Updated Skincare Routine

Hello, everyone! It’s been a LONG time since I shared my current skincare routine. Let me start off by sharing my skin type: I have combination AND acne prone skin. These are the regimens and products that work well for me and my skin! Just keep in mind that what works for me may not work as well for you if you don’t have the same skin type.

The last time I posted about my skincare routine, I was using a full regimen of Drunk Elephant skincare. After investing a lot of time learning about my skin (and my adult acne), specific skincare products, and product lines, I decided to stop using DE. Are the products bad? No, not necessarily. I think there are some good DE products. There are, however, many brands and products that have higher efficacy and targeted action with clinical evidence to back them up. I also have since learned that the “skincare cocktail” that they encourage can actually decrease the product’s ability to get into your skin and work to its fullest extent. I also think that DE is a great brand for people who are newer to skincare. They sell a full range of skincare products – cleansers, antioxidant serums, exfoliating serums, moisturizers, etc. It’s easy to get everything you are looking for in one location.

Another thing I’ve learned in the last few years is that the terms “clean”, “organic”, “chemical free” or “nontoxic” don’t really mean anything for quality or efficacy of any product. There are no defining standards to designate a product as any of those terms. And beyond that, there is no significant evidence that these products are more effective, safer, or have a better user experience. I’ve also learned that the EWG may not actually be the best or most reputable place to get safety information.

Do I think it is important to make decisions that support our health and wellbeing? Of course I do. I don’t want to do anything that could cause potential harm to my body if I don’t have to. However, I do think this “clean” culture has created unnecessary fear. Skincare products in our country are inherently safe. They go through rigorous testing and, for some brands/products, extensive clinical trials. They are created in ways that prevent contamination (like mold and bacteria) and increase longevity without losing efficacy. Many people actually find “clean” skincare more irritating; they are formulated with comedogenic ingredients and sometimes contain essential oils. If you find a “clean” product that works well for you, great! But don’t feel ashamed if you find conventional or medical grade products that work just as well (if not better!).

Especially after dealing with adult hormonal acne for the last few years, I personally understand the drive and desire to find products and/or treatments that truly work. Formulation matters. Ingredients matter, but not in the way that some ingredients are “bad” and some ingredients are “good”. I have learned that it is important to establish a trusting relationship with a really good esthetician and/or dermatologist who can guide you towards products, adjust your routine, and do treatments that align with your skin goals. They are well educated on how skin functions and which products work best in alignment with your personal skin. Don’t be afraid of conventional medicine! It works.

Perhaps the biggest thing I’ve learned when it comes to skincare: TIME is your best friend. Skincare products can’t give you overnight results. It takes weeks, if not months, of consistent use to see results. Be patient and be persistent!

Ok, let’s get into the goods!

The first step in both of my skincare routines is to wash my hands! Sounds intuitive enough, but this is such an important step. Starting with clean hands will prevent unwanted bacteria from spreading over your face.

The next step is cleanser. In the mornings I love using this Warming Honey Cleanser from iS clinical. Honey is a naturally antibacterial and antifungal. This cleanser also includes gentle exfoliation with papaya enzymes, helping to gently buff away buildup and dead skin cells. Since I use exfoliation serums nearly every night, this helps to lift the cells that have been exfoliated. In the evening, I start with an oil based cleanser to remove makeup, SPF, and buildup from the day. This step is ESSENTIAL. If you don’t do a primary cleanse to remove all of the above, you won’t actually be cleansing your skin. I use this Pore Cleansing Oil from Roccoco Botanicals. I either use the Gentle Cleanser from ZO Skin Health or the Oxygen Infusion Wash from Skinbetter Science. I tend to gravitate towards the Oxygen Infusion Wash when I feel like my acne is trying to make a resurgence.

**You do need to purchase Skinbetter Science through a referral from a dermatology office or Med Spa**

After cleansing comes treatment, or serums. Generally speaking, you want your products to be applied from thinnest to thickets and from interventional to protective. You want the serums next to your skin that do the most work for you!

In the morning, my serums focus on restoration and protecting my skin barrier. Without a healthy and functional skin barrier, all your other treatments will fall flat or cause your skin to freak out. I love the Dieux Skin Deliverance Serum. This bad boy is packed with peptides (to address and prevent fine lines), niacinamide to enhance skin barrier and prevent excess oil, and cannabinoids. Yes, you heard that right – cannabinoids – to help calm and soothe the skin. Following that, I use the Ceramide Booster serum from Roccoco Botanicals to promote that healthy skin barrier.

In the evening, my serums are targeted towards exfoliation and cell turnover to prevent unwanted buildup in my pores that eventually causes acne. I rotate between a few different products. I use my Apostrophe retinoid serum 2-3x/week. This personalized “virtual” prescription is provided via an online consult with a dermatologist. You upload your health history, skin goals, and pictures of your skin. The dermatologist will then prescribe the appropriate treatment for you! I didn’t want to take oral pills, so my dermatologist prescribed me a topical treatment that includes Tretinoin (a retinoid), Clindamycin, and Spironolactone- all ingredients to target, treat, and prevent acne. I use my Alpharet Clearing Serum from Skinbetter Science 2x/week. This retinol serum is combined with salicylic acid, which helps to clarify my skin and maintain cell turnover to prevent buildup. I use my Alpharet Peel Pads 1-2x/week. This light at home peel offers a little extra exfoliation “oomph”, speeding up that skin cell turnover even more. Finally (whew!), I use the ZO Skin Health Acne Control 1-2x/week. This 10% benzoyl peroxide product treats and prevents acne. Benzoyl peroxide (BPO) can be sensitizing to some people and can cause dry, flaky skin. But it is SO effective against acne, especially the stubborn, closed comedones that I tend to get along my chin. So, I only use it a couple times per week. Make sure you use a white pillow case and don’t wear colors if you use this product-it can bleach! A lot of people will use BPO as a spot treatment, but this works best if you apply a light layer to the entire area you get acne.

The next step in the routine is moisturize. In the morning I like a moisturizer that sits well under my sunscreen. I have been using iS Clinical Reparative Moisture and it is really nice. It’s light, absorbs quickly, and keeps my skin moisturized throughout the day. In the evening, I use Dieux Instant Angel. This moisturizer is IT. It’s creamy and incredibly moisturizing without feeling thick or goopy.

The final step in my routine only occurs in the morning (and throughout the day for reapplication!) – Sunscreen! This is arguably the MOST important step in my routine. It is not only integral to prevent skin cancer, but it also prevents premature aging. I have been using Elta MD UV Clear Tinted. It makes my skin super glowy and gives ample protection no matter the weather or season.

The best investment you can make in your skin is wearing sunscreen every single day, without fail!

On occasion, I will use a face mask to unwind and relax. But of course, I want my mask to be doing something great for my skin too! I love using either this Sulfur Mask from Roccoco Botanicals or the Pore Purifying Clay Mask from Revision Skincare.

WHEW! We made it! I’ve linked all the products I use below. It might seem overwhelming to build a skincare routine. I can’t reiterate enough that seeing a professional (esthetician or dermatologist) can make a huge difference. They can help give you the backbone for a great regimen.

Have a great Labor Day Weekend!

Until next time,


AM Routine

Step 1: iS Clinical Warming Honey Cleanser

Step 2: Dieux Deliverance Serum

Step 3: Roccoco Botanicals Ceramide Booster

Step 4: iS Clinical Reparative Moisture Emulsion

Step 5: EltaMD UV Clear Tinted Broad Spectrum SPF 46

PM Routine

Step 1: Roccoco Botanicals Pore Cleansing Oil

Step 2: ZO Skin Health Gentle Cleanser OR Skinbetter Science Oxygen Infusion Wash

Step 3: Apostrophe serum OR Skinbetter Science Alpharet Clearing Serum OR AlphaRet Exfoliating Peel Pads

Step 4: Dieux Instant Angel Moisturizer

Miscellaneous Treatments and Masks

Roccoco Botanicals Sulfur Mask

Revision Pore Purifying Clay Mask

ZO Skin Health Acne Control

Baby to Toddler Transition Products We Love

Hello, everyone! The last four months have flown by and I cannot believe we are nearing the end of the summer season. The weather in the Seattle area has been absolutely gorgeous over the last few weeks: sunny, 75-80 degrees, and low humidity. It’s truly what makes living through the dark and dreary winters of the PNW worth it. We all wait (not so patiently) for this weather every year!

As you may have noticed, it’s been quite a while since I updated my website. I’m in the process of honestly thinking about the future of this platform. Since becoming a mom, I have less and less time to dedicate towards my blog. I love writing, I really do. I love reviewing my favorite products and sharing great finds with you. But as I move forward into my new phase of life, I’m trying to figure out how I can best balance my time. With the constant changes to social media, Instagram in particular, I’ve found it hard to “keep up”. I don’t enjoy the heavy influence of videos – I love sharing photos not doing some stupid Tik Tok dance or voiceover. Ah well, time will tell I suppose!

Today I want to share with you some of our favorite products for the transition between baby and toddler. Leo is literally RUNNING everywhere and it is so tiring chasing after him! I love it so much. These products have made our transition a little easier, a little more fun, and could be things you enjoy using too.


Kyte Sleep Sack

I’ve talked about Kyte before so it will come to no surprise to you that I love Kyte products. We absolutely love our Kyte Sleep Sacks. They are breathable and temperature regulating. There are different thicknesses for different temperature ranges. We have the 1.0 TOG and we keep our home between 68-70 most of the year.

Kyte and Little Sleepies Jammies

Once again- I love Kyte products lol. BUT Kyte isn’t the only bamboo jammy maker on the market. Another great brand for snuggly but breathable jammies is Little Sleepies and oh my goodness the patterns are adorable. AND they have matching family Christmas jammies – see below! These jammies from both brands last us significantly longer than other brands. The price tag may seem hefty, but for 6+ months of wear, I think it’s worth it!

Matching Little Sleepies Christmas jammies


These cups are great transitional cups. Leo got the hang of drinking from a straw using these!

These cups are a great non-leaking option and are relatively inexpensive. I love that they have a weighted straw to keep the far end of the straw in the water at all angles. Perfect for a busy baby on the go!

We just started using these CamelBak cups at the recommendation of our friend and Leo loves them! I think he drinks more water from these cups because there is less resistance from the straw. Also leak proof! He loves the fun designs on the cups.


We started giving the first utensils to Leo relatively early when introducing solids. He’s very proficient at using a spoon now! To give him more practice and upgrade him to slightly larger utensils, we ordered the second option listed below. So far so good!


Preparing meals and snacks for a baby/toddler can be a struggle! This app has been my right hand tool when making food for Leo. From instructions on how to properly introduce food for developmental age to delicious recipes that are low or no sugar and low in salt, I can’t say enough great things about this app. It is well worth the $5/month!


See Kai Run Shoes

When I wanted to get Leo “first walker” shoes, this brand came highly recommended, and for good reason! See Kai Run shoes are designed to be supportive but allow for proper movement to aid in foot development and walking skills. Not to mention, the styles are absolutely adorable.

