Friday, September 21, 2012

Baby proofing 101

While pregnant I scoffed at the suggestion on The Bump's checklist that families expecting babies should begin baby proofing when the woman is about 3 months pregnant. This is insane. We probably could have begun more baby proofing, though, before the last week or so.

Here's what happened last week:
Natalie stood up in her crib, twice.
Natalie banged her head on the edge of a bookcase.
Natalie unplugged the cord to her baby monitor, accessible next to her crib.
Natalie's crawling took o-f-f.

Before Natalie's birth we'd installed (more accurately, Matt and our gracious neighbor spent 3 hours installing) one of our two Kidco Angle-Mount Safeway Gates. We did this back in December not to protect the baby still in my belly but to keep the dogs contained in the basement when we're away from home or have generally had enough of their humping that always makes an appearance when guests visit. We also drilled some blind string securer thingys into some wall space when we were installing some replacement blinds. The bookcases in our home were secured to the walls when they were assembled.

But that was the extent of our pre-baby baby proofing.

I have been determined to do some baby proofing but not to let it take over our house and our lives. I'm a firm believer in moderation in all things, baby proofing being no exception. I also believe that keeping your house relatively clean and organized is a major element of baby proofing -- when there aren't many small/hazardous items on the floor or otherwise easily within a baby's reach the number of dangers is kept to a minimum.

Still, Natalie, like a lot of babies, is attracted to danger (and my Norton Shakespeare Anthology...but that's something else). She likes glass, outlets, sharp corners, plugs. And she likes to try to put all those things in her mouth.

So here's what we've done in the last week or two:

1) Installed the second baby gate at the top of the stairs leading to the third floor. This is a nice complement to the one previously installed between the first and second floors.

2) Lowered Natalie's crib to the second-lowest setting.

3) Moved the baby monitor plugs to an outlet far away from the crib and secured the now-exposed cords to the wall using the same mounting bases and ties we used when trying to hide cords coming off our new desk.

4) Added foam corner guards to the bookcase and coffee table on our main level, where we spend most of our time. I went with these ones manufactured by Prince Lionheart because they had the most positive customer reviews on Amazon. So far they're doing the job and fit our furniture well (and are not as painfully noticeable as I thought they'd be).

5) Covered nearly every outlet in our home. There are a couple I couldn't get to before I ran out of outlet covers. We registered for this Safety 1st Essentials Child-Proofing Kit which seemed like a reasonable product at the time. Now that we've put it to use, though, these outlet covers seem ironically hazardous to me. Reading the reviews on Amazon it looks like I'm not alone. We might see about returning this product. Either way, I now know that we have over 30 unused and baby-reachable outlets in our home. First-world problems?

6) Moved several glass objects, mostly vases, to higher ground.

What we need to do asap:

1) Put some cabinet guards on our most accessible cabinets containing our most dangerous items (under the sink comes to mind).

2) ummmmm....

So, there are so many products out there and suggestions regarding baby proofing. Maybe I'm being too optimistic, but I feel like what I've listed here should be enough, right? There are spout covers, toilet locks, mesh window guards, bath safety rails, stove knob covers. I don't want to knock anything because, like my hairdresser says about having kids, never say never, but I wonder where it all ends.

What do you think are the baby-proofing essentials? From your experience would you add to my list? And, does anyone have a good suggestion for better outlet protectors that actually stay on the outlets?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Magical mystery kind

This morning at 8:45, while searching for activities to keep Natalie entertained in the time between waking up and nap 1, I put on our iTunes "Natalie" mix and we started dancing. Somewhere between Florence + the Machine's "Shake it Out" and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero's "40 Day Dream" I was overcome with emotion. My 8-month-old baby was holding on to me tight, exposing her four front teeth every time she giggled and squealed, scrunching her nose in delight every time we shook it out together.

I feel like I've been waiting for this a long time. I loved the idea of my baby long before she was ever born. Upon her birth I loved her existence. As she develops into her own little person, though, I feel a much deeper love for her as a unique individual -- I love her, not the idea of her, not just the existence of her. I didn't gush emotion in the early days, but I see our collective love growing exponentially (and yes, this includes her love for her father, since she babbles "dada" all day long, intentionally or not).

So, I express gratitude for this random Wednesday morning in September. I am thankful for our healthy, happy baby. It still feels like a miracle. I don't want to take all this good fortune for granted.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sorting and storing baby clothes

OK, I'll say it: Babies grow quickly. You already knew this, but when you have the physical piles of clothing to prove it you have an in-your-face reminder. This reminder can also become a little daunting to sort and store.

