Belly to Belly: Baby registry tips in hindsight.

The baby registry is probably one of the most daunting tasks (next to labor) before your beautiful baby comes into this world. The first time Dave and I walked into Target armed with our registry gun, we were so stunned in the feeding aisle — numbed by an onslaught of nursing pads and breast pumps — that we turned on our heels and walked right back out. After that, I went home and did major research: asking moms I knew, moms I didn’t know, my doctor, magazines, and of course, the all-knowing Internet. Even after that there were some decisions I regretted and some items we didn’t discover until after baby that we bought ourselves, which ended up being our go-to gear. Here’s a few things that I learned and loved. I hope it registers with you (and I hope Jed doesn’t inherit my corny sense of humor).

Top 10 registry items I loved.

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  • Fisher-Price Little Lamb Infant Seat Showering, washing dishes, getting dressed… this was my go-to, hands-free seat from day one. The cuddly cover washes well and is easy to take on and off. It folds flat to slide under or behind things and the vibrating mechanism is great for helping baby fall asleep.
  • SwaddleDesigns Organic Ultimate Receiving Blanket This extra large swaddle blanket was recommended by one of my most trusted mom friends and was the best one of all our swaddle blankets for creating the perfect, escape-free “baby burrito”.
  • Cloud b Sleep Sheep on the Go A smaller version of the original, it has a velcro tab so you can attach it to a stroller or pack-n-play. Great for travel, but we used it at home, too.
  • DwellStudio for Target Baby Collection We got a mix of crib bedding from their elephant and little dots collections (no longer available). Everything from DwellStudio for Target is on clearance, so if you like their stuff, shop now for great deals! [DISCONTINUED, SORRY!]
  • Little Twig Travel Basics Set, Lavender I love this brand, but it’s a little pricey to buy on my own, making it a great gift! The travel set was nice for visiting family. Any space you can save in the car when packing up baby is valuable.
  • ERGO Baby Carrier Can’t say enough good things about the Ergo. Dave, Jed and I all loved it. Used it mostly on my front. It can get hot in the summer, but all carriers can. I suggest having more than one type of carrier if you want to stay sane and mobile (pouches, wraps and slings are nice) but this should be one of them.
  • Homedics Sounds Spa Lullaby Relaxation Sound Machine We still use this. No tiptoeing and whispering after baby goes down! And with the baby monitor on our bedside table, we all got addicted to lulling off to the sounds of rain or the ocean.
  • Boudreaux’s All Natural Butt Paste I was once late getting a baby gift for a friend and this was the last thing on her registry. No one wanted to give butt paste as a gift. But let me tell you, this stuff is amazing. I’ve used the generic diaper cream and can totally tell the difference. Plus receiving (or writing) a thank you note that says “thank you for the butt paste” is good for a giggle:)
  • Bumkins Organic Burp Cloths I also loved the Gerber organic diapers used as burp cloths, but they’re being made differently now so I can’t speak to the new design. Bumkins are soft, wash well and double nicely as nose wipers once baby is past the burping stage.
  • Baby Mod ParkLane 3-in-1 Baby Convertible Crib Technically not on my registry because I didn’t register at Wal-Mart, our crib was a gift from my parents. I am so glad we did not spend a fortune on the crib (though I tossed and turned over it). This one has the look of more expensive modern cribs with a budget-conscious price tag. Plus, I love that it has a drawer underneath for extra storage. And you always need extra storage space with a baby! It only took Dave one six-pack of PBR and no cursing to put it together:)
Registry regret.
I could have done without:

 

  • The Diaper Genie. At just under $35, it seems like the perfect price point for a registry gift and an essential nursery item, but consider this–the cartridge refills cost a whopping $12.99 for a 2-pack. That really adds up over the diaper years for what’s really a glorified roll of trash bags. Plus our cartridge would often end up tearing the bags, letting out the smell the Genie supposedly holds in. We finally gave up and switched to a simple, small white trash can with a pop-up lid. I use scented trash bags, plus, I drip a few drops of tea tree essential oil on a cotton ball and throw it into the can to help deodorize.
  • The Boppy. Everyone and their mother (ha!) had a Boppy, so like an insecure middle school girl, I chose popularity over substance. My Brest Friend was just trending at the time and I was afraid to go with the lesser known brand. The Boppy made a great hands-free pillow to lay baby beside me on the sofa, bed or the ground (supervised!) but for a nursing aid, I had to still prop other pillows all around me and it would not stay still, whereas I’ve heard wonderful things about My Brest Friend (and not just from Mariska Hargitay, although she rules.)

