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Family, Pregnancy

Baby Sleep Contraptions: A Comprehensive Review

August 26, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 8.40.45 AM

Alternately titled: I spent way too much on swaddles and sleep products so you don’t have to. 

There were so many times during the first three or four months of Ainsley’s life when I would have paid almost anything for a good night of sleep. We bought a lot (and I mean, a lot!) of different sleep “contraptions” that promised a great night of sleep for our infant. Some were super successful and others were a total flop. While I have to preface this by saying that every baby is unique and what works for my baby might not work for yours, I wanted to put together a full list of the sleep products we tried and what did and did not work. Let’s dive into the full list, shall we?

1. HALO SleepSack Micro-Fleece Swaddle ($18.44)
The Good
This was our favorite sleep product for the first couple months of Ainsley’s life. Our hospital gave these out to each baby born there, and we kept coming back to this swaddle when other sleep products just didn’t work. It was easy to use and made the swaddle process very seamless. Plus, Ainsley slept really well when swaddled in the HALO.
The Bad
We bought a size up in this swaddle from Target when Ainsley grew too big to use the one from the hospital. I noticed that the cotton/fleece that they used in the Target version (same brand, just made for Target) was noticeably cheaper and more flimsy, making it hard to get a good, tight swaddle. I would recommend buying a higher quality one, like the Mico-Fleece version available on Amazon or those available at Pottery Barn.
Overall Score: 9/10

2. Woombie Original Baby Swaddle ($28)
The Good
It made me feel safe putting Ainsley in this. With other swaddles I was constantly worried about the material inching up over her mouth in the middle of the night, but there is no way it would/could happen with the Woombie. Also, it’s fool-proof and easy to zip your baby in and not worry about correct positioning.
The Bad
For us, the Woombie just didn’t work. Ainsley liked to have her arms free to move a little bit more, and this was super restrictive. We only used it for about a week before we jumped ship. Probably good for a baby who loves a really snug swaddle.
Overall Score: 5/10

3. Swaddle Up by Love to Dream ($29.02)
The Good
Like the Woombie, this swaddle made me feel super secure knowing there was no way Ainsley was going to get any fabric in her face, no matter how much she moved and wiggled in the night. It was easy to use (just zip it up!) and Ainsley couldn’t get her arms out. Also, since Ainsley had an affinity for sleeping with her hands by her face, she loved the design of the swaddle, which zips with baby’s hands up by the face. That way, she could soothe herself in the night by sucking on her hands in the Swaddle Up.
The Bad
Nothing! We really loved this product. It was a short time period that we used it (which is why I’m giving it the lower score) but I thought it worked great.
Overall Score: 7/10

4. Mom’s On Call Swaddle Blanket ($22.95) (not pictured)
The Good
The swaddle seemed to be made of quality material and was super soft. 
The Bad

After reading the Mom’s On Call Book and buying their products, I have to say that I’m less than impressed with their entire system. Although I do think I mastered their swaddle method (with their over-priced piece of flannel) it didn’t feel super safe to me, especially with a baby that loved to move and squirm in the middle of the night. There were a couple times when I came into Ainsley’s room only to find her with a bunch of loose swaddle material around her in the crib, which made me super nervous. Additionally, I disliked the tone of the book and their over-promising. They claim that if you get the swaddle method right, your baby will sleep through the night. If your baby doesn’t sleep through the night? You’re probably swaddling wrong. Call me crazy, but anyone who has had a baby that’s less than textbook knows it’s not that simple.
Overall Score: 3/10

5. Merino Kids Organic Cotton Sleep Sack ($119.00)*
The Good
I truly can’t say enough good things about this sleep sack! This is the sleep sack we are currently using with Ainsley now that she can roll both ways and no longer needs to be swaddled at night. It keeps her warm, and I think it also helps her sleep well since she feels cozier and more secure. The cotton is super high quality and the snaps in the arm holes give your baby room to grow into the sleep sack over time.
The Bad
It’s a bit on the pricier side, but knowing Ainsley will be able to use it for many, many months to come really puts the price into perspective. A lot of the other sleep products we purchased had a very small weight or size range, meaning we didn’t get much use out of them. But this one can be used for kiddos up to 2 years old.
Overall Score: 10/10

