Archive for the ‘Claire Dodge’ Category

Baby Wearing Back Carries for Beginners

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

back carryBaby wearing is a great parenting tool to have in your toolkit. There are many benefits to baby wearing; it allows you to carry your baby in a way that aids their physical, emotional, and neurological development. Plus, it really does make life a little bit easier.

Sometimes during the 3- to 6-month stage, babies start to prefer a “facing out” type carry so that they can see everything that the wearer can see. The safest way to wear your baby in a “facing out” position is to utilize a back carry.  There are many options for wearing your baby on your back, but when babies are young and haven’t developed certain skills, there are a few ways to back wear that are more optimal than others.

Back wearing in a soft structured carrier like this one or a mei tai like this one is very simple and comfortable, but is only good choice when your baby can sit up unassisted. Soft structured carriers and mei tais typically put the hips and knees in a straight-line position, rather than a froggy-legged position where the knees are higher than the hips. To support proper biomechanics and physiological development, babies should be worn on the front in a froggy-legged position or in a froggy-legged position in a woven wrap on the back.

If your baby sits up well on their own, chose a woven wrap, a soft structured carrier, or a mei tai that you love. Check out this video for four ways to get your baby on your back safely:

If your baby is not quite sitting up but you’d like to wear him or her on your back, choose a woven wrap like this one. For a beginner, a size 6 or 7 wrap, depending on your size, is a great length to practice multiple carries.  For a baby younger than six months, back carries that use multiple passes will feel very secure and will be plenty supportive.

Below are two videos of great multi-pass back carries, the back wrap cross carry and the double hammock.  A few tips for early wrapping; use a “spotter,” practice wrapping over the couch or bed, wrap in front of a mirror, and check your tightening in the mirror. Give it a really good effort, and seek out help from local babywearing groups.

Woven wrapping takes a bit of effort, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll have very comfortable, secure carries and very happy babies.

Back Wrap Cross Carry:

Double Hammock Back Carry:

Good luck and Happy Baby wearing!

Claire Dodge is a wife and mother of two toddlers living in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas. She is a Birth Boot Camp natural childbirth instructor and helps her husband part-time in his prenatal and pediatric chiropractic office. She loves all things natural living and attachment parenting, and loves to get lost in books, yarn, and a good run.


Great Toys for Grasping and Pinching

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Great Toys for Grasping and PinchingIn the sixth month of babyhood, your little one is discovering how to unfurl his or her hands and start to use them actively.

Babies begin to reach for toys close in sight and grasp at toys placed in their hands. They’ll begin to pass toys back and forth from one hand to the other and move toys around to explore the movement and objects from different sides. There is no shortage for baby toys marketed to this age, but some are better than others for encouraging this developing motor skill of grasping.

Activity Gyms

For babies that are not yet sitting up, activity gyms are a great way to encourage grasping at an object. Simple toys can be hung from the bars of the activity gyms, which usually incorporate crisscrossing bars over a play mat. Initially it is difficult for babies to grasp with accuracy, especially if the object of their aim is moving. An activity gym allows babies to set their sights on a toy and reach for it, successfully swiping or grasping it.

Simple Toys

Very first toys should be simple and minimal. Babies do not need, and may actually be over stimulated by, complex multi-colored toys. Montessori Interlocking Discs are the perfect first toy to introduce to your three month old to encourage grasping. They are sized well for grasping, and encourage the baby to move his or her wrist in order to pass the toy to the other hand. A simple rattle is another great first toy, allowing your baby to explore cause and effect while they shake it and pass it from hand to hand.

Stuffed ToysGreat Toys for Grasping and Pinching

Some babies enjoy small stuffed animals at this age and may begin to attach to a favorite. For the three to six month age, a stuffed animal no larger than eight inches is ideal, simply to ensure that they can grab it and manipulate it. There are a number of small, simple, and organic options available, like this  Baby Doll. Another great stuffed toy for this age is the animal lovey, which combines a small stuffed animal and a small blanket. At this age children are beginning to identify differences in texture, and may start to show preferences for especially soft items. Be sure to avoid stuffed toys with plastic eyes or buttons, ribbons, yarn, or bells to eliminate potential choking hazards.

Textured Play Mats

Homemade quilts or manufactured play mats often incorporate different fabric textures and have rings or hooks sewn into the edging, allowing you to attach a familiar toy for baby for grasping while baby is on his or her stomach. High contrast mats, think black, white, and red, are great for giving baby something interesting to look at during tummy time. Textured play mats are also convenient for travel, allowing you to transport baby’s entertainment to a hotel or family member’s home easily. For those crafty mamas, here’s an awesome tree play mat, and here’s an example of a high contrast play mat.

Texture Books

You can never start reading out loud to your baby too early. Babies learn language from hearing the unique inflections, pitch, and varying sounds as they hear you speak and read. Reading gives children the opportunity to hear vocabulary they may not hear from typical conversations, and allows them to hear the unique rhymes and cadences common in children’s books.

