Category Archives: Gear

Mirena IUD

Meredith wrote asking for experiences with the Mirena IUD:

"I've been reading all the stuff the Mirena people put out about it, and I know the listed side effects, etc. I guess I'm just looking for experiences from women who have gotten one. Was it uncomfortable to have in all the time? Does it affect your periods? What about mood swings? And I think it's a dealbreaker for me if it lowers my sex drive or makes my skin worse."

So if you've had or have the Mirena IUD in, can you give your experience with all those aspects? Thanks.

Q&A: breast pumps

Woo-hoo! Back to alleged reality for most everyone today. Over the break, my cats pried seven of the keys off my laptop, I had wacky hijinx involving airline flights, and I discovered that somehow all the crap in my apartment is reproducing so the more I get rid of the more there seems to be. I hope you're well.

Today's question is from Maria, who writes:

"Do you have any advice on picking out a breast pump? I feel lost trying to pick one out!"

This is when I confess that my breast pump knowledge kind of stopped in 2005, when it became evident that my second son was never ever ever going to drink my milk out of anything but me, so I gave up on pumping, and if I was out he just ate something else or waited.

But I do think the advice I've been giving all along is basically sound: You don't really need to have a pump ahead of time.

Here's the logic: Some women don't need to pump at all for the first month or so, and, in fact, pumping can screw around with their supply and get them overengorged and just cause all kinds of wackiness that's basically unnecessary. (Those of you who suffered from undersupply may not believe it, but oversupply can cause problems, too.) Plus it's just another task added to your overstressed brain and body, and why cause more headaches for yourself if there's no reason to do it?

If you are having actual supply issues (and by "actual" I mean that it's not just the normal "am-I-making-enough-how-can-this-possibly-be-working-when-I'm-not-actually-doing-anything-and-why-does-the-baby-want-to-nurse-from-3-9-every-evening?" stuff) then you should go directly to renting a hospital grade pump for the first few weeks until all that shakes out anyway. Sometimes supply issues are a matter of management and time (if you have edema, for instance, or got a bad start or had a traumatic birth) and you'll end up needing your own pump, but you can figure out which kind once you know what kind of pumper you are. Sometimes you're going to need to keep the hospital grade pump for the duration of your nursing experience. Sometimes you have issues that mean nursing isn't going to work, and having bought a pump is just going to add to the whole ball of suck that surrounds that discovery.

So. Upshot: Unless someone else desperately wants to buy you one, and will only buy it now, or you live someplace where you need lead time to obtain a pump, hold off until the baby's a few weeks old so you know what kind you'll need.

Having said that, I'll recommend the two gold standard pumps from a few years ago. Please, commenters, if there have been any new developments in pumping, put them in the comments.

For people who only have to pump once or twice a day, the universal favorite was the Avent Isis. It's a hand pump, but women said time and time again that they get more and have an easier letdown with the Isis than with an electric pump. I know first hand that their customer service is phenomenal, so if you lose a part or are confused about something (the white star disc has to go in facing down or you won't get any suction) they will fix you up cheerfully and quickly. (I would not use any other hand pump, no matter how cheap or available, because it just isn't worth it IMO.)

For people who need to pump more often, the Medela Pump in Style (PIS) was the winner. It's portable and reasonably quiet and has great, comfortable suction. Everyone I know who had to pump on the jobsite had the PIS and loved it about as much as anyone can love a pump.

And with that, I'm going to leave you with my own opinion, which is that pumping sucks. I don't know anyone who liked it, no matter how often or for how long they did it. It's one of those things we do for our kids if we can, but just counts as a sunk cost of parenting. 

Any new pumps out there that beat the Isis or PIS? Has anyone tried the new dual electric Isis and want to give a review?

Q&A: Stroller in bad weather

…..And I'm back. (You guys know I'm not actually gay, right, just supporting repealing Prop 8? If I was gay you'd already know it by now. I got an email from a high school friend congratulating me on coming out, and I thought that was funny. Anyway.)

