Monday, December 29, 2014

Perineum Postpartum Care

I researched healing methods and obtained any necessary items to help get me through the healing process after birth. Some of the following are techniques to promote this healing, and others are products I had on hand in case they proved useful.


If you have had stitches or a tear, baths are recommended at least once a day. I personally found these to be helpful for relieving engorgement after my milk came in as well.

Soak in a clean tub filled with several inches of warm water. You can add half a cup of epsom salts and, after the first three days, you can also add herbs that are known to promote wound healing (i.e. calendula or comfrey). After bathing, allow time for your perineum to be exposed to the air as this also promotes healing: lie down on a towel or pad for around 30 minutes, or use a hand held hair dryer on a warm setting. The normal healing process for stitches or tears progresses from tenderness in the first days to slightly itchy.

I planned to only use epsom salt, and found these to be enough. If you really enjoy scented baths, a few interesting options I've seen available for use in healing baths are:

Use of water and perineal sprays

Your perineum will likely be sore and tender for the first days after the birth, which can cause discomfort when urinating. To help, you can squeeze warm water onto your perineum with a plastic squeeze bottle every time you go to the bathroom to take the sting out of it. You can also use a peri or spray bottle filled with witch hazel or a mix of healing ingredients. There are many available pre-made, or you can easily mix your own.

The peri bottle is also useful for preventing infection. Use it to rinse the area with warm water after each urination or bowel movement, then pat yourself dry from front to back to minimize irritation and discomfort.

I chose to have Earth Mama Angel Baby New Mama Bottom Spray on hand, however I ended up only using the peri bottle. I found having two to be helpful so I could keep them in the two bathrooms I use most often in the house, as my midwives also recommended that I try to avoid going up and down the stairs in the first couple of days.

Perineum cream

Many people simply apply witch hazel directly using a peri bottle as detailed above, but there are a couple of other options that may be more soothing. Creams can be stored in the refrigerator, which can also help cool the area when applied. I decided to get Earth Mama Angel Baby New Mama Bottom Balm, which contains natural ingredients such as shea butter and witch hazel leaf. There are quite a few options for this as well, but the ones I considered:
I enjoyed using Earth Mama Angel Baby New Mama Bottom Balm, though I didn't bother keeping it refrigerated. You spend a lot of time sitting and nursing in the first few days, and it felt good when applied.


Warm and cold compresses can help ease discomfort. Some midwives recommend warmth as it brings blood to the area. In fact, in some traditional cultures postpartum women are not allowed anything cold and are kept in very warm rooms. To apply a warm compress, just use a washcloth.

If you prefer cold, fill a plastic bag with crushed ice and wrap it in a wash cloth. You can gently apply an ice pack to the perineum for 20 minutes every two or three hours, especially in the first 24 hours, to reduce swelling and relieve pain. Many women I've spoken to also swear by Padsicles, which are pads that have been soaked with witch hazel and aloe vera and frozen. 
I didn't find I needed to do this as I had minimal discomfort. Had I not been able to take daily baths and showers, I probably would have resolved to doing it.

Maternity and menstrual pads

And then there's the bleeding. Most online resources recommend absorbent pads without a mesh cover to prevent irritating stitches. Ideally, they should also not have a plastic liner to ensure the area can breathe. I purchased a few different kinds:
And for slightly lighter flow:

There are also many natural cloth options available. A thorough review of these is available at Maman Loup's Den.

I ended up using the Organ(y)c ones the most, and alternated depending on time of day for the first few days. I found the maternity pads rather thick, which was uncomfortable when spending hours sitting with baby, and preferred the Organ(y)c 100% Organic Cotton Pads with Wings - Heavy Flow to the maternity ones in the end. Within a few days I switched to using Natracare panty liners that I already had on hand, but I didn't really like them as they were very small and still somewhat thick. I'd recommend having some on hand that are larger and very very thin.

Comfortable underwear

Goes without saying that between compresses, pads and bleeding you'll also want to ensure you have comfortable underwear that breathes and that you can happily dispose of after birth. I meant to purchase inexpensive cotton underwear in a size too big, but ran out of time so instead I set aside some comfortable underwear that I'm ok needing to replace. I also obtained samples of those god-awful incontinence panties: Tena and Depends. If you visit their websites each will send you two pairs you can give a try. I didn't end up needing these postpartum, however they were a godsend during labor given that my water broke 24 hours before I went into early labour!

The other option is disposable underwear and/or mesh panties. Hospitals apparently give these out. I couldn't find any mesh undies with good reviews online though, that matched the quality of the hospital ones, so you might be better off making friends with nurses or sticking to the above choices as I have.

