Thursday, October 25, 2012

BABY GEAR: Baby carriers

There are many different baby carriers out there, some are much better than others and they all have their pros and cons so it took me a while to decide which ones I wanted.  I originally intended to only have one baby carrier but we currently own three so I'll share my experience with each of them.
The three carriers we have are:
For a while I also had my eye on the Maya wrap ring sling too, but still have not gotten the chance to try it out yet

[1]Ergobaby Sport



This was my first choice. I really wanted a carrier that allowed me to wear my baby in a comfortable sitting position rather than the crotch dangling position of the Baby Bjorn carrier. The photo below really illustrates the difference between the two carriers.
  






I knew without a doubt that the Ergobaby was the right type of carrier for me, because it perfectly mimics the back carry seating position of the west-African cloth wraps that are a big part of my culture.



There are currently 5 different types of Ergobaby carriers and I was torn on which one to get. I wanted to buy the original one because it is 100% cotton canvas but I ended up getting the Ergobaby Sport.I chose the sport for a few reasons, because it is the lightest weight carrier they make, it has quick-drying materials and extra venting to keep both me and the baby from getting too hot, and most importantly because it has a few extra inches in the shoulder straps and waist belt to make it better suited for taller or bigger people. I'm 5ft 11 so this was an important feature for me.

The main pros and cons of the Ergobaby sport are:

Pros
-It carries the baby in a comfortable seating position
-It allows me to carry my baby in 3 different positions, front, back and side.
-It evenly distributes the weight of the baby on my back, shoulders, waist and hips
-Thick padding on the shoulder straps makes it comfortable to wear for long periods
-It comes with a little hood that you can put on the baby's head when they are fall asleep

Cons
-It is really tricky to get this on by yourself, especially if you want to carry your baby  on your back, I've been using this for several months now and its still hard for me to get it on by myself.
-Like all the other Ergobaby carriers this is designed to be used for babies 5 months or older. This is because the carrier is bigger so it poses a fall hazard for smaller babies and its softer and less structured so it doesn't provide enough head support for a newborn. If you want to use it with your newborn you need to purchase the infant insert separately. See below for my experience with the insert.
-The shoulder straps are a bit bulky for my small frame. I know I wanted a carrier for tall people but sheesh I'm not a giant or anything. This looks much better on my husband because he has broader shoulders. As you can see from the picture above with the red carrier, it looks as though the straps are almost coming off her shoulders because of how thick and bulky they are.
-The baby can only face in, you can't have the baby facing out like with other carriers. For me this is no big deal because I always want to carry my baby facing in anyway.

Bottom line
The Ergobaby sport carrier is my favorite carrier, it truly is the best for the baby and for the parent too but it is best suited for an older baby who can sit up with assistance, at least 4 months or older.



Ergobaby Original infant insert Heart2Heart







This insert essentially swaddles your newborn baby inside the carrier and gives the baby the needed head and neck support as well as a boost in height thanks to a small removable pillow inside the insert. I purchased the insert so I could use my Ergobaby right away when my baby was born but I never really like it much.  It is designed in such a way that the baby's legs are inside the carrier instead of hanging out and that can be a bit uncomfortable for both of you especially if you have a c-section incision. The insert is made of a thick padded cotton that can trap a lot of heat in the summer. My baby was never really happy in the insert so I decided to return it.



[2]Baby Bjorn Original

As you can see from the photos below, the Baby Bjorn Original and Active carriers are the most commonly used carrier by most celebrities and famous personalities.











The Baby Bjorn original has been around for such a long time that most people blindly trust it as the best option available. I have never liked this carrier and always thought babies looked quite uncomfortable in these, yes even in the Gucci version that Gwen Stefani used. The Baby Bjorn is a crotch dangler, plain and simple, and there's no other way to put it. Your baby is forced to pretty much dangle by their crotch and just hang there uncomfortably, especially when facing out. Either way I received it as a gift and decided to try it and to my surprise I actually liked certain elements about it.

