Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Unsolicited Advice

Little known fact about me: while I do have a half-sister, I consider myself an only child. My sister and I are 9 years apart, never lived in the same house, and think of each other as little more than acquaintances tenuously connected by blood.

I always wanted a sister to be close to. As an only child with a penchant for books that were far above my maturity level, I yearned for a sister to whisper with at night in a shared bedroom - sharing secret dreams for the future. A companion who would neither overshadow me in looks or intellect, but who would only support me in my pursuit of perfectly curled bangs (to go with my late 1980's triangle-head perm). A chum who I could chat with on the phone about boys and jobs and the mundane details of life. A friend who would become the Fabulous Aunt and gift my offspring with frivolities like cupcakes and monster trucks and candy necklaces.

I long ago came to terms with what our relationship is and is not. I do still secretly yearn for a sisterly friend, and find these feelings welling up now that I am surrounded by the young and pregnant of our Ward. I have at least 7 friends/acquaintances who are expecting. I am so excited for them, and can sometimes barely restrain myself from jumping up and down and clapping my hands in delight. I wish health and happiness and easy pregnancies on them all, and wish we were better friends (or sisters) so I could overstep the boundaries of good taste & friendship and give those first-time moms advice on baby goods and living La Vida Mama.

And guess what? It's my blog, and I think this is the perfect spot to do just that. Read on if you wish, or close your window now & avoid an overly lengthy post. Here's my 50 cents on things I wish I had known on my journey to motherhood.

Disclaimer: Part of the fun of pregnancy is figuring out what works for you & what doesn't. This 'advice' (and I use that term loosely) is based on my personal experience, and should not be taken as anything but my own wishful thinking of "I wish I'd had someone tell me this stuff ahead of time".

Medical Stuff
Your OB: First, realize that you'll probably only see your OB for about 20 minutes on the day of delivery. If you have a long labor, they may pop in a few times, but they're not going to hang out with you. 95% of your time in labor will be spent with the nurse or nurses who are assigned to your room. Be nice to them. Make friends. And say thank you. My nurses rocked & made the birth a pleasant experience. Don't be afraid to ask questions and speak up if you're uncomfortable (I need to take my own advice. I could have used a little epidural boost by the time the pushing began).

Pediatrician: I've always had pediatricians for my kids (vs. going to a family practice office). I felt more comfortable taking them to an office that specializes in kids, and am grateful that we've had some pretty great doctors. In Des Moines, I recommend Walnut Creek Pediatrics. We use Dr. Enserro, and she is fantastic. Dr. Wallin is also excellent. They've soothed many an uptight mom and anxious med student dad. They get an A.


I loved decorating our nurseries! And I learned lots, too. Like buying the whole crib set is a big fat waste. The first thing your pediatrician will tell you is to be sure there's nothing in the crib with the baby - including a crib bumper. I did use the quilt as a wall hanging, but in the end, I realized I was perfectly happy with a crib skirt and a few sheets. Pottery Barn Kids is my absolute favorite. They have great sales, and you've got many months to lurk on their site & wait for a price reduction. They also mark things down lower in their stores than online. And I've tracked down PBK stuff on ebay. Check out Baby Gap Home, too.

There's tons of lightly used baby gear on craigslist & ebay. Don't be afraid to explore all your options, and get crazy with a little paint to refresh a tired item.

Crib: I personally don't care for the convertible crib. I think it's a marketing scam. If you're only planning on one baby, then this is a great way to go. But if you're planning on having more than one child, you will likely be re-using the crib for #2+ while #1 moves to a toddler bed or twin bed. For me, it would be doubtful that I'd ever end up "converting" that crib into a twin sized bed. I can also say that with as much as we move around, our crib is going to need a paint job and more if we ever need to use it for #3. ALSO - pay the money for a good mattress. It's something your bundle will be sleeping on for two+ years, and for us, we're re-using the same mattress for multiple babes. Don't forget the mattress pad! And I don't mean a plastic sheet. Would you want to sleep on crunchy plastic? Me neither.

Changing table: I have little advice here. I have one, I like it. Mine has open storage underneath so we use baskets to hold baby clothes & diapers. We use white baskets & I made basket liners for Big J so we didn't have to use the pink gingham ones we already had. I prefer having a changing table, as I don't always want to sit on the floor to change a dirty diaper, nor do I want to put a stinky kid on my bed so he can roll off or pee on the sheets. I bought chamois changing pad covers, and LOVE them. PBK has expensive ones, but Kids r Us has a less expensive version that is just fine. Probably wouldn't be hard to make, either.

Rocking chair: I could take it or leave it. It just never got used that much - Neither of our kids were rockers. I ended up nursing on the sofa most of the time. Much more comfy.

