Baby Gear I Wish I’d Known about Earlier.

By: Jen Shoop

I’ve written about this fairly extensively, but there is nothing more humbling as a parent than a second child. Aspects of raising mini that felt easy or “clicked” readily have been more challenging with micro, and vice versa. At the risk of sounding nihilistic, this suggests to me that many of my efforts as a parent have been accidentally related to outcomes. And that perhaps I have underestimated the intrinsic force of my children’s personalities and predilections — or, alternately, the power of circumstance and environment. Let’s take as an example my struggle to get micro to sleep through the night. I felt I was trying everything under the sun and then virtually within a week of transitioning micro to his own nursery in our new apartment, he started sleeping through the night with regularity. I’d observed that he was an exceptionally light sleeper earlier, but this confirmed my suspicion. Meanwhile, mini could sleep through world war III — a fact we mistakenly took no small amount of smug pride in, as we felt it was because we’d always been unfussy about where she slept (“sure, we’ll grab dinner at 7 and just keep her in her carseat!”) and had a cavalier attitude that we would continue to live our lives at full volume rather than tiptoe around our home. Hill’s wakefulness at the creak of a floorboard disproved this theory, however. And frankly, once he started sleeping through the night in his own nursery, I realized I’d been haranguing myself for no reason, as there was simply no where else for him to have slept in our petite two bedroom apartment and nothing we would have done — no new sleepsack, no new bedtime routine, no new approach to feeding — would have gotten the job done. He needed his own space and that was that, and we couldn’t give that to him until we moved.

And yet what else is there to do but test new approaches and ponder small tweaks? Nothing. Because every now and then a new adjustment does seem to yield a marked change. And at a minimum, the puzzling over symptoms and the thoughtful observation of behavior can afford me the temporary impression of progress. Example: this past weekend, when micro launched into a very strange pattern of wanting to eat every three hours and wake after only thirty minutes of nap — this, despite the fact that we had been in a very regular routine of eating every four hours and napping for at least an hour or longer each cycle — and I ran through the gamut of possible explanations. Was he simply adjusting to his new environs? We’d assembled his crib, rolled out his rug, and rearranged the room — and so maybe he was waking and feeling confused about what he was seeing? I’d also started to have him sleep with one arm out of his transitional sleepsack in a slow transition to arms-free sleeping, and maybe this was rousing him? Or maybe it was a textbook growth spurt, and he was just hungrier and fussier? He’d been a little more congested than usual — maybe it was a cold that was bothering him?

But then it hit me all of the sudden that he was drooling like crazy and, when I took a look in his mouth, sure enough: a tooth was jutting through his lower gums. Aha. That would explain everything.

It would explain why the Magic Merlin suit had worked for two nights and then suddenly made him irate: when he wakes, he tries to self-soothe by putting his hand in his mouth and the Merlin suit makes that impossible for him to do, as his arms jut out at his sides and he can’t reach his fingers.

In fact, it might explain the sudden nursing strike that has persisted for the past few weeks and left me sadly weaning him earlier than I’d hoped.

And it would certainly explain why he was anxious to eat more often, and why he might be waking in frustrated pain every thirty minutes.

At any rate: once I’d gotten to the bottom of this, I felt better just knowing what was going on, even if there appears to be very little that I can do but wait it out. (We’ve been freezing teethers, trying different types of teethers — he likes this one best right now — etc.)

These milestones and the attendant flurry of “I wonder ifs” on my end are the stuff of parenting a newborn, and sometimes I sit back and think that my boy is a force all his own, hurtling himself through his days at his own speed and according to his own instincts. I will always be there, attempting to smooth down the road around him, guiding him along as best I can, occasionally pruning or trimming back the hedges to make his passage less encumbered and more pleasant, but much of the unfolding of his sweet little life will happen in ways that I can neither anticipate nor control. I had a different outlook as a parent to one. I felt more complicit in the shaping of mini’s life, in the handling of transitions. Now I see that though I will never stop fretting over the minutiae and testing and tweaking various elements of their routines, my primary role is to love them. To rock micro for hours on end because there is nothing else that seems to erase the pain of teething. To go into that nursery to soothe him back to sleep countless times per day because that’s just what’s called for right now. To accept that our nursing days are behind us (though I’m still clinging to that one dream feed when he will still breastfeed!). To — in the words of a Magpie reader — power through with love.

