Anti-Racist Baby(board book) – written by Ibram X. Kendi, a best selling anti-racist author and founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, we are SO thrilled he wrote this must-have board book.
The Undefeated(picture book) – stunning poetry and illustrations highlight Black history and Black futures in this award-winning book. Understanding Black history is essential to understanding American history, and this book serves as a great tool for acknowledging and celebrating the contributions of African Americans.
Let the Children March(picture book) – there are a handful of books written about the thousands of African American children that protested (and got assaulted…and arrested) in 1963 inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This one is our favorite.
Read books that celebrate racial diversity
Littles and How They Grow (board book) – this story lists the sweet and abundant ways we give love to our children. Black illustrator AG Ford beautifully depicts families across race, gender, and age spectrums.
We Are Little Feminists: Hair(board book) – Little Feminist wrote this book specifically for families to talk about celebrating race & ethnicity at home. Photos of real families is accompanied by playful rhyming text that will make this a book your kids keep reaching for. Sold as a set of 3 on Amazon. Can be purchased separately on LittleFeminist.com/giftshop.
Read biographies of people of color, beyond athletes and musicians
Think Big, Little One (board book) – Black author & illustrator Vashti Harrison (we love her so much) shines light on powerful women of color. Her simple introductions to visionaries from around the globe prove educational to adults and children alike.
Mae Among the Stars(picture book) – inspired by Mae Jemison, the first Black American to travel to space, this book encourages everyone to reach for the stars. Make sure to talk about racism with your kids when Mae’s white teacher discourages her dreams.
Enjoy fun fiction board books by Black authors about Black characters
Calling Dr. Zaza(board book) – your family is going to fall in love with Zaza, and (SCORE!) it’s a series. Showcase a strong, spunky, Black girl on your bookshelf! We picked this book to highlight because Zaza plays doctor in this story, and it leads to lots of fun imaginary play at home.
Baby Goes to Market (board book) – the routine task of grocery shopping becomes a colorful adventure filled with joy, and delicious treats! Enjoy counting along as Baby and Mama work their way through a bustling West African market together.
Baby Says (board book) – a board book remake of a classic, we love this tender sibling relationship filled with small annoyances and big love.
Read books about being bullied for being different
Sulwe (picture book) – a gorgeous tale about loving ALL of ourselves by Academy Award winner Lupita Nyongo.
The Proudest Blue(picture book) – Hijabi gold-medal Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad brings authenticity to her own story of wearing a hijab at school. A powerful reminder that something as simple as showing up in the world observing your faith and heritage requires incredible bravery.
May We Have Enough to Share (board book) – gorgeous photos all taken by Indigenous female photographers capture the spirit of gratitude.
Read books celebrating all family structures & genders
We Are Little Feminists: Families (board book) – with photos of real families and rhyming text, this board book showcases different families with one thing in common: love. Let your kiddos wonder about gender pronouns and expressions as they observe the people on each page.
Love Makes a Family (board book) – beautiful metaphors highlight the emotional love and labor caregivers pour into families. We love the diverse family constellations which even highlight singlet parents and elder caregivers.
Introducing Teddy (picture book) – we love how this book features gender identity and expression – it’s accessible to the toddlers and so heartwarming! Teddy and his friends show us what it looks like to be loved and accepted exactly as we are, regardless of gender, appearance or our favorite hobbies.
Books that celebrate all bodies and abilities
Lovely (picture book) – there are so many bodies and intersecting identities celebrated in this book, every time we read it we discover something new we love. Jess Hong uses sparse words like ‘black’ and ‘white’ and ‘fancy’ and ‘sporty’ to highlight how all of our bodies are lovely. We love how the illustrations challenge our expectations!
We Are Little Feminists: On-the-Go (board book) – where are all the books featuring characters with disabilities as more than someone to pity or save? We have NO idea! So we published this book to feature as many kids with disabilities as possible moving in all sorts of ways.
This guest post was written by Brittany Murlas from Little Feminist Book Club. Hungry for more? Or want our help curating the best picks for your family? Join Little Feminist book club. Use code THEBIRTHHOUR for 15% off any Little Feminist subscription.
All three of our kids have attended Montessori or Montessori-based preschools and we love the minimalistic and practical approach to toys (or works), furniture, and daily rhythms. When we were planning to transition our one-year-old into a room that was more for him than an afterthought/sometimes guest room, I knew I wanted to bring in some of the Montessori designs I had come to love. I fell in love with the simple Montessori furniture from Sprout and partnered with them on this post. You can use the code birthhour for 10% off at Sprout.
