that time i was blocked from a crunchy parenting page

Y'all. I was blocked from Motherwise. You know that super helpful crunchy parenting page on Facebook that everyone loves? The one that posts inspiring memes and helpful articles about everything from breastfeeding to co-sleeping to gentle parenting? That one. Apparently I'm not crunchy enough, or my holy anger toward formula companies isn't fiery enough. Or something.

I made two comments. They were both deleted and I was blocked from the page.

Funny, since I'm a breastfeeding mom. A breastfeeding mom who -- like the majority of the women commenting under the original post -- wishes formula companies didn't send samples to every new mother, because I know that it can be harmful to a mother who's struggling to breastfeed. I know it's a marketing strategy, and it makes me sad. I want all mommies to have a successful breastfeeding relationship. You know how I feel about breastfeeding -- I mean, come on. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, at all, you know it is something about which I am passionate.

But I also know that there are many mamas who can't breastfeed, or who have simply chosen not to. Whether that's from misinformation, lack of support, for the mental health and well-being of the mother, or just a choice she has made because she felt more comfortable -- really, it's none of my business. I also know donor milk is not available or realistic for every baby, sad as that is. Many women don't even know donor milk is an option. And certainly, if you don't have a few women donating milk, the average American family can't afford to buy breastmilk, which usually costs about $5 to $7 an ounce. I think selling breastmilk is unethical, but that's the reality of it. It's just a fact that some families must use formula, because they have no other option.

I've learned in my five short years of parenting that anger doesn't get you very far. Neither does spreading half-truths, fear, and guilt. Support and loving words are what all mothers need, whether they breastfeed or choose formula. Saying formula should be "thrown in the garbage" or that it's "full of GMOs" is marginalizing. That attitude and approach pushes people away, and makes new mothers feel unneeded guilt in a vulnerable time that is already brimming with emotions and struggles.

Here is the original post. I feel for this mama -- I do. First of all, I remember how passionate I was about breast being best when I was a brand new mommy. (I still feel like a new mommy; heck, my oldest just turned five. But you know what I mean.) So I get her anger. Do I agree with it? Well, not any more. But I could have written this very post when River was an infant. I would have thought my anger was justified and I would have shouted it from the rooftop, appalled at evil Similac -- Um, EXCUSE ME. I am a BREASTFEEDING mother. I don't need your FAKE FOOD for my PRECIOUS BABY.

Yes. I know. Sorry.

This comment was toward the top. I thought it was a great testimony to some people needing formula. Choosing (or having to use) formula for your baby does not mean you love them less! And here in America where we have access to great    good    better-than-most healthcare, it doesn't even necessarily mean your child will be getting sick all the time! (Imagine that?)

One of the more heartless comments. Look, comments like these are not only unhelpful, they're just rude. Try putting yourself in someone else's shoes. Consider their situation for a bit.

One of the more ramped up comments. Which I, uh... totally agreed with. This comment wasn't deleted, by the way. But this just shows you, this was about as "bad" as it got. People were being respectful.

So pretty much this: Formula should never get used. Even if you need it. Don't use it. Under.any.circumstances. (Because it's evil and killing your baby, right?) Screw donating formula to people in need! How can someone even THINK about feeding their baby that filth?!

Another completely unhelpful comment. Yes, donate breastmilk. Help out at WIC offices being a peer counselor. Give breastfeeding information to mothers who want it. But don't throw the formula away... for goodness sake, some babies actually need it.

(And as for homemade raw goat milk formula -- yes, I've heard of this recipe, but I'm sorry, count me in as a mother who would not make or feed that to my baby. I'm sure in a best case scenario, it's healthier than canned formula, but you can't always depend on best-case scenarios. Some mothers may not even have access to high-quality, trustworthy raw goat milk.)

My first comment. The majority of the comments, I'd say 90%, said pretty much the same thing -- donate the formula to those in need. Nothing striking or original about my comment. I actually posted it before reading the other comments, otherwise I probably wouldn't have commented at all, to avoid sounding like a broken record.