Pros
- It can be used with a newborn baby (minimum weight and length is 8lbs and 21 inches) The carrier is very structured so it supports the baby's body, head and neck and keeps them upright even as a newborn.
-Once the child is older the neck of the carrier can be folder down and then they can face outwards to see whats going on around them.
-It is very easy to put this carrier on and take it off by myself
-To my surprise my baby was very comfortable in this and would always fall asleep in it within a few minutes
.
Cons
-It is a crotch dangler!! Need a I say more?  It really isn't the best for the baby's hip development, especially for older babies who are heavier.
- The weight of the baby is all centered on my shoulders and upper back so after about 20 minutes of using it my back and shoulders start burning in pain, which gets worse with each minute so I am forced to take it off.
-The shoulder straps aren't very comfortable especially with a heavy baby
-I can't use this carrier on my back, I'm limited to only carrying the baby on my front, which sometimes isn't want I want.


Bottom line: I like this carrier for short term use, such as a quick walk to the store, it is easy to put on and take off but I would only use this with a newborn baby. I stopped using this once my baby was 4 months old because it got more and more uncomfortable the heavier she got.


As a result of all the criticism, Baby Bjorn has now introduced a new carrier called the Comfort Carrier and it's bascially a copy of the Ergo in the sense that it allows the baby to sit rather than just dangle and has a waist belt for better distribution of the baby's weight. The main difference between this  new carrier and the Ergobaby is that you can still wear the baby facing outwards. However, when the baby faces outwards they are still pretty much dangling by their crotch.


[3] Seven slings

I received this sling for free, I only had to pay for shipping and I really wanted to like it. I tried it many times in different positions but I really do not like it at all and don't have anything positive to say about it other than the fact that it looks good in pictures.













The fabric of this sling is pretty cheap and not really soft enough for a carrier. The pictures make it look as though it will have a slight stretch quality to it but it doesn't, it almost feels like a trench coat. I don't know if maybe I order the wrong size, but I've never been able to really get comfortable using this, it always seems either too loose or too tight and my baby never seems happy in it either.





Maya wrap ring sling
I don't own this and I've never tried it on but I do really like the look of it and if it was cheaper I may have bought it to try it out. I like that you can breastfeed your baby in this carrier, and unlike the awkward fit of the Seven sling, the Maya ring sling is adjustable.






xoxo

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

We started solids!


We finally started solids! we waited until she was exactly 6 months old to start, it was like a mini half-birthday celebration. Overall it was successful but as with most things in life, it didn't go exactly according to plan....

Firstly I did a lot of research on the best first foods and decided to start with green beans. I honestly can't say why I chose green beans, but for some reason I was pretty set on starting with green beans, maybe it's because a few years ago many pediatricians recommended starting with non-sweet veggies first, followed by sweet veggies and then fruits last. The reasoning behind this recommendation was that starting with sweet foods might cause babies to develop a preference for sweet foods and refuse veggies later. More recently many doctors have changed their position with regards to this and state it doesn't matter which foods you start with because we are born with a natural preference for sweet foods and introducing veggies first won't change that. I'm not an expert on the matter and I think there is logic on both sides of the argument, but I think the older method makes more sense to me. If it is true that we have a natural preference for sweet things, then that's all the more reason to delay introducing sweet foods, because giving them sweet foods first is more likely to cause them to refuse anything that doesn't taste as sweet later.

So anyway, I decided to start with green beans, but then a few days before her 6 month birthday, I got into a conversation with someone about how green beans were not a good first food because of how hard it is to blend them into a smooth puree and how notorious green beans are for turning lumpy and stringy when blended, even after being put through a strainer. I went to my trusted source the wholesome baby food site and sure enough it was the same information there. How had I missed this? Everyone was saying to start with something 'easy' like banana or carrots, but I really wanted to stick to my guns and not start with a sweet food.  I was pretty worried about it, but decided to give it a try anyway. So I went to our local farmers market and bought a bag full of green beans or string beans as some people call them. I cut the tips off, washed them thoroughly and boiled them in a tiny bit of water and let them get a bit soft since I didn't want to have trouble blending it. Then I put them in the blender and added 5oz of breast milk. To my surprise, I got the smoothest creamiest puree! No lumps, or stringy bits in it at all, so I didn't even need to use the strainer. I think boiling it a few extra minutes helped plus the breast milk also made it smoother and creamier. I did notice that it had a fine grittiness to the texture, but it was barely noticeable!

I used a spatula to spoon the puree into the mumi & bubi ice cube trays as you can see from the photo it was a bit messy but I got the hang of it towards the end.