6 Things to Consider when Designing a Montessori Bedroom for Baby
There are a few key elements when designing a Montessori room for your baby or toddler.
Montessori Floor Bed for Baby
While you can definitely just put a mattress on the floor, we decided to go with a beautiful, yet simple, natural wood bed frame that can grow with our baby. This bed from Sprout keeps him from rolling over the back side and then as he gets older you can flip it over and have it a little higher off the ground. We have a few furniture items from Sprout and my favorite thing about their products is how easy everything is to put together. I can put it together by myself without any tools and very quickly! Floor beds are a staple in Montessori because they encourage independence, allowing baby to get in and out of bed as needed.
Organic Mattress for Baby
Another important aspect of the bed, for us, was having a non-toxic mattress. Conventional mattresses are filled with all kind of nasty ingredients that no one should be spending half of their day laying on! We decided on a twin mattress from My Green Mattress that is GOTS Certified organic and comes in a bunk size that is the perfect thickness for our floor bed! We also got their Organic Cotton Waterproof Protector because, well, accidents happen, but at the same time I didn’t want to cover our organic mattress with a mattress protector that wasn’t toxin-free as well.
I personally love having a comfortable mattress to lay down on when I’m in our little one’s room too! We still nurse before naps and bedtime and it’s so nice to cozy up together on a mattress that’s big enough for me too!
Play and Movement Space for Baby
We have a simple infant shelf, also from Sprout, in our baby’s room that is great for pulling up on and choosing his own toys to play with. We rotate out toys periodically to keep it interesting and prevent the shelf from being overwhelming with too many items. We always have blocks, some sort of puzzle toy, a stacking toy, books, and musical instruments (current favorite is a very loud drum!)
Finding high quality toys that will last a lifetime is important to us and we find that all three of our kids have enjoyed these items more than the flashing/noise-making toys that flood many store shelves. We are currently loving the quarterly subscription box of Montessori materials selected by age from Monti Kids. You can use the code BIRTHHOUR40 to save $40 + free shipping on your first Monti Kids order! Monti Kids provides Montessori subscription boxes and access to child development experts for children ages 0-3. Monti Kids subscription boxes come with toys and guidance in an easy to use program to give your baby the best education from birth.
Mirrors are a frequent component of Montessori spaces and a great addition to a bedroom. We have ours behind the play area so our baby can make silly faces and watch himself play. For a younger baby, many parents will put the mirror next to the bed or changing area so baby can see themself while laying down on the floor. An easy tip for getting a mirror (and what we did), is to use one of the giant mirrors that many home builders install in bathrooms. You can remove it and hang a mirror in the bathroom with a bit more character! Or check online for people giving away these old bathroom mirrors.
Dressing and Self Care Area
Allowing your child to choose their own clothes and dress themselves from an early age is one of my favorite Montessori ideas. Not only does it make life easier when you are avoiding battles over clothing but I love to watch the creative outfits that come together! Obviously with a one year old, their ability to dress themselves is limited but even at 14 months, our baby knows that hats go on his head, socks go on his feet, and pants go on his legs. He will pull clothing out of his child-size wardrobe and place them where he thinks they belong on his body and then we can help him actually get dressed.
I love our Alba wardrobe from Sprout because it is customizable— we can add and remove shelves and doors based on the stage our little one is at. Right now we use all of the shelves and left the door off of the hanging clothes side so that our baby can see his jackets and sweaters and grab one when we ask him if he’s ready to go outside!
Babies and Toddlers don’t benefit from a character-themed bedroom (it’s more for the adults, right?) and Montessori rooms tend to include neutral colors and natural materials without a lot of excess clutter. If you do add wall decor, make it something that’s safe to hang at their eye level so they can enjoy it—it’s their room after all! We actually have a couple of canvases that our older kids made for the baby’s room before he was born that I still need to lower to his level since I doubt he even knows they are there currently! One of our baby’s favorite things in his room is the sheepskin rug. It’s so soft and he will often crawl over to it just to roll around for a bit!
Creating a Montessori based room for your baby doesn’t have to be perfect! Have fun with the design elements but focus on keeping it simple! Less is more and it won’t always be a picture-perfect space (see below!) but the goal is for baby’s room to be a place that he (and you!) want to spend time and explore together!
Our sweet boy turned one last month and while we got a few gifts that have been huge gifts. We generally don’t buy much for our kids until they are older because they can easily be entertained by a spoon, a bucket, or a crumbled piece of paper but luckily we have friends and family that are in the know when it comes to all of the fun baby toys and our son has been loving a few things.
He’s 13 months and still not quite walking but man can he go when he pushing this thing around! We’ve tried quite a few and this one never tips backwards plus it’s a lot cute than many of the plastic ones I’ve seen.
