Bella Materna: Nursing & Maternity – A Review and Giveaway!

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I don’t know if I can even count the number of nursing bras I’ve been through since Clare was born. I can count at least 11 off the top of my head, but there’s probably more. It is so hard to find bras that are one, comfortable and two, fit larger chests. At the start of breastfeeding I was up near an F or higher. Probably the closest I had come to finding one I liked was Soma Intimates, and theirs did not hold up in the wash at all after many times wearing them – and now they don’t even carry my size anymore. WTH? Anyway, that’s not even including the possibility of finding a bra that actually LOOKS decent. I had given up on that a long time ago. There just aren’t really pretty bras for larger chests in general, and especially not nursing bras.

But I have been proven wrong with Bella Materna! Anne, their wonderfully sweet creator, offered to have me try a few of their bras to review. (And we are also working on some exciting stuff partnering with them for my podcast. Stay tuned)

I tried their Sexy T-shirt Bra in Rose and the Anytime Tank in Black.

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First, let’s talk about the bra. The first thing I noticed was that the straps are really thin. You typically don’t find this with bras for larger chests. I guess they figure if we have big breasts, we have linebacker shoulders too? Anyway, this bra has nice thin straps! And it’s super pretty. The lace trim adds some femininity to it without being itchy. I HATE itchy, so this was a big plus. I also really liked that it was rose colored and not that awkward flesh color that most neutral bras are. It was different and I appreciated that. It is also really breathable. The back part has an almost mesh-like quality to it, which coming from someone who despises sweating, this is great. It also has a whole extra section of clips on it, which is amazing. Usually bras don’t have this extra extension, and I could see that being really helpful especially during pregnancy and early nursing when everything is changing so much. Finally, it’s WAY more supportive than other nursing bras that I’ve tried. Support is a big freaking deal for those of us with large chests

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Now let’s talk about the tank. I was incredibly surprised how much I liked this tank! I was skeptical because I usually hate “built in” bra tanks because they are annoying, uncomfortable and not at all supportive. But this tank is the complete opposite of all that. It’s SO comfy and also really supportive. Even with my chest! I guess the best way to describe the material is that it’s like almost swimsuit like, but smoother and softer. It’s great! And because of the ruching on the sides, it’s flattering at any size, but also really stretchy in that it would totally fit over a growing pregnant belly. Highly, highly recommend. When we have more kiddos, I’d definitely want to have a few on hand during those early days. I think this tank and yoga pants will be my new mama uniform of choice.

Anne also told me that at Bella Materna they are committed to using quality materials that last a LONG time. Many of the moms who submit reviews to their site say that they used their bras through multiple kiddos and multiple pregnancies. Awesome!

They also sent me a racer back conversion, which turns their bras into a racerback bra. I personally don’t wear a lot of racerbacks, but I know that would be a huge plus to many mamas.

The first bras I tried didn’t fit quite right, I needed to go down a band size, and Bella Materna’s return and exchange policies are super convenient. It’s all free and very quick. The turn around both times was just a day or two.

They are also SUPER helpful in explaining how your bra size will change over the course of your pregnancy and nursing spans. This will be a topic we focus on in an upcoming podcast, and they also have information on their website about differing sizes.

All in all, I highly recommend Bella Materna’s bras, and I love to be supporting another mom entrepreneur while getting great quality products. Next I’ll be eyeing their sleepwear and underwear!

Thank you, Anne and Bella Materna!

I’m so excited, because Bella Materna has offered to giveaway a Sexy T-Shirt Bra and Anytime Tank to one of my blog readers! Just follow the directions at the rafflecopter link below and I will pick a winner on the 13th.

Bella Materna is also offering readers 20% off their first order with code KellieJoy20 between now and 5/31/15.

Yay!

Click for Bella Materna Rafflecopter Giveaway

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Favorite Baby Items: 9-12 month edition

Later than I’d planned, as usual, but here is the last edition of our favorite baby items: from 9-12 months. See 0-3, 3-6 and 6-9 if you’re curious! I’m sure there will be future toddler posts as well.

