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How Can Moms Help Moms This Holiday?

When you think of the holidays, what images come to mind? Cold weather, great deals, crazy traffic, crazier family gatherings? (Just kidding about that last one.) All of these are familiar to me, but my overall feeling is that the holidays are a time of giving. Giving help, giving gifts, giving cheer, giving advice. It’s the advice giving that gave me the idea for today’s post.

Who needs help more than a Mom? We are constantly juggling kids, work, household issues, community commitments, friendships, and our own health and well being  – throw a major holiday or two into the mix, and you have a recipe for burn out. Who, besides me, has been here before?

In my experience, Moms especially have a need to do it all and do it well. We want to bake the prettiest cupcakes, volunteer for the classroom holiday party, get a promotion at work, keep our husbands healthy, and attend yoga class at least three times a week for both the Zen and fitness benefits. Outside, all looks perfect. Clean kids, completed projects, touched-up highlights…but inside, I bet most of us are like ducks – looking calm on the surface, but paddling like hell under the water.

So, what is the solution? I don’t think I can solve the problem of being over-committed, but I do have two suggestions that will help: Admit to fellow Mom friends that we are in the same boat AND Accept this realization when someone offers it to you!

Think about it: When you see a friend who, from your perspective, has it all together, it makes you feel just a tiny bit inadequate, right? How does she get her kids to each kale, maintain a constantly full plate at work effortlessly, and still have a regular date night with her husband? Clearly, there is something wrong with you because you could never live up to this standard. Wrong!

I guarantee that this seeming easily-achieved charmed life is, in reality, pretty much the same as yours. Do yourself a favor – ask her how she does it all. You will be surprised to know that she feels as overburdened as you! Maybe her hair is highlighted, but it hasn’t been washed in a week! That kale achievement? Perhaps it came at the end of a fight/bargaining match with her toddler. Sound familiar? We are all in the same boat. I have been on both sides of this equation, both thinking that I can’t measure up and having a friend say that my life seemed charmed and that it was hard to believe I had a problem.  Ouch.

That’s how I know that both of my suggestions are important. Personal experience. Let’s be quick to correct this assumption, whether it is us or someone else doing the assuming. We have enough on our plates without  also trying to compete with our friends for Mom of the Year.

Ahhh. Doesn’t that feel better? Now, I am off to bake those cupcakes. After all, the class holiday party is tomorrow!

Baby Products That Offer “Extra Hands”

When an infant joins the family, parents quickly learn how to do most everything with just one hand. Remember holding baby in one arm while you fumble through your purse, help your other child with a project or search the Internet for a product that will offer you that third hand that you need?

In honor of my love of problem-solving products, here are some of my favorite baby products and baby shower gifts that offer a “third hand” to parents of infants.

*WubbaNub www.wubbanub.com- This adorable invention solves the problem of dropping and losing the pacifier. Did you ever panic when you couldn’t find the paci? WubbaNubs are sweet little plush animals that hold on to the paci, so baby can manipulate the paci themselves, plus enjoy the adorable animal friend. It was also invented by a Mom. Super smart, I say, and a problem solver.

*Boppy www.boppy.com- It was surprising to me the amount of pain that can come from holding an infant in one arm for an entire feeding. Really. When they start getting some weight on them, or if you are exclusively breast feeding, you need something to prop your arm on so that you can relax and enjoy feeding time. The Boppy nursing pillow is perfect for wrapping around your waist and supporting your baby-holding arm during marathon feedings. Ahhh, relief.

*Diaper Genie http://www.playtexbaby.com/DiaperGenie/Home - Bathroom language comes quickly with a new baby. It’s funny how comfortable we get talking about poop when we become parents. Now, disposing of the poop requires strategy. For us, it was a Diaper Genie, the little plastic pale that sealed in the diaper smell, at least for a couple of days. When the bag is full, you empty the pale and put an empty bag in. And believe me, when you take the full bag out of the Diaper Genie, you realize just how effective it is at sealing off that odor. Whew!  Thank goodness for small favors.

