Monday, August 31, 2015

Baby Registry Favorites: Pregnancy, Postpartum, Feeding, and Sleeping

So, now that we're on the third go 'round, I've had lots of opportunities to figure out what baby gear works for our family and kiddos. If only I'd known about all this stuff when I was making our first baby registry! I thought I'd put it all together here, in case it helps anyone else figure out what they want...

When I was pregnant with Alice, I felt like I had no idea what a baby needed. I remember walking into Babies 'R Us to do some research on what to register for and nearly having an anxiety attack - similar to my first foray into a wedding dress shop, where I walked in and immediately walked out again. I can't remember if I walked out of Babies 'R Us immediately, I kind of think I did but it was far away from my house so I may have forced myself to stay and wander around in an aimless, anxious panic. But either way, I was totally overwhelmed. I still had no idea what a baby really needed or where to even start figuring out what to get.

As it turns out, babies don't really need much aside from milk and cuddles, as many moms and dads all over the world can tell you. There are so many parents and babies making it work with only what comes with the kid - i.e., nothing. But baby gear has evolved to make things easier and safer and more convenient, and with all the cute doodads and fun gadgets and cool technology, it's easier and more convenient - and more fun - than ever to spend a fortune on stuff.

So after three kids, here's what we used and what we loved, and what I would put on a registry if I were doing it for the first time all over again. These are my favorite essential items, the things I couldn't - or wouldn't want to - do without. Some are specific to our "lifestyle choices", so if you are doing something different, these might not be relevant at all!

I've put together an Amazon affiliate store where you can shop lots of these goodies in one place. By shopping there, it generates income for me (a teeny, tiny bit!) though I have not received any compensation whatsoever for recommending or including any of these products. Many of the links below are affiliate links to my little storefront.


Leachco Back 'N Belly Contoured Body Pillow
Leachco Back 'N Belly Contoured Body Pillow

I was so sorry I waited until my third pregnancy to buy this. It is wonderful and I couldn't have survived without it. I was scared away by the one-star reviews, and I totally see the issues that they mention, but they didn't really bother me and it totally worked for me.

Ok, this isn't something you can register for, but I found it really helpful and used it a lot in the last few weeks of pregnancy.

Full Term app: Pregnancy reference, kick counter, and labor contraction timer. I used this to time my contractions and then found out it was one of the apps my midwives and birth center preferred because of the visual read out it provided them. Available on the iTunes store and the Google Play store.

If you deliver at a hospital, you will likely go home with a big swag bag full of super useful stuff. I had no idea how amazing stretchy mesh underpants could be. However, if you deliver at a birthing center or at home, you will probably not get a goodie bag full of freebies. And even if you do get a swag bag, you might need to stock your own supplies for when the swag runs out. Since I wasn't planning on a hospital birth this last time, I made sure to have all of my favorites on hand ahead of time, including:

My favorite postpartum supplies.
Always overnight super maxi with wings: These are my favorite pads for postpartum.

Perineum bottle: Cleansing gentle enough for perineal stitches. Ouch.

Dermoplast: A numbing spray to take the sting away from those tender stitches. Again, ouch.

Water bottle: So you can keep plenty of water nearby during those long nursing sessions, and once you and baby are on the go.

Kindle! Jon got me a Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas and I love it. I didn't even know I needed or wanted one. I read more books in the first two months of this year than I did all last year. My library makes it so easy to check out books online and you can borrow and buy from Amazon right from your device. Plus, I use the Kindle app on my iPhone and literally always have my book with me. When I'm nursing, I can easily switch back and forth between my book and other apps to do anything I need.

OK, again, this one isn't something you need to register for, but I love it and use it all the time once baby comes home.

Total Baby iPhone app: Time and track baby's feedings, diapers, sleeping, milestones, doctor visits, growth, vaccines, allergies, and more. I rely on this heavily to keep track of nursing so I can remember what side I finished on, when baby ate, when baby will want to eat again. In the very early days, I find it really helpful to keep track of diapers and sleeping patterns as well. I can also keep track of how much I pumped and when. Only available for iPhone and iPad, but can manually sync between multiple users and devices.

*Sadly, I could not find a great source to buy your own stretchy mesh underpants, so if anyone knows where to get those outside of the hospital, do let us know!

I've been able to breastfeed exclusively with all my kids, and I haven't tried out a lot of gear in the feeding arena. But here's what I've loved.

