Board Book, and we go through it every day. It contains vibrant pictures of first words, colors, numbers, and ABCs. One of Xaviana’s favorite activities from the book is the shape page. I dump all the shapes out of her Playskool Form Fitter and place each shape on top of its image in the book, naming each one. Somehow, seeing each shape come to life in 3-D makes Xaviana more excited, and it has helped her to master placing the shapes in the correct holes of the form fitter.

    The Playskool Form Fitter helps the shapes in the Bright Baby Big Board Book come to life!

    The Playskool Form Fitter helps the shapes in the Bright Baby Big Board Book come to life!

  • Fun With Opposites – Another of our favorite activities in the Bright Baby board book is the opposites page. I point out the pictures, and I also demonstrate the concepts with her own toys or with hand movements. As a result, she can now differentiate between her “big” and “small” O-balls, and she can show me “up” and “down” with her arms.
  • Baby Rhyme Time – We recently started attending Baby Rhyme Time sessions at the public library. During the 20-minute session, the librarian sings various kids’ songs and reads stories. The activities are similar to the ones that Xaviana and I do at home, but the environment is fun for her, with new friends and fresh stories.
  • Exercise Classes – As I’ve mentioned before, I take Xaviana to Mommy and Me barre classes every week, and she loves them for the music, energy, and opportunity to play with her buddies. However, she’s actually picking up on some of the movements. Just the other day, she grabbed onto the railing upstairs, hoisted herself into standing position, and went up on her toes, extending one arm gracefully in an exact copy of one of the moves we do in barre! I think she absorbed this from seeing the repetition week after week. I’m expecting plies in second position next. 😉

Mamas out there, what educational activities do you perform with your little smartypants? Which of the ones I listed is your favorite? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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. 😉

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!

 

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. 😉

  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!