Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Baby Registry Favorites: Babywearing


When I was pregnant with Alice, I did a bit of research and registered for two different baby carriers. I figured I would need a carrier for some outings where a stroller or carseat wouldn't be the best choice and wanted to get something that was comfortable and safe. I realize now that my research had barely scratched the surface of "babywearing."
This looks like I've got Alice in cradle hold, which is weird because I don't remember ever doing that and it's not super safe...
Alice was already several weeks old when I discovered that I could wear her in the Moby wrap around the house and she would sleep and I could have two hands to eat or type or just do anything at all. It was a revelation, an honest-to-goodness epiphany. I didn't fully realize it then, but I had discovered the ancient art of babywearing. Of course babies don't like to be put down; they've been carried around for ten months and are used to it, and if they are left on the floor, they might become a lion snack (or something). They want to be carried. And moms/parents want to function. Even though snuggling on the couch is delightful, we can only do it for so long, you know? There are so many benefits of babywearing - seriously, Google it - (here are a few unusual ones), it really is wonderful for both baby and you.

If you aren't super familiar with babywearing and all the different options, there are SO many resources to help you learn about it. I wish I had learned more a long time ago. You can join local babywearing groups - many have Facebook pages - where you can meet other babywearing moms online and in real life to learn about all the different carriers and wraps and how to best use them all for different things. You can go to meet-ups and playdates to see other mamas' collections and try them on, there are lending libraries so you can try before you buy and find what's right for you. You can buy, trade, and DIY, and there are Facebook groups for each purpose. Recently, I joined my local babywearing Facebook group, as well as the DIY Facebook group so I can learn more about making my own woven wrap on a budget. I have learned so much from both groups, just watching the questions and interactions and photos and postings fly by in my feed. It's a great gathering of mamas in the know, in case I have questions of my own.

Also check out Babywearing International online, a wealth of valuable information on the different types of carriers, how to use them, safety tips, and more.

Definitely make sure you take some time to learn about babywearing safety (some good resources here and here). One of the most important things to remember is to NEVER bend over at the waist while you are wearing your baby, baby can fall straight out onto their head and/or into a dangerous situation with tragic or fatal consequences (like the terrible incident where a baby fell into a baggage carousel). Also make sure to monitor baby's airway and always keep it clear. Make sure their chin is off of their chest and their mouth and nose are not buried in your clothing or carrier. There was a big recall of pouch-style slings when Alice was a baby, they don't position babies very safely.

There are so many types of carriers (also called slings) and different styles and fabrics and patterns, they can easily turn into fashion statements and actual investments. I won't even begin to get into all the different options here, I'll just give a quick overview of what I've been using and how I'd like to branch out.There are lots of links in this post, some to other sites with more info and some to affiliate links for different products I love or am interested in. If you buy anything from an affiliate link to my Amazon storefront, it will generate income for me, but I have not been compensated by any of these companies - all opinions are my own!

Elliott all wrapped up in the Moby wrap, just last week.
Moby Wrap: A stretchy wrap which is great for wearing snuggly new babies in the newborn hug and kangaroo positions. The company says it can hold babies up to 35 pounds, but many moms prefer something with more support for babies over 15-20 pounds. Elliott is still basically living in the Moby wrap...
Ergobaby carrier - Original in black/camel
Ergobaby Carrier: This is an extremely popular, ergonomic soft structured carrier that promotes healthy hip placement. We have the original model in black and camel (pictured above), with the infant insert. We use the infant insert in the first few weeks/months - Elliott is already big enough to not really need it.

Ergo makes so many different models now, including one with organic fabric, a lightweight, breathable and sporty "performance" style, and the 360 degree version, which allows an outward-facing front carry.
Ergobaby 360 Four Position carrier, with ergonomic front-facing out carry position
If I were going to get an Ergo now, I would be very interested in trying the 360 degree version. This version is a bit smaller than the original Ergo, recommended through 24 months, but I think it would be a great option for an older babe to be able to face out. This would have been especially useful on our Disney World trips and frequent visits to Disneyland. I used the Ergo to restrain my squirmy little toddlers on rides, and would have loved for them to be able to face forward and see all the action, while still being restrained in my lap. The Beco Gemini and lillebaby Complete also allow forward facing carries. Facing outward can often be too stimulating for young babies...

Healthy Hips
Recommended hip positioning from the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.