Pain relief

Both Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Ibuprofen (Advil) are safe and recommended for pain management in the postpartum period. Try acetaminophen first, then ibuprofen if you need something stronger. Our midwives recommended taking two regular strength Tylenol and Advil every 4 hours, which I found to be the best pain relief during those first few days and long evenings spent holding and nursing baby. I don't usually take any pain relief drugs, but I found these to be the best item to have on hand. I took them around the clock the first three days and every night for the following week or so. It made all of the difference.

One of many great Canadian online retailers for labour and postpartum care is the All About Birth Boutique. They have many natural products and a section dedicated to postpartum care.

Monday, November 10, 2014

5 Reasons to Request Gift Receipts for Your Baby Shower Gifts

5 Reasons to Request Gift Receipts for Your Baby Shower Gifts -

1. Duplicates

People aren't memorizing your list, and end up getting you items in multiples, no matter how hard you try to avoid it.

For instance, I received 3 tubes of nipple cream. I understand my nipples will get sore, but I really hope one is enough to start! If my nipples hurt enough to make it through 3 tubes in the first few months, I'll likely be looking for other solutions and different brands, or (gasp!) give up on breastfeeding altogether!

2. Sales

This reason isn't for everyone, as it requires some patience and some work, but it can really pay off.

People often buy full price, as they think of buying you a gift a week or two before your shower. If you have the patience to go back to the store with the item and the receipt when these items go on sale, you can save a huge amount. The newborn diapers on my registry are $14.99/pack at Toys'R'Us. Yet they often have them on sale for $8.49/pack. With a little organization, I can get two packs of diapers for the price of one; that's 6 days of diapers versus 3! Did I mention diapers are expensive?!

The week after my baby shower, all of Aden & Anais went on sale for 20% off at Chapters. My girlfriends had purchased a set for me from there at full price, but had given me the gift receipt. I was able to go in and get the difference back in gift cards, to put towards another purchase. That's almost $20 to spend on a book or other cute baby item of my choice in store or online! And I know they were genuinely happy I was able to do this, one of them even told me about the sale.

3. Lowest value for returns without gift receipts

Many stores, in particular Toys'R'Us have a policy of giving you only the value of the lowest price they ever charge for that item. Say your child is born huge and never fits into newborn diapers? You get only $8.49 for that pack, even if they are currently being sold at full price, and even if they were purchased off your registry at full price.

With the number of people who use Toys'R'Us for their registries, even knowing they don't have the best prices, you think they would have the technology to help you return items purchased on it at the price that was paid. But what's their incentive to do so? They know you're going to spend money there anyway, and that you have no choice but to return or give it away if you can't use it. If you return something without a gift receipt, which was paid for full price, Toys'R'Us is actually making money for not selling you something.

4. Baby may never fit into certain clothing, diapers, etc

I'm keeping the tags on most of my newborn-sized items until baby comes, in case he never fits into them. Diapers can also stay in their sealed box or bag. Every baby is different, and there's no guarantee they'll ever fit into anything newborn. Wouldn't it be nice to exchange these for items a size bigger and not lose money on them in the process?

5. It's a question of taste... 

This is a controversial one. If you really don't like something you received, and don't plan to use it, should you keep it? Would your family and friends prefer feeling good that they made a great choice selecting a gift for you, or would they prefer you get something you love and really need?

You'll have to use your judgement on this one, but it'll be difficult to even contemplate this if you don't have the gift receipt.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Ombre Elephant Nursery Art

DIY Incredibly Easy Ombre Elephant Nursery Art using Martha Stewart Craft Punch -

This was an incredibly easy, 10 minute project. The best part is that I was able to reuse paint samples I had picked up from Benjamin Moore when deciding which colour to paint the Turquoise antique dresser, so this art perfectly matches the nursery.

I previously punched out elephants from paint samples, as you can see in my previous post, Colourful Elephants using Paint Samples and Martha Stewart Punch, which is what inspired me to do this project. 


Cut out the backdrop

Use the paper insert from the frame as a guide, as you can see in the picture below.

Cutting out the backdrop to fit the frame

Cut out your shapes

I used 4 different paint samples (Benjamin Moore 2043, 2044, 2045 and 2046) which each had 4 shades of a single colour. I punched an elephant from each shade on each sample to end up with 16 elephants.
Elephants, ready to go!

Line up the shapes on a grid

The easiest way to ensure that they line up is to use a grid. I used a cutting mat for this, but even simply lined paper will go a long way to helping you space these out evenly.

