Bossy Okayest Baby Gear Advice, By Request

People keep asking me for baby gear advice. Not sure why… maybe my okayest attitude helps people know I would help them sort through the muck. Here’s what I have been telling those moms-to-be who have asked for my bossy opinions:

Everyone tells you how fast they grow, but it’s really hard to believe how true that is until you watch it happen. There is so much that you won’t need. For six months, he’s just a backpack. And then, he will be crawling away from you! With that said, modern life/ modern inventions do indeed make mothering much easier. This is a list of my favorite things and my super-opinionated opinions.

Please know that my first son came to us in a hurry, as we adopted him after only three days’ notice. One cool thing about that was that we were spared a lot of unncessary product comparisons and reading baby gear reviews ad nauseum. I just asked my favorite momma (my cousin’s wife) for a quick list and she didn’t waste any time. She just said which brand of bottles and which brand of this and that, and I loved it. When my twins came along, I had more time to prepare, of course, but I had no time for frivolous baby stuff. We had one mode, and it was survival mode!

My point is that you can take my opinions with a grain of salt, because they are just that: opinions based on my experiences. And my experiences haven’t been normal, because I have never had a normal one-pregnancy-equals-one-baby situation. I’ve had one pregnancy for three babies from two different moms.

Anyway, here’s my bossy advice, in no particular order:  

Feeding pillow: Must have a Boppy! It’s good for arm support for nursing and bottle feeding (or BOTH AT THE SAME TIME if you have twins). I had four when I had the twins (two on each level of the house), but you won’t need that many! I have noticed that my short friends and my extremely bosomy friends don’t need the Boppy as desperately as my tall friends and/or my petite-breasted friends. We just have a lot more area to cover between our laps and our boobs, okay?

Homemade Moby Wrap is good idea; carrying twins this precariously is not.

Homemade Moby Wrap is good idea; carrying twins this precariously is not.

Carriers: I love the Moby Wrap when they are infants (although I made my own from 18 feet of t-shirt fabric); I love the Ergo when they can hold their heads up. Both carriers saved my back more than that stupid Baby Bjorn. Wear the baby in one of those for all your chores, and you will get exercise and baby will be happy. If you decide you like the Moby, practice tying it often before the baby arrives. I usually wore it all day, often without a shirt, and took the baby in and out throughout the day. (I hear there are all sorts of amazing new hybrid carriers out there now, which kind of combine Moby with Ergo… You’re on your own, because my knowledge is already outdated!)

Swing: Must have. Get one that swings side to side AND back and forth. Babies with reflux can’t go back and forth, and you won’t know if your baby is fussy/refluxy until after you buy the swing! Also look for one that plugs in. DO NOT try to save space and get a “travel size” one or folding one or anything- they only swing one direction and none of my kids liked them anyway. I seriously think having a full sized swing (or two for my twins) was what kept me out of the mental hospital. My favorite was the Ingenuity brand, but it ran on hundreds of Costco batteries. My kids all slept in swings until they were 4 months or more. No guilt. No shame!

diapers in bulk

One month’s worth.

Diapers: Whatever brand is cheapest that won’t get poop on your clothes is what you want! I have decided that people have different diaper opinions that are based on their child’s butt shape. And they don’t even seem to know that. But some kids have tall butts, wide butts, whatever. We are generic Target diapers and generic Costco wipes people. Love generic! (However, when they were newborns, we gratefully used anything and everything because people gifted us so many different brands of diapers.) (Also, I will splurge on name-brand for night diapers.) If you compare prices as strictly as I do, be sure to do it PER DIAPER and not per pack. Unit prices, people! We have the Target Red Card, for 5% off, and then I wait for the sale where they offer their bulk packs of diapers at a discount and with a refund gift card. PS, You will know they have outgrown their diaper size when you get peed on.

The forward-facing age recommendations have changed since this picture was taken.

The forward-facing age recommendations have changed since this picture was taken.

Car seats: I got the cheapest and lightest. Not picky in that department! I liked the cheapest version of the Graco brand because they were light and basic. DO NOT get “convertible car seats” unless you have a giant van. I have heard that convertible car seats in the rear-facing position usually will not fit in regular cars. So buy a regular rear-facing seat, and later buy a forward-facing seat, and it will cost the same or less than a convertible seat anyway. (We seriously just have the $25 cheapos for forward-facing too.)

Our first walk

Our first walk

Stroller: I am a big fan of the cheapest and lightest strollers, called umbrella strollers. They are less than $20. However, baby can’t sit in them until he can hold his head up… So that’s where baby-wearing comes in handy. Usually, the more expensive a stroller is, the heavier it will be. I take a double or triple stroller in and out of my van everyday, so trust me when I say weight is a big deal!

Most worth-it splurge: That “Jumperoo” thing is a great splurge even though they only use it for a couple months. Totally not necessary, but I promise you will be able to make dinner if you have that thing.

