Cake Smash!

Your child’s first birthday is a big deal! And the newest trend is to commemorate it with a cake smash!  You may be wondering what exactly goes into a cake smash. There is no one way of doing it, but usually parents will bring their child to a photography studio or have a photographer come to them to capture their precious angel’s first go at a sugar filled cake!  As someone who is very health conscience for my family and especially my baby, the thought of putting an all sugar cake in front of her made me cringe. But I did it anyway.   I did have big plans to make my own healthy cake which plenty of people do, but who was I kidding? I have a one year old.  When do I have time to make my own cake?!  So I went to Magnolia Bakery and they designed a very simple but pretty cake for the photo session. I sent them a picture of my daughter’s tutu and shirt she would be wearing and they suggested an ombre of pink rosettes which looked beautiful!  So beautiful that during the big shoot when we were waiting for her to dive head first into the cake, she delicately licked one rosette at a time.  

When searching for a photographer, I did a quick google search and then looked through for a few websites for photographers who had experience with kids and cake smashes because it takes a special person to know how to get a baby to smile during a shoot. I still have memories of my daughter peeing on the backdrop during her newborn shoot.  We of course thought it was funny and what do you expect from a five day old baby?  However, this time we decided to do the shoot in our apartment with Andreea B. Ballen Photography. She is also a mom of two little ones with and incorporates her artistic and creative background with the fact that she used to be a doula and loves to bring out the best in babies. She shoots with natural light and a portrait lens, so we didn’t need to go crazy on the background.  However, I still wanted to put together a backdrop similar to if we had gone to a studio.  If it wasn’t in March and still cold out, we would have done the shoot outside because Andreea’s work is gorgeous in the natural light and she knows the perfect angles to shoot to get that magical shot.  We improvised and did it inside instead near a row of windows.  We were supposed to shoot one evening, but when she came over, she noticed the light was not as good as we had thought it would be, so she came back the next day when it was a lot better.  As part of her photography package, she offers an in-home consultation so you can talk about exactly what you’re looking to do.  I thought that was a nice bonus, since it gave my daughter a chance to meet and feel comfortable around her.  We also talked extensively in the meeting and by email about what my vision was for the shoot. After the shoot, she sent us a gallery of pictures from which to choose. She caught some great shots of our daughter before, during and after the cake. She also was able to capture some nice family photos which are great to have because as fun as our selfies are, it’s always nice to have some professional family photos.  All of the pictures in this article were shot by her.  

For the backdrop, I ordered a simple backdrop that was easy to put together from B and H Photo and Video. It wasn’t the strongest of backdrops but it was perfect for our purposes. I bought a role of seamless coral colored paper to go with it and then went to Party City and got a colorful banner, paper fans and balloons. There were helium balloons on a small weight next to her and then some loose balloons scattered on the floor.  It made for a very festive background to match her colorful tutu from Dancina.  I had picked up a hot pink beaded necklace at the Philadelphia Flower Show a few weeks earlier. 

All in all, it was a very fun time.  Andreea captured some great moments in time for us and since I had made my own backdrop, we went for round two later in the day with my camera.  I later had guilt that I let my baby eat so much cake in one day for the sake of a good pictures, but it was worth it.  We all had fun and mom and dad enjoyed what was left of the cake!

HomeAway – Ideal for Family Travel!

We decided to take a trip to Sarasota – only a two hour flight from New York and home to the beach ranked number one in the country – Siesta Key Beach.  This was our first trip that was not to visit family with our baby.  Because of that, we decided to stay  at a vacation rental property so we could have a separate room for our baby to sleep and nap and we would have all of the comforts of home with a full kitchen and washer and dryer so we could prepare her and our meals easily. It also saved us money because we went grocery shopping instead of eating out all the time.

