A Review of Assorted Baby Products

  • Considering that my better half and i live in a tiny basement apartment in a city not known for large… anything, we were accustomed to living our lives with careful consideration of any objects brought into the house.  Readers who’ve known me a for a long time know that this is a substantial change from my impulse-buy bachelor days.  
  • Change, however, is a thing that’s said to happen when babies are involved, and suddenly we find ourselves host to all manner of new products, some we’ve sweated the purchase of, others we’ve clicked buy on and hoped for the best.  
  • Consider this an addendum to my corporate-friendly thoughts posted earlier.  Highlights and commentary on design choices follow*:
    • Ergobaby 360 Carrier: This replaced the other carrier below, and everything about its construction reflects well on its higher cost; the materials and features are excellent and well-considered.  That’s not, however, the same as saying i agree with their choices.  

      In particular, the lift-the-baby-then-secure-the-carrier method is uncomfortable at first, and maybe something that not everybody can even do.  Basically you lift the baby onto your chest, ideally leaning back a little while standing (it’s awkward while sitting), support them with one arm, don one strap, switch arms, do the other strap.  Then, let go of the baby (!) and reach to connect a buckle at your shoulder blades.  Now, the baby can’t go anywhere at that point—the straps can’t go back over your arms if they’re raised—but this is more of a high-wire act than i’d like, and beyond that simply lacks the convenience of front access.  It seems to me that it would be easy enough to design an accessible fastener that only releases when the weight of the payload is held by your hands.  

      Apart from that, for a $150 carrier, charging $20 extra for multiple locations of washable drool covers is a bit ridiculous.  Despite all that, it’s comfortable for both of us for long walks or subway rides or bouts of xmas shopping, and his legs are well-supported with a clever forward-swung sling portion of the carrier.  His considerable weight is distributed partially to the waist, which helps as well.
       
    • Infantino Carrier: We bought this almost on impulse at Target, because it was so inexpensive and it served us extremely well while he was little.  People with smaller babies probably would get longer use out of it.  Ultimately, worn front-facing, it provided inadequate support to his giant fat thighs as he reached the 15-20lb mark.  The four-buckles-for-him, two-for-me system was easy to put on, though, and we miss being able to be securely wearing the carrier before inserting the baby into a stable location.  The downside was (again as he got heavier), the weight was all on the shoulders, which required better posture than i have and meant it got uncomfortable after an hour.  
    • Munchkin Diaper Pail: This has a fun little gear mechanism that operates the sphinctering of the tubular diaper baggie. It sometimes skips due to too much torque on account of being too full, but in general, the sphincter twists shut very effectively, which means that our tiny bedroom with like, half a window, does not smell like diaper. It doesn’t consume consumables excessively, either.  Here is where i say ‘sphincter’ one more time for fun.  At work, i frequently describe mechanisms or concepts using this word, because it’s both funny and scatological and extremely descriptive.
    • Fisher-Price Jungle Gym: A hand-me-down, and a lifesaver of one.  We don’t have this version, and there are clearly a few out there, but there was a good two month period where he couldn’t help but burst out laughing every time those butterflies fluttered overhead. Moreover, it’s a solid framework upon which to hang whichever little toy he’s most into, as he’s progressed from staring at it to beating the crap out of it. It’s on its second use, and as he wrestles it and i trip over it, it is slowly losing some of its rigidity.
    • Thule Urban Glide 2.0 jogging stroller: This is our only stroller, which is a decision we are mostly good with, except when we find ourselves in a tiny store or café, or on an orange line car at too busy an hour (read: we really prefer to keep our stroller off the T).  Put another way, it’s deceptively huge.  It’s long, obviously, but the wheelbase sneaks up on you, and it’s the thing that snags, or runs over strangers’ toes.  Someday we’ll have a cheap smaller one for stuff like that.  

      Having said that, this thing is awesome.  It bounces cheerfully over the uneven brick and cobble sidewalks of the South End and up and over mismatched, nonexistent, or blocked curb cuts, without jostling the (probably sleeping) passenger, thanks to pretty nice, simple shock-absorbing and big, forgiving wheels.  It drives great while running, too, rolls extremely smoothly, but that’s not the same as it requiring no effort; up hills, and especially into Boston’s inescapable winter wind, it’s an additional burden.  Good.  

      The adapter for the (see next) car seat was simple and robust, and also led too short a life.  Now that he’s out of that, though, it’s a lot more fun for him, as he’s got more to see than just the sky (not that he doesn’t love the sky), although he’d probably still prefer it if the stroller had 10-15˚ more uprightness available.  The wind/rain cover is also excellent and means that we can go out on the coldest days with just the (amazing) LL Bean sleeping bag thing that my mom got him and don’t have to coax him into more garments.  

