25 Books of Christmas Tradition

25 Books of Christmas!

This is our third year doing the 25 Books of Christmas and I get a lot of questions about it so I wanted to write up how we do it and share some ideas for where to buy the books and how to display them!

What it is:  Like most crafty mom ideas, this one came from Pinterest.  The general idea is this- wrap up 25 books, let your kid open one every night leading up to Christmas (so open first book on November 30th, last book on Christmas Eve).  We always read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” on the 24th but otherwise the books are in no particular order.

Where to buy the books:  Most of my books are from the local consignment sales.  Kansas City Moms, I’ve had the best luck finding holiday books at the Just Between Friends Overland Park sale.  They are in a bin marked “Christmas books.” Go to the presale for the best selection. You’ll find them at the fall sale but sometimes I see them in the spring sale too.  Other places to find books: Half Price Books, Amazon (check out the used option, you can find titles for super cheap there), and Marshalls/TJ Maxx also has a great selection of holiday books at a discounted rate.

What books to get:  This is totally up to you.  I do NOT buy a new set of 25 books a year.  Props to you if you are bout that life but I am not, lol.  I usually add one or two new books a year and retire some of the books that Gretchen has outgrown (board books, lift the flap, etc).  Our 25 books are all Christmas or winter themed.  I know some that don’t go for a theme but just 25 random books.  I keep with the theme and after the holiday season is over the books go in a bin back to the basement.  So they are “new” every year.

Here are the books I am using this year.  For a complete list of all the books we’ve used since starting the tradition check out my board on Pinterest.

  1. Twas the Night Before Christmas
  2. Olivia Helps Save Christmas
  3. Frosty the Snowman
  4. Angelina’s Christmas
  5. Llama Llama Holiday Drama
  6. Christmas Wombat
  7. The Twelve Days of Christmas
  8. How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas?
  9. Little Blue Truck’s Christmas
  10. The Polar Express
  11. Snowmen at Christmas
  12. Madeline’s Christmas
  13. Bear Stays Up for Christmas
  14. If You Take a Mouse to the Movies
  15. Snowmen at Night
  16. Merry Christmas Everybody (a Grover story)
  17. Corduroy’s Christmas
  18. The Littlest Christmas Tree
  19. Merry Christmas Curious George
  20. Chick n Pug Christmas
  21. Madeline in Texas
  22. Clifford’s First Christmas
  23. A Charlie Brown Christmas
  24. Paddington Bear and the Christmas Surprise
  25. My March to the Manger

How to display your books: Pinterest is full of ideas for this, but here are the ways I’ve done it.

2013:  Wrapped each book and numbered them.  Displayed them in Gretchen’s front facing bookshelf.

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2014:  Wrapped each book but did not number them.  Placed them in a basket under the tree. Let Gretchen pick a random book each night.  (She was 2 so telling her which book to choose was not gonna happen).

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2015:  Laziness won out and I did not wrap the books this year!  Instead I put the name of each book in one of these little envelopes from an advent kit I got at Michaels on clearance last year.  She will open the envelopes from 25 down to 1 (good way for her to practice her numbers!) and we will bring her the book from wherever we decide to stash them.

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Anyone else do this tradition?  Would love to know what books you use and how you display them!

Gretchen’s Dollhouse

We decided a long time ago that Gretchen’s big birthday gift when she turned 3 would be a dollhouse.  My friend Ashley and her husband built one and we figured we would do the same.  Life got away though and pretty soon we were a few weeks out from her birthday with no time to DIY, so on a whim I searched craigslist thinking maybe I could find a dollhouse that we could personalize when BOOM, there it was. The perfect dollhouse, made more perfect by the fact that it was fully furnished.  I wasted no time and picked it up within a couple of hours.  Here it is set up in my basement.

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I wanted a white dollhouse to fit in with the decor on our main floor and eventually Gretchen’s bedroom, so I got small sample cans of white paint at the hardware store.  I spent many many hours painting 2-3 coats on it and getting in all the nooks and crannies.  Painting the stairs took the most time (fortunately they detach!)  The balcony also had a lot of little notches that needed painting with a teenie tiny paintbrush.

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Here it is in progress.  I put all the furniture in it to determine which room would house which furniture so that I could make very important decorating decisions.  Then I hit up Michaels for scrapbooking paper and enlisted Tyler’s help in measuring, cutting, and installing it.  I’m not good with math or precise measurements.

