Showing posts with label Organization. Show all posts

Cleaning your breast pump parts without losing your mind (home edition)

I often lament to friends that I wish breastfeeding could be a casual or part time activity.  I love nursing my children when they are around me.  However, unfortunately, being able to nurse means having to pump every 3-4 hours whenever the children have done me the courtesy of being elsewhere. (How long one can go without expressing milk depends on how old one's baby is and one's own feelings of discomfort.  Many lucky people can go longer than I can.  Also, once your baby is over 8 weeks, you don't have to pump at night if they sleep in blessed longer chunks.)

When I pump at home I do not use the same products and methods to clean the pump parts as I do at work.  This is because I do not need to minimize the time I spend in my kitchen cleaning this equipment for privacy reasons in my own house.  It is also because I try not to use disposable products (like the steam bags and wipes) when it is perfectly convenient to use something else (in this case soap and hot water)
.
The most efficient method I've found for cleaning my pump parts when in the comfort of my own home is this.

  1. 1. I boil water in my electric kettle.  I often start the kettle boiling before I sit down to pump for the last time that day (I keep my pump parts in the refrigerator between sessions if I am going to pump at home more than once in a day).  What's great about using an electric kettle is that you don't have to wait for the water to get hot enough in your sink, nor do you have to get up to turn the stove off as you would with a stove kettle.  My kettle very politely turns itself off when it's done (automatic shut off is also a convenient safety feature for those times that you start making yourself a cup of tea 4 times without actually completing the task because... baby).  We have a Medelco Cordless Glass Electric Kettle.  It's efficient, has automatic shut off, and is pretty and glass, though as previously mentioned any electric kettle with automatic shut off would work just as well. 
  2.  
  3. 2. When I'm done pumping, I take apart the parts and dump them all into a bowl in the sink (pictured). I then add some dish washing soap into the bowl.  You don't need anything fancy here (or ever) like special "baby dish-washing soaps".  Just a good fragrance free soap that you use for all your dishes will do (we use Palmolive Ultra Pure and Clear Dish Liquid because I find that it gets grease off things with the least amount of scrubbing). 
  4.  
  5. 3. I then just dump the kettle full of recently boiled water into the bowl and go do something else for 5 or more minutes.  The beauty of this method is that soap + *very* hot water, means that all the milk dissipates off the plastic by itself and I don't have to go over anything with a brush.
  6.  
  7. 4.  If I'm going to rinse the parts right away, I turn the faucet on after 5 min and run enough water that I can reach into the bowl without burning myself.  I then rinse each part and place it on my drying rack.  Otherwise, I just come back to the bowl, sometimes even hours later to rinse and dry.
 That's it - the simplest method to clean your stuff while using the least amount of mental energy possible.  
   

Sanity thy name is pacifier clips

Pacifier clip is the orange thing on the baby's left.
Babies aren't very polite.  They often spit out and throw away the thing they very much want most in this world.  For that reason, some very smart person invented the pacifier clip.  This is a really simple product.  It has a clip on one end, a thick short strap, and a loop at the end of the strap.  The clip can be attached to your baby's clothes, the carrier, the stroller strap, or anything else your baby routinely spends lots of time around.  The loop at the end can be used to secure a pacifier (as the name suggests) or a favorite toy.  That way, you're not constantly chasing the object of their desire around the house/store/car/train, etc.  In particular this is a great way to keep an older baby entertained on an airplane without worrying that the thing they're playing with will fall between the seats never to be seen again.

Many different styles exist, including ones that proclaim your wee one's team allegiances, so choose wisely.

Note 1: There is also a version of these things that is produced by Chewbeads and they were recalled in the fall of 2015 because the beads were breaking off the string and causing a choking hazard.

Note 2: Not all babies will take a pacifier.  However, if your baby will accept one, they are recommended in the first 6 months of life for SIDS prevention reasons.  That said, we do not recommend having your child sleep at night or in unsupervised naps (such as in a crib as opposed to a stroller) with a pacifier clip for fear of them getting entangled in the strap.