Ameda Comfort Gel pads
Ameda Comfort Gel breast pads: The best feeling in the world for tender nips in the first few days and weeks. Keep them in the fridge for maximum wonderfulness.
Medela Pump-In-Style breast pump tote bag
Medela Pump In Style tote breast pump: A pump is an obvious must for any working mom, but I would recommend that all stay-at-home moms get one, too - I've already banked nearly 50oz of milk, and Elliott is only 7 weeks old. Especially now that the Affordable Healthcare Act requires that insurance providers cover the cost of a pump (thanks, Obamacare!!). Medela is a leader in the breast pump game and my original pump has lasted me five years, through nearly twelve months of pumping at work, and it's still going strong. Talk to your doctor though, as their recommendation may affect what your insurance will reimburse.
Medela freezer containers
Medela freezer containers: I use these to portion and freeze what I pump, and then use them directly as bottles. Easy as pie, never any leaking. I didn't have great success with the storage bags...
I have this Bebe Au Lait cover in Yoko
Bebe Au Lait nursing cover: I am a proud public breastfeeder, but I feel most comfortable covering up when there are lots of people around. Some kids hate eating while covered, but it always kept mine from being too distracted by their surroundings and popping off constantly. I've loved my Bebe Au Lait cover, it's still in great shape after five years and lots of use with three kiddos.
Motherlove More Milk Plus supplement
Motherlove More Milk Plus supplement: I used this when I went back to work after Ivy was born, to try and keep my supply high enough. Results may vary, but I think it's a good product if you are working and/or worried about your supply.
Mother's Milk tea
Mother's Milk herbal tea: I also drank plenty of this and enjoyed the taste (unlike the More Milk Plus. Yuck).

I'd like to try:
An infinity nursing scarf. I'm planning to make a few of my own but if I can't get around to it, I really like the looks of these from Bebe Au Lait and these by Itzy Ritzy.
Infinity nursing scarves from Bebe Au Lait and Itzy Ritzy.

Essential oils (fennel, basil, clary sage, geranium). Hopefully, I'll be able to maintain a good milk supply since I'm not working out of the home this time around but if I do start having any concerns, I would consider using essential oils. The supplements and teas are full of fennel and fenugreek, and I've been impressed with what I've seen essential oils do in other areas, so I'd definitely be willing to give this a go. Before you try, please talk to your doctor or naturepath and do plenty of research on safety and proper usage and reputable products and sellers.

A pumping bra: I probably should have used one, what with all the pumping I did at work! If I'd pumped in my own office, I would have definitely gotten one so that I could have kept working...

Didn't totally love:

Boppy nursing pillow: I mean, I do love the Boppy pillow, I just didn't think it was super necessary. I used it a lot with Alice in the beginning, but then I just used whatever pillow was around to prop under my elbow. I only used it a few times with Ivy, and haven't used it for nursing at all with Elliott. If you are having trouble any breastfeeding, or are anxious about it, a positioning pillow is a great tool. I figure though, that our bodies are pretty much made to do this without any expensive accessories, so I just kind of do whatever feels most comfortable for the situation we're in. Though I do like to prop babies up in the Boppy, before they are ready for the Bumbo seat!

Lanolin. I find it to be too sticky. When I've had cracked nips (usually just in the first few weeks), coconut oil has worked just fine.


Baby-Led Weaning instruction manual
When baby is old enough for solids (no earlier than six months, read this and this), I cannot recommend Baby-Led Weaning highly enough. Skip the processed baby food, don't buy a special baby food maker, and don't even worry about making your own purees. Just read this book (and maybe their site and this blog post), hand the baby some whole food and enjoy! I thought it was so much easier and so much more enjoyable, and I think so much better for baby in all kinds of ways. I was amazed at the differences in the ways my pureed food baby and my BLW baby eat and approach their food.

Baby-Led Weaning by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett


We got a crib for the nursery that transitions to a toddler bed and then to a full-size headboard. I think it's a great investment given the longevity of the furniture. Alternatively, a cheap crib and a cheap toddler bed, and a cheap and versatile "big kid" bed could be about the same cost as a good piece of furniture if you don't want to commit to one piece for that long. Worth thinking about your long-term plan, there, though! And because we've always had a baby in the crib, we haven't even actually used the crib as a toddler bed though, we've always just bumped the kid up to a new bed...
Naturepedic organic crib mattress
Organic crib mattress: We initially bought the mattress that was sold along with our crib, but I later learned more about the fire-retardant chemicals that are in our couches and mattresses and whatnot (nightgowns, too - ugh!). So before Ivy was born, we decided to replace the original mattress with an organic mattress. I think it's a great investment for all mattresses, but especially in the crib. We just treated our bed to a natural-material mattress when we moved as well.

We like our babies to sleep in our room for a while, as that reduces the risk of SIDS, but I'm not into the family bed situation (sleep is my most precious resource and I need my space!). So we looked for a good baby bed/bassinet option to fit the bill and our room. We tried a few different things with the girls, but what we're using with Elliott is the winner hands-down. I think it came out after Ivy was born, so I'm glad I had a third just so I could get and use one!
HALO Bassinest Swivel Sleeper
Bassinest: I love that it has a flat bottom like a crib, rather than a curvy molded shape like the Pack N Play bassinet; we'll avoid the trouble Alice had transitioning to a flat crib mattress. I also love that we can use our SIDS monitor with it, because of that flat, hard bottom surface under the mattress. And the swiveling feature is fantastic. I position it as far away from my bedside as I can, so I don't disturb the baby as I sleep, and don't hear him grunting and snoring in my ear. It's close enough that I can still see and hear him when I want to check on him. The mesh sides provide visual access and good airflow for baby. And then I can swivel his bed right over to me and pick him up to nurse without getting out of bed. I hear that women recovering from c-sections find this especially useful, and since you don't always know in advance whether you'll have a c-section, I think it's a great idea to have something that will make life easier in that event!
Angelcare Monitor AC401 Deluxe 
Angel Care Monitor: This monitor has a sensor pad that goes under the crib mattress and sounds to alert you if baby stops moving or breathing. It has given us so much peace of mind. It's very well-made and has lasted us through all three kids. They have some newer models with video monitors as well that are worth looking into, but we've always had two separate systems because the video option wasn't available when we bought ours.

