Tag Archives: motherhood

How to Prepare for a Newborn - SmartMom

How to Prepare for a Newborn: Month By Month

Photo from Barefoot Blonde

Nothing can prepare you for the shock of bringing home a newborn.   Whether it’s your first or your fourth, each child has a different personality and therefore a different set of realities are needed for their arrival home. Regardless, there are some basic tips about how to prepare for a newborn that can help ease the transition from hospital to home. Tackle these steps month-by-month during your pregnancy.

First Trimester: Prepare Yourself

Month 1: Get Through the Month

Sleep (when you can), eat (when you can), and begin to wrap your head around the fact that you will be adding a newborn to your family in less than a year.   Once you are able to acknowledge that all of this is happening, you can get on to the planning stage.

Month 2: Get Healthy

One key piece of advice about how to prepare for a newborn is not for the baby, but for you.  You cannot provide for a child if you are unhealthy, so getting in the habit of eating well, sleeping well and exercising are crucial for making it easy to maintain these habits after the baby comes home. Learn about the best foods to eat while pregnant and load up on leafy greens and whole grains.  Prenatal yoga is also a positive way to stay fit and toned and help prepare your body for labor and delivery.

Month 3: Start Telling People

Once the world knows, things seem to happen.   Second hand items arrive at your home, advice on what items you need (or don’t need) to prepare for a newborn start flowing in. It all becomes real. When it comes time to reveal the gender of your new little one, we have some tips on your party too!

Second Trimester: Prepare Your Life

Month 4: Educate Your Family

Now is the time to start educating your family about how to prepare for a newborn.  If you have other children, invest in books or games that talk about new babies.  Start talking about where the baby will sleep and how things will change.  Make sure the child knows that nothing bad is going to happen when the baby comes home. If you have a pet, start planning a smooth transition for them.   Have a doll that you carry around and treat like a baby.  Expose the pet to other children.  Keep certain areas off limits to the pet.

Month 5: Start Talking About Maternity Leave

Have conversations with your partner about childcare scenarios following your leave.  Sit down and budget so that you can see what needs to change.   If you are thinking of making any career moves (i.e. shifting to staying at home or going to part-time), now is the time to have the conversations with your family and then your employer about how to prepare for a newborn and balance your career.

Month 6 – Take Stock of What Your Need for the Newborn

If this is your first child, create a registry.   If this isn’t your first time around the block, see what you need and reach out to friends to see if you can borrow or use secondhand.  Otherwise, head to the stores to pick up necessary items.

Third Trimester: Prepare for Baby

Month 7: Prepare Your Home

Wash baby clothes and stock up on lotion, wipes and diapers. Disinfect baby toys that may have been in storage for a few years.   Baby proof your home so you don’t have to do it when the baby is mobile.   Channel your urge to nest into dealing with all of the details needed to prepare a space for the newborn in your home. Now is also a good time to pack your hospital bag, too.

Month 8: Install the Car Seat

It’s important to have this done prior to being full-term since you never know when the baby will arrive.   Put together any gear or toys that have directions and could be considered time-consuming.   Start cooking meals to keep in the freezer for easy preparation once the baby is here.

Month 9: Clean Your House

We never said learning how to prepare for a newborn would be all fun and games. This may be one of the last times you will be able to really clean your house (now, granted, you will be huge, so this may not qualify as the most thorough cleanings possible).   Scrub the floors.  Wash the sheets.  Complete any tasks in the house that you’ve been putting off (framing pictures, hanging curtains, etc.).

Not only will attacking these projects help keep your mind off of the pending arrival of your child, it will help you tie up loose ends before the newborn arrives and all focus shifts to the task at hand.



Hello! I’m a first time soon to be mommy! I’m 35 weeks and starting to prepare for my baby boys arrival. What laundry detergent is good to wash newborn and infant clothes? Thanks!

So I’m due in March.. Any tips on how to budget for a newborn? What are must haves for the baby and what can wait until later on ?

I’m being induced on Thursday. Anyone have tips? Schedule for a newborn?

Anyone start getting extra nervous in the weeks before their due date? I’m mostly prepared but so afraid of being a new parent! I’ve honestly only held a newborn a couple of times and worry that I’ll accidentally hurt him. When he cries I know it’s gonna break my heart as well. Becoming a new parent is just soooo much to take in and I don’t know what to expect. But it makes me happy to know my son depends on me too. I love him so much.

Hi moms. I’m going to having my second baby here within two weeks or less depending on when my doc plans to induce me. And it just hit me how scary it’s going to be with a newborn and a two year old. I’ve been overwhelmed with how hard it is now being pregnant and raising my daughter. So I was just looking for advise and tips to make this less scary for all of us and a little less hard. I don’t want my daughter to feel left out or forgotten


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Great Gifts for New Moms - SmartMom

11 Great Gifts for New Moms

Photo by Andria Lindquist

The days after a baby is born can be long, tiring, confusing and emotional. However, a special gift is a nice way to show her that you care and help her transition into motherhood.  Here are 11 great gifts for new moms to help make those overwhelming early days just a little bit easier. 

