Monday, November 19, 2012

Crayon-Approved Mommy Gear Part Two

Missed Part One? Make sure to read it here.

Before I get into items 6-11 I wanted to take a minute to explain why I chose to make my own moby-style wrap instead of just buying one at the store.  As usual, it really boiled down to cost. Moby wraps retail starting at $40 and go up from there depending on their color and if they have a screen printed design. Being as cheap budget concious as I am, I couldn't justify spending that kind of money on what is simply a giant rectangle of knit fabric. (Not lying...that's all it is.) I especially couldn't do it when I wasn't sure if I would like using it or not. (I did mention some pretty big down-sides in part one.) There are several tutorials online for making your own moby and I chose the one I linked based on that extra piece of structured cotton fabric. Instead of buying 6 yards of knit, cutting it down the middle and then only using half of it, I could buy 3 yards, cut it in half and sew the ends together. Half the fabric, half the cost. (The 6 yards of knit would still have brought me up to around $35.)  You can't do this unless you add on the structured fabric, because this center seam is directly where the baby sits when wrapped.  The moby has the potential to split at this seam, but the extra panel of non-stretchy fabric prevents this from happening. Using this logic and a 40% off coupon at JoAnn the total cost for my fake moby was around $15. Bonus: It's super cute and there isn't another wrap like it in the whole world.  : )

6. Travel System. We decided on the Chicco Cortina Keyfit 30 after playing around with all the options at Babies R Us. This is another one of those items that is on the pricier side, but well worth the cost.  I like it because the infant seat snaps into the car base and the stroller (which is what a travel system is designed for) so I can buckle baby in and go from house, to car, to stroller, to store and back again without having to take her in and out constantly.  This is especially nice when she has fallen asleep, because I can move her where I need without waking her up. Since we have 2 vehicles, we got a second car seat base and she can be snapped in to either without us having to deal with buckles, latch systems, and reinstalling the seat every time we want to ride in the other car. We specifically chose this system over others because of the way the stroller folds up (it was also lighter in weight than the Graco models), the fact that it can be used up to 30 pounds (which is higher than other infant seats), and it has one of the better safety ratings compared to other travel systems. The only thing I have a problem with is that it takes up a lot of room in the back seat of my car (I drive a mazda 3). So much room, that we had to place it in the center seat in order for the front passenger to have any leg room at all. Nick's car has a slightly larger back seat (He drives a Saturn Ion) and it fits much better there. The infant seat was also the only place Avery would sleep for the first 2 weeks after we brought her home.  We have now learned that she hates to sleep on her back and the reason this worked is the curve of the seat kept her upright enough to be comfortable, but she could still stretch out in it.

7. Cloth Diapers. We use BumGenius 4.0's for normal wearing, and on wash day or when we're away from the house we use the FLIP system which is made by the same company (Cotton Babies). The FLIP's have the benefit that they aren't quite as bulky to pack in the diaper bag which I why I like them for outings. This woman is practically my clone when it comes to why I love these things. She even has a doxie.  I heart her explanation, so go read it. Unlike her though, we just double up the inserts at night and call it good. The FLIP's can also use disposable inserts, which would be nice for longer trips away but we haven't tried them yet.

8. Pacifier Leash. You can see how to make your own from this post. My kid can eject that pacifier with a force great enough to launch a rocket.  It either ends up on the floor or inexplicably underneath her when she's in her swing or car seat.  Rather than cleaning the thing off constantly, we just keep one clipped to her (or us, or the visor on her car seat) at all times.  It makes it a lot easier to find it too.

9. Sound Machine. Avery can fall asleep without the white noise, but for some reason at night it'll only last an hour or two.  We started using this machine from Homedics, and now when she stirs in her crib she'll go right back to sleep. We can get a solid 5-6 hours before she wakes and by that time she's ready to eat.  Most of the time she'll have a snack and then zonk out again right away. I don't think that's too bad for a 3 month old...

10. Camera. You want photos. All your relatives want photos. Your kid is going to have a lens shoved in their face constantly.  The one on your cell phone is great when they are still, which basically means only when they're sleeping.  Baby smiles and expressions also change lightning quick, which means by the time you press the button it's already gone. You need something with a faster shutter speed if you don't want 5000 photos of a blurry baby.  Invest in a decent digital camera and you'll thank me later.

11. Thrift Store. Obviously, this is the item I do not use every day.  But it truly is your best friend.  Finding one specifically tailored to kids is even better.  We go to a shop called Once Upon a Child. Registered for an item and you find you hate it, or received something you know you'll never use but you've got no idea where the gift giver purchased it so you can't take it to be exchanged (and you don't want to be rude by asking)? Or did you find a baby gear item you love but you aren't willing to fork over that much money again? Enter your savior the thrift store. Once Upon a Child will buy used clothing and gear from you, and you can purchase slightly loved items at a steep discount.  They'll either give you cash or you can choose to take store credit for a higher payout percentage.

