baby essentials

Product Review: LittleHippo Mella Toddler Alarm Clock

Product Review: LittleHippo Mella Toddler Alarm Clock | Writing Between Pauses

Sleep is, as most parents know, a precious commodity.

When Forrest was first born, I didn’t sleep for days. I don’t say this to scare new moms, or to brag, or to participate in the strange “well, I sleep LESS!” Olympics that sometimes occurs between parents. It’s just a fact, but I don’t think I’m alone in it. I was induced into labor on a Tuesday, slept exactly 3 hours then went into labor for 7 hours, then Forrest was born. And from the moment he was born until about 72 hours later, I didn’t close my eyes once. Nurses were in and out of our room; there were hearing tests and blood sugar tests and medications for me and uterus massages for me. Then there were jaundice tests and heavy whispers between nurses. I took my first shower and went 20 hours without peeing because of the preeclampsia medication, which was another worry. I swelled again.

All-in-all, I didn’t even sleep much the first time I told Danny I absolutely needed to close my eyes and not get up for a few hours. I slept about 45 minutes, then woke up to pump and feed Forrest again, carefully removing him from the jaundice space bed he was inhabiting at that moment.

Sleep didn’t get much easier. For the first 9 months of Forrest’s life, we fed on demand not out of choice (although many parents do make this choice and that’s absolutely fine for them), but because Forrest’s late preterm status, low birthrate, and early struggle with jaundice and feeding had set him back, weight wise. I wanted him to catch up, his pediatrician wanted him to catch up, and that meant waking up every time he woke up and feeding him.

Friends, he woke up every 2 hours every single night for 9 solid months. And for 6 of those months, I was also still pumping every time he ate. So that meant waking up, feeding him for 20 minutes, putting him back to sleep next to Danny, getting up, getting my pumping equipment, pumping and massaging for 30 minutes, cleaning up, storing milk, mixing up formula and milk for the next feeding, sanitizing my pumping equipment, and then going to bed myself… then being woken up maybe 40 minutes later to do it again.

Again, I’m not writing this to scare anyone. This is just the way it was for us. It’s just something we had to do. But it wasn’t fun. I was absolutely miserable, barely sleeping, gaining weight at a rate that is still somewhat alarming, and irritable as all get out.

When we decided to sleep train at 9 months, it was for two reasons: firstly, I was having such bad anxiety that I had developed burning mouth syndrome, a syndrome where your mouth feels constantly dry even though you are producing saliva; and secondly, Forrest had finally reached a growth percentile that our pediatrician was happy with.

Cut to 6 months later and we were all happier. Forrest was finally meeting developmental milestones at the right time instead of towards the lower end of normal. We were all doing a lot better. And truly, we slept great for a long time.

Until February of this year. You see, it was in February that Forrest climbed out of his crib for the first time. He had been (and truly, continues to be) a rather stellar sleeper. Sleep training changed our lives and Forrest thrives on the routine that sleep training gave him. He goes to bed at 6:30 and while his wake ups have always been a bit early, we got 10-12 solid hours out of him most of the time so we couldn’t really complain. But once we switched him to a toddler bed, we struggled with him climbing out of bed, waking up far too early, or just doing random things in the middle of the night (like collecting toys and books into his bed).

We made it work for a long time: letting him play at 3:30 in the morning, hoping he would crawl back into bed eventually and sleep; letting him get up and run around in his room even though we knew he was beyond exhausted. However, when he did these things, my husband slept fine—but I would be awake, watching him on our monitor at 2 or 3 in the morning. I just couldn’t sleep knowing he was awake.

Finally, during the summer, I purchased the LittleHippo Mella Toddler Alarm Clock. We set it up and started using it around July or August. At first, we didn’t see much of an improvement. Sometimes, Fo still woke up at 4am and decided it was time to party. He was still young enough that he didn’t really understand the “rules” of the clock. It’s only been in the past month or so that we’ve seen a huge improvement.

