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The Great Stroller-Free Experiment, Volume 1

While I was pregnant with Baby2, I wondered if we actually needed a stroller. Just how much baby mobility can be successfully accomplished without using a stroller? Would forgoing the stroller make transit with an infant easier? Faster? More or less of a pain in the ass? In this series of posts I’ll talk about my challenge to forgo the stroller as much as possible.

For the first six weeks of Baby2’s life, Mr. Handsome and I have used our Moby wrap for all baby transit outside of her car seat. We’ve tried the Ergo a couple times but Baby2 isn’t quite big enough (I’m currently scouting out an infant insert on Craig’s List) so this post is focused completely on the Moby wrap.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppI usually do the baby wearing but that’s mostly because I’m quick at getting the Moby on. Mr. Handsome can do it but he needs a little help still (hence the search for an Ergo infant insert). I caught on to the wrapping of the Moby pretty well but it is kind of a dance to get it put on. Once it’s on properly it is super comfortable. The fabric is soft and stretchy and it’s all wrapped around me in a big hug. A hug with my baby in it! What could be better?!

We wore Baby2 literally everywhere, as the only other option we had for the first six weeks was carrying her car seat around (those things are too big and clumsy for me!). With visitors in town we went to a lot of busy/touristy places. It was/is super easy to get through crowds with Baby2 strapped to my chest and no big ol’ stroller in taking up space in front of me. We could move through swarms of people with ease in all the packed places we visited this summer, including street fairs, museums, the zoo and amusement parks. Plus, we would never have made it through to Kiddo1’s classroom when we dropped him off on the first day of school. It was a huge mass of people, a chaos of excited children. I’ll keep my baby close-in, thankyouverymuch.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppNow whilst in these crowds of people there’s bound to be a sweet old lady or someone who loves babies and wants to get thisclose to Baby2 and touch her face and hands and breathe stranger breath all over my sweet little healthy darling. The Moby helps keep Hands Off because Baby2 is all in my personal bubble, see, so people tend to feel less free to touch, touch, touch. I can also pull a little fabric up over her face if things get really loud and crazy. Or if I’m walking in the sun and need a little shade on Baby2’s porcelain face.

Speaking of sun, you know what travels through sand on the beach real easy? Bare feet. You know what doesn’t? Stroller wheels. Boom.

You know what keeps Baby2 super duper happy and allows me to get stuff done around the house? Baby wearing. Sometimes there’s just no soothing this baby who loves me so much that I must hold her always. But mama needs to get stuff done! Baby wearing to the rescue! Sure, moving laundry from washer to dryer is a little difficult, but folding clothes is fine. Washing dishes can get messy but putting them away is easy. Etcetera, etcetera…

Of course there are a few setbacks to exclusive baby wearing. I wear Baby2 when we go out to eat and I have to hunch over a bit so I don’t get crumbs all over her sweet little head. But not having a stroller in a restaurant is great because squeezing a stroller through a labyrinth of tables and chairs is pretty much impossible, not to mention the space it takes up at a table. So we break even on that one.

A bigger con, especially during the summer, is that the wrap can get warm. It’s wonderful in the chilly morning dropping Kiddo1 off at school (at least for the next couple days while I’m still on maternity leave!). Baby2 can soak in my body heat, I get a warm bundle of joy on my chest and everyone wins. But when it’s 90 degrees in direct sunlight and Baby2’s face is melting into my chest it’s just not the most comfortable situation.

A final negative for exclusive baby wearing, one that I could work around but just came up in the last week, is that walking around wearing a wrap without a baby in it is kind of weird. See, the 15 meters of fabric you wrap around yourself can drag on the ground a bit while you’re wrapping so it’s best to wrap yourself up before leaving the house. But then sometimes you’re walking around without a baby in the wrap, like if you get out of the car to pay for gas (leaving your husband and older child with the baby, of course!) or when the baby needs to come out of the wrap and be held by daddy because she’s melting into your chest at a street fair in early August and you’re walking around said street fair looking like you’re trying to lead a new scarf-tying trend.

