Cozywoggle Review

“Where’s her coat?!”

 

I had grown so tired of hearing this question/judgmental rhetorical statement from everyone we ran into during the winter months. Where was her coat? We didn’t use one, and it wasn’t because we were cruel, lazy, or absent-minded. It wasn’t that my husband and I were oblivious to the cold either–I went coatless right along with our daughter most of the time. After all, it didn’t seem right for me to be warm when she wasn’t. But the fact of the matter is it isn’t safe for children to wear coats in their car seats. Nothing thicker than a standard fleece pullover is recommended between their little bodies and the snug straps of the contraption that can save their lives in the event of an accident. So I dressed my daughter in fleece, along with boots, mittens, and a hat. And I carried a heavy blanket to throw over her as we rushed from house to car, car to grocery store, etc. From the reactions of random passersby, you’d have thought I was dragging her around in a swimsuit.

One afternoon, as we drove home from my in-laws’ house (after narrowly avoiding a fistfight over the coat issue), the answer finally came to me: I would invent a coat that could be worn safely in a car seat! A quick Google search revealed that someone had beaten me to it, but that was all the better, because I could actually have my daughter in such a coat THIS winter!

When we got home that evening I searched for promo codes but there were none to be found. I ended up ordering the Cozywoggle in a size 3T from the cj’skids website for $49.99. My daughter is in a 2T, but considering the price was a bit hard to swallow, I needed to tell myself she’d wear it for two winters (and that her sister might wear it for two more years after that). I ordered on a Sunday and received the coat just two days later.

The Cozywoggle appears to be well made, very simple with cute little embroidered penguins. The front and back are fleece lined, and it has all the warmth and puffiness you’d expect from a typical winter coat. I tried it on E, and she liked it a lot. It was just a little big on her, as I’d expected. She danced around the house and didn’t want to take it off, so it passed the comfort test. Hearing her say, “Cozywoggle” was an adorable bonus.

I was excited to try out the Cozywoggle, but like most endeavors involving two-year-olds, it was more difficult than I’d anticipated. When we got out to the car, I needed to unzip the sizes of the coat from hip to sleeve, pull the back of the coat over the top of her car seat (she rides rear-facing in a Diono Radian RXT), then pull her arms out of the wrist holes and buckle her car seat straps, and put the top of the coat back down over her torso. This can be done in under a minute with a stuffed-animal model, but it takes longer with a squirming toddler. E didn’t appreciate my taking the coat off of her body but leaving part of it on around her head. The unfortunate truth is that it would have been faster just to take the Cozywoggle off altogether via the front zipper.

On the upside, when we reached our destination, I was delighted with how simple it was to get E back into the coat. I had her reach her arms through the wrist holes (slightly more difficult since the coat was loose), and in two quick downward zips (one on each side), she was warm and cozy, before even getting out of her seat!

I attempted to rate the coat using a five-star system:

Price: **

Shipping:*****

Quality:*****

Comfort:*****

Convenience (into car):*

Convenience (out of car):****

I give the Cozywoggle 3.6 stars out of 5. It’s an awesome idea, but it seems like there is some room for improvement in regards to taking the coat off. It’s inconvenient at times, but then again so are car seats, so I’m not giving up. I’m hoping that, like so many other aspects of parenting, it just takes practice and can be done more efficiently with a little experience.

I’ll be sure to update if my opinion of the Cozywoggle changes with further use. It looks like the coat will hold up well over time, but we’ve only had ours a few weeks so it’s hard to say. Care is machine wash, tumble dry, and the exterior wipes clean easily.

~Update~

In retrospect, I was a bit harsh in awarding only one star for Cozywoggle’s convenience getting into the car. There was certainly a learning curve involved, and over time we did find the coat easier to use. E had always been great at ‘helping’ me get her dressed and undressed, but the side zippers on the Cozywoggle put it in a clothing category all its own. She didn’t know what I was trying to do with her at first, and it was frustrating for both of us. The more we used it, though, the more she accepted that this coat would not be coming all the way off over her head, and she began to pull her hands out of the wrist loops without prompting. I felt like we were really getting the hang of things when spring rolled around, and the Cozywoggle retired to the back of E’s closet. I may pull it out in the fall this year to do a quick refresher course with her, in an effort to avoid any fumbling around in the bitter cold. I’ll let you know how it goes!

