Showing posts with label Babies. Show all posts

How to start bringing your baby/toddler/kid on transit!

"Next Stop, Please"
While we were quite certain we didn't want to get a car the moment that first baby came, the idea of figuring out how to get a stroller onto the bus or train and keep a kid calm was daunting. Ideally I also wanted to allow others to board/alight without causing all the sidelong glances I'd so smugly sent at flustered new parents for many years.

Similarly, when the never ending snows of 2015 came, our slow easing-back of the stroller became an all-out desertion of anything with wheels. The thought of getting a 20-month old to and from daycare on transit unrestrained was intimidating, even for us urbanophiles.

So how did we do it?
Note: If you're here with just a toddler, you can skip the next two sections and head down to "Lower the Stakes."

Educate Yourself about the Transit System

Still pregnant? Watch other families board and see what works (and what doesn't) for them. Check out where they sit, how they get there, and especially watch how they flip up seats or any other adjustments to the bus or train. Be brave, ask questions or offer to help, it's a great time to practice.
Note: If you've enjoyed the anonymity of urban life so far, you may feel weird talking to random people, but your life of being ignored will soon end. People of all types are going to approach you with all sorts of comments and questions when you travel with the adorable littles, even in the city. So you may as well start getting used to conversation with strangers. At least this time you're getting some much needed information out of the deal.
Too late to practice? That's fine. If you're using a stroller, the general rule of thumb you're going to use on transit for the next few years is to treat the system like someone in a wheelchair. You are looking for low-floor trains/buses, elevators, step-free passages, and space to get a stroller out of the way of people trying to fill up a vehicle. The Americans with Disabilities Act (for those in the U.S.) does not cover you, but the things transit agencies are doing to comply will be your friend. (SEE BELOW FOR A MAJOR POINT ABOUT ACCESSIBILITY.)

Most transit agency websites have a section devoted to these things. You will generally find them under "Accessibility" or other information for the "Mobility Impaired." Your results will vary, as some agencies have more information than others, and some will (understandably) focus more on other issues of accessibility, but it's a good place to start. 

On a day you're riding solo during a non-peak time, see if you ask a couple questions to the driver. Are there seats that flip up? Where is the handle? Is it the same on all buses/trains? Is it easier to enter through a back door? How/when do you pay your fare? Answers for Boston MBTA will be forthcoming in another post.

The Right Gear for Children on Transit

We've all seen people try to board the bus with giant heavy strollers, slowing down everyone else while they get increasingly flustered. How not to be them? 

First, get the right stroller and accessories. Light, tight turning radius, and narrow are your friends here... especially light. Stores may tell you that 20 pounds is light for a stroller (it may even have "city" in its name), but that's not light enough. You can find them under 18 pounds (15 pounds and under is even better).

Stroller toys are also super since on a particularly bad commute, anything that buys you another 5-10 minutes may just be the thing that gets you home (or the kid to sleep). Until the babies were old enough to ditch the pacifier, we kept one on a clip attached to the stroller at all times (clips are also a great way to keep a toy attached to the stroller without it going missing). That was, in fact, the last pacifier we ditched with our first, even after the one that lived in the crib. Remember to also keep appropriate things in your diaper bag in case of unexpected delays or accidents. This is not a place to go nuts for all contingencies (staying light being a priority as well), but a snack with a long shelf life and some all purpose wipes will go a long way for peace of mind.

Is your train or bus extra crowded? Do you live in a city that requires you to fold up strollers? Is it snowing? Then a carrier is a great way to use transit and more-or-less avoid all of the issues afforded by strollers. Just hope that this isn't the day you need to get diapers, wipes, and sheets into daycare.

Lower the Stakes when Starting out on Transit with Your Kid

The people on the bus go up & down...
Ok, now we're to the part where the strategies are the same for getting out there with a stroller AND for getting your kid out of the stroller. In other words, use the obvious strategies that you employ when trying something new with your kid.


Start small

Pick a non-essential trip, during the middle of the day or the weekend, on a day when your child seems to be in a good mood.  Don't go too far - pick a destination that you can walk home from with the stroller or carry the kid if you've ditched it.

Be ready for the first time (or 3) to be slow and to feel like the tourists you scoff at all the time. It's going to be awkward, you won't know where to put your hands, or the kid's hands, or you'll discover the cup holder hits the stop request button, or your newly unrestrained kid's snowpants cause them to slide right off the seat.  It will feel like you spent 15 minutes getting settled while everyone else stares daggers at you. You can rest assured, however, it was probably only 30 seconds and no one even looked up from Facebook.

Get off two stops later, enjoy a cup of coffee with a pain au chocolat at a cafe, and walk back home. You did it!

Build Slow

For the stroller crowd, once you get a couple of these under your belt, try a rush hour commute. If you're feeling nervous, recruit another adult to help (partner/parent/friend/etc.). Then try a rush hour commute where the second adult hangs out at the other end of the vehicle and only helps if something goes wrong. Slowly ease off the training wheels and you've got the confidence to hop on anytime, get around, and enjoy your city, baby and all!
Our first longer walk parallel to the bus route

For those trying to ditch the stroller, the same principles apply but you're also adding in the need to help your kid learn to walk further and further. So instead of wheeling the stroller directly into the daycare, we parked the stroller first and walked to the door. Then, we started walking to the park (holding onto a stroller handle) but letting the kid ride in the stroller on the return trip.

To bring it back to transit, we started taking the bus unrestrained to music class where the walk on either side of the bus was short. We kept practicing with various trips until we were ready to try a run to daycare. At first we only did the commute without a stroller one way, leaving the stroller at the daycare overnight for an unrestrained ride home and then back to school the next morning. We went from one day a week, to two, to... the worst winter in Boston history where we ditched the stroller entirely and were so happy she was ready and able to do it!

