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Big March Post #1, Part 2: A New Night’s Sleep (Continued)

On Friday, I posted part 1 our first big announcement of three for March, which was that we finally got some brand new mattresses! I also laid out (hehe) all the reasons why we chose to forgo the conventional interspring mattress in favor of natural latex. For more on why we made our choice, check out the post!

Today we’re going deeper into our research to publish most of what we learned about latex, because there is a lot to learn! There are different manufacturing types, levels of firmness, options for mattress thickness and number of layers, how the layers are fixed (or not fixed) together, methods for wrapping the layers together, and different types of mattress toppers available. So let’s jump right in so you can gain a little insight from all the work we did!

Manufacturing Types

There are two methods for “curing” latex: Dunlop and Talalay. In either case, the white liquid that comes from the Hevea tree is whipped into a frothy mix, placed into a mold, and cooked, much like waffle batter being cooked in a waffle maker. The mold has a bunch of rods in it so that the finished latex has a cellular structure, which keeps the mattress breathable. After the foam has cured, it is removed from the mold and rinsed. From there the latex is cut to mattress size (or part of a mattress, in the case of Talalay) and stacked up with a bunch of other layers, waiting to be combined into a mattress.

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The whipped latex mixture being poured into a mold for curing (Image from myessentia.com)

For the Dunlop process, that’s about all there is to it. Dunlop has often been called the more eco-friendly process because it does not add any other chemicals to the mixture and it does not go through any other processing. It is also said to be more economical because there are no additional seams to add (doesn’t increase labor costs) and it creates a more consistent product.

Dunlop is said to be a heavier, denser, firmer, and more durable material. For the most part, the Dunlop process typically deals with 100% natural latex, but it can certainly be mixed with synthetic latex, or it could be a 100% natural layer of latex mixed with synthetic layers. Therefore it is very important to ask the company from which you’d like to purchase to make sure the mattress you’re buying is made of 100% natural, non-synthetic latex.

The Talalay process builds on the Dunlop foundation. After whipping the latex and curing it in the mold, the mattress is then sent into a vacuum chamber where all the air is extracted from the foam. It is then flash frozen with chemicals to stabilize the structure. Carbon dioxide gas is added to help the mattress gel. Finally the mattress is baked at 220 degrees.

Talalay pieces can only be so big because of all the extra processing they must go through, so most beds need to have a seam down the middle where the mattress pieces are glued or stitched together. Glue is often filled with chemicals, so that is something to consider.

Talalay is lighter, less dense, less firm, and has been said to show wear faster (although most manufacturers will state it is just as durable as Dunlop). The manufacturing process takes more energy since there are more steps to go through and labor required to stitch pieces together. There is an issue with consistency of firmness due to the lengthy and variable process. There is also no such thing as 100% natural Talalay latex, since chemicals are added in the curing processes that cannot be washed off, even if the latex that started off the process was 100% natural.

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Sap being collected from a Hevea tree (Image from Sumatran Feet)

Besides Dunlop vs Talalay, the next major difference in latex is natural vs organic. This has less to do with the manufacturing process and more to do with the growing process of the Hevea tress, but I thought I’d sneak it into this section anyway. An organic mattress is made from latex harvested from trees that have not been treated with inorganic pesticides or fertilizers, just like our food. A natural mattress uses latex that may have come from trees that have been treated. The cool thing about Hevea trees is that they don’t require fertilizers or pesticides in order to grow to their fullest potential. Hevea trees need to be in a tropical climate, so they are found primarily in the low-altitude, moist rainforests of South America. The only real trouble with the trees is that the moist environment does sometimes cause leaf diseases from mildew. This is usually controlled with sulfur dusts but can be treated with chemicals if the grower choses to go that route. Therefore, the biggest difference I’ve found between the “naturally” grown Heveas and the organic ones is the guarantee that organic trees are not treated with any chemicals that don’t conform to organic standards (keep in mind that there are such things as organic chemicals!). Organic mattresses will also be certified by a third party such as Oeko-Tex. Make sure the certification company is not the same company that is selling the mattress (as that would be a conflict of interest).

Whether you choose Dunlop or Talalay, organic or natural, make sure to ask these questions to ensure you’re getting a chemical-free bed:

  • Is any part of the latex in this bed synthetic? Is it a mix of natural and synthetic latex? Are there synthetic layers mixed with a natural layers?
  • Any fillers used in the latex milk, like calcium oxide or titanium dioxide?
  • Are there any fillers that were used as part of the curing process?
  • Was the mattress treated with any waterproofing or fire-retardant chemicals?
  • Where is the latex from? What are the farming practices there (pesticides, fertilizers, etc)? This may be a very hard question for manufacturers to answer, but they should be able to at least find the source of their latex.
  • If an organic mattress, what third-party company has certified the mattress? (You might want to research the reputation of the certification company if you’re unfamiliar with it.)

Firmness and Layers

Just like conventional interspring mattresses, latex mattress are offered in a variety of firmness options, typically medium firm, firm, and extra firm. Often firmness is controlled with a mixture of Dunlop and Talalay layers, although it is possible to find a 100% Dunlop mattress that is medium firm (we found one and bought two of them!). The firmness is varied by making the mattress more or less dense, but rather than me going into the subject of how latex achieves a certain firmness, I think I’ll just point to this article by Savvy Rest that explains the science and methods better than I could. Plus this post is already getting long and we’re only on the second section!

Firmness is also controlled by stacking latex layers of varying densities. This can also control the thickness of the mattress. In our case, we now have a mattress with two layers of Dunlop latex – one 6-inch firm layer and one two-inch medium firm layer. That gives us an 8-inch thick mattress which is a lot closer to the thickness of our old conventional mattress. We also opted for wool toppers on our beds, which further increases the mattresses thickness. We’ll get to the discussion on toppers in a bit.

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Our mattress has one 6-inch firm layer and one 2-inch soft layer

Firm latex mattresses would typically have two layers (or three) of latex with the same density. This type of mattress could be both rotated and flipped if desired. However, latex mattresses don’t need to be flipped! They just don’t wear like conventional mattresses. Latex wears differently, more uniformly. It does not hold body impressions like conventional mattresses do. It doesn’t sag or compress. Since those “impressions” are the whole reason for flipping, then it just doesn’t need to be done with a latex mattress. So there are two reasons latex saves your back – from the comfortable sleep every night and by saving the work needed to flip the mattress!

One more thing to look for about firmness is perimeter support. Some latex mattresses add perimeter support so that you can sit on the edge of the mattress and feel a little more supported, similar to a conventional interspring mattress. The unfortunate thing about added perimeter support in a latex mattress is that it is almost always made of polyurethane foam, not latex. It also reduces the latex sleeping surface by 20% in most cases. If the mattress you’ve found offers perimeter support, ask lots of questions about it to make sure it isn’t spoiling your chemical-free bed. I’ve been sitting on the side of my bed a lot today and I can tell you I feel supported just fine.

Here are some questions to ask about firmness and layers:

  • Are there any layers of synthetic latex in this bed?
  • Does this mattress need to be flipped periodically?
  • Does this mattress have perimeter support and, if so, from what material is it made?
  • Does this mattress have a warranty and, if so, how long is it and what does it cover? (Warranties usually cover a certain measurement of compression over time, which is why I’m putting this question here.)