The main reason baby clothes are challenging to sort and store, in my opinion, is that no two clothing brands label their clothes the same way, and even clothes of the same size by the same brand can seem wildly different. Of course, we can't really blame the brands -- after all what does a 6-month old look like, anyway, when mine could be 14 pounds and yours could be 20 pounds? So you've got newborn, and 0-3 months, and 3 months, and 3-6 months, and 6 months, and 6-9 months, and 6-12 months, and 9-18 months. I've tried as much as possible to organize Natalie's clothing not so much by what the label says but how the clothes match up to each other. That 0-3 month footed outfit from Naartije Kids is the same size as the 6-month footed outfit from Carter's, so those items are side-by-side in the closet. If you stick to what the label tells you, there's a good chance you'll wind up forgetting about certain articles of clothing and by the time you remember them your baby will have outgrown them.

Here's my assessment of baby clothes so far:
  • Clothes that fit for the greatest amount of time: short-sleeve onesies and socks -- these stretch a lot and grow with a baby. Natalie can still wear 3-month onesies but nothing else from the 3-month category.
  • Clothes that fit for the least amount of time: footed onesies/sleepers -- so many babies, Natalie included, seem to outgrow the length before the weight.
  • Truest-to-size brand: Carter's -- At 8 months Natalie is wearing a combination of 6 and 9 month clothing.
  • Runs-on-the-small-side brand: Gap -- Natalie could wear 6-12 months at 4 months.
  • Runs-on-the-big-side brand: Circo (from Target) -- Natalie can still fit into a newborn outfit at 8 months.
  • Always-seems-mislabeled-regardless-of-brand item: hats -- Natalie has so many hats, most of which she's never worn because they've never fit her. Her head is relatively small, yet which, if any, hat will fit her is a crap shoot.
  • Most-amazingly-good-quality-for-the-price brand: H&M, particularly the kimono-style long-sleeve onesies made from organic cotton. These fit so well and the material is so thick. 
  • Most-versatile clothes: casual dresses -- turn them into tunics with jeggings when they become too short and you've got one stylin' baby girl.

When faced with a pile of baby clothes, most of which Natalie has outgrown but some of which are toddler-sized hand-me-downs or gifts, I had to devise a system. In reading online about what other people have done I had visions of a garage full of plastic bins of baby clothes divided into tons of different categories. But most people who have elaborate systems also have at least five children -- a basketball-team's brood. We did not need anything complicated.

For now we have two piles that go into two bins: girl and gender neutral. I imagine as Natalie grows we'll have fewer gender-neutral items and more girl items, but for now this seems like a good way to get started. If we have another kid or we loan out/give away clothes, we've already reduced our workload by half just knowing if the clothes are for a girl or either sex. Right now each bin contains two piles of outgrown clothes and one pile of toddler clothes, with room to spare for the 6-month summer clothes and more that will be making their way into the bins shortly.

Now that we've freed up some dresser drawer space I've tried to better organize the clothes that she can still wear now and the clothes she'll be fitting into soon. Baby clothes seem to fall into a number of categories, especially because so many tops and bottoms come together as outfits (when does this trend stop -- with teenagers?). Natalie can still rock some 3-6 month clothes, primarily onesies, but everything else is 6 months or above. I figured I'd keep all the up to 12-month clothes out in her closet and in her dresser and not in the bins so I don't make the mistake of forgetting about any clothes that could fit her in the near future.
Never fear, Natalie has more 9-12 month clothes in her closet not pictured here. Baby clothes seem to not be in short supply, but they are most certainly cute.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

One can never have too many burp cloths

OK, so this is maybe the 17th time I've written about all things spit up, and I promise I'll stop, but clearly this is a major topic in my life these days.

Burp cloths. I always thought we had too many of them. Fear not, one can never have too many burp cloths.

There is the obvious on-your-shoulder use. Whenever I hand Natalie to someone who wants to hold her I always pass along a burp cloth, too, referring to it as our insurance policy. The standard response is, "Oh, that's OK," but I'm like, "No, really, take it."

Here are the three additional ways I've used burp cloths that have come in handy:

1) Before Natalie was mobile, and she could happily hang out in her baby gym, I would put a burp cloth underneath her head. That way, the spit up would at least drip down her face onto the burp cloth rather than all over the gym mat. This did the trick of keeping the gym relatively clean.

