5 things I wish I knew before I had a baby

If you are pregnant now with your first baby and you are anything like me, you are full on freaking out but not doing anything about it except maybe scrolling an article or two. I get you. Take a seat and read this one. I promise to be honest and (hopefully) not scare you.

With my first, I had literally no idea what I was doing. I now have two and still have no idea what I am doing. I do know what I wish I had known before though.

Photographer: Alex Pasarelu | Source: Unsplash

1. There is no perfect.

I had all these ideas of things I would do and how I would do them before having kids. I hate to admit this but I was definitely that person who said, “I am not going to let my kids eat sugar or watch tv too early. That’s just bad parenting.”

Cut to a couple years and I have done everything I said I wouldn’t do. My kids favorite show is Octonauts and it is actually the coolest. Oh and my eldest's favorite snack is ice cream so y’know *shrugs.*

I am a fantastic parent though and a little sugar and screen time doesn’t change that.

Your idea of perfect will shift and change with time and that is okay. You can be a wonderful parent even if you do all the things you said you weren’t going to.

Photographer: Mieke Campbell | Source: Unsplash

2. Do not compare yourself to others.

We almost never know what others are going through.

That parent that looks like they have it all together, may be struggling with something that comes easily to you.

Even if they aren’t struggling at all, it doesn’t make your experiences any less valid.

Parenting is a tough job and we are all just trying our best. Everyone’s kid is different and everyone parents differently.

Comparing is just going to cause unnecessary stress to you as you try to measure up to an image of what you think you “should” be. In reality, there is no should. There is only what you can and what you want to do.

Parenting pushes us to our limits and everyone has different limits and boundaries. Respect yourself by allowing yourself to be the best parent YOU and only you can be. Nobody is going to parent your babies better.

Photographer: Paige Cody | Source: Unsplash

3. The exhaustion.

Holy guacamole. Everyone told me, “sleep while you can because you won’t be able to later.”

I understood this but I didn’t really grasp it until my baby was a month old and waking up every 30 minutes to eat because their tiny bellies can contain an absurd amount of food. Like, HOW?

Never ever ever had I experienced that level of physical exhaustion. I could barely keep my eyes open.

It is not just physical though, it is emotional and mental exhaustion unlike anything anyone can explain to you.

Unfortunately, you just have to live it.

The only thing that helped me was reminding myself that it was temporary and that this stage in development would soon end and a new exciting but equally exhausting one would follow.

Those first few months are brutal and the best advice I can give you is accept the help.

A friend offers to play with your baby while you nap, do it. Even if you nap on the couch while they play next to you. Take a hot shower, eat a meal with both hands, drink something piping hot and finish it while it’s still hot, or maybe just have a chat with that friend and allow yourself to talk about things that aren’t your beautiful baby.

You are allowed to be tired and you are allowed to accept help.

Photographer: Vladislav Muslakov | Source: Unsplash

4. Sleep deprivation.

I know I already talked about exhaustion but I seriously cannot stress enough how hard sleep deprivation can be on a person.

My biggest fear was hurting my baby in some way because of my exhaustion. I think this is the most common fears amongst new and seasoned parents for obvious reasons.

So when my baby was at her roughest, my husband and I took turns sleeping. I would go to bed early and my husband would stay up with our baby until about midnight. Then we would switch and I would stay up with her for a while. When my husband got home I would take a nap, then he would take a nap and that is what worked for us.

It was a tough time but it was just the two of us and we didn’t really have friends or family around so we had to make it work somehow.

Having a few solid hours of sleep changed our lives. If you don’t have any support, join a mom group in your area and make friends with someone while you’re pregnant and then take turns watching the babies while the other one rests.

It is also important to note that everyone has different thresholds for sleep. One of my dear friends needs 8 hours of sleep no matter what. She simply cannot function with less. I really only need 5 solid hours. Some need less, some need more. Know your limits.

Get the sleep that you can when you can. Dishes, laundry, everything else can wait.

Photographer: Isabella and Zsa Fischer | Source: Unsplash

5. There will be good days and bad days.

I was the first in my immediate family to have a baby. I had cousins who had children but I lived away for most of it so I didn’t experience anything with them. I had one friend who had a baby a few months before me and I couldn’t really reach out to her since she was dealing with a much larger medical issue within her family.

I had worked with young children pretty much my entire adult life and I really believed that had prepared me in some way for motherhood.

I’ll pause so you can laugh.

Needless to say, it did not. At least not yet.