1. Trax the Train Rocker – My parents got her this for Christmas, and we love it. (Chris rolled his eyes of course when I first put in on the list because he thinks its silly that I pick up train things since he drives trains) Anyway, It plays a couple different songs and the great thing about this one compared to other rockers is the back part holds her on better.IMG_6533

(I promise that’s a smile. 😉 )

2. Pack ‘n Play – Some people really like these for younger ages, and use them as bassinets, etc. We totally didn’t. Between cosleeping and the fact that she really isn’t a fan of being contained, we didn’t need it. However, when she was too big for other chairs/jumpers/etc and not yet walking, the Pack and Play was great for showering and cooking. (and occasionally teaching piano)

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3. Tiny Diner Portable Placemat – One of my other mama friends had one of these when we went out to lunch, and it seemed really convenient, so we got one too. We really like it. It sticks to some surfaces better than others, but the little food catcher part is great for messy babies to drop food when eating out.

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4. Swinging Baby Gate – Once we childproofed our living room, this was a great gate to block her into just that room. It’s also very easily moveable. Now we have it in the kitchen doorway, since that’s where she seems to reek the most havoc.

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5. Chomp & Clack Alligator Push Toy – This is still a favorite as of 14 months when I’m writing this post. It helped her start learning to walk and now that she is walking, she loves to push it in circles and run all over the house with it. She also likes putting EVERYthing she finds around the house on top of the alligators to push them around. Socks, random baskets, rouge apple chips, remote controls, empty water bottles. I’m sure if she could lift our cat Bert, he’d be going for a spin.

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6. Blocks – She’s really starting to be able to stack blocks a bit and not just wander around with them in her mouth. And of course they also go for rides on the alligators (see #5) We have this squishy set from amazon and a similar alphabet wooden set from etsy like this one.

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Any favorites toward the end of your baby’s first year? We’ll be keeping a running list for future kiddos! 🙂

Progress > Perfection

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I’m pretty sure this has been my all out mantra for everything lately.

Life with a high needs “spirited” one year old for this goal-oriented, anxious perfectionist is HARD. Any other mamas with kids as intense as Clare, I know you feel me. I just started reading this book and I find myself highlighting EVERYTHING.

As you probably saw, my 2015 goals were pretty lofty this year…but slowly and steadily I do feel that I’m making progress on them. And PROGRESS is what’s important. As we’ve just finished the first quarter of the year (what?!), I thought it good to do a check in on goals and how things are going so far.

 

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Meditation: I think I’m doing pretty good at this one! I’ve only missed a handful of days, mostly due to the rampant illnesses that seem to be plaguing our house, and I’ve consciously made an effort to never miss more than one day in a row. Sessions vary between 3 and 15 minutes depending on the day, and I do feel like I get more out of the practice if I do it for at least 10. Finding the time that works best has been tricky. When Chris is home, I try and do it first thing in the morning as a part of my morning routine. If he isn’t, I try and kind of do a ‘do over’ of my morning when Clare goes down for a nap. I find it’s a LOT harder if I save it to the evening. My brain is spent, and I am barely able to stay focused on a short one. Apps that I use are Calm, Buddify, Mindful and Headspace. Do you know of any other good meditation apps? Please share.

Five Minute Journal: I’ve also been really good about this one. I like that it includes gratitude, planning and reflecting on the day. I also try to always remember to write in my Mom’s One Line a Day Journal, but sometimes I find myself catching up on a couple days of that one.

Blogging: So far so good on the one post per week. I’ve only missed a week or two, and some weeks I included my post for Girls on the Grid in my count. Once per week is a much more doable goal than writing goals I’ve tried to make previously.

Recipes: We definitely haven’t really been trying out a new recipe per period. We have made a few things out of the baby led weaning cookbook. This green bean recipe is also awesome. And we’ve been making our own corn tortillas. Honestly between Chris’s schedule, Clare challenges and all of the sickness that has been plaguing us, food has dropped on the priority list. Cheese and crackers and hummus and bread have been regular meal staples for me. It’s bad. (Okay it could be a lot worse) But we’ve gotta get a bit better in this area.

