Saturday, July 28, 2012

My Brest Friend (Or, the Most Horribly Named Product Ever)

Let's just get it out of the way right upfront: "My Brest Friend" is perhaps the corniest, most unappealing, stupidest product name of all time. Don't even get me started about the intentional misspelling. This product's name is also misleading, probably to its own sales-revenue detriment, because you'd think that whatever this mystery item is must have to do with breastfeeding and nothing else. I seriously would LOVE to know who came up with its name. I want to meet that person (why do I think it's a dude?) and congratulate them on their audaciousness. They seriously have to be leaving so much money on the table. 

Now that I've vented about how much I hate this feeding-pillow-thing's name, let me say that you KNOW a product has to rock if it can have a devoted following (and celebrity endorsements!) in spite of such a horrible and embarrassing-to-say brand. So do yourself a favor and put aside your judgments and hear me out:

1) I registered for My Brest Friend ("MBF" from here on out) because I knew people who had used both the Boppy and MBF and said the latter was far superior. I trust these people.

2) As far as I'm concerned, my friends were right-on. I never used the Boppy so I can't really compare against it, but I can say that MBF was indispensable to me AND my husband for at least 5 months.

3) While the pillow is marketed as a breastfeeding-support tool, it works just as well to help you hold your baby when feeding him a bottle, reading to him, or just chillin' with him. For someone like me who ended up with a ton of hand/wrist/arm/shoulder issues after my little guy was born, I literally could not have held Baba G without MBF. His booty and legs would rest on the platform and then I would still be cradling his upper body and head in the crook of my arm so that he was in a reclined position while drinking his bottle or listening to a story or whatever. As mentioned above, my husband used it, too, as did one of BG's grandmas during a few visits.

It That Shall Not Be Named

The part that goes behind your back was exactly the right thickness and felt really good. But what I liked most was that the two ends of the pillow hooked together (the white buckle on the left) so that it was secure around your waist. I don't believe the Boppy has that feature. I actually walked around my condo looking a fool with this thing on, but I didn't care, because after I got all of BG's stuff AND my stuff ready for his feeding, I could just plop him on MBF and get him situated as I was easing in to the glider. MBF—or any of these sorts of pillows, I would imagine—are not the kinds of things you can mess with once you've got a hungry baby in your arms. You just need to have it stay in place and provide a secure (and large enough) platform for your baby to rest on. Because of the buckle, which could be tightened as needed thanks to the velcro strip attached to one end, I knew that MBF wasn't going to fall off when I stood up (yes, I would walk short distances with BG on it, too—taking him to and from the changing table and whatnot). Yes, I still had to support BG's weight underneath and all that when I was standing up, but when he was a newborn MBF was definitely sturdy enough to feel like it helped take a little of the burden off of my arms.

And as inconsequential as this may seem, I LOVED the little pocket thing in front. It was in just the right spot. I would keep my "lip stuff" (I'm addicted to chapstick), my glasses, ear plugs (more on that some other day) and sometimes my phone in that pocket. In the wee hours especially, it was nice to know where I could find all of those things at a moment's notice.

As I promised to reveal in my last post, THIS is the secret use for MBF: tummy time. It took us a few weeks to figure out (by accident, really) that Baba G would not cry his eyes out when he laid on MBF (versus everywhere else in those early days).

This thing is called WHAT?

The bottom line: I couldn't recommend this ridiculously named product more highly. Most designs are $40, some seem to be a little cheaper (but only like $5 cheaper... I had the "deluxe" version but I'm not sure what made it "deluxe"), and there are also versions for twins as well.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Skip*Hop Playspot (Interlocking Foam Tiles)

Even someone like me, who avoided pregnancy and baby books like the plague, will find out about "tummy time." After a SIDS connection was discovered with babies' stomach-based sleeping, parents were advised to put infants to sleep on their backs.

But then another problem hit the scene: a bunch of babies with totally flat heads. Enter "tummy time," where you're supposed to put your newborn on his stomach for increasing lengths of time as the weeks and months ago by. They'll be forced to lift their heads, and in the process will build stronger neck muscles... and hopefully round out that ol' flat head by not putting weight against it ALL of the time.

Here's what they don't tell you, though: lots of babies HATE HATE HATE tummy time. Baba G was one of those babies.

Exhibit A:
THIS SUCKS! Yeah, I said it!

