Saturday, February 25, 2012

How to Choose the Right Baby Carrier



Years ago there were very few options for baby wearing, you either made your own sling or bought one of those very generic, inexpensive carriers that only fit an infant. Today, oh my! Where do you start? It seems the options are never ending and every year there are new companies making baby carriers. We have tried about eight or ten brands, yes I've lost count [look of shame]. Let me tell you, there is no such things as a perfect carrier because many serve different purposes and are best for certain stages. 

Here are some tips that may help you choose one, or two, that would serve your lifestyle well. 

Birth to Toddler: A lot of carriers can be used from birth to toddlerhood, but in my opinion they aren't necessarily the best for each age separately. We did use the Ergo Baby Carrier from birth with an infant insert with our first baby, it worked, but in my opinion wasn't as comfortable for a newborn and infant as a wrap is.

Infant Carriers: Though most carriers designed for infants will carry a toddler, it just isn't very comfortable with a lot of weight. I found that slings are really most comfortable with infants and do not give you enough support for carrying a heavier toddler. From experience, the best way to carry a newborn and infant is in a wrap, see below. Some carriers like the Baby Bjorn and Belle Baby are for infants only

Wraps (top picture above): These long pieces of slightly stretchy fabric can really ruffle some feathers as you learn to put them on. It did for me! But boy was it worth the learning curve! Nothing is as comfortable with a little newborn or infant. My favorite thing is that I can put it on after my baby falls asleep on my chest in my arms. That is something I can't say for any other carrier. We love our Moby Wrap, but there are many similar ones on the market such as the Sleepy Wrap or the Boba Wrap. I use it a lot at home to get things done when my infant wants to sleep nowhere else but next to mama. I don't mind and I can comfortably wear him for about two hours before it starts to be a little too much for my back. It's also a good way for me to get some time with my toddler to read and play all the while with baby brother conveniently with us. 


Slings (above): These are also soft fabric carriers, but unlike wraps you do not wrap them around yourself many times, they are shorter and usually a fixed length or adjustable to your body size. Carriers such as the Maya Wrap are called a wrap when in reality they are made more like a ring sling. To wear a sling properly it has to be close to your body so that the baby is right against your chest, not your stomach (for an infant). We tried a sling but I just couldn't get it to work right with a newborn, perhaps it would have been easier with an older child. I'm sure many moms find it convenient. I don't really like that it puts most weight on one shoulder, so it is best worn for short periods of time or you have to alternate shoulders. 

Soft Structured Carriers (below): This is another favorite of ours that I consider a must have. My first child practically lived in her Ergo Carrier for the first 18 months until she got too heavy for me, but daddy still carried her. We have also tried the Boba Carrier and liked it just as much, there are many brands including Baby Bjorn, Belle Baby, TogetherBe, and Scootababy. I personally prefer the ones with a wider seat where the baby is more in a sitting position than a hanging one. I like that soft structured carriers are really easy to put on, it takes less than a minute and it is great to just have with you in the car, stroller, or diaper bag when you need it. I like that the Ergo and Boba let you wear the baby in the front or back. 


Structured Carriers (below): These are framed rigid carriers mostly reserved for people who are active outdoors and like to hike with their children. There are also some brands that have simplified the structured carrier for everyday urban and city use. The child sits on your back at a higher position so that they can see all around them. 

We have found that a combination of a wrap and soft structured carrier basically covers all our needs and makes it comfortable to wear both a newborn and a toddler. What carriers do you like? Are there any you would like to see Thanks Mama carry?


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Aplix or Snaps? That is the question...



The age old cloth diapering question. What is better, aplix or snaps? My short answer will be: try them both! You never know what you like until you try it. In my case I thought I would prefer snaps and it turned out to be true the more diapers we tried. You may also find your preference changing with the baby's age. Thankfully I never experienced a toddler who liked to take his or her diaper off and make a mess. Yet. I'm sure many of you know exactly what I'm talking about. We'll outline the pros and cons of snaps and aplix so that you can make an informed decision. But before you do, I really advise trying both! You may find that you want both options in your stash.

