Spending the last few weeks at home with a toddler having to quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic has helped me learn a thing or two. It’s not about having a strict schedule to follow or scratching everything off your do list. It’s about being present in the moment. I do believe that some structure is important but I am a firm believer that children learn best through play and doing their own thing. A book I recently read and loved “The Danish Way of Parenting” best explains this concept. After all, Danes are statistically the happiest people on earth so they must know a thing or two about raising capable, confident children. You can find this amazing book on Amazon. That being said, a typical day in the life with my almost two year during these crazy times looks a little something like this:Continue reading “A Day In Toddler Life During Quarantine”
Sleep – It’s so important for our babes to get the well deserved rest their little bodies and brains need to thrive and grow. As a first time mom, I’ve always valued the importance of her sleep. I have been borderline crazy about my daughters naps and making sure she’s getting enough rest throughout the day and night.
Although we’ve been pretty lucky with her sleep, there were many times throughout her first year of life that I considered making an appointment with a professional for some guidance. I’ve read many books and have done a ton of research on sleep habits for babies. From sleep training techniques to co-sleeping and everything in between. I started off with following the natural baby sleep solution which worked extremely well for us from the age of 2 to 7 months. I tracked her natural 90 minute sleep cycles and she followed the N.A.P.S plan.
N – Note the time baby wakes up from a complete nap
A – Add 90 minutes (or 3, 4.5 hours etc..)
P – Play
S – Soothe your baby to sleep
For more on the N.AP.S technique, check out the book: The Natural Baby Sleep Solution
Other than waking up 1 to 2 times night for a 5 minute feed then straight back to bed, we were all sleeping very well. At that time I was still nursing her to bed at night as well as for naps. As the months passed Valentina started waking up more often at night and it was affecting everyone’s sleep. I did more research on the topic and I learned that nursing to sleep had to come to an end since that’s what was causing her to wake up crying. Whether it be nursing or rocking or using any prop to help baby fall asleep such as a soother, if they can’t self soothe, they will wake up in between sleep cycles looking for that comforting thing that helped them fall asleep in the first place. So, we decided to try out some sleeping training techniques. Our daughter was very stubborn and we had a hard time listening to her cry because she would cry HARD. She had also learned to pull herself up to a standing position at that time and she didn’t know how to get back down so that made things even harder. After several attempts we finally managed to sleep train her. We created a solid bedtime routine and stuck to it religiously every night. She was finally going down to sleep without crying and sleeping (almost) through the night at 9 months.. which is pretty late as this can be done much earlier between 4 and 6 months. However, she still woke up for an early morning feed. I thought the best thing to do about these 5am wakes up was to give her what she wanted and nurse her back to sleep so we could all get another hour or two of shut eye since letting her cry didn’t seem to be working.
It took a little longer for naps but we got there too. No props to get her down and she was having two decent naps per day at 9 months old. I soon learned that sleep habits are always changing and can easily be disrupted.
Upon our return from a recent trip to Italy for 2.5 weeks, we were faced with a serious relapse in my daughter’s sleeping habits. I resorted back to nursing her to sleep for naps as that seemed to be the only way she’d go down for me after having done that on vacation. Man do I ever wish I had consulted with a sleep coach before making that decision. Not only was she waking up at all hours of the night while on vacation due to this but coming back from vaca was a nightmare! She fought her naps sooo hard for about a month. It took an average of 30 minutes of crying anytime I’d put her down for a nap. I thought it must be time to go down to one nap, even though all my research said the average baby doesn’t give up their second nap until around 18 months. I tried that and it only made the situation worse. I could tell she was even more tired than before! It was about one month after returning from our trip when my daughter was about to have her first birthday party. After having dealt with a month of hell going down for naps, I started looking into booking with a sleep consultant. I had been following Antea for awhile and heard from friends that worked with her that had great success. Just my luck, she was doing a giveaway in celebration of her first year in business. I entered and guess what? I actually won! That just goes to show you should enter those Instagram contests and you might just get lucky!! I was gifted a more than sleep consultation with her. This was life changing. After filling out a detailed questionnaire that helped Antea better understand Valentina’s sleep situation we had a phone consultation where she asked me further questions to know exactly what issues we were having and what our goal was with her sleep. Having filled out the questionnaire prior to the call, we discussed the action plan and what changes I was to make to her schedule and why. I asked about a million other questions regarding nursing, going back to work and pretty much everything I had concerns about in these departments like how long should let the baby cry? How many hours of sleep does she need per day? How long can her awake periods be at this age?
After hanging up the phone, I was so excited and pumped to get started and felt like I finally had that support I needed. As a personal trainer and coach, I understand the value and importance of having that support system as well as the accountability.
That Monday, I started the game plan. She had suggested subtle changes to Valentina’s sleep schedule as well as changes to her awake schedule such as feeding and play time which were all meant to help me hit her sweet spots for naps. The first day involved some crying of course but by day 2, Valentina was going down for naps within a couple of minutes!! No boob, no rocking, straight into the crib!! I was amazed. I literally didn’t think that was even possible!! Then, by the third day, she went from waking up at 5am to sleeping until 7am! 12 full hours through the night without a feed. She is finally getting about 14 hours total per day, she doesn’t even cry going down for her naps or bedtime and everyone is well rested and happy!
Antea followed up with me daily to check in and see how everything was going. I couldn’t believe that after a few days her sleep was back on track and better than ever! There have been a couple of relapses where she fought her naptime but I contacted Antea she helped me make subtle adjustments which did the trick. She’s been so supportive and has been so helpful by answering my questions promptly and encouraging me to turn to her whenever I have any more questions. She genuinely cares about our well being and wants to help any way she can!
Since getting guidance from Antea, I’ve recommended her to other mama friends who are just as ecstatic about their speedy results as we are.
I write this blog post today because I want to share with other moms that are wondering if they should invest in this service. My answer I YES, ABSOLUTELY! I know she can help so many other mamas and babies dealing with sleep struggles that can easily be addressed with the right approach and proper guidance with someone with who really cares. Sometimes we just need that cheerleader who is going to motivate us to stick to a plan and not give up!