Fixing the Layer Together

There are a couple of options to fix your latex sandwich, if you will. The options depend on the manufacturer of the mattress, but they typically include glue, stitch, and gravity.

The glue option can be risky. Glues typically contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which most definitely release toxic vapors. This basically takes your well-researched, 100% natural latex bed back down a few notches. It’s like putting a GMO- and sugar-filled salad dressing on your beautiful home-grown organic salad. If you choose to go with glue, ask a lot of questions about the type of glue used. Even water-based glues can be trouble, so get informed.

You might be able to have the layers stitched together, which is an especially good option if you’re buying a king-sized mattress that definitely will have a seam down the middle. Stitching involves no glue (make sure this is the case though), so you avoid additional toxins getting into your “clean” mattress.

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The layers of my new bed! No glues or stitches needed.

In our case, we don’t have a middle seam in the queen and twin mattresses we purchased and we opted to simply have gravity keep the layers together. If you’ve ever felt latex foam, you’d know how it’s very possible to stack up some layers and not have them move around on each other. The foam isn’t smooth, it’s kind of rough like a cat’s tongue. The layers really aren’t going to be moving around, no matter what kind of movement is occurring on your bed.

When it comes to fixing the layers together, the questions are pretty simple:

  • How are layers or sections fixed together?
  • If glued, what kind of glue is used? Does it contain VOCs?
  • If stitched, is there any glue used as well?

Mattress Wraps

As far as I’m aware, all latex mattresses are wrapped up in some kind of material. Of all the mattresses we researched from local companies, the wrapping options were either cotton or organic cotton. The wrap helps to keep the layers all nice and snug together. It also helps folks who might have a latex allergy, as there’s a layer of material between the sleeper and the mattress. Latex is a contact allergy, so as long as that extra layer is there, folks with allergies shouldn’t have a problem sleeping on a latex bed (of course I’m not a doctor or an allergist so make sure you fully check out this claim and the materials used before committing to purchase).

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The latex layers all wrapped up on comfy organic cotton

I don’t know of mattresses that aren’t wrapped, but in my research I found that the wrapping really just depends on the manufacturer. So as you find companies in your area that carry natural latex mattress, be sure to ask what the mattress is wrapped in and do your research on that material.

More simple questions about mattress wraps:

  • What material is used for the mattress wrapper/casing?
  • Is the wrapper washable and, if so, how easy is it to get back on after being removed? Do you recommend removal or spot-cleaning?
  • Does the wrapper claim to protect against latex allergy reactions? (If that is a concern for you.)
  • Is the wrapper waterproof or fire resistant? (Watch out again for those chemicals!)

Mattress Toppers

This one can vary a bit too. The mattress topper we saw was primarily wool, but it came in a variety of thicknesses and from lots of different suppliers. Wool is a fire retardant, so if you’re buying a 100% natural latex mattress that is not treated with fire retardants, you’ll either need a doctor’s prescription to get around the federal fire retardant laws or you’ll need a wool topper. As with all these materials, though, it is important to ask probing questions to make sure the wool has not been treated with chemicals, either to make it more resistant to fire or for any other purpose.

Wool toppers have more benefits than just resisting flames! They are great temperature regulators, staying warm in the winter but also cool in the summer. Wool is also resistant to dust mites and it’s moisture resistant. Keep in mind that it is not waterproof, though, so if you have a heavy spill on a latex mattress with a wool topper, make sure to take the topper off and let both surfaces thoroughly air dry to prevent mold.

Wool toppers do need to be replaced about every five years, as they will compress more than latex. Keep this in mind when you’re adding up your investment dollars over the life of the mattress.

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Our wool topper, also covered in organic cotton

Other than wool, there are also latex mattress toppers. These are usually a layer of less dense, less firm latex. Most of the latex toppers I’ve seen are Talalay latex, but there are Dunlop latex toppers available. The shop we bought from only sells Dunlop latex and they had several latex toppers to choose from.

In addition to wool or latex mattress toppers/pads, there is a third and final layer that can go on a mattress. We purchased a thick organic cotton pad in an attempt to add more water resistance to our mattress. With a young child in the family, you never know what could spill (or leak) onto our mattress at any time of the night (or day). While our cotton cover still isn’t water proof, it will delay the absorption of water into the wool and latex long enough that we might be able to avoid taking the wool topper off to dry so that mold won’t develop.

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The final layer – the organic cotton pad

No matter what, if you choose to have a mattress topper, make sure you ask the same questions about it that you asked about the mattress itself. A 100% natural, chemical-free bed doesn’t account for much if the topper is filled with chemicals. Make sure to ask about the manufacturing process, how (and if) it is secured to the mattress, and if it is treated with any chemicals, fire retardant or otherwise. Also keep in mind that any mattress topper, pad, or cover that is water proof (not water resistant) is guaranteed to have waterproofing chemicals applied to it. So read the labels carefully as well as asking thorough questions of your manufacturer.

Some specific questions about toppers would be:

  • What mattress toppers/pads are available? From what materials are they made?
  • Are the mattress toppers treated with waterproof or fire retardant chemicals?
  • How is the topper secured to the mattress?

Mattress stores

Now that you know all these wonderful facts about latex mattress options, where do you go to find one? Just like the beds themselves, there are more options than you might realize.

IKEA: IKEA sells primarily Talalay latex. Their mattresses do tend to be significantly less expensive, but don’t expect to get the longevity from them that you might get from other manufacturers. We read lots of reviews of IKEA mattresses, covering all their suppliers, because we really wanted to get all the benefits of latex for less price. But we found the vast majority of reviewers were only happy with their mattress for about two years. After that, the mattress started to compress a lot and get really uncomfortable. We also read lots of reports of chemical smells coming from new IKEA latex mattresses, which suggests there may be more chemicals used in the manufacture or post-manufacture treatment of the materials. IKEA claims that there have been changes made to the manufacturing processes to reduce chemicals and make the mattresses more durable, but only time will tell if they can really last.

Department Stores and “traditional” Mattress Stores: They will typically sell Sealy, Serta, Memory Foam, Tempurpedic, and other brands that use synthetic latex. Unfortunately it is the big, “trusted” brands that consumers need to check the most carefully when looking for a 100% natural mattress. Ask all the questions – is the mattress material any kind of synthetic blend, is it Dunlop or Talalay, are all the layers made of the same material, were any chemicals used in the manufacturing process, were any fire retardants used to treat the mattress, etc, etc. It sucks that consumers have to be so careful about these things, but these big companies are typically out to make money, not protect our interests. So keep that in mind at the department store (actually keep that in mind at any store!). “Traditional” mattress stores are stores like Sleep Company, American Mattress, your local “Beds R Us,” and any store that just sells mattresses and beds.

Online Stores: There are a lot of great options out there for buying a 100% natural latex mattress online. A lot of them get great reviews, offer a quality product, and their prices are reasonable. However there is a huge downside – you can’t try before you buy! Checking out the bed before purchasing is really important. I was sure we’d all want to go for firm mattresses with soft wool toppers, but once we tried out a few beds we were all sold on medium firm. Look for a store that offers a trial period, a money-back guarantee (with free shipping!), or at the very least an exchange option. Also, make sure you can call a representative who is knowledgable enough to answer all the questions you need to ask to make sure you’re getting a quality, chemical-free bed.

