Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Favorite Baby Things

While I was pregnant...
Everyone: "They grow up SO fast."
Me: (With moderate disregard) "Mmm hmm."

Four Months later...
Me: "Oh my god! My baby is already four months old! They grow up SO fast."

It's funny how one the one hand, it feels like Brayden has been part of our family forever while on the other hand, it seems like just yesterday I was going to the bathroom for the 52nd time that day and fielding overly personal questions about pregnancy from my sophomore English class. It's also funny how Lauren and I bought all these great baby toys while I was pregnant without realizing that it would be months (we're talking 6 to 8) before our little one would be playing with any of them. Silly us. We have had some winners, however, and Brayden certainly has strong opinions about what he likes and doesn't like.

I've also learned along the way that the 0-4 month age range can be so much fun. At first, I didn't know what I could really do (other than change, talk to, nurse and love) a baby who can't even see across the room or keep his head up. But I have simply loved this age and have had so much fun interacting and playing with the little guy. It has been fascinating watching him develop and grow along the way. In addition to my own antics (I have become quite a pro at making up songs and silly games for infants), we've been lucky enough to score some points with Brayden on a few toys. I've listed them chronologically - starting with his earliest favorite things and ending with the most recent. At the end, I've also included a few Mommy favorites.

Brayden's Top Ten...

When Brayden was only a few weeks old, we were looking at these books together. Developmentally, babies see black and white first - so images of high contrast stand out to them and are interesting. Brayden would actually stare at the pages for quite some time. I loved the first few books so much that I ended up buying several more (mostly the ones by Peter Linenthal). There was also one that unfolded like an accordion (Black & White by Tana Hoben) that I propped up next to his changing table. He was always looking at the wall anyway, so I figured it would be more interesting than green paint. He loved these. His earliest "favorite" thing for sure.

I know, I know. Some babies hate bathtime. I've seen a picture of my grumpy husband during his first year to know this isn't for everyone. But Brayden loves bathtime. It was actually the quickest and easiest way to get him to calm down during his first month. We even started making it part of our bedtime routine. We had a couple baby baths, but the one that ended up being the best was the Fisher-Price whale one. There's a great little divider that props up babies not old enough to sit (I found this better than the slings/seats that come with some baths).

This might have been his longest running favorite "toy". He's only now starting to grow wearisome of it (and I suspect it's because he's wanting more room to roll over and move around). He would lay on this and play for a good 15-30 minutes even when he was just a month or so old. The toys at the top are interchangeable and I would switch them out with others that I bought (not necessarily designed for the activity center, but all you need are rings to attach) to give Brayden some variety. He actually noticed when I changed things, which was really interesting. I love using toys that make noise when he hits them or pulls on them (like the Sassy Chime animals or the Bright Start Take & Shakes). He would pick up on the cause & effect pretty quickly and then work to keep doing it. Because my boy is a kicker (oh, is he ever!) he adored the piano at the bottom. When he was lying down, he would kick the crap out of it (kicking = music). And the piano switches around so he can play with his hands once he can sit up. Super cool, IMHO.

Maybe my baby just knows how cute he is, but he adores looking in the mirror. His activity mat has a small one on top that he always looked into and laughed at. We finally had to get one for his crib so he could talk to himself and stare at his big blue eyes more often!

Similar to the high contrast picture books, these are pretty cool cardboard cards of animals. On one side, it's black on white; on the other side is the same image white on black. We propped these up everywhere (by his bath, his changing table, his activity mat, etc.) or would just flip through them with him. The company that makes them has numerous sets depending on what kind of animals you like. We have the farm set, the sea creatures (which is probably my favorite) and the peek-a-boo set (which has a weird peacock thing that looks like a turkey and a frog my husband thinks is smoking a pipe).

This was a gift from another mom. Since Brayden is a non-sleeper, anything that has the possibility of helping him unwind is great for me. I started giving him little baby massages with this lotion after his baths and he just loves them (it has now taken the place of baths in our nightly routine). He smiles so big when I start rubbing his feet with the lotion. Now, at night, when he just sees the bottle of lotion, he calms down a bit and knows that sleep time is coming.