I let it cool down for a bit and while it was cooling down I sat down with Baby S to feed her. I then put the lid on the ice cube tray and put it in the freezer.  Its a bit tricky at first figuring out how to get the cubes out once they are frozen, because you can't twist this tray like a regular ice cube tray. I went back to look at the instruction sheet and basically you have to push on one side of the cube and because of the curved bottom it slides right out. This photo from their website demonstrates how to get the cube out. If the cube doesn't slide out easily just run a litte water on the back of the tray and you'll be surprised how smoothly they pop out!

(Photo from Mumi & Bubi)



The next day I had perfect little half-moon cubes of green beans with no freezer burn! I  popped them out of the tray and placed them in Ziploc bag which I dated and labelled. This whole process couldn't have been easier. It didn't really take much time or effort to get freshly made baby food to last the week.




Anyway like I said before things didn't go exactly according to plan, firstly I guess you noticed I mentioned using my blender to make the puree rather than the cute little Kidco baby food mill that I had mentioned in my previous post. I'll tell you why; because I ordered it online and when I received it, I didn't bother to open the box to check it which turned out to be a big mistake. When I did open the box to clean it the day before we started solids, I noticed there was some greasy petroleum type substance inside the food mill, it was also very scratched up and showed signs of wear, like it had been used and returned to the store. I decided to put it back in the box and return it asap. In the end I'm actually glad I used my regular blender because it allowed me to make a bigger batch of food enough to last more than a week. The ice cube tray in the picture above holds 21 oz of food plus I had a few ounces left over.  The Kidco food mill could only do 2 cups of food at at time which is 16 oz. I've decided to keep using my regular blender for now.

The second thing that went wrong was regarding the awesome Fisher-Price booster seat I had previously raved about. I opened the box and guess what? Just like the Kidco food mill it was also all scratched up with dirt in the scratches and the little feet under it showed clear signs of wear and tear. It wasn't new either! I could have cried! I was so looking forward to having the perfect first meal but my whole plan was falling apart. I decide to feed her in the bumbo seat instead and honestly it went great. She didn't really have  a big reaction at all. She just calmly ate it up as if she had been eating green beans her whole life!  She spat out a few spoonfuls on the first day and would sometimes bite the spoon and not let go expecting more food to come into her mouth just by sucking the spoon, but by the second day she had pretty much mastered getting the food off the spoon and waiting patiently with her mouth open for the next spoonful! I didn't keep track of how much she ate the first day, because I just poured the left over puree from the blender into a bowl for her.  On the second day I defrosted one cube (1oz) and she gobbled it up in seconds, so the next day I defrosted two cubes (2oz) and that seems to be a good amount for her for now.

Defrosting and heating up the food is easy. Basically before I go to bed, I take a couple of cubes out of the ziploc bag, and place them in one of the 4oz canning jars and put it in the fridge. By the time I get home from work the next day its pretty much defrosted and I just warm it for a minute in our bottle warmer and then its ready to be devoured!








Monday, October 15, 2012

BABY GEAR: The Nursery


Stocking up on baby gear can be quite a daunting task; with so many different options available to consider, it can be hard to tell which items are truly needed, which brands are the best and how to buy everything without breaking the bank.  Our plan of attack was to purchase the essentials gradually in my second and third trimester so we would have everything we needed by the time the baby arrived. We did a lot of research into all the gear available, reading through hundreds of reviews and visiting stores multiple times to compare products in person.  We really wanted to buy wisely and not end up cluttering our home with lots of unnecessary baby gear that didn't get much use. We wanted to be cost efficient but not sacrifice on quality either, there really is no point buying a cheaper product that wont last.  For easy reference I divided up all the gear we needed into categories such as nursery, bath time, feeding etc and I'll be sharing my list of baby gear in each category one blog post at a time, starting with the nursery.

My main nursery essentials are (Click to jump to a specific section)

Crib - For us this was an absolute essential, some people choose to go with other sleep options such as a pack & play or bassinet but I knew right off the bat that I wasn't too interested in anything other than a traditional wooden crib.  Pack & plays are great for traveling but they usually come with a really flimsy mattress so I couldn't see myself using it very often and decided to skip it altogether.  We also skipped the bassinet because I wanted our baby to just get used to sleeping in the crib from day one.
Cribs can be quite expensive and there are so many options to choose from so it was a tough decision, I went back and forth for a while and narrowed it down to either Graco Lauren or Graco Sarah shown below.

