Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My favorite baby-related books for grown-ups

About pregnancy (mostly):
Body, Soul, and Baby: A Doctor's Guide to the Complete Pregnancy Experience, from Preconception to Postpartum by Tracy Gaudet, MD, and Paula Spencer

What I liked: I wish I had this book before becoming pregnant, but I'm glad I discovered it at all! I really like its positive approach to pregnancy (I'm giving you a shuddering glance, What to Expect When You're Expecting. Thank goodness you didn't even make it home from the library!). This book gives medical info, but gives equal space to your spirit and how your body feels. It offers exercises for your soul. Reading that makes it sound dippy, but I loved it and I don't think I would have "talked" with my baby nearly as often without it--and since that was probably my favorite part of being pregnant, I owe this book a lot!

What I didn't like: The way the exercises are explained could be improved. They're explained once, and then are referred to; I'd like it better if there was an appendix with all the exercises, so at least I could look in one spot, instead of leafing through trying to find the first mention of an exercise. (Or maybe there was an easier way, but my pregnancy brain didn't find it!)

Perfect Hormone Balance for Pregnancy by Robert Greene, MD, and Laurie Tarkan

What I liked: This book emphasizes feeling great while pregnant because of your powerful, wonderous hormones. And since pregnancy (and life) is all about your hormones being in balance, it's pretty important. It was good to refer to, and more fun than a book on hormones might sound.

What I didn't like: I still gained too much weight while pregnant, even though I thought I was following the program pretty well! As a lacto-ovo vegetarian, it was easy to follow for me--or maybe I still messed it up. But I felt great while pregnant most of the time, so something was working.

A Child Is Born by Lennart Nisson

What I didn't like: This is exactly the kind of book I never would have looked at before becoming pregnant. For one thing, the title is a little deceptive: I thought it was going to be all graphic photos of actually giving birth.

What I liked: But to my relief, it's almost all photos of babies developing in the womb. Now, I still wouldn't have been interested pre-pregnancy, but when it was actually happening to me I was fascinated by it!

I loved the BabyCenter weekly update e-mails, of course--Brad and my friends at work would all try to guess what bit of produce would be the comparison for the baby's size that week--but when I didn't want to imagine the baby as a turnip or a honeydew, I would look at this book.

In preparation for baby (mostly):
The Baby Name Wizard: A Magical Method for Finding the Perfect Name for Your Baby by Laura Wattenberg (also the accompanying websites, all based on the info from the book: Nymbler, Your Personal Name Assistant, Baby Name Voyager, and the Nymbler blog.

What I liked: As a writer, I'm always intrigued by names: how authors choose their names and why. I had a hard enough time picking my characters' names for Disneylanders--how would Brad and I ever decide on TWO baby names (since we weren't finding out the baby's sex, we needed at least two great names!).

These sites were the ones that helped me the most--and were the most fun! Unlike every other baby name book I've seen, The Baby Name Wizard and Nymbler give you name suggestions based on the "feeling" or "style" of names you already like. I don't know how it works, but I think most of the time, it does! This is fun for parents and writers, too.

What I didn't like: It's a huge time-suck. I would get drawn into the books/websites and not emerge again for two hours. Also, sometimes the suggestions weren't right on, or I disagreed with them. And, the funniest thing: the name we chose didn't come from the book! Although I think I was reading the book when I came across our grandfathers' names, and thought, hmm.... So maybe the book still gets some credit.

Raising Baby Green: The Earth-Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Care by Alan Greene, MD, Jeanette Pavani, and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo

What I liked: I referred to this book all the time when we were deciding what to buy. Plus, it supported me in what I already felt was right (sort of the theme with all of these books!).

What I didn't like: There are some scary factoids about non-eco-friendly materials. It makes life more complicated because Babies "R" Us doesn't always carry the most eco-friendly items (although they're improving). But I think doing the homework and shopping around is well worth it. (And my baby now has nicer cradle and crib mattresses than I do!)

