Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Crane Drop Shape Cool-Mist Humidifier



Pickle, our 4-5-year-old daughter, gets recurrent croup.  She’s gotten it dozens of times since she turned one, so we’ve sort of done it all.  We’ve stood her in front of the freezer during coughing fits, we’ve stood in a steamy bathroom, we’ve inclined her bed, we’ve done countless rounds of oral steroids and a nebulizer.  All of them have worked in varying degrees to help stem her symptoms after the croup has already started – and it usually starts any time she gets a cold with any sign of a cough.  Per our pediatrician and pulmonologist’s recommendations, we have also utilized a cool-mist humidifier.  We have used it both before symptoms showed up and after the croup has begun in hopes of either preventing or shortening the duration of the illness – studies have shown that cool mist is best for this.

The first time Pickle got croup, we went to Wal-Mart and got the first cool-mist humidifier we saw.  We landed on the Safety 1st Ultrasonic Humidifier.  Ours is a little older model than this one, it ran about $25:  LINK  We liked that it was ultrasonic, so there was no expensive filter to change – so, even though it was sorta plain and ugly, we figured it was worth it.  It was also pretty quiet, which was nice.  We used it for about a week when we first noticed that it started leaking.  By leaking, I mean it was leaking everywhere from the base, not just some condensation from the spout.  In addition to this electrocution hazard, we also were disturbed that the auto shut-off didn’t work on ours when it ran out of water – I usually would have to get up in the middle of the night to turn it off, rather than risk it overheating.  We continued to use it, but it wasn’t a great solution.

I started doing a lot more research when searching for a new humidifier, as I wanted to get something that would work better and be safer.  I read time and time again about how Crane (www.crane-usa.com) had the best value for their humidifiers.  I was recently lucky enough to get to try out a Crane Drop Shape Humidifier in orchid and white (LINK):



It is adorable, and the pink and white go just perfectly with Pickle’s pink-and-brown bedroom.  However, there are a ton of other colors – prices range from about $40 at retailers like Amazon, Target, and Wal-Mart, up to about $55 for the harder-to-find colors.  They are ultra-sleek and modern, and very appealing to my girly-girl.  However, if you have a wee one who wants something a little more traditionally “cute,” check out their Adorable Animals line of humidifiers for the cutest elephants, monkeys, frogs, and more to ever help your children breathe easier.

As it happened, Pickle just happened to come down with a cold within days of when we got the humidifier.  (Lousy Midwest weather.)  As I mentioned before, her colds almost always evolve into croup.  That weekend, we had birthday parties, soccer practice, meetings, and more – the poor girl just didn’t have the time to be down-and-out with respiratory issues.  

We got the Crane humidifier out, and set it up in her room.  First of all, it looks adorable – a vast improvement over the previous humidifier we had.  Although it’s incredibly simple to set up, I recommend following the directions in order to get the best results from your humidifier.  We set it up about three feet off of the ground in order to get the best circulation of air.  Per the directions, we also adjusted the spray so as not to accumulate water at the base – although we put it on a waterproof surface, we really didn’t need to.  There was no leaking or water accumulation – again, we were well ahead of the Safety 1st model we’d used previously.  It was quiet as a mouse, and it wasn’t big and oppressive in her room.  

One of my favorite features is that the auto shut-off actually worked – I didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night and ninja off the humidifier without waking my daughter.  If I hadn’t read the directions, it might have confused me a little bit that the light remained on to indicate that the unit was still receiving power.  The functioning auto shut-off was another big win for me over the previous humidifier!  

One more thing I’d like to note from the instruction manual and the Crane website – no medications are to be used in the unit.  This includes essential oils, if you’re an “oily” house.  There are hacks on YouTube and blogs on how to add oils to the Crane humidifier, but it is not manufactured for use with them and is strongly discouraged.

So… after all of this, I’m sure you’re wondering if starting the Crane humidifier at the onset of Pickle’s cold kept away from the croup.  Well, take a look at this face from that birthday party I mentioned – could a girl with a restricted airway work a trumpet with this much style?


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Undercover Mama Nursing Shirts + GIVEAWAY!

