Category Archives: Parenting

Doing Dragon*Con with a baby.

By the time we moved to Atlanta, home of Dragon*Con, I’d been itching to go to a con for years.  When we were living in middle-of-cornfields-Indiana, it wasn’t really an option, considering all the travel expenses it would have entailed, so I was thrilled at the prospect of living in the home city of one of the country’s largest conventions.

Of course, by the time we moved to Atlanta, I was also pregnant with our second kid, and due two and half months before Dragon*Con.

Doing Dragon*Con with a baby.

Doing Dragon*Con with a baby.

Extreme introvert + first con ever + baby = terrifying (especially since I’d be going with Wil alone–my husband would stay home with our two-year-old).  But…there was still a part of me that still really, really wanted to go (largely due to some of the posts about cons on my favorite blog).  And I was afraid that if I let something get in the way this year, I’d do the same next year, and maybe the next.

I did my research first.  I read some helpful blog posts on Dragon*Con tips (this one and this one were the ones I found most helpful), but I couldn’t find much online about handling a large con with an infant in tow.  I began wondering if people even really do that, or if I’d be breaking some unspoken rule of etiquette by dragging a baby along with me.  So I called the phone number on the Dragon*Con contact page with a list of questions, and to get a general feeling for whether or not I’d be welcome with a baby.  The guy I spoke with was super nice and very helpful, and left me feeling like this definitely could be done!  So I bought my membership and began planning.

I’m still a newbie at the whole con thing, but I thought I’d chime in with my own tips on doing Dragon*Con with a baby, since I wasn’t able to find much help online myself.  So here are a few things I’d recommend thinking about before attempting a con with a baby in tow.

1. Plan out what gear to pack in advance.

Unless you’re staying in one of the hotels where the con is being held, you’re going to need to bring a lot of gear to keep your bases covered.  Babies need a lot of crap.

Wil was two months old when we did Dragon*Con, so I was exclusively breastfeeding.  A lot of people will tell you that breastfeeding is the easiest and simplest way to feed, because you’ll already be bringing your breasts, right?  But breastfeeding was a challenge for us.  There were a couple times that I was able to breastfeed him under a cover while sitting in line for a panel, but most of the time, he preferred to be bottle-fed pumped breastmilk (which meant I also needed to pump during the day).  So I brought:

  • a nursing cover (made from this tutorial–great because it covered my back, so I could sit anywhere while I breastfed or pumped)
  • a battery-operated pump (and extra batteries)
  • two small coolers with icepacks
  • plenty of bottles and nipples (I used these bottles, which I’d gotten in a sample bag at the hospital where I delivered–they worked with my pump, and fit four nicely in each cooler)
  • a bottle brush and a travel-size bottle of dish soap (in case I needed to wash bottles, though I always ended up packing enough that I didn’t need to)
  • burp cloths

Every morning, I packed one cooler with six to eight ounces of refrigerated breastmilk to start the day with, and filled the other cooler with empty bottles to pump milk into during the day.  I also kept a couple of those pre-mixed formula samples (along with a disposable nipple) in the bottom of my diaper bag, just in case (never a bad idea to have those on hand in case of emergency!).  Even if you are breastfeeding (or planning to breastfeed), be prepared for there to be times that it won’t go smoothly, especially if your baby hasn’t experienced much chaos and commotion during feedings.  Have a contingency plan, whether that’s pumping and bottle-feeding, using formula, or going home early.

I know it’s becoming more acceptable to breastfeed in public, but I was still worried about attempting it (even by kid #2).  I used a cover every time (I’m a very private person), and no one ever gave me a hard time or even looked at me funny (or at least I never noticed).  The guy I spoke with on the phone ahead of time assured me that if anyone hassled me for it, I could go to one of the volunteer staff and they’d back me up.  Most of the time, I was able to breastfeed or pump in the hotel lobby between panels.

You’ll also need all the standard baby stuff:

  • diapers (bring extras!)
  • wipes
  • changing mat
  • change of clothes
  • blankets (one for the floor, and one to cover baby–hotels are air-conditioned!)
  • toys (quiet ones for during panels)
  • gas drops (especially if bottle-feeding)
  • …and whatever else you usually pack in your diaper bag,
  • plus, a STROLLER (bring one you like, with lots of storage space)

You’ll also need stuff for you:

  • water bottle (there are usually water stations to get a cup of water near the line for the panel, but there were quite a few times that the water jugs were empty)
  • snacks (it’s hard to fit meals in; don’t count on being able to get to the con suite–where there are supposedly free snacks–with a stroller)
  • tylenol
  • book to read (I got through quite a chunk of Wheel of Time: Memory of Light while pumping during an extra-long nap Wil took)
  • badge and lanyard for it (I used a ribbon)
  • pocket program (unless you have a smart phone and can access the app)
  • …and whatever else you think you might need

Think about what you’ll need to pack weeks before the con, in case you need to buy or make anything (like coolers or a nursing cover).  Make a detailed list, and add to it as you learn your baby’s routine in the weeks leading up to the con.

Baby Chewbacca, waiting in line for a Whedonverse panel.

Baby Chewbacca, waiting in line for a Whedonverse panel.

2. Plan your panels.

You can find panel schedules for each track on the Dragon*Con website (or linked) ahead of time.  Look through the schedules for each track you’re interested in and make a list of panels you might want to attend.  Figure out which ones conflict, and which ones you must attend.  Don’t plan for more than three panels in a day, and try to avoid back-to-back panels (especially if they’re in different hotels).

Schedules may change as the con approaches, so if you start planning a couple weeks out, don’t forget to check your schedule for changes in the days leading up to the con.

I’d also recommend planning to end your days on the early side.  One of the things the guy on the phone told me when I called ahead of time was that con-goers tend to get rowdier in the evening, as the drinking starts.  Since most of the panels I was interested in were morning and afternoon panels anyway, it worked well for me to leave sometime in the afternoon or early evening every day.  That way, I could also spend a little time with my two-year-old at home, get Wil to bed on time, and take a shower before going to bed at a decent hour, too.

Nicholas Brendon (Xander Harris), Kristine Sutherland (Joyce Summers), and James Marsters (Spike) at the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" panel.

Nicholas Brendon (Xander Harris), Kristine Sutherland (Joyce Summers), and James Marsters (Spike) at the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” panel.