Here’s more about what Antea does to help other moms:
Antea is a registered nurse, lactation counsellor and sleep coach working with families in Ottawa.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR OWN JOURNEY AND HOW YOUR EXPERIENCES HAVE CHANGED THE WAY YOU LOOK AT MOTHERHOOD AND PARENTING.
“Becoming a mother myself has changed my perception and given me a better understanding of what families go through. It is an immense transition for most that craves and deserves support and attention. I had my two little guys 18 months apart which was extremely challenging on my relationships with others and mostly with myself. Getting the help and guidance that I needed to overcome my struggles was paramount in becoming not only a better mother, but a better person in general. This has greatly fueled me to guide and educate mamas and families so that they can be empowered to be the best that THEY can be”.
For more information about her services, check out her website and contact her to book your appointment!
Thank you so much Antea for helping our daughter create healthy sleep habits that I know will forever benefit her.
If I could go back in time, I would have called and invested in her services months ago. Sleep is so important not only for baby but for mom and dad too!
Never underestimate the power of a coach.
Nowadays, we hear the term going green everywhere. It seems to be the “in” thing to do and for good reason. There are many reasons why we should choose to go green. From doing your part to help save our planet to reducing your exposure to chemicals that can have a major impact to your long term health, going green is a no brainer!
For the longest time, I didn’t pay much attention to ingredients and I wasn’t too concerned about them.. until I became a mother. It’s funny how that can make you become more aware and actually start caring about your own health and safety (as well as your littles). After giving birth to my daughter Valentina, I started really paying attention to labels and trying my best to avoid toxic ingredients. I started by buying organic food products for her and then slowly making the switch to organic products for my husband and I as well. A good starting point for which foods you should be buying organic is the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen.
Avoiding packaged and processed foods and going for non GMO products is also a good start.
What took me a little longer to open my eyes up to were the everyday household items we use daily such as deodorant, body lotion, and shampoo/conditioner that we lather ourselves up with day in day out that are filled with funny sounding ingredients such as phtaltates! If you can’t pronounce the word properly, that’s not a good sign!
Here are 9 daily household items you should consider swapping to an organic brand or eliminating all together!
1. Soap – Who would have thought that the innocent bar of soap or hand soap you pump into your hands daily is oozing with artificial dyes, fragrances and toxic foaming agents that can can irritate your skin.
2. Shampoo/Conditioner – From sulphites to phthaltates, you’ll find all sorts of chemicals in your shampoo and conditioner which can actually cause more damage to your hair and to your general health well being.
3. Sunscreen – The dangers of sunscreen have become well known. It’s no wonder most sunscreen brands have been banned from Hawaii because of the damage they are doing to the coral reefs. Can you imagine what they do to our bodies?
4. Deodorant – The big ingredient in deodorants and anti perspirants that we hear about which has been linked directly to cancer is aluminium. Always look for aluminum free deodorants.
5. Body lotion – Ever notice the heavy perfume scent in many lotions? Synthetic fragrances and dyes are not good for us! These chemicals can cause hormone disruption amongst many other health issues. Need I say more?
6. Toothpaste – Yes, even your toothpaste is filled with chemicals such as synthetic detergents, artificial dyes and sweeteners and chemical antibacterial agents to name a few.
7. Cleaning products – I’m sure you can tell by the smell alone that most cleaning products are full of dangerous ingredients. Do you really want your children and pets crawling around on the floor after you’ve just washed it with a cocktail of toxic chemicals!?
Other items you might want to consider eliminating all together that are full of dangerous ingredients are:
8. Dryer sheets/fabric softener – It’s actually scary what goes into this stuff. Ingredients such as carcinogens like chloroform and limonene amongst many other highly toxic ingredients. I would stay away from these at all costs, especially when it comes to babies and children!
9. Air fresheners – Air fresheners including sprays and plug-ins, even those that claim to be organic or green, contain a long list of synthetic chemicals such as carcinogens than can cause asthma and allergies. Watch out for scented candles too!
I personally love essential oils which can be added to dryer balls or used in a diffuser to freshen up your home. They have been used for thousands of years and also provide many health benefits.
Many of the top brands claim to be better for you because they’re infused with oatmeal or whatever other health gimmicks they try throwing at you. However, if you do your research and actually read the ingredients listed and how they affect your body, you’d be shocked. Many of these soulless companies will remove one toxic ingredient that has increased popularity publicly such as parabens for example, only to be replaced with other toxic ingredients hidden in between the lines that they often try and cover up!
Now that we know we should aim to buy clean, chemical free, safe products not only for your own health and safety but also to protect the environment, where do we start? When searching for a company you can trust, it can get confusing. What is actually organic, free of chemicals and safe for our planet and animals? With so many products on the market, it can be hard to find the best, the cleanest and the safest!
You search ends with Green Beaver Company. This Canadian Company makes organic products that are biodegradable, non-animal-tested, GMO-free and vegan both you and your family can safely enjoy everyday. Green Beaver was founded on the belief that humans can live happily and healthily off of the goodness that Mother Nature provides. Simply put, Green Beaver’s philosophy is that healthy and happy is the best way to live.
They make everything from safe sunscreens to aluminum free deodorant and everything in between. I love their multi purpose Castile soap that can be used to clean pretty much anything from kitchen/bathrooms to floors. It can even be used a hand or body wash. I like to put a cap full into my laundry so it comes out smelling fresh (instead of using those lethal dryer sheets)!
They also make baby products such as lotions, soaps and diaper cream that are 100% safe and organic!
If you’re looking to start going green and making a difference for our planet and most importantly your health, I highly recommend you check out the Green Beaver Company. We love them so much over at Movecamp that we have made them our title partner for 2019!