Line up elephants using a grid to space out evenly

Use the foam dots to glue on the shapes, one row at a time

Placing the foam dot on the back of the elephant
Sticking elephants to backdrop one at a time

Finished product, prior to framing

Ombre elephant nursery art, ready for framing

And here's a sneak peak of the next frame I'll be making...
Yellow ombre elephant nursery art

If you decide to do this project, email me a picture! I'd love to see what you come up with!


Cardstock or paper for backing
Paint samples matching your nursery, one for per row
Double-sided adhesive foam dots, I purchased a package of 100 for $1.50 at Michaels
Craft punch in an interesting shape - Martha Stewart makes punches with butterflies, ladybugs, hearts!
Shadow frame, I used an old Ikea Ribba 5 1/2" x 5 1/2" but any shadow frame will do

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Children's Book Rail for Nursery

The inspiration for this project came from Emaline's Elephant Nursery on Project Nursery. Similarly, I planned to put up 5 picture rails, however after installing 4 I decided to skip the bottom one for now in case I find a small side table I'd rather use next to the glider.

Children's Book Rail for Nursery
I used the Ikea Ribba Picture Ledge in White, in the longest length, 115cm.


Putting these up is fairly straightforward, but here's how I did it to ensure the shelves were perfectly lined up and level.

Decide where to position each rail.

First, I determined that most of the tallest children's books were 10 - 11 inches high. I wanted at least an inch and a half between the top of a tall book and the next rail, so I opted to position the rails 13" apart, leaving a gap of about 12 and a half inches between rails for books.

I then calculated 13"x 5 = 65" as the total height of the finished look, since I was planning to put up 5 rails. I roughly wanted the top of the topmost books to line up with the top of the closet door frame, and the bottom rail to be sightly above the outlets on the wall. 65" was slightly taller than the space I had, so I moved it up a couples of inches until I was happy with the space taken.

Determine the centre of the rail

Try to find a stud where you'd like to centre your picture rails. If you can't find one in the centre, then attempt for either one of the two sides. I was planning to centre the rails on the wall, but opted to move the rails over two inches to the left to secure the centre screw of each rail into a stud.

Select an appropriate centre point based on your success finding a stud.

Position the top-most rail

Position the top rail at the correct height so that the top of books will line up or be just above the average door frame in your room. With a pencil, mark the wall where the centre screw needs to be placed according to the centre point determined above.

Mark out the centre screw for all shelves

Use a level with a ruler to measure out the distance between shelves. So from that pencil mark, I measured straight down 13", ensured it was level then marked the wall.

Measuring distance between picture rails using a level
Measuring distance between picture rails using a level
Repeat for all shelves. If you have 5 shelves, you should have 5 pencil marks on the wall when you're done.

Mount the rails

  1. Screw in the rails one at a time. Start with the centre screw, but don't tighten it completely.
  2. Place the level on the shelf and tilt the shelf until its level. 

  3. Remove the level and screw the centre screw in tightly. Screw in the left and rightmost screws.
  4. Repeat for all of your shelves.
Mounted shelves

Fill with children's books!

And finally, the crowning moment, position your children's books! Lay out the tall ones across multiple shelves first, distributing similar books to balance out the look of the shelves. Layer books on top, progressively getting smaller until you've positioned all of your books.
Ikea Ribba picture rails with children's books
Ikea Ribba picture rails with children's books
I simply love the pop of colour this adds to the nursery!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Tutorial: Back-Tab Blackout Curtains

DIY Back-Tab Blackout Curtains

DIY Back-Tab Blackout Curtains

After hours of scouring for elegant yet fun blackout curtains for the nursery, I opted to make my own with fabric I found online. The finished panels are about 55" wide by 91". The width is convenient as the fabric comes in about 56" widths which means one less seam to try and cut perfectly straight.

The most difficult part is handling such a large amount of fabric! I highly recommend setting yourself up on a table that can accommodate the full width of the panel, ideally rectangular. Also, I don't think I would make panels this large with a sewn-in blackout liner again. With this much fabric, it would have been simpler to sew the panels and then purchase hook-on blackout panels from any hardware store or Walmart. If you decide to go that route, buy them before making your panels. You'll need to make sure your panels are slightly wider than these, and that they have the same amount of tabs as the blackout has loops and are spaced equally as well. 

As you'll see from the pictures below, I am not a professional seamstress, and I use tools I have from around the house. Happy sewing!


Prepare the fabric

Although the lining I selected isn't officially washable, I opted to pre-wash and dry the decorative fabric on low ( recommends hang drying) to pre-shrink it in case I decide to brave washing them with the lining in the future. You can skip this step if you don't plan to wash these anytime soon or if the fabric you're using is dry-clean only.

Cut the fabric and lining

Tip: If your fabric is very wrinkled, you may want to iron it prior to cutting.


