Friday, July 26, 2019

Our Favorite Baby Care Products and Doodads

Over two years ago, when Maria was very pregnant with our son, I strode around our local Target store picking up stuff for our homestead. After I picked up all the things on our list, I walked over to their Baby section. Once I stepped in off of the main aisle, I remember feeling like an invisible boundary had been crossed. It was my first time there—ever. I peered around, mostly with curiosity, but also with some trepidation. I understood the cribs and strollers just fine, but there was an assortment of products that I was completely unfamiliar with. I remember feeling daunted when I strolled down the aisle with shelves stacked high with diapers. I didn’t understand the numbers on the boxes, or the distinction between regular diapers and “nighttime” diapers, or the difference between diapers for “cruisers” or “swaddlers.” (To be honest, that one still befuddles me.) It felt like I had entered some new sub-world.

In the two years (plus some change) Maria and I have been parents, we’ve come across a number of items that have really truly helped us through. Most have simply made our 21st century lives easier, but there are some that I don’t know how we would have done without. Like taking inventory, I thought it could be fun and useful to give a shout out to these wondrous gadgets and products, especially for those embarking upon this wild frontier for the first time.

For Toots & Poops

Maria and I have learned A LOT about our special little guy, including that he has fairly sensitive skin. Early on, he was getting a bunch of diaper rashes even though we were responsive in changing his diaper after poops and thoroughly cleaning him. At first, we were using standard baby wipes, which are typically scented with chemicals, but then Miguelito developed a painful bacterial diaper rash. A doctor recommended we use water to spray him clean, then dry with a cloth, which eventually healed his rash. Then, a pack of WaterWipes came with a compostable diaper service we tried out, and they worked great. They are not cheap, but they’ve been worth it for us.

For similar reasons, the A+D Diaper Rash Cream has been our go-to ointment since we switched to it. We started out using Boudreaux's Butt Paste Diaper Rash Ointment and Desitin Maximum Strength to treat Miguelito’s diaper rashes, but we found that his rashes responded better to A+D cream. (We also started using more generous portions, thanks to a pediatrician’s advice.) Ever since we switched to A+D coupled with WaterWipes, our little guy has never had another terrible diaper rash.

Little Remedies Gas Relief Drops
Unlike adolescents or adults—especially school-aged boys and dude man bros (because I know)—babies can find it challenging to release gas. That’s why burping babies is a thing. If infants aren’t properly burped after feeding, the gas building up inside can cause them pain and discomfort. And if they’re feeling uncomfortable for naps or bedtime, your kiddo probably isn’t going to sleep well, which means everybody is going to sleep like crap. These gas drops haven’t always come to the rescue when Miguelito’s been feeling gassy, but it has helped him many times (and it works fast!)

Dékor Classic Hands-Free Diaper Pail
Sweet baby Jesus, I love this invention! (I could kiss the feet of its creator.) It’s been incredibly easy to use—to snip when the diaper bag is full, or starting to smell yucky, or when the refill needs to be inserted. Maria and I particularly like that they sell refill bags that are biodegradeable.

For All the Cows

EleCare Infant DHA Baby Formula

When he was a wee baby, Miguelito was allergic to a protein found in cow’s milk. This was a huge problem for us and our poor little boy. Soon after he was born, Maria developed a bad infection in one of her breasts. The antibiotics she was prescribed ultimately dried up her milk supply. And so, we had no choice but to get Miguelito completely on baby formula. The problem was that most baby formulas are derived from cow’s milk, which greatly upset his stomach. A fancy soymilk-based formula we purchased didn’t work either because his digestive system—which was brand-spanking new—couldn’t digest it, a common problem, we were told, among infants. Through painful trial and error and two scary trips to the ER after Miguelito had bloody stools, the EleCare infant baby formula was finally recommended to us by a pediatric gastroenterologist.