MoveCamp is a free weekly fitness event in Canada whose vision is to make fitness simple, fun and accessible to everyone. Our goal is to fill the mandate of National Health and Fitness Day, to make Canada the fittest nation on earth! I am proud to the Managing Director and Head Coach of this amazing movement. If you live in Ottawa, join us for a free workout on the front lawn of Parliament Hill as well as other Canadian landmarks every Thursday at 12:15pm throughout the summer. We will also be moving our way across the country this year for the first time ever to Montreal and Toronto. For all the details and to get exclusive Green Beaver discounts as well as many other leading health and wellness brands, register at movecamp.ca
Let’s go green together!
“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position where almost nothing seems familiar.
If I were to tell you that traveling long distances with a baby is a breeze, I’d be lying. Is it worth it though? If you value seeing the world as much as I do, absolutely!
Our daughter Valentina is 11 months old, and she just got back from a 16 day trip exploring Italy with my husband and I. She’s now been on 7 flights all together in her short lifetime. Our first trip was with my hubby’s family when she was 7 months old to Punta Cana. At that age, she wasn’t quite crawling yet and was a lot less mobile so I’d say that trip was much easier. Our most recent trip to Italy was an international flight with two layovers to get to our first destination. At this age, they’re moving around a lot more and are very curious. That alone plus the fact that travel time was much longer (the flight home was 9 hours – 15 hours total travel time with layovers) made things a bit trickier! However, it was worth the trek. We visited 11 cities in 16 days, what an adventure! You know when people say they need a vacation after their vacation? I get that now! Here are a few tips that may help you and your family if you plan on traveling with a baby.
1. Take the red eye flight: If you have the option, fly at night. Especially if you’re traveling a long way. There’s a much better chance your baby will sleep through the flight or for a good portion of it anyway.
2. Request the bassinet: Most airlines require that your baby is under 25-30lbs and is unable to sit up on their own. You can call ahead and request the bassinet, however it’s usually still a first come first serve basis so arrive at the airport nice and early! You may have to pay extra for your seat or your partners seat as the bassinet clips on in the first row where there is more leg room. In my case, the seat upgrade was free with the baby. Every airline and country is different though. If the bassinet isn’t an option for you, you can ask the airline staff if their is a row of seats open or an extra seat available so baby can have some room to move around a bit. I had requested the bassinet so my hubby and I got to sit in the first row coming back from Italy on our 9 hour flight (thank goodness). However, when it came time to bring the bassinet over after take off, they realized that Valentina was too mobile even though she met the weight requirement. Luckily, I found a row of empty seats that we walked over to several times throughout the flight to go play.
3. Bring distractions: It’s definitely a good idea to invest in a few new toys for the plane as well as for your travels to keep the baby occupied and distracted. Simple things usually do the trick so visit the dollar store or bring some different coloured/shaped sensory balls or small board books. Your baby may be happier just playing with an empty water bottle or the string from your sweater anyway. The best way to divert a tantrum is to bust out something new and shiny, even if it’s just a map (which our Valentina loved during car rides abroad). Make sure they don’t eat them though!! If all else fails, start singing their favourite song or play a game to diffuse the situation.
4. Food and snacks: You’re going to need TONS of snacks on hand for the plane as well as your travels. I always tried to get fresh fruit at local markets to keep on hand but you can’t go wrong with baby crackers or good ol’ rice cakes. If your baby is eating solids they’ll likely be eating meals with you but I highly recommend bringing pouched foods with you as well as a backup. I don’t typically use these much anymore but they’re very convenient when traveling if your baby refuses to eat something you offer at a restaurant. Also, delays happen so it’s important to have food available for your baby in these cases. If you’re breastfeeding, that’s obviously going to be very convenient when traveling because you can do it anywhere and you don’t need to worry about bottles etc. If you are feeding your baby formula, a mini kettle can work at a bottle warmer and sanitizer.
5. Book a hotel over Air BnB: We have tried both the hotel living arrangements and Air BnB while on vacation and I must say hotel is a lot more convenient with a baby. Why? They’re a lot more likely to have necessities such a crib, clean towels daily and a restaurant on site where you can order room service (we had to do that a few times when V was exhausted and we couldn’t make it out to dinner). When we were staying at hotels that didn’t have a restaurant the hotel staff were able to give us recommendations to close by restaurants or even call and order food for us.
6. Stroller and baby wearing: I recommend having both a stroller and baby carrier or sling. Having both options when you’re out and about, especially for long periods of time is key!
7. Pack light: Easier said than done! I brought two outfits for each day, which was a bit excessive! I know my daughter though and she gets messy pretty quickly. That’s why I made sure to bring clothing that she could wear twice that go well with anything such as jeans, sweaters and a few good pairs of pants. PJs I made sure she would wear 2 nights. I also brought lots of bibs. Don’t forget a plastic washable bib or two for meals as well. It’s important to pack for any climate. It ended being a little chillier on our trip, so I’m glad I had a a few sweaters and pants even though I mainly anticipated warm weather. I also ended up buying some clothing when we were down there so if you know you’re going to be doing some shopping, keep that in consideration when packing. Also, bring a few different hats to match all of your chosen outfits to protect baby from the sun no matter what the temperature is.
8. Diapers and baby essentials: The great things about diapers and wipes is that you can buy them pretty much anywhere. So, if stuffing your suitcase with 2-3 weeks worth of wipes and diapers is going to make you go over and have to pay a fee for your luggage, you’re much better off bringing less and buying some more wherever you’ll be staying. We brought a double sleeve and two packs of wipes for just over two weeks. We ended up having to buy an extra pack of each for the last few days. As for other baby essentials like lotions, soap/shampoo, and sunscreens, I put my preferred brand of baby products from The Green Beaver Company into travel size bottles (from the dollar store) as I don’t believe that brand is sold in Europe and it can get pretty heavy in your luggage if you bring the full size bottles. I love their products because they’re organic and chemical free. I’m pretty picky about this kind of stuff and would rather not have to look for a different brand if I don’t know what’s in the product and will likely not be able to read labels as easily in a different language.
