Friday, November 30, 2012

Lets be honest. It's not always easy.

Four years ago I never would have imagined I would be where I am today, helping Moms and babies breastfeed.  See, four years ago I was struggling to breastfeed my newborn daughter.  When I was pregnant I had visions of spending my maternity leave cuddling with my new baby and of course breastfeeding.  Little did I know how hard it would be.  I will never forget sitting on the bed in our guest bedroom and crying out of frustration and feeling completely helpless as my baby girl screamed and cried as I tried to latch her on.  From there I spent six weeks enduring excruciatingly painful feedings that lasted an hour or more.  This wasn't how it was supposed to be!  So, why didn't I get help?  I did!  I had a lactation consultant come to my home.  She spent over an hour with us.  She helped me latch my daughter.  She said everything looked great but then we weighed her she hadn't gained any weight!  What was going on?  Well, we figured it out- we meaning my husband and I.  My daughter was tongue-tied.  Why hadn't anyone- our pediatrician, the lactation consultant, the nurses in the hospital- why hadn't anyone noticed this?  We got it clipped, but it was too late.  I was beyond frustrated and my daughter had been latching the wrong way for so long I just didn't have the energy to fix it at that point.  So, I pumped.  For seven months I pumped.

I was determined that when I had my second child it would be different.  I had learned from my experience with my daughter and believed it wouldn't, couldn't happen again.  My son was born with a cleft lip but thankfully it did not affect his ability to latch.  And you better believe one of the first things I did was check if he was tongue-tied!  So, things were going well but then my milk came in.  And man did it come in.  Suddenly my sweet little boy was crazy fussy, before and after feedings.  I was at my wits end!  Was he not getting enough or was he getting too much?  I was so confused.  Was this really happening again?  So, I pumped and I didn't stop for seven months.

So I am now a lactation consultant who didn't actually breastfeed her own children!  Ironic, right?  I think it has given me a unique perspective.  I know first hand how painful, challenging, and exhausting breastfeeding can be.  I have been there.  But as a lactation consultant I also know it doesn't have to be that way, it shouldn't be that way.  New Mom's need and deserve the right information and support so they can have a successful experience.  Although breastfeeding is natural it doesn't always come naturally.  I don't want any new Mom to struggle like I did.  There is nothing more rewarding than helping a Mom learn to feed her baby.

So, if I have a third baby will I breastfeed?  Of course.  Third times a charm, right!?

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Must-Not-Haves

Where has the time gone?  Can it possibly be November already?  So, this post is way overdue!  At the beginning of October I talked about what I consider to be the top registry must-have items.  Then a few weeks ago I highlighted SmartMomma, a local baby store who specializes in custom registry design.  What happens if you aren't fortunate enough to work with a baby planner or a baby gear expert who can steer you in the right direction?  Well, most people will rely on recommendations from friends and family, which of course is fine.  But, unfortunately what ends up happening is you registry for items you don't need, don't want, or ones that are just plain useless!  This means you end up wasting your money or the poor sole's money who bought the useless item as a gift.  Below I've listed what I consider to be the Top 5 Must-Not-Haves when it comes to registry items.  Now, this is of course a matter of opinion and some people find these items useful, so don't get offended if you see a favorite on the list!

1.  Baby Wipe Warmer

This has got to be one of the most frivolous items you can put on a registry!  Yes, wipes are cold and having a warm one would be nice, but is it really necessary?  Trust me, your baby is going to cry regardless of the temperature of the wipe.  And think about it from a logistical standpoint.  If you have a two story house are you going to run upstairs to get the warm wipes if you are downstairs changing a diaper?  And what about when you travel?  Do you take the warmer with you?  Although, they do now have a travel warmer for the diaper bag!  Okay, if you need to have tons of extra items on your registry to accomodate all the showers you will have, then go ahead and get the warmer.  But for the average you money!

2.  Bottle Warmer

This is sort of in the same category as the wipe warmer.  It's not really necessary and in fact most babies will drink cold milk if it is given to them!  I understand the safety aspect of them- it prevents people from putting bottles in microwaves and unevenly heating or overheating the milk.  But guess what, a large plastic cup with warm water in it works just as well! 