The LittleHippo Mella Toddler Sleep Training Alarm Clock

It’s been in the last 2-3 months that Forrest has been staying in bed through the night really well, but waking up really early. Part of this has been reducing the amount he naps and adjusting his bedtime. These are things that can be really challenging; I get 2-3 hours every evening to work out, prep for lunches the next day, blog, and answer emails, as well as do any cleaning around the house that I can’t get done with Forrest around. So giving up another little chunk of that time has been hugely challenging.

However, the Mella has been a huge help for us. Here’s how Mella works:

MELLA uses colors and facial expressions to teach your kids when it’s time for bed and time to wake up. Half an hour before it’s time to wake up, MELLA will glow yellow, signaling it’s almost time to start the day. When MELLA turns green, it’s time to wake up!

Basically, you set a sleep time in the Sleep/Wake setting. Sleep time for us, it’s 6pm so that Mella is “asleep” when we bring Fo to his bedroom. Then, you set a wake up time; for us, that’s 5:50am, which is later than Forrest ever sleeps. However, Mella glows yellow 30 minutes before the “wake up” time to indicate play time. So if you’re ok with your toddler waking up 30 minutes early and playing, that will most likely wake them up. However, the yellow and green colors are very similar to each other, so Forrest has a slightly difficult time telling the difference. We set this wake up time later so that he can simply get up when Mella glows yellow.

I love how cute Mella is; the little face on the front is especially helpful for Forrest because, even though he struggles with the yellow versus green light, he knows when Mella is awake versus when she’s sleeping. And now that he’s old enough, he understands that when Mella is asleep, he needs to be in bed.

LittleHippo Mella Sleep Setting
LittleHippo Mella Awake Setting

Mella also has a nightlight option; the front face will glow a variety of colors (you choose your preferred color) for 30 minutes until your child falls asleep. This is a nice idea, but the light is actually quite bright! Forrest has a star night light that he prefers. As well, Mella works as a sound machine too, with a set of 3 sleep sounds. We have a separate sound machine (so many machines in our son’s room at this point); however, the sound machine we have is notorious for burning out, so it’s nice to know we have an easy replacement for when it goes.

The Mella clock has really helped us start to sleep more in the mornings. Forrest finds it easy to understand now. I would say, if you’re looking into this clock, your child should be at least 3 before they are able to understand it effectively. That might vary child-to-child, but 6 months ago, he didn’t always “remember” the rules about Mella, even if he could talk about what Mella looked like.

Mella also has a battery back up, so if the lights go out, it is still running. Forrest always sleeps through the power going out, but we worried about maintaining his routine even through that. We like that we can also move Mella around without worrying about resetting everything!

If you’re the parent to a toddler or preschooler that has been waking up earlier and earlier each day, the LittleHippo Mella alarm clock is an investment—at $50, it’s not the cheapest alarm clock out there. But it has been a huge help to us recently. So much so, that I worry about it breaking! It has helped us to get more sleep, especially in the last few weeks.

Is It Too Pushy to Ask for More Gender Neutral Options?

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed 2 or 3 weeks ago that I sent out a tweet about Freshly Picked's celebrity collaborations. 

I love Freshly Picked. If you're a parent, you've probably seen an ad (or five) for them on Instagram. You've probably seen a baby wearing them on Instagram. Michael Phelps's son, Boomer, famously wore a red-white-and-blue pair with gold heels at the Olympics. They are small, leather moccasins, soft soled, for babies and toddlers. Freshly Picked is everywhere, becoming almost as popular among InstaMoms as ModCloth is among the indie crowd. 

However, when Freshly Picked announced their most recent celebrity collaboration, I found myself getting a little, well, flustered. The newest collaboration is with Ayesha Curry; she created four designs of moccasins. Three of them are holographic: they are gorgeous and insanely impractical for the average baby, but who cares! You can get gold holo, pink holo, or silver holo. They are also obviously for girls. They are little girls shoes. They are only shown on girls in Freshly Picked ads. There is another pair of moccasins in the collaboration: they are plain blue. Plain blue! Not blue holo. Not green holo. They are... blue. That's it. They're blue. 

They are for boys. 

