Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mama Nomad's Favorite Baby Items

Now that I am a mother of three, I am offically a bonafide baby EXPERT., but really, I have over these 6 years of mothering discovered some key items that have beloved to us, amidst a sea of crappy (and many times uneccessary) baby products. Most of these things I discovered the first time around, and always kept coming back to.

My criteria for a classic Nomad Baby item is that it must be useful (duh), be healthy for my baby (non-toxic), support the mother-child relationship or family unit, and also it must be visually pleasing. Anyone that knows me, knows I am very aesthetic--I simply like beautiful things. Baby items are no exception, and often my senses are literally offended by the current style of mainstream baby products: obnoxious characters and colors and fabrics, gawdy plastic toys, Disney and Sesame Street slapped on every binky and pair of trainer pants. Babies are so stinkin' cute when they are born, so pure and delicious from their fuzzy heads, down their creamy rolls to their edible, sweet-smelling toes. It is a joy to just gaze at and examine their faces which are always an exact blend of their parents...I find most baby clothes and nursery items downright distracting from the beauty and glorious presence of a newborn baby.

Parenthood takes an enormous amount of practice and the tricky part is that as soon as you think you master one thing, your baby has moved on to another. Now that I am doing this the third time around, its become more clear what most babies need is relatively simple: boob, sleep, boob, play, boob, sleep, boob, play, boob, sleep, warm body, more boob....all the while kept fresh/dry and appropriately clothed. Since the beginning of time, across every land and culture, babies have had these same needs in order to thrive. In a culture of capitalism and consumer culture, we have TOO MUCH to choose from, and a sickening excess of product that goes way beyond our needs. The process of which I have adopted a beloved baby product is that I likely felt a need for it first, then I researched what was available and considered recommendations, purchased and finally put it to the test. Other times it was a gift from someone that was pulled out and used again and again. And finally other things were anticipated, before the baby and rightly so, as opposed to those things you are told you need but somehow never even make it out of the packaging. (Hello, Craigslist.) I feel confident that anything that has made it on my list (save for one) would make a great gift to anyone you know who is expecting and it would not sadly sit in a nursery closet.

So without further blah-blah-blah I bring you......

Mama Nomad's List of Favorite Baby Items:

1) The Ergo Baby carrier

There are a lot of carriers out there, my friends. Seemingly endless. This carrier is the absolute best money we ever spent on a baby carrier. Why? It's crazy convenient to toss your child onto your back when busy doing housework, running errands or out in crowds of people, giving your child a safe place to view the world. Many carriers do this but the Ergo is the most comfortable and more importantly its Papa-friendly--it's the only one Blake will use! He like the click straps, and even though I think the mei tai carriers (like the Babyhawk) are more attractive, he can't manage the long fabric tie straps. We find this item to be essential to traveling with your baby--airports, concerts, festivals, stores with lots of stuff where your kid will get over stimulated, hiking, exploring the name it, we've done it with an Ergo. Mayan saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers and A Perfect Circle on Papa's back thanks to the Ergo. Here are some photos of us out-and-about using the carrier:

(cool enough for a dad to wear in a tattoo shop in SF even!)



(on a ship in San Diego)

(for comparison, this is the Mei Tai-style carrier, the Babyhawk)

While I know there are various carries that can be done using this carrier--front carry, hip carry, and newborn with an insert--I find this to be best suited for the back carry with babies five months and up. Also, there are other carriers that follow this design now but "back in the day" this was the bees knees and I am pretty loyal gal. They have improved the design over the years so the price has also gone up. I think 5 years ago I bought ours for $80, and now they are $105...worth every penny.

2) Padraig slippers

I could not come close to counting the times people have stopped me and asked about the adorable sheepskin slippers on my babies tootsies. Blake and I discovered these on our first trip to Vancouver BC when Mayan was 14 months. We bought them in a tucked away kids shop on Granville Island. The bottoms are leather and inside is snuggly, breathable sheepskin, with a crocheted top that has a great granny-like charm. When she grew out of those I had to find the next size up (now George wears them!), and I had a hard time finding them online, but then then they picked up in popularity and more and more US stores started carrying them. I have a pair in every size from newborn to Mayan's size, and I like the cream and grey tones best. They make them for grownups too......