*Bottle Snugglers www.bottlesnugglers.com- Of course, I have to mention my very favorite problem-solving product for babies: Bottle Snugglers baby bottle holders. :) For me, even though I could do most things with one hand, when it came time for a bottle, I would find myself with no hands at all, and sometimes I needed at least one of my hands! Enter the Bottle Snuggler, which holds baby’s bottle temporarily while you hold baby, so you can have one hand free. If you’re just moving from breast feeding to bottle (or if you pump), you will love Bottle Snugglers because you can use your free hand to interact with baby while she takes her bottle. If you have more than one child, you can answer the demand for attention or a juice box temporarily with your free hand, and then go right back to feeding time as usual. Also invented by a Mom (yours truly), these little gems are also loved by Moms of multiples, who are just plain outnumbered at feeding time.

Sometimes Mom needs a third hand! Aren’t we thankful for products that help us keep all the balls in the air, at least for a few precious moments? I would love to hear your favorite problem-solving products. Maybe I will discover something new that I can’t live without.

Consignment Trades Equal Savings

What do you do with your kids’ too-small clothing or toys that they no longer play with? What about their old high chairs, play stations (not the electronics – the little mat that baby lies down on with attached  arches with toys dangling from them), baby bottle holders, books, kitchen sets, etc.?

If you’re like me, you either put them in storage “just in case,” give them to a friend with a new baby or donate them to a worthy cause. These are all good ideas. Another option is taking them to a local consignment store. There are lots of these, especially since the economy has been lagging, and some are even franchised now. Here’s how they work.

On the designated day (check with the store for when they do intake), you take your gently used items to the store. Generally, the owner will take them from you, put your name or customer number on the package and call you later with a value, or offer, for the lot. Sometimes they will add it up right on the spot, depending on how busy they are. It’s nice to get a little something back for the things you have invested in. But keep in mind that this is not retail pricing. The store owner has to be able to pay you for the item and mark it up to retail price to re-sell it to the next customer, so you will likely be surprised at the pricing at first. Just remember that, if you donated or gave these items away, you would get nothing in return, so at least it’s a small favor.

Say you have a stack of boys Polo shirts, which you spent $29 for new. They were last year’s shirts, so they’ve been washed several times and have clearly been worn. The owner may be able to sell this shirt used for $9, and she may offer you $4 for it. It’s not exactly like getting a refund, but it’s better than nothing!

Things to remember when you want to consign your items:
* Only gently used items with not stains or holes (clothing) and no missing parts (toys) are acceptable.
* Every store has a different policy, so be sure to read the fine print before you commit. For example, do they donate the items after a certain period if they haven’t sold? Do they pay you on receipt of the goods, or do you call each month to collect a check for what has sold?
* You may get a slightly higher offer if you agree to spend your money in the store vs. taking a cash pay out. But this is only good if you need to buy something. Don’t just buy something for the purpose of not losing the extra $1! It’s like the idea of couponing – if you buy things that you wouldn’t have normally just because you have a coupon, you aren’t saving money.

Also, there are things that you shouldn’t buy used (and many consignment stores won’t take), like car seats. Maybe save up your loot from all of your consigned items so you can buy these brand new. 

You can also find new items in the “boutique” section of some consignment stores. Bottle Snugglers are sold at Sprout Kids Consignment in Jacksonville, FL, for example. So, definitely visit a local consignment store and see what treasures you can find. Maybe a toy that you played with as a kid or a beloved toy that your child lost on vacation will catch your eye. One child’s trash is another child’s treasure! And think how “green” you will feel for helping to promote recycling. Happy shopping!

Baby Shower Gifts for Every Budget

Many people have a love-hate relationship with baby showers. We love the idea of celebrating the arrival of a new baby, but we can have anxiety about picking the appropriate gift (not to mention those not-so-fun baby shower games!).

