Friday, October 18, 2013

Field Guide to the First Year

Being that my child is almost 1 year old now, I'm basically a professional mother.  Actually, I would be delusional to think I've got everything down pat, but I wanted to share a few baby products I've found that have worked well for me and my chillin thus far.

The first thing to keep in mind is that before you have a baby, you don't care about anyone else's lists about what does and doesn't work, and that's okay. I didn't even have a category for all that stuff and it overwhelmed me whenever someone tried to unload all their wisdom on me at once. Just tune me out if that's your current situation, but in case you have a new baby or baby #2 on the way and never found that perfect sippy cup, perhaps I can be of assistance.

I can't believe I survived the first year, sometimes. Some of the products I was most grateful for were absolutely accidental. Sippy cups and pacifiers for example - the main takeaway about sippys and binkys is TRY MULTIPLE MODELS. The binky I bought for Ishmael failed me before we even left the hospital, but the nurse gave me one, which turned out to be the only kind he liked. As for sippy cups, I bought him a nice fancy one, but he couldn't figure it out at first, so the super simple ones Jonas' mom found at K-mart (similar to these) which were almost the size of his head worked much better until he was more used to drinking from a sippy cup, and then the fancy one worked too. We got some hand-me-down sippy cups that were useless (spilled more than he drank). So, just shop around if you think whatever product you may have could be any part of any problem you're having. // Jonas called the blue pacifiers Ishmael's "squid beak" because you can see the inside of his mouth and his tongue sucking through the transparent nipple, and it looks kind of like a squid mouth, but cuter. The "fancy" sippy really doesn't leak, but you have to be careful to clean the gunk that builds up in the rubber creases in the lid.

I can't remember where I first saw or heard of silicone Tommee Tippee catch-all bibs, but I'm so glad I have them - washing cloth bibs after every meal would be the pits. With silicone bibs, all you do is wipe them down (or throw them in the dishwasher) and you'll always have one ready! They travel well, and they catch and alarming amount of food that would otherwise be on the floor or smashed into Ishmael's lap. He even "snacks" from the pocket when he's finished whatever is on his high chair tray and once or twice even tipped up the whole bib to drink watermelon juice that had collected there, but that was kind of a disaster. My one criticism of the bib is that it leaves a bit of a gap below the chin which allows for watermelon juice (or other liquid/messy food) to get into his neck folds, but it's a small price to pay for how well the bib works in general. Also, everyone is super impressed when they see that bib (like I invented it, or something. But hey, no complaints). // While on the topic of food, this food hand-mill is magical, though I didn't use it as much as I thought. If you travel a lot with kids (like my parents did), it's even more useful. I've never bought jarred baby food because it is SO expensive and Ishmael was eating several jars worth in one sitting by the third time he had solid food. You can turn just about anything into mush, and it's easy peasy if you have this little grinder, but then again, it's even easier to throw it in the blender, so the hand-grinder really is more useful for missionaries, hippies, etc. Similar products should be available at Target or consignment stores.

The other thing people comment on all the time is Jonas's favorite baby-product, his back-pack carrier. Another pricey item (thanks, in-laws!), but Jonas gets a ton of use out of it. I prefer the stroller (lots of space beneath the seat for my giant bag) because I'm not strong enough to backpack Ishmael around, but Jonas is too tall to comfortably push the stroller. I honestly doubted that we would use a baby backpack very much, but the boys go everywhere in that thing and Ishmael loves it.

I bought some amazing cloth diapers from a friend at church who makes them, but I never use them! I buy the absolute cheapest box I can find of disposable diapers at Walmart (Parent's Choice - 82 size 4 diapers for $14!!), and have had almost no complaints. There is one brand (it might be Luvs, but my memory fails me) that I hate because the velcro tabs suck, but aside from those, I am a die-hard disposable diaper girl. It takes us several weeks to go through the biggest box, so I consider the cost very affordable. That's kind of something I didn't expect of myself. Another thing I didn't expect is how much I'd love a diaper pail - the stink of diapers in a regular trash is disgusting after your child is a few months old. It stunk up our whole house, and as pathetic as this is, I just am not up for taking the trash out the door 10 steps every time I change a diaper. I could not bring myself to pay $70 for a diaper pail at Target that you had to buy special bags for, but I found a really simple one at a consignment event for $7 that has worked perfectly and I will not part with it for many years to come.

