The 10 Best Baby Items for 0-12 Month-Olds
Baby K'tan Original Baby Carrier (see review below)
Halo Swaddle Sleepsack
Uppababy Vista stroller
Dohm White noise machine
Baby Einstein Star
Pat the Bunny
Freshly Picked Moccasins
Joovy High Chair
My Pick: Baby K'tan Original Baby Carrier
Our first few days as parents were not the easiest, to say the least. I had a few different complications after delivery, including spinal headaches from a poorly administered epidural. My husband, Dan, nursed me back to health, advocated for me on the many calls with the doctor, and took care of our newborn daughter. He cooked meals, kept me on track with my medicine schedule, and was incredible moral support when I feared postpartum depression was creeping in.
I finally woke up one morning five days after Penny was born and could lift my head off the pillow without debilitating pain. Getting dressed for the first time in a week made me feel human again. I took Penny into the living room so Dan could sleep, and saw the mountain of gifts people had brought by.
There were a few different baby carriers, but since the K'tan looked the simplest, I pulled it out of the box. The directions were easy and straightforward; I got into the simple kangaroo position and popped Penny inside.
It was so strange reaching down to pat my belly and feeling something akin to a deflated balloon. Despite being so happy my daughter had finally arrived, I really missed being pregnant. I missed feeling Penny kick and knowing she was safely tucked inside.
Having Penny in the K'tan was the closest feeling I could find to having her back in my belly. I could feel her little heart beating against my chest, her long exhales, and her teensy fists curled up beneath her chin.
It was a beautiful October day in New York City, and there was a Starbucks one block from our apartment. After the week of 24/7 care Dan had given both of us, I wanted to do something nice for him. The K'tan enabled us to take our very first trip outside together, just me and Penny. No fuss, no hassle. I knew she was safe and warm inside her little K'tan cocoon.
That small feat of bringing home coffee and bagels is one burned into my memory from the first week of being a mother, and the K'tan made it happen.
After trying out the many other choices, my mom friends agree that the K'tan is the best carrier for infants. It doesn't require any wrapping or buckles, and it easily washes in the washing machine/dryer. Many friends of mine swear by it to soothe babies with colic, as the constant movement mimics being back in the womb.* Whatever your baby's temperament, I promise, it will be a well-spent $49.95.
*For more information on this, read Harvey Karp's "Happiest Baby on the Block
Before becoming a mother I taught second grade for a year, first grade for three years, and then second grade again for three years. Over the seven total years of teaching one observation in particular has stuck with me.
Despite how resilient and malleable children are, how much a child's environment affects him or her is astounding. I am fascinated with the concept of nature vs nurture. I taught in two private schools over the seven years: one in Greenwich, and one in NYC. While they are both prestigious schools that are difficult to gain admittance to and cater to extremely wealthy families, they are also extremely different.
The school in Greenwich prioritized both character education and academics, whereas the school in NYC --despite claiming they prioritize character education--solely focused on academics. I was amazed by how different the kids in each of these schools were.
Before coming to the NYC school I really believed that for the most part kids are kids. However, after teaching in these two schools, I realized how much a child's environment really affects him or her.
When I walked down the hallway at the school in Greenwich and encountered a child, nine times out of ten he would say hello and make eye contact as he politely walked by. When I walked down the hallway at the school in NYC and encountered a child, nine times out of ten she would be running, making noise, and would blatantly ignore me, even if I greeted her out loud.
It didn't take long to identify why the children acted so differently in each of these schools, despite them being very similar on paper. At the school in Greenwich, each morning began with a communal meeting where the teacher would do something to build community. The children were taught, and practiced often, how to walk in a straight line down the hall without talking. Children were expected to use manners throughout the day, and to sit quietly when a teacher or administrator was addressing them. Teaching the kids to treat your fellow classmates fairly and respectfully was interwoven throughout each school day.
At the school in NYC, the curriculum was so jam-packed there was little to no time left for morning meeting. In my second grade classroom I had to cut a part of our math period so that I could start everyday with a few minutes for my students to greet one another and discuss the day ahead. There was no time built in between classes, so we were always rushing through the hallways to get from one lesson to the next. As a result, the kids were wild. They ran through the hallways pushing and shoving. The culture of the school was that rules were meant to be broken. Maintaining a stellar academic record, even in first grade, was drilled into the kids so much that I had kids crying about one wrong answer on a spelling test. It was a true rat race, and everyone felt it.
