What it Means to Count Baby’s Kicks

This is a guest post from Grace Greene, Count the Kicks Mississippi Ambassador, who also shared her experience in episode 512 of The Birth Hour.

My son is what Count the Kicks calls a “baby save.” He was born safely after I paid attention to his movement, noticed when something was off, and spoke up to my provider.  His birth, and what I have learned about fetal movement since then, have propelled me to become an ambassador for Count the Kicks in my home state of Mississippi. The information about why it’s important to use kick counting to monitor your baby’s well-being is too important not to spread widely to expectant parents!

What is Counting Kicks?

Count the Kicks is an evidence-based stillbirth prevention program that was started in Iowa in the early 2000s by five mothers who each walked through the heartache of losing a daughter to stillbirth or infant death. Bound together by their collective grief, they started Count the Kicks when they learned about public health research that showed a 30 percent reduction in stillbirth by teaching pregnant women how to monitor fetal movement during the third trimester of pregnancy. These mothers agreed that their work would be worth the effort if even one baby could be saved, but they have greatly surpassed that mark with their simple and effective campaign. Since Count the Kicks began in Iowa in 2008, their state stillbirth rate has been reduced by nearly 32% while the national stillbirth rate has remained relatively stagnant.

Stillbirth-comparison-Updated

Stillbirth and stillbirth prevention are not often talked about, even though a family is 10 times more likely to lose a baby to stillbirth than to SIDS. According to the CDC, 23,500 babies are born still in the U.S. every year. This is one in every 167 pregnancies. Racial disparities exist as well, with stillbirth occurring in one in every 94 pregnancies for Black moms, one in every 191 pregnancies for Hispanic moms, and one in every 204 pregnancies for white moms. Count the Kicks is committed to removing these racial disparities in stillbirth by working to make sure their important information about kick counting reaches all moms across the country.  

How to Count Baby’s Kicks?

So how does the program work? At 28 weeks (26 weeks if high-risk), all moms should download the FREE Count the Kicks app (it’s available in 12 languages on Apple and Android) or use their printable paper chart and start counting their baby’s kicks daily. Pick a time of day when the baby is normally active and time how long it takes to get to 10 movements. After a week or so, you will see a pattern of how long it takes your baby to get to 10 movements. By knowing what is normal for YOUR baby, you can quickly notice when something is off and contact your care provider to check in on your baby. I remember thinking often in previous pregnancies that I wish I could know if all was well with my baby. Thanks to the Count the Kicks campaign, moms can easily check in on their baby and will be able to quickly notice if something is off.

All expectant parents should count their baby’s kicks beginning in the third trimester. In addition to being easy, low cost, non-invasive, and a great way to bond with your baby, many moms report feeling less anxious, as they are reassured when they monitor their baby. Most importantly, it can save babies. Count the Kicks has more than 60 baby save stories on their website from moms who wrote in to share how Count the Kicks helped save their baby.

Misconceptions about Fetal Movement in Pregnancy

Some common misconceptions about fetal movement show why it’s important to track movement daily. The first misconception is that babies move less as they get closer to their due date. This is false! Babies might move differently, and moms might feel less sharp kicking and more rolling, but they will not move less as the pregnancy progresses. If you are monitoring movement at the same time each day, it should take about the same time to get to 10 movements. Babies will continue to move up to and during labor and birth and won’t run out of room the bigger they get.

count the kicks

The second misconception is that it’s not really necessary to count movements if a baby is always active. The truth is that even active babies can experience distress, sometimes quickly and without other warning signs. Tracking fetal movement daily will remove any guesswork from wondering if your normally active baby has slowed down.

The third misconception is that if you can hear a baby’s heartbeat on a home doppler, you don’t need to worry about tracking movement. This is false because a change in the baby’s heart rate is one of the last things to occur when a baby is in distress, whereas decreased movement is an early warning sign and can alert you to a problem much sooner. 