Delicious Smelling Soaps

Coming home from the hospital can be quite the adventure. A new mom feels sweaty, exhausted, and totally out of her element. Give her a delicious smelling body wash and soap set. Sometimes a quick shower is all it takes to make a new mom feel human again. Also, that quick shower is often the only alone time a new mom gets, so make her feel special and luxurious with some at-home pampering.

Food, Food, Food

The top gift most new moms want is food. Luckily these days, there are so many ways to deliver fresh food to a new mom. Many smaller groceries deliver to homes now, or you could place an order with Peapod or Fresh Direct. Remember to order pre-cut fruits and vegetables, as often new moms are “one arm down” and don’t have time to prep food. Websites like Seamless offer menus for restaurants that deliver food, in case you want to have a pre-made meal delivered.

Homemade Food

Speaking of food, you could also prepare healthy meals for the freezer and bring them to a new mom. Bringing a bag of snack foods is also incredibly helpful for those late night wake ups; make sure the food packages open easily and can be eaten with one hand, such as granola bars, muffins, or yogurt pouches.

New Mug

Often, new moms are up all night with a tiny baby, so give a new mom a mug, but make sure it is spill proof! Add in some bags of herbal tea, or if she likes coffee, perhaps some packets of instant coffee.

Subscription Service

The early days of parenthood require a lot of time being trapped under a sleeping baby; a subscription to an entertainment service would be a wonderful way for a new mom to while away the sleepy hours. Check out Netflix, Hulu, or Audible; also, an iTunes giftcard is a great way for her to buy a new movie or e-book.


Since nights and days become blurred lines in those early days, gift a new, soft, comfy…and stylish bathrobe to a new mom. She will appreciate having the warmth and comfort.


Speaking of comfort, new moms spend a lot of time in bed, whether its trying to catch up on a much needed nap or in between baby feedings at night. A set of super soft sheets would be a perfect gift for a new family.


There’s a lot of awkward down time in new parenthood; gift a new mom a stack of magazines she would love, so she can leaf through them while the baby is sleeping or she’s feeding the baby.

A Little Bundle

A Little Bundle is a gift subscription service for new moms and babies. You purchase a box of hand-picked goodies for both mom and baby to arrive at her door monthly. It’s not easy to get out of the house with an infant, so this will give a new mom something wonderful to look forward to.

The Gift of Pampering

Give the new mom a gift certificate for a manicure/pedicure or massage, and offer to watch the baby while she runs out! Is she breastfeeding, and doesn’t want to go too far? Pay for someone to come to the house for a massage.

Help Out

Don’t have the money to buy a gift? Head over to a new mom’s house and give the gift of your time and hands. Mow the lawn, take the garbage out, take the dogs for a walk, fold laundry, or do some dishes. Even the simplest tasks can be overwhelming when there’s a crying baby in the house, so any help is always appreciated.

For the long run, this newborn sleep book will be super helpful as well!

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C-Section Cost - SmartMom

C-Section Cost May Be More Than More than You Bargained For

Photo by Stephanie Sunderland

When you are anticipating childbirth, especially for the first time, it can be daunting. It’s important to have a doctor you trust and to talk to them about your birth plan. Most women expect to give birth vaginally, but according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about one-third of all births in the U.S. are by Cesarean section (c-section).

Although sometimes c-sections can sound better than giving birth (avoiding contractions and pushing), and scheduling your time of birth seems attractive, c-sections do cost substantially more. Unless medically necessary, you should aim to give birth vaginally when your baby is ready to come out. It will help you save on out-of-pocket medical costs and you will bounce back more quickly physically.

The cost of having a baby

In the U.S., we are billed the most for physician and hospital costs for childbirth of any country in the world. Many other countries charge a flat fee for prenatal care and delivery, but the U.S. health care system charges for each service individually, which drives up the total amount. The cost of vaginal deliveries has increased from $4,918 to $9,294 over the last fifteen years and the average cost of c-sections has risen 70 percent from $8,268 to $14,055, according to Truven Health Analytics.

According to the 2013 report, The Cost of Having a Baby in the United States, the cost of a c-section could vary widely depending on where you live, and if you are uninsured, the news isn’t good. You could be charged as much as $50,000 for a c-section and $30,000 for a vaginal birth.

If you are on Medicaid, there is hope. The program covers over 40% of births nationwide and that number could go up with the advent of the Affordable Care Act. However, in 2013, Medicaid began to try to save money by encouraging hospitals to eliminate elective C-sections due to excessive costs. Now, both Texas and South Carolina deny Medicaid payouts for elective C-sections.

Why have an elective c-section?

If you are thinking of scheduling an elective c-section simply because it seems easier, you should certainly talk to your health care provider about how much you will be expected to pay for it. Even if you think it might be medically necessary, it doesn’t hurt to plan ahead. During my first pregnancy, I had placenta previa, where the placenta blocks the cervix making it dangerous to give birth vaginally, so I had to have a c-section.