Date Nights: This one has been a big fat fail. One of my best friends who was our neighbor and would sometimes watch Clare recently moved away. And when my parents have been up here, Chris has been gone or we’ve all been SICK. Have I mentioned we’ve all been sick?? So we just haven’t really made it happen. We did have a breakfast out at the end of March, but that’s about it. Here’s hoping in the later part of the year when my parents MOVE up here, we’ll get back on track with this one.

Read 25 Books – Totally on track. 6 down, 19 to go. Reviews of my first 4 here. Books and Podcasts are totally saving my sanity. (Though I am a bit ridiculous in that I am currently reading 5 books at once!)

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Learn to Sew a Quilt: Again, maybe this summer once my parents are up here, and I can plan on someone to watch Clare.

Podcast: This is going really well. Yesterday, episode 8 launched, and I’ve got some AWESOME guests lined up in the coming weeks. More at www.postpartumpodcast.com

Childbirth Educator Work: It’s SLOW going, but I’m starting to get on a better track. They re-did the program, and I like the new structure better, but it’s still very daunting the amount of work I need to get done. But, I do have a mentor, and some childbirth class observations lined up. I’ve joined a support group for other ICEA students in training on FB. Hopefully again, once my parents are here I can get into a more regular study routine, I can observe some births, and get on track to finish it all up in early 2016. I know that sounds so far away…but with the amount of work I need to get done, it sounds scary that it’s even that close.

Couch-to-5K: So I got about six weeks into the program. Now I think it’s an awesome program, and it made me not hate running, once they got to the part where you’re running straight for 20-25 minutes they lost me. But by running in intervals I ran the Girls on the Go 5k in 32 minutes at the end of March. Not too shabby for my first time running a 5K. And I’m going to chalk it up to, I can do running for cardio in a pinch, but it’s not really my ‘thing’. Zumba is. And I’m going to hopefully be teaching 3 zumba classes this summer! Hooray!

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In a perfect world, I’d dedicate several uninterrupted hours per week on my childbirth work and podcast and writing and working on a new project that I’m really excited about. But our world is far from perfect these days. So instead I’m having to make progress in the cracks and crevices of the days. On the fringe.   And that’s okay. Because Progress > Perfection. And DONE is > than perfection.

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My episode as a guest on the wonderful Sarah R. Bagley’s podcast today discusses just that! Please check it out, and the rest of her episodes. Her guests always resonate with me!

 

And remember:

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It’s Hard. Social Media and Reality.

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Sometimes Instagram can be a great source of inspiration and happiness. I love scrolling through pretty pictures, slices of people’s lives. With the adorable “Cat of Instagram” picture, smiling baby or the super inspiring messages from people like January Harshe of Birth Without Fear and my friend Sarah of Scout and Feather.

But other times all of the pretty pictures can totally make me feel worse about whatever trouble is going on at that moment. I guess that’s the catch 22 about social media in general, right? Do the potential harder moments outweigh the benefits or vice versa? I think of it more as a see-saw. Some days I’m the one crying in the bedroom after having a mommy meltdown that Clare won’t stop screaming and I don’t know what’s wrong or what to do to help her for the 5th day in a row. (Thank god for that usually happening when Chris is home to pick up the slack.) Days like that it feels like scrolling through IG is just mocking me. “You don’t have that picture perfect coffee picture next to the beautiful planner with the chipper status.” “You aren’t on that exotic vacation, or hanging out with friends.” Instead, I’m desperately trying to juggle it all, working, primary care giving a very high needs spirited toddler, (sometimes both at the same time) and working on my slow crawl to an eventual career in birth work. Not to mention trying to cultivate other relationships in my life.   It’s fucking hard. Yes, I’m cussing, even though that’s usually not my blogging MO. For that sort of blog you should check out Renegade Mothering and of course the One Bad Mother podcast. Love them.

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But seriously, though. It’s hard and I think it should be okay to say it’s hard. It should be okay to have a meltdown every once in a while. To cry. Get some hot chocolate on a rainy day. And then dust yourself off and get back on the merry-go-round.