When his pediatrician told me that we were supposed to be getting in an hour total (as in, not in one sitting, but rather cumulative) of tummy time a day, I almost fell over. Because Baba G would barely last five minutes on his stomach before starting to wail like there was no tomorrow. It was heart-breaking to watch, despite the fact we knew it was important to do. We did find one weird solution which involves a product I'm going to write about next, so I'll keep you in suspense on that one for now.

In the meantime I'm going to fast-forward a few months from the picture taken above to a much happier moment in time. Once Baba G got the strength to keep his head up on his own, tummy time was no longer so bad. Especially once we set up two different Skip*Hop Playspot areas.

The Playspots are interlocking foam tiles (with none of the nasty PVCs or BPA stuff) that provide a clean haven for tots to roll around on. We have one downstairs on top of our carpeting (which is usually covered in dog hair and therefore not ideal to put BG on directly) and one upstairs on our hardwood floors that are always cold and, well, hard.

Here's the "Green/Brown" set:

Deep in concentration

And here's a slice of the "Zoo" set:

Hate tummy time? Who, me?

Not only do these play tiles help with tummy time, but they're just generally great for overall play time. Baba G turned six-months-old this week and we think he's going to crawl at any second. After that point it'll be interesting to see how long we can actually confine him to the Playspots (answer I already know but am in denial about: .25 seconds), but they've been indispensable to us so far.

The bottom line: I am a huge fan of the Skip*Hop brand and was specifically looking for at least one set of play tiles that: 1) wasn't made out of any nasty toxic materials, and 2) wasn't totally obnoxious color/design-wise. The Green/Brown tiles fit the bill... but then I still ended up getting the more colorful Zoo set because one of BG's grandma's is crazy about bees... plus his nursery theme involves monkeys... AND we also love dogs. So there you go.

Most Skip*Hop products run on the expensive side, and the Playspot is no exception. The Zoo set is $60 and the Green/Brown is $79... BUT the Zoo set is also a bit smaller (only 12 tiles, covering a 56 x 42-inch area) than the less playful designs (20 tiles, covering a 70 x 56-inch area). There are also additional tiles available for $12. Tons of other brands make foam play tiles as well, but I'm not sure if they all steer clear of BPA/PVCs and whatnot.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

"I See Me!" Personalized Books

It's been a crazy week of FOUR ROUNDS of different visitors staying with us, but Baba G is currently napping and I've managed to find a moment to check in. I thought that today I'd write about this totally cool book that one of our friends bought for Baba G, because—on top of having a stream of people staying with us over the past seven days—my husband was also traveling for work two of those nights, and when he came back the first thing he did was sit down with BG and read him the book below in a bunch of different silly voices. And let me tell you that is quite a long book for a six-month-old to be interested in, so the silly voices were key!


What's awesome about this book, and all of the other "I See Me!" books, is that they're customized so that they work your kid's name into the story. The pirate one is about a bunch of little kiddie pirates who need to find a first mate that will lead them to a treasure. Different sea creatures pop up and give their opinions on what kind of matey they should be looking for, which helps to eventually spell out both a first and last name.

You can take a virtual tour of the pirate book here.

The Manta Ray suggests a Mindful boy

The Dolphin says to look for a Dependable boy

The books can be customized for girls and boys and there are a ton of different stories to choose from if for some reason you are not a fan of pirates. (What's wrong with you?!?) They've got one about fairies, holiday-themed stories, adventure stories, ones for big brothers or sisters, you name it.

My husband reads the dialogue for each of the sea animals in a different voice and it never fails to crack me up. He's got a deep, slow voice for the walrus, a high squeaky voice for the dolphin, and don't even get me started on how well he can talk like a pirate. I knew there was a reason I married him.

As you can see, Baba G is quite captivated by the whole thing.

I can't stand the suspense!

The bottom line: Any "I See Me!" book would make for a great, unique baby/toddler/kid gift. It looks like they run from around $25 to $35 each. If books aren't your thing, they also carry personalized placemats, puzzles, and coloring books. Baba G gives his book a pirate's seal of approval!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Ultimate Crib Sheet (Sheet/Mattress Protector)

Two weeks ago we finally moved Baba G into his nursery... and specifically into his crib. He'd been sleeping in his Pack 'n Play in our room for five months, but the time had come for him to move on out. (We have a bed in his nursery so he's not totally on his own overnight just yet, but we're getting there.)