This Hape piano collab with Baby Einstein is so cool! I love that it’s aesthetically pleasing but I mostly love the low volume setting! Our son loves to play with it and as he gets old there are even little music cards for him to practice playing tunes. So cute.
Another Hape toy that combines music with pounding (always a win!) is this toy. He loves to take the xylophone in and out and push the balls through. It’s getting lots of play time around here.
I also got him this drum for Christmas. It’s a little pricier than others on amazon but I read all of the reviews and I think this one will hold up best. Lots of people were saying their kids even used it as a little stool to sit on!
You can never go wrong with blocks. We have a few sets that have lasted over the years and still get played with by all three of our kids (ages 8, 6, and 1). We love these and these (easy for little hands to stack because they fit together) and we just got these for his birthday and they’ve been great too!
Babies love balls, you can go to literally any store and find some good options but I particularly love these because they are great for sensory play as well.
We’ve collected a good amount of nice quality wooden toys over the years and a few of my favorite places for these are Haba, Hape, and Melissa & Doug. You can also find really special one locally or on Etsy.
You can’t go wrong with buying books because again, babies don’t care too much about what they get and the parents will love you for freshening up their bedtime reading selection. For young babies we love these books that are impossible to destroy—seriously baby can chew on them, sit on them, bathe with them and they will be fine! We also love these board books.
Age Specific Play sets
There are also a couple of great subscription type toy sets for babies and toddlers that are awesome because little ones don’t need a bunch of toys at once! I’m a huge fan of MontiKids (BIRTHHOUR40 for $40 off) and Lovevery! You can even ask for gift cards from these companies!
This past year I had the amazing privilege of getting to work with Heather Gallagher to document our family from the end of my pregnancy through baby’s first birthday. I love that Heather offers this “year in the life” photography package because it focuses more on how the whole family changes and grows over a year rather than the more typical baby milestone photo packages I’d seen before. We have two older children and this year was HUGE for them in terms of changes and I’m so grateful to have these priceless images to remember our whole family unit over the course of the year that we welcomed baby number three into the fold.
I highly recommend Heather Gallagher not only for this year-in-the-life package but for any of your photography needs (especially birth photography!). She is based in Vermont but also travels for photo sessions from time to time!
Heather is also a full spectrum doula which you can learn more about by reaching out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or following her on Instagram @heather.gallagher
Our first photo session was a maternity photo shoot at the Austin Public Library which is one of our favorite places to explore together. The kids quickly became comfortable with Heather and were up to their typical silly antics.
The next time we saw Heather was for the birth! She arrived just 40 minutes or so before baby was born and probably would’ve missed it if she hadn’t had the foresight to be hanging around the area ‘just in case’ which I’m forever grateful for! Birth photos are the most beautiful images in the world and I look back at mine often. It can be hard to remember the details when you’re in “laborland” and having all of the little moments captured is not only really special but has also helped me in the processing of my birth story.
Postpartum Photo Session
Heather came back a few days later for a Postpartum shoot which really captures our big kids and how they were changing as they stepped into their new roles.
One Year Old Birthday Photo Session
We finished our year together with Heather capturing baby’s 1st Birthday party! Of course I love all of the images but more than that, it was so nice to not have to worry about where my phone was so I could be taking pictures as well and I am in way more of the photos than I would’ve been as well. I think it helped keep everyone else off of their phones as well especially when it came time for the smash cake—I noticed that everyone didn’t do the typical thing of all trying to film this moment because they knew Heather had it covered.
It’s so surreal to have more than a year captured of our family and putting together this blog post was so much fun as I went back through all of the images. It was definitely hard to pick my favorites and I’m sure my favorites will change over time! I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into a year in the life of our little family! If you are in the Austin area, I highly recommend Heather Gallagher not only for this year-in-the-life package but for any of your photography needs (especially birth photography!). Heather is also a full spectrum doula which you can learn more about by reaching out to her at email@example.com or following her on Instagram @heather.gallagher. Thank you Heather!!!
It’s amazing how many new products have popped up since my last baby was born 6 years ago. With baby #3 and working in the baby industry, I got to try a lot of new products as well as some old favorites. I wanted to round them all up to share with you. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about any of them.
Create a Good Sleep Environment for Baby
When your baby is first born they will need SO much sleep that they can pass out just about anywhere… usually on your chest after a feeding. But as they get older, you’ll want to put some thought into creating a proper sleep environment for them.
