Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Newborn Baby Essentials

What exactly does a baby need anyway? Once they come out, you know they need food and diapers, maybe some clothes, a stroller. That's it, right? Wrong! As most parents will tell you, it takes an enormous amount of stuff to entertain, care for, and keep a baby healthy. Some of these items are necessities in case the baby gets sick, or they might be toys to stimulate their playtime imagination. Or, it could just be something that will make your life easier or better.

There's only two categories for baby stuff: essentials and non-essentials. What stuff belongs in that "essentials" column? Read my own checklist based on my parenting experience on the following post:

Top Ten Newborn Baby Essentials

Intro photo of baby nursery by Ruth L on flickr.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Best Organic Baby Food

Baby food comes in all flavors, tastes, and in different types of containers today. But which ones are the healthiest for your baby? Organic is the best way to go if you'd like to avoid pesticides, chemicals, and other potentially dangerous food additives in your baby's food.

Some of these ingredients (chemicals) aren't added directly to plants, however, they may be sprayed with them to prevent bugs and other pests from destroying the crops. It sounds like a good idea in theory, but it destroys the soil, the plant, and causes damage beyond the farm. It can run into the waterways, affecting other plants and animals as well. The presence of DEET has also decimated populations of birds, turtles, and other egg laying creatures (be sure to use a DEET free bug spray to avoid your own personal exposure to this chemical as well).

With your baby's food, it's worth it to spend the extra few cents per jar to avoid their exposure to chemicals. While you can't shelter them from everything in life, you can at least circumvent their exposure to things that could be harmful in their formative years.

Now, which brands are best for babies? There are a number of brands today that specialize in organic baby food. The best ones are very popular, including Earth's Best and Plum Organics. These have even started to outsell some of the ever popular Gerber.

See which brands I've recommended on my review page below:

Best Organic Baby Food List

Baby Activity Gyms

Baby activity gyms are those things you see parents of newborns toting around with them everywhere that looks like a strange mess of baby contraptions to non-parents. If you're a parent, you'll totally understand why baby gyms and playmats were invented, and why they work with your little one.

From the moment they get home, babies are learning, their brains are growing, and everything is new. At the same time, parents need a break from holding the baby 24/7, but the baby still wants stimulation. They also need to learn to roll over, kick, reach, focus their eyes, and laugh. They'll learn this all in due time, but an activity gym can help with the process.

Baby gyms:

  • Give parents arm's a rest. Arms aching from holding the baby non-stop? Put them down on an activity mat. This will give baby something to do that they'll really look forward to.
  • Play with baby on the mat. Show them the toys. Point to different things on the activity gym. Make the music player work. Show them how it's done! (It's not just a sit down and forget about it type of thing, really).
  • Are transportable. They travel easily, and fold up nicely for car transport. Easy peasy. 
  • Are machine washable. Throw the mat in the washing machine if it gets soiled. 
  • Exposes babies to music. Many activity gyms feature baby friendly music, like nursery rhymes or classical music.
You'll be surprised at how many of these are out there today, and how big of a lifesaver they really are once you start to use them. From the ages of birth to about 8 months (or sooner if they learn to walk/crawl young), baby will love being on this mat. A wise investment for any parent! I've reviewed my top picks here:

Baby Toothbrushes That Work

Brushing baby's teeth can be a real pain. Most babies are not cooperative about this, and why would they be? If you look at it from their angle, it looks like you are trying to attack their mouth with some sort of weapon! Persistence is key, but also having the right baby toothbrushes on hand can also help ease you through the process.

Here are a few tips in order to get baby's teeth clean:

1. Don't give up. They will resist, but if you brush again and again after meals, they will grow accustomed to the ritual. Over time, they won't be so stubborn, and might just realize that you aren't trying to hurt them, but trying to care for them.

2. Have them watch you brush your teeth. Nothing works like leading by example!

3. Use the same toothbrush as they have. There are electric toothbrushes for kids and toddlers on the market that look very similar to the ones mommy and daddy use.

When looking for the ideal toothbrush for babies, you'll want to find something that:

  • is completey chemical free (BPA free, phthalate free)
  • has good reviews from people who have purchased it before 
  • is inexpensive (you need to change these often!)
Now that you have some ideas, head on over to the best baby toothbrushes page for my personal reviews of the top five available today. 

