Archive for the ‘Baby Gear’ Category

What’s Black and Red and Loved All Over?

Friday, June 24th, 2011

Today I’m going to write a love note to my stroller.

Dear Baby Jogger City Select,

Can I just call you BJ? I feel like we’re definitely close enough for nicknames, since we spend so much time together.  I just wanted you to know I love you and appreciate you. You were a wise choice.


Right now my husband is wondering why I don’t ever write HIM such nice love notes. Usually they just say “Make sure you watch when the dog poops. I think he ate a sock.” We’re super romantic.

Back when I was pregnant with Caroline, I decided that this time around I was going to shell out for a good quality stroller even if the price sent me into early labor. Because holy CRAP do you know what a “mid-range” stroller costs? I could practically buy a BABY for that much money (disclaimer: I do not actually support or condone baby buying). But I was never crazy about the stroller(ssssssss) I bought for Little Evan and figured I could put all the money I was saving with hand-me-downs towards something nice. E practically choked to death when he saw what I wanted to spend, but I think he agrees now it was a good purchase.

After much debating and ordering and cancelling and blog posting, I eventually settled on the Baby Jogger City Select with the doubles kit. I loved it the second I took it out of the box, I loved it when I was using it as a single stroller for Little Evan, but I love it even more now that it’s been 6 months and I’m ready to recommend it.

My little monkey in the CS as a single while Caroline was still an inside baby

– Can be a single stroller or double stroller (with kit)
– HUGE sun canopy
– Easy to steer
– HUGE basket under seats
– Adjustable handle height for tall or short people
– Folds with (one) seat attached in either position
– Has an adapter for my Chicco car seat
– Folds with seat attached in lower position & car seat adapter in upper position
– Disassembles really easily & quickly to fit in small spaces
– Hand brake on the side is easier to use than a foot brake (especially in flip flops)
– My diaper bag hangs easily from the handle (which it says VERY CLEARLY you shouldn’t do, but I’m a rebel)
– Toddler likes it
– Baby likes it
– Good telephone customer service
– Parts are easy to replace (I replaced a broken brake/rear axle myself in less than 2 minutes)
– Straps are easy to adjust
– I think it looks nice and stylish (totally an important factor)
– Super easy to reconfigure seats
– Seats can be assembled a zillion different ways

I was CONVINCED having all the different seating arrangements was SUPER IMPORTANT in a double stroller, as if forcing my children to just sit facing forward was some sort of parenting travesty. When obviously the parenting travesty is that I’m using a stroller at all instead of wearing them in an organic cotton and hemp wrap I wove myself (I LOVE my babies. Why would I want to PUSH them away from me?). And even though I’m sure everyone would survive perfectly well in a standard side-by-side, we use the different seat configurations ALL the time.


Infant seat and forward facing full sized seat
Infant seat and full sized seat facing backwards
Two full sized seats facing forwards (also, cool whale picture, right?)
Caroline in full sized seat at 5 1/2 months
Seats facing each other – of course, THIS happens, but sometimes THIS helps calm down a fussy baby.
Both seats backwards – works great at the end of a busy day when everyone needs quiet time
Two full sized seats facing away from each other – will be useful in the future to separate squabling siblings

– In some of the positions, the seats only fit if they’re not reclined/have the footrest down
– Seats don’t recline very far
– Brake sometimes doesn’t fully disengage
– My brake broke after only 4 months of use (covered under warranty)*
– Email customer service wasn’t great*
– Everything costs extra (the bars across each seat, cup holders, rain canopy, etc)
– A little front heavy, which means it takes a little effort to get it up onto a curb (but not INCREDIBLY HARD, which some reviews I read online seemed to imply)
– Sometimes the folding mechanism sticks and I struggle to get it closed
– The seat is a LITTLE on the smaller side, so if you have a very tall toddler they might be kind of crowded (but I think that would be a problem with ANY stroller)

Wow, my list of negative stuff sounds REALLY negative, but I swear I really do love this stroller. I use it 4 times a week at Stroller Strides (including sometimes jogging), walking around my hilly neighborhood, at the crowded aquarium, on the gravel paths at the Seaport, and at the mall. I had no trouble hauling it in and out of the van when I was 9 months pregnant or when I was 4 weeks post partum. I’m planning to buy the ride-on glider attachment soon, so the toddler can stand during the kind of mostly-running-around-but-he-might-get-tired outings we often take during the summer. It also makes it a TRIPLE stroller, so if we have another baby we’re already all set.