Use Cute and Precocious as Long as you Can

Moving to unrestrained transit riding also meant teaching the kid a lot more about proper behavior than we had to cover when she was confined to the stroller. We do lots of reminders about the fact that everyone gets personal space, the need to stay in your seat, using your inside voice, and really all the things that toddlers do. All of which is to say, you'll no longer be checking your phone or enjoying a cup of coffee while enroute.

When we've had issues with her pushing the limits of appropriate behavior, I apologize, and generally people are pretty nice/forgiving (yes, even here in grumpy Boston). Her size, comparative independence and charizma let her get away with it. This should buy you enough time (and trips) to teach better habits.

Ask for help and know when to decline it

We all have bad, weird, or frustrating days. And here's the thing, you can always ask for help. You can ask people to vacate the accessible seating, you can ask people to flip up a seat, or to even help you with a stroller on the stairs if you so need. In my experience, people have always been pretty great about it, especially people who have grown children.

While plenty of people offer useless (or worse) help, most of them are just trying to be good citizens and everything is going to be OK, I promise!

I see our subway station!

You Did It!

Eventually they'll want to look out the window, which will be lots of fun (and distracting) for them. They'll learn the names of the stops, learn their left and right from the door announcements, and tell strangers how to get around. At home you can make up new verses to "The Wheels on the Bus" based on your actual experiences (we've added verses about bike racks and card readers).

And now we have a commute where we can have fun, learn skills, and see each other face-to-face all without having to circle for parking.

Hey, we got back to being smug, victory!

A note (actually 2) about Accessibility

When you are in the wheelchair section of your bus or train, keep your eyes open for folks using other mobility aids who need access to that section of the vehicle. It's annoying to stand in an aisle with a stroller, but easier/safer for you to do than a wheelchair, which generally must be secured using special attachments only in that area. Similarly, someone with a walker may not be able to make it as far into the vehicle as you can. Part of asking others to vacate these spaces for you is realizing that you may still need to vacate for someone in more need than you.

Also, when you're winding through dark passageways from platform to platform and stuck in slow-moving foul-smelling elevators while those without wheels walk up 10 stairs to accomplish the same task, remind yourself: When my child(ren) is out of the stroller, we'll be done with this. And then double-remind yourself, for many of the people using these services, they are stuck with this substandard transit experience every day.

So, when your transit agency says they don't have money for accessibility, or there's no need to add a second elevator to serve platforms in both directions, or that they can't upgrade a station because then they'd finally need to make it accessible, PUSH BACK. Do it for your selfish reasons of needing to get a stroller around town for the next few years, but especially do it for the non-selfish reasons.

This post is in the series of posts about carfree living. Other posts include thoughts on strollers for urban use, necessary accessories, and whatever else we think to blog about!

Introducing the Baby Registry - A practical guide to bringing baby home to your city life!



We are so excited to roll out our baby registry - requested by you, our readers!

You will always be able to find it under the "Guides" section of our site. This is our best and most practical advice for how to fit your baby into your apartment while saving space, money, and your sanity.

So - experienced parents, what did we miss/get wrong?

Expecting parents - what burning questions did we leave unanswered?

baby registry for city parents







Not quite baby led weaning... or real people food your baby can eat!

So you may not be feeling up to making your own baby food. That's cool! But just because you'll be visiting the baby food aisle at the grocery store, doesn't mean all the food that's smeared on those chubby cheeks needs to come from there.  A fun and less expensive way to feed your baby is to find foods that are geared towards the general public that your little one can enjoy too.  So without further ado here are some ideas of foods that fall into that category.

  1. 1. Applesauce (and its friends).  These days you can find applesauce mixed with strawberries, peaches, pears, and probably other fruits.  That can be a great way to introduce your those items into the rotation with minimal effort and a smaller price tag.  Just make sure you select applesauce that has no sugar added.

  2. 2. Canned pumpkin. Sometimes this can be a seasonal item (especially at stores like Trader Joe's), only appearing in the fall. However, frequently you can find single ingredient pumpkin in the baking aisle year round. (Note: do not confuse with pumpkin pie filling.)

  3. 3. Naturally soft fruits like bananas, avocados, and watermelon can be mashed with a fork or cut into cubes and handed straight to a slightly older baby with minimal effort.

  4. 4. Jam that's not really jam.  A mainstream version of this is something like Polaner all Fruit.  These are, in essence, fruit compotes and the like that often don't contain any added sugar. They look like jam but are less sweet.  These can be a fun way to introduce your baby to more "exotic" fruits like mango, if you're going the bought baby food route, or fruits that are out of season if you're going the home made baby food route.

  5. 5. Yogurt. I'm sure you've thought of this one yourself already but there are lots of fun varieties out there if you're willing to be adventurous, including goat and sheep milk yogurt.  No need to stick to baby versions (ex. yobaby).  Just pickup any plain, "no sugar" added version.  You can dress it up with applesauce, soft fresh fruit, all fruit "jam", or baby food.