Local Stores: If you can find them in your area, this is by far the best option. Local stores will likely be very closely connected, if not immediately connected, to the manufacture of your bed. If you’re lucky, the bed is also assembled in your local area, which is good for your local economy. In the Portland area we have two stores that are highly recommended for latex, Mulligan Mattress and Cotton Cloud.

Summary

Whew! That is a lot of information! I hope it helps you in some way if you have a new mattress purchase coming up. Check out the sources I’ve cited below for EVEN MORE information, if you can handle it at this point.

Buying a latex mattress comes with lots of details, but figuring them all out is totally worth it to get not only a more comfortable night’s sleep but a chemical-free one as well. Best of luck in your research!

Sources

http://sleeponlatex.com/blogs/news/7845413-dunlop-vs-talalay-latex-foam

http://sleepingorganic.com/blog/talalay-vs-dunlop-latex

http://thenaturalsleepstore.com/blog/post/sustainability-of-natural-latex.html

http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/kids/species-profiles/rubber-tree

http://www.savvyrest.com/blog/guide-to-firmness

http://www.plushbeds.com/blog/mattress/need-rotate-flip-latex-mattress/

http://www.habitatfurnishings.com/blog/?p=13

http://www.cottoncloudfutons.com/onlinefutonstore.01/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=3&products_id=1704&zenid=2583273cefbd5d86fd5602b738665884

http://www.organic.org/articles/showarticle/article-204

Holiday Wrap-Up

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The 9YL family wishes everyone on the internet a belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Ours was fun but exhausting…

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Unwrapping at home

We spent Christmas Eve and Day at home just hanging out. Baby2 discovered a love for wrapping paper. As we unwrapped her gifts with her she stared with wonder at the paper. Even after her gift was uncovered she reached for paper first every time.

Kiddo1 got the 3DS XL that he’s been wanting and saving up for. Mr. Handsome wrapped a box in a box in a box so Kiddo1 had to unwrap a few boxes to get to it. Although I don’t agree with the practice it was fun to watch Kiddo1 get a little frustrated and then SO excited when he saw the actual gift.

Kiddo1 had some, what I’ll call, “milestone” interactions with his younger sister as he handed her presents and said things like, “this one’s for you, [Baby2],” and said them while looking her in the face. This is a milestone as he doesn’t tend to acknowledge her much. I really need to write a whole post about this subject because it is interesting how Kiddo1 makes little baby steps toward interaction with his sibling. I have heard that it can take most kids (and I’d think especially older kids) at least six months to start really acknowledging the new family member. I’m trying not to pressure him too much because I don’t want to do any damage but at the same time it’s like, dude, she’s not going away get over it already. But that’s not fair. Ugh, I could really get going but I’m saving it for another time.

Anyway, Mr. Handsome and I spent the rest of Christmas Day preparing for our annual trip to Phoenix to visit family. My parents and his parents live there, as well as my only living grandparent, my only brother and one of Mr. Handsome’s two brothers, although none of us is actually from the area (Kiddo1 was born there though). It’s always good times seeing our family, and this year was especially sweet to re-introduce people to Baby2. Babies change so much in such a short time; she’s so different now than when they saw her as a newborn!

This was Baby2’s first trip away from home and logistically it was great. We traveled with cloth diapers and I gotta tell ya, it was super easy. I don’t know if cloth diapering is so easy for us because I pretty much refuse to acknowledge that disposables exist at this point or if we’re just really lucky. Baby2 still being exclusively breastfed probably helps a little, too. We took about 15 diapers with us and did diaper laundry three times during our five-day stay. My carry on bag (backpack) was about half full of diapers, but honestly there’s not much else I need except for my wallet and water bottle.

Of course breastfeeding simplified things a ton because we never had to worry about when Baby2 was going to eat or how she would get fed. One less thing to plan for us to worry about, thank goodness. I did take my pump with me and I’m glad I took the whole big electric pump instead of just my manual one. I worried about putting it in our checked luggage (what if it got lost?! Or damaged?? The horror!!) but everything turned out fine. I strapped it in our checked car seat for some extra security. I was able to donate all the extra milk that I pumped during our trip so I didn’t have to hassle with bringing it back and I met another very sweet mama of an adopted baby girl who was grateful for a little extra milk.

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She loves the peanut packets!

Baby2 did very well during her first trip. The flights were fine (direct on the way there, one connection on the way back) and the altitude change didn’t seem to bother her sweet baby ears at all, although she was eating during take off for each flight so I hope that helped. She made what she probably considers the greatest discovery of her life so far when she saw the airlines packets of peanuts. I’ve never seen her so excited or grab an object so quickly. We asked for extra on the flight back and we now have a couple sitting around just in case she needs a major distraction. They’re shiny and crinkly! What’s not to like?

Kiddo1 is a seasoned traveler and was not at all phased by the extra family member during this trip. He’s been handling his own bags for years so we were free to manage everything else. There’s one of the major benefits of having kids several years apart – you really only have one “wild card” kid at a time. Baby2 could (potentially) freak out at any moment but Kiddo1’s behavior is fairly constant at this point.

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Baby2 watches Mr. Handsome play in the water from her warm and dry Ergo

Wearing Baby2 through the airport and during all our “site-seeing” worked wonderfully. We had hands free in the airport to mess with bags and check in. You don’t have to take off your baby carrier when you go through x-ray which was great (although they do an alcohol-swab test on your hands for explosives which only takes a second). We could walk through the tiny terminal stores and restaurants without getting stuck – a stroller would never make it through some of those spots. My mom  had bought a stroller for us to use while we were there (even though I asked her not to) and we didn’t use it at all. Anytime we went somewhere we either held Baby2 or used our Ergo. It worked out quite well.

All in all it was a good trip for everyone. We were super grateful to return on New Years Eve at around 11 so we made it home and snuggled in to watch the ball drop just before midnight. We counted down the seconds left of 2012 and cheered in the new year together. Then we finally had a good night’s sleep in our own beds. I’m sure I can speak for everyone in the family when I say it was so very wonderful to sleep in our own beds again.

Happy 2013, internet!

Baby Gear Obsessions: Home

This is the last post in a series about baby gear that I’m, well, obsessing over a bit. I’ve covered transportation and feeding items, now for the home stuff: crib, changing accommodations, bathing, play and cozy stuff. We only have about half of the items covered in this post and we haven’t actually used any of them yet so, again, these aren’t really reviews or anything, just stuff I’m lusting after!

Crib

A good crib is important to me but not THAT important. I’ll explain. First, the crib is important because that’s where my baby will sleep most of the time. I’ll save my opinions on sleep for another post so I don’t get all off topic, but it is important to me for baby to learn to fall asleep in her own bed.

On the flip side, I don’t think cribs are that big of a deal. First, I don’t like cribs all that much – they look like little baby jail cells and they kind of freak me out. Second, I don’t like to keep them around all that long. Once that baby can climb out of the crib… what are they going to hurt themselves on more? The fall from the top of the crib three or four feet high or the fall from a toddler bed a foot off the ground? Kiddo1 was in a toddler bed at around 18 months I believe, which I guess they say is pretty early. I know this crib won’t be used for too long so I don’t want to put too much of an investment into it. We don’t need anything fancy here! I also tend to stay away from convertible cribs because I figure we’ll just end up getting a new bed in a year or two anyway.