Cut the blackout lining to desired size of the finished panel. Because it will be directly tucked and sewn into the decorative fabric, there is no need to allow for additional seam allowance. In my case, the fabric was exactly 54" wide. To save myself trouble, I decided not to cut down the width, and only cut it on the length to 91". I used a square  to mark a straight line across with a pencil and then cut along it using scissors.

Using a square and large ruler to mark the fabric

Decorative Fabric
I wanted each panel to be 91" long, so I measured out 101": 91" length + 5″ for the bottom hem and 5″ for the top hem.

Position the lining

  1. Position the top of the lining exactly 5 inches from the top of the decorative fabric.
  2. Center the lining between the sides of the decorative fabric.

Pin the lining in place

Iron and fold each side of the decorative fabric over the lining twice, about 1/2" then another half an inch, and pin all along the side. Repeat on the other side.

Lining pinned in place along both sides

Sew the side seams

Simply sew along the edge, holding it tightly as you feed it through to help ensure the panel is straight and the fabric doesn't slip.

Side seam sewn with lining in place

Pin the top of the panel with back tabs in place

  1. Fold over and iron an inch from the top, ensuring that you still have 4 inches between the lining and the edge of the folded fabric. 
  2. Fold and iron the remaining 4 inches over the lining for a nice polished look. Use a square to verify that your panel is still straight after you fold it over, adjust if required. My corners were not perfectly square, so I cheated and tucked in the side edges as well to ensure it doesn't show on the front.
    Ensure the top is 4" wide
  3. Cut the correct number of back tabs for each panel. For 55" panels, I use 10 each, for a total of 20 back tabs. Each has a length of 6". I'm using leftover ribbon since it won't show, and have a variety of colours, but you can use a single one, whatever you have so long as its between 1 and 2" in width and all tabs are the same width.
  4. Pin the two side backtabs in an inch from the edge. Tuck one side of the tab under where you've folded in an inch of the fabric, and then fold the top down twice before pinning to the top of the panel.
    Pin the side back tabs an inch from each edge
  5. Calculate the spacing distance between each remaining back tab. Measure the distance between the two pinned back tabs. In my case, this distance was 51 1/4 because my panel is actually 55" 1/4. I have 8 tabs left to place, and each is exactly an inch wide, so Each backtab should be between 5 and 6 inches apart.
    ((Distance between side tabs) - ((Number of remaining back tabs) x (Width of back tab))) / (Number of remaining back tabs) = (Space between back tabs)
    (51 1/4 - (8 x 1)) / 8 = 5.41"
  6. Position back tabs according to the distance calculated above. Its hard to be precise to 5.41", so I chose to pin one to each side working my way towards the middle since I figured it'd be less obvious if the middle was slightly off rather then one side. 
    Pin each back tab 5" - 6" apart

Sew the top of the panel

Sew all four edges of the top. Start with the bottom seam and then continue along the side, the top, and finally the last side.
Sew along bottom seam
You now have a single panel complete on three sides, only requiring the bottom edge to be hemmed.

Complete the same 3 edges of the second panel

I have little faith in my ability to make perfect-length panels, so here's how I cheated: I made both panels, leaving the bottom edge unsewn. I then hung them on the curtain rod (prior to installing the curtain rod in my case) to verify the final length. Finally, I marked the actual length I wanted with a pencil on both panels, instead of the exact 91" I had previously measured. The rod we're using is quite fat, so the curtains were about two inches shorter than I intended for them to be. It means I have a small area that isn't lined at the bottom, but I think that's a worthwhile compromise as it doesn't show. The curtains are the absolute perfect length, and the rod is located exactly where I wanted to hang it, mid-way between the top of the window and the ceiling.

Hem the curtains

For preparation, follow the same instructions as the top, skipping the backtabs. If you've adjusted the length, then you may need to adjust how much you fold over as a result.

To sew the bottom, sew only the top seam, you don't need to sew the absolute bottom edge or side edges.
Completed bottom hem


And did I mention iron?

Blackout back-tab curtains


Decorative fabric. I used Premier Prints Fancy Dot Twill Mint.
Lining fabric. I used Roc-Lon® Blackout Drapery Lining White.
Ribbon, bias tape or extra fabric for the back tabs, should be between 1" and 2" in width
Sewing machine and thread
Iron and a surface to iron on
A square and/or long ruler

References How to Sew Lined Back Tab Curtains (Tutorial)
Tutorial: How to Sew Lined Back-Tab Curtains
Position Curtains: Decorator Alexa Hampton explains how high to hang 'em

Looking for more inspiration? Here are some other tutorials you might like!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Colourful Elephants using Paint Samples and Martha Stewart Punch - Sneak Preview of Baby Shower Favours and Thank You Cards!

