Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My Favorites for the Baby Registry

Seasoned mothers: don’t you wish you knew then what you know now when you were a new mom? It was definitely a live and learn experience. Unfortunately (or fortunately), you’ll never have to go through that experience of being a new mom again.

A friend of mine recently contacted me. She is pregnant with her first child and is beginning the daunting task of creating her baby registry. She wanted suggestions from her friends on what to get. I also had contacted friends (as well as using my sister’s registry from the year before) to create my registry.

I decided to share some of my favorite things to have for a newborn. I threw in some green tips here and there as well.

Diapers—I found Huggies and Pampers Swaddlers to be the best. They both have a color-changing stripe on their newborn diapers that helps to know if your baby has urinated. (It’s obvious if they pooped, but not so much if they peed. And you’re supposed to keep track of how many times a day they do each.) To me, the grocery store brand of diapers ran big—too big for a newborn. I now use them on Baby Bear as they work just as well and are almost half the price. (I also noticed that the grocery store gives coupons at the checkout for the competitor’s brand of diapers. Save the coupons for later or stock up on bigger-sized diapers)

Wipes—If you put wipes on your registry (which I’d recommend, along with laundry detergent and diapers), be sure to sign up for refill packs and not the wipes already in the dispenser. You only need one or two dispensers for your house. Although I began by buying Seventh Generation wipes because they were chlorine-free, I now use generic wipes because they come in a huge bag.

Changing pad covers—You’re going to need cloth changing pad covers (2), but I also used disposable ones on top of the cloth one so I wouldn’t have to do laundry as often. (You only need to use a new one if it gets leaked on.) I used Especially for Baby brand; however, they make them large enough to cover the entire changing table, which you don’t need. You can cut these into halves or fourths or buy ones labeled multi-use pads, which are about the size you need.

Soap—I like Nature’s Paradise Baby Organic Conditioning Coconut Shampoo and Body Wash. It doesn’t leave a slimy residue in the bathwater that even California Baby did. It’s also organic, all natural, and doesn’t contain common allergens. You have to order it online buy it at boutiques.

Shampoo—Although Nature’s Paradise is also a shampoo, it mentions that it isn’t tear-free. Because I liked that baby-head smell, I started using regular baby shampoo. When I went in for Baby Bear’s first haircut, she had a very crusty scalp. The stylist said it was a wax buildup from the shampoo I was using. When I switched shampoos (Cookie Cutters brand), the gunk went away.

Laundry detergent—Before Baby Bear was born (and I actually had free time), I did research on what detergents are the best for the environment as well as the safest for newborn babies: this website was helpful Ecos brand Free and Clear(found at most grocery stores) was at the top of the list. Seventh Generation was near the top but contained enzymes and softeners.

Clothes—When buying clothes, realize that your baby will be lying down 99% of the time. You really only need one nice outfit, and, chances are, you’ll get a bunch as gifts from friends. Buy onesies instead. (And when you buy clothes, remove the hangers at the store so they can reuse them. I know I only ended up hanging Baby Bear’s dressiest clothes and kept all of her everyday outfits at close reach.)

Socks—I don’t really understand how socks just spontaneously fall off, but they do. Don’t use them if you don’t need to. If you do, the best brand is Trumpette—found online ( and in boutiques. Not only do they stay on, the girl socks look like Mary Jane shoes and the boy socks look like sporty shoes.

Sleepsacks—In your baby class, they’ll teach you how to properly swaddle your baby. The problem is, a real baby can break through that swaddle within minutes. I loved swaddlers with Velcro closures, such as Kiddopotamus brand swaddlers and Halo SleepSack Swaddlers both sold at Babies R Us. Get at least two.

Breast pump—I followed my sister’s advice and bought a Medela. It came in a backpack to easily transport and can run on electricity or battery. I would recommend getting at least one extra set of equipment as all the parts need to be dry when you use it, and you’re supposed to wash the pieces after each use. I’d also buy nipples for the bottles. Otherwise you need to transfer the milk from the Medela bottles to real bottles to feed your baby. A must for pumping: a hands-free bra. The best brand is Easy Expression Hands-Free Pumping Bras, which sells a bustier you put on without having to remove your shirt or regular nursing bra. They sell them online at as well as at A Pea in the Pod, Destination Maternity, and Buy Buy Baby.

Book—Best book in the world: BabyWise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam. Read it, learn it, live it.

Recalls—I recommend joining the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s listerv: They send you emails when toys and baby products are recalled.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I'll Be Alright

I have another terrific CD for your little one: Dave Fletcher’s I’ll Be Alright.

This CD is really great for all ages—especially school age children—but Baby Bear and I love the beats of the songs so much, we got an early start.

