We’ve moved!

July 29, 2012

If you’ve been wondering where we’ve been, well…Minimalist Mama Expecting is now Minimalista Mama! After a few months of moving around, we’re excited about our new name and final location. Come join us at the new site – we’re looking forward to seeing you there!

In the process, we’ve combined Minimalist Mama Expecting, her sister site Minimalist Mama (for already-parents) AND Minimalist Mama Gifts (for the lovely people who give presents to our adorable offspring). All the sites still have their own sections, so you can find your new home by just clicking on the category that’s right for you. Or you can see all the great stuff for everyone by just browsing around the home page. We really hope you like it!

OK, maybe you do, but chances are, your infant does not. This is another item that is on a lot of “get this for your baby” lists and, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why. That didn’t stop me from trying to settle on one before Astrid was born though, just in case. Let me save you the trouble: skip it.

The one caveat is if you live in the desert or at high altitude. If you do, check with your OB or your pediatrician (if you have one already) to see if they recommend one for newborns in your specific area, but I’m betting s/he’ll say, “No.”

I’m not saying you’ll never need one. You may, when (and if) your baby gets sick. That’s it. Croup or a bad cough or the like and your pediatrician will recommend slanting little Tyrone’s crib mattress up and turning on a humidifier to help him breathe and sleep better. Until then, you won’t need one (unless, as I say, you live somewhere parched and your doctor says so).

Don’t worry about preparing for that eventuality before it happens: humidifiers are relatively inexpensive ($20-60) and available everywhere (drugstores, Target, Amazon, etc.) Worst case scenario, you stop by a Walgreens on your way from the pediatrician’s when she told you to get one. See? You’re done.

If you are just dying to have one, or you definitely need one right this instant, I’ll put in my recommendation for the Crane Drop Shape Cool Mist. (Most places recommend cool mist vs. warm. Our pediatrician says it doesn’t matter which, but I went with majority opinion.) We have one and it works as intended without too much noise or fuss. (Reviews on pretty much every model I looked at ranged from, “This is perfect!” to, “This is terrible (for one reason or another,” so abandon the thought that you’re going to find one that everyone likes.)

On the Crane, you can adjust the mist nozzle’s direction vs. having to turn the whole unit to redirect the mist, which is slightly convenient. It does have a visible light when it’s on, but it’s not irritatingly bright, and its, “I’m working!” hum is minimal. One note: if you have it on full blast, as we did during Astrid’s bout of croup, you will want to put some towels down in the path of the mist to protect your floor or carpet.

Crane Drop Shape Cool Mist Humidifier, $45 at Amazon

Minimalist Merge!

June 18, 2012

In a week or so, Minimalist Mama Expecting will have a whole new look and feel and a ton more content: we’re merging with Minimalist Mama and Minimalist Mama Gifts!

Keeping the three sites separate no longer made sense since a lot of the recommendations have been great for expectant parents, new parents and gift givers and I was posting some of the same content on all three sites. That’s just silliness – and we don’t want anyone to miss out! (If you find that you just want to see the posts for your track, the new site will still have separate areas for just pregnant mamas, just new mamas or just the lovely people who give them presents.)

I’m really excited and I hope you like the changes too! (If you want a sneak peak, check it out here. Otherwise, we’ll see you when we go live!)

Yes, you will need to buy separate soap for your new baby. The Irish Spring in your soap dish has too many chemicals and perfumes for your infant’s brand new, easily irritated skin. Aim for the gentle baby soaps with the lowest number of ingredients and ones you can recognize as natural. Dyes and chemicals are not your friend, no matter how nice it may make the product smell. We went with Burt’s Bees Baby Bee Shampoo & Wash and then, when Astrid went through a sensitive skin phase, we cut over to California Baby’s Calming Shampoo and Bodywash. (They also make it in super sensitive, calendula and eczema formulas.) Both have minimal smell, are multi-purpose shampoo and soap, and are middle of the road on cost.

(If you were thinking of using the classic not very expensive Johnson & Johnson, as everyone did when I was a kid, you might want to reconsider in light of last year’s news that they still include cancer-causing chemicals in their US products.)

Most baby washes are also baby shampoos, so you don’t need to buy a separate product for little Alice’s hair. If she’s born with curly locks though, you’ll probably need to branch out. When Astrid’s hair grew in and Burt’s couldn’t manage the tangles, I made the mistake of smelling Babo Botanicals gorgeous Berry Primrose Smooth Detangling Shampoo. Now we can’t go back to a less expensive product that smells less good. *sigh* (If your little one has serious tangles, they also make a detangler spray which works really well.)

On the truly spendy end of the spectrum, Mustela also makes lovely products for baby skin and hair, but beware: they are super addictive. I have a couple of friends who got caught in the Mustela web and can’t get out!