My health care plan required that I pay a percentage of my bill up to a capped amount, so having a c-section certainly increased the total and the likelihood that I would have to pay the top fee.

C-section considerations

Be aware that a c-section can cause you to have more c-sections in the future. If you have already had a baby by c-section, giving birth to subsequent children vaginally could be problematic, the issues growing with each c-section. I was encouraged to have another c-section during my second pregnancy because I was having twins and my doctor said it would be safer. Some doctors prefer to play it safe, both to avoid harming the mother or baby and also due to potential legal issues if something were to go wrong.

A 2010 poll reported that 29% of obstetrician college members admitted they were performing additional c-sections in an attempt to avoid being sued. Therefore, it is really important to make sure that your doctor is a good fit for you and you trust their judgment on the best way for you to give birth. Luckily, I did trust my doctor and had good physical outcomes both times, but our bill for both births was high.

Is there anything you can do to avoid paying these high costs? Most of these are associated with your hospital stay, where 59% of vaginal birth costs and 66% of c-section costs are reported to be facility fees. You shouldn’t suddenly decide to have home birth to save money, but you can start by talking to your doctor and other health care professionals early to see what your options are (cheaper facilities or other potential savings), any payment schedules you can work out with your insurance company and anything else you can do to minimize your final bill.

When the time comes, whether you give birth vaginally, at home or through c-section becomes necessary, planning ahead will help you feel more prepared and perhaps reduce your financial burden.

 Code to paste


How expensive was your labor and delivery with insurance?

Starting to think about hospital costs for labor and delivery and curious what it cost everyone

I have had an awful pregnancy and suffer from severe mental illness. My psych thinks I should have a c-section but I’m wondering if my insurance will cover it

Moms who have experience with a c-section with no insurance, how much did you pay?

My doc says I can opt for another c-section or I can try a VBAC. If I opt for the c-section will my insurance cover it?


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kati dimoff- what i've learned feature pic

What I’ve Learned: Kati Dimoff, Photographer

Kati Dimoff is a Portland-based photographer.  She contributes to You Are My Wild , a weekly portrait project that brings together 14 photographers to document how they see their children.  Check out her personal site here.

kati dimoff photography 14

My daughter is 6 years old.  She is endlessly creative.  Sometimes it feels like our whole house has turned into her craft room!  My son is almost four.  He is so confident and has such a big heart.

kati dimoff photography 9

The biggest challenge I faced as a first time mom was time-management.  Where does all my time go?!  I have a to-do list that will take me years if I’m lucky!

kati dimoff photography 8

I don’t think becoming a mom has changed who I am.  I do think it made me more of who I am, if that makes sense… All the ways I’ve always been have been intensified.  My worries and anxieties, my hopes and joys.

kati dimoff photography 6

I mostly go to friends for parenting advice.  Honestly, I go to anyone I can talk to without feeling like I’m a failure (as most parenting books tend to make me feel).  You know it when you have it…  that friend who is appropriately self-deprecating without actually being too negative. But at the same time, does things just enough right, without being too amazing that you feel bad about yourself in comparison!

kati dimoff photography 7

My favorite thing about being a parent is watching little people that I made grow into their own real selves… and of course, naptime snuggles 🙂

Kati Dimoff Photography

I’m not the greatest blogger, in fact, I rarely blog.  It always seems like I run out of time.  But as a photographer, I thought it was important to show my recent work, so I started my blog in 2010.  I mentioned that to-do list that will take me years… blogging is somewhere on it.  At this point, I’m mostly putting recent work up on Facebook (facebook.com/kdimoffphotography) and adding to the gallery on the website.  And of course, I post weekly as part of You Are My Wild.kati dimoff photography 3

I love photographing other moms.  I love showing moms how beautiful they are when they are loving their families.


Check out another mom photographer here.

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Lactivism - SmartMom

Lactivism: Here’s the Bottom Line

Photo from the Normalize Breastfeeding IG feed  

On a recent play-date at the zoo, amidst bare-chested chimpanzees and matronly wallabies with their joeys, the exhibit I couldn’t tear my eyes away from was a buxom woman, bare breast exposed, nursing her child on a very public bench. Given the setting, it seemed oddly natural—mother nature in action. But nonetheless, it was disconcerting to see a naked boob on display with so many curious children around, mine included. “Must be one of those lactivists,” my friend observed.

Those what? I’d heard of feminism, Darwinism, even utopianism, but lactivism was novel to me. What the heck is lactivism anyway? Basically, it is the advocacy of breastfeeding over formula feeding. Lactivism is a contemporary movement striving to ensure that nursing mothers are not discriminated against in public places. Lactivists believe a woman has the right to breastfeed her child anytime, anywhere, in any way she sees fit.

Is That Legal?

Federal law states that a woman may breastfeed her child at any location in a Federal building or on Federal property, if they are authorized to be present. Currently in the U.S., 45 states have laws allowing women to breastfeed in any public or private location (check your state’s laws here). That means it is discriminatory to deny a nursing mother full and equal enjoyment to goods, services, and facilities just because she is breastfeeding. The good news: if you are breastfeeding, the law is basically on your side.

