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As a trained chef, Special Projects Director of Food & Wine Magazine, a judge on Top Chef (and Top Chef Masters and Top Chef Duels), host of the new show The Feed, overseer of the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, board member of City Harvest and Hot Bread Kitchen, published author (if you haven’t read Talking With My Mouth Full you should) – Gail Simmons has a lot on her plate.

Add to the roster: mom to five month-old Dahlia Rae. But don’t tell her that “it’s going to get better” because she already loves every minute of it: “It’s such a special, cozy, crazy, amazing time. Of course I am exhausted, but I don’t feel like I am trying to just get through to the next stage.”

The new mom leaves her Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, neighborhood – where they moved a week before she gave birth – for Boston soon to shoot season 12 of Top Chef with Dahlia Rae in tow.

We caught up with her (in between pumping and meetings) about the challenges of nursing and one of her most embarrassing moments (yes, it involves breastmilk).

What’s In A Name?

Dahlia is my favorite flower – it symbolizes sunshine and comes in so many amazing colors. It was our wedding flower and it was on our invitation. Rae is to honor my husband’s Aunt Rena, who passed away two years ago. She was so encouraging and supportive in our lives, and we love and miss her so much.

 Lifesaving Products

We opened the Fisher-Price bouncy chair when she was a month old, and we couldn’t believe we hadn’t opened it sooner. It allowed us to eat dinner, for me to pump and go to the bathroom when I was home alone with her. Once she hit three months, she graduated to the Mamaroo, which we call the hovercraft. She’s really into it now.

 Part Of The Club

On Top Chef, I was the only one who didn’t have kids, so they’ve been a wealth of knowledge and help. Michelle Bernstein made me realize it’s okay to be back at work and to lose the guilt associated with it because it’s the quality of the time you spend with your kids, not the quantity.

 Deep Thoughts From Gail

How will she sleep comfortably unswaddled? How can I leave the house without 14 bags? How do I pump when I’m running around all day? These are questions I don’t know the answers to.

 #Momfail

I was taping in front of a live studio audience and forgot to put nipple pads in my bra. They leaked right there. It was horrifying. You think you’re at least keeping it together on the outside. Of course I was wearing a beautiful silk dress. And in case you didn’t know, yes, milk stains. It was a low point.

Get In My Belly

After giving birth, you feel like you don’t know anything, including how to keep yourself fed. I have mastered the efficient grocery shop. Fresh Direct is tough for me because I like to physically walk the aisles and see my options. I went to Union Market and created a basic order with them. Sometimes I go and pick everything out and have them deliver it, others I just call and ask for my basics. I embrace anyone who delivers these days.

Flower Child

I love Honest diapers. Dahlia wears dahlias on her bottom – how cute is that?! Angela and Ethan Stowell [chef] gave me this amazing RoSK blanket that’s waterproof on one side, soft and fluffy on the other and it ties onto the stroller. It’s great for the park because you can put the waterproof side on the ground.

Neighborhood Nosh

We moved to Cobble Hill a week before I gave birth, so we’ve been getting to know the restaurants with baby in tow. We love Buttermilk Channel, Court Street Grocers, Nightingale 9, Red Gravy, Iris Cafe – they’re all so accommodating and kid-friendly. I spent a month in LA shooting and we frequented Cafe Gratitude, Alfred Coffee & Kitchen and lunch at Fred Segal.

Just Stop, Already

Everyone keeps saying, oh it’s going to get better, but we are actually loving the early days. She’s only four and a half months, and we are already reminiscing about things she “used to do”. It’s such a special, cozy, crazy, amazing time. Of course I am exhausted, but I don’t feel like I am trying to just get through to the next stage.

Give Yourself A Break

I think new moms feel out of control so they obsess about routine and schedules, but the truth is they are babies, and you have to give yourself a break. They are going to be fine if you can’t feed them every three hours to the minute. Babies are adaptable and every child is different – you can’t prescribe one schedule for all. It’s all going to be okay as long as they are fed, dry and loved.

First Foods

I hope to make Dahlia Rae’s food myself in the beginning. I can’t wait for her to try avocado, banana, mango, sweet potato, peaches, corn. There would be great irony if I spawned a very picky eater.

Three Hours Alone On A Saturday

Will that ever happen again? I’m getting a mani, pedi and a massage anywhere that will take me at a moment’s notice.

Mom Brain

Now I know why my mom sometimes can’t remember my name. Because she had three children. I barely know my own name some days, and I only have one. Sleep deprivation is rough.

 

Photo Credit: Melanie Dunea

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Alice and Olivia founder Stacey Bendet Eisner is proud of the fact that her girls never have “typical” days. She’s constantly seeking out new creative activities for her two girls – Eloise, 5 and Scarlett, 3. What’s on her roster of musts? She opened her little black book to the best playgrounds, camps, and family entertainment in her home bases of Manhattan and Malibu.