This is when I decided to start taking screen shots. No one, in my opinion, had said anything remotely offensive. They were just advising the mother to donate the formula. I have seen MotherWise go on about this many, many times: saying that people were calling breastfeeding-supporters judgmental and sanctimonious. I'd never actually witnessed it myself. I looked through all the comments (yes, I read every single one) and did not find a single comment where someone was calling some of the mothers "judgmental" and "pissy." Other than a handful comments that were really offended by the original post -- either by the fact that the formula was sent, or by the angry attitude of the original poster -- most of the comments were just suggesting the mother donate the formula, or call the company and request her name be taken off the list. 

So I asked.

And apparently, you don't question the goddess of MotherWise. Because I got my ass deleted and blocked in a hot minute. 

Why am I posting this? Because I am so utterly tired of this mess. I'm sick of seeing mothers treat each other like this. I love the natural living community -- I've considered myself a part of it for a long time. Before my kid was even born! But I am tired of the guilt-hammering and fear-mongering. 

As I said above, I could have easily written that original post. I used to get angry, really angry, about things like this. What changed? I have known friends personally who made certain decisions for their children because their first choice wasn't attainable. I have seen homebirth tranfers turned c-sections because they labored for days and their babies got stuck. I have seen breastfeeding dreamers turn formula-feeders because their nipples were cracked and bleeding, or because they suffered from postpartum depression. And when the people I cared for turned into the mothers who were on the receiving end of this sort of treatment, it hurt my heart. It really did. I felt embarrassed and horrified that I could have ever been a part of this kind of behavior, that my hands ever typed comments that could be taken as heartless and hurtful.

The fact is, we don't know everyone's story. And also, it's none of our business. No, really... it's not! Let's do the best we can for our families, and when you see children who are obviously loved and cared for, yet their parents do something so completely different than what you would choose for your own child, let's just assume that parent is doing the best they can in their situation. 

And language. Please, let's change our language to be helpful, not hurtful. Encouraging, not discouraging. Remember that old saying that's been around forever? Something about attracting flies with honey instead of vinegar? Remember that anger only gets us so far. Even justifiable anger.


a small family party

Since January, I've been planning on throwing a big party for River and Austen in September, right in the middle of each of their birthdays. It was going to be carnival themed. We were going to have pie instead of cake, popcorn in cute red and white striped bags, and cotton candy made from natural, juice-flavored hard candies. Snow cones, carnival activities, and face paint. I was going to convince my brother to dress up like a clown. I've made lists to check off, found some cute crafts for the kids to do, determined a budget and a healthy spread of food, and made a guest list. I love throwing parties, and last year, we didn't do parties for the kids, so I was really excited.

As you probably know, in February I found out I was pregnant. Baby Three's birthday will be in October, right around Austen's. This means the birthday party would take place just a month before his or her birth. Right after school started. Right when we needed to be spending money on the baby, buying essentials.

So, much to my disappointment, I decided a big birthday bash wasn't realistic this year. Yes, it was actually more my disappointment than River and Austen's. I told the kids we couldn't do a party with friends, but that we could still have a party with our family; they were still thrilled. I suggested a different theme... something generic, something they could both agree on that would make things simpler for me. Much to my relief, they agreed on a dinosaur party. Awesome! Every store has dinosaur party stuff.

We ended up just having a tiny little party with my parents and siblings. It took hardly any energy at all to pick up dinosaur party supplies, stick some miniature dinos in store-bought cupcakes, and pick out matching dinosaur skeleton shirts for the kids (which they loved). A big birthday party will have to wait for another year, and the most important thing is that my kids felt celebrated, and we were able to get together as a family and make that happen. Deciding not to throw a big party was a hard decision for me, but once I made it, it felt like a huge weight off my shoulders. There was no way we could have afforded it this year, but kids don't care about that. They probably had just as much fun during their "dinosaur party" as they would have a huge carnival party with all their friends. :)


four reasons i yell

During the first week of the no-yelling challenge, I managed to go almost three consecutive days without yelling, pretty much right off the bat. That ended thirty minutes after bedtime on the third day, with the third time River came downstairs to ask me something. I yelled at him to get his butt upstairs immediately and that I didn't want to see him again until the morning. Ah, well. Back to square one. I've been doing the challenge for twenty days now, and am hopefully on my fourth day of no yelling! I have gone seven days total without yelling, but I start the challenge over when I mess up. I've only had a few really difficult days, as is expected. But mostly, on the days when I do yell, it's only happening once or twice.