  6. 6. Grains (cook slightly longer).  It's super convenient to buy a box or two of "baby cereal" such as oatmeal or rice.  A Ziploc bag of these can be stored in case of emergency in your diaper bag/at day care, used to thicken purees that got too thin, or fed directly to your child. However, if your family consumes a wide variety of grains on a regular basis such us quinoa, buckwheat, bulgur, etc. there is no reason to buy a "baby cereal" version of each of these.  Just cook the grain in question slightly longer with a bit more water (set aside a portion of what you were making anyway on a given night). Once you've done that you can even mix it up with a more traditional puree for a smoother flavor.
And remember, if your child is eating "adult" foods, that means you can all start eating as a family.  Why not serve everyone yogurt and "jam" for breakfast or oatmeal and banana for lunch or feed your baby some avocado for dinner while the rest of the family enjoys taco night with guacamole?
Note: If you've never heard of "baby led weaning" here is a helpful link.  To me this all sounds delightful on paper (metaphorically) but I don't have the patience to watch a baby attempt to aim a piece of food at his mouth for days on end.  I also don't have the stomach to clean up the food disaster I imagine will grace my floor as a result of such an experiment.  Yes I am a control freak.  Hopefully my children will forgive me.

Dressing babies and toddlers for the cold when they go to day care

My kids go to day care.  They both started when they were 12 weeks old and have been attending since with very few interruptions. We picked a day care that really puts a value on the kids spending time each day out doors.  Not only that, but it worked out that the day care is located in Dad's place of work.  This means that their commute to school on transit each day is as long as ours. As a result, for the past 3 years we've had to pick weather gear for them that would:

  1. 1. Withstand the Boston winter - complete with icy temperatures, wind, and snow.
  2. 2. Be as easy to put on and take off as possible.
  3. 3. Be something that travels with the child should their teachers take them on an outing.
Having now done this for 3 years, we have some recommendations. 

Cold Weather Gear for Toddlers

We've already covered high performance boots and socks for toddlers in another post. For coats we've really liked having the Columbia Sets for Toddlers. We've always gotten the coats that came with the firefighter style pants.  These keep the legs warm while staying safety in place with Velcro shoulders, whether the kid is going down the slide or doing the "ants in the pants" dance on the train. The Velcro also allows you to adjust the length of the pants should your tyke have a growth spurt in the middle of winter (these are very generously sized outfits). Additionally, having the pants be separate from the coat (as opposed to something like the Columbia Toddler Dude Suit) makes it possible to have an outfit for an intermediate temperature by being paired with a lighter jacket (pictured). In all, this is a highly practical way to allow toddlers to be outside, come what may.

Cold Weather Gear for Babies

Stroller straps can be placed over the coat
If you're expecting that you'll have a baby who is unlikely to walk before the end of winter, then something that's basically a bag for the baby is the way to go. As we mentioned in our post about the versatile winter blanket, we do not have stroller bunting for our kids.  This is because we need their cold weather gear to go with them and be usable for day care outings, without having to unstrap it from the stroller. With our first, who was born in June, and thus 6-9 months old in her first winter, we made the mistake of getting her the Columbia Sets for Toddlers described above.  This set, while really great for older kids, was kind of a pain to wrestle a baby into.  Not only did we have to stuff her into both parts of the snow suit separately, but we then had to get some boots on her feet as well. So, when planning for my son's arrival, I wanted something easier, especially since I knew I would have to get two kids bundled for any outing.

Straps disappearing inside the coat for a safe buckle
We settled on the 7AM Enfant Doudoune One Piece Infant Snowsuit. This brand makes all kinds of high quality weather gear from stroller bunting, to carseat covers, to carrier covers.  However, the snowsuit, in my opinion, is the best investment because it is one thing that can be used in any of those situations. The suit is essentially a bag with a hood. Unlike a true bag, though, the legs are separate and closed with snaps like a footie.  This means that the baby can both straddle the parent in a carrier as well as be easily strapped into a stroller.  Additionally, no separate mittens are necessary as the sleeves can be made to leave the hands covered or uncovered, as desired. It definitely wins points for ease all around. Just this week, a fellow parent in the day care infant room complimented the ease with which I was able to remove the outerwear from the baby while juggling all of his other possessions.

Best of all, a baby wearing this suit can be placed into a car seat safely.  You've doubtless seen the recommendations against strapping children in puffy coats into car seats because they can easily slip out in accident. However with this snow suit you can put the straps of the car seat inside the coat (thread the crotch strap between the leg snaps and attach to the shoulder straps before zipping up the sides).  This allows you to get away with not having a separate car seat cover, which for a carfree family is nice bonus.

Buying Smart

Thredup Inc.As we mentioned in our post about gender neutral clothing, we tend to buy seasonal gear at the end of the previous year's season.  We lucked out and were able to get the baby snow suit for half the price last spring.  Likewise, by shopping for toddler winter coats in the summer and/or at second-hand stores, we've never paid full price for those either. Since staying warm is one place where skimping on quality is a bad idea, it's always nice to get a good price on something you were going to buy anyway.  Buying high quality clothes second hand, whether at your local thrift shop, or from ThredUp, is always a good idea.  Children grow way too fast to wear out anything well made.



  

Tales from the Trenches: FOMO, Working Mom/Last Baby Edition

When my first child was born, I was not ready to be a mom. When you read a sentence like that, your mind probably jumps to thoughts of teenage mothers, unplanned pregnancies, and unstable relationships.  Yet none of them were, in fact,the truth for me.

I was 29 years old when my daughter was born. My husband and I had been married for exactly 4 years (she was due on our wedding anniversary, though she was too tardy to celebrate with us).  We lived in a condo we owned and I had a master’s degree and a blossoming career under my belt.  Not only that, but I had spent the year before my daughter's conception all but badgering my husband to declare that he too was ready for parenthood.

And yet... and yet...  though I had yearned to be a mom with every fiber of my being, I had no concept of what it would mean. I found my daughter's arrival, her constant need, the million decisions she forced me into making on her behalf utterly paralyzing. I suspect I am not the only mom to ever have had such a realization, though too many of us keep this to ourselves. I had a continuous anxious stream of doubt narrating everything I did.  The torrent could best be summarized with the words "I am moments away from failing the most important test life has ever presented me with."  And so it was with some relief that I handed my daughter over to the confident, warm, and professional care of ladies at the daycare.  They sent dozens of children home alive every day - surely they would do no worse by my child.

