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Happy New Year, Mommy!

I don’t know about you, but personally, I am happy that 2012 is behind me. Every year has its ups and downs, but I feel that 2012 was particularly hairy, and I am celebrating every time I write 2013 on a check or document this week. (I may be the only person who still actually writes checks.)

I’m not one for a New Year’s resolution, but this time of year does start me thinking about how to improve life, health, relationships, diet, etc.  At Bottle Snugglers, we are going through a lot of changes this month and this year. This little baby bottle holder, which has been the center of my universe for four years, has taken me on quite a journey. I am so thankful for my customers’ and friends’ support! Good things are ahead here for sure. More on that in a few weeks.

So, how are we (yes, you are included here) going to make 2013 a great year? I have a few ideas for myself, which I am going to keep rather vague and unmeasurable to stay out of the “resolution” category. I like consider them goals instead.

1. Think less about baby shower gifts. :)
2. Sleep more.
3. Be more involved in the “world” (read: actually leave my desk and see humans)
4. Aim for three days a week minimum of some fun physical activity. Less punishment, more fun outdoors.
5. Appreciate myself, and celebrate my achievements, even if I don’t achieve all of these goals.

We are busy. We are sometimes overcommitted. We are tired. We need a third hand to help feed our baby while we assist our toddler in reading a book and our kindergartner in making a snack. But Moms get it all done somehow, and that is what I think we should all focus on in 2013. Celebrating ourselves and our every day accomplishments. Do you agree?

Happy 2013! You have made my last 4 New Years celebrations very memorable.

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!

Making Baby’s Food? Consider Organic Produce

We all love to save money without sacrificing quality, no? For me, this has become an obsession of late. I like to see if I can make our dollars stretch a little further without compromising too much on what we need and want.

One great way to stretch the budget when baby is on jarred food is to make it yourself. I wrote a post on this very topic recently. While we’re at it, we should look closely at the types of foods we are using. For example, how do you know which produce needs to be organic and which is relatively low in pesticides conventionally? Let’s take a look.

You may have heard of the list of produce most often containing insecticides/pesticides called the “Dirty Dozen Plus,” as set forth by the Environmental Working Group. They also produce a list called the “Clean 15,” which are most often the lowes pesticide containing foods. These lists give us a short, easy to use guideline on how to consume (and feed our infants and kids) less of these poisons, which are meant to kill and deter insects on the farm. The latest findings are listed on their website at http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/.

Important to mention is this quote from the website: “Eat your fruits and vegetables! The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. Use EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides to reduce your exposures as much as possible, but eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all.”

The Dirty Dozen Plus (produce that typically contains the most harmful pesticides if bought non-organic) – apples, celery, bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, nectarines, grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries, potatoes, green beans and kale.

The Clean 15 (produce that typically has the least harmful pesticides present and is OK to buy conventional) – onions, corn, pineapple, avocado, cabbage, sweet peas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, kiwi, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, watermelon and mushrooms.

What I take from this report is that, when possible, I should buy the Dirty Dozen Plus items organic, but if I can’t afford the organic version or it’s not available, conventional will do. Information is power. So, maybe you buy organic apples and peaches for baby food, but you go for the conventional peas and avocados. If you can, make enough to freeze, and next trip, you can get some different organic produce and do the same. In no time, you will have a good supply to choose from at each mealtime, and it will be no sweat to replenish little by little without the temptation to go all out and blow your budget in one trip. Ahhh. I love it when a plan works out!

However you decide to feed your baby, you will make the right choice. :) Enjoy this beautiful fall day.

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!

Back-to-School Organizing 101

If you have a Bottle Snuggler, you clearly have an infant in your life. Lucky you. Many of Bottle Snugglers’ customers have older children as well, and for these Moms, it’s back-to-school prep time.

Fall is my favorite season. Always has been. Maybe it’s because my birthday is in September, or maybe it’s that I’m not an extreme weather lover, and the cool breeze and lower humidity are more pleasant for me. Either way, the start of the school year brings back fond childhood memories of getting new notebooks and school supplies, shopping for school clothes, and making  my plans for the year.

My son is going into first grade later this month. After day one or two, having “new school clothes” isn’t really necessary at this point. That will come soon enough, I’m sure. We have his school supply list, and he has picked out his new backpack and lunchbox for this year. And now, I’m thinking about how his schedule will affect our household. It’s a good time to make plans that will ease the chaos and lessen the chances of forgetting something important in all the excitement.

My biggest weapon against morning crises is to lay everything out the night before. By the time I go to bed, I will have Max’s lunch packed, except for the refrigerated items, his backpack loaded, permission slips signed and clothes laid out, complete with shoes and socks. In the bathroom, I lay his vitamins, sunblock, brush and toothbrush/paste out in a line on the counter, ready for action with little thought needed. I even take it one step further in the kitchen, and lay out the pot and the oatmeal, along with our bowls and spoons, so I am skipping those steps in the morning. I figure it gives me an extra 10 minutes of sleep, plus I am able to think more clearly at night when the pressure is not on.

My husband and I are both self-employed, so we make a plan for the week for who will drop off and who will pick up. This ensures that we don’t double book ourselves and have to scramble. We keep a calendar on the fridge with any details on it: after school doctor’s appointments, religious events, birthday gifts needed for a weekend party, etc. Things may still fall through the cracks, but we definitely make a good effort.

We all have our little tricks for getting it all done. My friend and a very talented organizer, Angela Harris of Angela Harris Design, has some tips for back-to-school organizing that I wanted to share with you, too. Sometimes it helps to hear someone else’s perspective. Maybe you’ll find another little tip that saves you some time this year! http://bit.ly/OI6VKp

At least, if you do have to walk your little one into class, you have your Bottle Snuggler for an extra had with the baby Good luck with your plans!

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. :)

Are You at Risk for Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression has been more in the spotlight in the last few years. Or maybe I just started noticing it more after I became a Mom. It’s easy to overlook topics until they are super relevant to you.

We all know first-hand someone who has been affected by this condition, which can affect any pregnant or postpartum woman. Pregnancy hormones are complicated, and they can make us feel a range of emotions, good or bad, which sometimes feel like a roller coaster that we can’t get out of. The same process that preps our body for carrying and giving birth to our babies can seem to turn on us and cause havoc in our lives.

Most importantly, those of us who have had experience with PPD, either personally or through a loved one, need to be vigilant in informing our new Mom friends about the potential for postpartum depression and how it may rear its head. I read a great interview on The Family Groove about this topic, and I wanted to share it here. I’m all about sharing our parenting resources, so look through my other blog posts and see if anything else is helpful to you.

Below is a link to the article on Postpartum Support International. Feel well!
http://www.thefamilygroove.com/may12_CharityMonth.htm

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