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Friday, January 30, 2015

From Sitters to Bedtime Routines: 5 Date Night Tips for Parents

How do you keep the romance alive after kids? Do you go out or stay home? Do you hire a sitter or ask for family to help? And how do you make sure your kids don't get out of their routine when mom & dad go out? When did date nights get so complicated???

Will & I try to sneak in a date night once a month. It doesn't always happen, and what gets considered a 'date night' can sometimes be a flexible term. ;) But we make the effort and what we do ultimately depends on what we're in the mood for; it doesn't always involve getting dressed up & going out (even though I love an excuse to see my hubby dressed up!), it can be something as simple as takeout & a movie. The important thing is that we make time to spend together just the two of us and reconnect; no messes, no crayons, just us. Since having Ari it's harder to enjoy one- on- one time; even having a conversation at dinner can be challenging some nights. So while it takes more effort to organize, we know it's important to spend time just the two of us.

February 14th is a reminder about our relationship status and for parents it can be a humorous time to reflect on life before kids. Whether you & hubby make a big deal out of Valentine's Day or are just wanting to plan a much- needed date night, it's important to make time for each other. The unique challenge parents face is juggling their kid's routines while trying to grab a few precious hours to spend alone to reconnect (plus the planning it can take to organize). 

So to help parents plan a date night- from finding a sitter to dealing with nighttime routines- Marnie from Cheeky Chops Consulting has some tips to help you enjoy some precious one- on- one time. If you & hubby are in need of some alone time (when diapers & crayons aren't the only topic of conversation!), I hope these tips help you get some romance in! 

The challenges when trying to organize date nights after kids can be an opportunity to come up with new date ideas. 
First it's hard to find the time and energy! It's also difficult to find a babysitter that you and your kids both love and trust (lucky you if you have family ready to help out!). Depending on the child's sleep habits, some parents are also nervous because bedtime is very difficult, there are multiple wakings, baby only falls asleep while nursing, and so on. That all being said, use the opportunity to get creatives with ideas. Especially when you have a new baby & young family, it can be hard to step out for a whole night. Think of activities you can enjoy that you can fit into a few hours. 

Worried about disturbing your kid's routines? Dates don't have to happen after dark or require going out.
There are many ways to enjoy a nice date; You can go out for a lunch date instead of dinner so that takes the sleep worry out of the equation. At-home dates can also be lots of fun! You put the kids to bed, make some food or get take out, and enjoy some relaxing time! Mobile spa services/ massage therapy services can be a great way to relax in the comfort of your own home and these mobile services are gaining in popularity (check out this post with Ultimate Mobile Spa for ideas!). Another way is to go out after the kids are in bed; appies and a movie usually work great for a date after bedtime since lots of movie play after 8:30pm. And of course you can hire your favorite sitter for a date night and go out to do whatever you heart desires. 

Find a sitter your kids love.
A great way to find a good sitter is to ask around. This way you get real feedback from people you know and trust. About 2/3 of people lie on their resume, so put that in babysitting context and you get an idea of why it's important to ask around. You can also ask your family to take your little one for the night; either drop the kids off or have family come over to your house. Your friends can also be great help and take care of your little one while you get some time to reconnect with your hubby (take turns babysitting & make date nights a regular occasion!). It's great to have a sitter come to your house, but it can also be fun for your kids to spend time or sleep over at someone else's house (think overnight play dates & take turns watching the kiddos!).

Prepare your kids for date night so they understand what's going on.
One of the most important things before leaving your child for a date night is to make sure that they know the babysitter and feel comfortable with her/him. If you have just hired a new one, have them come over at least once or twice to meet and play with your child before your date night. Then you can explain to your child that mom & dad love them very much but that they need some time to spend together too. Make sure you tell your child that you will be back (for example, 'mom and dad are going out for a few hours and then we will be back home. We will see you in the morning and give you big snuggles!'). Then you can tell them that the babysitter will be putting him/her to bed and that it will be similar to what they know; make sure you make having a babysitter a fun and exciting thing, something that they will look forward to. The first time someone else puts your little one to bed can be a little upsetting for them (for some it doesn't bother them at all!), but they do adjust.

