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Welcome! The ABOUT page tells who we are and what we do. Like what you see? Then click DONATE to read about ways to help Team Abby. Below are various blog posts that relate to our foundation. If you need to get in touch, don't hesitate to CONTACT us! P.S.- My favorite post is here, and it tells you about the day Abby was born... and what happened next.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Favorite Things

About a month before Abby was born, a package arrived in the mail from my friend Kristy. It contained a bunch of things she and her newborn daughter found helpful... which was a lifesaver for a clueless mom-to-be! I recently stole borrowed this idea and sent my first “Favorite Things” package to a friend who is expecting her first.

I started thinking about all those products that got me through the long days as a mother of a newborn, specifically one with special needs. There are several things that I simply could not have gotten through this experience without. I want to share them as well as solicit other ideas and come up with a guide for new parents, parents of special needs children, and also reflux parents. Below is my list of “Favorite Things”, with hyperlinked titles that will take you to the product's page. All are marked with the following abbreviations to denote the targeted audience:

*= all-around all-star (great for ALL parents!)
RE= helpful for a reflux baby
SN= helpful for a special needs baby

What are your "Favorite Things?" Don’t forget to add them in the comments section! Remember, even something that seems simple can be the thing that changes someone's life for the better. Don't believe me? Read below!


Is there a better pillow than the Boppy? Every new mom I know has one. There are many uses for it, but we use it to keep Abby elevated after a feed while she sleeps. Yes, this requires constant monitoring (a child should NEVER sleep unsupervised on a Boppy) but it gives her that 30 degree angle to help control her reflux. She’s slept on it every single night since we’ve gotten home from the hospital. We also used it IN the hospital when we held her since the chairs they had were very uncomfortable and provided little support. Boppy, we lurve you!

Noggin Nest (SN)
Abby demonstrates the RIGHT way to use the Noggin Nest...
... and the WRONG way to use the Noggin Nest!

Another AMAZING product from Boppy. I used this for several reasons. First, I was worried about Abby’s head shape due to the amount of time she spent on her back and in her feeding chair. I didn’t want her to have a flat head on top of all the other issues we were dealing with. Additionally, Abby was considered “floppy” (low-tone) and it took a little longer than most to get that needed head control. The Noggin Nest kept her head from flopping all over the place. Trust me when I tell you reflux babies can contort their heads in the most grotesque fashion—the Noggin Nest kept that in check. We used it in her chair to keep her head from flopping, and you should see how round and pretty her head shape is now

Oh, wow, my life CHANGED once I discovered the Bundle Me! I didn’t understand why I needed it at first and then watched as friend after friend visited with their babies snuggled in the Bundle Me. Once we bought one, it cut about 10 minutes of our getting-ready-to-leave time!  The Bundle Me fits inside the seat and and goes under and over the baby’s body. There are slots for the car seat straps to fit through, and is lined with warm fleece. It’s so warm, in fact, that a jacket is not needed.  Please note that it is generally not regarded as safe to have extra things in the carseat, but in my opinion (I am no expert) having the thin Bundle Me is better than a super puffy jacket that prevents the straps from holding tightly.  On that note, Abby is NOT wearing the straps correctly in the lower photo.  I took the photo before I adjusted latch to her armpit height and pulled the straps tighter.  Important stuff!

I received this as a shower gift, and it really came in handy! Abby loved the toys on the toy bar. In fact, we’d often bring the singing cow (we named him “Mike”) on trips to the doctor’s office because it entertained her while we waited. We also used him to distract her while we placed the NG tube, so I’m pretty sure she’ll end up having some sort of fear of cows, but we did what we had to. Anyways, the chair grows with your child, first as a vibrating seat for infants and then turns into a rocker for toddlers. Paired with the Noggin Nest, she was tube fed in this every single day until she learned to crawl. We’ll have this with us for years to come!

There are so many different types of Pack and Plays on the market. What makes this one stand out are the special buttons on the side. Abby slept in the P&P in our room for the first few months after leaving the hospital, and we would run her nightly and first morning feeds in it. If she woke up in the middle of a feed, she’d often throw up. This amazing P&P has vibration and music buttons, helping her to drift off to sleep again. Words cannot describe the level of exhaustion I had reached after 2 months of NICU visits, major surgery, and getting about 4 hours of sleep a night (and pumping during her naps, making napping (for me) impossible). The soothing buttons allowed both of us to get much needed rest and let Abby heal and feed without constantly waking up. Now that she’s bigger, we’ve taken the top layer off and use it as a playpen.  It's wonderful.

I know, you can just use a large blanket. But these are pretty great, keeping Abby snug and hands-free (no tube pulling!) while sleeping. It took awhile before our little Houdini could get out of them. SUPER helpful in terms of keeping her hands out of the way when we placed her NG tube. I wish they made a toddler version!

