Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Baby Registry Favorites: Babywearing

BABYWEARING

When I was pregnant with Alice, I did a bit of research and registered for two different baby carriers. I figured I would need a carrier for some outings where a stroller or carseat wouldn't be the best choice and wanted to get something that was comfortable and safe. I realize now that my research had barely scratched the surface of "babywearing."
This looks like I've got Alice in cradle hold, which is weird because I don't remember ever doing that and it's not super safe...
Alice was already several weeks old when I discovered that I could wear her in the Moby wrap around the house and she would sleep and I could have two hands to eat or type or just do anything at all. It was a revelation, an honest-to-goodness epiphany. I didn't fully realize it then, but I had discovered the ancient art of babywearing. Of course babies don't like to be put down; they've been carried around for ten months and are used to it, and if they are left on the floor, they might become a lion snack (or something). They want to be carried. And moms/parents want to function. Even though snuggling on the couch is delightful, we can only do it for so long, you know? There are so many benefits of babywearing - seriously, Google it - (here are a few unusual ones), it really is wonderful for both baby and you.

If you aren't super familiar with babywearing and all the different options, there are SO many resources to help you learn about it. I wish I had learned more a long time ago. You can join local babywearing groups - many have Facebook pages - where you can meet other babywearing moms online and in real life to learn about all the different carriers and wraps and how to best use them all for different things. You can go to meet-ups and playdates to see other mamas' collections and try them on, there are lending libraries so you can try before you buy and find what's right for you. You can buy, trade, and DIY, and there are Facebook groups for each purpose. Recently, I joined my local babywearing Facebook group, as well as the DIY Facebook group so I can learn more about making my own woven wrap on a budget. I have learned so much from both groups, just watching the questions and interactions and photos and postings fly by in my feed. It's a great gathering of mamas in the know, in case I have questions of my own.

Also check out Babywearing International online, a wealth of valuable information on the different types of carriers, how to use them, safety tips, and more.

Definitely make sure you take some time to learn about babywearing safety (some good resources here and here). One of the most important things to remember is to NEVER bend over at the waist while you are wearing your baby, baby can fall straight out onto their head and/or into a dangerous situation with tragic or fatal consequences (like the terrible incident where a baby fell into a baggage carousel). Also make sure to monitor baby's airway and always keep it clear. Make sure their chin is off of their chest and their mouth and nose are not buried in your clothing or carrier. There was a big recall of pouch-style slings when Alice was a baby, they don't position babies very safely.

There are so many types of carriers (also called slings) and different styles and fabrics and patterns, they can easily turn into fashion statements and actual investments. I won't even begin to get into all the different options here, I'll just give a quick overview of what I've been using and how I'd like to branch out.There are lots of links in this post, some to other sites with more info and some to affiliate links for different products I love or am interested in. If you buy anything from an affiliate link to my Amazon storefront, it will generate income for me, but I have not been compensated by any of these companies - all opinions are my own!

Elliott all wrapped up in the Moby wrap, just last week.
Moby Wrap: A stretchy wrap which is great for wearing snuggly new babies in the newborn hug and kangaroo positions. The company says it can hold babies up to 35 pounds, but many moms prefer something with more support for babies over 15-20 pounds. Elliott is still basically living in the Moby wrap...
Ergobaby carrier - Original in black/camel
Ergobaby Carrier: This is an extremely popular, ergonomic soft structured carrier that promotes healthy hip placement. We have the original model in black and camel (pictured above), with the infant insert. We use the infant insert in the first few weeks/months - Elliott is already big enough to not really need it.

Ergo makes so many different models now, including one with organic fabric, a lightweight, breathable and sporty "performance" style, and the 360 degree version, which allows an outward-facing front carry.
Ergobaby 360 Four Position carrier, with ergonomic front-facing out carry position
If I were going to get an Ergo now, I would be very interested in trying the 360 degree version. This version is a bit smaller than the original Ergo, recommended through 24 months, but I think it would be a great option for an older babe to be able to face out. This would have been especially useful on our Disney World trips and frequent visits to Disneyland. I used the Ergo to restrain my squirmy little toddlers on rides, and would have loved for them to be able to face forward and see all the action, while still being restrained in my lap. The Beco Gemini and lillebaby Complete also allow forward facing carries. Facing outward can often be too stimulating for young babies...

