Is Your Baby Carrier or Sling too Complicated?

Mine was. I once became trapped inside my Baby Bjorn Carrier with my snoozing infant snuggled on my chest. I was desperate for sleep and wanted to lay my baby down so that I wouldn’t roll on top of him, carrier and all, but I was utterly unable to figure out how to get it off. Instead I sat on the couch and cried until my husband got home. Was sleep deprivation a factor? Absolutely! But this was my least favorite baby carrier. Did other moms have this experience with complicated slings or baby carriers?

Don’t get me wrong, I loved wearing my baby. Slings and carriers calmed colic, allowed me to cook dinner with two hands, and put my babes to sleep like nothing else. But some were just so much simpler to use than others. Luckily I borrowed almost all of the slings and carriers we had and the ones we bought were purchased used. It was nice to experiment with so many slings without having to shell out heaps of cash.

Carriers like the Moby Wrap look really cool in theory, but seem to require an advanced degree in fabric wrapping. Still, many moms swear that the Moby Wrap holds their babies more snugly and comfortably than other carriers. Just looking at the directions makes me feel the need to nap.

I even managed to wear the Maya Wrap incorrectly at times, which is one of the easiest slings to use! At first I would always put it on in the wrong direction and my baby would slowly sag down until he was hanging near my hip. To be fair, once I watched the instructional video that comes with the Maya Wrap, I was far more successful!

Our favorite sling, simply because it required no adjustment whatsoever, was the Kangaroo Korner Pouch Sling. We had one in fleece that we used with our first and bought a cotton one for our second. Sadly, I think that company has now gone out of business. Am I right? I guess the Peanut Shell Adjustable Sling or the Dr. Sears Adjustable Sling are somewhat similar, but don’t have snaps to change the sizing. Apparently they have a flexible elastic that allows the sling to carry a growing baby without buckles or straps. Has anyone tried them?

If I had to recommend any other carriers to new moms, I would say that the Ergo Carrier was pretty fantastic and far more comfortable than the slings we used. It works for infants as a front carrier and older tots as a back carrier. I could breastfeed my infant in the Ergo while grocery shopping without anyone ever knowing and loved that it came with a zip pockets for keys or a wallet. The downside was that I never figured out how to strap my son on my back with the Ergo carrier without help. I have seen other mothers perform this miracle in supermarket parking lots and been amazed, but my son was far too wiggly for me to successfully accomplish this acrobatic feat on my own.

The Baby K’tan Baby Carrier looks like a nice fusion of sling and carrier and seems to distribute baby’s weight more easily since baby it is carried on both shoulders. It offers over six positions to carry baby from newborns to 35 pounds, but it’s hard to tell from the information on Amazon if it’s easy to use. Has anyone tried it?

Have you discovered any new carriers that surpass the ones I’ve mentioned? Do you have a baby, like Rebecca’s, who is utterly unwilling to ride in any sort of carrier or sling? Please share your discoveries with our readers!

What Do You Wish You Would Have Known As A New Mom?

I don’t remember a whole lot from my first pregnancy, other than the strong feeling that if I read every parenting book and somehow finished every household project, it would be a smooth transition to motherhood. Ha! That was the beginning of the humbling process of parenting that continues to this day. Here are just a few tidbits of wisdom I wish I could send back to myself when I was pregnant with my first child.

1. Progress not perfection. There will be days when your greatest achievement will be a shower. In those first few weeks of parenthood you will give up all things you have been really good at like sleeping, cooking, napping, and doing whatever you please. It’s o.k. It will get easier. In the meantime, give up trying to excel. Let the laundry pile up, let the garden sprout a few weeds, and let yourself do the best you can. Survival will do just fine for now.

2. This stage will end. Fast. Believe it or not, you will sleep again. When you do, the colors will regain their vibrance and the world will seem a far better place. You will get beyond diapers, breastfeeding, and pureed peas. Someday you will leave the house without the diaper bag. In the meantime, try to savor this fleeting (but sometimes brutal) time. Before you know it, you won’t even remember the size of those tiny fingers or exactly how the top of your baby’s head smells. (People actually did tell me this and I didn’t quite believe them. I was utterly mistaken.)

3. Support sustains. In order to be able to be a good parent, let alone a green parent, you need help. Seek out friendships, family and networks of support to get you through this challenging time. It may provide you with a nap here and there, or a reality check with others who are surviving the same challenges, but the support you receive will ultimately benefit your baby. One of the highest compliments you can give a friend is to ask for help.

