Product Reviews: The Best of the First Six Months

Ruby celebrated her six-month birthday yesterday.  With all those months behind us, it’s time to look back and see what products Kate and I found most useful.

Bob Revolution 2006 baby jogger (read my original review): The jogger gave Ruby and I something to do together and got us out of the house every day.  Without this exercise outlet, I would have turned into a bowl of jello.

Radio Shack 3-unit intercom: For the same price as a “baby” monitor (see my review), you get a two-way radio with three base stations and infinitely better sound quality.  There’s no battery-powered portable monitor, but with two strategically placed receivers and the volume on full, you’ll hear her throughout the house.

24-pack of cheap white face cloths: Kate’s Mom bought these for us, and I must admit I was skeptical at first.  Now, they are a mainstay of our daily existence.  After every load of laundry we grab a clean stack of a dozen place one in each place where we might be with the baby: the living room, bedroom, playroom, office, nursing chair, etc., etc.  When Ruby presents you with some baby cheese, relief is never more than a few feet away.

Fuzzi Bunz Diapers (from Cotton Babies): We started Ruby on disposable diapers.  These worked fine but are a waste of money and the planet’s resources.  When she was a few months old we tried a diaper service for a month.  The plain cotton diapers required changing much too frequently — any bit of wetness and Ruby was unhappy.

We ended up using Fuzzi Bunz cloth diapers.  These are convenient, comfortable for Ruby, and washing them every three days isn’t too much of a pain.  We have 24: 12 that we bought new, and 12 that we bought second-hand from Kate’s brother.  We put the new ones on the top of the pile, and as soon as we get down to the used ones that’s the sign to do a load of diaper laundry.

Soothies: Kate says, “I don’t think I would have gotten through my nipple pain without them.”

A Soother: Kate and I were anti-pacifier for the first 3 weeks.  But Ruby seemed to love sucking and after a particularly challenging day we gave our fingers a rest and popped one in.  Her whole personality seemed to brighten overnight, and it’s now permanently attached to her clothing.

Slings: Jogging stroller notwithstanding, Kate and I hate strollers.  We’d much rather carry Ruby around.  To that end, we each have our favorite sling: hers is a Sidecar Designs model, which is probably the most comfortable one we’ve seen (aside from a mobi-wrap, which is more lifestyle than baby-carrier) as it distributes the weight fully across a shoulder and upper arm.  These slings aren’t adjustable, so I can’t use Kate’s sling.

Mine is a Premaxx Baby Bag, and I get approving comments everywhere we go.  I’ve modified mine slightly by adding a shoulder pad (rescued from an old laptop bag) to help distribute the weight.

When we’re out together all day and carrying two slings isn’t feasible, we use a BabyBjorn carrier.  Not as comfortable (or cool-looking) as the sling, but it fits us both.

Changing table tops: Instead of investing in a new diaper station for Ruby, we bought a u-shaped padded top to put on some existing furniture.  This especially made sense for us since Ruby’s bedroom is upstairs, where we don’t hang out much, and it’s more convenient for us to have the changing station in the middle of the house.

Kate’s Mom also bought one but it didn’t see much use, so we put this extra one in her crib.  She sleeps in it at night and the sloping sides keep her from flailing about too much.

 

Diaper Service, 1 week later

The first two days of diaper service were horrible.  We suddenly had to pay attention to this whole other thing that could make Ruby upset.  Instead of food & boredeom, we now had food & boredom & wet diaper, and it took us a while to remember to check that last item.  The new diapers also made Ruby generally a lot fussier, which isn’t so much fun for us.  We went through 22 diapers in the first two days — almost twice as many as we usually use.  We ran out and had to go back to disposables until the next delivery.

Eventually, though, Ruby adjusted.  She’s mostly back to her usual cheery self, and that’s quite a relief.  She’s not showing any signs of a rash at this point (she had a little bit at the beginning).  Although she enjoys being on the changing table, she gets upset every time I snap a new diaper on — I’m not sure if it’s my technique or the construction.

Although it’s nice having diapers magically clean themselves twice per week, I’m not sure that the diaper service is worth the cost.  At $80/month, they’re more than disposables.  My brother-in-law calculated that their investment in fuzzi bunz paid itself off in less than 5 months (compared to disposables).  We’re going to give the ‘bunz a test drive in the next few weeks, and if they pass muster we’ll buy a dozen or so of them.

Besides, I think it’s good to get used to washing the baby’s diapers now, before she starts eating solid food and her poo gets extra nasty.

Review: Sony babyCall Rechargeable

The Sony babyCall Rechargeable is a baby monitor.  We bought it because it has a rechargeable battery-operated mode, meaning I can wander out in the garden while Ruby sleeps inside.  It has a voice-activation mode, several channels to choose from, and an alarm if the receiver gets out of range of the transmitter.  It also has a sound level meter which lights up when it hears some noise.

This thing sucks.  First of all, the AC adapter connection on the receiver was very finicky — if it wasn’t in just the right spot, the receiver would not work at all.  Even worse, though, was the quality of the sound.  The receiver picked up cell phone communications (just beeps, not words) and every now and then, would let out a loud pop.  At 3am in the morning, this is not a good thing.