APLIX
Pros:
  • Custom fit with no gaps
  • Easy to figure out for anyone, including care providers and husbands!
  • Faster to put on, especially nice with newborns or quick toddlers
  • Can be easily replaced and sewn back on

Cons:
  • Wear out faster, they may curl at edges and stop being 'sticky' after a couple of years (in our experience)
  • Easy to escape out of for a toddler
  • Makes diaper chains and collects lint


SNAPS
Pros:
  • Pretty much do not wear out or rip
  • Hard to escape out of
  • Stay on better, won't budge, hence the above
  • No need to attach tabs before throwing in the wash

Cons: 
  • Takes a little longer to put on, especially on wiggly babies and toddlers
  • May be a learning curve for care providers, more difficult to put on
  • Snaps are harder to replace than aplix

Personally, I'm a snap girl. I have a few diapers with aplix that barely close after three years of use, I'm too lazy to replace the aplix! We used a few newborn aplix diapers and really liked them, but now that baby T is older I prefer snaps. I think aplix is perfect for a few newborn cloth diapers because you don't end up wearing out the closure wash after wash. I love brands that offer both options, like Thirsties, bumGenius, and Rumparooz


So tell us, what do you prefer, aplix or snaps?


Saturday, February 18, 2012

How to Choose Cloth Wipes


You would think that choosing a rag for wiping your baby's bum would be easy, right? Does it even matter what to wipe with? Apparently it does! When it comes to wipes it turns out it is hard to find a winner because one mom loves a particular one and the next mom hates it. Ultimately it just comes down to your preference and the price. Not all materials wipe the same way, so we are here for the Cloth Wipes 101. 

Flannel: Probably the most common material for simple wipes, flannel is soft and durable, as well as inexpensive. Some complain of it being too thin for big clean ups, often calling for two wipes per use. A package of twelve bumGenius Egyptian Cotton Flannel Baby Wipes is only $11.95. The twelve pack of GroVia Flannel Wipes is $10.95.



Knit Terry: This is our favorite material for wipes, it really helps clean the messiest of messes effortlessly. Thick, thirsty, and very good at grabbing the big stuff, ick. Perhaps our favorite so far are the Kissaluvs Knit Terry Wipes, they are so plush, simple, just good at their calling.  



Cotton Velour: A common material for wipes that is often used as the second layer in two ply wipes such as the Kissaluvs Organic Wipes pictured below. It has a slightly brushed texture so it isn't as abrasive as plain cotton weave. We have these and I like to use the colorful side to clean up the bigger mess and then the cotton velour side to wipe clean. 



Microfleece: This material is often combined with a different one in a 2 ply wipe like the Thirsties Fab Wipes. It is very soft and glides over skin, so it is best for the end of the cleanup. You wouldn't really want a wipe made entirely of microfleece. Some people prefer to use natural materials though like cotton, bamboo, or hemp. If that's what you want then microfleece isn't for you. 



Bamboo: Wipes made from bamboo have been springing up everywhere. Naturally bamboo is very absorbent and oh so soft. I'm not entirely sure how it would be knit to be able to 'grab' stuff for clean ups. You can try the Prince Lionheart Reusable Warmies to see how you like them, they come in an eight pack and cost $14.99. 




Hemp: This is a great Eco friendly material that is perfect for wipes with its natural antibacterial properties. It is often blended with cotton. These BabyKicks Hemparoo Premium Washies look really luxurious, pricier - but they come sewn like a mitten, perfect for keeping your hands clean for clean ups or even bath time. 



Single or Double layer: If a wipe is made from a single layer it has to be a rather think material that will not leak anything through. Many single layer fabrics actually have two sides with different textures. The other option is a double layer wipe with different textures, like the Kissaluvs Premium Organic Wipes. I prefer the thicker single layer wipes, in my experience the ones with double layers don't look great after washing because materials tend to shrink slightly at different rates and the wipe becomes uneven. 

Size: Again, depends on your preference or even how large your hands are! But 8 x 8 inches seems to be the consensus on sufficient size to wipe without getting anything on your hands. Wipes that are too big may be cumbersome, like small towels. 