While we loved much of the clothing we were gifted for Avery, a lot of it was simply the wrong season. (It gets cold in Michigan. Go figure?) She was born in late summer, so all of the clothes were short-sleeved because that's what stores had stocked at the time she arrived.  Now that she's finally into those sizes it's 40 degrees outside, so she'd be freezing if I put her in them.  I can go into Once Upon a Child and usually walk out with 6 to 10 outfits for her for under $30.  And since most of the infant apparel is what people registered for but couldn't return to the store, 90% of it is BRAND NEW and still has the tags on it! One of my favorite finds was a pink zippered Detroit Tigers Hoodie.  It was in perfect condition, and probably cost around $50 knowing ball-park apparel prices.  I paid $4.50 for it. And just last week I found a new, high end brand, Christmas dress for her (we wanted one for a formal portrait) for $1.

They also have great deals on gear too.  I mentioned that we have 2 bouncy seats.  I wanted one for our bedroom upstairs because I wanted a place to set Avery down when I was getting dressed in the morning. She'd be awake and want to play but would cry if I left her laying in the crib while I was trying to get around. I paid $12 for it at Once Upon a Child, instead of shelling out another $40 at Babies R Us. I also love that they stay up to date with safety standards and recalls.  They had a Bumbo play seat with a tray that I was interested in last week but refused to sell it to me because it was missing the seat belt. Bumbo has the seat out on voluntary recall because of the belts, and the store is holding it for me until the conversion kit comes in the mail. When it gets here Avery will have a new spot to play and practice sitting up for half the cost!

And that's my list! Have any items you think a new mom needs to keep sane?

Update!  We got our new seat and she loves it. It's funny to watch her though because she's more interested in how to get the tray off than the toys sitting on top.
That black blur would be Moose running around behind her...

Crayon-approved Mommy Gear Part One

The little one is asleep and I was feeling particularly blog-ey so I decided to make a 2nd post for the evening. My girl turned 3 months old last Thursday, which means I haven't been doing this mom-thing for very long but it's been long enough to have found my favorite pieces of baby gear.  And since I was so interested in reading about the kinds of things new moms know and love while I was pregnant, I decided to put together my own top 10 11 list of "this keeps me sane" items. They may be numbered, but they are in no particular order.  I consider all of these items essential and I use them on a daily basis (save for one, but it'll be blatantly obvious which it is.)

1. Xbox 360 Kinect (with a Netflix subscription).  No. I'm not crazy. And yes...this is an essential baby item. I mean, I wouldn't tell somebody to go out and get one for this express purpose, but it comes in EXTREMELY handy and since I already own it, it's going on my list. Why? Here's why...

You are a new mom with a squirmy infant. Who needs to eat. A lot. You find yourself settling down on the couch to feed that little bundle of joy every 2 to 4 hours depending on if you're breast or bottle feeding.  You just get comfortable, baby is settling in and eating nicely, the dog has already positioned himself on any remaining lap space you have, and you know you're stuck in this spot for the next 15 to 20 minutes at least. So you go to reach for the remote control, because staring at the wall/floor/ceiling for that long, that many times a day is enough to drive you batty...and then you realize that it is clear at the other end of the room because you chucked it there 5 minutes ago to make room for you and all the baby crap you had to haul to the couch for this feeding. You have 3 choices at this point: Forget the TV entirely and resume staring at the wall/floor/ceiling, disrupt everyone and everything to get up off the couch to retrieve the remote and start the process all over again, or if you have the kinect just yell at the TV and your show magically appears making you *not* bored while you get on with the feeding. I choose option 3, thanks.  It's also nice for when baby spits milk down your arm.  While you may have wiped it up with a burp cloth it can still leave your hands sticky, so now you don't have to transfer that to the buttons. Kinect FTW.

2. Boppy Pillow. She's only 6 big deal.  YEAH RIGHT.  That kid gets heavy! And fast! The boppy gives your arms a break while you're feeding. It's also designed to help position the baby for your comfort while breastfeeding. It props the kid up so you don't have to hunch forward to get a proper latch.  You can also use it for tummy time or a little back prop for when you're taking pictures. (With supervision of course.) If you have more than one level to your home, get 2.  I have one in the living room and one in our bedroom upstairs for feeding at night.  You don't want to have to wander around and figure out where you put it.

3. A Swing or Bouncy Chair. Each has nice features to entertain your kid (which they'll either love or hate depending on the day) or to calm down a fit of infant rage, but more importantly than those is the fact that it's a place to set your kid down! Besides your arms or back getting tired and needing a break, at some point you're going to need to pee, and bringing them to the bathroom with you is pretty much impossible.  Bring on the baby chair! We have the My Little Lamb Cradle and Swing by Fischer Price, which is pretty high-end for a baby swing but it is well worth the money I spent on it.  My favorite feature is that it can swing sideways, or can be twisted to swing front to back. There are times when Avery prefers one motion to the other so it calms her down faster. We also have a couple of bouncy seats (one on each level of the house) but they are pretty standard issue, so I don't really have a preference for using one or the other.