Chick-Fil-A, party of 20

In 2013, a Knoxville, Tennessee Chick-Fil-A employee asked a nursing mom to stop. Soon after, a group of outraged lactivists staged a “nurse-in,” fashioned after a civil rights sit-in, except there were bosoms involved. Around 20 women entered the family restaurant and proceeded to breastfeed their children amongst diners trying to enjoy their meals. It was an effort to educate society about the state law, which allows women to breastfeed anywhere, public or private. It undoubtedly caused some indigestion.

Some call it breastfeeding brouhaha, others call it 100% justified, but lactivism has brought the fight for breastfeeding awareness into, literally, the public eye.

The Shocking Truth

Lactivism, like all great “isms,” is based on a righteous desire: to enable women to comfortably breastfeed wherever they may be. It’s what our bodies were made to do. Where lactivism catches a snag, is when it becomes self-righteous, with promoters denouncing formula feeders and feigning superiority over those who don’t, or cannot breastfeed. The shocking truth: formula fed babies turn out to be smart, beautiful, and talented children too.

The Bottom Line: 

When it does work, breastfeeding is beautiful. I’ve been able to breastfeed each of my three children, and to make breastfeeding successful, I’ve had to use my handy nursing cover plenty of times at the library, at church, even at amusement parks. Long gone are the days of my mother, when women locked themselves away in a room to breastfeed.

But can we meet somewhere in the middle? Bare boobs on public benches aren’t necessary. There are so many wonderful cover-up products out there that make it quite convenient to breastfeed your baby while maintaining privacy and appeasing other’s comfort as well. People today are much more accepting to public breastfeeding when it’s done tactfully.

Breastfeeding is one of the miracles of the female body. It doesn’t work for everyone, and those women shouldn’t feel guilty, or ostracized from other breastfeeders. The way you feed your child should not be an “us” and “them” issue. Instead, we should focus more on being the loving, caring mothers our children deserve.


Some moms can’t produce enough to even have this problem – here is some information on milk sharing.



Hi ladies, I have a question. What do you think about breastfeeding in public?

Breastfeeding in public… opinions? Suggestions?

“Hello moms! What tips do you all have for breastfeeding in public? I love feeding my dd but not sure how to go about doing so in public? By the way she is only 9 days old if that makes a difference.”

It really makes me mad when women get kicked out of public places for breastfeeding in public. We use covers and it’s a natural thing that shouldn’t be looked down on & people that get mad about BFing in public need to grow up a little.

Tips on breastfeeding the LO in public?

Public Breastfeeding Rant- having a debate w my mom on it is hysterical. She is so against a woman just whipping it out to feed. I’m on team whip it out and who gives a sh**. I’m done w having to be insecure about having a baby. How can a woman breastfeeding her child in public be offensive but the Victoria secret models breast blown up and plastered on the side of a store not be. And why do I have to cover up to feed my baby in public but a woman spilling out of a low cut top doesn’t have to?

Why does Breastfeeding in public have to be so taboo?! I hate not being confident enough to just do it. I even got myself a cute cover and everything but just find myself rushing home to feed my son.

“Hi Mommas! Have a couple of questions.

1) what do you all use to replace your coffee habits/cravings? I’m breastfeeding so have decreased my coffee intake, but miss my coffee. I miss the whole ritual. Had a Chai Tea Latte today, was pretty good!

2) where do breastfeeding moms duck out while breastfeeding in public? I’m pretty modest and sometimes have a tough time finding places.”

I went to Walmart yesterday with my 2 month old and he would not stop crying near the end and I couldn’t get anything done! It was because he was hungry but I’m breastfeeding and it’s hard to find a place to nurse him in public. Any advice on how to make it easier?

Was there always such a fuss over breastfeeding in public or do I just notice it now as a first time mom?


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What I've Learned - Julie Schumacher, Writer

What I’ve Learned: Julie Schumacher, Writer

Julie Schumacher is the founder of Well Turned Words, copywriting and editing studio. She’s also the co-founder of Forth Chicago which seeks to celebrate and connect creative, entrepreneurial women in Chicago. 

Tell us about your family!

We have one daughter, Loie Jane, who is 3. She’s a copper top and is very into ’80s music and feta cheese. 

What I've Learned - Julie Schumacher As a first time mom, I thought that I was going to knock it out of the park. I wasn’t super nervous and felt that, if our daughter was born healthy, I was going to be one of those “at ease” awesome moms.

I didn’t. I wasn’t. I got knocked on my ass. I didn’t sleep, didn’t eat, and worried incessantly those first few weeks. I’m wired anxious and assumed I’d rally…because I always rally. At about 8 weeks postpartum, I was hospitalized with postpartum depression. It was just the worst.  My mom moved in from Philadelphia, we brought in an incredible post partum doula, my husband protected and provided like a beast, and we got me in to see an incredible therapist in conjunction with a smart medication plan through a psychiatrist.