2) Every time I put Natalie in the Ergo -- which I absolutely love -- I put a burp cloth underneath my neck almost like a bib. This keeps the inevitable spit up from making its way down the front of my shirt, or, the best, into my shirt. If I was smart I would always travel with a change of clothes for myself, but seeing as I'm an adult and I don't wear a diaper it is difficult to remember to pack a spare outfit and probably more hassle than it's worth.

3) I keep a burp cloth underneath Natalie's head while feeding her on the Boppy pillow. I am still using that pillow. I don't know if that's weird or not, but it works for me, and having the burp cloth under Natalie's head keeps at least some of the spit up off her, off my clothes, off the sofa.
Having a burp cloth on hand = always worth it.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

My routine with a 7-month old

I've written about Natalie's sleep schedule before as well as the unpredictable nature of life with a baby that makes the concept of a routine challenging. Although I am destined to jinx it by writing about it, for roughly the past month I've finally felt like I've got a reasonably set routine with Natalie.

I still divide my day into pre-nap and post-nap chunks. Thankfully, around the time Natalie turned 7 months old she went from three naps a day to two, and that has made a huge difference in my general happiness. Fewer naps = increased ability to get out of the house. Incidentally, the 7-month mark is also right when Natalie started crawling, so she is at last reasonably happy playing a little by herself on the floor with me nearby.

I'm always curious about the routines of babies and stay-at-home parents, so here's what my present daily routine looks like.

Wake up routine, pre-nap 1: 7:30-10:30 a.m.
  • Natalie wakes up between 7:30 and 8:30.
  • Get my breakfast ready before getting her from her crib (I typically feed myself while feeding her).
  • Change her and breastfeed her immediately.
  • Read some books together because this is when she's most quiet and agreeable.
  • Play in the Exersaucer/on the floor. She is most agreeable to independent play this time of day.
  • Go down for nap 1 around 10-10:30.

Post-nap 1: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
  • Natalie typically wakes up from nap 1 around 11:30 a.m. No matter what, nap 1 is consistently one hour long. During that hour I've usually taken a shower, done a couple chores, read some internets...
  • Upon waking up from nap 1 breastfeed her immediately.
  • Feed her solid meal 1 of the day.
  • This is the best time of day for activities outside the house. On those rare days when I don't have something planned outside the house I take Natalie for a walk or run some errands with her. Staying home all day is unpleasant for her and me.
  • Go down for nap 2 around 2-2:45.

Post-nap 2, pre-bedtime: 4-7 p.m.
  • Natalie typically wakes up from nap 2 around 4 p.m. No matter what, nap 2 is consistently longer than nap 1, usually one hour 15 minutes or one-and-a-half hours long. During that time I've usually eaten a late lunch, done some more household maintenance and maybe even a little something I enjoy, like reading a book.
  • Upon waking up from nap 2 breastfeed her immediately.
  • By this time Matt is typically home from work, so we try to go on a long dog walk if we don't have other commitments. Although I'm more likely to schedule excursions during the post-nap 1 phase of the day, we do sometimes makes plans for the late afternoon.
  • Feed her solid meal 2 of the day with Matt, if possible, to establish the concept of family dinner time.
  • Try to read to her some more, if she'll take it.
  • Play in the Exersaucer/on the floor. This is the time of day when Natalie does best when we're interacting with her a lot.
  • Start the bedtime routine by 6:45 p.m. We still give her a bath every other day unless she seems particularly messy or we've done something out of the ordinary, like gone to the pool that day. Once she's changed for the night she's either breast or bottle fed and then rather immediately falls asleep.
  • Natalie is usually asleep by 7 p.m. but almost always by 7:30 p.m. at the latest.

On this schedule, Matt and I find ourselves eating dinner on the later side, usually around 8 p.m. We get in a couple hours of together time before it's time for Matt to turn in for the night in preparation for his early morning wake up for work.

Helping Natalie transition to a two-nap-a-day schedule has not only allowed us greater flexibility in making plans, but it has also allowed Natalie to start falling asleep for naps and bedtime more quickly. Although getting her to sleep usually has never been a challenge, the crying is even less now than it was before, which is probably a good signal that she's appropriately tired when it's time for sleep and she's struck a good balance for herself between sleep time and awake time.

Natalie turns 8 months old next week, and at that point I want to begin feeding her three solid meals a day. So, her routine will adjust slightly with the addition of "breakfast," but hopefully the routine will not change much.