Friday, September 12, 2014

Meal Time Essentials

Whether you're bottle feeding, giving cereal, purees, or doing baby led weaning, one thing is for sureyou're going to need some gear for that. And the options for each can be slightly overwhelming. Here we will tell you want worked for us and what we each consider our meal time "essentials."
(Note this post does not include items for nursing. See that list of essentials here.)


Oh, bottles. This is the one category that pushed me over the limit when it came to choices. They come in glass, plastic, and even stainless steel, with a variety of shapes and sizes and nipple styles. Heck, now they even make one that is PRETTY DARN CLOSE to an actual breast. I don’t know what to say about bottles, beyond “it’s probably going to be a crap shoot.” I registered for the Born Free and Dr. Brown's because that's what people said their kids liked. We  didn’t get our daughter to drink from a bottle without a problem until THE DAY that I went back to work. Talk about nerve wracking. I tried Medela, Dr. Brown's, Born Free, Playtex, Avent, and probably a couple more that I can’t remember. She ended up taking the Playtex Drop-ins bottle with the brown latex nipple and then eventually transitioned to using the Born Free and Dr. Browns (although I preferred the Born Free for ease of cleaning and also less leakage). My advice would be to register for just 1 or 2 of a certain kind (not the huge starter kit or anything) and then just see what happens. You could get lucky and your baby will drink from anything or you could be like me, up in Target and Buy Buy Baby, like a crazy person buying one of each bottle in hopes that something sticks. I hope that you are the latter!

If you are using formula, having a formula dispenser is nice for on the go. 

J: We registered for the Playtex VentAire and the Dr. Brown's. Weston never really took to the Dr. Browns so I gave those away, but we were pretty happy with the VentAire. Both have multiple pieces that can be kind of cumbersome to put together when you are half asleep or have a crying baby who needs to eat NOW, but the only real issue we had with them, is that if you didn’t screw on the bottom pieces just right, they would leak-but we quickly got the hang of it. I got a free sample of an AVENT Natural Bottle in the mail and that quickly turned into my favorite. I found that it most closely mimicked the breast and Weston loved drinking out of that bottle. They also make glass versions! Given the potential health hazards of plastics I keep reading about, we’ve been trying more and more to use glass or stainless steel food storage, including bottles.

Burp cloths

You can find some really cute burp cloths, but I just used Gerber cloth diapers. They are a good thickness, absorbent, easy to wash and for the price you can’t beat it. We usually kept one of these on hand in every room, along with a washcloth, for quickly wiping spit up and stuff. Aden and Anais makes a nice burp cloth that can be snapped into a bib. It’s a great multipurpose item and the shape fits nicely on your shoulder. Now that my daughter is a toddler, I just keep it in the diaper bag as my go to bib because it's easy to use when out and about.

J: We used the gerber cloth diapers as well, and like Kathryn, kept stashes around the house. If you own a sewing machine and want to spruce up your burp cloths (something I always wanted to do, but never got around to it) - check out this great video tutorial (hit mute if you don’t want to listen to the Jesus music). Here is a no sew option.

Speaking of bibs

I received so many bibs it was ridiculous. And while they were cute, looking back on it, I didn’t really need them. The only ones I registered for and that I would still say are a must have are GreenSprouts Waterproof DripDrop Bibs. They are totally waterproof, but yet soft and have a foam rim that keeps stuff from dribbling between the bib and neck. I never used bibs until she started taking a bottle at 3 months but I then I pretty much ONLY used these bibs on a regular basis. Other ones are cute, but these were and still are the most used bibs I got or bought. Once you transition to food, you will want some wipeable bibs and also some smocks to make mealtime a little less messy.

J: OMG! The amount of bibs we received was RIDICULOUS! At one time we had 42. No joke. I counted. We were the couple who decided to save pretty much everything we got at our shower or received as presents because, as first time parents, we had no idea what we would need. The funny thing is we hardly ever use them! Weston hates wearing them and usually rips them off. I eventually gave most of them away but we still have a few we use for when we know dinner time is going to be pretty messy. We usually just let Weston eat without a bib and if he gets dirty we’ll change him.


I'm not sure what category to put pacifiers in, but the only ones she ever took were the Avent soothies. And even then, she never was a pacifier baby, she only took them on occasion. In those desperate times of “why are crying and what can we do to soothe you?” we tried about five different kinds and that is what worked for us. We registered for some of them at the advice of someone else, but you can get one from the hospital and if he/she likes it, get more. And people will also buy you pacifiers, so you can try other brands/types.

J: Weston never took a pacifier. My goodness did we try. After his surgery he was an awful sleeper and as much as we tried to substitute the breast with a pacifier,it never worked. We tried every brand, to no avail. He pretty much just wanted to nurse and suckle all day and all night. So, that is what we did.

Cleaning bottles, etc.

We both have the boon lawn drying rack and accessories. I love it because it holds a lot but isn't tall. It does take up some counter space, but doesn't seem cumbersomeand it looks cute.

I have this brush and I like it. You can replace the actual brush without having to buy the new holder, so we have replaced the brush a couple times since she was born and still use it to clean sip cups, etc. They also make a travel one. I would suggest using any natural dish wash without a scent. I did not register for any dishwasher baskets because we wash stuff by hand (we don't run our dishwasher often enough to wash bottles, etc.) but we bought one of these and it did come in handy on occasion.

J: We use this dishwasher basket, by OXO, but I just saw they make a silicone one, so we may be switching.

Plates, bowls, utensils, and snack containers

We use oxo plates and bowls. I actually find that discount stores like TJ Maxx and Marshall's carry these and sell them at a very discounted price. They have held up well in the dishwasher, and the bowls come with lids so you can store any leftover food. Even though I like these, I kind of feel like plates are plates and bowls are bowls. As long as it's safe to eat out of, I think they are all kind of the same.