Fort Play Set

We did lots of research when decided to get Leo a play structure. After reviewing the other popular model on the market (the Nugget), we felt we could get better longevity out of The Fort! There are endless configurations and the material can be easily wiped clean.

Sun Hats

Like many toddlers, Leo is not a huge fan of wearing something on his head. Big floppy sun hats with an under-the-chin strap are a game changer! These hats are lightweight, water resistant, and keep Leo’s face out of the sun. Affordable, too!

Tubby Todd Sunscreen

With so many sunscreen brands on the market, we decided to stick with a company that prides itself in making high quality baby bath and skincare products. We use TT for bath soap, bubble bath, body lotion, and nourishing cream for dry skin. Their sunscreen products are fantastic: easy to apply, effective, and gentle on baby/toddler skin. We use the lotion, spray, and face stick. Bonus- it’s on sale right now!!


No spill bubbles. Leo is obsessed! Whenever we go outside he screams for, “Bubbles!”

Baby walker

When Leo was learning to walk, it was extremely helpful to have another fun support system for him to utilize. It’s recommended that you don’t use products to help baby walk (or jump) until they are independently learning to walk to protect their hip development and allow them to develop appropriate walking skills. I love that this activity walker has so many fun interactive activities apart of it! Sadly, it’s out of stock, but you can add your name to the waitlist! *This one* is similar!


Baby gate

It is important to choose a baby gate that you can physically mount into the wall. The suspension system that holds a gate will not hold the weight of a baby, let alone a full grown adult. Especially if the gate is at the top of the stairs, you want it mounted to the wall to prevent an accidental fall down the stairs. This gate works well for us!

Outlet covers

Absolutely necessary if your little one is curious (literally every baby!). Prevents children from touching or inserting objects into the outlet.

Toilet Seat Locks

These latches are easy to use and not too inconvenient! Accidental drowning can happen in an instant. Toilets are fun and exciting to small children. While they are young, a lot of their body weight is carried in their head. A little toilet bowl exploration can tip them into the bowl of water and make it difficult to get back out. Securing toilet seats with these latches can help prevent this!

Bath Seat

This bath seat is perfect for little ones who can sit independently… almost! An added sense of security for mom and dad during bath time!

Toddler Toothbrushes

These are the perfect toothbrushes for little hands learning to brush little teeth. The shape prevents unintentional choking and allows for an easy hold.

Things I’m Loving This Week

Next to our house we have HUGE blackberry bushes. The berries are finally ripe and we harvested a bowl of them on Tuesday evening. I made a gorgeous peach, plum, and blackberry crisp. We ate it warm with a scoop of lavender ice cream. It was so dreamy! I loosely followed THIS RECIPE. The fruit filling proportions for my crisp ended up being close to 2.5 peaches, 3 plums, and 2.5 cups blackberries. Oh, and I put extra shavings of butter on top before putting it in the oven because… well, because it’s butter.

This summer I’ve been embracing the “no makeup, natural hair” look and I am loving it. I feel like my skin is clearer and my hair is happier without the added heat styling. One of my next posts will be an updated skin routine!

Happy Thursday!

Favorite Pregnancy Products

Hello, friends! I hope you are enjoying your day. The transition into spring is my favorite time of year. I love to see the daffodils, tulips, and cherry trees blooming, leaves popping out on trees, the warmer weather, and of course, the sun, which is extremely elusive during winters in the PNW. If I could live in a place that was sunny, 75 degrees, and low humidity all year, I would be one happy girl!

I would like to clarify that I am currently *NOT pregnant*. But… No surprise here, I was recently pregnant! Pregnancy is a WILD journey. Like, absolutely life changing, in the best way possible. The fact that we can grow human being is absolutely mind blowing. During my pregnancy, I created a list of things that I truly think made a huge difference. Whether it was in the first trimester to combat morning sickness (let’s be real: all day sickness) or in the third trimester to make myself more comfortable, these products that greatly improved my experience.


The first trimester is all about surviving the morning sickness while at the same time getting focused on establishing a nutritional base. Sounds counterintuitive! Sometimes all you can muster is eating bagels and toast – I’ve been there! Here’s how I made it through the first trimester: lots of gingery products to combat nausea, staying hydrated, taking my prenatals, and getting adequate dietary nutrition.

  1. Pink Stork Morning Sickness Sweets / 2. Hydroflask Water Bottle / 3. Yogi Lemon Ginger Tea/ 4. Ritual Prenatal Vitamins / 5. Real Food for Pregnancy / 6. The Bump App


The second semester is so fun! You finally start to feel better (hopefully!) and you’re starting to show your baby bump. The second trimester is all about adjusting to your new and beautiful body as it changes with pregnancy. Comfort is key – But that doesn’t mean mama can’t be stylish! These Lululemon align leggings are beloved by many pregnant women because they easily accommodate a growing belly. Once your belly starts to grow, it’s time to start sleeping on your side. I love my pillow from Boll & Branch. It is perfect for side sleeping.

  1. Lululemon Align Pants / 2. Aerie Bras / 3. Compression socks / 4. Pink Blush Maternity Clothes / 5. Boll & Branch Pillow


Welcome to the final push! While I unfortunately didn’t spend too much time in the third trimester, I loved these products. Some of them transferred over to the initial postpartum time as well. For instance, I absolutely loved my pregnancy pillow during the final month(s) of my pregnancy. I also used it for nursing/pumping in bed. It is really supportive when propped up behind your back. Also, I received this robe as a Christmas gift, but it would be perfect for the end of pregnancy/postpartum.

  1. Pregnancy Pillow / 2. Kindred Bravely Underwear / 3. Mason Grey LA Robe / 4. Plush Target blanket / 5. Kindred Bravely Nursing Bras / 6. Tinyhood Class

Throughout Pregnancy

Not specific to any trimester, I loved these products through every stage of my pregnancy. The Bloom Method is an incredible fitness platform designed specifically for pregnant women and women who have given birth. It focuses on establishing deep core and pelvic floor strength. It utilizes special breathing techniques to enhance these muscles. Of course, my favorite protein powder – I have added this to my smoothies for years. And finally, Osmia. Oh how I love this soap company. The unscented soap and body oil (for your belly!) are exquisite.

  1. Bloom Method / 2. Primal Kitchen Collagen Fuel / 3. Osmia Naked Body Oil / 4. Osmia Oh So Soap

Everyone has a different experience with their pregnancy. Some things may work for one person and not work for another. Let me know if there are any standout products you loved from your pregnancy!

Until next time!


My Favorite Ilia Makeup Products

Isn’t it so rewarding (and such a relief!) when you find makeup you LOVE?! With so many options out there, it can be super hard to find the right products that work well for you. Whether it’s the color range of concealer or foundation, the ability to wear mascara all day without getting raccoon eyes, or the perfect nourishing lip balm, finding *good quality* makeup is tough.

Over the last few years I’ve gravitated heavily towards the makeup brand Ilia. Ilia is clean and sustainable makeup brand that prides itself on formulations that bring out your natural beauty. They use the term “skin-centric” to describe how their makeup products support the underlying health of your skin. As I’ve grown older, I find that I’m wearing less makeup. At a bare minimum I wear a tinted sunscreen and a little swipe of mascara. If I’m feeling fancy I’ll wear a little concealer and brow gel as well. Ilia’s philosophy of makeup revolves heavily around the idea that less is truly more, in their ingredient lists and in their holistic concept of makeup.

Limitless Lash Mascara

  • This mascara is the bomb diggity. I used to be a huge fan of Honest Beauty mascara (I mean, I still am a huge fan, I just found something better). But this mascara blows it out of the water. It’s really hard to find a “clean” mascara that wears well throughout the day. I don’t get any fallout under my eyes (no raccoon eyes- yay!) and the formula isn’t clumpy at all. I have worn this mascara as an everyday mascara for the last couple years and I truly don’t think I will find a better one. I’ve even worn this mascara while hiking and snowshoeing- it held up to the elements!

True Skin Serum Concealer

  • It has taken me a really long time to find a concealer that works well with my skin tone and won’t make my skin look dry and crepey. It’s not a heavy or full coverage concealer, but it adds just enough coverage to brighten my under eyes and cover a minor blemish.
  • I wear the shade “Suma”

Essential Brow Gel

  • One of the biggest complaints I have with brow gels in general, is that they can be wayyy too heavy to the point where you can see the formula clinging to the brow hairs. I love that this formula doesn’t clump on my brows. It makes them look clean and put together. When I actually do my brows, this helps my eyes look more awake. The spoolie has a side for applying the product and side for brushing it through your brows. Love it!
  • I wear the shade “Blonde”


  • This multi-stick is really just that, a great creamy color pop for cheeks and lips. I use this primarily as a cream blush. I love the natural color it gives to my cheeks without looking too fake or applied. It gives my lips the same effect, natural and not too “done”. The formula has a slight shimmer that catches the light just right. Sometimes cream blushes can be really heavy. Most people won’t want to wear one during the summer months. I can wear this cream blush year-round.
  • I wear the shade “At Last”

I love makeup that goes on easily and looks natural. Especially on the days I feel worn out or exhausted, a little concealer and mascara can go a long way. I don’t have time to invest in a lengthy makeup routine. Just a few products can make a huge difference.

Ilia is available on a wide variety of platforms. You can buy it direct to consumer on their website. You can also purchase it on sites like Credo Beauty and Sephora- amazing if you are a Beauty Insider!

Let me know if you try any of these wonderful Ilia products!

Until next time!

XOXO, Sarah

THE Wedding Post (finally!)

Before you know it, wedding season will be upon us! Did you get engaged over the holidays? Are you planning an upcoming wedding? Then this is the post for you! I will break down everything from the planning process and the five things you should do right away to recommendations for vendors in south central Wisconsin and an example timeline. Don’t have a wedding planner? No worries! You don’t have to do this alone. Fair warning- this post is a doozy!! I cover A LOT in this post, so it’s on the longer side. However, if you are planning a wedding, I think you will find some good nuggets in here. I’ve been sitting on this post for TWO YEARS (thanks a lot, COVID), so it’s high time I hit the “publish” button to share it with all of you!


It will come as no surprise that I absolutely adore going to weddings. I cry when the bride walks down the aisle, during the vows, when the father of the bride makes his speech, throughout the first dance, etc. Weddings just get to me! What can I say; I love love! There’s something so incredible about two people making a lifelong commitment to each other, families coming together, and friends coming from near and far to support the couple. However lovely everything seems, the day, and months, leading up to the wedding day can be particularly stressful for the bride and groom. From deciding the amount of guests to invite, who to invite, location of the ceremony and venue of the reception, hiring a photographer and/or videographer, deciding on florals, creating a menu, and so much more, planning a wedding is extremely stressful! I’ve put together a review of some of our wonderful wedding vendors, an example of our timeline for the day, and helpful hints for planning a wedding. What’s the MOST important thing to do or remember you may ask? Enjoy the process and always remember to keep the commitment to your spouse and the true meaning of the day at the heart of it all. 