3)the famous-on-my-blog Hammock

How I wiiiiish I had this for my girls! The first time I saw a baby sleeping hammock was at my friend Jennifer's house--she had discovered the Amby and hoped it would solve all her fussy baby woes...I'm not sure it lived up to her expectations, but it sure looked like a beautiful, blissful sleeping cacoon. The downside to the Amby is that it hangs from a stand and takes up floor space--it has a "contraption" look about it. Then my friend Breana had a hammock at her place when I met her that a friend had loaned her. It hung from the ceiling and had a gorgeous wood yolk that the fabric tied to. They loved it so much they made one of their own, and that is the one passed on to me. You could buy any fabric to use but the purple Batik works so well, we kept it, and you can untie it and wash it anytime. I find it works better with a boppy pillow inside to create a curved bed. What is so great about this concept--and in the book Babies Celebrated there are numerous pictures of different tribal peoples and their hanging baby cradles--is that it keeps baby off the floor (out of danger, you know if you lived in the jungle and were worried about snakes or wild dogs attacking your babe), when they stir in their sleep it creates a soothing bouncing motion, all the while the baby can hang amongst the hustle and bustle of daily life (better to train babies to sleep that way rather than only in quiet places.)

4)Under the Nile crib blanket

Under the Nile is my hands down favorite organic clothing source--super basic pieces in the highest quality Eyptian organic cotton. Before I had Isadore I ordered this blanket, in that search-for-the-perfect-swaddling-blanket. It wasn't at all what I had expected, not really the size or stretch for swaddling at all, but turned out to be an amazing treat. The organic cotton sherpa is soooo delightful, like fleece but not made from plastic. Totally unbleached (also available in green) with a simple trim--just the way I like my baby's things. Isadore ended up being premature and tiny compared to Mayan, released from the hospital just as Fall hit, so I kept her swaddled and snuggled under this 90% of the time. I would also fold it up to use a sling insert and used it to cover her when she was in the carseat. Washed easily and stayed beautiful. I gave my belly-buddy Amy one, too, for her babe that was due the same time George-Ephraim was. If I had the dough, I would buy one for my king sized bed--they come in all sizes.

5)The natural rubber pacifier

I am not really a pacifier mama, but I do think it is a very personal decision. I used one briefly with Mayan in the early months when I was overwhelmed with her insatiable need for sucking--she was eating every 45 minutes and half the time it was just for comfort. It helped greatly on our trip to New York City when she was 10 weeks old, where it just wasn't convenient to whip out the boob on the subway or during a cab ride (althought I did whip it out plently of other places like the Guggenheim and FAO Schwarts on 5th Avenue...) but I had it phased out by the time she was 6 months (the magical time where many new moms get their bearings.) Isadore never used one. I did not plan on using one for George until Blake and I were preparing for our first time out alone to see Nick Cave, and the grandparents were going to stay home and watch the kids. I was worried that Geo would wake up while I was gone and thought that if they popped a pacifier in his mouth, he would be none-the-wiser and go back down. I went out the day of our date, to Mother Natures on Clinton Street and bought this european all-natural rubber one that I had seen on my last visit. He ended up sleeping the whole time we were gone without a stirring. Phew.

But then the binky was there. And eventually, I gave into it. Let me just say that pacifiers are like heroin--one hit and its a slippery slope to addiction. This is the one item on my list that I would NEVER give to someone as a gift because like I said it a very perosnal decision, and should be thought through thoroughly--not to be decided in the middle of the night when you are sleep deprived and out of ideas. One time is all it takes. Babies obviously need to suck, they find it very soothing and the mere action can at times knock even the most upset child into slumber. It makes since that since we are equipped with the perfect pacifier (nipples) and babies have such a great need for it there is a built-in relationship there, therefore we should question any substitutions. But in our modern world, not every mom can offer the nipple all the time. SO in conclusion, blah blah blah, this is the most natural pacifier out there:

All Natursutten pacifier are made from pure, natural rubber from the tree Hevea brasiliensi. No artificial color. No chemicals softener; parabens, PVC, phtalates and BPA (bisphenol-A) free.