Fast forward two and a half years. I have grown much more comfortable in my role as a mother. This journey has taught me a million and one lessons in patience, humility, and our inability to control things as parents.  I now have a second child - a beautiful, cuddly, 5 month old boy. He is truly a delight and I know he is my last child.

I know this because we don't want to move to a bigger house.  I know this because I physically could not handle another pregnancy.  I know this because both my husband and I are ready to move onto the next chapter of our lives and leave diapers and naps behind when these kids are ready.  So I find myself aching, every time I leave him in the care of the very same confident, warm, and professional ladies at the daycare.  I want to hold him a little too tight and soak in every scent of his babyhood.

Now, instead of worrying that I am not measuring up as a mother, I am terrified that by going to work each day I'm missing out on giggles that I will never have the opportunity to hear again.  I know how all too soon he will be too mobile, too busy, too curious, too excited by the world to sit on my lap and play with my finger.  I can see this future because of the bold path forged by my fearless daughter. And so, at night, I nurse him a little longer.  I feel his body relax into mine and my inner monologue screams "remember this!!".  I know that as he achieves his milestones I will be proud and sad in equal measure.

I am sure that stay at home moms feel exactly the same way about their last babies.  I am sure of this because one of the many things motherhood has taught me is the universality of this pull towards our children. Also, I am sure because the phrase "if that's the last baby I ever snuggle, it will be too soon!" has never been said.

I love working. I find it fulfilling. I'm good at it. I also appreciate paying our mortgage. Quitting is not on the table any more than having more children or joining the circus.

And yet.... And yet... I fear missing his babyhood.  He is my second, my last baby and though I know this to be the right choice for me, my heart breaks for it.

Sheets and Things - or - how many layers can your child pee through?

Everybody pees...

But babies and kids have special abilities to pee on (and through) everything. So what is a good parent to do other than be prepared (or, pee-pared... ahem).

Consequently, the method here is to treat your child's sleeping arrangements like the many layers of the earth, all working in concert to protect the inner core, i.e. the mattress.

Wait, Wait, Mr. Earth Science - Isn't this why we use diapers?

Yeah, modern diapers are pretty amazing, aren't they? They swell to many times their original size, super gels absorb even the humidity in the air, and you get a nice snug fit. Alas, every child in every diaper type will have a blowout from time to time. Maybe the diaper wasn't on quite right, maybe they learned to open it, maybe they're too big or too small for the current size, maybe they ate something funny. Whatever the cause, it happens, and when it happens, you don't want to be unprepared.

But even if diapers were perfect, all this pee-proofing is necessary for two more reasons:

  1. 1. It won't always be pee. While diapers may catch other bodily fluids, it'll be no help for spit-up, vomit, nosebleeds, or whatever other foul things may (and will) emanate from your precious angel.

  2. 2. Hard is it may be to believe, someday the child will be learning not to use diapers and when that day (or, indeed, many days) comes, nap time and bedtime are likely to result in a frequent changing of the linens. So if something keeps you sane with your baby also and a toddler, that's a "go for it" in our book.

 The Inner Core - Mattress

So at some point we'll have a big write-up on mattresses, but for what we are discussing here, the key is preventing any liquid from getting INTO the mattress where Very Bad Things can happen (mostly mold, followed closely by breathing problems). And because mattresses are pricey, this is the last thing you want to replace.

Many mattresses out there are waterproof but check and double-check. There are some weasel-words describing, particularly, "natural" mattresses that may mention "protecting against leaks," but don't actually claim to be waterproof.

Because liquids will move to find the lowest point we also recommend finding a mattress without seams.  A seamless mattress doesn't give a place for liquid to pool and also doesn't provide an easy-opening to seep through.

Finally, remember that accidents are going to happen for years and you may find yourself changing the bed at 3am solo, so a lightweight mattress will be your friend.

We went with the Lullaby Earth Healthy Support Crib Mattress because it is waterproof, seamless, and only weighs 7 pounds. 

The Outer Core - Mattress Pad

So the mattress is waterproof, mission accomplished, right? No.

Let's say your kid pees through to the mattress. You strip the bed and wipe the mattress up to the best of your ability. But where does the kid sleep until everything dries? This is doubly an issue if you find yourself needing to disinfect something worse than pee. So, to the rescue is a mattress cover.

The mattress cover, aside from being another layer to absorb and stop whatever is thrown at it, is machine washable. Now the mess you have can be easily stripped from the bed and thrown into the wash (pre-treated with spray, as needed) without much additional thought. This is much better than dealing with a wet mattress.

We bought the American Baby Company Organic Waterproof Natural Quilted Fitted Crib Mattress Pad Cover but no matter what you get, be sure to get more pads than you have mattresses (we own three between the two kids) as this allows the quick change without waiting for the washing machine.

The Mantle - Piddle Pad

And now we get to the first line of defense... the lap/piddle/bassinet pad. These are bits of waterproof fabric you can lay down right under the sheets to sop up most (or all) if your mess. 95% of the time, when we've had to change things, we've only needed to change the sheets and the piddle pad.

Wonderful things about piddle pads:
  1. 1. They come in lots of shapes/sizes so you can put them in whatever orientation makes sense and you can use them for a bassinet, a play yard, a bed, or whatever else you need.  The mattresses in these things often have no waterproofing at all so these babies may very well be your only defense.

