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Best in Show: Our Top Picks From The ABC Kids Expo

We recently visited the ABC (All Baby and Child) Kids Expo in Las Vegas. It was a fantastic experience. The ABC show has been around for a number of years and features thousands of vendors showing off their latest and greatest offerings to buyers and the media. Most of the vendors were focused on pregnancy or the first couple years of life, so the majority of these products are designed for that phase of your family’s life.


We spent time with a bunch of these vendors and did Facebook Live segments with some of the brands we thought were doing really interesting things. This Top 10 roundup includes some of these folks and some others we just happened to think were onto something special. Without further adieu, here’s the list.

Best in Show

 Austlen Baby Co. – Entourage Stroller

Our number one spot goes to Austlen Baby Co. They have a new stroller called the Entourage and the thing is rad. It’s expandable, can carry a couple hundred pounds, and they have so many thoughtful accessories that can turn this stroller into just about anything. We got a full demo of the Entourage from the company CEO and her passion for creating so much more than a way to push your baby around really shined through.

Although it works in just about every scenario, we imagine that the entourage would be most appealing to folks living in a urban environment who spend a lot of time walking from place to place doing errands. Hands down, this stroller is the most versatile baby transport system we’ve encountered to date.

Other awesome products

There were so many great offerings at the show that we could have had our top 30 picks, but we’ve added these nine other products that we think are tapping into something neat.

Bloomlife At Home Contraction Tracker

Bloomlife is a pregnancy tracker that’s focused on tracking contractions. This can be super helpful with all sorts of things, not to mention helping to determine with your obstetrician if you’re experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions.

It’s a stick-on and reusable wearable that uses some pretty unique technology coupled with a mobile app. It allows for more than one user, so your partner can also stay in the loop. Not only is the product really sweet, but these guys are just starting out, so now is the time to get involved in their beta program if you’re pregnant. We were genuinely impressed with their excitement about what they’re doing and their understanding that the technology they’ve developed could have big-time implications as they grow. Nice job guys!

Giggle – Lotions and Potions

Giggle has been around for a while, but when we met with CEO Beth Guastella we were blown away by her enthusiasm for what they have going on right now. They recently launched a new product line of lotions and potions for babies and toddlers.

We tried out the sunscreen and it rubbed into the skin so well it was amazing. Most kid sunscreens spread about as easily as refrigerated butter, but putting this stuff on won’t send you into battle mode with your toddler. The packaging looks amazing and will fit in nicely with any bathroom decor. Plus, the products smell great – nothing overwhelming, just pleasant.

WavHello – SoundBub

WavHello is a cool company that makes all sorts of audio goodies for your little sprout – like their belly buds that allow you to play music to your unborn baby directly through your belly.

The product we really liked was the SoundBub. This cute portable Bluetooth music player connects to any Bluetooth-capable device so you can play tunes for your little one while they sleep or while you’re on the go. With its VoiceShare mobile app, you can record your voice and play it through the SoundBub remotely. We thought this was super cool for the on-the-go parent who wishes they were there for bedtime and soothing.

Not only does SoundBub help with on-the-go connection, it’s also almost indestructible. Your little one will love chewing on the ears, hands, and feet of their favorite character.

Summer Infant – LIV Cam

Parent Co. is based in Burlington, VT and we’re known up in these parts for our active lifestyle – lots of hiking, biking, skiing, and of course camping. This portable and rechargeable monitor from Summer Infant is perfect for the new family that doesn’t want to lug around their plug-in monitor and those brick-sized plugs that generally come with them.

Simply download the app and connect the camera to get audio and video directly to your phone without the need for WiFi or a cell connection. It has a four-hour battery life which hopefully is enough to get your little one down or stay in touch during a nap.

We love this monitor because of its many practical applications for new parents. It’s perfect for a trip to the in-laws, a visit to a friend’s house, or a night out in the woods.

Life in Play Company – ToteSavvy

We met Lauren Kutting, the founder and CEO of Life in Play Company and she gave us a demo of her simple but brilliant idea called ToteSavvy – a bag insert that turns any handbag or backpack into a diaper bag instantly.

This nifty insert comes in big and small sizes and allows moms to carry their favorite bag without sacrificing style for utility. It’s not always mom carrying the diaper bag around, so this invention is perfect for dads, too. Simply pop ToteSavvy into your messenger bag or backpack and you’re ready to roll.

We really loved this because it’s such a simple solution to something that all couples deal with. It makes transferring your baby (and all the stuff that goes along with your baby) between parents quick, easy, and stylish. Nice work Lauren!