Once upon a time, I did a blog entry on nursing tanks (LINK).  The main benefit of nursing tanks are that they're great for nursing in public, since they cover your midsection and chest.  The downside to them is that they really don't support you much, as it's just a piece of tank top fabric.

When Peanut was born, I started out using these (much like when his older sister was small).  However, being four years older than I was when she was born, I felt quickly as if I needed some more support.  I found some good nursing bras, but they left my stomach exposed when I was nursing in public.  I could just wear a tank top over the top, but it meant pulling down or up a tank top to nurse and THEN unsnapping the nursing bra, which was just all-around a pain.  

Since neither solution was ideal, I've stuck with the nursing tanks and just resigned myself to my breasts chilling out somewhere near my ankles.  I did some searching around the internet for nursing tanks that had molded cups - I found one, but tanks ran about $60 each.  I really couldn't justify that, since I'd need more than one.  I don't think my husband would really be on board with that big of an investment in my boobs unless they're making gold or something.

Then I got the chance to try an Undercover Mama nursing shirt.  It's simplistic, yet brilliant - it's a tank top without straps that connects to your nursing bra.  when you fold down the cradle of the nursing bra, the nursing shirt folds down with it.

Image courtesy of Undercover Mama
The nursing shirt is cotton and spandex, so it's breathable; your level of support depends entirely on the type of nursing bra you use underneath it.  You can use a nursing bra with or without an underwire, and the function of the Undercover Mama is not dependent upon how wide your straps are.
There are two ways that the nursing shirt can be attached to your nursing bra. You can either use a little clip, or you can use the elastic ring to simply pop over the top of your nursing bra's clasp:

As you can see, there is a near-invisible elastic ring that connects the nursing shirt to my very beige nursing bra.  Since it hooks below the clasp, the nursing shirt just folds down when I unclasp my bra to nurse or pump.  It's super-convenient and discreet.  Nobody sees all of my postpartum belly flopping all over the place when I'm nursing!
I like the fit of the nursing shirt a lot, as well - their size guide is very similar to most regular shirts (LINK).  The shirt itself is cotton and spandex, so there's just enough stretch to it to not make it bulky and awkward underneath your clothes.  They have a huge range of sizes, so the Undercover Mama should be able to work for anyone.  
I just went with a plain white tank for my first one, but they have tons of colors and styles.  So... how would you like to test one out?  Check us out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/motherknowsbestreviews and like us!  And go HERE for the giveaway of a free Undercover Mama nursing shirt in your choice of size and color!  That's an awesome $24.99 value - but the convenience is priceless!
Check back here on 5/1/15 to see if you're the winner!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Mumi & Bubi Solids Starter Kit

As I mentioned in my last blog (HERE), we are doing a mixture of homemade purees and baby-led weaning with our little Peanut now that he is over 6 months old.  The Baby Brezza has been great for us, it's worked out really well for him.

When we first ordered the Brezza, I wanted to find a good system for freezing and storing the purees.  When I made food for our older daughter four years ago, I had just frozen items directly in these little containers (LINK):



12 containers cost about $15.  Since I wanted to freeze a few weeks' worth at a time, it wasn't really cost- or space-efficient to use these for large batches.  The seal also wasn't one I'd use for long-term freezing, which I had learned back when Pickle was little.  So, I wanted something to use to freeze them that was a little more convenient.

I did a lot of research, and came across the Mumi & Bubi Solids Starter Kit (LINK).  



These are two stackable trays that are air-tight containers that work a lot like ice cube trays, but more convenient.  Each slot holds 1 oz. of baby food, and there are 21 slots per tray.  Amazon has the two trays for around $28 (LINK), so you're getting 42 frozen items for that price.  Not a bad deal.

They are very good at freezing, and very easy to use.  The lids are secure and tight, I haven't had any freezerburn.  It's very easy to pop the foods out, since the cubes are frozen with a curved bottom (sort of like a half-moon).  You just push on one side of the cube, and it slides out.  Some foods seem to pop out better than others - if your cube doesn't want to slide out, simply run the bottom of the tray under hot water for about ten seconds, and then they should slide out easily for you.  Do not bend the tray like you would an ice cube tray, as that can damage it.  The trays are dishwasher-safe on the top rack, and wash well.