Benjamin Moore Paint Samples
Rainbow of Benjamin Moore paint chips!

I started working on colourful gift tags to attach to our baby shower favours, but was really disappointed by the paper I had available at home. I was just about ready to head over to Michaels, when I discovered these colourful paint chips.

We picked these up from Benjamin Moore to decide on the colour of the now painted turquoise dresser, and held onto them as we haven't decided if we'll be painting the nursery yet.
Martha Stewart Crafts Double Embossed Punch Elephant
Martha Stewart Crafts Double Embossed Punch, Elephant

I gave using these a try with my new Martha Stewart Crafts elephant punch. If elephants aren't your style, they have an owl, butterfly, ladybug and all sorts of other cute shapes.

From each colour, I was able to punch two to three elephants depending on the size of the colour name on the paint sample.

And wow, am I ever after happy with the results! These will definitely get used for the baby shower favours and thank you cards, but there's a good chance I'll be using these for some nursery art as well.

How cute is the gradient of colour!

Martha Stewart Crafts Punch Elephant DIY
Able to get at least 8 elephants from each paint chip
Martha Stewart Crafts Punch Elephant
Yellow gradient of elephants
Martha Stewart Crafts Punch Elephant Baby Shower
More elephants!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Buying Used Baby Items on Kijiji and UsedEverywhere

Baby items can be very expensive. Moreover, some items are only useful for the first 6 months of their lives! While you're working on your baby registry, I recommend deciding which items you'd be comfortable receiving used, and setting up automatic searches on the most popular used sites in your area. In Ottawa, Kijiji is more heavily used so I set up a number of alerts and have purchased a significant amount of the items on my registry this way.

Using alerts

Alerts are daily emails which list all items that were posted in the past 24 hours and match your search criteria. When used with good search criteria, these are very easy to manage. They all arrive around the same time, I find usually very early in the morning, so you can easily make it part of your morning routine to review new items and respond to the ones that you're interested in purchasing.

To activate an alert in Kijiji, you first have to search for the item you're looking for either using search criteria or by browsing in a category. Once your search is set up with all of the criteria you;re interested in, press the yellow 'Sign Up' button on the left hand side, and then confirm in a dialog that you do indeed want to receive an alert for this search.

Kijiji will allow you to set up alerts without creating a Kijiji account, but you'll then need to activate each subscription via email, so I personally prefer to log in using my account when setting up alerts. UsedEverywhere requires an account.

Using RSS feeds

RSS (Rich Site Summary) is a format for delivering regularly changing web content. If you're not familiar with feeds, this option is kind of like keeping the search page open and hitting the refresh button whenever you feel like it. The advantage of RSS feeds is that they can be checked at any time, and they don't generate additional email. If you're after a highly coveted item, checking search results often can sometimes be the only way to obtain it, especially if its listed at an unbelievable price.

I personally have not used this method, but I do recommend it as there are a few items I obtained by sheer luck of having searched within moments of these being posted. As the first responder, willing to pick up the item right away, I was able to secure my Uppababy Cruz stroller and bassinet at great prices because of some well-timed searching.

To subscribe to RSS feeds, you'll need to use a reader, such as Feedly. Once you have an account set up in the reader, you can start subscribing to feeds. To subscribe to a Kijiji RSS feed, use the orange RSS link found near the bottom right of a search or category listing page. Right click the image and copy the link from that button into your RSS reader.

I highly recommend categorizing all Kijiji or UsedEveywhere feeds into a single category, so they are easy to manage, hide, etc should you decide to use your RSS reader for useful reading as well.

Search criteria

The key to successful alerts and RSS feeds is specific search criteria which doesn't return a large amount of results. Don't be more specific than someone posting an ad would be, but specific enough to filter out anything that you wouldn't be interested in.

Keep in mind that you'll be receiving email or new hits in your RSS reader for anything you subscribe to, so you're better off being more specific and missing a hit, unless you're really desperate and willing to sift through a huge amount of items!

Some criteria you might want to filter on to reduce hits:

  • Search words
  • Category
  • Offering only (filter out Wanted)
  • Distance

Here are a few example searches for which I set up email alerts, after which I successfully purchased items. Note that all of these searches are also limited in location to Ottawa/Gatineau.