During the summer, Freshly Picked had another celebrity collaboration with a professional skater. 5 styles of shoe were released; 4 styles were obviously for girls (floral, polka dots, etc) and one was for boys. The boys styled was plain black with a lime green sole. Plain. Black. That's it!

The girls get fun designs, cute patterns, pretty colors. Boys get plain blue or black or brown. 

That's it. 

We can get into the "for girls" argument all we want. I'm there with you. I think saying florals are for girls and girls only is total bunk. However, Forrest depends on me to dress him; I can dress him however I like at this point. When he's older, he can choose. But my goal for getting him dressed in the morning is not to make him the object of negative attention. 

But that doesn't mean I wouldn't like a cute pair of shoes to put on him. Shoes that aren't covered in the Ninja Turtles or Superman. Shoes that aren't boring or plain. 

I'm not asking for a miracle here. I'm just asking for more gender neutral--or even, perhaps, overtly "boyish"--options. 

Walk into a Target. Look at the toddler girls section. Look at the toddler boys sections. Notice anything? Yeah, the girls section is 3-4 times as big as the boys section. 

It's incredibly frustrating. 

Also, when you look at those clothing sections, notice another thing; there are almost NO boys shoes for young toddlers. Under size 5 boys shoes are the hardest thing to find in the world. I might as well be attempting to purchase the Mona Lisa. There are racks of tiny girls shoes--fake Ugg boots smaller than my hand, sandals and tennis shoes and Mary Janes--but there are no boys shoes. None. The boys shoes that are available tend to be covered in characters--the Ninja Turtles, Cars, and more. 

It is endlessly frustrating. 

It is hard to find things that are gender neutral or that aren't overtly girly. What am I supposed to tell Forrest? Sorry, kid, you can't walk right now because I couldn't find any shoes in your size? Sorry, I know your feet are cold because you need boots, but they don't make them for you despite the fact that there are 20 varieties of boots for girls? 

This is my plea to brands to please, please, make more options for boys or options that are gender neutral. 

Freshly Picked has many plain colored moccasins that work just fine--Forrest has the velvet mocha style--but it would be nice if, for once, a collaboration came out that was for primarily boys or gender neutral and didn't feature just solid colors. It is entirely possible to make cute, exciting clothes for boys or that are gender neutral. You just have to try. It's easy to sell girly themed things--overwhelmingly, because girls have more options, parents buy more--but I promise, boy moms (or moms that are choosing a gender neutral route) have money too. 

5 Things You Absolutely Need for Your Baby's First Year

I've written quite a few posts about items that we love for Forrest. Looking back over the last almost year (really, almost a year now), I can pick out a few distinct items that we absolutely love, use every day, and cannot live without. 

My usual disclaimer, of course, stands: not every baby is the same; not every baby will like the things Forrest likes, and not every parent will like the things that Danny and I like. But that being said, I really feel like these items have made our lives easier--and that's why I say, you absolutely need them. 

1. the myBaby Sound Machine 

This is a sound machine and projector for baby's specifically. We didn't get it until June and let me tell you--I wish we'd bought one sooner. We used an app on our phones for the first 8 months of Forrest's life, but it was hard to leave him in his room with our phone, with an app that needed restarted every 30 minutes. This sound machine... it's amazing. In all honesty, we don't use the projector; I don't like the idea of him having a light playing images all night, it seems odd. But the sound machine. is. amazing. There are a ton of sound options, including heart beat (very popular with newborns) and rushing water (Forrest's fave). Totally worth the $24. 

2. HelloBaby Wireless Monitor

I had said I wouldn't get a video monitor because I thought they were unnecessary and weird. But when we started sleep training Forrest, we knew we needed one. Forrest could already stand up by then and so would often stand in his crib; I just wanted to be able to see if he'd hurt himself or genuinely needed help. This one is affordable, incredibly light, and has absolutely zero fancy features. It's perfect. You don't need a $200 camera to watch your baby sleep. 