I guess I should be setting limits on Instagram like I have been on Facebook and Email. I use the Coach.me (previously Lift) app to track habits and that includes trying to limit my checking of those two. Hard habit to break. But I probably should do the same with IG. If for no other reason than to save myself from the hard days of it making me feel worse rather than inspired.

Some days I AM the one with the delicious coffee and the beautiful planner. Next month we ARE going to Hawaii. I’ve made some new friends on IG, participated in a gift swap through @joyfullyinspired and used social media to make other’s days better and even to leverage partnerships and contacts for various endeavors over the years. MOST days, to talk in childbirth speak, the benefits do outweigh the risks…and so I tend to err on the side of soldiering on in the world of social media.

Sometimes it’s just about reminding myself that this is just a slice of life. Just a slice of my life and just a slice of others. And every once in a while it’s worth putting our more ‘real’ moments out there – not solely the highlight reels. I like to think that by doing so, we’re reaching out a small olive branch, saying “I’m not perfect. I’m not all sunshine and rainbows and beautiful coffee and workouts and happy mail and smiling babies. I’m also crying in the bedroom after a long week, binging on sweets, panic attacks, cancelled plans, screaming babies, yoga pants-all-day, chaos so deep that sometimes driving to the dentist feels like a break.” I’m both. We’re all both. And we could do with sharing that more.

There’s a Box For That

You can pretty much find a subscription box for ANYTHING these days. Want fancy underwear delivered to your house? Fresh Fruit? Razors? Soap? Check, Check and Check. There’s box for that. Gifts are absolutely my love language, so getting a surprise on your doorstep each month is an awesome little treat that I always look forward to. Who doesn’t love happy snail mail?? Today I’m sharing the subscription boxes I’ve tried over the last few years. I’d love if you share your experiences with these monthly boxes in the comments section!

Let’s start with the ones I’ve tried but no longer subscribe to:

Birchbox – I’m pretty sure this was the first one I got. Birchbox sends you a few sample sized beauty items each month. The biggest pro of this one is that it’s only $10. However, I like Ipsy better (see below) because their products tend to include more full size items, are more personalized and come in a cute bag each month.

Farm Fresh to You – I miss farm fresh actually. They deliver a mix of organic produce to your door as often as once a week and you can even do only once a month. I enjoyed it while we got it. Every Thursday night I would be excited for the “Fruit and Veggie” fairy to come. But because we also have such awesome farmer’s markets here in Sacramento, Chris and I decided cost-effective wise it made more sense for us to just go to the markets. Though we do need to get more consistent with that.

Conscious Box – I think this was maybe a Groupon or something that I tried? It didn’t really feel like it was for me. You did get a LOT of products in the little box compared to other subscriptions, but a lot was specialty vegan foods that weren’t really my thing. I just tried it for the one month.

Nature Box – Ha, so my friend Steph got me this one as a gift to try. And then she kept forgetting to cancel it, so I think I ended up getting like 4 months of it. It was kinda fun, but I didn’t always like all of the snacks that came with it, so I didn’t renew.

Okay, now onto the monthly boxes I currently get and LOVE!

Ipsy – As mentioned above, I really like Ipsy better than Birchbox. I get 4-5 products in a cute little pouch every month for just $10. I’ve gotten makeup brushes, nail polishes, chapsticks and lip glosses, and some body/hair/face products. I’ve liked most everything I’ve gotten from them. I think I’ve gotten Ipsy for about a year.

Studio Calico – This is a new one for me. I think I’m on my 3rd or 4th month. You can get subscriptions from them for just regular scrapbooking or card making, but I get their Project Life kit. Monica got me hooked on Project Life. I’ve been working on Clare’s first year photo album with them, and I hope to create a family album each year. PL is basically scrapbooking for the lazy (or busy!) and I love it. Studio Calico is $20 each month.

