Since this time last year when I found out I was pregnant (Maundy Thursday on April 5th to be precise), I started noticing a trend among other friends and family members who were also pregnant. It seems that there was something in the water, because the more people I told I was pregnant, the more people I found out were pregnant themselves too! I started keeping track on a post-it note and then had to add a second post-it note... and then a third. At last count I have at least
Apparently my expanding network of friends isn't so uncommon, at least in Wake County. According a newspaper article published last summer, Wake County has been experiencing 35 births per DAY in recent months. That's one new (very full) kindergarten class every DAY!!
So as two more of Riley's future friends (boyfriends?) were born this past week, I keep getting asked about cool products and ideas I've discovered and would recommend. I'm sure there are many more that I'm overlooking, but in honor of Riley's 13 weeks of life, here's a list of thirteen great baby resources we like, in no particular order.
1. Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper - We have the "Mini Convertible" co-sleeper and have absolutely loved it! Two fellow fathers came up to Robert in one week while we were pregnant and both told him, "You HAVE to get a co-sleeper... it will save you so much sleep when your wife wants you to bring her the baby at night!" Basically it's a "sidecar crib" for your bed, and the baby (technically) sleeps right there next to you at night and is only an "arm's reach" away. I say" technically" because everybody knows that young babies don't actually sleep at night. :-)
2. Baby Bargains book -I discovered this book early on and then my neighbor told me, "I would have given you my copy if you didn't already have it!" I call it a "must-have" when shopping and registering for baby products. I don't think there was ever a single item I wanted to know about that wasn't listed in this book... and rated for reliability, safety, price, necessity factor, etc. by the authors and other parents.
3. "My Brest Friend" (MBF) nursing pillow - Okay the marketing department for this company should be fired for the terrible name this product has. Nonetheless, it's a great product, so I still have to mention it here. You may have heard of the wildly popular "Boppy" pillows for breastfeeding. Well this is a similar product and when I first saw it, I immediately dismissed it as a Boppy-knockoff mostly because of the hokey-sounding product name. Yet a fellow Aqua Mom (see below) who delivered her baby about a month before Riley was born said that she preferred the MBF over the Boppy, so I decided to give it a try. I traded in one of the duplicate Boppy pillows I received at a baby shower for the MBF and was really impressed! Although I still like the Boppy better for some situations, the MBF pillow is really convenient in that it actually hooks around your waist and provides a better flat support for your baby to lay on. You don't have to worry about the pillow sliding away from you with each movement and can actually stand up while wearing it, provided that you hold on securely to the baby! I found it really nice to use in bed for middle-of-the-night feedings. Boppys are good for babies to use themselves though when learning to sit up and for "tummy-time" play.
4. Books, books, and more books! There are so many books I have enjoyed reading. There are even more that I probably should have read, but never got around to! Last fall, some pregnant friends and I compiled a list of books that we recommended to other moms-to-be. Here is a website listing those books. If you have a newborn, or one on the way, be sure to check out "The Happiest Baby on the Block" book and DVD. It's really cool when you try out the five S's on a screaming infant and see them calm down right before your eyes!
5. Aqua Moms - In the middle of August, I was only 5 months pregnant, but the idea of exercising to stay in shape had already worked its way out of my desires. Yet in the midst of the heat, I came across a listing for a prenatal swim class for moms-to-be and the idea immediately excited me! Mostly because I wanted to go swimming and had no access to a pool, but I also knew I was supposed to stay in shape for the baby's sake. Enter "Aqua Moms," a very fun water aerobics class taught by Marybeth Winstead of Healthy Moms of NC and you have the most fun I've ever had working out. Healthy Moms offers all kinds of fitness classes for both moms and babies, but the best part of it was all of the friends I made who were due with their babies around the same time I was. Members from my class have even formed a playgroup now... check out the photo!
6. gDiapers - If you had asked me a year ago about using cloth diapers, I probably would have looked at you like you're crazy. Extra laundry is not what I'm looking for as a new mother! However, a pretty cool "in between" solution is called gDiapers. They are adorably cute cloth diapers that have a snap-in liner which holds a biodegradable, flushable insert! You can either take the insert and flush it down the toilet OR compost it in your backyard OR just toss it in the trash knowing that it will break down in 50-150 days! It's a pretty cool earth-friendly, feel-good concept and I was really sold on it before Riley was born. Now that I've tried it out, I'm still liking it okay, but find it a little more difficult than the "kill the planet" method of using disposable diapers. (They take up to 500 years to break down!) I haven't mastered the art of flushing the insert while still holding Riley (it really takes two hands), so I have to find somewhere to put her down which can sometimes take a few minutes. Also, we only have two colored "shells" (the outer part), so when they are both dirty (sometimes that's after 4-5 diaper cycles, other times after just one!) then we are done using gDiapers until they get washed. So it just takes a little more practice than disposable diapers. All in all, I like the concept a lot but recommend that you have an ample supply of shells and liners on hand, and also I'm not sure I recommend gDiapers for very young newborns who have poopy diapers EVERY time. Wait a few weeks until that slows down and you'll save yourself a lot of washing! I've heard that some parents use cloth inserts instead of the flushable gDiaper inserts, but that spells even more laundry to me and we are under water restrictions here in Wake County, after all! One more cool thing about modern cloth diapers though: they have Velcro tabs! No more big diaper pins!