*This review is specific to vendors and experiences in South-Central Wisconsin. 

*See our Wedding Day published in Wisconsin Bride Magazine HERE

So you just got engaged! Congratulations! Now what? 

Take at least a few hours before breaking the news to the world of social media to contact close family and friends. Trust me, they will want to hear the news from you and not your Facebook page! Heck, take the entire day to just revel in the moment with your friends, family, and new fiance! After the celebrating accordingly, make sure you follow these next steps: 

  1. Does the ring fit well? If not, and especially if the ring is too big, wait to wear it while you’re out and about. The last thing you want is to lose your new beautiful sparkler. Take the ring back to where your fiance purchased it and get it sized ASAP! I know you want to show that bad boy off but keeping it ON your finger is a high priority. Which brings me to my next point: 
  2. Cover your ring under your insurance plan. We insured my ring under our renters insurance policy. It’s now under our home insurance policy. Call your insurance company; they will offer you a way to cover the ring either under renters or home insurance policies. If under a horrible circumstance in which the ring is lost, you want to make sure you have a safety net to cover the financial losses and replace it if possible. While you’re doing this step, research which wedding band (if any) you plan to wear as well. Adding this to your insurance plan is also important! The wedding band can always be added to the plan at another time if you are unsure if you want one or don’t know which one you plan to purchase. 

Zach proposed on a cold Wisconsin day in the middle of January 2017. We went ring shopping in November so I knew a proposal was right around the corner. Ladies, if you are at the point in your relationship where you are openly discussing marriage with your partner, suggest a day or two to look at engagement rings. Zach and I had been talking about getting married for quite some time and decided we would start looking at rings together to ease the pressure of choosing the right ring. 

Side note: I highly recommend doing this! Not only does it give you an opportunity to see what you like on your hand and what you don’t, but it provides a super fun date for you and your future fiance. I tried on rings that I loved on Pinterest but didn’t love on my hand. We also had the guidance of a jewelry expert to ensure we were getting the highest quality product for the budget that we had established.  

After the celebration dies down, the planning begins. Zach and I were engaged for almost 1 ½ years. This was perfect for us as we wanted to solidify our budget and would be planning from out of state. I would recommend no less than a year-long engagement for a few reasons: 

  1. Budget. Weddings are expensive. No matter how you cut the cake (lol), planning a wedding requires financial diligence. You don’t want to walk away from your wedding as a newly married couple and a broke married couple. Use your time to find a budgeting plan that works well for you. Talk to your family and your fiance’s family about whether or not they are able to contribute. The sooner you have this conversation, however awkward, the better. Establishing a budget early in the process will hold you accountable and allow you time to build your savings. 
  2. Venues and Vendors. Zach and I looked at a few venues in the Madison, WI area about a month after getting engaged. At that time there were already multiple couples out doing the exact same thing. Most venues will have couples booked out at least by the year mark. The sooner you are able to contact potential vendors about your wedding, the higher chance you will have at being able to book their services. Like venues, wedding vendors get booked up extremely fast, especially if your wedding will be in the summer. Do yourselves a favor and give your vendors the opportunity to provide you with the services you desire by planning a wedding with a decent timeline. 
  3. Sanity. An engagement that lasts just over a year allows time for you to get organized! If you are hiring a wedding planner, lucky you! You will have a partner to help you navigate the wedding business world. But there are many brides who may not be able to afford a planner  that feel alone during this process. Giving yourself time to organize a large event can help keep your anxiety at bay. Especially if you are planning a destination wedding or a wedding from afar, giving yourself at least a year to plan will assist you in many ways! 

**There are some incredible tools available to couples planning a wedding. Take advantage of them! My favorite wedding planning tool is the Knot’s wedding planning binder. It was truly a lifesaver when it came to organizing important details, keeping track of vendor numbers and contracts, and keeping up to par on our timeline.**

Your First Five Steps of Wedding Planning 

So where do you begin? Here are my recommendations for the first steps to tackle when planning your wedding: 

1. Set Your Date. Everyone has an ideal time of year in mind for their own wedding. Whether you envision a summery wedding full of fresh blooms and warm temps, or a romantic winter wedding surrounded by candles and greenery, the sooner you decide on a potential date, the easier it will be to move forward with the rest of your wedding plans. Setting a date will directly influence your budget and availability of potential vendors. Many vendors will offer significant discounts during the low season, from the end of fall to the beginning of spring. If time of year is irrelevant for you, I suggest booking your date during this time. Your budget will thank you! Setting your date in the early stages of your engagement gives you a timeline and an endpoint. You have a goal in mind for when tasks need to be accomplished and when your financial components need to line up. Also keep in mind that by booking your wedding on a holiday, you may have significant difficulty booking other vendors. You may also find that some of your guests may be unable to attend due to previously established commitments. True, everyone has the holiday off of work, but they may not be able to commit to attending a wedding on that day. 

2. Book your Venue. We began looking at potential venues for our wedding a couple months after getting engaged. We were more than a year out from our wedding but we were surprised to find other couples on the same trajectory as us. We were told by multiple venues that couples had been asking about availability on the same date we were hoping to celebrate our wedding. Within a year of your date, you may find it extremely difficult to find your perfect venue. Nail down your venue as soon as possible! 

3. Book your Photographer/Videographer. Like venues, talented photographers are in high demand. Especially during the high season (spring-summer), you may find it difficult to book your favorite photographer or videographer. After researching for many hours, we contacted our wedding photographer, Laurelyn Savannah Photographer, and were able to book her relatively quickly. If the photographer doesn’t suggest it, ask to schedule an initial meeting to ensure your personalities work well together. Laurelyn was wonderful about this and really took the initiative to make sure our wedding photography journey together would be a success. And it was! Likewise, our videographer, Dan West, was extremely helpful throughout the booking process. I knew I wanted him to capture our wedding years ago following the wedding of my good college friend. I didn’t even research other videographers! Before you book any photographer or videographer, look at their Instagram page. Many times, this is where you will see their true artistic display. Social media is incredibly helpful when booking these types of services! I’ll link both of their Instagram handles here: @laurelynsavannah; @danwestfilms

4. Start Your Hunt for the Perfect Dress. I found my beautiful dress at White Dress Boutique in Milwaukee, WI. It was the first place we visited and the 5th or 6th dress I tried on. When you go dress shopping, be upfront about your budget. Remember to add in potential alteration costs and price of veil (if that’s up your alley) to your final budget. It took nearly 6 months for my dress to come in. SIX MONTHS! That is a lengthy amount of time in the wedding planning process. In addition, the dress needed significant alterations, adding more time onto the already fast paced timeline. The earlier you get your dress, the easier it will be to ensure on time arrival and completion of any alterations it may need. My biggest piece of advice: do NOT try on a wedding dress that is outside of your budget. Don’t get devastated by a dress beyond your budget and don’t try to accommodate your budget to “afford” a more expensive dress. 

5. Select Your Wedding Party. We had a pretty solid idea of our wedding party within the first couple weeks of getting engaged. While you don’t necessarily need a cute way to ask them to be a part of your special day, a wedding party proposal is always something fun to put together. Use Pinterest or Etsy to assist you in creating your perfect way to pop the question to your closest friends and family. The earlier you are able to ask your crew to be a part of your day the better. Weddings can be a financial commitment for the wedding party as well. From suits and shoes to dresses and accessories, being in a wedding can come with a hefty price tag. Not to mention contributing to bachelor and bachelorette parties, showers, and other events, there are multiple opportunities for the wedding party to forfeit lots of dough. Giving them a heads up well in advance will help them plan for their ability to contribute to future events as well. Keep in mind the financial expectations you place on your friends and family, especially if they are coming in from out of town to be part of your day! We tried to be mindful of our options for attire. Between renting and buying, I think we had decent options for our wedding party. 



Developing A Comprehensive Guest List and Seating Chart 

Developing a guest list and then a seating chart was one of the most stressful aspects of wedding planning. Of course, you don’t want to leave anyone out, but you also want to share the day with your closest friends and relatives. Much of your guest list will depend on the capacity of your venue and your overall budget. On average, each person will have 2-4 drinks at the bar, munch on 4-6 different appetizers (bites/pieces), and eat a plate of food at dinner, each of which costs money. To stay within your budget, calculate out each guest in association with cost of food and drink to ensure you don’t go overboard. Your venue should be able to provide you with the estimated cost of food and drink.

When starting your guest list, begin with your family: immediate, extended, and their spouses/significant others. Whether you include children in your guest list is up to you. We had family members with young children and some friends with newborns. We didn’t want them to feel excluded from the celebration for that reason. We encouraged everyone else to leave their kids at home. After family, add your wedding party and their significant others. After the wedding party, add in close friends followed by an extended friend list (don’t forget their significant others either!). 

Side note: Due to venue size and budget, we were unable to provide single guests with a plus one. For clarification purposes, address invitations to “XX and Guest” if they have a significant other and “XX” if not. 

From there, check your guest list against your total number of guests (based on budget!). Begin the elimination process by eliminating your more distant friends and relatives. Do this little by little until you are within range of your max number of guests. Wedding planners will advise around 15-20% of all guests invited will decline. With that being said, don’t over-invite guests hoping that 20% will decline to reach your max number of guests. That is a waiting/guessing game that no one wants to play. 

**We made a rule for all guests with significant others: guests who have been dating their significant other for 6 months or more may receive a plus one to the wedding

After deciding on our guest list, sending out our Save the Dates (recommend 6-9 months in advance), and our formal invitations (recommend 5-6 months in advance), RSVP’s began to flood in. From there, we were able to start constructing our seating chart. It is crucial during this time to be in communication with your venue. They will be able to send you a master plan with seating chart options. Once you decide on a seating chart plan, begin to assign your guests a spot. We drew our seating chart out on a poster board and used sticky notes, color coded to my family, my friends, Zach’s family, and Zach’s friends to easily see the overall layout. We were able to pick up sticky notes and move them around as necessary to accommodate our seating chart. I have been to weddings with seating charts and without seating charts, and each have their pros and cons, specifically related to your level of responsibility/how much work you want to do. While it may take you some extra effort, please at least give your guests a table assignment. Without that, it becomes a free for all and difficult to find a place to sit in a cohesive group, especially if you have more friends in your group than the table allows. The experience is much more enjoyable, for guests and bride/groom alike, if guests have no questions about where they are to sit. 

Organizing Your Day Into A Timeline

Unless you have a wedding planner that will develop a timeline for you, you will need to come up with a timeline that not only makes sense, but is achievable by all parties (and vendors) involved. Without a doubt, this is one of the most daunting tasks of the entire day! But don’t worry! This task can be manageable! 

