Sunday, April 27, 2014

My Two Cents on Baby Gear

    I love reading lists of "Top 10 Things to Buy for Baby" or "5 Thing You Don't Really Need for Baby". I think for the most part what baby stuff you will end up needing or even using at all is highly dependent on your own preferences and your family situation. I always find it interesting to see what other people couldn't live without and which things just didn't do it for them. So for what it's worth, here are my baby gear opinions. Also, know that no matter what you decide you need, you can always borrow or buy used. Baby stuff is everywhere.


   These are the things I would bring if stranded on a desert island. You'll notice this is the shortest list. I am kind of minimalist sometimes, especially when it comes to Perrin stuff. Babies really don't *need* anything other than YOU, but the following items can make parenthood, especially the early days, a little bit easier.

1. Baby carrier. Do you like doing things, ever? Get one. You can nurse, hold, rock your baby while you make dinner or vacuum or build a chicken coop or do any other random tasks. Babywearing is great for fussy babies who need to be in arms and for colicy and reflux babies who are more comfortable upright. There are a thousand different kinds, so find one that works for you. Some of them can get kind of pricey, but since you will be cutting out all the unnecessary crap, you should have sufficient funds. Borrow different carriers from other mamas to find out what your style is, then try to look for a used one if you want to save some money. They are out there aplenty.
2. Pillow for nursing. Note I did not say a "nursing pillow". While there are some great pillows made specifically for nursing (i.e. Boppy and My Breastfriend), you don't have to get anything fancy. Just make sure you have a thick, firm pillow that makes you comfortable. They key to a comfortable nursing position is to bring the baby to the breast, not the breast to the baby, which means unless you are wearing the baby or side-lying, you are going to either need a pillow or some wicked biceps.
3. Cloth diapers. I love our cloth diapers. We have saved so much money. I honestly don't even know how to use disposables. What size would I buy? How often do you change them? How many do you need? Like babywearing, there are a million different ways to cloth diaper. We kept things simple. I have 18 one size pocket diapers. The same diapers Perrin wears now and for the foreseeable future are the same ones he wore when he was a week old (we did use one pack of newborn disposables for the meconium phase). We have moved up to the larger inserts, but the diapers came with a set of large and small. The only extras I have bought were a set of large hemp inserts I use for nighttime diapers. I strip them once every six weeks and voila! Brand new.

Maybe for some folks

  These are things may not be usefully for everyone, but may be a life saver for others.

1. Baby monitor. We never had a baby monitor. Even if Perrin didn't always sleep in-arms, our house is tiny and there is no place where I could not hear him. However, if you do have a baby who sleeps alone for naps or goes to bed before you and your house is large, this might be a good idea.
2. Double electric pump. If you aren't planning on working or going to school while breastfeeding, you may not ever need to pump. Or you may find a manual pump or hand expression to be easier for you. I however LOVE my Hygeia Enjoye double electric. I have been able to donate over 3,000 ounces at this point and it has been great when I have had to leave Perrin for a few hours. That being said, if I wasn't donating I could probably have gotten by with just a manual pump.
3. Moses basket/ Bassinet. Since you will be skipping out on a crib (which we will discuss below), you may want to have a moses basket or bassinet for when the baby naps or goes to bed before you. Perrin always slept either worn or in arms, so we didn't end up using his much, but most babies will sleep by themselves at some point. When are they are too big, you can just put them to sleep in the family bed and either use a side rail, pillow wall, or pillow landing pad in case they wake up feeling adventurous. (*Note- young babies should not be in a bed with pillows or thick blankets due to the risk of suffocation.)
4. Baby bath. Once again, we never had a baby bath. For starters Perrin didn't get his first bath until he was a month old, and then usually only got one a week or so. When he did get a bath, Joey always bathed with him. It's a great way for the non-breastfeeding parent to bond with the baby and get some of that amazing skin to skin time. Once Perrin was old enough to support his head well, we would sometimes bathe him in the sink. And then once he could sit up, we would just sit him in the bottom of the shower with us. However, if you don't plan on bathing with the baby in the beginning, you will probably need some sort of baby bath. My recommendation is to once again buy one used or borrow one from a friend.

Don't bother

    These are things I really see no point in spending your money on. Save the money and put it towards a labor and post-partum doula. 

