Friday, July 20, 2012

Beirut prepares for Baby's arrival

Well, not mine. It's still a little too soon. After all, Jad's only four months old, and Mia was (already?) six months old when I got pregnant with him so we still have a few weeks ahead of us.

Umm. Pause.

Now before I scare myself any further, allow me to move on. A friend on Twitter asked me what I thought were good places to shop and prepare for a new baby. My (humble) views follow.

When we prepared for Mia, hubby did all of the nesting in Dubai by himself and I honestly did not worry much about Lebanon. After all, I was only going to stay for a couple of months. But we still needed the basics.

1) A bed.

My mom got my brother's old wooden basket from my grandparent's home and it is just so beautiful I was completely convinced not to get a new one. It is a white oval basket with handmade covers like the ones you see in the old movies. And because it is 20-something old, it is robust. They don't make baby furniture like that anymore. So this is what I used for both Mia and Jad's first couple of months. I'm sorry I can't really give more useful information on beds which I know can be quite expensive and need to be of high quality and safety standards. But I will say this. Moses baskets are only usable the first two or three months. Then once the baby gets bigger and starts to try to grab and hang on to things, they become unpractical and even dangerous. Cribs are a must. I believe they all come with adjustable heights for the mattress which means that in the first few months during which baby cannot climb, you can keep the mattress at a comfortable height and not break your back. Travel cots even allow the heightened mattress to swing/rock which is a lifesavers at night feedings. Mia and Jad's travel cots in Lebanon have this feature and Mia's wooden crib in Dubai also allows for mattress height adjustments. Apparently, all baby beds are designed that way now.

In terms of prices, we got the Chicco travel cots in Lebanon which are fair [Sassine Asco Center 01.330449 | ABC 04.416000 | Metro 09.851300] as for Dubai, we got a rather expensive crib from Mamas and Papas which has also recently opened in Lebanon [Jnah 01.843223]. Cribs can be an investment and it all depends on your needs.

In Lebanon, I have no baby room so the foldable travel cots are perfect as we can fold and store them when we leave. Also, the mesh windows are soft and safe. In Dubai I had to use a padded cover to keep Mia from bumping into the wooden barrier. Mia's Chicco cot doesn't have wheels but her old one does and it can be a real added value if you want to move the bed to the sitting room for baby to play in it during the day. It's now Jad's bed. I've to admit, if I didn't have a cot with wheels, I'd have definitely gotten a new one for Jad. In Dubai we opted for a high quality wooden bed by Mamas and Papas that starts as a crib and develops as the child grows. When Mia's old enough, we can remove the barriers and it becomes a regular bed.

Read more about safety considerations when purchasing a cot bed here.

Mia's bed in Dubai - by Mamas and Papas
Mia's travel cot in Lebanon - by Chicco
Jad's travel cot in Lebanon
With wheels,
a changing table,
a cover (tent)  
Jad's travel cot in Lebanon
Notice the heightened mattress,
and the net that can also be attached to the tent (above)

2) A car seat

That may not seem like the second most important item on the list but it is. You'll need it the minute you decide to step out of the hospital. In some countries, it's even illegal for the doctors to discharge a baby if the parents do not have a car seat ready. We purchased ours in Dubai so I can't really help with that item regarding prices and availabilities in Lebanon. However, I can tell you we got it at Baby Shop which has a branch in Beirut [City Mall 01.872999]. 

We researched for a while before deciding on the Maxi-Cosi. The car seat that is used from birth to 6 months is also the seat we can plug on the Quinny stroller for that same age. It is always placed facing the parent so you can keep a close eye on baby while you're walking. When the child outgrows it, you can start using the regular, larger seat (see next section on strollers)

Our Maxi-Cosi CabrioFix
Our Maxi-Cosi CabrioFix

Our Maxi-Cosi CabrioFix mounted on Quinny Buzz 

We've now upgraded Mia to a new 5-point harness car seat which is bigger obviously, and what I really wanted, reclinable. That is in Dubai, because in Lebanon we're using one that was generously lent to us. However, when Mia falls asleep in the car, she's too upright to be comfortable and her neck and head keep dropping as the car moves. We've tested the reclinable one in Dubai and it's perfect: when she falls asleep, she can lie back in a relaxed position with her neck, head and back supported. 

