How Dad Can Help with the New Baby

I am extremely lucky! My husband has been “all hands on deck” since the minute Caden was born (and my entire pregnancy too). He asks questions, listens to my research findings over and over again, and finds things he can to do help while I was busy doing something else. I don’t know how I would have survived the newborn stage without him…I have a new respect for moms doing it alone (you ROCK!). Those first few weeks are hard for dads because they’re left thinking, “What CAN I do?”. Babies NEED and want their mamas so dad is left feeling like he can’t do too much.

Here are some perfect ways for Daddy to get involved from the get-go:


The majority of people do plan on having dad in the delivery room for the birth of their child. However, I have, on occasion, heard women say they DON’T want their husband/partner in the delivery room with them and my jaw drops! I totally understand if you don’t want him see your lady-bits in that “situation”…Nate wasn’t allowed anywhere near the area, I made him stay by my head the whole time! But, please don’t rob them of the moment their son or daughter first comes into the world! Nate never ever cries, but when Caden was born and looked right up at him and mad eye-contact with his daddy for the first time…the dam broke! It would have been so selfish of me to have that moment all to myself…let him enjoy the birth of the miracle you both created!IMG_7552


I know this isn’t possible for everyone, but if you can, take advantage of paternity leave! Nate took off work to be with us for a month after Caden was born…a whole month! I cannot even being to explain how helpful this was! We really got to work as a team and went through the learning experience together. We both got to know Caden’s cues and we developed a “routine” together. Even when I was the most frustrated, I knew he was there to help in any way I needed. Whether it was so I could shower or nap, or when I just needed him to vacuum when I felt like I was going to go crazy because the house seemed so messy! As a first time dad, being there with us built up his confidence too. Newborns change daily and I’m glad he got to be there to witness the changes and the milestones with me!



You always hear about how important it is for baby to get skin-to-skin time with mom after they’re born, but don’t forget about dad!! Your newborn will learn that daddy is a safe place too, deepening your relationship from the beginning. When mom is napping after the exhaustion that is childbirth, dads should take that as an opportunity for some skin-to-skin contact with their little one instead of laying him/her in a bassinet. Your baby will immediately feel calm and comforted. Baby will grow up happy and healthy when receiving regular affection from both parents!



Y’all, I literally did not change a SINGLE diaper while we were in the hospital. That’s right, I was spared from dealing with the tarry, black, goo that works it’s way out of sweet baby’s body. Nate, who had never changed a diaper before in his life, jumped right in and took this job seriously. While I relaxed in the hospital bed, Nate changed every single diaper, and handed Caden to me for snuggles when he was done. Once we got home, he didn’t stop. He was a diaper-changing machine. I was especially cautious when dealing with Caden’s circumcision so I was so thankful Nate took charge! He could see that I was exhausted from nursing around the clock so he would take Caden, without me having to ask (ah, that’s the best), whenever it was diaper duty time.


Whether you’re feeding your newborn formula or breastmilk, Dad can definitely be involved in the feedings! We introduced the bottle when Caden was three weeks old. We waited until he had the hang of nursing so we wouldn’t confuse him…we didn’t want to wait TOO long so he wouldn’t deny the bottle all together. The first time Caden took the bottle, I left the room and let Daddy and Caden have their time together. He never had any issues switching from bottle to breast and it was AMAZING! I finally had a little freedom and could get out of the house for more than a couple hours knowing he would be fine and fed! I like that Caden knows that Daddy can give him what he needs too; not just mama! I also think that helped Nate form another type of bond with Caden…he finally felt like he could DO something!


Bath time is a perfect opportunity for daddies to bond with their babies. I know my little newborn was super squirmy at bath time and HATED being cold during the sponge bath days. It broke my heart to hear those new-baby cries and I was so scared he was going to wiggle right out of my hands. Nate would hold Caden steady while we sponged him off and worked as a team to get it done as fast as possible. Even now, Caden is 7 months old and Nate runs the bath time show. Caden loves to play in the tub for as long as we’ll let him. Nate supervises while I take a shower, wash bottles/pump parts and get things ready for the next day. I head up when bath time is over for our bedtime routine (nurse, books, goodnight songs, bed)! I would be sad to miss bath time EVERY night, but Nate works 2-3 nights a week so I get my bath time fix with Caden on those nights. 🙂


Side note: If you have an Emler Swim School nearby, they offer a Bathtime Babies Class starting when your baby is two months old and it is FREE!! We started going as soon as we could and alternate every other week getting in the pool with Caden. This is another super fun way for dad to have some special time with baby!