Choosing books that have unique textured pages is an excellent way for babies to learn how to interact with a book, helps keep their interest, and gives them tactile stimulation as well. Simple baby ‘touch and feel’ board books are a great place to start and will encourage grasping at the different textures on the page. Books with predictable rhyme patterns and repeated phrases are also fantastic first books for babies.

Teething Rings

Simple wooden or silicone rings are a necessity to have on hand at this age. The typical three-inch diameter ring is the perfect size for baby’s newly grasping hands. The three to six month age is often marked by the initial signs of teething; you might notice extra drooling and gnawing on fingers.  Simple wooden teethers are great for giving baby a little bit of relieving pressure on those sore gums!

Claire Dodge is a wife and mother of two toddlers living in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas. She is a Birth Boot Camp natural childbirth instructor and helps her husband part-time in his prenatal and pediatric chiropractic office. She loves all things natural living and attachment parenting, and loves to get lost in books, yarn, and a good run.


Start a Date Night In: Part II

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

date niteThe first post for Date Night In covered some of the benefits of incorporating a consistent at-home date night into your relationship and schedule.  From personal experience, I can tell you that it is such a great way to build your marriage. I don’t know that our rules are necessarily the way to do it, but after a few years of a Date Night In routine, this is what works best for us.

  1. Be Regular. This is a cornerstone of Date Night In for my husband and I. We really look forward to date night, especially when work and life with toddlers is particularly challenging. Knowing that a specific day of the week is planned and dedicated as date night gives us something to look forward to for balancing out our week. We stick to once a week because that’s what works best for us– if we only have at-home dates twice a month, we notice that we feel less connected and are more likely to have communication issues. If you are great at sticking to a schedule, pick one day a week to always be “date night.” It’ll be easier to plan for and schedule around if you use the same day each week. If you can’t commit to the same day each week, pick a day on Saturday or Sunday when you plan our your family’s weekly schedule. Put the date on the calendar, write little count-down notes to your spouse – look forward to it! It’ll become a favorite part of your week.
  2. Plan Ahead. Date Night In is about setting aside time for connection and growth in your marriage–don’t wing it five minutes beforehand. Take the time to brainstorm a few ideas for you would love to do with that time together: Is there a movie that you know your spouse really wants to watch? Is there an idea you haven’t tried that you’d know would be a blast? When you take the time to think your ideas through, it will be more fun, and your spouse will see that you’ve put thought and effort into it. Speaking from experience, the well-planned, thoughtful dates filled with small details are the best. When we’ve been burnt out and thrown a date together last minute, it feels more like any other night rather than our special Date Night In. With just a day or two of advance planning, you’ll have time to write a date invite note, pick up the Redbox movie, borrow a game from a friend, or pick up that special treat that matches your theme. Planning ahead will also help you stick to your budget. If you know you have $10 to spend for a particular date, brainstorming thrifty ideas a few days out will help.
  3. Alternate Planning Duty. Everyone has different preferences for how they like to spend their downtime. Taking turns planning Date Night In will allow each spouse to pick their preferred date style often enough to keep the dates balanced. For our at-home dates, my husband prefers movies and indulgent treats. He’ll often pick a movie for us to watch and come up with a meal or snack idea that matches the theme of the movie. I have a lot of fun with him on those dates, but my “go to” date is a variation of game night. We have a number of two-player games that we both enjoy, and I have fun chatting and being silly during those dates. Alternating planning duty is also a great “act of service” gesture–the spouse not planning that week gets to see the other spouse put some thought and time into the date, simply because they want to show their love.  It is very meaningful for me to hear my husband’s date night pitch; I love his creativity and appreciate that he spent time away from his growing to-do list to put our date together.
  4. Pick a Theme. Having Date Night In themes is really a blast. It can take a little while to get used to the idea–at first it might feel a little awkward. At first, I would hesitantly hand my husband a “date card” with the plan for our date, hoping he wouldn’t think I was silly and would be willing to go with it. Of course he loved it, and silliness in a marriage is a good thing! There is so much you can do for planning date nights based on a theme. We’ve done so many fun, creative dates for each other. Movies and TV shows are great for themes–you can decorate your date space to match a theme, print out an image from the show or movie for your date invite, pick out a meal or a snack that fits with the concept. Other ideas include game night, dancing, massage swap, cookie-baking, sports watching, bathtub soak–anything you like to do together. Get creative and think of things that would surprise your spouse.
  5. No Distractions. This is one of the most important components of Date Night In. No technology–no cell phones, no tablet, no computer. Log off of your social media sites, turn your phone to “do not disturb,” leave email for later.  Last-minute work, kitchen duty, and craft projects do not belong on Date Night. When both spouses shut out these external distractions for a few hours, it speaks volumes. It says that you are committed to Date Night In and that you are giving your spouse your full attention. Babies might wake up and disrupt at-home dates–they certainly do in our home! But for the most part, it is easy to turn off the distractions and give each other complete focus. What a gift to be able to focus on just one another for a few hours each week. As you start incorporating at-home dates with no distractions into your week, I’m sure you’ll feel the difference between time spent together with access to those little distractions and a true Date Night In.