3. OBall Rattle

This is a $4 ball that rattles. It is one of Forrest's favorite toys and has been for ages. He can chew on it, crawl on it, throw it, bounce it, hit it, offer it to Remus, and use it in the bath tub. It's a multi-use toy and he freaking loves it. $4. Drop the $50 activity centers and grab a bunch of Oballs. You'll thank me. 

4. Munchkin Microwave Sterilizer

I never imagined I would need so many bottle supplies, but here I am. Washing bottles is a huge pain in the butt and sterilizing them is worse. I sterilized until Forrest was 6 months old because I was paranoid like that. This microwave sterilizer was a constant on our kitchen counter. It was easy to use, easy to clean, and didn't take up too much room (not any more room than our bottle drying rack which I can't wait to get rid of). Even if you think you'll be exclusively breastfeeding, having a good bottle sterilizer on hand is good for pump parts, bottles, and toys (in case you end up getting thrush). 

5. Mommy's Bliss Gripe Water

Gripe water is used to help calm colic. Some babies live on this stuff. For the first 12 weeks of Forrest's life, we would give him this every evening to head off his crying streak that occurred from 6pm to 9pm. If he was crying, it would stop him in his tracks just long enough for him to go to sleep. It was a total game changer. Affordable, easy to use, and mostly non-medicinal. 

Have items your baby couldn't live without? Share with me on Twitter!

A Few More Things My Baby & I Can't Live Without

I've written previously about some newborn essentials that made my life easier in the first few weeks of Forrest life. As babies grow, they basically change their minds every single day about what is going to work for them. It's probably because they are physically changing into new and different tiny humans each and every day, rapidly learning new skills, making connections, and absorbing the world around them. So that thing that helped your baby sleep for the first four weeks of their life (our trusty Rock'n'Play) suddenly becomes the enemy overnight (curses!). 

I thought I'd share a few items that are rocking our world lately. 

1. the Love to Dream Swaddle UP 50/50 

Full disclosure, we haven't had this swaddle too long--but on its first day in use, it totally changed our lives. Forrest slept through several naps on his own. I have held him for every single nap since he was about 4 weeks old. Yeah. It's a big deal. For $25, I will pay for the chance to pump, wash bottles, and eat a snack without juggling a sleeping baby. 

2. The O-Ball

I have a bunch of vaguely "rattle-like" objects for Forrest, but a lot of them are heavy and, for little hands that are just learning to grip and otherwise weak, just kinda too smooth. The O-Ball is great because: it rattles; it's brightly colored; and it's a soft, flexible, lightweight plastic that is super easy to grab. Forrest loves it. 

3. The Fisher-Price Sit-Me-Up 

A few weeks ago, a woman in my due date group on Facebook shared this toy--and immediately, everyone in the group ordered one. I mean, easily 80 women ordered this toy. And about 85% of us love it. Forrest digs sitting in it. It makes it easy for him to play with toys, work on his ab muscles, work on grabbing stuff, and observe me folding laundry. Plus, the toys from his playmat also fit on the toy loops, so I can switch out toys depending on what he's into! 

4. UpSpring Baby Milkflow

I've written pretty extensively about my hatred of exclusive pumping--one of the most difficult parts of it is, honestly, the fact that my supply dips at the slightest change in my diet or routine. Whether it's drinking too much soda, not enough water, too many carbs, whatever. A friend recommended this supplement alongside my other supplements (lactation cookies, 100oz of water a day, Mother's Milk tea) and, I have to say, it works amazingly well. It tastes absolutely terrible, so I mix it into orange juice or Naked juice and it's not so bad. 

5. Pumpin' Pals Pump Flanges 

The flanges that come with the typical Medela pump are, frankly, way too small for most people and uncomfortable. These flanges are lifesavers. Firstly, they come with a guarantee that if you don't pump more milk per session, they will refund your purchase. That' awesome. Secondly, they are designed with a rounded edge to prevent the cup from cutting into your skin. And third, they are designed with a downward slope, which means that when you pump, you don't have to lean forward or sit straight up. Which, again, if you pump a lot, makes a huge difference in your life. They are absolutely worth the money.