Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Baby Gear: My Ultimate "Must Have" List!

First thing's first!  As with everything else in this blog, this entry especially is based solely on my own personal experience and opinions!  I've had quite a few people come to me for recommendations for Baby Gear, either for their own Baby/Baby-to-be or for a friend.  Now clearly, I'm no expert.  I'm just a big ol' nerd who loves reading and researching things... all things, restaurants, cellphones, hotels.  So having a Baby opened up a whole new world of reviews for products I had never even heard of before!  It surprised me how very personal, and at times stressful, the process of choosing Baby gear was.

And yes, I do have a penchant for high end things. However, having a  budget to stick to and extremely limited space (we live in the City, we love it) has made it it ever so much more important that I don't just buy whatever pretty thing on a whim.  Every item we picked out for Rowen  had great thought put into it.  

So here, after sharing many wishlists and things that I wish I could have, I would like to share a few items that I am so happy that we had or have!  Again, this is just my opinion but here are a few things we loved, along with some links for more info:


Rowen slept in this next to our bed the very first night she came home.  Well, she did for about 20 minutes before she wound up in our bed....  We wound up doing co-sleeping for the most part for the first few months, but that's a whole seperate blog entry.  

Before Rowen was born, I searched stores and all over the Internet for the cradle/bassinet that I wanted.  I wanted my "Say Yes to the Dress" moment (I've been watching too much TLC lately, y'all).  I wanted something that was more of a "mini crib" than a bassinet.  This was mostly for aesthetics but also because our baby class instructor was a bit of a SIDS scare monger and I became obsessed with wanting something with open, barred sides as opposed to a basket weave or mesh (even though those options can be just as safe).  

I had come across the Alma Mini Crib by Bloom and fell in love...but at almost $600, we couldn't justify it.  It was surprisingly hard to find a cradle/mini crib style bassinet so when I came across this one by Jolly Jumper I had a moment of "This is the one" and we ordered it online.  The Sears online store turned out to be a huge hassle and we wound up having to drive all the way to the UPS depot in Vaughn to pick the little guy up, but it was well worth it.  Rowen used it from Birth until about 5 months, when she reached the weight capacity. The cradle was affordable, easy to put together and carry into the other room if needed but was still sturdy and safe.  I also liked that it rocked but also had a little leg that could be swung down to stabilize it.  Having never been near a Baby before, I did not know the importance of ROCKING!  

The cradle was a perfect size.  It fit in our tiny bedroom easily but was also able to accommodate Rowen, who is a tall baby, comfortably until 5 months...if you recall this moment in Rowen history.  With this cradle, we didn't need to worry about a full-size crib for almost half a year.  A full size crib takes up a significant amount of space when you live in a 600-something square foot condo!  The most important thing though?  Rowen liked being in it.  It was her first little space  of her own and she was cozy and happy in it.  

Baby Carrier
Our carrier is the Ergobaby Organic in Dark Chocolate. Above is the carrier and matching infant insert.

Have you ever heard of "Baby wearing"?  Before I was pregnant with Rowen, I had heard of it but had no freakin' clue what it meant!  Choosing a wrap or carrier is extremely personal.... and I would encourage both parents to go to an actual store that has floor models to test out.  

After extensive research and review reading, I decided to go with the Ergobaby organic.  A few of the Mommy bloggers that I followed also rave about it.  Why do I like it?  Well, again, most importantly...Rowen likes it.  The first time she went into it, yeah, she was a bit worried and fussed.  But that went away and now, she recognizes the carrier and knows what it's all about.

I'm happy with the Ergo because it is comfortable for both of us.  It's much easier to get her into it compared to the cloth wraps that worked well when she was a tiny newborn, and much nicer on my back and shoulders than the wrap.  I liked that the carrier is made from soft, safe organic cotton and is easily machine washable.  This is all personal preference again but I also felt more comfortable with the Baby's natural sitting posture while in the Ergo, versus the "crotch dangler" style carriers.  The Ergo has an "infant insert" which keeps even a tiny newborn supported and safe and is used until Baby can hold her own head up.

The Ergo was absolutely crucial those weeks that Lowell was away on tour... I was able to get some housework done, do laundry and the dishes yet keep Rowen close.  A carrier is also great for excursions alone when you might not want to have to bring a stroller (i.e. a quick trip to the grocery store or to pick up some take-out).  If you're a City parent, a carrier is also great on public transit whether you're alone or traveling with someone.  No stroller to lug up and down streetcar or subway steps!  Yes, it did get a bit hot at the height of the crazy humid summer days that we had but all in all, another indispensable baby item.

