Tuesday, May 3, 2016

10 Must Have Baby Gear Items

Pinterest has been an interesting place to find info on preparing for parenthood all over again.  The lists that I have seen for new parent 'must haves' have been interesting to say the least.  When I read some of these lists I think that they must have been made by parents with no financial limitations and not necessarily reasonable for many families.  Having a child is obviously an expense, but it doesn't have to break the bank.  Some of the things that you need can be purchased used, or even borrowed for a time.  Others may be best purchased new.

In preparation of Baby #2 I have been trying to figure out what I need ...and of course...what I don't.  We live in a small house and kept some of Son #1's baby gear, but some had to go due to lack of storage space.

Besides being a little 'greener' I like to think that I've turned into a bit more of a minimalist since having our 1st child.  My must-have list is a little more basic than others I've seen. 

Here's what I've placed on my must have list this time around:

1. Crib/Bassinet/Co-Sleeper - Babies need somewhere to sleep and while I don't think that all three of these options are necessary, having one of these sleeping contraptions is going to be necessary for most new parents.  We have been super lucky and had both a crib and a Cosleeper gifted to us from friends who no longer needed theirs.  

If you are buying a used crib or lucky enough to be gifted one, it is a good idea to check that it hasn't been recalled due to safety concerns.

2. Playpen - While play pens aren't necessarily a must-have for every parent, I do recall finding ours VERY helpful.  Having somewhere for baby to nap/sleep when travelling to visit friends or family was invaluable.  It was also nice to have a safe place to set baby down while I ran to the washroom for a minute, had a quick shower, or even while I attempted to cook a meal.  We kept a playpen in the living room which was just close enough for me to pop my head in every few minutes and assure him I was still there but kept him out of harms way while I tended to whatever needed to be done....like go for a pee without a child strapped to me for a change. Luckily, this is one of the items that we stored from son #1, but had we not kept ours we would have looked for a used one at yard sales, consignment stores, or websites where individuals sell their used items.

3. Diapers - Whether choosing to use disposables or cloth, diapers are pretty much a must have and a necessary expense.  With Son#1 I used disposables to save my sanity. With Baby #2 we're going cloth.  Diapers are expensive, but using cloth can save you money, over time.  And if using cloth you can always purchase them used which can an additional savings. In addition to being a huge money saver, it's also a greener alternative to adding thousands of diapers to a landfill. 

4. Onesies/Sleepers - Clothes are a necessity.  But designer cloths are not.  In my opinion, a few onesies and sleepers are all that is really needed for the first few months.  As I sort through our baby cloths stash I realized that was all we really dressed Son#1 in for the first year. He was comfortable and it was easier for me than trying to wrestle him into outfits.  We didn't win any fashion shows...but we were comfortable and saved a lot of money by keeping things simple.  Again, clothing is one of those items that can be purchased used, or borrowed from someone saving their stash for their next child.

5. Baby Blanket and Swaddle Blankets - I don't think you need a tonne of either of these.  A couple baby blankets and a handful of receiving blankets is all that's needed.  Blankets are nice to keep them toasty in their car seats or stroller when out on a cool day.  And receiving blankets are useful to swaddle baby for comfort and also as a spit up guard for parents.  Feeling a little self conscious breast feeding in public? I used a receiving blanket when I wanted a little privacy or to block out distractions while breastfeeding.  And one of these over the shoulder while carrying or burping baby saved us a lot of laundry and wardrobe changes.

6. Car Seat - Having a car seat is important.  Safety is important - especially for these precious little ones. I would usually suggest purchasing this item new to ensure that it is in working condition and not damaged in an accident.  However, if you know someone (someone you trust) with a used car seat that is less than 5 years old and not on the recall list, you may want to consider borrowing this item. We were gifted a used carseat from a friend but learned that it was on the recall list when we looked it up. The car seat ended up being one of the only items we purchased new. I shopped for sales and then ended up redeeming points on our credit card which saved us nearly half the cost.

7. Stroller/Baby Carrier - Some parents say that strollers were useless to them and others have said that they didn't use their baby carriers (I.e. Bjorn, Beco Baby, Ergo, Mai tai, etc.). I found both extremely useful and they were both on my must keep list from Son#1's baby gear.  Some babies are small and light, others not so small and not so light. Mine was a heavy weight and I fully expect that Baby #2 will be a future football player or something of the like.  My arms and back got (very) sore from holding him so much. It was nice to have options to lighten the load. A stroller was great for going for long walks. It got us both out of the house for some fresh air and exercise.  If I didn't already have these items (which were used when I bought them), I would buy them used again.  No need to spend big dollars or top of the line, as long as they work.

8. Rocking Chair - I debated adding this to my must have list because I didn't have one for Son#1 and made it through alive.  But then I thought back and I realized that had we owned a rocking chair, I would have felt a little more alive than I did at the time. Son had sleep issues and colic.  Every evening we put him to bed and every time he woke in the night we rocked an 10.5lb baby to sleep (and that was what he weighed at birth - he only got heavier with time...).  My back was nearly broken and my arms felt like they were filled with cement, aching horribly.  I loved spending that time with Son, but having a rocking chair likely would have made it a LOT less painful and much more enjoyable.  For me, a rocking chair rates pretty high on my must have list.  Used, borrowed, whatever. It doesn't have to break the bank as long as it works.

9. Baby Monitor - While not absolutely necessary, it certainly offers peace of mind to parents.  I figure that as a parent I am nervous enough about the safety of my child. At the very least, a monitor offers peace of mind that baby is okay in their crib without the need to be checking on them quite as often.  It doesn't replace the need for us to check on them altogether, but can at least alert us to their needs a little more quickly.

