A few things that have been making this mom's life a bit sweeter. (Oh, and I'm not nearly savvy enough to have sponsored posts, so you know any product recs are the real deal!)
1. Happy Baby Carrier
Calling anything destined for babies "Happy" is a big leap of faith -- they're temperamental little buggers! That said, the Happy Baby Carrier (mostly) delivers on its promise. There were very few items on my Baby #2 shopping list, but I knew I was ready for a carrier upgrade. With my first son, we'd inherited an Ergo (never used), a Beco (well-loved during our travels, but pretty worn out) and a Moby soft wrap (attempted and promptly abandoned). My two major criteria in selecting a carrier for Auguste were that it be 1) newborn-capable without an insert, and 2) LIGHTWEIGHT. While we loved our Beco, its padded waistband and straps made it bulky and near-impossible to stuff in a diaper bag.
My internet prowling led me, happily, to the Happy Baby Carrier, a super-streamlined, lightweight linen carrier that folds easily into a tote bag with room to spare. YAY! Rather than resting on a thick padded waistband, the linen simply folds under to create a cozy kangaroo pouch for your baby, and there are only two buckles to deal with - one at the waist, one at your upper back. Newborns get their feet tucked in, froggy-style, and older kids straddle their legs around you. There is an easily accessible sun shade that folds out from a zip pouch at the top. The linen fabric comes in a range of lovely colors, and though I haven't washed mine yet, I've read that it gets even softer with time and use.
The only downside to this carrier is that kids can't be forward-facing (though they can ride on your back). My first son loved to check out the world while strapped onto daddy's or my chest, and so I'll be keeping our trusty Beco on hand for future front-carry capability. For snuggling up for a nap or lower-stimulation, though, the Happy Baby is pretty much perfect.
2. The Occasional Formula Feed
I can't recommend breastfeeding enough. Its myriad health benefits are well-documented, but beyond that, it's simply one of the coziest life experiences you can have. Snuggling up with warm milk + the one you love best? It doesn't get any hygge-er than that! Plus, it's pretty darn amazing to gaze at your little human and know that your body made every miraculous inch of him/her.
Bottle-feeding creates a more egalitarian parenting dynamic and also allows women to regain ownership over their bodies sooner
With that said, for various reasons, not every mom has the option of breastfeeding for a whole year (or at all), as is commonly recommended. And though I find the mainstream French preference for bottle-feeding, well, a little cold and self-centered, there is a good reason many Frenchwomen opt not to nurse: freedom. Bottle-feeding creates a more egalitarian parenting dynamic and also allows women to regain ownership over their bodies sooner. The Frenchwomen I know also wouldn't take too eagerly to wearing stretchy, washable, stain-resistant clothing (i.e. pajamas) for a whole year, either. The last time I was in Paris, we went out with my husband's uncle and wife, who had welcomed a son two weeks prior. The new maman was wearing a silk blouse and stilettos. She was not interested in breastfeeding and had put her son on the bottle straightaway so that, she told me, her husband could "participate as an equal." Fair enough.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the "breast is best!" message is sometimes delivered with militant zeal. My hospital sent me home with a leaflet that basically said I should be breastfeeding every 1.5 to 3 hours, or whenever the baby sucked its hands, opened its mouth, or had been sleeping too long. In other words, CONSTANTLY. American moms who head back to work within the first year face intense pressure to pump milk at work, which is, at best, a huge pain in the ass -- as if working mothers of infants needed more stress.
the "breast is best!" message is sometimes delivered with militant zeal
I think we can find a happy medium, which is why this time around, I've all but eschewed pumping (except in case of discomfort from fullness) in favor of the occasional formula feed. 95% percent of the time, I am lucky to be able to nurse my baby, and I actually find it to be the most convenient thing - my breastfeeding wardrobe is decidedly dumpy, but I don't have to lug any feeding gear around when I leave the house. On the rare occasions when I get out of the house without the baby, or when I'm at home and simply want to spend more time with my toddler and hand the baby off to dad, a few ounces of formula is an easy solution.
I don't have plans to return to work soon, but if I did, I would be fine with giving my son formula by day, and keeping up our nursing routine during the mornings and evenings (as I did when my first was 7 months old). I wish more moms would allow themselves the freedom that supplementing with formula provides...and that society would support a more flexible approach to feeding.
3. Art Cards for Baby
This is not the kind of product I would ever buy on my own, but these Art Cards for Baby mysteriously arrived in the mail from an as-yet-unidentified sender, and we have been enjoying them!
I generally think there is enough in the natural world to stimulate young babies' burgeoning senses, but I've had to remind myself that infants' sight range is limited, and so they can't appreciate targets that are too far or lacking in contrast. I've been propping up these cards about a foot from baby's face when I lay him on his play mat, and he does seem to enjoy gazing at them.
They could also potentially make for some cute nursery decor -- if your nursery, unlike mine, hasn't become a storage room for all the other baby gear that has a lifespan of approximately 2 weeks.