All that to say that I have become increasingly suspicious of baby products that purport to solve very common frustrations for new parents. I mean, does the Snoo really work, for example? It claims to handle a lot of the rocking and soothing of a newborn on your behalf, but I’m skeptical. I think instead there are tools that make those moments easier or that perhaps abbreviate the length of time you spend doing certain things. And below, I am sharing a roundup of some of the products that have my life as a second-time mom to a newborn a lot easier:

1 // Tubby Todd All-Over Ointment. Micro has always had fairly dry skin — but especially as a newborn, when he was also prone to acne! Poor thing. This ointment was the only thing that truly moisturized his skin and that also, strangely enough, resolved his acne! I also use it as a diaper cream to treat rash.

2 // Love to Dream Swaddles. We swaddled both of our babies in swaddling blankets when they were itty bitty (under three months), and mini actually loved (!!!) being swaddled until she was around five months old! (She was late to roll over, so that wasn’t a concern for us.) Micro, on the other hand, outgrew his swaddles seemingly overnight around three months and grew too strong and resistant for them anyhow. These Love to Dream swaddles have been such a godsend. He has always liked to have his hands up by his mouth, and the zip-off sleeves have made a slow transition to arms-free sleeping possible for us. (We’re currently have him sleep with one arm out.) We also did try the Magic Merlin suit and I will say that the second I’d zip him into it, he’d fall asleep — truly, like magic! — but because of his teething situation, we’ve had to retire it in favor of the Love to Dream swaddle until he’s through his teething woes. (And at that point, he may well be comfortable sleeping with his arms free.)

3 // Nuna Adapters for the Yoyo Babyzen Stroller. I’ve always loved the Yoyo, but now that the Nuna Pipa carseat can clip into it with these adapters, it has officially become the perfect stroller for traveling city-dwellers. Think about it: there is literally no circumstance for which you are underprepared. Need to grab a cab? No worries, you’ve got your carseat. Need to walk down stairs? No worries, you can unclip the carseat and fold up the stroller base. Finding yourself in a super tiny restaurant? Put the carseat on a chair and fold up the Yoyo under the seat. Taking a plane? You can gate-check the carseat (or take it on board if you paid for a seat for the baby) and fold up the stroller base in an overhead bin. It is truly a perfect stroller for so many occasions. I have also seen a lot of parents with the Doona around Manhattan, which seems to do a lot of the same things. However, the Yoyo can also work as a stroller for older children! (The Doona only works up to a certain age.)

4 // Baby Bjorn Mini. I thought I hated babywearing until I tried this. It is so, so easy to use and comfortable. I wear micro constantly, which is truly a godsend since I often need my hands free to tend to mini. I am devastated that he is quickly outgrowing it and on the market for a well-designed carrier for slightly older babies.

5 // Red Rooster Sound Machine. I thought this little travel sleep sheep was adorable and helpful with mini but micro proved to me the superiority of a true white noise machine, especially given what a light sleeper he is. This one is inexpensive, small, and can operate with just a battery if need be (i.e., can be used on the go or while traveling). I do think putting him into a routine with this sound machine on at every nap and bedtime has made him very, very easy to “put down” — I draw the blinds, tap on the sound machine, and zip him into this sleep sack, and he turns into a drowsy little snuggle bug almost immediately. (Yet another difference between the two babies — I recall rocking mini for long stretches of time and often resorting to turning on the shower, which lulled her to sleep. Micro usually takes a one or two minutes of snuggling and rocking to quiet, but can then be placed into his crib while still awake. It’s amazing. I still — even five months in — find myself startled by how quickly and easily he falls asleep. But is this intrinsic to who he is? Or is it something I’ve done? Or is it the Red Rooster? We will never know, but I will persist in the use of the RR because I think it has helped and because I know for a fact that it drowns out the seemingly constant noise in our apartment during his naptimes — mini’s shrieks, the dog’s barking, the clang of pots and pans.) I will also say that we received this travel owl music/sound machine thing and we clip it onto the bar of his stroller, and he absolutely loves it! He will be fussing and then we’ll turn on the music and he’ll just stare up at the owl in silence.