We searched HomeAway.com. They have 2 million unique places to stay worldwide listed on their site.  Our trip was last minute during peak season in Sarasota, so this was also a great option because many hotels were already booked or their rates were out of our budget.  We found a very large home with much more space than we needed for just the three of us, but my in-laws came to visit one night, so it was perfect for all of us.  The house was basically two homes in one with two kitchens and two living rooms, so they could have one end of the house and we could have the other.  Here is the link to the property where we stayed.  https://www.vrbo.com/589863

According to statistics from HomeAway, the beach is the number one destination for vacation home bookers, with Panama City topping the list of HomeAway’s hottest destinations based on overall demand, followed by Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Alabama, Walton County, Florida, San Diego, Four Corners in the Disney area, and Hilton Head, South Carolina.  Internationally, Paris is currently the number one destination for vacation home rentals followed by London, Rome, Puerto Penasco, Mexico and Florence.  

In addition to the bonus of having all of the amenities of a home while on vacation, for any group that would  normally book more than one hotel room, you’ll save a lot of money.  You’ll also get a ton more space. The average vacation rental home is 1850 sq ft. versus the average hotel room that is 325 sq. ft.  It’s also easy to find a pet-friendly accommodation in most destinations.  You’ll truly enjoy an authentic travel experience.

For more, listen to my radio segment about HomeAway and my trip to Sarasota here:  https://soundcloud.com/dana-barrett-clips/michelle-jersen-baby-biz-expert-on-vacationing-with-your-baby

 
 

Cape Cod with a Six Week Old!

A close girlfriend was getting married in Harwich, MA on Cape Cod and when I realized my baby would be six weeks old at the time of the affair, I didn’t think it would be possible to go. My pediatrician was telling us not to take her to a hotel room which could be filled with germs or to a crowded wedding, and of course the thought of a five hour car ride was daunting.  However, as it got closer and I had a better handle on what my baby was like at that stage, I felt adventurous and wanted to give it a shot.  In addition, I found a great place to stay that made my decision that much easier.

We drove a few hours from New York City and stopped halfway in Mystic, Connecticut, which was a great place for a break to eat.  My husband tried the pizza from Mystic Pizza and I was ever so happy to have oysters from one of the many restaurants on the water, since I had to abstain for nine months.  It’s a great area for walking and taking in the beautiful scenery.  We then got back in the car and drove another couple of hours to Chatham and the Pleasant Bay Village.  When I saw Pleasant Bay Village online, I knew it wasn’t a cookie cutter hotel and had rooms that were perfect for traveling with a family.  With accommodations to suit many needs, they offer efficiencies with a full kitchen, outdoor furniture, and a BBQ grill, as well as standard and  deluxe rooms with two queen beds and a sitting area outside.  All rooms are non-smoking and have air-conditioning, heat, high definition flat screen televisions, small refrigerators, irons, ironing boards, hair dryers, phones, private bathrooms and daily housekeeping.  They are a green property and, utilizing a 22kW photovoltaic array to generate approximately 25% of their annual electricity and a solar thermal system to reduce consumption of natural gas.  They also use non-toxic cleaners which I think is great if traveling with infants.  So many times the hotel room can smell from the products used to clean them.  They have been awarded the Green Leaders Gold Level Certification by TripAdvisor, Cape and Islands Green Verification and are recognized as an Energy Star partner. 

In addition to the meticulously clean and comfortable accommodations, Pleasant Bay Village also offers a heated outdoor pool near a beautiful waterfall, a hot tub surrounded by an Asian inspired rock garden and Japanese maples.  A zen garden sits close to the waterfall and a Japanese Koi pond and makes for a great spot to relax and meditate.  They serve a gourmet breakfast in their lobby which is furnished with 18th century antiques and lunch is served poolside in July and August.

Just five minutes from Chatham center, main street is a great spot to browse boutique shops and enjoy fresh seafood at restaurants such as the Impudent Oyster (and yes, I got amazing oysters here too!).  Be sure to make a reservation for dinner, as it does fill up quickly.  We went for a late lunch around 2:30 which was perfect for our first meal out with the baby! It’s a quieter time than their busy lunch and dinner hours.  Beautiful beaches are also nearby and great for catching the sunset.

All in all, I would recommend Cape Cod as a trip for those at any age!  If you find the right accommodations to make your visit an easy one, you can make it a great family vacation – even if my daughter did cry and had to be taken out during lunch!

Passport Baby Interviews

Michelle interviews the founders of innovative baby products in her series, “Passport Baby.”