9. Routine. Let’s be honest. When you’re on vacation, you are completely disrupting babies’ schedule.. and babies like routine! So, my best suggestion is try your best to follow somewhat of a similar schedule in terms of naps, meals and bedtime routine. Naps may have to happen in a stroller, car or perhaps you’ll all take advantage of a nice afternoon siesta like we often did. Your schedule will obviously sway to some degree especially if there’s time change involved but if your baby can know what to expect throughout the day and be well rested, you’ll most definitely reduce crankiness and the risk of meltdowns.
9. Patience: When your baby throws a fit (it’s bound to happen at some point) be patient with them. They’re schedules and usual predictable routines are all out of whack. They’re likely not sleeping quite as long and have busy days exploring outdoors getting plenty of fresh air and fun in the sun which tucker’s them out even more. So, you can’t blame them if they are tired and cranky. Keep in mind, if you stress out or react to their tantrums, you are only adding fuel or the fire. Stay calm and use the distraction strategy such as a their favourite toy or games like peekaboo or hide and seek to avoid making the situation worse.
In conclusion, traveling with an extra human in tow is definitely more challenging. However, the adventures you will have are worth the extra work.
It is never too early to start exploring the world.
Until next time! ✌️
For the longest time I’ve been wanting to do a lifestyle shoot in our home to be able to capture precious moments while our baby girl Valentina is still a baby! I had been on the lookout for a local photographer and although I know of many great ones in our area, most of them are pretty pricey. As they should be! Photographs last a lifetime and there’s a lot of skill as well as expensive photography equipment that goes into it. I know this because I recently got my first DSLR camera and have been taking a couple of photography courses myself. Being a on a mat leave budget, I couldn’t really justify spending hundreds of dollars on someone taking pictures of us just chillin’ at home. The thing is, I didn’t only want to have family photos of us in our natural habitat to cherish forever but I was looking for a photographer to work with to help me create content for my social media and my blog. Although I’m very new to the whole blogging world, I know professional photos go a long. Even though I’m starting to get the hang of my new fancy camera, it’s very hard to capture these candid moments yourself. So, I knew I wanted to invest in some professional photos.
I came across some of Sarah’s work and read her story from a fellow mom blogger from Ottawa www.mylittlelambblog.ca
I fell in love with her style of photography and decided to go ahead and contact her. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that her rates we’re very affordable in comparison to other photographers. I booked with her right away!
When Sarah arrived at our home, she was so laid back and made us feel very comfortable right off the bat. She made us laugh throughout the session and had all sorts of great ideas for the shoot. I was worried that I wouldn’t know what to do during a lifestyle shoot but she walked us through it and kept the session going so fluidly, the hour flew right by! She aloud for outfit changes and even offered to help me pick a dress out for V while I changed her. She has a real way of helping you open up, feel relaxed and really just capture you being you.
Here are some of the beautiful images from our shoot.
The thing that blew me away with Sarah was that she sent us these highlights of our photoshoot within a few hours after our session! I’ve had to wait weeks before getting a single image back from photographers.
We’ll definitely be hiring Sarah again in the future and I highly recommend her to anyone looking for great quality and exceptional service at an amazing price.
Photography stops time and shows you what your world looks like. There is no better way to see your life and remember a moment. – Sarah Rowland
With all the different types of foods out there and a lot of them trying to fool you into believing they’re healthy, things can get pretty confusing. Whether it be giving something a fruit flavour or a nutrition claim such as “no artificial colours” (when if you look at the ingredients it has about 17 other artificial ingredients) food companies try to make you believe their highly processed food is actually good for you. Now that’s great that there are no artificial colours as that has directly been related to several different types of cancer. However, many of the other artificial preservatives and other toxic ingredients are equally as bad for you. Now I’m not hating on all packaged foods as I am human and convenience is definitely something that I like to rely on sometimes. However, I do feel it’s important eat whole, natural foods and avoid packaged and processed foods more often than not if you want to live a healthy lifestyle and look and feel your best. I’m not saying you can never eat things like Kraft dinner or enjoy a chocolate bar every now and then but you should definitely know what to look for on food labels, especially what to avoid.
Beware of conflicting messaging: Nutrition claims such as “fat free” might seem appealing but this means it’s been highly processed. This often is flavoured with sugar to compensate. Let’s take yogurt for example. Yogurt companies, often marketing children, sadly but often have as much as 26 grams of sugar or even higher in one tiny serving. That’s more than the recommended daily intake for the average person. In my opinion, yogurt with higher fat content is more nutritionally dense and better for you anyway (especially for babies and children who need those fats in their diet) and can easily be flavoured with real fruit, cinnamon or for a sweeter treat a natural sugar source such as honey or maple syrup as opposed to refined sugars.
Sugar: On the topic of sugar, take a look at kids snacks. Many of them are completely loaded with sugar! Have you ever read the ingredients list or nutrition label on kids crackers, cookies, muffins, granola bars.. don’t even get me started on cereal! If you’re wondering how much sugar is in something, read the ingredients list. If it’s one of the first ingredients listed, I would avoid it. The ingredient listed first is the one that is present in the highest amount. Also be on the lookout for these types of sneaky sugars in the ingredients list: corn syrup/high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, maltose, fruit juice concentrate etc..
Unhealthy Oils: Other ingredients to avoid that I want to touch on are are unhealthy oils such as palm oil, canola oil, vegetable oils and any hydrogenated oils. These types of saturated fats and trans fats are extremely bad for anybody to consume and are “heart clogging”. Luckily, artificial trans fats have been banned from Canada but there is still a lot of food that still contain trans fats on our shelves, for now. To learn more about this topic, check out this article.
Anything that you can’t pronounce in the ingredients list is likely a preservative or something unnatural you should be avoiding! Be on the lookout for nitrates, BHA, MSG, artificial colours and artificial sweeteners.