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As you can see here the bottom level of the house is an add on to the top two floors.  This made painting and hanging paper so much easier.  I wish all 3 floors came apart, painting the inside of the roof was a PITA.

The surprise of the dollhouse was almost ruined, when 2 days before her birthday Gretchen and I had to take cover in the basement for a tornado warning.  The dollhouse was in plain sight, but maybe it was Daniel Tiger on the laptop or the thunder and sirens distracting her but she didn’t say a thing about the dollhouse.  Whew!

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So excited about her dollhouse!  (and her Daniel Tiger party!)

Ready for the full tour?  Here we go…IMG_6239

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Kitchen

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Living room.

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Dining/Piano Room

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Bathroom

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Master Bedroom

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Girl bedroom/nursery (furniture is Calico Critters)

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Roof Deck #1

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Boy bedroom/nursery

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Balcony

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Roof deck #2: playground!

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Notice the windows on the second floor open and shut. Gretchen was so excited when she figured this out.  She loves to shove a bunch of furniture in the master bedroom and then close the windows to hide the mess.

I will probably paint some of the furniture and I’d like to hang some things on the walls and sew some rugs and bedding but we’ll see when I get around to all of that.

Gretchen LOVES playing with it.  Her grandparents and aunts and uncles sent her the Calico Critters figurines and furniture and her favorite thing to do is feed the tiny bottles to the tiny bunnies.  She is really getting into pretend play so this dollhouse provides hours of entertainment for her.

We paid $150 cash for the house and all the furniture and accessories that came with it.  I added up what we would have spent if we bought all of that new on Amazon and it was $420!!  So I’d say we got a pretty good deal on Craigslist!  The only thing “wrong” with it was that it is missing the garage door, but that’s really not a big loss and we used that room for the dining room anyway.  I may get the add on garage some day but for now the dollhouse is taking up enough real estate in my dining room!

If you are wondering what brand the dollhouse is, it is Ryan’s Room, as is much of the furniture.  It is great quality and I’m hoping will hold up for many years of play!

Three year photos

My friend Brooke took Gretchen’s photos a couple of weeks ago and we LOVE them.  She was able to capture Gretchen’s personality so well.  We took the pictures around the Olathe Community Center.  The dress is from Hanna Andersson and we called it her “Elsa dress” to convince her to wear it.  There was a lot of bribery involved in getting her dressed and ready for these photos but she definitely earned her ice cream!  If you are looking for a photographer in the Kansas City area I highly recommend Brooke German!

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Week Full of Fun

June has been a very full month for us so far, and last week we crammed in tons of fun activities both during the day and in the evening.

Evening Visit to Deanna Rose Farmstead:  On Tuesdays and Thursdays during the summer you can visit the farmstead in the evening between 5-8pm (for free just like during the day).  Activities like feeding the goats, fishing, and hayrides are not available during these hours, but you can still see all the animals, explore the gardens, and play on the playgrounds.  The general store and ice cream parlor were also open.  The night we were there the weather was absolutely perfect and I counted fewer than 20 people during the entire time we were there.  It was practically empty!  Much easier to appreciate the beauty at the farmstead without strollers and screaming children everywhere you turn!

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Blueberry Picking at The Berry Patch: This was our second year picking blueberries at The Berry Patch and I was pleasantly surprised by how many more berries ended up in Gretchen’s bucket than her mouth! 😉  She was a great helper, picking the blueberries close to the ground that others had missed.  The patch is open until 9pm so we decided to go after dinner.  There were only a few other families there and the field we were picking in wasn’t as muddy as we feared it might be after all the rain.  Lots of bugs but I remembered our bug spray for once.  We came home with about 7lbs of blueberries and made a pie and blueberry muffins to celebrate Fathers Day, yum!

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Craft and Draft at The K: Our 9th anniversary is next week and we decided to go to a Royals game to celebrate.  Hud had talked the new Craft and Draft area up so much we figured we should try it out.  We bought tickets with reserved seating and $20 credit towards food/drink for each of us.  The seats were comfortable, the view was great
(and covered so no rain on our heads!) and a waitress brought us all the food and drink we could stomach. The menu was gastro pub fare, nothing over $15 and the portions were generous.  I had street tacos and Tyler had the pork belly.  The Royals won, completing a 4 game sweet of the Brewers!