 

The Snuza Hero: Literally a Lifesaver

Saying that the Snuza Hero is the best thing since sliced bread simply doesn’t do the product justice. I, for one, would rather bake and slice my own bread daily than have to face the long nights of new motherhood without this ingenious device.

The Snuza Hero is a tiny movement monitor that clips onto the front of your baby’s diaper. It registers the movement of her abdomen as she breathes, and reassures you with a tiny green light that flashes with each normal breath. From the right angle, this flashing light can be seen through two layers of fleece and a flannel swaddling blanket, but I’ve never found it bright enough to interfere with my sleep. Its effect is quite the opposite, since I no longer have to reach over and touch my sleeping baby (and risk waking her in the process) to confirm all is well.

When the Snuza senses weak movement, as it has on many occasions with my daughter, the flashing green light changes to yellow. It immediately turns back to green when baby’s movements return to normal. If  baby’s movement does not return to normal, the monitor will emit a gentle vibration to rouse her. This has happened to us once, while I was holding my daughter. She was awake, but for some reason her movements weren’t sufficient to convince the Snuza Hero that she was okay. If the monitor needs to rouse your baby three times, or if your baby stops breathing altogether, you’ll hear a loud beeping similar in pitch and volume to a smoke detector that will alert you of the problem in time to help your baby.

There is a similar movement monitor on the market that involves a pad placed under baby’s mattress. This is concept is just as brilliant as the Snuza Hero, assuming that your baby always sleeps in her crib. If you’re anything like me though, your baby sleeps in a number of places, from a Rock N Play to a Pack N Play, to my bed or the crib at her grandma’s house. The Snuza Hero works in all those places–anywhere your baby might be laid still to sleep. I have found that the movement from a swing can fool the monitor, and I suspect it may be compromised by the vibrations during car rides as well.

The Snuza’s body and clip are outfitted with tiny plastic teeth which allow the device to grip a diaper. I have not had any trouble with it falling off and sounding a false alarm. The only drawback to the Snuza Hero versus other alarms is that you have to remember to put it back on after changing a diaper. It can be hard to remember anything during those 3 am feed-burp-diaper-repeat cycles, and I’ve been known to enter zombie mode and forget to replace the monitor on a few occasions. It doesn’t take me long though, as I’m dozing off listening for the sound of her breath, to realize I don’t see that green light flashing. Each time this has happened I’ve picked her back up, unwrapped her from her swaddle and opened her warm pajamas to re-apply the Snuza. Even if I wake her in the process, it’s worth it, because when we both finally do get back to sleep, we’ll have the peace of mind only available through the use of a Snuza Hero monitor.

The Snuza Hero isn’t cheap, costing an average of $100 on Amazon, but in my opinion it is worth every penny. A resourceful parent can improvise and get by without most of the baby gear that’s marketed as ‘essential,’ but short of hiring a night nurse to sit at your child’s bedside and keep an intensely focused eye on her breathing, there is no substitute for this innovative monitor.

Ebates doesn’t pay me to write blog posts, but they really do pay me to shop!

Christmas is fast approaching, and while the arrival of my new baby has set me back in the planning/shopping department, I’m happy to say my gift budget is still intact. This isn’t because I have the abundant resources and superior discipline required to squirrel away a portion of each paycheck in preparation for the holidays. And it certainly isn’t because I earn extra income from writing a blog (I don’t…not yet anyway. Note the lapses between post dates and the lack of advertisements in the margins of my site). No, the only way I’ve managed to dedicate a separate pool of money to our annual Christmas shopping is by earning cash back on all of the transactions we make throughout the year.

One of the best ways to get cash back from purchases made online is through Ebates, a site that offers varying percentages of cash back at different online retailers. They compile your total cash back, and send you a quarterly check with your earnings. It really is that simple, and most of the time, it’s the way to go**.

Signing up is simple, just go to ebates.com, choose your gift card bonus, and enter your email address. Yes, I said gift card bonus. I was skeptical about joining at first because I thought this had to be a scam, but I assure it is not. You will receive a gift card after you’ve made purchases through the site totaling $25 or more. I chose the $10 Target gift card myself, because Target is where I do most of my couponing. After you enter your email address, a field will appear for you to create a password, and there will be a clickable question ‘did someone refer you?’ You can click here and enter the email address of a friend who already uses Ebates to help that friend earn a special cash back bonus. If none of your friends use Ebates, please feel free to say I referred you: ilaughed@thatsnotmustard.com. I certainly wouldn’t turn down a special cash back bonus, but a referral is not required in order to sign up.

