Friday, March 23, 2012

Things you didn't know you need - Part II

Before buying anything, throw baby showers, lots of it. Chances are, your friends (many are existing parents) already know to get you important items you didn't know you need. It's that simple. Now, on to Part II of "Things you didn't know you need" for newbie parents.

Keyless entry cars. When you have a baby, you will constantly be moving in/out of the car and moving the stroller, carrier, bags, and all the stuff left and right. It is very inconvenient trying to find a key/remote in your purse and wallet. However having a keyless entry car where you can open doors using your bare hands makes your zombie life (from lack of sleep) 10X easier. Just make sure to tell your parents that you need a new car before throwing your baby shower.

(Another one that will make your life 10X easier for city folks: living on the first floor and make sure you have at least 2 bedrooms with in-unit washer/dryer. Living on the first floor will make your life easier because you will be carrying your baby and purchasing tons and tons of stuff (diapers, formula, calming toys, rocker, etc) in and out of the car almost every day. Having 2 bedrooms, well, this one is obvious. One of you needs to sleep through the night so he/she can go to work right?)

Medela Freestyle Breast Pump
This is the most compact and portable pump out there today. We've looked at many different pumps and this is the top of the line. The older pump (Pump In Style) is really out of style as it is heavy and big. When you hold the FreeStyle, you'll be surprised at how light it is. Give the gift of freedom. Give Freestyle. It is the best.

In the old days, people lived in close quarters with other family members. When the baby starts crying, people played "hot-potatoes" and passed the baby from one person to another. Come 21st century and gone are the days of living with other family members. Modern parents have no one else to rely on except themselves (and technology).

This particular swing is very very compact, making it very handy as a carry-along-swing or a secondary (backup) swing. We love it. It's cheap. Give the gift of portable baby swing. Give the gift of giving a new couple some break that they dearly need. Give the gift of the portable swing.

Babies need attention, lots and lots and lots. Keep your baby occupied with the mobile. It'll buy you a little bit of time (to go to restroom or take quick 1-2 min cat-naps). Get it. Every minute of rest you can get is a pound of gold, and this mobile is worth every penny.

Lutron TT-300H-WH Electronics Plug-In Lamp Dimmer, White
This is my favorite and the most over-looked item. A baby starts to distinguish light/darkness by 3-6 months. This is the right time to regulate his/her sleep schedule using light/darkness. The earlier you start sleep training, the earlier the baby learns that darkness=rest, and light=wake. This means MORE REST for you in the future.

This dimmer is a perfect tool to use at night when you breastfeed (but don't want to wake up your baby), or need to turn the light down to calm down the baby before he/she sleep. This dimmer is CHEAP and worth every penny.

At about 2-4 months you'll need to put the baby down (belly on floor) to build his/her neck muscle for a few minutes at a time. This is a really really great exerciser and mind stimulator.

Well, this is just nice to have. By about 4-6 months the baby will have enough muscle to sit, and that is when you can safely put him/her in the water.

By about 5-7 months or so, your baby will know how to play the jumper. My baby could be here for 30 minutes or so. These are really really really precious 30 minutes that you can use to nap (and every minute of rest you can get seems like a pound of gold!!!)

Vulli Sophie the Giraffe Teether
Your baby will start teething between 6-12 months. He/she will cry frequently because teething hurts! This is a really great teether, superior to the other cheap Made In China teethers.

Fisher-Price Precious Planet Sky Blue High Chair
By 6-12 months you should be able to sit your baby on the chair and start training how to eat.
Dreambaby F160W Swing Close Gate with F159W Extensions, White
By about 8-15 months, you'll need a gate. The baby/toddler is curious and will try to go everywhere. We've looked at MANY gates. This gate is better -- it opens both ways, and it requires a special way to open that toddlers have problems with (but easy for adults to open). The other brands suck because they're too easy to open by toddlers, and/or only opens one way.
Vital Baby Unbelievabowl Set, Blue
By 8-15 months your baby is curious and wants to play with food. Food training is difficult because of all the mess a baby makes. This unbelievable bowl sucks to the surface very very well. We've tried other brands with cheap suction cups, but this one has a very specially engineered suction base, making it impossible for a normal baby to grab and toss the bowl. This bowl is truly unbelievable. It is cheap, and worth every penny.