Healthy Hips
Recommended hip positioning from the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.

A note about hip placement and hip dysplasia; a good rule of thumb is to look for a carrier that allows baby's knees to be positioned higher than it's bottom with support from knee to knee. The below image shows the recommended positioning for sling and woven carriers, in a seated or frog-legged position, rather than with knees touching. Read more about healthy hip placement here. The risk of hip dysplasia is greatest in the first few months of life.
Recommended hip positioning for slings & woven carriers, from the International Hip Dysplasia Institute
I love the Moby for newborns, especially around the house. Elliott is still basically living in it. I love the Ergo for out and about, it's faster and easier to get on and off and to switch and adjust between wearers when Dad (or even grandparents) want to use it. However, I've been wanting something that is a little more organic than the Ergo, and is even easier to get on and off at home. I'd also like something that would be less restricting around my waist so I can wear it to a babywearing Hula dancing class. So I've been thinking about getting a ring sling...
Sakura Bloom ring sling - Essential Silk in chocolate/sky (no longer available)
Ring slings are quick and easy to use and come in a ton of pretty fabrics that are much more of a fashion accessory than the Moby or Ergo. They can be quite affordable or quite extravagantly expensive. Sakura Bloom is a favorite brand, along with Maya Wrap, and Tula also offers ring sling carriers. You can even get a "water" ring sling to safely carry baby in the shower or pool without them slipping and sliding out of your hands! Beachfront Baby has a nice line of slings and wraps for water activities (use common sense here, and make sure you are aware of and following all safety recommendations).
Tula carrier
Soft Structured Carriers are basically pouches that hold baby in an ergonomic seated position with a soft structure (rather than rigid), and distributes the weight onto your back and hips. The Ergo is a soft structured carrier, but there are many other brands and styles, with buckle closures or fabric that you wrap and tie (Boba! Beco! Lillebaby!). Moby now offers soft structured buckle carriers on their site; the Aria, Comfort, and GoHere is a good round up of some of the other options, including the Tula. I've never tried a Tula, but people are fanatical about them. We've been really happy with the Ergo, but it's worth testing out a few different styles to find the best fit for your body as some are more comfy if you have a long or short torso, etc.

Asian-style carriers are somewhere between a simple piece of cloth or wrap and a soft-structured carrier. They have a square of fabric and long pieces of fabric that wrap around and tie. The mei tai, podaegi, and onbu are all options. You can do a back carry with an onbuhimu style carrier (onbu)  that doesn't wrap around the waist, so it's a comfortable option for pregnant babywearing mamas.
Natibaby woven wrap in Floline
Woven Wraps are a long piece of fabric, like the Moby wrap, but are made of woven fabric rather than stretchy knit fabric like the Moby. They aren't stretchy, so can support more weight - up to and through toddlerhood (possibly up to age four or five) - and are safe for back carries, unlike the Moby. They come in a huge range of fabrics (linen, cotton, bamboo, and wool blends) and styles and prices, and are very much a fashion statement. They also come in a variety of lengths from 2 - 7 meters, which can accommodate different carries. You can also make your own, but make sure to do plenty of research on acceptable fabrics (no bedsheets!), and sizing and construction (no seams, only hems!).

Wrap Your Baby has a good breakdown of which carries you can do with which lengths of wraps; you can do all carries with the longest sizes.

I've been looking at the Dolcino wrap, myself. Didymos, Girasol, BB-Slen, and Natibaby are all popular brands as well.

There is so, so much more to know and learn, this is really just barely scratching the surface, but hopefully this helps you decide what you might be interested and what and how to explore and learn more. Babywearing is a deep and wonderful rabbit hole. Enter at your own risk!!!

