Monitoring the situation

It would appear that I have become somewhat of an expert on video baby monitors. We (totally not on purpose) have ended up using three different baby monitors since Littleman was born.

So, since I have all this knowledge, I figure I might as well share it!

When I got pregnant the first time around and started looking at baby gear, I wondered if a video baby monitor was really necessary. They seemed to be gaining in popularity at the time, so we figured, what the hell? We’ll give it a try.

Philips Avent
Out first monitor was a gift from my godparents. It wasn’t one we had looked at before but their daughter had used it so they knew it was good.

We started using it once Littleman started sleeping in his own room. Right from the start, I loved it. The picture was clear, the range was decent (I could hang out in the backyard and make it to about the end of our driveway in the front). I could clip it to my pants when going downstairs to do laundry.

I liked that the power switch is on the side and is easy to flick on and off.  The volume control is the same switch (you just roll it with your thumb) so it’s super easy to do without having to flip through different menus within the monitor.  In fact, there are no menus at all.  Just a button to adjust brightness and a button for the built-in music/lullabies.

A couple of features that are missing from this monitor are the ability to pan the camera remotely and the talk-back feature.

But, our absolute favourite feature of this monitor was the sound activation. The screen remains black and the monitor is completely silent (i.e. zero static or background noise) until the baby makes a sound. Then, the screen comes on.

I loved that feature because I could glance over and see what the kid was doing without having to reach out and fiddle with buttons to activate the video.

All in all, we really liked the Philips Avent monitor.

So, why did we get a second video monitor? When Littleman was 18 months old, my parents bought a farm. It’s a property outside of the city where we can all spend weekends and holidays together. At first, we would take our monitor back and forth every weekend. After a while, that got irritating. If you’re wondering why we didn’t just give up the monitor now that the kid wasn’t a baby anymore, the main reason is the size of the farm house. It’s huge and the main living areas are far from our bedrooms.

At the time, I read some reviews of newer models of monitors. We loved ours but found it’s range wasn’t amazing at the farm. We figured we might as well try another brand and decided to go for the one that got excellent reviews (and happened to be on sale!)

Motorola MBP36

This monitor has a larger screen than our first monitor and it’s even more clear.  It took a bit of time to get used to the different locations of buttons and to figure out all the controls because this one definitely has more features than the Philips.

I liked the fact that this monitor allows you to pan the camera remotely from the parent unit.  This means the camera doesn’t have to be perfectly positioned before you leave the baby’s room.

Another nice feature was the ability to “talk back” using the parent unit.  It helped me when I’d be nursing the baby and my three-year-old would wake up.  I could talk to him through the monitor to let him know where I was and why I wasn’t coming to his room.

The biggest thing we had to get used to with this monitor was the background noise.  There was definitely a slight buzzing/hum to this one which got louder as you turned the volume up.  This meant that, at night, I had to keep the volume pretty low so that I wouldn’t be bothered by the constant noise.  I also had to get used to reaching out and fumbling for the video button to turn on the screen when Littleman would call out.  Not my favourite thing to do in the middle of the night (I definitely knocked over a glass or two of water) but I eventually figured out how to do it in the dark.

One of the main things that excited us about this monitor was the ability to add additional cameras.  We thought this would be awesome once our second baby was born.  We could see both of them with one monitor!

Again, after getting used to this one, we were quite happy with it.

So, why the third monitor? After Bo was born, I decided to look into purchasing a second camera for this monitor so we could keep an eye on both boys at the same time.  I started searching online and didn’t have any luck.  The camera was either out of stock or just not carried at all.  Seriously, I couldn’t find the extra camera anywhere.  It became increasingly annoying to carry around two monitors with me, so I knew I needed to find another solution.

20140731-205145-75105365.jpgSummer Infant Multi View

When I realized I couldn’t get an extra camera for the Motorola, I started looking at other options for monitors that come with two cameras.  Turns out there aren’t many.  The one that seemed to be easiest to find was the Summer Infant Multi View Digital Colour Video Monitor.  My sister has a different Summer monitor and seemed to be happy with it.  I read some reviews and, for the price, this seemed like a good option for us.

