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Let's Talk Babies!

Baby Equipment

Babywearing is defined as the practice of wearing or carrying your baby around in a sling or other form of carrier.  For many in the western world babywearing may be a newer concept since for many decades our culture got away from babywearing.  However, in many cultures around the world babywearing is the norm and has been practiced for centuries.  It is on the rise in western cultures again, and is becoming more and more common.

Are you a babywearer?

babywearing

I would consider myself a babywearer.  I used a baby carrier or a sling to carry Maya around almost everywhere when she was little and I still sometimes use a sling to carry her.  Although she is getting a bit heavy for it now :)  When she was very tiny I would use my Bjorn infant carry to wear her around while I did most of my chores around the house and anytime I went shopping.  When she was fussy it was the best way to calm her down.  I would just put her in the carrier and walk, either around the house doing odd little chores or we’d walk outside if the weather was nice.  After a while I purchased a sling and she loved it.  She would ask to go in the sling when we went for walks instead of using her stroller.

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I found that having the close contact with her, especially when we were first working on establishing a good breastfeeding routine, was immensely beneficial.  And I discovered very early on that being close to me and being with me while I went about my daily routine was very calming to Maya and she would often stop fussing or crying the minute I plopped her in the carrier.  There is something very calming to both mother and child when you carry your baby close to your body like that.

There are so many options when it comes to choosing a baby carrier.  Everything from wraps, to slings, to front carriers, to hip carriers, to carriers that convert from front to hip to back as the baby grows.  Choosing the right one for you can be challenging.  I used the Bjorn front carrier and a sling with Maya.  With my next child I will likely do the same, although I’m thinking I’ll spring for an Ergo carrier instead of the Bjorn next time since it seems to be more practical and useful as the baby grows.  You may find that you have to try out a couple of options before you find the one that works best for you.   There are many sites out there that can help you in your search for the right carrier for you, my favorite is, TheBabyWearer.com.  They have a ton of information whether you are new to babywearing or an old hat at it.

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I think babywearing should be encouraged, especially in the early months when you are establishing breastfeeding and getting to know each other. Babywearing can be especially handy if you have an infant who is colicky, or just one of those babies who fusses if he or she isn’t being held by someone.  Getting things done around the house, going shopping, going out to eat are all so much easier when you use a carrier, sling or a wrap.  Babywearing just feels natural and calming.  And if you have our hands full with other things is a great way to still get that bonding time with your baby.

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Hello Baby Direct, a really cool online baby store based in the United Kingdom, to see if I would get interested in reviewing one of their top selling products, Sophie the Giraffe.  I had heard about Sophie before but never come across one in my baby store perusing.  Know how important a good teething toy is I, of course, agreed to review the product.

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Sophie the Giraffe has been around a long time, since 1961 to be exact, and has been a huge seller all over Europe.  My Nana, who is from England, actually purchased a Sophie the Giraffe for my mom when she was a baby!  Slowly, Sophie found her way to North America and has become a hit here as well, selling mostly in small baby boutiques.

Sophie is made of 100% natural rubber that is derived from the Hevea Tree and painted using food paints to make her a very safe toy for babies and young toddlers to chew on.  Her shape, texture and squeak make her an instant hit with babies.  I love her bright smiling face and her natural colors.

When Sophie arrived in the mail I gave her to Maya to see what she thought of her.  Almost immediately Sophie found her way into Maya’s mouth :)  Clearly my daughter knows a teething toy when she sees one!

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After a little further examination Maya discovered that Sophie squeaked and she spent much of the rest of the morning dancing Sophie around the house making her squeak.  She was a huge hit right off the bat with Maya.

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This really is a great toy, especially as a teether.  The rubber is sturdy and strong and held up to my daughter’s teeth tugging on it very well.  The shape and texture of the giraffe make it very appealing to babies.  Good, strong, natural teething toys are hard to come by.  When your little one is working on those first teeth it can be challenging to find something that not only helps with the pain they are experiencing but that you also feel comfortable with them shoving in their mouth.  Sophie definitely fits that bill.