  2. 2. You can use them as a changing pad on-the-go or in some other pinch. (We've had a couple instances when ALL of our changing pad covers had been soiled.  We just plopped one of these down and used in the interim).

Consequently, it's worth having a few sets of these handy. We have a few hand-me-downs from other families, but when we needed more, we bought the MyKazoe Waterproof Bassinet Play Yard Pad & Lap Pads.  These are available in a variety of colors/patterns. Note that three pads come in the set.  

The Crust - Sheets

From a waterproofing perspective, these don't matter much. We have a bunch of sheets from Skip Hop.  That said at the moment of this writing they appeared to be discontinued. The reason we bought these is that they were soft the touch and very cute from the side of the crib, even if you didn't have a bumper on (which are no longer recommended).  For the record we also own some Summer Infant Printed Crib Sheets that we use for day care and they are much rougher to the touch.  Given that babies and kids spend a lot of time in their cribs, getting some comfy sheets seems like a good investment.
 



Photo credit: Earth Layers by NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Picking an infant car seat as a city family

As we've mentioned previously, if you live in an urban area and are a carfree family (or even with just 1 family car), you will spend way more time obsessing about car seats than your friends with cars do.  Add to that the stress of picking anything safety related for a baby you haven't met yet, throw in some pregnancy hormones, and what you have there is a steaming cup of panic brew.  So while you practice your deep breathing, here are some thoughts about how to choose.

Do I need an infant car seat?

If you, or anyone else, will ever transport your baby in a car I really recommend going with an infant car seat rather than a convertible one. (Confused about the difference? Look here).  It's not often that we recommend buying more baby products when less will do and especially when it comes to car accessories.  The reason we recommend going with an infant seat is that they are much, much easier to install rear-facing than convertible ones.  In fact, I recommend strategizing such that you never have to own or install a convertible car seat at all, but very especially, rear-facing.  Yes this means you will likely have to own at least 2 different car seats over the course of your child's life, possibly even 3 in some circumstances.  But I promise it will be so very worth it in massive amounts of frustration saved.

What's important?

There are 3 things you need to consider when picking a carseat (infant or otherwise).
  1. 1. Ease of installing it (correctly!), with and without a base.  This one is really important for obvious reasons. But in particular when you try this out at a store (many stores have a sedan seat for you to practice installation), make sure you pay attention to the baseless install.  Frankly, I can count on one hand how many times I've installed the base with either of my kids.  Get a seat you can easily plop in with just a seat belt, and that's 5 lbs of bulky weight you can say good bye to transporting.
  2.  
  3. 2. Ease of transporting it.  A seat can be easy to transport because it is light, because it snaps into your stroller, or because it has its own wheels.  If none of these things is true, you're going to be very sorry about buying it. 
  4.  
  5. Car seat clicked into stroller via an attachment
  6. 3. How quickly your child will outgrow it. Ok this fact is discussed very poorly on the parent internet in my opinion.  For some reason the number always thrown out for the "max" measurement of a child with infant seats is the maximum weight a child can be to use a seat.  The number that's really hard to find, unless you really go looking, is the maximum height a child can be to use a seat.  This is really weird and insane.  For example, many infant seats top out at 30 lbs and 30 inches of height.  A 30 inch boy is in the 50% percentile at 12 months, a 30 lb boy is in the 50th percentile at two and a half years.  What this tells us is that the overwhelming majority of children will outgrow the seat in height way before (a year and a half before) they outgrow it in weight.  So why do you keep advertising the weight? I don't get it.  Anyway, since you're required to keep your child rear-facing by law until 1 and by recommendation as long as possible or until 2, you want to pick an infant seat with the tallest possible height.  I really recommend trying to find a seat that's rated for at least 32 inches of height. (If you want to play around with percentiles look here).  That will almost guarantee you use of your seat until 1 year of age, but likely 18 months or more.  At that point you can go straight to the folding IMMI GO.
Why didn't I put safety on the list? All infant cars eats go through a ton of testing and are pretty equivalently safe when installed correctly.  The best thing you can do for your baby is to pick an infant carseat that you can install correctly until they are as big as possible.

Who are the winners?

Doona Infant Car Seat 

Yes the Doona is kind of ridiculously expensive (you can often find it a couple hundred dollars cheaper at Magic Beans than on Amazon). However, if you have the money (or if someone else is buying) this seat is amazing.  It's pretty easy to install without a base, even for the inexperienced.  It's rated for babies up to 32 inches tall.  The wheels roll surprisingly well and the break is easy to access (also flip flop friendly!).  This seat is approved for use in cars both in the U.S. and Europe (which is quite rare), as well as air travel.  Plus, it's just a really well made, well thought out seat. Much like the IMMI GO it falls into that non-committal space of "we're going somewhere on foot/transit but may want to take a car back".  It's perfect for occasional car users and heavy air-travelers.

Note: I would not recommend using this seat exclusively as both your car seat and stroller.  This is a car seat on wheels, not a primary use stroller.  Remember, car seats restrain kids enough to keep them safe in a car crash, which is to say they pretty much restrict all movement.  This is not good for babies if it's done for too many hours a day, every day, for a year.  This is a great solution for a family trip to avoid having to bring extra gear.  This is a poor solution for daily continuous stroller use.

Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 Infant Car Seat

I have not personally used this seat myself, but it looks like a fantastic value for the following reasons.
  • - It's inexpensive ($119).
  • - Rated for babies up to 32 inches tall.
  • - Graco is a brand which all strollers that make any adapters at all, will make an adapter.
  • - It weighs only 7 lbs, for those times you do have to carry it.
  • - Recommended by The Car Seat Lady for easy installation in a taxi.

