Saturday, December 5, 2009

Pregnancy, Babies, and Gear, OH MY! Part 3: Nursing Gear

Breastfeeding Gear/Tips:
  • Medela Breast Pump (Freestyle, Harmony, or Pump in Style): I refused that I would ever pump breast milk... I'm not a dairy cow. In retrospect, I wish I had one from the beginning (even just the Harmony manual pump). When you first start nursing, your body will produce much more than baby can take in, and it HURTS like hell! A pump can help relieve just enough pressure, and breastmilk can be frozen to use at later times (if you need to go out, when you are weaning to a bottle, etc.). I kick myself that I didn't pump for relief at the beginning (Dominic might still have breastmilk instead of expensive formula, too).
  • GlamourMom Nursing Tanks: I'm small chested, and didn't like any nursing bras I tried out. These tanks are easy to nurse in, and they look just like a spaghetti strap shirt. They were comfy and easy to use... I wore them religiously when I was nursing and pumping.
  • The Gillian O'Malley nursing tanks from Target are good too; the closure is easier to use, but they have less coverage when you open them up to nurse. When I was nursing, they only came in Black, White, and Grey. I saw a whole rack of them in snappy colors last week at target; they're only about $15 each, too, making them cheaper than the GlamourMom tops.
  • Gerber Prefold Cloth Diapers... for Burp Cloths: nice to have on hand espeically when getting started with breastfeeding; tuck one into your shirt/bra the first couple months when you brestfeed to avoid major leakage/sprayage all over your clothes, bed, wall, husband, baby, etc. This was one of the best tips I got from a friend when I was changing shirts every couple hours because of leaks and spills while nursing. For a while (when I was engorged), I would keep a few in the freezer, then take one out fold it up and put it across my chest like a tube top under my nursing tank for relief and leak protection. Also great for mopping up spit-up.

Pregnancy, Babies, and Gear, OH MY! Part 2: Gear

Gear Recommendations:

  • ZoloWear Sling: a ring sling that is super easy to adjust, wash, and carry. Easy and discreet for nursing newborns in public, useful even at 11 months for Dominic (we use it when we take him to Mass, and I sometimes walk with him around the block in it). Pretty much any ring sling will work this way, but I recommend finding one (like the Zolo) that has a zipper pouch for 1 diaper, wipes, keys, and cell while you're out and about.
  • 5 Yards of Jersey Cotton from the Fabric Store: Use it like the Sleepy Wrap or the Moby Wrap, and get two for the price of one when you cut it in half. Share one with your friend who just had a baby. This option divides the weight on both shoulders, so it is easier on the back. I was able to nurse Dominic as a newborn in this one sometimes (hit or miss) and it was tricky to get him into it when he was wailing to eat. This one is nice for carrying forward facing after 4-6 months, carrying on your back, or carrying mom-facing. It is much more tricky to get the baby in and out of, especially if you are also trying to worry about a diaper bag or shopping bags.

  • Amby Baby: pretty expensive "cocoon sleeper," suspended by a spring, so when baby wakes or stirs in the night, it gently rocks according to baby's movements. Dominic slept through the night around 2 months in this... very comfy for him. He outgrew it around 6 months when he was ready to sleep on his tummy on his floor bed. We bought ours on craigslist for less than half the retail price, and very gently used. They've been recalled, and they promise a fix, so keep an eye out for that.
  • Montessori Floor Bed:basically an IKEA 3-part twin mattress on the floor in a totally baby-safe room. This concept allows for the most freedom of movement and independence for infants. We like that when Dominic wakes up he can play in his room happily right when he wakes up (no fussing to get him out of a crib). A challenge has been that we didn't start a good bedtime routine early, so when he became mobile he would crawl off and become fussy from being so tired and wound up. It took a lot of will power to stick with it, and it is getting to a point that we can leave the room with him awake but drowsy and he goes to sleep on his own. An added bonus is that he will sometimes crawl over to it and fall asleep on it completely unprompted, while he is playing independently in his room (with me down the very short hall on the computer).

