Liz Talks Podcast, Episode 15: baby led weaning, work/life guilt, period products & sibling adjustments

All topics are reproduction-related…in one way or another.


Liz Talks 

This is episode 15, topic: Baby-led weaning, work life guilt, and period products. 

In case you missed it, episode 14 was all about thinking:

  • What qualifies; what might not. 
  • How to approach the idea of truly processing the information you have. 
  • And, the difference between trying on someone else’s shoes, and actually walking in them. 

Today, I’ll talk about the things that have been on my mind lately, and maybe they’ve been on yours, too. 

But before we begin, a quick note. I am so excited to share that we have some sponsors in the work. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. Podcast production is; who knew? A time and money intensive process. So it’s going to make this endeavor so much better, and more seamless to have some amazing financial support in my corner. And I can’t stress enough that the brands that choose to support me are more than just brands looking for exposure. They truly appreciate and believe in what I’m doing, and they want to partner with me.

I’m no Brené Brown; I mean, I like to think of myself as somebody special when I’m doing my affirmations in the mirror in the morning, but the brands that believe in me are hopefully seeing what you see in me and this podcast, and I could not be more grateful. So I’m working on sponsorship selection as we speak, and I hope you’ll show them some love once we get everybody all plugged in. 

So let’s get this podcast started. In the reverse order from what I set up previously; let’s start with a listener question, and then we’ll talk baby-led weaning, and then work-life guilt, and I’ll wrap up with my overshare, where I’ll chat period products. 

So here’s a listener question. “Did you do anything special to help your first daughter adjust to having a sibling? I’m pregnant with number two, and I’ll have a 5-year age gap. I want to make it smooth for my kiddo. Advice for the transition from one to two kiddos?”

So, I asked a question very similar to this on Instagram quite some time ago when I talked about the fact that there is 5.5 years between my kids. And I was thinking; gosh, they’re not going to be playmates, are they? What’s this going to be like? I kind of understood from watching my friends what it was like to introduce a toddler to a new baby, but introducing a 5.5-year-old with nobody in between to a new baby felt like something that I just didn’t know a whole lot of people who had been through that. So I definitely had the same question at one point. 

And here’s we did and didn’t do. Number one; somebody gave us a very, very creepy baby doll to try and help with the transition. But my daughter; she’s just kind of outgrown baby dolls at this point. So that didn’t do a whole lot. It was just kind of this odd thing. And now the baby plays with the baby doll, so it’s not a complete waste of money. But the whole; here, have this baby doll thing; it just wasn’t quite the right age bracket for us. 

We did some big sister books. A lot of our friends were really intentional about celebrating our oldest as she made the transition into becoming a big sister, so that was really special for her. She felt special. But at the same time, I think it kind of depends on your kid’s personality. Whether or not they feel that fawning over them, or that celebrating of them as sort of a stressor or a burden, or if they really feel good about it. So it really depends, I think, on your kid’s personality. 

My daughter; my oldest, I think really internalizes things. Right? She’s really always turning things over, and thinking about things. Even when you think she’s not. So I think a little bit of that probably translated as pressure. and I’m not sure that I could have circumvented that at any point. I think they’re going to feel how they’re going to feel. 

So we didn’t avoid anything. We didn’t impress anything too heavily in that process of getting her ready for it. And I think just seeing my belly grow was probably a big part of it. We had quite a bit of snuggle time towards the end. Me, my oldest, and my belly snuggle time. And I was very real about the process with her. When I didn’t feel good, I let her know. I told her that there were going to be things that were really going to change. And I had very frank conversations with her about it. And those didn’t seem to stress her out. 

Now, who knows what was really going on inside her mind. But I feel like my oldest really responds well to direct communication. To honest, but age appropriate conversations. Now, one thing we chose not to do was have her present for the birth of the baby. I think I asked her at one point if she wanted to be there, and she said no. And I’m very glad she did because I think that probably would have been traumatizing for her. It was my only vaginal birth that I’ve ever had, with my second. And I didn’t know what to expect. I certainly don’t think I could have predicted how; I don’t know. Just how painful and unattractive the whole process was. I talked about this in another podcast, that it was ugly. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. So if you haven’t listened to the podcast about my homebirth, go back and listen to that. Because I think I make some good points around that.