Other thoughts

When we were shopping for baby products in preparation for my daughter's arrival 3 years ago, all infant seats topped out at 30 inches.  We selected a Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat because of all the seats we tried, it was the easiest to install (and we tried a lot of seats).  The seat served us well until my daughter was 15 months old, at which point she became too tall for it.  We ended up having to purchase a convertible car seat for her until we were ready to turn her around.  We got an Evenflo Tribute because it was cheap and light.  However, though light, the bulk of the seat made it a pain to transport and its poor construction made it really hard to install rear-facing.  It is reasonably ok to install forward facing, but the transport issue remains.  (This may help to explain to you some of my enthusiasm for when the IMMI GO came on the market).  Much as the Chicco served us, I don't think I would buy it today because of the better options available.

Ok but an infant car seat still seems like a huge waste...

Still not convinced and absolutely want to avoid an infant only seat? Sigh... ok... at least get a high quality convertible seat that's light weight (Combi Coccoro).  You can even turn it into a makeshift "travel system" with the Mountain Buggy Nano Stroller according to The Car Seat Lady. (The Nano will accept any car seat without an adapter because it attaches them via what is basically a seat belt).   That said, only choose this combination if you plan on using a carrier exclusively until the child is ready to go into the Nano directly (probably around 3 months, though the specs say 6 due to overly conservative rules on this).  Alternatively you can transport the child in any regular stroller of your choosing and put the Coccoro in a car seat backpack. (We did the backpack with our Evenflo Tribute and "lovingly" referred to it as our "man-sized safe").


       

This post is in the series of posts about carfree living. Other posts include thoughts on strollers for urban use, necessary accessories, and whatever else we think to blog about!

Tales from the Trenches: Ignore the haters... Babies are hard and toddlers are awesome!

Toddler pretending to be cute, actually a terror.
If you rattle around the parent internet for even a little bit, you'll notice that toddlers have a bad rap.
"You think that baby is hard? Wait until the terrible twos!" says someone.
"Oh two is nothing" some other very... ahem... helpful... person will say "don't you know that three is the new two?"
And everyone knows that you can't take a toddler out to eat because they are just the worst.

Ok so full disclosure: at the time of this writing my oldest is only two and a half so it's completely possible that I will be shown my comeuppance in six months (I also have a 5 month old baby).  That said, I think we've had our fair share of tantrums turned up to 11. I've definitely stood on the sidewalk next to a child who has gone rigid with rage and thrown themselves on the ground. I've had to give a toddler a bath against her will - the kind of bath where both adults are required and come out soaking wet.  And even with all that, I would never say something like what's written above.

Let's be nice to (and honest with) new parents

When I say "it's not nice" to tell new parents that it just gets harder, I also want to be clear that it's not because we should keep this terrible secret to ourselves. I mean because it's not actually true. Someone who does this either plain ole' doesn't remember how terrifying it is to be granted sole responsibility over a child for the first time or is just a jerk. Parents grow *with* their children. And the parents of toddlers who are obnoxious to new parents have simply forgotten how impossibly hard babies are.

Reasons why toddlers are easier than babies

  • - Toddlers understand language. They can usually tell you what's wrong. You know that time your baby screamed for 5 hours before you finally thought to take them to the doctor and found out they have a raging ear infection? That sure was fun! A couple months ago my daughter woke up and said "mama ear hurt." Oh it killed the mystery and romance of trying to guess which underworld God the kid was possessed with, but I've never liked surprises anyway. Now, obviously toddlers have their moments: when they don't hear a thing you're saying, when they have no interest in using their words (see: rigid with rage), when they whine about cookies for hours on end, etc.. That said, if my daughter is howling for a cookie, I feel comfortable ignoring the hell out of her because I know she's not going to die.  When a baby screams like that, there's no way to know if they're just angry at the walls or if something is actually wrong. And with a toddler, there's always distraction! Under most circumstances you can say "time for lunch" and your kiddo will cheerfully run to their designated seat. Which brings us to... 

  • - Toddlers can walk. By 18 months normally developing children have taken their first steps and many are already quiet mobile. This means you're not constantly balancing them on your hip as you do EVERYTHING. Welcome to being able to stand up straight when you brush your teeth!

  • - Toddlers eat real people food. You arrive at day care having forgotten your toddler's lunch on the train/in your driveway/in the fridge? Well that's unfortunate, you're going to have to go to Starbucks and get her a croissant and a banana. You forget you baby's breast milk or the one formula you've used since his birth/he isn't allergic to/the pediatrician prescribed? You are so majorly screwed! Cue trudging back home and taking the morning off work! 

  • - Toddlers sleep at least sometimes.  Ok yes... even toddlers never sleep in, don't understand proper behavior during day light savings time or when crossing time zones, and totally get the stomach flu in the middle of the night.  That said, as the parent of a baby who spent more than a month waking up... every... hour... to nurse... every... night... I can tell you that no deeper hell exists in this dimension.  I swear, at one point that month all the color was sucked from the world and only shades of grey existed.  In the mean time, my toddler daughter was rocking the zzz's for a good 11 hours most nights.

To the parents of babies - it gets easier

So if you're reading this and you have a newborn who is causing your brain to slowly leak out your ears, know that it won't always be like this.  It will get better when your baby will smile at you, it will get less stressful when your baby starts solids, and everything will be forgiven once he says "I love you" for the first time. So hang in there - it gets easier!