Since it is advised that new cribs are preferred by the experts over a used crib (with the whole drop-down side controversy and all that going on), I’m looking for something:

  • Inexpensive
  • Yet safe
  • Simple design (we can dress it up with bedding)
  • Variable mattress heights (to discourage the aforementioned climbing out thing)

PhotobucketThe IKEA cribs did it for me. Less than $100, solid wood where it counts (I like to have solid wood where pieces connect/screw into each other because it makes for a stronger connection), a choice of very simple designs and the mattress has two height settings.

We got this crib from IKEA which isn’t the cheapest $69 crib but is the close second (we spent as much on the crib as we did the crib mattress! Which is okay with me because the mattress will stick around to be used with the toddler bed too).

This particular style does convert to a toddler bed but we’ll see if we end up using that option or not. I liked the white finish because it goes with anything! I thought about painting it when we first got it but I don’t want another project (although, after we finished the dresser Mr. Handsome thought we should paint everything bright colors!).

Changing Table

With the exception of a crib, I like furniture that I can keep for awhile. We’ve had our couch for almost nine years and it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon! So the idea of getting a traditional changing table just doesn’t work for me because I don’t know what we’d do with it once diapers go away.

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Here’s our set-up with cloth diapers and wipes in a drawer.

A dresser, on the other hand, is an item that we can use for a while. We all have dressers for our clothes and stuff right? (Well, Mr. Handsome and I use shelves for our own clothes, but Kiddo1 has a dresser.)

So I wanted to use a dresser as a changing table just like we did for Kiddo1. Just put one of those contoured changing pads on there and you’re good to go. I like to add a small lamp for midnight changings and a mirror to entertain a squirmy baby. When diapers are no longer used you still have a very functional piece of furniture. Score!

Bath

fisherpricetubAre those little baby-sized tubs really needed? I don’t know. We used one with Kiddo1 and I did like some things about it.

  • I don’t have to fill the whole tub with water
  • Less water means less splashing
  • The tub is raised up a little which saves my/Mr. Handsome’s back
  • Baby sits at a nice and comfy reclined position and has head support
  • My hands are free to grab soap, fill a cup with extra water, distract with a toy, etc. (of course never take your eyes off a baby in a bath!)

Although some people say bathing with your baby or using the sink is just as good. I would think bathing with your baby would be hard because they get so slippery! Would it take longer? And the sink is only so big and offers no support for babies who can not yet sit up. I’m willing to try these things… but we did register for a baby tub anyway.

Not one of those crazy baby spas with the jets and all that though! Those things crack me up! I’m okay with the $20 plastic version.

Play

PhotobucketWe registered for (and my mom already bought) what I think is a pretty kick-ass play mat. We didn’t do any research on this one, we just picked whatever what was at Target and not COMPLETELY covered in pink. That ended up being this Little Einsteins Ocean Play set. This thing looks even more awesome now that it’s in my house. I want to bust it out and turn on all the lights and music and just zone out.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppI’m also a little obsessed with all these wooden toys that have come out lately (I make it sound like simple toys are a Brand New Invention, don’t I?). I very much disliked all the battery-powered plastic toys that Kiddo1 received. These wooden toys don’t have the plastic chemicals and I think they foster more creativity too.

I’m loving toys by Moby, Haba and Manhattan. The adorable carrot and strawberry are by Under the Nile – they’re for teething mostly (for chewing, not eating! Hehehe).

Bouncy Seat

PhotobucketI have some requirements for a good seat:

  • Distraction Factor: I like if it has several “distraction” settings like music, varying intensities of vibration, a toy bar, etc.
  • Versatility: It’d be awesome if the seat can rock and bounce and maybe achieve world piece. Do it all seat!
  • Sun shade: In the summer I’ll want to take it outside so baby has a nice place to sit while we watch the older kids play or read books or so I can just generally sun myself and baby can be protected.

I like this bouncer/rocker combo by Maclaren. It vibrates, plays music, bounces, rocks, has a toy bar and plays music. Can I get an adult-sized one of these?

Cozy Stuff!

I could go on and on about diapers, clothes, pacifiers, all those good things, but this post would be like 5,000 words if I did that. So instead I will focus on my current accessory obsession: blankets.

I have two kinds I’m loving: the Aden + Anais lightweight cotton or bamboo sets and the heavier Moby wrap blankets.

adenanaisI love the softness and weight of A+A: perfect for a summer baby. I can not stop hearing good things about this brand too. I have a three-pack of bamboo blankets and am registered for a bunch more. You can never have too many blankets right? Oh and the prints are adorable!

When I went to a local boutique to spend a coupon I was dead-set on getting a wrap but these blankets kept calling out to me. Of course, the sales lady said they were their most popular item (she’s got to say that, right?) but she also mentioned they get softer each time you wash them. I was sold. I’ve heard good things about them on a few blogs that I read too. All these people can’t be wrong, I’m sure of it.

I put my three-pack of blankets through the wash last weekend. A whole lot of fuzz came off but the blankets seemed to actually fluff up a bit and, get this, they actually did seem softer! Maybe the sales lady at that boutique was on to something…

PhotobucketThe Moby blankets are great for nighttime swaddling when the temp dips a bit. I think they’re great floor blankets too because they’re relatively thick and good sized. Also, I love the bold colors! I’m not a fan of pastels and it is SO unbelievably difficult to find bold-colored baby blankets (especially for girls). These Moby ones look awesome and will fit in well with my bold-colored nursery.

One more thing about the Moby blankets… they come with a matching newborn hat! Instant outfit, right? I want three: Eggplant, Pacific (pictured) and Natural.

Wow! Lots of stuff for baby! Hopefully I’ll get to review a few of these items after we’ve used them for awhile – assuming I 1) buy them and 2) have the time to review once Baby2 arrives!

Baby Gear Obsessions: Eating

Welcome to the second post in a series about my baby gear obsessions. The last post covered transportation gear: car seat, wraps/carriers, diaper bags and bike accessories. The next post will cover home items include our top crib choices, changing table, diaper stuff, bouncy seats, and play accessories like mats.

This one is all about eating, because that takes up a good portion of a new baby’s time and, even if you’re breastfeeding, there’s a surprising amount of gear associated with the task! Breast pumps, bottles, support pillows and high chairs will be covered here.

Disclaimer: I haven’t purchased/used all of these products so these posts are not reviews but rather an overview of research I’ve done.

Breast Pumps

Ah, breast pumps. The Holy Grail of working mothers (and SAHMs who need a break sometimes!) is a good, reliable, comfortable and quick breast pump. I’ve done the most research about this product than I have any other baby item I think. A close second would probably be the wraps for all the babywearing I have planned. I digress…

I started doing my research way back in the early second trimester after I had a weird dream about my baby’s birth, memory lapses, loss of time and pumping (it was a weird dream). But it prompted me to research pumps, including Avent, Medela and Lansinoh. Check out that post if you want the full run-down, but for this post I’ll just focus on the one I’ve picked (and have purchased already, just not used so again, this is not a review).

What’s important to me in a breast pump? To reiterate the dream post:

  • It must be fast, a double-pump is required.
  • It must be electric and preferably has a battery-operated option (I can only plug-in if I walk all the way over to the “quiet room” at work).
  • It must be relatively compact so that I can lug it back and forth to work each day.
  • It must be comfortable.
  • It should be quiet. Everyone (well, all the ladies in the bathroom) will know that I’m pumping and I’m cool with that, but I would still like to keep the noise to a minimum.
  • And adding from the last post, it should be easy to take apart and clean.