When writing out your wedding day timeline, start with times that are concrete (ie the ceremony time and the reception time). From there, work your way backwards to plan out your morning. Your vendors will be phenomenal resources during this part. Ask them how long it will take for you and your bridal party to have your hair and makeup complete, how early your venue opens to be decorated (could be done the night before!), and how long to allocate for photos before, in between or after the ceremony. Don’t forget to schedule extra time in for any mishaps and don’t forget to schedule time to eat! Although your nerves may be through the roof on your wedding day, it will be just as important to stay nourished and hydrated as it is for you to be places by certain times. 


After you have your morning planned out, work forwards from your ceremony time through your reception. Your reception location (and it may be in the same area as your ceremony) should have people available to serve as resources to help plan your reception timeline. You will need to adjust your timeline for how long you have services from your photographer and/or videographer. If you don’t have their services all day, talk with your future spouse about what moments are most important for you to have captured. For us, the first look, the ceremony, and our first dance were moments that we knew we would want to look back on and remember in great detail. 

Below is a sample timeline I created to help you with this process! Times are specific to our wedding day and may need to be adjusted for yours. 


    • 6:00 AM Wake up
    • 6:30-6:45 Bridal party arrives at “getting ready” location
      • **Provide address here**
    • 6:45 Hair + makeup team arrives 
    • 7:00 Hair + makeup begins
      • Bride hair start:
      • Bride makeup start: 
    • 8:30 Florals dropped off at bride’s getting ready location 
      • Ushers to take flowers to groom/groomsmen
    • 9:00 Groom/groomsmen to “getting ready location”
    • 9:00 Videographers arrive at getting ready location #1
    • 9:00 Florals dropped off at reception venue
    • 10:00 Videographer #2 to getting ready location #2
    • 10:00 Florals to church
    • 10:00 Bride/groom filmed reading letters to each other 
    • 10:45 Bridesmaids, mother of bride, mother of groom are dressed
    • 11:00 Bride puts gown on
      • First look with Father of the Bride
      • First look with bridesmaids 
    • 10:30 Groom/groomsmen are dressed; limo arrives 
    • 10:45 Groom/groomsmen/ushers leave for photos
    • 11:00 Photographer arrives at bride’s parents’ house
    • 11:30 FIRST LOOK with photographer + videographer
    • 11:30-12:15 Group/bride + groom photos 
    • 12:15 Lunch provided for wedding party
    • 12:15 Photographer + videographer to church
    • 12:45 Wedding party to church
    • 1:15 Photos with grandparents in church 
    • 1:30 String quartet + vocalist arrive at church
    • 1:30 Family/friends arrive to hand out programs
    • 2:45 Trolley arrives at church
    • 2:45 Reverse receiving line inside church (bride + groom “dismiss” pews)
    • 3:00 Exit from church
      • Ribbon wands distributed by personal attendants
    • 3:15-4:30 Trolley + photos + video in downtown Madison
    • 3:30 DJ arrives at reception venue
    • 4:15-4:30 Photographer + videographer arrive at reception venue
    • 4:50 Wedding party arrives at reception venue
    • 5:00-5:25 Family photos at reception venue
      • DJ to announce 
    • 5:15 Guests seat for dinner
    • 5:30 Wedding party entrance/introductions
    • 5:45: Father of the Bride welcome speech and toast
    • 5:50 Blessing 
    • 6:00 Dinner is served
      • Bride and groom trivia game during dinner 
    • 6:45 Maid of honor, best man, groom speeches
    • 6:55 Cake cutting, DJ to announce cupcakes
    • 7:30 First dance, mother/groom dance, father/bride dance
    • 8:10 Sunset photos (Decided with photographer based on sunset time for that day!)
    • 10:00 Late night snacks served
    • 11:45 Last call 

Speak with all vendors in advance so they are aware of your timeline and where they need to be! I shared the in depth timeline with the entire wedding party and our parents. I found that color coding my vendors and creating bold fonts for important times of the day helped me to visualize everything in clearer detail! 


Vendor Reviews

One of the most exciting parts of planning a wedding is researching your vendors for the day. I loved this aspect of networking with different professionals in the area to create a memorable wedding day. My biggest piece of advice when working with wedding vendors: be courteous and let them do their work! I’m totally guilty of wanting everything to be planned and executed just so. You hired your vendors for a reason; let them do what they do best and shine through their work. They may ask you for suggestions and ideas; absolutely contribute! Help them make your day as personalized as possible. Beyond that, don’t be a bossy bride (or groom)!


  • We had our ceremony at my childhood church, St. Maria Goretti in Madison, WI. It was such a cool experience to get married in a place I grew up attending services. Our celebrant, Fr. Mike, had been at SMG ever since we started going there as a family when I was kindergarten-age. It made our ceremony such a personalized experience.


  • We had our reception at Blackhawk Country Club in Madison, WI. This golf club is just outside of downtown Madison and overlooks one of the two lakes in the area. Besides a stunning view, they offer a fabulous patio area for happy hour, an elegant bar, space to seat 200+ guests, and a talented chef to cater the night. Having a chef onsite really made our food experience quite easy. Blackhawk offered us an incredibly wide variety of appetizers, main dishes, sides, salads, and dessert options. Even our beautiful cake was made onsite! No need to hire a caterer with this venue! After deciding to have our wedding reception at Blackhawk, we were assigned a wedding planner through the venue. She was wonderful, ensuring organizational flow through the night, communication with vendors that needed to be at the reception venue, set-up and tear-down of tables/ chairs/decorations, and above all, communication with us throughout the process. We are exceptionally pleased with all interaction with Blackhawk through the planning process and on the night of our wedding. I highly recommend them if you are looking for a stunning venue without the cost of being downtown. When you already have so many other decisions to make, choose a venue that already provides a food option. It will save some of your sanity!


  • If you are going to spend money on a wedding, splurge on a photographer. A talented wedding photographer can make your day so much more memorable, ensuring you have beautiful photos to look back on after your special day. Wedding photography is not an area to cut corners, trust me! After searching throughout the southern Wisconsin area, we stumbled upon Laurelyn Savannah Photography, and boy I’m glad we did! Laurelyn is not only wonderfully personable and sweet, she is incredibly talented. Her photos are elegant, fresh, and timeless. . She doesn’t just capture a moment, she captures a feeling, and that is something that takes incredible practice and patience. We loved working with Laurelyn. She is communicative, punctual, and delivers what she promises. She sticks to the timeline she provides to you and answers any questions that may pop up through the process. She even offered an open line of communication for any questions I generally had about planning a wedding. She’s not pushy; she doesn’t try to get you to upgrade your package or make you feel uncomfortable about spending your money on her services. Even though we now live across the country from her, I genuinely hope we can use her in the future for pictures of us and our family. 


  • Similarly to photography, videography is an area you don’t want to fall short. I know many people who are on the fence about hiring a wedding videographer and I have some advice for you: just do it. You won’t regret it! There’s something so magical about seeing yourself and your husband living through the most wonderful day of your lives. With that being said, don’t skimp! Hiring a quality, talented, and artistic videographer is essential! Dan West Films surpasses all expectations. I remember showing my mom his website shortly after booking him for our wedding. She called me and said “I’m crying at all these beautiful wedding videos and I don’t even know who these people are!”. This was precisely the reaction I had hoped she would have! Mirroring clips of your day with music and brilliant editing helps you to relive your day over and over again. Dan may not look like he’s been around too long, and it’s true.  After seeing the video he made for my two good friends many years ago, I KNEW he would be our wedding videographer. Dan works with another videographer and a drone to capture special moments throughout your day. He is genuine, thoughtful, and his final products are masterful. Though he is based out of Minnesota, we paid a small travel fee for him to be at our day in Wisconsin and it was 100% worth it. See the “preview” to our wedding video *HERE*!


  • When in doubt, make them fresh! Yes, fresh flowers cost more than fake, but they are so much classier. Don’t want to spend a ridiculous amount on your fresh blooms? Find a florist that listens to your concerns and works with you to create your dream bouquets and centerpieces. Donna, from Garden Laurels by Sager, was a dream to work with on our wedding florals. She invited us over to her beautiful home in the country to discuss our ideas for all the floral pieces. Since we had a pretty strict budget when it came to fresh blooms, we were able to find compromise by adding more greenery to our decor and fewer flowers while still maintaining our fresh, elegant, and timeless feel. I showed her pictures for all of my ideas and she was able to perfectly translate that into real life. If you’re thinking “oh my gosh, Sarah, there’s NO way we can afford fresh flowers”, just give it some thought. We are immensely grateful we decided to incorporate fresh flowers into our day. They were stunning and we couldn’t have been happier with Donna’s vision come to life! 

String Quartet/Vocalist

  • We were lucky to find such talented instrumentalists and a vocalist for our wedding ceremony. We opted to have a string quartet at our wedding and it added greatly to the overall romantic feel of the day. Lucia String Quartet was the perfect addition to our day. Our vocalist, Meg Aspinwall, was exceptional. Her voice is beautifully pure. I highly recommend both, as they are extremely talented.


  • When deciding between a DJ and a band,  envision your dance floor. We wanted people up dancing all night, to a variety of songs from a wide variety of genres! Since we really wanted all ages up and grooving, we decided to opt for a DJ over a band. Not that a band is a bad idea. We’ve been to some really fun weddings with bands. It just wasn’t the vibe we wanted for our dance floor. Jukebox Bandstand was well organized and easy to work with throughout the planning process. Our plans for the day and timeline changed a few times and they were accommodating throughout all our changes. We included uplighting in our package, which created a beautiful ambiance in our reception venue. They truly go above and beyond to make sure your event is personalized and fun!

Hair and Makeup

  • While there are many qualified salons in the Madison area that provide exceptional wedding hair and makeup, I could only find one that would travel to the location we were getting ready. Be Inspired Salon and Spa has a fully functioning brick and mortar location on the westside of Madison and a highly talented wedding team that will do hair and makeup at their storefront or wherever you are getting ready for your day! To cut back on transportation time and costs, I knew it would be especially important to book services that could travel to us. After looking through their portfolios, I requested Jena and was so happy I did! She listened intently to what I wanted and how I wanted to look. She was able to create a hairstyle and apply makeup in just the way I had hoped. Be Inspired has multiple bridal packages and a la carte items to choose from to accommodate all beauty desires and budgets. I highly encourage you to book a trial appointment! It would be devastating to realize you are unhappy with hair and/or makeup on your big day. To create a cohesive look, we provided hair and makeup for all the bridesmaids. While some opted out of some services, we were still able to make sure all my girls felt beautiful. On the day of the wedding, they mobilized all their styling and makeup equipment to my parents’ kitchen. We were able to leisurely hang out and enjoy breakfast/mimosas while getting ready together. 


  • There are many options for wedding transportation these days. From party busses to limousines, the options are endless. To add a bit of charm to our transportation we opted to do a trolley. We used Jones Travel, which provides services in Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison. Trolleys are aesthetically fun! They offer an old time ambiance to the day. Seating is a bit tricky. The rows are organized into small benches that can seat two people. There isn’t a space to get up and dance around, if that’s your thing. We were able to bring a cooler of canned beverages aboard to pass around. The only downfall of this service was that our bus driver knew little about the area. One of the ushers had to sit near the head of the bus to give directions, which was a bit annoying. Despite that, we had a great time! Whether you are doing a trolley, bus, or limousine, bring your own aux cord! The last thing you want is a silent party bus. 



