Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Essential" baby stuff that might not be!

Despite recent media reports, kids don't actually have to be very expensive at all.

This particular article isn't advice - truth be told, we have a ton of baby stuff, most of the baby stuff on this list.  What can I say, I like to shop! However, I've discovered that a lot of the stuff we bought, we didn't use...and some families don't use any of it.  Basic things, that "everyone" told you was necessary to have before you have a baby - well, turns out, you might not need it after all.  If you *want* it, or it makes you and your baby happy, awesome.  Enjoy! You're not a bad parent if you have and adore any of these items.  Just don't feel like you have to rip out the credit cards and go bankrupt to prepare for your little bundle of joy. 

Stuff you can skip (if you want to)

#1 The Crib

Yep, that's right.  You can skip the crib.  Your kid probably won't want to sleep in it anyway.  Most babies would rather be curled up in your arms or on your chest.  Cribs are expensive!  You can skip the crib, mattress, mattress protector, sheets, mobile, crib toys, sound machine that attaches to the crib, bumpers (they're bad anyway), mesh fluffy stuff that goes over the crib - all of it.  $500+ saved!  

#2 Stroller
I dig my umbrella stroller, but use it mostly to carry groceries.  We bought one of those ginormous mega-strollers, and it's hanging in my mom's basement.  Just like the crib, my baby vastly prefers to be carried (and you can make your own baby carrier for about $5).  There's no law that says you have to have a stroller. 

#3 Bottles
Well, if you're me, you might need these.  If you work and pump, you're going to need them.  BUT, Boobs are cool and require no sterilization.  Even if baby isn't drinking directly from the tap, they can actually drink out of a cup.  Yep, a cup.

#4 Diapers
This one sort of blew my mind.  There's this super-cool movement a-foot called "Elimination Communication".  If you pay close enough attention to your little one's cues, you start to find patterns to their pooping and peeing...and you can hold them over the toilet.  For realz!  There are babies who have never worn a diaper in their lives.  Additional plus side... no toilet training!  Wipes... you will still need.  :)

#5 Baby Food

Again, cool but very basic idea.  Babies are people, and they can eat people food.  You don't need to give a baby purees.  When your little ones starts reaching for the food on your plate, just let him have some. My little guy has a deep appreciation for steamed broccoli, pasta, and blackberries. Bibs strongly recommended.

#6 Baby Bath Tub
When they're teensy, a sponge and the sink works perfectly.  After their umbilical stump falls off, you may discover the wonder of co-bathing.  Mommy + Fussy Baby In Tub = Happiness.  You figure out how to handle a slippery baby very quickly.  Wrapsody sells a water wrap that works for co-showering too, plus instructions.   Another note... you totally don't need the adorable baby hoodie towels; regular towels work just fine.  I have to say though...nothing's cuter than a baby in a hoodie towel.


#7 Swing, Bouncer, Vibrating Chair etc.
Now, I'm not going to say these aren't nice to have.  For some babies and parents, they might be a necessity.  BUT, from my observation, kids only like one of them and dislike the others.  You should go for some trial-and-error here.  Some kids don't like any of them.  None of them are "must have or CPS will be called."

Stuff you might consider spending real money on:

#1 A high-end convertible carseat.
Infant "bucket" seats have the bonus of keeping a sleeping baby asleep, but they will be outgrown quickly.  A convertible carseat can serve you from the first car ride through kindergarten.  Get one that rear-faces to the highest possible weight (Radian sells one that rear-faces to 45 pounds).   If you spend the money now on a good one, you won't have to replace it later.
Why you should rear-face as long as possible

#2 A King-Sized Bed
No, you don't "need" this, especially if you're a single parent or a set of smaller parents.  BUT, if you or your significant other are a substantial person (in my case, both), this will improve your life.  You can get a cheap one from Ikea for less than you could spend on the crib.  AND, you'll be using it long after your child has graduated to their own bed.  For extra safety, consider a bed that is low to the floor, or even on it!

#3 A nice baby carrier
Yes, you can make a stretchy wrap for $5.  I recommend doing so!  But for long-term use, a nice soft-structured carrier (Ergo Sport is my fav), a beautiful woven wrap (Girasol = Love), or a Mei Tai (ala Babyhawk)...or all three....will be worth it for you.  Especially if you skipped the stroller and the swing!  Like the carseat, a nice baby carrier will last you well into toddlerhood.

To learn more about baby wearing options, check out www.thebabywearer.com

 #4  A nursing pillow
This isn't a huge investment, but it's worth every penny.  A nursing pillow prevents stiff necks and arms that fall asleep while baby is at the boob.  You can use it as a floor pillow later on (for those moments when you definitely do need to put the baby down!), for "tummy time", or even for a nice neck pillow while pregnant.  I love my Boppy and have used it often, despite having to stop breastfeeding.