I’ve chosen the Avent Isis Double Electric pump.

PhotobucketWhy?

  • I used the single-pump manual option with my first round of breastfeeding (for Kiddo1). We didn’t have enough money for an electric version, but the Avent was still awesome. It was fast (even for a manual pump), compact, comfortable and easy to take apart to clean.
  • As far as the double electric option is concerned, it is apparently lightening fast – reviewers consistently state they’ve been able to pump 5-6 oz in 10 minutes from one breast. One breast! In 10 minutes! That means I can get up to 12 ounces in one pumping session which is approximately two feedings for a four-month-old baby.
  • Powerful (one reviewer favorably compared it to a hospital-grade pump). And it’s got to be to get that much volume right?!
  • It comes in a nice black shoulder bag that doubles as a cooler. It’s discrete and not too huge. It’d probably fit in my large Big Buddha bag just fine.
  • Customizable pace with memory and speed controls right on the neck of the pump: this is super cool because you set the pace manually for the first session and the pump remembers that pace for future sessions. So you can go slow at first to encourage let-down and then speed up once things are flowing (literally). And you can change the rhythm any time you want to. And the machine will remember again! Genius!
  • Quiet: people say it is a quiet electric pump, which is great. I imagine I’ll be using the dedicated room for pumping at work most often so quiet isn’t a huge issue anymore, however some discretion is still preferred.
  • Pump right into the same bottles you can use for feeding (although I’m interested in trying glass bottles this time, see below).
  • Like I said above, the manual option was quick and easy to clean. The electric option looks almost exactly like I remember but with the added suction tubes and motor. The suction tubes have this anti-back-fill feature or something so they don’t get milk in them and therefore don’t have to be cleaned. Easy peasy.

I’m very excited to start using this pump. It will be such an upgrade from what I had last time!

PhotobucketOne more thing about pumping… I found this little device on Amazon and I’m hoping beyond hope that it lives up to its promises. That’s right, it’s a bra with holes for your pump so that you can pump hands-free! That takes electric pumping to the next level right?!

You just strap it on – there’s a zipper closure in the front – stick the pumps in the convenient little holes there, turn your machine on and then get your Angry Birds on! (Or whatever it is that you’d rather be doing than sitting there holding your pumps in place which you try to somehow distract your mind from the boredom.) I think it’s genius. It had better work!

Bottles

If you’re going to pump breastmilk then you’ve got to have a way to feed it to the baby, so everyone needs bottles even if they’re breastfeeding. I’m quite interested in these glass bottles by Kinetic, for a few reasons:

Photobucket

  • We’re trying to eliminate the plastic food storage at our house and go all glass. We’ve gotten to an almost 100% switch so why would I start bring in plastic now?
  • These particular bottles have a wide neck which makes them easier to clean. There are glass bottles that look more like standard baby bottles but we wouldn’t be able to fit our scrub brush in them. Since we don’t have a dishwasher we need bottles that are easy to clean!
  • These look a lot like the Avent bottles. I’m hoping (fingers crossed) that these might even be compatible with the Avent breastpump so I can pump and store right into the glass. However, if that doesn’t work out I can still just put the milk in the bottles when I’m done pumping. Then I won’t need to use so many plastic bags!
  • What would be really cool is if I could use the glass mason jars that I have instead of bottles! But I suppose these would be the next best thing!

Support Pillow

I don’t have so many requirements for a support pillow. It’s a pillow, how hard can it be, right? Last time we used a Boppy Pillow. I know there are a whole lot more options out there for pillows now (including some that have pockets, but I’m not sure what you’d keep in there). I still like the Boppy because we could use it for more than just breastfeeding support for my arms. It was helpful for assisting Kiddo1 when he was learning to sit up. It’s good for tummy time too! And we took each monthly photo with Kiddo1 sitting in the pillow so we had something to compare his growth too. It worked out pretty well!

I thought for sure we had kept our old Boppy around but Mr. Handsome doesn’t think so. I can’t find it anywhere so I suppose I’ll get another one! This time I’m making a removable cover for it so I can clean it up. I never had any problems with it getting too dirty last time but you never know!

High Chairs

I like a chair that can be pulled up to the table so that baby can be close to the family during meals. We had a regular “stand-alone” high chair for Kiddo1 and has always felt so far away. Plus I think it’s more difficult to turn around and help them out. You could always pull the chair up to the table but then the tray sometimes gets in the way, maybe it doesn’t adjust to the right height, blah, blah, blah. I think the following two options are better in that they facilitate family dinner time with all members of the family, no matter how small. A high chair also has to be:

  • Safe
  • Versatile
  • Comfortable
  • Good-looking
  • Economical

The Platinum: Stokke Chair

PhotobucketHonestly, I wish I could get one of these for every member of my family. Seriously! Look at how they work: the horizontal piece for the seat can move to any height using the cool slots on the inside of the “Z” pieces, making it fully adjustable and customizable. Mr. Handsome can have a low seat, Kiddo1’s medium and Baby2 can have a nice high seat so we’re all looking at each other at about the same height. Genius!

stokkebaby

  • The chair has an attachment (sold separately) so baby can get all strapped in and safe. Of course baby needs to be able to sit up, but this milestone usually coordinates nicely with the introduction of solids, so no worries there.
  • See above versatility – this chair literally grows with you!
  • Okay so it’s all wood which accounts for the optional seat pad, but the back is curved so reviews say it is pretty comfortable. And it’s not like it’s a lounge chair or anything. Dinner only lasts so long!
  • I love modern furniture so this is a great looking chair in my book!
  • All this awesomeness aside, these chairs aren’t cheap. They run $200 each on the low end, so getting one for each member of my family probably isn’t going to happen at this time. We could get one now and one every, I don’t know, year or so until we have four. That’s quite a commitment to chairs, though.

The Basic: Fisher-Price Table Time Turtle Booster
turtlebooster

  • Reviews describe it as safe because it has non-slip rubber on the bottom and straps on to the chair securely plus there’s a harness to strap the little one into the booster itself. I wonder if a baby just starting out on solids (six months or so) could handle such a minimalist seat, but we can always see how it goes.
  • It could be used for any table activity, such as a game or art project, because it can be pulled right up to the table.
  • It doesn’t look like the most comfortable seat in the world since it’s made of hard plastic, but reviews say it’s a snap to clean, just wipe it down. Plus the same could be said of this chair as the Stokke: you don’t spend a whole lot of time at the dinner table! At least not in one sitting.
  • I think the little turtle is adorable and what child wouldn’t like it? One who doesn’t like turtles I suppose… Sure it isn’t the most grown-up thing in the kitchen but it’s little so it can be put away if needed.
  • It costs less than $15. Nuff said I think!

The only problem with this option is that we don’t really have kitchen chairs. We use stools because they’re stackable, lightweight and they won’t break. We used to have real chairs, but they were clearance from IKEA and they broke. All three of them (no, actually two of them broke, while we were sitting in them, so the third is condemned to the basement because we’re too frugal to actually get rid of it. “Oh I’m sure we can use it for something!” I’m not really sure why we think this).

So in order to make this option work we’d need to buy real chairs. Which does make “The Platinum” option more feasible. We’ll see!

Whew! All that just for eating?! Next post will be about Home gear. I think that actually might be a two-part post… Stay tuned!