3. Pick up your badge and pocket program on Thursday.

If you can pick up your badge on Thursday (Dragon*Con starts Friday), do it.  The lines were awful on Friday morning, and I talked to a number of people in line who had friends missing panels because they were still waiting to get their badges.  Also, picking it up the night before the con starts gives you the opportunity to explore the con hotels, which I highly recommend doing.  Glance through the pocket program to see which hotels will be holding your must-see panels.  Your pocket program will also have maps of each hotel; I recommend highlighting elevators, bathrooms, and bridges between hotels.

Walk through each hotel, while you’re not fighting through hordes of people with a stroller, and familiarize yourself with the places you expect to spend your time.  Find the elevators and the bathrooms, figure out which levels the bridges connect on (Hyatt to Mariott to Hilton), and look for good places to breastfeed and/or pump.  (The Mariott is crazy.  Most of my panels were in the Westin, and there were plenty of seating options in the lobby for me to find a place to breastfeed and/or pump without drawing attention to myself.)  If you’ll be attending panels in different hotels, or if you’re using MARTA, walk the outdoor routes between hotels (and MARTA)  so you won’t be digging out your map while being shoved along the crowded streets the next day.

Baby Whovian: Wil sports his "Allons-y" onesie on the day we went to the "Torchwood" panel.

Baby Whovian: Wil sports his “Allons-y” onesie on the day we went to the “Torchwood” panel.

4. Get in line for panels early.

Most of the panels I attended were the ones with stars from my favorite shows, and famous people tend to draw a crowd.  You’ll want to get in line as early as possible for two reasons: 1) you’ll want to make sure you get a good seat (on an end for a quick exit if necessary, but not so far back that you’re missing all the action–and panels do often fill up to capacity); and 2) depending on the layout of the hotel, lines often extend up or down stairs (not possible with a stroller) or outside (in extreme heat).  Panels are scheduled an hour and a half apart; lines queue for one panel as soon as the line from the previous panel as cleared.  So, try to be there to get in line a full hour and a half before your panel.

Once you’re safely in line, you can sit on the floor, spread a blanket out for baby, breastfeed, etc., and relax while you wait.  It’s not so bad spending time in line–you’re surrounded by people interested in the same thing you are, so you’re likely to make some friends to pass the time.

Baby Captain Hammer naps in my arms after a snack waiting in line for a Whedonverse panel.

Baby Captain Hammer naps in my arms after a snack waiting in line for a Whedonverse panel.

5. Avoid the vendor halls and all basements.

The vendor halls are ridiculously overcrowded.  Don’t expect to be able to navigate them well with a stroller.  In fact, I had to haul my stroller down a few stairs to even get to the elevators in that building (AmericasMart).  It’s just not worth it.

And basements…when you are dependent on using the elevators, it is unfortunately very easy to get stranded.  I got stuck on the bottom floor of one hotel for half an hour, as dozens of elevators came down full of people who had gotten on on floors above me intending to ride down to go up.  Eventually a hotel manager happened to walk by, and he offered to let me use an employee elevator to get back to street level.  Another time, I was stuck for a good twenty minutes or so, along with a lady in a wheelchair, as we watched elevator after full elevator go by, until we were finally able to squeeze onto a couple less-packed ones.  It’s ridiculous.  Don’t go below street level unless you’re really, really interested in what’s down there, and you have time to get stuck.

We braved the crazy Mariott for the "Torchwood" panel with Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones), Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper), John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), and Burn Gorman (Owen Harper).

We braved the crazy Mariott for the “Torchwood” panel with Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones), Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper), John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), and Burn Gorman (Owen Harper).

6. If you have questions, ask.

The volunteer staff are amazing.  I cannot rave about them enough.  The guy on the phone was very nice, helpful, and welcoming.  I stopped by the help desk after registration to ask some of the same questions, just to make sure I was okay, and they were very helpful.  When I arrived to get in line for my first panel, I asked one of the volunteers about bringing a baby in with me, and if there was anywhere in particular I should sit, and he was super nice and helpful.  On the one hellish day I attended a panel in the Mariott (SO. CROWDED.), I planned ahead and arrived two and a half hours before my panel, so I could try to find a way to get in the front of the line when it began forming an hour later; apparently I wasn’t the only one with that idea, though, so in the end, it was going to be a free-for-all once they started letting the next line queue.  I’d heard the line would extend onto stairs as well as outside in the extreme Georgia summer heat, so I spoke with a couple volunteers, who hooked me up with some other volunteers, and someone found me a place to sit with Wil near the head of the line, and they even let me in early (after the disabled, but before everyone else) to find a good seat on an end near an exit.

Follow the rules, listen to instructions, and don’t make yourself a special case unless you have to.  Be respectful and polite to the staff–they work hard, and unfortunately take a lot of crap–and you’ll find that they’ll usually be more than willing to help you in any way they can.  (Point in case: Most of the panels I attended were in the Westin, in the same ballroom every time, so I’d interacted with a few of the volunteers there several times.  There was a panel on the last day that I wanted to attend that was immediately after another panel I wanted to see.  It was in the same room, but by the time the first let out, the line for the next had already extended up multiple flights of stairs.  I asked one of the staff, when they weren’t too busy, if there was somewhere on that level where I could wait to join the end of the line once it started moving.  He pointed me to an out-of-the-way spot, and I waited for half an hour for the queued people to be allowed into the room.  It was a packed panel, but in the end, when they determined it was full and the staff were turning newcomers away, one of the staff quietly told me to stick around for a few minutes.  They found an empty seat on the end of a back row, and let me in anyway.  I’m convinced it was because I’d spent all weekend following the rules, being nice to the staff, and responsibly arriving early–and also because the staff are genuinely very nice people!)

Also, most of your fellow con-goers are good people who are happy to help you out if you have a quick question about where something is or how something works.  There are going to be a few people who seem to think you brought your baby and stroller just to inconvenience them personally, but on the whole, I found the other attendees to be very nice.  (With the exception of hogging the elevators.  But then there were other times, while waiting for an elevator on a main level, that someone would see me and shout “Let the stroller on first!” so I could actually get on one before everyone else made the mad dash to load first.)

Gandalf visited us in line as we waited for the "Torchwood" panel.

Gandalf visited us in line as we waited for the “Torchwood” panel.