Oxo Sprout High Chair

  • Kijiji search:
  • Search words: Oxo Sprout - Notice I left out high chair or chair, because I don't trust that everyone spells it correctly or the same way. Some people write highchair. 
  • Category: Buy and Sell - Oxo is an uncommon word unlikely to have false positives outside of the baby item category, so I decided to limit the search to Buy and Sell but not any further. 
  • Offering only

This search proved to be perfect -- I received no false hits. The only results I received were for the exact chair I wanted, and I only had to look at the price and the condition of the item to decide whether I wanted to buy it. By responding to an ad after receiving my daily alert, I was able to purchase this $350 high chair for $125!
Tip: You can subscribe for an alert even if your search has no hits! Just because an item matching your criteria isn't posted now, doesn't mean it won't be in the future. This is what I did for the high chair.
Jolly Jumper Rocking Bassinet Stand

  • Kijiji search:
  • Search words: Jolly Jumper Bassinet Stand - Note that I was more specific than I was with the high chair here, because jolly jumper makes a number of other items I wasn't interested in purchasing. 
  • Category: Buy and Sell - Not any more specific because this way I still get garage sale hits and jolly jumper won't pick up any false positives in categories like electronics!
  • Offering only

This search generated a lot of hits, all valid, but I chose to purchase it only when I saw one listed in excellent condition at the price I was willing to pay. In retrospect, I could have adjusted my search to have a maximum price and saved myself a few emails!

Maternity Clothing

This search is different, as it's much less specific in terms of its search words, and I use the category to filter it down more appropriately. As a result, I receive emails for this search very couple of days, which I've decided I'm ok with. The criteria:

This search definitely generates more hits, but has proven to be worth the extra email sifting. I purchased beautiful designer maternity jeans for less than a third of the full price, as well as The M Coat. I wasn't even certain I wanted the M Coat when I received the notification, but the price was reasonable so I replied, tried it on in store when trying on all of the panel options, and decided that this jacket was worth the extra money. The jacket that was posted was in pristine condition and had only been used a couple of months, and I got it for half of the retail price. This jacket is also fully washable, so had it been in poorer condition I may have considered negotiating for a lower price and washing it prior to wearing it.

A few additional tips

Certain baby items have recommendations and regulations applicable to them, such as cribs, bassinets and car seats. For these, you should take some time to familiarize yourself with the regulations and decide what you're comfortable purchasing used.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Coat Extensions for Pregnancy and Babywearing

Living in a cold climate like Ottawa makes having a means of staying warm while pregnant, and also for winter babywearing a necessity if you enjoy walking. Given that we have a dog and that I'll be commuting to work by walking and public transportation for the next few months, I sought out a solution for this early on.

Extension Panels

An extension panel is a panel that zips into your existing jacket and adapts for two modes: pregnancy, allowing for your larger belly, and babywearing, which provides extra space for you to wear your baby using a wrap or carrier under your jacket. An additional benefit of getting a panel instead of a dedicated maternity or babywearing jacket is that your partner can use it as well, so long as you have the right adapter for their jacket.

There are quite a few options out there, including custom options made on Etsy, however, I chose to select from two Canadian companies available for purchase in Ottawa so that I could try them on before deciding. These two companies are Kokoala and MakeMyBellyFit, both with excellent and responsive customer service.

Just like different jackets fit and look better on certain body types, I found that extension panels are the same way. They look better with certain jackets depending on your height and the length of your jackets.

When I tried these on, I was in my second trimester at 24-25 weeks and my jackets just barely don't zip up anymore, so the panel is necessary but provides more space than I need at this point.

I'm 5'4, and I found that for both of the panels, I got the best look and fit with jackets that hit a mid-point on the thigh. With a long jacket, the panels fall a bit short, and with a very short jacket, they fit a bit too high.


The first option I considered is the Kokoala. In Ottawa, I was able to try this on at both Baby enRoute and Milkface, but they are available in many Canadian cities

Kokoala Deluxe Zip-In Jacket Extension

The Kokoala extension has more of a traditional jacket finish, almost resembling Canada Goose jackets, with the shell made of 100% waterproof nylon. Different zippers are attached using velcro, which I prefer because it means that no matter the zipper you use, the width of the panel remains the same. If you purchase it directly from Kokoala on their website, you can purchase this panel with any one zip to start. If you have a non-standard jacket you plan to use the panel with most of the time, this can be an advantage, as you save yourself $15 given that the cost of the adapter includes one zipper of your choice instead of having to buy both the panel and an adapter.

The way it adjusts is using two adjustable pulls to tighten the jacket below and above the belly. It looks stunning on their website with the right jackets. Unfortunately for me, those pulls only line up with my belly when used with my long jacket. With my short jackets, the pull which should have been under my belly lined up with my belly button, and the pull that should have been over my belly was over my chest. This meant I had to tighten them a bit less. With my long jacket, it lined up really well by positioning the velcro zipper at the correct height and then folding over the top inside. My long jacket used the same adapter as my short jacket because of the velcro, which means another potential $15 saved.