I wish we had registered for:
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  • a BOB Revolution stroller. I don’t jog so I felt like a fraud getting one and opted for a higher end Maclaren (also nice), but the Revolution is amazing for any active parent and a great grandparent gift or collective gift card purchase! Just be sure you get a lightweight umbrella stroller, too, for tighter spaces.
  • Sleep sacks. We knew about swaddling, and of course, pajamas, but nobody told us about the wonder of sleep sacks and we didn’t get any as gifts. We had a winter baby and ended up buying four of these ourselves. At $20 each, they would’ve made great shower gifts.
  • Aden and Anais Swaddle Wraps. I’m sure if these were out when we were registering, I would’ve chosen them. I ended up getting them about 12 months in. Way past the swaddling stage, but we used them as Jed’s first blankets in his crib (very breathable!), changing table blankets and travel blankets in warmer weather. I love the fabric, texture and prints!
  • Baby Bjorn BabySitter Balance. This was worth the splurge, but again, wish I had known about it for our registry. We had registered for a vibrating infant seat, but not a bouncer. This seat rocks (both literally and figuratively), going from bouncer to rocking chair — three settings grow with your baby from newborn up through 24 months.

Registry DIY.

“Put a bird on it!” ~ Portlandia

I bought my own nursing gear and diaper bag. The nursing gear was personal to me. All I could think of was my thirteenth birthday. My mom gave me my first razor and I opened it in front of my entire extended family and promptly burst into tears. Not that nursing is something to hide or be embarrassed about. But for me, pumping and all that goes along with it, is simply personal. I wanted to pick those things out and pay for them myself. I did not want friends and family oohing and aahing as I unwrapped something that was going to be suctioned in bovine fashion to my cracked nipples.

And I am way too particular about my bags to leave to chance some sort of registry mishap! We got a Skip Hop Via Messenger to share and I got a Petunia Pickle Bottom Touring Tote from their online outlet just for me. They don’t carry the print I have anymore (shown above) on their website, but there are so many pretty ones to choose from. I recommend the glazed fabric for its wipeability. And you would be amazed at how much these can hold! My tote held more than our Skip Hop. I seriously cannot tell you how many compliments I’ve gotten on my PPB. Most people don’t even know it’s a diaper bag.

What were your favorite (or least favorite) registry items? Any surprising disappointments? Or amazing off-the-registry discoveries?

Belly to Belly: Planning a baby shower that doesn’t suck.

With Jed out of school this week and an influx of freelance work (yay!) it’s been tougher for me to make time to post. So, again, I bring you a re-post from my Blogs of Yore. I wrote this one about three years ago when I was planning a baby shower for my other most favorite Emily.

Throwing a shower for a friend? Or perhaps someone near and dear is throwing one for you? You have an idea of what you want, but don’t want to step on toes. (After all, she’s nice enough to throw the shower, right?) How about oh-so-subtly sharing this post with your friends on Facebook with a “Read this! So clever!” note. She’ll take the hint:)

Can't find a pic from the shower I threw for Emily, but she in turn threw me a shower six months later (which also didn't suck).

My mom and I are throwing a baby shower for a close, second-sister friend (you know, the friend who you bought that BFF broken heart necklace with at the mall in middle school). It’s on Saturday and I’m determined to make it a shower that I would actually enjoy attending. Next to having your fat circled with a magic marker as a sorority “new member”, I can’t imagine anything more painful than your friends using measuring tape to guess how large you are around the middle. No games of any kind, thank you very much.

I was excited about putting together a baby shower playlist for background music and burning it to CDs as favors, until I had this conversation with the shower honoree while home for Thanksgiving.

Me: Don’t worry, Friend. We aren’t doing any tacky shower stuff, I promise.

Friend: Oh good. Because for your sister’s shower, they made me make this CD of songs with the word “baby” in it. I didn’t want to, but they made me, and it was so tacky. And then they didn’t even use it… thank God.

Ummm. Uhhhh. Okay then.

