Self Care: Your Own Oxygen Mask

Baby watching woman doing yoga

“In the event of an emergency, put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others.”

As a parent, you need to put your own oxygen mask on before you help your children, spouse, and everyone else who wants your help. You are no good to anyone, including yourself, if you drain your energy, your oxygen, and your focus to zero.

I know it’s difficult to prioritize yourself when there are little people who need and want you every minute. Prioritizing yourself doesn’t mean neglecting them. It means helping your children to learn patience in those few moments it takes to put on your oxygen mask.

Your oxygen mask might be as simple as getting yourself a drink of water before the next activity or taking a shower even when your toddler tells you, “NO!” It might take more time, like doing yoga while your child waits. Whatever it is, your child learns self control gradually in those moments.

Lessons you are teaching your children will stay with them. They know you are a person with needs as well. (Yes, that sounds strange, but it does take children a while to realize this about their parents.) Also, they will learn that they need to take care of themselves before they help others so they don’t drain themselves.

Have you read “The Giving Tree”? I remember it from my childhood, and I picked it up to consider buying it for my children’s library. I read it again in the store. I couldn’t believe what I read. The lesson was to give everything you have without taking care of your own needs. The tree (who I interpreted as a mother) gave itself in pieces for the boy, who didn’t ever bother to take care of the tree or even to thank the tree. Some people interpret this book environmentally as an example of how not to sustain the earth. Either way, I don’t want to plant the seed of the idea in my children’s minds that they are to take and take from others without regard for others’ needs. And, no, I didn’t buy the book.

Your family is—or can be—a sustainable system. You need to be functional to make that system work, and the system works even better when you are not just functional but happy. Your happiness matters to everyone in your family, whether they realize it or not.

Show your children that you care about yourself. You are teaching them valuable lessons. You are teaching them that you have needs. They will develop empathy as they recognize others’ needs. You are also teaching them that each person needs to address their own needs. You are teaching them to put their own oxygen masks on first.

Don’t hesitate. Take care of yourself. You’ll be better able to help others when you do.

This month, we are focusing on self care. Come into the bynature.ca store for a few self care surprises.

It Works! 30-day Eco Habits Challenge

Air-purifying indoor plant

We often assess our lives at the new year then lose momentum soon after. I want to help you and me both get past the typical obstacles.

One problem is that we make the goals so big that we don’t know where to start. Looking around me at my space, I was sure this was the problem. That is how this year’s 30-day Eco Habits Challenge was born.

Before I could improve my family’s eco-life, I needed to make space.

Nine years ago, my family moved across the continent to take care of my sick mother, then she died soon after. I found myself living in the house where I grew up, in the midst of my mother’s stuff with a whole house full my own stuff in storage.

Nine years. I’m usually quite disciplined, but this was a difficult obstacle for me. “Get rid of my mom’s stuff” was on my list every year. I didn’t know where to start. The grief of an only child, added to the fact that the house was familiar from my childhood, made it easy not to change anything despite the ever-present vague goal.

When a change is big and involves a lot of small actions, it’s tough to start unless you recognize that you need to take the small actions. That is true of my clearing my house, of living without plastic, switching to reusables, replacing non-fair trade or non-organics throughout the house, or lowering your family’s carbon footprint. These are big changes, and they can feel overwhelming.

My solution: chop it up into so many tiny pieces that I couldn’t resist. Then, each day for 30 days do one small thing. This not only lessens the pain of big change but it creates a habit of the change.

At the beginning of this month, I outlined my plan. I ended up with a list of 83 items I wanted to change. Each day I cleared off one shelf, cleared out one drawer, emptied one box, or read through a pile of old letters. It still feels overwhelming, because I’m not finished, but I’ve replaced a lot of my mother’s life that I was living inside with my own life.

I did’t just want to back up a dumpster and get rid of all traces of my mother. I wanted to find ways to make her stuff useful—to let the clothes be worn again and the books be read again.