Seats: My first kid sat in the “Bumbo” for months. I thought it was the greatest invention ever made. My second kid was too fat to fit in it, and my third kid was too wild to sit in it. He was flipping it over. So, if someone gives it to you, great, but save your money in case your kid is a bolt of lightening or super fat. (Again, a whole new generation of seat thingies has been born in the two years since I used baby gear, so I’m outdated already.)

First Aid Must-Haves:
1) forehead thermometer – You can even swipe it on their head while they sleep.
2) Infant Tylenol (generic is always fine) – you will use this A LOT.
3) Children’s Benadryl – Benadryl says it’s for ages six and up, but if your baby has an allergic reaction to something, the doc will tell you the infant dose. We have had to do that. No house should be without emergency Benadryl!
4) anti-gas medicine (simethicone) for infants

High Chair/ Booster Seat: Your kid won’t need a high chair until he can sit up. If you are feeding him baby food in a reclining seat, he is too young to be eating. Therefore, avoid fancy high chairs. My best tip is to avoid any padding or cushion on a high chair. Totally unnecessary, and you will be washing it every single day. Ridiculous. I have been through about three high chairs with padding, so trust me! When I switched to the $20 Ikea cheapo one, I was so.very.happy. You will want something that you can hose off outside if necessary. (Seriously, I have actually done that.) When the twins got older, we switched to the Ikea “Junior Chair”, which is simply a regular chair with taller legs. At $40, it costs the same as some booster seats, but there are no crevices to clean!

Clothing: People will give you all sorts of adorable things, and you will be grateful for every single thing, but take a tip from a twin mom: you will want as many jammies that ZIP as possible! For newborns, those sack nightgowns are great too. You will be so deliriously tired that you will not be able to maneuver snaps and buttons in the middle of the night. You really won’t. Unless your kid is some sort of freak who sleeps six hours a night from birth and you’re super well-rested. Anyway, zippered one-piece footed jammies, and elastic-bottomed nightgowns were my best friends. (Twin moms who are trying to nurse two babies sometimes have to lift/heave a newborn one-handed, and then all the snaps pop open. Zippers, people! Zippers!)

Swaddlers: I am a biiiiig fan of swaddling. All three of my kids were swaddled for every nap and every nighttime for at least a couple of months. One of mine wanted to be swaddled until he was six months old (but I had to leave his legs out when he was bigger so as not to injure his growing body!). Another of mine didn’t need as much swaddling because he was so relaxed already. Their personalities determined how long they needed it! They sleep longer and feel so secure. In the old days, when babies slept on their tummies, they didn’t need swaddling. Now that babies sleep on their backs, their arms flail and wake them up. Swaddle them tightly and they will feel like they are in the womb. Great for reflux too. My favorite was the Halo SleepSack, which is a cotton or fleece swaddler with Velcro. The Miracle Blanket was also pretty amazing.

Reclining Chair: Make sure you have a chair in your house that you can sleep in. Seriously. For my first child, I picked out a cute glider rocking chair situation. It didn’t recline. Guess what? He was super sickly and never slept – and had to sleep upright because of severe reflux. That meant that *I* slept upright in that dang glider for a few months. In retrospect, I now know I should have just begged/borrowed/stealed to get myself a dang recliner. I was too sleep-deprived to know what to do. When I was pregnant with my twins, I found two cheap recliners and made sure I could sleep in them. It turns out, *I* was the one with the reflux and had to sleep upright in those chairs during my twin pregnancy… and my twins turned out to be good sleepers who were satisfied with the swings and cribs and bassinets and whatnot. Oh, irony.

Diaper Bag: NO. Just no. If you have a baby on your hip, why do you want a big bumpy diaper bag bouncing around on your hip too? Most of them are even heavy when they’re empty. It’s ridiculous. I went through about 14 diaper bags, much to the dismay of my husband every time he opens the guest room closet and they all fall out. Trust me: just get a big backpack. Then you have free arms and nothing on your hip except your baby. And if you have twins, you don’t have a choice. Two babies on two hips means a backpack is a must. Plus, once they are a bit bigger, you’re just going to keep all your supplies in your car anyway.

I hope that helps.

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I have received no compensation for any of these recommendations (although that would have been kinda great). These items were really what I use for my own kids. This is not “a crummy commercial”!

How to Avoid Being a Jerk to Your Infertile Friend

infertilityThis topic has probably been beaten to death, but I’m going to add my voice to the commotion anyway. We were married for eight years before we adopted our oldest son, so we’ve heard a few things along the way. We would like more children, but we’re not sure we can conceive again. I still align myself with the Infertile Myrtles, despite the fact that I have three children in diapers (none of whom were conceived in my own body).

What Not to Say:

“Just relax.” Ummm, Do you think that a physical problem can be remedied with a long bath and a vacation? If it could, don’t you think I would have figured that out by now? I saw a t-shirt that said, “Guess what? Relaxing does not make a baby!” Also, permit me to say that relaxing while enduring daily doctor appointments, shots, and weird comments is impossible.

