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Review: Custom Fit KidCo Configure Gate

When our first child started to become more mobile, we quickly decided we needed a way to block off certain portions of our home. The problem, of course, was that our home is a newer model with an open floor plan. I searched baby stores and online until I finally found the perfect solution, the Custom Fit KidCo Configure Gate.

Features

This configure gate is hardly your normal gate. It is really large and you can bend it so that it fits your space correctly. I ended up buying two of them. One of them, I placed at the top of my stairs, and the other one I placed at the bottom. The Custom Fit KidCo Configure Gate was the only one I found that could block off both locations securely. Most other gates could only block off a straight wall-to-wall. Since I had a railing on one side, I needed the configure gate.

These types of gates are really sturdy. They are somewhat heavy because they are metal. This is good, though, because the gates are secure enough to keep a child from going through on their own without an adult. This is exactly what you need around stairs.

The Custom Fit KidCo Configure Gate has a magnet-lock technology. As long as you have the gate installed correctly, this means the gate will automatically close and lock when you go through it. This is good news if you have older children who may not always remember to close and lock the gate behind them.

Another great thing about the configure gate is that the actual door opening can be configured wherever in the design you need it. This makes it easy to use the gate in different parts of your home.

Finally, another thing I liked about the configure gate was the color. Since my railing posts are white, this gate blended right in with the décor of my home. You really cannot go wrong with white.

Conclusion

The only complaint I might have is that the gate hooks directly into your wall on both sides so you will have to make minor repairs when you take it out. It really is not a big deal, though, because the holes are about the same size as a large nail would make.

The good news is, you do not have to make any holes in your banister, and you know this gate will hold your child securely, even if they push on it. The gate sells for about $120.

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Baby Carrier Review: BabyBjorn Original Baby Carrier

Whenever a new, or soon-to-be new, parent asks what the one must-have baby item on their registry should be, I do not hesitate to recommend the BabyBjorn Baby Carrier. When our first child arrived, a friend offered to let us borrow her carrier. We used it for months, and our baby fell in love with it. By the time our second child arrived we knew it was a must-have. Our second baby loved it just as much. Now, our third child is using the very same BabyBjorn Baby Carrier.

Features

From the beginning we knew this carrier was the one for us. The original version of the BabyBjorn carrier is quite sleek. It is all black so it is something even my husband was willing to try. For parents who want a different look, though, the carrier now comes in a variety of different colors.

Once you have used the carrier a few times, it is very simple to use. All you need to do is slip both arms through and there are two latch points on each side to keep your baby snug and secure. There is also an easily adjustable buckle on each shoulder/back strap. This way you can adjust the size depending on whether mom or dad is carrying baby. You can easily adjust the straps while it is on, too.

Another feature is the foldable front flap. You can use this if you need extra assurance of keeping your baby’s head securely in place. We mostly folded the flap down, but it really depends on the size of your child. A young baby can ride facing into you. An older one may face out.

The overall draw of the BabyBjorn Baby Carrier is that it allows a parent to carry a baby around hands-free. Sometimes babies get bored with strollers, and sometimes you just do not want to worry about bringing a stroller along. All three of our children absolutely loved being in the carrier so it worked out well for us.

The shoulder straps are wide and padded, so they are comfortable. Really the only discomfort you should feel is when baby starts to get too heavy. The weight limit is 25 pounds. Our third child is not quite a year old and we still carry her around in it.

Conclusion

The BabyBjorn Carrier is far and beyond my favorite baby essential. At about $80 it is a great price, and truly a quality product for any parent.

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Playgate review: Northstate Superyard

By the time we had our third child, we were looking for a safe way to keep our baby contained in our home. A family member suggested we try the Northstate Superyard Playgate. We could not be happier with how it worked out.

Features

To begin with, the Northstate Superyard Playgate comes in a light grey. It is not an obnoxious color for your home, and virtually blends in with other items.

The playgate is huge! It is 26 inches high and comes with six panels. At its largest, you can contain 18 and a half square feet. This creates a fairly large play area for your child. The great thing is that you will not have to worry about making any holes in your wall because it is freestanding.