A note about hip placement and hip dysplasia; a good rule of thumb is to look for a carrier that allows baby's knees to be positioned higher than it's bottom with support from knee to knee. The below image shows the recommended positioning for sling and woven carriers, in a seated or frog-legged position, rather than with knees touching. Read more about healthy hip placement here. The risk of hip dysplasia is greatest in the first few months of life.
Recommended hip positioning for slings & woven carriers, from the International Hip Dysplasia Institute
I love the Moby for newborns, especially around the house. Elliott is still basically living in it. I love the Ergo for out and about, it's faster and easier to get on and off and to switch and adjust between wearers when Dad (or even grandparents) want to use it. However, I've been wanting something that is a little more organic than the Ergo, and is even easier to get on and off at home. I'd also like something that would be less restricting around my waist so I can wear it to a babywearing Hula dancing class. So I've been thinking about getting a ring sling...
Sakura Bloom ring sling - Essential Silk in chocolate/sky (no longer available)
Ring slings are quick and easy to use and come in a ton of pretty fabrics that are much more of a fashion accessory than the Moby or Ergo. They can be quite affordable or quite extravagantly expensive. Sakura Bloom is a favorite brand, along with Maya Wrap, and Tula also offers ring sling carriers. You can even get a "water" ring sling to safely carry baby in the shower or pool without them slipping and sliding out of your hands! Beachfront Baby has a nice line of slings and wraps for water activities (use common sense here, and make sure you are aware of and following all safety recommendations).
Tula carrier
Soft Structured Carriers are basically pouches that hold baby in an ergonomic seated position with a soft structure (rather than rigid), and distributes the weight onto your back and hips. The Ergo is a soft structured carrier, but there are many other brands and styles, with buckle closures or fabric that you wrap and tie (Boba! Beco! Lillebaby!). Moby now offers soft structured buckle carriers on their site; the Aria, Comfort, and GoHere is a good round up of some of the other options, including the Tula. I've never tried a Tula, but people are fanatical about them. We've been really happy with the Ergo, but it's worth testing out a few different styles to find the best fit for your body as some are more comfy if you have a long or short torso, etc.

Asian-style carriers are somewhere between a simple piece of cloth or wrap and a soft-structured carrier. They have a square of fabric and long pieces of fabric that wrap around and tie. The mei tai, podaegi, and onbu are all options. You can do a back carry with an onbuhimu style carrier (onbu)  that doesn't wrap around the waist, so it's a comfortable option for pregnant babywearing mamas.
Natibaby woven wrap in Floline
Woven Wraps are a long piece of fabric, like the Moby wrap, but are made of woven fabric rather than stretchy knit fabric like the Moby. They aren't stretchy, so can support more weight - up to and through toddlerhood (possibly up to age four or five) - and are safe for back carries, unlike the Moby. They come in a huge range of fabrics (linen, cotton, bamboo, and wool blends) and styles and prices, and are very much a fashion statement. They also come in a variety of lengths from 2 - 7 meters, which can accommodate different carries. You can also make your own, but make sure to do plenty of research on acceptable fabrics (no bedsheets!), and sizing and construction (no seams, only hems!).

Wrap Your Baby has a good breakdown of which carries you can do with which lengths of wraps; you can do all carries with the longest sizes.

I've been looking at the Dolcino wrap, myself. Didymos, Girasol, BB-Slen, and Natibaby are all popular brands as well.

There is so, so much more to know and learn, this is really just barely scratching the surface, but hopefully this helps you decide what you might be interested and what and how to explore and learn more. Babywearing is a deep and wonderful rabbit hole. Enter at your own risk!!!

Are you a baby wearer? What are your favorite carriers and resources?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

First first day of Kindergarten

So, we are officially the parents of a kindergartener. I have no idea how this is possible. Or how I am even old enough for this to be possible (my uncle reminded me that at this age, my grandmother had four kids in middle school, two in elementary, a toddler, and one that was still a twinkle in her eye, so...).
This gets me right in the feels.
Alice has been out of school since we moved in the beginning of March. She loves school and we all loved her preschool. I know Alice has been missing that stimulation and social interaction, and frankly, we've been missing the break in our day. So we were all excited for school to start.

We've had a lot going on this summer but were finally able to find some time to shop for new school clothes and supplies in the last few weeks.

Alice was so excited to pick out big girl folders and pencils and crayons and glue sticks and erasers. I finally found a backpack that fit a full-size folder, wasn't entirely too enormous for her stick-figure body, AND was also Alice-approved. It is classic and classy and still fun (pink!), without characters all over it that she'll be tired of after the next movie du jour. The fall wardrobe is still a work in progress, as most of what I ordered in size 5/XS from the big girls' section was too big for her, and I still basically have no idea what we'll need for our new climate. We're kind of taking it as it comes, I'm sure we'll need some warmer clothes. Or layers... But what we've got so far is really adorable, and we haven't even had any arguments about it.