Leave tips with the sitter
Children like consistency and predictability so leaving the sitter with a outline of the bedtime routine is very important. Make sure that your sitter understands the routine and follows it; this will make the whole process easier on your child. It also means that you won't wake up to a grumpy child the following morning because they were kept up past their bedtime. Allow for a little flexibility since your child may not behave or settle the same for someone else (they may even go to bed easier!), but over time they'll get used to having others help put them to bed.

What are some tips you would add? How do you & hubby make time for each other since having kids? I'd love to know! :)

For more great sleep advice from Marnie, check out this post & this post.

How's the sleep & bedtime routine in your house?
If you'd like to learn more about Marnie & her sleep consulting services you can find her on the CheekyChops website and Facebook.

January posts sponsored by Little Dreamers Consulting

Monday, January 26, 2015

Yummy Mummy Monday: Healthy Chocolate Peanutbutter Powerballs

I'm excited to announce that my friend Jena is joining TPB as a collaborator! She will be contributing on a variety of topics, including healthy lifestyle options & recipes. Since she's recently made the transition to a paleo diet with her family, I thought a recipe post would be a perfect way to introduce her to TPB readers, and she didn't disappoint! I can't wait to see what she'll share next. Now over to Jena...

These nutrient dense treats are a favorite snack for my son and husband! Since our household decided to cut out processed sugar, gluten, eggs, dairy, and everything else delicious (kidding…not kidding), we are always looking for that little after meal treat. The “Powerball” is my go to and there’s a variety of ways to mix and match these balls. So I’ll first elaborate on the ingredients I like to have on hand so that I can whip up a batch on Mondays, aka MEAL PREP MONDAYS (yes I am a total and utter geek, but no I do not hashtag any food related Instagram photos as MPM on Mondays…maybe I should?).

Don’t’ be scared off by the list, you can buy most of these ingredients at Superstore! And Costco has them in bulk, GMO free, organic options. You buy them once and you're good to go for a couple months!

The Need to Have Ingredients:
• Butters (peanut, almond, cashew, sunflower seed…)
• Raw Honey or Maple Syrup

The Mix and Matchy Ingredients
(you can literally pick what you want to put in them when you go the freestyle route)
• Hemp hearts
• Chia seeds
• Coconut chips or unsweetened shredded coconut
• Pure dark chocolate chips
• Walnuts
• Pecans
• Cashews
• Almonds
• Coconut oil
• Sunflower seeds
• Gluten free oats
• Flax seeds

 Our favourite version of these is the Healthy Chocolate Peanut Butter Ball

1 tbsp coconut oil
1 cup pecans
½ cup of coconut chips or shredded coconut
¼ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup of hemp hearts
1 tbsp of chia seeds
2 tbsp of flax seeds
½ cup of honey or maple syrup
½ cup of peanut butter
½ cup of dark chocolate chips

1. Combine all the ingredients in the a high powered, high speed blender (eg. Blendtech or Vitamix). Blend until smooth consistency (see photo).
Tip: If you are using a food processor, you may want to use a coffee grinder to break down the smaller ingredients (flax seeds) or buy already ground flax. 

2. Once you have a smooth consistency, roll into 1 inch balls.
3. Put on a baking sheet and into freezer for 15 mins. Once hardened, put into tupperwear and into the freezer for quick to grab snacks.

This particular recipe is best straight out of freezer or keep in the fridge as much as you can, as they tend to soften and can get a bit messy. Other versions, particularly those when you omit coconut oil and don’t blend the ingredients to a smooth consistency tend to keep better at room temperature (see below). 

If you want to freestyle, you can combine any of the “Mix and Match Ingredients” with the “Must Haves” by hand or in a blender.

1 cup of a butter (or combination of two butters)
(Tip: Some butters taste WAY better than others, so do a ¼ to ¾ ratio with the less tasty butters….eg. ¼ sunflower butter, ¾ peanut butter)
½ cup of Maple Syrup or Raw honey
GO CRAZY…sort of… add whatever ingredients your heart desires to the above until you have a product that sticks together but is not soft (about two cups total of all your ingredients combined). Add more as needed. Mix it by hand or with a food processor or blender.

