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With our littliest turning one year, my husband and I reflected back on the purchases and gifts that we could not have done without. Sharing is caring, so our hope is that some new parents may benefit from learning what worked for us. We would love to hear what products were a MUST for your family. Please drop a comment with a product we failed to mention.
Initially, we felt overwhelmed with what to place on our registry. Online stores and baby products begin to run together when you’re not a veteran at child rearing. Our first step was to pop into Babies-R-Us. We remained overwhelmed once inside the store and after 2 hours of wandering, decided to try again another time. After chatting with other parents, online research, and the overall need to complete our registry, we ventured back into the store with the goal to complete our MUST have list.
I will say it saddens me to think that other new parents will not have the option of wandering aimlessly through Babies-R-Us. We really needed that time to test drive strollers, assess baby carriers, etc. But, the bright side is now boutique shops can fulfill that niche and hopefully small business will gain business.
1. Car Seat
The safety ratings of the car seat was very important to us. I looked to the NHTSA to begin the screening process. I was looking for 5-stars! As you may know, the car seat can also dictate the stroller brand or stroller options. So, next stop…test driving strollers! Shop Now Up to 50% Off Graco Gear + Free Shipping $49+
After considering things like height of my husband, gait, and arm length, we had narrows down the selection. And- of course they ideally would work with our car seat. Then we decided on four wheels instead of three. I am not an avid jogger/runner, so I needed an everyday stroller that wasn’t going to topple over once loaded with items in the basket. I also wanted to be able to collapse the stroller with one-hand. This concept came to me while we were test-driving the strollers. My husband with his architect mind was very helpful in determining which strollers seemed the most stable. Success! We had our stroller picked- Graco Modes Click Connect! Now which color? When our second child arrived, we wanted a double side-by-side option. The ease of folding and traveling with it was less a priority, but we did a lot of neighborhood walking, so a smooth ride was a must. I wanted to ensure both kids were as comfortable as possible. The Baby Jogger City Mini GT2 was the best option for us. It has a pram attachment, so the baby can ride/sleep soundly until they are able to roll over. There are attachments for various carseats as well, which worked wonderfully for our Graco snugfit click-connect infect car seat. I must say this stroller has been amazing. At first it was magic- our 2-year-old and newborn would almost instantly fall asleep in it when we went out for strolls. It was so magical when the grandparents babysat, they would use it to get the kids to nap at the same time by walking in circles around the downstairs. Oh, and did I mention the extra large shade coverage with the clear, peek-through, windowns. Sigh, I love this stroller!
3. Baby Monitoring
SIDS is a scary subject for parents. We wanted to have as much peace of mind as possible, so we needed an actual baby monitor. After consulting our pediatrician, we decided on the Owlet Smart Sock 2. Our Little wore this smart sock until around 7 months. At that time the foot was too round for the pulse oximeter to sit correctly and we would receive yellow alerts. Prior, it was amazing! We were able to sleep knowing that if anything changed with her oxygenation or heart rate we would be alerted. We did have a few false alarms, but I would much prefer to have a few false alarms, then not know if our Little was in trouble.
4. Co-sleeper Crib
After researching all of the ways to reduce the risk of SIDS, we knew we wanted to co-sleep, but were uncomfortable with having our Little in the bed with us. (Everyone is entitled to their own method- no judgement here!) The Halo Bassinest Swivel Sleeper was the perfect solution for us. Our Little used this until ~ 4.5 months old. The convenience of having our baby so close made night feedings much easier. When we had our first, there was a new crib breaking the market. It was the SNOO! If your budget allows, the SNOO is another fan favorite. There is even a rental option to make it more affordable.
5. Baby Lounger
When we had our first child, we had not considered a baby lounger, or had even heard of one, when one of our dear friends gifted us the Leachco Podster. It was perfect! Our Little slept soundly for naps and was able to stay by our side (supervised) whether we were on the couch or in bed. Initially we used blankets underneath it to provide a little more support since our Little was pretty tiny, but after the second month, it was the perfect fit. For our second I added the BabyBjörn Bouncer to our must have list. I had read all the reviews and wondered if it was going to live up to the hype. I must say it did. Our 8 week old loved to watch big sis play or us cook while in the bouncer. When he got a little older and could make it bounce, the real fun began! Around the time that he was crawling he lost interest. We never flipped the cover to use it as a toddler seat in fear that our oldest would be sitting and it would spring back and hit our baby, but others I’ve talked to got a lot of use out of the toddler seat.