  • Dress: I cannot say enough good things about my wedding dress shopping experience. White Dress Boutique in Milwaukee, WI is a complete dream. The entire experience is incredibly personalized. I felt like the consultant really listened to all of my requirements. She wasn’t pushy and didn’t allow me to try any dresses outside of my budget. The salon is gorgeous. Located near the Historic Third Ward in a beautiful brick building, this bridal shop has a classy rustic chic appearance. The inside of the salon is open and airy, decorated with sparkling crystal chandeliers. White Dress was the first and only bridal salon I visited. I brought my mom and my maid of honor, who provided the perfect critiques and encouragement. A smaller audience allowed me to really enjoy the day. 
  • Shoes: I wore these shoes from Badgley Mischka. I cannot stress enough the importance of wearing your shoes frequently before the big day. I didn’t wear these enough and I was left with horrible blisters on my heels. I had planned to change into a pair of sparkly Kate Spade tennies at the reception and was forced to forgo shoes altogether. The shoes were beautiful in person and loved the way they looked on my feet. 
  • Veil: When it comes to veils, there’s one designer who is simply the best. Sara Gabriel veils are nothing short of stunning. These veils are made with love and it truly shows. I opted for an elegant, ethereal veil. While still simple, it provided the perfect finishing touch to my dress. 

Bridesmaid Dresses

  • Since more of my bridesmaids resided outside of our wedding state than in it, I wanted to make sure there was an easy and convenient option for them to purchase a bridesmaid dress. Additionally, it needed to be affordable! Weddington Way provided this option for my bridesmaids. Unfortunately Weddington Way is no longer in business. There are many online bridesmaids dress services that are equally nice, Azazie and Kennedy Blue offer similar experiences, ensuring your bridesmaids can order with ease. There’s no need to try and organize your bridesmaids to try on dresses. Choose one of these vendors and you’ll be thankful you did!


Men’s Attire 

  • If you want easy and painless suit options for the groom and groomsmen (who doesn’t?), look no further than Men’s Wearhouse! We outfitted the groom, groomsmen, ushers, and father of the bride/groom in high quality matching suits and shoes. The fitting process was extremely simple. With locations throughout the country, all the men were able to go in, get fitted, and order their suit within 20-30 minutes. The suits came in a few days before the wedding. They fit all the men very well and everyone was extremely happy with the process. Especially if you have wedding party members located in different states, this rental option was convenient for everyone. 

Paper Products 

  • We ordered our Save the Dates and formal Wedding Invitations from Minted. There are endless options and design styles, suiting every wedding theme and color combination. We were able to upload our engagement photos to different designs to create beautifully unique options. We were also able to import our guest list with addresses to have them pre-printed on the envelopes. This step saved us so much time! Our ceremony programs, thank you table cards, and place cards were printed off of Etsy. There are so many wedding shops in Etsy that sell paper designs. You pay for the design, personalize it, then print it on your own time. While this step definitely saved us some money, it was stressful to ensure all the alignments were equally balanced and that everything printed correctly! We had some minor difficulties with our programs and had to take the design to a printing store for extra assistance. 


  • One of the smartest ways to save money on your big day is utilizing rental companies. These companies specialize in renting decor for special events. Rent anything from dinnerware and silverware, candelabras, centerpieces, table linens, and chairs. We chose to rent through Event Essentials. They were wonderful! Not only were they efficient and thorough, they were professional. They were highly recommended by our venue, which made our decision to use them even easier. 


Alright, brides! There you have it!  I hope you have found some part of this insightful in your wedding planning journey. It’s a huge undertaking to plan and coordinate a wedding day. Never lose sight of the real reason for the day. One of the biggest pieces of advice I received was to not sweat the small stuff. If something goes wrong, you will probably be the only person who truly knows it. Go with it, roll with the punches, and ENJOY your day! It’s truly a once in a lifetime journey. 


XOXO, Sarah 


Venue: Blackhawk Country Club

Photography: Laurelyn Savannah Photography

Videography: Dan West Films

Wedding Dress: White Dress Bridal Boutique

Veil: Sara Gabriel

Floral: Garden Laurels by Sager

Hair and Makeup: Be Inspired Salon and  Spa

Men’s Wear: Men’s Wearhouse

Rental Company: Event Essentials

Paper: Minted

Miscellaneous: Etsy

DJ: Jukebox Bandstand

Transportation (Trolley): Jones Travel

Ceremony music: Lucia String Quartet

Ceremony vocalist: Meg Aspinwall

Engagement and Wedding Jewelry: Craig Husar Fine Diamonds & Jewelry Design

Healthy and Happy Hair Routine (Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Safe!)

Developing a consistent hair routine that was not only good for my hair but good for my entire body took some time. Through lots of trial and error I was finally able to find products that work well with my hair. Clean and nontoxic hair care is tricky! There are a lot of formulas that weigh your hair down and, because many lack sulfates, don’t make your hair “feel” clean after shampooing. I was very fortunate to find a hair stylist in Seattle who pointed me in the right direction when it came to products safe for pregnancy and postpartum (thank you Sarah Kahn Hair!). With that being said, what works for my hair may not work for yours. And, whether you choose to use products that are marketed as “clean” or “nontoxic” or not, finding a consistent hair care routine can make your locks luscious. I love these products so much that I will continue to use them past the postpartum stages in my life.

I normally wash my hair 2-3x per week depending on my level of activity (aka how many times I ride the Peloton). Once a week I will use a nourishing mask to make sure my hair is given the moisture it needs, especially the winter. I only heat style my hair a couple times per month, which helps to prevent damage and dehydration.

I definitely experienced the dreaded postpartum hair loss. It was so alarming! I didn’t notice a particular area more affected than another; I lost hair all over my head. The regrowth has been gradual and I have lots of “whispies”, especially near my part, so I look like I constantly have frizzy hair. I didn’t change my routine during my hair loss, instead I tried to make sure I was nourishing my body with protein and healthy fats. Since postpartum hair loss is due to hormones, and hormones are suuuper whacky in the postpartum period, I chose to focus on giving my body the support it needed to equilibrate. I knew the hair would regrow eventually!

Normal Wash Routine

Shampoo: Rahua Voluminous Shampoo

*I love that this cleaner shampoo actually gets sudsy! It cleans super well and removes buildup without stripping your hair.

Conditioner: Rahua Hydration Conditioner

* This conditioner smells divine! It’s tropical and beachy without the expected (and dreaded) coconut smell- light and bright!

I especially love Rahua shampoos and conditioners because refills are sustainable! You can order pouches of shampoo and/or conditioner that don’t produce more plastic waste.

Hair Mask Routine

Shampoo: Davines Solu Shampoo

* I use this shampoo specifically before using any hair mask because it meticulously removes any buildup.

Mask 1: Davines Nourishing Vegetarian Miracle Mask

*While I have never used any Olaplex products, the word on the street is that this stuff is wayyy better.

Mask 2: Christophe Robin Shade Variation Mask- Baby Blonde

*I use this mask once a month to keep my blonde from looking too brassy

Leave- in conditioner: Rahua Leave in Treatment-Light

Leave-In Treatment Light

*A great way to add a little extra nourishment after doing a mask treatment


Hair Serum: Reverie Milk Anti-Frizz Leave-In Nourishing Treatment

*This makes my hair SO soft. I love the refined herbal scent. It’s full of nourishing oils that keep my hair feeling healthy and strong

Heat protectant: Davines Melu Hair Shield

MELU Hair Shield Heat protecting shield for long or damaged hair 250 ml / 8,45 fl.oz.  Davines

Hairspray: I’m currently using a Davines hairspray that is no longer in production (boo- its a really good one). I think this Davines Medium Hold hairspray would substitute well!

I never used to put much thought into what I was using on my hair. And I never understood how using the right products could make a huge difference in overall hair health! I love knowing that the products I’m using keep my hair healthy and happy.

What hair products are you loving?

Until next time!

XOXO, Sarah

Leo is (almost) ONE! His Birth Story

As many parents can attest, TIME FLIES BY! I am in utter shock at how quickly the last year went by for us. Sure, there were times when it felt like time stood still (particularly in the middle of the night), but for the most part everything felt like it was on fast forward. I think I finally understand the phrase “time is a thief”. As of Saturday February 5, we will be parents to a curious, preceptive, adventurous, sweet, giggly, zooming, babbling one year old!

Honestly, I didn’t know if I would write a birth story until today (Tuesday February 1). Leo’s birth story is still a little emotionally traumatic for me. But one of the ways I cope and heal is by sharing my experiences with other people.

As many of you know, Leo’s dramatic entrance into the world was a bit chaotic. I went into preterm labor at 31 weeks. I went to work on Tuesday February 2, 2021 like any other day, but I felt a bit off. I was exceptionally fatigued and I was having frequent Braxton Hicks contractions (for those who aren’t familiar with the term, BH contractions are basically “practice” contractions, but they can increase in frequency as labor/delivery gets closer). I got a gut feeling that something wasn’t quite right. If you are a mom (or a nurse!) you know what that gut feeling feels like… like something is a bit off, but you can’t put your finger on it. I was in the process of looking up my patient for the first procedure of the day. I texted Zach, mentioning that I didn’t feel right and we decided I should call the triage nurse.

Within an hour I was leaving work (sorry, guys-it was a really busy day) to check into triage. I called Zach on my way home to see if he wanted to join me. Thank GOD he came along. In triage they performed an ultrasound, did some blood testing, and hooked me up to fetal monitors. Everything seemed completely normal. The nurse was waiting for one more blood test, fetal fibronectin, to result before discharging us. He even said the results of this test are relatively vague. If it’s negative, there’s a very small chance of going into labor over the next few weeks. But if it’s positive, I *could potentially* go into labor somewhat soon. See what I mean? Very vague. Of course, just as we were about to be discharged, it came back positive. He called the attending OBGYN and she came down to assess me. She did a cervical check, looked at me, and said, “you are not leaving this hospital until you have a baby”. Preterm labor had started.

I was admitted to the L&D unit and was given a series of medications to stop labor and steroids to help Leo’s lungs developed. The main goal was to get 2 doses of the steroids in before he was delivered so his lungs could *hopefully* function normally. I was given a high dose of magnesium through my IV that then ran consistently for the next two days. It made me feel like I was drunk and loopy; my eyes couldn’t focus on anything. I was connected to constant fetal monitoring. We were visited by the NICU staff to prepare us for our baby being in the NICU. Getting up to the bathroom was a chore and I couldn’t do it alone, thanks to the IV that made me feel like I was high and the monitoring equipment. Slowly the signs of preterm labor decreased and the rate of magnesium was titrated down. Eventually it was turned off in the afternoon on Thursday February 4. We were moved to an antepartum room to be monitored. Home away from home until Baby Scherschel arrived.