It is so, so, so humbling to have gone through that. I’ve never failed at something so spectacularly before, or so publicly. Now, I’m not saying I failed at motherhood. My kid’s great and we’re super bonded and all that and I think I’m a pretty great mom. But in the moment and the months after there was a significant amount of self-confidence and identity rebuilding that had to happen. I had to relearn to love myself, accept way more help than I’d ever been willing to take in a lifetime, and was forced to figure out what it would take to claw my way toWhat I've Learned - Julie Schumacher happiness. And on top of that, I had this wee little beastie I wanted to love and get to know and take care of and felt like it was happening with a hand tied behind my back (and blindfolded and while balancing on a very small, wiggly beam). We fought back hard and I was very quickly back on my feet (which is not to discount any woman whose fight is longer. Go mama, go!).

That’s a pretty big shadow, though, to walk out of. Even now I have to explain that PPD doesn’t mean I ever tried to harm myself, or our daughter, and I am not convinced everyone believes me. Sounds awful, right? It’s one of the reasons I’m vocal and open about my experience. More women need help and more people need to know how to help them.

The collaterals, though, are remarkably all positive. I saw how strong my marriage was. I saw how rad my mom and husband are. Seriously. My mom was indefatigable and my husband’s shoulders carried way more than I assumed a human could. They never doubted me those many nights I loudly announced I would never get better.

Our new neighbors in Oak Park stepped up and carried us through. Friends sat with me while I wept on the porch and one friend was charged with dragging me to movies so I’d leave the house…those are some damn fine friends. What I've Learned - Julie SchumacherIt was through therapy and talking with my husband and closest of friends (a mom entrepreneur champion Jill Salzman of the Founding Moms) that I took the years of research and teaching of writing and launched Well Turned Words. I was given time and permission and support to do something I always kind of thought I could do but would likely have never done…because who actually gets paid to write? Now, our world makes so much sense on this path. Our family is happy and strong. It was a slog. No doubt. But hot damn, I’m happy and our family is thriving.

I sometimes wonder if a single part of my body, mind, worldview, approach to life, or future goals have not been touched by parenthood. On a very basic scale, having a kid is a nice swift kick to the shins of whatever routines you enjoyed pre-kids. On a larger scale, I think more about modeling for her an expansive life. If I let fear, regret, guilt dictate how I move through the world, she’ll see that. If I don’t do something because I’m just too tired or if I don’t handle a relationship with care, she’ll see that. If I lead with a strong partnership, good friendships, grace, confidence, humor, sass, joy, and a dash of “well, I guess we’ll see what happens!” she’ll see that. I want her to know she can have many acts, be many women, and do many things in a single lifetime. So I have to live that first. When I need parenting advice, first and foremost, I talk to my husband.

What I've Learned - Julie Schumacher We share what we see, strategize, offer gentle suggestions on something that worked for one of us. He’s the person I chose to parent with so his opinion or ideas matter more than anyone else’s to me. Then, I have a phenomenal community of women. I highly recommend surrounding yourself with women better than you. My mom and sister are awesome and talented mothers (and great overall) as are some close friends who I’ve known since college and met as a mom. I also have plenty of dad friends I think are just phenomenal parents. I don’t just talk to other people with girl parts. A good parent is a good parent.

I have an online community as well. I have the SpitfireMom Society, which I started with a design partner in Denver and appreciate the conversations there about business and family life. I adore Ask Moxie and the community she’s built. I also have a top secret group of women from a birth board now connected on Facebook. We all have kids the same age and were bonded over those first months. We’re all over the country and about as different as can be but it’s a safe, warm space to say out loud the stuff that goes through my head. We call ourselves the Mamascenti. It’s silly and awesome. What I've Learned - Julie Schumacher

My favorite thing about being a parent is the forced intentionality. I have to be more purposeful and thoughtful about what I say and do, both around her but also in general. The selflessness is hard but great creativity emerges through constriction, I think. There’s also the heart-explodingly-huge amount of love I get to experience when she says “Mama?” and then asks me something weird. For my marriage, I love having a whole new way to fall in love with my husband. I knew he was great. Watching him as a father? Wow. Watching Lo, my favorite thing is her acquisition of language. It’s like watching civilization evolve. That sounds ridiculous. But it’s really incredible to witness and hear how our intonations and expressions regenerate in her. She says “awesome” a lot. Not surprising.

Are there routines that you’ve set up in your family to help things run more smoothly?

Yup. M/W/F I get up with Loie and get her ready for school. T/Th my husband gets up with her and I sleep in. I say once a month I am going to start getting up to work out. I will let you know if that ever happens. We tend to each sleep in one weekend day, which is superb. We encourage each other to spend time out at night with friends. I’m home with her on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We do a play date or go to the library or play outside in the mornings. Sometimes we just hang around the house in our PJs all morning. We host a toddler music class here on Thursday afternoons. One of us takes her to school, the other picks her up. Whoever is putting her down for bed, theWhat I've Learned - Julie Schumacher other person is prepping a late dinner or tidying up. We try to keep the house in good shape because we both work from home and my husband is a neatnik. We’re pretty rigid about her sleep. A well-rested kid makes the whole world sunnier and protecting her sleep 85% of the time means we can be flexible the other times. We have a weird kid who sleeps in so we get her up at 7 so she’ll take a nap. And we wake her up from her nap 90% of the time so she’ll fall asleep at night. Please don’t throw things at us. I know most moms would kill to have a 7am wakeup. We all seem to thrive on routine. We talk about whether she’s a creature of habit (she yawns at 1:15 if we’re late putting her down for a nap) because it’s in her DNA or in the air of the home.