Quality Mobile

When Lowell and I were choosing a mobile for Rowen's cradle and crib, we wanted to get something that wasn't just cutesy and pretty.  We wanted something interesting...but really, we had NO IDEA what that meant for a Baby.  We came across one that we both really liked.  But it was really more pretty than anything it was insanely $250 and handknit by Peruvian nuns or some such unnecessary fanciness.

After seeing it at our Baby Class reunion party, I sought out the "Infant Stim" mobile by Manhattan Toy.  We bought ours from Kol Kid on Queen Street, but you can also buy it online at a bunch of places.  They also just came out with a cool mini version that clips to a stroller or carseat, etc.  

The moblie comes with a set of cards that you change as Baby grows up.  The first stage is very basic black and white patterns ranging up to colourful little pictures of a cat, bee, car, etc.  We never knew that newborns are most stimulated by black and white patterns until we started researching this stuff!  Anyway, Rowen was absolutely captivated the first time she saw the mobile.  It was amazing to watch her react and focus  so intently in a way we had never seen before! At that point in her life when she was mostly just an adorable Baby blob!  I feel that this mobile helped her learn to become good at self-soothing at a young age (i.e. not crying when she wakes up or is put down) and as a result, beginning to sleep through the night when she was just over two months old.

Here is a video of Rowen at around 2 months.  

She was quietly hanging out in her cradle, mesmerized by her mobile.   Oh mah gooodness she was such a little baby blob!!   What's neat is that Babies don't seem to get over stimulated by this style of mobile because it doesn't use music, hypnotic spinning or flashing lights.   

And while we're on the topic of stimulating Babies with Black and White patterns....


There are SO MANY toys and books and flashcards available for Baby.  I could spend an entire entry listing Rowen's favourites toys and books (hey not a bad idea actually).  But I had to mention these cards here because they are so handy and effective in grabbing and keeping her attention and can grow with her moreso than a lot of toys.  They are easy to bring along on the go and can be a nice activity to look at together or now that Rowen is playing on her own, it's great to spread them all out and let her do her own thing with them.  We know that she enjoys it and is working more than she would with a cute stuffed toy.  (Of course, this doesn't mean that playing with plain old Chip the Cat isn't awesome too.)  

Wee Gallery's website has a little video decicated to "What baby sees" in the cards, click here.  

We have two sets of the art cards, and they were from Kol Kid and Baby on the Hip on College Street in Toronto.   Momma loves the Jungle set shown above would be next one I'd love for Rowen to have.  Really though, I'd love to have the whole collection as they are all so lovely!  They also make great wall decals and mobile as well.  

Baby Butt Cream

Angel Baby Bottom Balm by Earth Mama Angel Baby

We call diaper ointment "butt cream".  

"Hey don't forget to put butt cream on her every time you change the diaper, Lowell"

"I know!  I would never skip the butt cream"

When Rowen was a week or two old, she developed some irritated red skin around her, um, bumhole.  It wasn't a full on diaper rash, but it looked sore and gave me anxiety.  Before she was born, I had selected a plant based barrier cream to use but it was thick, hard to apply and messy.  And uh, evidently ineffective.  After the irritation started, I sent Lowell out in the middle of the night to get a big ol' tin of a "classic" diaper rash ointment containing zinc oxide.  But it was even thicker and messier and didn't seem to help soothe the already angry skin.  My Doctor prescribed us an ointment that I was hesitant to use because the main ingredient seemed like a harsh drug to be using on a newborn... and I was totally freaked out about the warnings on these products about how you should absolutely under any circumstance not let Baby ingest these creams.  Babies flail and wiggle, so my anxious mind envisioned her accidently flailing a little fist into the tub of cream and then shoving said little first into her mouth.   

In my anxiety-ridden nerd momma research, I read about a few all-natural  solutions.  Then I remembered a sample I had received and so I pulled it out and anxiously googled the product.  The Angel Baby Bottom Balm had a lot of great reviews and the fact that it is olive oil based and 100% natural appealed to me.  I kid you not, within a day of using the bottom balm, Rowen's skin healed up and has been perfect ever since.  It's smells nice and I feel comfortable using it all over her body on "boo boos" as the label recommends you can do.  I've used it on her little self inflicted scratches and dry skin patches.  It melts onto the skin as opposed to the traditional barrier creams that glop onto and sit on the skin.  We're on our 4th tub since Rowen was born and I keep a mini tub in her diaper bag.  This stuff is the best and well worth the money.  Olive oil butt cream for all!! Thanks Angel Baby!  

P.S. Their line of teas for Mama are great as well!