How Many: I would say you need at least two dozen wipes if you wash every other day, even every three days. We get by with just one dozen wipes by washing them by hand between uses, especially the less soiled ones. Sometimes if a clean one is within reach I grab it to wipe spit up, so it is always good to at least have as many as you have diapers (unless you have a cloth diaper addiction and your stash is rapidly multiplying!). 

Though we have been cloth diapering for over three years, we are new to cloth wipes. With my toddler I used non-chlorine disposable wipes when we started cloth at six months, and then I started washing her at every change. Somehow that seemed so much easier and cleaner. But of course that only works at home, where we spend the majority of our time. Right now I love cloth wipes with my three month old son, but I'm also looking forward to being more comfortable just holding him over the sink and washing him clean. 

What's your favorite cloth wipe?



Wednesday, February 15, 2012

8 Reasons We Love Thirsties Cloth Diapers




One of our all time favorite cloth diaper brands is Thirsties. We have tried their Fab Fitteds with Duo Wraps, the Duo Diaper, and their new All In One - they are all amazing! Consistency is something I love about Thirsties, as well as their innovation - they always have something new coming out. It seems, how much better can a diaper get? Then they do it again and again, offering so many choices to us moms and our fluffy bum babies. Here are all the reasons we love Thirsties and why they are worth the investment.


  1. They are made in the USA: Many cloth diapers these days come from China, unfortunately. Way to support local companies and moms by buying Thirsties! The workmanship is excellent and of course you're better off buying something made here rather than flown in from overseas.
  2. Two perfectly fitting sizes: One size diapers are great, but come with a lot of bulk, especially for a newborn. Sized diapers offer a trim fit but usually come in 3 to 5 different sizes - great for emptying your wallet. Thirsties gives you the best of both worlds. Just two sizes birth to potty and a perfect fit every time. I always reach for Thirsties when I know my baby needs something trim under a specific outfit. 
  3. Two closure options: Some moms just don't like aplix. Some moms just don't like snaps. Thirsties caters to both! We love options, it's great to not have to choose between a great diaper and favorite closure preference. I've always been a snap-phile, I don't like that aplix wears out quite fast. 
  4. Custom absorbency: Yes, there are actually some diapers where adding a doubler just doesn't work, Thirsties isn't one of them. Very important with boys and heavy wetters like mine! All of the Thirsties diapers make it easy to double up.
  5. Awesome colors and prints: Cloth diapers need to be adorable! There, I said it. It is your little one's first fashion statement! Thirsties has few prints, but there isn't a single one I don't like. Same goes for colors, they are very well chosen.


  6. Reliability: This is why we love Thirsties, I know I can count on them. It was rare we've had a leak with them, only when we go really long between diaper changes. The Fab Fitted just rocks when it comes to newborn poop - never, ever leaked
  7. Affordability: It certainly isn't the cheapest diaper brand, but you can't expect that from a U.S. made product of high quality. But for what you are getting, I find it affordable. I would rather have a few dependable Thirsties diapers and wash often, than have many cheap diapers. 
  8. Ease of use: I find all the Thirsties options very simple to use, unlike some diapers we've tried. Their new All In One really topped it off for ease of use. I love that for all our Thirsties I never have to touch a dirty diaper to get an insert out!
So if you are in the market for your baby's first stash, need a diaper you can rely on, or just want to support U.S. made products - Thirsties are so worth a try. I'm guessing you'll fall in love just as we have!



Saturday, February 11, 2012

10 Things To Do With a Baby


I remember life with one baby as a stay at home mom. Some days seemed pretty long with hubby at work. Sure I worked from home part time, but it still seemed there was so much time to fill (with no adult to talk to). Now with two? I don't really need anything to fill time, I don't have any! Uhm, moms, what happens when you have five kids? So, back in LWOK (life with one kid) here are some things I liked to do just for fun. Not that you can't do them if you have more than one baby, it just gets more complicated!

1. Journal: I have kept a journal since I was eleven. I have many that are fun to read once in a while. After the first baby was born I wrote about once a month at best, now I'm lucky if I can find the time to write twice a year! 