I'm trying to pay close attention to my triggers and what's going on when I do yell. It's easy to think, "Well, obviously I yell because the kids are being loud and wild, or because they don't listen the first time, or because they argue with me!" But I'm realizing that usually my yelling has an underlying cause, one that is more personal. So far, I'm noticing it's usually one of four reasons that have very little to do with my kids' actual behavior, and more with how I am feeling.

1. I'm already stressed. This is the number one reason I yell. I can be fine one moment, and then something will happen that sends a lightning bolt of anxiety to my chest, like with what happened during the sprinkler incidence. It can be something as simple as not knowing what to make for dinner when it's already six thirty, or Austen having a leaky diaper on the carpet, or money being tight in those last few days before payday. I get stressed pretty easily, and I am awful about taking my stress out on my family -- the kids and John. They do not deserve this!
Obviously, I need to work on dealing with this stress in a healthier way. These situations takes the most self-control when I am trying not to yell. It's the kind of stress I feel bubbling up until my top blows. It starts in my heart, and whether or not what the kids are doing has any relationship to what I'm actually stressed about, I will take out my frustrations on them, if they choose to misbehave in that moment. It's not so much that their behavior is all that stressful, but that it is adding to the seemingly paramount stress in my life (you know, prepping dinner is just a really difficult thing, y'all). I haven't figured out how to let things not get to me. One thing I love from the book Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline, is the repeating the phrase, "This moment is as it is." I will repeat this to myself when I am really stressed. I can't do anything to change this moment -- it just is. I can either work with the moment or against it. Yelling at my kids doesn't get my anywhere; it doesn't so anybody any good. So I need to calm myself first and then proceed to handle the moment in a responsible, proactive way. Easier said than done, of course!
2.  I'm preoccupied. Often, I am focused on something and my kids start trying to talk to me or fight with one another. I don't even need to necessarily be upset in the first place when I yell in these moments; it just sort of comes out. It usually happens if I am trying to read an article, email someone, come up with a menu plan, etc. In order to not yell in these moments, I really just have to suck it up and remember my kids are people too, and they deserve a mommy who is going to pay attention and listen, or take the time to discipline correctly rather than snapping at them to "just get along!" or "would you be quiet?!" 
My preoccupation also comes from being in rush. I just want to get thing done without being interrupted all the time. I want to sweep the kitchen without a million questions of, "Mama, can I fweep too? Please can I fweep? When you're done can I fweep? Why can't I fweep?" instead of letting my child fweep... er, sweep if she wants to. I need to mentally slow down and take a breath. So what if it takes her triple the time to move the clothes to the wash? Honestly. I am a stay-at-home mom of two very young kids who spend their days doing puzzles and building airplanes out of Legos. My life isn't exactly lived in the fast lane. I have the time to take things slow, so I should just let it happen sometimes.
Not everything needs to get done right away. Not everything needs to be perfect. My kids want to learn and spend time with me. They need my guidance. Sweeping can wait. My blog post can wait. Reading that really interesting article can wait. Really, they can!
3. I have a bad attitude. Sometimes I just wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Everything the kids do just gets to me -- too much talking, too many questions, too much noise, too much arguing, too wild, too energetic. I snap and speak harshly over the simplest things, and the anger just builds up until I explode and yell at them. 
My kids are going to be annoying sometimes. They just are! And the phrase "fake it 'till you make it" applies to parenting, too. If I'm speaking kindly when I'd rather be snapping, eventually it's going to get into my heart. During these times I really have to try not to be preoccupied with things, because that just makes it even harder to speak out of kindness and understanding. 
And this is something I've been told so often, that I've known for so long, but I just have a hard time following through on: if I'm feeling particularly flustered and frustrated with my kids, the best thing to do is spend time with them. Stop what I'm doing. Read them a book. Talk with them. Put other things aside (including my bad attitude) and pay attention to my kids. It works! It changes everyone... mama and kiddos.
4. I'm worried about how I'm handling it. This is one I really had to ponder over. Many times when I yell, it's because I don't know what to do in a situation. I don't know how to handle it, or maybe I do, but I am doubting myself. I'm afraid that if I'm not handling it right, it's going to get worse, and so my anxiety gets the best of me (see reason #1). I've found that many times, when I ask for advice from other moms about how to handle a situation, that I should have just followed my instinct in the first place. I honestly have to ask myself, "If I were to handle this situation perfectly, what would that look like?" And then I do it (or at least try). It may seem silly, but if I think through a situation first, including all the ways my child will probably argue and disobey, I am much more equipped to handle it without yelling. 
One of these situations was with Austen when she was about a year old. She began throwing fits, and since River was never a fit thrower, I didn't know how to handle a tiny one-year-old screaming bloody murder over the fact that I couldn't let her play outside by herself! I asked for advice and was given a lot of great ideas, but in the end, I know my child best. I knew how she would react to different suggestions, and it turned out that what I was doing -- letting her cry a bit, then holding her and being her "safe place" in amid her big, confusing feelings, as well as giving her the words to say instead of screaming -- was exactly the right thing to do. I doubted myself, but only because I was worried I wasn't doing exactly the right thing. But when I trusted myself, I felt much more confident and was therefore less prone to feeling anxious about the situation.
And of course, in the case of River coming down the stairs, that was just losing my patience after being patient with the previous times he'd gotten out of bed. Those times will happen, for sure! But as I've recognized these four common triggers, I've been trying to avoid them as best I can. It's not always possible, but I've yelled less the last twenty days than any time I can remember. I'm trying so hard to be proactive and actually get to the heart of the problem rather than just tell myself not to yell. And so far, it's going pretty well!