But I am glad that she wasn’t there. I think it’s a good thing and a cool thing for siblings to experience that birth process. But at the same time, having never been through the process of an unmedicated vaginal birth, I am glad that she wasn’t there. Because I think it would have been kind of a scary thing for her. So that was not part of our transition.

So the thing that I think probably makes the most difference; and this is interesting, because I tell people the same thing about their baby registries. There’s hardly anything that you can’t get within a day or two, or on the same day, thanks to Target delivery, without having to leave the house. So I tell people; you don’t need that much off your baby registry when the baby comes. Wait until you figure out what you need before you start buying things. 

The same type of idea goes for siblings, in my opinion. You don’t know what it’s going to be like until the baby gets here. Because you don’t know what the baby is going to be like. You don’t know what you’re going to be like. You don’t know what the household situation is going to be like. Relatives. Visitors. What food you’re going to be eating. What the weather is going to be like. There are a million different things related, and unrelated, that can impact how an older sibling feels about a new baby. 

So just be there. Hold space. Do a lot of listening. A lot of checking in. And be ready for really big feelings. There’s going to be times when you’re completely exhausted, but you still have to give what’s left of you to your oldest child to make them feel like you’re present, and like it’s still the two of you. 

So knowing that making them feel like crap about their big feelings might never get you anywhere, that could be your biggest motivator to not give into those impatient feelings. Those tired feelings. Those feelings of anger that just inevitably bubble up when you’re rebalancing your entire household. Maybe that’s motivation enough, just knowing that making them feel bad about big feelings is not going to get your anywhere. But holding space for them will. 

So that’s the best that I’ve got. I love the idea of preparing a sibling for a new baby. But sometimes, you’ve just got to jump into the process after the fact, and figure it out. 

Ok, the next thing I wanted to talk about was baby-led weaning. I’ve actually gotten quite a few questions about this. My approach to starting solids, for whatever reason. So it’s been on my mind lately, as I navigate the very interesting differences in my two kids and their relationships. Their likes, their dislikes, and just the way they experience food. 

So, I know there are many amazing experts out there that tackle the baby-led weaning; the starting solids concept. But here’s how I look at it, in summary. And note that this is basically my amalgamation of information that I’ve taken in over the years. But there is an actual book that started the whole movement. I think it’s called, literally, Baby Led Weaning. So I’m pulling from a bunch of different places here, and not necessarily the actual official resource. So just keep that in mind.

First of all, I should say weaning, when we talk about it, usually refers to stopping breastfeeding. But what we’re really talking about here is starting solids. I think the baby-led weaning term is kind of a British thing, where they’re actually meaning starting solids. Which is really the more accurate term, especially for us here in the States. And this generally starts around 6 months. I think that’s kind of the milestone that people talk about. Starting solids around 6 months. Around the time the baby can sit up on his or her own. 

So the idea of doing solids in a baby-led way is very much about, firstly, not spoon feeding. I think that’s probably the most solid tenant of this idea. And not doing the exclusively puree thing. Now, some people might be most comfortable with purees, just because of choking, etc. 

And by the way, there were many times with my first that I mistook gagging for choking. And it is so funny the difference between your first and your second. My first, I feel like I was literally doing the baby; flip them over and pound on their back, choking thing, thinking she was choking when she was really just kind of gagging up a little bit of food that got a little too far back. And with my second, I’ll just kind of look at her like; nope, yep, nope. Just gagging. All good. Just the difference in my anxiety reflex is very, very interesting from the first to the second. 

Ok, the benefit of starting baby on a less mainstream suite of tastes and textures; i.e., not pots of Gerber baby food, or what have you. It’s not just that they develop their palates, as in their tastebuds. But they also develop their palates literally. Offering more to gnaw on literally develops the jaw and the surrounding musculature. And I believe there is some neurological benefits to it, as well. We actually saw this amazing baby body worker in Kansas City when our second was little, who was very adamant about baby’s need to gnaw. And it was truly fascinating. This person was such an incredible body worker.