After submitting this information and clicking ‘Join’, you’ll be directed to the Ebates home page, where you’ll see how much cash back you can earn at each participating retailer. There is currently a promotion going on with double cash back being offered at several stores. I don’t recognize all of them, but a few of my favorites are there. Just click on the store where you’d like to shop, then click ‘shop now’ to proceed to that site. Conduct your transaction the way you normally would, and the cash will be added to your Ebates account within a few days!

On the Ebates home page, you can see your account information halfway down in the column on the right. The money will show up as your ‘cash pending,’ and when the quarter ends, if your pending cash exceeds $5, you’ll be getting a check (humorously referred to by the site as a Big Fat Check, even if it is only for $6). If your pending cash does not exceed $5, the money will roll over into the next quarter. The only other information you’ll need to enter is your address so they can mail your gift card and your check.

**I once came across a price that no longer applied when I accessed the store’s site through Ebates, but the difference between the two prices was roughly equivalent to the value of the cash back. I’ve also noticed that on some purchases, I can earn more cash back by going through my credit card mall (I’ll explain more about this in a future post). There are a select few retailers I use who are not available through Ebates, but I’ve still found the site to be worth checking every time I make an online purchase. Lastly, there are a few exceptions to the cash back rules, ie purchases made online but picked up from the merchant store do not always earn you cash back, and rewards from the purchase of subscription services won’t be applied until the final payment for the subscription is made. There always has to be fine print involved, but none of this strikes me as actually being a catch. Considering the fact you never pay anything to use Ebates, the absolute worst case scenario is that you’ll earn fewer cash back dollars than you’d hoped for.

If you haven’t already discovered Ebates, I hope you’ll join in time to use it for your holiday shopping. You won’t get rich by any means, but it’s money you wouldn’t have had otherwise, and in my experience, four quarters’ worth of Big Fat Checks goes a long way toward providing Christmas gifts for my family.

 

 

 

Monical’s Pizza

I recently had the best public bathroom experience ever, at a pizza restaurant called Monical’s.

In my younger days, I could never have imagined writing a bathroom review, but lately, I’ve been evaluating the facilities at every public venue imaginable. Some public restrooms have changing tables, and some do not. Then, of the businesses who see fit to provide their patrons with this luxury, there are various levels of thoughtfulness involved, and of course, various levels of cleanliness. Over the past ten months, I’ve pretty much seen it all. Maybe I’m crazy, but if there was such a thing as an online database comparing public restrooms, I would check it on a regular basis and I might even choose where to eat and where to shop solely on the ratings I found.

My husband and I were enjoying our salads, when suddenly, we heard our little ladybug make a very unladylike sound. We exchanged a look. We knew she’d filled her drawers, and she knew it too, based on the proud smile that spread across her sweet little face. “You take her!” I said. But I knew it was no use. Not only does my husband not ‘do’ poopy diapers, when we’re out in public, he couldn’t if he wanted to. Most men’s restrooms aren’t equipped with a changing table, and sadly, I still don’t know whether or not Monical’s Pizza boasts this brilliant monument to political correctness.

I picked up my daughter from the high chair (where she was sitting on a handy, personal high-chair cover we’d brought along (you’re welcome, Monical’s Pizza)) and took her to the bathroom, prepared for the worst, but hoping for the best. I was pleased to find that the bathroom was clean and smelled much better than we did as we made our way into the handicap accessible stall. The changing table was located inside the stall, which is nice, because we didn’t have to worry about random women looking us in all our blow-out glory. I spread our changing pad cover over the plastic fixture and proceeded to change the diaper. As we finished up, I picked up the unfortunate diaper mess and looked around. Where was the trash can? Why, it was placed intuitively beside the changing table, and it had a spring-operated lid which opened with a foot pedal. Brilliant! This is the same setup I use at home, to contain offensive odors and to get the diaper out of my sight (and my daughter’s reach) without ever taking my hands of my squirmy baby. I tossed in our diaper and found the can had a liner, and was not pre-filled with poopy diapers. As the icing on the cake, I noticed that the changing table’s built-in dispenser designed for paper covers was actually filled with paper covers! This was the first establishment where I’d ever seen anything in that dispenser. So, if I would have happened to forget my fabulous changing pad cover, I still wouldn’t have had to place my daughter directly on the plastic changing table. Yay for me–and yay for whoever is in charge of cleaning the changing table! I was thrilled with this, because I could tell that someone at Monical’s has actually taken the time to think about the needs of their tiniest patrons.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise though, because I’ve found Monical’s to be a uniquely family-friendly dining establishment. Their placemats feature word games, fun facts, and table talk–that’s right–suggested questions to ask your tablemate(s) in order to get a conversation started. It’s a sad day in America when we need table talk suggestions from a placemat, but it’s also a phenomenal idea to have placed them there. Our daughter is too young to care about word games or conversation, but my husband and I enjoyed the puzzles, mazes and conversation starters. Neither one of us reached for our phones while we waited for our meal, and the pizza arrived before we could finish our games! I would highly recommend Monical’s for date night, an evening of family fun, or a level 5 bathroom emergency.