five [river]

River, if there's any time in the world that I'd want to re-live, it's every moment of the the past five years. I think this is the first birthday of yours for which I've cried. A part of me is so excited for the years to come. I've loved watching you grow and become this kid... a kid with a sense of humor, a little bit of attitude, yet the same little toddler I watched toddle around outside buck nakey three years ago. But another part of me truly mourns the end of your fifth year. I wish, I wish, I wish that you could stay my little boy forever. I feel like I'm just now realizing how quickly this all passes. Didn't I just pull you out of the water and into my arms a few months ago? Wasn't it last week that you would take my face into your chubby little hands and give my nose a suckle? Wasn't it just yesterday that you still walked zig-zaggy because your feet were just a bit too fast to keep up with where you wanted to go?

You've always been so bright. Bright eyes, bright mind. River, for the past five years, I thought there was so much to do. That I had to teach you this and that so you'd be ready. I celebrated every success. I celebrated when you walked at nine months. I celebrated when you taught yourself how to use the potty at a year and a half. I celebrated when you scaled a big-kid rock wall when you were barely two. I celebrated when you learned how to talk, really talk, and actually hold conversations with people. I celebrated when you learned how to spell your name. I celebrated the first time you came to me and said, so very proud of yourself, "Mama! Two plus three is five!" Your whole life has been a celebration. Every little piece of it has made me so completely happy and proud.

But I've made a mistake -- I've always looked forward to tomorrow while almost missing what's right in front of me. When you were in my belly, I wished so desperately to hold you. (My precious boy.) When I held you, I couldn't wait until you could sit up on your own. (My strong boy.) When you sat up, I couldn't wait until you could run and play. (My healthy boy.) When you could run and play, I couldn't wait until you could talk. (My beloved boy.) When you could talk, I couldn't wait to teach you about nature and God and life and everything else under the sun. (My bright boy.) There's nothing wrong with that, necessarily. But in looking forward constantly, sometimes I forgot that the little boy that was right in front of me was changing so very quickly, quicker than what I would one day consider comfortable. Except I didn't know it at the time.