If you have a Vitamix or Blendtech, the product will have a smooth consistency, with a food processor and by hand it will be more textured.
2. Roll the mixture into balls, place on a baking sheet and into freezer for 15 minutes.
3. When formed and holding the ball shape, remove and place in tupperwear into freezer for easy grabs!

What's your favourite combo? We want to hear how you mix it up with your Power Balls!

For more great recipe ideas check out the Yummy Mummy Recipes page!

January posts sponsored by Little Dreamers Consulting

Friday, January 23, 2015

Amazing Mom Feature: Jill Parker, Little Dreamers Consulting {& Giveaway}

“Sleep is essential for our well-being and healthy sleep habits is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child.  That I am able to help families get the sleep they need to be as healthy and as happy as can be, is extremely fulfilling.  I love my job!” 

~ Jill Parker, Little Dreamers Consulting

In the not too distant past I remember the exhausted state of having a newborn: the round the clock feeds, the soar body during birth recovery, complete lack of energy, and navigating the exciting, overwhelming territory of new parenthood. For the first while I couldn't tell you if I was upside down or right side up. And there were definitely days that brushing my teeth and having a shower felt like a long- forgotten luxury. And in April I'll be back in that club, but with an 22 month old to make sure I'm more than occupied. I worked hard with Ari to get her into a sleep routine, and I promise you it didn't happen by accident and there were times when I almost caved in from exhaustion, but I persevered knowing that my hard work in the short term would pay off for everyone in the family in the form of quality sleep (and it did- she has slept for 8+ hours straight since 4 months).

Since starting The Pampered Baby a common concern that I've heard about from friends and readers is helping your baby to develop healthy sleep habits. Since it's something all Moms face- whether this is your first baby or not- I thought it would be a great time to talk about sleep habits once baby arrives and am excited to introduce you to the lovely Jill Parker of Little Dreamers Sleep Consulting. If you've been wondering how to get your baby (and you) the sleep you need, read on to learn more about this Amazing Mom, what she does, & the 3 most common mistakes she sees parents make when developing sleep habits with baby.

A little introduction from Jill:
I am a certified Sleep SenseTM consultant.  I offer sleep-deprived families solutions for establishing healthy sleep habits and routines so the whole family can get the sleep they need to be their happiest and healthiest.  When the opportunity to become a Sleep SenseTM consultant presented itself, I knew it would be the right fit for me!  Having been an elementary school teacher, I always enjoyed working with children (and their families), helping them to be their best. Since having my second son, I had been at home with my boys and could only dream of eventually finding the perfect job that would also allow me the flexibility to be at home with them (at least part of the time).  Being a sleep consultant provides me a fulfilling career and the ability to be at home with my kiddos.

What made you choose this career?
I have been there, a sleep-deprived Mommy of a 4.5 month old baby and a toddler, knowing that my lack of sleep was affecting not just me but the well-being of my family.  My baby was not getting the consolidated nighttime sleep he needed, my toddler was getting a very grumpy, impatient and distracted Mommy and my husband was missing an engaged partner and I was certainly paying no attention to my own well-being and health.  I finally found the Sleep SenseTM program and it was life-changing.  

I believe so much in the program and know first-hand how it can improve the health and overall well-being of a family.  I was thrilled to be hand-picked and trained by Dana Obleman herself (author and creator of the Sleep SenseTM Method) three years ago.  It has been an amazing and rewarding journey, educating and providing parents the tools to guide their little ones to healthy sleep hygiene and skills. 

What do your services cost?
At this time, my full, private consultations range from $325 - $545 (half and full night packages are also available upon request).  I also offer group workshops, starting at $250.

What is your favourite part of what you do? What is the biggest challenge? 
My favourite part of what I do is helping babies finally learn the skills they need to get the sleep they need to grow, learn, and develop as they should.  Just as importantly, I provide the parents the tools to support and maintain this new sleep routine so that the whole family gets the sleep they need.  Parents can then be the best parents, partners, and professionals that they can be. 