Just Born – Sparkle Collection

Just Born has been a trusted manufacturer of very high quality baby products for over 80 years. Recently they’ve been focused on creating pieces for babies that are gender neutral. Their Sparkle Collection consists of bedding, accessories, blankets, bath accessories, and toys that aren’t your traditional pinks and blues. This is particularly appealing for expecting parents who’ve chosen to keep their baby’s gender a surprise.

Thule – Chariot Cougar 2

When you look around the roads in Vermont, you’ll see a Thule roof rack on every other car. One would think that our tiny state must be the outdoor activity capital of the world. Well, we’re not far off.  Little did we know that Thule has been expanding their product offerings well beyond bike, ski, and kayak racks.

The aptly named Chariot is one rad piece of gear.  It’s incredibly versatile and can be used in a myriad of ways including stroller, bicycle tow behind, and a running or skiing tow-behind. You can even mount skis to this thing and rock out with your little sprout on your favorite cross country track.

What makes the Chariot Cougar 2 one of our top picks is this versatility. Too many of us go out and buy a whole bunch of kid transport items like a bike seat. Thule has come up with a product that’s truly universal and we dig it!

Wean Green – Food containers

There are an endless number of products available to help you pack your little one’s lunch. From bento containers, to the plain brown paper bag. Although some of us long for the simpler days when pulling a peanut butter sandwich out of a brown paper bag was completely acceptable, there’s clearly a better way.

Wean Green makes eco-friendly tempered glass containers in a ton of sizes that fit nicely together and they’re virtually indestructible. We love that they’re dishwasher and freezer safe, and they look great, too. In a demo at the Expo, we watched them drop these containers on the floor and shake them with liquid inside and these things held up to it all. Nice work, Wean Green!

Lug Bug

If you’ve carried a baby in a car seat for any length of time you’re keenly aware of the forearm burn that goes along with it. Lug Bug makes the experience of carting your tot around much less taxing.

All baby car seats have a carry bar, but unfortunately, they’re not set up properly for any kind of extended carrying. Your arms are forced into a completely unnatural position and you quickly find yourself constantly switching hands and positions if you need to carry your tot for more than a minute or two.

Lug Bug is fully adjustable and allows you to carry your car seat while keeping your forearms from exploding! We love that two dads saw a need for something in the market and built a product to address that need. So many folks have a great idea and then just assume that it’s already been done, or that it’s too much work to get started. Well, it is a ton of work and these guys have pulled it off.

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Rachel McAdams didn't talk publicly about her pregnancy or her birth story. There are some things this working mama wants to keep to herself, but the fact that she needs to pump at work isn't one of them.

McAdams was recently doing a photo shoot with photographer Claire Rothstein of Girls Girls Girls magazine when she needed to take a pump break. Wearing Versace and a neck full of diamonds McAdmans did what mamas all over the world do every day, and Rothstein snapped a pic that is now going viral.

In an Instagram post, Rothstein explains that she and McAdams had a "mutual appreciation disagreement about who's idea it was to take this picture," but the photographer says she remembers it being McAdams' idea, "which makes me love her even more."

In her caption of the amazing photograph, Rothstein writes: "Breastfeeding is the most normal thing in the world and I can't for the life of me imagine why or how it is ever frowned upon or scared of."

The photographer added that she wanted to put the image out there to change perceptions about breastfeeding, pumping, and working motherhood.

McAdams decision to normalize pumping through this glamorous image is especially cool when you consider that she's not really a social media person, and spends a lot of days in much less glam attire.

She recently arrived for her first interview since welcoming her son in the spring wearing a grey shirt, baggy pants and sneakers, reportedly telling the interviewer (Helena de Bertodano for The Sunday Times U.K.), "I don't even know what I'm wearing today. The shoes are held together with glue. Isn't that sad? I need to get a life."

"I have clothes on and that's a good thing," McAdams told Bertodano during that chat. Her attire for that newspaper interview was a world away from the clothes she wore for the Girls Girls Girls shoot.

During her Sunday Times interview McAdams declined to discuss her son's name or birthdate.

"I want to keep his life private, even if mine isn't," she explained. "But I'm having more fun being a mum than I've ever had. Everything about it is interesting and exciting and inspiring to me. Even the tough days — there's something delightful about them."

Most of us will never look the way McAdams does in this photo while we're pumping, but we can totally understand that sometimes, motherhood means you're wearing sweats and sometimes it means you're pumping in your work clothes (even if for most of us, that doesn't mean Versace).