Giving babies medicine, while minimizing the sad

Most medicine for babies comes with convenient droppers, syringes, or dispensers. This is definitely true for the most common things that get administered such as most antibiotics, Tylenol, and Tri-Vi-Sol.  However, should you find yourself unlucky enough to have to administer something slightly more exotic, you may need something like the Safety 1st Bottle Medicine Dispenser.  This medicine dispenser came in a set that was gifted to us before our daughter was born and we didn't think much of it.  Unfortunately we had to use it during two separate episodes in her infancy.

Iron for Anemic Babies

All children get tested for anemia (low iron levels) at their 1-year well child visit.  Children who are thought to be at risk for some reason get tested at 9 months.  If a child is determined to be anemic, a high dose iron supplement is prescribed along with a recommendation to dissolve it in juice that's high in vitamin C.  The juice advice is both for taste reasons (liquid iron tastes pretty rotten) as well as for improved absorption reasons (vitamin C helps the body absorb the iron more efficiently). However, when my daughter was prescribed this at 9 months, she had never even had water, let alone juice, and she certainly didn't know how to drink out of anything other than a boob or a bottle.  This is where the Safety 1st Bottle Medicine Dispenser came in really handy.  It allowed us to present her with a familiar drinking mechanism (a nipple).  By filling this tiny bottle with juice and iron solution we could be sure that she could finish the whole thing thus getting the entire prescribed dose.

The Truly Exotic

When my daughter was five months old, someone walked into the office building that houses her daycare with an active case of tuberculous. This caused the Department of Public Health to mandate that all the children in the day care receive two months of prophylactic drugs. The closest I've ever come to quitting my job and moving to a ranch with a shotgun was when we had to figure out how to procure and administer drugs not designed for babies in the US. Nothing makes you question your life choices more than attempting to grind 1/4 of a pill into your previously perfectly cherubic child's milk. This was the first time we remembered about the medicine dispenser as we were specifically instructed to dissolve it in less than an ounce of milk. I understand that this situation is blissfully unique, however, should you find yourself needing to dissolve something in a small quantity of liquid to administer to your baby, this may very well save your sanity.

The Zen of Diaper Bags

Diaper bags are one of those pieces of equipment that even non-parents have opinions about.  They can be a kinda ridiculous fashion statement, be literally big enough to fit a sleeping baby, or just a plain old symbol of your new lameness.  This is probably because they come most places with you for several years (or more if you have more than one child).  So here are some practical thoughts on how to pick one and what to put in it.

What should you have in your diaper bag?

Very little.  Ok so our diaper bag pretty much lives on the stroller, which means that I never have to carry it.  Even with that, I hate having a big over stuffed bag because it means I can never find what I'm looking for.  So we keep it light.  Here is what you actually need to have with you:
  • for all munchkins
    • diapers
    • wipes
    • change of clothes
    • a couple plastic bags (for disposing of poopy diapers or containing soiled clothes). Regular grocery bags will do or you can go with something like the Munchkin Diaper Bag Dispenser.
    • a changing pad
    • seasonally appropriate items such as a baby hat or sunscreen 
    • tiny hand sanitizer (soap and water is best for cleaning your hands after a diaper change, but for those rare times that you have to change a diaper not in a bathroom, hand sanitizer is needed)
  • for babies only
    • some way to feed the baby if you're a non lactating parent
    • nursing cover if you are the lactating parent 
  • for toddlers only
    • hand wipes
    • tissues
    • one non perishable emergency snack. (We are definitely a "no snacking on the go" family.  However, sometimes circumstances beyond your control necessitate a change in plan.  One time, my husband was on a bus bringing my toddler daughter home from daycare when all traffic stopped for an hour because the president had come to town. Delaying a tired one year old's dinner by an hour in a confined space is a recipe for all kinds of mayhem and a well placed granola bar can go a long way to keeping everyone's hearing intact.)

How do you pick a diaper bag?

In my humble opinion, you should pick the smallest bag you can find that both parents are willing to carry.

Why the smallest?

Nature abhors a vacuum and you will fill whatever sized bag you buy.  Thus, on those days when you do actually have to carry it, it's going to suck.  Also you'll never find the thing you're looking for.

Doesn't each parent deserve their own bag?

There is definitely advice out there that says mom and dad need their own bag.  I find this highly dubious.  Moving your kids things from bag to bag or making sure both of them are stocked is never going to happen, and most likely one of them is going to gather dust permanently.  Here are a couple of brands we've found that make bags likely to be palatable to both parents:
  • Lassig. We have their messenger style bag and love it.  Though, full disclosure, the messenger bag is kind of big and we only got it when we found out we were having a second child.  The need to carry both baby and toddler things simultaneously necessitated a bigger bag than the one we had to start.  That said, the bag has been awesome from the way it clips to the stroller to the extra wide shoulder strap that makes it easy to carry even when full.
  • L.L. Bean.  They're known for their high quality bags of all kinds, so why not diaper bags?
  • Skip Hop. They have a number of designs and sizes to match almost any kind of style or family.
  • DadGear.  This is a great brand for the most gender neutral of bags (all the way to full on "manly" cameo bags).
  • Ju-Ju-Be B.F.F.   These definitely run expensive but if you're looking for a diaper bag that truly converts from a purse into a backpack and has a fun design - this is your bag.
  • Any bag you are both willing to carry and can fit all the things. It's pretty easy to buy a changing pad and stroller clips and voila - you have a perfectly fine diaper bag of your very own!

Bibs

How you feel about bibs in part depends on what your baby is like.  When my daughter was a baby and the avalanche of clothing gifts descended on our house, many of the outfits included bibs. Since my daughter hardly ever spat up more than a tiny amount, all those bibs sat in a drawer taking up space and being useless.   Then we started solids, the bibs came out, and we realized that most of them were even more useless on the baby than in the drawer. Most novelty bibs that come with outfits are small and not at all waterproof, which means they hardly offer any protection. So, after having to change her clothes every time she ate, I went out and bought some Green Sprouts Waterproof Absorbent Terry Bibs.