Mobile: Never had one, but love the idea of hanging one over the changing table. I would totally make this ribbon mobile for a girly room:

Image borrowed from OhDeeDoh

Diaper Genie: Love it. I detest taking the trash out particularly when it's -20 outside. And believe me, you have no idea how stinky those diapers can be. Seriously, brace yourself.

Diapers: A personal preference item. I like Huggies, and they are the same price per piece as the Kirkland brand. I've used both & they both get a thumbs up.

Wipes: I used to be a Johnson & Johnson fanatic, but have switched to Kirkland. The wipes warmer? Although it seems a little excessive, I've decided I really like the idea. When it's the dead of winter who wants their bum swiped with an icy wipe??

Monitor: Never had one, never felt I needed it. Our apartments have always been blessed with paper thin walls, and our house was so small that we didn't feel it was necessary.

General Decor: You can do a lot with a little. Curtains are a cinch to make & can be prettied up with a little ribbon or a contrasting panel. I love painted wooden letters, and attached mine with 3M poster strips so that there will be no nail holes. Framed prints are a great way to add some color and sweetness. Etsy has so much amazing stuff to pick from, and frames are inexpensive. Even buying a children's story book & framing the illustrations is an inexpensive way to lively things up.OhDeeDoh is by far my favorite website for baby decor advice.

Other Gear

There's SO MUCH baby stuff out there. Marketing tells you that you need all of it, but it's so not true. And there's not a lot you need right away. I DO tend to buy better quality products when I can afford them, knowing these will last longer & hold up better than buying cheap & replacing every year. Here's what I think:

Car seat: Critical! We have two - an infant carrier & a convertible seat. The infant carrier is great for little ones - at least until you decide that you're tired of being lop sided from toting around an 18 pounder. I wouldn't spend a fortune on this. I love our convertible car seat. It's a Britax Marathon & it's BIG. So big in fact, that it doesn't work that well in cars with a smaller back seat. But I still love it, and think my kids have been very safe & secure it. I also chose a neutral pattern. These do not come cheap, but with a little searching & patience you can usually find a sale or last year's model. Two items of note: #1 -I personally would not feel comfortable buying a used car seat. I'm sure there are bargains to be had, but this is an item designed to ensure your child's safety every time you get into the car together. You just don't know if a seat has been recalled, if it's been in an accident, or possibly compromised in some other way. #2 - Did you know car seats have expiration dates? They do. Educate yourself, and beware of hand-me-down seats.

Stroller: I think a stroller is an investment. I've never used a travel system (car seat + stroller system; just not my style), but they seem like a good idea. I went with a MacLaren Techno XT stroller. Again, not inexpensive, but it still works fantastically well after 5 years. It's light, it folds quickly & easily, and is quite small. I've traveled with it, taken it on long walks & short jaunts, and it's a champ. I also now have a BOB jogging stroller, and love it. If you are really active, I unequivocally recommend it.

Bouncer/ Swing, and more: We have a bouncer & have loved it. Used it every day of the first 8 months after baby came home. Some days, it was the only way I was able to get a shower & keep baby safe & entertained for 10 minutes. We even used it to feed the babes when they first started on solids. I've heard good things about swings, but went with the bouncer due to cost and portability. We also have a Jump-up (bought used), and #2 LOVED it. Used to fall asleep in it after wearing himself out.

High chair: You definitely don't need this for the first 6 months. If I had to do it again, I'd buy an all plastic one from IKEA. Our Graco has a cloth pad that gets gummed up with food after one meal. And yet I don't want to take it off because the seat is really not designed to be used without it. If we had a different table, I'd probably just go with a chair that could be hooked onto the table like this. If money were no object, I'd get one of these.

Breast pump: A matter of personal preference. If you think you want to pump I’d probably recommend you rent one from the hospital. At-home breast pumps take some getting used to, and can be expensive to buy (a good one will be around $100+). Cheap pumps are HORRIBLE, and will make it a painful, disheartening experience. NEVER buy a breast pump secondhand. This is unsanitary & no doc would recommend it.

Diaper Bag: This is an important item! You'll use that diaper bag as your purse+ for the next couple of years, so choose carefully. This is an item where price doesn't necessarily denote quality, value, or style. Go for something you can wipe down (inside & out), and that you won’t cry over when a bottle of formula leaks inside it. I like a bag with a convertible strap, so I can carry it over my shoulder or across my body. Plain, patterned, vinyl, leather, cloth, bedazzled, or bejeweled - there's something for everyone.