Overwhelmed First Time Parent to Be? Products to Get You Started!

Becoming first time parents can be overwhelming, especially when you make your first trip to the store for your registry.  With products and brands galore, from strollers to breast pumps, how could one possibly know what they need and which ones to choose?  That is how we felt on our first trip to the store, but after a bit of time and lots of research and first hand experience, I have hand picked a few staples to help get you started.   I will be writing a few articles as I discover new helpful products.

Stroller: The UPPAbaby brand baby strollers are all the rage on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  On one block, one may see five different colors of the UPPAbaby VISTA or the UPPAbaby CRUZ.  For city living, I can understand why this is such a beneficial stroller.  The wheels are sturdy and suspension excellent.  It also has a big basket underneath the seat for lots of grocery shopping and errands with your little one.  The vista has a variety of configurations and maneuvers like a single stroller with the ability to adapt as a family grows.  It comes with a bassinet and a toddler seat with multiple positions.  They are both interchangeable and requires no fabric swapping.  The canopy adjusts as your child grows and has an extendable 50+ sunshade.

If you plan on having another baby in the next few years, the seat selections and configurations can comfortably hold two Mesa infant car seats with a direct configuration and no attachments, two bassinets, and two toddler seats.  if you add the PiggyBack Ride Along Board, three can comfortably ride. 

The UPPAbaby CRUZ is also compatible with the Mesa and is streamlined and compact without compromising on function. It has an easy one step fold with or without the seat attached. 

The UPPAbaby G-LUXE is the lightest full size reclining stroller in its class.  It has a one-wheel lock brake, easy access, large basket, an extendable SPF 50+ sunshade, one-handed recline and adjustable footrest. The fabric is removable and washable. 

The UPPAbaby G-LITE stroller is one of the lightest full-size umbrella strollers available weighing 11 pounds.  

The UPPAbaby G-LINK stroller is perfect for someone with twins.  The side by side reclining seats and adjustable footrests have an independent one-handed adjustable recline with four positions.

Carseat:  The UPPAbaby MESA infant car seat is suitable for babies from 4 to 35 pounds and up to 32 inches in height.  It is the only car seat on the market that uses the smart secure system. It has self-retracting mini latch connectors and a red to green tightness indicator that allows for a quick, accurate and easy installation.  It has advanced side impact protection, exceeding the proposed NHTSA safety standards for SIP.  The integrated headrest design keeps an infant’s head stationary during a side impact collision.  The car seat comes in a variety of colors.  If choosing the Henry (blue marl), it is constructed of merino wool, which is fire resistant.  It is a soft breathable fabric that is comfortable in both warm and cool temperatures.

Nursing Bras:  They are not kidding when they say your breasts increase in size when pregnant.  I think I needed a new bra every few weeks through the first half of my pregnancy.  Then in the second half, the belly keeps expanding that your bra needs also seem to expand.  Some say to stop wearing underwires so it doesn’t inhibit your milk production.  Regardless, I think if one can find a supportive bra without an underwire, it’s good for your breast health.  However, as a woman who has always needed an underwire for support, I find it hard to find a good bra that still gives me a somewhat decent shape.  

That was until I discovered Bravado! Design Nursing Bras.  Their silk seamless bras and camis that are so soft and comfortable while also offering great support for women of all sizes.   I have tried the Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra, the Yoga Nursing Bra and the Body Silk Seamless Nursing Cami.  Two brand new limited-edition colors are the sea glass for the nursing bra and Dove Heather for the yoga bra.  The cami comes in black and white.  I love the Body Silk Seamless Nursing Cami because it can be worn underneath a shirt or sweater and because the Body Silk Seamless Bra is knitted inside, there is no need to wear a bra too.  The four-way stretch fabric hugs your changing shape and has convertible criss-cross straps.  

The nursing bra also has the four way stretch fabric and it includes a conversion kit that converts the bra to a regular bra once you are done nursing, so you don’t have to worry about spending money on a bra you’ll only wear for a short time.  For maximum skin-to-skin contact, the bra cups drop away fully. 