The thing that was great about the Pack 'n Play, which I will eventually dedicate a post to one of these days, is that its "mattress" sheets were really easy to switch out and the "mattress" (in quotes because it's more like a foldable, cushiony rectangle) was extremely easy to clean (and then dried quickly). That's not exactly the case with the crib mattress, though. The crib mattress is thick, heavy, and fits very snugly into the crib (as it should, obviously). When you're already dealing with sore wrists and weak upper-body issues like I am, it's pretty much a full-on workout to change the crib's fitted sheets.

And OF COURSE Baba G is making sure that he pees through his diapers and pajamas and/or spits up majorly on his crib sheets approximately every other day.

The fifth time I was changing the sheets, I remembered I'd read about (and subsequently bought) the Ultimate Crib Sheet. It's this thick sheet of material with a bunch of snaps that you fasten on top of a crib's fitted sheets, like so:

Cute fitted sheets are still visible

There are between 8 and 12 fasteners you can snap on like so

When the Ultimate Crib Sheet gets wet/gross/otherwise nasty, you unsnap all the snaps and voila! A fresh and clean fitted sheet awaits your bundle of joy.

This sheet looks ripe for peein' on!

I'll get in a workout of Baby Push-Ups before I destroy this clean sheet

The Bottom Line: No, the Ultimate Crib Sheet isn't going to save you a ton of laundry loads or anything, but it might just save your sanity on a particularly stressful evening to know that you aren't going to have to wrestle with the mattress before your bundle of joy can take a nap or go to sleep for the night. It costs about $17.

If you look at the Amazon reviews, you'll see the vast majority of people love this product. But if you focus on the negative reviews, you might not notice (like I didn't at first) that the majority of them were submitted between 5 to 10 years ago, when the product had a totally different design. While I'll certainly provide an update if we end up having any issues with the Crib Sheet, I will say that 1) we air-dried it in order to avoid it shrinking or pilling, and 2) the snaps really require some effort to unsnap, so I am not worried at all about BG having the power to pull them apart any time soon.

Unless he keeps doing those push-ups.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sassy Go-Go Guitars (Hanging Stroller Toys)

So I didn't want to review these specific stroller toys so much as I wanted to talk about the overall concept of "stroller toys." They're one of the many categories of baby stuff that I had no idea even existed until I started browsing around on the web sites I was building Baba G's registry through.

Once I came across these "Go-Go Guitars," however, I was hooked.

My husband plays the guitar (among other instruments, but the guitar is by far his favorite) and I know he has great hopes for Baba G on the Future Rock Star front. So I thought these toys, which you hang from the top of the car seat and/or stroller, would be fun.

But I never really expected BG to play with them. I thought he's just sit in his car seat and be totally oblivious to them 99% of the time. Kind of like this:
It's a retro diner near our place
Where the heck did you bring me, Mom?

Or like this:
There was a race that day on Lake Michigan
Guitars? Boats? Nice day? Who cares, I'm sleepy.

So in other words, I bought the guitar toys for us more than BG. But lo and behold, last week he started noticing them and actually playing with them. Proof:

But they don't play music. Bummer.
Where's the amp and speakers?

While BG is almost always well-behaved on his stroller rides and doesn't need a ton of distractions in order to keep him happy, it's still nice to have something like this just in case. I'm sure the day will come where he'll be fussy and I'll un-Velcro the guitars and let him hold them... and that'll buy me another 5 minutes or so.

I also plan to get a few different types of toys like this for when he's able to be in the stroller the normal way (meaning not in his car seat on top of the stroller). There are TONS of options to choose from and they're all inexpensive.

The bottom line: Hanging stroller toys of ANY kind are great things to buy as shower gifts, and they're also great options to include on a registry since they don't cost an arm and a leg like so many other products (the Go-Go Guitars are $8 for 2—NOT for 4 like what's pictured on Amazon). It might also be nice to have a few different types on hand to be able to switch things up once Junior becomes bored with the same ol' same old.

Friday, July 6, 2012

BOB Weather Shield (or any rain/wind stroller shield, really)

So you know that heat wave I mentioned in my last post? It's still pounding us here in Chicago—but there was a brief respite from the sun's rays for a few moments yesterday. Unfortunately those few moments involved hurricane-like winds, torrential rain, and Armageddon-looking skies. All of this nastiness went down approximately five minutes AFTER I'd left my condo for the first time that afternoon. I'd walked a (long) block and a half down the street when Mother Nature decided to go berzerker.

