August 23, 2013

Newborn to Three Month Favorites

 Hanging at the Skip Hop Tree Friends gym

One of the fun parts of prepping for baby was researching items to add to our wish lists and registry. As a genre of consumer goods, I was about as unfamiliar as I could be with baby items. At different points, I asked the "been there, done that" moms I knew, I searched for blog posts, I read reviews, and I went with my gut. We wound up being showered generously by many loved ones who were so excited to welcome Emilia and help make our family transition as smooth as possible.

Now that she is nearly nine months old (!!), I figured I would share some of the most useful and lovingly used items among the baby gear. Because she is such a different tiny human with new and changing needs, I am breaking it into two posts. This one covers the "fourth trimester," aka the period from birth to three months. The next will be from 3-6 months.

As shown above, the Skip Hop baby gym has been a favorite around these parts from week one. It is great for tummy time as well as kick time. Emilia still plays with it so its usefulness extends well beyond the fourth trimester.  And it is adorably gender neutral making it a wise buy for people contemplating more than one baby.

I realized when I was putting together my list, most of the items for 0-3 months are about facilitating sleep. This makes sense because so much newborn time is spent sleeping. So the following items are about sleeping and soothing.

Although we knew we wanted to co-sleep to make nighttime breastfeeding easy on everyone, our bed didn't seem very conducive to doing so, safely. Our bedroom isn't set up in a way that would accommodate the Arms Reach Cosleeper loved by so many. And I didn't want her to be across the room in a pack'n'play. So we went with this Summer Infant Side by Side Co-sleeper. It is essentially a padded metal frame with mesh sides and a cushy oval bed. The stock photo on the box depicts the bassinet set between the two doting parents. We tried this the first night we were home from the hospital and it was too big to be comfortable in our queen size bed. Thankfully, we have a foot board so we put it at our feet so that we could just sit up and soothe her in those early days.

It was great that she had her own space while being so close. Some nights Chris and I would take turns laying at the foot of the bed with her, allowing us to get close without fear of falling too deep into sleep. Especially when I was still taking prescription pain medication after surgery, it seemed important to keep her close albeit in her own safe spot.

Perched nearby at the top left of the photo is the mini Sleep Sheep. Wow was this thing clutch! We brought it everywhere because it was so useful to have white noise to calm her and allow her to nap. Sometimes we still bring the sound machine part when we travel in case we're in a louder hotel or something.

My favorite sound machine option is the Homedics Sound Spa Lullaby that has many songs and sounds, a timer function, a plug in option so you don't need to worry about batteries, and best of all, it has the option to project a light show onto the ceiling or wall. She still loves this light show! And when she was really small, she was MESMERIZED! This was an off registry gift from my aunt and it is probably the most useful, helpful sleep related thing that goes well beyond the 0-3 month period. We have brought it with us on every overnight trip because the white noise options are versatile and you can use the timer or just let it play all night. It muffles  city noises and dog barks fantastically!

In the early days, Emilia slept best when she was swaddled and we had apparatuses for this. Summer Infant Sleep Swaddlers, Halo Sleep Sack Swaddles, Aden and Anais muslin blankets, etc. Although I liked the muslin blankets that were recommended highly everywhere, in the early days I preferred the Pottery Barn Kids receiving blankets in flannel. They were warmer and seemed to stay in place better than the muslin. Since she was born in November, she spent a lot of time adjusting to the coolness of our drafty house. We increased the base temperature of our thermostat but having warm swaddle blankets also made a difference. After she grew a bit, I came to really love the Halo Sleep Sack Swaddle because she had plenty of kick room and the versatility of the swaddle wings that could just wrap around her waist or help snuggle her arms.

 in the moby

They don't always sleep though! They like to look around and explore. On the coldest days we didn't really take Emilia on many walks but we still tried to get her out and about. For walks while babywearing, we used the Moby Wrap and the Baby K'tan. She was too little for the Ergo then and these felt more snuggly. We also liked our Britax Chaperone car seat which snapped into the Britax B-Agile stroller. The stroller is lightweight and folds in a snap. It also fits into my trunk much better than the Chicco Cortina travel system I also considered.

Laying on the newborn napper pillow

It's helpful to have a spot to put your baby while you're hanging out together so we loved the Boppy Newborn pillow. We would put it between us while we ate dinner on our coffee table. That said, it looks just like a dog bed so we had to be pretty vigilant in putting it up and away from Speck.

Speaking of pillows, I continued to use my pregnancy pillow as an in-bed nursing support pillow. Although I had a regular boppy that lived downstairs, if I was only buying one to last through pregnancy and postpartum, I'd re-buy this.

Other hits: wipes warmer (winter babies in old drafty houses need them), nosefrida, hooded towels, books, toys, a nursing cover, burp cloths, socks that look like shoes, buntings from baby gap (that zip instead of button!), a video monitor, hats... so many hats. I could go on... but I'll stop there for now.

August 21, 2013

4 trips in 8 months

In NYC after our first flight with baby

Chris and I have always loved to take trips and travel. Before we were ready to start trying to conceive, we went to St. Lucia. Right after I found out I was pregnant, we went to San Diego and New York. And we had planned to go to New Orleans but had to cancel due to inclement weather. Being pregnant and having a baby slowed down our travels but didn't halt things entirely. Over the course of Emilia's 8 (soon to be 9!) months of life, we've taken four trips. They were each relatively short and only one involved flying. The rest were drives. And now that we've had a few chances to try it out, I am eager to attempt bigger distances.