Baby Gear Obsessions: Transportation

This is the first post in a series about baby gear I’m lusting after. I haven’t purchased/used all of these products so these posts are not reviews but rather an overview of research I’ve done. I’m planning on three posts that I’ll publish over the next month or so. Transportation is first (obviously, because that’s what you’re reading right now), then Eating, then Home. Eating will cover stuff like breast pumps, bottles, support pillows and high chairs (which I know we won’t need for awhile but hey, might as well cover it while I’m thinking about it). Home will include our top crib choices, changing table, diaper stuff, bouncy seats, and play accessories like mats.  See, there’s a whole bunch of stuff! And I think I’m pretty minimalist!

Transportation includes a car seat, wraps/carriers, diaper bags and bike accessories (but no strollers as I’m quickly moving toward the anti movement).

Car Seats

Here’s what I think is important in a car seat:

  • Safety, of course. A good side-impact rating is a must, since we drive a minivan.
  • Snap-in style so we can leave a base in the car and take the seat out (although I don’t see us using it as a carrier very often).
  • Doesn’t need to be convertible because we’ll probably want another seat in a year or two anyway.
  • Preferably an ergonomic handle if we have to carry it around.
  • Of course, aesthetics do play a role. In other words, it must be a least a little bit cute!

This is what I’ve chosen for pick #1:

The Britax Chaperone Infant Car Seat in Cowmooflage

Photobucket

  • First, this car seat is top-rated for side impacts. It also has this anti-rebound bar which apparently “stabilizes [the] seat by minimizing rotational forces associated with front and rear collisions.” (Description from Amazon.)
  • It snaps in to a base (the anti-rebound bar stays with the base) so we can take it out and into the house at night.
  • So far the reviews have claimed that it is easy to carry from a ergonomic standpoint. They also say it is a bit heavy, though. I’m okay with this since I don’t see us using it as a carrier too much, not with all the great options below!
  • Um, how adorable is the cowmooflage print?!
  • Aside from the weight, the only other con I’ve read is that the whole thing takes up a lot of room. This also doesn’t both me because we have a large minivan. I imagine that the seat which holds the carrier will need to be on a side of the van that is used for baby only – no crawling into the back seat from that side.

Car seat pick #2 is… okay, not chosen. Mostly because I’m really in love with the Britax! Moving on…

Baby Carriers/Wraps

Wow, there are SO many carriers out there now – way more than nine years ago. All we really had back then was the Baby Bjorn and DIY options. Now there’s so much more – carrier style, wrap style, sling style, soft structure, framed structure, mei tai, ring sling, the list goes on and on!

The important traits of each carrier varies a bit by style, but mainly they have to be:

  • Safe
  • Comfortable (duh)
  • Easy
  • Versatile (newborn to toddler, multiple wearing options, fits both me and Mr. Handsome – and maybe even Kiddo1!)
  • Stylish
  • Extras (like pockets) are always nice!

Here are my top choices, one carrier style soft structure, one (or two) wrap style and one ring sling.

Ergo Baby Organic Baby Carrier

Photobucket

  • It’s safe! Baby is right there in front of you. No worries! Plus the straps are secure, sewing quality is great, etc.
  • All the reviews are unwavering on the comfort factor, with reviewers testifying about multi-hour excursions with their Ergos without a back or shoulder problem to complain of (at least not related to the carrier!). This is a step up from the Bjorn. Plus I just want to snuggle the soft organic cotton!
  • It is comfortable for baby, too, as baby is supported in a natural seated position as recommended by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.
  • It’s very easy – nothing to wrap just strap it on.
  • It will fit newborns down to 7 pounds (babies 7-12 pounds should use the Heart2Heart Infant Insert, sold separately) and toddlers up to 45 pounds! Plus you can wear it on your front, back or hip. The adjustable straps help it to fit all sizes.
  • It is definitely the more masculine-looking carrier of the three so it’s the one I see Mr. Handsome using most frequently. It comes in a range of colors but I’m partial to the black because it will go with my mostly black-based wardrobe and it’s more manly than the star or flower prints.
  • It has the nicely-sized pocket in the front which could probably carry a diaper, a couple wipes, and ID. All you need for a quick walk to the store or for an emergency when you’re separated from your diaper bag for some reason.

Moby Wrap or Boba Wrap

Okay I have two in the wrap style category. I’m having a really hard time deciding between the two. Let’s compare, shall we? They’re both great in the important traits I’ve chosen so not a lot to compare there, but I’ve added a few tangible differences that I noticed in my research:

PhotobucketMoby Wrap PhotobucketBoba Wrap
Safety No complaints Same as Moby
Comfort Even weight distribution (entire back and shoulders) Same as Moby
Ease Takes practice at first, then easy (but wrap before you leave the house) Same as Moby
Versatility 5-35 lbs, endless carrying options, can wrap to fit almost anyone Same as Moby
Style Endless print options Not quite as many prints/colors as the Moby (that I’ve seen)
Length 18 feet long 16.5 feet long
Width 23 inches wide 19 inches wide
Material 100% cotton, same look/feel on both sides 95% cotton 5% spandex, “right” and “wrong” side to the fabric
Weight lighter fabric, not as hot heavier fabric

Speaking of comparisons, the Eco-Friendly Family blog also has a fantastic list of nearly all the brand carriers and their characteristics.

Ring Sling

I haven’t made up my mind on this one at all, the field is as wide open as for the wrap-style carriers, but I’ve registered for…

Maya Wrap

Photobucket

  • Good safety ratings
  • The one-shoulder design doesn’t look as comfortable as the two-shoulder options, but…
  • The ease of not having to wrap it may make up for that?
  • Fits babies up to 35 pounds, doesn’t seem like there are too many wearing options but the reviews state otherwise, the medium size fits people 5’2″ to 5’9″ so it probably wouldn’t fit Mr. Handsome.
  • Nice colors!
  • It has a pocket! Reviews state that the extra bit of fabric is also great for a nursing cover.

You might be able to tell, from my lack of enthusiasm with this one, that I’m not completely sold on the ring sling yet. I’m sure it has it’s place, though. I’ll keep thinking…

Diaper Bags

We don’t do fancy diaper bags. First off, Mr. Handsome does day duty while I work (he works in the evenings) so we don’t want some girly, fancy bag. I don’t want a bag covered in butterflies or ABCs or something, either, because I’m an adult, not a child. Therefore, we use one of the many backpacks we’ve accumulated in our lives.

PhotobucketMy preferred backpack is similar to the one pictured here: it is by Eddie Bauer (except ours is hunter green and doesn’t have the suede bottom) and I’ve had it for 13 years. It still looks brand new even though I’ve traveled internationally with it, used it all through college (it’s even pictured in the bike seat section below!), used it as a diaper bag for Kiddo1 and not treated it nearly as well as I should have.

It has all the things a diaper bag has and more:

  • Outside pockets to keep things like bottles, wipes, toys, pacifiers and other placidifiers at hand.
  • A big main pocket for lots of diapers, a blanket, change of clothes, snacks, etc.
  • TWO straps so you don’t have to wear it cross-body (which can conflict with the baby-wearing), you can stay hands-free and all that goodness.
  • Not “mommy” looking.
  • A use beyond the diaper phase.

I like to get a diaper changing pad to put in my bag, too, because changing diapers on those public fold-out things grosses me out a bit. I have two options in mind here:

Skip*Hop Pronto Changing Wallet

PhotobucketThere are lots of different kinds of these that basically do/are the same thing: they fold up to the size of a travel-size wipes container and unfold to a mat on which baby can be placed for a changing. We registered for this one because a) I think the print is cute and b) it’s the one Target had. Not a lot to it, really. The baby pictured here looks happy, right?