And what was really cool was that he walked us through every step of what he was doing and why. How he had developed these different types of body work. And it really served that nerd in me that wants to know everything and why we’re doing it. So that was really great. 

There’s also an important sensory component to a baby feeling through their food. Which is less; or at least happens later, when they’re being spoon feed. 

Now, the first time around, the way we did this wasn’t so much to give a bunch of random food or whatever we were eating, as many people recommend. Because the adults in my house; AKA, me, don’t eat all the weird foods that I wanted my kid to eat. So we gave her, my first, a lot of softer foods like egg yolk, and chicken liver. braunschweiger, liverwurst, blobs of spinach with bone marrow; that kind of thing. I mean, the weirdest stuff I could think of, I went for it. 

And all of this was soft; but we allowed her to feed herself. So we got some of that sensory input. That choice. That texture. That experience of texture. And all of that. 

Now; I haven’t done a great job of this with my second, I’ll admit that. She has done a lot more buttered sweet potato, mashed up stuff, chicken breasts, blueberries, cheese. More standard paleo/primal type stuff. I will admit; she even gets the organic brand Cheerios things sometimes. I don’t even know why we started that, or when. But we did, and I own it. It is what it is. 

But we have consciously chosen not to do purees or spoon feeding. And a big part of that is sensory and possibly just laziness. Because to me; I don’t know, for some reason the puree and the spoon feeding thing just feels like a lot of work. Even though it’s work to prepare food as it is, but to me. I don’t know; just the spoon repeat thing just wasn’t my style. So the baby led weaning idea worked for us. 

And while I do wish I had done a better job introducing nutrient-rich foods with my second, like I did with my first. The point, as I see it now, isn’t nutrients, necessarily. And I know this is surprising for some folks. But the way I see it now, in my opinion. It’s getting the kids to like a diverse range of flavors, and “the weird stuff” early on if you can. That can only hold benefits as they grow. And hopefully try new things. And that flavor window is supposed to close around 18 months. 

And let me tell you; when my second was starting solids with the stress of homeschool and pandemic and other worries; I did a very bad job of this. And probably did not set her up for success. So that’s on me. I don’t think she’s going to be eating a lot of the weird stuff that my first was willing to eat when she was younger. Again, that’s on me. 

But back to nutrients. Nutrients are always wonderful. Way back in the day I sort of coined the term “nutrient seeker” in the paleo/primal community. And I still think that’s a wonderful thing. But I also have to be realistic. And if becoming a mom taught me anything, it was to embrace being realistic. I’m not a super mom. I’m not a mom who has it together at all times. And that very much includes mealtimes. It’s an entirely different thing feeding one, then feeding two. At least for me. At two totally different stages with two incredibly different personalities. 

So the way I look at it now is this; I’m not mad at the people that do everything perfectly. But that’s just not me. So, for me, exposure to varying flavors: check. Exposure to varying textures: check. Satisfying the need to gnaw: check. And then finally, intake of iron and zinc. These are two nutrients that I wanted to talk about quickly.

So here’s what we know about them. We have good science to suggest that the top potential deficiencies, beginning around four months, especially for breastfed babies. And this could be for a variety of reasons we won’t talk about today. Are iron and zinc. Which is the exact reason that meat is a perfect first food. Whether that’s a rib to gnaw on or a soft liver pate. These nutrients that come from meat are the most bioavailable. And so, so easy and stacked with other nutrients that also benefit baby. 

And other than that; in general, breastfeeding covers a lot of your additional bases. Because the only bases are not sensory, stimuli, flavors, and nutrients. It’s also gut health, and the establishment of the gut microbiome. Which points, among other things, to these amazing things called HMOs – human milk oligosaccharides. Which are unbelievably fascinating. 

There’s a guy in the adult diet world named Joel Greene who is saying some really interesting stuff about HMOs. So his work is really interesting. And I can’t help but wonder if his work is going to be the next thing after all the Ray Peat stuff that’s coming out. We’ll have to see.