Our first trip was to DC, for Chris's work. Emilia was almost two months old. We drove and scheduled our departure to occur around her bedtime. She slept through the entire car ride! We even stopped to eat a late dinner and she managed to stay asleep for the entire rest stop. I over packed because 1. I'm a first time mom 2. we had a car which meant no checked luggage fees/limitations and 3. I am a first time mom!! I was a nervous Nellie so I brought everything but the kitchen sink. My electric pump. My manual pump. Emilia's bassinet. Her stroller and carriers. Her white noise machine. Books. Toys. A Boppy pillow. I could go on. It helped ease my worries to know that we would have all the comforts of home with us. We didn't use half the stuff I packed.

Our second trip was to NYC and we were flying. Emilia was just over four months old. Out of nervousness, and to avoid paying for checked bags, I upgraded our tickets to first class. It sounds indulgent but it really wasn't. The upgrade that was offered when I did our online check in was only $10 more than checking a bag. And without her stroller (since we planned to wear her everywhere) it seemed like we'd need our hands for baby wrangling more so than luggage maneuvering. I was glad we did it because not only did we get to check bags (included with first class tickets), but we got to board early. We did get a few sideways looks having a baby in first class, but I valued the extra space. And she didn't make a peep during the flight, save for the few seconds I tried to force the "nurse during take off" rule so many seasoned mama travelers suggested to me. She just wanted to look around and I was still covering up/she was still willing to nurse under a cover. I relaxed and let her take the lead during landing as well as our return flight's take off/landing. The white noise of an airplane is akin to baby Unisom.*

Our third trip was to Cleveland and we drove. It was a nice short drive and an otherwise uneventful experience. She slept there and back. I probably overpacked a tiny bit because I had a car I could fill but felt way more relaxed than when flying or when driving to DC.

Our most recent trip was back to NYC again to meet our friends' new baby over the 4th of July. We decided to drive because our flight home on the last trip was delayed for so long at LGA that it would have been faster to drive. And we saved some money by doing so. It was super easy though Emilia was old enough that she was no longer a guaranteed car sleeper. She was more wakeful on our drive home than on the way there. I think this was due to the fact that she hadn't gotten to nurse much prior to our departure and the timing corresponded with when she typically goes to sleep (so she tanks up on milk prior). I didn't over pack. And she did sleep for a good portion of the drive. Because the drive was longer than any others it makes sense that she was up (and sometimes upset) during it.

Overall, my main lessons (more so for myself than for anyone else, since every baby and every family are different) are to be flexible. Realize that cities have things you can purchase once you arrive so don't feel like you need to bring everything. A lot of the stuff you think you need, you won't. Don't be a slave to the schedule (if you are following any schedule). Our "schedule" has always been pretty baby-centered so she lets me know when she needs to nap, etc. When things are different and there are new people and stimulation everywhere, she will likely skip a nap or fight sleep if you try to time out trips back to the hotel for napping. I learned that this is ok. I came to accept that regardless of whether she napped, our trips back to the hotels were useful opportunities to relax and regroup. Sometimes she'd nap. Sometime she wouldn't.

The most useful consumer goods for us have been the Ergo, our stocked diaper bag (more on diaper bags soon), baby wipes (is there anything they can't clean?), a few key teethers/toys, light layers (for everyone but especially for Emilia), and a bottle of pumped milk. The last one is probably the most important. If we're driving and she's upset but we can't easily or safely pull over, a bottle allows me to hop in the back seat and feed her without the dangers of the "boob dangle."

My most harried moments all entailed taking her to restaurants when I knew she was overtired or when she let me know she was overheated. Her only public travel meltdowns have corresponded neatly with our reservations-required, linen napkin, fine dining plans. We try to make one plan like this per trip, so as to still get to do what we normally do during travels, but in a limited manner. We have typically booked lunches or early dinners to accommodate everyone, but especially Emilia. And we go into things willing to bail, requesting that our food be packed up while one of us takes her outside, so as to not cause too much a scene if she does get upset. We've only had to follow through on that willingness once. Every other time, if there was an issue, we resolved it and carried on as usual.  

As she gets older, more independent, and more communicative, I hope that we won't lose our willingness to keep traveling. I certainly haven't lost my travel bug and every new experience is that much more joyful when processed alongside this small, curious, and brave tiny person.

*I realize this won't always be the case. And eventually it will be really stressful to fly with her because she will want to be able to run around. But while she's small enough that she can't, we are enjoying the ease of short travels.

August 20, 2013

I took a brief hiatus but Emilia didn't stop growing!

Out of necessity, my blogging slowed down while I defended my dissertation and finished my doctorate. But Emilia has been busy with her own serious projects such as crawling, getting into a sitting position on her own, pulling up to stand, eating many solid foods (both purees and whole), cruising while standing, clapping, waving, pointing, hugging, kissing, paddy caking, and more!

I cannot get over how swiftly she's changing. It is remarkable and fun but of course bittersweet. Joy pours off her and she smiles with her whole body. Her laughs and purposeful snuggles are so affirming and wonderful. I had no idea that parenting would be so amazing! But it's a labor of love with challenges also.

She's teething (she has three teeth so far with more to come) and more mobile so both bring their own sets of issues. We need to baby proof. And we need to lower the crib. Again. But she has handled her tooth pain like a champ (more wakeful but not necessarily more fussy). And although she has been a little anxious if I'm not nearby when she encounters a new group of unfamiliar faces, she settles back into her usual social self upon confirmation that I'm indeed still there.