About baby (mostly):
The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, MD

What I liked: I think the ultimate "gift of sleep" baby shower bundle (other than a live-in nanny) would be the Happiest Baby on the Block, the Miracle Blanket, and a white-noise machine. This book is essential for understanding how to calm a newborn baby (under three months old). In short: recreate the womb environment. For how to do that: read the book. (Also, this swaddling technique was the best we found for normal (i.e., non Miracle) blankets.

What I didn't like: The author often repeats the same advice. It's very repetitive. The book has much of the same information throughout. (Haha.) But, this could be a benefit for the seriously sleep-deprived!

The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two by a whole bunch of Sears family doctors/nurses

What I like: At one of newborn Henry's first visits, our doctor asked me what I thought my parenting style was. (Um, sleepy?) I told her I thought I'd be more hippy-dippy about things than scheduled, which I think is still true. She recommended this book to me, and it was a great fit, for the most part. It's all about attachment parenting, so it's very pro- breastfeeding, cosleeping, baby wearing, and baby-led routines; it's not for people looking for a cry-it-out, "sleep training" approach.

What I don't like: When breastfeeding didn't work out for me, I found little to ease my guilt about stopping in this book. A huge amount of Sears advice involves breastfeeding. Although I must say, they do throw in the occasional paragraph about making the best decisions for you and your family, etc., one paragraph after a whole chapter's worth of breastfeeding's benefits doesn't really help. I now just try to gloss over any mentions of breastfeeding and appreciate the rest of the advice.

The Vaccine Book by another Sears family doctor

What I like: It's got all the medical information you need, presented in what I think is an objective manner, and is even kind of funny! Plus, it's super short compared to the massive Baby Book, so it's not that intimidating. The alternative vaccination schedule in the back makes it worth the price alone.

What I don't like: Again, there's the breastfeeding talk, but I understand why it's relevant.

Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent by Meredith Small, anthropologist

What I like: I'm still reading this one, but it's fascinating. It's about ethnopediatrics--how different cultures raise their babies, and how that might differ from what's actually best for babies.

I think it's a great coincidence that, while I am reading this book, Baby Henry has taken to using his soft "baseball bat" toy--he loves to swing it around, and sometimes even hit the little squishy ball! Brad said he looks like a "cave baby" with a club. This book reminds me that that's exactly what he is.

It reminds me of the line in Jurassic Park, where Dr. Sattler says that the newly recreated dinosaurs have no idea what century they're living in. It's the same for newborns. Good to keep in mind.

What I don't like: I think you'll sense a pattern that I have residual formula-feeding qualms. This book's "eating" chapter doesn't make it better. The author flat-out says that one of my main problems with breastfeeding does not exist. I need to finish reading the whole thing, though.

On the list with a big asterisk
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth, MD

What I don't like: Honestly, I don't feel comfortable with most of what the author suggests. I think it could be very valuable if you're into sleep training, though. But this book is on the list because...

What I like: I learned a HUGELY important nugget of wisdom from this book that I haven't seen in any other baby books (and I've currently got more than 25 of them): Young babies generally get sleepy after they've been awake for two hours. Try to put them down for a nap in sync with their natural rhythms, and life will be much more pleasant for everyone. Talk about a revelation! Yes, indeed.

Those are my tops, but I'm sure I'll think of 10 more to add to the list as soon as I hit "publish." If I do, I'll make a new post.

And, if you're interested in my favorite baby books for babies, check out my new blog: Pat the Blog!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

My favorite baby things

In the spirit of Oprah, I thought I would put together a list of some of my favorite things that I loved while I was pregnant, and that I've loved since having Baby Henry. (Although unlike Oprah, I will not be giving any of these away to my audience!)