When you have a child that throws up massive amounts of liquid, you need something within reach that will absorb it. Enter good old Gerber pre-folded cloth diapers. These babies absorb ANYTHING, and quickly, and are cheap to boot. I bought them by the dozen, and put them all over the house so we were ready. They saved many a couch, bed, and outfit. Seriously, they absorb an entire bottle’s worth of liquid. BY FAR they are one of the highest on my list of things I love!

Peanut Shell baby sling (*)
Correct way to use the sling (but hard to get a good self-photo):

INCORRECT way to use the sling (but oh-so-snuggly when you take it off while baby sleeps!):
I bought the sling right before Abby was born, and actually didn't use it for months. One day, I simply needed to clean and Abby wouldn't let me put her down. In frustration, I placed her in the sling on me and proceeded to clean. Guess what? Not only did she love it, but she started snoozing almost immediately. This became a LIFESAVER when I needed to get her to sleep to feed her. Granted, it has become somewhat of a crutch and now we are weaning her off of it, but it saved my sanity FOR SURE. The only warning is that you need to be careful with a reflux baby and a carrier because if you curl them up too much after a feed then they can throw up. That only happened once or twice, though-- knock on wood!

Abby developed a terrible rash where the tube and tape met her skin. We got away with about 6 months of no rashes, but then, BOOM: rash. We treated the rash with hydrocortisone cream, and used Duoderm as a barrier. Here's the process: first, apply skin prep. Next, the duoderm. Then place the NG tube, lay it flat over the duoderm, and place the tape on top. An NG sandwich, if you will. Sounds easy, right? HA HA HA HAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHA!!!!!!

We finally folded and just bought our own scale. When your baby is labeled "failure to thrive", you'll do just about anything. Honestly, it was a great investment.  It was great to be able to keep track of Abby's weight at home. It saved us from hours of doctor visits for "weight checks". It allowed us to see what was working and what wasn't, feeding wise. It gave me the data I needed to yell at our nursing agency: "she's lost half a pound this week because we haven't had consistent nurses!!!!" Ah, yes, I love the Salter Baby Scale.

Yes, it’s formulated for animal messes but it has such a clean scent we used it on many an Abby mess. We will eventually need to replace the carpets in our living room and her nursery due to the amount she refluxed, but until we can afford it this spray keeps us as fresh as can be expected when you have a child that projectile vomits several times a day. (So, WHY don’t you want to come visit us???)

We thought the world of Abby’s infant tub until she learned to sit up unassisted. We still couldn’t give her baths sitting in the big tub because on occasion she’s just flop backwards without warning. That was another brain injury waiting to happen! Enter the Duck Tub, which I found new at a consignment shop for $7. It was easy to inflate, easy to clean, safe for floppers, AND it quacks! What more could you ask for? It’s also great for traveling, not that we’d know because we didn’t really go anywhere.

Changing Table Wedge (RE)
Photo was taken from the Pollywog website... our cover is a little bit cuter. :-)
Here’s a conundrum: let’s say you have a baby that gets frequent UTI’s, has horrible reflux, and needs to be elevated during and after each feed or else she’ll throw up. Okay, now put that baby on a feeding pump and watch as she poops mid-feed. You now have a poopy reflux baby that needs to be changed or else she’ll get a UTI but you can’t lay her flat or she’ll puke up her entire feed. WELCOME TO MY WORLD!!!!!!! Enter the reflux wedge. It goes under the changing pad to keep it at an angle. Before we bought this, Abby would throw up each time we changed her. After we bought it, she would still throw up sometimes but the chances of NOT throwing up certainly improved. It does make it tricky to change her at an angle, but no trickier than trying to keep her elevated, change a diaper, and then dodge the puke without the wedge. This changed our lives! (by the way, the site we ordered it from is an excellent resource for Reflux Mamas!)


Baby Legs (*)(RE)
These aren't your mama's legwarmers! Nope, Baby Legs actually make sense, as opposed to the slouchy knitted monstrosities we sported in the eighties. GREAT for a reflux baby, this allows the baby to wear a onesie with none of those belly-pushing pants. They come in fun colors and patterns, protect knees while crawling, grow WITH your child for years and years, and also come in summer weights. Although I do have a few pairs of the BABY LEGS brand, most of mine came from sellers such as Crawler Covers on I lovelovelove me some Etsy!

One-Pieces (footless pajamas) (RE)
Abby models her Carter's fleece one-piece:

Abby AND her BFF wear them!
AH, pants. I swoon at adorable baby jeans and cute tiny capris. Alas, Abby can't really wear pants because they put pressure on her belly. NOT GOOD for a reflux baby! These adorable pajamas from Old Navy were perfect for our little fashionista: no belly pressure, cute colors, super-comfy, and they could be used for p.j.s OR out on the town running errands. Abby also sported one-pieces from Carters, Gymboree, Baby Gap, and The Children's Place. They looked like little outfits once you put on some cute socks and shoes!