I was pretty excited when we finally got it.  At this point, I was using both of our monitors, which was a total pain in the arse.  I found that they were interfering with each other and it was just a lot to carry around with me.

The Summer was easy to set up and straightforward to use.  It does not have the pan feature that the Motorola has, but you can zoom in remotely.  There is less background noise than the Motorola but it isn’t as quiet as the Philips.

While it isn’t sound activated like the Philips, the button to activate the screen is large and right on the top of the monitor so you just have to slap at it (kind of like an alarm clock snooze button) which is super-easy to do in the middle of the night.

The coolest part?  The ability to see both my babies at the same time!  There is the option of having a split screen so that I can watch both of them.  Or, I can use the “scan” feature, which flips back and forth between cameras every 8 seconds.  This is the best option for us because it allows us to hear sound from both rooms (the split screen shows both rooms but only plays the audio from one of the rooms).

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In the end, we’ve been lucky that all three monitors have worked well for us.  After using them all, I think that, given the choice, I would want to have the Philips Avent monitor with two cameras.  But, since that doesn’t exist, I’m happy with the Summer for now.

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Stroller storage

Have I mentioned that my husband is super handy? Five years ago, we were deep into a major renovation of our first home and D did most of the work himself (with a little help from me!)

It’s been a while since he’s had a project to do around here (he keeps himself so busy doing work at the farm!) so I was pretty excited when he offered to build me a shed for storing our stroller.

We live in a small, semi-detached house. We tore down our dilapidated garage during the renovation and replaced it with a shed for storing tools, the lawn mower, etc. Still, we don’t really have a great place to keep a lot of baby gear, particularly our rather large UppaBaby Vista stroller (which I totally love and use everyday).

Until recently, every time I used the stroller, I had to collapse it and carry it through our house – taking care not to scratch any walls – to store it behind our dining room table. It was far from ideal, but with a tiny entryway, there was nowhere else to keep it.

Now, I have an awesome shed that D built beside our deck. It’s just large enough so that I can push my stroller inside without collapsing it. We will put a lock on it to keep the stroller safe. It will make coming and going from walks WAY easier!

Once we grow out of our stroller years, we can use the shed to store other small stuff like kids bikes, etc.

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A few of my favourite things (a.k.a. baby gear)

A while ago, my sister asked me if I could give her some advice about baby gear for her shower registry.  Since we don’t need many new things this time around, I hadn’t thought about baby stuff in a while.  My chat with her reminded me of some of my absolute favourite baby-related items (as well as things that I definitely could have lived without.)  I’m sure I’ll think of more items that I loved as I start to pull out all of our baby gear again, but here are the top items that come to mind immediately (in no particular order):

My Brest Friend: I knew I wanted to breastfeed Littleman and did everything I could to be prepared before he was born.  A friend of mine gave me her nursing pillow, which I thought would suffice.  Almost immediately, I knew it wouldn’t work for us. The shape and size just didn’t allow us to get into the right position.  After some frantic web searching, I sent my parents out on a hunt for My Brest Friend when Littleman was about four days old.  It turned out to be an excellent investment.  I loved the sturdiness of it and the fact that it clipped around my waist to keep it in place.  The nice, flat top kept him in the perfect position and – once we figured things out – I was able to nurse him hands-free.  He was a big baby (9 lbs, 5 oz at birth) and I nursed him until he was 14 months, so we got a TON of use out of this pillow.  I will definitely be using it again.