  • Maxi Cosi Mico Infant Carrier: releasing this from the base is a little trickier than the Graco or Chicco. The seat is very comfy for the baby, and the design is very mod. Canopy/sunshade only extends half-way, which is a bummer sometimes.
For a travel system we used it with:
  • Maxi Cosi Pearle Stroller: an Umbrella style stroller that also adapts to hold the infant carrier. This is a one shop stroller that is infinitely smaller than the typical "travel system." Easy to maneuver while shopping or out in pedestrian areas (Rice Village, Galleria, Airports, you name it, we've maneuvered this there!) This is ultra-compact for storing in the car or house (or apartment).
We loved this system for traveling with a 7 month old (that's why we switched to it, actually). Dominic was small enough for the infant carrier, but the other travel system was too bulky/heavy to maneuver easily through an airport (with luggage) while also stowing under the plane easily. This and the carseat both fit into the same travel stroller bag (made for the larger travel system strollers only... so it is one less case to store if you will be flying with a baby).

Other Carseats/Strollers we tried:
  • Graco Snug Rider Infant Carrier: pretty comfy carseat for infants, easily removable/washable cover, full range sun sheild/canopy (very nice!). Handle a bit uncomfortable if carrying hooked over your elbow... only one side is rounded, the other has an uncomfortable edge, which was totally lame when out and about.
  • Baby Trend Snap'n'go Stroller: lightweight stroller frame specifically for use with infant carriers; it does not have a seat, so it is pretty much finished when the child outgrows the infant seat (around 20-23 lbs). Much easier to maneuver in tight spaces than a travel system stroller, and much simpler to load/unload from the car. When folded it takes up half the space of a typical travel system stroller, takes up twice the space of the Maxi Cosi Pearle, but weighs about half as much as either of the other strollers.
  • Graco Metrolite Stroller: the lightest of the big travel system strollers (that we found, anyway), though it is still quite cumbersome. It was really bulky, despite its smaller size, and too big for tight maneuvering (like shopping at a mall, IKEA, or on tight sidewalks). We quickly ditched this, although it may be a nice stroller for older children if you are interested in a big stroller for outings at grassy parks or on rough terrain? I just can't see myself having enough trunk space for it, even if it is a little more cushy for the baby! The storage under the seat was easy to get to, the shade was nice, and the handle was adjustable, if you are looking for this type of big stroller.

High Chair:
  • IKEA Antilop: The least expensive high chair option on the market ($20, or $25 with tray), the most compact/collapsible, and the most practical. Completely made of plastic and metal legs, this is the most parent friendly high chair. It is totally wipe-able, there is no padding or crevices to trap crumbs or splatters. It has a detachable tray, or it can be used pulled up to a table. Cushions can be purchased separately and are machine wash/dry-able; the cushion makes the fit a little better for smaller babies or those who are just learning to sit independently. My parents got this one as a spare for Dominic to use, and now it is Riley's high chair, and they are going to be donating their $200-300 high chair to Project Gabriel because this one is so good. It renders pricey Peg Perego highchairs obsolete! I even saw it in a parenting magazine as the top pick. Today we wiped some week-old goo off of this thing without any scrubbing... heaven!
  • IKEA Spolling: This is the first highchair we bought for our house because it folds flat (to fit against the wall in a tight space). It does not have a tray, and it is made of a wipeable or machine washable fabric seat on a metal folding frame. This one is really cute and has a handy pocket on the back, but the lack of tray and crevices in the fabric make it more difficult to manage... It costs 2x the Antilop, and we're thinking about cutting our losses and buying the Antilop to replace it. You may be interested in the idea of just pulling your kid up to the table, but in the end you'll probably prefer a tray on the high chair to contain the mess.