Yes, you paid to attend, and you deserve to enjoy it.  But so did/does everyone else.  Don’t let your decision to bring your baby get in the way of others enjoying their con experience.  Be prepared to leave panels early if you need to.  Get a seat on an end, know the route to the exit, and keep your stuff as packed together as possible, so if your baby freaks out and you need to get out fast, you can.  If you need to give your baby toys to keep him happy, give him quiet ones.  If you need to stand and rock him to keep him calm, make sure you’re not blocking anyone else’s view of the stage.

Wait your turn, follow the flow of traffic, and do your very best not to run over people’s toes.  Apologize when you should, and say “excuse me” a lot.  Use your manners!  Other people are going to be in your way, but you’ll be in theirs, too.  Be pleasant, and most people will be pleasant back.

Miracle Laurie (Mellie/November), Tahmoh Penikett (Paul Ballard; he was also Karl "Helo" Agathon in BSG), and Eliza Dushku (Echo/Caroline) at the "Dollhouse" panel.

Miracle Laurie (Mellie/November), Tahmoh Penikett (Paul Ballard; he was also Karl “Helo” Agathon in BSG), and Eliza Dushku (Echo/Caroline) at the “Dollhouse” panel.

8. Remember that your baby is more important than your con experience.

Wil was the perfect baby to take to a con.  At two months, he was still sleeping a ton, he could sleep anywhere, and he was perfectly content to just chill in the stroller or on a blanket on the floor, and be held during panels.  He was the sort of rare baby that only cried when something was wrong, too, so as long as I was keeping him fed and in a clean diaper, he almost never cried.  We managed to make it through the whole con without ever having to leave a panel early!

But…I was prepared to leave a panel if I had to.  And I would have.  And there was one day I headed home before I panel I’d hoped to see, because it had been a long day already and I felt like it would be better for him to get home early.  Listen to your baby’s cues, and cut your own fun short when that’s what’s best for him.  If you don’t, he will make you miserable for it anyway, so you might as well enjoy what he lets you and let go of what he won’t!  Be flexible (if this is your first baby, that’s a lesson you’ll have to learn eventually anyway; if it’s not your first, then you already know that).

Managing that mischief, hanging out in line in his "Harry Potter" onesie.

Managing that mischief, hanging out in line in his “Harry Potter” onesie.

If you’re thinking about trying to attend a con with a baby in tow, be assured that it can be done.  But temper your expectations: you will not have the freedom to get the full con experience.  As long as that’s okay with you, then I’d encourage you to do it!  I did see a few other parents with babies and children tagging along, so you won’t be alone.

Baby Browncoat.  This was our "extra" onesie, which I kept in the diaper bag just in case he needed a change of clothes, but we never broke it out during the con!

Baby Browncoat. This was our “extra” onesie, which I kept in the diaper bag just in case he needed a change of clothes, but we never broke it out during the con!

(By the way, I made all of Wil’s onesies for the con, since I didn’t really feel much like dressing up myself at two months post-partem.  I also made him a couple ribbon tag blankets–one “Firefly” and one Star Wars–which are similar to what I now sell in my Etsy shop.)

My little dragonslayers.

My little dragonslayers.

If you do it, I wish you the best of luck!  And if I run into you, I’ll give up my spot on the elevator and hold the door for you. 🙂


The battle of breastfeeding.

It occurred to me last night, as I wrangled my almost-one-year-old into nursing for all of two minutes, that I think I’m done.  I think I’m ending my breastfeeding journey as of last night.  For many moms, the decision to stop nursing her last baby would probably be a fairly bittersweet moment; for me, it’s mostly just sweet.  I’m proud to say that I breastfed both my kids past eleven and a half months, but it is a relief to be over with it.  And in light of this being something of a milestone in my life as a mom, I thought I’d share a few thoughts with you.

BF Title

1. Breastfeeding is hard.  Yes, it’s “the most natural thing in the world”, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.  I figure every kid is a trade-off: no one baby is perfect at everything, so if they’re good in one area, there’s bound to be another that is a constant struggle.  For both my kids, it was breastfeeding/eating.  Kaylie was a fantastic sleeper–she was sleeping in her own room by one month, and sleeping through the night as soon as I would let her (I had to wake her up to feed her from the beginning), but she hated eating.  It wasn’t just breastfeeding–we tried giving her pumped milk from a bottle, a spoon, and even a little medicine cup, and later from sippy and straw cups, and she just did not want it.  Ever.  I had to force feed her at every feeding, and by nine months, our supportive, pro-breastfeeding pediatrician strongly recommended supplementing with formula because she was on the verge of becoming a “failure to thrive” baby.  And Wil, though he started off a little better, was a very distracted, feisty, wiggly eater–but he was the happiest, most low-maintenance baby, who never cried unless something was actually wrong, the rest of the time.  Nursing Kaylie under a cover (I won’t nurse without one in public–personal preference) was difficult, but impossible with Wil, who would refuse to eat until he’d pulled it off of me.  From early on, in the evening, Wil wanted more milk than I was producing, and after a few months of pumping for half an hour every morning to make up for it (usually with a screaming baby and a whining toddler in the background), I ended up supplementing his evening breastfeeding session with a few ounces of formula so I could spend my morning with my kids.  And I decided not long after that (around eight months, I think) to replace two breastfeeding sessions a day with bottlefeeding instead, because he kept biting me (OW!) (he did quit biting me after that–I think he was just bored).  And now, we’re pretty sure he has FPIES (we’re seeing a specialist next month), because he spends the rest of the day vomiting any time he eats anything with grain (rice, oat, or otherwise), so feeding him in general is just an enormous struggle.  So, yeah, breastfeeding is hard sometimes.

Yes, breastfeeding is the most natural and best way to feed your baby, and you should absolutely try to do it.  But if it isn’t easy, you aren’t alone.  Keep trying!  And read #2 below.

2. You need support.  Parenting in general is hard.  But you know what makes it easier?  Finding people to keep in your life that you can go to with questions and for advice–and I feel like this holds doubly true for breastfeeding.  In a culture where formula-feeding is the norm, giving up on breastfeeding when it’s hard can seem like the most logical option.  Surrounding yourself with other mothers, especially mothers currently breastfeeding and likely going through many of the same struggles as you are, is reassuring and encouraging.  Adding in a lactation consultant or two sure helps, too.  The hospital where I had Kaylie had a fantastic nursing moms group that met once a week at the hospital, hosted by at least one lactation consultant every week.  We all sat and chatted and asked questions (of the consultant and of each other, about breastfeeding and everything else) and nursed our babies if they were hungry (and there was a scale to weigh our babies on, if weight gain was a concern).  Being able to sit with a lactation consultant once a week and talk about Kaylie’s issues, and hear from other moms that they were struggling, too, made a huge difference.  It gave me what I needed to keep going another week, and another, and another.  (And it also facilitated finding baby friends for playdates!)