6. Ergobaby Sleep Tight Swaddler ($44.93)
The Good
I don’t have anything good to say about this swaddle. I had high hopes for the Ergo branded swaddle, but alas I was disappointed.
The Bad
The package makes the way to use this product look so simple! But if you can get your baby to sit still the way they show in the pictures in order to get the correct positioning to use this swaddle, then you are a better mom than I am! I couldn’t figure this one out at all and found the whole process annoying. We didn’t even use it for a single night. Total fail!
Overall Score: 0/10

7. Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit ($39.95)
The Good
We love Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit! Ainsley used this for a couple months (months 3 and 4) while she transitioned out of the swaddle. Once she started rolling over, we transitioned her into the sleep sack for safety. This was a great transition item because your baby feels secure and movement is more restricted than in a sleep sack, but gives them a bit more freedom than a swaddle. Since Ainsley sucks her thumb, she loved being able to bring her hands to her mouth.
The Bad
We had a few mishaps when Ainsley would pee through her diaper as she started sleeping longer stretches. It takes quite a while to wash and thoroughly dry the suit.
Overall Score: 9/10

8. Aden and Anais Easy Swaddle ($19.95)
The Good
The material is soft and breathable, and I found this swaddle much easier to use than the swaddle blankets.
The Bad
I didn’t think the material and the structure of the swaddle was secure and tight enough to really get a good, firm swaddle needed to help baby sleep.
Overall Score: 5/10

Aden and Anais Swaddle Blankets 4 pack (49.95)
The Good
These blankets are great for everything! I use them for Ainsley to play on, to cover changing tables, to wipe up spit or messes and cover the stroller on walks.
The Bad:
Unfortunately, they aren’t great swaddles, in my opinion. I found re-swaddling my baby in the middle of the night hard enough with the “easy swaddles” and trying to do the traditional swaddle method in the middle of the night? Practically impossible for this sleep-deprived mom. Additionally, I thought the material was a little flimsy to get a good, tight swaddle.
Overall Score: 9/10 for general utility, 4/10 for sleep
Note: Not many people know this, but you can almost ALWAYS find these blankets in a 4-pack in the baby/kids section at Homegoods for about $20, which is so much cheaper than other retailers. Be on the lookout!

*The Merino Kids team sent me a free sleep sack to review. Opinions are my own. In fact, I purchased another one after they sent me the free one because I loved it so much and wanted a back-up!
**Affiliate links used as appropriate. 

Family, Pregnancy

When It’s Not “Love at First Sight”

July 8, 2015

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Photo by Gina Zeidler 

As we were preparing for Ainsley’s arrival I heard a lot of people talk about the amazing “love at first sight” that you feel when your little one is born. People went on and on about how the minute you become a mom you are instantly changed and overwhelmed with all the feelings. Me? I was a little skeptical and more than a little worried about the whole thing. You see, when someone tells me that I’m going to feel a certain way there is a degree of stress and pressure to feel those same feelings. And if you don’t what does that mean?

Here’s the thing that people don’t tell you: You might not experience overwhelming love at first sight. I know I certainly didn’t. I loved Ainsley from the moment I saw her: she was our long-awaited and much-anticipated miracle baby, for goodness sake! But I was also exhausted, clueless, overwhelmed and navigating a whole new world with a baby I hardly knew. I didn’t know anything about her personality or her likes and dislikes and I wasn’t confident in my skills as a mother in the least, because no amount of babysitting can ever prepare you for being a mom.

I was deeply committed to being her momma, in awe of her presence and her cute little features, thankful beyond words for her presence in our life and grateful for her safe and healthy delivery. But I felt so guilty about not having the emotional love response that others had told me I would have. I carried that guilt around with me like a dirty little secret that wasn’t appropriate to disclose.

The other night while on vacation, Joe and I were laying in bed after Ainsley went to sleep just chatting on and on about how much we loved her and how much FUN she has started becoming in the last month or so. Now that she is 4 months old, she is smiling, babbling to herself, giggling and responding to us in new ways everyday. She grabs the puppy’s tail and makes funny faces to things, her eyes light up when we sing to her and she tries her best to sing along. She’s becoming a real person with real likes, dislikes and personality traits. And over the past couple months I’ve started to fall deeply in love with who she is as a unique individual, beyond the fact that she is our baby.