I didn't know that one day, I'd be sitting on the couch just after your fifth birthday, wishing so desperately, so fully, to tears even, that I could go back and squeeze that tiny baby. I wish I could put a hand on my brand-new-mommy shoulder and say, Hold on. Understand that it passes so quickly. That someday you are going to feel like you've woken up from a dream and wonder how much story fit into such little time.

River, did you know that when you sleep at night, I still come in and kiss your cheek and stroke your hair, and in that moment, you look tiny to me once again? In fact, I don't believe there's been a single night of your life when I have not done that. My love is with you always. And you are always with me. You will always be a part of me. I love you so much, it's heartbreaking. It's a wonder God entrusted mothers with this kind of love. Did he think we'd be strong enough to handle it? I don't know, but I suppose we are. I haven't crumbled under the weight of it yet. It's a hell of a lot of love, though.

On your birthday, I wanted you to feel so happy and so loved. Five is a big number for me, as it is you. Five is the age of remembering. It's a good age. This may be the first birthday you remember. You'll probably remember the Spider-Man balloons I blew up and threw all over the living room, even though to me, that was the smallest detail. This is the age that shakes me. As a mommy, I believe this is the age where I need to stop Making Mistakes. Because you might remember. But I will continue to make mistakes, and I hope your sweet little heart will continue to forgive me. And I hope you always know I tried my best.

It's funny how motherhood takes over. Before you, my sweet boy, some the most important things to me were to one day travel the world, write some books, have a pretty house, and be a mommy. But then when you were born, I not only wanted to be a mommy, I wanted to be the very best mommy. And it was all that mattered. I no longer cared half so much to travel the world and write some books and have a pretty house; as long as you grow up knowing that I love you, that I am on your side, that's all that matters. As long as you grow up with beautiful memories, loving others, loving God, that's all that matters. That is enough for me. The little people in this world -- you, and Austen, and Baby -- you are everything to me.

I love you so much, River Jeremiah. In case on bad days, on days where I yell a lot because you keep jumping off of furniture and spilling cereal all over the floor and shouting really loud songs and driving me really crazy -- in case you don't know it always... I always love you. I always love you. Please, stay little for a long time this year, okay? Don't get too big, too fast. Happy, happy birthday my little boy. My sweet boy, my precious boy, my beloved boy. My boy who grows so quickly.


my minimalist baby list

1.  Carseat
Obviously, this is at the top of the list. Let's just get this over with. You need a carseat. Duh. You already knew that. I can't tell you which one, but I know some people who can help you pick one that will fit your needs! Now, moving on.

2. Prefold diapers, covers & cloth wipes
I say prefolds, because these are the most minimalist, trusty, least-fuss diapers to have. They are made of natural fibers, so you don't need a fancy cloth diaper detergent -- just something powdered. I used just about every cloth diaper type out there (except some hybrid brands) for four years and can say in my experience, prefolds are truly the most trusty diapers out there. My babies had less blow-outs in prefolds than any other type of diaper -- that includes pocket diapers, all-in-ones, and disposables. I freakin' love prefolds. And it's all this baby is going to wear, because I know they work. No poop roulette here.
3. Burp cloths
Oh. My. Goodness. So many burp cloths. I'm pretty sure I had two dozen with both my kids and it still didn't seem like enough! My babies spit up... a lot. And once you use one, you don't want it hanging around for too long, getting all stiff and sour. You'll go through them like crazy. I love to embellish plain, old Gerber prefolds with a piece of fabric down the middle to make 'em fancy. (These are not diaper quality, just so you know.)

4. Newborn mittens
This is one thing I didn't even think about when River was born. Babies are born with weapons -- tiny, razor-sharp claws. Unfortunately, their victims are often their own delicate, soft faces. I had to send John to the store to get a pack of baby mittens. In the heat of Texas August, there was my tiny boy, in a diaper and cotton mittens. At least his pretty little face was unscathed.

5. Infant grooming/first-aid kit
I don't recall all that actually comes in a grooming kit, but I'm pretty sure I only used the nasal aspirator, nail clippers, comb, and thermometer. The little comb is great for cradle cap, and you will use that nasal aspirator (affectionately called the Snot Sucker in our family) until the kid is old enough to blow his own nose. The newborn clippers that come in the kit are super easy to handle without slipping and nicking your baby's precious fingers... for the most part. (Sorry, Austen.)