The last misconception (and information that you will find if you google fetal movement) is that a mom should feel at least 10 kicks in two hours. This common misconception is based on outdated information about fetal movement. The latest research shows that a mom should be focusing on fetal movement in general and understanding their baby’s pattern, which you will understand by using the Count the Kicks app regularly. Every baby is different, and once you know what is normal for your baby, that is the metric you should follow for determining if something is off.

Counting Baby’s Kicks & COVID-19

During this time of COVID-19 when we are all united and working towards not unnecessarily burdening our health care system, Count the Kicks is a solution to take some of the pressure off. Through the early warning system of counting kicks, there is a community of moms who are in tune with their bodies and their babies and can let providers know when something feels off. Some parents are worried about going to the hospital or contacting their care provider during COVID-19, however all expectant parents should know that it is important to speak up and check on your baby if you feel something is off. Even in a pandemic, don’t don’t delay if you are concerned about your baby.

Count the Kicks has the incredible goal of saving 7,500 babies a year in the U.S. If the rest of the country could experience a 32% decrease in stillbirths as Iowa has done in the first 10 years of the campaign, this goal would be reached. The truth about stillbirth is that there can be warning signs if moms know what to look for. When armed with this information, moms can feel confident to identify when a baby is moving normally and will be empowered to speak up for their baby if something is off. I am eternally grateful that I knew to call my provider when I noticed a decrease in fetal movement and that my concerns were taken seriously. My son truly was in distress and by acting quickly on his behalf, he was born safe and healthy.

count-the-kicks-founders

Learn More about Counting Baby’s Kicks & Download Count the Kicks App

Want to learn more? Count the Kicks has an academy for expectant parents on their website that is full of additional information about fetal movement, including videos with more information from providers and moms who have used Count the Kicks during a pregnancy. For providers they have a continuing education course, a provider academy with the latest research on stillbirth and fetal movement, information on how to implement the program in your practice, and the ability to order materials for patients.

I would encourage you to first download the app and start counting if you are pregnant, then follow Count the Kicks on all social media channels to learn more about their campaign, tell your expectant friends to download the app and start counting, and let your provider know about this important program if they have not yet implemented it in their practice. 

Knowledge is power, and I hope you feel reassured and confident about your ability to monitor your baby’s movement during pregnancy and speak up if something is off.

This was a guest post from Grace Greene, Count the Kicks Mississippi Ambassador, who also shared her experience in episode 512 of The Birth Hour.

How to Get a Free Breast Pump Through Insurance

You may know that thanks to the Affordable Care Act of 2010, breast pumps are covered by most health insurance companies for free. But, you may also know that dealing with your insurance company for anything at all can sometimes be more work than it’s worth. That’s why The Birth Hour is proud to partner with Aeroflow Breastpumps to help you navigate this process.

3 Steps to Get a Breast Pump Through Insurance

Aeroflow Breastpumps has helped thousands of new and expecting moms find the perfect pump for her lifestyle. They offer all major pump brands including Medela, Spectra, Motif, Lansinoh, Ameda and more. And the best part, they take care of everything – including getting all required paperwork, dealing with your insurance company, and explaining your options in order to get your free pump shipped straight to your door.

Step 1 – Fill out a quick form with your info

Head over to Aeroflow Breastpumps website and fill out their completely FREE and easy, Qualify through Insurance form. On this form you’ll be asked for your name, email, due date, and insurance information.

Step 2 – Get Verified

Aeroflow does all of the legwork for you by determining your level of coverage through your insurance carrier and verifying your due date with your care provider. You will be assigned a breast pump specialist and they can assist you through email, text, or by phone—whatever is easiest for you.

Step 3 – Choose your Breastpump

You will be sent a link where you can view all of the breastpump options available to you for FREE. Aeroflow carries all of the major pump brands including Medela, Spectra, Motif, Lansinoh, Ameda and more. You can narrow down your choices based on brand or certain features you’re looking for (double electric, manual hospital-grade, hands free, battery operated, etc). Your breast pump specialist can help by recommending the best breast pump for your lifestyle and breastfeeding goals as well!

And, Aeroflow has free shipping on all pumps!

Just a handful of the many options available through Aeroflow, availability will depend on your insurance).