Are you a baby wearer? What are your favorite carriers and resources?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

First first day of Kindergarten

So, we are officially the parents of a kindergartener. I have no idea how this is possible. Or how I am even old enough for this to be possible (my uncle reminded me that at this age, my grandmother had four kids in middle school, two in elementary, a toddler, and one that was still a twinkle in her eye, so...).
This gets me right in the feels.
Alice has been out of school since we moved in the beginning of March. She loves school and we all loved her preschool. I know Alice has been missing that stimulation and social interaction, and frankly, we've been missing the break in our day. So we were all excited for school to start.

We've had a lot going on this summer but were finally able to find some time to shop for new school clothes and supplies in the last few weeks.

Alice was so excited to pick out big girl folders and pencils and crayons and glue sticks and erasers. I finally found a backpack that fit a full-size folder, wasn't entirely too enormous for her stick-figure body, AND was also Alice-approved. It is classic and classy and still fun (pink!), without characters all over it that she'll be tired of after the next movie du jour. The fall wardrobe is still a work in progress, as most of what I ordered in size 5/XS from the big girls' section was too big for her, and I still basically have no idea what we'll need for our new climate. We're kind of taking it as it comes, I'm sure we'll need some warmer clothes. Or layers... But what we've got so far is really adorable, and we haven't even had any arguments about it.

So yesterday, Alice filled her backpack with her supplies and laid out her new outfit. I brushed and braided her hair after her bath; she asked for French braid pigtails so she'd have curly hair in the morning.
And this morning, we hustled to get everyone fed and dressed on time. We were running a bit late, so I took the customary photos while Jon loaded the little kids in the car and took off.
So cute I can hardly stand it.
Alice and I took a separate car, because I was staying with her for a half-day (of half-day kindergarten). We should have left earlier, what with all the dropping off and milling around and chatting, the parking lot was already full and we got stuck in the exit line and had to park down the street and around the corner. On the plus side, we got to cross the street with the sweetest crossing guard who held Alice's hand nearly all the way to her classroom and chatted with her and told her to never cut her hair and was just generally delightful.
Meeting up with dad. You can see Ivy disappearing in through the door, taking herself to kindergarten...
We met up with Jon, Ivy, and Elliott, and after Ivy doused her hands with hand sanitizer, we all saw Alice into her classroom and watched as she found her desk. Then Ivy had a raging fit because she couldn't stay in kindergarten and play with Legos, so Jon hauled her back home.
Ivy is just out of frame at the bottom of this photo. Alice is watching her drip with hand sanitizer.
I stayed and watched while Alice put on the glow bracelet gift and name tag that were waiting at her desk and found a seat on the carpet. The teacher read The Kissing Hand, which was a sweet book about carrying a kiss from your mom (or dad) with you while you are separated (like on your first day of school). The little raccoon didn't want to go to school, he wanted to stay home with Mom and play. The teacher asked the kids if any of them had wanted to stay home and play with mom and dad and a bunch raised their hands. Alice looked around at all of them like they were crazy.

Then, the announcement came over the loud speaker that it was time for the "clap-in." Us parents were dismissed to go find our spots, so out we went and were directed around the corner of the building to the end of the line.

All of the classes made a "team tunnel," lining the each side of the sidewalk for the kids to walk through. They went through, grade by grade, clapping for each other to welcome all the students to their new classes and kick off the year. The parents were all at the end, to cap it off.

We were the last class and parents out there, so I found a spot in line. They were playing fun music (that I couldn't hear because I was so far away), and everyone was clapping as the principal led the way with the first kindergarteners. One little boy was all by himself in the line, crying his little eyes out. It was so sad. We'd been so ready and looking forward to kindergarten, I wasn't really expecting to cry - I didn't cry for either of her first days of preschool - but I'd had a lump in my throat since we entered the parking lot and this little boy just sent me over the edge. Tears started leaking from my eyes and basically streaming down my face. Luckily, I was crouching down around the other parents' knees, so they didn't notice. I kept surreptitiously wiping tears out from under my sunglasses.
And then I saw Alice. She was holding her teacher's hand, and I cried some more. But then when she saw me, she broke out of line and came to give me a hug. I think she was feeling shy and nervous and overwhelmed, since she'd already traversed the whole line by that point. She didn't cry (and I don't think she realized I was crying), and I urged her to go on and join her class. And then I really lost it.