7. Maya Wrap - If there's one product I've gotten the most compliments on, it's been the Maya Wrap sling I sometimes use to carry Riley in. I really enjoy wearing it because it lets me carry Riley essentially "hands-free" and there are a zillion different positions she can sit in, although we've only mastered a few of them. Check out the different fabric designs at www.mayawrap.com. Thanks Stacy & Tim for letting me borrow yours!!
8. SnugGlider - I know I'm not the first parent to fall in love with baby swings, but I just want to share my appreciation anyway... swings are awesome! At least Riley thinks so! We have really lucked out with friends letting us borrow a lot of baby gear, eliminating the need to purchase some big-ticket items. Friends Andy & Megan have done no small part in outfitting us with two of their baby swings, both of which Riley just might wear out before we can give them back! She absolutely loves the Fisher-Price Rainforest Open-Top Cradle Swing and actually coos when we put her in it and pull down the mobile. But what has been an even bigger lifesaver is the Graco SnugGlider car seat swing frame. As shown in the photo, it lets you snap your SnugRide infant car seat into the frame to create an instant swing - perfect for when the baby is still asleep after getting home from a car ride! It also helped us get her to go to sleep/nap at home a lot in the first few weeks. It folds up nice and portable for taking along on a road trip which worked well for us too.
9. Apple iPhone - Okay, I know this isn't a typical "baby" product, but if you're a techie like me, you really should consider this as an "investment" into your sanity as a new mother! I was fortunate enough to win an iPhone in a drawing last April (THANK YOU CENTRICITY RECORDS!!!), and now I don't know what I would do without it!! Seriously, it has been so many different things for me in the past three months as a new mom: a late-night email reader, web browser and game device while sitting in the dark for hours each night; a digital camera for those impromptu have-to-get baby photos; a night light; a music player for white noise and lullabies (works great when placed in the infant carrier while shopping!); a place to keep track of feedings and diaper changes; a digital calendar for scheduling the next appointment at the doctor's office; a grocery list keeper; an online maps and "virtual GPS" device when I'm lost or need directions; a Facebook portal; an online shopping tool for price comparisons (saved us $18 one time when we checked Amazon.com while standing in Babies R Us!); and not to mention a cell phone!! Knowing what I know now, I'd gladly shell out $399 for one of these and call it worth it, at least for me. There's always the iPod Touch too if you don't have AT&T mobile phone service.
10. Kids' Consignment Sales - I just experienced my first two consignment sales for kids' clothing and toys last week and I'm hooked! I got some amazing deals on products I needed, not to mention a bunch of really cute clothes at a fraction of their original cost. These sales seem to be popular in the spring and fall (although there's a big one in Raleigh in July), so do a Google search and find one near you. Be sure to make out a list ahead of time of what you're looking for, and if you want to shop before the public does, find a few items of your own to sell and you'll get to shop ahead of time with the other consignors. I did this at one of the sales and it was well worth it, even though only a few of my things sold.
11. Online Resources - My husband and I really enjoyed getting the weekly Babycenter.com email updates while I was pregnant that told us how much and in what ways the baby had grown that week. Now that the baby's been born, it switched over and sends us emails about what to expect each week with the newborn. Some other great resources I've used online are the La Leche League's forums on breastfeeding, kellymom.com on breastfeeding and parenting, and womenshealth.gov which was recommended by my health insurance company (about 8 times they've told me to go there!) and covers LOTS of women's health topics.
12. PaperbackSwap.com - I discovered this website last May and absolutely adore it now! Basically it's a free membership that lets you mail books to other people in the country that want them, and then you receive books you want in the mail! All you ever pay for is postage to mail out your own books. Once you list an initial 10 books that you're willing to trade, the system will give you 2 credits to get started. Out of the 18 or so pregnancy books I have, I only paid money for 3 of them (which were all journals), because I got the rest of them free through this system! I'd go to the bookstore and pick out a book I wanted, jot down the ISBN, add it to my PBS Wish List, and then wait for the email that says it's coming! This really works well for just clearing off your bookshelves too, but if you're not into reading they've added new services recently called SwapaCD and SwapaDVD which let you transfer your credits between all 3 sites. Be sure to use my referral code (goldentwig) if you sign up for any of them and I'll earn a free credit!
13. "Hooter Hider" - I know not everybody can or chooses to breastfeed, but in case you do, it's good to have resources! My mother-in-law asked me a few months ago if I had ever heard of a "Hooter Hider" to which I replied no. Later, while looking on Amazon for something else, I came across the Hooter Hider's line of products, which are nursing shawls. Honestly though, it ranks right up there with the "My Brest Friend" on product names that make you laugh when you say them! I recently purchased one (although I chose a different brand) and it has opened up a world of places where I can feed her now... on an airplane, in the airport terminal, sitting in a room full of people... and most are none the wiser for what I'm doing!
Okay, whew! If you're read this far, then congrats! While not exhaustive at all, hopefully my list was helpful if you're shopping or registering for a new little one in your life. For those of you "veteran moms and dads" out there (even at only 3 months like me!), what are your favorite products / books so far that you want to tell others about? Leave a comment below and tell us!