These are great for a number of reasons. They have cloth on the outside (both sides, they are reversible) so they feel nice to touch and can be used to wipe the baby's face. But, they have a waterproof lining in the center which means that even if your kid dumps an entire spoonful of soup on herself, her shirt will remain intact.  And, unlike their plastic counterparts, these are machine washable. This means cleaning the bibs is no extra work (you do laundry every other day anyway, right?). The absorptive fabric/waterproof combo also comes in handy for that charming month or two in your baby's life when rivers of drool are constantly coming out of their mouths.

Now I have a second baby who, wonder of wonders, is a totally different child. We haven't started feeding him solids yet. However, we've already had to break out the bibs due to the massive quantity of spit up he produces. And let me tell you, despite the number of novelty bibs in my drawer growing with the number of children, I pretty much always still reach for the green sprouts.


Attach baby, see the world! (review of Ergo vs. Lillebaby structured carriers)

Baby in carrier, stroller in hand, ready to board the train!
Carriers are super useful in the first year of life, especially if you live in an urban area and like to go places without a car.  They can also be a great way to calm down an upset baby or give the baby a place to nap while out and about (while still maintaining use of both your hands).  There are even studies which show that periodic babywearing (as it's known in the biz) allows children to reach gross motor milestones earlier. (Note: I'm almost hesitant to mention this last fact because when I was Googling for the references on this, I came across all kinds of crazy websites advocating that you never put your child down in order to become a "natural" parent.  I don't even know where to begin deconstructing this.  Let's just say that I rolled my eyes so hard they almost got stuck in my skull.  Naturally (ha!) you have my full permission to put your baby down any time you damn well please! I assure you there is nothing "unnatural" about wanting space from your kids sometimes and no one will be damaged as a result.)

In any case, in the first 2 months of life I really recommend an unstructured carrier (doubly for Mom).  In the beginning they tend to be easier to put on and adjust to the adult, especially when the adult in question is still funny shaped from the pregnancy (though keep in mind, Mom won't be able to use the carrier for the first 2 weeks, but Grandparents and partners can). Also the structured carriers are all built to carry 3 year olds and so sometimes are hard to adjust to itty bitty babies. (You can see our review of the Moby and Infantino Mai Tai.)

Once your baby is big enough though, you may want to get a structured carrier for your and their comfort.  But which carrier should you get?  There are many of them on the market and we personally have tried 2 different ones: Ergobaby Original Baby Carrier and the LILLEbaby Complete Baby Carrier.

Ergobaby Original Baby Carrier

Getting squirmy toddler through airport security.
When our first child was born there was only one company that made "ergonomic" carriers, i.e. ones that were comfortable for the parents.  They called themselves "Ergobaby" (get it? get it?).  We got one and it was great.  It was an easy way to transport the baby, say onto an Amtrak train, and still have hands free for all your stuff. It had a "sun hood", which was great not just to protect the baby from the sun but also to help her sleep when we needed her to nap on the go.  It also had a pocket in the front which was a convenient place to store your cell phone/keys etc. if you were just taking a walk around the neighborhood and didn't need that much stuff with you.  Our baby also just enjoyed hanging out in it while we did other stuff and often it was a way to get her to nap when she just plain didn't want to.  We used it with some frequency until the kid was about a year old. In fact we have so many pictures of us carrying her around in it (in the carrier at a wedding! at a train station! with dad working at a computer!), it was hard to just pick 2.

Overall, it was great but from my perspective it had 2 downsides:
  1. 1. There was no front facing option with the "original" carrier, which was the only one available at the time. Facing forward would have been much more fun for the kid once she got to be about 4 months old.  Both Ergobaby and other brands have since come out with structured carriers that have this feature.

  2. 2. When the baby is under 3 months, you have to use this really bulky and hot insert with them.  This one was the real bummer, especially since our first baby was born in June and our second in July.  Even in the most recent version of this (the Ergo Baby 4 Position 360 Carrier ) they haven't entirely fixed it (the 360 infant insert at least does appear to be thinner).  Given that other options are available, if you think you'll want to use the carrier before the kid is 3 months, I would say it's definitely worth considering a different brand.

LILLEbaby Complete

Tiny baby, napping in the airport
When we found out we were expecting a second child, we knew we wouldn't have to get too many new things for him.  He was born a mere 2 years after the first and most things survived our daughters' use of them.  There were a couple of products, however, we wanted an updated version of and the structured carrier was one of them.  For this reason we set out to find a carrier that improved on the 2 things mentioned above that we didn't entirely love about the Ergobaby.  The LILLEbaby Complete Baby Carrier met all our needs in spec and has certainly lived up to expectations since then in use.

Baby, ready to see the world while Mom takes a walk
It's appropriate for use in the newborn stage without any inserts.  Like the Ergobaby, it has a pocket for transporting small things like a cell phone or a burp cloth.  It also boasts not only a sun hood, but a back that can be pinned down to give the baby a better view of the world even when the baby is worn parent-facing.  Not only that, but it can be converted to be forward facing relatively easily.  Most importantly, it is phenomenally comfortable for the parent (even more so than the Ergobaby).   It's a bit tricky to learn to put on but, the other amazing features of this are well worth it in my opinion.

Finally, what I love about this carrier is that it comes both in a "all season" and "airflow" version.  We got the "airflow" version because wearing a baby usually feels warm and one can always add a cover to it.  This carrier has been everything it promised to be and I am super excited to be using it until the kiddo outgrows it.