      The wheels come off easily to fit in our car, in addition to the nice folding mechanism (one quibble—the closure latch is just a cheap plastic hasp and tooth that is sometimes a wrestling match.  It seems to me a swinging, detented hook might be better on release.
    • Chicco KeyFit car seat: We got nearly five months out of it, and i’ll always remember it as the thing we brought him home from the hospital in.  He was straining against it almost from that day.   It was a matter of weeks before we were pulling out the inserts for newborns, he was confined and overheated through the hot, humid summer, and practically bursting out of it when we switched to the next car seat.  We used the snuggly winter cover thing exactly once.  It is, however, extremely robust and well-designed, and one of many things we feel extremely wasteful about for having used so little.  

      In general, infant car seats should be easier to carry one-handed (they probably are with lighter babies).  The handle needs to get closer to your body, and there needs to be a way to not be bouncing it off your knees as you walk down the block.  Perhaps i’d be willing to move the handle left or right and trade an addition of ballast for a more convenient center-of-mass.  In smaller cars like ours, some help in clicking the seat in, visual aids, detents/feel features would be nice.  It’s not hard, but sometimes, due to the long cramped reach with an extended heavy object, the insertion-and-click winds up being heavy and jarring for the dude.  
    • Graco 4-in-1 car-seat: He was content for 45 minutes in the old one, provided the car was moving steadily.  With this one, its maybe up to an hour. It’s definitely more comfortable for him to get in and out of, a lot less yelling.  This is a heavily, heavily upholstered thing that i haven’t spent enough time with yet to truly understand.  It is worth mentioning that it’s huge, and that it’s cost me a click of my seat in our Mini Countryman.  The buckles are a little chintzier than the Chicco one too, and get lost and twisted a bit more easily.
    • Qooc Food Processor: This is a relatively new addition, which is fun for me to play with, because someone clearly put some effort into the product design on it.  Especially noticeable is the big, blue, lightpiped, rubberized control knob.  It’s a good, simple UI feature, even if the ‘power’ glyph on the front is maybe not the right choice, given its function (left = steam on, right = blender momentary-on).  i’m more disappointed on their behalf that they almost got the light pipe right, but there’s some LED bleed out the side of the knob.  Bummer.

      The retention of the blade on the bottom of the pitcher is sufficient, but unconvincing—the nut holding it should have a light detent.  Other than that, they did a good job implementing proper food-processor-type safety interlocks with simple, inexpensive parts (i have some experience with this (whaat, it comes in purple now!)).  If it were me designing it, i might have put thru-hole drains in the bottom base under the pitcher for cleaning purposes, too. Chopped-up carrots, especially, are pernicious little bits of debris.  The material chosen for the included spatula discolored almost immediately against carrots.  This thing comes with a lot of parts, too.  It’d be nice to have some means of storing some of them.  Cribbing off our shop at work, i am organizing it (as well as our bottle+formula station) using cheap cafeteria trays.   
    • Baby Einstein Take-Along-Tunes music box: Our better fake child bought this for him based on her extensive babysitting experience, and she was not kidding.  This simple, cheap little thing has comparable effectiveness to a pacifier.  Push the button, music and lights, calm baby.  It’s hard to believe that seven classical-music tunes played with probably the firmware equivalent of .MOD files (look it up if you’re not enough of a nerd) work so well on little folk.  The scant downside is that it consumes AA batteries surprisingly quickly.

      If i were so bold as to redesign this perfect product, i suppose i might spread out the flashing lights so they’re more visible from more places. And maybe scallop the bottom so that it’s harder to inadvertently mute the speaker on carpets and blankets and things.
    • Car back seat mirrors. We’ve tried two, neither of which have done that great a job of hanging onto the Mini’s center headrest. Currently it’s this one, which is fine except the logo on it is deeply hideous. All of the strap arrangements on these are varying degrees of horrible, though. Feels like it could be done with more of a sleeve or sack sort of arrangement, or even bendable hooks.
    More likely to come later.
  • *These are Amazon affiliate links, for the lulz.  Doubt that works out for me.
  • The Tale of a Hobo and his Son

    A long time ago when my better half and i were first dating, i up and quit my job, because it didn’t satisfy me.  It paid well, but i was finding myself bored and frustrated.  Since i was planning on doing some traveling anyway, i just up and quit, and explained to her that i would just become a hobo.  The unemployment didn’t last very long, really, but the epithet stuck.

    Years later, i find myself away from my job again, embracing my former hobo ways and teaching them to my infant son with varying degrees of success.  Put another way, being on paternity leave is weird.  It’s weird to be sitting at home in the middle of a workday, knowing my desk, my job, and my colleagues are all chugging along, but feeling no pressure to deal with any of it.  Very happily, i don’t have to, and have instead this brief opportunity to just have this one thing to do, to take care of the little guy.