Mia in her new reclined Maxi-Cosi

3) A stroller and my take on baby carriers

We got our stroller in Dubai as well, from Baby Shop [City Mall 01.872999]. It is the Quinny Buzz 4 which is highly robust, can climb on just about anything and is perfect for Lebanon's (off)roads! The most important feature to me would be the option of placing the seat either facing the parent or facing the road as per your preference. Also, it allows the child to sit completely upright or lie completely horizontal which is more comfortable should baby fall asleep during a walk and you can't get back home immediately. And last but not least, the one-handle. This is a tiny detail that people usually don't pay attention to but it turned out to be so practical: you can "drive" this stroller with one hand which is perfect if say, you're sipping coffee or talking on the phone while strolling. Of course, the two handles usually come in handy when you are carrying bags and you'd like to hang them but I managed to find a solution: there are hooks that you can attach almost anywhere on the bar and that you can use to hang anything. In any case, Quinny has its own changing bag which can be stored at the bottom, between the two biggest wheels (see previous image above of car-seat mounted on Quinny) so I don't need to worry about hanging it. 

With Mia, we also tried the baby carrier which to be completely honest we only used three or four times at most. No matter what brand you choose, there will be back pain issues for you and comfort issues for your baby. But just in case you're wondering, we got the BabyBjörn carrier. 

Our Quinny Buzz
(the new model is slightly different)

Our latest purchase, also from Dubai's Baby Shop [City Mall 01.872999] is a Chicco which can recline completely to become perfectly horizontal; and it is to me a necessity when we spend more than three hours outside. Kids will fall asleep so we might as well keep them comfortable so we don't have to rush or sink in stress. 

Both strollers have an adjustable 5-point harness.

Mia's Chicco Liteway
Mia's Chicco Liteway reclined

4) Baby clothes and bed accessories

The first thing you'll need at the hospital is an outfit for that new bundle of cuteness. I know it's always fun to buy baby clothes and you want to get everything because they're all so cute! Well don't. You'll never use them. Take into account that clothes are the most common gifts so you can bet you'll have more than baby can use. And more importantly, those newborn clothes will only fit for a couple of weeks, maybe three tops. 

All you need really, are good quality cotton undergarments and pajamas. No matter how cute the outfits in those stores are, don't fall for it! Newborns will only be comfortable in their pajamas, even when they go out. I get all my kids' undergarments at Baby Shop [City Mall 01.872999] because the cotton's good, they're all white which means I can bleach them if and when needed (Carter's has really cute onesies but they are all colored so you can't bleach them) and last but not least, they're cheap. Newborns will wear those only for a few weeks so it is really a waste to get expensive ones. I don't really like the pajamas designs at Baby Shop which is why I got most of my stuff from Carter's [03.82058] and Mothercare where I also got all my sheets and blankets. Don't forget your baby's receiving blankets which will help carry your newborn on those scary first days. You can also find Carter's and other brands (some even much more luxurious) for discounted prices at Brands For Less [Ein Elrimeneh 01.290862 | Jnah 01.842885]. I'm a fan of both their Dubai and Lebanon shops. In Beirut, Glowbal [Raoucheh 01.792709 | Tayouneh 01.391660] also offers a wide variety of discounted brands. You can't always find everything there but you'll definitely make some interesting discoveries.

Mothercare branches:

ABC Centre
Level 2
Tel: 00 9614 522664
ABC Centre, Ashrafieh
ABC Mall Ashrafieh
Level 1
Tel: 00961 1 320581
ABC Mall Dbayeh
ABC Mall Dbayeh
Tel: +961 4522661
BHV City Mall
City Mall
Dora High Way
Tel: 00 961 1 885083
Souk Soldier
Souk Soldier
Tel: +961 1990410
Jnah Msaitbeh
Tel: 00961 1 825962
Verdun Centre 
Verdun Centre - 730, Ground Floor
Verdun Street
Tel: 00 961 1 788705
Fax: 00 961 1 788704

5) Bath necessities

A friend gifted us our baby tub from Mothercare but honestly, I feel they're overpriced. This is the kind of things you can easily find at a local shop in Lebanon for much less. After all, it's only a large plastic bucket! Most of the towels were also gifts and I got a few from Mothercare only because of the shop's proximity to my home. As for the shampoo and bath products, I use Mustella and BBcomBIO Organic which I find at my neighborhood pharmacy.