    

High chair for the grandparent's house

In the five years since my parents first became grandparents with the birth of my niece, they have used and owned 3 different high chairs (hmm, perhaps I get this need to optimize things from them).  I don't know which 2 brands of highchairs they've rejected, but I can tell you the about the one they go on and on about and that is the Evenflo Compact Fold High Chair.

At first they were reluctant to get it because of its lack of wheels. However, they were won over by the fact that it's light enough that picking it up to move it is not a big deal (even with my mom's bad back).  They also love the fact that it's really easy to fold and that when folded it's no bigger than a regular folding chair.  Finally the tray is simple to attach and detach, something that has been confounding my father on the other 2 chairs that they own.

Since our high chair is always out, we've opted for something prettier that looks more like real
furniture.  However, they love it so much that they recommend it to anyone looking for an inexpensive chair that's easy to put away.


Cleaning your breast pump parts without losing your mind (work edition)

If you're going back to work after having your baby, it is almost surely a mixed bag of emotions.  You may be terrified of leaving your baby with someone who doesn't know how to interpret their every muscle twitch (even if that someone is your partner or mother or exceptionally well rated day care).  You may be thrilled about the prospect of taking as much time to go to the bathroom as you damn well please.  You may be devastated about the fact that you won't be able to cuddle your baby for hours as you have him or her fall asleep on your chest.  You may be feeling all of these things and a million others, all within a matter of seconds.  And yet, one thing I can almost guarantee you is that you are NOT relishing having to trudge to the company kitchen 18 times a week to scrub down your breast pump parts while looking over your shoulder to make sure the overly friendly guy from PR hasn't followed you in there... again.

Some people deal with this conundrum by bringing their pump parts home every night.  This to me seems like extremely risky business.  What if you forget them at work one day?  What if you forget them at home?  You may be slightly more absent minded these days than you're used to.  So play it safe and follow this step by step guide for how you can quickly sanitize your pump parts at work.


  1. 1. You only have to wash the parts once a day if you keep them in the fridge between pumping sessions.  I recommend getting a storage container or disposable bowl you can pop in the fridge  until you've pumped for the final time that day (hopefully you have a dedicated fridge at your job for pumping mothers).

  2. 2. Once you're ready to clean the parts, grab your Medela Quick Clean Micro-Steam Bag  and your Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump and Accessory Wipes and head to the kitchen.  You want to wipe down each part with a wipe, rinse under running water and place in the steam bag.  If you truly want to minimize the time you spend in the kitchen, you can even wipe the parts down in your pumping room (then all you have to do is rinse and place in the bag once you're out in public).  I know some people online say that they use Munchkin Pacifier Wipes to wipe down the parts but honestly, I don't know how they do it.  The Munchkin wipes are much smaller, thinner and less wet than the Medela ones.  One Medela wipe is enough for me to clean the full set of parts I use in a day, whereas when I tried to do the same with the Munckins I was using approximately 5 to do it.  This method of using wipes and the steam bag (each steam bag can be used 20 times, i.e. for a whole month of an average work schedule) allows you to clean the parts at work without needing brushes, a bowl of soapy water, or 20 minutes.  Everything comes out sterile in approximately 5.  They can also be used with almost any commercial personal breast pump (a couple of the Freemie parts are the only exception to this that I've seen - some of them are not rated to be steam cleaned).

  3. 3.  Once the steam bag is done in the microwave, simply dump the water into the sink and the parts back into the now rinsed container you had been keeping the parts in while in the fridge.  Store the container open to the air overnight (hopefully in the pumping room) to give them a chance to dry out.

   

But my kitchen is full already, thanks

It turns out that even breastfeeding is not as simple as "insert tab A into slot B".  As mentioned elsewhere on this site, it often requires equipment.  Even if your baby consumes exclusively breast milk, you will likely pump at some point (or daily if you work outside the house) and have some other person feed your baby (if your baby is formula fed, I imagine you will have that many more bottles to deal with).  This means you then have to clean and dry bottles on a daily basis in a way that will often seem sisyphean.  So what can you do to simplify this and where do you put it all?