What sage advice would you give to yourself or other mothers on the brink of welcoming their babies? What have you learned from early parenting? Thanks for sharing!

Would You Use Breast Milk From a Milk Bank?

A mom I know wanted to supplement a bit with formula during her first days of breastfeeding. Our local hospital informed her that they will provide pasteurized breast milk from a milk bank, but won’t give families formula. She was a bit shocked and horrified by the thought of feeding her newborn breast milk from other women. We live in a pretty breastfeeding friendly town, so it didn’t seem like a big deal to me, but I wasn’t ever in that position. Does breast milk from a milk bank make you feel uncomfortable?

I think for me it would have been a huge relief! My milk supply dropped suddenly when I went back to work, but I didn’t want to use formula. I was exhausted from the effort and stress of pumping multiple times each day. A small amount of breast milk from a bank would have probably helped me just relax and move through the transition more easily.

Have you used breast milk from a bank? Would you be hesitant to use it? Are there barriers to obtaining breast milk from a bank that you found difficult to overcome? Have you ever donated to a breast milk bank?

The Eco-nomical Baby Guide Turns Two!

After two years of research, editing, and writing (with spit-up on our shoulders and cloth diapers in the dryer) The Eco-nomical Baby Guide hit bookstore shelves in the spring of 2010. We packed the book with practical tips to help families save thousands of dollars by going green. The insider secrets we’d learned in the trenches of early motherhood and from hundreds of Green Baby Guide readers were finally organized into the book that we wished we’d had as new parents.

Since then thousands of copies of The Eco-nomical Baby Guide have ended up at baby showers and green boutiques across the nation––and even the world! In December my cousin wrote me from Seoul where he and his wife are on a temporary teaching contract. Their South Korean birth coach had a copy of The Eco-nomical Baby Guide prominently displayed on her shelf. I have no idea how it made it that far, but it’s a thrill to know that our down-to-earth message is resonating with readers.

More than anything, Rebecca and I want to get copies into the hands of new and expectant parents. The Eco-nomical Baby Guide has been selling for under $10 on amazon lately, which is a great value for the amount of money it can help you save! If you’d like to read it before you buy, check it out at your local library. We have hundreds of copies in media centers across the country. If yours doesn’t have one yet, just make a request! We’re also happy to add that our publisher has just released a Kindle version of the book.

Thanks so much for your enthusiastic support of our exploration of green baby rearing on a budget. Who knew that whirling up sweet potatoes, finding secondhand strollers, and getting the best value on green goods could be such fun?

Baby Gear I Wish I’d Splurged On After All

If you’ve read The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, you know I got pretty hardcore about baby gear. That is, if it wasn’t going to last a long time or perform five functions at once, I didn’t want it. The pleasant side effects of this policy was that I didn’t have mountains of blinking plastic toys to wade through on my way to the kitchen. I saved money and the environment. Great!

But . . . in retrospect I have to wonder if I might have eased my restrictions just a bit to make my life with a new baby a little easier. In Baby Gear I Lived Without, I go over some of the common baby items I didn’t buy. Here are a few things I might have liked after all:

Bottles (plural). I got by with one bottle for my daughter’s entire babyhood, and I was very proud of it. It was a plastic bottle, too, since I purchased it right before the BPA scare was all over the news and glass bottles came back in style. If I had to do it again, I’d get a set of glass bottles. A whole set!

Breast pump. My hospital gave me a free hand pump, which was nice. But you know what would have been even nicer? A more sophisticated model like the Hygeia breast pump.

Eco-friendly disposable diapers. I bought six packs of disposable diapers for my daughter’s entire diaper-wearing career. That’s an accomplishment to applaud (I guess), but because I used so few disposables, I should have shelled out the extra money for Seventh Generation diapers that don’t use chlorine.

Stroller. We bought a Maclaren Triumph stroller, and it is hands-down the best piece of baby gear I had because we used it daily for over five years. But for a little more money, I could have bought the Maclaren Quest instead, which would have made the first ten weeks with a new baby more enjoyable.

Baby monitor.Our first house was so small a baby monitor wasn’t necessary. We didn’t really need one after we moved, either. But now I wonder what life might have been like with the monitor. I could have ventured out to the backyard during naps or sat out on the front porch reading. Did I inadvertently tether myself to the nursery for all those years?