I don’t know what we would have done without it. I really don’t. EleCare is not easy to find. You’re not going to find it at your standard grocery stores, or Target. We had to stock up on it via Amazon. (Some Walgreens stores stock it—and you can check their inventory online.) EleCare is really fucking expensive: $50 per can. Maria and I are fortunate that we never had a problem affording it, but it has pained us to think about caregivers and families struggling to make ends meet who also have babies with an allergy to cow’s milk protein.

On top of his allergy—which, thankfully, he outgrew—Miguelito also had some bad acid reflux issues as an infant. It was literally a game-changer when we switched to a pediatrician who rightly identified this problem—versus writing it off to colic—and subsequently prescribed Ranitidine. Once we got Miguelito on EleCare formula and gave him a few drops of Ranitidine twice a day, our little boy was no longer constantly pained with indigestion. Overnight, no hyperbole, he was like a new baby.

Munchkin Deluxe Drying Rack
We have shuffled from our house to both of our respective parents’ houses and also taken some weekend trips with our special little guy. Since we’ve been dependent on bottles, this simple foldable drying rack has made it simpler to pack up for our moves.

For Colds

Infants’ Tylenol
It’s probably a no-brainer to list this, but man, infants’ Tylenol has come to the rescue many times. When Miguelito’s teething was at its worst, this was the only thing we could give him to ease his discomfort and pain.

NoseFrida Baby Nasal Aspirator
Miguelito’s first year was particularly bad for sicknesses. He’s had a couple of colds that have stuffed him up. At night, it’s particularly important for sick babies to be able to breathe so they can rest and heal and this simple yet genius aspirator has helped so many times on that front. The bulb suction the hospital provided when he was born was absolutely futile for clearing his stuffed-up nose. (And it got moldy inside in short time because it never fully expunged the water we used to try to clean it.) The NoseFrida is the tool to use. (Maria says, “Bless those Swedes that invented it!”)

Crane Cool Mist Humidifier
Humidifiers, where have you been all my life? This humidifier with an adjustable lid to help direct the mist in a specific direction has helped us all when we’ve been sick and congested and sorely in need of a good night’s sleep.

For Getting Around

Britax 2017 B-Agile Lightweight Stroller
Maria and I went through a number of strollers, especially in Miguel’s first year. We had a nifty one that we could pull out so the seat could face forward or back to us when we would push Miguelito around, but this Britax stroller has easily been our favorite. Even though it is advertised as a “lightweight” stroller, it isn’t the lightest, and definitely not the most compact, but it’s also not the heaviest stroller around. It’s a fairly big, sturdy stroller. Despite its size, we love it because of its easy maneuverability with its swiveling front wheels. Unlike other strollers, it folds up incredibly easily—by pressing a button on its frame and then yanking it up from a strap on the seat. It has a big canopy that helps to keep the bright sunlight out, and its reclining feature is highly adjustable (versus strollers that have limited settings for reclining the seat). This feature has made it easy for our stroller to basically double as a changing station, which has been super helpful on many occasions since it can recline all the way back. The stroller has also been comfortable enough for Miguelito to take long naps in.

The stroller’s handle is set at a good height where I’m not stretching down to grasp it like I have to with smaller strollers. The cup holders—which are sold separately, unfortunately—are a huge plus. It also has one easy-to-use foot brake and its carry case is quite ample—big enough to easily hold, say, a six-pack and a blanket. (I speak from experience.) And lastly, Maria and I like its big wheels, which makes it easy and less bumpy to push over sidewalk cracks, up curb ramps, or over uneven surfaces that strollers with smaller wheels would otherwise get stuck on.

Britax B-Free Stroller Wind and Rain Cover
Well, this accessory goes hand in hand with the Britax stroller we bought, but this wind and rain cover has been well worth every penny we paid, especially after this past rainy winter. Since Maria and I walk together with Miguelito every morning to the train station, and because we typically take him for afternoon strolls to get him to nap, this easy-to-use and effective cover has really come in handy on days when it’s been unusually blustery. It kept our son totally dry even during heavy rain showers.