The biggest challenge is that not every baby is the same and each responds differently to a Sleep Plan.  While I customize each plan using the Sleep SenseTM method, I love the challenge of determining what small changes will help each baby have success as quickly and as easily as possible.  

Any advice to other ladies/ moms looking to start their own business? 
To start your own business takes a lot of time, energy, hard work and commitment. Before you embark on your journey, be sure you are passionate about what you are doing, be patient, and most of all, don’t get to the point where you feel you are compromising what is truly important to you. Work hard on the business but work hard not to compromise your personal priorities.  

What are the 3 most common mistakes  parents make with baby's sleep?

1. Always putting their baby into their sleep space already asleep.   
If a baby isn’t given the opportunity to become responsible for putting themselves to sleep without help, baby will learn to associate sleep with the help the parents are providing i.e. rocking and nursing to sleep.   This will lead to a situation where baby just isn’t able to put themselves to sleep or to fall back  asleep on their own unless the parent continues to recreate  the same scenario that originally got their baby to sleep in the first place. 

2. Keeping baby up too long.
Parents often think that keeping a baby up longer will either help them fall asleep or result in longer stretches of sleep.  The opposite is actually true! If a baby is awake for too long between sleeps, it will become very difficult for them to fall asleep.  An overtired baby will be overstimulated resulting in a real struggle to fall asleep and then to sleep peacefully.  Keeping age-appropriate stretches of “awake time” can go a long way toward happy and peaceful sleep times: 
  • 0 - 3 months:  Will show signs of being tired after only 45- 1 hour of awake time
  • 3-7 months: 1.5 to 2.5 hours of awake time
  • 7-9 months:  2.5 – 3.5  hours of awake time
  • 9 – 18 months: 3.5 – 5.5 hours of awake time
  • 18 months – 3 years: 5.5 hours
3. Lack of consistency 
Babies thrive on consistency.  If a baby's sleep routine and sleep space varies greatly from sleep time to sleep time, they will not build any association or understanding of where and when sleep should happen.  Providing your baby with a little routine before sleep to help cue them that sleep time is approaching and then to place the, in a regular sleep space for each sleep time will help them create healthy sleep hygiene and prepare them for the best sleep possible. 

Jill Parker is the owner of Little Dreamers Consulting,  and is a certified Sleep SenseTM consultant based out of Delta, British Columbia, where she lives with her husband and her two active and well-rested sons.  Having personally used the Sleep SenseTM Program with her own son, Jill understands how establishing healthy sleep habits is essential to a family’s health and well-being.  Jill prides herself in offering a personal approach to helping families reach their sleep goals and is thrilled to have helped many families locally, across Canada, in the U.S. and the U.K. over the past three years.  After working with Jill, families understand the importance of sleep, have the tools for establishing long-term, healthy sleep habits and, of course, are sleeping well!  Jill feels so fortunate to have turned a passion for great sleep into a rewarding career, helping parents give one of the greatest gifts they could give their child… the gift of sleep! 

For more information about Jill & her services, check out her website and find her on Facebook & Twitter.

And don't forget to enter our contest with Jill to win an Aden + Anais swaddle blanket! Go to the blog's Contests page to enter!

Image Sources:
Nurery: Piccolielfi 
Photo collage & headshot provided by Jill Parker

January posts sponsored by Little Dreamers Consulting 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Food Sensitivities & Allergies: What's the Difference & WHY Are They on the Rise?

This week my daughter joined my husband & millions of other North Americans as being diagnosed with food sensitivities. While we have had our suspicions for some time that something she was eating was affecting her health we wanted to be sure. And not surprisingly the main foods that she is sensitive to are among 'the most common food allergens' as listed by the Government of Canada (and many other organizations): milk & wheat; she is also sensitive to almonds and gliadin (another allergen in wheat). 