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Oceans of Fun: I believe the last time I visited OOF was the summer after I graduated from high school, so 13 years ago!  A few things had changed but many of the same slides and attractions are still there.  The park looked bright and clean for such an old water park, which was nice to see.  My friend Brie had some free passes so all we had to pay for was parking (which is $15 now! times have changed!)  We took our kiddos down to the new Splash Island area, which is basically a huge splash pad with shade.  Gretchen was a bigger fan of Coconut Cove, my favorite as a kid.  I was surprised to see that there are 4 areas well suited for little kids now. The two I mentioned plus Captain Kidd’s and Crocodile Isle. If we lived closer I might consider a season pass.

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Leawood Aquatic Center:  One of our summer fun list items was to try a new pool. We typically go to Blackbob Bay since we have a membership for the Olathe pools.  Several friends recommended we check out this pool so we decided to go as part of our Fathers Day festivities.  This pool has 3 separate areas for small kids, including a splash pad, zero depth pool with lots of floating animals and a whale slide, and another shallow pool with a little slide and fountains.  Gretchen said her favorite part was the “rock slide.”  We had a great time minus all the mosquito bites!  They were feisty today.

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favorites: 6-12 months

Yes I know Gretchen is almost 16 months old but I’m finally getting around to this!  Gotta do it before I forget!  I already wrote about our favorites for birth-6 months here.

SLEEPING:

sleep sacks:  Initially we used long sleeved fleece sleepsacks from Carters, but Gretchen outgrew the length around 9 months.  At that point we switched to sleeveless sleepsacks from Halo and Aden and Anais cozy sleepsacks.  You can find the Halo sacks used at consignment sales for about $3 a piece and many are in like new condition.

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Carters long sleeved fleece sack

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A&A cozy sleepsack

motorola video monitor:  we transitioned Gretchen to the crib in her room around 6 months and the video monitor has been awesome for spying on her and giving us peace of mind.  I can watch her to determine if her sounds mean she’s upset, stuck in the slats of the crib, or just playing around.

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I seeeeeee youuuuuu

loveywe didn’t introduce a lovey until Gretchen was 6 months old.  She had ditched the pacifier at this point so we wanted to introduce a different comfort object.  Angel Dear loveys came highly recommended so I got a set of the pink hippos.  Later on I got another set so she has 4 and we rotate them out as they get gross (she chews on the ears).  These are small, soft, and adorable.  It stays in the crib, we don’t allow her to carry it around.  We do take it on road trips as it helps her sleep on long rides.

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FEEDING:

fisher price space saver:  I didn’t want a large high chair taking up space in our dining room, so the space savers was the right choice for us.  My only real complaint about it is that the straps get really dirty and I don’t think they can be removed, at least not easily.  We’ve traveled with our space saver which is so convenient when visiting great grandparents or friends that don’t have a high chair, it will also come in handy on vacation next year!

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great high chair, but those Green Sprouts bibs suck, don’t buy them.

organic pouches: I never got into making my own baby food, and baby led weaning didn’t really take off with Gretchen until closer to 10 months, so we used store bought purees.  Initially Gerber until I read about the traces of lead found in their food, then we switched to organic pouches such as plum organics, happy baby, sprout, and ellas.  I shopped around for good deals. BRU and Buy Buy Baby often have sales on plumb organics where they are $1 a pouch.  You can find coupons on the brand’s FB pages and Target often puts pouches on sale so you can combine target sales/coupons with manufacturer coupons.  Also emailing the companies and requesting coupons worked out for me.  Zulily also has sales on these pouches from time to time if you watch.  Just make sure you factor in shipping to see if it’s really a good deal.  I split shipping with a local friend during one sale and now share a Zulily unlimited account with her, which greatly reduced my shipping costs!

boon screw on spoons:  We loved these things.  If you use pouches regularly pick up a couple of packs of these screw on spoons.  Walmart also sells a knock off version.  Makes feeding on the go or even at home quick and there’s so little clean up.  Before I was putting the puree in a bowl and feeding her with  a spoon.  Once I got the screw ons it meant fewer dishes 🙂

munchkin sippy cups: Gretchen was not interested in a sippy until about 10 months.  Instead of going and buying a bunch of different kinds I asked my mom friends to bring their rejected sippy cups over to playgroup so that we could try several different kinds and figure out what she liked.  It worked and we then went out and bought a bunch of the type she preferred and returned the ones she didn’t like to our friends.

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omg i was so relieved when she finally started using that cup!