When the foods are frozen solid, I pop them out and put them in zippered bags, and then put the zippered bags in freezer-safe storage containers.  This is probably a little overkill, but it makes me feel safer to have the dual layers of protection.  

I originally got the little containers from the beginning of this entry to send to daycare.  The problem with those containers is that they're not tall enough to accommodate one of these frozen cubes.  So, even though it's a 2-oz container, you have to cut one of your 1-oz frozen cubes in half and jam it into the container - even then, it's sometimes hard to get the top sealed tight.  You would need two 2-oz containers in order to get a 2-oz serving.  Not very practical.

Next I tried the Sage Spoonfuls storage set (LINK), about $27 for 12 4-oz containers on Amazon.

These work well - since they're wider at the base, the rounded, long-ish cubes fit in here, and you can actually fit 4 oz of food into a 4-oz container.  I use these primarily, since they're a very secure fit of the lid.  I'd recommend them strongly if you don't mind the price.

However... they ARE a bit pricy.  If you skip the Sprout containers listed above, it's not a bad price (not what my husband says), but there are definitely other BPA-free options that work with the Mumi & Bubi Cubes:

- The First Years Ziploc Snacks-To-Go (LINK) - Run $5.75 on Amazon for three 8 oz bowls and three 4.5 oz bowls, all BPA-free.

  

These work great - we don't need 8 oz of baby food yet, so we're just using the 4.5 oz tubs.  They're big enough that the curved cubes fit in them.  I really like the lids, I feel like I can put them in a bag for daycare and they won't spill all over the inside of my bag.  However - we send two containers of baby food to daycare every day.  In order to get 10 of the 4.5 oz tubs, we need to get four of them.  4 x $5.75 = $23.  You're spending about the same price as you would for 12 of the Sage Spoonfuls (although you'll also have a bunch of the 8 oz tubs, in addition, which will come in handy later).  A little more cost-effective, but not as good as it could be for something that just doesn't have the same quality of product.

- Ziploc Extra-Small Square Containers (LINK) - I would get these at Wal-Mart, not Amazon.  They run $2.57 for eight of them at Wal-Mart, while you're going to spend $10.99 for the same number at Amazon.  Each BPA-free container is 4 oz.  



These are by far the most cost-effective method.  They fit the cubes pretty well, although I haven't tried to get all four oz in there.  The downside of them being the most inexpensive is that they're definitely not as durable as the other options.  These are meant to be disposable eventually, and they don't seal as well.  They are also not as durable, the tops can sometimes break after usage.  But, for $2.57 for 8, it's not like you're making a huge investment to just go buy more.

So, that was likely way more information than you ever need about transporting pureed banana somewhere.  I just know that it took a lot of trial-and-error for me, and it would have been nice to have definitive information on how to freeze and store these.  The Mumi & Bubi work just great, and are worth the investment, in my opinion.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Baby Brezza One Step Baby Food Maker

I have posted before about how I used the Beaba Babycook baby food maker when Pickle was small (LINK).  It worked great for us, but it was put into a storage unit after Pickle began really eating solids, and then that storage unit got flooded.  We needed to find a new solution for our little Peanut.  (We do a lot of baby-led weaning, but I also wanted to do some purees.)

I price-checked the Beaba versus the other items on the market, and came across the Baby Brezza (LINK).  It was about $77, as opposed to the $120 that the Beaba Babycook cost.  As far as I could tell, they did the same things, so we decided that was a better option for us this time around.



I've made several batches of baby food, and it has worked seamlessly.  It so far is almost identical in function to the Beaba Babycook.  There's a water reservoir on the back, which you fill, and then that pipes the hot water into the chamber where you're steaming the food.  That chamber also has a blade in it, which can puree the food when you're done.  

The Baby Brezza has a slight advantage on the Beaba in that you can choose to "steam and blend."   You can just punch in the amount of time you need to steam your particular food item, then walk away, and it will blend the food automatically at the end of the steaming session.  The Beaba did not have this function back when I used it, so this was a nice little touch.

The Baby Brezza also comes with four little storage containers in which you can store and freeze your baby food.  You can then defrost them by putting them right back into the chamber.  The Beaba didn't come with any storage containers, and the ones they had for sale were very expensive compared to others on the market.