Giant Stuffed Animals

Everyone child loves stuffed animals. From giant pandas to oversized giraffes, big is the way to go with plush animals. Which ones are the coolest and make the best gifts for your little one? Well, you're going to want to stick with something they like, of course! That means if you're buying for a toddler or preschooler that you know what his favorite animal is, then stick with that creature. You can always ask the parents if you aren't sure what that might be.

Here are five tried and true themes to stick to if you're looking for some cool ideas:

Boys love dinosaurs! Whether it's T-Rex, Brontosaurus, or Triceratops, pretty much all boys love dinos. They make a roariffic gift, and there's plenty to choose from online.

Something about the penguin is just adorable to girls and boys alike. Maybe it's that they can't fly, live far away, or maybe that they can swim. They're perhaps the most unique bird on the planet, and they look cool to boot! Check out the selection of giant penguin plush animals available online.

Zoo Animals
Rhinoceros, giraffes, zebras, polar bears, and lions all make incredibly cool gifts. You really can't go wrong with any of these choices. Just think of the child's personality, and get the animal to suit them! For girls into fashion, zebras. For courageous toddler boys, a lion. Curious minds would love an elephant, and just about everyone will love the giraffe.

Check out this page for even more ideas on the best big stuffed animals available anywhere online!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Best Musical Baby Toys

Music has been proven to stimulate the brains of babies and adults alike. The classic works of music by Mozart, Beethoven, and even nursery rhymes can help give your baby a toy they become excited by and even soothed by when they need a little comfort. As they hear the music, they'll become excited more and more as they become familiar with the rhythm and sounds of each tune.

Musical baby toys can be a great way to share your love for music and introduce them to a whole new world around them using their ears. There are toys with nursery rhymes by Fisher Price, classical music toys by Baby Einstein, and many other musical baby toys on the market today. All will help baby in many ways!

One of my baby's favorite toys is the Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes player. It looks sort of like an MP3 player, and has flashing lights when the button is pressed. There are eight or nine different classical songs featured. For the first year, this was her absolute favorite musical toy. There's no wonder it's at the top of the best sellers list on Amazon for baby! It's also under ten bucks, which is a deal considering how much use you'll get out of this. Another plus: it's practically indestructible. I can't tell you how many times my daughter threw this off of her high chair onto the tile floor, and not a scratch. Kudos, Baby Einstein.

Her next favorite toy was the Fisher Price Soothe and Glow Seahorse. This is available in pink and blue. We bought one for our house, one for the car (since it was a must-have at the time). For the first year, the seahorse put her into a tranquil state just by looking at the light up belly and hearing the soothing, bubbling ocean music. It was miraculous at times how it stopped her from crying! Now that she's over a year in age, she still likes the toy to play with, but in a different way than when she was a baby. Now, she gets excited by it since she's seen it so many times. Seahorse is a dear old friend!

You can read more of the best musical baby toys I've suggested on my review page. See you there!

Certified Organic Onesies and Durable Clothes for Babies

When you're trying to buy organic, one strategy is to think of the things that they'll be wearing or sitting on the most. That includes the baby's mattress, their sleepwear, and their onesies or undershirts, which they'll be wearing underneath their other clothes for a good deal of the year.

Five years ago, it was hard to find good organic clothing. It was also very expensive. Today, prices have come down, more manufacturers are offering organic clothing, and the quality is getting noticeably better because of competition. Even Wal-Mart offers some organic clothing.

I've tried quite a few brands, but the ones I've featured on my organic onesies page are the best available in my opinion. I kept a few criteria in mind when I featured these specific articles of clothing.

1. How long did they hold up? Did they last long in the wash, or did they fall apart?
2. How did they size up on baby? All babies are different sizes, but were they big, small, or just right?
3. Were they expensive? This is probably the biggest concern for parents.
4. Is the company that makes them reputable? Can they be trusted, and how was their customer service?

The good news is that most of these companies do business on Amazon, so you'll have Amazon's customer service policies protecting you in all of your transactions. My favorite brand so far has been Ecoland. They also make a line of organic drawstring pants, socks, and underwear.