6. Some clothes, not many
Specifically, t-shirts and sleep sacks. If it's cold, footsie pajamas, a winter bunting, and a light hat or two. To me, the newborn period isn't time to dress up baby and make her look adorable. She's already adorable and there will be plenty of time for that later. I like keeping the first few months simple. Newborns poop so much and I don't want to change a onesie three times a day (or more!), but I love little infant t-shirts. Sleep sacks are also fantastic to have, so you don't need to cover them with a blanket at night. When we moved to Washington during the winter when Austen was 6 weeks old, all she really wore in and out of the house were footsie sleepers and little cotton hats. They are easy, cute, and warm.

7. Ring sling
There are so many different kinds of carriers out there, it can be overwhelming. But this is supposed to be a minimalist list, not a confusing list! Ring slings don't require any special learning curve or talent. It took me about three tries before I felt confident wearing Austen, and after that it was bliss! I loved my ring sling; I wore her all the time. It was a life-saver, as mommy to a newborn and rambunctious two-year-old. And another reason the ring-sling makes this minimalist list is because of the price. Other carriers can cost about $100 or more, but you can buy a ring sling for about half that price. And if you have any amount of sewing machine skills whatsoever, you can also make your own ring sling. It's one of the easiest things to sew. And then when people ask you where you got that beautiful carrier (because the fabric you picked out was not only on sale, but also totally unique and gorgeous, you frugal, artsy mama, you) you get to sound super impressive when you say, "Oh, I just whipped this up over the weekend!" No one has to know it took you 15 minutes and cost only $20.

8. Swaddle blankets
I didn't have swaddle blankets with River, but ohh how I wish I did. Austen spent about 75% of the first two months of her life swaddled up nice and snug, using Aden and Anais blankets. But here's some more good news -- while those name-brand blankets are pretty pricey at $35, you can buy your own cotton gauze or muslin fabric for as little as $2 a yard, and then dye it whatever color you want. Then go crazy and potato-stamp some cute stars on it or whatever. (Like I said, frugal AND artsy, right?)

9. Coconut oil
Coconut oil can be used for so many things: a gentle, completely natural, not to mention antimicrobial and antibacterial diaper rash ointment (that is safe for those cloth diapers), a thermometer lubricant, a lotion, and cradle cap cream to name a few. I love coconut oil probably as much as I love swaddle blankets. And almost as much as I love ring slings. The awesome thing about coconut oil is that you use so little of it. A jar could easily last you a year or more. The stuff is amazing.

10. Socks
Teeny tiny baby socks, what is cuter! Except your actual baby, of course. I don't think you can have enough newborn socks. For starters, you'll loose them like they're going out of style. Baby will kick them off, they'll get eaten by the dryer, and it will be impossible to keep up with them because they are so damn small. Second, socks will help keep Baby at the right temperature. Although River was born in August in Texas and he spent most his day naked, I almost always had socks on him. His little toes would get cool to the touch. And of course, if your baby is born in the cooler months, socks are helpful for obvious reasons.

11. Thick, cozy blanket
Okay, we all know we don't put newborn babies to bed in thick, cozy blankets, right? Right. Thick, cozy blankets (like a crib comforter) are excellent for going out of the house and snuggling them in the car seat, wrapping Baby in your arms, or laying across their little bodies while they sleep under your supervision. As River got older and mobile, I found that I could nurse him to sleep in my arms wrapped in a thick blanket cradling his head, then move him to the bed without waking him, because the blanket kept his head from rocking back and forth and waking him up. Thicker blankets are also handy for playtime on the ground.