I struggled a lot at the beginning. I was lonely, anxious, and overwhelmed while caring for a fragile tiny human.

It rocked my world.

I had a lot of really hard days at the beginning of my little one’s life. It made me feel like such a failure. I didn’t share my struggles with anyone because I didn’t realize it would help. Despite my husband’s encouragement and praise, it wasn’t until I joined mom groups on Facebook and started making more mom friends that I learned that was completely normal and completely okay.

Hearing the stories from other parents about their own children and all the truly unexpected things they bring, I actually found myself again. I found my community. I no longer felt like a failure. I am just a normal mom with very normal kids having normal overwhelming days.

I wish I knew that before I had my baby. It would have saved me from so much heartache. So, share your stories. You might save another parent from feeling like they are all alone.

Need somewhere to start? Join the LilHelper: Unsnapped Facebook group to connect with other parents in an incredibly helpful, positive environment!

That being said, the good days are incredible. Nobody can prepare you for that.

The joy you will feel hearing your baby’s laughter or smelling that sweet smell is unparalleled to any other. Even certain poops will bring you intense happiness. Who knew you could be happy about a tiny baby pooping? You might even take pictures and you know what? That is totally alright because we all do it.

Photographer: Xavier Mouton Photographie | Source: Unsplash

Parenthood brings you the highest highs and the lowest lows. Buckle up because you are in for the ride of your life.

About the Author

Jessica is a Latinx mom to a boy and a girl. She currently lives in California with her husband, babies, and a super cuddly pup. She has many hobbies but her favorites include dancing, hiking, and true crime podcasts.

10 Tips for Growing Veggie Loving Kids

At Lil Helper, we love supporting you in all things parenting. Something a lot of us worry about is feeding. We’ve aimed to make a wide range of products to help with this from breast pads to burp cloths and biggie bibs to smockets. But we know as kids get older, we especially want to make sure they eat their vegetables. This week, Kim from On Your Table is sharing her best tips for raising veggie loving kids. Read on for her helpful and fun ideas!

We all want our kids to love vegetables!  As parents, we have to remember that their love for veggies will be learned over many years – not over single meals, days, or even months.  However, if we want veggie loving kids it takes time and, we have some tasks that can make a big difference in the process!

As you may have heard, it can take 30 or more single exposures to a particular food for a child to learn to like it. The number of exposures can vary for every person.

The key is the word EXPOSURE.

Exposure means helping children to experience a food in many preparations and many ways over a long period of time.   The goal is not for kids to take a bite!  The goal is to build comfort by seeing, smelling, feeling, licking, biting, and eventually eating that food.  When it comes to helping kids learn to eat – and even to love – their veggies, it’s all about playing the long game!

So how do we help this to happen?!  I have 10 tips to get you onto the right track.  It’s important to remember that this isn’t a complete list of strategies, but it’s a great way to get started!

Start by having vegetables around! 

Pass the cucumber please! – Sarah S.

Kids need frequent and varied exposure to build comfort and interaction.  Have your kids help you pick out vegetables to buy, and ask them to unload groceries with you.  Try leaving produce visible on the counter (when safe), ask your kids to pass the vegetables to you when preparing a meal, and be sure to add veggie options to all meals – even breakfast!

Get vegetables onto your kids’ plates, every single time they are served! 

Serve meals family style!  Pass bowls around the table so everyone gets a guaranteed look and smell, and make it a family rule that some of every food is on everyone’s individual plate.  A vegetable serving can be as small as one single pea!  We just want them getting close to their veggies as a starting point.  Think of it like making a new friend!

Don’t push your kids to take a bite!  

Sometimes just holding the kale is a win! – Jessica T.

I know, it sounds crazy.  Isn’t that the whole point? Yes, however – the more pressure we put on our kids to eat the foods we desperately want them to eat, the less likely they are to try them.  Our job as parents is to make vegetables readily available, make them fun, help our kids to engage with them in other ways (see point #1!), and then let them taste on their own time, when they are ready.

Lead by example! 

What we model for our kids’ day in and day out is one of the strongest indicators of their future behavior.  Even if you don’t like a vegetable, it’s helpful if they see you put it on your plate anyway, and that you keep trying it.  Equally important is that they see the enjoyment on your face when you eat vegetables you love!

Bring your kids into the kitchen! 

