I have just returned from the ABC Baby Show, where I’ve been test driving the new strollers, reviewing the new car seats, pumping the newest pumps (ok, not really, but you get the picture). All I can say is: my feet hurt and I need a martini.
I was thoroughly impressed; everyone brought the thunder this year (like… really, it thundered and poured every single day). Generally speaking, here’s what’s happening in the juvenile products industry:
- Car seats makers are really focused on side-impact crash testing and protection like they never have before. More on that later.
- All of the fancy pants strollers are starting to look (and function) Exactly. Tha. Same. (Quinny Buzz-esque).
- Gear, like play yards, are getting easier to use.
- EVERY thing is looking modern, slick (neoprene anyone?) and monochromatic. George Jetson would love this s#!t.
Here are the 10 coolest things I saw at the show. Let me tell you, it was REALLY hard to narrow it down to just ten. So here we go, I am NAMING names, people...
1. Maxi-Cosi® Pria 70 Air Convertible Car Seat
If you’re skipping the infant seat altogether, you should strongly consider this seat. It was specially designed to fit newborns and young infants with the TinyFit cushioning system, which is like a seat within a seat; 3rd party safety experts agree.
What impressed me the most is the Air Protect® advanced side impact protection (side note: currently, there is NO safety standard is the US for side impact crash testing (Europe? yes, here? not so much)), so some car seat makers are doing this purely on their own. I spoke at length with one of product managers, Ryan Hawker. This guy knew his stuff and his passion for keeping kids safe was apparent (I even got invited to their facility to see some crash testing - fun!).
This seat is super easy to install, easy to adjust and takes up less legroom in the back seat (as a side note, being easy to install is not just a convenience, it means you are waaaay more likely to install it properly. And proper installation is the key to safety…)
All in all, this is a fabulous, safe, great-looking car seat that will go from cradle-to-Kindergarten.
$250, available on Amazon, Buy Buy Baby and Giggle.
2. The Beco Gemini
I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t think anyone could top my precious Ergo.
Until I met Beco.
Since I still carry 19-month old Lucie in a baby carrier almost every day, I was viscerally excited by this carrier. Why? Because the Beco Gemini has the same great ergonomic, hip-riding design of the Ergo WITHOUT the terrible between-the-shoulder-blades clasp that only Harry Houdini himself can master.
Furthermore, the Gemini is much less bulky, is available in super cute colors and patterns, AND (omg, are you ready for this??), your baby can face OUT.
Face OUT? Whatchoo talkin’ 'bout Willis?
(this is about the time when a busybody chimes in and says “you know, you shouldn’t put your baby in a crotch dangler”). Please, people. Sometimes? Your baby doesn’t want to be smashed to your chest. He wants to look out and see the world. In these cases, it’s nice to have the option (you can infer a "so bite me" here….).
*Note that many people report that the black ones fade badly after washing. You've been warned...
3. Inglesina Fast portable high chair
Let's face it, there is nothing more maddening than trying to eat your meal with a squirming baby in your lap.
The Inglesina Fast folds down flat and compact and comes in a convenient carry bag. At less than 4 pounds, take it with you when you eat out or travel. Heck, if your table or breakfast bar makes for a good fit, you could even use it as your permanent high chair.
For use from 6 months to 37 lbs.
**Take note that it doesn’t fit on every table, for example, round tables and tables with a lip are out of the question. This thing wants to hang off a SLAB of something.
4. Play yard innovations: The Graco Pack 'N Play Napper/Changer and the Aprica Haven
Yes, I realize I’m cheating by sneaking 2 in here, but they are both worth mentioning.
The much-beloved Graco Pack N Play with Newborn Napper has gotten EVEN cooler. First, they’ve combined the Napper and diaper changer into one piece. Get access to the other one simply by flipping it over. Bada boom, one less piece to worry about. (I didn't link to it here because it's not available until Feb 2012!)
This play yard reigns supreme because it can be used from newborn-hood through the toddler years and -at less than $100 - it continues to be a great value all around.
Next: The Aprica Haven™
My other favorite play yard innovation comes from Aprica, Graco’s Japanese product line. Aprica is generally pricier than its Graco counterparts, but way more sleek, stylish and, well… Japenese-ey (I really think so).
The awesomeness of the Aprica Haven lies in the quick, one-motion set up (and collapse) of the play yard. That’s right kids! No more thumb-numbing button smashing. Design-wise, it's meshy all the way around, which makes it very cool and airy.
It doesn't have any of the bells and whistles of other play yards, but it’s a solid piece of equipment. At $160, compare this one to the other one-motion collapsing play yard by 4moms called the Breeze ($250), this one is a better value.
Available at Amazon, Diapers and BRU.
5. Mountain Buggy +one
Can your friend BOB convert from a single to a double and back again? Nehh, I duhnnn't think so.
Hence, my excitement...