When Nate is home, he is the bedtime story reader! I read to Caden as often as I can…I LOVE books…but I love hearing Nate read to him and seeing Caden staring and listening so intently to his voice. After I finish nursing, Nate comes up to pick up where we left off in whatever chapter book we’re reading at the time (babies don’t just need picture books!). I think it’s important for Caden to see us both sharing our love for reading with him. When Nate’s at work, I choose different books. Our chapter book is for us to read together as a family!


My last bit of “advice” would be to let him do stuff his way. He may rock baby a different way than you would, sing a different night-time lullaby, hold the bottle at a different angle, or swaddle him in some crazy way but IT’S OKAY!! I am totally guilty of trying to “correct” or give my hubby “helpful pointers” at times. I’ve tried to get better about this! If you are always giving him reminders or pointing out things he’s doing “wrong”, it is just going to leave him feeling less-than-confident about his daddy abilities! Trust him to take care of your little one and remember to tell him he’s doing an amazing job EVERY day…not just on Father’s Day! 🙂


How did you involve your husband with care?

Let Your Child Play ALONE

Before you freak out and get all up in arms, hear me out. I’m not saying ALL THE TIME, goofballs, I’m just saying there’s a HUGE benefit to allowing your child independent play. Take it from a Play Therapist (muah). 



When your child plays with you, another adult, babysitter, or even another friend, their creativity is sometimes swayed. They might make decisions based on what they think the other person wants. Perhaps in their imagination they really want to build a candy house with their legos, but they think dad wants them to build a big tall tower so they go ahead and build the tower so dad will be pleased. When they play alone, they are free to make their own decisions.


I cringe sometimes watching adults “play” with their children knowing they have ulterior motives. Play should not be a time of teaching or lecturing. For example, when your child is playing with the barnyard animals, it’s not a time to teach them the proper names of the animals and the sounds that they make. Remember that in your child’s imagination, these might not be barnyard anmals. They could be monsters, soldiers, fairies, or aliens.

Also, I often see parents using play as an opportunity to teach life lessons. Just because your child is making people fight in his play doesn’t mean he’s going to be a fighter or grow up to be violent. Play is for expressing in fantasy what cannot happen in reality and it’s perfectly healthy to explore all sides of the self in play.



Play is intrinsically motivated, meaning there are no rules and there’s no final product. A child needs permission to play freely, make decisions on their own, and problem solve independently. Even the most well meaning adult can say or do things that interrupt the natural flow of the play and can sometimes distract the child.


Children often play out tough experiences and give situations they struggled with alternate endings. Perhaps they play out the scene where you made them clean up their mess and they want to yell and scream at you. This can only happen if they’ve had opportunity to play privately.



Children learn through play. They need the opportunity to do things the wrong way, spell incorrectly, read the wrong words, and make mistakes. Play is a natural part of growth and development and ironically, more growth and development occurs during independent, free play.


Now, it is also a great bonding experience to play with your child occassionally too, so here’s a few rules of thumb to follow:

Don’t ask questions: If you have enough information to ask a question, you have enough information to make a statement. Questions stunt imagination because there’s the pressure of answering “correctly”. Rather than, “Why is the princess locked away,” try “The princess is locked up.” When the child hears you acknowledging what’s occuring in the play, they’ll likely provide more information for you to follow along.

Don’t label things that haven’t been labeled: Remember, your child is using their imagination. If they haven’t labeled an object as a horse, a car, an apple, then it might not be. They could be pretending the horse is a dinosaur, the car is a spaceship, and the apple is a bomb that will wreak havoc on all in it’s path. Call it that, those, etc and leave things vague until the child tells you what it is to them. There’s no right or wrong in play.

Allow the child to lead: Do not involve yourself in the play. Let the child tell you what they want you to do, who they want you to be and what you say and do. This is the one place in their life where they’re in charge and it’s very empowering when mom or dad take a backseat.

Grant in fantasy what you can’t grant in reality: Remember, play is about exploring imagination, processing feelings, and playing out difficult emotions. Allow them to be the bad guy, act silly, fight, shoot, kidnap, and be loud. Exploring this side of themselves in fantasy may even decrease the chance of violence in reality.