One of the things I liked most about Sophie the Giraffe was her shape and how it allows babies and toddlers to use this as a teething toy even when the are working on those molars way in the back.  Many teething toys don’t seem to reach way in the back and so become useless for when those molars are coming.  Sophie’s long legs and long neck mean toddlers can still use her to chew on when their molars are coming in.

My only beef with Sophie the Giraffe is the price tag.  At about $20 a pop here in the United States she certainly isn’t a toy that is attainable to all parents.  I’d love it if these safe, natural, cool baby products were priced so everyone could afford them.  If you are okay with dropping that kind of money on a toy for your child, than I would definitely recommend Sophie the Giraffe.  She was a huge hit with Maya and I’m looking forward to seeing what my next child thinks of Sophie, especially since he or she will get to play with her from the beginning, assuming Maya is willing to share her (if not we may end up with 2)!!

baby feeding gear

All it takes is one trip to your local discount retailer or baby store to see that baby feeding is big business.  Aisles and aisles are filled with the gear and equipment necessary to feed a baby.  Everything from breast pumps to breastfeeding support pillows to bottles to formula.  It can be, understandably, very overwhelming for a new mom to stand in these aisles and try to figure out what she needs and what will best meet her baby feeding needs.

Depending on whether you plan on breastfeeding or bottle feeding will, of course, impact the baby feeding gear you will need.   For example, if you will be exclusively breastfeeding you will not need formula and won’t need as many bottles.  However, if you are exclusively bottle feeding you can skip the breast pump and will need to make sure you are adequately stocked up on bottles and formula.  Here is a quick break down of what you’ll need.

If you plan on breastfeeding you will need:

  • A breastfeeding support pillow.  I’ve professed my love of the Boppy pillow in the past, but any breastfeeding support pillow will do the trick.
  • A breast Pump.  The type you get will depend on your needs.  If you will be returning to work and will be doing a lot of pumping than you’ll want an high quality electric pump.  However, if you will be staying home and don’t plan on doing much pumping than a manual pump may be enough for you.
  • A couple of good nursing bras and shirts.
  • A tube of lanolin to help relieve the chapping and discomfort of your nipples during early breastfeeding.
  • Breast pads.  These help protect your bra and clothing from any leaking that may happen.
  • A good supply of bottles.  You may need to try out a few different types before you find the one your baby likes best.
  • Some cleaning supplies for the bottles, such as a bottle brush and a basket for your dishwasher to help keep all the little pieces of the bottle from getting lost.
  • A handful of burp clothes.

If you plan on bottle feeding you will need:

  • A supply of formula to get you started.  You may find your baby doesn’t take to all formulas and you may need to change the brand you  use, so I don’t recommend buying too much before you figure out which brand your baby takes to.
  • A large supply of bottles.  You’ll need little bottles for the first few months and then you’ll likely move up to the larger sized bottles so make sure you have both.  How many you need will depend on how often you want to be washing bottles.
  • A breastfeeding support pillow may be useful for a bottle feeding mom as well, but probably won’t be a necessity for you.
  • Plenty of bottle nipples.  You may want to get a couple of varieties and figure out which type your baby likes best.
  • A handful of burping clothes.
  • Cleaning supplies for the bottles including a bottle brush and a basket for your dishwasher to keep all the little bottle pieces together.
  • A bottle sterilizer (not necessary as you can just boil them in a pot of water).
  • A couple of insulated baby bottle carry bags for when you need to take a bottle of formula on the go with you.
  • A portable bottle warmer that plugs into the cigarette lighter in your car (if you plan on feeding the baby on the go often).

Be sure to talk to your friends and family members with small children to figure out what they found they needed and what they determined they could live without.  As I mentioned above, you may find that your baby develops a preference for a specific bottle type, or nipple type or brand of formula, so it is best to just buy a few of these things and when you determine what your baby likes best you can stock up on that type or brand.

I breastfed my daughter and she never did take to a bottle so I didn’t end up using any of the bottle supplies I purchased.  You won’t know for sure what you need for your baby feeding situation until you get into it, however, there are basic supplies that pretty much everyone needs so you can be sure to have that stuff on hand for when the baby comes home and then pick up the rest as you go and as you need it.

What baby feeding gear did you find most helpful and most necessary?  Did it change depending on if you were breastfeeding or bottle feeding?