What I really like about the Northstate Superyard Playgate is that you do not have to use all of the panels, and can easily bend the gate into different shapes to fit your room. Our home has a really open floor plan, so this makes it easy to use in several rooms.

Another great feature with the Northstate Superyard Playgate is that the panels really do stand up on their own, and stay in place. They also easily unsnap from each other when you need them to.

We ended up finding ways to use the playgate to fit our lifestyle, as well. A few times we moved the Northstate Superyard Playgate out into the backyard with a blanket underneath for our baby to play outside. We also easily transported it to our older kids’ soccer games and used the playgate to safely secure and entertain our baby for several hours. Some of the older kids even wanted to come play inside of it.

The only complaint I might have is that the playgate is fairly boxy and large when you fold up all of the panels for transport. It makes it a little tricky to carry the entire thing, but on the flip side this also means the playgate is secure enough to stand up on its own. Because it locks together so securely I would not be concerned it would ever fall down. Our older children sometimes climb over it too, and although it slightly bends, it always snaps right back into place.

Conclusion

Overall, I would definitely say the Northstate Superyard Playgate is a great buy. It retails for less than $100 and is a quality playgate that will last.

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Car Seat Review: Britax Marathon 70-G3 Convertible Car Seat

When our first-born graduated from his Graco Lauren snap-in style infant carrier, we cheaped out and bought a safe-but-low-end car seat.

I regretted the purchase almost immediately. Everything about that wretched car seat was a pain, from installing it to getting a wriggling toddler in and out of it. The seat wasn’t well designed for use with shoulder belts, and even when it was properly installed it tended to slide around quite a bit.

We finally had enough and decided to upgrade. This time we did our homework and researched the top end car seats, reading reviews and watching Youtube installation videos.

After comparing the options, we settled on the Britax Marathon 70-G3 Convertible Car Seat, and we’ve been very happy with it.

Top-notch quality

Everything about this car seat screams quality. Each part is well finished, from the plastic base and back to the nicely fitted cover. The materials chosen are high-quality: the straps feel like a better quality webbing, and the clips and buckles are solid and operate smoothly and easily.

Each part seems to have received careful thought and attention. The Britax designers seem like they thought about how their product would be used and weren’t just looking to meet minimum safety standards. This results in nice touches like velcro to hold the shoulder straps in place while you put your child into the seat.

I give the Britax Marathon 70-G3 an A+ for quality.

Difficult installation

Installing this car seat is a cinch if your vehicle has a LATCH system–and a frustrating ordeal if it doesn’t.

Don’t get me wrong–the Britax works well with over-the-shoulder seatbelts once you get it installed.

But that initial installation involved a lot of struggling and sweating in the mid-summer heat (which always puts me in a “patient” mood).

The tricky part with the installation is the clips that lock the seatbelt in place. These clips keep the shoulder belt from retracting and tipping the seat (a major problem with our previous car seat). And while I’m glad they’re there, they were a challenge to fasten.

First you have to open the clips–a tricky feat to begin with. The real fun starts once you’ve threaded the seatbelt through both sides and buckled it. At this point you have to lock the clips down. The clips lock the belt tightly, but they don’t give you a lot of clearance to work with. If you don’t keep both the shoulder and lap portions of the belt completely flat, the clip won’t shut. This was the main source of frustration while I was installing the seat. It’s hard to simultaneously tighten the belt, prevent it from twisting and snap the clips shut.

On the plus side, removing the seat’s cover was easy, so I was able to see clearly while I worked.

Once you’re able to get the seatbelt fastened and the clips locked down, the Britax is anchored firmly in place. Forget sliding around–I could barely even wiggle the seat.

Easy to use

While installing the seat was a harrowing experience, in day-to-day usage it’s a joy to use. With our old car seat, getting our son in and out was a struggle. After placing him in the seat, I’d have to root around under his bottom for the buckle, then wrangle the straps in place and fumble around to untwist them.

The Britax addresses both of these issues. The buckle is enclosed in a paddle-shaped flap, which makes it more comfortable for the occupant but also keeps the buckle from sliding down into the seat when I’m loading my son into the car.

Similarly, two little velcro tabs on the shoulder straps help to keep them out of the way until it’s time to buckle up. The top portion of the strap is covered with a rubber slider that greatly reduces twisting. This seat is almost fumble-free.