I use Sandtray Therapy and Play Therapy in my counseling practice with young children because children communicate through their play. Should you feel your child needs Play Therapy to process something difficult that has happened in their life, please email me at

Chelsea Vail, MA, CCLS, LPC-Intern

Under supervision of Karen Burke, LPC-S

The Burke Center, 8101 W Hwy 71, Austin, TX

Meet That Girl, Esmeralda

Starbucks, and glitter, and songs I can sing, these are a few of my favorite things…

Hello my name is Esmeralda Lara. I am so beyond blessed to have the opportunity to share my crazy life with you. It doesn’t always run smoothly, in fact most days I am barely holding my head above water, but every day I find something to be grateful for.

I am a protective momma bear of two pretty awesome “cubs.”   My son, is an 11 year old soccer player, who is about to pass up his 5’0” mom. I love cheering for him from the sidelines on and off the soccer field.   He is about to enter the big, bad world of middle school, and prayers have been placed on overdrive. My little princess practically pranced out the womb. You can usually find my 8 year old dancing around the hallways or setting the table with a sashay. She has been dancing competitively for 4 years, and she loves it! When we are not rushing from one practice to another, we like to have sleepovers in the living room and watch movies, or take our furry friend, Fluffy, for a long walk.


I currently teach an exceptional group of third graders who keep me on my toes. I am lucky enough to teach in a dual language classroom, where I teach half the day in English and half the day in Spanish. These kids never cease to amaze me and show me daily what perseverance looks like. Every day is an adventure, and no two days are the same. You would think that after 10 years it would get a little mundane, but not the case at all. I love my job, and I love the 13 babies I work for.


In my free time, if that even exists, I love to read romance novels where the love is intense and sincere (I’m an incurable romantic, can’t help it). I’m also a big movie fan, an accomplished pinner (gotta love Pinterest), and have recently picked up running for my sanity.

All in all I’m a work in progress, and I survive my days with prayers on my lips, Starbucks in my hand, and hope in my heart.

The Best Baby Gift Ideas

Whether you are a new mom, attending a friends baby shower, or a proud auntie wanting to spoil your new niece or nephew, you’ll want to get them something special, but also practical and useful. Here is what I have found to be the best gifts for a new baby, and for making transition for mom and dad easy too!

1. OBALL RATTLE. This is a great first toy for baby as they learn to grasp objects. It’s soft and easy to hold with it’s unique design. Some even have a rattle in them which is fun for baby to shake!

2. ONESIES. Whether you are in warm or cold seasons, onesies are great for going under sleepers and you can’t get enough of them. It’s basically all they live in for a couple months. We love the organic onesies by Under the Nile, available at

3. SLEEPERS. Okay, I think it’s a little ridiculous to get newborns 3 piece outfits- you have to change them every feeding, the clothes are awkward and hard to get on when they are so little and honestly it does not seem very comfortable for baby. Let them be cozy in their favorite sleepers. Zipper ones are the best for easy middle of the night diaper changes! If you insist on getting that adorable outfit, get in a size that at least 3 months or larger. Also, sleeper gowns or rompers are great for middle of the night diaper changes.

4. BURP CLOTHS. Babies spit up, drool and poop. Whatever the scenario, mom can never have enough of these. You can even get crafty and make them as a gift by adding cute ribbon to them! We love the shape of the Aden & Anais burp cloths that go over the shoulder.

5. BATH SET. Make a cute gift basket with towels, washcloths and baby shampoo/body wash. I recommend the Mustella Brand, Honest Company, Bathtime Baby, or Original Sprout as they are very sensitive to the skin and have natural/organic ingredients. Here’s a trio gift set by Bathtime Kids.

6. TRAVEL DIAPER STATION. This is a lifesaver when you are on the go and need to change baby in the car, in a dressing room or at a restaurant. As a new mom, I never leave home without one of these! Skip-Hop is fabulous and if you can spring for a PateMM Pad, DO IT!
Skip Hop Diaper Changing Station

7. DIAPERS, DIAPERS AND MORE DIAPERS. Diapers are expensive and any moms out there know that you go through a box pretty quick. It was so nice to have a stock pile before baby came. The last thing any mom wants to do is realize you are on your last diaper and have to run to the store in the middle of the night to get more! If your friend is using cloth diapers, find out which brand and get her some accessories (wet bags, diaper pails, detergent) OR, go in with friends and purchase a full set! I also recommend getting sensitive wipes or using washcloths, and finding a good diaper cream. A&D ointment, Honest Co. Diaper Cream, Beaudreaux Butt Paste, or Napinol Nursery Therapies all work pretty well!