It feels great! Gone is a hideous (and dusty) dried plant thing that lived on the wall, replaced with an air-freshening living plant. Gone are my mother’s high-quality business clothes, given to a local charity that helps women get back to work. Before she died, my mother told me to donate her clothes there. It should have been easy, but it wasn’t. So, we stopped when we delivered the clothes and told them about my mom and about her commitment to their work. She was a long-time donor. I’m so happy that dozens and dozens of women will be wearing my mother’s silk dresses and wool suits to job interviews. Maybe those clothes will help them feel confident about their futures.

So, this is me reporting back and telling you that it works. It’s possible to tackle that very difficult, huge goal you have.

  • Choose a general goal that you’ve been meaning to tackle
  • Make a list of every tiny thing you can think of toward the goal
  • Choose one of the tiny actions, and do it now
  • Tomorrow, choose another tiny action, and do it
  • Check in with a family member or friend on your progress
  • Tell yourself you only need to do this for 30 days, then you can decide whether you need to shift your focus

On my master list, I put the date beside each thing I did. On my daily actions list, I started with “Do 1 Make Space action.” I couldn’t check off my day until I did it, and that usually got me past my bump of hesitation.

After about two weeks, I had taken the easiest actions, and I just had to do the more difficult actions. I’ve still only done 30 out of 83 items, so I am going to keep working on my list through February. I’ve renewed my commitment to Make Space.

It doesn’t matter when you start. Every day can be your first day. Earlier this month, I outlined a few ideas to get your started on your own eco habits challenge.

Good luck. I’m not telling you it’s easy, but I know you can do it.

Is air quality on your list? If air-purifying plants are on your list, look at the research done by NASA for the international space station. Mother Nature Network provides a list of the top choices for air-purifying plants.

Image ©  | Dreamstime.com

Baby on a Budget: Breastfeeding Supplies

Mother nursing baby

When money is tight, you need to think clearly about every baby prep purchase. The essential shopping list for breastfeeding support is short.

Let’s start with a super short version of this post: you don’t need to buy anything to breastfeed. All you need is a baby and a breast.

On the other hand, you might find a few things useful, so I will share my experience to help you decide how to meet your needs on a budget.

Breastfeeding Supplies

The Essentials

Just you and your baby. Breastfeeding is a natural process. It requires no stuff.

Nice to Have

There are a few items that support breastfeeding that are predictably common. You will probably use them, so you could buy before your baby is born or wait until you feel the need. Once the baby arrives, though, there will be a lot of other things to think about. Items on this list would make a nice gift for a pregnant woman will plans to breastfeed.

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. You will have questions about breastfeeding. You can ask in a La Leche League meeting, but sometimes it is nice to do background reading so you know what questions to ask. The Womanly Art is the classic breastfeeding book. If you talk to our staff in the store, we’ll help you decide whether this, Dr Sears’ Breastfeeding Book, or another book will be best for you as a basic how-to guide.

Nursing bra. If you are large breasted, you will probably want support, and it’s a lot easier to work around a nursing bra than a regular one. If you are small breasted, you might not need a nursing bra, but you might also be surprised when you become large breasted. For some, a breastfeeding tank can serve a similar purpose—giving a little support while making it quick and easy to unsnap and feed baby. You might want to buy your nursing bra in-store so experienced staff can help you get a bra that fits well and will work for the way you live.

Breast pads. Your breasts will probably leak. You might want to have 1-2 sets of absorbent breast pads on hand before you start breastfeeding. They are easy to wash with clothes. On the other hand, if you aren’t going out and don’t care how it looks, you’ll probably be fine using cloths or some other absorbent material you have around the house.

Lanolin. Most women experience some nipple dryness with breastfeeding. To soothe your skin without harming your baby, you need to choose your nipple soothing cream carefully. A lot of women use lanolin (from sheep), which is safe for babies when refined. There are other choices for soothing as well. This isn’t necessary until you do have dryness, but it’s a safe bet.

Tea & Cookies. Traditional herbal galactagogues (lactation promoters) can help build up your milk. Most women use the herbs by drinking tea, but cookies have been popular for the same purpose. Nice to have, but you don’t necessarily need herbal support. What you really need is a healthy diet of whole foods that nourishes both you and your baby.

Breastfeeding Station. This isn’t really a thing you buy but more a space you create. When you are going to be spending hours sitting, you might want to create a space where you have what you need: water, a book, a blanket, and a comfortable spot to put your feet up.