6. Diaper Bag
The diaper bag continues to be a running joke between my husband and I. One of the first things I bought and was super excited about was the diaper bag. Maybe the excitement stemmed from it being like a handbag and at the time was the most relatable item. Whatever the reason may be- I had purchased the perfect one! So I thought. About 4 weeks into using it, it was toast and so was I. After swallowing my pride, I had to re-evaluate the ideal qualities of a diaper bag. I learned that 1. a shoulder strap/sling was not practical for me 2. it needed to be light because it was going to get heavy FAST 3. It needed to not be overly complicated- easy access to as much at once was key in the middle of a blow-out diaper 4. Side pockets to hold items at the ready were very important. 5. Bottom/hidden storage- perfect place for masks, change of clothes, and wet dry bags. So we returned the first bag (which straps were already pulling out after a few weeks of use) and went back to the store. Now with a clear vision of practicality and not fashion we selected a pretty basic diaper bag, but has been perfect for us!
7. Diaper Wipes
Of course you will need diaper wipes for your baby, but which kind? We had purchased a well known eco-friendly brand (in bulk) assuming it was a good choice. Well our Little one had other plans. Our baby had an allergic reaction to the wipes, which resulted in a pretty bad diaper rash. After using water and diaper clothes for a couple of months, our pediatrician suggested Water Wipes. Thankfully, these worked for our Little, and we no longer had to travel with dirty diaper cloths and a water bottle. I will say, we did feel more environmentally friendly using the cloth and water, and continued to use them at home until our Little started eating solids.
8. Breastmilk Pump
How do you pick a pump? It is not like you can test drive it to see if it will work. Maybe it will work at home, but what about at work? This was a tough call and is certainly a personal choice. Fortunately, some health insurance plans will cover the cost of a breast pump. I opted for the Medela Pump in Style for home use and the Freemie pump for at work. The Freemie pump worked very well for me at work. As a veterinarian, there were times when I was the only doctor in the hospital and my team members needed to have face-to-face conversations with me. The Freemie allowed me to have the privacy and ability to multi-task. Since, Freemie has a newer model which allows for handsfree and wireless pumping. For our second child, I opted not to go back to work and used the Spectra 9 plus. It’s a wireless pump and allowed the freedom of playing with our 2-year-old or cooking all while pumping. Another option for a wearable, handsfree, wireless pump is the Willow. Our insurance did not offer coverage for the Willow pump- so be sure to check what is offered/available to you when you start your search. You can then narrow it down by your unique pumping needs.
9. Baby Play yard
There are many on the market. We owned the Chicco playyard equiped with a bassinet, storage, and mobile. All great options in regards to at home, but what we found to need most was for travel or even day trips. A way to ensure our baby was safe and could nap on the go was very important. This is why I am a huge fan of a compact play yard, and because we owned the BabyBjörn Portable Crib, I am partial to it. It is very simple to set up and breakdown and I love the compact travel case it comes with.
Going to the beach is a fun day for the whole family. The Littles have a great time exploring new textures, hearing new sounds, and seeing new sights. It will certainly wear them out for their next nap!
If you are going to the beach with a baby (not walking yet) the goal of the day is to keep them entertained in the shade. For the toddlers, you have the same goal, but add in water-safety. Toddlers can make their way to the ocean in a blink of an eye, so always be on alert!
Eating vegan at the beach may seem hard at first, but it is actually extremely easy- especially when eating healthfully. Be sure to keep yourself and the Littles well hydrated. For babies older than 9 months, water is a great supplement to formula or breast milk. Fruits and vegetables contain a lot of water- so load up! Avoiding salty snacks or caffeinated drinks will help slow dehydration. Below you will find a list of our favorite beach day snacks.
Sun protection! Sunscreen, rash guards, UV protective hats, umbrellas, beach tents- these items are musts for a beach trip. No matter how long the sun exposure, everyone should be wearing sunscreen. Be sure to ask your doctor at what age they recommend babies start wearing sunscreen. In regards to UV protective hats- always read the labels. Surprisingly, not all are intended for UV protection. The label should clearly state UV protection or SPF 50+. Consider buying brightly colored rash guards, bathing suits, or UV protective hats for the Littles. This way you can easily spot them on the beach or in the water.
Raising Vegan Tip– My favorite sunscreens are zinc oxide based. Zinc oxide is a mineral and sits on the surface of your skin. It acts as a barrier reflecting and absorbing the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays. It is also used to treat skin abrasions, diaper rash, and chapped skin. Bonus!