 Should we only choose gifts off the parents’ registry, or can we go with an old stand-by that we just know will be a hit? Will they lean toward the old fashioned toys, or would more tech-savvy and modern gifts be better received? So many choices can make the process more tedious than fun.

 Having attended my share of baby showers, and selling a very unique shower gift myself, I can offer a few tips to guide you through the maze of baby shower gift shopping. Let’s look at some items that every new Mom can use.

 Clothing:I suggest staying on the registry here, as Mom likely has a good idea of how she wants to dress her little one. Who wants to have a big stack of Minnie Mouse onesies to return, when you clearly registered for pink tutus? The exception here is if you want to buy an outfit for the future, like a 12-month size, for example, just to give Mommy something to look forward to. (She can still return this, but it’s likely not on her registry.)

 Gear:  All new parents need the basics, like a stroller, car seat, bouncy seat, high chair and maybe a traveling crib for hotels or car trips. These are among the most expensive necessities, so you could join forces with several other guests and tackle one of these items together. Definitely stay on registry for these pieces, since some of them match or coordinate. And remember never to buy these things used, as industry regulations change quickly, and they may not be as safe as a new model.

 Feeding and Changing Accessories:What goes in must come out! So feeding and diaper accessories are great baby shower gifts. I suggest finding out which type of bottle, breast pump, diaper system or product line Mommy plans to use and supplement her supply. We have all run out of wipes at a terrible time, and having a ready stash would be a relief. This category includes Diaper Genie (or the equivalent), diapers, ointments, wipes, disposable changing pad covers, bottles, breast pump and accessories, Boppy pillow (or the equivalent), bottle warmer…the list goes on!

 Bathing Supplies: Mom will likely have these on the registry, as she may have a certain fragrance (or fragrance free) brand or an allergy-free line that is her favorite. This is a fun category, as you could choose hooded towels, baby bath tubs, bath tub mats, water temp thermometers, squeaky toys or one of many bath gel/shampoo lines just for baby. There are also towels that keep Mommy dry as she takes baby out of the tub.

 Just for Fun: If you’re sure that Mommy will receive most of what she has registered for, or you want to add a little something special to your gift, go for something that you would have loved receiving at your shower! A Bottle Snuggler is a great item in this category, as it helps Mom while it helps baby, and when it’s not feeding time, it doubles as a cuddly toy. Other thoughtful gifts are picture frames, photo albums, milestone or baby books, books for Mom to read to baby, a cute toy or something monogrammed with the baby’s initials, like a receiving blanket.

 Most importantly, whatever you buy, include a gift receipt! If Mom gets an abundance of one category, even though she loves it, she may need to exchange it for another item. Gift receipts make life so much easier these days.

 Enjoy your shower, and have a piece of cake for me!

Less Packaging = Less Waste!

Don’t you hate it when your child gets a great new toy and you have to spend half an hour trying to get it out of the package? Toy packaging has gotten way out of hand lately, if you ask me. Sometimes, we even need a screwdriver to get my son’s toys free from their cardboard and plastic homes! That’s taking it a bit too far, isn’t it?

Bottle Snugglers has always tried to minimize our packaging. This can be tricky because we have a lot of information to communicate in a small space. Believe it or not, we have shrunken it even further now! Our new packaging is a colorful back board that hangs on a peg. It looks so great, communicates how amazing the product is (in two languages) and all with just one thin piece of cardboard to dispose of.

Doesn’t it look great? Those little bottle inserts are our care and use instructions printed in 5 languages. Hopefully, this small change will help our customers to reduce their waste and encourage more stores to add Bottle Snugglers to their lines. 

If you know of a great baby or maternity boutique that would be a great fit for Bottle Snugglers, drop me an email at jennifer@bottlesnugglers.com. We are always happy to hear from you.

What Type of Bottle Works with Bottle Snugglers?

Do Bottle Snugglers work with all bottle types and sizes?