I told Joe, “I think I’ve always loved her, but now I really understand what that all-consuming love for her is about!” Sounds horrible, right? I mean, you’re “supposed” to love your baby that way from day 1. But with all the sleepless nights, hazy days, raging hormones, baby (and mommy!) tears, and so many unknowns, I found it sort of difficult to really make that connection. And now that things have settled into a routine and we’re getting to know our little person? Gosh, it just keeps getting better and better!

So if you’re a new mom or soon-to-be mom or even thinking about having kids in the future, I want to encourage you. You don’t have to feel any certain way at any certain time. Maybe you’ll experience that great “love at first sight” moment like some people do, or maybe, like me, it will take you a little longer. Whatever your journey, there really is no “right” way to do things or a set of benchmarks that you need to reach and different moments in your development as a mom. Just like your baby reaches developmental milestones at different times, moms reach those moments at different times, too!


Pregnancy, Uncategorized

Hey, first time momma. This post is for you.

March 18, 2015

View More: by Gina Zeidler

I’m so very sorry that posting has been so sporadic lately. I really should have just anticipated that I was going to need a full month of blog maternity leave to adjust to life with a newborn and life as a family of three. Of course, I though I was going to get so much more done than I’ve actually accomplished, despite what I had heard from veteran mommas who have much more wisdom about this parenthood thing that I have.

Although I don’t claim to be an expert, in fact I’m very far from it, I do have the benefit of perspective being in the thick of the new momma days and have a few things I thought I would jot down for all you out there who are thinking about pregnancy or are currently expecting your first baby.

1. Read all the books you feel comfortable reading, but don’t feel bad when you don’t remember anything you read in the first few days at home. I felt SO prepared before Ainsley arrived, having read parenting and sleep books galore, but when you’re awake in the middle of the night with a newborn that has their days and nights mixed up, it seems so much more real than the theoretical scenarios you read about. It’s okay, there will be time to go back and read later, and the books will all make more sense when you have a few weeks under your belt, anyway.

2. There really is no time like the present, so do your best to be in the moment rather than living for the next. Joe and I are constantly battling this only three weeks in! I find myself thinking about when Ainsley is a bit older and sleeps longer stretches, but then Joe gently reminds me that we should cherish this stage and not wish for the next because when she is a little older she won’t sleep on our chests with her little frog legs curled under her body and baby cuddles will be harder to come by. Keep reminding yourself that no stage lasts forever, even if it feels like forever at the time.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! The nurses in our hospital preached the importance of not sending your baby off to the newborn nursery because of the value of bonding with your baby by rooming in with them. Thankfully some of my veteran mom friends told me differently! Take advantage of the help while you have it, sleep as much as you can so you go home well-rested and ready for the first wonderful-difficult days at home. And when your mom volunteers to care for your baby in the middle of the night while you go back to bed, take her up on that offer, too. You’re not a “bad mom” for letting others love on and care for your baby. You’re human.

4. Be an advocate for your baby, but check the worrying (and Dr. Google) at the door. I heard that once your baby was in the world the worry wouldn’t subside, it would only increase, and boy is that true! I’ve found myself worried over baby sniffles, poop color and tummy fussiness more than I ever thought possible. Since you are your baby’s momma and probably see and know more about them than anyone else, it’s your job to advocate for them when you notice something seems off, but know when to draw the line. Steer clear of Google and call your pediatrician when you really need a question answered. (I’m preaching to myself with this one!)

5. It doesn’t matter how (or what) you feed your baby nearly as much as people will lead you to believe. Breastfeeding, bottle feeding breast milk, formula feeding or a combination of both – the choices are numerous and the opinions are plentiful and passionate. I always thought I would breastfeed, only to find out that for a number of reasons (that’s another post for another time) the best solution for us was to bottle feed breast milk and exclusively pump. For the first few days after making that decision I agonized about the choice and felt guilty sharing that choice with others. But I soon came to the realization that even the best laid plans don’t always work out the way you want them to and that’s more than okay.

6. The first few days and weeks at home are tough. I know everyone will be asking you about how things are going and how your baby is sleeping and how you’re feeling. You might feel pressure to have it all together and say that things are just wonderful and you love being a mom, and that might be true. But if you’re feeling exhausted and mourning a bit of your old life with your husband and crying in the parking lot of Target 4 days postpartum, that’s okay, too. It’s possible to love your new life AND mourn your old life.