But HMOs are naturally present in breast milk. And they play a huge role in the development of the infant gut microbiome, which occurs in dramatic fashion across the first year of life. And here’s where I say something about formula feeding. We can be honest about the fact that breastmilk is amazing, and be honest about the fact that large corporations don’t always have the best interest of their customers in mind, while at the same time acknowledging the incredible, extraordinary, phenomenal, amazing scientific development that is baby formula. 

People; breast milk is a miracle of nature. And I would go so far as to say that formula is a miracle of science. The fact that babies can survive and thrive when they can’t be breastfed is freaking incredible.

And here’s another incredible thing. Baby formula contains HMOs. Baby formula is improving all the time. And there is research to support that. I don’t know that the gap will ever be completely closed between breastmilk and formula. And I don’t know that that’s even a productive conversation, because there are always going to be outliers. There will be unhealthy breastfed babies and super healthy formula fed babies. And I don’t know that I want to spin my wheels around nickel and diming this argument, when what matters is that we have healthy or well cared for babies that are being fed. Right? 

But there is. There is certainly some literature suggesting that some of the disparities and outcome between breastfed and formula fed babies are not as massive as they used to be. And that is a good thing. So I support moms that are doing their best; whatever that looks like. 

OK, so again. With my kids. My ideal was / is exposure to the sensory experience of food. Exposure to multiple flavors. Again, I could have done better with my second. But this is my ideal. Gnawing to develop the jaw, and whatever other benefits gnawing has. And you can also give your baby a finger to gnaw on. Not just at the roof of the mouth, but along the gumlines and things like that. That was something that the body worker showed us that ended kind of being a really cool tool for us. And then finally meat to provide iron and zinc. And then Cheerios when we’re desperate. It’s called balance. Right? 

And guess what? I did all that, by the way, and my almost 7-year-old still wants mac and cheese and spaghetti all the time. So who knows if there’s a point to any of this, right? But this is how I think about it, and how we’ve done it. 

Ok. Next up; I wanted to spend a second talking about work/life guilt, and childcare. So, I was having a brief conversation with someone in my Instagram messages about how I reconnected to myself as a human being. I think with my first, over those first couple of years; not that I lost myself. But I certainly denied a lot of my own humanity. All within my own sort of internal narrative. I was kind of denying myself my personhood, and becoming this vessel whose only mission was to care for this little human. And a lot of that related back to the anxiety that I was dealing with. And I recorded a podcast episode about that previously where I talked about heart palpitations, and anxiousness, and mental health. It was a really good episode, one of the highest listened episodes that I have so far on this podcast. So I really encourage you to listen to it, how I dealt with that.

So some of that losing myself and the act of the mothering was unhealthy for me. And it took until we moved away from the farm to a place closer to family and I really established, actually, an exercise routine where I was physically extracting myself from the act of mothering and exercising. 

Obviously, we know that exercise has a ton of benefits to longevity, to being able to be here for our children. But I also think the act of mentally detaching from obsessive mothering; which is what I was doing. I’m not saying that’s what everybody does. But it’s what I was doing. Obsessive, anxious mothering. Looping thoughts. Evaluating every little thing, and looking for problems. That’s where I was at, at certain points during the day. And it was not a healthy place for me.

So actually extracting myself; changing locations, whether that was going down to the basement and working out, or eventually going to the gym and getting linked up with my trainer, Nick. Who I have worked with for four-plus years now. Who I created the Athletic Mom program with. That was really big. 

And I’m not saying everybody should do that, and I’m not saying everybody can do that. But I’m saying for me, it was a way to bring myself back to my body. To reconnect with myself as a human being. To do something good for myself. To increase, not just my physical fitness, but also my mental resiliency, my confidence, and all of that. So that was great.

And the gym, by the way, had childcare. Which I used like three times, and then decided I wasn’t comfortable with it. But that was big for me.

But that didn’t take a whole lot of time out of my day. So there wasn’t a whole lot of guilt associated with that. Leaving a couple of times a week to workout for an hour and then come back. But now, I’m leaning into; and I kind of hate that term. But I’m growing back in to working again. And it’s so funny how this happens, but I have this way of working where I feel like if I can’t do everything, I shouldn’t do anything. And I’m working through that. Right? 