Plus its the least obnoxious looking one--no dancing Elmo, no pastels, just a straight up rubber substitute for a nipple.


This recommedation came to us from Blake's beloved Dr. in San Diego. We call it our "big guns" and if you are a believer in homeopathy, its the shiiiiiz. Kind of a cover-all for babies when they are freaking out--restlessness, teething, and minor infection with or without fever. It comes in these handy little plastic vials that can be carried around in your purse. I usually try a homeopathic for my children before resorting to over-the-counter pharmacueticals. It seems to just give their sensitive bodies a nudge to self-healing, before trying a true drug with a lot of muscle. Most times after giving a dose or two of Viburcol, my babies settle down and fall asleep.

7) A Silver Rattle

What ever happened to silver rattles? It is considered a classic heirloom gift, can be engraved and kept for babies LOVE them. This was Mayan's first toy she ever gave notice too, as a tiny newborn. They are shiny, make a sweet noise, and the cool, slick metal feels great on the gums. Ours was given to us by our dear friends Walter and Bruce who picked it up on a trip to Peru, and we've let all our babies play with it until they get older and we stash it away somewhere special. Pewter rattles are a more affordable option as well.

8)New Native baby carrier

This was the first sling I used and remains the last sling I've used (but I can't say I've ever looked quite this romantic using it). Simple, no patterns, no rings or adjustments--you just buy it in your size and that is that. Isadore practically lived in this sling for her first few months, only peeling it away to change her diaper, and then tucking her back in securely in what became known as the "outer womb." This is the optimal way to nurture newborns but especially preemies. When you wear your baby in a pouch sling out in public, people are much less likely to reach out and get their germy hands on your sweet babe. I will say though that this type of slinging takes practice, and even though I attempted it with Mayan I did not fully master it until my second. Here are pics of the two youngest in their "wombs":

9)The baby pilot cap

I read somewhere that colder climates, babies should keep a hat on thier head for at least the first year. Keeping their bodies warm takes up precious baby energy and so much heat is lost out of the top of the head. I loved Isadore's so much that I framed her first preemie sized hat along with her 4 month baby pictures. I had them in wool, fleece, and cotton (Hannah Andersson makes the nicest cotton ones at a great price.) and my friend Korin knit a striped one for Georgie as well. I think babies look old-fashioned and cute as hell in them, and Blake calls them Amelia Earhart hats.

10)Three Men in a Tub

This list would not be complete without my favorite wooden toy. It's so simple, like something a Papa would carve for his baby if fathers still, you know, whittled wood in their spare time. What I love about the Three Men in a Tub is that babies love to teethe on the little men--they have little ridges on them--and they are small enough for a tiny hand to grip. Then as they get older and are sitting up, they can rock the boat and knock the men out. When they get older still and develop more hand-eye coordination they can place the men inside.

11) 7th Generation diapers
All told, I have cloth diapered half of the time, and used disposables the other half in my mothering journey. Cloth diapers are again SO PERSONAL and the choices are overwhelming--a lot has to do with budget, who is using them, and the shape of your baby. So I instead will give my endorsment for the best disposable on the market. These diapers fit my criteria to a T: they are healthier for babies (no chlorine is used), they are so simple looking (some call them "whole wheat" diapers), and they hold a great amount without leaking. I tried the other natural diapers once (Tushies) and they suuuuucked. I never went back. Yes, they are still made with gel, but that is why I have tried to use cloth as well. Always looking for that perfect balance in this modern world....