Play Mat:
IKEA Leka Baby Gyms (Soft and Wooden): I recommend getting both. Dominic has LOVED the wooden one, and now that he is starting to walk, he will push it along the wood floors and pull up on it to play with the hanging toys from above. When he was younger he loved the soft baby gym at my parents' house. It was a nice pad to lay him on, easily machine washable, and the attached and removeable toys were very entertaining for him, the toy arch was also detachable if you just want to use it as a mat. To date, the wooden gym is one of Dominic's favorite toys, and it encourages gripping, exploration, mechanical thinking, and independence of movement (as an aid to standing and walking... it is very sturdy for only $25) We got a very expensive play mat at a shower, and wish we'd gotten 10 other things instead of that, since these were so good!

Changing Table:
  • The top of a dresser with a changing pad. Easy if you have a short dresser. ... or...
  • IKEA Spolling: Fold-up table with ample pocket storage. We LOVE this. It is easy to keep everything on hand, and if we were crunched for space, we could just fold it in half and stick it in a closet or against the wall, which will be nice for storing it in between babies.

Other Gear you will appreciate:
  • Wipe Warmer: no cold hineys in the middle of the night... I thought this was silly until i put a cold wet wipe on a sleeping newborn's bottom... no fun.
  • Munchkin Plastic Spoons: they hold more baby food than the standard coated metal spoons, and more importantly, the shape helps keep the food on the spoon while feeding! Mealtime is much cleaner now that we have these. They are available at most grocery stores.
  • Wubba Nub Pacifier: If you plan to use a pacifier, this one is the hospital-issue soothie attached to a soft stuffed animal (almost like a beanie baby). It holds the pacifier in place for a newborn, and for older babies, gives them something to help grasp the pacifier to get it into the mouth. Pacimals is a similar product that has a removable pacifier, but it is much bigger than the Wubba Nub.
  • Columbia Diaper Bag: Looks like a computer messenger bag... nice for dads to carry without looking totally metrosexual. It holds a ton of gear. Great for dropping off kids with a babysitter/grandma, or taking a kid to daycare. I'm moving out of the spit up and blow-out diaper stage, so I'm about to trade for one that just holds 2 diapers, wipes, and mom necessities (phone, wallet, etc), so it will be easier for me to manage on days I'm just making small trips, we'll hang onto the big one for Ryan and Nana to use.

And now in List Form, excluding the stuff we would have skipped on a second time around...

Columbia Diaper Bag
Wipe Warmer
Munchkin Spoons

IKEA Spolling Changing Table
IKEA Leka Baby Gym (Wooden, and Soft)
IKEA Antilop High Chair
Maxi Cosi Mico Infant Carrier
Maxi Cosi Perle Stroller
Amby Baby Bed
Matress for the Floor Bed (I know, it seems crazy)
ZoloWear Sling

In the words of one of my 5-yr-old students when I was leaving for maternity leave, "Happy Baby!"

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pregnancy, Babies, and Gear, OH MY! Part 1: Preparation and Delivery Tips

So, it has been a year since Dominic was born. I found out a few months ago that one of my favorite people, my cousin Becca, is expecting a baby. I told her I would send her a list of some of my favorite gear... and about 5000 words later (I haven't actually counted) I had a monster list of gear reviews, labor and delivery suggestions, and nursing tips. So I figured more people might be interested in my thoughts (I'm so vain), and decided to post it here for my 4 readers (some of whom already have their own baby manifestos).

Before Delivering the Baby--Preparation for the Hospital:

  • Make a Birth Plan!!! I recommend the book Easy Labor for a run-down of all the pain management options and how they work. I felt prepared for anything that was thrown at me during my delivery because I knew the affects of different options. Great book. You'll love it when you're getting close to the due date!
  • Get a Doula: If it is not totally out of the budget, hire a doula (heck, even if it is out of the budget). Get pregnancy massages from her, go to her birthing class, listen to what she has to say, and have her there the whole time you are at the hospital for delivery. Labor & Delivery nurses at the hospital are in charge of several women in labor at a time, and they will not be by your side while you are in labor. They mainly come by to stick their gloved fingers where no gloved finger should ever go, adjust your drugs (if you want them), and take your vitals regularly. They have a very important job, especially during delivery, but it is difficult for them to do that job and offer full-time support to the 5 laboring mothers in their care. Husbands are great for support, too, but a doula has assisted in tons of births, whereas your husband (probably) has only seen national geographic. The doula is super helpful when your teary eyed husband is worn out from seeing his wife in a ton of pain, and she can even help with crowd control if you expect a lot of people to show up at your door while you're having contractions. A doula can be somewhat expensive (in Housotn, anyway), but it is 100% worth it to have an expert who knows you personally and is also slightly removed from you in the delivery room to keep you and your husband calm. Mine even took some awesome and graphic photos of the birth... not too graphic, but it's like you're a fly on the wall!
  • Visitor Warnings: Let people know in advance if they will be able to visit you during labor and delivery. You may want to let people know that you'll call them after the baby is born, so they will not be disappointed if they miss out on an "on the way to the hospital" call. We let everyone know we were at the hospital (Christmas Eve - Christmas Day), and told them we'd call when Dominic was born, and it was perfect. Nobody twiddling thumbs in the hospital waiting room, or worse, knocking on the door to see how things are going. You never know who will expect that they can be present for your glamorous birthing event.
  • Freeze some meals. Spaghetti sauce (or any sauce, really) freezes well, and it will be simple to heat up for dinner when you get home with your baby and you are hungry and tired. Soups, stews, chilis, and casseroles also freeze nicely.
  • Screw packing a hospital bag the size of your honeymoon luggage! They tell you to bring too much stuff that you don't need on the lists from the hospital. All I used from my hospital bag were: toiletries, one nightgown/sleepwear (hospital gowns could fit 5 of me comfortably in them, and they suck for jammies, but make a great robe when worn backwards), a pair of socks or slippers, and my electronics (laptop, camera, phone, ipod, chargers... packed moments before leaving for the hospital). You'll also want your own pillow, but I think that goes without saying, and usually does not fit in a bag. The hospital has all the blankets, baby stuff, medical stuff you could possibly need (even disposable underwear, and trust me, you don't want to deal with your own underwear right after giving birth), and it is silly to bring half of your apartment with you to sit in the corner of a tiny hospital room for a couple days. I even wore the same clothes home that I had worn into the hospital when I went into labor, since my water broke at the hospital when I was already in a hospital gown... easy. Oh, and the baby carseat... you can't leave the hospital without it... and you will want to get out of that room!
Caution: This next one is not for the faint of heart... Explicit birthing content follows:
  • Be aware that the muscles you use to poop are the same muscles you use to push out a baby. So you are essentially going to have a 6-10lb poop of a baby when you go to the hospital (your baby is not poop, your baby is precious, but during hard labor you want to push like you are pooping so it will be over faster). Pushing will take much less time if you just push as though you were having a monster BM... watch your husband while he poops, that will give you an idea of how it works. I only pushed for 15 minutes, because I knew about this and I was finished being in labor and hungry. Emergency C-sections happen when mothers get too worn out to push any more because they were not pushing the right way for an hour or more, depending on the doctor. Less pushing = less pain.

That's me and Dominic. Isn't that a cute pic? Courtesy of the nurse or doula who grabbed my camera during the delivery.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Good Bye, Disco Counter. Adieu.

I snapped. This week in a fit of being sick and tired of being sick and tired in bed, I went to home depot, bought a sample-sized jar of paint (dark ash), two fitty-cent foam paint brushes, and a quart of semi-gloss water-based polyurethane.

I sanded the countertop, removed the glass wall shelf, blue-taped the edge of our posh yellow sink, and went to town with my $15 materials. I painted a few layers of dark ash, then applied 3 (and counting) layers of polyurethane. My current beef with the project is that I keep getting tiny bubbles while using the fitty-cent foam brushes. I am planning on going back to home depot for a splurgy paint brush to finish the finish on the counter.

Not to jump the gun, but it already looks like a million bucks. I should put it in perspective, though, a week ago I had a cream colored formica countertop with fashionable 1970s gold flecks all over it. For $15 and some elbow grease I have a slate gray (I mean, Dark Ash) countertop that coordinates with my towels.