What do you know now that you wish you knew back then? (as a first time mom) 

That you’ll find a way. That any thing your kid is doing that feels unsolvable, untenable, or totally bizarre will likely be replaced by something that feels equally permanent, annoying, or odd. And you’ll be so busy worrying about the new thing that you will forget to realize that the previous worry has resolved itself. That cyclicality of parenthood is both comic and infuriating to me now. That no one gives you a reward or medal if you refuse to ask for help or refuse help that is offered. Even now, after being knocked on my rump, I still want to do it all myself. That’s lame. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. And if someone offers to hold the baby so you can pee in peace or take a nap? JUST SAY YES. What I've Learned - Julie Schumacher

When it comes to fun, I always crave travel. My husband and I like to cook together, I love baking. The fun of chopping and stirring and seasoning as a couple was a huge piece of our courtship. As counterintuitive as it sounds, the meticulousness of baking is very calming for me. Give me some flour to sift and something to level and I’m in heaven.

I like to talk. A lot. So talking with my friends and husband about things inconsequential and grand. Plan and scheme for the next phases and iterations of our life. If I’m not talking, I’m reading. I’m in an excellent book club of smarter-than-me women who actually read the books. Our neighborhood is ripe with families so we do things locally, the Farmer’s Market, the park. Because we like the parents of the kids our kid knows even toddler birthday parties at jumpy places can be fun. Forth Chicago, a creative salon I run with two other Smart Moms, is so much fun but not super unwind-y. It does connect me to other women who like to talk about all sorts of things. And I What I've Learned - Julie Schumacherget to try out new parts of my brain through the beauty of our events and revisit the parts of my brain that love facilitating conversations.

With my daughter, I love reading. I will read the same damn story over and over and over. And there is nothing a 3 year old likes to do more than read the same story over and over and over. When it comes to values, we talk about wanting our daughter to move confidently and with empathy and awareness through the world. To have a chance to try many things she might like and to fail miserably at some and experience success in others and to realize there’s value in each. To cultivate community and to be civically minded. To be an excellent friend. To be able to speak her mind and to listen with equal measure. To have a strong moral compass rooted in global and progressive values. I want her to have a social sport she can play with friends into adulthood (that is one of those “because I don’t” things). I want her to be a good communicator, always put her shopping cart away, and to vote (because I do).

Photo by Kelly Allison

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The Benefits of Attachment Parenting - SmartMom

The Benefits of Attachment Parenting

I had never heard about the benefits of attachment parenting until I had my first child. It wasn’t through prenatal classes of the volume of books that hospital sent me home with though, it was from searching the internet.  As a new mom I found myself questioning everything my daughter did and every decision my husband and I made. Though I was following instincts, it was as if I was looking for reassurances via the internet to give me the pat on the back that I needed. I needed to hear that I was doing the right things and that I wasn’t alone.

Breastfeeding was something I was determined to do, not just from a nutritional standpoint as my education and prenatal care had taught me, but as a personal feat I wanted to conquer. I was determined to make it to at least a year of exclusive breastfeeding. What I wasn’t prepared for, even in all of my internet searching and book reading was how difficult the nights would be. I was more than glad to be doing for my daughter, and I enjoyed the time with her but I was beyond exhausted.

One night I couldn’t handle anymore nighttime two hour feeds. It took forever to get her settled after a late night feed so one night, out of desperation, I pulled her from her bassinet and laid her beside me, in our bed. That was the first night of almost ten months of bed sharing. Though I didn’t know it until I stumbled upon it in the internet, I was practicing what Dr. William Sears calls, attachment parenting.

Attachment parenting is a series of bonding techniques that, in theory, strengthens the bond between the child and parent. Proponents of attachment parenting argue that this form of parenting creates a stronger, more emotionally-stable child and healthier relationships. As someone who didn’t seek out to practice it in the beginning I am so glad I did. I am a huge advocate of attachment parenting as there are so many benefits.

In practicing the so called ‘’seven baby B’s’’ my life became infinitely easier. It was so much more natural to be ‘’this mom.’’ I was sleeping more at night and was actually looking forward to our evening family cuddle sessions every night. Baby wearing during the day kept my daughter calm and gave me more freedom to get stuff done, it all just make my life easier and felt right.

The bonding we experienced, as a family was an unexpected bond I never imagined and wouldn’t change for anything in the world. Breastfeeding became a sanctuary for me. When she finally self-weaned at 14 months I was a little heartbroken but knew it was her time which made it a little easier.

