Bought it, used it, loved it: Baby on the go

I'm thinking of quitting my day job and becoming a full time product tester.

Seriously, its a real job (I googled it)- but I have no idea how to get it.  You probably have to know the person who had the job and when they die (probably from testing some toxic chemical in their food) they leave the job to you in their will.

I mean how cool would it be to get boxes of free stuff sent to you and you get paid to try them out?

Sign me up.

Seriously, please do- unless it is product testing of expiration dates on food (that could kill me).  That, I don't want to do.  Nothing like a box of past-date food showing up to your house and then having to "taste it for freshness"...ugh, no thanks.

Until Good Housekeeping calls me wanting me to test out designer clothing, expensive house products and all sorts of fancy baby gear, I will be paying to do my own product research (by which I mean, paying full price for that stuff at the store and then determining if I like it or not).

So, for the great value of FREE, I'm sharing my product reviews with you.  I'm like the benevolent form of consumer reports (with no scientific background and way less attention to detail in my reviews).

Here are my "I heart you" products for taking the baby out and about.  If you missed the same post on sleep stuff, find that here.

Any new parent will tell you that the most important thing to do is get out of the house as soon as you can (that and drink heavily after the baby is asleep).  

The longer you stay cooped up inside thinking about getting out of the house, the harder it is to actually do it. If you think too hard about all the millions of things you have to bring with you just to leave the house for 10 minutes, you will make yourself crazy.  

So do yourself a favor and stop thinking (heck your brain is baby mush anyway so this shouldn't be THAT hard).

We went for our first family walk 4 days after Hunter was born.  Granted, it was easier with Chris at home to help me, but soon, I was taking the baby, the dog, a bag of baby paraphernalia out for hours at a time.  I even perfected the art of changing a diaper on my lap.
First things first, the car seat.  They won't even let you leave the hospital without one- although, for the record, they don't even check to make sure you installed it correctly (seems like a flawed system).

We went with the Chicco Keyfit 30, and I like it.  Lets be honest, you can't LOVE a car seat.  They are heavy and bulky and cumbersome, but I do like the Chicco.  Its easily adjustable and makes getting him in and out quite easy. The main factor to look at in car seats is the strap adjuster.  You want it in the front, you DO NOT want it behind the car seat, where you have to adjust each strap individually.  That is a royal pain in the buns, and not worth the $15 savings for the cheaper car seat.

Once you have the car seat down, you need to figure out the stroller. What kind of stroller do you need?  Where will you take it? I knew from the get go that I wanted a BOB, because I love to run, and because Seattle sidewalks are incredibly uneven. You can buy a car seat adapter for any brand of car seat, so you can use this stroller right away and then your baby can grow into it. My friends who all bought the crazy fancy strollers, have all dumped them for the BOB.  Its incredibly practical and the dads will be impressed with the "smooth ride."
BOB Revolution
The only downside to the BOB is that it is a bit heavy and bulky (although they have streamlined it a lot).  So, I keep it in our office and just wheel it out each day for our walks. We also take it when we travel, but other than that I have a 2nd stroller that acts as an "every day" stroller that I keep in the trunk of my car.  It's the Babytrend Snap N' Go, and it is essentially a set of wheels for your car seat.  Its incredibly light and folds into a compact package.
Babytrend Snap N' Go

I got my Snap N' Go as a baby shower gift, but I see them on Craigslist for roughly $25.  I would buy it used if you can find it, since it only lasts as long as your baby is in the bucket car seat (so maybe 8-10 months).

So, outside of the car seat & stroller, there are all sorts of baby carriers out there you can consider. I have 4 different ones...I realize this is overkill.

I really like the Ergobaby (with the infant insert).  It is easy to use, snugly and can be worn on the front, back and hip. The only down side is that the baby has to face in and not out.  
Snuggly baby in the Ergo

Baby Bjorn
Hunter is really into looking at things these days, so we have migrated to the Baby Bjorn, which allows him to face outward. This is great for now, but wearing the Bjorn hurts my back and shoulders (something about the weight distribution is off), so I doubt I can last much longer wearing Hunter like that, as little man is putting on weight like nobody's business. So now that he is bigger, I will probably start wearing him in the Ergo on my back.  He seems to like that.

I also got a Moby wrap, and I found that I really never used it. I think the Ergo with the insert served the same purpose, and there was no time consuming wrapping that had to happen. I also have a Huggababy sling that I got as a hand me down, and I really liked that when Hunter was super tiny. I've been meaning to pull that back out since he's sitting up and can use it like that now.