PLAYING:

exersaucer & jumperoo– we used these daily from about 6 months to 9-10 months.  Gretchen would get a little time in them each day while we were trying to get things done around the house.  She loved playing with the toys and bouncing like a maniac.  Just beware, we’ve had our one and only poop blowout in a cloth diaper in the jumperoo (pooperoo we called it that day).  The compression on the diaper can cause explosions.  I got my exersaucer and jumperoo at a consignment sale.  There are always tons to choose from and I was able to get both for $50 total in excellent used condition, score!  They take up space but it’s only for a short period of time.  Now they are in the basement for the next baby and I’ll resell them after that.

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such a bald little baby!

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jumped herself into exhaustion

b. toys parum pa pum– we started Kindermusik classes when Gretchen was about 6 months old and she LOVED it.  She loves to listen to music and bee bop around and shake the instruments.  She loves this instrument set and I like that you can store all of the instruments inside the drum.   Great for travelling since you can tuck some other toys in there for the ride too!

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CLOTHING:

jammies– we LOVE the Children’s Place zip up sleepers.  Everything else I care more about style than brand 🙂  But most of Gretchen’s clothes are Carters, Baby Gap, Old Navy, Circo, with a smattering of gymboree and crazy 8 (I’m picky about the cutesy stuff).  I buy about half of Gretchen’s clothes new (on sale) and the other half at consignment sales.

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OTHER STUFF:

ergo– I will admit that I never really got on the baby wearing bandwagon.  I tried a K-tan when Gretchen was little but didn’t get a good fit and she is so squirmy that it wasn’t very comfortable for either of us.  Also I get hot easily so baby wearing doesn’t really appeal to me for that reason.  We use the Ergo quite a bit though when we’re on family outings without the stroller.  Especially great for the farmers market, apple orchard, pumpkin patch, etc.  Tyler wears her in the Ergo and she loves it now.  We have the Ergo straps set to Tyler’s measurements so he can just slip it on when needed without having to adjust.

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loves being worn by daddy

maxi cosi pria 70– there are SO many carseats to choose from, holy cow it is overwhelming.  I knew we wanted to keep Gretchen rear facing until at least 2 so I needed a seat that can accomodate that.  I talked to lots of friends about what they use and checked out some online forums to see what carseats people found fit well in their Mazda 5, since that’s the car the seat would be going into.  We ordered our seat from albeebaby during a sale.  I got a $50 gift card that I was able to use to buy some toys and stroller accessories I’d been wanting.  I believe I paid $250 and got the gift card on top of that.  Gretchen seems comfortable in this seat and it was not too hard to install and fits well behind our passenger seat and allows us to have enough leg room.   Especially love the cupholder!

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shopping cart cover– this is something that I know a lot of moms don’t use or ridicule, but I swear by it.  Gretchen only got sick twice during her first year.  Once a cold, and once a stomach bug.  I don’t know that a cart cover gets credit for that but it may have helped.  I know stores have wipes for their carts but those are inside the store and usually we part next to the cart corral and I put her right in a cart, making it so I don’t have to carry her and my bags in and out of the store.   I like that the cover is soft and prevents pinching and you can clip toys to it.  I just keep it in the car and wash it every so often, it’s not really a hassle for me.  I ordered my cover on zulily, it is Infantino brand.

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15 months

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weight and other stats:  23 lbs 12 oz (82nd %), 32 in (90th %), head is 19.25 (99th %).

size: packed up all the 12 month clothes.  She now wears 12-18 month, 18 month, and a few 18-24 although they are a bit big.

sleeping:  A little after Gretchen’s first birthday we realized why she hadn’t been STTN very often, she was waking up feeling wet and unable to go back to sleep.  All we had to do was add a stay dry fleece liner to her diapers and she started STTN again!  She has woken up some nights due to teething/growth spurts but most of the time she STTN these days.

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eating:  from day to day you never really know what she’s going to eat.  There are some things she consistently loves: cheese, scrambled eggs, blueberries, strawberries.  And lot of other things she may love or hate: , pita bread, any other fruit, any other veggie, chicken, black beans, waffles.  She eats better at daycare with the peer pressure than she does at home.  She drinks lots of water and lots of milk, but she doesn’t like to drink with her meals, only in between them.   She has learned to sign “eat”, “more”, and “all done”.   She just recently learned how to feed herself yogurt and applesauce with a spoon.  Although it gets pretty messy so we usually only do that on bath nights.

likes:  walking, climbing the stairs, mama’s necklaces, books, pushing her push toy around, hanging out in her cozy coupe, playing with the neighborhood kids, making everyone laugh when she says “uh oh!”, hugging her stuffed animals, balls, babbling to herself, shoes, climbing up on the furniture, music class, playing with her pugs.

dislikes: being told “no”, having her treasures taken away, waking up from naps, vegetables, being left alone in a room, people eating when she’s not, being in the car without snacks.

