Friday, February 20, 2015

The MamaRoo Review

Ever wondered if the MamaRoo baby swing is worth the money?

Here is my review, and hopefully after reading this, you will be able to decide if it's a good purchase for your family!

As a first-time mom, I had a lot on my shopping list for our baby girl. My goal was to search for good deals on quality products. We had planned on me being a stay-at-home mom, so we tried to be frugal to keep that goal a reality. At the same time, however, we had been trying to get pregnant for 4 years, and we had been dreaming of our little Ava Mckenzie for more like 5 or 6 years. So when we found out I was finally pregnant, we couldn't wait to spoil her!

I had seen the MamaRoo before and I thought it was a brilliant concept for a swing. Different motions and speed options made so much sense to me. My impulsive brain said, "I want it!", while my practical brain said, "It costs too much!".

I had been doing a really good job at not buying the most over-the-top things for my baby, and I bought the cheapest version of an item whenever it was fitting. We had a nice little stockpile of gift cards, and so we decided that our splurge on Ava would be the MamaRoo swing. I managed to get it for only $8 out of pocket after a coupon and all of our gift cards!! 

The MamaRoo retails for $219 and $249. There are two different seat materials that account for the difference: one is a "standard" fabric and the other is a "plush" fabric. I chose the standard fabric to save money. I figured we could always lay a blanket in the swing or buy the infant insert, which could provide additional comfort. 

We brought it home and I decided to set it up. Assembly was a cinch! The parts slide together and the seat zips onto the frame. Everything was very lightweight and simple for a pregnant gal to assemble. No tools necessary! The directions highly recommended keeping the box for storage and moving, and we will be moving a lot, so I kept the box. The cord for the plug was decently long, although it wasn't necessary because we set it up right in front of a wall outlet. 

So fast-forward many weeks, and our little baby was born! 

Taking into account that it takes a little bit for a new baby to adjust to the outside world, and it also takes time for the parents to get to know their baby and her preferences, we did not use the swing very often in the first week or two. With that being said, once we started putting her in the MamaRoo, the options that seemed so great were now incredibly overwhelming. Which motion should we use? Which one does she like? And what speed? It was trial and error for awhile. I remember feeling discouraged because I was afraid she didn't like the swing at all. 

It took us a few weeks to settle on just the right settings that Ava liked. The fastest and the bumpiest setting was what she liked - the "kangaroo". The swing does have a bit of a mechanic hum to it, which was actually great, because it was a quiet, soothing white noise for her. 

We used a head support cushion for a car seat while Ava was in the swing. Without it, her head would end up falling to the side, even with the swing seat tilted as flat as it would go. If I didn't already have that car seat cushion, I'm sure we would have had to buy the MamaRoo infant insert. I got the car seat cushion on clearance for $4, and the MamaRoo infant insert is $29. The head support I had didn't provide the same cushioning for the rest of her body as the MamaRoo insert would have, but it was working okay without it. Maybe she would have liked the swing a bit better earlier on of if we had the insert; I guess we'll never know. 

The "standard" fabric is a bit scratchy (I definitely would NOT call it soft) so we usually had a blanket underneath her. But that got annoying quick because then she would slide around a bit and it got in the way of the straps to buckle her in. So in hindsight, purchasing the infant insert would have been helpful so we wouldn't have had to mess with the head cushion and the blanket. It would have provided more softness and support for a new baby. 

My baby is now almost 8 months old. She has only slept in her swing maybe 4 times to date. She wasn't a very good napper, and she was very alert even as a brand new baby. The MamaRoo has mostly been used as an awake-time activity; I'll put her in there if I'm cleaning downstairs and I need her off the floor or if we are trying to make that final stretch to her bedtime and she needs some soothing quiet time. 

So, bottom line...was the MamaRoo worth the money?!

I have to say, I'm reeeeally on the fence about that. 

I think Ava would have benefited from the motion of a traditional swing more - that weightlessness feeling at the crest of each pendulum swing. The MamaRoo does not provide that. I think that is the key for soothing a baby is the good ol' fashioned rocking motion. The MamaRoo only provides what I call "conveyor belt" motions that seem robotic. The up-and-down motion from the kangaroo setting was the closest we could get to simulate a feeling of bouncing and rocking for Ava. However, we have not had Ava in a traditional swing to know for sure if she would have preferred that. 