Driftaway Coffee – This is a small coffee roaster out of Brooklyn, NY. While we mostly get our coffee from the local shops here, this is a fun little treat that comes in the mail each month. (You can order it more frequently) What I really liked about them is they send you a sampler of 4 different types of coffee to try first and then personalize your shipments to what you like. We just get the smallest ‘solo’ plan that’s $12. It’s a fun change from our regular Temple Coffee here. You can get your first delivery FREE if you use my referral link.

Citrus Lane – Mommas, Citrus lane is awesome! We’ve been getting it since Clare was just a few months old. She gets age appropriate toys/items/samples each month. Sometimes we get books, sometimes food samples, her favorite teether came from CL. I can’t say enough great things about Citrus Lane. If you would like to check them out, you can use my referral link and get 50% off your first box!

Mommy Mailbox – And last but not least, one of my favorites! Mommy Mailbox launched in December, and my mom got me a gift subscription for my birthday. I love it! You get fun treats each month curated by bloggers to help give moms a little boost. In February I got delicious biscuits and cozy socks, in March an awesome coffee mug and cute tote, among other things. I highly recommend this one to any mamas out there!

I’m curious about a couple of the other ecofriendly boxes like EcoEmi and I have to say I like the idea of the underwear one. Shopping for underwear pretty much sucks, so it’d be nice to have some comfy ones just show up at your door.

What boxes have you tried? Loved, Hated?

10 Things I learned in the first year of Motherhood

It’s been a wild ride of a year with high highs and low lows. Which I imagine is pretty typical of most moms during the postpartum year. On my podcast I really like to call the whole first year “postpartum” because so much changes during that year, it seems a much more accurate representation.

I really like the One Bad Mother episode where they talk about first birthdays and how it’s not really about the kids at all. Your baby will not remember that birthday party. What they really are is a celebration of surviving that first year of life. So this week that is what we celebrate. We’ve loved and kept a tiny human alive for a whole year. I can’t believe it’s already been a year since I went into labor. It’s hard to remember what life was like before her. That is SO cliché but it is also really, really true.

Here are 10 things I learned throughout the first year of motherhood…I’m sure there are more, but we’ve been sick over here lately, so this is the best I’ve got.

  • Once you get comfortable, everything changes. If there’s anything true, it’s this. Every time we’d start to get into a bit of a rhythm, something new would happen. Teeth! Crawling! A new cry! More Teeth! Colds! The list goes on and on. But the rapid changes they undergo in this first year are crazy, amazing and, of course, exhausting. So if I can tell new moms and my future self with future babies anything – it’s “this will pass – whether it’s good or bad, it WILL pass.”
  • How to multitask… And I thought I was good at multitasking before! There are so many times this year I had to figure out how to do multiple things at once. When she was really little, many times I would be nursing side lying on the couch while putting on makeup. Babywearing also made lots of this possible.
  • …and how to NOT multitask. Clare also forced me to STOP my multitasking madness much of the time. There were times that I had to rest and just nurse. There were whole weeks where she was sick or I was sick and I just had to accept that being a mom was all that I could accomplish that week. This was SUPER hard for my overly productive achievement-based personality. But I also think it was really good for me.
  • Being a Mom is Hard – No matter what. I have mom friends who work full time. I have mom friends who completely stay at home. I have mom friends who – like me – straddle the fence. It’s ALL hard. There are trade offs with every situation and we are all doing the best we can for our particular family situation. Period.
  • So in that vein…tell a mom that they are doing a good job. One Bad Mother taught me this one.   If you are out and you see a mom struggling, help her out! I will never forget the two older women (both separate times) who helped me out at Whole Foods. One unloaded my cart while I was wearing Clare and carrying my diaper bag – saying “I used to call it pack horse syndrome.” Instead of being annoyed that I had a huge cart full of groceries and she only had one thing, she helped me. Another one helped me put bags in my car because foolishly I never let the clerks help me out even though they always ask. My cart was blocking them and I started to apologize, and again instead of getting annoyed, she helped me.   If you see a mom struggling with a baby at a restaurant or on a plane, at least smile at her to tell her you get it, or you’ve been there. Even better – say so! I’ve been the mom with the screaming newborn in target, and the one with the baby who threw up all over me in a restaurant. Be kind.
  • Mom-friends are a necessity. I’ve met so many wonderful ladies this year, some of whom I consider some of my very best friends. I met them through mom groups, or friend-of-a-friends. (Not to mention the long-time friends who also had babies this last year.) There are so many resources out there. And having the support of someone going through the same crazy times as you are is a sanity saver.
  • Speaking of which, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there! There are a couple chance meetings that if I hadn’t been brave enough to try or let my anxiety win out, I wouldn’t have made some of the greatest friendships this year. It can be awkward, but it can also be so rewarding. Shout out to Monica – who I was totally nervous to meet up with on our first walk around McKinley Park, but I’m SO glad I got over that. 😉
  • Every mom and every baby is different. And you have to OWN the choices that you make for your family. I have learned to never apologize for the choices Chris and I have made for our family. We may have friends who don’t get them, don’t agree with them or do things differently, but we are proud of how we have chosen to parent and we own our choices.
  • Plans become loose guidelines. This was a tough one for me. I’m type A. I’m a tad OCD. I hate being late. I like am obsessed with planning. But a baby changes all of that. Dates become tentative, get-togethers shift based on nap schedules. You are late. You sometimes have to cancel a whole week’s worth of piano lessons. Learning to embrace this fluidity is still difficult, but I know when I do, everyone is a lot happier. Myself included.
  • Just keep going…and remember to laugh. There are so many times where I thought “How the hell am I going to keep doing this?” “How do people have MORE THAN ONE of these??” “I’m going to lose my mind if I have to keep doing x,y,z” But if you just keep going, everything changes. Everything today may be different tomorrow. Oh yeah – and laugh. Laugh a lot. Make up silly songs. Laugh at 3am when you’ve been up for two hours for the third night in a row. You will get through it either way, but if you laugh the experience might just be a tad bit more pleasant!