I was so sad that Jon wasn't there. We didn't know the whole scope of the half-day or the "clap-in" situation. It turned out that he really could have stayed for the whole day, even with the kids, and definitely could have stayed for the clap-in. But it was chilly and Ivy needed a nap and would have been a disaster, so it was probably best that they weren't there. But I was sad that he missed the event, and that I had to cry through it alone, and that I didn't know literally anyone at school. I didn't see a single other parent even shed a tear, so I felt extra crazy and didn't have anyone to commiserate with. Thankfully, my village is on Facebook, and after some texts with friends and reading through some of the comments on the photo I shared, I was able to pull myself together and make it back to Alice's class.

Once all the parents were back, the kids were ushered over to the library for another story, and the parents all crouched in their tiny chairs at their desks and listened to her teacher walk us through all the school policies and the social and academic expectations for the school year.

Then the kids came back and the day was over! Before the kids came back, I managed to dump all of the school supplies we bought into the appropriate communal bins. Alice wanted to put her supplies into her pencil box and was disappointed when I explained that the class was sharing resources, but she rallied.

At home, we talked about school and expectations, and what she was going to learn, and how and why to be brave and how important it is to be an includer. She went through my parent folder and found the curriculum packet, and wanted to do all the things. So I tested her sight words and was totally impressed that she knew four of the first six that they'll learn, and was able to sound out and figure out the last two. I tested her on the rest and found that she already knows fifteen of the twenty-nine they are required to learn this year. So hopefully, she'll be able to move on to some others as well before the year is out.
These have now been cut into flashcards. With perfect cutting along the lines. My daughter...
She finished tracing her numbers and loved the accompanying number poems, and then traced the upper and lower case alphabet as well. So I had her cut out her shape words and taught her about flash cards, and she made Ivy quiz her. Totally my daughter. I think she's going to be just fine...
On Tuesday, we were able to visit her class for "open hour," to see the classroom, find her desk, and meet her teacher. We saw that Alice shares her desk with a girl in the afternoon class named Elizabeth. We laughed, because that's one of Jon's very favorite names and her desk made it look like her name is "Alice Elizabeth," which Jon would love. After we finished in the classroom, we headed out to the playground. Alice beat me there and I as I surveyed the scene when I arrived, I thought I saw Alice on the climber. It turned out to be another tall girl with really long brown hair and pink glasses. I went over to talk to her mom and tell her that I had mistaken her daughter for my own. We had a good chuckle about it and the mom told me her daughter's name was Lizzie. As we chatted, I realized her daughter had the same teacher as Alice and was in the afternoon class. And then I realized Lizzie is short for Elizabeth. And they share the same desk. When we got there this morning, her name tag had been updated to reflect her nickname preference. I wonder how confusing that will be for the teacher to have two kids looking so similar sitting in the same seat all day. It's kind of like Sweet Valley High...

Anyway. I have all the feels, but no time to reflect or write on them, so I'll just bang out this all business recount of the first day for now... I am so excited for her and can't wait to watch her learn and blossom.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Baby Registry Favorites: Diapers, Strollers, Bouncer Seats, and Bath Tubs

Here's part two of our favorite baby gear for your registry and beyond!

DIAPERS

We've always used cloth diapers. We started with a diaper service with Alice, but decided after a few months that it wouldn't be any trouble to wash our own and that we'd rather save the money than pay someone else to do it. We were paying about $100 per month, and bought our own supply for the cost of a month or two of service.
Thirsties Duo Wrap diaper cover
Thirsties covers: We've been really happy with these PLU covers for cloth prefolds. They didn't have the Duo Wraps when Alice was a baby, so we bought about 6 of each size from XS through XL. When Ivy was born, we replaced a few of the covers in each size that had worn-out velcro. We had a lot of gender-neutral colors, but we bought some of the fancy new duo wraps in blues for Elliott. We like the Duo Wraps with the hook and loop closures (rather than all snaps).

There are a lot of other brands with cute covers for cloth prefolds, as well as all-in-one systems like Bum Genius. We just went with what seemed the most affordable and practical.