I don’t miss the snack tray and cup holder from my old travel system stroller, but I DO recommend buying the belly bars. It keeps Little Evan in the stroller even when I *ahem* don’t buckle the straps and is perfect for attaching toys.

I purchased my stroller (the 2011 version) from PishPoshBaby and was very happy with them – good customer service, very fast free shipping, and no sales tax. I also tracked down a teeny tiny discount code after a few minutes Googling, although it was only applied to the accessories and not the stroller.

So was that EVERYTHING YOU EVER DREAMED OF? Are you jealous? Are you bored to death? Are you going to buy one of your very own right this minute?

*So the story with the brake is one tiny spring somehow got twisted and it locked up my wheels. I called to ask if I could get just that ONE piece replaced and the person I talked to asked me to email a picture. I did, waited, emailed again, waited, emailed again and then gave up and called back. Second customer service rep just said “Give me your serial number right now. A whole new rear axle is on its way.” I had it within 2 days at zero cost. Eventually CS rep #1 emailed me back that she was still checking on sending me just a spring and I told her the problem was fixed. I did NOT say “WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST SEND ME THE WHOLE THING SINCE IT WAS OBVIOUSLY NOT THAT HARD??” But I wanted to.

Help, Help Me Mamas

Monday, September 27th, 2010

I learned some lessons on round 1 of the baby ride, especially when it came to baby gear. We bought stuff we liked, we bought stuff we hated, we bought stuff that seemed unnecessary but is OMG VITALLY IMPORTANT and we bought stuff that seemed VITALLY IMPORTANT but ended up being useless.

I discovered a “co-sleeper” is just a  fancy word for “$150 bassinet” and if you plan to actually sleep with the baby you can save yourself $150.

The high chair I thought was very very necessary is collecting dust in the dining room while the clamp-on Phil & Ted’s chair I thought was probably a huge waste of money gets used 3x a day.

Nursery bedding sets are a joke. Buy a pack of 3 fitted sheets. The end.

If your baby hates tummy time, there is no tummy time mat on the planet that will convince them they don’t.

Sometimes a $7 umbrella stroller is all you need – and sometimes spending $400 on a car seat is totally worth it.

But if there was one most important lesson I learned, it’s to READ THE REVIEWS and LISTEN TO YOUR FRIENDS when it comes to baby stuff. If someone on the internet says “Hey, this high chair had a bunch of pieces fall off after a few weeks” they’re probably not making that up. And when your friend says “My kid REALLY loves that Sophie giraffe teether thing” you should stop balking at the $21 price tag and just BUY ONE. So when it comes to the stuff we’re going to need for round 2, I’m not spending a single cent until I get some advice from you.

We need a crib. Eventually. After Baby Sandy starts sleeping in 4 hour chunks of time, outgrows the co-sleeper and I decide I need my bed back. I’m thinking Ikea – they seem pretty well liked, I don’t think they’ve had any major recalls, and some even convert to toddler beds.

Advice needed #1: Does anyone own an Ikea crib they love? Or hate?

We need at least one double stroller. Probably two. I want a side-by-side jogger for Stroller Strides and in case I ever actually, you know, jog. Plus I want a tandem double for regular use, like at the mall or the aquarium or walking around the neighborhood. Since I’m not really interested in the jogging part, my plan is to buy a used side-by-side cheap (like really cheap, like probably from my friend Sarah for $20)(if she still has it)(Hey Sarah, I still want your jogger) and invest in a tandem.

