Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Aden + Anais Muslin Swaddling Blankets



We’ve never really been able to swaddle either Pickle when she was young, or Peanut now.  Both of them have slept from Day 1 with their arms over their heads as if they were being placed under arrest – and if you tried to swaddle their arms to keep them in place, they fight their way out and into the same pose.


So, I was a little skeptical to ever try the Aden + Anais muslin swaddling blankets.  Spending between $35 and $50 for four blankets that I wouldn’t use as designed seemed a little silly.  With Pickle, I avoided purchasing them – I just worked with the Carters and Gerber flannel and thermal blankets we had.  We just made a little baby burrito of her with those (keeping her arms out).  It worked, even if it was a little overly thick and bulky.

It was sort of a pain, though, and they seemed a little too warm for this past summer for our new arrival.  So, I decided to pull the trigger and buy some of the “Aden” line of Aden + Anais blankets.  (LINK)



I washed them before Peanut was born, and started to fold them.  I was amazed at how big the blankets were in comparison to the blankets we’d used with Pickle – they were about twice the size.  They were also very soft – the muslin was breathable but soft to the touch.  

We started making our baby burrito of Peanut the day he got home – unlike with the flannel and thermal blankets, we were able to use just one blanket to accomplish the job.  He was warm and cozy, and didn’t lose body heat, but he also didn’t overheat like he might have if we’d used the same blankets we had before.  I was also amazed at how handy these were as a nursing cover, due to their size.  I used one in church, and the usher had no idea I was even feeding Peanut.  

I also keep one of the four in the diaper bag all of the time.  This came in handy when we were getting Peanut's newborn photos done - I had the swaddler laid out on the floor for a diaper change, and our photographer thought it would make a great addition to some of our photos.

 

I became an Aden + Anais convert.  I’ve since purchased them for two friends as shower gifts because they’re one of those things that you might hesitate to buy yourself, but that is indispensible once you own it.  I think that our little man will likely be using his Aden blankets as loveys long after he uses them as an actual blanket.  I think my only problem now is that I'm not sure I'm saying "Anais" right - and there are some ways to get it really, really wrong.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ella Alana Pump Bags



Due to the Affordable Care Act changes to the health insurance industry, the way breast pumps are sold and purchased has changed a great deal.  The pump bags that used to be included with the bags is no longer covered by insurance – so the price of the ones from the pump manufacturers has skyrocketed.  Due to all of this, I did a whole bunch of research on other pump bags on the market before our Little Dude was born early this fall.  In my research, I came across a wonderful work-at-home mom, Amy Schendel of Ella Alana.  (https://www.etsy.com/shop/EllaAlana )  

Amy had a business already designing and making diaper bags, changing pads, and more for mamas when she was approached about making a pump bag from a customer, as there were so few on the market.  Her product is unique in that it can be entirely tailored to the individual customer!  Amy will quote customers for extras, since each bag is custom made for you, but here are a few of the customization options:


  • Messenger flap or zip top
  • Seat belt-style carrying strap is standard, but softer ones can be added.
  • Possible to get extra bottle pockets on the inside of the bag.
  • A sleek outside bottle pocket is standard, but an expandable one is available.
  • A laptop sleeve on the inside is optional – which is great for multitasking in your pumping room at work.
  • An outside back pocket is also available for your tablet or iPad.


I met with Amy, and she showed me bags with these different options.  She also showed me the incredible supply of fabric she has so that your bag can look just right – you can select exterior fabric and a complimentary interior fabric to get a fun look.  




I chose a grey fabric for the exterior, and a bright turquoise fabric for the interior, for a bright pop of color.  I have the exterior back pocket that I use for my iPad.  You can get an optional cooler from Ella Alana for your milk that is flexible, so it can be shaped to accommodate most bottles and can fit right next to the pump for storage. 



