Mama Must Haves // NICU Edition

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My first three months as a mom has been spent being a NICU mom. This means basically living at the hospital, and for us at least, far from home. Today I want to share my mama must haves for surviving NICU life.

Breast pump | Because our son was born so early, he was unable to breastfeed. As most professionals will tell you, breast milk is the best option for babies, especially NICU babies. After giving birth, I immediately started to pump that first day. I’ve been pumping 8-9 times a day since the day he was born to help feed him in the NICU and to keep my supply up until he was able to breastfeed. After I stopped using the one the hospital let me use, I started using the Medela Pump In Style which I love.

Hands Free Pumping Bra | I’m not going to lie, spending 3-4 hours a day hooked up to a pump sucks! Pun totally intended. One thing that has helped me keep my sanity is a pumping bra. For the first few days I was holding everything up while I pumped, but decided to splurge on a bra that would hold everything for me. I am literally pumping as I write this post. It really helps you be more comfortable and do more than if your hands were tied up. I purchased one at target, but here is a similar hands free brestpump bra.

Netflix | Pumping is maybe the most boring activity ever. For the first few weeks, I was wide awake while pumping at night. That faded soon after that I would start falling asleep during my middle of the night pumps. Netflix has been my best friend. I won’t even tell you how many hours a day I spend watching movies and TV because it’s hard to do much else when you have giant bottles hanging from your chest.

Journal | NICU life can be overwhelming at first. It’s a good idea to take a daily record of your nurses, your babies changes in size, feeding amounts, etc. I use a stone paper journal from target (similar) because it’s water and tear resistant.

Oatmeal & Gatorade | I don’t know that I can officially confirm that these have really helped me, but I think they have and I’ve heard good things from others. I drink the fruit punch gatorade. I don’t know that it’s helped my milk supply much because I haven’t been the best at recording my consumption, but it has kept me hydrated. When you’re pumping out several ounces of milk an hour, you’re bound to need more hydration! I don’t chug it all day, but I do try to drink a bottle a day. Oatmeal is hard for me to choke down because I’m not a huge fan, but when I do I usually see a small increase in my supply.

iPhone | My phone has become so useful to me lately. I’m already carrying a bunch of stuff with me so I can easily use it as a camera. In addition, since I always have it with me, I’ve downloaded the app Pump Log which helps me track when I last pumped and how much! I highly recommend it for anyone who is pumping milk for their baby.

Robe | A comfy robe is great for skin to skin time with baby. I would just throw this on, put our little guy on my chest and wrap it around him. It’s been our favorite thing to do from the beginning. This is also nice for if you need to pump in the NICU to cover your back and shoulders so you aren’t exposed. I recommend a comfy cotton robe.

Lotion | All of the hand washing involved in visiting our son (3 minute scrub) has my hands and forearms dry and itchy. I’ve taken to putting on lotion at least at night before bed when I know I won’t be going back to the NICU for a little bit so that it can have time to soak in.

Grab & Go Snacks | I can’t tell you how many times I have gone until almost dinner without eating. Make sure you have snacks that are easy to grab and eat while you’re walking into the hospital.

Comfy sandals | Obviously these are good for life in general, but you’ll often be running late for feedings or, if you’re like me, you’ll want to slip them off to sit more comfortably with my legs folded in the rocker Not to mention the standing for hours and staring at your baby if he or she is born really tiny and you can’t interact yet. I don’t know what I’d do without my sandals. I recently got a pair of Wellrox sandals for my terrible flat feet and I’m loving them.

Yoga pants | Not only are they comfy and easy to wear, I’ve been unfolding the waistband to cover my belly when I have to have my shirt lifted or off during pumping or breastfeeding. It makes me feel al little less self conscious and makes it easy for me to sit all day comfortably unlike tight jeans.

Many of the items on this list have to do with pumping breastmilk for my son. Honestly, that’s about the only thing I have been able to do to help since he was born. When they’re so little and fragile it’s really up to then nurses to take care of our babies and it’s up to us to do what we can, even if it’s not much. The NICU life is hard, but these things have really helped me make it a little more manageable.