My Brest Friend

My Brest Friend

Miracle Blanket: I know that some people are pros at swaddling a newborn with a regular receiving blanket, but I’m not one of those people.  And with a big, strong newborn, keeping him wrapped up nice and tight was tough.  That is where the Miracle Blanket came in.  It was nice and stretchy, with a pocket for his legs and a long side that wrapped around him a couple of times before getting tucked in nice and tight.  I know some people prefer the kind of swaddle blankets that use Velcro, but we were quite happy with this one.  By the time he was big enough to kick his way out of it, it was probably time to be done with swaddling anyway.

Sleep Sheep: We were given a Sleep Sheep sound machine as a shower gift and it ended up being something we used for a long time.  In fact, we only recently stopped turning it on when Littleman goes to bed.  It makes about four different sounds, although the only one we really used was the ocean waves.  Since Littleman slept in our room for the first two months or so, we all got to enjoy going to sleep to the soothing sounds of the sea.  Unfortunately, when we moved him to his nursery, D and I had to get used to sleeping with extreme quiet again!

Sleep Sheep

Sleep Sheep

Video Monitor: I wasn’t sure that we would need a video monitor, figuring that a sound one would be sufficient.  But since it was an option, we figured we’d give it a try.  I’m so glad we did!  It definitely helped us avoid going into Littleman’s room unnecessarily.  Sometimes babies make noises but it doesn’t always mean they are ready to get up.  It was nice to be able to keep an eye on him that way.  We ended up with the Philips Avent monitor and we really like it.  The best feature (in my mind) is that the screen and audio are both only activated when there is a noise in the baby’s room.  Otherwise, the screen remains dark and the unit is completely silent.  It looks like it’s been updated since we first go ours so it may be even better now.  We bought a different brand for the farm (based on some excellent reviews) but we’ve found that there is always some background noise/static with the new one.  Also, the video screen isn’t sound-activated, so you have to reach over and manually push a button if you want to see (rather than just hear) what’s going on.  I don’t love that extra step.

iPhone: OK, so I realize that the iPhone isn’t exactly considered baby gear, but it was something I couldn’t live without during my maternity leave.  I actually only got it about a month before Littleman was born.  I knew I would have to give my Blackberry back at work, so I needed to get myself a new cellphone.  My parents ended up giving me the iPhone for Christmas that year and it was great.   I used a contractions timer app during labour to keep track of what was going on.  After the kiddo was born, I had an app that helped me track dirty/wet diapers, baths, sleep and breastfeeding (which was especially important because my sleep-deprived brain usually couldn’t remember which side I had last fed him from!)  The iPhone also helped me stay in touch with people and keep my sanity during those long, middle of the night feeding sessions.  I often sent emails, played games or read parenting blogs/websites while the rest of the world was sleeping.

 I meant to only list my top five things but I keep remembering more things that I loved.  I have to add one more – my stroller.

UppaBaby Vista: I was a bit stressed about buying a stroller because I wanted to make sure I got a decent one.  I do a lot of walking and I wanted something that would be able to handle different types of weather and that would be easy to maneuver.  While the Bugaboo seemed to be the trendy choice in our neighbourhood, a couple of people recommended the UppaBaby to me.  I gave it a try and it seemed perfect for us.  Turned out, I was right.  The handlebar extends, which is great for tall people.  The basket at the bottom huge, which is perfect for lugging home groceries or other shopping finds (it even holds a case of beer – don’t judge!)  It maneuvers pretty well with one hand for those times you need to talk on the phone while pushing.  It came with a bassinet that we rarely used (Littlman hated it) but we were able to purchase an attachment that allowed us to use our infant car seat with it, which was perfect for the first few months.  Now that we’re expecting baby #2, I’ve purchased the platform that attaches to the stroller so Littleman can stand on it if he doesn’t feel like walking.  He’s not really into being strapped into a stroller anymore, so I’m not going to bother buying the second seat, although it’s nice to know that’s an option.

UppaBaby Vista stroller

UppaBaby Vista stroller

Anyway, that list is in no way exhaustive but those are the things that are top of mind right now.  I’ll also try to write about some of the things that weren’t terribly useful or that weren’t worth spending money on (in my opinion).