Same goes for utensils. The only utensil I would recommend are these Gerber spoons. The bowl of this spoon is perfect for little mouths who are just learning to eat. And the metal handle is slim and not as cumbersome as some of the other plastic baby spoons. They come in both "bold" colors and pastels and as odd as this may sound, the bold color spoons are actually better than the pastel. The rubber on the pastel is hard and I found that it was not as easy to eat off of for my daughter.

Now that she is a toddler, she eats with fork and spoonagain, there are a zillion options and really I don't think one is better than the other. One thing I do need to invest in is a travel set (and remember to bring it with). I constantly find us at restaurants giving her a large adult fork and hoping she doesn't jab herself (or one of us) in the eye with it.

We got a ton of snack cups and I rarely use them. Around the house, I used the Munchkin snack catcher when she was younger and now she's fine with just a plate or bowl. I like the Munchkin brand because the top was easiest to get your hand in and out of but still contained the snacksnot the crumbs however, so neat nicks beware! When we go out, I use this Beaba snack tower and I love it. The different sections all twist on to each other, so when one snack is done you can move it to the bottom. And the top has a "funnel" like feature so you could store powdered formula in there or use it to pour smaller snacks out into little hands.

J: We have these melamine Skip Hop bowls and plates that come in the cutest patterns. They are extremely sturdy and seem almost unbreakable. The downside is that melamine cannot go in the microwave or dishwasher and it cannot be recycled. And as I read more about the health hazards of plastic, the health hazards of melamine also came up quite a bit. So we recently started using plain ole’anchor hocking glass storage bowls. Booooring! I know! Also, I know that I am probably just paranoid. But why risk it?

Food Storage:

I made a lot of my own baby food. I found it to be enjoyable and not that time consuming. There are a lot of books and websites that you can consult on making your own food. I was given this book by a friend and I used it as a guide. It pretty much tells you anything you need to know about feeding your baby and toddler. It has a very nice month to month breakdown and it also explains how to cook different foods, how to store them and how long they can be stored and an extensive index so things are easy to find and flip to.

I didn't buy any of the "baby food makers" because I already had a small food processor and a immersion blender and I just steamed the veggies the old fashioned way. I honestly don't think it's necessary to buy any new appliances, but that's just me.

For storing baby food we used the OXO storage blocks and covered ice cube trays. Both held up well and were easily stacked in the freezer.

J: We bought the Green Sprouts Baby Food Storage Cubes to store the baby food I made and while I love the way they stack for storage, some of the lids have cracked in the freezer or become deformed in the dishwasher. If we ever have to purchase more, I think I may go with these by Sage Spoonfuls. The caps look a little more sturdy, although these are more expensive. Sage Spoonfuls also has a great starter kit that includes an immersion blender if you don’t already own one. For on the go, I love these resealable storage bags from Blue Avocado and Itsy Ritzy. Both can go in the washing machine or dishwasher, but I have found that my food tastes like soap after I put them in the washer, so now we just  hand wash them and place them on the Boon to dry. We have also used these snack cups which work great.


Where are you going to feed this baby/child of yours? That's a good question and I'm happy to say there are many options that suit just about any need. When it comes to high chairs, they generally fall into three different categories: the traditional high chair, the space saver chair and the clip on/portable chair. Even within those three categories, the options are pretty overwhelming. Basically, it comes down to your preference and needs.

I live in a relatively small home, so for me, the main priority was something that didn't take up a lot of space and that I could store easily. I registered for and received two different high chairs. A more traditional one (the Joovy Nook) that folds up almost flat and is easy to open and close (with one hand) and SUPER easy to wipe clean. I also like that the tray swings open instead of clipping on, so it makes it easier to get the baby in and out. It does not recline, but that wasn't a feature that I needed.

We used this high chair when my daughter was first eating and then we transitioned to the Chico 360 hook on high chair. I loved this chair. I left it attached to the table since it's just me and my husband. But when I did need to remove it, it was easy to get on and off, the tray comes off if you want to just use the table, and I loved that it rotated. When my daughter was a lot younger, we could swing her out to feed her and then once she started feeding herself, we just kept the seat facing forward. We used this chair until she turned 2 and transitioned to a booster seat/arguing with us over sitting in a seat at all! The fabric chair part comes off relatively easy and is machine washable. It comes apart and folds completely flat and even comes with a travel bag. I wouldn't bring it to a restaurant or anything, but I've brought it to relatives house and that was more convenient than lugging the big chair. There are lots of options for chairs that clip onsome more portable than others.

My mom has a Fisher Price space saver chair at her house and it works just fine, too! This is a highchair that you strap to one of your regular chairs. It has a tray that is removable so you can scoot the chair right up to the table if you like and sort of transitions into a booster seat.

All three options work well for us, but when shopping for a high chair here are some things to take into consideration:

Do you have space to leave it out in the kitchen/dining area?
If you need to be able to store it, does it need to fold flat?
Do you have an extra chair to use for a space saver?
Will you want one to use it at home and also take with to restaurants and friends and family's house?
What kind of material do you preferis fabric that has to be thrown in the washer going to be a pain? If so, then you might want a more wipeable material.
How much are you going to have to move it around? If you'll leave it one place, a heavier chair won't be a problem. But if you will be storing or moving it around, you'll probably want a light weight, less cumbersome option. 

Last, don't forget a mess mat of some sort! You can buy a plastic one, or just get a cheap shower curtain liner or even use a towel to protect your floors and make for easy cleanup.

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