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Father’s Day

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Blaine,

You have proved yourself as a father within second of our son being born. You saved his life and I can never repay you for that. Seeing you become a father and get more and more comfortable around Atlas makes my heart swell with joy. He is such a precious little boy and watching you two together is something I could do all day. I’m excited to watch you get to be a dad to our son as he grows and you teach him all about all the fun things you’ll do together whether it’s dirt bikes, sports or musicals (I can wish, right?). Happy First Father’s Day, my love, you’re already doing great.

meanddad

Dad,

Never in a million years would I have guessed we would be where we are now. You have been the best dad I could ever ask for. All the camping trips, concerts and beach vacations were all because of your love of fun and experiencing it with your family. Without you I wouldn’t love nature or animals as much as I do. You have always been my rock when it comes to political, moral or religious beliefs and have always stood behind me when I needed you to. When I became a vegetarian you told me I’d last two weeks. When I ended up lasting much longer than that you added the best grilled veggies to your weekly BBQ sessions so I’d have something delicious to eat too.

The last few months have been crazy. When Atlas was born you and mom rushed from your vacation over 200 miles away to be by our side. You guys have spent hours driving back and forth to visit our son and make sure that Blaine and I are ok and well fed, too. Now you’re fighting for your life and the odds are against you. It’s breaking my heart. I’ll be here for you, just like you always have been for me, along side you, no matter what happens. I hope that this isn’t our last Father’s Day together, but if it is: I love you and I appreciate you more than I can put into words. Congrats on your first Father’s Day as a grandpa! You know what they say: the best dads get promoted to grandpa and that couldn’t be more true.

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Simple Dream Office Inspiration for Under $200

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While I’ve been living away from home for the last almost three months with my son in the hospital, I’ve been dreaming about the home office I’ll be putting together when we finally go home. We have a large converted garage that we want to make into somewhat of a studio. It’ll be where I set up my little office nook along with a little exercise area, large worktable, play area for Atlas and a TV area. Since the room is pretty large it should be easy to make all of these spaces work together without making it look too crowded.

First and foremost, my office space. I like a simple, minimal look with some natural elements and have pulled together the above items for inspiration.

Potatis Plant Pot (for a trash can) | $29.99

Melltorp Table (for a desk) | $65.00

Upholstered Office Chair in Grey Linen | $69.99

Gold Magazine Holder | $8.99

Faux Plant | $4.99

Everything above can be easily found at IKEA and Target. I seriously love everything so much, I might end up with that exact set up in a few months when I’m able to get to designing my office. I might even attempt to get a real plant and do my best to keep it alive. Suck a risk taker, I know.

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How to Get Started as a Self-Taught Freelance Designer

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If you’re looking into becoming a designer, but don’t know where to start, I hope that I can give you a little guidance. I’ve been a freelance designer since 2012. Even before I got started I was very interested in design and designing quite a bit for my own blog. When I started out I was 100% self taught. I don’t have a fancy degree and I learned all that I know by searching for help and trial and error.

Learn & Keep Learning

As I mentioned above, I’m a self taught designer. You don’t need a college degree to be a designer, though some people of course do have one. When I started I did just that: started. I played around in photoshop, with HTML, etc. and did all sorts of designing for my blog and businesses. Once I got a little more experienced and wanted to learn more I joined online learning websites like Lynda and Treehouse. Even though I now have several years experience as a designer, I make sure to keep learning and developing my skill.

Design for fun

If you don’t design for fun, I don’t know if this is the right move for you. I love playing with colors, shapes, styles, typography and anything design related. I probably have changed my blogs design over a dozen times in the last few years. I love what I do and one of my favorite ways to practice is to just do it for myself, for fun. You will further your skill, add hours of experience and have fun doing it.

Choose a Specialty

The term “designer” is so generic and there are so many different branches. Do you want to design websites, print, graphics? If you want to design websites do you want to focus on blogs? Small businesses? Large corporations? If you choose print do you want to work with businesses? Or maybe you want to design beautiful wedding suites? Figure out what gets you the most excited and go from there!

Build a portfolio

Start building a portfolio based on what you want to do. If you want to do web design, make a few websites to add to your portfolio. If you prefer to do print design, design a few business cards or wedding invitations, depending on what you want your specialty to be. Take a few weeks/months to get some really good portfolio pieces together so that when a prospective client asks for it, you have something wonderful to show off. Add the work you are the most proud of, your portfolio doesn’t have to be every single project you’ve worked on.

Find your first clients

Everyone does this differently, but I actually started on Etsy! If we’re being honest, I started off offering custom blog designs for $50 which is way under what they’re valued at. I wanted to build a portfolio and get my first clients. I only offered that price for the first few clients and within a month I had more than quadrupled that price as I gained confidence and experience.

From there keep our clients happy (word of mouth is how I get a lot of my projects), keep on learning and remember to design for fun when you feel like you’re in a creative rut. Being a freelance designer is an amazing job, but it’s also a lot of work so it takes a lot of passion and dedication to get started.

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