You can ask at your local hospital about a nursing moms group, or find one through La Leche League.  If you’re breastfeeding (or planning t0), I strongly recommend that you try connecting with one of these groups!

3. It’s okay to kind of hate it.  It’s uncomfortable.  It’s a hassle.  It sucks (and bites, figuratively and literally).

A lot of moms rave about how breastfeeding is this profound bonding experience for them and their babies.  I didn’t ever get that.  For me, it was always a fight with my babies, which isn’t exactly conducive to “bonding”.  I found my bonding moments elsewhere, and that’s fine.  It’s okay if breastfeeding is something less enjoyable and profound for you than it is for someone else, because every baby and every mom is different.  You aren’t a bad mom if you don’t like breastfeeding.

Also, I couldn’t lose weight past a certain point while breastfeeding.  And with Wil, I can’t eat broccoli and cauliflower (two of my favorite vegetables) or Pizza Hut pizza (my second favorite food of all time).  Well, couldn’t–I know what I’m adding to next week’s dinner menu now that I’m done!!  Bottom line, for some of us, breastfeeding entails more cons than pros, and it’s okay to recognize that and not really like it.

4. Parenting is about sacrifice.  It’s okay that it’s hard, and it’s okay to kind of hate it, but that doesn’t mean you don’t try your damnedest to do it.  Parenting is about sacrificing what’s convenient and comfortable for you, in favor of what’s best for your kids.  So, no matter how many cons breastfeeding has, the one pro that matters is that breastmilk is what is healthiest for your baby.  I am proud that I can say that I successfully breastfed both of my kids past eleven and a half months (even if it did include supplemented formula).  It was hard, but I did it.

But you know what else your baby needs?  Sane parents.  So while I strongly encourage all moms to try their hardest to breastfeed, I also know that it isn’t always an option.  I have had friends whose milk never came in (despite weeks of pumping, herbs, and working with a lactation consultant), who have had severe mastitis, or whose babies would only take bottles (so they spent hours every day pumping).  Sometimes, it just doesn’t work, or making it work is just so stressful that your baby isn’t getting what else he needs from you.  Yes, try to breastfeed; but recognize that there is a point (and it’s different for everyone) at which the sacrifice that you need to make is the hope of breastfeeding.  What your baby needs most is not breastmilk; it’s you.  You need to be available to love on your baby, and you can’t do that if you are too stressed or tired or too busy pumping.  You aren’t a bad mom for giving your baby formula when you need to; if the struggle of breastfeeding is taking pieces of you away from your baby, then giving that up is the best thing you can do, and you are a fantastic mom.

5. Products I like.  I’m gonna wrap this up with a few thoughts on what you need (or don’t) to facilitate breastfeeding, because if you’re new at this (or about to start), then you probably have no idea what’s what (I sure didn’t). 🙂

Get a  pump.  Even if you don’t expect to use it.  I have the Medela Swing, and I love it.  It’s perfect for moms who expect to get moderate use from their pumps: it pumps one side at a time, and you can plug it in or run it on batteries.  If you are planning to pump regularly or even exclusively, it’s worth looking into one of the double models (like the Pump in Style, for daily use, or the Freestyle, for mobile use).  If you plan to stay at home and breastfeed exclusively, I’d still recommend getting a manual pump (like this one), because 1) you will be shocked at how huge and uncomfortable and leaky your breasts get when your milk first comes in, and you may need to pump for comfort; 2) you may one day find yourself in a situation where you have to skip a feeding (like when I was re-hospitalized a week after delivery with preeclampsia and had to spend the night away from my baby–or, you know, date nights and such), and you will need to pump for your own comfort and/or to keep your milk supply up; and 3) it never hurts to pump a little extra (especially when your milk first comes in) to freeze in case of emergency (or baby-sitter).  I used my Medela Swing only occasionally when I was nursing Kaylie, but it saw a lot more use with Wil (I used it all weekend of Dragon*Con when he tagged along with me at two months old, where he did much better drinking pumped milk from a bottle than breastfeeding under a cover, and then I used it daily for a few months when I was pumping in the morning because he was drinking more than I was producing in the evening), and it has held up quite well.  I have no complaints with it whatsoever, and would highly recommend it.

Obviously, you’ll need nursing bras.  But here’s the problem: when you’re pregnant and have time to shop, you have literally no idea what size you’re going to need.  Your boobs are going to get HUGE when your milk comes in, and that’s going to last for at least two or three days.  After that, your girls are going to be fluctuating in size every month, week, day, and, sometimes, hour.  It’s ridiculous.  So my two cents is to avoid nursing bras that go by cup sizes, and go for one like this one.  At the very least, get one without cups and that stretches for that first week (or month).  Beyond that, if you have the money to spend on multiple bras in multiple sizes, go for it, but I’m too cheap for that–I have three of the ones I linked, and that’s all I’ve used while nursing both my kids.  It’s comfortable, it’s easy to unclasp and re-clasp at feedings, and it works for me.

There are, like, a million kinds of  nursing pads.  I like these ones.  Unlike some of the flimsier options, these ones absorb a lot and I’ve never once had a problem with leakage through the pad.  Each pad also has an adhesive strip to hold it in place inside your bra, but they stay in place fairly well even without using it (I never used it, because I reuse the pads all day if I’m not leaking, and it seemed annoying to adhere it to the bra only to take it out for feedings and put it back multiple times a day).

You may need nipple cream in the beginning.  A friend recommended Lansinoh before I had Kaylie, but I hated it–it was thick and didn’t spread easily; when you’re dealing with the sore and bleeding aftermath of a bad latch (which can take weeks to recover from), the last thing you want is something that you have to really work to rub in.  I got a sample of this Motherlove stuff in the hospital, and loved it–and I had to use quite a bit in Kaylie’s early nursing days (she was not good at breastfeeding, guys).  I bought more when I had Wil, but he at least figured out his latch a little better, and I didn’t use it as often.  I also tried a Medela sample that the hospital here sent me home with after Wil, and it was almost as good as the Motherlove, but I never needed to buy more, so my experience with the Medela was very limited.