Dare I say, I think we may be starting to settle into our “New Normal.” There’s so much we are still figuring out. The balancing act that is life and parenting. (Especially with our lack of predictability in work schedules.) But we are getting there. And I can’t believe my baby is one!  (Insert Teary-faced emoji)

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Our Favorite Baby Items 6-9 Months

A bit late again, considering Clare is almost 11 months (What?!) but here’s a recap of our favorite baby items 6-9 months. In case you missed it, here were our favs 0-3 months and 3-6 months.

Baby Gate/Play YardMy sweet friend Kristin gave this to us and it’s been a LIFEsaver. Chris rigged it up so that she can go all around our wrap around couch and all around the gate. It is lovingly referred to as her cage. She loves cruising around.

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Graco Bumper Jumper. Alas, as of writing this she’s too heavy for the jumper, but it was a good transition from the bouncy chair of “place that Clare goes while mommy showers.”

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Zafu Meditation Cushion. This a must have for sitting and playing on the floor when you have a bony butt like me. Plus considering one of my goals for 2015 is to meditate, it will serve a double purpose.

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Punkin Butt Teething Oil. We have done EVERYTHING for teething. I have every home remedy there is and some nights we just have to do motrin because nothing works. But I do like this oil for the cooling effect it gives her. Sometimes it’s just the ticket for her to finally calm down and go to sleep.

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Kinderpack. We went ahead and got the standard kinderpack, with plus size straps, so that we would have a carrier that worked for both Chris and I. It is miles better above the ergo. I don’t know why everyone says get the ergo. These people obviously haven’t tried a Kinderpack or Tula. (The big draw for us for the kinder vs tula for us was the extra long straps)

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Jelly Strands. These seriously save my neck….and face…and anything else she tries to scratch out while nursing or while in the carrier. She loves them. And I was very upset when I thought I’d lost them so I bought a second pair. I can’t wear regular small chain jewelry at all anymore. Except perhaps when I go out without her….which is pretty rare!

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And that’s all folks. Only 6 this time around.   Check back soon for our favs 9-12 months!

 

*This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase a book based on my recommendation Clare’s diaper fund gets a teeny bit of money. 🙂