Getting a Breast Pump Through Insurance – FAQs

Getting a breast pump for free through insurance may seem too good to be true and if you still have some questions, here are some of the most frequently asked questions we see.

When will I get my breastpump?

It depends on your insurance company. Some plans require that you wait until 36 weeks to receive your pump while others allow it to be shipped right away. Aeroflow will find out this information and can let you know!

Do I need a note from my doctor?

Nope! Aeroflow will contact your care provider to verify your pregnancy and due date. They take care of everything!

Will I have to deal with contacting my insurance provider?

Nope! Aeroflow takes care of everything and you will never have to speak to your insurance company. If for some reason your insurance company isn’t serviced by Aeroflow they will give you instructions on who can help you.

What about breast pump accessories and resupply products?

When you go through Aeroflow, they will recommend supplies and accessories that will benefit your pumping experience and they will also determine whether select supplies and accessories are available for free under your insurance plan. My favorite part is that Aeroflow will contact you at regular intervals after baby arrives to send you free replacement parts!

Is it possible to upgrade my breast pump beyond what I qualify for through my insurance?

Yes! After your insurance information is verified, Aeroflow will send you a link that is personalized based on your coverage. It will show you which pumps your qualify for free and which ones you can upgrade to for an additional fee.

I’ve heard that some insurance companies also cover the cost of maternity compression garments. How does that work?

Yes, you may also qualify for free maternity compression garments like compression socks, maternity support band, and a postpartum recovery garment. Aeroflow will check your insurance information automatically to let you know! PLUS breast pump resupply products ranging from new bottles, tubing, and flanges to duck valves and pump membranes.

Favorite Tips for Dealing with Nausea & Morning Sickness in Pregnancy

Ok, so let’s talk about queasiness in pregnancy!

Everyone and every pregnancy is different when it comes to upset tummies—some of you might be queasy off and on for a few hours, while others wonder why it isn’t called “all day sickness?!” A lucky 24% of women don’t get this symptom at all and then they might worry why they aren’t having this symptom!

General Tips for Morning Sickness in Pregnancy

Here’s a few ways I’ve found helpful to deal with nausea.

    • Eat smaller meals and snacks more frequently, rather than 3 big meals. Try to eat whole foods but if all you can stomach are some starchy carbs, go with it and hopefully it won’t last more than a few weeks! Potatoes are great for many women.
    • Eat first thing. If mornings are worse for you, keeping snacks (like plain crackers) by your bed to eat first thing in the morning before even getting up can help! Also eating protein before bed that takes longer to digest can help.
    • Don’t let yourself get hungry! Eat before you’re hungry, even if it’s a small snack.
    • Eat mild foods that are more tolerable for your body. Spicy, fatty, or heavy foods may not sit as well, and take longer to digest. I love sandwiching protein in between really bland carbs like a croissant or tortilla.
    • Stay hydrated. Lots of water is vital during the entire pregnancy, but sip it often throughout the day rather than chugging huge amounts at a time. Keep a water bottle nearby at work, in your car, and at your nightstand. Consider adding electrolytes as well.
    • Experiment with your vitamins. Sometimes prenatal vitamins can affect queasiness so pay attention to whether you feel worse after you take yours and experiment with different prenatal vitamins if necessary. Try taking your vitamin right before bed rather than first thing in the morning, and see if it helps.
    • Exercise. It sounds counter-intuitive, but sometimes a walk outside can do wonders. Breathing fresh air, enjoying the sunshine and having a good time can help take your mind off of your tummy and lift your nausea.
    • Avoid Stress. I know, it’s easier said than done but aside from hormonal changes, stress/emotions are another potential cause for nausea.
    • Invest in Quality Products:
      • Be sure you’re getting enough B vitamins, particularly B6. If you have the MTHFR mutation, you’ll need a methylated version.
      • Tea: Anything citrus-y or with ginger is great. I love Earth Mama’s Morning Wellness Tea.
      • Sea Bands: many women swear by these and I did have success with them on a road trip when I was extra queasy.
    • Essential oils—these can be a great additional tool in your toolbox when dealing with an unsettled tummy during pregnancy. Read on to learn more!