That's it for now! Next post: Completely useless things you don't need.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Things you didn't know you need

These items were lifesavers for us:
Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Newborn Starter Set
If you're a hardcore "breastfeed only, nature is best" nazi, skip this section. Otherwise, if you're like most modern working people who don't have infinite time and energy, then you're probably going to (at some point in your baby's life) bottlefeed your baby. In my opinion, there's nothing better than a set of bottles where the nipples actually mimic the natural breast. By using Tommee Tippee, our baby never had "nipple confusion" and could switch back and forth easily. Highly recommended.

If you happen to have the world's most perfect baby (<1%) then skip this section. But if you happen to have a normal baby that is picky about the temperature of the milk (fresh 98.7F), then this is for you.

Normally a new baby will wake up every 2-3 hours (around the clock) and by the time you're done heating up the water/milk, the baby is furious and screaming for milk. By pre-mixing the right temperatures, you can just pour water straight to the bottle without having to worry about temperature. This is a time and scream and stress saver. Must have. Get the best. Zojirushi vacuum insulated ones are the top of the line. Tiger brands (Korea) are decent too. American brands just don't cut it (most don't give you the exact temperature retention ratings).

Munchkin Formula Mixer, Colors May Vary
Have you even spent over a minute mixing the formula and still see clumps on the bottom? Have you ever endure your baby's screaming cry for milk while you shake shake shake shake shake the bottle and yet it's still not read? You must get this mixer. In 10 seconds, the milk is ready. Scream and stress no more.

HDE Temperature Gun Infrared Thermometer w/ Laser Sight
and the
I don't need to say how great it is. You already know how great it is. You can use it to measure the temperature of the milk (INSTANTLY) and approximately whether he/she is having a fever. You can use it to measure the temperature on the floor (ambient temperature) and temperature outside. This device is amazing. It is not as accurate as basal or armpit methods (to the closest 1 degree), but it is FAST, and accurate enough. Just get it.

An infant has no hand-eye coordination. He will sleep, wave the arms randomly and hits himself and starts crying furiously. Why torture your baby when you can give him a sense of peace and tranquility with the swaddle? Please swaddle your baby so that he will sleep better. No, swaddle him/her so the entire family can live in peace. Just get it.

P.S. Please spare me the "I want to give my baby freedom! Swaddling looks so cruel!" and go take a parenting class before lecturing me about how evil it is to swaddle children.

You'll notice that baby toys use batteries. Lots and lots and lots of batteries. Get the rechargeable ones, they're worth it in the long run.

You'll need a great battery charger with the expensive Eneloop batteries. These are amazing. They will tell you how much charge you've used, voltage, refresh (memory effect), so on so forth. Just get it.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Renting vs. Buying

No I'm not talking about housing. I'm talking about baby stuff.

One of the things I noticed about parenthood, is that 1) there are always surprises (e.g. you need this, you need that, baby outgrows this, outgrows that) and 2) you're on a never ending quest to buy more and more and more and more stuff . Very soon you'll realize that either you need more room, or to organize your life better.

We're city folks and we live in a 2 bedroom apartment. It's not very big, and yet half of the items in the apartment belong to our son, Calvin. There's the jumper, 2 electronic rockers, one rocker-seat, one walker, one crib, boxes and boxes and boxes of diapers, dividers, and toys toys toys toys toys toys toys and more toys all over the place.

Toys are wonderful. They keep your baby pre-occupied so that you can do what you need to do. For example, a baby squirms and turns while you change the diaper. But with a new toy, they are pre-occupied and it makes diaper changing experience 100x easier. Toys keep them busy while you heat up their meal/milk/bath-water or just going to the restroom. Toys are wonderful. Unfortunately, babies get bored of new toys quickly.

Solution: rent toys. Like media or anything else, there is no reason to buy something you use for only a times and then store them in the box forever. We've been renting our toys from and are loving it. The fees are cheap, the toys are sanitized and well packages, and we get new toys once every 2 months (the cheapest plan) via UPS. Calvin is excited with new toys, and we no longer have to worry about storing old toys in boxes that just take up more space (or that we just end up donating, hence wasting $). We've considered those places that allow parents to trade books and toys with each other, but it's been difficult due to our tight schedules.

So before you go out and buy something that your baby will use only a few times, consider renting. It is better for the environment, it saves you money, and it saves you the headache of having to deal with space and storage.