Now, this is certainly not to say that the kids in Greenwich were perfect. They were, however, far kinder, and more attentive and respectful than their NYC counterparts, which had a lot to do with the message their environment was sending them. After experiencing both schools, I knew which one fit with my parenting style and which most certainly did not. It's part of the reason I traded in my teaching job to be be a stay-at-home mom.
I learned a lot about parenting through teaching. A parent, even more than a teacher, is a child's window to the world. Whether it's on purpose or not you feed your kids tons of information everyday. Your kids soak up how you communicate with others. Do you say "please" and "thank you" to the grocery store clerk? Do you address your spouse with kindness and respect? Do you follow the same rules you set for your kids?
Raising my kids to be kind, respectful, productive citizens is my top priority in life. Like many others, I think about my parenting constantly. Am I being a good role model for my daughter? Am I setting realistic, but firm expectations for her? Am I creating an empathetic person who will go on to to wonderful things in our world?
In a culture where your self-worth is determined by how many "likes" you receive on the photo you took of yourself, strong, active parenting has never been more important. I certainly don't have all of the answers to how to be a successful parent. However, right now I think it has something to do with putting away the iPhone, and modeling the character traits I consider important, instead of just preaching about them.
When we lived in NYC, we would endlessly mock My Gym every time we walked by. A gym! For toddlers! Can you imagine?! SO New York City. Reason #501 we are not raising kids here.
Well, we moved out to the suburbs, and guess where Penny and I ended up this rainy Tuesday morning? You got it, My Gym. It turns out the place is a fantastic, albeit expensive, alternative to our local library.
When you walk in you are greeted by an adorable, peppy woman named Katie who runs the classes. The connection she makes with the kids is evident in the high-fives and hugs they run [toddle] to give her. To start the class we sat in a circle and sang a welcome song. Penny just looked around, mouth agape, in awe of all the things she could play with. There's a ball pit, two slides, trampolines, swings; you name it, they have it.
After the song we did some light "stretching," which I found hilarious. A room full of 12-16 month old babies sitting in a circle getting ready for their workout. Penny let me swing her arms up and down like a rag doll. I'm not sure how much "stretching" she did, but it was a nice way to keep it moving.
Every ten minutes or so the two teachers would bring out different activities, such as swings, ball pits, and blocks to keep the kids' interest piqued. Did I mention the background music was Mariah Carey and other 90s hits? All in all, despite initial impressions from the sidewalk, My Gym was an enjoyable way to spend the morning in the middle of winter. We might even go for round #2 next week.
When I got pregnant, everyone and their mother asked if I had a diaper genie on my registry.
When it comes to babies, people are very opinionated. It’s completely irrational, as this baby can be wildly different than that baby in temperament, size, preference, and so on. However, people are completely convinced that they know best.
A swaddle helped their baby start sleeping through the night at two days old, so a swaddle will be the magic wand of sleep for the general baby public. By the way, there’s no way on planet Earth your child started sleeping through the night at two days old. You’re fooling no one.
The diaper genie is the universally desired baby product that everyone wants to buy you for your shower. If it’s not on your list, you’re going to get one anyway. Our turn to hop on the diaper genie train came around recently. Not ones to buck the trend as first-time parents, the diaper genie was one of the first items on our registry.
It was with us for two short months before I marched it down to our doorman for disposal. The diaper genie is overhyped, unnecessary, and quite frankly, incredibly unhygienic. Think about it: it’s a canister full of old, compiling human feces. It smells awful, it’s nauseating to clean, and if that baby gets in there, good luck.
Here’s a tip to save you time, money, and your good health. The next time someone suggests a diaper genie, give them a wink and just nod knowingly as you say, “Oh, yes, the Diaper Genie.”
Lilly Holland is a former New Yorker turned suburbanite who writes about parenting and her former career as a teacher in an elite NYC private school. She can be reached at Lilly.firstname.lastname@example.org.