Vitamin D Drops
This is kind of a random one.  I'm including it in the list because I feel like it was something that was never mentioned in all the books and websites that I read.

When my Doctor told us that Rowen needed daily vitamin D drops to supplement being exclusively breast fed, I of course immediately went on my phone and Googled the "best Vitamin D drops for newborns" as soon as we were in the car.  A whole bunch of products came up.  I went with Baby D Drops because they had significantly less additives compared to the other brands and claimed to be scent and taste-free.  Normally I'm all for going generic, but I was surprised at the chemical additives used to suspend the vitamin in the drug store brand.  

Muslin Swaddle Blankets
These are the most awesome muslin swaddles by aden + anais.  

I actually didn't get these until summertime, as we swaddled Rowen in flannel blankets since it was cold out when she was born.  But I WISH we had these in our swaddling days.   

Swaddling took a lot of practice but was so great for the first few weeks of having Rowen at home.  The key really is to have a blanket that is big enough and has some stretch to it.  My Mommy bloggers who figured out to use these muslin blankets rave about it.  I personally found a plain blanket to work better than the silly velcro-gadgety swaddle bags.  

I used these these blankets in the summer to keep Rowen covered in a lightweight blanket, as a sun shield in the carseat or stroller, as a nursing cover, for her to lay on on the floor or in the bed, etc etc etc.

Quality Stroller

I'm going to try to not write another Bugaboo essay here.  "Luxury" strollers turned out to be a real sore spot of mine.  I was blessed to receive a Bugaboo Cameleon as an unbelievably generous and incredible gift.  If we had not been so lucky, and especially having the experience now with a "fancy" stroller vs. a clunker, I would have definitely pushed for a secondhand "luxury" model within budget.  

It really is true that "Stroller = Freedom".  I like going on walks with the Baby and pushing the stroller shouldn't take huge effort.  The stroller shouldn't be so cumbersome that you can't maneuver it up a stoop or a few steps on your own.  I can't describe how much easier it is not only to push but to steer one of the nicer models.  Obviously, a stroller is another one of those very personal items that you should test out and research on your own... but I'm just putting it out there that I'm in love with my Bugaboo Cameleon.  And prrrrobably would have convinced Lowell to get a Bugaboo Bee secondhand had we not been the luckiest jerks on Earth.  The Uppababy Vista (secondhand) and Cruz (new) are tied as my next pick.

And yes, the argument that a Travel system (infant seat that attaches onto a stroller) is more convenient is a good one.   Travel Systems strollers are convenient...but so cumbersome!  All of the "fancy" strollers have attachments available so as long as you get an infant seat that is compatible, you can have have the best of both worlds.  I definitely recommend going and "test driving" your stroller.  Practice folding it, unfolding, reclining the seat, braking, etc.  Consider if it's important to you if Baby can face in or out and what accessories come with.


And there you have it, Friends!  My overly rambly list of items that have made our lives easier.  Having a Baby on a limited budget or small space and riding public transit or walking everywhere is totally manageable.  It's just made easier with the right items!

And just one more thing that I wanted to mention!
I don't have a list of things to avoid, but I do have one item that I wanted to rant about:
The Puj Tub.  People, DO NOT GET THE PUJ TUB.  I've touched on this briefly in my Stroller Envy entry.

Oh, Puj.  I rooted for you and was so excited when I read about a tub that was made of soft, magical  foam that fit in a sink and then could fold completely flat and hang up out of the way.    It was a condo dwelling parenting dream!  I was sucked into their marketing ploy (the cute bald baby helped). In retrospect and with experience under my belt, I would hazard against any sort of space saving "folding" tub as a tub is an item that should be super sturdy.  

We had an absolutely awful time with the Puj tub and while I know it's mostly due to our own circumstance, such as having sinks that were either too shallow or too deep and a Baby who was 9lbs at birth, I just cannot see this being a practical product for anyone.  Those first few baths with a newborn is stressful enough without having a tub that only holds enough water to barely keep her bum underwater and then unravels to leave a cold, wet Baby sitting in the sink.  Parents... Please save your money!  Babies grow quickly, so even this teeny guy in the photo probably has another week or two until he's overflowing the tub or busting it open with a swift kick to the flimsy magnets that hold it in the folded position.  Parents, just get the classic plastic tub at a fraction of the cost.  If you don't have a tub, make sure it's one that can fit over a sink.  The kitchen sink is a great spot!  

No no no! 


As with everything else, this is just my opinion.  If you do decide to try the Puj, that's your choice!  Might I recommend picking one up from Craigslist as there are a bunch of others who seems to have had the same experience we did.  Or send me an email and you can have ours.

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