7. Find a support group of other new moms to walk with you on this road. I have a handful of momma friends who have newborns around the same age as Ainsley and have also joined a new momma/first-time mom class that meets at our local parenting center for six weeks. It’s SO helpful to connect with other women who are burning the midnight oil with feedings and baby fussiness and just knowing that there are others in your exact same stage of life helps tremendously. Because sometimes in the middle of the night when you’re up with a fussy baby it can feel incredibly lonely and you could probably use the reminder that it’s not just you navigating these unfamiliar waters.

8. Don’t try on your pre-pregnancy jeans 2 weeks postpartum. Just don’t. Give yourself and your body a little more time.

9. And speaking of bodies, remember that although you’re probably eager to get back into shape and start looking like your old self as soon as possible, your primary responsibility right now is to feed and nourish your baby and to take care of yourself. So focus on filling your body with nourishing foods, plenty of water and as much good stuff as possible. The weight will come off in time, or so I’m told.

10. Take a little time to yourself every single day. Nap while your baby naps, read a magazine for 20 minutes, let your hubby bond with your little one when he gets home from work so you can take a walk outside or a soak in the tub. Shower, wash your hair and put on makeup. Whatever makes you feel like your old self is SO important for your mental well-being, so do whatever it takes to make time for something like that daily.



Baby H Maternity Photos

January 27, 2015

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I knew from the start that we wanted to have newborn photos taken professionally in our home after Baby H arrives (in just about 5 weeks!) but I was a little unsure about taking maternity photos. I’ve seen so many maternity photos that make me uncomfortable (bare bellies really aren’t my thing!) and sometimes they feel so forced. But when I booked Gina to take our newborn photos and she offered to do a small mini maternity session of about 45 minutes in length at her studio, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

If you live in Minneapolis, you just have to take a look at Gina’s work and jump at the first opportunity to have her take your photos. She was so incredibly wonderful to work with and her relaxed way of shooting put both me and my husband at ease. I’ll admit that I’m usually pretty comfortable in front of the camera, but being pregnant in front of the camera had me a little nervous. Thank you, Gina, for making the process so much fun!

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Pregnancy, Uncategorized

Second Trimester: Maternity Fashion and Body Image

September 4, 2014

photoThe first evidence of a growing bump! (above)

Hello again! I feel like it’s been forever since I checked in with you all. California wine country was absolutely wonderful and I plan to put a full travel post together soon, but travel posts always take me such a long time. In the meantime, let’s sit down and have some good old fashioned girl talk about babies, body image and maternity fashion, shall we?

I’ve always been so excited to be pregnant and have a family of my own, especially given the rocky road we’ve journeyed to have this baby, but, given my body image struggles of the past, I was more than a little nervous about seeing my body grow and change over the 9+ months of pregnancy.

I don’t want this to come across as complaining in any way, because as I mentioned we are so very thankful,  but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that seeing your body grow and change and having it be out of your control can be extremely unsettling at times, especially when you have a rocky body-image past.  I’ve been careful to watch what I say and monitor my thought processes about my growing body, appreciating what my body is doing (growing a human!) rather than what scares me, like the extra pounds and squishy bits that weren’t there before.

One of the things that’s been helpful is to buy and wear clothing that fits my body in its current state, rather than trying to fit into items that used to fit a certain way and now fit quite different. Since I’m on the tall side, I’m just barely showing shy of 15 weeks, meaning most maternity clothes don’t seem necessary but some of my old favorites (especially the waist-defining dresses I love) don’t fit, either.

Last week I went shopping and picked up a handful of dresses from Banana Republic and Gap Outlet that are looser and stretchy, meaning my bump will have some room to grow. I also picked up a shift dress from Anthropologie that I should be able to wear for months to come.

As far as maternity clothes go, I would love your suggestions! I recently splurged on a dress from Hatch Collection (the Afternoon Dress in black if you’re interested) which felt like a total indulgence. Since wearing Hatch exclusively isn’t in the budget, I would love to hear where you found the best fun, trendy and affordable maternity pieces. Anywhere I should be looking ?


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