We are strong believers in diet- related health (literally you are what you eat) and tend to think more along the lines of treating a health concern starting from the inside out rather than the outside in. This has lead us think more about why we have a symptom & the source than simply treating the symptoms. For example: if one of us gets a cold we don't simply take a medicine to treat the symptoms (runny nose, cough, etc), we make efforts to treat the cause/ source of the symptoms (why am I coughing? How & why did I get sick? How can I give my body what it needs to get better? Answer: Give it the nutrients it needs to boost the immune system & fight what's wrong). Don't get me wrong, we do have medicine on hand & don't question the need for traditional healthcare, we just question the cause of the symptom before we treat it, often this eliminates the need for a traditional medicine (note: often not always). In the journey I've been taking with Will & now with Ari I've been building on this approach and knowledge as I tackle how our family will make further adjustments to our lifestyles and diet choices. 

It was tough enough eliminating certain foods with Will, meaning no sandwiches or quick grab & go lunches for him; no deli meats, no out of the freezer pizzas or mac and cheese for lazy dinner nights (albeit these changes were and are for the better), but eliminating these items for Ari will present a slightly different set of challenges, even though our family has already made adjustments. Think: how often do we grab some crackers and/ or cheese as a convenient on- the- go snack? As Moms just trying to get our kids out the door we turn to choices that we can pop in the diaper bag and that don't require much thought/ prep. I know there's options out there, but figuring out what she likes will take some trial & error (it's been tough enough to find options for a grown man!). Keep in mind that I am very pro organic/ non- GMO, narrowing our options further & bumping up our food budget. I realize that's a self- imposed choice, but again one made with the overall health of my family in mind.

The difference between allergies, sensitivities, & intolerances
With all of this new information swirling around in my head I've also been trying to differentiate between allergies, sensitivities, etc. Are they reversible? For life? What's more severe/ serious? Can you get away with a little here & there or have to eliminate items completely? Here's what I've been finding out: Sensitivities differ from allergies and age does play a factor in how the body reacts to allergens (younger children's immune systems react differently as they 'mature' around the age of 2 years), meaning that if detected early, the damage caused by food sensitivities to the gut and immune system can be reversed rather than having them evolve into full- blown allergies with more adverse reactions. I can't speak to how this may relate to Celiac disease & other similar auto- immune diseases triggered by foods we consume, but I feel there has to be a strong correlation. 

To help better understand the difference between everything I Googled the heck out of the terms and found these definitions on the Health Canada website

Food allergies: Sensitivities caused by a reaction of the body's immune system to specific proteins in a food... 

In allergic individuals, a food protein is mistakenly identified by the immune system as being harmful. The first time the individual is exposed to such a protein, the body's immune system responds by creating antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE). When the individual is exposed again to the same food protein, IgE antibodies and chemicals such as histamine are released. Histamine is a powerful chemical that can cause a reaction in the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin or cardiovascular system. In the most extreme cases, food allergies can be fatal. Although any food can provoke an immune response in allergic individuals, a few foods are responsible for the majority of food allergies. 

A food intolerance: A food sensitivity that does not involve the individual's immune system. Unlike food allergies, or chemical sensitivities, where a small amount of food can cause a reaction, it generally takes a more normal sized portion to produce symptoms of food intolerance. While the symptoms of food intolerance vary and can be mistaken for those of a food allergy, food intolerances are more likely to originate in the gastrointestinal system and are usually caused by an inability to digest or absorb certain foods, or components of those foods.

A food sensitivity: An adverse reaction to a food that other people can safely eat, and includes food allergies, food intolerances, and chemical sensitivities.

Are we allergic to food or what's being done to it?
What has really bothered me in my research is the acknowledgement that food allergies are on the rise, but claims by large organizations (often linked to government & traditional medicinal channels) that there is no indication as to WHY. Please note that I'm not suggesting that allergies don't exist outside of a simple reaction to a food that doesn't agree with your body, but I feel that the vast majority of allergies today & the rising population suffering from allergies, etc goes a little deeper than simply what's going in our mouths; it starts before that, with what's happening to our food before it reaches our homes.

