Aug 1, 2012

Mamas in Toyland, Part 1: Out & About

If you are a young parent, expecting parent, grandparent or just a friend looking for kiddo and baby-related gift ideas, then you've come to the right place! If not, then you may find the following terribly boring and want to check back later this week. Because this is a post dedicated to my favorite and most-used baby goodies :) In fact, there are so many that I'm going to split it into two posts. The first one will focus on gear for getting out and about with Little Wild Man.

When I was pregnant with Max, I had so much fun researching (and researching, and researching) and shopping for him (we didn't find out the sex, which was probably good, as now I have lots of gear that will work whether our next child is a boy or girl!). I tried hard to invest wisely (quality over quantity) and not go crazy. I think I did a decent job, but it's hard to resist all the awesome baby products that are on the market these days!

To compile this list, I asked myself a few things:

1) Did I use it regularly for three months or more?
2) Was the value good for the money?
3) Has it held up well enough to use for another baby?
4) Would I recommend it to a friend?

If I could say 'yes' to all three questions, and if I still felt lots of love for the items, then they made it to my list. So here's part one (in no particular order), featuring gear that helps me get out into the world and function like a normal person with my little dude in tow!

(1) Beco Butterfly Baby Carrier

Max enjoying a sunrise beach walk last summer ... in our Beco!

Max was slow to warm to baby carriers. As a really little guy, he sometimes tolerated wraps or slings (like this fabulous CuddlyWrap that was gifted to me), but usually protested any sort of constricting device. By five or six months, though, he was content in the Beco Butterfly and ever since, it's gone everywhere with us. Mostly I use it for hiking (I can hike for upwards of two hours in total comfort), but it's also handy for shopping trips, air travel, festivals and outdoor events where a stroller is cumbersome. I love zipping through a crowd with Max safe, close and cozy on my back!

Yep, Ben is man enough to wear the leaf patterned baby carrier!
My only complaint about this carrier is that there's an inside panel that goes between Max and myself. For little babies, it's an added layer of security, but as Max has gotten bigger, it's gotten harder to situate him inside the panel and scootch him onto my back. And Max likes to go up and down and up and down, making it a little more complicated to whip the Beco out lately. I just bought myself a Boba carrier, which is almost identical but without the panel, so it will be a quick solution for travel and those times when I need a speedy up and down. I'm still practicing with it, but so far prefer the fit of the Beco. I've also tried out the beloved Ergo carrier, ring slings and wraps, but out of everything, nothing has even come close to the comfort level of my Beco! And it's stylish to boot! Considering how much I've used it (and how well it's held up), it has definitely earned its $140 price tag; I'd buy it all over again if given the chance.

(2) Britax Marathon 70 Convertible Carseat

I am still a believer in getting an infant car seat for newborns, although I don't think I'd buy the same one we have again (it was the safest thing in the world, but it was really a pain to use). When Max graduated to a convertible seat, I did tons of research. I wanted one that would be safe as a tank and that would let me keep Max rear-facing for as long as possible. But after my struggles with our infant car seat, I also wanted it to be super user-friendly. The Britax Marathon is all of those things. I managed to keep Max rear-facing until he was 19 months old. He still fits just fine, but was throwing a fit every time we got in the car, so I caved and turned him forward. This seat is a breeze to use and adjust, and I feel like Max is totally secure in it. It's been six months, and I still couldn't be happier with this purchase.

3) Bebe au Lait Nursing Cover, Momzelle and Bravado Nursing Tops

My breastfeeding-advocate friends probably won't love that I included a nursing cover on my list ;) After 20 months, I have more confidence now about nursing in public, but I have to admit that I was pretty darn shy and self-conscious at first. I didn't know what I was doing for months, and Max and I shared some awkward moments while getting the hang of breastfeeding! I'm not gonna lie, I partly wanted a Bebe au Lait nursing cover because it comes in beautiful patterns and I'm a sucker for pretty things. But it was a real lifesaver for those awkward nursing moments (next to a stranger in a cramped airplane? a little privacy, please!). With this cover, I felt at ease nursing literally anywhere - restaurants, malls, intimate cafes, parties, family gatherings - and could still be part of the action while Max was quietly (or sometimes not so quietly) gulping down the world's best health food. This nursing cover was always folded up in my diaper bag until Max's nursing became infrequent enough that we only did it at home.

Nursing Max on the beach in Denmark. This cover's great because there's a stiff upper part that makes it possible to keep eye contact with your little one.

Other essential nursing gear for me? My two high-quality nursing tops from Momzelle (shout out to the fact that this is a Canadian company!), and two more of Bravado's (another Canadian company!) essential nursing tanks. Neither is inexpensive, but those four tops I invested in have stood up to some intense use over the past 20 months! Both work well for layering or on their own, and both make me feel great when I wear them - both brands are pregnancy-friendly (although I didn't use mine while pregnant), and are ultra figure flattering post-pregnancy and beyond. And nothing beats quick and easy boob access. For Max. Sheesh, get your minds out of the gutter!

The Momzelle tops are so discreet that it's almost impossible to tell your baby is nursing, so it was always my choice for traveling or long excursions when I knew Max would be doing lots of public breastfeeding. My favorite is their long scoop neck tank top - I can pop it over leggings or skinny jeans and feel perfectly pulled together for a day of baby-tending. Or add some cute wedges and jewelry or a scarf to feel more dressed up!

This is the only photo I could find of me my fave Momzelle top. That's me on the left, out for lunch with my pal Amy and her sweet girl! Max was six months old here, so was still nursing somewhat frequently.

So there you have it, my top gear for getting out into the world with Max!
You may wonder why this list is missing a stroller ... it's because I think a stroller is such an individual decision. We purchased a fabulous one (a Bugaboo Cameleon) that worked great in Calgary's urban setting, where we spent Max's first six months (paved walkways at parks, city sidewalks, malls, etc.). It was also great since Max didn't like being worn for so many months. But I've found less use for our fancy stroller in Nashville, where I usually drive everywhere and then pop Max into his carrier. If I use a stroller, it's usually to go off-roading on one of Nashville's many dirt or mulched park trails, and the Bugaboo is just not equipped to easily navigate dirt paths. And walking around our neighborhood involves pushing the stroller up lots of hills, which I find easier with max in his carrier.
So long story short, our stroller was awesome for a flat, urban setting, but I'd have gotten a different one (like a Bob jogging stroller) to use in Nashville. And I also know moms who wear their babies everywhere and are fine with nothing but a small umbrella stroller. My biggest recommendation would be to wait as long as possible before spending lots of money on a stroller. Spend some time with your little one figuring out how you'll use the stroller (just for shopping excursions? or do you want to go off roading, or jogging with it? or does your baby love being worn all the time, making a stroller a moot point?)
Stay tuned, I'll have more posts coming on my favorite baby gear!

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