4. A Glider. Babies like motion because it reminds them of floating around inside mom before they were born, so plopping yourself in the glider accomplishes that without you having to do laps around the house.  Rocking chairs work too, but I prefer the glider because it moves without making our hardwood floors creak (very important at bedtime) and most come with an ottoman that rocks right along with the glider. That's nice for getting comfortable for a feeding or just getting cozy to read a story.

5. A Moby Wrap or even better a knock off one you made yourself (like I did. See why I chose this tutorial in Part Two). If you make your own definitely use the style in this tutorial that has the extra fabric panel.  These things stretch like crazy and you really do need that extra bit of structure to keep baby supported. (P.S. You can buy half the fabric and sew it end-to-end if you choose this style. I wouldn't advise it with any other DIY wrap though.) Moby wraps are things that moms either love or hate. I am in the love camp.  They take a bit of practice to figure out how to wrap them so that you have baby snug to your body.  They are also extremely long in length (they have to be in order to wrap around your body several times) so the amount of fabric can be a bit of a pain to manage, especially when you're in a parking lot and you don't want to spend 5 minutes standing outside your car juggling the ends to keep them off the ground while tying your wrap. Another downside is that they can get really hot. Body heat from you and baby tends to stay snuggled up in the wrap between you.  When I wear mine I make sure I strip to at least a T-shirt, if not my nursing tank top before wrapping it. That said, I love mine for 3 main reasons.

One, it's a personalized fit. We also have a traditional soft-structured carrier that buckles. This is the one that my husband prefers because he can get it on and off faster. But since we are 2 different sized people, every time I wear it I have to adjust and tighten down all the straps.  And after I'm through wearing it he has to loosen them all again to adjust it back to his size. Since most of the adjustments are located on the back of the carrier it's a hassle to do it by yourself, and you can't do it before you put it on or the fit would be wrong.  With the moby, since its' wrapped directly around your body each time, it's automatically adjusted to fit and I don't need anyone's help to get it on.

The second reason I love my fake-moby is that the stretch fabric is very forgiving on your back. The soft-structured carrier is designed to distribute the baby's weight in a certain way, and that creates pressure points on my shoulders and lower back. After 10 minutes of walking around I'm sore. Since you can't move the straps to a new position, you're stuck with what the manufacturer gave you.  With the moby, that weight is more evenly distributed so there's no pressure points. I can also slide the back crosses to a different spot to make it more comfortable if I need to, but this is rarely needed.

The Third reason I love my fake-moby is the way it supports the baby.  In the soft-structured carrier there is support directly behind the baby, but not so much at the sides. So while Avery isn't going to fall out of the thing, there's still a lot of room for her to flop around and you have to be careful about how you move so you don't slam her little head. In the fake-moby, if you're wearing it properly, baby is hugged right up against you so there isn't that extra space for her to flop in. She can even lean away from me if she wants and the front crosses support her neck. When she falls asleep I can pull one of the crosses over top of her head to give her even more support. The fabric keeps her secure, but has enough stretch so she doesn't feel squished. Also with the fake-moby (again, if you're wearing it correctly) the fabric spreads below baby's bottom in a way that aligns and supports the hips and thighs.  Some soft-structured carriers can do this, and others can't. It just depends on the width of the "seat" portion beneath the baby. Babies' hip joints haven't fully hardened when they're born, the socket portion is still soft cartilage, so if they aren't properly supported in a carrier it can actually cause dislocation and lead to hip dysplasia.  Even before we introduced Avery to a carrier she was being watched for issues with her hips, so this is especially important for us. (Not to worry, 2 ultrasounds later and she's been cleared as healthy.) With the fake-moby I never have to worry about if she's getting that proper support.

Okay, I have a 4th reason I love my fake-moby, but I guess it could be applied to any carrier...It frees up my hands.  She is secure enough to my body that I can bend and move and I don't have to worry about her flying out or feel the need to support her with one hand while doing a task.  Avery is very clingy and has been right from the start. She's not one to want to be away from mom for more than 5 minutes or else she'll start screaming like she's on fire. (Even if she can see me.) There is absolutely no way I'd be able to do anything except sit on the couch and shout at my kinect while holding her if it wasn't for this wrap.  ABSOLUTELY NO WAY. And you know when I mentioned it gets a little hot to wear?  That's not always a bad thing.  When Avery is really fussy I can pop her in the wrap and 9 times out of 10 that body heat creates a toasty, sleep inducing pocket.  She can be screaming her head off and then out like a light. It's a miracle really.

Items 6-10 coming in Part Two...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What's festive, adorable, and finished before naptime ends??

Jingle Socks!
See the directions in my Ravelry notes here.
You know you want to make some...