Pregnancy and Nursing Pillows:  Friends kept telling me how much they loved their full body pillow they used during pregnancy. I thought I was doing just fine with my two memory foam pillows – one for under my head and one for between my knees.  That was before I was introduced to the Boppy Multi-Use Slipcovered Total Body Pillow.  If you’re pregnant, you’re probably waking up one to three or more times a night to either go to the bathroom or from restlessness.   I can’t guarantee you won’t need to still go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, but I have found I am far less restless when cuddled up to my pillow.  It provides complete head-to-tow support including comfort to your neck, belly, back and hips.  The slipcover is made from 100% cotton, wipeable and machine washable.  According to recent studies, poor sleep can lead to longer labor, preterm birth and gestational weight gain.  Therefore, don’t take a good night’s rest lightly!

If you’re afraid your partner may get jealous of this new addition taking over your bed, the Boppy Pregnancy Support Pillow is a smaller-sized body pillow that provides just the right support for the hips, legs and bump.  

The Boppy Back and Bump Support Pillow is perfect for helping with the recommended side sleeping during pregnancy.  It supports both the belly and back in a compact design.  While I always intend to sleep on my side, inevitably I still end up on my back.  This pillow helps keep me in place and supports the back muscles and ligaments which are getting loser as the pregnancy progresses. 

If you just want a wedge to place at any point on your body, the Boppy Pregnancy Wedge  is a firm, versatile pregnancy cushion you can use on your back, bump or between your knees.  It also makes for a great lumbar support while sitting.  

After baby is born, the Boppy Nursing and Feeding Pillow provides great support while breast or bottle feeding. 

In my next article, I will give helpful product tips for bassinets, carriers, and more!  Keep smiling – your new addition will be here soon and while you will always worry about your child, hopefully you’re a little less worried about about which products are best for getting started!

Fun and Helpful Prenatal Products

Becoming pregnant for the first time can be exciting, but at the same time, it can be overwhelming. A new mom to be wants to make sure she does everything she can to provide her baby with the best chance of being born healthy and happy. It’s not always a walk in the park. That glow everyone talks about most likely will be harder to find when you are nauseous in the first trimester, exhausted and not able to make it past 6pm, getting bigger and bigger with a stomach that has a mind of its own. However, it’s comforting to know there are products that can help ease the symptoms of pregnancy and make it more enjoyable, while also protecting your unborn baby. Below are some of the few I have discovered so far in my third trimester.

Aden and Anais Nursing Pillow: As you get bigger and the pregnancy progresses, some practicioners stress the importance of laying on your left side. The Aden and Anais  Nursing Pillow not only makes for a great pillow for the baby while nursing after birth, but also helps with staying on one’s left side.  It is very comfortable and plump and can be positioned behind or in front of you for nighttime support.  Its removable, machine-washable white cover is made from soft, breathable 100% cotton muslin.  Colorful cotton muslin covers are also available in a variety of  signature prints. For wrapping your bundle of joy after birth, the Aden and Anais swaddles come in many cute colors and sizes.

 

 

 

Belly Armor Belly Blanket Luxe by Radiashield: You work on your laptop and keep your cell phone close to you. But you also worry the radiation can be harmful to your developing baby. Belly Armor is a soft, cuddly blanket that also functions as a shield between your electronic devices at the baby in your womb.  It is a very simple way of protecting your little one in utero.  The Luxe is made up of luxurious cotton micro-fleece and satin.

Belly Bandit’s Upsie Belly:  The Upsie Belly for me is a life saver!  Towards the end of the pregnancy, it becomes more and more difficult to walk due to the pressure of the baby’s head in my pelvis, but I also know walking is recommended and I didn’t want to give that up.  In fact, it wasn’t really an option, considering I live in NYC and still need to get from point A to point B.  That’s where this simple, yet very effective wrap which comes with a heating/ice pack for your back works so well.  It is made of soft viscose from bamboo which makes it very comfortable. It comes in a variety of sizes and has 12 inches of adjustability, so it can be used as your belly grows.   You can choose to slip the pack into the integrated pouch for your lower back for increased pain relief or wear it without it.  It gives  your growing belly the extra support it needs and takes the pressure off of your bladder and pelvis, making it easier to walk.