Another bit of awesomeness is that you don’t have to wipe down the public changing facility if baby, say, poops a little extra or gives you a “bonus pee” mid-change. Sure you still have to worry about the wallet surface but, if you’re in a hurry, just get going if needed (except for maybe mopping up the excess pee, because no one wants to carry around pee).

A tad more all-inclusive option is the Ergo Baby Changing Pad

PhotobucketThis one is cool because it’s like a mini-diaper bag. It has pockets for stuff like a wallet, keys, small toys, a spare diaper or two, etc. It probably won’t fit too many diapers or a blanket or change of clothes but it will work if you’re just running a quick errand or something. PLUS it hooks on to the Ergo carrier!

It still folds out to a changing surface but it is a bit bigger than the wallet.

I’d love both of these but if I had to pick one I’d probably go for the wallet simply because it’s smaller and will fit in the backpack. Once we don’t need as much stuff to be carried around (change of clothes, etc.) then I’d most likely go for the Ergo.

I’m not even going to get into the plethora of wet bags that are out there for the retreat of soiled cloth diapers back to the washing location. There are so many. Shoot, I’d probably use a ziplock baggie most of the time though – just wash it out and reuse it right? We’ll see how that works…

Bike Seat, Trailer

Mr. Handsome does a lot of biking during the day while I have the car at work (I have a long commute, public transit takes 90 minutes one way, there are lots of reasons why I drive the car). We like to bike in the evenings and on weekends as well, especially in the summer. We’re going to need some bike accessories to keep this up after Baby2 arrives.

It’s important to note that most bike accessories can not be used until baby is at least one year old and can sit completely on their own.

Here’s what is important in bike accessories:

  • Safety
  • Ease of use: it can’t be too hard to get Baby2 in and out of it
  • Convenience: taking it on or off the bike should be easy (in the case of a trailer; we probably won’t take the bike seat off very often)
  • Versatility: again, more of a trait for the trailer – can we put groceries in it if one of us runs to the store sans kids?

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppWe had a Wee Ride Kangaroo bike seat for Kiddo1 before he could ride, which I completely plan on getting again. They still make these (yay!) and you can get them from WeeRide.com or Amazon, of course.

Here’s Kiddo1 and I with the seat when he was a couple years old. We used it every day to get to preschool for him and college classes for me. People would actually come up to me in their cars and ask me about the seat – I think it was pretty new back then. Kiddo1 loved the seat because he had an unobstructed view to the world. We would sing together on our rides. That was good times!

Some great things about the seat:

  • It feels way safer than the seats that go behind you. For one, you can see your child while you’re riding so if something needs adjustments (say they wiggle an arm out of the safety straps or something) you can quickly stop and make them as opposed to turning around all the time to check on your child.
  • It’s super, super easy to get your child in and out of plus it’s easy to attach to the bike. There’s a single flat bar that attaches to the posts that hold your handlebars and seat. The bar is fully adjustable so it can fit any size bike. The baby seat attaches to the bar with a simple thumb screw so you could take the seat part on and off whenever, if you wanted to.
  • I never found the seat to be much use for anything other than carrying my child. (I tried to carry my backpack in it once and the straps got all tangled in my handlebars and I feel over. On campus. During the height of the mid-morning class rush. On one of the main malls. Em-bar-ass-ing.) I wouldn’t even call this a con, though (the fall was a con, for sure).
  • I actually can’t think of any cons about this seat. People on Amazon complained about the safety straps being difficult but I don’t recall having any issues with this. They also complain about not having a lot of room for their legs but, again, I found this not to be the case. To each his own I guess!
  • Children must be one year old and the weight limit is 40 pounds.

InStep Trailer

InStep makes a good line of bike trailers that are very cost effective. Trailers can get expensive quickly, but these are all priced under $200, some even under $100. We had one of these with Kiddo1 and it came in very handy for all sorts of things. We got rid of it (gave it to my parents) after he started riding his own bike decent distances, but we totally should have kept it for the grocery shopping/errands on a bike potential. This time we won’t make that mistake again!

Notable things about trailers:

  • Safe: baby/toddler is all strapped in back there and covered, just in case the straps wiggle loose. They can’t climb out either because of the aforementioned cover. They’re close enough to you that you can hear cries if they need help.
  • Pretty ease to load up the kiddo if I remember correctly. Ours also had a spring mechanism so you could take it off your bike quickly. The only con is that the main anchor stays on your bike and there’s usually only one so you can’t really transfer from bike to bike. I suppose you could look for another anchor piece if you needed though.
  • Trailers are super useful for carrying other stuff. Like I said, we used ours for the grocery store and my parents still use the one we gave them for that purpose even several years later. I’ve also seen dogs carried around in these things which I’m not sure is advisable. Basically any cargo can go in here, up to the weight limit (probably 100 pounds or so but don’t quote me on that).
  • Children must be one year old and the weight limit is probably 40 pounds like with the bike seat, but I’m not completely sure so again, don’t take my word for it.

Whew! There is a LOT of gear for transporting a baby! And that’s only one category – there’s still SO much gear to talk about!

Next post in this series: home gear!

The Anti-Stroller Movement

Disclaimer: In this post, I bash stroller use. However, I do not mean to offend or discriminate against parents or caregivers who use strollers either out of choice or necessity. I completely understand that there are circumstances in which a stroller is needed. So, again, I mean no offense.

We used a stroller with Baby1, I’ll admit it. I’ve spoken of my youthful naiveté a few times, but back then I didn’t think/know there was any other way. However, this time around I’ve been questioning if we’ll purchase a stroller at all – it all started back in early February when I posted a pros/cons list comparing strollers to wraps/carriers. Since then, the weather has warmed here in the Pacific NW and the fam and I have been out and about a lot more. In our adventures, I have been noticing strollers more than normal – first to scope out brands people are using in case we did decide to get one but then I couldn’t help but notice peoples’ behaviors while using a stroller.

Behaviors during stroller use are interesting to watch. First, it doesn’t seem like people pay very much attention to their baby when he or she is in a stroller. There’s not a lot of interaction when the baby is facing away from the pusher and is a good couple feet away from the pusher, if not more. Baby can’t see you, you can’t see baby. You can’t see baby drop something, grab something, start to get uncomfortable, etc.

Second, people use their strollers to make a path for themselves, sometimes quite aggressively. I have been hit on the heels a few times and have witnessed what happens to other people who get in the way, too. People without strollers don’t really look for them because they are lower than eye level, so they usually get pushed if they don’t move out of the way fast enough. Pushers of strollers sometimes do it on purpose (the parents at the zoo are really bad at this) but most of the time they are too distracted to notice what they’re doing – distracted by other kids, getting stuff out of one of the many stroller compartments, simply looking around, etc.

Third, people seem to use their strollers as a child-carrying mechanism only about fifty percent of the time. The other times the stroller is loaded up with shopping bags, coats, you name it. Would all that stuff really need to be pushed around if you didn’t have something to push it around with? We usually stuff our coats in a locker when we go to the science center (even malls have lockers). We use a backpack as a diaper bag so we can be hands-free.

Apparently there’s this whole anti-stroller movement out there. The movement, I think, can be broken into two parts: businesses that have banned strollers and parents that refuse to use them.