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I Support You: An Interview

Created by Cary Lynn Davis

If you are friends with me on Facebook you’ve probably seen me post a few things about the I Support You movement.  Check out the inspiring posts about it over on the Fearless Formula Feeder, Mama By the Bay, and I am Not the Babysitter as well as this quick overview from HuffPo.

Here’s what the I Support You Movement is all about:

The I Support You movement is a respectful, empathetic, compassionate exchange between parents.  We all feed our children differently, but we are all feeding with love, and in ways that work for our individual circumstances and family dynamics.  I Support You is the first step in helping formula-feeding, breast-feeding, and combo-feeding parents to come together and lift each other up with kindness and understanding. We have chosen to announce this movement during World Breastfeeding Week, to honor the commitment of those who fight for better support for breastfeeding moms; we are inspired by this, but believe that by changing the focus to supporting all parents, we can truly provoke positive change without putting the needs of some mothers above the needs of others. The “I Support You” movement aims:

1) To bridge the gap between formula-feeding and breastfeeding parents by fostering friendships and interactions.

2) To dispel common myths and misperceptions about formula feeding and breastfeeding, by asking parents to share their stories, and really listening to the truth of their experiences.

3) To provide information and support to parents as they make decisions about how to feed their children.

4) To connect parents with local resources, mentors, and friends who are feeding their children in similar ways.

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This movement is near and dear to my heart.  If you know me or have read my story here on my blog you know my breastfeeding experience was a struggle and ultimately we combo fed for three months and then exclusively formula fed for the remainder of Gretchen’s first year.

I’m joining the movement and raising awareness by interviewing my friend Brie, who has some great insight to share regarding infant feeding and how we can all support each other.

Describe your infant feeding experience in a few sentences: (breastfeeding, pumping, any supplementing, etc)

Charlie was exclusively breastfed from birth to 6.5 months and we were lucky enough to have a pretty easy time of it from the start. I returned to work when he was 3 months old and pumped for him at work, and nursed at home. At about 6.5 months, his demand outstripped my supply so we supplemented with a few formula bottles a week. He is now 10 months old and I plan to continue nursing indefinitely, but I will quit pumping at a year.

What has been the hardest part of your breastfeeding experience this last year?

I didn’t anticipate how hard it would be lose my personal space and freedom. Since Charlie nurses a lot and I pump 2-3 times a day, I get “touched out” very easily these days and don’t like to cuddle or snuggle as much as I used to! And I really would love to be able to take an occasional day trip alone without worrying about pumping or nursing.

Tell me about a time you didn’t feel supported in your feeding choices.

Now that Charlie is getting older, people are starting to ask when I’m weaning him. People are really supportive of breastfeeding until your kid starts walking and talking and sprouting teeth, and then it becomes weird to a lot of people. Recently, when I asked an eye doctor about a medication he had prescribed and whether it was safe for nursing, he asked how old my baby was and “when do you plan on cutting THAT off?” I told him that nursing was cheap and easy and I had no plans to and he definitely raised an eyebrow.

Tell me about a time you felt supported.

I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve pretty much always felt supported, except by random strangers whose opinion I don’t care about! My husband, family, and friends have all been behind me 100% from the start.

What has been your proudest moment thus far related to feeding your son?

Honestly, I don’t know that I’ve felt much pride along the way. I feed my baby, and that was always a given. I was fortunate enough that breastfeeding came pretty easily to us, and we didn’t really struggle much. I’m just doing what needs to get done in the easiest way I know how, like any other mom out there. Breastfeeding, for me, isn’t really an accomplishment since so much of our success has just been dumb luck. I’m proud that I have a totally awesome, healthy, adorable 10 month old, but how he got there is just kind of a fact of life.

How do you show your support for other moms struggling with feeding issues? What words of wisdom can you share?

As far as supporting other moms, I think it’s so important to never judge or make assumptions. Be open about your own experiences but understand that everyone is different.

When it comes to wisdom, just remember that nobody gets a medal for how they feed their baby. Formula has actually improved my breastfeeding relationship with my son–I’m no longer stressing over “just one more ounce” when I can easily top off a bottle of breastmilk with an ounce or two of formula. The first time I gave my son a bottle of formula, I cried because I felt so much relief and it was such a non-event!