When it came time to move our daughter to her own bed, around 12 months of age, she wasn’t sleeping great. Books were telling me she should be sleeping through the night with ease and that if she isn’t, then crying it out would be the only solution. I’m so glad I studied Dr. Sears’ statements about sleep training. Again, attachment parenting gave me the confidence to trust my instincts to do what was best for our family.

I can’t say enough good about the benefits of attachment parenting. As a self-confessed parenting book and website junkie, I feel like I have a good knowledge base of what it out there in terms of advice. Dr. Sears’ attachment parenting is the most natural form of parenting ‘’advice’’ I have read and faithfully followed. With a happy, confident two year old running our house, I am confident attachment parenting was the best decision for our family.





Any breastfeeding moms practice attachment parenting?

I want to move my 3 month old EBF LO to his own room. Will he be any worse off for this?

How many other moms practice attachment parenting?

My LO falls asleep for naps in my arms or on the breast. I am firm believer in attachment parenting but I am curious if he will eventually learn to fall asleep on his own?

Any working moms passionate about attachment parenting?

I haven’t left my 5 month old for more than 20 minutes. My husband wants to hire a babysitter so we can have some time alone but that makes me very nervous. Any advice?

At what age do babies start developing attachments to cosleeping?

My 6 month old nurses himself to sleep for naps and bedtime, and comfort nurses if he wakes up at night. Will he learn how to soothe on his own as he gets older?

Does anyone else have a child who is very attached to them and will cry until they go back to holding them?

Can anyone tell me more about attachment parenting? I think I want to practice it when my child is born

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My Hospital Bag - SmartMom

My Hospital Bag: What do I Really Need?

When it comes to what to pack for hospital or birth center where you deliver your baby, it’s easy to get carried away, filling your bag with the adorable baby clothes that you received at your shower and from your new baby registry.

What most new moms forget is that a newborn baby really needs very little for those first few days. To help you pack lighter, we’ve outlined what your baby will really wear from birth through that first car ride home. This is what I packed for my hospital bag. 

You don’t need baby clothes during your hospital stay.  After your baby is born, the nurse or midwife will dress the baby in a little onesie – or if you live in a warmer climate, just a diaper – and will most likely keep him swaddled in a thin “receiving blanket.” They’ll also put a little hat on your baby’s head to keep it warm, as babies lose a lot of heat through their heads as newborns – they’re not yet able to regulate their own body temperature.

Some hospitals offer little hats knit by local volunteers, while others offer simple stretch fabric caps. If you’re really feeling fashion-forward, feel free to bring your own, but it’s unlikely that your little one will wear anything else until you get home.

Bring layers for the trip home, just in case. As a general rule, infants need to wear one more layer of clothing than an adult  would wear, unless it’s very hot outside. Consider the season it will be when you deliver your baby and plan the type of outfit accordingly. If you’ll be outside in the cold, bring a comfortable sweater or a fleece coat for your baby.  If the weather is warm, but not scorching, bring a long-sleeved onesie, a sweater or a light coat to protect your baby from the elements.  If it is exceptionally hot, you’ll be fine with a single layer of clothing and a receiving blanket, but you may still want to buy a sun hat or a light shade blanket to protect from UV rays.

Keep it simple. We all want to find the perfect outfit for bringing home baby, but remember that for the majority of the time, your baby will be wrapped in blankets and his clothing probably won’t be visible.  If you have to put your baby into a car seat, that means a buckle between the legs and over the shoulders. A simple layette set is practical — and let’s be honest here, your baby will look adorable no matter what he wears.

Bring a backup outfit. If you’ve been stocking up on newborn clothing, you might want to think twice. Some babies are born too big for newborn sizes and immediately require size 0-3 months. Since there’s no way to predict exactly how big or small your baby will be, bring two or three clothing changes just in case your little peanut isn’t so little.

Bring extra blankets. The hospital will usually provide a thin cotton receiving blanket, but if you’re planning to swaddle your baby, most first-time parents prefer something a little more user-friendly. Look for muslin, cotton or soft bamboo swaddling blankets to keep your baby wrapped up tight, especially if he likes to wriggle around during those first few days. 


Any suggestions on what to pack in your hospital bag. What made you comfortable?

I’m preparing my hospital bag – any tips on what I should add?

What are some things you ladies didn’t put in your hospital bag but wish that you did. Also when did you pack the bag?

Must haves for hospital bags? Opinions?

What are you things you actually found useful in your hospital bag?

What do I need to pack in my hospital bag and what did you wear after delivery?

When should I pack my hospital bag and what should I bring for the baby?

When packing a hospital bag did you pack maternity clothes?

When I pack my son’s hospital bag for delivery do I need to take diapers or does the hospital provide those?

I’m 32 weeks and getting my hospital bag together and I have no idea what to pack

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New Mom Support Group - SmartMom

9 Ways SmartMom is the Best New Mom Support Group

Photo by Jenny Lewis

Community is the concept that came to mind over and over again while we were developing our SmartMom app. How could we build a community of moms that could help and support each other? Well, we think we’ve done it. Here are nine reasons that SmartMom is the best new mom support group. 