McAdams may be keeping some parts of her motherhood experience private, but by showing the world this part of her day, she's normalizing something that desperately needs normalizing.

Some mamas pump, and the world needs to know (and accommodate) that.

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To my children,

It's the New Year, and I have been doing a lot of thinking. I want to say, with all of my heart and all of my soul, that I am sorry. I want apologize for anything (and everything) I have said or done that made you feel less-than or sad or small.

I regret, so deeply, the hurt I delivered through harsh words or sideways glances, for steely eyes you didn't deserve and sarcastic replies you didn't understand. I'm sorry for being upset when I should have been more understanding, for resorting to frustration when I should have found more patience, for pulling away when I should have drawn near.

There were the times when you needed more from me, when you asked for more, and I simply couldn't provide. There were the moments when you wanted less of me, needed less from me, and I couldn't—or perhaps I just wouldn't—back away.

I start every day with a hope, a hope that I will be better than the day before.

Sometimes I succeed, but many times, I fail. Every so often, I fail in spectacular fashion. I think about all the times when I wasn't gentle enough or kind enough or attentive enough to you, about all the moments when I was too quick to anger and not quick enough to forgive.

You don't need me to tell you that I'm not perfect. Lord knows, you know far too well.

But I will say it to you, because I think it helps to hear me say it: I am not perfect. I make mistakes. I am human. I have flaws and cracks and blemishes; they are a part of me, just as they are a part of you.

Sometimes, my dear ones, my mistakes are small—like forgetting to pack your lunch or mixing up the dates for Tot Shabbat, or picking you up an hour late from a play date or accidentally switching your piano primer with your brother's, or sending a snack I know you dislike because I didn't have time to go grocery shopping and have no other food in the refrigerator. But sometimes, they aren't so minor.

Sometimes, my mistakes have to do with the way I've behaved, and the words I have said, and the way I have said them. For those times, and for all the times I failed to support you the way I should, or help you in the way you deserve, and love you in the best way I can, I am sorry.

I wish I didn't make so many mistakes. I'm a perfectionist at heart, but when it comes to parenting, there's still so much I haven't mastered. Even after almost a decade of doing this day in and day out, I still feel like a novice in so many regards and as green as I did on day one.

Precious ones, I've come to realize, no matter how hard I try, that I just can't get it right all of the time. I hope you can forgive my failings.

The older I get, the more I realize that life is a jumble of hits and misses. As many times as we try and succeed, we also try and fail. As much as we hope to do right, we often end up doing wrong. It is the story of the human condition—this mix of losses and gains, triumphs and defeats. It's all very messy (think sloppy joes and pancakes dripping with syrup kind of messy), and yet, it's all we know.

My darling ones, I want nothing more than to do right by you and be the best mother I can be for you. I want to love you unconditionally, support you unreservedly, and be present unambiguously.

In the New Year, I resolve to do better for you, to be better with you, and to act as if God is watching. You mean the world to me. You are everything to me. I love you, always and forever.

All my love,

Mommy


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People often say that having a second child doesn't much add to the workload of parenting. There's no steep learning curve: You already know how to make a bottle, install a car seat and when to call the pediatrician. And you're already doing laundry, making lunches and supervising bath time—so throwing a second kid in the tub isn't a big deal.

Except that it is. Having a second child doesn't just mean attaching a second seat to your stroller. Adding a whole new person to your family is more complicated than that, and it's okay to say that it is hard.

A new study out of Australia disputes the popular idea that after making the transition from people to parents, making the jump from one child to two is easy. The researchers found that having a second child puts a lot of pressure on parents' time and their mental health, and mothers bear the brunt of the burden.

When looking at heterosexual couples, the researchers found that before a first child is born both partners feel equal amounts of "time pressure," but once the child is born, that pressure grows, more so for mothers than fathers.

Basically, parents feel psychological stress when they feel they don't have enough time to do all they need to. One baby makes both parents feel more stress, but mom's increase is more than dad's. When a second baby comes, that time pressure doubles for both parents, and since mom already had more than dad, there's now a gulf between them.

The researchers behind this study—Leah Ruppanner, Francisco Perales and Janeen Baxter—say that after a first child is born, a mother's mental health improves, but after a second child, it declines.