With my long TNA Parka, the panel lines up very nicely because of the velcro

This video shows how you can adjust the zipper using velcro for different jacket types. Here are pictures showing the bottom of the jacket with the panel velcro'ed in just above where the zipper starts, to help it sit at the right height.
Panel lined up using velcro on a longer jacket
Close up view
On their website, they currently only allow you to purchase a deluxe winter option or a spring option, which led me to prefer the MakeMyBellyFit, which has an optional fleece you can zip in. However, via email Kokoala assured me that a new option will be available in the next couple of weeks that has a removable warmth layer, which I prefer as it means the same panel can be used at any time of year.

MakeMyBellyFit BellyFit Panel

This second option, the MakeMyBellyFit BellyFit Panel, is also created by a Quebec company. I was able to try it on at Queen Mother Maternity in Ottawa, but is also available at these retailers in Canada. Baby enRoute usually carries it, but hasn't received new stock yet.

MakeMyBellyFit BellyFit Panel

MakeMyBellyFit's width is adjusted using snaps that line up all along the way, which allow you to adjust any section of the panel to a smaller width. However, I haven't put on much weight around my chest, so it fits a bit big over and under my belly. This is because the snaps still provide a bit of additional space in areas you don't require it, as you can see in the pictures. I should mention that the same is true for the Kokoala panel, they both add in extra fabric in areas you may not have grown.

This panel always comes with a 5VS zipper, which is the default zipper used on most sport winter jackets. My fiancé's jacket has this zipper, but only my Arc'teryx jacket uses it. The long TNA jacket uses this type of zipper as well, but it requires a zipper adapter to get the panel to sit at the right height, unlike the Kokoala with which you can just reposition the same zipper using velcro. The zipper adapters zip onto the panel, which I personally find to look cleaner, however, it means that on some jackets the panel becomes a bit wider as you're adding on the width of the adapter. An advantage of this zipper method is that you can leave the adapters on your various jackets, and zip out just the panel when you switch between jackets.
Zip Adapters

This panel definitely fits me better, though not perfectly -- I think after this experience I've come to accept that in pregnancy, there is no such thing as a perfect fitting jacket given that your body is constantly changing! Here are pictures with two of my jackets. I wasn't able to try it with my other jackets as no store in Ottawa carries the MakeMyBellyFit zipper adapters I require for them.

MakeMyBellyFit with Arc'teryx Atom

No adapter required, notice the extra width at top even with snaps closed

Aritzia's TNA Parka with MakeMyBellyFit, using long 5VS adapter

Which option?

When evaluating, it pays to to ask for a salesperson that has experience with these panels, especially the Kokoala. When I first tried it on, I didn't think it could work for me at all, however, an experienced salesperson at Baby enRoute was able to show me how to adjust the zipper to make it sit just right with my belly which makes all of the difference. 

In the end, the MakeMyBellyFit panel fits with most of my jackets best, but both options are really good candidates. I think to decide between them you need to factor in which jackets you plan to wear the panel with most often.

Kokoala is best if you plan to use it with a single jacket / zip style a season, as removing and putting zippers on and off is more time consuming given that you really want to take the time to line up the zipper at the right height. The panel itself has a really nice jacket finish and a clean look which I prefer to the MakeMyBellyFit, so its no surprise that it's a best seller in the stores that I visited.

The MakeMyBellyfit is a better choice for you if you plan to use multiple jackets regularly which all require different zippers, as these can stay on each of the jackets and you can just zip in the panel.

You might also decide that this isn't necessary at all. I have quite a few friends that walked around with open jackets while they were pregnant, maybe using a belt to keep the jacket somewhat closed. For babywearing, I've heard from experienced moms that simply keeping your jacket open and using blankets to keep your baby warm can work surprisingly well.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tracking Pregnancy Weight Gain with the Withings Wireless Scale

Confession: I've never owned a scale or used one regularly. Thus far, I've been one of those lucky people who don't deviate much in terms of weight, so I hadn't seen the need. But when I got pregnant, I decided I wanted to keep track in order to motivate me to gain weight at a reasonable pace. I also wanted to know my pre-pregnancy weight so I could be realistic about what I could expect to go back to in the future.

My key requirement was a scale that would connect to the Internet in order to track my weight and show me progress in some sort of an app on my phone. Being able to see that data all in one place seemed like a good motivator.