All in all, I think that the Baby Brezza was a better buy, since it was over $40 cheaper for the exact same functionality.  I would recommend it to first-time baby food makers.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Simple Wishes Signature Hands Free Pumping Bra



Pumping can be a huge part of a breastfeeding mother’s life.  I pump at work and occasionally at home to maintain/boost supply with our little Peanut.  When Pickle was little, I pumped for the first five months while her mouth grew big enough to be able to nurse.  I’ve spent hundreds of hours attached to a pump over the last five years – but both as a mother of two and an employee, I don’t have the time to just sit and devote time to pumping.  I have to be able to multitask while I am providing that nutrition for my child. 

When I was pumping with the Pickle back when she was a baby, I tried and ordered a very simple halter-style pumping bra.  It was a lot like a sports bra that had a halter strap that goes around the neck, and a cloth band that goes around the breasts, much like this.  



The practical problem with this is that I usually try to, you know, wear a shirt to work.  In order to use this bra, I had to take off my shirt (and usually my nursing bra) to wear it, or had to wear it underneath my clothes all day – and since it rides so high on the back of the neck, it was always visible.  As such, I ended up only using it a few times before giving up and just holding the flanges.
Now, I’ve been lucky enough to try the Simple Wishes Signature Hands Free Pumping Bra (LINK)  It is a bustier-style pumping bra:



The first advantage of this is that I could simply pull up my shirt, put on the Simple Wishes bra over my nursing bra or tank, and still be warm (and as modest as possible while pumping) – no more stripping down.  I know this sounds like a small thing, but the pumping room at my office is freezing, so this is a huge benefit!

A really huge benefit of the Simple Wishes hands free bra is how it is sized.  The company provides a great tutorial video on how this works (LINK).  In essence, the back is similar to a regular bra, but it has Velcro instead of hooks, so that it can be resized up to ten inches to accommodate a wide range of sizes.  You can also resize it as you go through the course of nursing – changing breast sizes is a common issue as your supply adjusts and engorgement wanes, and you don’t have to go out and purchase a new pumping bra if/when it happens with this product.  There’s also a removable zippered panel in the front – this is great for if your breasts are closer together vs. further apart.  

My favorite part of the Simple Wishes bra is very basic – it gave me back time.  I had two hands free to work while pumping, or to hold/care for my little ones if I was at home.  I wasn’t tied down to the pump like I was in the past, I could type or read, use my phone, and so on.  I think that one of the big reasons that women discontinue pumping (and, in turn, breastfeeding) is just that they hate being stuck helpless while pumping, and this bra can really help avoid that from happening.

I washed this before wearing it, and had absolutely no issues while doing so – I just followed the instructions, washing it on cold and hanging to dry.  It’s been soft and comfortable, and not constrictive.  It’s done a great job at supporting the pump flanges – I’ve used both the standard Medela flanges and the Pumpin Pals flanges with it, and both have worked great.

I’d strongly recommend this pumping bra – for less than $40, which is less than you would spend on a single bra at Victoria’s Secret, you get a great pumping bra that should easily be able to last you the whole time you breastfeed/pump.  The company also has a great 30-day money-back guarantee, which is rare for such a product.  All in all, a great buy!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Arm's Reach Mini Co-Sleeper



When Pickle was born, we started bedsharing around 6 weeks or so – it was the only way she would sleep.  I read up on all of the literature, and found ways to make it work safely.  I’ve been a little nervous about doing it with the Peanut, though.  I don’t know if he just seems littler, or what it is, but I’ve had anxiety about bedsharing.  But, due to breastfeeding, I wanted to have him close to me at night, so I didn’t want to put him in his nursery in a crib yet.  I wanted a safe, separate space where he could sleep that was close to the bed – because, let’s be honest.  I’m lazy.  I don’t want to get up out of bed fifteen times a night to nurse him, I want him to be close by.

Enter the Arm’s Reach mini co-sleeper (LINK).  We received ours as a gift from family, but they currently run about $169.  There is also a larger size, but I wanted the smaller one so that I could still easily get in and out of bed around it after my C-section.  