Having kids help in the kitchen gets them seeing, touching, smelling, and maybe tasting before the main event.  This helps them feel ready to taste at the table, and every taste contributes to building a lifelong love.  Think of having your child in the kitchen like a warm up before the big game – the meal!  Worried that getting them into the kitchen is such a headache and a MESS?!  This blog post can help you get started!

Get them into the garden too (even if it’s just a single pot)! 

Carrots straight from the garden are a favorite at our house! -Caitlin M.

When a child is asked to pick a vegetable from a plant, there’s no pressure to eat it.  Low-pressure encounters allow fun exploration without stress, and these instances set the stage for future success.  Plus, there’s an added benefit of the pride kids feel when they watch their tiny seed grow into a plant that produces food!

Think twice before you hide vegetables in other foods! 

I know, it puts your mind at ease to know that they are getting the nutrients they need now.  It’s not worth it!  Known exposure is key to kids learning to love vegetables.  When we hide vegetables in our kids’ foods, it might go well at first, but with time, they will figure it out.  When they do, we have taught them that vegetables taste so bad that they have to be hidden, and that you are not to be trusted!  They might even stop eating some of the foods they once loved.  Add vegetables to whatever you want, but make kids aware.  Better yet, have them help!

Have your kids talk to a farmer! 

If you want your kids to meet someone who gets jazzed up about vegetables, head to a farmer’s market – or better yet, straight to the farm.  I’ve never met a farmer who isn’t willing to chat with you about their produce, how it is grown, what types of varieties they have, and how to prepare it all.  Their passion rubs off on kids, especially if a farm visit involves tractors or animals too!

Don’t give up on your method! 

If your kids don’t get excited about cooking, gardening, talking to farmers, or any of the traditional ways to engage with food, find what they love and capitalize on it.  Use vegetables for experiments, dissect them, paint with them, read books with vegetables, draw them, or use them as a microphone or telephone.  Whatever you do, just involve vegetables in the kind of fun that your child loves!

Never stop serving a wide variety of vegetables! 

There’s even room for veggies at picnic time on our Lifesaver Mat – even though they don’t always get eaten. – Caitlin M.

Even when they turn up their nose, gag, roll their eyes, and make a fuss, KEEP ON SERVING!  The moment vegetable exposures stop, you’ve taken away the opportunity for your child to grow to love them.

About the Author

Kim Slack is a Registered Dietitian and founder of On Your Table LLC.  She coaches parents on feeding strategies and parenting styles that support children to expand the foods they eat.  She also offers a membership with ongoing lessons and support for parents of picky eaters.  Kim has helped many families have happier, calmer mealtimes and grow competent eaters at the table.  Kim also has 2 boys of her own at home.  Learn more about her here.

My Top 3 Baby Led Weaning Recipes

Lil Helper is pleased to welcome Anne Marie to the blog this week to share some incredible Baby Led Weaning recipes! For more of her delicious meal ideas, you can find her on Instagram @babyledweaning2021.

BLW is a weaning method I very much believe in and has worked very well for us over the past 7 months. Keiran has explored over 100 foods and BLW has also saved me a lot of time preparing separate meals for him. He is able to eat the same meals as the rest of the family. It has changed our diet as a family to a healthier one and so for us it really has had all-round benefits.

My top 3 baby led weaning recipes are raspberry coconut balls, avocado pasta and pizza pinwheels. I love these recipes because they are so easy to make and very baby and toddler friendly and great for the rest of the family too

Raspberry Coconut Balls

The raspberry coconut balls are one of my favourite breakfasts to make! My son absolutely loves them! We include chia seeds in this recipe – a very good source of protein, and also packed with fibre! They are very soft and easy to make – easy for small mouths to chew and take less than 5 minutes to make. A very healthy start to the day!

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup raspberries (I used frozen, let them thaw for about 30mins)
3 tbps desiccated coconut
2 tbps raisins
1 tbps chia seeds

1. We simply put all the ingredients in the food processor and blended until smooth, then rolled into balls.
2. We then simply formed balls and put them in the fridge, then took them about 30mins before serving not to be too cold.

Creamy Avocado Pasta

The creamy avocado pasta is rich in fibre and healthy fats which are very important to support babies digestion and brain development. This meal can be introduced from 6 months, so is perfect if you are new to baby led weaning, and can be an easy lunch or dinner for all the family!

2 avocados
1 tub of ricotta (250g)
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp lemon
pinch of chili peppers

1. We simply blended all together in a blender. Once the pasta was done, we mixed the creamy sauce with the pasta.

Pizza Pinwheels

Pizza pinwheels are a fun meal to make with puff pastry. Adults, children and babies all love this recipe. It only takes about five minutes to make and just requires some basic ingredients – mozzarella, tomatoes, puff pastry and any pizza toppings you love. It’s a great recipe to make and get older children involved with too.