Two things to consider before using essential oils

Not every oil works the same for everyone

Essential oils are a great supplemental option to your wellness routine during pregnancy and if you’ve suffered from pregnancy induced digestive troubles or “morning sickness” then you know that you are likely willing to try anything to help ease the symptoms. Of course, essential oils are not a replacement for medical care and should be used as a complement to the care you receive from your doctor or midwife. If you are experiencing extreme nausea and vomiting you definitely need to let your care provider know.

Always consult your care provider

During pregnancy, it’s always a good idea to run any concerns by your care provider. You can also seek the advice of an aromatherapist or a midwife or doula that have extensive experience using essential oils with pregnant women.

8 essential oils for queasiness in pregnancy

1. Lemon

Lemon essential oil, like all citrus oils, is very uplifting and really helpful for women suffering from aversions to smell during pregnancy. Simple open a bottle of lemon and take some deep breaths or try using Lemon (and Citrus Fresh) in your water. Young Living’s vitality oils are safe to ingest and just one drop in your water can make a refreshing drink when it’s hard to keep much of anything down. You can also add lemon essential oil to your tea.

2. Lavender

Lavender is the jack of all trades when it comes to essential oils and can be used for SO many things during pregnancy. It’s super relaxing and calming and great for sleep support. It can also be calming to an upset stomach. Create a roller with lavender and apply it directly to your tummy or behind your ears. Lavender is also great to diffuse to bring feelings of relaxation and help you rest when you’re feeling exhausted and queasy. Take some deep breaths or try a guided meditation when using lavender essential oil for more relaxation.

3. Fennel Seed

For hundreds of years Fennel was used for digestive support and for balancing hormones during a woman’s menstrual cycle. So, it makes sense that it would help with hormone-related upset tummy during pregnancy. During my pregnancy, I used a blend from Young Living that contained fennel called Digize. I made a diluted roller and would rub it directly on my abdomen. You can also try a tea with fennel in it or even use the herb in your cooking. If you’re experiencing smell aversions, fennel may be too strong of a smell for you.

4. Peppermint

Peppermint essential oil has so many great uses during pregnancy including helping with smell sensitivities. You can simply open the bottle and sniff it or diffuse it along with a citrus, like lemon or orange. If you are using Young Living’s Peppermint Vitality which is ingestible, you can also apply one drop to your tongue and press your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Be sure to avoid contact with your eyes.

Note: Some people choose to avoid peppermint in late pregnancy because it can be used to reduce milk supply but I personally used it up until the end and had an abundant milk supply. Use your best judgment and consult your care provider.

5. Ginger

You’ve probably already heard that ginger helps with upset tummy caused by riding in a car or being on a plane or boat. It’s also great for general stomach discomfort. My mom used to always give me gingerale when I wasn’t feel well as a kid—not sure if it actually helped but it sure felt special in a house where sodas were never allowed. Ginger essential oil is another way you can support any queasy feelings. You can diffuse ginger essential oil, use it in a roller and apply topically to your tummy, or even put Ginger Vitality from Young Living in a capsule and take it when you feel your tummy churning coming on.

6. Digize

Digestion issues are pretty common during pregnancy and Digize, a blend of Tarragon, Ginger, Peppermint, Juniper, Lemongrass, Anise, and Patchouli oils, combines several of the oils we’ve already covered to aid in digestive support. Create a roller with Digize and use it during your first trimester on your tummy when you’re experiencing tummy troubles. You can also use Digize Vitality oil by putting a drop on your finger and applying to the insides of your cheeks. Be sure to eat frequent, small meals to help your tummy settle down as well.

7. Spearmint

Spearmint essential oil is a gentler alternative to peppermint and can be used without concern for affecting your milk supply in late pregnancy. Use it in the same ways you would use peppermint—diffuse, rub behind your ears or under your nose or put a drop on your tongue. Be sure to avoid contact with your eyes.