3.  Diaper Specific Trash Can

I'm referring to all those magic cans that claim to seal up the odor to prevent your whole nursery from smelling like spoiled diapers.  Speaking from personal experience they just don't work that well.  We had one, a high end one at that, and our bathroom constantly stunk of old urine and we didn't dare put a poopy diaper in it!  From what I have found they either don't work, they require special bags, or they are impossible for the poor babysitter or grandparent to figure out how to use!  Just stick the pee diapers in the kitchen trash which likely goes outside every couple of days and stick the poopy diapers outside- problem solved!

4.  High Chair

Okay, bear with me here!  This is a stretch for a lot of people.  You assume that you have a baby, so now you will have a giant, space hogging high chair in your kitchen- right?  Again, not necessary.  So, when your baby is just learning and practicing with solid foods, before they are able to sit independently, the bouncey seat is a great place for meals.  Of course, never put them on a counter or table and always make sure they are strapped in!  Then when they are a little more steady in the sitting position move them to a portable booster seat.  They are lightweight, strap onto one of your kitchen chairs, and they can travel anywhere.  They are also way easier to clean than a traditional high chair- just throw them into the bathtub and let them soak!

5.  Blankets, and hats, and booties oh my!

Do you need this stuff- yes.  Do you need to register for it- no.  Trust me when I say you will get more blankets, hats, socks, and bibs then you will know what to do with!  So, don't bother putting any of it on your registry.  What you should put on there are swaddle blankets- see previous blog post.  And if you are buying gifts for an expectant couple, resist the urge to buy this stuff.  I had a client recently who received a pile of blankets that stood a few feet tall.  How many blankets does one little baby need!?  And to make matters worse, she didn't actually get the items on her registry that she needed.

So, this is just a few of what I consider to be unnecessary baby items.  There are many more out there though!  What item did you find useless?

Monday, October 8, 2012

SmartMomma "Parenthood made simple"

Last week I posted a blog about what I consider to be baby registry must-haves, so I thought it was only appropriate to highlight a local baby store this week.  SmartMomma is known by many in the Raleigh area as a super cute baby store where you can find really unique gifts.  But, it is so much more than that.  Yes, they do carry incredible merchandise but they also offer one-on-one registry design- at no cost!  If you are looking for help with your baby registry you can set up a registry consult with Raleigh Baby Planner so we can do a lifestyle assessment to decide what gear you need and don't need.  Then you can head over to SmartMomma where the gear experts will help you decide among the different brands, colors, and styles to create a registry unique to your needs.  They also offer a huge variety of classes for every stage of pregnancy and parenthood.  In fact Raleigh Baby Planner teaches two workshops a month at SmartMomma- writing a birth plan and developing a postpartum plan.  Check out the interview below from SmartMomma owner Heather Burns to learn more about the store and what they have to offer.

What inspired you to open Smart Momma and how did you come up with the name? 
"I was one of those moms that researched everything when I got pregnant with my first child.  I was also the one in the office that loved to buy the baby gifts for everyone.  I love the excitement of pregnancy and the birth of something (or someone) new.  I wanted to help new moms find the best and most useful products for them, and help them cut through all the clutter out there.  I came up with the name, because I wanted to help a new mom become a SmartMomma.  A SmartMomma is educated about pregnancy, birth and motherhood, and that is also why we do so many classes, in addition to selling smart products."

 What services do you provide for you customers- what makes you different from the average baby superstore? 
"As I mentioned, we have tons of classes for pregnancy, baby, and toddler.  We also work personally with the new parent, guiding them and asking them questions about their own lifestyle to help them choose the best product for them.  We frequently demo strollers, car seats, and baby carriers, and offer that personal shopping experience without the high price tag.  We also make it simple for the parent, by only carrying those products we truly believe are good quality AND useful."

Tell us a little about your registry services. 
"Our registry is completely online OR can be done in the store.  We encourage you and your partner to make an appointment with us, so that you have our undivided attention.  We will walk the aisles with you to help you select what is best for your lifestyle.  What we don’t do is leave you guessing on what to add to your registry.  If you would rather do it on your own, you are also welcome to do that, but what people really love about our store is the personal service they get when they register.  We offer free shipping over $50, free in-store pickup if you order online.  Also, we have a rewards program where for every $500 you spend with us, you get a $40 store credit reward.  This applies to registry purchases from your friends & family too!"