1 sheet puff pastry
Tomato sauce
Handful of basil leaves

1. We rolled out the sheet, and spread a thin layer of tomato sauce.
2. We then sprinkled grated mozzarella and basil on top.
3. We rolled it and cut the roll it into 1 inch pieces.
4. We then placed them on a greased oven dish for about 15mins at 180C.

Baby led weaning has helped us as a family make healthier meals with no sugar and salt. We love having our meals together as a family. If you would like more recipes, please check our blog babyledweaning2021.

Ready to give one of these delicious recipes a try? Grab your smocket or biggie bib and tag us on social media! We would love to see the results!

About the Author

Anne Marie is a regulatory reporter and juggles a busy job with looking after a baby. She has always been interested in exercise and nutrition and so it was a natural next step to start a BLW blog.

Confident Parenting And How To Set Healthy Boundaries

It doesn’t matter if you are a confident, bold parent or a nervous and insecure one, the time will come when someone has something to say about your parenting.

Some have learned how to shut those people out and not give a darn what strangers think but it is a completely different ball game when the someone saying something is a family member whose opinion you care about.

If you are nodding your head like yes yes yes then this post is for you.

I am normally a very confident person but parenthood has made me question a lot of things and I find myself feeling more upset than I usually care to admit when a family member mentions something. I usually like to play out scenarios in my head and have intense conversations or even fights imagining what I would say when someone says something but when the time actually comes, I shut down.

Let me tell you a little story about the first week of my first child’s life. I was extremely nervous before my baby was born especially since none of my family was nearby and it was just me and my husband. Cut to the birth where we had a rough time especially when a nurse let me know 5 minutes before pushing that they might have to air flight my sweet baby to the nearest major city an hour away.

My sweet little girl was born and she would not latch which nobody had prepared me for and sent me into a deep spiral of insecurity and sadness. I was at the hospital two nights.

My mother in law and her parents decided that it would be a great idea to show up the night we got home from the hospital. I was honestly too exhausted and sad to even say anything about it even though I had previously imaged just the three of us for the first few weeks until we got the hang of things. That is not what happened at all. Instead, I got “helped” by having my baby held and people all in my business. I had an incredibly difficult time letting anyone know what I wanted. It was an awful experience for me that I have only recently worked past emotionally.

I honestly thought I was going to be my normal self when my baby was born but post partum hormones are no joke and I was plagued with insecurities. I did learn a lot from that experience though. I learned that I can only control my own actions and cannot expect people to know what I want, think, or feel.

Ultimately, I am responsible for my own emotions and what I choose to do about them. Through years of therapy, reading, and discussion, I have learned ways to set boundaries in a way that I feel confident. Allow me to give you the SparkNotes/CliffNotes (is this still a thing?) of how I work through comments about my parenting when it comes to family members with some examples.

1. Make boundaries clearly with yourself.

You cant let others know what your boundaries are if you don’t yourself understand them.

For example: My husband and I have made the decision to not pierce our daughters ears until she asks for it if she ever decides its something she wants. Bodily autonomy is extremely important to us. This is absolutely non negotiable for us.

My mother has often brought up how we should pierce her ears and how if we wait longer, it will be harder but we know where we stand and it is easier to explain to others
(which you don’t have to do but I find useful) when we can clearly communicate the reasoning for our decision even if they still don't agree.

In fact, my mother still doesn’t agree but continuing to state the same “it is her body. We will absolutely take her if and when she decides this is something she wants to do.” has made it clear that we will not shift and thus, left no room for her opinion.

2. Get used to saying no.

Practice if necessary. Check yourself in the mirror and watch yourself saying no. You look cool, don’t you? Remember that next time you have to use that small but powerful word. “No” is a full sentence. You can do it. They are your kids and it is okay for you to set whatever boundaries you find reasonable as well as reject anyone else’s suggestions. It is your life and you are allowed to set limits to your comfort.

For example: My MIL can be…difficult. She raised five kids and thinks she knows best on all things parenting. She doesn’t always give suggestions but she likes to make comments. You know the type. We all have a relative who cannot keep their opinions to themselves.

When my daughter was born, I got a little too excited buying bows and clips, and all other kinds of hair accessories. My son has grown up watching my daughter wearing these accessories and choosing which ones she wants to wear on from the collection. My son has very strong opinions about everything.