The Dishwasher is Your Friend

Whenever possible, put things in the dishwasher (assuming you have one).  Babies who are born at term and are otherwise healthy do not need their bottles sterilized and the soap and hot water of the dishwasher will do the trick just fine.  However you will likely have small parts such as nipples, bottle caps, and possibly others if you go with Dr. Brown's Natural Flow Bottles (I have no experience with this brand of bottles, I just know they are popular).  The best way to avoid having to wash these small parts by hand is to get a dishwasher caddy.  I highly recommend the OXO Dishwasher Basket for Bottle Parts.  The way the lid opens is genius because the small parts in the lid do not fall out every time you want to add something to the big compartment.  Unfortunately for us, we bought this product and realized that it was too tall for the top rack of the dishwasher.  Thus it sadly resides at grandma's house and I sigh every time I use it there and am not frustrated.  We ended up having to go with the Munchkin Deluxe Dishwasher Basket.  Though it is highly reviewed, I find it irritating to use when I have already placed some parts in its top and want to put something in the bottom.  Other than that, it is perfectly adequate.

Bottle Brush

If you don't have a dishwasher and will have to wash bottles and parts by hand then you definitely want a great bottle brush.   We don't use ours terribly often, but do need one when for some reason a bottle does not come out of the dishwasher clean. Here, once again the OXO Bottle Brush wins over the Munchkin Bottle Brush.  I find the bristles on the OXO to be so much more efficient at getting stuff out of the bottles.  Also, I don't get the purpose of the soft top of the Munchkin brush, it doesn't seem to do anything as far as I can tell.

Practical Drying Rack


Once you're done cleaning your bottles you will need a drying rack for them.  This is where the Munchkin Sprout Drying Rack really gets my vote.   It's quite compact and can fit a ton of stuff on it while taking up relatively little counter space.  It also has a tray on the bottom to catch run off so it doesn't just go all over your counter.  To the right is a picture of it in action, drying all the infant bottles and toddler straw cups that came out of one dishwasher load.

The main competitor of this as far as I can tell is the Boon Grass Countertop Drying Rack, which I personally dislike (though I haven't used it myself).  It seems to take up more horizontal counter space to store the same amount of stuff and needs extra parts like the Boon Twig Grass and Lawn Drying Rack Accessory to accommodate all the small parts.  Yes, it is very cute looking, but I prefer to save my counter for the important things... like my french press.

Create a Storage Shelf

Finally, if you're looking at your cabinets and trying to figure out where all this stuff is going to go, you may benefit from a product like the Seville Classics Expandable Kitchen Counter and Cabinet Shelf.  This allows you to split an existing tall shelf into two shorter shelves.  This is how we've managed to fit our new baby's equipment into our kitchen, which had to accommodate all of the toddler's things already.

    

Photo credits - Baby Stew under a Creative Commons license.

Equipment for your super special children's bathroom

Obviously you have a bathroom just for your kids right? That's a whole other room in your house you have to decorate. Just kidding.  We live in a condo and we only have one bathroom.  When we had our first child we had to figure out how to fit all of her stuff into our already complete bathroom.  The biggest thing you're going to have to find space for is a bathtub (eventually toys too, but that is a topic for another day).

Bathtub

Tiny baby's first bath
We love our Karibu Folding Bath Tub.  It grows with your baby (no additional parts needed) and it folds flat so it can be stored out of the way.  It's pretty big, which means we were bathing our
daughter in it until she was 2 without having to fill up our whole tub (saving water - woot).