1. Bibs. Ok, I may be alone in this but I just don't see the point of bibs. We have a metric shit ton of bibs that we were given and we never ever use them. I don't understand when I was supposed to use them. We tried putting one on Perrin when we introduced solids and yeah, it kept that one part of his shirt clean but the rest of him was filthy so what difference does it make? He still got changed and bathed. I know some people use them for drooling and teething, but for whatever reason they just never were that useful for us. If you do need bibs, let me know and I will send you a bunch.
2. Crib (or nursery for that matter). Newborns should be cosleeping- that is room or bedsharing- with you. It is the safest place for them to sleep as it reduces their risk of SIDS. They need to be near their mothers because her heart rate, breathing, and sleep patterns will help their young brains regulate their own bodies. If you don't want to bed share or something precludes you from bedsharing safely, all you need to do is use a bassinet or cosleeper. Instead of buying a crib that they will grow out of, just get a twin or even double bed for them. By the time they are done cosleeping, they will do fine in a real bed. If you are worried, you can always just start with a mattress directly on the floor. One day when I get around to it we will set up Perrin's "room". I ordered him a day bed from Ikea, but I doubt he will be using it anytime soon.
3. Baby receptacles. I include in this bouncy seats, swings, Bumbos, Exersaucers, Jumperoos, walkers, and the like. Just wear your baby. He will be happier and get more developmentally important stimulation. Now, I know there are times when you need to put the baby down, but I suggest waiting it out and learning a bit more about your baby before dropping a ton of money. We found out that we needed somewhere safe to place Perrin while I showered in the mornings, so we bought a $30 bouncy seat (which I should have gotten used but didn't think about at the time). Other than that, I just wore him because that is what worked for us.
4. Infant bucket seat. Just go ahead and buy a convertible seat. Our Graco My Ride goes from 5 to 40 lbs. rear facing and up to 70 pounds forward facing. I know it can be tempting to carry baby around in the little bucket seat, but it's not great for the baby. Wear the baby and save yourself the expense of buying two separate carseats.
5. Changing table. You can change diapers on the floor, the couch, the bed, the top of a dresser, the back seat of the car, a patch of cushy grass. There is no reason to buy a changing table.
6. Baby food maker. You can even skip "baby food" altogether. Learn more about baby-led solids and just feed your baby (who is at least 6 months old) whatever you are eating. No disgusting rice cereal or jarred food. No need to buy some kind of expensive food processor or spend all that time preparing extra food.
7. Nursing cover. Ok, this one should probably go in the "Maybe for Some Folks" category, but I'm going to be selfish here. I know there are some moms who just prefer to use a nursing cover, and I know there are even some babies who get distracted a nurse better with one at certain times. But I am going to ask you, beg you, to not get a nursing cover. If some one gives you one, return it. Do it for me. Do it for people like me who had almost no exposure to breastfeeding and have no clue what they are doing and need the camaraderie and support. Do it for my child and your child so they grow up in a world where feeding your baby is so normal and commonplace that it is completely unremarkable. It's not a topic for magazine covers or talk shows. Twitter doesn't flip out every time a celebrity does "it". It's just- normal. Normalize breastfeeding, please?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Crunchy Confessions: Household Products

    Continuing on with the series, I figured I'd share some of the household products we use. Much like our personal hygiene products, we make it a priority to avoid toxic or harsh chemicals as well as those that are damaging to the environment. An added bonus is that most of what we use is also dirt cheap. Yayness!

   So let's start with cleaners. Vinegar. Baking Soda. Yup, that's about it. Seriously though- I have a spray bottle with half vinegar and half water. I use that for the laminate floors, glass, kitchen and bathroom. I use baking soda for stuck on grime or anything that needs a little extra scrubbing power. I've found they work just as good as most commercial cleaners; they just require a little more elbow grease. But really, who out there is adverse to burning a few extra calories? Vinegar is antibacterial, so it's a great replacement for bleach and other harsh chemicals.

   I also make our own laundry detergent. I make 5 gallons at a time and it only costs a couple of bucks per batch. Here is the recipe I use:
      Fill a 5 gallon bucket half way with hot water.
      Add 1 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda and 1/2 Borax and stir until dissolved.
      Grate 1 bar of soap (we use a castille soap with tea tree oil)
      Heat a pot of water on the stove and gradually stir in the soap flakes until completely dissolved.
      Mix into bucket.
      Fill the rest of the way with hot water.
      Let sit for 24 hours.
       Stir before each use

That's it! We have an old plastic detergent dispenser that we fill with our soap so that we don't have to get the big heavy bucket out each time. I think the original recipe said to fill the dispenser with half soap half water, but Joey gets really sweaty so we've always just used our double strength (it still lasts forever, so why not?). This works great for us. Joey has a reaction to some detergents so this is a good option. We used in on Perrin's newborn clothes and I even use it on our cloth diapers. If I need to get something extra clean (like dingy whites or stripping the diapers) I just do a prewash with some vinegar and baking soda (you can also add a little Borax if you have hard water).

   Another thing we try to limit is our consumption of paper products. We still use toilet paper (so far...) but Perrin's diapers are all cloth. We also don't buy paper towels. I have a ton of rags made of cut up t-shirts that we didn't want anymore and we use those to clean up day to day messes. We even stopped buying paper coffee filters and got a reusable metal one.