Note on face washing: you can – and should – wash your infant’s face with just clean water. No face wash needed. As they get a little older, they may develop a little baby acne or other skin irritations at which point, ask your pediatrician what she recommends. I treated the dry spots Astrid’s got as an infant with California Baby’s Calendula cream and moved to washing her face with Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser when she was about one and was getting dirtier.

Tea Collection Sale

June 11, 2012

Tea Collection makes some beautiful clothes, especially for babies. They’re expensive, though, for something little Albert will only wear for a few months, so getting their pieces on sale makes the most sense.

What also makes sense is not ordering them from Tea Collection directly: their returns process is terrible and their exchange process is even worse. (They email you store credit to use for something else weeks after the return is received. If they remember. Which they usually don’t.)

On both counts, Diapers.com‘s current sale on Tea Collection’s classic baby clothes is perfect. (Free shipping both ways if you spend more than $49, and super easy returns.)

I’m sad to think that these pieces might be being discontinued because they’re adorable, but the sale is great, so stock up for your upcoming baby or stockpile a few gifts for future baby showers.

My favorites:

Baby Girl Chinese Jacket in petal pink, $29

Baby Boy Chinese Jacket in indigo, $29

Baby Girl Lotus Wrap Jacket, $22

Baby Boy, 3 Bodysuits, Boxed, $22

And, my all-time favorite baby blanket on sale for $21. At 40″x 40″ and single-ply jersey, it’s perfect for swaddling but will still big enough when your little one is a toddler.

Coming To Stay

June 5, 2012

A couple weeks ago we chatted about where all your new baby’s out of town fans should stay during their visit. (Short version: probably not with you.) Let’s back up a step and talk about who you might want to come and visit your new little family and when.

If you’re really lucky, you have a fantastic relationship with your parents, they are both living and sane, they cook and clean, they listen to you and love your partner, and you totally want them to be in town for the birth of their grandchild or shortly thereafter. Congratulations! You won the parent lottery! And as long as your husband/wife/partner is on the same page about them, feel free to invite them to stay for as long as you like.

For those of us with more complicated landscapes, the question of who you want to come, when and for how long is probably causing some anxiety. The same principle applies here as to the question of where they should stay: keep it simple and communicate your plan early (and often, if necessary.)

Step 1: Have a chat with yourself.

Sit down for ten minutes and picture yourself in the hospital (or birthing center or at home or wherever you plan to deliver) as well as how you imagine it will be once you’re home and settled.

C-section or smooth natural delivery or somewhere in between, you and your partner are elated but exhausted. You’re probably learning how to breastfeed. Baby Lyndsey is sleeping most of the time but you’re on high alert to make sure she’s OK.

Now think about your candidate vistors. Think about how they’ve been on previous visits. Are they being quiet because little Norton is sleeping or does your mom sound like Janice from Friends? Is your dad over the moon about holding his new grandbaby or does he want to turn on the TV “just to check the score”? Are they affectionate and good listeners or uncomfortable in emotional situations? Are they helpful or intrusive?

 Don’t feel bad if you picked the latter answer to most of those questions. It doesn’t mean they aren’t wonderful people and won’t make fantastic grandparents (or aunts or uncles, actual or honorary). It just means that they may not be ideally suited to this very specific situation with new parents and a brand new baby.

Trust your instincts: if it’s been rocky before, now is not the time to correct that  or forge into new territory. Go easy on yourself.

Step 2: Put those personalities on the calendar.  

The birth. Most out of-town guests won’t try to come for the birth itself because it’s so private and, logistically, it’s a hard target to hit. If, however, you want your mom or best friend there for the big day, great, but definitely have a back-up support plan: your baby might arrive a month early or ten days late.

Have a doula on retainer just in case you go into labor early. Or – simpler – mentally prepare a little that you and your partner might be relying on each other and the nursing staff (which will be fine).

If guests come early but Baby is late, you may spend the last, most uncomfortable weeks of your pregnancy dawdling with your mom, which, from what I hear, can be, um, challenging. Early arrival may also mean they can’t stay as long when little Uli finally does make his appearance.

My two cents: it’s easiest to have them book tickets for a week or two post-due date. Keep it simple, especially for yourself, especially at that stage of pregnancy.

Your partner going back to work. If you have helpful guests in mind, this can be a great time to have them come to town. You’ll have had a chance to bond with the baby and get your feet under you as a parent and may be ready to be more hospitable than you were a few weeks ago. And you can use a home-cooked meal or a nap as you move into the new phase of maternity leave.

If you’ve been looking for a way to defer some less than helpful (but still obligatory) guests for a few weeks, this transition can be a great excuse + make them feel useful: “When Leonard heads back to the office, I could really use a hand. Would you mind very much coming then instead?”

Later during maternity leave. Don’t feel bad about declining Aunt Myrtle’s offer to come to town from Phoenix and bring her crystals to cleanse the baby’s aura. This is your time with your baby and a big adjustment in your life. Of course, yes, you should still endeavor to be polite, but you do not have to accept every offer to come and help (especially if you don’t actually think it will be helpful!) Take a breath and be firm.