 

Five Favorite Newborn Essentials

A recent conversation with a friend who’s trying to conceive reminded me of how overwhelming baby shopping can be. A newborn is so small, and really very simple in hindsight (at least when compared with an eight-month-old baby), yet thousands of products are marketed to expectant mothers as “must haves”. I remember feeling overwhelmed and frantic when I registered for my baby shower, and deciding it was better to be over prepared than find myself without some vital newborn essential.

Today, I can easily point to five products that were lifesavers in those early weeks, and when I showed them to my friend, she found it particularly helpful to see them. I am not being paid to complete any reviews or advertise any products, so these are my 100% honest recommendations to help expectant mothers like my good friend.

  • Fisher-Price Newborn Rock ‘n Play Soother

Rock 'N PlayI was hesitant to invest in a bassinet, because they’re bulky and we were low on storage space. But I wanted to keep the baby beside our bed for the first few months, and we found this to be the perfect solution. It folds flat, which is great for travel and storage. The size and angle of incline were also reassuring for me, because I knew my baby couldn’t move around, roll onto her tummy, or bump her head on the slats of a crib. Newborns usually don’t have the mobility to do those things anyway, but seeing my daughter nestled in this bed helped to ease my irrational first-time-mom fears.

I later learned, from speaking to other moms, that the incline angle is a great solution for babies who suffer from reflux. I was unable to use the safety straps at first, because I was swaddling my baby, but the sides were deep enough that I knew she was held securely. My daughter first slept through the night at the age of six weeks, and she continued to do so until she outgrew her Rock ‘n Play at the age of four months.

There was a recall on these recently, due to some parents finding mold between the hard plastic framework and the plush hammock. I checked mine, and I did not find any mold. As with all baby products, the use of common sense is key. The hammock is easily removable and can be machine washed. Just be sure to wash it regularly and dry it thoroughly–especially after any diaper blow outs, or if your baby gets particularly sweaty during the night.

  • The First Years Deluxe Fold N Go Diapering Kit

Fold N GoThis fold-out changing mat would have been a bargain at twice the price. I thought I knew how to change a diaper before I brought home my daughter, but I ended up being in for a surprise! Not only does a steady diet of breast milk lead result in very thin, mustard colored stools, but my daughter seemed to pride herself on pooping at the exact moment when I removed her diaper. Towels were not a good solution, because she would stain them and the mess would soak right through.

This changing mat wipes clean easily, and as an added bonus, it has pockets to hold diapers and a case for wipes. I would pack three diapers into one pocket, put wipes in the other, and keep this diapering kit on my bedside table. It was handy for late night changes, and since I was breastfeeding, it contained all the supplies we needed to make it through the night. Restocking it each morning gave me a sense of confidence and order in the chaotic new world of parenthood.

After awhile, I got the hang of diaper changing and things weren’t quite as messy. But this diapering kit was still a lifesaver when it came to leaving the house with my daughter. Most stores and restaurants have changing stations in their restrooms, but I didn’t feel comfortable laying my baby directly on them. So I unfolded my diapering kit on top of the plastic tables for a softer, more sanitary changing surface. When we visited friends and family, I felt competent and courteous using this rather than changing my baby directly on someone’s couch or floor. My wipes never dried out, and it was easy to refold the kit with just one hand.

The only small problem I encountered was that the Velcro on the underside of the changing mat put a small snag in my bedspread. I have never had a problem with it on any other surface, and I’ve gotten into the habit of placing a clean diaper or my daughter’s cotton pants under that spot when I change her on a particularly delicate surface. One small snag was a small price to pay for the convenience of this awesome diapering kit.