What are your must-have products?!

Post Scripts.

+More of my favorite baby products here and my all-time favorite baby travel gear here. (I still standby all of these picks across two children!)

+I was chatting with a fellow parent earlier this week who has been struggling to transition his daughter from bottles to sippy cups. I remember that phase so well! I want to re-endorse the Nuk sippy cup — it was the only one that got the job done for us! We now also use these RePlay sippy cups and are feeling like we need to start transitioning to true cups soon, since she uses those at school. (I just don’t know if I’m ready for the daily messes that will ensue until she’s really steady with them…) Caveat: I love the Nuks but I will say that mini has a bad habit of chewing on the spout to the point that she tears a hole in it and milk spills EVERYWHERE when it inevitably topples over. She cannot destroy the spout of the RePlay sippies since it’s hard plastic, but then you have to be mindful of removing the little rubber piece that goes on the underside of the top of the cup and washing it separately — if you don’t, milk gets trapped in there and it will mold over! Anyway, I very much like the Nuks as an ideal transitional tool and the RePlays from a sturdiness standpoint. (Also like the styling of the latter!)

+These collapsible snack cups are genius! I am now often finding myself in need of one for mini when we are out and about. Love that I could collapse this and just keep it in my diaper bag for her.

+One of my favorite late-night activities is prowling around Etsy for vintage smocked dresses for mini. I have found so many incredible scores that way for great prices. I mean — look at this beautiful dress! It looks like a Rachel Riley dress, which would easily set you back $125 or $150!

+My mother in law gave mini one of these playmats and we have been getting so much mileage out of it. Mini no longer naps in the afternoon (actually, she has not napped in the afternoon since she turned about two) but we always put her in her crib for “quiet time” with books and toys from around 2-3 P.M. on the weekends. It’s a good break for everyone involved. However, lately we’ve started letting her have “quiet time” in her bedroom, out of her crib. I’ll pull out this mat and we’ll together select some books and toys for her to use. Then she’ll sit in her mat and play there, on her own, for about an hour. It’s amazing! I have to credit Montessori for introducing and reinforcing the idea of “working” on a mat. She loves having her own dedicated space to sit in.

+I’ve heard really good things about sleep sacks from Kyte and Woolino. A number of Magpies have recommended Kyte — what about Woolino? Any users?

+Now that micro’s nursery rug is sorted (it arrived and it is beautiful in person — I will say that it’s not the softest underfoot, but we added a thick rug pad so it still feel plush and comfy) and this is on its way to our apartment for our master bedroom, I have turned my attention to mini’s room. I am totally perplexed on which direction to go in. First: her room has a strange shape to it so I’ll need to think strategically about where to position/reposition the furniture in her room so the rug makes sense. (Or rugs? Maybe we buy one for under her crib area and another for her play area? Ahh! Or do we have one special cut? That seems extravagant given that we don’t know how long we’ll be here.) I will say something playful like this has caught my eye…but color is going to be a challenge to figure out…

+Some thoughts on what the little ones should wear for Thanksgiving here.

+Christmas gift ideas for babies and toddlers!

+UNRELATED BUT SOMETHING YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT: Everlane’s temporary $100 cashmere sale!

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15 thoughts on “Baby Gear I Wish I’d Known about Earlier.

  1. Yet again, I find myself so grateful to be tracking alongside you in the motherhood journey. The comfort that can be found across the internet – it astounds me! I just had a doozy of a week with my 6 week old that left me googling everything and tumbling down every rabbit hole of possible anxiety. This gave me SO. MUCH. COMFORT. that I’ve found myself referencing it to my best friend and my husband. I suspect that you one day hope to write a fiction book but have to stop here to encourage you that a series of essays on motherhood could be wonderful. I certainly am treasuring these!

    1. Ahhh thank you, Amy! So sweet of you to write, and I’m so glad you found comfort (or at least less alone-ness!) in what I’ve written. It’s always such a huge comfort to compare notes with other moms, even if they just sit there and nod and remind you how hard and emotionally straining these seemingly minor things can be. Anyway, thank you so much for writing to let me know 🙂


  2. I agree about the second child whole heartedly. Both my boys also have been highly needy sleepers. My 4 year old climbs in to snuggle nearly every morning! My second never got a nursery! I may try moving my third earlier and perhaps sleep will come sooner ha!