New Mom Support Group 0a

1. Ask questions. It’s easy. Just download the app, create a profile and start asking your mommy questions. Trouble breast feeding? Your child is a biter? You don’t know what that rash is on your little one’s foot? Everyone has them and now you can connect with other moms that have the answers.New Mom Support Group 1a

2. Answer questions. Maybe you are a wizard at getting your child to sleep at night, but solid foods are giving your little one fits. After you ask about eating, be sure to help out those who are sleepless. Your trick might solve someone else’s problem, and someone out there might know how to make strained peas yummy.

3. Form local play groups. Hey, there are moms online day and night to chat with, but sometimes you need to get out to the nearest park and get some sunshine. Live in Monroe, Michigan or Placerville, California? Reach out on SmartMom and see who might live in your town.

4. Form support groups. Does your child have a specific diagnosis? ADHD or acid reflux? Tethered spinal cord or William’s Syndrome? Having trouble finding others who are going through the same thing? Come on over. SmartMom can help you find others who know how you feel. Sometimes that can make all the difference – chatting with someone (online or offline) who understands your daily challenges.New Mom Support Group 2

5. Activity. There are over 500 questions and answers posted to SmartMom every day. You can see who liked your answers on the Activity tab and you can follow certain questions or just see whose question hasn’t been answered yet. There are all sorts of ways to interact with individuals on SmartMom.

6. Followers/Likes. Your questions and answers really count. Not only do they help other moms, but you can develop followers and earn points for other moms liking your questions or answers. These points can go toward contests or other promotions.New Mom Support Group 4

7. Contests. New moms (all moms) need stuff! Come see our contests and win a diaper bag or a shopping spree at Old Navy. Things change quickly, so check back often and win some clothes or baby gear.

8. Blog. Still need some advice? Our SmartMom blog regularly tackles topics like play date etiquette, table manners and great holiday foods for toddlers, among many other things. Our group of experienced moms could answer a question you didn’t even know you had yet.

9. Twitter. Need more SmartMom? Join us on Twitter. Our community manager welcomes all followers and tweets out new blog posts, interesting links and generally great information for new moms. Did you read the latest article in the New York Times about importance of reading to babies? We did, and now you can, too.

So download SmartMom and start sharing your wisdom, get answers for the things that drive you crazy, post your triumphs and let us all “ooh and ahh” over pictures of your little ones. We are waiting for you.

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what i've learned shelby brakken feature image 4

What I’ve Learned: Shelby Brakken, Photographer

This week we spoke with Shelby Brakken, an incredibly talented family and lifestyle photographer from Portland, Oregon for our “What I’ve Learned” column.  Shelby is a part of You Are My Wild, a weekly portrait project that brings together 14 photographers to document how they see their children.  You can view her personal website here.

shelby brakken for smartmom

“My daughter Indy is 7.  When she gets home from school, she usually fixes herself an arugula salad and turns on phantom of the opera. When my son, Sawyer, walks through the door, he immediately starts building things with cardboard toilet paper rolls and duct tape.  He is four and he wants to be a ninja when he grows up.Shelby Brakken for SmartMom

One of the hardest things for me as a parent is the constant process of letting go.  The slow realization that I can’t control everything; that i have to let my kids experience things as they will.  Learning to be there for them as a guide, but allowing them independence and self-sufficiency; trusting that they will be able to work out problems on their own, and that they will be better for it in the long run.  There is nothing harder than watching them make mistakes, but there is nothing as powerful as watching them learn from consequences.

shelby brakken for smartmom

Becoming a mother has has made me more aware, more grateful, more neurotic, more compassionate, more creative, and more chaotic.  My children constantly help shape me and force me to be more patient, more loving, more open.  They remind me to appreciate the little things, to be more present and to see the wonder in places I would overlook.

shelby brakken the smallest ocean

I have sought parenting advice from my mom, friends, books, and classes–I gather information and put it into my parenting arsenal.  But I have also learned to trust myself, and go with my instincts.  Some of my best parenting decisions have come when I simply listen to my gut.

shelby brakken little orange slices

I think about my time with my children as this long series of moments. There are the crazy and wild moments with laughter or crying, the big moments when something exciting or hard is happening, and there are the little moments–the ones that we barely notice because they are small and quiet.  I love the little moments with my children: the ones that are subtle and fleeting: the way Sawyer’s eyelashes look when he’s asleep; the way Indy’s hair looks in the sunlight.

shelby brakken for smartmom

All of these seconds, minutes and days eventually amount to a story and then a life.  My favorite thing about being a parent is helping create moments with my children, which ultimately shape their story.  I love the incredible process of watching them become themselves, and the part I get to play in that unfolding.

Shelby Brakken for SmartMom

I started my blog to document my children.  To keep track of the way they looked at certain ages; the funny things they did. I want them to be able to look back and know that I was by their side the whole time. I want them to be able to look back and know their story.”


Check out another photographer mom here.

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