Cloth prefold diapers: We bought ours from the diaper service we were using, but you can find them all over the internet. Like here. We bought 60-80 of each size, depending on the size; more newborn sizes, fewer large size overnights. Our cloth prefolds get a second life as garage rags when they're worn out, and so far, only the biggest size is showing major wear, because they get the longest amount of use.

We've always washed our diapers every few days, without doing anything fancy. Before we moved, we noticed that they weren't getting as clean and were giving Ivy some wicked diaper rash, so we adjusted a few things. We probably should have been using a detergent made for cloth diapers, and stripped them periodically, as is recommended. But honestly, I'd probably just buy some new diapers! Our new front-loading washing machine wasn't getting Elliott's diapers as clean either, so I did some research and found out that I needed to adjust my routine a bit to get better results (this post was helpful). I've added a pre-rinse with Biokleen Bac-Out and use bleach in the regular wash cycle, and now all of our diapers are coming out so fresh and clean I want to sleep in them.

Disposable diapers: When Alice was born, the hospital sent us home with a ton of disposable diapers. We used them up and then started using cloth once her umbilical cord had fallen off. We did the same with Ivy, and bought a box of our own disposables to use with Elliott since we wouldn't be getting any from the birth center. We like Pampers Swaddlers (newborn). We've also used disposables on some of our vacations, so we don't have to haul and wash cloth diapers. We order the disposables from Amazon and have them delivered straight to our destination. We like Earth's Best for an affordable, and fairly eco- and baby-friendly option.

STROLLERS
Baby Jogger City Select with single and double seats.
Baby Jogger City Select: We bought this before Ivy was born, with two seats. I wish we'd started with it and added the second seat. You can get the carseat adapter and use it with your baby seat as a travel system. I like that it's a tandem and not a double wide, so I could pull it between parked cars and navigate easily through store aisles. I also like that we can leave the second seat in the car if we don't need it, and that we can switch the seat positions easily and on the go.
Baby Trend Expedition jogging stroller travel system
Baby Trend Jogging Stroller with Travel System: We used this with Alice and are still using the infant car seat for Elliott until it expires in January 2016 . It is a great value for a jogging stroller and we've been pretty happy with it. It got a lot of mileage with Alice, and I used it quite a lot to jog with Ivy. I was perfectly happy with this stroller, for half the price of the BOB because though we have a BOB double jogger that we love, I'm not sure I would buy a single BOB jogger for every day use. The suspension is fantastic, but the basket is fine for exercising but way too small for everything you end up with day-to-day.

I'd like to try:
Orbit Stroller with infant carseat, single and double seats
There are so many cool strollers on the market, I still love looking at them and checking out what people are driving when I'm out and about. If Jon would let me buy another stroller (he won't, he's told me) I'd definitely want to check out the Orbit strollers and infant car seat. They look super rad.

CARSEATS
Britax Marathon convertible carseat
Britax Marathon: Alice and Ivy each ride in one. Alice rode rear-facing until just before her fourth birthday; she hadn't reached the height limit but was almost at the weight limit (like half a pound away). This seat is suitable for an infant, so if you skip the travel system stroller, you can get by with a single carseat from birth until age four or five or even beyond, until they max out on the seat's height or weight limit (which Alice is nowhere near).

Side note: Car seats should be installed rear-facing for the maximum allowable amount of time, either until the child reaches the maximum height or weight for the seat. Many car seats are not installed correctly, seven out of ten kids are not buckled in correctly. Use SeatCheck.org to learn more and to find an inspection site to confirm that your seat and your child are properly secured.

Also take note of your carseat's expiration date, the protective foam will break down over time and won't provide adequate protection. Our infant seat expires five years after the date of manufacture and we'll bump everyone up into the next seat - Alice will get a convertible booster, at that point.  Do not use a secondhand seat if it has expired, or been in any accident, however minor, or if you cannot confirm it's expiration date or accident history.

BABY SEATS

Baby seats are great for containing your awake (or sleeping!) baby while you do things like eat or shower or do the dishes or work. I love and gravitate toward baby furniture that blends in with adult furniture, personally. Especially in our previous, teeny tiny house, I didn't want it to be overrun with pink plastic baby paraphernalia. I mean honestly, why is baby furniture all so babyish? The babies don't care! They aren't buying it! They can't even see it when they are sitting in it, for crying out loud. Ok, rant over.