Dishwasher. This last one is just wishful thinking. There is no way I could have bought a dishwasher in those early days of parenthood. But oh, what a difference it would have made!

Did you purposefully skimp on any baby gear for cost or space reasons? What baby gear do you wish you had? Or what fanciful doodad (maybe some baby bangs?) would you like us to talk you out of buying?

Happy Holidays from Green Baby Guide

This is our third holiday season here at Our first Christmas posts had a following of a dozen readers, most of them family members. Since then we’ve published our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, and increased our web traffic to about 50,000 unique users each month. Whew!

Despite our modest fame, nothing much has changed for our families. This morning we finished untying our fabric gift bags and have spent the day playing, snacking and reading.

After the crush of preparation and anxiety, there is such relief in just sitting in our toy-strewn living room and enjoying the kids. They aren’t sporting BPA-free bibs or chubby cloth diaper bums this year, but are rapidly leaving babyhood behind at 5 years and 2 years old.

For all of you today, I hope that you have the chance to smell the top of your baby’s head, to get a nap, and to maybe just enjoy this incredibly fleeting (and grueling) era of parenthood. May your milk supply be incredible, your cloth diapers be absorbent, your laundry be minimal, and your sleep tonight be long and luxurious. Most of all, I hope you celebrate yourself as a hard working, green-minded parent!

Gift Ideas for New Mothers

New moms are acclimating to sleep loss, post-birth bodies, and a challenging role of parenting a newborn. They deserve some lovely holiday gifts. (And casseroles, and free babysitting, and any other support you can lend!)

Baby Slings. I thought carriers were unnecessary before my baby arrived, but when I learned that I could slip my colicky baby into a Maya Wrap Sling and he would fall asleep in minutes, I was hooked. Beyond the soothing effects of baby carriers, they are infinitely practical. It’s suddenly possible to vacuum, cook dinner, and go for a walk without waking the baby! Many women love Hotslings as well. If you’re looking for a budget gift, there are even free patterns online for sewing a homemade sling that you can craft yourself.
Ergo carriers. These sturdy carriers were built with your back in mind and balance the baby weight more centrally. Ergo Carriers adapt from newborns to toddlers and can be used as a front or back carrier. In addition to comfort, I loved the zip pockets to tote keys or lip balm when we headed out the door for a walk. They are a bit pricey, but you can often find gently used Ergo Carriers at consignment shops or on craistlist.

Flannel pajamas. Many new mothers can attest to the fact that whole days are spent lounging in bed with a newborn. Elastic waistbands are especially friendly for a postpartum waistline and it’s nice to tuck baby against soft flannel while rocking. Think about getting a button down style if she is breastfeeding.

Stainless Steel Water Bottle. To keep a mother’s milk supply at maximum capacity, she’ll need to be hydrating all day long. We love the Nathan Stainless Steel flip straw water bottle and found it to be incredibly convenient. (It flips up to sip while walking or driving, fits in most car cup holders, and is easy to clean. It also comes with four extra straws for those days when the one straw you had is hiding somewhere in the depths of your dishwasher.

Healthy snacks. The hunger of nursing a newborn made my pregnancy hunger seem trivial. I was eating all day and all night long to keep up with the calories that were going to my baby. Handy, healthy snacks that can be munched in the middle of the night are a great gift. Why not some Roasted Edamame for protein and some Kashi TLC cookies as a healthy-ish treat? (Or make her a batch of “milk making cookies” using this recipe!)

Although the above items can easily be tucked into a gift bag, I can’t emphasize enough the gift of human support. If you can possibly deliver a meal or hold the baby for a few hours while the mother naps, everyone will benefit. Why not load the dishwasher or throw some laundry in the dryer while you’re at it?

Are you a new mother? Do you welcome support or do you wish people would let you just be with your baby? What are you hoping to receive this holiday season?

Also, the winner of our Charlie Banana Cloth Diaper giveaway is Sascha W. Congratulations Sascha!

To Pacify or Not to Pacify: Should Your Baby Use a Binky?

Many mothers I knew had hard and fast opinions on the use of pacifiers. Here are a few of them that I can remember off hand:

“I don’t want my child to have a piece of plastic in her mouth at all times. It’s not natural, it makes it difficult for her to speak, it could hurt her teeth, and I’m not confident that the materials used to make pacifiers are safe for the kind of use I’ve seen in small babies.”-Margaret.