That night we ordered Chipotle for dinner. We felt confident and hopeful we would make it another few days to 32 weeks gestation. We went to bed around 9 PM; I was finally starting to feel normal again. Around 9:30/10PM I started getting what I thought were terrible gas pains from the Chipotle. I kept trying to reposition myself to get comfortable. I asked the nurse to get me some simethicone to help with the discomfort. By the time she came back with the medication, I was in labor. I knew it, she knew it, and Zach had figured it out pretty quickly. Zach ran around the room to collect our things while she held my hand and called the L&D staff. Within minutes I was being wheeled back down the hallway to the L&D unit. Once again, I was given magnesium, but not for my sake this time. It was to help prevent injury to Leo’s brain since he would officially be considered “premature”. As the contractions worsened, anesthesia arrived to place an epidural. While other nurses were setting up the room, the NICU team arrived with an incubator. Time stopped and rushed past me at the same time. Before I knew it, it was time to push. Leo came rushing into the world at 1:38 AM on February 5. As terrible as it sounds, I dreaded the moment he would be born the entire time I was pushing. “Please let him be breathing; please let him be breathing”. I sobbed when he came out screaming. He was breathing on his own. He had gotten the full dose of steroids just in time. He was whisked away by the NICU staff for immediate assessment. To everyone’s disbelief he did not need any respiratory support. Zach was able to bring him over to me so we could say hello before his transfer down to the NICU.

While I was pushing, the doctor noted that there was a sufficient amount of blood. After delivering the placenta, it was clear I had a 25% placental abruption.

In my first trimester I was diagnosed with a subchorionic hematoma. Essentially it’s a small area of bleeding in between the uterus and the placenta. Most of the time its origin is unknown; it can happen when the placenta is developing. Although it was monitored during the course of my pregnancy, there wasn’t too much concern. Unfortunately, these small hematomas can develop into large hematomas. And because of the location of my placenta, it was difficult to see that. My small pocket of bleeding developed into a placental abruption, a large area of the placenta pulling away from the uterus causing a significant amount of bleeding. This is why I went into preterm labor. It took me a few months to “forgive myself” and realize that my body did not fail, it thrived and did what it was supposed to do. It gave me warnings to listen to my gut instinct so that I was able to seek care early enough for both of us to get the necessary interventions to protect us and prevent potential issues. If anything, this story is proof of the power of listening to our bodies and following that gut instinct.

Right before I gave birth to Leo, I was interviewed by Health Magazine (you can read the story here) about my decision to get the COVID vaccine while I was pregnant. At the time, there was only preliminary data from the trials to support safety and efficacy. But after looking beyond the initial research and into the overall mechanism of an mRNA vaccine, reviewing basic cell biology, having conversations with multiple people in healthcare professions (doctors, nurses, PAs, NPs), and given the impending and significant threat of COVID for pregnant women, I decided to get vaccinated. I knew the outcomes of having COVID while pregnant were significantly higher than the potential and extremely minor theoretical consequences of getting vaccinated. I had read and re-read the data. I had spent hours reading information on ASRM (American Society for Reproductive Medicine), ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists), and AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics). And, now we know for a FACT (because we have over a year of ample and valid data) that the COVID vaccine is SAFE for women who are pregnant.

I was attacked by some readers of Health Magazine for spreading “false and dangerous” information after Leo was born. They told me I could’ve killed my baby because I got vaccinated. They said I was spreading lies about getting vaccinated and look!-your premature baby is proof that you made the wrong choice. They said they would pray for my soul for hurting my baby. They had no idea that I had been previously diagnosed with a subchorionic hematoma. They had no idea I went into preterm labor for something discovered in my first trimester. Leo’s early birth was NOT because I chose to get vaccinated to protect us both against a lethal disease.

I’m sure a lot of people were suspicious of the timing. I received my second dose of Pfizer only a few weeks before going into preterm labor. It certainly looked like it could’ve been associated with getting vaccinated. But that’s not what the data tells us. That’s not what science tells us. Women are statistically no less likely to go into preterm labor if they choose to get the vaccine while pregnant. They are also statistically no less likely to have any other type of pregnancy complication due to getting the COVID vaccine. Actually, the women who do not get vaccinated while pregnant (or before) and do get COVID are much more likely to have significantly negative pregnancy outcomes, including preterm labor. And now we even have data that shows antibodies (immunity!) transfer to your baby in utero if you get vaccinated while pregnant (the same is true for breastfeeding). Look, this isn’t a post about vaccine safety and efficacy during pregnancy. You should talk to your doctor about your decision to get vaccinated. The data is out there and readily available. I just felt the need to share my two cents regarding my own experience with getting vaccinated and then having (completely unrelated) preterm labor. I’ll attach some resources at the bottom of this post. **

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! While Leo’s story was anything but “normal” in terms of labor and delivery, the past year has been absolutely amazing. Parenthood is hard. There is no doubt about that. But all of the difficult times and hard experiences seem to melt away in the presence of the joy and profound happiness. I’m convinced that the sound of your child laughing can mend any negative thought or feeling. I think it’s important to share birth stories that aren’t necessarily unicorns and rainbows. We are truly lucky that the only deficits Leo needed to overcome in the NICU were size and inability to eat on his own. As you can see, he is now a perfectly happy and healthy little boy.

And now, it’s time to celebrate our little lion, Leo! He has been a fighter with the sweetest soul from the beginning. He just couldn’t wait a minute longer to meet his parents and to start exploring our beautiful world – we are so excited to show it to him. Zach and I are so lucky to be his parents.

Happy First Birthday, Leo!


** Not intended as medical advice. Please speak with your healthcare team about whether vaccination is the right medical decision for you.**

Pregnancy and COVID vaccine resources:

American Society for Reproductive Medicine (click here)

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (click here)

American Academy of Pediatrics (click here)


Preliminary Findings of mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine Safety in Pregnant Persons (click here)

Prenatal maternal COVID-19 vaccination and pregnancy outcomes (click here)

Pregnancy and birth outcomes after SARS-COV-2 vaccination in pregnancy (click here)

High antibody levels in cord blood from pregnant women vaccinated against COVID-19 (click here)

Featured image by Meg Newton Photography

Top Ten Baby Registry Items


… And a few more!

If you’re a first time mama, where oh where do you begin when it comes to creating a baby registry?! Overwhelmed? I was right there with you. If anything, keep your registry simple. Your baby actually needs very little – a safe place to sleep, food to eat, clothes, diapers, wipes, and lots of love. Everything else is simply nice to have. And, just because something is more expensive doesn’t always mean that it works better! In my opinion, you should put things on your registry that you don’t necessarily want to purchase yourself. Especially if it does happen to be a more expensive item, putting it on a registry can allow multiple people to contribute to it. Below, in no particular order, are my favorite registry items. I’ve included some honorable mentions at the bottom!

I want to quickly mention that I used Babylist as a registry platform and I loved it! We were able to add items from multiple stores and websites to the list and see them all in one location. We were also able to track our gifts and keep track of who gave us what. Big fan of anything that allows me to consolidate and make things easier.

1- Mama Roo

  • It wasn’t a hit immediately as a newborn, but Leo eventually learned to like it, especially when he started gaining more environmental awareness. It’s nice to have someplace to put your baby down if extra hands aren’t available. With that being said, this product is not intended for infant sleep. Infant airways are incredibly limber and quite small. They’re like tiny straws. Since they don’t have the neck strength (in the first few months) to support their head, their positioning could put them at risk for suffocation. Use this product while your baby is awake and while they are supervised.

2- Uppababy Travel System (Mesa Car seat, Vista Stroller with rumble seat and bassinet)

  • Ok, this one is expensive, but so worth it! It’s perfect for a registry and multiple people can contribute. We love that all the “attachments” can easily click into the stroller (bassinet for newborn, carseat, and rumble seat). It’s one swift system and you don’t have to worry about compatibility. The car seat accommodates babies as small as 4lbs (aka Leo when he was discharged) and up to 35lbs so you will get great use out of it. We used the bassinet attachment for walks when Leo was really tiny and unable to hold his head up. Now that Leo is older and bigger we use the toddler seat. The stroller itself is pretty slick. It collapses and reopens easily. As your family grows you can add an extra seat or a standing board depending on the age of your kids. This stroller is a longterm investment!

3- Lou Lou and Company and Caden Lane knotted gowns and swaddles

  • Having a couple knotted gowns can be really nice for easy diaper changes during the early newborn days. There are no zippers or snaps to worry about.These brands are high quality and SO soft. The patterns are so sweet. I loved that Lou Lou and Company products were created by a NICU nurse. Their swaddle blankets are divine! Caden Lane is another great option with very similar products. You can’t go wrong with either one!

4- Kyte Baby onesies 

  • Our favorite onesies! They are incredibly soft and they stretch with growth. The fabric is made from bamboo, so it keeps baby warm but is very breathable. You can get some really good wear out of them as they tend to fit beyond their intended sizing. Leo wears a pair every night as jammies. We especially love the dual direction zippers for easy diaper changes.
  • *Once you transition baby out of the swaddle, Kyte sleep sacks are fantastic- same material so incredibly soft and breathable- Leo uses them now!*

5- Boppy pillow 

  • I don’t have any experience with other breastfeeding support pillows, but this one does the trick. We have used it for elevated tummy time and sitting practice as well. I don’t think the Boppy pillow cover material is particularly soft, so I got a couple covers off Etsy that are much nicer. Highly recommend using a support pillow of some sort if you plan on breastfeeding! As Leo has grown and become heavier, it is nice to have a support pillow to prevent a sore neck and back. I have also heard really good things about My Breast Friend pillow as well. 

6- Baby Brezza Bottle Warmer

  • Easy to use, efficient, and doesn’t take up too much counter space. You can connect the warmer to an app on your phone to perfectly time a bottle for your babe. Make sure you test the temperature of the milk before feeding to baby. I have found that the milk will sometimes heat to a temperature that is too warm for feeding right away especially if the “quick heat” function is used.

7- Aqua scale 3-in-1 digital scale, water thermometer, and infant tub

  • Most people aren’t super concerned with weight gain, but I found this tub to be reassuring while Leo was going through significant reflux/spit up. I was able to weigh him every so often to make sure he was gaining weight appropriately. I love that there’s a thermometer built in so you can monitor water temperature as well. There is some margin of error in the scale and you may find a slight discrepancy between this scale and the one in the doctor’s office.

8- Keekaroo Peanut diaper changing pad

  • I love this changing pad because it’s soft, durable, and easy to clean. Baby boys are…messy (haha) and you want to be able to quickly and easily clean your changing pad. 

9- Pack and Play or Travel Crib

  • When we started thinking about traveling with Leo, we needed to make sure we always had a safe sleep environment for him. Until a baby is closer to 2 years old, it is unsafe for them to sleep on surfaces that aren’t flat, firm, or cluttered (blankets, pillows, toys, etc). It is also important to use a fitted sheet made specifically for the crib/mattress size. After researching multiple travel crib options, we decided on the Guava Lotus Travel Crib. Not only does it provide a safe sleep environment, but it also comes in a compact, light case. It is easy to travel with it and it won’t take up very much space.