For a more complete list of toxic ingredients to avoid, read this article:
Nutrition claims you should try to look for:
Non GMO: this is one of the most important health claims to lookout for. It means it’s not genetically modified. Foods that are genetically modified pose many health and environmental risks and should be avoided or limited at the very least.
Very high or good source of: vitamins or minerals such as iron, calcium or fibre.
Free of: trans fats, sodium, preservatives, artificial colours and sweeteners.
Organic – This is particularly important for baby food. Luckily most of it is nowadays and baby food is highly regulated so you don’t have to worry so much about the above mentioned ingredients but do read the back of a label before buying. I would aim for non GMO for baby foods as well.
On the top of organic, have you heard of the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen? It’s a good general guideline for buying organic produce.
All that being said, it’s ok to indulge sometimes if you want to. Enjoy life! But you will notice the less you eat that kind of stuff the more you stop craving it and how gross you feel when you do consume it. Be mindful when choosing packaged foods, especially for children and remember the golden rule, everything in moderation!
Being a mom is a full time job. We are juggling taking care of our little ones and the million tasks that come along with it. From changing diapers to feeding and preparing food, cleaning up toys and the never ending baby dishes, it’s a lot of work! It’s also a very physical job, especially in the first few months when you are potentially pacing the hallways with a fussy baby or rocking them to sleep.
It is all more than worth the effort when you see those heart melting smiles and hear those contagious giggles. Parenthood is the most rewarding job in the world. However, it’s easy to feel drained especially when there’s a good chance your sleeping habits are probably the worst they’ve ever been. Lack of sleep takes a toll on our immune systems and increases cortisol levels. So the last thing you want to do is throw in high intensity exercise which will only increase cortisol levels even more (the bodies stress hormone). Increased cortisol puts our bodies in a catabolic state which eats away at muscle mass and causes the body to store fat. This is why I recommend doing LESS if you want to look and most importantly FEEL better, especially in the first couple of months postpartum. You want to slowly build your intensity back up. Check out my blog post on How to Ease Back Into Exercise Postpartum for more information on that topic.
My goal here is to help women understand that our bodies need rest and recovery above all else after childbirth and we need a slow and steady progression (back) into exercising. As a personal trainer with a dozen of years of experience in the fitness industry, I see women in general under eating and over exercising all of the time which only makes things worse! Add in crazy postpartum hormones, lack of sleep, a very physically and emotionally demanding job as a new mother and you’ve got a recipe for disaster!
So, here are a few things you can focus on postpartum for a faster recovery and to help you towards a healthy and happy mind, body and soul.
EAT: That’s right, eat as much as you need to. I’m not saying to go and stuff your face with pizza and junk food all day but it is soooo important to be eating ENOUGH food to fuel your body properly. If you are breastfeeding, you need to take into consideration that you need to consume an extra 500 calories per day on average. As a new mom, it can be easy to forget to eat a meal because you’re too busy putting the needs of your baby before your own. However, if you’re not fuelling your body properly and getting in enough calories, you’re going to feel even more drained, increase cortisol levels even higher which could potentially make it even harder to lose baby weight and cause you to store additional fat. I recommend a balanced diet of carbs, fats and proteins, 3 meals/day and 1-3 snacks throughout the day in between meals. Eat clean, whole foods as much as possible and avoid packaged and processed foods. Meal prep and plan all 7 days of the week (don’t forget weekends)! This is a great way to set yourself up for success. If you find you’re too busy to do the whole meal prep thing at this time in your life, consider a meal prep service such as www.vittle.ca I’ve been enjoying their services for the last few years during everything from competition preps, throughout my pregnancy and now postpartum. It’s a sure way to ensure you are eating enough and eating properly. Their meals are nutritious, balanced and always varied! They deliver meals fresh to your door from Sunday to Thursday (or based on your specific request) and can accommodate any dietary restrictions. If you’re thinking of trying this service out, I have great news! Get 10% off your first week at www.vittle.ca with my promo code JESS10 – I also do monthly giveaways on my personal Instagram page instagram.com/jessichiarello
DRINK: I’m not talking coffee or wine although those are highly recommend if needed as well haha but H20! and lots of it. The more hydrated you are, the better you will feel. I could go on and list all of the benefits that proper hydration has for your body composition, energy levels, skin/hair/nails etc.. but I’m sure you’ve heard them by now. I like to use the analogy of the fresh plum and a shrivelled up prune, which one would you like to be? I recommend 2.5-3 litres minimum/day and at least 4-5 litres + for breastfeeding mamas!
MAKE YOU TIME:
This can be anything from getting your hair or nails done, a massage, walk around the block, some time out with the girls sans bébé or a nice warm bath. You deserve time to yourself and it’s not only good for you but for the babes too!
LESS SWEATING, MORE STRETCHING.
I like to stretch when my baby is down on the mat playing or doing tummy time. Be sure to choose stretches that target the major muscles of the lower body: glutes, hips and hamstrings as well as those tight upper traps.
Rolling muscles with a foam roller or yoga tune up or lacrosse ball is also a very effective way to address knots and tight muscles.
You could try some light yoga. Postnatal yoga is always a good start or try some yin yoga which focuses on holding postures for 3-5 minutes and is much less intense. Avoid power yoga and core focused classes which may be too much for your body especially if you have any diastasis recti (abdominal separation caused by pregnancy – about 60% of women suffer from this postpartum). Focus on strengthening your core, specifically the deep core muscles (TVA) and pelvic floor during and after pregnancy to avoid this! As for hitting the gym, I would take your time lifting anything too heavy until everything is fully recovered which is typically anywhere from 4-8 weeks. High impact exercises such as running are not usually not recommended until about 6 months postpartum but you can get assessed by a pelvic floor therapist to confirm this based on your personal situation downstairs.