I have a Medela Pump In Style Advanced pump, which fits easily into the standard pocket of the Ella Alana bag – the Medelas have Velcro on the top that attaches right to the Velcro inside of the bag.  However, some other pump brands would need the pump hole area to be made taller, so that’s something to communicate during the purchase project.  It’s another added bonus of getting a custom bag rather than one off of the rack, that it can be made perfect just for your needs.



The bags are made of home d├ęcor fabric, so they wash really well (tumble dry low or hang dry) and are very sturdy.    I can’t possibly see needing to get another bag.  The quality of the workmanship is amazing – the stitching is perfect, and very strong.  As you can see from the photo below, it’s incredibly roomy – I could easily use this as our primary diaper bag if I were exclusively pumping and had to take my pump with us other places than to work and home.  (Amy also has bottle coolers, changing pads, and more available for purchase through her store.)



I’ve had the chance to compare this to some other pump bags, and this is easily the best pump bag I’ve encountered.  It’s the most fun and functional bag available, with countless customization that will make the bag work perfectly for anyone.  It’s fashionable yet totally practical.  Pumping at work and elsewhere is a lot more enjoyable when your bag streamlines the process!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cozywoggle car seat coat



Based off of a friend’s recommendation recently, we purchased a Cozywoggle coat.  (LINK)  This is designed to be a winter coat that can be worn in a car seat.   It has zippers up the sides, passing under the armpits and down by the wrists, that allow for the coat to be flipped behind the child rather than to be worn behind (coming between the seat and the child).  The front can be flapped over the car seat straps.



I watched the video on their website before purchasing it, and the coat seemed so effortless and easy.  You just zip the child in and out, and it’s comfortable for them to sit in their seat with the blanketed coat flaps.

My hubby tried this on the Pickle first on a trip that just the two of them took, and he came home complaining that the coat was a giant pain.  I thought he was just being contrary to be contrary, so I took her in the coat on a ride to Target the next day.

Getting into her seat in our garage wasn’t a huge deal – she let me unzip the sides and get her in the seat, but she HATES the flap of the back of the coat behind her head.  Looking at it, I could see that it would be pretty uncomfortable.  You also have to totally take the sleeves off of the child, so their arms are freezing if you didn’t put a fleece or something on underneath it.  

Getting out of the car in the cold Target parking lot was a bigger ordeal.  It wasn’t particularly easy to zip up the sleeves and coat while sitting inside of the car, so Pickle had to climb out with the coat hanging off of her, and stand in the 20 degree cold while I zipped down the sides.  It was only for a few moments, but I think that would be too much to deal with as it gets even colder as the winter goes on.

I think that it’s more practical for us to just stick with wearing a fleece jacket, and taking her out of her coat and wearing it backwards when riding in the car.  The flap that goes behind her head just is a dealbreaker in our situation.  I really like the idea of the coat, and the name tickles me, but it’s just not a practical purchase for us in sub-zero temps.  Luckily it was only about $35 on sale, so it wasn’t an incredibly expensive lesson.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Halo Sleep Sacks



When our older daughter was born, she always ran hot in the home that we had at the time.  Our bedroom was on the third floor of our townhouse, so it was almost always warm.  Hence, we never swaddled or used sleep sacks.


Our new house is a little more drafty, however (even when kept at 70 degrees), and our Little Man was born late enough that it’s getting a bit chilly in the master bedroom at night.  Fortunately, our hospital participates in the HALO Safer Way to Sleep Initiative (LINK), so our take-home bag included a newborn-sized Halo Swaddler.  We put that on Little Man at night his first month home from the hospital, and fell in love.  We were so glad to avoid loose blankets that could come up and suffocate him in the middle of the night.  We also made sure to place him on his back in the co-sleeper we have next to the bed (more on the co-sleeper later).  There are lots of great tips for safe sleeping at Halo’s website (LINK), if you have any questions – keeping your little one safe is such an important priority.  Coincidentally, I think it’s pretty awesome that they include such good info on their website – but what else would you expect from a company with such a great mission statement:  HALO Innovations is dedicated to putting the health, safety and well-being of babies first. From our new bassinet, the HALO™ Bassinest™ Swivel Sleeper (www.halobassinest.com) to our HALO® SleepSack® wearable blankets, which are now used in over 1200 hospitals nationwide, HALO is committed to helping babies sleep safely.