Admittedly, this is the first time I laid my hands on a Mountain Buggy stroller, the pride of New Zealand (buggy, pushcart, pram, or insert or whichever funny Queen’s English word of choice here).
If you’re in the market for a single to double conversion stroller, the +one melts my baby-product-loving heart. It’s an “inline” stroller (as opposed to a side by side) that doesn’t have the poor 2nd kid nearly dragging on the ground.
Why I love it: the front wheel locks (for jogging) or swivels (for maneuvering narrow aisles at Whole Foods), the handlebars are adjustable for height (which is rare), and it has a huge, adjustable "follow-the-sun" canopy. More? okay. It comes with the newborn “cocoon” (shown below), a second seat, and can also be used as a travel system with a infant car seat. To see all of the (ahem) positions, click here for the demonstration video.
ALSO (yes, it gets better), for an older kid (who's too cool to be in a stroller), just attach this rad little skateboard thingy (the Freerider) to the back of the stroller, and you have yourself a nice little impromptu sit n' stand (err, sit n' skate). Yeeeeee.
Compared to similar single/doubles in his price range, like the UPPABaby Vista or the BabyJogger City Select, this guy is more for you runners, joggers and consumers of rugged terrain. At $650, the price is right.
Look for him sometime in 2012.
6. Fisher Price Rock n Play™
Use it in your bedroom for co-sleeping or in your living room for an impromptu nap, the Newborn Rock 'n Play™ is a must-have for any new parent. The awesomeness of this product lies in the fact that it serves the purpose of a portable sleeping venue and a seat to hang out in – all in one; and y'all knowwww (makes exaggerated gesture with index finger) how I love multi-taskers. See it in action here.
It rocks with a gentle push and collapses easily to bring along on trips. Also, the inclined positioning ensures that baby’s head will be elevated, which is imperative for babies with reflux to catch some zzz’s without distress.
One, please! (or… “two, please” for twins).
$45 - $70 available, like, everywhere baby stuff is sold (Amazon, Diapers.com, all the usual suspects...)
7. MAM Perfect Passy
This was my first introduction to MAM, founded by an Austrian plastics designer in the 70s. Their pacifiers, bottles, teethers and toothbrushes are designed by pediatric dentists and orthodontists. Yes, they are looking out for your baby's grill (you wanna see my WHAT?)
In response to the fact that most pacifiers on the market have nipples that are too thick and hard, the Perfect passy has a thin nipple neck, which reduces the risk of misaligned teeth. Also, these passys (pacii?) are vented to prevent skin irritation around the mouth. They come in 2 sizes (0-6 month and 6+) and the designs are SUPER CUTE to boot. Get more details here.
$11 ea (YAH, so don't lose it). Available at Amazon, Walgreens, Target.com, and Bed Bath & Beyond (if you can find it in stock, snatch it up!)
8. Bloom Baby Furniture
If you are a lover of modern design, you must check out the baby furniture from Bloom.
Specifically, I am loving the Alma Papa crib and dresser. Simple, urban, eco-friendly, their cribs (and other stuff) will inspire major furniture jealously among your friends.
This crib folds away in a cinch for people who don’t have a lot of space -- see video here (mind you, this video is for the mini-crib). It also converts easily to a toddler bed by removing the gate piece, so it can be used for years to come.
$700, available at selected baby stores.
9. Graco LiteRider®
I test drove some REE-DIC-YOO-LUS-LY expensive strollers at this baby show: Bugaboo, iCandy, Quinny, Peg Perego... their PR agencies would say things like "do you want to know which celebrities are pushing our strollers?"
Um, no. I really don't give a crap which Kardashian you paid off to "push" your overpriced, heavy, status item. I think a good stroller should speak for itself, no?
So, I know I'm luvin on Graco a lot, and there's good reason for it: they make a nice product (the best on the market? no, but a very nice one) at a price that most American families can afford. And these days? that's all that matters. Giving you a good value for your money.
Coming in at $69-$99 (btw, you should buy this through the Graco online store, it's cheaper!), it's about the same price as a plain stroller frame, like the Snap N Go, but this one can actually be used as a regular stroller after you're done with the car seat. And the best part? It weighs less than 20 lbs, so it's not the huge, heavy behemoth that most other travel systems are. HOO ray.
Want more? It folds very easy and is generally easy to steer and manage. I give this 2 thumbs up in the value department.
10. Lassig All Over nursing cover
I fell in love with Lässig (a German company partnered with Moby) at this baby show.
You know how most nursing covers scream "nursing cover! right here!"? This one does not.
This incredibly soft, delicious wrap covers you up while nursing, but it can also be used as a scarf or wrap when it's not covering baby. Plus, it's super thin, light, and easy to fold away in a diaper bag. Did I mention soft?
At $45, I think you'll love it too.
Available on Amazon and at some other incredibly obscure web sites.
This is IT (das ees eeet). Now go forth and procreate!
** Have a friend who is pregnant and doesn't hate fun? Send them here