But coming back into work. I have all these different facets of my online presence that I love, that are important to me, that are a way for me to reach people and be useful. But at the same time, they got really overwhelming really fast. I’ve got; or at least I had, for many years, a thriving skincare related business where I had not only my Purely Primal Skincare Guide, which was 200 pages of nutritional, digestive, and topical information for folks who wanted to improve their skin, but in a more natural way. Which was really relevant, especially at the time it came out, when a lot of dermatologists were prescribing antibiotics over and over again to people with acne. Topical antibiotics. Retinoids; which are great when used properly. We know a lot more about them now. 

But that guide was a really good thing, because I think there was a dearth at the time of information around improving your skin in a more natural way. And at the time, I was talking about using oil on your skin, and there were like two places you could get skincare oils. Now there are bajillions of them. So I’m thinking about how I might reformulate and redo that portion of my business to be useful to people.

I’ve got the food side of the business. The Good Food for Bad Cooks. The Eat the Yolks book, which was a Wallstreet Journal bestseller. And then we’ve got the fitness side now, with Athletic Mom. Which is really my passion. And then, of course, the parenthood stuff. Which is my day to day. And all of that, I’m feeling this drive to turn it outward and really be as useful as I can to folks.

However, it’s all consuming. So there’s a lot of guilt surrounding that. Right? Growing back into work. And especially realizing how much less time I’m spending with my kids now at this really formative time in their lives. How much less time I’m spending with them than I could be. And I know, to even talk about this is a privilege. To have the choice to be able to say; maybe I shouldn’t actually be working. Even though I’m passionate about it. Even though it feels good. Even though I feel like it’s something that I need. I still feel guilty, because I don’t necessarily have to work to the degree that I am now. 

I have help. I mean, my husband has an irregular schedule, like I talked about in a previous episode. I’ve got a nanny two days a week. My parents are nearby. All of whom I trust and love. All of these people in my life that can help are amazing. But I still feel guilty, and wonder sometimes; why do I do this if I don’t have to? 

And then I get this note. And I think I have it right here, so pardon any extraneous noise, but I’m going to reach up and grab it and I’m going to read it. OK, you hear that paper; that authentic paper? So I got this note from my oldest daughter. We write notes to us all the time, all of us in our family. It’s something we started sort of as part of homeschool, because it was just such a great way to practice reading and writing in a really sneaky way, right? Not really academic, but just in a fun way. We would write each other notes. And it was so cute; it used to be that she would slide; she’d go to her room to go to bed and then she’d slide all these notes underneath our door. It was just the sweetest thing.

But she wrote me a note, and it said, “I love those videos of Athletic Mom. You are doing great!” And this was completely unprompted. And I lost my mind. I mean, it was the sweetest thing that I ever could have seen. And what I noted was; what people tell me, what working moms tell me all the time, is that they see it. They see how hard you’re working. They notice it. And it has an impact; a positive impact on them.

Now, of course. I stayed at home not working for a long time, too. And I think there’s so much value to that, as well. But that doesn’t negate the value of what kids might get out of seeing their parents work hard on anything. It doesn’t have to be going to work. It could be working hard at parenting. Working hard at building something, physically. Working hard at, I don’t know; your mobility at taking care of your house. Whatever it might be. Whatever is important. Seeing your parents work hard at something has to have an impact. At least I believe that.

And that note just made me feel like; alright. Stop questioning it. Be intentional with your time. And realize that as long as there are people that I trust and love who are in my children’s lives, that everything is going to be ok. 

So here’s what I’ve been thinking. We only get a tiny, tiny window of opportunity to experience these miraculous little beings before the world gets to them. Because the world will. No matter how much space we hold, or how much we insulate them from it, the world will get to them. So what do we do with the time that we have? Whatever we have, we make it count. Whether you work 12 hours a day and see them for a few minutes before bedtime, or you’re with them all day and you can’t wait to get them into bed. Make what you’ve got count. Kids are forgiving, and flexible, and all they want is a few moments of connection. To see that you delight in them. To make eye contact with the most important person in their world. 

