Friday, February 04, 2011

This One's For You, Sprout

One of my dear sisters-in-law has just managed to leave her beloved Egypt (with her husband, mother and two small children). Her fortitude, resourcefulness, and bravery are remarkable, and her fellow Egyptians who are fighting for their freedom are just as impressive. If you live in the US, please take a moment to urge the White House to keep up the pressure on Mubarak to step down immediately. Here are phone numbers:

Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414
FAX: 202-456-2461

Another of my dear sisters-in-law is outdoing even The Great Kingsolver in finding ways to eat locally, sustainably, and deliciously. They're making their own cured meat! From their own lovingly-raised animals! And what are you doing this week?

And my third dear sister-in-law is not only getting her PhD in General Awesomeness and Smartitude (or something like that), she's making a brand new human being. Inside her very own body! From scratch! It's mind-blowing. 

Which brings me to my two points today. One: I am related to amazing women. Two: I have a lot of opinions about baby gear. My pregnant sister-in-law just asked for some advice in the gear and stuff department, and I figured a blog response, with its linkable links and searchable terms, might be the most convenient way to reply. So, for you, dear mother-to-be of my niece or nephew Sprout, are my best gear tips:

Ergo Baby Carrier. We started using this as soon as Cleo could hold her head up, and she's still comfy in it at age two and a half. It's flexible, adjustable, comfortable, and sturdy. However, for the first few months, we only used...

The Moby Wrap. I LOVED the Moby wrap. For the whole first year, I could wrap Cleo up snugly next to me-- we used three or four different positions as she got bigger and stronger and heavier. When she was small and slept a lot, I could actually work with her in there! I adored it, and so did Cleo. But not all kids like being that confined. I wouldn't buy it until after the baby's born, so you can tell if Sprout is a "wrap-me-upper" or a "don't-fence-me-inner"

Aden and Anais swaddling blankets. Cleo loved being swaddled, and it calmed her right down. These blankets are thin, soft, and very big. We loved them and used them constantly. I feel like I could still swaddle a newborn in my sleep. And will do so if asked!

Nosefrida and saline spray. Cleo doesn't exactly liked being squirted up the nose and then hoovered out, but it sure helps with stuffiness. Way better than the bulb syringes.

Baby Bjorn bouncer. She slept in this at night for the first few months, when she wasn't in our bed or her cradle. I have a clear memory of hanging one arm off the side of the bed, so I could bounce her as I "slept." We liked this one, but there are lots of baby bouncers and there's no need to spend this much. The major benefit of this one is it's foldability and non-cutesy style. I also hear raves about battery-powered baby swings, but we never got one.

A travel bed/bassinet/moses basket. This one is fantastic-- lightweight, folds down to travel, can have rocker-legs or sit flat on the floor, has a sunshade, and the handle folds down. Ours was a gift from the grandparents that Sprout and Cleo have in common, and is yours if you want it!

Baby Bjorn travel bed. When Sprout's a little bigger, this is the travel bed to get. It's like a pack-and-play except lighter, simpler, more compact, less dumb and more good in every way. And we have used both. There's one you can test drive at the grandparents' house. 

The great stroller issue... We started out with a snap-n-go, which is a frame that you just plop the infant car seat into. It worked great, and was way cheaper than the infant carrier conversion kit that our fancy stroller was made for. Speaking of the fancy stroller, I love it. It has gotten a beating over the last two and a half years, and I'm only now starting to wish we'd treated it nicer (we tend to leave it out on the porch, and the sliding mechanism is getting a little sticky). The only drawbacks are that there's not much cargo space, and it's so not a one-handed fold/unfold. But I love that it stands alone while folded, and its maneuverability and ability to handle rough terrain are awesome. It's also compact and lightweight for how big and sturdy it is. If you use disposable diapers, this is a great way to get them. Free quick shipping and good prices. Or look into the Amazon Subscribe and Save program, where the diapers are slightly cheaper, and you sign up for regular deliveries.

The exercise/yoga/pilates ball. This saved our lives. We loved it so much, we traveled with one. If Cleo was overtired, it never failed for us hold her tight, bounce really hard, sing really loud, and just outlast her. It also makes a good footstool to use with...

A glider. They are big, ugly, and expensive. But if you ever end up holding Sprout during naps, it will make you cry tears of gratitude if you can put your feet up, lay your head back, and snooze a little too. We used our (hideous, hand-me-down, four-babies-and-counting) glider with strategically placed small pillows to make everyone really comfortable and secure. Most gliders can either rock or be locked in position. That was a nice feature, since you could lock it in a semi-reclined position, for maximum parental comfort. And yes, I'm sure someone at the AAP is getting hives since I talked about nodding off in a chair while holding a child. It worked for us. I do not guarantee that it's a sensible idea for anyone else.

Sleep sacks and a space heater. We keep our house cold at night, but we want the good old baby to be warm. What to do? She's not exactly a pro at keeping a blanket on, so once she graduated from swaddling (six months? eight?), we moved on to the sleep sack. She did recently discover how to unzip it, and also how to unsnap all four thousand snaps on her pajamas. The adorable/pathetic result of this is that when we checked on her before going to bed ourselves, we found her huddled in the corner of her crib, sound asleep, naked except for her diaper. Poor kid. I picked her up, re-pajama-ed her, and put her back down. She barely woke up. The next night, we told her that we had a special new way to put on her sleepy suit! Backwards! How funny! Works great.

An infant nail clipper is not necessary. You can just bite 'em off until you're comfortable using grownup clippers, and you can be much more precise and gentle with your teeth than with a fiddly little tool.

If Sprout uses a pacifier, you might want a night time pacifier retention device. We made our own by securely sewing one of these pacifiers to the hand of one of these bunnies.

Cotton flannel wipes. When I thought we were going to do cloth diapers, we got a supply of these. We ending up going with disposable diapers, but those wipes have been great for spit ups, highchair wipe downs, hand wipes, face wipes, nose blows, etc. They're sturdy, soft, washable, and plentiful. We probably put a dozen in every load of hot white laundry we do. So 12 or 18 wipes should do it, if you want to always be able to grab one.

See Kai Run shoes. These are expensive, but awesome. Cheap kids shoes are a terrible thing: stiff, slippery, crappy, pinchy, bad (one exception: we found some comfy Ugg-style winter boots at Target). Scrimp on the baby clothes, where there are lots of great ways and places to save. But go for the good stuff with shoes. My advice is to let the grandparents and aunts and uncles know that shoes are an excellent gift and here's the size we need right now. These shoes were Cleo's first. Sigh.

A white noise machine. We only started using this later, maybe around a year or eighteen months, but it really helped Cleo keep sleeping once she was asleep.

The Green Light! Again, a bigger-kid item, but it has saved us from the horror of waking up every morning at 4:15. You set the clock so it lights up at the appointed wake-up time, and explain the the little dear that morning does not begin until that light comes on. Before that, it's time for sleeping.

Sippy cups. These are for older kids, obviously, but learn from us: pick one kind of inexpensive and widely available cup, and stick to that. Otherwise, you'll have an avalanche of mismatched plastic and silicon parts threatening to engulf your kitchen and you can never find the right damn part when you need it. Most are BPA-free now, and if you don't put them in the dishwasher and you replace them when they start to look worn, I think the health risks of plastic are pretty well minimized. We like the kind linked above since they don't leak, and they only have three parts, unlike some that have up to seven parts per cup.