Now we have a bigger sleep sack that he wears in the 3 – 6 month size.  I have become a huge fan of the Halo sleep sacks.  It’s perfect for nighttime diaper changes and sleep – it zips from the bottom up, so you don’t have to take the entire sack off of baby to change a diaper.  The swaddlers have arms that can optionally go over baby’s arms, or (if your children are like mine and fight an arm swaddle) can go under baby’s armpits if you’d like to keep his/her arms free.  The fabric is a nice, heavyweight cotton – so it’s warm, but not too warm that it would put baby at an increased SIDS risk.  It also washes incredibly well, and is so wonderfully soft.  Our boy’s daycare also uses Halo sleep sacks, so he’s entirely comfortable sleeping there in them since he’s used to them at home.


Back to the co-sleeper.  As you can see from the above photo, we have the Arm’s Reach mini co-sleeper from back when the Pickle was born four years ago.  It works great overall, but it has some downfalls.  First of all, you really can’t get it all that close to you without sleeping on the edge of your bed when it’s in co-sleeper mode.  Since the one side folds down and you tether it to the side of your bed, that’s all the closer it gets.  Additionally, you have to crawl to and from the foot of the bed to get in and out of bed – which becomes difficult if you’ve got the baby in your arms.  I wish the Halo Bassinest Swivel Sleeper had been available at that time – it’s a new product from Halo that makes the room-sharing experience much easier.  The best way I can describe it is that it works sort of like one of those tables you have bedside at the hospital, if that were a bassinet – you can swivel it over and away from the bed (avoiding the Arm’s Reach Shimmy), and it also can be nestled next to you in the bed to get a closer sleep while still giving baby his or her own sleep surface.   



It seems like a really awesome product, I’m jealous of all of those who just started their families with this on the market!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Star Kids Snack & Play Travel Tray

I have the sweetest four-year-old on Earth, but she is a little whirlwind of messiness.  Miniature disaster areas follow her, despite me cleaning up after her and her cleaning up after herself.  I sort of imagine her to be like a real-life Pigpen from Peanuts.



So, when we recently bought a new vehicle to accommodate our recent addition, I tried enforcing a very, very strict "No food or drink in the car" rule.  This lasted a few weeks, but life happens - we run late to school and need to eat breakfast on the go, or we have a long car trip that spans snack time.  Best laid plans get put aside... and the interior of my car becomes a crumb-filled disaster.  

And then we got a Star Kids Snack & Play Travel Tray (LINK).  



It's a cool invention - it's a small nylon table that has a strap that goes behind the child in their car seat, and sits on their lap as a table.  It has mesh pockets in the sides for sippy cups, food, toys, and so on.  It's pliable so that it can bend to fit different car seat sizes, but is firm enough that a little one can color or play on top of it.  It's the perfect size to fit a few toys or a small art set.  Since it's nylon, it wipes down easily and looks just like new.

We decided to put it through the paces with a doughnut breakfast this week, to see how it kept the seats clean.  Here's a shot of Pickle enjoying her breakfast:


She had a sippy cup of water in the mesh pocket on the side, and this easily fit across her entire lap.  The best part is that it caught every single crumb!  It saved my car from becoming a disaster area, and all I had to do was wipe it quickly with a wet washcloth, and all of the frosting and crumbs were gone.  It dried quickly, and then we used the tray to practice handwriting on the rest of the drive.  Since the tray only runs about $19.99 (LINK), it was a great price-point for such versatility!

If your child is still working on the whole "neat and tidy" thing, I really recommend the Star Kids Snack & Play Travel Tray.