Advice needed #2: Does anyone have a tandem double stroller they love? Or hate? My top choices so far are the Baby Jogger City Select, the (much more afforable) Kolcraft Contour Options Tandem II, the Phil & Teds Inline, or the Uppa Baby VISTA with the doubles kit. Advice on the brands in general is also welcome.

And I think we need another glider/rocking chair. The glider in Baby Evan’s nursery was such a last-minute decision – I had resisted buying one, mostly because the ones at Babies’R’Us seemed so expensive – but it gets used more than any other piece of baby equipment except for the crib. Our current glider is from Target. It is…functional. I mean, the arms are really loose and one of them keeps coming unattached and several screws seem to have fallen out and it squeaks a lot and it doesn’t recline so you can’t really sleep in it. But it still rocks. I guess we’ve gotten our money’s worth in the last 18 months.

Advice needed #3: PLEASE recommend your glider. It doesn’t have to be expensive but it can be. I learned my lesson when it comes to cheap chairs.

That’s it. Unless you have an absolute favorite baby item you cannot live without and want to recommend. Especially if it’s the sort of thing that helped you survive life with TWO children. Because I’m more than willing to take advice.

By Request

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Occasionally (rarely) I get email from a reader. It always makes my day, since just knowing someone took the time to type out my address and spend a few seconds telling me they liked my post or have a suggestion or agree with me makes all the time and energy I spend on this space worth it. What can I say, I’ve got an attention-seeking personality. Aaaaand everyone who new me in high school just said “DUH”.

Even better than “I like you” mail, sometimes people email me asking if I would consider writing about a specific subject. Take for example, this email I got from a lovely (and incredibly loyal) reader named Amanda:

In light of your comment recently about NOT buying thousands of dollars worth of baby stuff this time around, I have a request/suggestion for a future post. Feel free to ignore it if it sounds like a total pain in the ass designed for my own selfish purposes, which essentially it is.

I am 12 weeks pregnant with my first (due at the end of November) and both my partner and I feel convinced that a lot of the stuff that’s marketed as being essential for babies is really a lot of horseshit. I’ve found your posts on babywearing very helpful, and I think (I hope) I will end up having a fairly similar mothering style. I was hoping you might write something about what you think is *really* necessary for a fairly minimalist couple to buy before their first baby arrives. My list so far is basically bassinet, rocking chair, carseat, diapers, carrier, swing, infant bath, nail clippers and thermometer. (Oh, and slipcovers for the furniture that we spent a small fortune on not so long ago.)

I’ve written a couple of posts on baby gear before (baby carriers here, strollers here, baby gifts here) which in the blogging world pretty much makes me an expert on the subject. Also, having already gone through 14 months with an actual baby I can tell you definitively, YES, most of the stuff you are being told to buy is indeed horseshit.
The problem is: there is no way to know which stuff.