So yesterday, Alice filled her backpack with her supplies and laid out her new outfit. I brushed and braided her hair after her bath; she asked for French braid pigtails so she'd have curly hair in the morning.
And this morning, we hustled to get everyone fed and dressed on time. We were running a bit late, so I took the customary photos while Jon loaded the little kids in the car and took off.
So cute I can hardly stand it.
Alice and I took a separate car, because I was staying with her for a half-day (of half-day kindergarten). We should have left earlier, what with all the dropping off and milling around and chatting, the parking lot was already full and we got stuck in the exit line and had to park down the street and around the corner. On the plus side, we got to cross the street with the sweetest crossing guard who held Alice's hand nearly all the way to her classroom and chatted with her and told her to never cut her hair and was just generally delightful.
Meeting up with dad. You can see Ivy disappearing in through the door, taking herself to kindergarten...
We met up with Jon, Ivy, and Elliott, and after Ivy doused her hands with hand sanitizer, we all saw Alice into her classroom and watched as she found her desk. Then Ivy had a raging fit because she couldn't stay in kindergarten and play with Legos, so Jon hauled her back home.
Ivy is just out of frame at the bottom of this photo. Alice is watching her drip with hand sanitizer.
I stayed and watched while Alice put on the glow bracelet gift and name tag that were waiting at her desk and found a seat on the carpet. The teacher read The Kissing Hand, which was a sweet book about carrying a kiss from your mom (or dad) with you while you are separated (like on your first day of school). The little raccoon didn't want to go to school, he wanted to stay home with Mom and play. The teacher asked the kids if any of them had wanted to stay home and play with mom and dad and a bunch raised their hands. Alice looked around at all of them like they were crazy.

Then, the announcement came over the loud speaker that it was time for the "clap-in." Us parents were dismissed to go find our spots, so out we went and were directed around the corner of the building to the end of the line.

All of the classes made a "team tunnel," lining the each side of the sidewalk for the kids to walk through. They went through, grade by grade, clapping for each other to welcome all the students to their new classes and kick off the year. The parents were all at the end, to cap it off.

We were the last class and parents out there, so I found a spot in line. They were playing fun music (that I couldn't hear because I was so far away), and everyone was clapping as the principal led the way with the first kindergarteners. One little boy was all by himself in the line, crying his little eyes out. It was so sad. We'd been so ready and looking forward to kindergarten, I wasn't really expecting to cry - I didn't cry for either of her first days of preschool - but I'd had a lump in my throat since we entered the parking lot and this little boy just sent me over the edge. Tears started leaking from my eyes and basically streaming down my face. Luckily, I was crouching down around the other parents' knees, so they didn't notice. I kept surreptitiously wiping tears out from under my sunglasses.
And then I saw Alice. She was holding her teacher's hand, and I cried some more. But then when she saw me, she broke out of line and came to give me a hug. I think she was feeling shy and nervous and overwhelmed, since she'd already traversed the whole line by that point. She didn't cry (and I don't think she realized I was crying), and I urged her to go on and join her class. And then I really lost it.

I was so sad that Jon wasn't there. We didn't know the whole scope of the half-day or the "clap-in" situation. It turned out that he really could have stayed for the whole day, even with the kids, and definitely could have stayed for the clap-in. But it was chilly and Ivy needed a nap and would have been a disaster, so it was probably best that they weren't there. But I was sad that he missed the event, and that I had to cry through it alone, and that I didn't know literally anyone at school. I didn't see a single other parent even shed a tear, so I felt extra crazy and didn't have anyone to commiserate with. Thankfully, my village is on Facebook, and after some texts with friends and reading through some of the comments on the photo I shared, I was able to pull myself together and make it back to Alice's class.

Once all the parents were back, the kids were ushered over to the library for another story, and the parents all crouched in their tiny chairs at their desks and listened to her teacher walk us through all the school policies and the social and academic expectations for the school year.

Then the kids came back and the day was over! Before the kids came back, I managed to dump all of the school supplies we bought into the appropriate communal bins. Alice wanted to put her supplies into her pencil box and was disappointed when I explained that the class was sharing resources, but she rallied.

At home, we talked about school and expectations, and what she was going to learn, and how and why to be brave and how important it is to be an includer. She went through my parent folder and found the curriculum packet, and wanted to do all the things. So I tested her sight words and was totally impressed that she knew four of the first six that they'll learn, and was able to sound out and figure out the last two. I tested her on the rest and found that she already knows fifteen of the twenty-nine they are required to learn this year. So hopefully, she'll be able to move on to some others as well before the year is out.
These have now been cut into flashcards. With perfect cutting along the lines. My daughter...
She finished tracing her numbers and loved the accompanying number poems, and then traced the upper and lower case alphabet as well. So I had her cut out her shape words and taught her about flash cards, and she made Ivy quiz her. Totally my daughter. I think she's going to be just fine...
On Tuesday, we were able to visit her class for "open hour," to see the classroom, find her desk, and meet her teacher. We saw that Alice shares her desk with a girl in the afternoon class named Elizabeth. We laughed, because that's one of Jon's very favorite names and her desk made it look like her name is "Alice Elizabeth," which Jon would love. After we finished in the classroom, we headed out to the playground. Alice beat me there and I as I surveyed the scene when I arrived, I thought I saw Alice on the climber. It turned out to be another tall girl with really long brown hair and pink glasses. I went over to talk to her mom and tell her that I had mistaken her daughter for my own. We had a good chuckle about it and the mom told me her daughter's name was Lizzie. As we chatted, I realized her daughter had the same teacher as Alice and was in the afternoon class. And then I realized Lizzie is short for Elizabeth. And they share the same desk. When we got there this morning, her name tag had been updated to reflect her nickname preference. I wonder how confusing that will be for the teacher to have two kids looking so similar sitting in the same seat all day. It's kind of like Sweet Valley High...