While it’s becoming more culturally acceptable to nurse in public, I was personally uncomfortable with the idea of flashing the world (especially since nursing Kaylie was such a battle–she spent more time off the breast than on at every feeding), so a nursing cover was a necessity for me.  (Some moms can get away with throwing a blanket over their shoulder, but every time I’ve tried it, that thing comes down within seconds; those moms must have babies who are better, calmer eaters than mine ever were.)  I stumbled upon a promo code for a free nursing cover from Udder Covers, and for the price of shipping ($11.95–which was less than the nursing covers I’d been looking at in stores), I got a very functional cover that I used quite often with Kaylie.  The biggest pro is that it had a wire insert along the top so that it arced away from my collarbone, which meant that I could look down at Kaylie while she nursed and it wasn’t as claustrophobic for her.  The biggest con was that it, like most nursing covers, leaves your back exposed if you hike up your shirt to nurse (yeah, I’m too cheap to buy “nursing shirts”).  As I faced the prospect of nursing/pumping at Dragon*Con last year, I wanted something that would cover my back, too, since I anticipated needing it while waiting in line for panels, so I bought a yard of brown knit fabric and used this tutorial to make my own nursing shawl.  Wil hated eating under either cover equally, but the shawl was great to pump under.  I’d recommend either option to anyone, with the word of warning that some babies just won’t nurse under a cover (like Wil).  Udder Covers regularly offers the deal I got; you can usually find the promo code in several of the baby magazines you end up getting mailed constantly after you register for baby stuff (or check online).

If you’re a breastfeeding mom, you rock.  Even if it’s hard.  Especially if it’s hard.  You’re not alone, and it does end.  And when it does, you can look back at the battle you’ve fought with pride, knowing that you did the best you could for your baby.  And then you can celebrate with a drink or two, and all the foods that gave him gas. 🙂


Board book review: My personal favorites.

I spent most of my childhood with my nose in a book.

We have pictures of me reading on every family vacation we ever took.  At home, my parents had to institute a no-more-than-three-books-at-a-time rule, because they were tired of finding my half-finished books scattered all over the house (and I really was reading all of them–I could tell you off the top of my head what page I was on in each one).  I walked into so many walls and doorways and pieces of furniture and occasionally people because I was too busy reading to watch where I was going.  And I blame my reading-in-the-car habit for my complete and utter lack of any sense of direction, because I never once paid any attention to where we were driving.

I loved reading.  (And still do.)  It shaped who I am.  It shaped how I view the world.  It granted me the opportunity to visit places I’ll never see and worlds that never existed, introduced me to ideas I’d never had, enabled me to communicate with words I’d never heard aloud, and gave me the ability to put myself in someone else’s shoes.  Reading is important.

I really want my kids to love books.  So we read with them.  (Less so with Wil than we did/do with Kaylie…..he’s harder to keep still, and it’s busier having two than it was when we just had her!)

As every parent knows, when kids find something they like, they want it over and over and over.  Whether it’s a book, movie, or game, if it’s their favorite of the day/week/month, they’ll want it a thousand times in a row.  So, while I’m glad Kaylie goes through phases of loving specific books and stories, there are times that certain ones make me want to rip my hair out, because they’re dull or poorly written or factually incorrect or just aggravatingly stupid.  But there are some that I’ve come to absolutely love.  So here are my four all-time favorite board books.

My four favorite board books.

My four favorite board books.

These are in no particular order.  I love them all for different reasons.

To start with, a classic:

Harry the Dirty Dog.

Harry the Dirty Dog.

Harry the Dirty Dog, written by Gene Zion and illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham.

Harry the Dirty Dog.

Harry the Dirty Dog.

Harry the Dirty Dog follows a white dog with black spots who does not like taking a bath.  So he runs away from home one day, gets very dirty playing (so much so that he becomes a black dog with white spots), and then realizes he misses home.

(The above is probably my favorite page, because, at one and a half, Kaylie mistook that blue truck for the TARDIS.  So. Cute.)

Harry the Dirty Dog.

Harry the Dirty Dog.

He returns home, but he’s so dirty that his family doesn’t recognize him–until he begs for a bath, at which point they’re super excited to see him again.

I like that this book tells a coherent story, and that it’s sweet and makes sense.  (I could write another list of books with stories that make no sense whatsoever.)  The ratio of words per page/illustration is a little high for younger kids, who like to turn pages quickly, but once your toddler can follow a story, it reads at a good pace that doesn’t require much patience from your little one.  And, bonus: I think it’s British, since the kids call their mom “Mummy”. 🙂

Harry the Dirty Dog can be purchased as a board book here.  (Apparently, there’s a whole Harry series, which I did not realize…..we may be buying more of these!)

Next up:

Flip, Flap, Fly.

Flip, Flap, Fly.

Flip, Flap, Fly, written by Phyllis Root and illustrated by David Walker.

Flip, Flap, Fly.

Flip, Flap, Fly.

This one was gifted to Kaylie by some dear friends.  It’s a simple story that showcases six baby animals as their mothers help them along.

Flip, Flap, Fly.

Flip, Flap, Fly.

This is my favorite page.  My daughter is very independent, and is not by nature very affectionate.  For a long time, literally the only time she would give me a kiss was when we’d reach this page: she’d turn her head up toward me so we could “kiss like this”.  Seriously, there were days we read this just so I could get a kiss from her!

This is a rhyming book.  There are a lot of rhyming books that I HATE, because they are “off”–too many syllables in a line, or emphasis in the wrong place, or words that DON’T ACTUALLY RHYME.  But this book is not one of those.  I love it.  The phrases are euphonous, the cadence is good, and the silly words are not too silly.  It is a very easy read, the pace is good for little ones, and the illustrations of baby animals are quite cute.  I also like that each page sets up a rhyme for the next animal (blah blah blah muck, blah blah blah…[turn page] duck!), and you can see the tail of the next animal in the illustration, so it encourages engagement from your child.

Flip, Flap, Fly can be purchased as a board book here.


Pride & Prejudice: A Counting Primer.

Pride & Prejudice: A Counting Primer.

Pride & Prejudice: A Counting Primer, written by Jennifer Adams and illustrated by Alison Oliver.

Pride & Prejudice: A Counting Primer.

Pride & Prejudice: A Counting Primer.

Numbers 2 through 5 are the most creative, using characters and places unique to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice; the rest are a little less interesting, though still relevant (soldiers, musicians, etc.).  Very cute idea!