What are your top-five ‘must-haves’ for a registry?
"Infant Car seat, baby sling or carrier, stroller, diaper bag, and a high quality mattress"

What are you seeing as the latest trends in baby gear and products? 
"In car seats, it’s all about safety.  There are some exciting innovative products coming out that feature crumple technology and high quality memory foam seating.  In strollers, its all about easy folding, the opportunity to add double seating, and stability.  As for furniture, it seems that simple is making a comeback.  Also seeing a lot of gray for decorating nurseries."

 What advice can you give working Moms like yourself- juggling family and career? 
"When you come home, be present for your kids.  As soon as I get home, I find myself wanting to get on my tablet or smartphone, and I have to make myself stop and enjoy my children.  Time goes so fast, and I can’t believe my first baby is nine.  I didn’t believe it would happen so fast when I had my first child, but they don’t stay babies for very long.  I now have my third (and last) baby.  She is 9 months old and I am trying to cherish every moment with her as a baby, because I know it is fleeting."


Fun Facts

Favorite Food/Restaurant- Sushi and Pizza
Favorite Way to Relax- Snuggling on the couch with my kids
Favorite Vacation Spot- Without kids: Jamaica,  With Kids:  Holden Beach
Favorite Song or Band- Coldplay & Katie Perry right now
Favorite Book- The Hunger Games
Heather, thank you so much for sharing with us!  Smart Momma lives up to their motto- "Parenthood made simple."  They are a one stop shop where you can find great education about pregnancy, babies, and parenting; you can design your dream nursery; or you can set up a customized baby registry.  And on top of all that they have a great staff who are wonderful to work with.  To learn more about the store's merchandise or class offerings visit Smart Momma's website.
Smart Momma
8601-A Glenwood Ave.  Raleigh, NC 27617
Stay tuned for the next blog post- Registry Must-not-haves!


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

"What baby products do I really need?"

Wow, I can't believe it has been over a month since my last blog post!  And I said I would never have one of those blogs that goes weeks and months without a post :)  September is always a crazy month in our house with both kiddos birthdays, our wedding anniversary, and beach trips- who has time for work!

I guess it is time to get back into the groove but I figured I'd start off with something fun- registry advice!  Registrying for a baby can be a lot of fun but many couples find it incredibly overwhelming and frustrating.  If you haven't been to a baby superstore lately, check one out.  It is a wonder anyone can decide what they need or want.  In fact when you go to set up a registry they warn you not to even attempt to complete it in one day!  It really is insane how many baby products are on the market and even more crazy how fast they are changing- who could possibly keep up!  Well, I don't claim to be a product expert by any means, but I can make some suggestions about what products you may need and more importantly what ones you don't need.  Of course everyone's lifestyle is different, but there are a few products that I believe are absolute musts for any new parent.  We all know there are obvious things you will need like a car seat, crib, or stroller but below is a list of the top five must- haves that are beyond the basics.

Swaddle blanket
This is hands down one of the best baby products you can buy!  The swaddle blanket is essential for soothing a fussy baby and helping babies sleep longer.  Yes, I said sleep longer!  Swaddling a baby helps them feel secure and prevents them from startling themselves awake.  In fact, swaddling is considered the cornerstone of the five S's from Dr. Harvey Karp's best-selling book The Happiest Baby on the Block.  There are so many swaddle blankets on the market, but my personal favorite is the SwaddleMe by Summer Infant which I lovingly refer to as the swaddle blanket for dummies- it really is that easy!

Breastfeeding Pillow 
So we all know that breastfeeding is best, but it is not always easy and does not always come naturally.  Having a great pillow to help you position your baby and support you while you and your baby are learning to breastfeed is so important.  And trust me, not all breastfeeding pillows are created equal!  Why can't you just use pillows?  I promise that if you use My Brest Friend just once you will never ask that question again.  This pillow stays where you need it to be so you can perfectly position your baby (or babies!) and provides back support so you can be as comfortable as possible.  Yes, it has a funny name and it costs a little more than other pillows, but I promise it is so worth it!