12. White noise
I don't necessarily mean a white noise machine -- anything that has the ability to make a loud, constant whooshing noise will work. A television on the wrong channel. An old radio. Your vacuum cleaner. A CD of ocean or rain sounds. Babies have spent the first nine months of their existence in fluid movement, listening to the loud, whooshing sounds of your heartbeat, the pulsing of the placenta, and the soothing, muffled sound of your voice; the world is just too quiet for them. Sometimes white noise was the only thing that would get Austen to stop screaming when she was a newborn. We'd turn the TV on extra-loud and she'd quiet down. It got really old listening to it for hours (yes, hours), but it wasn't as bad as listening to the heart-wrenching screams of a newborn babe. When she got a little older, we found a two-hour video of a waterfall on YouTube, and she listened to that to fall asleep until she was about nine months old.

13. A bag for diapers
And not necessarily a diaper bag! You could use a tote or a large purse. I got over my diaper bag pretty quickly when River was an infant. I found it much more useful when I had two children because I had more to carry around, but even then, often I'd just take one of my big purses. Unless you're planning to be away for hours, leaving the house with Baby doesn't have to be stressful -- a couple diapers, a change of clothes, a blanket, and you're set.

That's the Super Minimalist List, but personally, I would like to add a few other things I find helpful.

14. Pacifier
Neither of my kids took a pacifier. River kinda liked his until he was about six months old, and Austen straight-up refused one. I am tired of being a walking pacifier, y'all. Yes, mothers are the original paci, but sheesh, no one mentions how exhausting being the paci is! (Hint: it's really exhausting.) With two other kids to take care of, I really want to option to put something other than my boob in this baby's mouth so I can get things done. Dear Baby... please like pacifiers!

15. Swing
Oh precious swing, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways! If there's any major baby gear you should get, it's a swing, and you can probably find a used one for $30. When you need to get stuff done, good luck trying to lay your little one on a flat, unmoving surface. This is why swings are so awesome. But make sure you get one that actually works well -- Austen was so chunky, the swing my parents bought for her barely grunted back and forth under her weight! I could have done an underdog at the heights River's swing reached. Got him to sleep every time. Kept him asleep for 25 minutes. Which was as long as he ever slept. Ever.

16. Glass bottles
I prefer glass, because it's free of chemicals, and also because you can put it directly in boiling water to warm frozen milk. Of course, not everyone is going to need bottles. Austen wouldn't take a bottle at all, because I waited too long to give her one, so I plan on giving this baby a bottle a few times a week starting at about three weeks old, assuming breastfeeding is going well.

17. Infant bath sponge
Newborns need sink baths. It just makes sense. Tiny baby + sink = adorable. A bath sponge will give them a soft surface and help you feel less at risk of your slippery baby wriggling his way out of your hands, and you won't have to crouch over that clumsy infant tub that will only last them until they're six months old and they decide it's a great idea to try to climb out any chance they get.

18. A pack of disposable newborn diapers
One word: meconium. If you are planning on using cloth, this is not essential, but helpful. Meconium is dark, sticky, and will stain anything it touches, including your clean, pretty prefolds.

19. Highchair
Austen didn't have a highchair and we survived. Though, I'd like to have one for this baby, to at least try to keep the food contained in one specific area.

20. Exersaucer
I loved having an exersaucer for my babies. We bought Austen's used for $7, and gave it to her for her first Christmas! Many babies can start using them when they are about two months old, and can use them up until the time they start walking. The reason this makes the list is because most infants get to a point where they want to sit up and see the world and use those neck muscles, and they just can't do that lying down, even on a raised surface. An exersaucer also offers a safe, fun place for Baby to hang out when they get older.

One of my life rules is to always buy used if possible. You end up spending about a fourth of the price, and it's just gentler to the earth. Babies don't have to be expensive! And it's not a big deal if getting everything on a typical baby list is not realistic -- it wasn't realistic for us when River was a baby, and everything turned out fine. When Austen was born, I actually didn't want all the extra stuff. All we had for her were some clothes, blankets, diapers, and a diaper bag. Really! It wasn't until she'd been around for a few months that we got the used exersaucer and my parents bought her a swing. And babies don't need toys; you will find they are much more interested in things lying around the house, anyway. For the amount most baby gear costs compared to the length of time you actually use them, it's just not worth it to me. I didn't find parenting any easier when I had lots of baby gear compared to when I had just what we truly needed.


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