12) Unbleached (Indian) Prefolds

Why it took me so long to discover these, I don't know. But even a non-cloth diapering mother should have a stack of these around. I lay them under the baby when changing him, to give him some naked butt time and protect the bed/floor. They are the first thing I gave when spit up or vomitting occurs. They can be layed into a diaper cover, or pinned/snappis and used with a wool soaker. I made a bunch of mama pads out of them by shaping them like a normal menstrual pad and topping it with flannel and fleece. And best of all when they get "retired", they make the best cleaning rags on the planet. They run only about a $1.25 each, and are diaper service quality--they hold up much better than bleached "chinese" prefolds because the bleaching process really stresses the fibers. This would make a really smart (and affordable) gift to give a new mom, and if you really wanted to stoke her out wash them a few times first to help them reach their full absorbancy.

Best toddler item:

Finally, this isn't really a newborn item but I wanted to include it somehow. I've been asked before by non-moms what a good gift is to give a 1 or 2 year old. I can tell you that hands-down the gift that excites babies of that age and will be used for possibly the next 10 years, supports healthy living and encourges the best kind of imaginitive play is SILK PLAY SCARVES. It will not fail and even if the child has some already, there can never be enough. You can buy them by "seasonal" color sets, and in different sizes. The starry sky one is a big hit. Younger babies play peek-a-boo and love the feel of the soft silk, then as they grow can wear them as capes, dresses, pirate scarves.....I've seen kids use them as "water" in their play scenes or build forts or make them into slings to carry their dollies.....

Sarah's Silks are very popular and easy to find but are made in China and so if you would like to support a work-at-home mother in the states, try going to and searching for "playsilks" to find one dyed in the USA with lots of love.

Best toy catalog:

The holidays are coming and that means relatives buying gifts for your children. A few years ago we decided to send out catalogs to our family members that we knew wanted to purchase gifts--but we feel money is wasted if the gifts are not something that we would personally choose for our children, gifts that reflect our values of health, sustainability, and imagination. This became our favorite catalog of all. We could order a few, circle what was appropriate for our kids and then pass them on. We found that our family enjoyed seeing the large collection classic, well-made toys that Rosie Hippo offered. Check them out and you'll see--I prefer looking through the actual catalog which you can request through their website.

So, readers, what are YOUR favorite baby items? (even if you don't have kids I am sure you've bought gifts for some loved ones....) Feel free to comment here or write your own post!


Aimee said...

We LOVE our Three Men in the Tub toy!! In the bath and out, hands down is a great one!!

korin said...

i have wholesale with heel :)

Marketing Mama said...

Wow... you put a ton of time and thought into this list and I just love it! Other that the ergo, most of these items are totally new to me. I can't wait to take some time to look through all of those links. I can pretty much count on buying at least one or two things off of your list, because I'm easily influenced when it comes to baby gear. :)

Yay! Great post, thank you!

yummama said...

I'm not sure how I got to your site, but I was just reading about keeping baby heads covered last night (in "You are your child's first teacher"). I cannot live without my Moby wrap right now. We have two ergos (one bought one gifted) and we can't wait to use them, but our daughter is only 6 weeks old. The Moby allows her to be extremely close to me all day. We also use prefolds when not using seventh generation for travel and we just LOVE Thrirsties brand covers. I tried so many other covers (sortof overbought...) and they are the only ones that contain the poo and don't chafe thighs. Also, a shout out to Snappis--couldn't use prefolds without them. Thanks for the list--going to make baby a hammock now!

UrbanHippieMama said...

I LOVE seeing the old pictures of you and Blake with the girls as babies... What a beautiful family.

And thanks for the shout out on the hammock... Rich has put that at the top of his priority list for this year, so hopefully soon we'll be selling them! :)

LA RN said...

check out the pics on my blog of me using the Ergo!

I also gifted a sling to a soon-to-be-mom...

radishly said...

Happy Birthday!

Jennifer said...

Happy Birthday!!! Hope you're having a great one. I miss you. (Love the pics of you on your sister's site.)

Bill & Savannah said...

What a wonderfully packaged post Mama! I love it!

radishly said...

Thought of Mr. Nomad today:

Shirley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.