When I was a kid, sure there were peanut allergies, but kids with allergies seemed to be in the minority, now it seems that kids without allergies/ sensitivities are in the minority. People are increasingly facing allergies in their families and what's heartbreaking/ scary is that more kids are developing allergies & sensitivities. BUT WHY? I know this is getting into messy territory but if you look at the most common allergies (wheat, soy, peanuts, etc) you'll notice a few things: these are some of the largest, most- consumed crops in North America; they are heavily treated with pesticides; and they are among the most notorious GMO (genetically modified organisms) crops (and don't forget about the increase in dairy allergies). Coincidence? Sorry, not buying it. You can't tell me that allergies are somehow mysteriously on the rise at the same time that North Americans are consuming (knowingly & unknowingly) foods that are covered in harmful pesticides/ herbicides (read: poisonous chemicals) and/ or have been genetically altered. In this article I found, a UK study found that soy allergies increased 50% after the introduction of genetically modified soy. Hmmm.....

Natural vs organic
Since it's becoming big business to claim food is 'natural', 'organic' etc, it's important to note there are significant differences in these claims and you may be purchasing products you thought were free from pesticides, GMOs, etc because they claim to be 'natural'. This is not the case. See the definitions of these terms below (from the American Society of Nutrition) to help you know what you're really buying:

Natural: Without a formal definition of what “natural” means, let's examine what this label does not mean. First of all, foods containing natural flavors, sweeteners, or other plant-derived substances can be labeled natural. In addition, foods containing highly processed high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) can also be labeled “natural”, since the synthetic materials used to generate HFCS are not incorporated into the final product (2). Finally, foods containing genetically engineered or modified ingredients can be labeled “natural,” something California's recently defeated Proposition 37 tried to prevent (3). Although far from an exhaustive list of what can be labeled a “natural” food, these are a few examples of how “natural” may mean something different than consumers think... Although consumers purchasing “natural” meat, poultry, and eggs can be confident that there are no artificial ingredients or colors added, it's important to note that “natural” does not necessarily mean hormone-free or antibiotic-free; these are separate labels, also regulated by the USDA.

Organic: Foods with an organic seal are certified organic and contain at least 95% organic content (5). Organic food is produced using approved organic farming methods “that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Specifically, “synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used” to produce organic food, meaning that organic food products are not genetically modified and have not been treated with synthetic pesticides or fertilizers (5). Use of the “organic” food label and seal is strictly regulated by the National Organic Program, which is administered through the USDA. 

So what can you do?
Get tested
If you or members of your family are facing health challenges or have noticed lingering health concerns that don't seem to be clearing up, I encourage you to consider getting tested for food sensitivities & allergies instead of turning to the medicine cabinet. Different tests are carried out by naturopathic doctors vs traditional medical doctors, so make sure you do some research & find out what sounds most fitting based on your needs & symptoms. 

Look at the food you're eating 
Raid your fridge & cupboards and examine what you're putting in your mouth. Are you eating nutrient- dense food or is it highly processed? Natural vs organic? Are you unknowingly consuming foods containing GMO ingredients such as wheat & soy? Are they high in sugars? It's important to note that even 'healthy' foods lose their nutritive advantage if they're chock- full of sugar & other additivies, even if it's organic/ natural, etc. Empty calories are still empty calories, no matter how fancy the packaging makes them look.

Do some research
If this is new to you I encourage you to do some research into GMOs, organic foods, etc and find out for yourself the importance of examining what your family is consuming. Is it easy to make these changes? Cheap? Unfortunately not always, but I can tell you from experience that it's worth trying. It might mean making a cutback from somewhere else in your monthly budget, but think of it this way: if you don't have your health and/ or if you're unhappy, what enjoyment will that money & what it can buy bring you? 

I hope this post offers some valuable information that will encourage you to continue on a healthy journey with your family or be the inspiration to start one.  

Sources referred to in this post:

Most Common Food Allergens (& other info): Click here

Allergy Facts & Statistics (US data): Click here. (This is the site that claims that there is "no clear answer as as to why" allergies are on the rise)

GMOs vs Allergies: Click Here

Natural vs Organic: Click Here

Image source:
Gluten Free Quote: Funline on Etsy 

January posts sponsored by Little Dreamers Consulting