OK, some of it is truly unnecessary. You do not need a travel swing if you have a regular swing. You do not need both a bouncy seat and a vibrating seat. You do not need five dozen black and white and red “infant” toys. You do not need five different strollers for one baby.You do not need a high-chair AND a feeding seat AND a clamps-to-the-table seat.
BUT. I did not need a Bumbo seat, but about a zillion other people swear by them. I did not need a pack’n’play but some people use them for years. I regret buying a travel system instead of just a car seat but I see a dozen moms happily pushing the exact same system around the mall every week. Of course you need diapers but when you start looking at which diapers things can quickly get overwhelming. For the sake of answering the question though, I will combine what I personally loved with what I would change if I had to do it again.
Things to have:
1. Diapers. No cloth v. disposable debate today but for our next baby my plan is to buy 1 box of teeny tiny disposables and then switch to cloth.
2. Clothes. Those one-piece baby gowns were our favorite. 6 of everything (onesies, sleepers, socks, hats, t-shirts) is more than enough.
3. Somewhere for the baby to sleep. We had a crib and a co-sleeper and a pack’n’play….and ended up with the baby in our bed for 7 months. It depends on how interested you are in co-sleeping so REALLY think about it before buying any of the above. If the answer is “in our bed” you don’t have to buy anything.
4. Rocker/glider. The one thing I thought I didn’t need is our most important baby item. We still use it at least twice a day.
5. Somewhere to change the baby. Your back will thank you for not doing it on a bed or the floor for the first few months but a pad on a dresser works just as well as a changing table.
6. Something to put the baby in when you need to pee. Swing/bouncy seat/vibrating seat are all good. Don’t buy the most expensive one or I guarantee your baby will hate it.
7. Baby carrier. You can read my reviews of all my carriers in the post linked above. If you really wanted to buy just ONE I would recommend a woven wrap or soft-structured carrier.
8. Car seat. They won’t let you take the baby out of the hospital without one.
9. Baby health kit. Get one that has a nose-sucker, thermometer, nail clippers, and dropper.
10. Baby bathtub. Buy the one I have. Best tub ever.
11. Somewhere to feed the baby. For baby #2 I am buying one of those seats that clamps on to the table/counter. It’s really all you need unless you plan to start feeding a baby solids before the 6 month mark.
12. Stroller. This is my controversial inclusion (I KNOW I AM SUCH A REBEL) since some baby-wearers swear they never needed one. Personally, my back needs a break. Besides the jogging stroller I use at my fitness class, I use my tiny little umbrella stroller the most.
Things we thought were useless:
1. Bumbo seat. Baby Evan threw up every time we put him in it. Plus his thighs were too fat for it.
2. Recieving blankets. We have a million, used them for a week and then switched to a swaddler with velcro.
3. Bottles. Unless you plan to use formula from the beginning don’t bother to buy any until you really need them.
4. Diaper pail. A small trash can you empty regularly would work just as well and not cost nearly as much.
5. Travel system. The baby outgrew the bucket car seat really fast and I’m not in love with the stroller.
6. Toys for infants. Until they get the hang of hand-to-mouth all those “developmentally” stuff is bullshit.
7. Mobile. Baby Evan lost interest after 15 seconds.
8. Adorable matching baby bedding set. Bumpers are dangerous, quilts are useless and a crib skirt is just decoration. Buy a couple cute sheets and call it a day.

I’m sure I’m missing stuff in both lists so, dear readers, please help Amanda out. What did you LOVE and what do you wish you had never wasted the money/registry space on?

(P.S. After getting half way through this, I was about 75% sure I had already written pretty much the same post sometime last year. I can’t find it anywhere. Either I really am blogging in my dreams again or pregnancy brain is making me crazy. I suspect both are true.)
(P.P.S. I’m sorry for my apparent inability to add spaces between paragraphs in the second half of this post. WordPress is being a bee-atch and refusing to accept my ENTER ENTER ENTER <BR> <DIV> SHIFT+ENTER FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST PUT IN A SPACE commands.

Yes Virginia, There Is A Sale At Toys R Us

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

A high school friend I haven’t talked to in almost 10 years emailed me this week to ask for baby gift suggestions for her 6 month old niece. She’s still in the childless stage of life where the thought of buying a fun and age appropriate gift for someone else’s baby causes you to break out in a cold sweat, and as someone with a similarly aged child she thought I could provide some guidance. I was happy to make some suggestions, since I know I spent many a Christmas shopping trip staring blankly at the toy aisle debating whether I’d be better off just sending a card stuffed with cash (babies like cash, right? It’s crinkly.) Is a baby doll too boring? Is a baby doll that cries and poops too creepy? Are stacking blocks too simple? Is a tiny laptop too complicated? So as a public service announcement for anyone in a similar situation, here’s my list of suggested gifts for babies.

zzz Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Fun with Friends Musical Table