8. BABY SWADDLES. Swaddling your baby is recommended by most doctors for the first few months. It helps babies feel secure, recreates the feeling of the womb, and helps them sleep better. We love the Woombie swaddle sack because it is the ONLY swaddle sack with a vented front, peanut shape, and double zipper.


9. BABY STROLLER BLANKET. Nordstrom and Pottery Barn kids have GREAT blankets to give as gifts. The Little Giraffe Chenille Blanket is a baby favorite, and is sold at several stores. Here are a few by Swaddledesigns, too.

10. SOUND MACHINE. White noise helps babies sleep since the sound is similar to being in the womb. It also helps keep out other outside noises that may prevent baby from falling asleep easy. The Baby Shusher is the ONLY white noise machine on the market with a human voice doing the shushing.


11. BREASTFEEDING PILLOW. Whether moms breastfeed or not, having a sturdy pillow to nurse or prop baby on is essential. Unlike regular pillows, these are made for nursing and for babies to lounge on. A Boppy or a MyBrestfriend is a must have for mom!

12. BABY PLAY GYM. This is great for tummy time, motor play, and visual development.
Baby Play Gym

13. DIAPER BAG. What a gift it is to get the diaper bag of your dreams! This is pretty much mom’s new purse for the next year or so. We love Skip-Hop, Lily Jade and Mudpie.

14. BABY SWING. These are helpful for when mom or dad needs a shower, to cook up a quick meal or for when baby naps during the day. Baby’s generally LOVE the swing and sometimes it helps them sleep a little longer in those first few weeks. The 4Moms Mamaroo is fabulous!

15. A MEAL. When baby arrives this could be one of the greatest gifts for mom and dad!

What are your favorite baby gifts to give or receive?

Why I Heart My Stroller

So I don’t do very well when it comes to choices, not even when there are only two options. I will second guess myself every time, “Awww maybe I should have gone with that other one instead!” Anyone else with me?

So when it came to picking out my daughters stroller, I was a hot mess. I had so many questions, “Do I want 3 wheels or 4? Should I get a jogging style or is it really that practical? It was very overwhelming with how many options were available. I am sure there are other amazing ones out there, even better ones that fit your needs, but I feel like I picked a winner.

So what did I get? I got the Graco Relay Click Connect Performance Jogger Stroller.
Graco Relay Performance Jogging Stroller
Why I love it…


I had decided to go with a stroller with 3 wheels verse 4. I like the looks of 3 wheels better, and it seems to maneuver much easier around places. Plus, since I also run occasionally, it was the best choice in going with a jogging stroller. The front wheel has a locking system for when you are out running or on rough terrain. When it’s unlocked, you can literally maneuver around anything! I seemed to find myself often doing this one move when I open doors, where I swing the stroller around backward, open the door with my other hand and then pull the stroller in backwards…know what I’m talking about? Yep this stroller makes it super easy to go in and out of places. The air filled tires also give you a smooth ride, and don’t wear as fast as plastic ones.


It literally takes one second to pull on one strap lever to fold and unfold the stroller. You don’t have to mess with multiple straps or click a bunch of things to fold it into your car. If the tires are too bulky for your car, you can easily unlock them with one click of a button and set aside. I don’t ever need to take them off unless we are flying and want to pack the stroller flat in a bag. For how heavy duty this stroller is, it is fairly light to pick up and throw in the back of a car. However, it can be a little awkward maneuvering through clothing racks at the mall, but it is still doable and like I said before, its super easy to maneuver around!

Sydney riding in her stroller!


This stroller is compatible with all Graco Click Connect infant carseats, which was great for me because I could take the infant carseat out of the car and simply set in the stroller. One click and we are ready to go! Once Sydney was big enough to go without it, it was very easy to strap her in the main seat of the stroller. The seat has several incline options depending on your stroller adventure. Babies can lay nearly flat for a quiet evening stroll, or sit upright if they want to do more sight-seeing. The straps are super easy to adjust and put on your little one….no need to fight against their squirmy bodies to get their arms through.
Easy to use straps!


This stroller has a large basket underneath that can hold a lot! Whether it’s the grocery store or the mall, you can fit a few good size shopping bags under there. The back of the stroller and near the handle also have accessible storage. There is plenty of room for your coffee, keys, phone, baby toys, and more!