   The few things we do still buy are hand-soap, dishwasher detergent, and dish-soap. I have found some good recipes to try to make our own, but I just haven't gotten around to it yet. But we like the money we save and it's nice that I don't have to worry about Perrin or the animals being affected by any of the products. And did I mention how cheap vinegar and baking soda are?!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Project Real Life- My House

     I had a great conversation with a friend the other day. She had invited some other moms and I over for a get together with the babies and she was telling me about how stressed out she was over getting her house in order. And about how stupid she thought it was that she was letting it stress her out. We are all moms, we all have messes, and we are all friends. What did she feel like she had to prove? I do the same thing. When I have people over I am frantically cleaning for at least two days before and straightening up until the first person shows. But why? The condition of our house is good enough for us to live in day after day, surely our friends can survive it for a few hours. But I'm sure most of us will admit that we would be embarrassed if people saw our home on a regular day. And why? Who cares?

   I get it. A clean house is supposed to be part of the package. Right along with cooking healthy homemade meals and having a color-coordinated wardrobe. But come on...haven't we moved beyond this June  Cleaver ideal of what it means to be a good mother or woman or person? Does the state of your house really have any bearing on your identity or worth? Obviously we're not talking about basic levels of sanitation and hygiene. What we are talking about is a particular aesthetic, and more importantly an aesthetic that is not necessarily appealing to ourselves but that we adopt because we feel it is expected of us. So I'm calling bullshit.

   I'm a messy person. I always have been. I *know* that it's easier to put things away as I use them and clean as I go, but I am still going to set whatever is in my hands on the kitchen island every. damn. time. Every now and then the mess starts to make me feel anxious- so I clean it up. Then I feel better. Then I make the mess again. And that is completely fine because it's just how I roll. In years B.P. (before Perrin), Joey and I cleaned the house top to bottom every week. Every Saturday we picked up, mopped, vacuumed, dusted, and cleaned the kitchen and bathroom. But it only took about 24 hours for the counters to become cluttered again. Now that we are in A.P. (after Perrin), we're lucky if we mop the floors once every two weeks. And Perrin eats off those floors (to be fair he also eats dirt, so I refuse to beat myself up about some dog drool and floor Cheerios- organic floor Cheerios I might add). I don't think to clean the bathroom until the shower curtain get mildewy. At first it drove me insane. But now...I have accepted it. It won't last forever. And even if it does- so what? We are all happy and healthy, what else really matters? Why should I stress myself out over something I couldn't care less about?

   Sometimes I find myself rationalizing it in my head. Perrin is really high maintenance. He lap naps. We are just really busy. If things were different, our house would be much cleaner. But the truth is, I don't think it would be. And I'm sure I could find the time to stay on top of things if I tried harder. I spend a lot of time cruising online home improvement stores. We don't have to go to the zoo AND Children's Museum AND library AND park every single week. But I want to do those things. I like doing them. I like laying in bed with Perrin and snuggling and watching the animals chase each other.  And who knows- maybe some moms are able to do all those things AND have a sparkling clean home. I guess I just don't want it bad enough. And that is ok.

   So the purpose of this post is for everyone to see the different variations of a normal household. Some are minimalist and sparkling. Some look like a tornado hit. But you know what? I doesn't make a bit of difference. Some people are just really good at the house keeping thing. I'm not one of them. I'm good at building things, but I don't expect my friends to build elaborate arbors and remodel their bathroom every time I come over. So here are some pictures submitted by some wonderful friends. We openly and unapologetically invite you into our homes as we live in them. No explanations of why we clean or don't. No lists of the things we do instead. No good intentions. Because we shouldn't have to explain ourselves. We don't owe anyone some arbitrary aesthetic lifestyle. So here is the clean and dirty.  Enjoy.

    We don't make our bed. Ever. I just don't see the point. I don't plan to ever start making my bed. I've read that you sleep better if you do, so I tried it for a little while. Meh. Not worth it. But it looks like I'm not the only one!

Sarah Harris would like to claim her fame for this snuggle fest.

Have I ever mentioned that I HATE folding clothes?

Oh my God! These living rooms look LIVED IN! The horror!

It's like they have baby or something!


I guess I have to own this one.

And then there is the rest..
This will be Perrin's day.

I will set it on the counter. 

Another lovely example from the Harris household
Oh my god Sarah, you can keep a baby AND a plant alive?!

Rodgers in the house! 

So there you have it! Real life in a few of our houses. Feel free to continue sending me pictures. And don't feel bad about leaving those dishes in the sink. Unless you want to wash the dishes. Then go for it!