Baby Carrier
Even if you don't plan on adopting a baby wearing lifestyle or following attachment parenting, an infant carrier can be indispensable.  Babies love to be held but most parents don't have the luxury of being able to sit on the couch and hold their little one for hours every day.  Having a carrier allows you to hold your baby while getting housework done, running errands, or going on walks.  More importantly carriers help soothe babies, increase their sleep, facilitate breastfeeding, and increase the infant-parent bond.  There are a ton of carriers on the market and they are all very different.  Some smaller baby stores will allow you to try the different carriers and slings with your baby so you can see which one works the best for you.  There are also classes to learn how to safely 'wear' your baby.

Fragrance Free Skin Products
Baby skin is very sensitive but unfortunately many of the skin products for babies are loaded with fragrances that can irritate them.  These products smell so nice and some of them even claim they will help a baby fall asleep (don't know how true that is!), but all those smell-good chemicals are not good for newborn skin.  The truth is newborns don't need frequent bathing, they don't need soap, and they don't really need lotion.  But, if and when you do use soap and lotion you should look for fragrance-free, hypoallergenic products.  Again, the market is loaded with great baby skin products so register for a few different brands and see which ones you love the most.

Rectal Thermometer
Ok, so my last recommendation is less than glamorous!  But a rectal thermometer is essential for at least the first year of your baby's life.  When it comes to taking your baby's temperature you have to go old school.  Nevermind all the new high-tech gadgets on the market for temperature taking.  They will never be as accurate or reliable as a good old fashioned rectal thermometer.  Now many parents are scared of taking a rectal temperature- they don't want to hurt their baby!  But rest assured that the rectal thermometers on the market these days have safety features to make sure they can't be inserted too far.
Obviously there are many other great products that can help new parents but these are some that are I find useful and essential.  As a baby planner I can help expectant parents navigate the world of baby gear to help you develop a registry that is perfect for your family and lifestyle.  Check in next week and I will feature a local baby store that specializes in personalized registry design.  Later in the month I will have my top five list of the must-have-nots!  What are your favorite baby products?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Family Paws

I had the pleasure of meeting with Jennifer Shryock, a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant and owner of Family Paws.  Family Paws is an internationally recognized business that educates and supports new and expectant families with dogs.  Jennifer, a mother of four, developed the programs at Family Paws after they adopted their first German Shepherd rescue dog years ago.  She saw dogs that were being abandoned in desperation by new parents because they did not understand how to prepare themselves and their dogs for a new baby.  Family Paws has two programs- Dogs and Storks for expectant families and the Dog and Baby Connection for new families with babies over 3 months old.  Family Paws has trained, certified educators throughout the U.S., Canada, and even China.  Family Paws has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, television, radio, and most recently the July issue of Martha Stewart's LIVING magazine!  The best part is this fabulous service and passionate educator is located right here in Cary!

What inspired you to start Family Paws?

   Dog rescue!  I saw so many dogs surrendered due to the arrival of a baby.  Many families had fears or became overwhelmed once a baby arrived.  I felt there needed to be more resources out there. 

What is the goal/mission of your programs? 

   To promote safety in families with dogs.  Offering education and support to increase safety and success while decreasing parent’s stress!

What local programs and services do you offer?   

  We offer local new parent classes and private consultations.  The baby bundle is perfect for expecting families!

What is your philosophy or approach to dog training?

    I believe that dogs need to enjoy their relationship with their people.  Learning should be fun for both dog and the people. We use science based methods that offer rewards and positive outcomes for both dog and people.  We only use dog and baby friendly techniques…meaning anything we teach is safe to implement in front of children. No harsh methods or tools used.

What resources do you have available to expectant families or families with young children? 

   We educate families about the many tools that are helpful such as indoor tethers, KONG toys, and proper equipment.  We also help our families to know of baby related resources in the area. 

Can you provide a couple of key pointers you give to families when they are preparing their dog for a new baby?   

1.      Decrease attention seeking behaviors NOW!  Behaviors that will not be safe or appreciated once a new baby arrives.  Ex:  barking, whining or dropping soggy tennis ball in your lap.  The more you can decrease these behaviors now the less likely you will be frustrated by them once baby arrives.
2.     Firm up basic manners.  Using manners as fun and games is helpful once a baby arrives.  The more commands your dog is successful with the more you can safely and comfortably include them once baby arrives.
3.   Become familiar with dog body language.  Visit to learn more.