I love finding ways to introduce things I love to my daughter, even though she’s still too young for the real thing.  I bought this book more for me than for her, though; while the numbers are easily recognizable for a kid, not all of the illustrations are arranged in such a way as to be easily countable by a youngster without help.  Still, the artwork is adorable, and it’s Pride and Prejudiceevery little girl needs to learn who Mr. Darcy is!

Pride & Prejudice: A Counting Primer can be purchased as a board book here and here.  There are also Jane Eyre and Romeo & Juliet counting primers by the author/artist (but I hate the originals those stories–those are not characters I want as role models for my daughter), and they’ve released quite a few other “BabyLit” books that were not available back when I bought ours (though the Alice in Wonderland: A Colors Primer was, and I’d recommend looking at that one  in person first, as the illustrations, while cute, do not use traditional colors (e.g., teal for blue)….which seems odd for a “colors primer”), so if Pride and Prejudice isn’t your thing but other classic literature is, I’d encourage you to check them out!

And last:

Star Wars ABC.

Star Wars ABC.

You saw this coming, right?  Of course something geeky had to make my list….and we love this Star Wars ABC book!

Star Wars ABC.

Star Wars ABC.

Each page features a character/ship/race/droid/etc. from the Star Wars movies (original and prequel trilogies) and a brief alliterative sentence that uses the letter again in at least one other word.  The pages are a combination of matte and glossy, so young kids may be fascinated by the difference in texture.

Star Wars ABC.

Star Wars ABC.

Kaylie’s favorite page for a long time was the Wookiee page.

I love that this book is a great way to introduce elements of the Star Wars universe to kids before they are old enough to handle the movies (Kaylie loves Wookiees now, though she’s never seen Chewie in action!), while also teaching the alphabet–something that every kid needs to learn and you should at least have one book for anyway.  You don’t have to be super into Star Wars to recognize most of the things–the only two I was unfamiliar with were IG-88 and Ugnaughts, and I haven’t seen the movies in years (unfortunately).  This book does a good job of sticking with the iconic heroes, villains, and spaceships that we all know and love, as much as it can, so there’s room for you to explain more about each page’s example as your kid becomes more inquisitive.

Star Wars ABC.

Star Wars ABC.

I also love that each letter looks like what it stands for–a hairy W for Wookiee, lightsaber A and J for Anakin and Jedi, a shiny gold C for C-3PO, a belt and holster on H for Han Solo….And all the letters are reprinted on the back of the book, so you and your little one can go back through the alphabet quickly in review.  (When Kaylie was learning the ABC song, this is what we used to point at each letter as we sang it.)

Star Wars ABC can be purchased here and here.

So, there you have it!  My four favorite board books to read with my kids–I hope I’ve introduced you to something new to try.

My four favorite board books.

My four favorite board books.

Now, go read a book! 🙂

DIY (No-Sew) Crib Rail Chew Guard.

Stabled horses often exhibit a particular habit called “cribbing”.  It’s when a bored horse begins chewing on what it can reach from the confines of its stall–usually the wood at the top of shorter walls and half-doors.  I always thought that was a weird name for the habit….

….Until I had a nine-month-old.

Ah, CRIBBING.  Got it.

Ah, CRIBBING. Got it.

Apparently, the name comes from the fact that that’s what teething babies do once they can pull themselves up in their cribs.

Not just Kaylie--this is the crib we're borrowing for Wil.

Not just Kaylie–this is the crib we’re borrowing for Wil.

Clearly, it’s not just Kaylie who does this–we’re borrowing the crib pictured above for Wil (Kaylie was still in hers when Wil was born, and is now using it as a toddler bed) from some friends with two boys.  At least one of them apparently loved chewing on wood as much as she did.

Of course when Kaylie first gnawed through the finish on her crib, I freaked out at the thought of potential splinters lodging themselves in my baby’s little mouth.  (I don’t know if that ever actually happens.  First-time moms are allowed to freak out about that stuff, anyway, though.)  Fortunately, I had read a blog post someone had pinned on using a yard of fabric to cover the crib rails; unfortunately, I hadn’t repinned it and couldn’t find it again, so I started from scratch.

Two yards of fleece, numerous snips, and an afternoon later, and that ended the “cribbing” problem.

The pieces.

The pieces.

Kaylie grew out of that phase quite some time ago.  She was nineteen months old when we moved to Atlanta, and I don’t think we ever put them back on once we got the crib set up in our apartment.  But I kept the pieces for when we’d need them for baby #2.

Well, Wil is now eight months old, has his first three teeth, and has been pulling himself up into standing for close to two months now.  To my knowledge, he hasn’t started chewing on the crib yet, but he’s certainly capable of it by now if it occurs to him.  So I dug these out and washed them, and set about chew-proofing Wil’s borrowed crib two weeks ago (sorry for the lull in posting!).  I wasn’t sure how well they would fit the crib he’s in, since I made them for Kaylie’s crib.  There’s no one-size-fits-all pattern for this project.  It definitely doesn’t fit quite as well on his, but, fortunately, it should still work just fine.

Sadly, I have no pics of the cutting process, since I first made this over two years ago, but I’ll give you the basics on what I did the first time around and post pics of putting it on.

I bought two yards of fleece (definitely get something stretchy!), to be on the safe side, and I was glad that I did.  I did end up with some leftover, but I used most of it, and I did use almost the full length.  First, I measured the ends and sides of the crib, and added 8-10 inches for each tie (so, length + 16-20 inches).  Then I measured bottom-on-outside-to-top-to-bottom-on-inside the part that needed to be covered and added about three inches on each side for the ties (so, width x 2 plus width of top + 6 inches).  Once I had all my measurements, I figured out how to best cut the four rectangles (two ends, two sides) from the fabric.

(My measurements for the pieces were: ends – 46″ (30″ rail length + 8″ ties on each end) x 16 1/2″ (10 1/2″ bottom-to-top-to-bottom + 3″ ties on both sides), sides – 74″ (54″ rail length + 10″ ties on each end) x 10″ (4″ bottom-to-top-to-bottom + 3″ ties on both sides.)

Crib Rail 04

Lay one of your end pieces out on the floor and make cuts on either end for the big ties (measure the piece of railing it will cover and cut the excess on either side).  Then center your piece over the railing…

First tie.

First tie.

…and tie both ends in place.

My little "helper".

My little “helper”.