Mediation is the art of being present. It seems pretty simple but it’s actually a lot harder than it sounds (for me anyway). To shut the brain off and just BE can be quite challenging. You have to tune out the outside world, turn off your inner voice that is constantly worrying about every little thing and try to notice all of your five senses for the ultimate sense of relaxation. It can be as simple as sitting in silence and focusing on your breathing or laying down, closing your eyes and noticing every part of your body starting from your toes and slowly making your way up to the crown of your head. I recently went to a class at thepeaceroom.com for the first time and it was so wonderful. If you have trouble sitting in silence, try journaling and writing down your thoughts as another form of meditation.
Instead of rushing to get back to the gym and hit the weights or treadmill, try practicing some of these simple self care techniques. Give yourself the well deserved rest and relaxation your body needs postpartum. Many women feel a lot of pressure to lose the baby weight and just bounce right back to their pre baby bods. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple in most cases. There are many factors that affect this such as where you started from before you became pregnant, if you were able to exercise during pregnancy, genetics, hormones, whether or not you’re breastfeeding and of course your nutritional habits above all else. One thing I know for sure is if you are following the above mentioned tips, it’ more than likely going to help you lose weight faster and more naturally than extreme measures that could be more detrimental to your overall health than anything. Slow down and take care of yourself mamas!
Thanks for reading!
The benefits of physical activity are countless but today I’m going to touch on why it’s so beneficial during pregnancy. Even if you’re not exercising consistently before getting pregnant, you can still integrate it carefully and reap the benefits. The general recommendation is 30 minutes per day and that can be anything from walking, swimming, weight lifting, yoga or whatever you love doing!
1. Move more, feel better. We all know that pregnancy can take a toll on your energy levels, especially during the first and third trimester. The body is busy making magic and working overtime to create a human so it’s understandable. However, exercise has been shown to help increase stamina and give you more energy. Making time to do some light cardio or stretching when you feel up for it can help combat that fatigue and give you more energy throughout the day.
2. Digestion. With pregnancy comes all sorts of fun symptoms such as constipation and bloating. Exercise gets your blood flowing and can help with these issues. Going for a walk after a meal has been shown to aid with digestion and is a great way to spend quality time with your significant other or catch up on the phone with your mom or a friend! Be sure to stay well hydrated too which will also help with digestion and can help prevent the above mentioned symptoms.
3. Better sleep. Sleeping is so important when it comes to your overall well being. Unfortunately, your sleep can be affected when you have to pee three times per night and you have a growing belly that eventually prevents you from sleeping your stomach and back (it’s ideal to sleep on your left side for best circulation as your pregnancy progresses). The excitement of becoming a parent alone can keep you up at night or if you have other small children they may be disrupting a good nights sleep. Many factors can affect your sleep during pregnancy. However, exercise can help you fall asleep more easily, stay asleep and get better quality of sleep. From one mother to the next, I recommend you try to sneak in some cat naps when you can .. while you still can!!
4.Improved mood. With all the changes happening in your body, your emotions see hormones can become all out of whack. Physical activity releases a happy hormone called endorphins which help improve your mood and reduce pain. Make sure to avoid getting hangry and keep that belly full too! I found this to be especially important during pregnancy to feel my best and to help with nausea.
5. Avoid back pain and improve posture. A very common issue during pregnancy is lower back pain. The extra weight you carry can affect your posture and it’s important to address it before the issue causes long term damage. Stretching tight muscles especially in the hips, glutes, back and hamstrings can help prevent these aches and pains. I loved yoga during pregnancy. Find a prenatal yoga class or let your usual yoga instructor know you are pregnant before starting a class.
6. Prevent gestational diabeties. This is also very common during pregnancy and you will be tested for it sometime between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. Regular exercise can help prevent this so all the more reason to get moving!
7. Easier labour and delivery. Exercise will help your body cope with labour can even help you bounce back much more quickly after pregnancy. I like to compare labour to running a marathon. If your physically fit, it will absolutely work in your benefit. Although lifting weights will help build muscle and strength, any physical activity is beneficial. By the last trimester, your exercise intensity will really slow down so a simple walk is more than enough. Working on strengthening your pelvic floor will also help with labour and recovery. I suggest everyone meet with a pelvic floor therapist before and after pregnancy. In some countries, that is actually the standard. Hopefully it will be in Canada one day too!
Always talk to your doctor or midwife about your exercise routine during pregnancy, especially if you’re having high risk pregnancy. As a rule of thumb, you can continue anything that you were doing before pregnancy. It’s not the best time to start something new or pick up a sport you’ve never done before. Although, if you are just starting up, light cardio and stretching is totally safe and good place to begin. If you want to start weight lifting and have never done it before, I suggest working with a trainer who specializes in pre/post natal or try a prenatal yoga class. Otherwise, stick to what your body is used to and avoid exercises that put you at risk for falling or injury. Most importantly listen to your body and do what makes you feel good!
What does getting into shape mean to you? Perhaps it’s feeling confident in a bathing suit or fitting into your favourite pair of jeans.. or maybe it’s simply feeling healthy and being able to keep up with your kids or go up a flight of stairs without getting out of breath! Whatever that definition is to you, there’s nothing stopping you from making it a reality other than your own limitations you create for yourself. Here’s how you can turn that vision into reality.
Step 1: Set some goals. Write them down and keep the S.M.A.R.T acronym in mind.
Step 2: Find something that motivates you and gives you a purpose to work towards. Maybe it’s a special event such as a birthday, a wedding or a vacation. Set a (realistic) date based on your goal. Having a timeframe or date to work towards and creating that urgency will light a fire under your ass.
Another great way to motivate yourself into getting in the best shape of your life is booking a photoshoot. Some fun ideas for shoots are boudoir (a fun gift for your significant other or just for yourself), a glamour or fitness shoot, or a fun family shoot. A great local photographer I loved working with several times here in Ottawa is Martin Dupuis, who specializes in fitness, boudoir and glamour. He’s amazing and will give you some great pictures at a very reasonable price.
What truly motivated me to get into the best shape of my life was signing up for a fitness competition. Since I set that goal for myself back in 2014, I’ve competed a total of 9 times with SAF and Physique Canada.