The overall quality of the sound was terrible, with lots of static and noise.  The transmitter was extremely sensitive to noise, so we moved it outside of Ruby’s room so that we wouldn’t be awakened by every little kick and suck.

The light-up sound levels are a nice sales gimmick but not very useful.  Who is staring at their baby monitor all the time?  If they had some kind of delay so that the lights would stay on for a few seconds after the noise happened, then THAT would be useful.

In the end, the pops and overall noise level drove us to replace this.  We’re now using a Radio Shack 3-unit intercom system.  The sound quality is an order of magnitude better, and the intercoms are useful as actual intercoms in our house.

Review: Bob Revolution 2006

As a “Welcome-to-the-world” gift, my parents bought Ruby (and Kate and I) a Bob Revolution 2006 jogging stroller.  In “Mesa Orange”, thank you very much.

I use this stroller almost exclusively for jogging.  I run about 5 miles with it, several times per week.  I run on city sidewalks, a paved jogging path, and gravel paths.  The city sidewalks are quite an obstacle course: we go up and down curbs, over buckled concrete, and around lamp posts.  I run at a moderate pace, doing between eight- and nine-minute miles depending on how I’m feeling.

We picked the Bob Revolution 2006 for the following reasons:

  • it folded small enough to fit under our porch and into the trunk of our ’96 Acura Integra (without taking off any wheels)
  • the folding mechanism was really easy to use
  • the option of making the front wheel revolving meant the stroller was that much more useful.
  • Bob has a reputation for building high-quality products.

My biggest concern about this model was the small front wheel: only 12″ diameter, as opposed to 16″ or 20″ for most “real” jogging strollers.  The two back wheels on this model are 16″.  I’m happy to say that I haven’t felt that the smaller front wheel has been a problem at all, although I’ve never run with a larger-wheeled stroller so I don’t know what I might (or might not) be missing.  But to help reassure people like me who might have doubts about this thing:  I’m a real runner, and I’m happy running with the smaller front wheel.

Although Bob recommends waiting until your child is six months old before jogging with them, I’ve been jogging with Ruby in this stroller since she was about 7 weeks old — probably about 10 pounds in weight.  We removed the stiff padded back board so that the seat hung back further and cradled her so she wouldn’t fall to the side.  She loves riding in this stroller and usually falls asleep as soon as we start running.  Ruby is, of course, an exceptionally gifted child and your mileage may vary.

The ability to adjust the tracking on the front wheel is nice, although I never get it quite right (and Kate tends to adjust differently than I do).

With the wheel in “swivel” mode, the stroller is highly maneuverable.  Kate and I generally carry our baby whenever we’re out in public, so I don’t have much experience using the stroller in swivel mode, but it seems work pretty well to me.

Overall, I give this stroller a big thumbs-up.

Landfill vs Clean Water

Today our first deployment of cotton diapers arrived.  We’ve signed up with a diaper service that will drop off fresh diapers twice each week and take away the soiled ones, never to be seen again.  Or so I like to think.

I’ve actually been fairly happy with disposal diapers, but being the conscientious earth lovers that we are, we went with what is purportedly the more environmentally-friendly choice.  Frankly, I’m not sure if all the hot water and bleach that is needed to get the cotton diapers white every week is less than the landfill costs of a disposable diaper.

Here is one perspective.  Her point about the relative amount of water used (about 6% of household usage, by her estimates) is a good one.  Dirty disposables currently make up about 30% of our trash by volume, and more than 50% by weight.  Living in a region that, in general, has a decent water supply and fairly eco-friendly power (hydroelectricity), I think it’s safe to aim towards washing cotton diapers as the better choice for the environment.

The cotton diapers are certainly more esthetically pleasing, and I’m happy to be rid of the cartoon branding on the disposables we use.  The biggest downside, though, is that the cotton diapers soak through really quickly — meaning Ruby needs to be changed more often.  The disposables would absorb a ton of liquid without ever feeling wet.  I’ll be doing more frequent diaper duty, it seems.  Also, because the cotton diapers soak all the way through, one needs to use a waterproof cover to keep the baby’s clothes dry.

We’re not sure if we’re going to use the cotton diapers overnight.  Kate and I are extremely lucky that Ruby has been sleeping through the night consistently since she was about six weeks old.  I’d hate to mess that up with a diaper that irritates her when it gets wet.  We’ll probably try one for a few nights and see what happens.

Finally, on to costs. The diaper service costs about $75 month, and that includes everything we need except wipes, which would cost another $5.  Disposables are actually much cheaper — around $50/month, I’d estimate.  But if you add in the extra $12/month we pay for a bigger garbage can (to handle the disposables), the costs come out close enough to make me satisfied with our choice.  For now.

Photogenic

Last week I received my new camera.  I sold off a ton of my old camera equipment (it was gathering dust in the storage room) and used the proceeds to by a Pentax *ist DL to go with the 4 lens I had set aside.  (I also had enough left over to buy a new bbq grill to hook up to the natural gas outlet we’d just installed, but that’s another story…)

Anyway, I’m really happy with the camera purchase.  When taking pictures, it’s all about the lenses — and this new camera lets me use my favorite lenses again.

Here is Ruby!

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