I hear this question often. The short answer is: Most of them! Because of the growing baby product market, new bottles are always being developed. Currently, Bottle Snugglers work with nearly every bottle style and size, though there may be exceptions that we haven’t tested yet. Bottles are getting wider, and it’s important to put the Bottle Band on from the nipple end (usually the narrower end) first, then slide it down to the wider end.

A few of the bottles that we have successfully used with Bottle Snugglers are: Playtex® Drop-Ins System®, Playtex® VentAire® Advanced, Evenflo, Dr. Brown’s Natural Flow® Standard and Wide Neck, The Smart Glass Bottle by Born Free™, AVENT Natural Feeding Bottle, MAM Anti-Colic by Sassy®, Nuby® Softflex® Natural Nurser™, Nuby® Non-Drip® Standard Neck Bottles and Adiri® Natural Nurser™.

Our next batch of Bottle Snugglers will feature wrap-around bottle bands, which will be very easy to fit around the fattest or skinniest of baby bottles. Another improvement that you can expect with the new Bottle Snugglers design is that the Velcro will go further down the side of each animal base, giving you more room to move the bottle down. This is helpful for shorter bottles. This shipment of New and Improved Bottle Snugglers is expected in fall of 2012!

Whatever type of bottle you choose, be sure to enjoy those precious feeding time moments. I can tell you from experience that they are fleeting! I hope you’re loving your Bottle Snugglers. :)

Moms Support Groups – Where are they?

Before my son was born, I didn’t really consider how much help I may need in adjusting to motherhood. How could I, really? That’s like knowing the ins and outs of driving an 18-wheeler without ever being behind the wheel.

Soon after we brought him home, though, I began to realize how nice it would be to have my family close by. We live in a different state than any of our relatives, so the stories of Mom living in with you for two weeks to help with the transition or siblings gladly sitting for you to allow for an occasional sanity-saving date night were just subjects of my deep jealousy. Well, jealousy may be a little strong. Envy might be better suited here. Or Still, you get the picture.

Seriously, though, when you are a new Mom, everything is not innate. You need other people to talk to, comiserate with over lack of sleep, share tips with, help you find great baby gifts and gear, and compare experiences to be sure that you’re “doing it right.” And if your family is not nearby, it’s time to become resourceful and find yourself an outlet!

I finally wised up and started taking my son to a local branch of The Little Gym, of which there are many off -shoots now. I got to socialize with other Moms of same-age kids while the program leader taught us songs, age-appropriate gymnastics or dance moves, and induced screams of joy whenever she brought out the giant parachute for the kids to run under and jump on.

In addition to that, I discovered that my neighborhod had a preschool play group. They met every other week for a couple of hours at the pool or playground. This was a great resource for both of us. Max met friends from our neighborhood, and I had the advantage of the experience of six or seven other Moms to draw from. My son is almost six, and that Moms group still gathers several times per year!

If you are starting to look for an outlet like these, I have put together a short list of some national organizations, which may have branches in your area. Some have annual dues to join, and some don’t. Thank goodness for the Internet! I encourage you that, if you don’t like the first group you go to, you should try a second or even a third. You’ll find the right place eventually, and you will be so glad you did.

International Moms Club http://www.momsclub.org/

Moms Meetup Groups http://moms.meetup.com/

Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) http://www.mops.org/

Moms Groups posted on BabyCenter.com http://community.babycenter.com/groups/topic/21/local?sortby=pop

How to interview a Nanny

Nanny, au pair, baby sitter, caregiver…all names for one of the most important employees you will ever hire. When we entrust the care of our children to a non-relative, it can be daunting and scary.

I am a working Mom, but I am fortunate to have a home office. Even before I started Bottle Snugglers, when I was a PR professional, I had a home office. This is a bonus when you have child care, as anytime you want, you can drop in downstairs and see how things are going. It made me much more comfortable when we hired a nanny. I was only a few steps away and could be on the scene whenever I was needed!