    So what do we do with our days?  They fill up, that’s for sure.

    • It seems likely that anyone who watched a video of me playing with the man would probably wind up questioning my sanity.  Actually i’m pretty sure that if i saw myself, i’d wonder just what the hell i was thinking.  It becomes quite literally anything-for-a-laugh.  During the morning, it doesn’t take much, and as the meter runs low toward the end of the day things become a bit more desperate.

      roger_rabbit

      Not that he’s remotely difficult, but i guess there’s a natural tendency towards being  eager to please your little guy, so i find myself jumping up and down, hiding, crawling, singing songs (both correctly and with made-up lyrics that go increasingly off the rails with every passing verse), making faces, making noises, wandering the house, staring at the sky, waggling toys, picking him up, moving him around…

      Whatever works.

    • We spend a decent amount of time exploring the city, too.  Lately there’s been a pretty marked increase in the time it takes us to get us out of the house, what with our little man needing an increasing number of layers which he doesn’t want and tiny hats and gloves which he doesn’t want.  In general though we try to be prepared to bounce, to go out and bring the man to his mom for lunch, to go to the North End to get more coffee (because someone tried to murder our coffee maker and someone decided to try being nocturnal for a night), to go meet friends playing hooky, go protest the end of the republic, or systematically walk down streets we’ve never been on, or go hit up all those lunch spots that i never get to while working because i just don’t spare the time.  He’s got the time, i’ve got the time.  Until days like today, where the howling winter winds were not his favorite thing.  Maybe our exploring will just be the Copley mall from now on and he’ll grow up having expensive, horrible taste.
    • Napping.  My assignment for these weeks is to get the kid from being a lap sleeper to being actually put down for naps.  Reckon i probably get a C+ on this right now, in that i get him down, but he sleeps shittily.  So to make amends for this we are back on the lap later in the day where he sleeps soundly and adorably.  And i read Twitter or something.  But we’re working on it, grudgingly.  Even though he’s enormous, there are worse things than having a little dude snuggle on you.
    • The nice thing is, cleaning and other household mundanity passes for entertainment for him.  So long as i’m talking about what i’m doing, he is fascinated by it.  Especially if there are moving things, lights, noises, a change of setting.  He doesn’t know it’s work.  Also he’s great at home improvement:
      IMG_0564
    • Lifting.  Dude is 22 pounds at just over four months. You spend a lot of time picking him up, putting him down, holding him up to let him try standing (the sooner the better,  man, except don’t), lifting him up to play with you.  It’s a lot to ask of a busted shoulder.
    • Watching the cat has also become a thing in the last week or so, and the feeling is mutual.  Our selectively-aloof cat has become very invested in our little man’s well-being.  If he’s yelling, you can bet she’s either checking on him, visibly concerned, or coming to let me know i’m a lousy parent, often both.  She looks in on his bassinet, curls up on his toys (and i don’t think it’s just territoriality anymore), and gently sniffs him when he’s not flailing.  This, at long last, is a good kitty.
    • And then of course there is troubleshooting.  Does that grunting mean he’s pooping or has he learned to fake it (yes, he has) for some reason?  If we’re stuck on 93 for a further 15 minutes and he’s blowing up and i can’t get off, just what can be done (i don’t dare try plugging in the pacifier in motion, but playing with the car’s interior lights moves him away from redlining for a little bit)?  Is he cold in the carrier or just twitchy because he wants out (it’s always the latter)?  Is he bored with this toy (possibly) and is a change of setting needed (a reliable tactic)?

    But anyway have i learned anything?  Sure.

    Things he likes*:

    • Standing and walking directly on my chest
    • Watching raindrops in puddles
    • Drooling
    • Flirting with strangers
    • Fish-hooking his pacifier out of his mouth and cursing its sudden absence
    • Swiveling his head wildly while eating and wondering why the food is everywhere but his mouth, shouting something to the effect of it being everyone’s fault but his
    • The sky
    • Our (i have to share it now) stuffed talking Porg
    • Bricks and other sharply-defined patterns
    • Watching the kitty
    • The TV (so we rarely have it on just yet (except we both watch soccer on the weekend))
    • Watching videos of himself on the phone
    • His reflection
    • Most electronic music, Hall & Oates, Bowie, James Brown, They Might Be Giants, ‘Brass Bonanza‘ (you can add a lot of stupid lyrics to that tune), and the Trololo song.
    • Putting the incoming clean diaper on his face (okay, at first he didn’t like it but i wore him down)

    Things he dislikes*:

    • The wind
    • The sun
    • Sleeves
    • Pants
    • Republicans (i can’t prove that)
    • His car seat, which he is now bigger than
    *subject to change