I compared the FitBit Aria with the Withings Wireless Scale WS-30. Here's how I made my decision:
  • Price: Withings is $30 cheaper at $100 vs $130.
  • Connectivity with activity bracelets: I decided this didn't matter for me, but it might if you already have one and want the coordinating scale.
  • Look and feel of the app. FitBit looked a bit nicer, but this was difficult to validate ahead of time without having an account set up with measurements. 
  • Look of the scale: I personally found the Withings a bit more elegant, though they are both pretty similar.
Ultimately, price was the deciding factor for me. I gave the Withings a try, liked it, and stuck with it.

How much weight should I gain?

Before I set out to use a scale, I figured I needed to set a weight goal.

I used two sources: Health Canada and BabyCenter CanadaHealth Canada has a great calculator in which you can enter your pre-pregnancy weight and height, which it uses to recommend an amount for you to gain during your pregnancy.

Based on the above two, my recommended weight gain is between: 25 - 35 lbs (or 11.5 - 16 kg). This means that during my second and third trimesters I should expect to gain about 0.8lb to 1lb a week (or 0.4kg to 0.5kg). Of course, this is just a guide, as I hear you're supposed to put on weight much more quickly towards the end of your pregnancy, and of course every pregnancy is different.

So, with that in mind, I set a weight goal of 140lbs, but am prepared to go up to 150lbs. And I'm sure if I go higher than that there will be valid reasons for it, which I'll happily discuss with my healthcare professional.

Using Withings to track progress towards goal

I originally set an incorrect goal in the app, and found I had to go online to set up a new goal that was accurate and would reflect both on the web dashboard and on my phone. Below is a view of the online dashboard after setting up this goal. On the left graph you can see a green bar, which indicates my weight goal in comparison to all off my measurements. On the right you can see that I'm on my way, 12% of the way there. In my case, the percentage is wrong. I set up the revised goal today and I don't know when it started calculating from, but I've actually already gained 8-11lbs since the beginning of my pregnancy when I compare measurements from around the same time of day. I'm pretty sure I'll have gained the recommended amount by my due date of January 2015, and not April 2015!

Below you can see the dashboard in the Android app as well as my overall weight chart since I first purchased the Withings Wireless Scale.

As you can tell, I haven't been using the weight goal very much as I just assumed it wouldn't make much sense during pregnancy. I use the scale to track overall progress, for which I find the graphs have been really exciting to watch. It is nice however to see the green line, which shows how I'm progressing towards my overall pregnancy weight goal.

One more attempt at using weight goals...

After weighing myself one more time mid-day, when my weight is at its peak, you can see how much more accurate the weight goal data can be. It seems overall that Withings hasn't configured its apps to use average data points from given times to calculate these, but instead uses the very latest measurement. Because my weight easily fluctuates 4 lbs a day, that makes it a less accurate and consistent way to measure progress.

Dashboard showing progress towards goal after a mid-day weighing
Same data, viewed in the Android application

So overall it seems the weight goal can be useful if you're interested in that feature. I would recommend to make it a habit to check the app after weighings at similar times of day. So either always check it at night, or always in the morning if you want to get a progressive, more realistic view. 

First trimester vs second

You can see from my charts below that I lost a little bit of weight during the first trimester. Luckily, I can attribute it not to unpleasant nausea, but to no longer drinking such delightfully calorie-intense IPAs! On the right you can see how quickly that's rectified itself in the second trimester, all of the way up to today's measurements at 24w4d.

First Trimester
Second Trimester

And here's the full graph I see when I log into the web application. The weight and BMI at the top are from an arbitrary point in the first trimester that I happen to have selected.

Again, notice the green line with my weight goal clearly highlighted against my measurements.

Other features

Both the FitBit Aria and the Withings Wireless Scale can track multiple users, and I find it works quite well. Whenever I step on the scale, it recognizes me by name after weighing myself.

My short name, DOM, shown on the scale as configured in the app

My partner uses it regularly. We both have access to log in and see all of the measurements on the scale. If guests come over and use it, these measurements don't get assigned to anyone, and we then have the option to discard them or create a new user on the scale.

Is it worth it?

Ultimately, it's just a scale, so it's really up to you. If you like seeing how you progress on an automatically-generated chart like I do, then go for it. I find that it really motivates me. I weigh myself every day in the morning and at night, and love to see how it deviates as my pregnancy progresses. I am not obsessed about weight, so for me it hasn't stressed me out to see that on some days I even gain 4lbs from morning to night, I find it rather fun and motivating to keep eating healthily. The gap you see in the diagrams above is when I went on vacation and (gasp!) didn't bring my scale with me. Otherwise, I've really kept up with weighing myself about twice a day on average, which has been really fun!

The true test of course will be when and if I need to start losing weight. I may feel slightly differently after the baby comes along, but we shall see!


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