    I also love your cup choices. My eldest loved the Nuk to transition from a bottle. Ultimately he never figured out how to tilt it up so used a straw for his milk for a long time. Love the replay for truly leak proof however we also adore the 360, you can purchase a set that has a straw conversion or sipper top (looks rather like a yeti lid) so I find them so versatile and they work well for both my 4 and 2 year old. I’ve probably tried every cup that exists…

    Also adore those love to dream swaddles!

    1. Aw – love that you still get your morning snuggles from your eldest. So sweet! Curious to hear how baby 3 will compare to the first two, and whether you’ll find yourself suddenly confused by a good sleeper (God willing!)


  3. Okay so my issue with the Doona is that the baby is close to the ground—it just seems sorta…rickety? Though good to read Amy’s endorsement. We have the yoyo but so far I have just been wearing el secundo (I have the Lillebaby and like it but I’m tall; all of my more petite mom friends complained that most structured carriers didn’t fit). Will probably get the vista eventually but I am worried my eldest won’t like the short shrift seat. Also, yes to baby 2 undoing all the smugness accumulated during baby 1. And: every girl baby I know was/is a great sleeper and all the boys are needy little buggers! Not sure why, and it’s certainly no régleront their eventual sleeping habits. But it’s a bit of comfort to know that it is what it is, $1200 infant rockers be damned.

    1. Yeah, I guess the Doona is closer to the ground than a regular stroller? But the alternative (for me) is to haul a stroller in the back of my car and then at every drop off and pick up (and with older kids I do a minimum of 6 per day just to/from schools) get the stroller out of the back of the car, open it up, walk around the car to get the car seat and snap the car seat in. The Doona saves me SO MUCH time and hassle. I bought it for my four child and honestly I don’t know how I survived without it for the other three! 🙂

      1. Totally makes sense to me. My sister and I always say that with a second (and, I would imagine a third or wow a fourth), convenience trumps most…

    2. I had to google “regleront” — I was like what IS this word?! Haha!

      I support your purchase of the Vista. I was determined to make it work without a double stroller and we’ve survived but there have been many occasions where I really, really, really wish I had one. LMK what you think…


  4. We have both the Kyte and Woolino sleep sacks and would have only purchased Woolino had I known about them sooner. I’m much more impressed with the quality of the Woolino sleep sacks, and I love that they can be used year-round and for two years! Best of luck with the transition!

  5. Thanks for the tubby todd recommendation. Just ordered several things to try since my baby has the worst rash/baby acne/dry skin.

    We also LOVE our Doona stroller. Perfect for suburban living when I’m in and out of the car a dozen times per day doing drop offs and pick ups.

    As far as mini’s rug, what about the target one you choose and a large cream faux fur rug in front of her crib? We have used a Costco one (they sell them every winter for $100) for each of our kids and it’s so cozy and they love curling up on it. It’s also slightly comforting for me to know if they do climb over the edge of their cribs it’s a soft landing spot.

    1. Ooh, love that tip! Did not know that about Costco.

      I’m so intrigued by the Doona – I think if we had a car I would want that, especially with a second child in tow! Very jealous of your gear 🙂

      Fingers crossed you find luck with the Tubby Todd! I am a total convert!


  6. It’s so true that the things I smugly took (take?!) credit for with my children are things that probably had little to do with my parenting and more to do with their personalities!

    I‘m sure you’ve seen the Munchkin Miracle sippy cups. We had great luck with them for our Montessori kids. And they do make the transition to a real cup shockingly easily—I picked up a little collection of teensy juice glasses from antique store or estate sales and use them for milk (and yes I totally bought the milk pitcher they sell in the Montessori Small Hands catalog so my kids can pour their own drinks). The only spills occur when a cup is set too close to a table edge and meets an elbow by mistake—they were drinking very proficiently from them at such an early age! It’s kind of astonishing. But you still need a solid sippy option for travel, and Munchkin worked well for us.

    1. Thank you! We do have a few of the Miracle ones, but they’re the smaller ones with the handles. Maybe I need the taller one without handles to better emulate drinking from a cup – great idea. Thank you!!

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