Having a nanny was a huge asset to our family. My husband and I both work full time, and having my son cared for at home, in his own environment, without having to travel with him in the mornings was so nice. Also, with a regular nanny, you have access to baby sitting in the evenings and weekends with a consistent, familiar face for the baby. Less need to frantically search for and train babysitters= less stress for Mom and Dad.

We used a nanny placement service in order to find several capable nannies to choose from. Then it was up to us to decide which candidate was right for our home. My husband and I sat down together with each woman and asked about several topics to get an idea of who they were as people, as caregivers and as employees.

I kept a file from that period, including the nanny’s time sheets and background check documents. I pulled some information from the interviews, which I thought may be helpful to others who are in the process of searching for a caregiver right now. Please add your own spin on some of these topics, take out what doesn’t relate to you, and use several sources to find your complete list of questions.

How long have you been a nanny?
What is your prior nanny experience? How old were the children? How long were you there?
Why do you want to be a nanny?
Any special training, like degree in early childhood development, sign language, CPR?
What is your style of resolving conflicts?
Are you good at maintaining a schedule as given by a parent?
What is a typical day like with you and a child the age of mine?
Do you have experience caring for multiples, more than one child, an infant and a toddler, etc.?
Do you smoke?
Do you have a reliable car or other transporation?
What are your favorite and least favorite parts of your job?
What kind of work environment is best for you? (Parents in home office or not, stay home or do activities in walking   distance, bring your lunch or enjoy food from our kitchen, fold laundry while baby sleeps or not, etc.)
Do you have child care lined up for your own children while you are at work?
Do you have at least three references from the past few years?

You will think of many more questions to ask, and these just scratch the surface. But this list will start you on the right track! Your friends will have great ideas, too, if they have been through this process before. Good luck with your interviews!

Busy Moms Unite!

I love talking to other Moms about how we “do it all.” Everyone has a little trick or tip for how to make dinner a little faster, organize our schedules a little more realistically, where to find a great baby shower gift, or how to squeeze some “Me Time” into our hectic days.

In March, I was fortunate to be the subject of a Mom-Preneur blog feature. The blogger also happens to be a photographer, so she did a beautiful layout of photos of my son and me. Too bad my hubby was traveling, or he would have been in on the shoot!

Annemarie asked some good questions about business and life, balance, challenges and rewards. Maybe you will get a new idea about balancing your own life (hint: I don’t believe balance exists!) or perhaps you have been thinking about starting a business, and you will benefit from my insights. Let’s keep sharing our information among ourselves so we can all benefit. :)

Here’s the link to the article from Marie Holmes Photography. Happy Easter! http://marieholmesphotography.com/blog/

Great Recipes for Baby Food Purees

If you have been down the baby food aisle in a supermarket lately, you have no doubt seen the vast array of options. It’s not just Gerber anymore!  Many new organic and all natural baby foods have come onto the shelves, though they often bring with them a higher price than the conventional jarred foods.

Luckily, today there are nearly as many baby food recipe resources and puree-making gadgets as there are jars on the shelves. Hooray for progress. One book that I found interesting is called, 201 Organic Baby Purees by Tamika L. Gardner. It is available on Amazon.com. I like that by making purees at home, as Tamika points out, your baby is eating the same whole foods as you are. Plus, you can control the ingredients, and you may even find a delicious new combination that is not available in stores. Your creativity will soar!

Here is a “featured recipe” copied from the book’s website. It sounds like a delicious smoothie. Hope your little one likes it and that you like the book. This book might even make a great baby shower gift or Mother’s Day gift.

Featured Recipe: Bananaberry Power Puree
201 Organic Baby Purees by Tamika L. Gardner

For babies 6 months and older
Yield 4-5 servings

  • 1/4 cup frozen organic blueberries
  • 1 small, ripe organic banana (with lots of brown spots)
  • 4 ounces whole fat plain or vanilla-flavored organic yogurt for babies
  1. Blend blueberries and banana. Puree until smooth.
  2. Swirl together puree and yogurt with a spoon. Serve immediately.
  3. Refrigerate any leftovers for up to 3 days.
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