2. Photo sessions: All moms know, they grow up so fast. So capture those moments! Even a basic camera can give you great shots. Just don't attempt anything without plenty of natural light, no flash, and click away, you may have a few great non-blurry shots if you take about 50! Hold a steady hand and get close to your baby. Try different outfits, props, baskets, blankets, cloth diapers, etc.

3. Bake: Something about baking from scratch that's therapeutic. Even making the most simple recipe makes you feel like a crafty mom. I actually bake a lot more now than I did with one baby, because I'm always hungry while nursing!

4. Strolls: I explored our entire neighborhood with a sleeping baby in a stroller. Short of learning every street name. If this was say 60 years ago, I probably would have made a few friends, or at least met some neighbors. Now for the most part homes and yards are empty. 

5. Pic nics: Since we only have one car, I would always be home with baby without one. But there isn't anything that could stop us from grabbing the blanket and strolling to the nearest green lawn for a lunch or even dinner pic nic (with hubby away working second shift). Pack a sandwich for yourself and some finger foods or puree for baby, don't forget lots of napkins or burp cloths to clean up any messes. Grab the camera of course!

6. Skype: You're not the only slightly bored mom. Connect with others over Skype, even if they do not live near you. I've done this with a few moms who stay home. 

7. Make lists: Like this one. I am not an organized person, to accomplish anything I need a list. Otherwise everything sits in my head and makes me go nuts. Lists of must do's. Lists of recipes. Lists of places I want to take my little one. 

8. Experiment with baby food: Once my little one started eating solids, it was a lot of fun trying out various veggies with her. Who knows what's in those jarred foods, even organic ones? Better off making and feeding your own. Actually the puree stage was very short, I started feeding the baby whatever we ate very soon. So making healthy meals from scratch for all of us eliminated the need to make anything separate for baby. I would just mash up whatever we were eating. 

9. Blog: I started my blog a month before giving birth to the first baby. It was certainly a worthwhile endeavor, a place to share myself, and a place to find other like minded moms. Even if you just blog for family on a private blog, it's worth it!

10. Grow a garden: Okay, so this is something I never did, but wished so. I don't have any land, we're in a condo and our tiny patch is sprayed with pesticides yearly. I could do some container gardening, no excuse really. Don't make lofty goals, just start out with something simple like herbs and tomatoes. 

When I had one baby I thought "Boy, life was slow without kids". With two babies I think "Boy, life was slow with one kid". I'm guessing the pattern continues? What do moms of three or more think?


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Five Ways to Calm an Infant



I remember as a first time mom how helpless I felt when I didn't know what to do with my crying infant. There were moments when it seemed there isn't anything that should make the baby cry, but there I was, not knowing what else to try. Now with our second it doesn't seem nearly as stressful, but still it breaks a mother's heart when an infant seemingly cries for no reason. Though all babies are different, here are some possible ways to soothe an infant that work for us [most days]. 

Babywearing: I don't know what I would do without my trusty Moby Wrap and Ergo Baby Carrier. They are lifesavers. Not only does my infant nap well in the wrap during the day, it is one of the best ways to calm him down if he is fed, changed, but still fussy. 

Nursing: Obviously nursing calms a baby, even if he isn't hungry. When baby E started crawling, it would be a sure way to calm her down if she hurts herself or falls. I never feared becoming my baby's 'pacifier', after all - they grow up so fast, it is only a brief time they will need so much of you. I rely on nursing a lot to calm a baby, but it should never be forced, only if the infant wants to nurse (which may not be the case when they are sick). 

Talking or singing: Sometimes you just need to put your infant down and start talking to him or her. This worked to calm my baby on many occasions. Talk to the baby like an adult, not baby talk. With a smile on your face! They often tune in to listen to your voice and forget whatever is ailing them. Singing may also work well, especially at bedtime. I used to sing to my toddler when she was younger, every day at bed time. Now I sing to the two of them. You can also play some bedtime tunes on your iPod or a CD.  

Classical music: We were gifted with two very musical children. Both my older daughter and our three month old love music. A sure way to calm baby T when he cries is to turn up some classical music, he listens to it and calms down. This is a lifesaver in the car when there is nothing I can do while he cries in his car seat.  