Anyway. I have all the feels, but no time to reflect or write on them, so I'll just bang out this all business recount of the first day for now... I am so excited for her and can't wait to watch her learn and blossom.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Baby Registry Favorites: Diapers, Strollers, Bouncer Seats, and Bath Tubs

Here's part two of our favorite baby gear for your registry and beyond!


We've always used cloth diapers. We started with a diaper service with Alice, but decided after a few months that it wouldn't be any trouble to wash our own and that we'd rather save the money than pay someone else to do it. We were paying about $100 per month, and bought our own supply for the cost of a month or two of service.
Thirsties Duo Wrap diaper cover
Thirsties covers: We've been really happy with these PLU covers for cloth prefolds. They didn't have the Duo Wraps when Alice was a baby, so we bought about 6 of each size from XS through XL. When Ivy was born, we replaced a few of the covers in each size that had worn-out velcro. We had a lot of gender-neutral colors, but we bought some of the fancy new duo wraps in blues for Elliott. We like the Duo Wraps with the hook and loop closures (rather than all snaps).

There are a lot of other brands with cute covers for cloth prefolds, as well as all-in-one systems like Bum Genius. We just went with what seemed the most affordable and practical.

Cloth prefold diapers: We bought ours from the diaper service we were using, but you can find them all over the internet. Like here. We bought 60-80 of each size, depending on the size; more newborn sizes, fewer large size overnights. Our cloth prefolds get a second life as garage rags when they're worn out, and so far, only the biggest size is showing major wear, because they get the longest amount of use.

We've always washed our diapers every few days, without doing anything fancy. Before we moved, we noticed that they weren't getting as clean and were giving Ivy some wicked diaper rash, so we adjusted a few things. We probably should have been using a detergent made for cloth diapers, and stripped them periodically, as is recommended. But honestly, I'd probably just buy some new diapers! Our new front-loading washing machine wasn't getting Elliott's diapers as clean either, so I did some research and found out that I needed to adjust my routine a bit to get better results (this post was helpful). I've added a pre-rinse with Biokleen Bac-Out and use bleach in the regular wash cycle, and now all of our diapers are coming out so fresh and clean I want to sleep in them.

Disposable diapers: When Alice was born, the hospital sent us home with a ton of disposable diapers. We used them up and then started using cloth once her umbilical cord had fallen off. We did the same with Ivy, and bought a box of our own disposables to use with Elliott since we wouldn't be getting any from the birth center. We like Pampers Swaddlers (newborn). We've also used disposables on some of our vacations, so we don't have to haul and wash cloth diapers. We order the disposables from Amazon and have them delivered straight to our destination. We like Earth's Best for an affordable, and fairly eco- and baby-friendly option.

Baby Jogger City Select with single and double seats.
Baby Jogger City Select: We bought this before Ivy was born, with two seats. I wish we'd started with it and added the second seat. You can get the carseat adapter and use it with your baby seat as a travel system. I like that it's a tandem and not a double wide, so I could pull it between parked cars and navigate easily through store aisles. I also like that we can leave the second seat in the car if we don't need it, and that we can switch the seat positions easily and on the go.
Baby Trend Expedition jogging stroller travel system
Baby Trend Jogging Stroller with Travel System: We used this with Alice and are still using the infant car seat for Elliott until it expires in January 2016 . It is a great value for a jogging stroller and we've been pretty happy with it. It got a lot of mileage with Alice, and I used it quite a lot to jog with Ivy. I was perfectly happy with this stroller, for half the price of the BOB because though we have a BOB double jogger that we love, I'm not sure I would buy a single BOB jogger for every day use. The suspension is fantastic, but the basket is fine for exercising but way too small for everything you end up with day-to-day.

I'd like to try:
Orbit Stroller with infant carseat, single and double seats
There are so many cool strollers on the market, I still love looking at them and checking out what people are driving when I'm out and about. If Jon would let me buy another stroller (he won't, he's told me) I'd definitely want to check out the Orbit strollers and infant car seat. They look super rad.

Britax Marathon convertible carseat
Britax Marathon: Alice and Ivy each ride in one. Alice rode rear-facing until just before her fourth birthday; she hadn't reached the height limit but was almost at the weight limit (like half a pound away). This seat is suitable for an infant, so if you skip the travel system stroller, you can get by with a single carseat from birth until age four or five or even beyond, until they max out on the seat's height or weight limit (which Alice is nowhere near).

Side note: Car seats should be installed rear-facing for the maximum allowable amount of time, either until the child reaches the maximum height or weight for the seat. Many car seats are not installed correctly, seven out of ten kids are not buckled in correctly. Use to learn more and to find an inspection site to confirm that your seat and your child are properly secured.

