Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Must Haves for Our Baby

I know, I know. Everyone has different tastes and preferences. Different children have different personalities and therefore different needs. However, with this second child almost here, it is amazing how much less STUFF seems essential. In fact, I had to laugh when we were registering for baby gifts at Babies R Us at the list of items the store recommended as "essential." We've gotten along just fine without them for the first one. I'm now going to review what I think are essential...and least for our household.

  1. Nursing Pillow--Yes, we fell victim and were convinced to buy a Boppy when Patrick was born. You know what? It was a life-saver! For the short time that he actually nursed (just one week due to problems he had latching on), it was great. However, from there on out when he was drinking from a bottle, the pillow was still the way to go. I used it, my husband used it, the nanny used it. It was great. Later it also served to help him sit up a little and for supervised tummy time. In fact, we plan on reusing it for our little girly on the way.
  2. Breast Pump--I used a Medela hospital grade pump the first time because I committed myself to full-time pumping. I wanted him to have the benefits of breastmilk, but due to his latching issues, I would have to dedicate time to pumping a lot. This meant that I needed a quick, effective pump that would quickly express all I needed in 10-15 minutes. It worked like a charm and once I returned to work, I was able to pump just twice a day for no more than 15 minutes and supply the child with 2-3 meals easily. This is a must for working moms who desire to supply breastmilk to their newborns or moms for children who can't/won't nurse properly.
  3. Milk Storage Bags--Related to Item #3 are these bags. We used the Gerber ones, as they worked fine for us. I stored them with the oldest bags/milk in the front of the freezer and was able to use them when baby hit a growth spurt and I needed to train my body to "catch up" with his new appetite or for the occasional middle-of-the-night-exhaustion-induced spillage of milk while preparing.
  4. Bottles--Everyone has their preferences, but we used the Playtex VentAire system. So many recommend higher end bottles, but these worked beautifully for us. They were easy to clean, did not require liners (which although inexpensive, add up price-wise over time), easy to find nipples for and we were quite successful with them. They do require that you put them together properly to avoid leaking, but due to their construction, they are SO easy to clean. Regardless of what kind you choose, make sure you find one that has a nipple that is agreeable with your child.
  5. Stationary Exercise Table (aka Exersaucer)--I know, I know. So many people say that these are non-essential. And truly...essential is not really the word I would use for this, but so very valuable a purpose ours served when our son was small. We used it to contain and entertain him while we ate dinner (as he ate earlier than we did and had playtime during our dinner sitting next to us in his saucer) or while we prepared meals.
  6. Boudreaux's Butt Paste: What?! You heard me. I don't know if this is a product that can be found nationally, but if it is, GO GET SOME for your little one's diaper rash needs. I hesitated buying anything called "butt paste" for our child, but after reading that it worked miracles, I bought a small tube to try. Wow...was I amazed! This stuff worked when "competing" products couldn't make any impact. It was a little more expensive, but so worth it since I didn't have to use nearly as much to solve rash problems!
  7. Gas Drops: So we had a gassy baby and these provided much needed rest for us. I would recommend having some on hand!


  1. Hooded Towels/Tiny Washcloths: Yes, they are cute and we have some from the first baby and have received some cute ones for this second one. But seriously...a regular sized towel and wash cloth are just fine.
  2. High Chair: What?! How can this be? We truly did not spend $200 on a high chair for our child. Nope. Just a booster seat. It had a tray that could be used like a high chair or it could slide right up to the table when the child gets older. To prevent a messy chair underneath, I kept an old bath towel under the seat that could easily be removed and either shaken off or washed as needed. It worked beautifully for us and only cost around $20-$30. Hooray!
  3. Shopping Cart Covers: Maybe you have a child more prone to accidents than our first was. Or maybe your grocery store does not have wet wipes on the wall next to the cart storage area. Or maybe I'm more for "building their immunity" than you are. However, we were given one of these with our son and never...not once...used it. Maybe I'm reckless, but riding in the cart never killed me, so I didn't assume my son would get any dreadful disease from it. And he didn't. Therefore, I am not too concerned about having one for my daughter either.
  4. Wipe Warmer: This is a non-essential that we had and used frequently. But only because my mom was convinced that those nasty cold wipes were upsetting him (he got over it when we used the ones from the diaper bag, but hey...who am I to argue with Nana?). It was probably nicer than a cold wipe...especially in the winter when he was tiny, but completely unnecessary in the grand scheme of things.
  5. Bath Robe: They are terribly adorable. Our son wore his after his first bath. And then never again. It wasn't practical because we still needed to get him dressed. It made for some cute pictures. The same robe will probably be reused for the same purpose with this child. And then never again.
  6. Pacifiers: This is just for us with our firstborn, as we know different child have different needs and the girl we have on the way may be a pacifier-baby. They seemed great for our son when he was tiny (which some people don't recommend them before they are 3 months or so anyway), once he was about 6-8 weeks old and found his thumb, we never needed another one. Now we just have to get our 3-year old to stop sucking his thumb!
  7. Diaper Stacker: We had/have one with each of the nursery bedding sets we've had because it came with the set. And we used the one we had with our son (the baby on the way, we've yet to see if it gets used), but seriously...they work just as well out of a drawer or the box/package they come in. It's not as cute that way, but the cuteness of the diaper stacker is lost quickly in my opinion.