The Upsie Belly also eases sciatic, back and leg pain and adds hip, back and abdominal support.  It also helps to increase circulation and blood flow, decrease varicose veins, hernias and hemorroids.  Belly Bandit also makes a number of products for after you give birth to help you get back your pre-pregnancy shape.

BellyBuds by Wavhello: A baby’s hearing develops in utero at about 20 weeks, and studies have shown memories begin at 30 weeks.   I think it’s so neat that your baby has a way of hearing the music you love or your voice right near them.  You can let baby listen to the same music you’re listening to while working out or just relaxing around the house.  BellyBuds offer a fun way for parents to talk to their baby or share music and messages through WavHello’s free VoiceShare app.   Some new moms to be feel it’s a great way to bond with their baby in utero.

 

 

Blooming Wellness’ Zenbands and ZTones: Relaxation is very important in pregnancy. As a first time mom, there are a lot of unexpected changes going on in your body. Listening to calming meditations are helpful for both you and your baby. Zen bands make it easy to listen to your meditations and music through their soft boho-styled headband that acts as a headband, headphones and eye mask all in one with removable small speakers. This prevents headphones from falling out of your ears while putting very little pressure on them. Made out of lightweight cotton, they come in a variety of colors to promote the benefits of color therapy. According to their website, people have used them for traveling, running, walking, meditating, sleeping, napping, while at the spa, the pool, the gym, in a train, in a plane, for acupuncture, for hospital stays, in hotels, for hypnobirthing, for meditating and mindfulness, and just for general stress management.

Books: There are a ton of books on the market for the expectant mom.  The one everyone has heard of, ” What to Expect When You’re Expecting” is useful when learning the basics of pregnancy from what tests to expect to the types of delivery.  However, some lesser known titles which can be extremely helpful for the anxious mom to be are “Finding Calm for the Expectant Mom” by Alice D. Domar PH.D and Sheila Curry Oakes and “The Confident Parent” by Jane Scott MD and Stephanie Land.  As someone who thought she was the only one who wasn’t in love with being pregnant at the beginning, “Finding Calm For the Expectant Mom” talks about what many women really go through and helps to ease fears and stress of pregnancy and becoming a new parent.

Carex Bed Buddy Neck Pillow:  After a couple of minutes in the microwave, this soothing aromatic pillow will sooth aways aches, pains and stress, or arthritis in the neck and shoulders.  Using deep, moist relaxing lavender and chamomile aromatherapy, it helps ease stress and tension.  This is the perfect remedy for that tired body or a great way to find calm during your pregnancy.

Janes Wellness Gowns: a very comfortable, attractive alternative to the typical hospital gown, this is a great robe to wear during every part of your pregnancy. With its warm, lightweight knit fabric and wrap closure, they provide total comfort and minimize exposure, allowing you to relax and focus on everything from the ultrasounds to nursing your baby. They are also perfect for lounging around the house or for the day you meet your new baby.

Mama Mio: Your belly and boobs will expand to sizes you never imagined possible.  With that could come stretch marks that don’t go away when your stomach does.  That’s where Mama Mio comes to the rescue.  They offer products to help prevent and minimize the marks.  They also offer creams to help sooth the soreness from breastfeeding. Below are a few of my favorites:

Mama Mio The Tummy Rub Oil – Helps protect growing tummies against the appearance of stretch marks using a blend of omega-packed organic oils.
Mama Mio Pregnancy Boob Tube Bust Cream – Rich in omega oils to protect, cool and soothe both pregnant and new mamma boobs.
 Mama Mio Goodbye Stretch Marks Stretch Mark Minimiser – This is a powerful blend of peptides, fruit and algae extracts and nourishing oils helps to minimise the appearance of both new and old stretch marks caused by pregnancy. With the stretch marks minimiser the newer the stretch mark the better the result.

Mama Mio Lucky Legs Cooling Leg Gel – Help ease weary heavy legs in a flash. Packed with oils and refreshing spearmint to help revive tired legs and swollen feet. A must for any mama-to-be.