Depends on Your Needs

Despite being a natural process, there is a learning curve to breastfeeding. Most mothers need guidance—and sometimes stuff—to help the process go more smoothly.

You won’t know what you need until you need it, though. For this list, it’s best to wait.

More breast pads. If you find that you get a lot of leaking, you might want more washable breast pads. They come in a lot of different materials. Or, you might want to try silicone breast pads, which prevent the leaking in the first place.

Nursing clothes. If you want something more convenient than lifting your shirt, you might want to buy a few nursing shirts. Whether you need more clothes with hidden opening for nursing depends on your needs. I lived in my nursing nightgown, but I really hated the frumpy nursing tops I bought. If you buy, make sure that you can still be you while wearing the clothes. For many, a nursing tank will be enough to stretch an existing wardrobe.

Breast Pump, freezer trays, and bottles. You will probably leave your baby sometime while you are still breastfeeding. In that case, you will probably pump milk and leave it for another caregiver to feed your baby. How simple your system needs to be for saving milk depends on your lifestyle. If you will be working while continuing to breastfeed full time, you will need a powerful pump as well as a cooler to store your milk until you get home. Hold off buying these accessories until you know what you will need.

Nursing Pillow. A lot of women love their nursing pillows. I had one; I could probably have done without, though it was useful for a few months as a prop for my baby. It does help to have some support when you are exhausted, but you might want to wait to see if you can make do with what you have before you buy a pillow specifically for nursing.

Rocking Chair. It is nice to hold a baby and rock, but you can certainly breastfeed without. Another lifestyle choice.

Don’t Bother

Breastfeeding Cover. These baffle me. I do understand not wanting to bare one’s breasts to the world. It seems to me that a giant tent over a nursing baby draws quite a bit of attention, though. There are more discrete ways to cover up, such as a nursing shirt or the baby’s blanket. Still, a lot of people seem to love them. (A colleague has pointed out to me that this can help if you need to pump in a shared office. In that case, it could move up to the “Depends on Your Needs” list.)

More Baby on a Budget

Image ©  | Dreamstime.com

Co-sleeping Basics

Mother and Baby sleeping

If you’ve heard about co-sleeping but you just aren’t sure how to co-sleep with your baby, we have the basics for you.

Once you know the basics, you’ll realize how easy it is to satisfy the needs of baby and parent.

Among my fondest of parenting memories is sleeping with a baby on one side an a toddler on the other, feeling warm next to my two children, falling asleep loving them so much I could burst.

How to Co-sleep

Designate a space. The baby shouldn’t go between two adults. I put my baby on the outside of me, toward the wall, and my toddler between me and my husband. When our babies were a bit older, we also used sheepies from our cousins in New Zealand (and ALL babies in New Zealand sleep on sheepskins), so the sleeping space was clearly marked. My sheepie = my space.

Get rid of heavy covers. Not only can heavy blankets or comforters be a risk for your baby, most babies will wiggly off even a light blanket. A baby sleeping bag will keep your baby warm. You might wish for your own sleeping bag.

Remove pillows. Usually your baby will be sleeping lower than your pillow (mouth to breast, most likely), but make sure there is no chance of your baby creeping under a pillow. If you can sleep without, you can prevent that happening.

Separate the siblings. When your baby is young (under one year), you should separate siblings. Your baby needs a responsible adult nearby.

Remove toys. First of all, very young babies don’t need toys. More important, you shouldn’t have hard or soft objects like that near the sleeping space.

Should You Co-Sleep with Your Baby?

You are the one who should decide. You will probably get opinions from healthcare providers, family, and others. Just make sure you understand that we are emerging from an era of pressure NOT to sleep anywhere near our children into a time of more open acknowledgment of the benefits of co-sleeping.

Even Dr. Richard Ferber, for whom “Ferberizing” (the cry-it-out method of sleep training) is named, changed his mind about co-sleeping in his 2006 revision of his oft-misused book on infant sleep. He acknowledges that there are many healthy ways for a family to sleep.

Knowing this, you can look for opinions that are based in the 21st century and based on fulfilling the needs of babies and families.