Next, make cuts three inches deep along each slat.  Don’t bother measuring the width of the slats; it varies crib to crib, and if you are a little off, it’s easier to compensate by just eyeballing it–this is one of those projects that is actually easier to approximate than to measure to death like I usually do.  Just measure how deep your cuts are (mine were three inches), to be sure they are consistent.  And make sure that the cuts are along each slat, not between them (the ties–between the cuts–need to lie between the slats).

I found it easier to cut on the outside, then take the whole piece off, turn it around so the cut side was then on the inside, and make the rest of the cuts on the outside.

For the second end piece, you can either repeat the process, or you can take your finished piece, lay it over the second piece, and make cuts on the second where they are on the first.

Next, do the exact same thing with the side pieces.

Side piece.

Once all your pieces are cut, tie them all into place!

This is not how it is supposed to fit.

This is not how it is supposed to fit, but that’s what happens when you custom-make these for one crib and try using them on another!

Since I originally made these for Kaylie’s crib, they did not fit as well on Wil’s borrowed crib.

I shoved it down on the inside to cover the wood...

I shoved it down on the inside to cover the wood…

The ends were taller on this crib than on Kaylie’s, so I had to stretch the fleece a bit to tie it, and then shove it down on the inside so it would reach the bottom. it rode WAY up on the outside!  Oh, well....

…so it rode WAY up on the outside! Oh, well….

On Kaylie’s crib, both sides looked the way the inside of Wil’s does.

Start tying from the ends.

Start tying from the ends.

A tip: start by tying the ends of each piece in place, and then work your way from both ends toward the middle.  That way, if the fabric needs to stretch a little to cover the whole thing, you won’t be tugging it to fit as you tie the last few ties on the end.

This one won't tie--don't worry about it.

This one won’t tie–don’t worry about it.

The very first gap won’t have enough slack to tie, but the fabric should still be tight enough to cover the wood and keep those baby teeth from getting to it!

DIY Crib Rail Chew Guard: to protect wood from teething babies, and vice versa!

DIY Crib Rail Chew Guard: to protect wood from teething babies, and vice versa!

Finished product!

It fits a little funky on Wil’s crib (the ends aren’t covered as well, as pictured above, and he also has one fewer slat than Kaylie’s crib does, so one of the middle gaps has two knotted ties), but it works just as well as it did on hers!  All it cost to keep my babies from splinters, buy my peace of mind, and protect our cribs was the price of two yards of fleece–well worth it!

Buying baby’s wardrobe: What you need (and what you don’t).

My sister-in-law recently announced that she and her fiance are pregnant!  It’s their first–a boy, due in June.  We are sooo excited for them!  And, since he’ll be pretty much exactly a year behind Wil, that works out great for passing on baby clothes…..

So, since I’ve been digging through baby clothes in anticipation of preparing a box to send, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share what I think is (and is not) necessary for baby’s wardrobe.  I had so many more articles of clothing for Kaylie than for Wil!  I found I really pared down my expectations for kid #2….So this is the bare-bones, what-do-I-really-need sort of list.  Of course, every baby is different, and every mom is different, so these are just tips from my personal experience and preference.

Buying Baby's Wardrobe: What You Need (and what you don't).

Buying Baby’s Wardrobe: What You Need (and what you don’t).

Here’s the quick list of what I think you ought to stock in each size for the first year:

  • 6-8 complete outfits (long-sleeved and/or short-sleeved, depending on season)
  • 3 cotton pajamas
  • 2 sleep sacks (cotton and/or fleece, depending on season)
  • 1 cotton jacket
  • In cold weather: 1 fleece jacket/pants set
  • 6 bibs
  • 3 pairs socks

Always shop for complete outfits.  It can be tempting to buy those adorable onesies in three-packs or that one that’s just so darn cute, but if you don’t have pants to go with them, they might never see any use (except, perhaps, in the heat of summer).  I have found a good ratio to be three onesies for every two pairs of pants.  For spring and fall wardrobes, Carter’s (my favorite brand for baby clothes) sells great three-piece sets comprising a long-sleeved onesie, short-sleeved onesie, and pants.  And if you find one or more onesies that you just can’t resist, or receive any as gifts, you can usually track down a pair of jeans to go with anything.  I shoot for 6-8 complete outfits in each size; I find I do laundry a little more frequently than once a week.  You may need more outfits if your little one is a big spitter-upper, or if you don’t do laundry as often.  Bibs can be a great outfit-saver, too, and they are a must for drooling, teething babies, or you will end up changing spit-drenched onesies (you wouldn’t believe how fast a teething baby can soak a onesie to the waist!).  And, of course, socks–but not too many, because they never stay on anyway, so at some point you’ll probably give up on using them except when necessary.

I love these three-piece sets for spring and fall!

I love these three-piece sets for spring and fall!

Putting babies to bed with blankets is a suffocation hazard, so the alternative is wearable blankets. I prefer Halo SleepSacksAlways get two season-appropriate sleep sacks, because the last thing you want to deal with during a middle-of-the-night spit-up fest is laundry and nothing to put baby in in the meantime.  For spring and fall, I always get two cotton and two fleece sleep sacks, and three pairs of cotton pajamas to go under them (for winter, I’ve also always had a fleece pair of pajamas on hand, but I rarely ever actually use them).  Sleep sacks are sized differently than clothing, so they will overlap different pajamas sizes, so I’ve ended up with both cotton and fleece sleep sacks in every size but one.

It’s always a good idea to have a cotton jacket on hand for chillier days, even in summer.  In colder weather, I recommend having at least one fleece set–pants/jacket or pants/vest.  Go for hooded rather than non-hooded, so you only have to deal with hats in particularly cold weather or on longer outdoor treks.  (If you expect to spend a lot of time outdoors during cold weather, you may consider getting a winter coat.  I didn’t buy a winter coat during Kaylie’s first year, even though we lived in Indiana at the time, because, well, I hate going outside….we did just fine in fleece sets covered with fleece bear suit and/or fleece blankets over the car seat.)

Now that I’ve given you my recommendations on how much to buy, I’m going to share my own preferences on which ones….

Onesies versus shirts: Shirts drove me nuts with Kaylie before she could walk.  Every time I picked her up, the shirt would ride way up.  I therefore had several adorable outfits that she ended up never wearing because I opted for onesies, which are so much easier.  My advice is to stick with onesies until your little one is walking more than being carried; once they’re walking well on their own, shirts are much easier for diaper checks and changes.