For ages 6 months+
This is Baby Evan’s current favorite toy in the wholebigwideword, unless you count the empty diaper box. Which I don’t, because every time I’m reminded he’d rather go naked, nurse directly from the breast, sleep in our bed, and play with empty boxes I die a little inside thinking of all the money we’ve wasted. But I digress. This table can also be used without the legs for babies who aren’t quite standing yet. It plays lots of different songs, which is very important so you don’t stab your eardrums out after hearing “One two three four five six seven eight! Then! There’s NINE! Counting’s really great!” for the eight hundredth time that day. Plus it’s educational and stuff, teaching colors, shapes and Spanish.  ($42.99)

SOPHIE Sophie the Giraffe

Ages 0-12 months
If you love your niece/nephew/cousin/boss’s kid but you don’t really love them $45 worth, get them a Sophie. The number of kids chewing on these at any park or playgroup speaks for itself. Sophie is BPA free and non-toxic too, so even your fancy friends will approve. ($20)


Tubby Tug Boat

Ages 6 months+
This is what E bought Baby Evan for Christmas, since he is in charge of bath time and related activities. The bebeh loves the water and now that he’s got the sitting up situation under control we’re going to abandon the baby tub (although we have LOVED the one my sister bought me until now and I highly recommend it as a shower gift) and let him splash in our extra large sized tub. Since we’re currently using a disposable plastic cup meant for olive oil or salsa to wash Baby Evan’s hair, this toy will be practical for Daddy as well as baby. ($18.99)


The MULA Collection from Ikea

Recommended for ages 12 months+ (but Baby Evan loves them now)
Oh Ikea, is there nothing you can’t do? Affordable modern furniture? Check. Irresistible duvet covers? Check. Classic wooden toys at unbeatable prices? Check. My mom and grandmother bought Baby Evan the stacking lighthouse, the hammer bench and the stacking cups during an Ikea run and he loooooves them. (Although the hammer became the first baby toy confused for dog chew toy casualty.)  ($5.99+)

robeez Robeez

Ages 0-4 years
These are the leather gold standard for baby shoes, but at $30 a pop no one can afford to buy more than one or two pairs for their own kid. SOMETIMES they go on sale, SOMETIMES you can find them at outlets, and SOMETIMES BabySteals has them as their daily steal (for about 2 seconds before they sell out).  We have one real pair I got at 70% off and one fake pair from TJMaxx, but if someone sent me the whole winter collection I’d be thrilled. Baby Evan enjoys chewing on them just as much as he enjoys wearing them. The sizes are really non-specific, but since the shoes are soft being a little small or a little large doesn’t prevent them from still being awesome. ($22+)

A few more suggestions:

Bright Starts Teether Pals – Baby Evan has a blue elephant version from Target, his friend has the yellow lion, and these are two other options. The combination of plastic, soft and crinkly really keeps him happy when he’s fussing. ($5.99)
Baby’s First Photo Album – I can’t find the exact one online but I PROMISE they sell them in the infant section at Walmart. It’s a soft book with plastic pockets for photos. Bonus points if you pre-fill it with recent photographs of  long-distance family members so baby can learn what Aunt Edna and Uncle Bert look like. ($12.99)
Earth Mama Angel Baby/California Baby Products – I love both these brands but they’re on the expensive side for everyday use. Buy your mama friend some baby wash, diaper cream, shampoo or baby oil, plus a little extra something for herself. ($12+)
BOOKS – Since most parents already have Goodnight Moon and Green Eggs & Ham, you’ll have to be a little more creative to find really good children’s books not on their shelf. I recommend searching Amazon for “reading rainbow books” to find amazing titles that have been forgotten or overlooked for the newest generation but may make Mom and Dad nostalgic for the days when you didn’t have to take my word for it! ($4.99+)

(Disclaimer: The links above that connect to Amazon have my Amazon Associates seller code embedded in them, which means if you click through and make a purchase I get a share of the sale. Which works out to approximately four cents. I actually recommend checking your local big box retailer – or special local baby store! – for baby toys first, since the sales this year are amazing.)