My favorite things during pregnancy:

Bra extender
OK, this isn't a very glamorous start to the list, but it's got to be, penny for penny, the best investment I made in clothing while pregnant! I got an extender for less than a dollar at Macy's (is it even possible to get anything else for less than a dollar at a department store?) and I used it constantly while pregnant and even after, while I was rapidly fluctuating between sizes. Lingerie department employees always seem to hate bra extenders, saying they mean your bra isn't really the right size--but really, when your size is changing every other day during pregnancy and after delivery, do you really want to invest in a new bra each week?

Bella band
This stretchy strip let me wear my pre-baby jeans a little bit longer. It's a great idea--and much like the bra extender, means you get a little extra use out of your pre-pregnancy clothing.

Ann Taylor Loft Maternity
Other than the bra-strap extender, my black maternity dress pants from Ann Taylor Loft were the best thing I bought. They were more expensive, yes--about $78, if I remember right--but I swear I wore them at least three times a week all during my pregnancy, and for way too long after! (I tried to find a link to the site, but it's down right now--poop.)

No- and Low-VOC paints
There are many brands to choose from now--it's important for a pregnant mom and baby, and really, for everyone pregnant or not. Offgassing stinks. (Haha.)

Z Recommends
Essential for checking out bottles, toys, pacifiers, anything you might register for, for BPA, phthalates, lead, and other toxicity issues.

Skin Deep: Cosmetics Database
I used Skin Deep before pregnancy, because I wanted to see what was in the products I was using, if the companies tested on animals, and what the safest products were. When I was pregnant, I researched for new shampoos, deodorants, makeup, skin care, and, of course, baby products with new zeal. I still refer to it all the time before buying a new product for Henry (or me).

My favorite things for baby:

Miracle Blanket swaddling wrap
This has been--and still is--indispensable for us. Henry busted out of every other swaddling blanket we tried--the "SwaddleMe," with its Velco, lasted all of about two minutes, even when he was a tiny newborn. We swaddled him with just receiving blankets ourselves (following The Happiest Baby on the Block's swaddling instructions) for his first month. Then I discovered the Rookie Moms' awesome registry tips, and they recommended the Miracle Blanket--and that's exactly what it is. Henry still loves to be swaddled in it at seven months old.

Angelcare motion monitor
My fellow Beetle Mom recommended this monitor to me while I was pregnant, but I thought I wouldn't need it. "Hey, it can't be good feng shui to have a movement pad underneath my baby, right?" Haha. You know what's not good for energy flow? Not being able to sleep because you're so anxious about your baby breathing. Thank goodness for this amazing bit of technology.

The sensor pad goes underneath the cradle/crib mattress, and is so sensitive, it detects the baby's movement (i.e., breathing). On our "deluxe" version, you can adjust the remote unit's settings so it only sounds if your baby makes noise at a certain level (so you don't have to hear static all the time). And I love the temperature reading (and setting so the alarm will sound if the temp drops or rises more than your settings).

We actually had Henry in our bed for the first several weeks, in the also excellent (and recommended by Beetle Mom) Snuggle Nest. I love the Snuggle Nest, too. When Henry started wiggling out of it, though, and we moved him to the cradle next to our bed, this monitor saved what was left of my sanity.

The first night using this monitor, I slept deeply enough that I had my first post-baby dreams. That's worth the price right there.

Snuggle Nest
I applaud cosleeping if it works for everyone involved--and by "works," I mean "everyone gets some rest." But when Henry was brand-new, I was too anxious to sleep next to him "loose." The Snuggle Nest saved me--he could be close to his parents, but I could rest easy knowing he was tucked in his own little "nest." (Thanks, Brooke!)

Spa Baby tub
I remember seeing this years ago online, and laughing at how funny it was. The babies were in buckets! But when the high-tech tub we registered for didn't fit in our kitchen sink, I traded technology for what is essentially a bucket...and my baby and I loved it! (Henry's even on the Spa Baby photo gallery page:
In the Spa Baby bucket! I mean, tub.