10- Hatch Sound Machine 

  • The Hatch is really nice because it is portable with 10 hours of battery life, has an audio feature, and can be controlled on an app. It can also serve as a nightlight for those late night/early morning feedings. The only thing we don’t love about it is that you can change the color and sound by touching the device, which is really annoying if you’re moving it between your bedroom and the nursery or trying to control the unit on the actual device.

11- Video monitor 

  • There are so many high quality video monitoring systems out there. We use the Nanit monitor and don’t have any complaints. It monitors room temperature, humidity, and when baby falls asleep/wakes up. It comes with a swaddle (for newborns) and a belt (for infants) that monitors respirations, if that’s important to you. The app is pretty user friendly as well. 

Honorable Mentions

The Snoo: We put the Snoo on our registry in case anyone was either able to get it for us or do a group gift. We ended up getting it! As you might know, it’s rather expensive, so we were thrilled. There is also an option to rent a Snoo if you are interested in using one but don’t want to pay for the ridiculous price. Honestly, we didn’t use it to its full capacity. After being in the NICU for 5 weeks on a stationary surface, Leo didn’t love the rocking sensation in the Snoo. Also, since he had really bad reflux and we think the movement made it worse. Ultimately, we ended up “locking” the Snoo on its base level (no movement). One of the benefits of using the Snoo is that the swaddles clip into the bassinet so you don’t have to worry about baby rolling over or into the sides. Is that worth $1200? Probably not. In hindsight, the Halo bassinet would’ve worked perfectly fine for Leo. Hopefully we can use the Snoo fully with our next baby. Even then, some babies absolutely love it and some babies hate it. I would recommend getting the Halo bassinet or *renting* the Snoo. If you decide to go with the Halo bassinet, I recommend using the Halo swaddles. We used them in the NICU and loved them. Otherwise, the parent company to the Snoo, Happiest Baby, makes swaddles that are identical to what you get with the Snoo, minus the attachment that secures to the bassinet. I especially like these swaddles because we could transition Leo out of swaddles and into a sleep sack using their adjustable arm holes.

Snuggle Me/Dock a Tot: We used our Snuggle Me quite a bit in the early days as a surface to put Leo down for short periods of time. The caveat to these loungers is that they are not safe for baby when unsupervised (like you need to be right there at all times), especially if baby is sleeping. We used it a lot during dinner time and put it right on the kitchen table so we could enjoy a meal together. If you do choose to get one/ask for one, include covers as well. 

Owlet: Initially, I was not going to ask for/purchase an Owlet monitor. As a nurse, I was afraid I would start obsessing over the heart rate and oxygen levels. However, aftering bringing Leo home from the NICU, I wasn’t sleeping at night. I was constantly worried about him. So one day, after countless nights of no sleep, I said screw it and went to buy it. It was the best decision. I could sleep knowing if there were any drastic changes, the alarm would wake me up. Is this truly a *necessary* thing to have or put on your registry? No. But it gave me peace of mind so I was able to actually sleep at night. In recent news, the FDA has issued a warning to the company, requesting its removal from the market. The Owlet does not have the specificity of a true medical grade monitor and it can give parents a sense of false reassurance or cause parents concern over false alarms. Because it was marketed to be used as a medical monitor at home, the FDA said nope, can’t do that. To an extent, I can understand the concern. Most people don’t have medical knowledge or training to understand the information on a monitor like the Owlet, especially if the readings are inaccurate.

Large burp cloths– Cannot stress enough the importance of large, absorbable burp cloths. Get a pack of big muslin burp cloths from Amazon!

Portable Sound Machine– We didn’t have this on our registry and didn’t know we even needed it until a friend gifted it to us and just said, “trust me”. You can clip it onto the stroller, carseat, diaper bag, etc. We use it all the time! Great for on the go naps. 

Frida Basics Kit– Nose sucker, nail clippers/file, gas reliever, and head scrubber. We’ve used them all!

Taking Cara Babies– This program is a game changer. I purchased the 0-4 month package. We credit this program to helping Leo sleep through the night! It would be a great addition to your registry. 

Tinyhood or Karrie Locher’s baby course/breastfeeding course– I highly recommend taking a course that isn’t offered by the hospital. These courses are highly rated and so informational. Much more practical application. I thought I knew it all, turns out I was very mistaken. It has also come to my attention that some hospitals don’t staff lactation consultants (?!?!?!?!?!?). All women should have access to high quality and hands on breastfeeding assistance before leaving the hospital. Establishing correct form and latch is essential in your breastfeeding journey. I highly recommend taking a breastfeeding course before baby comes (if you plan to breastfeed) so that you are armed with this information in case your hospital does not have lactation consultants. Could also be great registry gifts! 

And finally…

BOOKS! Any books, all types of books. Start building your little library early on and your babe will have a collection of books for life.

At the end of the day, your baby just needs your love! All of the other stuff is just extra.

If you’re a mama, what are your favorite registry gifts that you have received?!

Until next time,

XOXO, Sarah

New Year, New Goals!

Happy New Year! I hope you had a joyful holiday season and were able to celebrate with the people you love. Hopefully you and your loved ones have remained healthy. It’s hard to believe that we are quickly approaching the two year anniversary (is that the right word…?) of the presence of COVID in our lives. And to think, we thought we would be back to normal at this point! Kudos to you for continuing to live your lives in these (continually) crazy times! It’s not easy, but you’re doing it!

New Year, new goals. Lots of people are posting about “New Years Resolutions!” “Resolution” is such an intimidating word, isn’t it? New Years resolutions seem so permanent and strict. Honestly, I think the word “resolution” deters us from actually accomplishing our goals because it subconsciously sets the bar too high. I’ve always been more of a “goals” person, anyways. Setting goals seems much more refreshing, like getting off on the right foot. Starting this year I want to start focusing on three types of goals at the beginning of the year: Personal, health, and community. I want to look past the typical and stereotypical goals and really start to challenge myself to grow as a person each year. January is a time I find myself looking at my past year and reflecting while looking forward to a new year of opportunity not only because it is a new calendar year, but because my birthday is in January! I love aligning my new intentions with my personal new year.


I really want to challenge myself to take a step back from social media this year. More and more we are seeing that excessive use of social media can be incredibly damaging. Not even excessive use! Consistent use of social media. It is so easy to get caught up in the comparison game, the FOMO is real. I’ve become more aware of how I’m using social media and I don’t think it is particularly healthy. I find that I’m filling my time scrolling social media instead of picking up a book, going for a walk, doing a project around the house, or simply allowing myself to be present with myself. We don’t always need to be doing something and social media has cultivated an expectation that we should be constantly entertaining ourselves. I’ve already taken the first step and deleted my Snapchat (yay!). Next up is Facebook. I’ve decided to keep Instagram but set screen time limits to hold myself accountable. I’m also planning to streamline who I follow. I’ve already started unfollowing accounts that make me feel pressured to “keep up with the Joneses” and buy, buy, buy. Look, I get that lots of influencers/bloggers make a living on selling products on Instagram and other platforms. But there are some accounts that just push it a little too much and a little too often. I want the content I consume to make me feel good, not make me feel like I’m missing out on something because I don’t have a Gucci purse, ya know?

Piggybacking on this goal, I want to read at least 1 book per month. Anytime I find myself mindlessly scrolling social media I want to challenge myself to open my Kindle app and read instead. There’s so much more we can gain from an engaging book than someone’s highlight reel.

Here are the next 5 books I plan to read:

  1. The Midnight Library- Matt Haig
  2. Kindred- Octavia E. Butler
  3. The Rose Code- Kate Quinn
  4. Dial A for Aunties- Jesse Q. Sutanto
  5. The Night Watchman- Louise Edrich


As many of you know, I used to be a dancer. I started dancing when I was very young and continued through college. It was a huge part of my life. While I may not have the ability to do toe touches or a million a la secondes anymore, I want that part of artistic and purposeful movement back in my life. When I was in college I got into the hot yoga scene. While that isn’t necessarily something I feel comfortable joining again during a global pandemic, I really want to incorporate yoga back into my life. I started Peloton’s Beginner Yoga class series this week and I’m really excited. I’m starting from square one! It’s been so long since I’ve taken a yoga class so I thought it would be a good idea to start from the beginning. It’s a three week program that incorporates the basics of yoga: poses, philosophy, breathing, and meditation. Join me if you want to get yoga back in your life, too!


Growing up in Madison, WI, we had access to one of the greatest farmer’s markets in the country. I’m not exaggerating! The Dane County Farmer’s Market is well known across the country. Looking back now, I realize how lucky we were to be exposed to local food during our younger years. As Americans, we’ve grown farther and farther away from our food sources. We don’t know where our food comes from anymore. My final goal this year is to invest more in our local farmers and agricultural communities. After being home in Madison over the holidays, my mom inspired me to make this a goal of 2022. She sources lots of their weekly food from different Madison farmers, many of which she now knows personally. Apart from the food she gets directly from them, she shops at a local co-op that supports community agriculture. This next year I want to prioritize getting our food from local farmer’s markets and make connections with some the farmers. I’ve looked into CSA options in the area and I’ve also been thinking of joining one of those as well. When we nourish our bodies with real, whole, healthful foods, we reap the benefits. I’m excited to learn more about our local farmers and agriculture while simultaneously fueling my body with wonderful nutrients!

How do you view “New Years Resolutions”? Have you made any goals for this year?

Happy 2022, folks! Hopefully your year is full of health, joy, and spending time with the ones you love.

Until next time!

XOXO, Sarah

A Few of My Favorite (Postpartum) Things

Congratulations! If you are reading this you are probably pregnant or have a new addition already at home. Or maybe you’re looking for a way to support a new mama. Welcome! Bringing home a baby is A LOT of work. It’s a wonderful time, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t think anyone is ever truly prepared for the long hours, commitment, exhaustion, and the physical demand, all while healing from a physically traumatic experience (no matter the type of birth). Until recently, it wasn’t something that many people talked about publicly. Whether it was because they thought it to be taboo or ungrateful to share their struggles or if they thought it would scare other parents, talking about the nitty gritty of postpartum life was hidden. I am so thrilled more moms (and dads!) are sharing their personal experiences.

In my own personal recovery, I had to heal from a second degree tear (little man came fast), an initial oversupply of milk (not as great as it seems), and had increased physical demands – driving to and from the NICU 30 minutes away in the first month postpartum. Throughout my recovery, I found these products to be the most effective in my healing process. Remember to take care of yourselves, mamas. And if you have difficulty holding yourself accountable, assign it to your partner. Zach was integral in my recovery – he made sure I was taking care of myself, if not doing it himself.