All in all, I like each of the carriers in their own right, but if I had to pick one or two, I'd go with the Ergo and Bjorn. I would buy them used, or just borrow from a friend if possible.  They are all over priced (the Ergo runs about $115 new) and since they are machine washable, you can buy a used one and just wash it and call it good.

Definitely try some of these carriers out and see what works for you before you invest in one.

When we are at home and I need to get something done sans baby, I rely on all sorts of "distraction contraptions."

It seems like every month or so, Hunter likes something new to lay on, chew on, sleep in, and generally entertain him.

And, let me tell you, when you find the magic "thing" that is your baby's happy place of the moment, you will milk it for all it's worth.

First he was in love with his Graco swing.  It was all sorts of magic.  He would lay happily in there for HOURS; snoozing away.  This lasted from birth until about 4 months old before he was over it.  What's better? We borrowed this one from our good friends, so it was FREE.

Then, as he got bigger (around 2 months) he liked the Graco bouncer, which still works to keep him happy during showers & dinners. 

I go against all the safety warnings and don't ever buckle the "seat belt" and I put it on the table with us while we eat so he can feel like he's a part of the group.  So far, Hunter hasn't flopped out of it or hurt himself in any other way, so I'm good. But don't do what I do- use the seat belt and only use it on the floor (unless you like to live on the edge).

Right around Christmas (2.5 months), I bought Hunter this "dangley mat" (better known as a  musical mobile gym), which he still uses daily.

At first he liked to watch the toys spin around, but now he's all about grabbing things, scooting himself around and rolling over.

Something we could not live without is the Bumbo.  This little seat rocks my socks off.  Hunter spends at least an hour a day chillin in this seat, playing with his toys.  He is generally very content in this seat, and now that he is sitting up on his own, this seat just gives his ab muscles a break.

There are a few reasons it is fantastic, most of all it is water proof and completely wipe-able, not to mention small enough to tote around with us to restaurants and friend's houses.

Hunter painted his first pumpkin in it (clearly he is too small for it at 17 days old), ate his first food in it (not a fan of avocado for the record) took his first swimming lesson with it, and inevitably fell asleep in it.

Can you tell we are big fans of the Bumbo?  What's better.... I got it (with the tray) at a yard sale for $20. Possibly the best $20 I've spent on baby gear.

A few other distraction contraptions of note:  the Johnny jump-up (or Jenny Jump up when you get a pink one as a hand-me-down from your girl cousin).  Hunter has mixed emotions about this.  He kind of just drifts around, chewing on the straps.

The excersaucer is a big hit at our house.  We actually have one in the basement and a slightly different model (a jumperoo) upstairs.  Hunter likes to bounce around in both of them, playing with the toys and spinning in circles.  We are borrowing both of them from friends/family so they will migrate back to their rightful owners as he grows out of them, but if we didn't have hand me downs, it would be well worth the investment to swoop one of these up (second hand is just as good, as they go for over $100 new). He started really liking these around 3.5 months and still digs them.

Last but not least, we have a walker that Hunter really likes to hang out in.  I say hang out, because his legs are no where near the floor, so there is no walking actually happening- just hanging.  

We keep this in the office, folded up in the corner, so when we are working in there, we pull it out and he happily plays for 15-30 minutes. I am going to die when he is big enough to roll himself around the house in this thing.  Sometimes I zoom him around on the hardwoods, and he giggles his little head off.  I can only imagine him chasing Ketchum around the house in a few months in this thing- it will be pay back for those "paws to the face."

I'm pretty sure that rounds out all the distraction contraptions we have around the house.   Although I was determined to try to keep the "baby junk" to a minimum, after writing all these out, it does seem like it is taking over our lives.  In all reality, we attempt to contain all the baby stuff in 2 rooms (the den and the basement) and we've been pretty successful.

Fighting the battle of the baby-gear bulge is on-going and never ending, as the older the get, the bigger stuff becomes.

You don't need all of these things.  

Heck you don't need any of them.  When we go to my grandparents' house, Hunter plays with measuring cups and loves it- he doesn't miss any of these fancy contraptions, but they are nice to have when I need to take a shower, make myself lunch or get dressed.

If you were going to break down for just 1 item, I would go with the swing.  It was 4 months of magic, and it was worth its weight in gold.

If you are trying to keep clutter to a minimum, you could trade out your swing for a bouncer, then the bouncer for an excersaucer- so then you only have to battle one large baby object at a time.  

Did you realize it's almost garage sale season???  

Think of all the sales!

Oh, and if you know how to become a product tester- hook a sister up!


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