Also take note of your carseat's expiration date, the protective foam will break down over time and won't provide adequate protection. Our infant seat expires five years after the date of manufacture and we'll bump everyone up into the next seat - Alice will get a convertible booster, at that point.  Do not use a secondhand seat if it has expired, or been in any accident, however minor, or if you cannot confirm it's expiration date or accident history.


Baby seats are great for containing your awake (or sleeping!) baby while you do things like eat or shower or do the dishes or work. I love and gravitate toward baby furniture that blends in with adult furniture, personally. Especially in our previous, teeny tiny house, I didn't want it to be overrun with pink plastic baby paraphernalia. I mean honestly, why is baby furniture all so babyish? The babies don't care! They aren't buying it! They can't even see it when they are sitting in it, for crying out loud. Ok, rant over.

Now that we're in a two story house, we've found it helpful to have a baby seat on each floor so we don't have to haul it up and down the stairs, or go running to find it when we need it. We've borrowed a second seat from our neighbor so we can have one handy upstairs in Jon's office - our babies have all seemed to like to wake up before dawn so they hang out with Jon while he works until they want to sleep again.
Fisher Price Brentwood Rocker - discontinued
We have this Fisher Price seat that has since been discontinued, but we've really enjoyed it. 

If I were going to get one today, I'd be really interested in one of these options.

Bloom Coco Stylewood & Go Bouncers, Babyhome Wave Wooden Rocker, Baby Bjorn Bouncer Balance Soft

Clockwise from top:

Bloom Coco StylewoodBloom Coco GoBabyhome Wave Wooden RockerBaby Bjorn Bouncer Balance Soft. These options are all on the pricey side, but I personally don't mind paying more for something I've had to look at around the house so much in the last five years.

Fisher Price Booster Seat
Fisher Price Booster Seat: We had really limited space in our old house, so we opted to skip a high chair and just had this booster seat on our regular chair. We've been really happy with it except that it wore away the finish on our wooden chair. In hindsight, we should have put a dishtowel underneath it.

Bumbo seat: Ok, I don't think this is totally necessary, but we and our babies enjoyed it when they were learning to sit up. They liked being able to sit up and play with their toys and their toys, and we could sit or lay on the floor and play with them. Alice and Ivy still fit in it and enjoy sitting in it (I think we actually used it as a time out chair for Alice for a while...). You can definitely get away without one of these, but they are fun. (I think they come with buckles now, which seem pointless to me, since we always used it on the floor. Be smart, don't put it on top of a table or chair, even if it has a buckle!)

I'd like to try:

If we were ever to need a proper highchair, I'd be interested in these:
IKEA Antilop high chair

Ikea Antilop: Simple and cheap! Looks super easy to clean.
Koala Kare industrial-strength high chair

Koala Kare restaurant high chair: Jon's favorite. Except he wants one of the custom ones from the Disney parks with the Mickey ear cut-outs... These are simple, easy to clean, and indestructible.

Stokke Tripp Trapp chair
Stokke Tripp Trapp: Though more expensive than the others I like, this super popular chair is designed to grow with your child. As our kids have graduated from the baby booster seat to a big kid booster seat and then to the dining bench, I can definitely see the value in having one seat that fits your child, no matter their age. I think it would be a worthwhile investment.


We've tried a few a different baby baths. Right now, we're using:
Tummy Tub
Tummy Tub: I like this pretty well because the baby can be more submerged and stay warmer than the other infant baths I've seen and tried. It works best when baby is big enough to hold their head up without their chin falling forward. It's also still a bit trick to wash hair, since their head is upright and not tilted back. That probably isn't an issue for lots of babies, but ours have always had a lot of hair to wash!

Didn't totally love:

Blooming Baby Bath: The giant flower with foam petals that folds into your sink seemed like a good idea, but I found it hard to get the baby in a comfortable position. It was too big for our bathroom sink and I didn't like that I had to disinfect the kitchen sink before we gave the baby a bath so they weren't bathing in food particles and germs...

Fisher Price baby bath
Fisher Price tub & sling: We had the above version of the ubiquitous baby tub. It had some weird crevices that collected dirt, and though the sling and molding kept the baby in a good position, they are never actually covered in water so they always seem chilly. It looks like there are some other options that might not get so dirty, and might keep baby a little warmer.

Would love to try:

I don't know. It seems like there are a lot of brands with different versions of the same idea. And though they are definitely sufficient to get baby clean, I just don't feel like any of them give me or baby a peaceful and relaxing experience. I love taking baby in the bath with me, but that's just not always practical...

I hope there was some helpful info here. In my next post, I'll share some info on baby carriers and babywearing, along with a few other bits and pieces.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Baby Registry Favorites: Pregnancy, Postpartum, Feeding, and Sleeping

So, now that we're on the third go 'round, I've had lots of opportunities to figure out what baby gear works for our family and kiddos. If only I'd known about all this stuff when I was making our first baby registry! I thought I'd put it all together here, in case it helps anyone else figure out what they want...