8. Thieves

Thieves Oil is a popular blend for immune support and when you’re suffering from an unsettled tummy and having trouble keeping down nutritious food, an extra boost for your immune system during pregnancy is never a bad idea. You’ll also want to be sure you’re getting plenty of rest and eating healthy food to support your immune system. Thieves contains Clove, Lemon, Cinnamon Bark, Eucalyptus Radiata, and Rosemary. Several of those oils are recommended to use with care and caution during pregnancy.

Also ensure you dilute Thieves and use it in moderation, rather than daily. I like to make 10ml roller with just 10 drops of Thieves essential oil and coconut oil and apply it to the bottoms of your feet or simply open the bottle and inhale. The scent of Thieves is really lovely (reminds me of the holidays) and can be great for smell aversions as well.

2 places to purchase essential oils

Local health store

Most local health stores and even many grocery stores carry essentials oils. Unfortunately, not all essential oils are created equal. The regulation around essential oils is pretty nonexistent so companies can claim to have a 100% pure essential oil when actually it’s packed with synthetics or diluted.

Through Young Living!

I had used several essential oils brands prior to getting pregnant and I didn’t realize the difference in quality between many oils you find on the shelves or online versus Young Living oils. You can tell a difference right away when you smell Young Living essential oils and their Seed to Seal commitment was what really sold me on exclusively using their oils. I actually visited their lavender farm in Utah recently and was blown away!

The best way to get your essential oils through Young Living is by becoming a wholesale member so you can order for yourself, whenever you want at the wholesale discount of 24% off. To become a member all you need to do is purchase a premium starter kit once. It’s a pretty great deal because you get a diffuser and 12 of their most popular oils including many of the ones mentioned here (peppermint, lavender, digize, lemon, and thieves are all included!).

Find out more

If you want to know more about how we are using essential oils in our life, you can check out this post. And if you’re ready to get started using essential oils with Young Living, check out this post on everything you need to know about the Starter Kit.

Resources and Support for Black Maternal Health

NPR reports that, “Black women in the United States are 243 percent more likely than white women to die of pregnancy or childbirth related causes. There’s evidence that shows this gap is caused by the “weathering” effects of racism. Weathering is a term coined for stress-induced wear and tear on the body.” This statistic is true across all socioeconomic classes because “it’s a type of stress for which education and class provide no protection.”

There are amazing organizations working to improve outcomes for Black birthing people and we’ve compiled a list of places you can learn more as well as offer your support. Please leave any additional organizations or resources in the comments and we will continue to update this post.

Photo by Mustafa Omar on Unsplash

Organizations Supporting Black Maternal Health

  • National Birth Equity Collaborative (https://birthequity.org/): Creates solutions that optimize Black maternal and infant health through training, policy advocacy, research and community-centered collaboration. Donate here. Follow on instagram @birthequity and facebook
  • The Black Maternal Health Caucus (https://blackmaternalhealthcaucus-underwood.house.gov/Momnibus): Aims to raise awareness within Congress to establish black maternal health as a national priority and explore and advocate for effective, evidence-based, culturally-competent policies and best practices for health outcomes for black mothers.
  • The Blavatnik Family Women’s Health Research Institute (https://icahn.mssm.edu/research/womens-health): Optimizing quality of care for women across the life span and narrowing gaps in treatment and outcomes in underserved populations
  • ROOT, Restoring our own Through Transformation (https://www.roottrj.org/): Black women-led reproductive justice organization dedicated to collectively restoring our well-being through self-determination, collaboration, and resources to meet the needs of women and families within communities. Donate here
  • Black Women for Wellness: Black Women for Wellness has been working for over 20 years for maternal and infant health for Black women. Programs include nutrition education, chronic disease prevention, breast cancer support, reproductive justice, environmental justice, sexual health education, civic engagement and policy work.
Photo by Taylor Wright on Unsplash