“Maybe you should ‘just’ adopt.” This one was my own personal most-hated phrase. First of all, adoption is a very personal decision that can only be made between the couple involved. There are many reasons that adoption may or may not be appropriate for a family. Second of all, there is no “just” involved in adoption. Adoption is called a “paper pregnancy” because the paperwork alone can take as long or longer than gestation. And you are “just” bringing a human being into your lives permanently for your next 60 to 80 years. Adoption is hard work and not for the weak.

“My friend so-and-so …”  Do not begin any sentence with this statement. Just don’t. (Anyone who has had cancer can maybe relate.)

“It was God’s will.” Okay, I am as religious as anybody. Maybe I even believe it was God’s will that any of this stuff has happened to me. (I do believe that we endured miscarriages so that our son R could come to our family through adoption. How else would he have made it our family?) But that does not give you the right to say it.

“Surprise, we’re pregnant!” It’s the “surprise” part of this sentence that is a big no-no.  If you are about to announce a pregnancy, please take pity on your infertile friends or family members by telling them personally, ahead of time, so they are not blindsided at the family Christmas party. Let them deal with their pain and sorrow in private, so they can then put on their Big Boy Panties and deal with it before the party. Sometimes, even a kindly worded email can be enough if you want to spare the person the experience of trying not to sob on the phone.

“You can always do IVF.” Um, no, you can’t always do IVF. It’s crazy expensive, especially in states where it is not covered by insurance. It is crazy hard, too. Daily injections and daily vaginal ultrasounds and daily hormone-induced breakdowns are just not for everyone. It’s also not appropriate for all medical conditions. And, how do you know that she didn’t already try it? It only works about 30% of the time… so maybe she was one of the 70% who spend ten grand for nothing and didn’t want to tell you about it.

“You should be glad you don’t have a baby. It’s so much work!” Just don’t ever say that. It does not help. I wanted to be immersed in the poop and the crying and the sleepless nights. Besides, I was not trying to have a baby; I was trying to begin a human being. I am trying to bring a soul to this family and to this world. Who cares about how much work that is? That statement is some kind of middle-school version of psychology.

“Why the rush? You have plenty of time!” The decision of when to have children is a personal one between a husband and wife, and maybe God. For me, it was a spiritual feeling that their souls were missing from our home and were trying to get here. Are you gonna argue that with me? Plus, I didn’t want just one baby. If I did, maybe I could afford to wait until I was 45 (just kidding). However, making multiple babies multiple times might mean starting a little earlier than that.

“Is it your husband’s fault?” Short answer: none of your business. Long answer: most husbands are feeling already emasculated about this whole situation, and most wives are rightfully reticent to throw their husband under the bus about infertility. I don’t think any husbands welcome anyone talking about their sperm. It’s hard enough to listen to the doctor do that. Plus, I think a good marital team adopts a no-fault system, like California divorces. Your problem is my problem and that’s all there is to it.

Okay, so now your lips are zipped and you’re too scared to make a peep. Now what? Here are some things that others said or did that actually helped me.

What You SHOULD Say/Do:

  • Yes, do invite your infertile friend to that baby shower. No, don’t expect her to come to it, but don’t leave her out either. Let her make the decision. I never ever went to baby showers, but I appreciated being included. Some of my stronger infertile friends continue to go to showers.
  • Yes, do tell your infertile friend that you are pregnant. As I mentioned above, telling her in private before everyone else finds out is the best and kindest thing. You can even tell her by email or phone. Just don’t let her be ambushed, where she would have no choice but to hide in the bathroom to avoid a public meltdown at the big family function.
  • Ask her how she is doing, and just listen. A well-timed, “Man, that really sucks” is all you need to say. Really. We don’t need advice- we need friends!
  • Check up on her often. Infertility is so lonely. Messages, cards, emails, phone calls, texts all count. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but it matters that she doesn’t feel forgotten. Just say “I was thinking about you today.” Or just say “hi”!
  • Don’t talk about babies. If you have kids already, tone it down and wait for her to ask about them. Visiting with her is not a playdate.
  • Face that elephant in the room: Although I suggest avoiding talking about your babies, this is not a license to avoid talking about her situation. You can even say, “I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know that I am your friend.” She may or may not want to talk about the whole thing, but give her the opportunity, and then follow her lead. Personally, I was an open book about it all, because that was my therapy. I had a good friend who never talked about it, and that was what was best for her.
  • If you have kids, maybe don’t bring them around. However, some women prefer some good ole’ fashioned “baby therapy” and might appreciate holding your little one. You will have to be  a good and attentive friend to figure this one out!

With possibly one in six couples facing infertility at some point in their lives- even possibly after having a child- the chances are great that you already know someone who needs your support. Good luck!