This one was my husband's doing. He insisted on getting Raffi cds that he remembered from his childhood. I think my little guy is just a music man in general, but he definitely does enjoy these songs. There are some in particular that I swear he recognizes and likes more than others.

The key here is small. A few people gave us normal-sized stuffed animals as gifts. They're a bit too big for Brayden right now. He really likes animals that he can hold (and fit into his mouth).

Now that Brayden is moving his limbs with more precision (and holding things like a champ), he enjoys toys that utilize these skills. The top of this toy spins and makes rattle noises and the bottom plays music when the keys are hit. He watches me spin the top and then does it over and over (and over) again. Or he just pounds away at the little keyboard and listens to some classical tunes belt out. It's pretty small (about the size of my hand) and was a cheap, good toy.

Not only did this one score major points with my son, but it keeps my husband occupied for hours, too. All I heard for a week was how cool the toy was. When someone (baby or husband) hit a flower, it plays a loud piano-like note. All of the flowers have different tones so it becomes quite musical. When hit, the flowers also light up, which is pretty cool. My little guy loves this toy right now. As soon as we put it in front of him, he starts smacking at it.

Some Mommy Faves...

As a new mom, there's a lot I didn't know. I have friends and relatives who have kids, but the idea of calling them at 3 in the morning with a question didn't really appeal to me that much. These were the two most helpful books I had. The Baby 411 is so practical. I still reference it when I have a question. It was particularly helpful on the breastfeeding front and even gave a specific timeline of what to expect the first two weeks (how often to nurse, how hungry the baby will be, trouble shooting, etc.).

My little guy enjoyed swaddling but couldn't stand having his arms pinned down. Yes, I know, the guy from Happiest Baby on the Block would tell me to do it anyway. But I'm telling you, Brayden was calm with his arms inside the swaddle but across his chest and frantic with them at his sides. These blankets are awesome because they're a jersey fabric that allows for a bit of stretching. They were easier for us to get a good swaddle done than regular cotton ones. They're also super thin and lightweight, which was good for a summer baby.

Brayden is a big fan of music. It calmed him down from week 1. The cd was also a gift and it has become quite useful. We play it before (and during) every nap. Brayden now knows that when the music comes on, it's sleep time. He immediately relaxes and starts to unwind when we play it. And bonus for us, it's music we can tolerate. The line of cds has quite a few bands whose music has been turned into lullaby form (no words + soothing).

There are a million books on sleeping and weaning and everything else you can think of. But these books are about the psychological and developmental progress of tots. Brain Rules was one of the most fascinating books I've read in a long time (and I'm a big reader, so that really says something). It discusses what components are correlated with developing intelligence, happiness and morality (and what you can do to foster each in your child). His writing is witty, objective and backed up by loads of research. Highly recommended. The Wonder Weeks is the practical book on development. If you're wondering why your baby is suddenly not sleeping and is cranky all the time, check the book. Your baby might be going through one of the developmental growth spurts (rather than physical) that the authors discuss. It has been frighteningly accurate for our baby's moods. I just recently got this one and was wondering why lately Brayden has been on sleep strike. Turns out, week 17 is a huge "fussy" period. The authors talk about the changes that the baby is going through and even gives very cool lists of activities and games you can play to engage the developing skills. It's a bit pricey, but really a great book. I probably recommend these more than the general parenting books. You can find all of the parenting info online easily. This stuff is super interesting and not found on every baby site out there.

Multiple people offered to get us a swing. We didn't think we needed a one. We were wrong. So, so wrong. This thing has been a lifesaver. Our son is actually napping during the day now. Can. Not. Believe. It.


  1. Oh my gosh... my little guy loves musical things. I'm going out to get him that flower garden this weekend.

    Where are the swaddling blankets from?

    I love my Fisher-Price swing, too. Great purchase, without a doubt.

    1. They're the stretchy ones from Carters. You can get them in the store (or website) or on Amazon.

  2. Those flowers are so cool. They just look like plush little flowers, but when you hit one of them, it lights up and plays a musical note. I was like...whoa.

    Yesterday I tried to play "The Victors," but I need about 3 more flowers. Maybe some soldering over the weekend will take care of this problem. :)