Education and Community Resources

  • Mamas of Color Rising (https://mamasofcolorrising.wordpress.com/): A collective of working class and poor mothers of color around Austin, TX interested in organizing women/mamas of color around issues with accessing needs and building ideal community together. Donate here
  • Black Midwives Alliance Train and organize midwives to serve as advocates to address disparities in maternal health care that impact black birthing people. Central goal is to have a representative voice at the national level that clearly outlines and supports the various needs and interests of Black midwives.
  • My Brown Baby (http://mybrownbaby.com/): Providing service for those who need information and helping sort through the “beautiful struggle that comes with being black parents in America”. Follow on instagram @mybrownbaby and facebook
  • How does Racism Affect Pregnant Women and Babies?: (npr.org) video

Mental Health

Doula Education and Services for the Black Community

  • Sista Midwife Productions (https://www.sistamidwife.com/): Doula training and education for Black community. Follow on instagram @sistamidwife and facebook
  • National Black Doula Association (https://www.blackdoulas.org/): Overall mission is to help fight the Black Maternal Mortality rate in the U.S. and beyond, through education empowerment. Provides a professional business directory and resource for Black Doulas & Trainers in the childbirth industry.
  • The Black Doula Project: Providing free doulas to Black parents in DC and Baltimore. Donate here. Follow on instagram @blackdoulaproject
  • Why maternal outcomes are worse for Black women and what doulas are doing about it: (nyc lens) video

Articles/Reports

Books

Podcasts

  • Natal: A Docuseries about having a baby while Black in the United States.
  • Homecoming Podcast: At Homecoming, we address two myths: 1) Hospitals are the safest place to give birth and 2) Black families don’t birth at home. We broadcast how Black families birth in love and choose to birth at home, unassisted or with midwives.
  • Birth Stories in Color: Birth Stories in Color is a podcast for people of color to share their birthing experiences- a space that specifically celebrates, mourns with and supports people of color and their transformation through birth.
  • Sisters in Loss podcast: Sisters in Loss is dedicated to replacing silence with storytelling around pregnancy and infant loss and infertility of Black women.

Anti-Racist Books for Babies & Toddlers

If you’re wondering if it’s “too early” to introduce your kids to anti-racism, studies show kids notice race as early as preschool. And studies have shown parents’ silence on racism actually reinforces it

Unfortunately, according to a study just last year, 60% of parents rarely or never discuss race/ethnicity or social class with their children. 

Because books are a great place to start, our friends at LittleFeminist.com (a monthly diverse book club subscription) helped us curate a book list of anti-racist books for babies & toddlers. 

Here are 7 often-hard-to-find book categories that are as important as ever to make sure are represented on your family’s book shelf.

We have included amazon links for your convenience but encourage you to shop at these Black-owned book stores if you’re able. @blackpearlbooks @esowonbooks @mahoganybooks @braveandkindbooks @harrietts_bookshop @thelitbar @hakimsbookstore @semicolonchi

Read books about racism with your kids

  • 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. 
  • Not My Idea (picture book) – written for white families to challenge their white privilege, there is no other children’s book like this, and it’s a must-read. Right now digital copies are being offered for FREE

Read books about Black rights & activism 

  • 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. 

Feature board books celebrating (and by) Indigenous Peoples

  • My Heart Fills with Happiness (board book) – with beautiful scenes reflecting Indigenous cultures, this book celebrates the simple joys of life.
  • 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.

How to Design a Montessori Room for Your Baby

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.

montessori room for baby

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.

montessori floor bed for baby

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.

non-toxic mattress for baby

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!)

montikids for baby

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.

montessori toys for baby

Mirror

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.

montessori mirror for baby

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.

montessori wardrobe baby

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!

montessori dressing area for baby

Simple Decor

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!

Conclusion

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!

montessori self care for baby

Sources:

  • Floor bed, wardrobe, and infant shelf – c/o Sprout code “thebirthhour”
  • Montessori Materials/Toys – c/o MontiKids code “BIRTHHOUR40”
  • Twin Bunk Mattress – c/o My Green Mattress
  • Wooden Bins – Target
  • Olive Wood Bowls – Trader Joes (seasonal)
  • Child Size hangers
  • Sheepskin Rug – Costco