Baby carrier
Baby carriers were especially useful for us in Miguelito’s first year—or basically up until he began to walk (which is subsequently when he no longer wanted to be strapped into a carrier). I was particularly appreciative of them because the Infantino and BabyBjörn carriers we had were fairly easy to strap on and use. A rebozo or baby wrap would have been more sexy in an earthy way to use, but my dumb ass has a brain that clunks up whenever I try to make anything resembling a sophisticated knot, so carriers with buckles and straps was what I needed to carry mi hijito around without dropping him. (We did have a baby wrap, but it was difficult to use.)

Catlin Go Go Waterproof Diaper Bag Backpack
When you have an infant or toddler, the one thing you’re always going to lug around is a diaper bag. Maria and I went through two diaper bag backpacks (lesson learned: spilled milk is going to smell sour on some fabrics, no matter how many times you clean them), but this one has been our favorite. Personally, I like the two side pockets where we typically keep a milk bottle and a sippy cup on the ready; they’re easy to reach, even when we’re wearing the backpack. The two front pockets are a good size and secure enough to hold a number of knickknacks, like more bottles, Tupperware, snack bags, or our homeboy’s favorite toy vehicles, or a pack of flash cards.

Inside, the backpack has an assortment of thermal and insulated zip-up pockets for similar purposes. Maria particularly likes its design for opening; the bag opens wide, which makes it easier to comb through to find the goodies and doodads packed within compared to other diaper bag backpacks. But the one thing Maria liked about this backpack is that it’s machine washable; most diaper bag backpacks can only be spot-cleaned. Its inner material seems to be better, too, since it hasn’t eroded like other diaper bag backpacks we’ve owned.

Damero Diaper Bag Organizer
This simple six-pocket organizer has made it a lot easier to compartmentalize all the things we’ve packed in our diaper bag backpack. Maria likes that you can pull it out and take it to the bathroom for diaper changes instead of lugging the entire diaper bag. Our only regret was not purchasing this bag organizer sooner.

Graco 4ever All-in-One Convertible Car Seat
This car seat has been a godsend. When he was an infant, Miguelito used to hate to go on car rides in the first baby car seat we owned—which we replaced after we were in a crash—especially if they were anything longer than, say, ten minutes. But once we switched to this car seat, Miguelito didn’t cry and wail on our car rides. It was a “game-changer,” according to Maria. Overnight, car rides were not ordeals for our baby (and us). We could take him places without being filled with this ominous sense of dread as though we were carrying a ticking time bomb in our backseat.

To boot, it’s been really nice to have a convertible car seat that we can easily change to keep up with the ever-changing iterations of our growing son. (The rumors are true: kids really do change quickly!)

Chicco Caddy Hook-On Chair

Although most restaurants carry high chairs, a few don’t. Maria and I have kept this hook-on chair tucked in our trunk for such instances, and it’s come in handy, especially when visiting family or friends who don’t own a high chair or booster seat. We love how light, compact, and easy it is to use—and it seems to be comfortable for Miguelito because he’s never complained about sitting in it (and he takes his sweet-ass time eating).

For Snoozing

Pregnancy wedges
During his first 4-5 months, Miguelito basically only napped if we held him against our chests. Though we didn’t know it at the time, Maria now thinks he had difficulty napping on his own due to the acid reflux he used to have. I remember it was a big deal when Maria’s mom taught us how to use her pregnancy wedges and a few strategically-placed rolled-up towels to tuck around Miguelito while he was asleep in his bassinet to make it seem as though we were holding him. I’m not sure if there are many other parents facing our exact specific issue, but those pregnancy wedges were helpful for us in getting our son to nap on his own.