Outdoors: I don't know about your kids, but both my 3 year old and 3 month old are always happier when they are outdoors. It's tough to get out in the New England winters (winter gear helps), though this one has been a mild one. In the spring, summer, and fall you will rarely see us indoors in the afternoon. It does everyone some good, and clears my head as well. It may not always calm a crying infant, but for us it works like a charm in combination with babywearing.



Image: Dynamite Imagery / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Healthy Toddler Snacks



If you have a toddler you know what I mean when I say "I feel like I'm thinking of food all day long." My toddler is a non-stop eating machine. Five minutes after she's done with her meal she asks for a snack, then another, and another, and so on until the next meal, which she gobbles up and subsequently asks for more snacks. It's non-stop! Lucky for me I'm nursing, so I'm always hungry as well. We've been resorting to crackers for snacks way too often, so I've been coming up with healthier alternatives for snacks. Here are some that we love. 

Sugar Snap Peas: A recent discovery as I was browsing Trader Joe's. I've seen them before, but this time I realized how fun they would be to eat for my toddler. She loves them! Sweet, but not too much, with a good dose of vitamins. 

Baby Carrots: An old standby, fresh for older kids or cooked for younger ones. I like to buy large carrots and cut them up, I think it is cheaper that way. How do they make baby carrots anyway?

Dry Cranberries: Packed with vitamins this is a great snack that's easy to take along if needed. We buy ones that only have two ingredients, cranberries and sugar. They are sour, but just a tad sweetened. 

Cashews: Softer than most other nuts, they are easy for a toddler to chew and we never get tired of them. We buy the roasted unsalted ones. They provide healthy fats that are so important for a developing toddler brain. 

Spelt Pretzels: Okay, so we have yet to try these, but when I saw organic spelt pretzels I got pretty excited. Can't wait to try them, if you have already please share how you like them! 

Veggie Bread: I take my trusted banana bread recipe (with half whole wheat flour, very little brown sugar, flax seed, wheat germ) and play with it by substituting veggies for the bananas. Anything goes - carrots, beets, spinach, kale, sweet potatoes, etc. We eat this in between meals throughout the day, it never gets old and the possibilities are endless. 

These are just some of our current favorites, we always discover something new to try. In the summer we live off of smoothies and smoothie ice pops. What are your favorite snacks?


Image: Piyachok Thawornmat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Dri-Line Bamboo Baby Bib Review


Have you ever had your baby in a bib only to find food on their lap? You've probably wondered why they don't make bibs longer. Well, they do - at least Dri-line does! These superbly made bibs are made in Canada of bamboo rayon fleece and waterproof PUL (like in cloth diapers). It's 11 by 19 inches, very generous, positively huge! It's even generous on my 3 year old girl (who really likes this bib by the way, it's her favorite). It would pretty much cover an entire infant, I'm really looking forward to using it on my son when he starts solids this spring. With baby E I had really tiny bibs, they didn't nearly catch all the dribbles on her clothing and cute dresses! 

One side of the bib is super soft bamboo fleece and technically, you're supposed to put it with the white fleece side up. I like to flip it over to the PUL side though and to turn the crumb pocket inside out, that way I can just wipe it and not have to put it in the laundry every time. The white fleece is better against the baby in my opinion! Especially if it's summer and the baby is wearing just a diaper or if it is a cold winter, either way. 

It's a little hard to justify the price of $14.99 each. Let me attempt... It is the most 'solid' bib I have ever tried, I really do not see that it would wear out anytime soon. It looks like it will last through all of our kids, however many we will have! It washes very well, it doesn't stain (at least not with the PUL side up). It doesn't make me wish there was a better bib - that alone is worth fifteen bucks! Just look at it this way, you may buy a cheaper bib once a year for several years because it falls apart, or just buy this once and spare yourself the trouble.

We have the green bib and I like that gender neutral color, perfect for a boy or girl. I love that it has snaps, not velcro, I find velcro a little annoying - not only for laundry, but for my little girl's hair and fuzzy lint. The snaps are also great for babies who like to pull on their bib and take it off themselves, this would make it impossible to pull off on their own. 

Buy a Dri-Line Bib at Thanks Mama



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