So here's today's question, sent in by a lovely lady in a walking-friendly city in Canada who did not want to be named:

"how do i do this??? i have a 5-month-old and we can't stay inside all day, but it's so crappy out that I can't stand walking around outside. my baby's all strapped into her stroller all warm and snuggly and protected with the cover and wind shield, but i'm freezing my ass off even all bundled up."

Did I ever mention to you guys my idea for the Parent Suit? (I'm going to get production up and running just as soon as I establish my Monkey Assistant Training Camps.) I'd buy a whole bunch of NASA surplus astronaut suits and trick them out so a parent could be completely temperature-controlled and protected from the weather in the suit. Encapsulated, but able to walk around outside. Cool in the summer (plus protected from the sun), dry in the rain (and humidity-controlled), and warm in the winter (plus protected from the snow). I'd sell them in the One Step Ahead catalog (aka Baby SkyMall) and retire off my profits.

Seriously, though, you have a couple of options. The first is to invite all your friends and their babies over to your place. You get the mental stimulation you need without actually having to go outside.

The second is to see if you can do what you need to do while wearing your baby instead of strolling. If you put the baby in a sling/wrap/bjorn/snuggly/whatever under your coat, you can bundle yourself up and go more quickly than you do pushing a stroller.

The third option is just to resign yourself to slogging through the disgusting weather until spring. I wish I had something better than that, but I could never figure out how to make it not suck to have to transport kids in the weather without a car.

Does anyone else have anything for our anonymous Canadienne? Only 5 more months until May…

Annual Gift Guide 2008: Gifts to Give Back

See also Gifts You Buy and Gifts You Make.

As always, I'm going to urge everyone to support the Heifer Fund. Heifer is the most ingeniously-designed charity ever: Families in developing countries apply to the program, and are given a starter animal that is native to their area (unless the local stock has been depleted from in-breeding, in which case they get one of that animal but better stock) and training in best practices to care for that animal. Then they promise to give back the first offspring of that animal to another family in the community. That animal and any offspring after the first they use to feed their children and sell to make some extra income.

It helps families improve their lives without taking them out of their local cultures, allows them to help other members of their communities, and creates a network of animal husbandry experts in the same area who can work with each other.

When you donate to Heifer, you get to pick what you want to donate (the money technically goes into the general fund for one of the areas, but you donate enough for the cost of one animal or group) from a list of things like a cow, flocks of chicks, hives of bees, etc. It's an awesome gift, because it truly does become way more than the money you spend, and enables families to stay together, and at the same time the recipient in your life can imagine the animals. Check out the entire catalog here.

What else do you guys give to? Local groups? Other international groups? Are you doing any giving that doesn't involve money? Making things to donate?

Would you guys like to do some kind of service project here? I've been thinking about something like sending cards to US troops in Iraq, but wonder if that would bug readers who aren't American.

Annual Gift Guide 2008: Gifts You Make

See also Gifts You Buy and Gifts You Give Back.

Now you all really must step in for this post. I knit, but I don't feel like I have enough time to knit much of anything for anyone. And I bake, but probably won't do much baking this season. And those are pretty much the extent of my handmade skills.

So: What are you guys making for other people?

What are you going to help your kids make for other people?

Do you know of any knitting patterns that I could do in under 10 hours that would make nice gifts? (Bearing in mind that I need to do 3 baby sweaters before the end of the year also.)

What do you wish someone would make for you?

Annual Gift Guide 2008: Gifts You Buy

Since we always end up dividing the gift suggestions into three categories anyway, I'm putting up three separate posts: Gifts You Buy, Gifts You Make, and Gifts To Give Back.

This is not a comprehensive list of everything out there that is worth buying! It's just the stuff I'm particularly interested in right now. If I were Oprah I'd be able to get you all free samples, but I'm not, so I'll just describe the things in as wordy and conversational a manner as possible…

MoxieWear

I finally have my Cafe Press store up and running! It's sortof a random assortment of items, from baby shirts for tension
increasers or releasers to bumper stickers with the MXM logo so you can
identify other Moxie readers in traffic. Come take a look.

Books

I love books. They're just a really solid gift. The kind of gift that says "I like you. I take you seriously. I want you to be able to take a little break and lose yourself in a book."