Since Maya was born we have been using the stroller that came with her Chicco Travel System.  It has worked out well for us so we hadn’t bothered buying another one.  However, traveling with a big bulky stroller isn’t easy or fun.  Since we had a trip planned this summer that involved flying and renting a car we decided we needed to suck it up and plop down the cash on a light-weight stroller that would be more convenient for traveling.

Before making a choice I did a bunch of research online and had narrowed it down to a couple of different strollers.  We headed over to our local baby store and tried out a few of them.  After being pretty disappointed in the ones we tried we decided to try out a Maclaren.  I hadn’t originally wanted to buy a Maclaren as they were more money than I wanted to spend.  However, after trying out the Maclaren Volo in the store we decided it fit our needs, was really well made and seemed to handle well.  Since the price of the Volo was more than we had originally wanted to spend we decided to do some shopping around and were able to find it online at Albeebaby.com for a pretty good price.

The Maclaren Volo is the bottom end, bare bones model.  It does have a small mess bag under it for carrying a few items and has a really good sunshade for an umbrella style stroller.  You basically get a great quality stroller with only the necessities and none of the extras.  It doesn’t have any cup holders so we opted for the universal organizer, which provided us with two cup holders, a small mess pocket for storing small items like keys and a large mess pocket for storing larger items.  I’m glad we decided to buy the organizer as it has come in really handy so far, I would definitely recommend it.

A few of the things I really like about the Volo include the mess back on the seat  as it helps keep Maya cool during walks out in the hot St. Louis heat, the sunshade, the 5-point harness, the fact that I don’t have to hunch over to push it, and the ease with which it opens and closes.  The Volo weighs only about 13lbs so it is really easy to get in and out of the car, or to carry around if you need to (it has a strap so you can carry it over your shoulder).   I also really like how sturdy the frame of the stroller is, it feels like it’ll last a long time.

A couple of the things I don’t particularly like are how small the wheels are, how difficult the stroller is to push “off-road” (like on grass or gravel), and how tippy it is when there isn’t a child sitting in the seat.  The stroller manuvers really well on flat ground and turns on a dime but as soon as you get it on grass or gravel it becomes difficult to push.  If the wheels were a tiny bit bigger I think it would solve this problem.

Overall, my first impressions of the Maclaren Volo are good.  I’m happy with my purchase and feel like I’m going to get a lot of use out of this stroller so I don’t feel so bad spending more than I had originally planned.  And Maya likes it too.  She seems really comfy in it and I think she enjoys the better view of things she gets with the openness of the Volo compared with her bigger, bulkier stroller.

Great Expectations: Best Baby GearThe Great Expectation book series is growing with the addition of their latest book, Great Expectations: Best Baby Gear. Sandy Jones and Marcie Jones have added to their growing collections of pregnancy and parenting books with this book all about baby gear, “the latest, safest and best-quality products for your baby”.

I’ve read and enjoyed one of their previous books, in fact I just gave a copy of it to my brother and his girlfriend who are expecting their first baby, Great Expectations: Baby’s First Year.

This new edition to the series is similar to the others in that it is laid out well, easy to read, and full of pretty useful information. The book covers everything from cribs, to carseats, to baby toys, to breast pumps and much more. Each chapter is dedicated to a different baby product and provides details about the product, what to look for, when to buy the product (ie before baby is born or wait until after), and examples of a few of the “best” products on the market. The “best” products reviewed in each chapter include the price, the pros/cons of the product, and some product details (including pictures).

I’m currently in the market for a convertible carseat so I enjoyed the chapter on carseats. I found the checklist helpful as well as the product details on the “best” carseats chosen for this book. I did think some quotes from real moms would have been helpful in each section. It is always nice to not only hear what the authors think but also what moms are thinking too.

If you’re wondering, like I was, where the information came from for this book, according to their press release they included their own hands-on experience, written reviews from 1,000 parents, consumer safety reports, and findings from medical studies.

Overall, it is a good book. I think it would make a great gift for new parents, maybe a shower gift or a “congrats your expecting” gift. A lot of the information contained in the book can be found by doing your own research on the internet, however, sometimes it is nice to have all the work done for you.