The only feature that I’m not thrilled with is the mechanism that allows you to tighten and loosen the shoulder straps. The release lever is tucked away inside the seat. It’s simple enough to operate once you figure it out, but it took me a little while to figure it out. It’s also hard to reach when the seat is installed in a rear-facing position in our vehicle.

Highly recommended

Despite the difficult installation, we’re completely satisfied with our Britax Marathon 70-G3 Convertible Car Seat. In fact, we liked it so much that we bought a second one a few weeks later when it was time to graduate our younger son from the snap-in carrier.

It’s pricey, for sure, but it’s one of those purchases that makes me smile every time I use it.

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Graco Pack ‘N Play Playard Review

One baby item I can truly say our family uses a lot is our Graco Pack ‘N Play Playard. We registered for the Pack ‘N Play with our first child, and now our third baby is using it. It definitely has stood the test of time.

Features

The most convenient part of a Pack ‘N Play is that you can use it anywhere. The playard easily folds down so you can store it in an easy-to-use carrier. It is amazing that all the parts fold as compactly as they do. Once you fold the Pack ‘N Play up, it really does not take up that much room. It is smaller than most strollers are, so it easily fits in the back of most cars and SUVs. You can then take it with you on vacation, or just on a quick overnight stay to grandma’s house.

Another great thing about our Graco Pack ‘N Play is that is it sturdy. Once you lock all four sides into place, there is no chance of the playard collapsing. You can hear the parts click, so you know they are secure.

The Graco Pack ‘N Play really does grow with your baby. When your child is small, you can use the mattress floor up high so that you do not have to bend over very far to get your baby out. This is also great if you have the playard in your room when the baby is little. All you need to do is quickly glance over to see your baby is safe and secure. Once your baby is a little older, though, you will want to move the mattress down to the lowest level so your baby cannot pull up and fall out.

We never used the changing table function of our playard because we had a separate changing table. The same goes for the bassinet function. They are good features to have, though, for some parents.

As for safety, the mesh sides mean you do not have to worry about your baby accidentally pressing up against the sides. An infant can still easily breathe, even if he or she rolls into the side during naptime.

Conclusion

Overall, at about $100, I think that the Graco Pack ‘N Play is a great deal. Ours has lasted through three children now, and still looks just like it did the day we got it. The fabric and workmanship is really quite nice. I would definitely recommend this to any parent.

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Breast pump review: Medela Pump in Style Advanced Backpack

After our third child was born, I was looking for a breast pump that was easy to use, and highly rated.

Everything I read indicated that it was necessary for health standards to buy the pump new. I thought about renting a pump from the hospital where I delivered my child, but eventually decided owning one was the best thing to do. My extensive research lead me to the Medela Pump in Style Advanced Backpack.

Quality & price

The first thing I noticed about the Medela pumps was that other users really seemed to like them above other brands. Medela is one of the top brands, from what I found. Be prepared to pay for that quality. I was a little surprised at how much they cost, at around $250. I quickly discovered, though, the price is worth it if you know you have a quality product that will last. Also, when you compare the cost of formula over a year you realize you are saving money in the end.

Features

To begin with, I liked the style and convenience of the Medela Pump in Style Advanced Backpack. It looks just like any other backpack, so if you need to take it to work or travel with it, it will not stick out.

The Medela Pump in Style also has some great compartments for storage. The electric plug easily fits into the bottom slot. On the top, you can fit several bottles as well as the parts for pumping and other things for your baby.

This backpack version comes with all the parts you need. You can buy additional items if you need to, but I did not really have to. It already comes with four 5-ounce bottles, and that is all I really needed.

The Medela Pump in Style is also quiet, so you can be a little less obvious about pumping if you need to be.

One thing I did notice is that I probably could have personally gone with the single pump. Unless you also buy the Easy Expression Bustier, you really cannot use the dual pump at the same time. If you are going back to work and need to cut your pumping time in half, though, the dual pump is a good feature to have.

Conclusion

Overall, I would definitely recommend this dual breast pump to other moms. You can depend on the Medela Pump in Style Advanced Backpack as a good, quality pump that will last.