For my dad I'm going to buy Ammon Shea's new book Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages. I'm hoping that's what my dad gives me, too. (Word nerds don't fall far from the tree.) The book is for anyone who likes words or dictionaries or geekitude or people doing absolutely ridiculous tasks. It's kind of like SuperSize Me, Into Thin Air, and the dictionary all rolled into one. Mark Peters did a funny interview with Ammon Shea about the book here. (Do you guys read Mark Peters' word columns on Good? He cracks me up, and not just because he's my friend and a fellow descriptivist. This one made me laugh. This one made me think. This one made me come up with a blindingly brilliant insight about language and double standards–feel free to comment on my typo-ridden comment there. Also, my photo there shows my current glasses.) I'm sort of ridiculously excited to read a book about reading a dictionary.

My shameful secret: I don't read much fiction anymore. I was a Comp Lit major in college, and read a book in English and one in Spanish each week. Those days are far gone, and now the only reading I do is nonfiction and the occasional review book (and probably a third of the books for my book club). So most of the fiction I buy is for other people.

My mom's been reading all the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books, and I didn't know there were more series by the same author (Alexander McCall Smith)! I think it's going to be a 44 Scotland Street kind of Christmas for her. 

And that's what I know about books. X-treme wordnerdism and fiction for grandmothers. So I really really need suggestions from you guys in the comments of books in other categories. Please?

Computers for kids

The XO is back on sale again. There are still the same philosophical issues with it as before, but if you regretted not giving one, or buying one to give and one to share, now's your chance. $199 to donate one to a kid in a developing country, or $399 to get one for you and one to donate.

Handmade but not by you

You guys know about Etsy.com, right? Crafty people sell their crafts there, and you buy them. I've gotten some amazing things on Etsy, including a gorgeous painting that makes me happy every time I look at it.

If you have an Etsy store, put a brief description of what you make and put your Etsy link in the comments.

Kid Stuff

In all honesty, I just kind of don't have it in me anymore for all the different kinds of developmental toys and whatnot. I've requested a Wii for the boys from my relatives (they're all going in together) so that the boys have something 1) they can play together 2) that's relatively active 3) that can be done indoors when the weather is bad (that's January-April in NYC).

I'm all conflicted about Legos. I mean, LEGOS! They're the best toy ever. But LEGOS! They're all over the floor, digging into my bare feet and making so much noise when the cats play hockey with them at 3 am. If I do give in to more Legos, I'll probably get this set to make sure they have a full range of pieces.

Also, my kids are currently Uno-crazy up at their dad's place, so I'm going to have to get a deck to play at mine.

I know you all must have favorite toys for kids, so please list them in the comments!

Magazines

We're still in love with Sports Illustrated for Kids around here, and if I had a girl I'd be all over New Moon. My guilty pleasure is Entertainment Weekly.

I know we talk about it every so often, but what magazines give you and your kids and partners pleasure?

Skin Care

If you really want to spoil someone you love (or yourself), consider getting a skin care system from Daybreak Lavender Farms. They grow most of their botanicals themselves on their farm in Ohio, and everything's all-natural and gentle to your skin. The systems are expensive but last forever, and are completely worth it: I developed horrible skin problems from all the stress of the last few years, and tried almost everything (including Proactiv) and the only thing that keeps my skin clear is the Daybreak Zit-Zap System (it works through my whole cycle, too!). It took a full six weeks, but now my skin is clear and moisturized and happy. I've heard of similar miracles in treating rosacea with their Calmez Vous System. Again, they're pricey, but they work, are good for your skin over the long run, and last for months. Plus, the people are very nice and ship super-quickly.

Self-Sufficiency

The best $8 I spent this whole year was on a tool kit at Ikea. I can't believe I never had one of my own before. I find I use it once a week, at least. Consider giving a tool kit with hammer, screwdrivers, and pliers to everyone you know, and one for yourself.