Ava has been a good crib sleeper, so we were never dependent on a swing or other device to get her to sleep or to stay asleep. So I feel like $219 is a steep price to pay for something that we just put her in once in awhile. Some babies love their swings, but Ava just hasn't been that way. But it's hard to know until you get to know your own baby and try it out with them! Each baby is so different!

Here's a summary at a glance:

Pros:
*Offers customizable settings for each baby's preference 
*Easy to assemble
*Takes up less space than a traditional swing
*Easily connect an MP3 player and play music through the speakers in the swing
*Seat easily zips off for washing

Cons:
*Expensive
*Doesn't provide the traditional swing motion
*Robotic movement
*Have to buy additional support cushioning for newborns
*A bit noisy (but it does have a white noise affect)
*25 pound weight limit (other swings can support 30-35 pounds)

I have seen they have a newer model of the MamaRoo swing in which you can control the settings of the swing from your smartphone. Very innovative, but I really don't think that's necessary. Once you find a setting that works, I really doubt you will need to change it. 

I hope this review will help you decide between a MamaRoo swing and a traditional swing! The good news is that the MamaRoo swing has a great resale value, so if you do purchase it and decide it's not for your baby, you could easily sell it and get most of your money back!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Ava is 7 Months!

I feel like this month has gone by super fast!

Have I said that before?! Probably.

I also feel like Ava has changed so much in this past month...even though I'm sure I say that each time, too!

The main reason why I feel that way is probably because Ava has begun eating food. I did some research and decided to skip the purées altogether and do Baby Led Weaning (eating) with her. This is an incredibly popular way of introducing solids to babies in Europe, and its becoming more popular in the US.

Her first food was avocado, and while she liked to pick it up and turn her wrist around so she could see it from all angles, she brought it to her mouth and she was NOT impressed. But after just a few short days she became used to the sensation of food in her mouth and she ingested a bit of sweet potato! She did gag a lot - which is a main concern people have with BLW. Most of her food she was just sucking it down the first 2 weeks. She's now 4+ weeks into eating and she's done beautifully and now I can see her working the food in her mouth, and she gags much less! She loves to eat and is very eager! When I set something new in front of her, she stares at it for a few seconds, maybe frowns at it, and then grabs it. Then she has to hold it and turn her fist around to try and see it from all angles. Then she brings it to her mouth for a taste, and she usually frowns again and holds it out to look at it. And then she goes to town on it!

Here's what she's had so far:

avocado (we tried it again later and she loves it)
sweet potato
green bean
cucumber
squash
zucchini
carrot
broccoli
potato
banana
pear
rice Chex cereal
hummus

The Chex was the latest new thing I added to her meal. It was definitely a new challenge for her as she had not had something crunchy yet. I was surprised to see that she actually used her little teeth, so there was an audible "crunch" as she bit into it! She really worked her tongue to move it around her mouth. And most of it fell out. :) It's been so fun to watch her learn how to eat new foods! I've been having to limit her a bit because she could just eat and eat and eat, and she still needs milk feeds to be the majority of what fills her belly! Right now she only has one meal a day, but I am going to start doing 2 meals with her this month.

She loves to have a drink of water from our CamelBak water bottles! She bites the mouthpiece and gets a few drops of water. I also use the Dr. Brown's sippy cups and take one of the pieces out so the water just flows from the spout so she can learn the cup has water in it. She mainly just gums on the mouthpiece, but she occasionally gets a bit of water.

She has mastered sitting, and I put a bucket full of toys next to her so she can help herself during playtime. Once in awhile she will randomly throw herself back, making me thankful for the gel mat I bought for a pretty penny - it softens her landing a lot, although it usually still makes her cry! Sometimes she leans too far forward and can't get back up and then ends up on her belly.

She has managed to get to all fours as well! She does this a lot in her crib. I'll see her on the monitor rocking back and fourth on her hands and knees! Crawling is just around the corner!!

In just the last week Ava has learned how to clap! I'm thinking that's because I've been doing sign language for "more" during mealtimes, which is a similar motion to clapping. Other than that, I hadn't been working on that with her at all!

She's been pretty emotional this month. She has had a few crying spells where she was genuinely upset after waking up. Speaking of waking up...Ava hit 4 times a night.