  • Eddie Bauer Nursing Privacy Cover

nursing privacy coverOn several occasions I’ve wished I’d purchased more than one of these. It was affordable and still works great. Nursing covers are available in a wide range of prices, and I considered going with a more expensive mode, but I’m so glad I didn’t. The material on this one is somewhat sheer (if you hold it up to the light) but it serves the purposes of keeping eyes of my breasts when I nurse in public. It is lightweight and has an adjustable neck strap. Some moms simply use a receiving blanket as a cover, but that would make me nervous with a squirming baby. With this, I’ve been able to nurse while showing visitors around my home.

More expensive nursing covers are often wider, and their tops stay open better so you can watch your baby as she eats. I’ve always felt sufficiently covered when I’ve used this, and it’s easy enough to take a peek at my daughter. Personally, I prefer that the top doesn’t stay open on its own, because it gives added privacy from people who walk past me while I’m seated. I may not be as thrilled with this cover if I compared it to others like the BeBe Au Lait, but at one third of the price, I’ll stick with the Eddie Bauer.

  •  Gilligan & O’Malley Cotton Nursing Cami

nursing camiThese tanks are an absolutely brilliant idea. They provide easy access to one breast while keeping the other, and your postpartum belly, completely covered. The material doesn’t cling to your body, and I was comfortable in one the day after delivery. They are available in a variety of colors. I like to wear them over a nursing bra since they don’t provide much support, but depending on your body type and comfort level, you might opt to skip the bra altogether.

They look like standard tank tops and can be worn alone on hot days, or layered under regular, non-nursing tops which you would then unbutton or pull up to nurse. The sides are easy to snap down with one hand, and I have never had one stick or break. I have also never had one come unsnapped by accident. Several different companies make nursing tanks, but these were so affordable, I haven’t felt compelled to try any others.

  • All things Medela

medelaSince I was planning to be a stay-at-home mom, I didn’t think I’d have much use for pumps, bottles or other feeding accessories, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Due to a particularly complicated delivery, I was unable to produce any milk in the first five days of my daughter’s life. She lost an alarming amount of weight, and we ended up having to supplement with formula before we ever left the hospital. Our nursing relationship wouldn’t have stood a chance if it weren’t for the innovative thinkers at Medela.

At the hospital, I was issued a Medela Supplemental Nursing System (SNS). It involved an inverted bottle of formula and tiny tubes which I taped to my breasts. My baby still latched onto my breast, still received colostrum, and still stimulated milk production. She wasn’t at risk of nipple confusion, but she was getting the nutrition and calories she needed. We got to go home, and when my milk eventually came in, we were able to discard the SNS. We’ve been successfully nursing ever since! There’s no way to know if you’ll end up needing to supplement (and I hope you don’t), but other Medela products can prove to be just as useful for you as the SNS was for me.

Even if you plan on being with your child at all times, it’s a good idea to pump and freeze some milk. Pumping will help get your supply established, and the frozen milk will be invaluable if you happen to become ill. While it’s advisable to continue nursing if you get sick (you’ll pass antibodies to your baby through your milk), some illnesses can cause a temporary decrease in supply. When my daughter was three months old, I was unexpectedly hospitalized for appendicitis. Fortunately, I had enough milk in the freezer to sustain her until all of the medications from surgery were out of my system.

The Medela Feeding Gift Set pictured here includes three bottles with collars and three slow-flow nipples, as well as six storage bottles and twenty storage bags. Medela’s parts are all interchangeable, so you can pump, freeze, thaw, and feed your baby all with the same bottle. Fewer dishes to wash means more snuggle time with your baby.  I used the Pump In Style Advanced double electric breast pump, because I found a great deal on it, but Medela offers other less expensive pump options as well. A single, manual pump such as the Harmony would most likely suit the needs of a mom who won’t be pumping often.

Obviously these aren’t the only items a new mother needs, and as I sit here I can already think of five more. I’ll probably make a ‘Part Two’ to this post, but no products I’ve used can beat these five in terms of convenience, quality and affordability. I am still using everything but the Rock ‘N Play, and it has all held up wonderfully. I look forward to reusing each of my fantastic five favorite newborn items with our second baby (a couple of years down the road).

Please feel free to comment and share your own favorites, or ask questions about any of these products.

 

My Two Cents

As a stay-at-home mom, a big part of my job is to make the most of our household income. This involves couponing, bargain hunting, and generally being an informed consumer. In My Two Cents I’ll share ways to save and product reviews, as well as my best and worst customer service experiences.

My Two Cents will also contain occasional random musings and brilliant ideas for improving the world.