Delicious Self-Sufficiency

Give a person some ice cream, and she'll eat it for a day. Give a person an ice cream maker, and she'll eat ice cream for the rest of her life. I've been using this ice cream mak
er
for years, and love it. My favorite recipe: PiƱa Colada Sorbet: 1 can crushed pineapple, 1 can coconut milk (not coconut cream), sugar to taste, shredded coconut, vanilla extract, dark rum (optional). Blend together the pineapple, coconut milk, and sugar. (Add in a little cream or milk if you'd like.) Stir in the coconut. Refrigerate for a few hours until it's very cold. Turn in ice cream maker. If using rum, add it in once the sorbet is mostly turned.

If you're a popcorn fan, you need the Whirley-Pop. It's an old-fashioned pan you put on top of the stove, but the lid has a handle you crank that prevents the popped kernels from burning on the bottom of the pan. You can pop almost every kernel without burning anything. And it's fun for kids.

Massages

Probably everyone you know is stressed. And probably everyone you know would love a massage. You could get a gift certificate from a local massage therapist for someone you love, who would then love you much more, and in a more relaxed manner. Or, if you have a massage school near you, get two or three massages at the student clinic for the price of one from a graduated professional.

Gift Card Alert

Someone recently warned me that there are retailers that will be selling gift cards this season but then closing stores after January 1, so the cards will be worthless in 2009. I was sent a list, but have no way of verifying it of knowing the source. So if anyone has a reliable source for lists of gift cards that will expire at the end of December, can you link it? Thanks!

Your Suggestions

Is there anything you're just completely in love with? post it in the comments. If you put in the leading http string, it'll link it automatically.

Baby carriers and back pain

Baby carriers do not need to hurt your back. If you're wearing them correctly, you'll feel the weight of the baby, but it shouldn't be so painful that you need to take pain meds. If you are feeling that much pain, you can Google the name of the carrier you have and the word "instructions" and someone somewhere will have posted photos of the correct way to wear that carrier. Or else try a different kind of carrier, because there is no perfect one, and maybe there's a better one for your body.

In general, the closer to you and higher up you can put your baby, the less pain and movement you'll have. If you're using a Bjorn or Bjorn-style carrier (which I don't actually recommend because I think other styles are far less painful, notably the Ergo if you like a constructed carrier or a wrap carrier if you like less construction), make sure the cross in the back crosses below your shoulder blades. It should be where your bra strap goes. Here's a really old post on different kinds of carriers.

Also, wearing your baby should be something you do because you want to. Not because it's "in fashion" or because Dr. Sears tells you to. Do it because babies who are worn tend to cry less, or because you like having your little one snuggled against you, or because your baby won't stop !@#$%-ing screaming if you put her down, or because your best friend walked all the baby weight off by wearing her baby, or because you can't deal with your stroller, or whatever. But let it be because you want to. Not because the lady at the grocery store or the women on the message board or the misogynist ad-writers at Motrin tell you you have to and then make fun of you for it.

You are the parent. You get to decide.

Also, seriously–Lucky Magazine? I read you because I want to get away from the "moms should do this and that" crap that bombards me every effing day in this country. All I want from you is to know whether ruching is in this fall and how to wear suede booties with a sweater dress and why shea butter is the miracle that's going to solve all my hair problems. I do not want misogynistic mommy drive-by ads in your pages. If you want to take ads from the hacks at Motrin (who apparently have never heard of a focus group), force them to give you ads about pain and *actual* fashion. They could have done a heck of an ad about stilettos and other painful shoes, but they chose the easy, inaccurate, bottom-feeding low-hanging fruit. Don't participate in the proliferation of mom-guilt on the hardworking women of the world. We get enough of it every day from people wearing Christmas sweaters. We want your magazine to be a safe space.

I think I'm going out to buy a big bottle of Advil tomorrow.