PhotobucketSome business, usually in urban areas, have banned the use of strollers in their stores. This makes some parents quite upset. They equate the ban of strollers to the ban of children in general. Most of the time, I don’t feel like that is the case. I feel like the businesses are protecting their other customers from the inconveniences of others’ stroller use, such as being hit by a stroller and not being able to move freely throughout the store or restaurant because paths are blocked by strollers (this can be a fire hazard sometimes). You can’t fit as many people in a store because a stroller can easily take up the space of one or two (or more!) standing people. While banning strollers is certainly not a great PR move in the eyes of parents, to the childless (or the below group of anti-stroller parents) it is a welcome restriction.

An aquarium in Cleveland is considering a stroller ban – they’re taking a vote and, as of the article posted in January 2012, sixty-nine percent of votes are in favor of a ban. What bothers me about some of the comments following the article is that people compare strollers to wheelchairs; the two are no where near the same, and it is insulting to those in a wheelchair for that comparison to be made. The difference is clear: people in wheelchairs have no choice. Tangent over.

There is a whole movement amongst parents that is pretty anti-stroller. There was an article in the NY Times about how a new generation of parents are shunning the stroller in favor of baby-wearing. Granted, some of the time these parents are picking up on a trend and buying fancy carriers to fit in with their social groups. However, a lot of the time, I think parents recognize the convenience of not using a stroller.

I’m repeating a bit from my last post about strollers, but the benefits of baby-wearing over stroller use are fantastic:

  • You save space in your home, car and general environment when you’re out. For me, I felt very self-conscious when I pushed around a huge stroller that took up a lot of space, especially in a crowded area like a packed farmers’ market.
  • It’s a lot easier to care for your baby when he or she is strapped to your chest or hip. You don’t have to lean over the stroller to check on your child or constantly pick up toys that have been dropped or take away items that have been grabbed (and try to figure out where they came from). You can easily shade baby’s eyes from the sun or protect them from the rain or cold.
  • It’s a lot less expensive to get a couple good carriers or wraps rather than a big ol’ stroller. For example, the wraps I’m lusting after cost about $50 (except for the structured carrier that I want, which is just over $100 but it is useful for carrying up to 45 pounds). The stroller that I wanted up until I had this revelation was $500. The more budget-friendly option is one of those car seat carriers which start at about $60, but that’s like the gateway drug of strollers, right? Before you know if you’ve got a jogger (I don’t run), a travel system, an umbrella, etc, etc. I’d much rather be addicted to baby carriers – they take up a lot less space.
  • It’s easier to travel with a carrier or wrap. The airport people won’t take it from you at the gate, you can stuff it into your carry-on and you can navigate the airport with ease. I enjoy hassle-free traveling.

Clearly, I’ve started to join this anti-stroller movement. I find myself sneering at strollers sometimes which I know is not good and I need to check myself. I understand completely that stroller use is sometimes needed or even the only option that parents have. There are physical limitations that warrant the use of strollers: if I had a c-section I would probably use one for awhile, if I had back problems or a foot or leg injury I wouldn’t wear my baby as a safety precaution and out of general comfort. I’m sure there are other reasons for strollers so I will work on not judging others. But I wish stroller use was less common – I wish people would realize that it isn’t the only way to transport your child when you are a pedestrian!

Even my youthful self realized the benefits of not using a stroller back when Kiddo1 was about one year old. We had visited Chicago a few months before and brought our huge travel system with us. We only take public transit when we’re in the city and we always stay downtown. We took that giant stroller/car seat combo on the train with disastrous results. PhotobucketWe didn’t think to collapse the thing and the amount of space we took up was downright embarrassing. It was, by far, my worst personal experience with public transit. I could feel and see people glaring at us as they struggled to get by.

For our next trip to the city we bought a Baby Bjorn. It was amazing – such a difference in getting around the city, visiting tourist attractions, traveling through the airport, you name it. We didn’t take a stroller with us on that trip at all. We were gone for eight days and visited three cities and it was the best traveling we did with our baby. I’m glad I remember that trip now that I’ve thought more about our potential stroller use: I know that we can live that way in our day-to-day.

Luckily stroller use seems to be declining, to the good fortune of shoppers, travelers and zoo visitors everywhere. I hope that more able parents see the benefits of not using the stroller and come over to the “anti” movement as well!

Do We Really Need a Stroller?

The stroller is typically one of the most researched and important new-baby purchases that parents make. For good reason, it is expensive and gets used a lot. Or does it get used a lot? The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that we might not need a stroller. At least for the first few months, I think we can get by with a baby sling or wrap to tote our bundle around (and a car seat when we have to drive, of course).

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Look at how much use these strollers are getting!

So what are strollers good for anyway? Will we use the stroller for these purposes?

  • Walks to the park – sure, but I’d rather use a sling/wrap, especially for the first few months.
  • Walks around the neighborhood – yes, but again, baby-wearing is cool with me.
  • Shopping at the grocery store – nope, with Baby1 we put the carseat in the cart (in the big basket part). Pushing around a stroller AND a cart doesn’t work. Using just the stroller doesn’t work either because the basket is too small and awkward to reach.

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    A stroller or a shopping cart?

  • Hanging at the mall – I don’t hang at the mall (and if I went to do some serious shopping, the stroller is too big for most of the stores I’d want to go in anyway).
  • Trips to the zoo – it bothers me when big strollers take up all the exhibit room. A wrap is better here.
  • Traveling via airplane/walking the airport – simply because lugging the carseat around sucks, this is the only place I could see the stroller winning out over the wrap. But we don’t plan on traveling with Baby2 for awhile so this one doesn’t carry much weight (haha, get it?).

See, I don’t think we’d really use it all that much. The most we’d use it for is walking to the park when we take Max (which is every day) but we’d have to push it in the grass, up hills and around dog poop; that could be more trouble than it’s worth. Just to be sure, though, I examined some pros and cons:

Pros of Stroller Cons of a Wrap Pros of a Wrap Cons of a Stroller
You can put your child and stuff in it and push it around Only room for baby You can wear a back pack too to even out the weight and carry your stuff The basket is only so big (but, then again, so is the back pack)
It isn’t as hard on your back when baby gets a bit too heavy for the wrap. Baby can get heavy There are good wraps that distribute the weight pretty well. Only light when you’re pushing it (not when loading in the car, getting on the bus, etc.)
?? ?? Completely hands-free It isn’t hands-free, you’ve got to use at least one hand at all times (even when stopped – you’ve got to be safe!)
?? ?? It doesn’t take up any room! It takes up a lot of room (in the aisles, on the bus, in the trunk, stored in the house, etc.)
It’s super cute! ?? Compared to a stroller, it’s cheap ($300-500 compared to $30-50). And you can get them in all sorts of colors! It’s expensive
?? ?? Baby is right there next to you! It’s easy to soothe baby if he/she gets fussy. Baby seems so far away from you and maybe a tad isolated too

I’m biased now, but I’m thinking the pros of a wrap and the cons of a stroller are really backing up my hypothesis here.

The good thing is, we still have several months to make this decision. I know we’ll end up getting a stroller at some point, but I’d much rather spend $20-30 on a little umbrella stroller when Baby2 is big enough rather than a having huge expensive stroller at birth that we’ll barely use.

Now on to research all the baby sling and wrap possibilities!