What’s nice is that many of the songs teach a lesson: “Twelve Months” teaches the twelve months of the year. “Musical Drill” (one of my favorites) teaches the different musical notes: quarter notes, half notes, and whole notes. It does this both with a definition in the song as well as demonstrates through the rhythm of the song. There’s also a rap on famous composers, and a song that tells the story of the three little pigs. The CD has a good mix of genres of music—rap, blues, etc., as well as instruments. In addition, some of the songs feature children singing, which Baby Bear especially enjoys.

Definitely check this one out:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Trip to the DuPage Children's Museum

Recently, my daughter and I went on a field trip to the DuPage Children’s Museum in Naperville, Illinois.

Now, some may ask, “Isn’t she a bit young to enjoy a museum? She’s not even nine months old yet.”

I’m here to say, you’re never too young to benefit from a museum.

I first took my daughter there when she was three months old. Although she couldn’t even sit up yet, we were able to have fun. There were tons of things to look at, including a whole exhibit on color and light. We also hung out in the music room where she listened to older kids play percussion instruments. Even though she mainly observed, she still seemed amazed by it all.

Now that she can sit up, crawl, and play with toys, I thought she was ready to experience the museum again. I am so glad we went.

Besides the joy she got out of playing, it was nice to get out of the house for the day. I couldn’t do dishes or sort laundry or work on my writing. She had my full attention.

We didn’t have to hurry home or worry about a sibling or friend wanting to move on and play somewhere different. We explored an exhibit for as long as she wanted. The museum isn’t huge, but we still didn’t get to everything we wanted to.

Here’s a guide to what we did do that your young one might enjoy as well:

Creativity Connections: We went to an area lit by black light with various colored “glow sticks” that can be stuck into slots and pulled back out, similar to a huge Lite Bright. Although my daughter wasn’t quite ready to arrange the sticks into a pattern as may have been intended for the station, we had fun pulling the sticks out, clinking them together, and even just holding on to them. As well, it might have been fun for her to stack them in a pile and rummage through them.

Also in the Creativity Connections area was the percussion room. In addition to listening to other children drum it out, my daughter was able to hold a mallet and I helped guide her wrist to hit various sized wooden and metal xylophones.

Young Explorers: Various exhibits also have a section called Young Explorers, for children under 24 months old. We spent most of our time checking these out. They often had toys similar to those the main exhibits but for littler hands. My daughter loved the area with tons of colorful plastic balls that she could sit in, roll, and click together.

Math Connections: We really enjoyed building with wooden blocks in this exhibit. My daughter liked to hold the different shaped blocks and watch the cylindrical ones roll. Of course, she also watched me build something and then she knocked it down. We also had fun in the geometry section. There’s a huge transparent wall where you can stick colorful and varied shape window clings. She had fun peeling them off with my prompts, such as “Can you get the circle?”

WaterWays: Who can resist playing with water? Although I had to perform contortionistic moves to get my daughter’s hands positioned in the water, she had fun splashing around and watching rubber duckies traverse through the water.

Bubbles: Talk about monstrous bubbles! My daughter enjoyed watching me create the biggest bubbles ever with a large triangular wand. She wasn’t yet ready to try to pop them, but was amazed by their glorious size.

If you only have one child and are debating whether they’re really old enough to appreciate a visit to a museum, why not try it? You’d be surprised what there is they can have fun with.

Tips for the Museum:

1. Bring a stroller—it was helpful for when I needed to powder my nose, peruse the gift shop, etc.

2. Dress your child in a short-sleeved shirt—that way sleeves don’t get wet while playing in the water or bubbles. Be sure they are dressed comfortably for crawling or running around.

3. Pack a lunch for both of you. There are vending machines, but it’s easy to pack a simple lunch and eat healthily. Bring paper towels for clean up. Since my daughter is still doing the baby food thing, I also had to remember a little spoon. A handy tip I learned: store it in a toothbrush holder. I also brought a rubberized mat for eating her Cheerios on, a cloth bib and a plastic bib, and a plastic grocery bag to store all the yucky stuff to take back home (dirty bib, empty baby food jar to recycle, metal spoon from my lunch, etc.)

4. Think ahead to when naptime will be. I chose to drive out to the museum during the morning naptime (as she slept in the car) and drive home for her afternoon nap (and she was definitely ready for it!)

5. Don’t forget a camera to remember your special day.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Going Bananas for Valentine's Day

Last week Baby Bear’s Tot Rock instructor announced that we’d be celebrating Valentine’s Day the following week. We should each bring a Valentine for the other children.

At first I was excited—I had been anticipating doing crafts with my child since I found out I was pregnant. But what exactly could a nine-month do?

I didn’t want to just buy those chintzy cards with a licensed character on it and sign her name. I also didn’t want to give the other tots candy.

Instead, I decided to go off the old Valentine saying, “I’m bananas for you.” I made banana bread and put a slice for each child in a small bag. Then I took a picture of Baby Bear holding a bunch of bananas and wrote “I’m bananas for you. Happy Valentine’s Day.” I printed multiple copies on regular paper with the saying next to it and taped them on the bags.