(Hey–if you're feeling carpal tunnel-type pain from lifting or carrying a baby or toddler, before you despair or get cortizone shots or dope yourself up on a pain reliver that starts with M that I'll never buy again, try homeopathy. Go to a health food store and plunk down $6 for a tube of pellets of Rhus Toxicodendron. Get 30x if they have them–if not get whatever dose they have. Take one under your tongue three times a day. If it's the proper remedy for your kind of pain, you should feel less inflammation and pain within three to four days. Keep taking until the pain is gone. If it isn't doing anything after four days, then it's the wrong remedy for you, so you can stop. Safe for breastfeeding, and no interactions with anything else! I had debilitating carpal tunnel from lifting my horse of a firstborn, and his pediatrician, who is also a homeopath, prescribed Rhus toxicodendron for me, and it worked like a charm. So I'm passing it on to you, the pain sufferers of the internet.)

Beating the heat

We're in the middle of a heat wave here in NYC, so I thought that instead of just complaining about it, I could put up a post and we could share ideas for dealing with heat and humidity. To those of you down under and in NZ going into winter now, I apologize. But I know you Australians have tips for staying cool in the heat, so lay 'em on us, please.

I'm going to share what I've learned, but obviously I'm no expert. I have two fair-skinned kids (although both are slightly darker than I am–I never tan ever, only burn and freckle, and my kids turn a nice golden by the end of the summer) and I live in NYC where there isn't much community space inside and we spend lots of time outside at playgrounds all summer. Also, there's just no way to escape the heat in NYC since you have to be outside for significant time to get from one place to another. You come out of your apartment and walk to the subway or bus. Even if you can afford to take a cab everywhere, you still have to stand outside waiting for one. If you live in a public tran/walking city you'll get what I mean, while those of you who take cars everywhere probably can't imagine it.

My first tip is to remember that little babies are probably feeling better in the heat than we are. Not too long ago they were in 98.6 degree heat and 100% humidity, so they aren't as shocked and affronted by the wall of heat as older kids and adults tend to be.

That also means that you can definitely take them outside, just use common sense. It's better to go out in the early morning and late afternoon than the middle of the day. And don't have your babies in direct sunlight for more than a few seconds at a time. It's not good for their core temperature, skin, or eyes. The best thing in terms of monitoring their heat and shade level is to wear them in a carrier, but the hot hot heat is going to make that icky for you, so even die-hard babywearers often switch to the stroller in the heat of summer. (Other benefit of the stroller: cupholders for cool beverages.)

I loved my stroller tie-on protective shade because it provided shade, SPF protection, and still allowed the breeze to come through, but was annoyed with it because if I walked too fast it'd flip up and flap around. Maybe it was good that I had to pace myself?

I just realized I could blather on, but most of my tips can be summarized thusly: shade, cool liquids, and naps when people need them. Don't be a hero. And seriously keep an eye on your older, sports-playing kids to make sure they're not overdoing it (especially in polyester uniforms) because heat stroke/exhaustion can creep up on you. (I get it myself every few years because I'm a dumb-ass, and can attest that it's a slippery slope.)

What do you have for beating summer heat and sun?

Reader call: Car seat rage

The other day I schlepped my cats and both boys almost a mile in the snow to the vet (uphill both ways), and wondered "Why don’t I live someplace where I can just have a car??" But then I got this email, and felt like a jerk for my car-free self-pity:

"Please help….my child hates being in a car seat and facing backwards. She’s only 7 month old, so turning the seat around is a long wait. She can manage if someone sits in the back with her, but if no one there she throws tantrums. I’ve tried toys, singing, holding her hand while driving, but nothing seems to work. this winter is extremely cold, and its impossible to walk outside for long periods of time, so the idea is to go to the mall. But with this problem its even harder to drive to the mall than slippery roads and cold wind blowing in our faces. Please suggest something that I can do to make her more content with not having someone next to her for 15min drive."

I can remember a 6-hour drive with a 6-week-old screaming almost the whole time. But that seems to have wiped my car seat rage memory. In previous posts on this topic people have suggested that the baby might be carsick facing backwards, and that that may be contributing a lot to her anger. I’m not sure what the solution would be. You could try the Sea Band wristlets. I’d walk into the health food store and ask if they had anything homeopathic (not herbal) to alleviate motion sickness and try that. You could try a remedy like dramamine, but some kids react badly to it.

Readers? Any other suggestions, either of ways to deal with the screaming or to stop motion sickness if that’s contributing to it?