Now that we're in a two story house, we've found it helpful to have a baby seat on each floor so we don't have to haul it up and down the stairs, or go running to find it when we need it. We've borrowed a second seat from our neighbor so we can have one handy upstairs in Jon's office - our babies have all seemed to like to wake up before dawn so they hang out with Jon while he works until they want to sleep again.
Fisher Price Brentwood Rocker - discontinued
We have this Fisher Price seat that has since been discontinued, but we've really enjoyed it. 

If I were going to get one today, I'd be really interested in one of these options.

Bloom Coco Stylewood & Go Bouncers, Babyhome Wave Wooden Rocker, Baby Bjorn Bouncer Balance Soft


Clockwise from top:

Bloom Coco StylewoodBloom Coco GoBabyhome Wave Wooden RockerBaby Bjorn Bouncer Balance Soft. These options are all on the pricey side, but I personally don't mind paying more for something I've had to look at around the house so much in the last five years.

Fisher Price Booster Seat
Fisher Price Booster Seat: We had really limited space in our old house, so we opted to skip a high chair and just had this booster seat on our regular chair. We've been really happy with it except that it wore away the finish on our wooden chair. In hindsight, we should have put a dishtowel underneath it.

Bumbo seat: Ok, I don't think this is totally necessary, but we and our babies enjoyed it when they were learning to sit up. They liked being able to sit up and play with their toys and their toys, and we could sit or lay on the floor and play with them. Alice and Ivy still fit in it and enjoy sitting in it (I think we actually used it as a time out chair for Alice for a while...). You can definitely get away without one of these, but they are fun. (I think they come with buckles now, which seem pointless to me, since we always used it on the floor. Be smart, don't put it on top of a table or chair, even if it has a buckle!)

I'd like to try:

If we were ever to need a proper highchair, I'd be interested in these:
IKEA Antilop high chair


Ikea Antilop: Simple and cheap! Looks super easy to clean.
Koala Kare industrial-strength high chair

Koala Kare restaurant high chair: Jon's favorite. Except he wants one of the custom ones from the Disney parks with the Mickey ear cut-outs... These are simple, easy to clean, and indestructible.

Stokke Tripp Trapp chair
Stokke Tripp Trapp: Though more expensive than the others I like, this super popular chair is designed to grow with your child. As our kids have graduated from the baby booster seat to a big kid booster seat and then to the dining bench, I can definitely see the value in having one seat that fits your child, no matter their age. I think it would be a worthwhile investment.

BATH TIME

We've tried a few a different baby baths. Right now, we're using:
Tummy Tub
Tummy Tub: I like this pretty well because the baby can be more submerged and stay warmer than the other infant baths I've seen and tried. It works best when baby is big enough to hold their head up without their chin falling forward. It's also still a bit trick to wash hair, since their head is upright and not tilted back. That probably isn't an issue for lots of babies, but ours have always had a lot of hair to wash!

Didn't totally love:

Blooming Baby Bath: The giant flower with foam petals that folds into your sink seemed like a good idea, but I found it hard to get the baby in a comfortable position. It was too big for our bathroom sink and I didn't like that I had to disinfect the kitchen sink before we gave the baby a bath so they weren't bathing in food particles and germs...

Fisher Price baby bath
Fisher Price tub & sling: We had the above version of the ubiquitous baby tub. It had some weird crevices that collected dirt, and though the sling and molding kept the baby in a good position, they are never actually covered in water so they always seem chilly. It looks like there are some other options that might not get so dirty, and might keep baby a little warmer.

Would love to try:

I don't know. It seems like there are a lot of brands with different versions of the same idea. And though they are definitely sufficient to get baby clean, I just don't feel like any of them give me or baby a peaceful and relaxing experience. I love taking baby in the bath with me, but that's just not always practical...

I hope there was some helpful info here. In my next post, I'll share some info on baby carriers and babywearing, along with a few other bits and pieces.