The Arm’s Reach has two modes in which it can be used.  It can be set up as a free-standing bassinet, totally separate from the bed.  We’d used it that way for the first six weeks of Pickle’s life, and it worked well –but I still had to get up and out of bed to soothe or nurse her.  I knew that I wasn’t really looking for that with Peanut, so we instead set it up in the co-sleeper mode.  To use the co-sleeper mode, one of the sides of the sleeping area rolls down for easy access from your bed.  In order to ensure that the baby does not roll out and into a gap between the co-sleeper and the bed, a tether is provided that you use to attach the co-sleeper closely to the bed – it goes between the top mattress and the box spring, and has a plate that you attach on the far side of the mattress.  Thus, the co-sleeper is securely attached right beside you for easy access to the baby in the middle of the night.

At first, we had some issues with the height of the co-sleeper, as we have a tall bed.  The co-sleeper was shorter than the bed – this made me paranoid that somehow a blanket or something would fall into the co-sleeper from the bed, since there was a drop down.  I went to the Arm’s Reach website, and got some leg extenders (LINK) - they worked great.  They raised the co-sleeper up to the appropriate height, and there’s no danger of anything falling into the baby’s sleeping area.  I could hold Peanut’s hand or soothe him when he needed it without having to even stir from where I was sleeping.

He loves to prop his feet up on the side.

The sides of the co-sleeper are mesh, so they are breathable if the baby gets too close to them.  There are also pockets on either end – these have been invaluable.  Each night before bed, I load a bunch of diapers in there, as well as one of the smaller sized packs of diaper wipes, some diaper cream, a changing pad, and a peepee teepee (don’t judge, I have a pee-er).  I don’t have to even get out of bed to do a diaper change, which really accommodates my middle-of-the-night laziness.  

As the sides are fairly shallow, you want to change to another sleeping surface when the baby starts rolling.  We found a crib that converts to a daybed, and have put that in a side-car setup attached to the bed so that Peanut still has a safe surface, but I can still nurse him with maximum ease.  There was no difficulty of transition, since he was already used to a similar setup with the co-sleeper.  This is a great short-term solution to facilitating easy sleeping arrangements with a newborn, I would strongly recommend it.  There are now similar products on the market, and I’d imagine that they’d work similarly well.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Pumpin Pal flanges - review + giveaway!



Pumpin’ ain’t easy.  It’s a never-ending job that you do out of love for your child, but that takes time and attention away from the rest of your day.  It might be your job that you’re having to put on a quick time-out, or even time with your child(ren) being disrupted.  Neither is fun!

So, if it’s painful to pump, that makes an already daunting task even less inviting.  The standard flanges that come with most commercial pumps are not exactly shaped for comfort – they’re sort of shaped like a megaphone, with the part into which you put your nipple going straight back.  This isn’t the most efficient – you have to sit straight up for fear of milk dribbling out the bottom, and since your baby usually isn’t being held directly out in front of you but down a little ways, it’s not the same angle at which a baby nursing would suck.  That would be at more of a 45-degree angle downward.  This weird angle can cause chafing and discomfort during the pumping process.

Enter the Pumpin Pal.  (LINK)  These are a set of flanges that are designed to mimic the baby’s mouth.  The base of it is angled downward, which is similar to the angle at which your breast would be in a nursing baby’s mouth.  Here is a side-by-side comparison of the two flanges:



You get three different pairs of flanges when ordering – a M, L, and XL.  The reason for this is because your breasts will undergo changes during the nursing process, and you might need different sizes at different times.  Or, you might need one size on one breast, and another on the other.  (Don’t judge, it happens!)  Since the flanges are more similar to the suction a baby’s mouth provides, they are much, MUCH more comfortable.  I’ve used them for the past ten days, and have had the same amount of output with much less pain.  I’ve found that going down a size from what I expected has also had a slight amount of help in my milk output, which was a wonderful surprise!  

I’ve been able to tailor which flange I use for the amount of engorgement I have, which is really nice – and I can switch out the flanges in the middle of a pump session to get more contact with the breast when some of that engorgement has been relieved.  Another benefit of the angled neck is that you can actually lean back in your chair without worrying about getting milk all over your lap!  

I liked the Pumpin Pal flanges so much that I bought a set to give away.  Checkout and “like” our Facebook page to enter: 


We’ll draw for a winner on 1/12/15!