Next up, replacing the p-trap and posh yellow cast iron sink with chips in it... not the kind of chips I eat with salsa.

Adventures of a Montessori Floor Bed

This afternoon was a momentous occasion for my faith in our Montessori floor bed.

For months now, Dominic has had the urge to start climbing the walls and crawling around as soon as we put him down to sleep on his floor bed. If we left him in the room awake, he would crawl out into the hallway fussing, until we would snap and go pick him up to try it again (over and over and over again). A huge hurdle was taking his door out of the attic and reattaching it to the hinge. For a couple weeks we've been able to rest easy that he won't be roaming the hallway after we leave his room. We still find ourselves slapping our foreheads when we step on a creaky board, awakening Dominic after 3o minutes of patting his back and returning us to square one for sleep time.

So this morning was no different for the morning nap. He had his bottle on his bed, turned onto his belly and started to crawl around on his bed (kind of like he's trying to get comfortable). I patted his back and tried to tiptoe out several times, each time stepping on a creaky board or awakening him by the door squeaking shut. Finally I was able to sneak out, close his door and make it down the hall without him waking up, and he took a decent morning nap.

This afternoon after he ate some delicious chicken soup mush (a la leftovers in a food processor), he was rubbing his eyes. I made his bottle, changed his diaper, put him on his bed with the bottle, returned his few toys to the shelf, straightened his blankets and sat with him while he finished his bottle. As soon as he finished the bottle he headed straight for his new stuffed bear by his shelf. I picked him and the bear up, and placed them both on his bed amidst the blankets. I turned and walked out of the room with him wide awake snuggling his bear.

Moments later he was fussing at his door, and before I could get up to comfort him, he was babbling away, crawling and playing in his room. I thought "clearly he is not yet tired, I misread the eye rubbing, I'll just let him play". Not thirty minutes later, his room was completely quiet. I walked down the hall to see if he'd fallen asleep on the hardwood floor or the shelf under the changing table. I peeked under the door to discover that he'd crawled back onto his bed and fallen asleep. EUREEKA!!

This is exactly what I've been waiting for. I knew that in theory he should be able to play in his room and go over to his bed when he's tired. In theory the play yard should be in its case in the top of the closet until we go on vacation to an un-baby-proofed place, but it is open and ready for action in his room. Today, though, rather than resorting to the play yard for containment when I was "positive that he was sleepy after one eye rub," I tested the theory, with certainty that Dominic was just going to miss his afternoon nap since he was so ready to play. Surprise! I was wrong, and now I'm listening to cars drive by blasting thumping latin music and the sounds of a quiet house with a sleeping baby! In theory I am taking down the play yard because of this awesome break-through, but I'll probably keep it up a few more days to test the theory a bit more.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Normalization, anyone?

Normalization is that process in which children entering a Montessori environment come to be at peace and at home in their setting. They grow into a work cycle, begin to interact as a community, and become all around pretty settled. We're a ways a way I think at school, though we do have settled moments here and there. The beginning of the year is always an adjustment, though.

At home I sometimes wonder if I'll ever reach a state of normalization. The house gets clean, then it falls apart at the start of the next project. Right now it is clean, but there are the lingering projects of cleaning the garage and converting the junk room to a guest bedroom/media room.

I was definitely pretty pumped to clear the clutter from the top of my dresser, get my shoes into my shoes-under (stupidest invention ever, by the way, and we bought it!), and make the bed two days in a row (this is a record unsurpassed in my lifetime). There are only a couple bags in the entryway, which I will try to clear out before bed tonight, and a corner of the dining room is still a bit of a mess while I am in the middle of my tablecloth alterations for school.

I am ready to put some art on the walls and call this place home for a while, though! We'll just call it a settled moment on the road to normalization.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

We're home!

Well, I snapped.  I had never read a blog a couple months ago, and after getting hooked on a few house and baby blogs, I had to start one.

It has taken over a week for me to actually take the plunge; my blog title wasn't available, I didn't like the alternatives, etc.

So, here is where the Smith's will spill it.