Graco Lauren// Graco Sarah



















They were both reasonably priced under $200 and my mind was pretty much made up until I stumbled upon a three piece crib, dresser and changing table furniture set on sale for $199!  All three pieces for just $199? There had to be a catch right? Not really. The picture below shows the stock photo of the 3 piece set we ended up buying from Walmart, this furniture set is called the Deluxe baby room by Nursery 101 and we chose the dark walnut color

The set looks great , the price was unbeatable and best of all the crib had all the main features we were looking for which were;
-Stationary sides, since drop rail cribs are now considered unsafe
-Easily converts into a toddler bed and then a day bed, which means our baby can use this for a long time
-Three different height levels for the mattress.

I'll be honest I was skeptical about buying this, the price just seemed too good to be true especially since it wasn't available in stores for us to visually inspect and see how sturdy it was. I first verified that it wasn't on the recall list and then had to rely on the reviews I saw on the website. We decided to order it and our plan was to return it if we didn't like it. But we loved it!  I really have no complaints about the crib whatsoever.  See further down for details on the dresser and changing table.


Crib Mattress - I think most people would agree that when it comes to comfort of a bed, the mattress plays the biggest role.  We wanted our baby to have good quality sleep and wake up feeling
well rested so it was important to invest in a good quality firm mattress. I came across lots of cheapies in the store some as low as $35, but it was easy to tell the difference in quality. The cheaper mattresses were lighter, slightly thinner and way too soft.  We ended up choosing a mid-range mattress: Sealy Ultra rest crib & toddler mattress. All the great things about it are listed below


Basically it is great because:

  • It's Super firm (204 coils to ensure firmness)
  • Has steel border so shouldn't sag in the middle, 
  • It has a waterproof cover and special stitching  so moisture can't get inside it to build up mould and unlike other waterproof mattresses it doesn't have a rubbery or plastic feel.
  • Has air vents to keep the mattress fresh
  • Fits cribs and toddler beds
  • Has a 15 year warranty

Crib sheets

The Sealy baby mattress that we bought, came with two free Gerber crib sheets as part of a bundle. Avoid those crib sheet at all costs! They are incredible small, they barely fit the mattress. It seriously takes two people and immense effort to get the sheets on the mattress. And when you finally get it on, its so tight that it pulls the mattress very taut and makes it feel uncomfortable to lie on. Our baby was miserable sleeping on this mattress until we went out and bought Carters Easy-Fit crib sheets like the one shown below. They are so easy to put on, but still fit tightly on the mattress. What a difference good crib sheets can make!


Mattress Protector  Technically our mattress doesn't need a mattress protector since it is waterproof, but we still wanted to have an absorbent barrier between the sheet and mattress. We bought the Sealy SnugFit Crib Mattress Pad



Blankets

Depending on the season and your baby's preferences there are so many blanket options out there. Our favorites are the Aden & Anais swaddle blankets, they are a bit expensive but are the best option out there. They are 100% cotton muslin,very breathable, large and get softer with each wash.





We also like the Garanimals receiving blankets, they were pretty great in the beginning, they are firmer and stiffer like the hospital blankets so they are great for swaddling in the beginning although they are small and she quickly outgrew them. I now use these as covers for the changing pad.



Last but not least we have the Circo blankets
 These are more "traditional" blankets they are thicker cotton more like fleece. So even though I bought them to use in the crib, I prefer to use them to cover her in the car seat when we go out now that the temperature has started to drop.

We also tried wearable blankets like the miracle blanket but didn't like them. More details on that in upcoming posts.



Crib Mobile

I fell in love with this Fisher-price precious planet 2-in-1 projection mobile.



Again this is another product that is designed to grow with the baby, not only does it have the traditional rotating toys, it also projects images on the "screen" almost like a slide show and once the baby is older the images can be projected directly onto the ceiling. It plays music, nature sounds and heartbeat sounds. This keeps our little one entertained for quite a while, the one downside is how low the volume is. You can barely hear it even on the highest setting.

 


  Dresser & Changing table We needed a place to store our baby's items such as clothing, cloth diapers, bibs blankets etc so for us a dresser was essential. I had originally planned on getting a dresser changing table combo, like the South Shore Savannah table shown below. It basically has the raised sides on the top for extra safety and you just add a contoured changing pad, and it also has two dresser drawers.