Writing for The Conversation, the trio explains:

"Second children intensify mothers' feelings of time pressure. We showed that if mothers did not have such intense time pressures following second children, their mental health would actually improve with motherhood. Fathers get a mental health boost with their first child, but also see their mental health decline with the second child. But, unlike mothers, fathers' mental health plateaus over time. Clearly, fathers aren't facing the same chronic time pressure as mothers over the long-term."

The researchers say that even when mothers reduce their work time, the time pressure is still there and that "mothers cannot shoulder the time demands of children alone."

Adding a second child to the family isn't just a matter of throwing a few more socks in the laundry: It means a schedule that is already stretched is now filling up with twice as many appointments, twice as many school functions. Mothers only have 24 hours in the day, and as much as we wish we could add a couple extra hours per child, we can't.

Time simply can't change to help us, but society can. As the researchers noted, when time pressure is removed, motherhood actually improves mental health.

We love our lives, we love our kids, we love parenting, but there is only so much of our day to go around.

Ruppanner, Perales and Baxter suggest that if society were to help mothers out more, our mental health (and therefore our children's wellbeing as well) would improve even after two or three kids. "Collectivising childcare – for example, through school buses, lunch programs and flexible work policies that allow fathers' involvement – may help improve maternal mental health," the researchers explain, adding that "it is in the national interest to reduce stressors so that mothers, children and families can thrive."

Whether you're talking about Australia or America, that last bit is so true, but this research proves that the myth about second-time parenthood isn't. Even if you already have the skills and the hand-me-downs, having a second child isn't as easy as it is sometimes made out to be.

We can love our children and our lives and still admit when things aren't easy.

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We know life gets a little (okay, a lot) busy around this time of year so if you haven't crossed off everyone on your Christmas list just yet, here's your reminder that you've still got time. Fortunately, that Amazon Prime membership of yours comes in handy... especially for the holidays.

Here are some of the best last-minute gifts to get on Amazon. Also, that extra couple of dollars for gift wrapping is *so* worth it if it's available. 😉

1. Tape Activity Book

So your little can create just about anywhere—on the go, in the car or hanging out at home.

Melissa & Doug Tape Activity Book, $6.47

BUY

2. Instant Pot

Mama, meet your new best friend. 4.5 stars with nearly 30K reviews.

Instant Pot 8-qt, $89.95

BUY

3. Silicone Teething Mitt

Offer relief to your teething one with a mitt that stays in place.

Itzy Ritzy Silicone Teething Mitt, $8.99

BUY

4. Roomba

Give the gift of never having to manually vacuum again.

iRobot Roomba 690, $279.00

BUY

5. Magnetic Tiles

These are always a favorite for kids of all ages. Build endless possibilities and work on fine motor skills—win-win!

Magnetic Tiles Building Blocks Set, $31.99

BUY

6. DryBar Triple Sec

Perfect addition to mama's stocking, or paired with a salon or blowout gift card. Adds *so* much texture and volume.

DryBar Triple Sec 3-in-1, $35.99

BUY

7. Plush Animated Bunny

Plays peek-a-boo and sings for baby.

Animated Plush Stuffed Animal, $32.97

BUY

8. 23andMe

Learn everything you want to know about your family history, where you came from, and even information about your genetics.

23andMe DNA Test, $67.99

BUY

9. Boon Bath Pipes

Make bath time more fun. They suction to the wall and can be played with individually or altogether in a chain.

Boon Building Bath Pipes, $14.99

BUY

10. HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer

For printing all of those adorable Instagram moments—and for getting *all* of the photos off your phone.

HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer, $99.95

BUY

11. Board Blocks

Kids can sort, learn colors and shapes, and work on their hand-eye coordination.

Wooden Educational Geometric Board Block, $6.39

BUY

12. Ring Doorbell + Echo Dot

A great bundle for the techie in your life.

Ring Doorbell 2 and Echo Dot, $169.00

BUY

13. Pai Technology Circuit Conductor

For the little who wants to learn to code, this offers endless learning fun.

Pai Technology Circuit Conductor Learning Kit, $69.99

BUY

14. Kindle Paperwhite, Audible + Headphones Bundle

Bookworms will love this bundle. Enjoy a new Kindle Paperwhite, wireless bluetooth stereo headphones, and 3 month free trial for Audible for new users.

Kindle Paperwhite Bundle, $139.00

BUY

15. Wooden Grocery Store

We love this imaginative play grocery store, complete with a beeping scanner and hand-cranked conveyor belt.

Melissa & Doug Freestanding Wooden Fresh Mart Grocery Store, $179.99

BUY

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work.We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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