This stroller came out in 2014 and was the response to the trendy and popular BOB Jogging Stroller. While the BOB can range up to over $400, the Graco Relay Performance is almost $100 or more less. You are getting a very similar stroller with better quality and functionality (in my opinion).

The price ranges from $246.45-$329.99…probably because of variety of color and the store it’s from.

Other awesome features; UV Sun protection material, large canopy, thick and comfortable cushion for baby, awesome gripping on the handle and it’s very durable.

Sydney and I love to go on walks around the park, runs on trails and shopping at the mall in our Graco Relay Performance Stroller. If you are looking for a quality, outdoor/indoor, walking or jogging stroller that can last past the newborn phase this is a great one for you!
Sydney in her stroller!

Whole Heart loves the stroller selection at Stroller Depot and Magic Beans. Check out the features on the Orbit baby G3 System, Bugaboo, the 4Moms, or the Uppababy Cruz .

What do you love about your stroller?

Bloom Retreat: A Day of Serenity for Expectant Mamas

Studies show that the stress of a pregnant mother can have adverse effects on her unborn baby. I watched videos in grad school that show an increasing mother’s heart rate and cortisol levels actually cause baby’s brain to light up like a Christmas tree with stress! That’s prompted me to host an annual retreat for expectant mothers called “Bloom Retreat”. Mama, this is ALL about you. 

Bloom Retreat

The Bloom Retreat will be hosted at The Travaasa Resort here in Austin, but we’re hoping we’ll have moms joining us from all over central Texas! This day will be a day of serenity, guaranteed to help mom prepare physically, emotionally, socially, and mentally for bringing baby into the world.

Should you choose to join us, your day will begin with a farm-to-table breakfast in the cozy Parlor Room of the resort. The mothers-to-be will have an opportunity to meet one another, share stories, anxities, and excitements.

Kelley Hawkins, a certified educator in the Gottman Institute’s Bring Home Baby Program will be speaking and guiding group discussions to help mamas mentally prepare for baby! “My goal is to help a couple proactively prepare for bringing a new baby home. This approach includes sharing practical, proven strategies designed to make this transition one that brings the most joy and least turmoil to the relationship.”

Nature Walk:

Later in the day we will embark on a guided walk along the hiking trails of the Texas Hill Country located at the resort.

Brian Salmon, “The Birth Guy“, will visit us to provide education related to breastfeeding, birth, and postpartum support. Brian teaches wildly successful courses to parents-to-be, has a podacast called “Rocking Dads, and is well-known, loved, and respected in the industry. We are thrilled to have him on board for this event.

Lunch & Newborn Care:

A farm-to-table lunch will also be provided by the Travaasa in the Parlor Room, allowing more time to meet other attendees and continuing building relationships with fellow moms-to-be.

SidelinepositionChelsea Vail, owner of Whole Heart and “That Girl”, will lead discussions regarding newborn care, prepping the home for baby, and utilizing postpartum support. Chelsea is a Newborn Care Specialist, Family Counselor, Maternity Concierge, and baby gear expert!

Then, Phyllis Brasenell, owner of Austin-Born, and highly sought after doula, will provide birth education and information on comfort measures and self-advocacy during birth.


The Travaasa Resort will be offering a private prenatal yoga class to interested guests. Yoga is a fabulous way to prepare mind, body, and spirit for labor and delivery. Practicing yoga regularly during your pregnancy also decreases stress level, increases circulation, and detoxifies the body. Should you choose not to join us, you’re welcome to book a spa appointment during this time or utilize the infinity pool overlooking the Texas hills.

The Spa:

A visit to The Spa at Travaasa Austin goes far beyond pampering and indulgence. Their treatments reflect a passion for, and knowledge of, the human body and the ability of plants and essential oils to naturally treat, heal and revitalize the soul. Featuring 11 treatment rooms, their unique Texas spa sits adjacent to the property’s saline infinity pool, which overlooks the serene and scenic hill country landscape.

They offer an array of massages, healing rituals, beauty treatments and personalized services, using only organic, and bioenergetic products. We strongly encourage guests to book a prenatal massage, or organic facial during the retreat. As the event nears, we will recommend the best times for your service so as not to interfere with the event itinerary.

Our hope is that attendees leave the Bloom Retreat feeling knowledgeable, feeling calm, and feeling prepared and empowered as mothers. This day is about pampering you

Bloom Retreat

Travaasa Resort & Spa

Austin, TX

Oct 3, 2015


Purchase your ticket by Sept 3 to RSVP, limited seating, purchase HERE