However once we decided to buy the Nursery 101 crib set that I mentioned earlier, I was kinda forced to use the changing table and dresser that came as part of the set. I didn't really want a "stand alone" changing table because I thought it would be a waste of space, but I actually ended up needing the extra shelving! The pictures below show the changing table and dresser that came with the crib we bought.





 Here are the pros and cons of the changer and dresser

Pros
- They compliment the crib well and look great as a set
-It comes with a waterproof changing pad, which is thinner than other changing pads but still works great.
- The changing table has a safety rail all around it, and a safety strap that is attached to the table itself and not just to the changing pad.  This is really important when your baby gets to the squirmy stage where they try to climb off the edge during diaper changes.
 -The shelves under the changing table are really spacious and provide lots of storage room for diapers, wipes, and any other baby items you may have

Cons
- The dresser drawers don't have rollers which means they don't open as smoothly and as quietly as new dressers that have rollers. This isn't a big issue considering how good the price was, but when its 3am and your crying baby needs a change of clothing yet again, you will really appreciate a smooth opening drawer that works with one handed operation.
-The dresser drawers are a bit shallow, so they fill up quite quickly
- The changing table is a bit low for me. I'm 5ft 11 and feel like I have to stoop slightly to comfortably use this table. Perhaps if I had bought a thicker changing pad that would have helped raise the height a bit.
 -The crib, changer and dresser are all made out of pine wood which is solid, but the inside of the drawers isn't pine, it is a cheaper ply wood which can easily be pushed out of place especially if the drawer is overloaded.

Overall I'm still really happy with all three pieces of furniture, I use them all daily and have definitely gotten my money's worth.

Glider
I went back and forth over this decision, I didn't think it was really necessary at first, but a few weeks after the baby was born, we ran out to buy one and were so happy we did. It makes such a difference to have a comfortable place to feed and rock your newborn to sleep. We didn't want to spend a lot of money on this so we were happy to find the Storkcraft - Bowback Glider Rocker and Ottoman on sale in Espresso to match the crib, dresser and changer. All in all its pretty great, very easy to assemble, and the fabric is really nice. Randomly it might squeak a little, and there were a few loose stitches on one of the side pockets, but overall I do love this glider. My little one is nearly 6 months and we still use this a lot.


[9] Video baby Monitor We didn't really think we needed a video baby monitor, it seemed like an unnecessary added expense, especially since we planned to have the baby's crib in our room for the first year. My awesome mother-in-law surprised us with the Motorola baby video monitor


This monitor is amazing, I can be in any room in the house and not have to worry about straining to hear her if she cries, especially if the water is running in the kitchen or bathroom. Not only can I hear her with the monitor, but she can hear me too because it is a two-way monitor. It has in fared night vision, so I can still see her clearly even if the room is totally dark and it even tells me the temperature in the room. It also plays music for the baby too.  The great thing about this monitor is that you can expand it by adding more cameras, so you can have several cameras showing different angles of the room or several cameras in different rooms but you still only need one screen. 

Swing- We received the Fisher-price  My little snugabunny cradle N swing as a gift. I really wanted to buy it because I fell in love with it at target but thought it was too expensive so I was happy to receive it as a gift. I love the neutral colors and how sturdy it is. It swings sideways as well as from front to back and plays many different songs. The chic little birds rotate around, and the leaves go up and down. Best of all it has a big mirror at the top and babies love mirrors! The only down side about it is that in the beginning even on the lowest setting the swing is a bit too vigorous for a newborn we had to put a blanket it in and let it drag on the ground to slow it down. Now that she is older and heavier we don't have the issue any longer. The plush fabric also traps quite a bit of heat, so if your baby is a sweater they may not like to stay in this for long.




  Sleeper - What a coincidence that a different person gave us the  Fisher-price  My little snugabunny Rock n' Play Lightweight Plush Sleeper as a gift too! It matches the swing above perfectly!!




They look great together and this sleeper is just amazing. Our baby hated sleeping in her crib in the beginning and always wanted to be held. This sleeper was the perfect solution because it allows the baby to sleep in semi-reclined position and cradles her in such a way that she feels as though she is being held. We still use this everyday. It folds down easily so would be perfect for travelling.


xoxo