Misc: Boppy - love it (look at TJ Maxx); Blankets - buy several & keep one in the car, in the house, in the diaper bag, etc; Bottles/ pacis - a matter of whatever your baby will take; cloth diapers - indispensable! I love them for wiping noses, as a burp cloth, etc.; soap -Target Baby wash or J & J Lavendar; diaper cream -Boudreaux's Butt Cream (one of the best things I took out of the South!).


Oh, where to even begin? Baby clothes are so much fun to buy, but the sad truth is that you probably don't need as much as you think. Unless your kids are genetically stunted like mine, they'll probably outgrow their clothes before they have a chance to wear half of them. The one exception is socks. Babies can wiggle out of socks faster than you can say 'boo'.

For baby’s first few months, kimono shirts are much easier to change in & out of than onesies. That, plus soft pants (like American Apparel karate pants) and you have a cute little outfit. Lots of PJ's are good too. Some days that's all the babe wore - or we had to change them multiple times in a night.

Invest in your favorite stain remover. You'll need lots of it.

I also confess that I am a hoarder when it comes to baby clothes. I have no problem buying a season or two ahead (on sale, of course!) and putting it away for later. Not only is it a surprise when I open that bin of clothes, but I still get a little thrill when I see the winter coat I scored for $6.75.

Gap: Love Gap clothes. Great for basics like jeans, solid onesies, and socks. Quality is high, colors last, and sales are good. The sale rack is my favorite place to shop, and I take a peek every time I'm at the mall. Their onesies and t's are so soft, and I love their boy jeans and overalls lined in jersey.

Gymboree: I never used to be a fan, but they have a lot of cute stuff and refresh every month or so. And they mark down really low. This is another store that I cruise through every time I'm at the mall. You never know what you're going to find in those sale racks. Order online once or twice & you'll get coupons in the mail - usually an extra 20 or 30% off. A couple of $3.99 items plus an extra discount means a smokin' deal. I do usually hang dry all Gymboree items. Their dark colors fade more quickly than I'd like. I can live with that when I know the whole outfit cost me $7.00.

Target, Wal-Mart, Children's Place, Old Navy: All great places for baby stuff, both full price & on sale. Quality varies.

Sorry for the long & rambling post. I hope all this helps someone.

Addendum: Hilery - thanks for the reminder. I did not address carriers or pack-n-plays. So here goes.

Carriers: I do love the Baby Bjorn. I bought mine on ebay, washed it up & it was really handy for the first year. I also bought a sling, but think I ended up with the wrong size. I've used the sling probably 4 times, and it's not super comfortable for either of us. A big disappointment, as I had really high hopes for it.

Pack-n-Play: I do have a Pack-n-Play, but use it infrequently - maybe 2 times a year. These are handy if you travel, but I wouldn't invest a lot of money in this item. Some people use them as cribs, and that's great. In that case, I'd spend more to get one that was a little more plush. I also wouldn't buy a "travel" size - your babe will outgrow it in just a few months.


Ashley said...

So let's talk about how much I have LOVED reading this. Oh I'm a fan of your blog! Log and I were just at this huge baby sale this past weekend trying to figure out what we really need - and how will we know? We've never been parents before. I've been scouring Craigslist like crazy thinking do I need the Bumbo? Do I need this or that? There's so many options I feel overwhelmed and then you came to the rescue ;). Oh and I totally agree - I can do alot of used, but I need to have a new carseat - really. Love love love this post Amy - thanks so much for your advice!

Suzie Bean said...

I agree with sooo much you posted about! I wish someone would have told me you don't need a closet full of adorable outfits for the first 1-3 months. Pj's is what my babies stay in most days, and some of those are soooo cute!
The only thing I would add is the medical part and after you have a babe, is how much you can bleed after....NO ONE told me I was soooo not prepared and poor hubby had to go to the store and got all the wrong items! :( (this time I stocked up!)
Thanks for a good read and a reminder of what I need to pull out and what I don't right now!

Ted and Hilery said...

Great post Amy! I traded in my traditional highchair for the Chico attachable chair. I love that it takes up no foot room and Aron is also so close to the table. But I need to invest in a thick place mat because if I give Aron a cup or a spoon, I get dents in my table. He loves to sit and pound, pound, pound.
I also LOVE my Baby Bjorn. But there are lots of sling carriers. What is your favorite?

Chrissy Jo said...

Amy I'm totally with you on the jogging stroller. In fact, I used mine much more than I ever used my other strollers, and I think quality REALLY does matter. I agree with you about carseat matters as well. We actually just used the carrier carseat until the babies were old enough to turn around, but once they were too heavy we just stopped taking the carrier out of the car. Before I had my babies this is exactly what I wanted to read but couldn't find. You're awesome, Amy.

TeeTee said...

Thanks for the advice. I am not planning on having a child, at least for another ten years or so, but this was great advice, nonetheless!

I love your blog, keep on writing!