Fun Favorites
Favorite Food-  Banana’s fosters from Winston’s grille!    Or good philly cheesesteak
Favorite Place to Vacation- Beach or mountains
Favorite Way to Relax- audio books or walk in woods
Favorite Song/Artist- Bon Jovi, U2
Favorite Color- lavendar

Thank you so much for sharing your business with us!  You can learn more about Family Paws at

Friday, August 17, 2012

"You're a Baby What?!"

This is the comment or rather the look I have gotten when I tell people what my new business is.  Now don't get me wrong, for the most part the response and feedback has been positive and supportive, but I think there is a lot of confusion about what exactly a baby planner is. 

So, what is a baby planner and why did I decide to become one?  Isn't a baby planner like a wedding planning- helping you decorate the nursery, plan a shower, or find a photographer?  The answer is both yes and no.  Some baby planners do focus on these services but most do so much more!

Mary Oscategui, founder of the International Maternity Institute, says, "A baby planner is an objective and supportive educator, who determines the types of services and products that are essential throughout their client's journey toward parenthood (The Baby Planner Professional What You Need to Know, 2010)."  I think the key word in this definition is educator.  The focus of most, if not all, baby planner businesses is education.  Even Rosie Pope, maternity clothing designer and concierge, who has been popularized in the Bravo series Pregnant In Heels strives to educate her clients on a variety of subjects related to pregnancy and parenthood.  The show dramatizes her interactions with clients for entertainment purposes, but if you look at her business model it is all focused on education for expectant families.  As baby planners we assess what areas or subjects our clients need support and guidance with, and then we provide unbiased information so they know all their options and can make their own, educated decisions.  For example, if I have a client that wants help with their registry I am not going to do it for them or even tell them what to include.  I will assess their needs, budget, and lifestyle and then educate them on all the products that may best suit them.  It is ultimately up to the client to decide which items they want to include on the registry.  The goal is to empower parents to make informed decisions for their growing family.

"If you don't know your options, you don't have any."  ~Korte and Scaer

Okay, so that is what a baby planner does, but why did I become one?  Many people would look at my career up to this point and ask, "Why would you want to do this?  You practice medicine!  Aren't you over-qualified and over-educated for this?"  My response is, yes I practice pediatric medicine as a nurse practitioner, which has afforded me a unique perspective into the lives of new parents.  I see first-hand how overwhelmed and stressed they are in the first few months.  And in most cases a lot of it could have been avoided if they had had the right education during pregnancy to prepare them for life with an infant.  Parents can be freaked out by the nuances of newborn behavior and then they become convinced that there is something 'wrong' with their baby, when nine times out of ten whatever their baby is doing is completely normal.  As a baby planner I can prepare parents for life with a newborn so their transition into parenthood is more relaxing and enjoyable.

Throughout my career in pediatric medicine I have found my passion is teaching parents.  Let's be honest, as pediatric healthcare providers you are taking care of the parents just as much as you are the kids!  I spend most of my time in the exam room educating parents on the difference between a viral and bacterial infection, why babies are so prone to ear infections, what it means when their child is wheezing, and of course how to care for their seemingly fragile new little one.  Unfortunately, the time constraints of working in private practice do not allow me to really give parents all the information that they need so I end up just telling them the absolute necessities.  So, it seemed like a natural transition for me to create a business where I could focus on education before the baby comes.  But also a business that supports expectant parents on their entire journey so they can be well informed for every decision they have to make along the way. 

Some people are surprised that I am a Certified Baby Planner and wonder what that means.  Do you have to be certified to work as a baby planner?  No, but becoming certified means that you have completed a comprehensive training program that teaches you every aspect of being a maternity consultant.  I chose to become certified through the International Academy of Baby Planner Professionals via the International Maternity Institute which is the only accredited program in the industry.  The course was immensely informative so now I have a wealth of knowledge and resources for my clients as well as an incredible worldwide network of baby planner professionals to collaborate with.