10. Diaper Bag - At some point every parent leaves the house with their baby.  And when this happens, it's important to be prepared for the expected. Baby will poop, pee, spit up, and need to be changed for one or all three of these occurrences. There's nothing quite as unpleasant as being caught in one of these situations without the supplies you need to make baby and you cleaner and more comfortable.  

What I think the misconception is though, is that diaper bags have to be some sort of specialized state of the art bag.  Not so.  Use a back pack or a tote bag you already own. It will work just as well as long as you can fit a few diapers and a change of clothes in it.

Needs vs. Wants
With every purchase I make (whether it be baby related or not) I try to make the differentiation between needs and wants.  If it's something we need it goes on the list, if it's something we want, it doesn't always make it on the list. But what I've indicated as a baby 'must have' may not be for another parent.  And obviously what I list as a want may be a need for another.

Have I missed something?  
What would you add to your must-have baby gear list?

Friday, April 22, 2016

10 Easy Ways to Go Green

As a 'green' mama, I have spent quite a bit of time reading similar lists made by others and analyzing my life to see how I can be more green and earth friendly myself.  

It's a work in progress, but I have taken baby steps towards improving my family's green-ability score.   

In honour of Earth Day, I would like share 10 of the easier things we've done to green our everyday life:

1. Cold Water Wash & Hang to Dry
Almost all of our laundry is done with cold water.  I have heard people say that they are afraid to wash in cold because, a) their powder detergent may not dissolve, or b) their cloths may not get clean.  

I can honestly say that we haven't had an issue with either, even with our front loader.

Drying using a clothes line is a great energy saver. Don't have a clothes line? Drying racks are a great alternative and can be used indoors or out.

2. Use an Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent
There are so many detergents to choose from now boasting environmental friendliness.  I prefer to make my own.

3. Don't Buy Bottled Water.
Get a good filtration system that will last you for years to come, and filter tap water rather than buying water in those pollution causing, wasteful plastic bottles. Read this post on what we use, and check out this filtration system.

4. Purchase Products with Reduced Packaging
Plastic drives me wild, especially plastic packaging.  Use products that aren't packaged in plastic at all, or that have less packaging.  
For example, take a look at all those plastic bottles lining the walls of your shower stall, and the ingredients they contain.

Our family has made the switch to natural products that aren't packaged in plastic, have the added bonus of safer ingredients. Doing this, we have been able to reduce the plastic in our shower to 1 bottle.  That one bottle is an (old/reused) plastic sports bottle that holds our natural hair conditioner (ACV & Water).

5. Use Natural Home Cleansers
I stopped buying traditional store bought cleansers years ago.  I've found that there isn't much that a little vinegar, baking soda, or this soap can't get clean.  When I need something with disinfecting properties, I use our Thieves Cleaner by Young Living. It's concentrated, natural, and a little goes a long way.  Want to learn more about Young Living's products and how I save 24% on my orders?

6. Rain Barrels are a Green Gardener's Friend
We put our rain barrels in when we started our vegetable gardens, and haven't looked back.  The year we started gardening was the year we had a drought though. In this instance I used grey water from our sinks and showers to water the garden.  It was water down the drain, so I figured that it might as well be put to good use.  It got us through a couple of long stretches with no rain and it was probably the best year our garden has seen.

7. Recyclables Turn Children's Crafts.
Like most kids, Son is creative. He loves to dig through the recycling bin and find cardboard or bottles that he can craft into something great.  For instance, for Halloween, a plastic bottle became a fireman's air tank, and a cardboard box became a shield for his nerf gun battles.  There's no end to what can be reused.

8. Fix Appliances instead of Replacing 
We recently had a washing machine break down. Turns out the computer board in our washer crashed.  Instead of replacing the machine and sending it to a landfill, we chose to have it repaired.  

9. Use newspapers to Line Compost Buckets 
A few years ago, our city started offering curbside compost collection.  Prior to this we used a backyard compost bin.  I don't know about you, but one of things I didn't like about composting is how 'yucky' the mini-bucket under the counter would get.  You can purchase paper bags meant to line them and contain the compost waste, but that just seems wasteful in itself when there is an endless supply of newspapers in this world.

Don't get the newspaper? Surely one of your neighbours do and they could save you some.  Here's a handy tutorial on how to fold newspaper compost liners, but I've since found that it's easier just to grab a sheet of newspaper and line the bin without folding it.  It means carrying the whole bucket to the composter rather than lifting out the liner alone, but it's a time saver, and it's a green solution to yucky compost buckets.

10. Buy Used
There are plenty of people selling their used items and it's likely just what you've been looking for.  Save yourself a few dollars and keep items out of landfills buy perusing your local newspaper or buy and sell web pages (we like to use Kijiji) to find what you're looking for before turning to buying it new.  It's a great green strategy but also a great money saver.

Our most recent used purchase was a car top carrier. With Baby #2 on the way and a small car we realized that our options were a) buy a larger vehicle, or b) get a car top carrier for those times we'll need a little extra space.  A larger vehicle was out of the question for a few reasons (some financial, some environmental), so we chose to get a roof top carrier.  We looked in stores to see how much they cost (for reference) and then started our Kijiji search for a good used one. Within a couple days of deciding to purchase one, we had it in our hands at a fraction of the cost of a new one. 

There are so many ways to green our lives, many of them simple.  I had a hard time limiting this list to 10! 

In what ways have you greened your life?  
Share your favourites and help us learn!