In fact, both of my kids do and we encourage it. We want them to know they can make choices and have a choice in their style always. My son one day about six months ago grabbed a hair clip while my daughter was choosing. He handed it to me and pointed at his head. I obliged and put it in his hair.

I kid you not, he went and looked at himself in the large mirror that was a few feet away. He felt so beautiful and you could tell because he was smiling at himself. Since then, he wears clips whenever he wants which is almost daily. He has his favorites and he gets so excited to get to choose from the clip bin.

My MIL is what some would refer to as traditional. She lives in a different state than us and we recently went to see her for the first time since my son was born because of the pandemic. She has seen pictures of my son of course and Facetime’d but I think she always assumed my daughter was putting these clips in his hair.

When we were visiting with her, she asked the first day while my son was wearing his favorite coffee cup clip if we were going to take it off as we were all heading out for brunch. My husband and I, both said no at the same time. She started to say something else and I looked at her and once again stated that “No {we weren’t going to take it off}. He likes them.”

3. Respect your needs. Put yourself and your immediate family first.

I struggled with this a lot at the beginning because my parents are extremely close to us and I found myself feeling like I needed to please everyone and constantly explain myself. It was stressful to say the least.

I have since learned that I will never please everyone and even if it were possible, it is not healthy. I had to learn to put myself and my family first. I know we have all heard the saying about how you can’t pour from an empty cup. This is usually in reference to putting our needs first with our children but we must remember to do the same with our families.

It is completely different to set a boundary when you have had years of conditioning to break through. I noticed that when I was trying to please everyone in my extended family, I was worn so thin that I didn’t have much left for myself or my kids. It was exhausting and honestly not fair to my husband and children.

I had to practice putting myself first daily even when it was something small.

It started with music.

I spent far too long listening to children’s songs that I couldn’t stand. I started handing my oldest a water wow (those things are seriously magic) and listen to music that I liked and made me feel happy.

It completely changed my day to do this small thing. Slowly, I did bigger things like take a few hours for the spa to rest and refresh. This small change of choosing something for me daily, made it easier for me to set boundaries for my own needs with my family.

For example: My mother loves parties and get togethers. She would always ask my husband and I to go with her and because I just wanted to please her, I would go. Despite my own anxiety and exhausting and intense desire to stay home. I fought myself and insisted to my husband that I wanted to go.

As I started to choose myself, I decided that it was not okay for me to feel all those things and ignore them. I said no the first time to a birthday party of a kid I didn’t even know and it was the best day ever. I choose me. I choose my family. You can too.

4. Your kids are watching and learning.

I try to always be super aware of what I do around my kids. I don’t speak poorly about my body in front of my kids ever. I am extremely careful with the way I talk about food. I usually do things with the acute awareness that my kids are watching.

Still, I often forgot that when I didn’t set my boundaries and allowed myself to be uncomfortable, they were watching. I have noticed in the past few months that my oldest is standing up for herself a lot and I am encouraged knowing I am setting the example for her.

For example: Recently, my husbands youngest sibling was playing with my daughter and called her a “goober.” I know this word isn’t necessarily bad but it upset my daughter. She firmly told him “I don’t like that.” I heard her and kept watching. He laughed and called her a goober again.

She came running to me and said he called her a goober and she didn’t like it. I asked her if she used her words to tell him she didn’t like it (even though I had watched/heard the whole thing). She said yes she used her words and he did it again.

My MIL was right next to me and said that their other niece also didn’t like it at first but she got used to it while she chuckled. This did not sit right with me as I saw my little one looking defeated.

I went over to my BIL with her and firmly told him that she does not like being called goober and that he needed to stop. He started to make an excuse for his behavior and I stopped him with a “No. She doesn’t like it. Stop.” He apologized to her.

She grabbed my hand extra tight as we walked away and I saw her smile ever so slightly. Later she told her dad that her uncle wasn’t going to call her goober anymore with a huge smile on her face.

Your parenting choices are yours to make. You are a fantastic parent. Allow yourself the space and the right to raise your children how you see fit (of course, this doesn’t apply to actually dangerous or potentially life-threatening situations). Be confident. Be bold. “No” is a full sentence.

About the Author

Jessica is a Latinx mom to a boy and a girl. She currently lives in California with her husband, babies, and a super cuddly pup. She has many hobbies but her favorites include dancing, hiking, and true crime podcasts.