a garden in riotous bloom
Beautiful. Damn hard. Increasingly useful.
"Stuff and things" 
27 January 2016 00:06 - "Stuff and things"
rosefox: Batman feeds a baby while saying "We'll both be just fine" (baby-yay)
I can't remember who said something to me about baby gear being the geekiest part of parenting, but it totally is. There is some super cool shit out there for babies! These are some things we've gotten that are working very well for us. Prices are MSRP but you can often find great bargains on lightly used items. (But never buy a used car seat--you don't know whether it's been in an accident or is up to current safety standards--and think twice before buying a used stroller.)


Chicco Microwave Steam Sterilizer ($30). Strictly speaking, this is a sanitizer, not a sterilizer, and shouldn't be used for initially sterilizing bottles, pacifiers, and breast pump parts--boil them as the manufacturer directs. After that, though, it's super handy, and much more convenient than making bottle soup. Add a cup of water, nuke on high for a few minutes, and germs-B-gone. We got it as part of the Chicco NaturalFit starter set, which has generally served us well.

Ameda Purely Yours Double Electric Breast Pump ($190). X can speak to the specifics better than I can, for obvious reasons, but this is a really nice machine that does exactly what it's supposed to. Insurance frequently covers breast pumps, so don't be dissuaded by the cost. Also, since all the parts that come in contact with milk can be removed and sterilized, you can ethically resell it. Handy accessories: hands-free pumping bra (with the caveat that if it puts pressure on the breast in the wrong way it can lead to blocked milk ducts), adapters that let you pump directly into the brand of bottle you're using for feeding. We're moving to exclusively feeding formula, and X is currently working on decreasing milk supply; if anyone's interested in buying this pump and assorted spare parts and supplies from us in a few months, let us know.


Columbia Summit Rush Backpack Diaper Bag ($50). I have a long history of back and hip issues and can't carry one-shoulder bags, so this is a lifesaver. It's also very suited to a butch or utilitarian esthetic, which most diaper bags are not. The insulated bottle pocket is a nice touch, and it comes with a decent folding changing mat. I like the straps that let you hang it off the stroller handle.

Graco Modes Click Connect Travel System ($400). This stroller is fucking amazing. It does everything. The seat can face forward or back. Lay the seat all the way back and it becomes a bassinet, or put the seat back at a 30-degree angle to support a baby with reflux. (The day that we wheeled Kit around in the stroller for hours, there was ZERO spitting up.) Take the seat out and use the frame as a lightweight car seat frame. The one-hand fold actually works, though unfolding it takes two hands and a little practice. The wheels turn very smoothly and it feels well-sprung. The car seat that comes bundled with the stroller is perfectly nice; I'd have preferred to get the one that's good for kids up to 40 pounds, but this one's good up to 35, the bundle reduced the cost significantly, and we'll need to get a larger rear-facing toddler seat eventually anyway. (The AAP only recommends keeping the baby rear-facing to age two, but rear-facing is still much safer up to age four, and the longer your kid will let you get away with keeping them facing backwards, the better.) More importantly, it's suitable for small babies, which a surprising number of car seats aren't. If you want to get this or any high-end stroller/car seat, wait until it's on sale in a color you find bearable--right now the list price is $400 but we only spent $330.

JJ Cole Original Bundle Me ($40). This clever thing fits into the stroller (or car seat, but I don't recommend using it in one: for maximum crash safety, there should be nothing between the baby and the car seat, and the baby's also likely to get too warm in a warm car with this very heavy additional layer) and has slots in the back that lets the straps come through, so the straps rest directly on the baby for complete security. Getting a squirmy child into and out of a snow suit or similar outerwear is a pain--now you don't have to! The front and back halves zip together and can be completely detached, so you can fold the top layer down or take it off altogether, and it's machine washable.


Baby Diego Standard Bath Tub and Changer Combo ($100). A little pricey for a changing table? Sure. But the changing-table-height baby tub lets you bathe the baby without kneeling on hard tile and reaching awkwardly over the edge of the bathtub, and that is super worth it. I feel much more stable and secure while standing, and when you're holding a slippery wet baby, that really matters. Right now we don't use the changing table part of it, but I expect that will change once Kit's more mobile and as likely to be at one end of the house as the other.

4moms Spout Cover ($30). Nice simple design tells you whether water is too hot, too cold, or just right for a baby to bathe in. Get this while you're pregnant--you'll want to take a lot of baths, and this will help you adjust to taking them warm instead of hot. When we're bathing the baby, we run the water through the tub spout to get the temperature right, then switch to the handheld shower to fill the baby tub.


Dream On Me 3-in-1 Portable Folding Convertible Crib ($140). It has wheels and is narrow enough to fit through doorways; for a single-floor home like ours, that's really useful. When the cold weather first hit and the baby's room got very chilly, I just moved the crib into my room until we found a thermostat setting that keeps the baby's room warm (and my room sweltering, but oh well). Being able to adjust the mattress height is also very handy; we've been using it at the medium height from the get-go, because we have a mesh crib bumper that's fairly high, but it'll be great to be able to shift it down once the baby's able to grab the rail and stand. Haven't tested the folding aspect yet, but in theory it folds up small enough to fit in the trunk of a car, so if we decide to drive directly to Readercon we'll probably bring it along. The materials quality is a little shoddy--the wheels stick, and one screw broke while I was assembling it--but the customer service is great and they sent replacement parts right away. EDIT: When folded it's too big for even a hatchback trunk, but it would probably fit in an SUV or minivan cargo space.