Diffuse Essential Oils in Baby’s Room
I got really into essential oils during my pregnancy and especially found so much support from them for my sleep. So of course I was excited to try some of the gentler oils with baby. We only use Young Living essential oils because they are 100% pure therapeutic grade and honestly just work better than any other brands I’ve tried. When baby was still sleeping with us we’d just diffuse one or two drops of lavender, frankincense, or a blend called Gentle Baby right before bed. Now that he’s in his own room we do the same and have since discovered that he seems to sleep really well with White Angelica or Peace & Calming. Most of these oils come in the Young Living Starter Kit if you want more info about getting started.
Use a Cool Mist Humidifier
Babies only breathe through their noses so if they are congested it’s very difficult for them to get good sleep. We love Crane’s cool mist humidifiers (the cool mist part is really important) because they are super easy to use and clean and are freaking adorable. They come in all different animal themes as well as sleep drop styles. We’ve been partnering with Crane for quite a while and they offer the coupon code BIRTH19 to my audience for $10 off +free shipping.
Make the Room Super Dark
Babies are used to complete darkness in your womb and they like a dark room to sleep in too. I know when they are brand new they can sleep anywhere and anytime but as they get older you’re going to want to create a dark room which is easy to do with some quality blackout curtains.
Use a White Noise Machine
Again, babies are used the loud white noise of being in your belly so they love a good, loud white noise machine. Not all of these are created equal and you definitely don’t want songs or nature sounds. I interviewed a sleep expert on the podcast and they actually said pink noise is best. My favorite ones are from Lectrofan.
My husband and I have chosen to co-sleep with all three of our kids for the first six months or so. With our first two children we just had them in bed with us and practiced safe co-sleeping guidelines. With our new baby we tried out a couple of baby loungers. There are many brands on the market from large and small companies but the two we had were the DockaTot and the SnuggleMe Organic. We like them both for different reasons. The SnuggleMe really hugs baby and keeps their knees up with baby’s love when they are having tummy troubles. The DockATot has a bottom to it so it was more comfortable for travel with we would put baby down in it on the hard floor. We also ended up using the DockATot longer because it felt like he grew out of the SnuggleMe faster.
Swaddles and Sleep Sacks
Ok there are a million different swaddling and sleep sack options on the market so it can be hard to know what to use and they aren’t exactly cheap either. Luckily once you find one your baby loves, you really only need two. Here’s what worked best for us.
Newborn – Solly Baby and SnuggleMe Organic swaddles (these are adorable and soft but he started to bust out of them pretty quickly!)
I discovered a couple of products to make travel more easy this time around and am excited to share them!
Slumberpod Blackout tent for playyard – This one is a GAME CHANGER you guys. I think of all of the times we tried to squeeze our older kids pack n plays into a hotel bathroom and wonder why it took so long for someone to invent this!? You can use the code birthhour for $10 off too! It’s on backorder a lot but they will notify you when it’s back in stock!
Travel blackout curtain – if you aren’t going to use the Slumberpod, there’s also a great travel blackout curtain that suctions to any window.
Portable white noise machine – I love this rechargeable white noise machine for on the go. You can use this next to their bed but also in the car, strollers etc.
Doona Carseat that converts to a stroller – This is one of my favorite baby products on the market right now. It is definitely pricey but if you are going to register for one big ticket item then I can’t recommend this enough. Or go for the $80 ikea crib (we love ours) and then spring for the Doona carseat/stroller! Not only does it make short trips in and out of the store WAY easier, it also helps baby stay asleep when you don’t have to fumble with a travel system or take them out of the carseat to put into a stroller.
Baby carrier – There are so many options and everyone will have different preferences here. We’ve been using Ergobaby carriers for all three kids and still love them and you can’t go wrong with a snuggly wrap for the newborn days.
Remember, All Babies are Different
It’s good to keep in mind that no two babies are going to have the same sleep habits but having some awesome products on hand will hopefully help! I also highly recommend Taking Cara Babies sleep course for newborns and older babies and the Happiest Baby on the Block.
We’re a couple months into our Year in the Life documentary photography package with Heather Gallagher and I’m in love with the most recent images. The package started with maternity photos, then birth photos and will culminate with baby’s 1st birthday. I just know this year is going to fly by (as they tend to do) and I’m so excited to have so many memories captured by Heather.
This most recent session was a more intentional family session with a few posed shots (kind of necessary to get all five of us in one frame!) but we were still in the comfort of our home where our kids were free to be themselves (for better or worse ha!). I’m not a fan of props or background setups for family photos and I NEVER buy the school photos because they just don’t truly capture my children.
Heather has such a great eye (and timing!) for snapping photographs that I will always cherish. Here are a few of my favorites from our most recent session. Contact her via her website or Instagram for all the details!