Sound machine
There are a number of generic sound machines that play a range of sounds, but we’ve used a Skip Hop Moonlight & Melodies Nightlight Soother Owl. Although Miguelito is a heavy sleeper, this sound machine has definitely helped him nap and sleep longer. Until recently, we hardly used its light features, but they’re useful to have for amusement purposes (specifically the stars it projects to the ceiling) or for practical nighttime lighting purposes.

For Cleaning

Zote Laundry Soap Bar
To have a child is to welcome more messes in your life. It’s like scientific law. From poops to puke to spilled substances, parents will inevitably encounter more stains and messes to clean up. If Maria and I had an altar paying homage to cleaning products, a bar of Zote soap would likely sit at the very top.

We’ve used it to scrub out an assortment of stains with just some water and an old toothbrush that other specialty cleaning products couldn’t handle (even bleach, which is impressive). So hit up your local Mexican or Latino market and pick up a bar! (My informant tells me some dollar stores in the Bay Area carry them.) They last a long time and will probably be the best thing you can purchase under three bucks.

For Protecting Your Clumsy (and/or Reckless) Child

Pool noodles
Our guest room/office is furnished with a long desk that is about two and a half feet high with a corner that juts out and is at a perfect height for our son to knock his forehead into, once he could walk. This world is full of an infinite number of people who are parents, and thankfully Maria came across one who recommended using cut-up pieces of foam pool noodles to safeguard such potential hazards around the home—and it’s worked! Miguelito has knocked into that desk corner a few times while he’s careened around the house, and those pool noodles spared him from getting hurt.

Come spring or summertime, you can easily pick up pool noodles at your local dollar store, CVS, Rite Aid, or Walgreens. They also seamlessly fit around rails (like stair rails, or the ones in your baby’s crib). Spare pieces can also easily be repurposed for fun and games, such as bonking à la human whack-a-mole (!!)

These Shoes Were Made For Walkin’

Stride Rite baby shoes
I wish I could buy stock in Stride Rite shoes. Maria, Miguelito, and I absolutely love them. When our special little guy first started walking, he—of course—had his share of trips and stumbles as he worked the kinks out of this newfound bipedalism. Unfortunately, this new stage in our lives came at the tail-end of spring when it was hot and undoubtedly shorts weather for our son. And so, he tripped and nicked his knees a lot. I figured this was standard for any new kid learning to walk, but bless her, Maria looked into seeing if there was better footwear for our curious, energetic, and fearless infant. She came across Stride Rite shoes. She ordered a pair, and once Miguelito transitioned to his new shoes, he instantly—I shit you not—had far less trips and spills. We think the key difference is that his Stride Rites were designed with shorter and more flexible soles to better fit his feet so his strides feel more natural. Whatever the design science is, it’s been undeniable that our boy has walked and run better with these shoes. Miguelito prefers them so much that he basically refuses to wear other shoes, no matter how cute and snazzy they are. (I’m talking about you, mini Adidas shoes!) 


Music player
There’s a variety of music players out there for infants and toddlers, but we’re grateful for our Baby Einstein Take Along player. When Miguelito was a newborn, his music player was oftentimes the only thing we could play or use to calm him down when he would wail and cry. It was far from full proof, but it was effective enough that we made sure to always pack it in our diaper bag backpack. To boot, it plays twinkly-lovely classical tunes that aren’t obnoxious or grating to our adult ears.

LeapFrog 2-in-1 LeapTop Touch

So this toy laptop is definitely not for every family or kiddo, but we happened to find that Miguelito really liked to play with it, especially during his feedings—and it made feeding him significantly easier. Since he’s a slothly eater, and easily distracted at times, this toy laptop with music, games, and learning settings entertained Miguelito so he’d be willing to sit long enough to finish his food. By now, he’s pretty much outgrown his interest in this gadget, but—with our picky little eater—it really helped us during his feedings. It also helped to engage and distract him during some meltdowns in public, and it undoubtedly helped him to learn the entire alphabet (and he’s still fixated on letters, and now numbers), so I’d say we’re pretty happy we had it at our disposal.

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