“I waited three months so that we could really figure out breastfeeding and ensure that the binky wasn’t going to get in the way. After that, I had no problem using a pacifier, as long is it was BPA free.”-Kathleen

“From about two months of age, I trained my child to start putting her finger in her mouth. She learned it easily and was able to pacify herself the same way kids have been doing for hundreds of years, using her own body.”-Valerie

I didn’t want my child sucking her thumb, simply because you can’t take that away whereas you can wean a child from a pacifier. For that reason, I did use a pacifier early on to provide her with something that could soothe her but that I could remove as she got older. -Chao

If you read Monday’s post you know that I have used pacifiers with both our children, more out of desperation than conscious choice.  My daughter covets them and we search them out on daily basis, despite the fact that we have at least eight lurking somewhere in our home.  I’m looking forward to a binky-free future sometime in the next 1-2 years.  It does happen, right?

Pacifiers in Both Pockets: How Our Household Binky Addiction Began

My official stance on pacifier use was influenced by lactation specialists who advised that I hold off until baby reached three months of age to ensure we kept up a good breastfeeding latch. For approximately twelve weeks my son’s remarkably ear piercing wails were the norm, sometimes for several hours at a time.

When he hit three months and we popped that magical little (BPA-free) device into his mouth, we experienced a wee bit of heaven. It was quiet, he was content, and the addiction began. Every night (sometimes while cursing under our breath) we searched the house for pacifiers to ensure that he was surrounded by at least a half dozen while he slept. Otherwise we’d wake to his siren scream at 3 a.m. and find ourselves groping under his crib in the dark to find those tiny providers of peace and quiet.

At some point, which we honestly can’t now remember due to sleep deprivation, he just gave them up. We happily celebrated the end of our nightly binky searches and life went on.

Consequently, we didn’t worry much about giving our daughter a pacifier when she hit three months. Little did we know that her attachment would be personal and all consuming. She kisses her binkies, carries them around in tiny purses, and wails for them when they are out of reach. The other day she announced, “I’m a big girl. I don’t need my binkies anymore!” I happily packed them away and then began a two hour attempt to get her to sleep during her nap. I could have held the line and pushed ahead, but instead I popped a binky in her mouth and she zonked out in seconds.

So should you ever start using pacifiers?  What has your experience been?  We’ll share opinions from a variety of my mom-peers on Wednesday, but I’d love to hear more from our readers.

Nursing Tanks: Have You Tried Them?

Nursing tanks were my absolute favorite breastfeeding support gear. While I was quite comfortable nursing in public, I loved that they helped me to flash as little flesh as possible. And they also provide post-pregnancy tummy coverage and an extra layer of warmth in the chilly months.

If you’d prefer an all-in-one nursing tank, Glamourmom’s Nursing Bra Tank is a good option. It’s extra long to accommodate our shifting sizes in the months after baby and comes with a soft cup bra built into the tank. Clips allow you to fold down the top part of the tank for easy nursing access.

Bravado! Designs Essential Nursing Bra Tank also provides a built in bra and comes in a variety of colors. The length of the tank extends to the thigh and many consumers rave about their love of this product. It’s available in a wide variety of sizes too, although I notice that there aren’t many small cup options.

Nursing women who already love their nursing bras can use a Nursing Tank by Undercover Mama that actually clips onto the straps of your nursing bra. It comes in three colors and still allows you to have the coverage of a nursing tank without having to use a built-in bra.

A similar option is Ecoscape’s Undershirts for Nursing Moms. The tanks actually just come with two large circles cut out of the breast area, allowing women easy access to their nursing bras.

The most deluxe nursing tank I came across was the Double Cream Nursing Tank by Ecoscapes. It’s made to support mom and baby with simple, easy to unhook shoulder straps, but it’s two layer design also allows for hands-free pumping. (I never learned how hands-free pumping was possible with my two babies, but I have to admit that it does sound appealing!)

I used about five cotton nursing tanks from target. They shrank, didn’t provide any support, and were ratty and worn by the time I finally finished nursing. If I would have realized that I would spend a total of four years breastfeeding my children (2 years with each child), I would have just invested in some high quality pieces right from the start. (Or looked for some gently used, high quality
nursing tanks in consignment shops.)

Have you used nursing tanks? What would you recommend for other breastfeeding mothers?