In no particular order…

Birth Recovery

  • Frida Disposable Underwear
    • Let’s be real. After you give birth, you need underwear that is breathable, stretchy and forgiving, comfortable, AND disposable. There’s a lot of stuff happening “down there” after you have a baby (for vaginal and c-section deliveries alike). Disposable undies are the way to go. The last thing you need to/should be doing is loads of laundry when you bring home your baby. These are soft, expandable, and easy to put on/take off during those first couple weeks. Buy way more than you think you will need!
Amazon.com: FridaBaby Frida Mom Disposable Postpartum Underwear (Without  pad) | Super Soft, Stretchy, Breathable, Wicking, Latex-Free, Boyshort Cut  | Regular (8 Count), 28 - 42 Inch : Health & Household
  • Rael Overnight Pads
    • Absorbent and fragrance free. While you may not need to change your underwear multiple times throughout the day, you will need to change your pad quite frequently. These pads are made from organic cotton and are non-irritating, especially great for sensitive skin.
Rael Organic Cotton Overnight Menstrual Fragrance Free Pads - Unscented -  10ct : Target
  • Frida Ice Pads
    • If you take anything away from this post *LET IT BE THIS*. Ice is essential, especially in the first few days following delivery, to calm inflammation and swelling. Don’t mess around with leaky ice packs or messy DIY freezer pads- they’re not worth it. These ice “pads” are cushioning, cooling, absorbent, and just feel good. Especially if you know you have to go somewhere or do something that could cause discomfort (baby’s first doctor appointment), these can ease your pains (quite literally).
Instant Ice Maxi Pads – Frida | The fuss stops here.
  • Witch Hazel Pads
    • Calming, soothing, and cooling. These are a must in your postpartum recovery.
Witch Hazel Perineal Cooling Pad Liners
  • Witch Hazel Foam
    • I found that this foam from Frida created instantaneous relief, whereas the witch hazel pads were longer lasting.
Perineal Healing Foam
  • Earth Mama Perineal Balm
    • When you get further along in your postpartum recovery, this perineal balm can help heal and nourish torn tissues. While I wouldn’t recommend using this balm for the first couple weeks (since you have to apply it manually), it can be a real game changer in your physical healing.
  • Stool softener
    • When you are discharged from the hospital, you will be encouraged to take a stool softener to relieve pressure and prevent straining. Do NOT stop taking it after you’ve had your first postpartum poo! While your body works its way back to equilibrium, you may find your digestion and elimination schedule isn’t what it used to be. To prevent discomfort when you go, take a stool softener for the first few weeks, if not the first couple months, after you deliver. Some women prefer to continue taking them for longer, especially if they developed postpartum hemorrhoids. By taking a stool softener, drinking lots of water, and eating plenty of fiber, you can ensure your postpartum poos are not a stressful encounter. A good probiotic can help, too!

  • Compression socks
    • When you labor and deliver in a hospital setting, you may receive hydration through the IV in your arm. On top of that, the significant fluctuation in your hormones can cause you to retain lots of fluid, often dependent in your legs. While this may be unavoidable, you can reduce the discomfort by wearing compression socks. Since most women have decreased mobility in the days and weeks following delivery, compression socks can also help prevent the formation of blood clots by promoting circulation. I wore these ones during my pregnancy and postpartum.
  • Frida spray bottle
    • While the hospital may provide you with a perineal spray bottle, this Frida version is just simply better. The nozzle points up when you hold the bottle down. No messy spray back! It’s rather genius.
Upside Down Peri Bottle
  • GoHydrate Electrolyte supplement
    • After giving birth to Leo, we spent long days in the NICU. I struggled to make sure I was getting enough hydration. I really wanted to avoid drinks like Gatorade with lots of unnecessary ingredients and didn’t love the added sugar content of Liquid IV. GoHydrate tastes yummy, has Vitamin D, is low in sodium, and has no added sugar! I keep a couple sticks in my diaper bag and still enjoy a GoHydrate a couple times a week when I haven’t had enough water during the day (mocktail hour!). The mixed flavor boxes are a great place to start to find your favorite flavor. I’m sipping on a Cherry Limade flavor as I write this!
  • GoMacro bars
    • If you choose to breastfeed and/or pump, you will be hungry… Very. Hungry. I used to joke with Zach saying “I finally know how you feel”, since he commonly tells me that he’s always hungry, even after a full meal. Feeding and caring for baby while trying to heal, sleep, and feed yourself is tough freaking work. I love that these bars are plant based, high in protein, high in calories, organic, and based in… WISCONSIN! I love supporting home-town companies. Are they more expensive than other bars? Yes, undoubtedly. But when I was ravenous in the middle of the night, these quick and easy bars provided me with the calories and nutrition I needed. I carry a couple of these bars in my diaper bag at all times. Look for sales! And when they go on sale, stock up. My favorite flavor is “Everlasting Joy”- almond butter, coconut, and chocolate chips.


  • Earth Mama Nipple Butter
    • While clinicians may refer to colostrum as “liquid gold”, this nipple butter is equally deserving of the name. It is incredibly nourishing, healing sore and cracked nipples. And because the ingredients are super safe, you don’t have to worry about wiping it away before feeding your baby.
Kindred Bravely Sublime Wire Free Busty Pumping/Nursing Bra | Nordstrom
  • Boppy Nursing Pillow
    • While I don’t have experience with any of the other nursing pillows on the market, I don’t have anything bad to say about the Boppy pillow, other than the Boppy covers are mediocre. Instead, I found a super soft Boppy cover on Etsy and I love it! At first, I didn’t need to necessarily use a nursing pillow because Leo was so small. I used two pillows under each of my arms for support. As he grew, I am SO thankful I got into the habit of using it- your back and neck will thank you.
Boppy Nursing Pillow and Positioner - Gray Taupe Leaves - Walmart.com
  • Burp Cloths
    • After caring for a little baby with pretty bad reflux, trust me when I say *the bigger the better*. Don’t waste time with small burp cloths; they will, quite literally, do nothing for you! Burp cloths are another baby item that are easily underestimated. Don’t scamp on these- get extras!

  • Hospital Grade Pump
    • Similarly to nursing bras, I was severely underprepared in the pump department. I had only done minimal research and wasn’t close to deciding on a particular model or brand. Luckily, Labor and Delivery units stock breast pumps for patient use. They provide you with a new pack of parts that you can attach to their (sterilized) bases. Once I was discharged from the hospital, I was even able to keep the pump I was using in Leo’s NICU room. Initially, I was exclusively pumping. Until Leo developed his suck/swallow/breathe reflex, he was being fed through a nasogastric (NG) tube. Around that time, there were lots of marketing campaigns on Instagram for the Elvie and Willow breast pumps, wireless and hands-free models. How perfect! Instead of being hooked up to a base I could do *xyz* WHILE pumping. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that convenience doesn’t always equal efficacy or dependability. While the Elvie or the Willow are great for circumstances every now and again (when you’re running errands or at an appointment – I pumped while getting my hair done!), they are truly not made with the same strength or consistency as a medical grade pump, such as a Spectra or Medela. I yielded greater outputs, had more comfort, and pumped more quickly using the hospital provided Medela than with my Elvie. And, because I was using my Elvie at home instead of a hospital grade pump, my boobs were like “what the heck?!” I developed clogged ducts and nipple blebs – no fun. I also noticed a very unpleasant pinching sensation while using the Elvie, despite different sizing and positioning, that forced me to lower the suction, causing me to pump longer and have lower outputs. Another important thing to mention is that not all insurance plans will even cover a portion of the Elvie or Willow, but many will cover Medela or Spectra pumps. I ended up getting a Spectra pump through insurance following consecutive clogged ducts. Will I use my Elvie? Yes, especially if I am running errands or I am away from Leo and need to quickly pump, especially since he is primarily breastfed. Would I use it as a primary pump in the future, no, especially if I am ever exclusively pumping again.
    • Now, if your heart is set on an Elvie or Willow AND you plan to personally purchase one, let me at least tell you how to save some moolah. First, purchase your pump at Target. As you know, Red Card members get 5% off. Secondly, if you create a baby registry account and purchase it from that list, you will get an additional discount.
  • Manual Pump
    • I don’t know what initially turned me off from getting manual pump. Maybe because I thought it would be weird to physically milk myself?? But after almost 10 months of breastfeeding and pumping, I have to say my manual pump is my favorite pump. It is simple, effective, and gets the job done. No need to charge anything or carry a base around and you’re not plugged into a wall! A manual pump is also a great option for traveling if you don’t want to deal with the plethora of parts. I like this one from Lansinoh. Manual pumps are also inexpensive. If you don’t pump frequently but want a pump option, this would be a great place to start.
    • Hot tip – if you develop a clogged duct, take your manual pump into a hot shower. Alternate between gentle breast massage and manual pumping while standing under the stream of water. I will do this a couple times a day to help dislodge and expel the clogged duct.
Amazon.com : Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump, Hand Pump for Breastfeeding : Baby
  • Sunflower lecithin
    • Another clogged duct discovery! Sunflower lecithin prevents fatty milk buildup inside of your milk ducts. It helps the fatty components leave the duct in the milk instead of getting stuck behind. It works to “emulsify”, or prevent stickiness, in the milk. When I have a clogged duct, I take 1 gel capsule 4 times per day until the clog is resolved. Otherwise, I include 1 gel capsule in my handful of vitamins, including a prenatal , Vitamin D3, and a probiotic. I like this brand which can be found on Amazon and in Target.
Organic Sunflower Lecithin - Natural Fat Emulsifier – Legendairy Milk

Instagram accounts to follow for postpartum and breastfeeding

  1. @karrie_locher
    • Karrie is a Postpartum RN. She takes care of mamas and their babies in the first few days following birth before going home. She is a fantastic source of information regarding all things baby, postpartum, and breastfeeding. She even has a course you can take with your partner so you feel better prepared before welcoming your baby(ies) into the world. So many amazing tips and tricks!
  2. @thebetterboob
    • Courtney is an IBCLC and an RN. This means she is a breastfeeding/pumping PRO. If you have any questions or concerns about either, her account is the place to go. Obviously, if you need hands-on support, I highly recommend you ask your OBGYN or pediatrician for a lactation consultant recommendation. IBCLC is a designation for lactation consultants who are board certified, meaning they have chosen to highly specialize their knowledge base.
  3. @expectingandempowered
    • The ultimate support group for moms. Amy and Krystle are sisters based in Wisconsin. They professionally identify as a physical therapist and a RN/doula. Not only does this dynamic duo provide pregnancy/postpartum safe workouts and modifications for daily activities, but they also have created a community where mamas can feel seen and validated. Women in this community will submit their struggles, wins, positives/negatives of mama life, family dynamics, relationships, mental health experiences, etc to their Motherhood Community question boxes. The answers are anonymously shared bringing a sense of “I’m not the only one going through this”. Amy also has a podcast with another woman entitled “Herself Podcast”. A great dive into motherhood and the ins and outs of conquering life not only as a mom, but as a woman.

What are your favorite postpartum items? What was your healing process? Let me know in the comments below!

Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving week!



Photos by Meg Newton Photography