Sometimes the amount of gear needed to go to the beach can seem overwhelming. Keeping the essentials (shade, water, snacks, diapers) in mind- try to pack light.
LInks to purchase mentioned products:
This is a common question we get from our omnivore friends and relatives. Once one educates themselves on the protein amounts in vegetables, legumes, nuts, and grains, the question becomes laughable. In one stalk of broccoli there is over 4 grams of protein. One cup of almonds has the same amount of protein (20 grams) as a T-bone steak, and almonds are high in fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, vitamin B-2 (riboflavin), and so on.
So, are there any deficiencies to worry about with veganism? Yes, one vitamin missing in a whole foods plant-based diet is vitamin B-12, also known as cobalamin. This vitamin is crucial for the nervous system and red blood cell production. Only bacteria can produce B-12, so unless you are eating very dirty veggies, a supplement is needed. It is very important for pregnant or nursing women following a vegetarian or vegan diet to take a B-12 supplement this will prevent the baby from having a B-12 deficiency.
Not all B-12 supplements are created equally. Vitamin B-12 supplements in pill form may be swallowed and skip the gastric acids found in saliva and the stomach. These acids are needed to breakdown the vitamin and allow it to be absorbed by the small intestine. With this in mind, taking antacids, such as Pepcid or Prilosec, may reduce the absorption of vitamin B-12. I prefer to take supplements in the most bioactive form, meaning the body doesn’t need to break it down or convert it to an active form. For cobalamin, methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin are the most bioactive forms. Find this in a liquid form and you are in business! Now just make sure the product is vegan.
Raising Vegan Tip- The recommended amount of Vitamin B-12 is 2000-2500 mcg/week. Taking the B-12 supplement in the morning may give you a boost of energy.
Thanks to a close friend’s suggestion, one of the first purchases I made after the news of being pregnant was the book Expecting 411 This fantastic quick reference book, written by two women physicians, a pediatrician and a OB/GYN, covers it all! After skimming most of the chapters, but carefully avoiding the “Labor Day” section (after all I had 9 months) I came across the do’s and don’ts of skincare products. One main ingredient to avoid is Vitamin A, which has many names, i.e. retinol, retinol acetate, and 3-dehydroretinol. So, after reading the tiny labels on my skincare products, I needed to go shopping!
Things to consider when purchasing skincare products- the ingredients (No Vitamin A) and the manufacturer. For me, it’s important to ensure the product is both vegan and cruelty-free. Sadly, these two things do not always go hand in hand, so a little investigating is required. If the product is sold in mainland China, it MUST be tested on animals, and therefore not an option for me. The symbols to look for are
Warning- Not all companies have made it on the PETA database. My favorite facial moisturizer by French Girl, is both vegan and cruelty-free, but was not found in the database.
What is your favorite vegan & cruelty-free skincare product?
Pregnant! Now, what? Prenatal vitamins! They are critical for providing the essential nutrients that our fast growing babies use from our bodies during pregnancy. Our pediatrician once said that the mother’s body is altruistic and will allow the growing baby to take all the needed nutrients. Therefore, we must replenish ourselves so we can continue to aid in the healthy development of our babies.
On the store shelves or online, there are hundreds of choices for prenatal vitamins.
The top 4 things I look for in a prenatal vitamin:
Some people may not be aware that animal by-products can be found in our supplements and vitamins as gelatin. If the vitamin is in a capsule or chewable form, then it is likely made with gelatin. Gelatin is a protein used to hold substances together and can act as a glue. It can be found in a long list of items, from marshmallows to photo paper. Where does gelatin come from? Sadly, bones. To avoid bones in your vitamins look for the or “Vegan” declared on the bottle/package. When in doubt scan the ingredients and don’t forget to read the inactive ingredients!
Side note regarding inactive ingredients, Brand name medications and generic medications do not have to have the same inactive ingredients. And yes, inactive ingredients have the potential to cause unwanted side effects. The active ingredients can also vary to some extent. The FDA requires that blood concentrations of the brand and generic drug are within a 6% variance. So, it is good to know what is in your medications and how well your body tolerates them.
Another buzz word to look for when shopping for supplements is carrageenan. When shopping for my daughter’s pain relief OTC medication (teething time), I was horrified to find carrageenan as an inactive ingredient in various liquid acetaminophen formulas. FYI, Infant Tylenol grape flavor is carrageenan-free (at least the last time I purchased it). To learn more about this complicated substance, check out the dedicated post “Carrageenan”-coming soon!
Links to recommended products: