All of the photos in this post were taken by my amazingly talented friend Rachael. Aren’t they amazing?! I am so thankful for her taking the time to capture this stage in Harper’s life. If you live in Orlando and are interested in her services, check out her website: Ten Over Nine Photography!
This past year has probably been the craziest, most stressful and best year of my life. It truly has flown by and I can’t believe Harper baby is already 6 months (and 1 week) old!
I loved documenting my pregnancy journey, sharing Harper’s Birth Story and some postpartum updates and I feel like it’s time for another recap since Harper is now 1/2 a year old. I will say that, as I’ve now experienced pregnancy and parenthood, I’ve realized how sensitive this topic can be. I know so many people who have struggled with infertility, miscarriage, stillbirths, health issues etc. and my heart truly aches with you. I never want my blog to be a place that isn’t safe for you, so feel free to skip these updates/posts if needed and come back for more delicious plant based recipes on Friday.
My Emotional Health:
I don’t even know where to begin with this update. The past 6 months have flown by and gone so slowly all at the same time. As I mentioned in my 3 week and 6 week postpartum updates, the first weeks of Harper’s life were really, really hard. Sleep deprivation paired with loneliness and cold winter days did not suit me well and I’m pretty sure I battled with postpartum depression those first few weeks. I dreaded nights as they were exhausting and dragged on for hours and I felt so alone having to be Harper’s sole source of nourishment and having to feed her alone in my room every few hours.
Thankfully a huge shift occurred when we traveled down to Houston when Harper was about 3 weeks old. The warmer weather paired with Harper starting to sleep for longer chunks at night really lifted my spirits. Yet it wasn’t until Harper started sleeping through the night (at around 2 1/2 months old) that I really started to feel normal again. Slowly since then, being Harper’s Mom has been one of the greatest joys of my life!
Looking back, I really wish I had done some things differently and I feel like parenting the second time around will be a lot less stressful emotionally. I don’t know how I would have gotten through those first few months of Harper’s life if it wasn’t for my sister Ruth and my sister-in-law Megan. They answered so many of my questions, let me verbally process my (many of which were irrational) concerns and gave me lots of nonjudgemental advice. We ended up living with Megan and her family when Harper was around 2 months old and Megan’s parenting expertise (she has three kiddos of her own) was a lifesaver. I credit her for getting Harper to sleep through the night!
Initially, Brett and I thought Harper didn’t like being swaddled because she would often wiggle out of them or cry when we tried to swaddle her. It turns out, however, that we were just doing it wrong! One night, though, Megan decided to try swaddling Harper again and since that night Harper has slept 10-13 hours every night. I die a little thinking about how much earlier she may have started sleeping through the night if we had tried swaddling her correctly earlier, but overall having a newborn sleep through the night at 2 1/2 months old isn’t too bad!
I get a ton of questions about how we get Harper to sleep so well and I think there are a few factors:
1.) Harper really is just an easy baby. She doesn’t cry much and when she does cry, we usually know what she needs and can quickly meet her needs. 90% of the time she is a happy, smiley, curious girl.
2.) Brett and I quickly tried to learn Harper’s cries. We thought we would try the whole “cry it out” method, and in a way we did, but we knew when Harper was crying because she was exhausted and needed sleep or when she was crying because she needed her diaper changed, comfort, more food, etc. When she was crying because she needed sleep, we would let her cry in her bed until she fell asleep. If her cry was telling us that she needed something else, we would meet that need before trying to put her back down again.
3.) We didn’t rely on any “crutches” to get Harper to sleep. From the beginning we tried not to use pacifiers when putting her to bed. We also didn’t rock her to sleep or feed her to sleep (except at night). We wanted her to quickly learn how to self-sooth and put herself to sleep. Yes, we do use pacifiers (we LOVE the wubbanub!) if necessary or when traveling, but usually, when putting Harper to sleep, we don’t use them.4.) Swaddling! We are firm believers in swaddling now and Harper loves it. We currently use the Anna and Eve Swaddle Strap and it was the best purchase ever. It keeps her arms secure at her sides and keeps her from waking herself up with the common infant startle reflex. She also can’t kick it off or make it loose like the blanket swaddles that most people use.
5.) We never rush in to get Harper if we see that she’s awake on the monitor. I used to rush in when she was little, but she usually would be fussy and still sleepy when I did this. So, if Harper is happy and just kicking around in her bed and if it’s earlier than she normally wakes up, I give her time to fall back asleep if she needs to. Then when she officially wakes up, she’s so much happier!
6.) The last things I’ll mention which I believe help Harper sleep so well are white noise machines and dark rooms. I’m pretty sure this is similar to most children, but those two things really help Harper take better naps during the day and sleep longer at night.
Harper’s Health and Development:
Harper was IUGR (Intrauterine growth restriction) or Small for Gestational Age in the womb and at birth. This basically means that her fetal weight was below the 10th percentile for gestational age and was why I ended up being induced at 39 weeks. She was just 5 pounds 11 ounces at birth, but quickly gained weight once we started breastfeeding. On average, newborns are supposed to gain about 1 ounce a day during their first month of life and Harper was gaining 2 ounces a day! She now weights about 15 pounds and on average is in the 25th percentile for weight, 70th percentile for height and 80th percentile for head circumference. She’s tall, lean and has her daddy’s brain!
At her 2 month appointment we realized that her head was flatter than normal and that she needed a lot more tummy time to strengthen her back and neck muscles. We honestly had been traveling and visiting friends and family non-stop early on in Harper’s life and had become lax with getting her to do tummy time. She was almost always being held by a family member! After that 2 month appointment, however, we got serious about tummy time and keeping her off her back when she wasn’t sleeping and since then her head has rounded out well and she now has great back and neck muscles.