More

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CMA in SoHo is a hands-down favorite for family time.


Brunch at the Soho House.

The playgrounds down by Battery Park

Ballet classes at the Joffrey School

Gymnastics lessons at Chelsea Piers

Karma Kids Yoga

Brunch at Sarabeths in Tribeca

Trapeze school in Brooklyn

Bowling at Brooklyn Bowl

HiArts camp is amazing in the summer.

We love treats from Dominique Ansel.

Vegetarian food from Blossom

Smoothies from One Lucky Duck

Family dinners at Nobu

For a road trip, Weezee World in Chappaqua is amazing!

stacey_black_book_la

We love art classes with B
Johnson
, who comes to our house in Malibu.


Swim lessons with Lori
Armstrong
(world’s best swim teacher)
Contact: 310-457-4574

Pony camp at Cross Creek

Dance camp with Miss Charissa.

Weekends at the Malibu
Farmers Market
for flowers,
organic treats and amazing
baskets from the Kenyan
weaving artisans.

We love the beach at Little
Dume
.

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Thanks, but no thanks:

Breastfeeding Advice
to Ignore

You’d think breastfeeding would be a sacred art seamlessly passed down from generation to generation. Nope. It’s surprisingly a tricky business rife with old wives’ tales and outdated advice.

We asked lactation consultant Quetzal Currie, LM, IBCLC (who’s seen it all after 16 years in the business) for the most common tips doled out by well-meaning moms, grandmas, and sister-in-laws you can politely ignore.

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The Tip:



Rub lanolin on your nipples



The Truth:


Slippery nipples can actually make it harder for baby to get a deep latch, and some little ones don’t like the taste/texture. Plus if your nips are cracking, slathering them in goopy wax will keep them too moist to heal. Instead, speed the healing process by dabbing a saline solution (8 oz. water + ¼ tsp. salt) on nipples after nursing, exposing them to air as much as possible (read: go topless), and using breast shells under clothes.


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The Tip:



Don’t use a paci



The Truth:


In general it’s best to wait 4-6 weeks, but there are lots of exceptions. Some babies have powerful sucking reflexes and aren’t happy unless they’re sucking on something—if you’re not having latch issues, it’s totally fine to opt for a binky ASAP instead of becoming a human pacifier.


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The Tip:



It’s just going to hurt—until you develop calluses



The Truth:


Yes, it’s going to be uncomfortable at first. And it will get easier as baby’s mouth grows (not because your nipples get tougher). But you shouldn’t be bleeding or having persistent pain after the first few days. Don’t grin and bear it; that’s a sign you need help with the latch.


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The Tip:



She’s eating so often! (said judgily)



The Truth:


Older generations, especially those who formula-fed exclusively, may hint that babies should be put on a schedule. Currie advises nursing when baby is hungry, or as she says, “on demand—within reason.” Shoot for 15-30 minute feedings every 2-3 hours, but be flexible.


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The Tip:



You’ll get more sleep if you nurse lying down



The Truth:


Yeah, good luck with that. Currie considers it an “advanced technique” and a recipe for a shallow latch and sore nips. Until you’re a pro, sit upright in a comfortable chair, and strap on a My Brest Friend pillow (better for keeping baby at the right angle than the mushier Boppy). If your baby is flailing her arms, swaddle her first; you can always do skin-to-skin after nursing.


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The Tip:



Get baby on a bottle ASAP so Dad can bond – and help with feedings



The Truth:


Sweet sentiment, but don’t feel pressured. If you don’t have to pump, it’s best to wait 4-6 weeks, to avoid nipple confusion and overwhelming mom (she has enough going on as-is.) He’ll bond just fine while changing and swaddling the baby and taking care of you, thankyouverymuch.


Currie’s a baby and boob whisperer. To get in-person help in New York, Brooklyn, or New Jersey, email her at quetzalcurrie@gmail.com.

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21 Guilt-Free Educational Apps

Yep, there’s an app for that (and that and that and that). But only a handful are kid-friendly – and educator approved. We questioned three developmental experts – Dana Rosenbloom of Dana’s Kids and speech-language pathologists Jill Rappaport and Mara Cole – to find apps that entertain and educate kids from 12 months to 4 years old.

A few things to keep in mind:

1. Some are available in “lite” versions so you can try them before you buy.
2. The most value lies in apps that can engage toddlers one way and utilize different features for preschoolers.
3. Plan to participate with your child by following their lead to enhance the experience, especially early on.
4. Set limits from the beginning on when and how long kids can be on their tablet or phone.
5. For children under a year, limit exposure to just music and an occasional video.
6. Lead by example – if you don’t want your child using it incessantly, don’t do so in front of him.

Interactive Stories

More

Vocabulary

Creativity

Learning the abc’s

Sorting, Classifying Skills

Shapes/Numbers/colors

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