So, that in a nutshell is why I have chosen to become a baby planner!  I hope that this clears up some misconceptions that people have about what a baby planner is.  We are so much more than someone that helps you pick pretty bedding or choose your birth announcements.  We are professional consultants that strive to prepare, educate, and support expectant families on their journey from pregnancy to parenthood and beyond.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

MasonDee Photography

So, as I mentioned I want to use this blog to feature local businesses in the maternity/baby industry.  I think it is very fitting that my first feature business is MasonDee Photography!  Katie, owner of MasonDee, is not only a friend but she has also photographed my family and provided all the beautiful images you will find on my website, Facebook page, and marketing materials. 

As a mom of two small children I am constantly taking pictures but for the thousands I have taken I only have a handful that are really great shots.  It is amazing that Katie can capture perfect images of babies, children, and families using only her camera and natural light.  Katie's work allows families to have beautiful pieces of art showcasing the precious yet fleeting moments in their lives.

What inspired you to become a photographer and start your own business?

"I have always loved photography.  I remember being really little and running around with a small point and shoot camera, but I got serious about photography when I studied it in college and became photo editor of the school newspaper at Virginia Tech.  When I became a teacher, I was able to pass along my love of photography to my high school students by teaching classes like yearbook and journalism.  I think that I was able to take my hobby to the next level after I had my little girl, Finn.  This is when I fully developed my own style as I was taking pictures constantly. I'm still learning all the time! People kept asking me to photograph their families, and the business slowly evolved from there!"

 How did you come up with the name “MasonDee” Photography?

"Most people name their photography businesses after themselves.  I knew I wanted to do something a little different, and my first loves, prior to Finn, were my dogs: Dixie and Mason. We've lost them over the last few years, so it was the perfect way for me to honor them."

What are you favorite sessions- newborns, families, maternity, etc.?

"Outdoor family sessions are so much fun!  I especially love to photograph siblings-  it's great to watch brothers and sisters interact, and the spontaneity of what can happen during these shoots usually makes for wonderful photos."

What tips or pointers can you give parents on capturing great photos of their little ones?

"Don't be afraid to shoot from different angles-  get on the floor with your kids while they're playing, or stand and shoot from above. Not all photos have to be “staged” or have smiling children in them.  Try to think about what you'll want to remember about your life when your babies are grown- it's the day to day “stuff” that goes by so quickly-  so photograph  it!  If at all possible, try to shoot where there is nice natural light so you can avoid using a flash; a flash can cause harsh light in your photos.  And shoot as much as you can!  I think that the more you use your camera, the more comfortable you become with it, and you'll only continue to get better."

What advice can you give to other woman like yourself who juggle running their own business, being a mom and a wife?

"I'm still trying to figure this out for myself... No matter what, my family is my priority, but I do catch myself feeling distracted with business issues a lot of the time.  I have a very supportive group of friends, and my husband is behind me100%.  Figuring out your time management and asking for help along the way are two things that might make life a bit easier."

Fun Favorites...
Favorite Food or Restaurant:  Italian all the way!  
Favorite Vacation Spot:  The Chesapeake Bay or Boothbay Harbor, Maine 
Favorite Way to Relax:  Running, Yoga, and Photography
Favorite Color:  yellow- reminds me of sunshine
Favorite Singer/Band- Old school: I am a huge Beatles fan.  These days I'm loving the Avett Brothers out of Concord, North Carolina- fun bluegrass!   

Ok, couldn't resist adding in a couple she took of my kids...

To contact Katie and view more of her work visit

Katie, thank you so much for sharing your talent with us!

Monday, August 6, 2012


Raleigh Baby Planner has joined the blogging world!  This blog is designed to be a fun yet informative site for everything related to pregnancy and baby.  Although, I will feature a lot of advice and suggestions on particular topics or products, none of the information provided should be seen as a substitute for your own research.  Also, although I hold degrees in the medical field, none of the information provided in this blog should be interpreted as medical diagnosis or advice.  If you or your child are having a medical issue you should always consult your healthcare provider.  Ugh, now that I got the legal stuff out of the way let's talk about what you will find here.

I want to use this blog to introduce you to local businesses that are in the maternity and baby industry.  I will be featuring interviews a couple times a month, so you can become familiar with all the services and talent out there.  If you know of a business you would like to see featured definitely let me know!  I will also post about 'hot topics' in the world of pregnancy and baby.  Again, if there are topics or products that you would like to learn more about just send me a message!