FOUR TIMES A NIGHT, PEOPLE!!!

Every 2 hours she was waking up. I thought, okay, growth spurt time...at the end of 6 months?! She continued to wake every 2 hours for over a week. Did I mention that my husband had just had knee realignment surgery and I was also waking at night to take care of him?! (not a pretty surgery...bone filing and screws and a plate...his leg is swollen and bruised!)

I had re-entered zombie mode from the newborn stage. I returned to "sleep when baby sleeps" and tried to lay down for a nap (if my husband didn't need me) whenever Ava napped. And I may or may not have backed my car out of the garage just a moment before the door was all the way up....yeah. I was hitting my breaking point. Why was this child waking so much?!

I wondered if my supply had dropped. I was stressed out, completely exhausted, and I had been trying to diet and I probably wasn't drinking enough water. So I immediately ended my "dieting" (mostly just clean eating and portion control) and waited a few more nights. She would wake, I'd feed her, and a few minutes into nursing, she'd pass out in my lap. Not a normal night waking. She used to wake, I'd feed her, and then I'd lay her back down when she was done and she would fall asleep after a few minutes on her own in the crib.

So out of necessity for taking care of my house and family, I decided to try not going in to her at night. If I went into the room to try to hold her to get her back to sleep, she would throw a fit (something she does NOT do typically) until I nursed her. So trying to get her back to sleep was something she would have to do on her own. The first night she woke 4 times but was able to go back to sleep each time. She woke for the day in the 7 o'clock hour. She was an eager eater at her morning nursing session. The next night, it dropped to 2 wakings. The night after she woke once. We are several days into it and she briefly wakes around 5, kinda whines for a minute, and goes back to sleep and wakes in the 7 o'clock hour. Thank goodness!! I can only hope this new sleeping pattern of hers continues!!!

I'm thinking what may have happened is either I had made nursing her nighttime sleeping crutch, or her eating schedule had become unbalanced and she was getting too many calories at night and I just needed to "reset" her to drop the added night feedings. I was getting so tired and I knew that a quick nursing session would get her back to sleep...I had no idea it would turn into waking 4 times a night! I wasn't giving her enough time to try and fall back asleep on her own.

So I have spent the last few days playing catch-up on my sleep. I feel like I can function again! It has also helped that my husband can get around the house a bit better (although still on crutches so he can't carry anything) and he no longer needs me at night. I'm still doing everything for all 3 of us around the house (well, 6 if you count the animals) so I'm busy pretty much all day long. So I look forward to Ava's naps so I can catch a few winks or get something done or just sit!

I hope to return to my clean eating/portion control "diet" soonish and find the energy to hop on the elliptical or do a workout DVD or two! Before Ava's night wakings got out of control, I had lost almost 10 pounds! My midsection is very jiggly and I'd like to get that back under control before I enter a second pregnancy or I fear it will be a major uphill battle to lose baby weight the second time around. My core is still very weak so I plan to share Ava's gel play mat to do some ab work! I can't wait for Spring to get here so we can get back outside - Ava loves fresh air! I had gone to the commissary last week and of course, it was cold, dark, and pouring rain, but we had about zero food in the house. I tried to cover her with a blanket and run to the car, and she was smiling from ear to ear. She hasn't really seemed to mind being out in the cold air and always seems to be smiling when we are outside. We took her to the park on a nice day before Chris's surgery and she loved to swing!

I've had to raise her jumperoo. I've had to lower her crib. She can "color" with a chunky crayon. I ask her "Ava, where's your kitties (or doggie)?" and she will look around the room for them, and her face lights up when she sees one! And I think, just today, she has started waving. Not sure, but I've been waving a lot with her at the kitties, and she loves it. At her 6 month check up, she was in the 27th percentile for weight and the 51st for height. Chris and I both gasped when she said her weight percentile, and I asked if that was any concern. She said not at all, because it's the overall growth that she looks at. Plus, when these "averages" are taken, some babies were measured prior to their growth spurt, and some were measured after. So her instantaneous rate of growth on the curve (calculus, anyone?!) is not nearly as important as her overall growth. Plus, in utero, Ava was always right around the 40th percentile. She still has her pudgy legs and arms, though!

I can only imagine what Ava will be up to this month...I think I will start baby proofing everything!!