When I was pregnant with Alice, I felt like I had no idea what a baby needed. I remember walking into Babies 'R Us to do some research on what to register for and nearly having an anxiety attack - similar to my first foray into a wedding dress shop, where I walked in and immediately walked out again. I can't remember if I walked out of Babies 'R Us immediately, I kind of think I did but it was far away from my house so I may have forced myself to stay and wander around in an aimless, anxious panic. But either way, I was totally overwhelmed. I still had no idea what a baby really needed or where to even start figuring out what to get.

As it turns out, babies don't really need much aside from milk and cuddles, as many moms and dads all over the world can tell you. There are so many parents and babies making it work with only what comes with the kid - i.e., nothing. But baby gear has evolved to make things easier and safer and more convenient, and with all the cute doodads and fun gadgets and cool technology, it's easier and more convenient - and more fun - than ever to spend a fortune on stuff.

So after three kids, here's what we used and what we loved, and what I would put on a registry if I were doing it for the first time all over again. These are my favorite essential items, the things I couldn't - or wouldn't want to - do without. Some are specific to our "lifestyle choices", so if you are doing something different, these might not be relevant at all!

I've put together an Amazon affiliate store where you can shop lots of these goodies in one place. By shopping there, it generates income for me (a teeny, tiny bit!) though I have not received any compensation whatsoever for recommending or including any of these products. Many of the links below are affiliate links to my little storefront.


Leachco Back 'N Belly Contoured Body Pillow
Leachco Back 'N Belly Contoured Body Pillow

I was so sorry I waited until my third pregnancy to buy this. It is wonderful and I couldn't have survived without it. I was scared away by the one-star reviews, and I totally see the issues that they mention, but they didn't really bother me and it totally worked for me.

Ok, this isn't something you can register for, but I found it really helpful and used it a lot in the last few weeks of pregnancy.

Full Term app: Pregnancy reference, kick counter, and labor contraction timer. I used this to time my contractions and then found out it was one of the apps my midwives and birth center preferred because of the visual read out it provided them. Available on the iTunes store and the Google Play store.

If you deliver at a hospital, you will likely go home with a big swag bag full of super useful stuff. I had no idea how amazing stretchy mesh underpants could be. However, if you deliver at a birthing center or at home, you will probably not get a goodie bag full of freebies. And even if you do get a swag bag, you might need to stock your own supplies for when the swag runs out. Since I wasn't planning on a hospital birth this last time, I made sure to have all of my favorites on hand ahead of time, including:

My favorite postpartum supplies.
Always overnight super maxi with wings: These are my favorite pads for postpartum.

Perineum bottle: Cleansing gentle enough for perineal stitches. Ouch.

Dermoplast: A numbing spray to take the sting away from those tender stitches. Again, ouch.

Water bottle: So you can keep plenty of water nearby during those long nursing sessions, and once you and baby are on the go.

Kindle! Jon got me a Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas and I love it. I didn't even know I needed or wanted one. I read more books in the first two months of this year than I did all last year. My library makes it so easy to check out books online and you can borrow and buy from Amazon right from your device. Plus, I use the Kindle app on my iPhone and literally always have my book with me. When I'm nursing, I can easily switch back and forth between my book and other apps to do anything I need.

OK, again, this one isn't something you need to register for, but I love it and use it all the time once baby comes home.

Total Baby iPhone app: Time and track baby's feedings, diapers, sleeping, milestones, doctor visits, growth, vaccines, allergies, and more. I rely on this heavily to keep track of nursing so I can remember what side I finished on, when baby ate, when baby will want to eat again. In the very early days, I find it really helpful to keep track of diapers and sleeping patterns as well. I can also keep track of how much I pumped and when. Only available for iPhone and iPad, but can manually sync between multiple users and devices.

*Sadly, I could not find a great source to buy your own stretchy mesh underpants, so if anyone knows where to get those outside of the hospital, do let us know!

I've been able to breastfeed exclusively with all my kids, and I haven't tried out a lot of gear in the feeding arena. But here's what I've loved.