What about the competition?  Below are my opinions about some of the other popular options out there and why we rejected them.
  1. 1.  The Fisher-Price Whale of a Tub and The First Years Tub with Sling are the most popular tub choices out there.  They do not fold.  There was simply ZERO places for me to put this in my one and only bathroom other than the middle of the floor. Also, both of these have pictures of people bathing their kids in the kitchen sink.  Who does this?  Is anyone's kitchen sink clear enough for this? Mine sure never ever is.
    Giant 1 year old toddler

  2. 2. The Puj Tub.  This tub does fold but requires a very specific configuration of your bathroom sink where you have a very high faucet for the baby to fit under it (not me!).  Alternatively, you can use your kitchen sink (again, ha! no).  Also this will only work until your baby is 4-5 months old.  At this point, if he or she is sitting reliably, then I guess you can fill up the big tub?  Otherwise, I don't know what you do.

  3. 3. The Boon Naked Collapsible Baby Bathtub.  For some reason all the baby stores around here carry this one.  It is foldable and it does accommodate a baby bigger than the palm of your hand.  However, if you read the reviews a number of people are complaining about it being slippery and babies sliding under the water - scary...

Odds and Ends

We found the Skip Hop Dunks Stacking Bath Toys really helpful for washing our babies.  You also want to get some wash clothes and hooded towels.  As for soap, we like Baby Shampoo and Body Wash by MD Moms.

You may also want a pad to kneel on for yourself if your knees tend to hurt.  We actually have the Aquatopia Deluxe Safety Easy Bath Kneeler, but I can't exactly recommend it.  When we got it, I didn't think about the fact that the part that hangs in the tub will constantly get wet because the tub is not just used for baby.  This means we end up only taking it out when we're giving the kids a bath, so the organizational potential of it is completely wasted on us.  Thus, if I had it to do over, I would almost certainly get the Skip Hop Moby Bath Kneeler instead.

So you want to have another kid over for dinner?

Have you noticed how when you were in your 20's you were constantly going to weddings?  Then suddenly, all those people who you partied with all night decided to go ahead and reproduce... bummer...  Or not! You can still see them!  Maybe your babies will even like each other!  Why don't we have them over for dinner?  Yes that sounds civilized!

....

Then you realize that you have only 1 high chair and where is the other baby/toddler/kid going to sit? Maybe you should buy another high chair? <cue laughter>  Obviously, this blog would never recommend something so wasteful.  Instead we would recommend a number of products that store easily and can be configured in a number of different ways, depending on the age (and constraint) of the visiting child.

Here is a list of common constraints you may face when trying to accommodate your pint sized guest and how to address each one.

1. Children are short.  You can raise (almost) any regular chair to accommodate this using a Kaboost Portable Chair Booster.  This thing is pretty nifty.  It's easy to put on, stores small, and will boost a kid enough to allow them to sit on a regular chair at the table.  (Pictured to the left - a regular chair next to a chair with a Kaboost under it.)

2. Children are messy.  So now your visitor can sit at the table, but if they are under the age of 5 they are likely to spill things all over the place as they eat.  If you have nice fabric covered chairs, this may pose a problem.  Have no fear, you can cover the chair with a SmartSeat Dining Chair Cover and Protector.  It's waterproof and washable.  (Pictured to the left - a regular chair with a covered chair next to it.)

3. Children are squirmy.  If your visitor is still too young not to just jump off the (possibly raised) seat and hurt themselves, then you can solve this problem too by using a Toddler Safety Harness.  This is a great way to secure a toddler to a chair.  We have one of these for use both with visitors as well as with our own child on our kitchen bar stools.

The great thing about the above recommendation is that you can accommodate any age child.  Use all 3 with a visiting 1 year old, just the cover and booster with a visiting 3 year old, and maybe just the booster with a visiting 5 year old.  Now what do you cook for the meal where everyone is a picky eater?  Alas... our wisdom only goes so far...

         

Cleaning

So you're having a baby but want to maintain some level of cleanliness in your life?  It is a noble goal...  There are a couple of things you may want to consider getting, possibly before your bundle of joy (and fluids) arrives.