As a result of competing, I’ve also had the opportunity to work with world renowned fitness photographer Paul Buceta, whose work speaks for itself. He’s the chief photographer for Strong Fitness Magazine and he produces some unbelievable photographs. I’m so grateful to have these photos to look back at for the rest of my life.
Stepping on stage in a bikini might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Maybe you want to learn to run or sign up for a power lifting competition, or simply just get started! Either way, you want to find what fuels you and let that lead the way. If your goal is to learn how to do a pull-up, you have to envision yourself doing it and keep practicing until you get there. Start with a realistic goal like doing an assisted pull-up with a band or a jumping pull-up. Then once you’ve mastered that assisted pull-up, make it your goal to do a real pull-up. You may have to work on your mobility or decreasing body fat % before crushing that pull-up but you will get there if you keep working for it. Whatever your motivation is, it will be so fulfilling once you reach that goal. That’s why you want to have something to work towards. Same goes for wanting to lose 50lbs. You have to imagine yourself there and believe in your goal before taking action. Which bring me to my next point.
Step 3: Have a game plan. Working with a coach was the best decision I made towards my fitness goals. When I set the goal to get into the best shape of my life when I was 25 years old, I decided to compete and knew I had to find a great coach to help lead me there. I found my current coach Emilie Provencher after my first year of competing. She has not only helped me get into the best shape of my life but she has also been an amazing mentor for me as a coach and she’s a real boss mom I look up to.
Since I became a personal trainer, when I was 18 years old, I’ve invested in personal trainers and coaches. Not only to have a structured plan based on my goals at that time and to gain more knowledge but most importantly for accountability. As a fitness professional, it wasn’t about knowing what to do or how to do it but more so having someone to keep me on track and report back to. Having that second set of eyes and someone to guide you and help you stay focused really makes all the difference.
Perhaps you have a goal that you are determined to reach on your own without the guidance of a coach or trainer. If that’s the case, you still want to have a structured program and nutrition plan. You can use tools like a workout and food/macro logging app such My Fitness Pal or you could join a support group. I’ve always said that the next best thing to having a trainer is having a solid workout partner. You just want to be sure that person is just as committed as you are so they don’t bail on you.
If your goal is to build muscle, decrease your body fat percentage or any body transformation, I suggest taking pictures and measurements with a measuring tape or callipers when you first start and document your progress. Don’t fixate on a number on the scale. Women typically tend to think the lower the number on the scale, the better. However, I can tell you from years of experience as a coach and from my own personal fitness journey, that the number on the scale is really just a number. Sure, along with the above mentioned stats it can be a way to measure fat loss but keep in mind that your weight will fluctuate quite a bit based on hydration, what you ate the day before etc.. You may also be gaining muscle over time which means the scale can go up which is not a bad thing! So, don’t let it be the only thing you rely on to measure your success. I suggest checking your weight no more than once/week on the same day of the week, first thing in the morning.
If you’re looking to get in great shape and feel your best, set some specific goals. Find that something that will motivate you to push you to be the best version of yourself and just go for it! Have a game plan and support system wether that be a good coach, a support group or a friend or family member that will be your cheerleader. Remember, the mind is very powerful and if you have self doubt, that will most definitely get in your way. So, believe in your goal and crush it!
If you’re a mom, you know that some days feel like a marathon from beginning to end yet you don’t scratch a single thing off your to do list. Taking care of another human is a 24/7 job. It’s the best job in the world but the days are gone in the blink of an eye. From changing explosive poopy diapers to projectile vomit, the surprises never end! A few other time consuming tasks worth mentioning are nursing/feeding your little one and the never ending baby dishes and laundry. Even just leaving the house is twice as much work, especially when you’re going around nap schedules and feeding times. I remember my first time leaving the house with my daughter Valentina I was so overwhelmed. I had a million bags and this extremely heavy baby carrier to haul around and I was just wondering how the hell other moms do it? Especially with multiple children!! After a couple of months, I eventually got the hang of it. But let’s just say becoming a parent has given me a whole other level of respect for other parents. We truly are super heroes! We are at our little one’s mercy and often times that can lead to neglecting our own personal needs.. which doesn’t help anybody! If mommy isn’t taking care of herself, she won’t be much help to anybody else. As a new mom, sitting down and enjoying your meals or drinking your coffee while it’s still hot shouldn’t have to be a thing of the past (except for maybe the first 3 months). Since your sleeping patterns probably have seen better days, that’s all the more reason to make sure to fuel your body properly and find time to exercise, stretch or move in anyway that makes you feel good.
It took me a solid 4 months to really get back to working out postpartum which was quite a long break considering I had been working out 5 days per week on average for over a decade. But sometimes your body needs a break! Especially after giving birth to a human! So, it’s ok to take your time getting back to exercise. Around 6 weeks postpartum, I started by incorporating stretching and rolling newly tight muscles caused by nursing, holding and rocking a “colicky” baby day and night. I then started working on my pelvic floor and TVA (deep core) muscles after meeting with a pelvic floor therapist, which I highly recommend every woman does, especially pre/postpartum. But I wasn’t quite ready to start hitting the gym again. I was happy to be at home cocooning with my new little obsession so I found ways to incorporate exercise into my everyday. Here are a few of the ways you integrate fitness into your day:
Walk – The easiest form of exercise that you can do just about anywhere. Especially since you can bring baby with you either in a stroller, sling or baby carrier (or if you live in Canada, a sleigh ride in the winter time). Jogging is also a great way to get your cardio with the babe but be sure to talk to your doctor or pelvic floor therapist to see how long you should wait before starting up your running routine. The wait can range anywhere from 8 weeks to 6 months depending on your birth experience.
Dance: With or for your baby! Either way, they’ll be entertained. When Valentina was 0-3 months old (in her fussier stage) it seemed like all she wanted was to be walked, rocked or moving in one way or another. So, every morning I would put on some fun tunes and dance a solid 3-5 songs. That’s how I got my cardio in.. along with the countless hours of walking and rocking of course. Oh and singing burns an average of 150 calories/hour so you may as well sing along too!