Ameda Comfort Gel pads
Ameda Comfort Gel breast pads: The best feeling in the world for tender nips in the first few days and weeks. Keep them in the fridge for maximum wonderfulness.
Medela Pump-In-Style breast pump tote bag
Medela Pump In Style tote breast pump: A pump is an obvious must for any working mom, but I would recommend that all stay-at-home moms get one, too - I've already banked nearly 50oz of milk, and Elliott is only 7 weeks old. Especially now that the Affordable Healthcare Act requires that insurance providers cover the cost of a pump (thanks, Obamacare!!). Medela is a leader in the breast pump game and my original pump has lasted me five years, through nearly twelve months of pumping at work, and it's still going strong. Talk to your doctor though, as their recommendation may affect what your insurance will reimburse.
Medela freezer containers
Medela freezer containers: I use these to portion and freeze what I pump, and then use them directly as bottles. Easy as pie, never any leaking. I didn't have great success with the storage bags...
I have this Bebe Au Lait cover in Yoko
Bebe Au Lait nursing cover: I am a proud public breastfeeder, but I feel most comfortable covering up when there are lots of people around. Some kids hate eating while covered, but it always kept mine from being too distracted by their surroundings and popping off constantly. I've loved my Bebe Au Lait cover, it's still in great shape after five years and lots of use with three kiddos.
Motherlove More Milk Plus supplement
Motherlove More Milk Plus supplement: I used this when I went back to work after Ivy was born, to try and keep my supply high enough. Results may vary, but I think it's a good product if you are working and/or worried about your supply.
Mother's Milk tea
Mother's Milk herbal tea: I also drank plenty of this and enjoyed the taste (unlike the More Milk Plus. Yuck).

I'd like to try:
An infinity nursing scarf. I'm planning to make a few of my own but if I can't get around to it, I really like the looks of these from Bebe Au Lait and these by Itzy Ritzy.
Infinity nursing scarves from Bebe Au Lait and Itzy Ritzy.

Essential oils (fennel, basil, clary sage, geranium). Hopefully, I'll be able to maintain a good milk supply since I'm not working out of the home this time around but if I do start having any concerns, I would consider using essential oils. The supplements and teas are full of fennel and fenugreek, and I've been impressed with what I've seen essential oils do in other areas, so I'd definitely be willing to give this a go. Before you try, please talk to your doctor or naturepath and do plenty of research on safety and proper usage and reputable products and sellers.

A pumping bra: I probably should have used one, what with all the pumping I did at work! If I'd pumped in my own office, I would have definitely gotten one so that I could have kept working...

Didn't totally love:

Boppy nursing pillow: I mean, I do love the Boppy pillow, I just didn't think it was super necessary. I used it a lot with Alice in the beginning, but then I just used whatever pillow was around to prop under my elbow. I only used it a few times with Ivy, and haven't used it for nursing at all with Elliott. If you are having trouble any breastfeeding, or are anxious about it, a positioning pillow is a great tool. I figure though, that our bodies are pretty much made to do this without any expensive accessories, so I just kind of do whatever feels most comfortable for the situation we're in. Though I do like to prop babies up in the Boppy, before they are ready for the Bumbo seat!

Lanolin. I find it to be too sticky. When I've had cracked nips (usually just in the first few weeks), coconut oil has worked just fine.


Baby-Led Weaning instruction manual
When baby is old enough for solids (no earlier than six months, read this and this), I cannot recommend Baby-Led Weaning highly enough. Skip the processed baby food, don't buy a special baby food maker, and don't even worry about making your own purees. Just read this book (and maybe their site and this blog post), hand the baby some whole food and enjoy! I thought it was so much easier and so much more enjoyable, and I think so much better for baby in all kinds of ways. I was amazed at the differences in the ways my pureed food baby and my BLW baby eat and approach their food.

Baby-Led Weaning by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett


We got a crib for the nursery that transitions to a toddler bed and then to a full-size headboard. I think it's a great investment given the longevity of the furniture. Alternatively, a cheap crib and a cheap toddler bed, and a cheap and versatile "big kid" bed could be about the same cost as a good piece of furniture if you don't want to commit to one piece for that long. Worth thinking about your long-term plan, there, though! And because we've always had a baby in the crib, we haven't even actually used the crib as a toddler bed though, we've always just bumped the kid up to a new bed...
Naturepedic organic crib mattress
Organic crib mattress: We initially bought the mattress that was sold along with our crib, but I later learned more about the fire-retardant chemicals that are in our couches and mattresses and whatnot (nightgowns, too - ugh!). So before Ivy was born, we decided to replace the original mattress with an organic mattress. I think it's a great investment for all mattresses, but especially in the crib. We just treated our bed to a natural-material mattress when we moved as well.

We like our babies to sleep in our room for a while, as that reduces the risk of SIDS, but I'm not into the family bed situation (sleep is my most precious resource and I need my space!). So we looked for a good baby bed/bassinet option to fit the bill and our room. We tried a few different things with the girls, but what we're using with Elliott is the winner hands-down. I think it came out after Ivy was born, so I'm glad I had a third just so I could get and use one!
HALO Bassinest Swivel Sleeper
Bassinest: I love that it has a flat bottom like a crib, rather than a curvy molded shape like the Pack N Play bassinet; we'll avoid the trouble Alice had transitioning to a flat crib mattress. I also love that we can use our SIDS monitor with it, because of that flat, hard bottom surface under the mattress. And the swiveling feature is fantastic. I position it as far away from my bedside as I can, so I don't disturb the baby as I sleep, and don't hear him grunting and snoring in my ear. It's close enough that I can still see and hear him when I want to check on him. The mesh sides provide visual access and good airflow for baby. And then I can swivel his bed right over to me and pick him up to nurse without getting out of bed. I hear that women recovering from c-sections find this especially useful, and since you don't always know in advance whether you'll have a c-section, I think it's a great idea to have something that will make life easier in that event!
Angelcare Monitor AC401 Deluxe 
Angel Care Monitor: This monitor has a sensor pad that goes under the crib mattress and sounds to alert you if baby stops moving or breathing. It has given us so much peace of mind. It's very well-made and has lasted us through all three kids. They have some newer models with video monitors as well that are worth looking into, but we've always had two separate systems because the video option wasn't available when we bought ours.