Anyway. Back to the positives. The coolest thing about wearing my baby is that she’s close to me. We gaze into each others’ eyes. She nuzzles into my chest (probably looking for a nipple). She falls asleep and I can feel her breath on my skin. I feel connected to her. I really like having her so close and protected. It’s really nice. Plus I can move through crowds with ease AND I’ve got a whole extra person attached to me! Smiley face.

Next time, some interesting challenges test my exclusive baby wearing commitment. Will I cave to the stroller?! Tune in to find out.

Getting on My Sleep Game

Ah, the woes of nighttime sleep, the bane of many newborns’ parents’ existence. Perhaps adding insult are the first couple relatively blissful weeks of newborn life during which sleepy babes tease parents with adequate stretches of slumber and quick returns to shut-eye.

I have fairly strict philosophies on sleep, which I’ll write more about when I review Babywise in about a week, but for now, here’s a short version. Also, I must say that this is the plan that I’ve found works best for me and our family, based on experiences with Kiddo1. It won’t work for everyone – we all have our own philosophies to follow. Here are a few of mine, though:

  • I won’t use “sleep props” such as comfort-nursing or swings to soothe my baby to sleep.
  • I will put baby in her crib for naps and nighttime sleep while she’s still awake so that she can learn to fall asleep on her own in her own crib.
  • I will teach baby to self-soothe (if they wake and do not need a diaper change, feeding, burping, etc.) by not rushing to her every time she makes the slightest peep.
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Day One: already a rule-breaker (but it was okay then!)

For Baby2’s first couple weeks of life, I pretty much ignored my own rules. I used sleep props like nursing to calm her down before sleep, I put her in her crib already sleeping, I rushed to her every time she stirred, I let her nap in her bouncy seat all day long and let her sleep in our bed all night. I did these things because she was (and still is!) so new, so tiny, so helpless, so adorable to look at!

An aside: some may think my rules are too strict for a newborn. I get that – I read them back to myself and yes, they are strict. But they are not hurtful, they don’t break our baby-mama attachment and they don’t cause psychological damage. If anything, they foster solid sleeping habits, increase our attachment because we’re both happily well-rested and give baby confidence in her abilities to self-soothe (I understand that last one seems like a stretch, but Kiddo1 is living proof that it’s true). Also, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with breaking these rules every now and then. Napping with Baby2 now and then or falling asleep together after a nighttime feeding once-in-awhile is really no big deal, but I’d like my habits to follow my rules a vast majority of the time.

Anyway, so after a rough night in which Baby2 couldn’t be ushered back to sleep on her own and I caved to comfort nursing and co-sleeping, I knew it was time to get on my game. That, and Mr. Handsome reminded me that the habits I’m starting go against my sleep principles… that, and he’s tired.

Today I’m practicing what I preach. Case in point: for Baby2’s first nap of the day I put her in her crib. She cried. But she only cried for a minute (seemed like an eternity!) and soothed herself right to sleep (she didn’t cry herself to sleep! I saw!) and slept so long I had to wake her up for her feeding (she’s probably tired after last night too!). All hope is not lost. Over the today and the next few days I plan on having her take more naps in her crib until she’s sleeping in there exclusively (with one exception, see below).

Over the next few nights I plan on trying my hardest to put Baby2 back in her crib after a feeding. My hurdle isn’t so much the desire to hold her close all night (although that does factor in!) it is more that I just plain fall asleep during a feeding. I’m tired! She falls asleep too, it’s a win-win, right? Except she isn’t learning to sleep on her own and that will escalate into bigger sleep problems later on if I’m not careful. So it’s time to break that habit.

When we’re out-and-about, Baby2 will have to sleep in her carrier or even car seat, which I’m okay with. But I don’t want her sleeping there all the time, either. I don’t feel like she gets as good-quality sleep there as she does at home. This brings me back to part of our dilemma over the past few days: we’ve been out too much! We’ve had family in town since Baby2 was born and we just haven’t had an opportunity to work on our routine or our habits. So I can’t blame myself completely (score!). Now that the visitors are gone, we can shift our focus back to Baby2’s sleep needs. Yay!

Updates will follow, so I’d better get on my game!

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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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!