Get onesies, not shirts.  Shirts ride up every time you pick baby up!

Get onesies, not shirts. Shirts ride up every time you pick baby up!

If you find you have too many short-sleeved onesies in a size your baby is only going to fit into in the dead of winter, here’s the solution: long-sleeved white onesies.  Get a pack, put ’em under the short-sleeved onesies, and use those season-inappropriate outfits!

Pajamas: Go for snaps instead of zippers!  We had so many pairs of pajamas that I hated using, and even ended up setting aside and replacing with ones I found easier to use.  Think about it: Pajamas are for night-time use, so you want to be able get through those midnight diaper changes as quickly and easily as possible.  You can unsnap pajamas from the bottom to the waist, but zippers must be pulled all the way down from the neck to the heel to get to the diaper.

Get snaps, not zippers!  Midnight diaper changes are enough hassle already.

Get snaps, not zippers! Midnight diaper changes are enough hassle already.

Gowns: My two cents is to avoid infant gowns; they’re a great idea in theory, but the reality is that (with both my kids, anyway) babies tend to kick so much that gowns ride up to their hips.  If you must try gowns, I’d opt for convertible gowns that can alternatively be snapped to form legs as well, though–as with all footless pajamas–the legs tend to ride up to the knees.  At this point, the only pajamas that I ever use are cotton, snap-up, footed pajamas.

Or skip the gown altogether, and go for footie pajamas.

Or skip the gown altogether, and go for footie pajamas.

Bibs: Get Carter’s snap bib three-packs.  You can find them at Target.  I had tons of different kinds of bibs with Kaylie, and until I stumbled upon the snap bibs, every single one of them had some kind of Velcro closure.  I started finding these awful scratches all over the back of Kaylie’s neck from the Velcro, so I started using bibs with less-bristly closures, but those ones stopped sticking together after only a few uses.  I was so excited when my mother-in-law gifted us with a set of snap bibs!  I hadn’t even known that was an option.  They’re all I use now for Wil!  (They also have a water-resistant layer between the fabric, which is very important!  And, snaps won’t stick to the rest of your laundry; I have ruined a couple things by stupidly throwing them in a load that I forgot had a Velcro bib!)

Get snaps, not Velcro!  Both your baby and your laundry will thank you.

Get snaps, not Velcro! Both your baby and your laundry will thank you.

Socks: Sock are a royal pain.  Baby socks do not like to stay on baby feet.  I like theFaded Glory gripper socks at Walmart.  They go up the calf a ways (ankle socks come right off), and the tread on the bottom serves a second purpose in that it also indicates what size the socks are (have you ever tried sorting through tiny socks to try and figure out which ones are tinier?).

Longer socks mean they won't ride down off baby's feet as quickly.

Longer socks mean they won’t ride down off baby’s feet as quickly.

And now for more general advice:

Stick with a favorite brand or two.  Different brands fit differently, and I had several outfits gifted for Kaylie that we weren’t able to use because I stored, say, an 18-24M outfit with other 18-24M clothing only to find later that that brand’s “18-24M” size fits more like a Carter’s “12-18M”.  Avoid the hassle of having to eyeball–or worse, try on–every outfit to determine if it fits yet.  For babies, I love Carter’s–the clothes are super cute, the sets are convenient, and you can usually find them on sale–while for toddlers, I love Carter’s and Jumping Beans (at Kohl’s).  Find what fits your kid best, and stick with that.

Don’t skip NB!  I had a lot of people tell me, “Oh, babies are never in newborn clothes (or newborn diapers) for long enough to bother!  Just put them in 0-3 months!”  Ha!  Kaylie (born six pounds, five ounces) was swimming in NB when we brought her home, and she wore it for a month and a half.  But Wil (born nine pounds) was out of NB by two weeks.  There’s no way to know, really, how big your baby is going to be or how fast they’ll grow.  If you can, save your money for the cute stuff in bigger sizes and stock NB with thrift-store finds, hand-me-downs, and borrowed clothes, cute or not, until your little one is out in the world and you have an idea of whether or not they’ll need to be in NB for a while.

Shop a size or two ahead.  You don’t want to be buying the bulk of baby’s wardrobe the weekend before you bump him up a size–you may not be able to find the items you need, or, if you do, you may not be able to find it all at a good price.  I’ve done that a couple times, and it never goes well (would you believe the Kohl’s around the corner quit selling long-sleeved shirts and only had summer clothes by the end of December?  It was thirty degrees out!)  I like to start shopping for the next size as soon as I bump Wil up to new size.

….But don’t shop too far ahead!  Kaylie has always been small, so we go by weight to determine what size clothing to put her in, rather than months.  To give you an idea of how “off” we are with her, we bumped her up to 18-24M clothes when she was 31 months, after spending a week shy of a year in 12-18M.  So, that first year, it could be a little hard to determine what size we needed for an item to be “weather-appropriate”!  We had a number of great winter outfits that she didn’t actually fit into until the following summer.

And don’t buy holiday outfits.  Yes, they’re cute, but they’re almost never really worth the money (at least not new).  You get very little use out of them.  If you’re lucky, you’ll have awesome grandparents who gift things like that.  (Exception: Buy what you need for holiday family pictures, if that’s something you do.  You’ll be looking at that photo on the wall for the rest of your life.)

This might seem like overkill, but……I like to keep an Excel spreadsheet of what I’ve already bought.  I can list, by size, what items I have, and I can note what goes together and what outfits are incomplete (e.g., a onesie that has no matching pants).  I update it whenever I go shopping and bring home clothes, and print a copy of it off to keep in my diaper bag or purse to refer to whenever I’m out and I see a good deal.  (I did this very faithfully with Kaylie; I’m slacking a bit with Wil.  But when I keep up with it, it is super helpful–especially when thrift-store shopping, where clothes are often sold as individual items instead of sets.)

My OCD at work.  It can come in handy sometimes.

My OCD at work. It can come in handy sometimes.

As you shop, always picture yourself using an item.  Will it be too difficult to get on and off?  Do you need anything to go with it?  Will it be season-appropriate?  Can you picture yourself using it often?

Keep in mind, you can usually supplement beyond these basics once your little one is wearing the size in question.  Even if that means you won’t get the best deal on what you need additionally, you’ll save more in the long run by not buying a lot of items you end up not needing.  For me, this essentials-only list is usually enough to get me by.  I hope it helps you as you consider what you and your little one will need!