I was already pretty wet by the time I ducked into a random indent I spied in an apartment building's sidewalk-front. I was staying out of the worst of the weather... but then peered above me and saw a ton of window-based A/C units teetering on rotted-out chunks of wood. Death by Air Conditioning Unit—wasn't there a Seinfeld episode where that happened? No thanks.

So I BOLTED back home—seriously running the fastest I have in, I think, ever. (I HATE running.) But while I was going from Pathetic-Looking Wet Chick to Ultimate Drowned Rat status, inspiration struck me for a product write-up. And that product would be the BOB Weather Shield.

Was Baba G out with me during the storm? No. But if he were, I would've been ready, thanks to the Weather Shield. Here's the official picture of it:

The BOB stroller we have is one of those jogging ones, and right now BG is still too little to use it for that. So we've been attaching a "converter bar" in order to place his car seat on top of the BOB, facing us, and walk around with him. Turns out the weather shield can be draped and secured over an infant car seat riding on top of the stroller—nice!

Quite a big ride for such a teeny dude
With the shield pulled up to ensure BG was ready for our walk...
Kind of spaceship-y!
Shield down!

Yes, the stroller brake was on.
Side view: it's secured around the front, sides, and back. And would ya look at that skyline!

Those socks are now too tight on him, three months later
Through the Looking Glass (er, Plastic)
Now, I will forewarn anyone who tries to put the BOB Weather Shield on this way that it does take a bit of effort to totally secure all of the little elastic bands to the point where one doesn't fly up while you're pulling another down. But if it's not a super-windy day, you don't even really need all of the sides tied down. We also have a weather shield for a stroller we don't even own yet (one of the Uppa ones we plan to buy once BG can sit up a bit better).

The other thing to note is that it's not like you have to either have the shield on or leave it at home. It bunches up (or folded, if you're fancy) and can be stuffed into one of the many hidden pockets or zipped-off areas that seem to be plentiful across all modern strollers. Then if bad weather hits while you're fifteen minutes from home, you can just whip the shield on and protect your kid from the elements... while you most likely still get soaked because you forgot your umbrella/coat/hat.

The bottom line: My point in reviewing this product wasn't to say that the BOB stroller/weather shield combo is superior to other strollers/brands or anything, but rather to highly recommend that you have SOME type of stroller-shield thingy on hand if you live somewhere that isn't always 75 degrees and sunny with no wind or rain or snow. But if you DO live in that magical place, Baba G just told me that he wants us to come visit you.

We're waiting for our invite...

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

i play Babywear Brim Hat

First and foremost, I hope you all had a Happy 4th of July! Baba G is currently screaming his head off in his nursery (and his daddy is coming to his rescue) now that Chicago's big Navy Pier fireworks extravaganza has kicked into full swing. I never thought the day would come where I hate fireworks, but here we are.

A few hours ago, however, BG was happy as a clam. Here's proof:

Where's my sparkler?
Bring on the fireworks! I think...

Anywho, in honor of the recent and ongoing heat wave, I thought I'd write about BG's sun hat. Its official name is the "i play Babywear Brim hat," and while his is khaki, they make them in every color imaginable—and in several different styles, too.

I love it because it's lightweight, doesn't seem to bother him (it isn't too tight and can be rotated around easily) and does a great job of keeping the sun off of his face while he's on his daily stroller ride. Yes, he's just on a stroller ride in the pic below, not an African safari.

Let's do this.
Ready to roll

And here he is with it on as we were going into Wrigley Field for his very first Cubs game a few months ago. (They won that day, so his expectations will be unrealistically high forever... the way it should be, I guess.)
HEY battah battah...
Brim Up for the pic!
I recently was given a ton of gently used stuff from a friend and was elated to find a blue Babywear Brim Hat in the collection. Not only because I like the one BG has so much already, but also because the fact that my friend had bought one for her son as well led me to feel confident I'd made a good purchase. Believe it or not, I've hardly bought anything for Baba G myself because he's gotten so many gifts and wonderful hand-me-downs. The i play hat is one of the few things I've shelled out dough for—and it's been worth it.

The bottom line: If you're looking for a great baby hat for daily use or just special days at the beach or in the sun, this is it. It comes in a 0-6 month size and a 6-18 month size. The smaller khaki one I picked is currently $10.50 on Amazon.

Stay cool, kids!