Take the Stairs: I purposely only use the upstairs change station so it forces me to go up and down the stairs several times per day. You can get a whole workout in on stairs but that’s something I’ll share with you another day (keep a lookout in my Instagram page for at home workouts) instagram.com/fitmamasblog – If you’re looking for more intensity and want to get a burn on the stairs, try the good ol’ Tabata circuit: 20 seconds up the stairs (max effort), 10 seconds rest X 8 rounds.
Stretch/Yoga: What better way to make good use of your time when you’re down on the ground playing with baby or while she’s in her exersaucer, jolly jumper or any one of the million gadgets out there for babies. I usually focus on stretching my hips, glutes and hamstrings since those are always tight. Two of my go to yoga poses to do while I’m hanging out with babe are: Baddha Konasana (butterfly) and Malasana (squat).
Roll: Since tight muscles are often an issue for new moms, it’s something that needs to be addressed for the rest of your body to function optimally. That is why it should be one of your primary focuses when starting to incorporate exercise postpartum. I like to roll out bigger muscle groups like hamstrings and calves with a foam roller which you can do when you’re down on the ground while baby is doing tummy time or playing etc.. To target more specific areas, I like to use a yoga tune up ball, they come in all different shapes and sizes (you can also use a lacrosse ball but keep in mind they are firmer). I personally find rolling the piriformis, hip flexors and upper traps with these balls to be very helpful.
Use Your Baby as a Prop: The workout possibilities are endless here but a few key moves that are easy and safe for you to use your baby as a prop for are good old fashioned squats, sit ups and pushups. Doing assisted sit ups with baby after 4 months of age is also a good way to build their core and help them learn to sit! Simply lay them flat and assist them to a seated position while pulling them up by the hands.
These are all great ways to incorporate fitness with baby by your side. No babysitter or gym membership required. However, when your body has recovered and YOU feel ready to get back to the gym or whatever sports/physical activity you love, do it! Be sure to get cleared for exercise by your doctor first. It’s important to get out of the house and have some time away from the baby and give the baby a chance to spend alone time with dad or another other family member or friend for your own sanity and for the baby’s well being. For some people, that might be as soon as a month or maybe you’ll need more time like I did and start back up into a routine closer to 4 months or longer. The important thing to remember is that you want to start off light and slowly build your intensity back up. Be sure to focus on what your body needs postpartum like stretching and working your core and pelvic floor. In the meantime, try out some of these fun ways to incorporate fitness at home.
I hope I have inspired you to move and have given you some ideas to integrate fitness into your everyday life. I’ll be sharing all sorts of workouts and yoga sequences that you can do in the comfort of your own home via my Instagram page and in future blog posts so start tuned mamas!
Well, here goes nothing! Welcome to fitmamasblog. This is my very first blog post! I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing but something deep inside told me to do it so here I am! My goal with this blog is to help other moms out and share this crazy journey called motherhood together. I also want to share with moms that “being fit” isn’t as difficult as it may seem. It’s just a matter of being mindful, finding balance and enjoying life to it’s fullest along the way. Making sure you work in a lot of smiles and laughing into your days helps too!
Fitness has been a part of my life since I was a teenager. I fell in love with working out when I was in high school and went on to study Fitness and Health Promotion at Algonquin College in my hometown of Ottawa, Ontario. I became a trainer when I was 18 and have been working in the fitness industry for 12 years. Moving and eating well has been ingrained into me but don’t get me wrong, I enjoy life’s little pleasures as well. I never deprive myself of anything I want whether it be nutella or nice big glass of vino. My husband is Italian which works out because I just happen to love Italian food which I luckily get to eat a lot of. However, I do try to eat clean, whole foods as much as possible and limit the not so good things because I know what’s good for me. As you can see, I’m not an extremist in any way shape or form, I’m quite the oppose.
What inspired me to start a blog truly was being inspired by so many other amazing bloggers and women on social media that are out there sharing their knowledge and helping each other out. We’re all in this together. It really does take a village and I want this to be my little village where moms can come to for advice about relatable shit. This mom thing really is just a guessing game and we are all winging it. Sure we have our family and friends and good ol’ google but it’s nice to discuss everyday struggles and reality with other moms who are going through the same things you are. Dads, grandmas, sisters, aunts or whoever feels like it are all welcome to read along as well!
I will share my two cents on nutrition for moms and babies, how to incorporate fitness into your busy mom life and hopefully make you chuckle a bit along the way.
Thanks for checking out my blog and I hope I can inspire you to move, eat well and just breathe.
“Blessed are those who can laugh at themselves for they shall never cease to be amused.”
One of my favourite easy snacks to make when I’m craving something sweet has to be energy bites. They are great to grab and go for a quick breakfast, to snack on in between meals, pre or post workout or as a nighttime sweet snack. They are high in protein and fats so a couple of these bite sized balls will keep you satisfied.
You can experiment with different add ins but the base is really the first four ingredients.
Brownie Energy Bites:
•1/2 cup natural peanut butter
(or you can use almond butter)
•1/4 cup honey
•1 cup of ground oats (you don’t have to grind the oats but I like the texture better)
•1/2 cup of almond milk (or milk of choice)
•1 tbsp of cacao powder
•1 tbsp of coconut oil (a must if adding cacao powder)
•1 tbsp of chia seeds
• 1 tbsp of ground flax seed
•1/2 scoop of chocolate protein powder (I use Quattro by Magnum Whey Protein or Genuine Health Vegan Protein for a plant based option)
•pinch of sea salt
Other great add ins: chocolate chips, chopped nuts etc..
Mix all ingredients in one bowl. Refrigerate for 20 mins and then roll into 1 inch balls.
Carbs: 7 grams
Protein: 4 grams
Fats: 8 grams
If you’re looking for a flourless version, I love this one: https://www.texanerin.com/chocolate-peanut-butter-protein-balls/