I later realized that I could have had Baby Bear participate in the baking after all. Since the bananas need to be mushed, I could have put them in a large freezer Ziploc bag and had her pound away. Of course, older kids can have fun making banana bread, stirring the batter and pouring in the measured amounts.

Another spin on giving out candy-less Valentines that doesn’t require any baking would be to buy oranges. You could then take a picture of your child holding an orange with the saying, “Orange you glad we’re friends?” and print them on large mailing labels to stick on the oranges.

There are so many different phrases you can play on with this. Older siblings can even help think of puny sayings and ways to “pose” your baby.

Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day.

Here’s my favorite banana bread recipe.

½ cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 ½ mashed overripe bananas
1 container vanilla yogurt (6 oz)
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 ¼ tsp b. soda
pinch salt

(for the topping)
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a loaf pan.
2. Cream butter and sugar.
3. Add in eggs, banana, vanilla, and yogurt. Mix.
4. Stir flour in, a little at a time. Then add in baking soda and salt, and mix again.
5. Pour batter into loaf pan.
6. Mix together cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle on top of loaf.
7. Bake for 60 minutes. Check if done with a knife or toothpick in the center.
8. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Pesky Cradle Cap

You’re scheduled for pictures of your little pipsqueak only to find that your baby’s head is covered in scales. What is it? And how can you get it to go away?

After thumbing through my handy baby reference books (see sidebar), I found that cradle cap is considered a type of dermatitis of the scalp. To get rid of the scales, they suggest rubbing mineral oil (which is baby oil sans the fragrance) or petroleum jelly on the scalp, wait a bit, and then shampoo. When Baby Bear was still a tiny cub, she actually loved when I “massaged” her scalp using a Q-Tip and mineral oil. It really worked well.

Now that she’s 9 months, I noticed cradle cap returning. When I went in for her first haircut, I mentioned it to the stylist, who had her own theory. She said that cradle cap was actually caused by Baby Bear’s cheap shampoo. Supposedly, the wax in it helps protect the scalp. But the wax can also build up and block the hair follicles causing the hair to fall out. Yikes!

After frequent combings to remove the loose flakes and switching shampoo, the scales are gone. Now I’m not sure what to believe about cradle cap. Is it pieces of the scalp or leftover wax from the shampoo? Whatever it is, it seems that using an oily substance to loosen it helps, as well as possibly trying a different shampoo.

I’d love to hear what others have learned about cradle cap.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Few of My Favorite CDs

Have you ever met a baby who didn't like music?  Not likely.  Something in us must just love hearing a good beat.  I first discovered the CD "A Poodle in Paris" (by Connie Kaldor) from my library and was hooked.  Each song is about something different and has a catchy tune.  I started playing this album while Baby Bear was not yet able to hold her head up, so I often would play the CD while she was on her changing table and could see me well.  Here are some activities we enjoyed doing with some of the songs:
  • "A Poodle in Paris" includes the well-known tune used for can-can dancing, so when Baby Bear was  on her back, she enjoyed doing the kicks to that part of the song.
  • "The Littlest Duck" talks about what various animals like to do.  I made up little movements for each animal and would dance them for Baby Bear.
  • "The Zoo Is Having a Party" has a very catchy tune.  This was a fun one to play holding Baby Bear over my shoulder and dancing around the room.
I thought that this CD might be a soundtrack for a movie.  Unfortunately, it wasn't.  It turns out there is a book that accompanies the CD, based on the individual song "A Poodle in Paris."  I also found a second CD that is just as good, also by Connie Kaldor: "A Duck in New York City" (which also has a book with the same title).  Another favorite of mine.  I ended up purchasing both CDs and both books.  What's nice about the books is that they contain the lyrics to all the songs.  Since my voice could use some work, it was good to know I was at least singing the correct lyrics.

These CDs seem great for children of all ages.  In fact, I had brought "A Poodle in Paris" with me on a family vacation.  By the end, everyone, including the second grader and sixth grader, were singing along!  Definitely a must-have for your CD collection.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Welcome to My Site!

Greetings!  I am excited to launch my new blog just for other parents and grandparents out there looking for little snippets to help make life easier. 

I became a parent for the first time last April.  Although I read What to Expect When You're Expecting and attended all the baby classes I could while pregnant, parenthood still came as a shock. You can plan for parenthood all you want, but you're still going to hit bumps in the road.

The purpose of my blog is to share information I've learned through experience.  I hope that my readers will gain at least one "bite" of information they find useful and will share some of their own in the comments section.

However, I must give this disclaimer: Any information I share is through my own trial and error as a parent.  I am not a doctor or nutritionist and can only offer what I do or have read.  Any time you hear or read something regarding the safety or health of your loved one, it's always a good idea to ask an expert you trust.

With that being said, I'm ready to share what I have learned in my nine short months of being a mama bear.