So that's my list. It's not a recommendation for you's just what we found to be true for us with our first child.

What about you? What items have been your life-savers or a complete waste of your money?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Perks for Working Moms

So a topic that is at the forefront of my mind currently (due to an upcoming arrival in a few weeks) is moms who work outside of the home. My title indicates that all moms are not working moms, and that just simply isn't true. However, for the sake of brevity in my title, I chose one to represent what many people call moms who hold jobs/careers aside from the mom duties they perform.

There are obviously some employers who make being a parent easier than others. Some are very flexible and accommodating while others seem to be completely heartless when it comes to matters of the family. I have been fortunate to work for two companies during my two pregnancies that are quite understanding and offer aid to new moms as well as bosses who were quite lenient when it came to working with parenting issues that arise.

Below are some perks offered by different employers to make being a mom at the office a bit more bearable.

Flexible Work Schedules: This is one of the more common among mommy-friendly companies. Many companies offer options for returning to the tasks of one's job such as flexible or compressed work schedules, job-sharing, and telecommuting options.

Paid Leave: This is another one that many companies offer, but is not a given for all moms-to-be. The states of California and NJ offer 6 weeks of paid time off for new moms, and Washington DC allows new moms to be paid via filing disability through the city, but otherwise, this one is determined by the employer in question. While FMLA guidelines allow for 12 weeks to be taken off for the birth or adoption of a child without retribution for the time missed, it does not assure that the time will be paid by the employer...that is simply the employer's call. Some offer full pay while on maternity leave, some offer partial pay while on leave. Some offer a discounted pay rate (like 2/3 your regular pay rate) while still withdrawing the monies used for benefits, such as insurance, which must be kept throughout this time.

Childcare Options: Some employers offer on-site childcare for employees, which is a wonderful option that you know will work with your personal work schedule as well as help you avoid driving out of the way to get to a daycare for your children. In addition to on-site care, some offer back-up childcare in case yours falls through and school's out childcare for school-aged children who often get holidays and breaks not observed by the employers, not to mention summer vacations. And still other employers offer discounts or reimbursements for childcare to offset some of the cost of having to have someone else watch your children while you are at work. These can all be invaluable services for working moms.

Adoption and Fertility Assistance: Some companies even provide perks that assist those who want to be parents but cannot to so naturally by providing adoption assistance (in the form of both time and money) as well as fertility assistance (in the form of both time and money).

Gifts for Newborns: Some employers will give gifts to the families of newborns that can range anywhere from keepsakes (like a silver spoon or cup) to money to baby supplies like wipes, clothes, diapers, etc.

Breastfeeding Support: Employers are most always willing to accommodate nursing moms within reasonable limits. However, some employers definitions of what is reasonable is different than my own. For instance, please don't insist that I must express breastmilk within the "comfort" and "privacy" of a restroom. That's just not sanitary in my opinion unless it is a never-used restroom that is maintained on a regular basis. I would still balk at this though. Some places of employment do offer private rooms, many even complete with refrigerators, for use for pumping breastmilk. A few even offer lactation support for their working moms.

On Site Services: There are also employers who make it easier for the working parent to take care of errands while at work so as not to subtract from family time or require time off of work. Some offer dry cleaning, credit unions, convenience stores, movie rentals, salon services, take-out food, and other amenities that allow for less time to be rushed upon leaving work to go home.

Special Perks: There are a few businesses that go above and beyond when catering to their working parents. For instance, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta offers up to $10,000 to assist in the payment of infertility treatments. American Express allows employees to buy vacation days above what they have earned using pre-tax dollars. And Microsoft provides on-site mammography tests for all female employees.

Working Mother Magazine created a 2008 list for the 100 Best Companies to work for as a working mom. You can view the complete list in alphabetical order along with details here.

What about you? What is the best perk or worst treatment you've received as a working-away-from-home mom?

Photo credit: Wondermonkey2k & beckycheek