A fellow military spouse is having her first child and you want to give her something both useful and appropriate for the military lifestyle. But what? How do you tell the difference between your run-of -the-mill baby gift and something that will go the distance in making her life easier?
Stop fretting, we’re here to help. We asked some seasoned military moms what their top can’t-live-without items are and, based on their input, created a short military mama gift guide! This straight forward guide is a rundown of all you need to know about the top four items those MilMoms said they simply cannot live without in their sometimes single, sometimes dual parent lifestyle.
Whether you’re looking for a great group gift or something to give just from you, our simple, short guide should get your gifting wheels turning.
The best part about all of this? Thanks to the great generosity of the companies we included in the guide, we’ll be periodically running giveaways of the items! Stay tuned ...
Without further ado – we give you:
The Military Mama’s Baby Must-Haves
A Comfy Car SeatThe most suggested item from and for military moms is a comfortable car seat for baby – a must for in the car sanity. Deployments, field time and temporary duty absences mean parents often spend hours of their week running kids around town solo from appointments, sports, school, day care and social events. A small child who is comfortable in his seat is much less likely to complain during lots of car time.
Our favorite seat is Safety First’s Alpha Omega Elite seat. Reasonably priced at about $150, this seat gets fairly high safety ratings and can be used rear facing for children between five and 35 lbs, forwards up to 40 lbs and as a forward facing booster seat up to 100 lbs. That’s a lot of seat use for your money. We have found the seat to be incredibly comfortable for our children, as have most reviewers. It also comes with a handy cup holder that can be easily removed for cleaning.
Bonus: this is a seat you can fly with, since it’s been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. We’ve used it on a plane without a problem in the forward facing position. The only downside is that it is quite bulky to lug around the airport.
The other reason we love this seat is that it’s easy to install and uninstall, making swaps between cars a snap.
Downside: Dissembling a car seat for cleaning is never a cakewalk, and this seat is no exception. We’ve done it once, and we do not want to do it again. Following the cleaning instructions in the manual can make it much easier, and once the cover is off it does wash-up nicely. The manual recommends hand washing the cover, but we ignored that and it turned out just fine.
To buy: Alpha Omega Elite - $150
An Easy to Use (and Clean!) Baby Play Seat
Oh Bumbo how do we love thee? Let us count the ways. If you don’t have children you’re probably saying “bum-huh?” But seasoned moms know this formed foam, lightweight, shaped seat helps infants sit and gives growing babies the upright view of the world they so crave. The result? A content kid. And that, friends, is priceless.
We find the Bumbo seat great for roadtrips as well, and have frequently used it as a travel high chair. Add the snap-on tray, and you have a whole new venue for toys and snacks.
An optional, washable seat cover is available for as well. While we found the cover did not shrink when run through the washer and dryer, we did think it was a little unnecessary considering how easy the seat is to clean with a damp cloth.
The seats and covers are available in a variety of colors.
To buy: Seat: $40 Tray: $10 Cover: $15
A great snack bowl
Why are we including something so small in our gift guide? Because the secret, in our minds, to solo parenting a brood of happy youngsters is snacks – lots and lots of (preferably healthy) snacks. But that glorious fix-all doesn’t help at all if moms must spend post-snack time cleaning hills of fishy crackers off the floors. The solution? A great snack cup.
We like Munchkin’s snack catcher cup for the job. This cup and its flapped lid are sturdy, do well in the dishwasher and come in a variety of fun (and easy to spot when lost in the depths of the trunk) colors.
Sometimes it’s the little things in life that save the day.
To buy: Munchkin Snack Catcher - $7
A Functional Baby Carrier
Busy military parents know that holding your child in your arms is not always practical, strollers can be cumbersome and letting those who are old enough toddle along behind can just take too long or be dangerous. A baby carrier is the perfect solution – it keeps your child close while giving you both hands to take care of business.
Infants love baby carriers because they put them right where they long to be – snuggling close to mom or dad. Older kids love to be carried this way because it gives them a great, moving perspective on the world without making them feeling restrained the way they would be sitting still in a stroller.
We like the Ergo Baby performance baby carrier for its comfort and versatility. It is one of the only carriers that has been tested for children up to 90 lbs. We have used it for long hauls through the airport for up to 40 lbs (the recommended limit – and really, who wants to haul more than 40 lbs of kid on their back?) and have found it to be surprisingly comfortable considering the size of the child.
The Ergo carrier can be worn both on the front for smaller infants using the Ergo infant insert (which we have tested and love) and on the back for larger children. And after a little practice it is easy to put a child in it on your back solo – and we know from experience that doing so leaves all bystanders in awe. It's also super easy to adjust, making swaps between mom and dad a breeze.
The only downside that we can find: It cannot be used to carry infants on the front facing outwards, which some babies (and parents) seem to prefer.
Stay tuned for some great giveaway of the products featured above courtesy of the manufacturers!
Although I was given a sample product to review by each of the companies featured above, all opinions and conclusions are my own.