6) Bottles and sterilizers

Obviously, baby's gotta eat or more accurately, drink. I've tried all sorts of bottles from glass to plastic, long to short, and large to small. And all the brands I found interesting (Avent, Nuk, MAM, Nuby and Tommee Tippee). Some will argue glass bottles are healthier, which is most probably true. But they are so heavy and trust me, when you're waking up for that 3am feeding and you can't even open your eyes you end up feeding baby while you're asleep, that glass bottle will feel like it's the size of the Raouche Rock. 

So after trying Avent then Nuby then Tommee Tippee then Nuk then MAM, I finally got back to Avent again. The first few weeks, their smallest bottles work well and then you can keep them for water later on, when they become too small for a feeding. When Mia's intake got at its highest point, I had to upgrade to the biggest bottles because my children do not take breaks when they feed. If we stop for burping, they quit feeding. Now we're on the middle size bottles which are big enough for a feeding (less than before since Mia's eating solid foods now) but still small enough for Mia to hold the bottle by herself. Glass bottles by the way can never be held by children. I think all in all, the most important criteria is for whatever brand you choose to be Bisphenol-free (BPA free). 

We got the Avent Digital Steam Sterilizer which fits six large bottles. I used it with all the bottles I got, regardless of their brand as it is large enough to accommodate all sizes and shapes. When I went to Dubai for a few days with Mia and left Jad in Lebanon (with the sterilizer) hubby got a smaller, faster one which also fits six bottles, but not the largest ones: Avent Microwave Steam Sterilizer.

Avent Digital Steam Sterilizer
Avent Microwave Steam Sterilizer

In Lebanon, I purchase all bottles, pacifiers and their accessories from the comfort of my home. Mazen Pharmacy [01.300444 | 01.313369 | 01.313362] can home-deliver any and all baby products as they have a "Baby Gallery" in addition to the standard pharmacy. So when I prepared for Mia's arrival, I ordered over the phone the bottlessterilizer, breast pump, bottle warmer (which I never used) and even the monitor from Mazen Pharmacy who delivered everything to my home within the hour. The only disadvantage is that home-delivery implies cash payment which can be a little too much when purchasing all these items at once. However, typically, all these products must be sold for the same price nationwide so why not take advantage of the home-delivery system?

Avent Bottles
Avent Bottle Warmer
Avent Breast Pump
Avent Baby Monitor

7) Pharmacy 

My neighborhood pharmacist supplies me with all the necessary daily products we use such as formulas, diapers, wipes, shampoo, creams, oil, etc. However, and it happens more often than you'd like when babies are involved, in case of emergency it is always important to keep nearby the numbers of a 24/7 pharmacy. In my case, I use Mazen Pharmacy [01.300444 | 01.313369 | 01.313362] which is the most helpful in Beirut and they deliver at all hours, every day of the week.

My advice would be to always keep at home a thermometer (my review), electric nasal aspirator (my review), Panadol Baby, Tylenol suppositories for the bigger babies, Profenal, and cool patches (my review). Get some disposable syringes that you can use to dispense syrups. Sometimes you won't have time (or the energy in the middle of the night) to clean the single dispenser included in the medication box. The good thing about these disposable syringes is that they are made of the same material as the bottles and can be sterilized too so you can reuse them as needed.

Also save SOS Médecins Lebanon's numbers: 01.344444 and 03.344444 in case you need a doctor's assistance at home (24/7).

To conclude,

Try not to buy too much before baby's arrival. In the next few weeks following your return home, you will start receiving many congratulatory gifts so wait a little before you can sit and quietly review what you really need. Truth be told, your baby will not really need anything the first few weeks of his life aside from his diapers, feedings and baths (some special attention and care must of course be given to the umbilical cord). 

To give you an evidence for the aforementioned advice, we were gifted the very useful steam blender by Avent which cooks and blends solid foods all at the same time. You will find it is useful because regular size blenders require larger portions of food to blend properly while this one is small enough for the blades to blend a single portion. Also, the fact that it cooks the food at the same time is such a time-saver (less containers to clean). 

Other items such as changing bagsbouncers, activity centers with or without wheels, baby gyms and playmats, and even bath pads (for babies who can sit) and bath supports (super helpful with newborns) and many other cool stuff all make for really great gifts so don't rush to buy them just yet. Not to mention the countless clothes which will require a new dedicated closet! ;)

And finally, don't forget to charge your camera and video-cam every night and keep them nearby at all times ;) All the geeks out there will confirm: get an external storage device because your laptops, tablets and phones will never be enough! Have fun! ;)

Mamma Mia

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