Video Monitor: Some people question whether audio/video monitors are necessary. Our old house was very small and we could normally hear anyone crying, so we didn't usually use the audio functions on either monitor. We would turn up the audio if we went outside, or were in the shower or something. But the video function was super helpful to check on our kids when they were crying, to figure out whether we needed to rush in there or not. I've also loved being able to see them sleeping without having to risk waking them. We call it the baby channel, and we frequently use up the battery just checking in to see them sleeping. Grandparents especially enjoy. And I have a whole photo series of their cute sleeping positions... So I would definitely recommend a video monitor, for entertainment value alone, even if you aren't totally convinced that you really need it.
Soothie pacifiers

Soothie pacifiers: We've used pacifiers with all our kids right from the get go, though we did wait a few days with Alice. The hospital gave Alice some of the Soothie brand and we've never used anything else. I bought some more with Ivy and didn't notice that they were vanilla scented until Jon remarked that she smelled like a milkshake. Now that's all I will buy. They are truly delightful.
Summer Infant SwaddleMe velcro swaddle
SwaddleMe: We've tried lots of different swaddle varieties (though not all of them!) and this has been our favorite. I do wish that it let you do diaper changes without taking the whole thing apart, but I usually have to change my kids in between feedings so they'll wake up and finish eating.

I'd like to try:

I've had my eye on a few other types of swaddles, like the Swaddle Up and the Swaddle Strap.

The Sproutling Monitor also looks pretty awesome, in place of the Angel Care monitor. I just don't know that you'd be able to use it for quite as long as the Angel Care before a curious toddler starts fiddling with it.

Didn't totally love:
Graco Pack 'N Play with Snuggle Suite
Pack N Play: Alice slept in our room in a Pack N Play with bassinet and I didn't love the whole deal. We couldn't use the Angel Care with the little bassinet, so I was in a hurry to get her into her crib, but then she had a tough time getting used to the flat sleeping surface. It's just a little bit clunky and big to move around and travel with, but it is useful and ubiquitous.
Hushamok Dream Hammock
Hushamok Hammock: After Alice was born, the Hushamok Hammock became available to buy separately from the frame. We bought the hammock for Ivy and hung it from the ceiling next to my side of the bed. Ivy seemed to be happy in it and I really liked it, except that I couldn't see her from my bed and had to get out of bed to pick her up to nurse in the middle of the night. And we couldn't use it with the Angel Care. We did install a second hook in the living room, and it was easy to move the hammock out there for napping, but we didn't end up doing that very often because it was a bit too treacherous with Alice running around. They have since redesigned the frame that the hammock hangs from, so it doesn't tip backward and forward  as much as the version we had with a single support arch.

Baby Delight Snuggle Nest: We tried a version of this in our bed and didn't love it. It just didn't seem comfortable for the baby, and we weren't comfortable having between us in our bed. We didn't like that we couldn't use the Angel Care monitor, either. I know a lot of people love this, and love co-sleeping and bed sharing, but this set up just wasn't right for us.

I hope some of this is helpful for other moms, or anyone with a new or expecting mama in their life. I'll share some more favorites in my next post, including diapers, strollers, bouncer seats, and high chairs!

What are/were your favorite must-haves for pregnancy, postpartum, and baby feeding and sleeping?

Friday, August 14, 2015

Photoshoot: Family of 5

We've never had maternity or newborn photos taken by a professional. But just after Elliott was born, a local mom posted on the local mom's Facebook group that she is getting her photography business up and running and was offering half-price photo sessions to build up her portfolio. I jumped at the offer to take photos of our sweet new baby boy and our new family of five. 

She came over one Saturday morning a few weeks ago and spent some time with us around the house and chasing the girls all over. We are usually early risers and I was planning that we would be all polished and dressed, waiting quietly on the couch when she arrived. In fact, I was still blow-drying my hair and we hadn't even given Elliott a bath. So I asked if she would take photos of Elliott's very first bath. 

Please note, we are not bathing him in some old bucket. It is a Tummy Tub...

 Alice got her cast off just a few days after this photo session. We debated postponing the shoot, but thought it would be fun to capture this moment in time just as it was.

Sorry for the overload of photos, but I love them so much and am so happy to have such beautiful photos of our little family from this crazy moment in time. The photographer was wonderful, so great and patient with all the kids. It helps that she has three little ones herself! You can see more of her lovely work on her website and Instagram.