At first I was going to completely back off, but then I remembered that I’m the hostess, and who am I to deprive our guests of my superior mix-tape making skills? I stayed up late into the night on iTunes to put this “Mother of All Baby Shower Playlists” together for the cool, urban, hipster mom-to-be:

“Mother and Child Reunion” – Paul Simon

“Stay Up Late” – Talking Heads

“Baby Please Don’t Go” – Van Morrison

“Baby” – Rufus Wainwright

“Baby’s Got Sauce” – G. Love & Special Sauce

“I Can’t Quite You Baby” – Led Zeppelin

“Baby” – Iggy Pop

“Jack” – Widespread Panic (she’s naming her son Jack)

“Cry Baby Cry” – The Beatles

“Baby Boomerang” – The Shins

“Kooks” – David Bowie

“Little Baby” – The Rolling Stones

“Baby Hold On” – Leftover Salmon

“Put A Straw Under Baby” – Brian Eno

“My Baby” – Janis Joplin

“Baby” – Dave Matthews

It was actually easier to find beautiful songs about abortion than birth, but even I realize that “Belly Button Window” by Jimi Hendrix and Bend Folds’ “Brick” would be in poor taste. My playlist might not resonate with the baby boomer partygoers, but my too-cool-for-baby-songs friend will appreciate it.

Then there was the issue of party favors. I don’t have time to burn 25 copies of this CD and create cute labels. And everything online needed to be ordered 4-6 weeks ago. When I Googled “last-minute baby shower favors,” the only articles that popped up said things like “don’t leave the baby shower favors until the last minute.” Um, yeah, thanks. I also didn’t want to spend a fortune on something that’s going to get thrown away… and they all get thrown away.

After days of online obsessing, I took the philanthropic route. My  first instinct was to find a baby-related charity, but as I researched, The Louisville Zoo continued to pop up as one of the highest rated non-profits. The shower’s in Louisville, KY, where we grew up, so after investigating further on the zoo’s website, I decided to adopt Baby Elephant Scotty in the mom-to-be’s name in lieu of favors. My friend will get an adoption certificate, her name on the website, and a picture/info card of Scotty. I ask you, how cute is that?

What are your tips for planning a shower that doesn’t suck?

Belly to Belly: Simple Things to Savor Before Baby

From the moment you find out you’re pregnant, it’s a countdown to the moment you will no longer be just you. Even if you’re married and already consider yourself a “we”, the single-to-married transition’s got nothing on the world-rocking metamorphosis into motherhood. You’ll still be you, just a new version of you. You 2.0.

You’ve probably already anticipated a lot of the You 2.0 features, such as the ability to operate on little to no sleep and an innate indifference to any and all substances coming out of  your baby’s orifices. But with the conversion, comes some adjustments. There are so many things to love about being a mom. So, so, so many. But (and it is a super cute baby butt), I want to share a few things you should savor before your bundle of joy arrives:

1. Showers. What you now just think of as part of your daily routine will later feel like a luxury spa treatment (if and when you get to take one in the bathroom by yourself. Not having an audience for everything is something else to savor). Enjoy the fact that you have time to soap, shampoo, condition and shave everything all in one shower. Take your time, sit under the water, sing songs that aren’t nursery rhymes, do a salt scrub. Linger until you get all pruny and the hot water runs out. Forget water conservation. You’ll make up for it soon enough.

2. Shoes. My mother gained a foot size and lost a cup size with each child. I lost the cup (boo), but was lucky that my feet remained at their already sizeable 9.5. This is not the case for many people. I have one friend who’s feet grew two sizes with one child. The point? Wear all of your favorite shoes while they still fit. You don’t know if you’re gonna grow!

3. Stairs. Once a stroller is involved, stairs become this evil video game-like obstacle (I almost expect an angry monkey at the top hurling barrels down at me). More often than not, you’re relegated to a very out-of-the-way elevator or ramp option, making a simple trip to any store involving a parking garage a total pain. Whenever I’m without Jed now and I need to take a flight of stairs to get where I’m going, I get so giddy, it’s kind of sad.

4. Driving. Alone. With the music (your music) blasting. This is still one of my favorite “me” time pastimes. An open highway and “Life is a Highway”. Who knew the road to sanity could be so simple?

Moms, what would you add to the list? 

 

Belly to Belly: Baby (Link) Love

There are so many sites on which to shop and seek advice. I have dozens that I love, but I’ve narrowed it down to my very favorites in the following core categories to take the guess work, and Google work, out of your online time. Like everything else in life once a baby comes into the picture, I say it’s best to keep it simple!