#5 A rocker-recliner
If you have a gorgeous wooden rocking chair from your grandmother in the baby's room, stick with it.  If you were debating on purchasing one of those expensive gliders from Babies R Us, consider this.  Get a rocker-recliner, ala La-Z-Boy.  Bob's has them for $299, or drop by your local Salvation Army.  Comfy factor cannot be beat.  You are going to spend a lot of time in this chair - and no fingers will be pinched!  .  Move it into the "man room" when baby's grown, or they can take it to college.

That's what I can think of for now... I'll add on more to either list if more come to mind - or if YOU add them in the comments!  Do you agree/disagree?  Are there more items that need to be in the "must-have" department?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Human Milk for Human Babies

"Breast milk is not a scarce commodity, it's a free-flowing resource."
Emma Kwasnica

I've recently become involved with an amazing group, Human Milk for Human Babies, formerly known as Eats on Feets Global.  This is one of the most amazing movements, and I am incredibly honored to be a part of it.

There are mommies like me who can't breastfeed their babies, or mommies who breastfeed but don't make enough milk.  When I was hospitalized, my breastfed baby needed food.  Formula is food, but not the food I would have chosen for him - breast milk is a superior food, made for baby humans.  Cow's milk is made for baby cows, and doesn't offer the same benefits, especially in a baby's GI track - which is of particular concern to me, since IBD can be hereditary.  I reached out to my local milk bank - but I found out that not only is the milk $4 per ounce ($120 a day!!), we couldn't have it, even if we wanted it.  My baby was healthy and full-term.  So, David got formula - and I'm glad it was there.  It was not an easy transition - his tummy was upset, and he really hated the taste.  But, food is food, and he eventually adjusted.  He's done well on formula - he's healthy, strong, and smart.  As my readers know, I don't have anything against people who choose formula as their baby's food.

If I'd had a choice at the time, though, I wouldn't have chosen to feed my son formula.

I learned about Eats on Feets through you, the readers of this blog.  I became friends with Emma Kwasnica, the group's founder on Facebook, and I was blown away by her passion and dedication.  At one point, she posted an amazing photo - a friend of hers was suddenly hospitalized, and she nursed her friend's baby while she was incapacitated.  The picture brought me to tears.  One image encapsulated the philosophy of milk sharing - that in an emergency, women could rely on each other.

Emma nursing a hospitalized friend's baby.  Don't like to see boobs?  Read this.

This is the heart of milk sharing and milk donation - that in an emergency situation, mothers who want their babies to be exclusively breastfed have that option, even if real life circumstances don't allow for it.  If a mother wants to use formula, fine by me - but if she doesn't, there should be a way for her to find an Emma!

Eats on Feets has become "Human Milk for Human Babies", a name that better describes its mission and can be translated across the globe (there's even a chapter in Kuwait!).   Mothers like me can meet local mothers like Emma, who have a surplus of milk to provide.  Not necessarily boob-to-mouth; most donation happens with the help of a pump and a freezer.  Some mamas overproduce, and they have mountains of bags of milk stored, more than their baby can consume before it expires.  Thanks to HM4HB and other milk-sharing connections, that milk can find its way to a local baby in need.

One of the coolest things about this is that HM4HB is not just getting babies milk, it's helping women connect and become friends.  While you can use milk sharing networks to just get milk and move on, I'm amazed at the real life connections that are happening.  Donor and recipient mommies are getting to know each other, having coffee, setting up playdates, visiting each other's homes.  There is a community growing as a result of the sharing.  Unlike donating to a milk bank, donor mommies can often hold the babies their milk is feeding, watch them grow and thrive on the precious gift of liquid gold.  In a world where technology so often distances, this is creating a village where none existed.

Are there risks to milk sharing?  Yes, of course.  There are risks to everything in life.  There are risks to formula-feeding (I fed my kid bugs, thank you Similac).  HM4HB isn't promising a risk-free solution, just a forum in which parents can have a choice - an informed choice.   Previously, the only choice moms like me could make was which brand of formula to buy.  Now, we can choose if we want to go check things out on the donation road.

As a recipient, ultimately, you trust that the woman who is donating is healthy and living a healthy life.  If she's breastfeeding her own child, you simply trust that she cares about her own baby enough to avoid things that could make her milk dangerous.  You can pasteurize the milk at home (instructions here), and many recipients ask for copies of their donor's prenatal medical records or request additional screening for safety.

Check it out!  If you have milk to donate, wouldn't it be nice to know exactly where that milk is going?  If you really hate feeding your baby formula, why not explore donated breast milk as an option?

Human Milk for Human Babies - Website
Find your local chapter here
Frequently Asked Questions