In addition to giving your baby what she or he wants—YOU—sleeping near one another makes your life easier.

For breastfeeding mothers, it is so convenient to have your baby right next to you at night. You don’t need to wake up all of the way, get up in the cold, go to a differet room to answer a baby who is distressed enough to cry so you will hear. Baby fusses, mother wakes enough to feed the baby, then everyone falls back asleep.

When You Shouldn’t Co-sleep with Your Baby

There can be risks when a big person sleeps next to a small person or when a small person could slip into soft spaces. If any of the risks are present, co-sleeping is not recommended.

Some issues involve the bed and bedding. Do not co-sleep with:

  • No bed. Do not sleep with your baby on a soft surface when the baby can slip into spaces (such as between cushions).
  • Loose pillows
  • Heavy blankets or covers

Some issues involve the adult sleeping with the baby. The adult nees to be able to wake easily. Do not co-sleep if:

  • Adult is a smoker
  • Adult has been drinking or has taken drugs, even prescription sedatives
  • Adult is over tired
  • Adult is morbidly obese

In some of these situations, you can still have your baby nearby on a separate surface without risk.

More Co-sleeping Help

Because there is so much misinformation about babies and sleep in western cultures, it has taken some time to pull the norm back to a place it can benefits babies and families.

One place working to help parents and healthcare providers get accurate research on normal, healthy sleep is the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at University of Notre Dame. Their focus is “how sleeping environments reflect and respond to family needs—in particular how they affect mothers, breastfeeding, and infants’ physiological and psychological well-being and development.”

If you want to know more about the science of sleeping next to a baby, this is a great resource. If you need information (downloadable articles, links to videos) for family or doctor, you will find those here as well.

Also, Dr. Sears (the multiple Drs. Sears) share stories of co-sleeping from their own family and from parents in “Co-sleeping: Yes, No, Sometimes?”

Why Co-sleeping

Last week, in our post “Helping Your Baby Sleep with Love and Compassion,” we mentioned co-sleeping or family bed—the practice of sleeping with your child. This post was more about the fact that co-sleeping helps a lot of families get more sleep more calmly. It touches on why families share a bed.

That got us thinking that some parents might just be looking for a basic how-to guide. We hope this helps.

If you are interested to know how the North American reluctance to share a family bed compares to the rest of the world, I repeat my recommendation that you read Christine Gross-Loh’s Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents around the World Can Teach Us (2013). The chapter “Sleep Time: Keep Our Babies Close or Give Them Space?” is a gentle survey of world practices.

Image ©  | Dreamstime.com

Baby on a Budget: Cloth Diapers

Baby wearing Bummis cloth diaper

In my quest to save you from buying piles of baby stuff you won’t use, I’ve been outlining the essential baby basics on a budget.

You will change a lot of diapers. Elimination is one of those baby needs you meet one way or another.

As with baby carriers, you save money when you buy diapers that can be used from baby through toddler. We’ve got the solution for even a tiny diaper budget.

How Many Diapers Will a Baby Use?

Short answer: you will change 3000 – 6000 diapers on your baby.

During the first couple of months, you will probably have 12 diaper changes or more a day. If your newborn eliminates every hour, you change the diaper every hour in order to avoid discomfort and rash for your baby. That number will gradually dwindle to 4-5 diapers a day before your toddler uses the toilet.

12 x 30 x 3 = 1080
10 x 30 x 6 = 1800
8 x 30 x 6 = 1440
6 x 30 x 3 = 540
4 x 30 x 3 = 360
Total = 5220

Even if you are lucky and find that your child learns to use the toilet early and doesn’t eliminate as often, the lowest estimate for number of diaper changes per child is about 3000. I’m going to use that lowest number so I have a generous place to start when comparing with disposable diapers, but I want you to realize that it could be almost double that number. Babies’ needs vary.

How Many Diapers Do I Need?

Short answer: you need 24 prefolds and 4 one-size diaper covers.

On a budget, choose the lowest number of diapers you will need. I’ve seen more than one family make do with a dozen diapers, but you will end up washing more than once a day or leaving your baby in a wet diaper (which can cause irritation and rash). I consider 18 the minimum to start for a family washing diapers every day. The number of diapers used per day will go down quickly, so your laundry will go down quickly.