OH, SHE GROWS: Emily updates her readers at 40 weeks.

Baby Names: Nameberry

By far the most engaging (read: time-sucking) baby name site on the Internet. Beyond the usual searches, meanings and popularity charts, Nameberry offers fun, quirky lists like Yupster Names for Girls and Antique Names Ready For Restoration. I almost want to have another child just so I can have a reason to spend time on this site. Because right now, I’m spending way too much time on Nameberry for no good reason at all.

Online Registry: Baby Earth

Austin-based BabyEarth, like its name indicates, incorporates green business practices. But eco-conscious products are only a portion of what they offer to customers, making them both planet-friendly and practical. No Babies-R-Us breakdowns here: their selection has plenty of options, but isn’t anxiety-inducing. Their Ready-to-Go Registries offer a great jumping off point for your own. You can choose one that best fits your lifestyle—Classic Baby, Eco Baby, Posh Baby or Second Child—or find inspiration from a mix of all four! And their customer service? Top notch. Honorable mentions to: Land of Nod, Giggle

Pregnant Bloggers: Emily Malone at Daily Garnish and Caitlin Boyle at Healthy Tipping Point

Emily just had a baby boy, Cullen, six weeks ago, and did an amazing job of documenting her pregnancy experience. The vegetarian chef primarily blogs about food, health and fitness, but has invited us into her life as a new mom as well!

Tagged under BabyHTC and Pregnancy, you can find Operation Beautiful Founder Caitlin Boyle’s belly updates (now at week 13)—a perfect pregnant pause from your busy day! Her pregnancy proves thus far to be just as inspirational as Operation Beautiful.

Both also share(d) their pregnancy experiences on the Babble blog, Being Pregnant (and Emily now contributes to Babble’s Baby’s First Year.)

Online Community: Babble

It was a close call between Babble and BabyCenter. They both offer loads of helpful information from moms and experts, but Babble, as counterintuitive as it may seem, just speaks more clearly to me. While you hear from gobs of contributors who offer all kinds of opinions, the overall site has a unified voice that’s fresh, tangible and entertaining.

What’s your favorite pregnancy or baby-related website? 

Belly to Belly: A “Getting Ready for Baby” Guide

Belly to Belly: Pregnancy pointers from a mom-in-progress.

My best friend is pregnant! She is having a girl, due April 19… one day after my birthday. I am so, so excited for her that I’m already thinking of gift ideas, even though she hasn’t registered. Mothers of boys will understand the tantalizing anticipation of shopping for sugar, spice and everything nice. Girl stuff is just so freakin’ cute!

Pregnant me, right before pumpkin time.

Parenting and pregnancy are like politics. They are touchy topics on  which everyone has an opinion, and unless I’m asked for mine, I keep my mouth shut. Well I happen to know that Emily actually wants my advice. She gets me, she trusts me, and if she thinks I’m totally off-base, she’s not afraid to speak up, or at least smile to my face and then ignore it later as a nice, Southern gal should.

I figured as long as I’m writing these tips out for Em, I might as well share them with you! So I decided to create a guide — a series of posts that I’m going to call “Belly to Belly”, dedicated to imparting my motherly wisdom to Emily and any other expecting parent who cares to take a look. This won’t include anything scientific or biological stuff (“Week 19: Your baby is now the size of a rutabaga and has the cognitive ability to start judging you.”). But I will touch on everything from belly-touching etiquette and registries to swelling solutions.*

For this first installment I’m going to re-post an entry I wrote from a previous blog when I was about as far along as Emily:

May 20, 2009

We found out we’re having a boy! And boy does he love showing off his pee-pee. I was really freaked out because his genitalia looked to be the size of his head (his dad was so proud), but then the technician informed me that she’d blown up that part of the screen so we could see it better. Almost had a circus freak on our hands. So my sex dream was wrong. I just hope the dream where my son ends up in jail is wrong, too.

So far, Jed’s stayed out of prison, although he’s been frequenting the “thinking chair” quite a bit.

Look for Belly to Belly posts from now through April!

She's a natural! Emily holding my baby boy.
*This guide is solely based on my personal experiences as a pregnant woman and new mother. I am not a licensed parent. Please consult your common sense before following any advice.