Video Monitor: Some people question whether audio/video monitors are necessary. Our old house was very small and we could normally hear anyone crying, so we didn't usually use the audio functions on either monitor. We would turn up the audio if we went outside, or were in the shower or something. But the video function was super helpful to check on our kids when they were crying, to figure out whether we needed to rush in there or not. I've also loved being able to see them sleeping without having to risk waking them. We call it the baby channel, and we frequently use up the battery just checking in to see them sleeping. Grandparents especially enjoy. And I have a whole photo series of their cute sleeping positions... So I would definitely recommend a video monitor, for entertainment value alone, even if you aren't totally convinced that you really need it.
Soothie pacifiers

Soothie pacifiers: We've used pacifiers with all our kids right from the get go, though we did wait a few days with Alice. The hospital gave Alice some of the Soothie brand and we've never used anything else. I bought some more with Ivy and didn't notice that they were vanilla scented until Jon remarked that she smelled like a milkshake. Now that's all I will buy. They are truly delightful.
Summer Infant SwaddleMe velcro swaddle
SwaddleMe: We've tried lots of different swaddle varieties (though not all of them!) and this has been our favorite. I do wish that it let you do diaper changes without taking the whole thing apart, but I usually have to change my kids in between feedings so they'll wake up and finish eating.

I'd like to try:

I've had my eye on a few other types of swaddles, like the Swaddle Up and the Swaddle Strap.

The Sproutling Monitor also looks pretty awesome, in place of the Angel Care monitor. I just don't know that you'd be able to use it for quite as long as the Angel Care before a curious toddler starts fiddling with it.

Didn't totally love:
Graco Pack 'N Play with Snuggle Suite
Pack N Play: Alice slept in our room in a Pack N Play with bassinet and I didn't love the whole deal. We couldn't use the Angel Care with the little bassinet, so I was in a hurry to get her into her crib, but then she had a tough time getting used to the flat sleeping surface. It's just a little bit clunky and big to move around and travel with, but it is useful and ubiquitous.
Hushamok Dream Hammock
Hushamok Hammock: After Alice was born, the Hushamok Hammock became available to buy separately from the frame. We bought the hammock for Ivy and hung it from the ceiling next to my side of the bed. Ivy seemed to be happy in it and I really liked it, except that I couldn't see her from my bed and had to get out of bed to pick her up to nurse in the middle of the night. And we couldn't use it with the Angel Care. We did install a second hook in the living room, and it was easy to move the hammock out there for napping, but we didn't end up doing that very often because it was a bit too treacherous with Alice running around. They have since redesigned the frame that the hammock hangs from, so it doesn't tip backward and forward  as much as the version we had with a single support arch.

Baby Delight Snuggle Nest: We tried a version of this in our bed and didn't love it. It just didn't seem comfortable for the baby, and we weren't comfortable having between us in our bed. We didn't like that we couldn't use the Angel Care monitor, either. I know a lot of people love this, and love co-sleeping and bed sharing, but this set up just wasn't right for us.

I hope some of this is helpful for other moms, or anyone with a new or expecting mama in their life. I'll share some more favorites in my next post, including diapers, strollers, bouncer seats, and high chairs!

What are/were your favorite must-haves for pregnancy, postpartum, and baby feeding and sleeping?

Friday, August 14, 2015

Photoshoot: Family of 5

We've never had maternity or newborn photos taken by a professional. But just after Elliott was born, a local mom posted on the local mom's Facebook group that she is getting her photography business up and running and was offering half-price photo sessions to build up her portfolio. I jumped at the offer to take photos of our sweet new baby boy and our new family of five. 

She came over one Saturday morning a few weeks ago and spent some time with us around the house and chasing the girls all over. We are usually early risers and I was planning that we would be all polished and dressed, waiting quietly on the couch when she arrived. In fact, I was still blow-drying my hair and we hadn't even given Elliott a bath. So I asked if she would take photos of Elliott's very first bath. 

Please note, we are not bathing him in some old bucket. It is a Tummy Tub...

 Alice got her cast off just a few days after this photo session. We debated postponing the shoot, but thought it would be fun to capture this moment in time just as it was.

Sorry for the overload of photos, but I love them so much and am so happy to have such beautiful photos of our little family from this crazy moment in time. The photographer was wonderful, so great and patient with all the kids. It helps that she has three little ones herself! You can see more of her lovely work on her website and Instagram.