Just to keep being generous with the numbers, I am going to use 24 as my comparison number. Buy 24 prefold cloth diapers and 4 one-size covers, and a few accessories (like wipes or wash cloths and a bucket to hold the dirties), and you are set.

Compare Diaper Prices

  • $690 Disposable Diapers
  • $600 Cloth All-in-one Diapers plus Newborn
  • $240 Cloth One-size All-in-one Diapers
  • $231 ($195) Cloth prefolds with sized covers
  • $177 Cloth prefolds with one-size covers

The clear winner is prefold diapers with one-sized covers.

1 set of 12 Organic Cotton Prefolds, Infant Size
1 set of 12 Organic Cotton Prefolds, Premium Size
4 Bummis Simply Lite one-size diaper covers (Made in Canada!)

Our calculations

  • Disposable diapers – 3000 diaper changes x $.20-25 each = $690 ($.23 x 3000)
  • All-in-one one-size (no newborn) – 12 AIO x $20 = $240
  • All-in-one one-size plus newborn – $240 + (18 Newborn x $20 = $360) = $600
  • Prefolds with sized covers – 12 organic cotton Infant prefolds $44.96 + 12 organic cotton Premium prefolds $59.98 + (3 x 3 x $14 = $126) = $231  SPECIAL: Bummis Super Brite sized covers are on special right now for $10 per cover. Knock that total down to $195.
  • Prefolds with one-size covers – 12 organic cotton Infant prefolds $44.96 + 12 organic cotton Premium prefolds $59.98 + 4 one-size diaper covers $71.92 (4 x $17.98) = $177

Simple diaper bonus: prefold cloth diapers are by far the easiest diapers to wash. You can use and accidentally abuse cotton, and it still performs. For answers to your diaper cleaning questions, start at our Cloth Diaper Laundry Hub.

Why Shopping Local Will Save You Money in the Long Run

Saving money with diapers isn’t just a matter of the price you pay up front. I’ve heard many sad stories of people who thought they had found great diaper deals, but it turned out that they bought trouble.

Nature Mom has outlined the reasons shopping at bynature.ca or any other local store will save you money when you are buying for baby. The store in Orillia has a staff that is trained to help you succeed.

We’ll help make sure the diapers you choose are best for your individual circumstances. You won’t have to try multiple styles to get it right. We can help narrow down the many choices to the absolute best choices for you.

Every cloth diaper purchase from bynature.ca includes our 10 years of experience helping thousands of parents with cloth diapering. We’ll ensure you get off to a good start from day one, with everything you need to be successful.

We’re easy to get in touch with when you need help. Email, phone, or stop by the store, and we can help troubleshoot with fit, leaking, overnight diapering, washing issues, etc. This saves time weeding through the crazy responses online. (We joke, please don’t put your diapers in the dishwasher! This could be a costly mistake.)

Many local stores offer consignment sales so when you are done with your diapers, if you choose quality brands and followed recommended washing instructions, you might be able to resell your diapers through the local stores. Our next cloth diaper consignment sale at bynature.ca (our Repeat Sale) is coming up fast already! We’ll start registering consignors next month for our Spring Sale on March 22nd. (Check in on Facebook or get our newsletter for updates.)

How do you know if your diaper is safe, a counterfeit, or under warranty? When you talk to us in the store, we help you understand these issues. They do matter. It’s like having insurance for your investment. Authorized retailers can also help with warranty issues, and there are many unauthorized sellers online.

Bottom line, cloth diapers are an investment. Spending your money with a local retailer helps to secure this investment. That $50 or $100 you might think you’re saving buying from a big box store is easily worth the independent retailer’s time and expertise when you need it, as well as your own peace of mind throughout your cloth diapering experience.

Are You a Super Saver?

Go diaper free with infant pottying (or elimination communication). You will still need some diapers but not nearly as many as you would cloth diapering full time.

More Baby on a Budget

Next week I’ll talk about breastfeeding essentials. As you can guess, doesn’t involve much more than you and your baby.