Ready to start planning Date Night In for you and your spouse? I’m excited to share some of our favorite date nights with you–stay tuned for more Date Night In posts. Happy Dating!

Claire Dodge is a wife and mother of two toddlers living in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas. She is a Birth Boot Camp natural childbirth instructor and helps her husband part-time in his prenatal and pediatric chiropractic office. She loves all things natural living and attachment parenting, and loves to get lost in books, yarn, and a good run.



Start a Date Night In–Part I

Friday, February 14th, 2014


FIve Reasons to Start a Date Night In

When we started this tradition, my husband was in the middle of opening his business and also working a second job. There were only two nights a week that we had more than an hour to spend together, and we brainstormed ideas for how we could really make the most of the time we did have together: Our weekly “Date Night In” was born. It has been so awesome for us as individuals and for our marriage that I am thrilled to get to share it with you.

In Part One, you’ll find five reasons to commit to a weekly Date Night In, and the follow-up Part Two post you’ll find the rules my husband and I follow for our at-home dates. Why should you and your spouse start a Date Night In routine?

  1. Sanity – Adding a new baby to the family is challenging, whether it is your first child or your fifth. Babies are so very dependent on their parents, especially in the first year. When parents add a child to the mix, it can be hard to maintain a sense of individuality within parenthood. Becoming “Mommy and Daddy” can easily take over, causing spouses to feel disconnected from the individual they were before the baby came. Don’t feel guilty about needing some “me” time, despite how much you love being a parent! It’s okay, even necessary, to protect your sanity by accessing who you are as an individual. Who better to remind you that you are both Mom, Mama, or Mommy as well as a beautiful, brilliant woman who is fun to spend time with than your spouse? Making Date Night In a weekly tradition will help you both carve out time to focus on yourselves and your marriage. Bonus? Boosting your sense of self and security in your marriage will help you as a parent as well.
  2. Prioritization – A Date Night In routine sends a clear signal to both spouses: You are my priority. When your husband sets aside that work assignment and wakes up early to finish it the next morning, the message is clear. Work matters, but there is time for you. It matters to me that we connect enough that I can set these things aside. When a wife turns her ‘guilty pleasure’ show off and logs off her social media accounts, it tells her husband the same things–it matters to me that we spend this time together, and I will gladly put you first. When children are added to a marriage, it can be a challenge to feel like your relationship comes first. Couples may agree that the marriage comes first and is top priority, but the day to day of changing diapers, feeding babies, and playing blocks can make it harder to see specifically how the marriage comes first. A weekly Date Night In is an intentional commitment to prioritizing your relationship with your spouse.
  3. Flirtation – Parents need to flirt with each other! Married parents become a team, each spouse contributing time and energy to meet the needs of the family. It’s a necessary component of marriage, right? Spouses need to work together to get through the day, pay the bills, work toward goals. Dating prior to marriage, however, doesn’t really look the same. There is a lot more time together just build around recreation – dinner out, parties, movies. Spending time together recreationally allows spouses to get back to that part of their relationship. Parents can and should still do these things out of the house, but typically the frequency drops of when children enter the picture. Having a weekly date night at the house when the children are asleep carves out time for recreation. Game night, a special take out meal, recreation of a favorite activity from the dating years–these types of at-home dates encourage spouses to flirt and be playful with one another.
  4. Intimacy – A weekly Date Night In routine provides a consistent opportunity for emotional and physical intimacy. Raising children is hard work, and those early years of parenting includes a lot of time committed to nighttime parenting as well. The reality of the time commitment to parenting means that finding time for intimacy is harder to do once children come along. To maintain a healthy level of connection with your spouse, intimacy in its different forms is essential. Date Night In is a weekly opportunity to do what my husband and I call “emotional check-ins.” We have a chance to ask big questions–How do you feel about work? What are your goals for this year, and how are they going? What has been challenging for you lately? And because we’ve set time aside to focus on each other without distractions, we are capable of being good listeners and having higher quality conversations. Setting aside time for Date Night also allows for more time for physical intimacy, another component of marriage that often requires intentional prioritization and open communication once children are added to the family.
  5. Growth – Being in a lifelong committed relationship is an opportunity for both personal growth and marital growth. A consistent weekly Date Night In is a way to make steady improvements in communication and unity. Giving each spouse a chance to refocus and regain a little sanity, keeping the relationship a top priority, and setting aside opportunities for healthy flirtation and intimacy are all benefits of Date Night In that will allow for growth in marriage.

Do I have you convinced? Look for a follow up post for the “rules” of Date Night In, as well as future posts with Date Night In ideas for you and your spouse! If you can’t wait for my follow up posts and want to get started immediately, check out The Dating Divas for ideas.

Claire Dodge is a wife and mother of two toddlers living in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas. She is a Birth Boot Camp natural childbirth instructor and helps her husband part-time in his prenatal and pediatric chiropractic office. She loves all things natural living and attachment parenting, and loves to get lost in books, yarn, and a good run.