Baby Relax Lainey Wingback Chair & Half Rocker ($377). For once I'm putting the sale price rather than the MSRP because I've never actually seen Wayfair selling it at full price. That said, sale price varies; when we bought it, it was $450. WORTH EVERY PENNY. (I should note that it was actually a gift, but if my mother and her gentleman hadn't bought it for us, we would have unhesitatingly bought it for ourselves.) It's a loveseat-size wingback chair on rockers. It is made of glorious coziness. We feed the baby on it; we doze on it; in a few years it will be exactly the right size for parent-and-child-and-cat snuggles and reading, and then it will stay the right size for that for years and years and years. We got two Sure Fit Scotchgard-treated slipcovers for it and they mostly protect it from cat claws and spit-up. It triggers all my happy memories of being a small child in my grandfather's big armchair, and I hope it will make a great many equally happy memories for Kit.

DIY baby monitor: tablet + tablet mount + Skype and/or Dormi. Cost depends on how much you pay for the mount (we went for the cheapest one we could find that was 360-degree swiveling) and whether you already have a spare phone or tablet that you can dedicate to this purpose. Lifetime unlimited monitoring on Dormi is $9--a bargain, and we didn't hesitate to pay it. X's old Nexus couldn't handle the streaming video very well but my Tab4 does fine with it. Dormi is an excellent sound-activated baby monitor app; you link your phone to it over your local network, and if the baby makes a noise, the app plays a few seconds of sound and video for you. You can also view video on demand or use the two-way radio function to say soothing things to the baby from the other side of the house. It's got very good security: data goes over your WAN, not the web; encrypted; new devices can't connect without authorization from the streaming device. Skype is better suited to tuning in from outside the house: set up the device to auto-accept calls from friends, and then anytime you (or the baby's other relatives) want to tune in to the babbycam, just Skype in. I love having babbycam in the corner of my screen while I'm doing other things. Unfortunately, Skype and Dormi don't share the device's audio and video channels very well, so if you want to use them both, you may want to set up a second device. For safety, attach the tablet to the wall or clamp it to a piece of furniture that's attached to the wall (not to the crib), run the power cord away from the crib, and tape the cord flat to the wall.


Halo SleepSacks (prices vary). These things are amazing. You can get them with built-in swaddling wings, which close with Velcro and are a very easy way for fumbling new parents to swaddle babies. You can get them in lightweight cotton, microfleece, or heavy quilting. They're sleeveless--treat them like blankets, not like clothing, and put them on over the baby's clothes. They unzip from the bottom up, so you can half-unzip them for diaper changes. They have lots of room at the bottom for wiggly feet and drawn-up legs, and there's a variation that has leg openings (with half-leggings) so the baby can wander around during the day and be feet-tucked-in at night. The only problem with them is that they're so comfortable and convenient that it's tempting to keep the baby in them 24/7, but I think we should probably take them off during the day so Kit can get in some kicking practice.

Data tracking

Baby Connect lets multiple caregivers track baby-related data. We mostly use it for diapers and feedings, but it's especially useful if you need to know, for example, whether anyone else has given the baby a dose of medication. Right now I can glance at it and see that Kit consumed 550 ml of formula in nine feedings yesterday, that the last bottle was finished off at 22:17 (which means Kit will probably wake up and demand another one fairly soon), and that it's been 12 hours since the last dose of Colic-Ease (so I should mix another into the next bottle). It also tracks height, weight, and head circumference and compares them with WHO or CDC growth charts. For some reason charts and graphs are only displayed on the phone app, not the web interface, but that's a minor quibble. It easily tracks info for multiple children--maybe we should start using it to keep track of who's fed the cats--and displays an emergency contact list in a sidebar, which is handy for babysitters.
27 January 2016 13:15
Thank you for sharing! I'm filing this away for later use.
27 January 2016 16:53 - Such a great kit for Kit!
I'm particularly impressed with the tub temp taker - I didn't see one up here, but perhaps I wasn't looking thoroughly for it. The bottle steamer, also very handy, takes so much less time and water than boiling or dishwasher-ing.

I should've gone with the backpack diaper from the start, but for some reason I went with a different style and basically never fell in love with it. I've abandoned it for other backpacks I already owned.

I also never got in the habit of swaddling the babe, much to my regret. It might've helped him sleep for longer, sooner, but in my defense, he was born in early May and he slept in a diaper a fair bit for the first 3-4 months, and sometimes a onesie. If we get a "next time," more swaddling with the swaddlers I got as gifts.

I Love the baby tracker app! It's pretty super, and eventually it'll be excellent to hand over as part of the Baby Book records.
27 January 2016 19:57
For travel, you should really consider a Graco Pack 'n' Play. It was a lifesaver for us.
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