Out of all of Abby's outfits, these little socks get the most compliments. We wear them with everything, including her pulsox in the NICU. Not only are they adorable, but they actually STAY ON! AMAZING!

Entertainment: Toys, Music, and Movies

DVDs: (*)
After reading article after article citing how watching television is terrible for brain development, I vowed to use it as little as possible. I would never judge another parent for letting their child watch t.v., however I knew for a brain-injury baby like Abby every brain cell mattered. I would only let her watch a teeny bit of t.v. on the random rainy Friday afternoon when I simply could not cope any longer or when I needed to shower and she’d cry when left alone in the Pack and Play unless distracted by the television. BUT THEN we went to Hershey, and my t.v.-free dreams were shattered. We need to use DVDs about 6 times a day to feed her. Sigh. Of course, NOW additional research has come out saying television might not be as harmful as once thought. Like everything else in life, I guess moderation is best. Out of the DVDs we used, here are a few favorites that I hope do as little damage to her brain as possible (plus, she LOVES them! Who’s to argue with that?):
Jack’s Big Music Show (I absolutely LOVE this series!)

The first 10 months of Abby’s life were full of feeds that took HOURS. And after being fed, we needed to keep her upright for at least 30 minutes. Our days were dark and tedious, until a few Laurie Berkner CDs arrived in the mail from a friend. Suddenly, we had a soundtrack to our life! The songs were fun, catchy, and Abby really responded to them. I could sing “Doodlebugs” and “Wimoweh” anywhere and Abby would stop crying and smile. Car rides were smoother, feeds went quicker, and we were a lot happier. We have a bunch of great CDs, but Laurie Berkner is at the top of the list for helping ease my depression. Out of the bunch of them, we particularly loved Victor Vito and Whaddaya Think of That.

Books (*)

It goes without saying that as a former school librarian I love books. Despite having hundreds of (well worn) books that I used in the classroom, I hardly had any board books or good copies of classics. Thanks to our friends, family, and TEAM ABBY, we now have oodles of amazing, kid-approved board books! I couldn’t have gotten through our first year without them, as these books kept her entertained during her many tube feeds. We have SO MANY awesome books, it is hard to choose any to highlight. I literally would have a list of 100 books. So, I chose a few that Abby could “read” again and again and again no matter how fussy she was that day:
Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathman
Bathtime Peekaboo (and Bedtime Peekaboo)
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Any Spot book that has flaps (Where's Spot?, Spot’s first Walk, etc.)
Any flap book, really

If I could give an award for the BEST TOY EVER, this might win it. Once Abby could sit up, feeding her on the pump became a game of attempting to distract her before she climbed out of her chair or started sobbing. Once we got this, I’d plop her in front of the singing stage and let her go! She learned to pull up using the stage, and even now that she’s crawling it’s still a favorite. Babies love the mirrors, the music is fun, little kids pop up when you press the instruments, and it has lights! Oh, and the “microphone” is a rattle, which she loved to play with. I snagged it on sale with free shipping, which made it the best investment ever.

This is a relatively new addition to our house thanks to my awesome cousin and his family, but already we love it. It is great for Abby because it helps with sensory integration. The balls are perfectly sized… she can fit one in each hand and throws and bangs them together. They look of joy on her face as she dives backward into the pit is priceless. We’ll be using this for years. You could probably make your own for less money with an inflatable pool or Ikea tent and just fill it with balls purchased at Walmart or on Amazon. We love how this one can be folded up for storage if we can pry it out of Abby’s hands!

This simple toy was great for helping Abby learn to use her hands. Babies can hold it by the middle rod to shake it, or practice their pincher grasp on the ends. It makes a sqeaking noise when shaken, and Abby loved that! In fact, this accompanied us on many doctor trips to keep her smiling. Also, it’s easy to wipe off and the price (about $4 or $5) can’t be beat!

Another great toy for all babies, especially young ones as they learn to grip and shake things. Abby was in awe of this one until we lost it. I’m keeping my eyes open for another, because I think this is the kind of toy that grows with you and can be used on many levels!

Technically this is a ridiculously expensive teething toy, but I do have to say we love it. First of all, it’s easy to wash so it’s perfect for trips to the doctor’s office because if it drops on the floor I just wipe it off—no toy quarantine like most of her dropped toys! It’s made of natural rubber and food-based paint, so it’s safe to chew. It’s also easy to hold and has lots of nooks for chewing. The teethers that you put in the fridge are fine, but Abby typically chews on them for a minute and then tosses them on the floor. I can count on Sophie to provide much longer “chew time” than that!

What am I missing? I KNOW you have some great products to add to the list! Please feel free to leave comments with critiques of my list, ideas, and questions. What products help YOU get through the day?


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