1.  A hand held shower.  I don't have a specific brand recommendation, we have the $15 version from the hardware store down the street.  You will want this.  If you're still pregnant with your first, take a deep breath as you read the following (I promise it will all work out).  At some point you'll have to hose down your poop covered baby, a vomit covered high chair, or both at the same time.  (Once again, I promise, you won't die and neither will the kid... somehow this will all work out).  The easiest way to hose down things and people is with a shower you can hold in your hand and point at something... that is all.

2. Lysol Dual Action Disinfecting Wipes.  This is important.  Get the "Dual Action" ones.  You'll want a way to disinfect surfaces someone may or may not have pooped on (remember the deep breathing).  You'll also want the scrubby side of the wipes to scrub down surfaces that have dried because you may have missed them on the first go around.

3. Babyganics Stain & Odor Remover Spray.  This is great for spraying on fabrics (like clothes and sheets) that have been soiled.  Just spray and throw in the laundry and the stain is much less likely to set even if you wait a week to wash the thing.  And as a side note, here is another tip we got from our dry cleaner a couple of years ago.  If you put something through the wash and the stain is still there (or you're not sure), don't put it in the dryer - let it hang dry.  If you haven't applied heat to a stain, you're more likely to be able to get it out via some other method in the future.

   

Freezing Breastmilk

So you want to breastfeed your baby in the 21st century?  Well little lady, buckle up... this is going to take some equipment. (This is of course, assuming you want to leave your baby's side ever in their first year, or however long you want to breastfeed for).  We'll get to breast pumps and things you need to pump at work in some other posts, but this post will be about storing breast milk.

Should you find yourself lucky enough to have adequate supply to start a freezer stash, I would recommend doing so.  (If you do not find yourself lucky enough to have an adequate supply, worry not.  If you're reading this, I assume you find yourself living in or after 2015, a fantastic time in human history when we can just buy baby food in the grocery store and feed our babies.  The future is a pretty rad place to live.)   The freezer stash is great if your supply drops when you're sick (true for me and many, though not all, women).  It's also great if you need to travel or have the luxury to drop the kid off at the grandparents for the weekend or otherwise extended babysitting.  Every time I add a bag to my stash, I stroke the bags already in there and make the "my precious" sign, while mumbling to myself (I don't actually, but it does give me peace of mind that if I die, my husband could feed the baby for a couple of days before having to go out and buy formula).


So back to the practical advice... I would recommend getting an organizer box to store your milk. The organizer box I recommend is the First Years Breastflow Milk Storage Organizer.  Why do I recommend this?  Well, if you freeze your milk in bags (which I also advocate, because freezing it in bottles takes up an insane amount of space and costs an insane amount of money spent on bottles), the bags freeze funny on their own and are difficult to store.  This convenient contraption makes them freeze flat and gives you handy box to store the neat flat bags.  You can even use the lid for additional storage space if you build up a big enough stash.  Also, any brand of bag will fit in the box so you don't have to commit to a "system".  The photo to the left shows the current milk contents of my freezer - a full lid, with space still left in the main box; currently one bag is in the process of freezing under pressure.  If you look carefully you'll see 2 different brands of freezer bags being used.

What about the competition? There are a number of popular "systems", none of which I can frankly recommend in good conscience.  Here's why.
  1. 1.  The most popular solution I've seen based on extensive time spent in baby stores over the last couple of years is the Kiinde Breastmilk Storage Bag Holder and Organizer.  Their big pitch is that you can pump directly into their bags and their bags are recycle-able.  I'm super pro recycling, but that's where their goodness ends as far as I'm concerned.  There are a number of other brand bags that you can pump directly into.  For the same amount of space (approximately) that their solution stores 12 bags, the organizer in my freezer currently is storing about 20.

  2. 2. The other solution I frequently see is Medela Breast Milk Freezer Bottles.  These I personally find ridiculous.  They are 2oz each - an amount of milk most of my babies surpassed eating by 6 weeks.  That is a massive amount of freezer space to give up in order to store 24 ozes of milk.