You going back to work (if applicable). This can be a complicated adjustment, even when it goes smoothly, and guests are probably not a great idea – unless, of course, they’re providing a few weeks of transitional care so you can go back to your job and then navigate the shift to day care or a nanny a little later, in which case, hooray!

Weekends and holidays for the next 18 years. You will see everyone important sometime soon! Again: do not feel obliged to have everyone out to visit right away. There is plenty of time and your baby will still be adorable (and a lot more responsive to tickling and snuggling) in a few months.

Step 3: Communicate, preferably over email.

 Be brief, be tactful and be clear. And put it in writing. I get talked into all kinds of things over the phone.

“We would love to see you the week of July 8th. Tommy will be three weeks old (!),  and an extra set of hands to help me clean the apartment/cook/install central air conditioning/(some other tactful and specific indication of what you would like them to help with) would be so welcome. Do you think you can make it then?”

“My maternity leave is already booking up! We would love to see you but can I get back to you about when that might work? I’m looking forward to catching up over Thanksgiving if not sooner!”

Step 4: Sit back and relax.

See? That wasn’t so bad. And now you’re done. (Except for the follow-up emails to Aunt Myrtle. And the calls  from your mom because she can’t believe you asked her to stay at the Hilton. And the note from your dad about how upset your mother is. Don’t worry: as soon as they see the baby, all will be forgotten.)

 

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting four newborns in the last two weeks – crazy baby boom! – and car seats and their quirks have come up in conversation. Most of the pre-baby focus on car seats is on picking a safe one that you can carry fairly easily and then going through the often very irritating process of getting it installed correctly. Those are the top priorities, but there’s more to know.

Since I make a point of never reading instructions unless I completely, totally, 100% have to (R. loves this about me, I can tell – who wouldn’t enjoy all that swearing and throwing of allen wrenches coming from the other room?), I did pretty much nothing with our Chicco KeyFit except pick it out. You can save yourself some hiccups later by not following in my footsteps and spending a few minutes getting to know yours a little bit better before the baby arrives. Light a couple candles, buy it a drink and have a chat.

The shoulder straps’ are adjustable in two ways. First, and you probably know this already, you can tighten them – and you should: loose straps = not safe baby. Don’t plan on cinching Junior down uncomfortably, but he should be pretty well held in there, with the chest clip right over his chest. Try making the tighten/loosen adjustment a couple of times before your baby is actually in the seat so you know where to push and pull: trust me, figuring out car seat mechanics with a newborn all up in your grill is stressful.

Second – you can also adjust the shoulder straps’ height to fit the height of your baby. It’s not readily obvious on many seats that you can do this, so a lot of first-time parents I know (including myself) don’t realize this right away.

Chances are, your car seat came from the manufacturer with the straps threaded through the back of the seat at the lowest height or the highest. Once your baby is here and in the seat for the first time, have a quick look at where the straps are hitting his shoulders. While Baby is rear-facing for the first year, the straps should be at or a little below his shoulders. (Forward-facing, it’s the opposite: at or above shoulder height. But you won’t have to worry about that for a while.)

If he’s a tall baby and the straps come out way below his shoulder blades, or he’s tiny and they’re way above, you’ll want to move the straps into a different notch on the back of the seat. This is primarily for safety but also comfort. On Britax and Chicco seats, the adjustment is on the outside back of the seat. Check your manual for the instructions for your model.

You can remove the car seat’s extra padding to make more room for little Florette’s shoulders. I had no idea on this one either. Astrid was really tall and after not that many months, I thought we were going to have to bump up to a toddler seat because she was all squashed in her infant seat. Silly me. Those comfy pads surrounding the hips and shoulders of teeny tiny, can’t-sit-up, oh-so-fragile infants are just held in by Velcro and can be safely taken out to make room for a growing baby (or a very healthy giant newborn). This is also good to know if there is some sort of diaper/bottle accident in the car seat: most are also machine washable (on cold, in gentle detergent + air dry).

Usual caveat: I don’t know specifically which car seat you have, so please don’t get out your Xacto knife and have at your cushioning. If it comes out, it’ll come out easily. Check your manual, etc.

And finally, have a look under the hood, especially if you have a Chicco KeyFit: there’s an additional six inches of sunshade folded back under your car seat’s extendible canopy and you’ll want to use it. Carrying Astrid around one day, I looked enviously at a mama with an Orbit car seat that had a full sunshade extension that covered the baby completely so she could sleep out in the sunshine. Orbit calls it a “Paparazzi Shield” which, you know, I definitely need, what with being so famous and all. It’s a burden.

Sarcasm aside, being able to shield Baby from rays and rain is necessary – and useful when she’s napping – so check out what comes with yours: you might have some extra shade hidden under your canopy too. I didn’t discover ours until months after A. was born. That whole not-reading-the-manual thing is clearly working out really well for me.

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