As for major milestones, Harper still hasn’t rolled over (and actually doesn’t seem too rushed to do so) and has only tried small tastes of solid foods. I’m quickly learning that you can’t compare your child to anyone else or your parenting to anyone else. Every child is different and has different needs and will develop at their own unique pace. I know Harper will roll over eventually and we plan to start baby led weaning over the course of the next couple weeks.
I’ve noticed that Harper LOVES to talk, interact with people and listen to music and I’m excited to see her other interests and skills develop overtime at a pace that is right for her.
Overall breastfeeding has been a fairly smooth experience. I definitely didn’t have issues with producing enough milk in the beginning and would often pour milk down the drain (I wish this hadn’t been the case!) because I didn’t have the means to freeze it due to all our traveling and moving around at the time.
Later on, however, when Harper started sleeping longer and longer at night and our pediatrician said it was okay to nurse her only 5x a day versus the previous 6x a day , I felt a dip in my milk supply. It honestly made me feel so out of control and I hated feeling like I was failing Harper as she would be fussy with hunger after I fed her in the evenings. There were a couple of weeks that I was consumed with figuring out a way to produce more milk. I soon realized (thanks to numerous conversations with Megan) that I needed to add back in another nursing or pumping session and not go such a long period of time overnight without nursing her. I also realized that I produce the majority of my milk for the day in the mornings. I’ve started pumping in the mornings and using some of that milk to bulk up her nighttime feeding so that she can go to bed full and satisfied. I am so so grateful that I’ve been able to solely nurse her these past 6 months and I hope to be the main source of her nourishment for the next 6 months!
Some other products I would recommend when trying to increase your milk supply are fenugreek capsules and Traditional Medicinals Mother’s Milk Tea. I would take two fenugreek capsules 3x a day at every meal and drink the Mother’s Milk Tea whenever I remembered between nursing!
Another question I’ve been asked is, “What are my tips for nursing while traveling?” With all the traveling we do, I’ve definitely had lots of practice nursing Harper in the strangest of places: bathroom stalls, backseats of cars, airplane bathrooms, restaurant bathroom floors, etc. While it’s not ideal, it’s doable. I would say the main thing you need when nursing in public while traveling is confidence. If you act normal while nursing your child and don’t draw a lot of attention to yourself, people won’t think twice about it. I have a Wsky Nursing Cover that I use when I can’t find a nursing station or bathroom and I love that the wire neck allows me to see Harper and have my hands free to help her latch, etc. It’s also great when you have to nurse while on a plane. If I’m by a window seat, however, and Brett is in the middle seat beside me, I’ll often use my nursing cover to make a cloth barrier between me and him and nurse Harper behind that versus wearing it over my neck. In general, however, I almost always prefer to find a wheelchair accessible bathroom stall and nurse Harper in there. That usually means that I’m sitting on a paper towel on the floor, but I love not having to use a cover and it keeps Harper from getting as distracted. I’m sure one day I’ll laugh when I think about all the places I’ve nursed Harper!
My Physical Postpartum Recovery:
As for me physically, I feel almost like I did before pregnancy. I have lots of energy to care for and feed Harper and to workout in some form most days. I will say that after giving birth I realized that I lost a lot of muscle. While I feel strong and can do most of the workouts I used to do pre-pregnancy, I definitely look scrawnier than I used to. I also occasionally tinkle in my pants when jumping so that’s fun (sorry TMI!)
After experiencing pregnancy and childbirth and seeing my body go back to normal quickly afterwards, I am absolutely amazed at what the female body is capable of doing. I am so much more gracious and intuitive when it comes to diet and exercise than I’ve ever been in my life. I trust my body more than ever to tell me what it’s craving for meals and snacks and also what type of movement will benefit it the most each day. It’s so freeing to be in-tune with my body and to let it dictate my day, versus having outside cues tell me what I should or shouldn’t eat or how I should exercise.
Harper’s many quirks:
Harper cracks me up everyday and I love her little mannerism and quirks. Some of the things she does which I love are:
- holding onto my nose or face while nursing
- rubbing her eyes when she’s tired
- sticking out her tongue (as you can see in many of these photos)
- talking to herself when she’s alone in her crib
- grabbing her belly chub when playing on her back
- laughing/screaming with joy at other kids when they jump or play rambunctiously in front of her.
Will Harper be vegan?
Another commonly asked question is, “Will I raise Harper vegan/plant based?”
Overall I hope to feed Harper a 95% plant based diet. I truly believe we, children included, don’t need animal products in our diet to be healthy. However, I have been thinking about/researching allergies and don’t want Harper to develop allergies to animal products just because she was never introduced to them. With the amount we travel and with us living in a foreign country where I can’t always read ingredient labels, the last thing I would want is for Harper to accidentally have a bite of something with milk or eggs in it and have an allergic reaction…in our small Chinese city…or in a random city in Thailand…where there isn’t great health care nearby. I have yet to talk to my pediatrician about this, but if they recommend giving Harper small amounts of eggs and dairy to prevent allergies, I will consider doing that occasionally. I don’t want Harper to have issues later in life if she eats something that isn’t fully plant based. But other than that possibility, I plan to feed Harper an almost entirely plant-based diet! Let me know if you have any experience with this topic!
Future Travel Plans:
A few of you have asked when we plan to return to China. The short answer is, hopefully, towards the end of August!
Please let me know if you have an comments or questions! I’d love to hear from you. Thanks so much for following along on my vegan pregnancy and parenting journey!