If I can get to bragging a bit, I became somewhat of an expert swaddler. Ishmael was SO strong right off the bat, and within a matter of weeks, I was struggling to pin his legs with one arm while I tried to swaddle him with the other. Very few things could hold him, so I became very attached to the one particular wrap and blanket that could. My cousin's wife, Bailey, gave me a SwaddleMe-type wrap that was utterly confusing to me until she demonstrated how it worked, but the one she gave me has significantly longer "arms" than any others I have seen, which I would wrap around him about 1 1/2 times, and that was crucial to success when swaddling Ishmael. For the outer wrap, I used Aden+Anais blankets which I adore. They are pricey and I never would have made the plunge on my own, but I got some at a shower, and there's no going back. I love them because they are pretty big, but light (almost like a cheese cloth) which is perfect for a car seat drape or nursing cover that breathes a bit. In the pack that I got, there was a tie-dyed one that was stiffer than the regular one, which I don't prefer, but all the others I've seen are the softer version. At the same consignment event where I found my diaper pail, I found a pair of plain A+A blankets for $7 (YUSSS!). I don't love any of the designs I've seen before, so I'm stoked to try dying my own. If I could afford it, I'd buy these for every baby shower I attend.

Two baby products I bought and found useless were 1) baby tupperware (I was so excited, but it's much too small to hold the amount of food Ishmael eats, plus, why did I think small regular tupperware wasn't going to cut it??) and 2) baby hair and skin products. Personally, I never find it necessary to soap up Ishmael unless he has touched an animal or something. A plain shower gets his hair and body clean enough, and I think that hair and skin products will have more negative side affects (either dryness or oilyness) than positive ones. Plus, I know that he gets a "real" bath when he goes to either of his Grandma's. Just something to consider - I think it simplifies bath time.

Beyond all of those things, the most important thing you can have in the first year is community. Particularly a community of honest moms who understand how insane having a child is, but how lovely too. Some of my favorite resources as a new mom - apart from my family and friends - are:

  1. Anne Lamott's brilliant book, Operating Instructions. Literally the only "parenting book" I have finished. 
  2. YOGA. Prenatal, post postpartum, anything. 
  3. The Longest Shortest Time podcast. Trust me, you NEED this in your ears. 
  4. Mom blogs. My favorite is A Cup of Jo, particularly for her creative play dates with her son, but some others I also appreciate are Design For Minikind (beautiful letters to her daughter), and two beautiful kid-centric photo blogs, Kids Were Here and Spilled Milk
  5. The Moo La La Boutique. Okay, the name is bonkers (and the design scheme atrocious), but the prices are goooood. And once you have a few months of motherhood under your belt, it becomes a great way to recycle all the excess baby paraphernalia piling up and make a little cash on the side. 

Finally, two pieces of advice:

  1. If you're having your first baby, go registering with a seasoned mom. My friend Kenna was kind enough to go to Target with me and tell me what she had found helpful and what was over rated, and though most of it went over my head at the time, it was at the very least comforting to know someone had gone before me and I could ask any questions I wanted. 
  2. Don't be afraid to voice your most worrisome fears or tiniest victories - you'd be surprised at how much you have in common with other parents, no matter how crazy you feel your situation is. 

If you are expecting your first babe, or perhaps even a second or third by now, I hope I've been of some help in one way or another. I'd love to hear what you found crucial in the first year, and what surprised you as not being that important after all. I'm honored to be a parent alongside you all. 

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