Motherlove nipple cream
Again, it doesn't sound glamorous, but this is the best! For one thing, it checks out on the Cosmetics Database. For another, my lactation consultant (yes, Rebecca, it's a real job!), loved that I had this. And even after I gave up breastfeeding, I still use the cream on any skin rash Henry gets, and it works fabulously. I got mine at Whole Foods.

California Baby skin and bath products
Again, great rating on the Cosmetics Database for most products--the Super Sensitive bath wash and lotion are great for brand-new skin. And no fragrance! (I know, the Burt's Bee's Baby Bee stuff smells sooo good--and I do use it sometimes because of that--but California Baby works better for Henry's skin.) And...even my local Target sells California Baby! Let's hear it for Target!

Ergo Carrier
The Baby Bjorn was good, until Henry doubled his birth weight. Then my back protested. And then I got the Ergo Carrier (from, because they offer a free trial period--very important!). I can't carry him for hours, but it certainly makes shopping a lot easier on me and my back! (The only drawback: Henry can't face outward, which he enjoyed in the Baby Bjorn. But he seems to like snuggling up to me and peeking, anyway.)

I love Baby Legs! They're adorable, they're fun to coordinate with outfits, and they're practical: changing a diaper on a wriggly baby is much easier without the extra step of getting pants on and off. Plus, I'm planning on wearing the very soft, extra long organic Baby Legs on my arms after Henry's done with them! (One problem with those fuzzy organic Legs, though: they seem to shed fuzz everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE on a baby!) I get mine at, a shop that only carries mom-created products.
Flame Baby Legs + Elvis jumpsuit

Seventh Generation wipes
I love Seventh Generation stuff in general, but even if you're not especially into them, these wipes are great because they're not too wet. Some we tried are just soaking wet and don't feel good to me.

Speesees bibs
So, I like a lot of cute baby clothes and bibs (those are posts in and of themselves!). But I had to mention Speesees because they're so soft, they're so big, they're stylish (important, since Henry wears a bib constantly because of major teething drooling), and they work. Oh, and they have snaps at the back instead of Velcro, which scratches his poor little neck.

Combi play yard
Combi makes great-looking, sleek stuff, and I would love to recommend so many products, but some of them have had sound problems. Until I get them resolved, I'm just going to recommend the (silent) play yard. It's cool, but also totally portable, even coming with a tidy little bag that it really folds up in nicely. I don't mind walking through a hotel lobby carrying this thing.

Baby's favorite things:
Henry likes a lot of the above. (And for some reason, always wants to eat the California Baby creams.) He also likes many things that cost nothing, such as chewing on his own fingers and ours! But here are a few more things:

Fisher-Price Rainforest Jumperoo
I don't like for him to jump too long in this every day, because (like the Baby Bjorn, too), I'm a little worried about what the suspended seat might be doing to his boy parts. But man, he LOVES to jump in this toy! It's been his favorite thing to do for months. He also loves to chew on the weirdly floppy dragonfly toy, spin the gecko toy, and look at the flashing lights.
Enjoying the Jumperoo

Honestly, I was a little skeptical about this at first. In Elisha Cooper's charming, hilarious, and touching book, Crawling: A Father's First Year, he refers to some baby toys as being like Las Vegas and Atlantic City--all gaudy flashy things that don't go with his place's minimalist decor. But, like his kid, my baby LOVES this thing, and so I love it too and even like seeing it in my living room now. It's at the point where, on a recent visit to Target, I saw the "new" model of the Rainforest Jumperoo and exclaimed, "Ooh, the new one's out!" and rushed over to examine it. (Mostly the same as ours, but curvier and sleeker-looking.)

Peg Perego Primo Viaggio black-and-white dot carseat
Speaking of good-looking items, I like it, strangers like it, our doctor likes it, and, most importantly, Henry likes it! He still loves looking at and touching the white dots.

Good luck, expectant moms! And happy shopping. :)