Saturday, September 15, 2012

Best Items & Resources for New Parents

My husband and I live a pretty simple life.  We dwell in a home less than 1000 sq.ft. (one that we can truly afford, so that I can stay home with my son), we have fuel efficient cars, and spend most of our money on good quality food.  Still, when my son came along we had to fight an inner urge to buy more, More, MORE!  Here is a very short list of the things and resources that I've found most helpful.

1. Ergo Baby Carrier

I've watched many parents lugging around their babies in infant car seat carriers.  The babies look uncomfortable with their heads jiggling around and the parent is straining to one side as they accommodate the carrier and what ever else they're trying to handle.  This never made sense to me.  A friend claims that her sleeping baby does not transfer well, so it's easier to just bring the car seat into the house, the store, or wherever. However, these car seats are not beds.  They are hard, plastic contraptions that are only necessary for one thing: protecting a child from car accident impact. Do you realize how many chemicals are in these things? Read here about toxicity of car seats as well as other baby gear/furniture.  We had one of these infant car seat/carriers and it stayed in the car.  If we were to have a second child, we would buy a convertible car seat right away and skip these horrible things.  Sorry for this rant, please read on for my alternate recommendation!

I chose to keep my baby close to me in a cloth wrap/baby carrier instead.  Strapped to me, I still had two free hands that could cook (only if you're careful!), clean, hike, shop, etc.  I never had a problem transferring my son from the car seat to the carrier because he preferred to be on me.  I'd bet most babies would choose a snugly parent over hard plastic.

We started out with the Moby wrap, which was lovely for my February baby until he was 4 months old.  Then he got big and the weather started getting warmer.  We bought the Ergo carrier after a friend suggested it.  Ah, it provided such great support for my back, with weaker abdominal muscles and all.  I wore him in the front carry position until he was around 10 mo. old.  In this position, I was able to nurse him on demand fairly discreetly.  Mild back muscle strain was the clue that he was ready to be switched around.  I've worn him in the back carry position ever since.

At 2 1/2, my son walks during short trips.  We use the stroller sometimes at the zoo & amusement park when he needs to rest.  But I still break out the Ergo when we want to do a nature walk with some elevation.  He walks as much as possible and then chills in the back pack.  I love the Ergo Baby!!!

2. Weelicious

We took the easy road with feeding our child.  My son exclusively breastfed until he was ~ 7 months old and then we started introducing whole foods.  First banana, then avocado, and we took off on a food-crazed adventure from there!  Of course we used jars of baby food from time to time, but it was rare - just packed in the diaper bag for impromptu snacks or when we were on vacation.

Still, breast milk was his main source of nutrition up until ~ 18 months.  At that point, he started to drop a few feedings, and meal times with whole foods became established.  (Note: he still nurses to this day, but only to induce sleep or for emotional connection.)  It was fun looking for new, exciting recipes.  I was especially interested in learning how to incorporate more vegetables into his diet and wanted to do it soon to fend off pickiness.  This is when I found the best food blog ever!  Weelicious!

Catherine McCord at was my savior!  This site continues to be my #1 go-to resource for family meals.  With her help, my son enjoys a great variety of healthy foods.  Plus, she has fun video tutorials for certain dishes.  My son loves watching them, as they feature her kids helping out in the kitchen too!  Here are just some our favorite recipes:

I have pre-ordered her new book "Weelicious:140 Fast, Fresh, and Easy Recipes", coming out Sept. 18!  Most of the recipes in the book are NEW (not on the website.)  We're so excited!

3. Signing Time

We've read a lot about the damage TV can do to a developing mind.  It is NOT recommended for children under the age of 2.  So, we've tried to limit my son's exposure to it, but sadly, have not been able to omit it completely.  I'll be writing another post on this later.  Anyway, we bent our rules to include some educational videos.  We were involved with Baby Sign Language since our son was 11 months old.  He started signing around 13 months and his communication took off!  It was so helpful and we were so impressed, that we started to build a library of Signing Time videos.

I cannot recommend Signing Time enough!  Rachel Coleman, the host, has an incredible story that you should read more about here.  Her daughter Leah (who is deaf), Leah's cousin Alex, and their animated frog-friend Hopkins teach signs through catchy and pleasant songs.  My son still likes to watch the videos, even though he's forgotten most of the signs he knew a year ago.  They continue to be fun and interesting.  I think sign language helped him understand words and concepts very well before he started speaking.  I believe it is one of the reasons why he is so articulate for his age.

4. Melissa & Doug Toys

All toys are fun, but I am very, very picky about them!  I want them to be safe and spark my son's imagination.  I had many rules when our family asked us what to get our little boy:

  • Please, no toys that require batteries and make noise!  Children are less imaginative since the toys are doing the "play work" for them.  And I don't need to tell you how the noise gets to a tired parent.  Grrr...
  • We prefer wooden to plastic.  Wood has a nicer texture, smell, and does not contain polluting petrochemicals. 
  • Non-toxic paints only (you'd think this was standard practice but it's amazing how lead contamination is constantly in the news - it must say "non-toxic paint on the package!)  
  • Preferably made in the USA (as to avoid the previous point and support our economy)
Melissa and Doug toys meet most of my requirements.  These toys are made in China (at least the ones we have), but they have strict safety standards that I trust.

There are many USA made wooden toys out there, but they maybe hard to find.  Luckily, Melissa & Doug toys are available at just about every toy store in our town.

Our relatives do not roll their eyes at our requests, because they are just as into the play food, puzzles, trains, and other fun Melissa & Doug play things as we are.  And my son has been interested in and challenged by just about every item he's received.  These are keepers, perhaps for future generations!

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