So, I would say do these four things. One; be present. Memorize them. Make eye contact. Two; be loving. Hug them. Laugh with them. Number three; when you screw up number one and number two, shake it off and try again. And number four; repeat. And remember; for every moment we’re not perfect, we are forgiven. Our kids need to see us own our failures and move on to grow as humans. This is the hardest, most guilt-ridden job in the world. But don’t let that poison the time you do have. So I’m repeating this to myself as often as possible. 

Alright. Time for my weekly overshare. And today I want to talk about period products. This has been on my mind, because I am a menstruating woman. I started menstruating again around 4 to 6 months postpartum. Oh man. It’s not my favorite thing. And I think back to when I wrote that skincare guide long ago. For a long time, I had a section in it about self-care. About intimate care. And one of the things I covered was more sustainable approaches to period products. And I talked about cloth pads, and; oh my gosh, guys. If any of you did this, reach out to me. Because I want to know. I talked about literally using sea sponges. Sea sponges to replace tampons. That is how crunchy I was at one point in my life. 

And that; I evolved away from that fairly quickly. But I kid you not, I was using sea sponges for a minute. And part of that was just because I like to self-experiment. I really do. I don’t know if you would call me a biohacker, because I have no goals. I’m not sitting there saying; I have to do this in order to get to this percentage of body fat. Or, I need to do this to elevate my mental clarity to this threshold. No, I just am curious about things.

So I did the cloth pads thing and the sea sponge thing. And at a certain point, it was just too much. And I feel terrible about it, but it was. 

I’ve also tried the menstrual disc; the Flex disc. I haven’t tried the menstrual cup. I have one; haven’t tried it yet. I know people swear by it. I think the menstrual disc is a very similar idea, so I think it’s the same type of experience. But, guys. The carnage of that; I mean, you have to be incredibly careful, or the entire bathroom will just look like a crime scene.

Right?! Has anyone else experienced this, or am I the only one? Again, this is an overshare, guys. This is a bigtime overshare. So I know my husband listens to this show. You probably don’t need to listen to this again, because we’ve had this conversation plenty of times. But truly. When we used to have our potty and our bathtub right next to each other, I could kind of handle the leaning over and rinsing of the cup or disc thing. But now we have this separate potty room. And it’s like, you sit there, and it’s like; what am I supposed to do with this? So if anybody has any ideas for that, let me know.

I really do like the idea of a reusable product so we’re not just putting more stuff into the landfill. Because God knows I do that enough with disposable diapers. And I’ll talk about cloth versus disposable on a future podcast. But another thing I also think is that; its probably a good thing not to stick anything up there that doesn’t need to be up there. So that’s kind of how I feel. I think there’s probably a spectrum, where I feel like tampons, even organic ones. You know; you go from regular tampons, nonorganic cotton and then you’re kind of across the spectrum to organic, more natural stuff. But it’s still up there. Right? It’s still up there.

So I’m not entirely sure what the best solution is. I think probably just from an overall health perspective; cloth pads. Health of the environment and bodily health for women. Cloth pads are probably the way to go, because you don’t put anything up there and you also don’t put anything in the landfill. But obviously, like I said, you’ve got to be realistic.

So at this point, I kind of do a mix of multiple things, depending on where I am in my cycle, whether or not I need to go for a little bit longer without having to change something out. For example, when I’m traveling, I will generally use the menstrual disc, because it gives me more time. But at the same time, depending on how you’re standing or sitting, you can actually have little leaks with that that you might not have if you were to use, for example, a tampon or a menstrual cup; and vice versa.

So I’m still trying to figure that out. And I would actually love to hear from you all. Any kind of experience you’ve had or recommendations that you’ve got. And I’ll share them in an upcoming episode. Because I know I am not the only one that’s dealing with this. 

Ok folks, I’m getting better and better at keeping it close to 30 minutes. We’re at 30 minutes right now, so I will wrap it up. I hope you enjoyed episode 15. Please keep sharing this podcast. Yes, I mean you. You might not think your share is impactful, but it absolutely is. I appreciate you. 

That’s it for episode 15. I’ll see you next week.

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