I have no kids that I’m aware of, but being on the back half of my 30s, I’ve dated and known my share of single mothers. I focus on technology, and while that typically means computer technology, I was curious how technology has changed in how we care for the infants of our species.
In the avalanche of tech I got in over the holiday season, there were quite a few baby monitors, air quality monitors, etc. While these can be useful, I found it difficult to actually recommend some of it without having gone through the struggle of parenthood myself. I did contact a few companies who make products for babies, however, and asked for their latest models to find out what’s out there.
I also contacted a few local moms to fill in the gaps of my knowledge with their experience and let me know what’s worthwhile and what’s just gimmicks.
Graco Modes 3 Lite Stroller and SnugRide Click Connect 35 Infant Car Seat ($329.99 at GracoBaby.com)
While I’ve not done it long-term enough to truly test my love for another human being, I do understand how hectic it gets trying to do even the most ordinary things like shopping, eating, or stopping for gas when you have a child with you. Thankfully Graco does too.
Owned by Newell Brands, the conglomerate responsible for Rubbermaid, Coleman, Sharpie, Elmer’s and Krazy Glues, Crock-Pot, Mr. Coffee, Yankee, Candles, and so many more, Graco was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1942 by Russell Gray and Robert Cone. Originally a car parts manufacturer, the company introduced an automatic baby swing to consumers in 1955.
In 1995, the company introduced the popular SnugRide infant car seat line, and the Modes 3 Lite Click Connect Travel System is the company’s latest innovations on this top-selling line.
Aside from sturdy construction and a lightweight frame, this travel system has some great features to make them interchangeable, connectable, and easy to attach to both your vehicle and baby.
While sometimes it’s feasible to pull your infant out of the car seat to place him or her in the stroller, but sometimes it’s more trouble than it’s worth. At these times, parents can make bad decisions (although, let’s be real, most of those bad decisions turn out relatively ok). This is why the infant car seat can be connected to the stroller.
To make this a possibility, installing and removing the seat has to be a quick and easy process that can be accomplished without waking the baby.
Using the Click Connect system, you can quickly and easily remove the car seat from the base and attach it to the stroller. It just takes a twist of the lever, and even the base itself is pretty easy to install if you need to move it to a secondary car for any reason.
Graco’s deep knowledge and experience with baby products shows in every aspect of this system, and it’s the perfect starter set for new parents.
Reasonably priced, comfortable enough to accommodate your infant as he or she grows, and with a focus on safety, I’m impressed by the feature set. So was the family who received it after my testing, as I wanted to do my part to help the local community. And if it seems like things can’t possibly get better from here, there are a few upgrades available, believe it or not.
We’ll start with the upgraded car seat for when your baby outgrows this infant one (and a great secondary car seat to have on hand), also made by Graco.
Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Car Seat ($250-$300 at GracoBaby.com)
You know how Lori Grenier on Shark Tank always talks about products being a hit or a miss right off the bat? The Graco 4Ever car seat is a definite hit, just for how ingenious the name alone is. This 4-in-1 car seat evolves with your child to accommodate him or her from birth to 120 lbs. It’s also upgraded quite a bit from Graco’s vanilla infant seat.
The options are clearly color coded, so it’s very easy to understand what’s necessary to install the seat forward or backward, or as a baby car seat vs a toddler booster seat. There’s a good chance this car seat will outlast the car you initially install it in, especially if you have multiple kids.
Marketed as the only car seat you’ll ever need, the claim holds somewhat true, so long as you only have one child and one vehicle. However, we all know life happens, so it’s not a bad idea to have a second one handy for emergencies. Like the seat above, this one went fast once word spread among local mothers.
And in talking to a single mother friend of mine, I learned no matter how solid your stroller is, there’s a possibility it’ll break. Unlike KitchenAid, whose stand mixer parts are interchangeable throughout decades of its popular machine, she learned wheels for the stroller she bought new two years ago are no longer available today.
So I hunted down a more durable stroller and came across Baby Jogger, which explicitly mentions on every stroller on its website that they’re not intended for jogging.
BabyJogger City Select ($529.99 at BabyJogger.com)
The City Select is the company’s top-tier stroller, and as such, it’s reinforced and with a bunch of innovative features that justify the higher price point and make life easier for parents constantly adjusting to a growing family.
Despite the extra size and weight, it’s easily disassembled and broken down to fit in the trunk of your car or back of the van, SUV, etc.
Assembling, disassembling, adjusting, and folding are all a simple matter. The actual seat can be removed and placed in a variety of forward- and rear-facing configurations.
A second (and third) seat can be added with an additional adapter if you have a second (and third) child to keep them centralized (a necessity when they start becoming sentient and testing your every boundary), and the bottom basket can fit about as much as your standard backpack or carry-on bag.
Adjusting the removable seat is as simple as pressing the white button to unlatch and placing it in the desired position. There are a total of 16 configurations that can be achieved with this marvel of modern technology. Each seat has a 45-lb capacity and the footwell can be repositioned for optimum comfort, support, and fit.
The back wheels are hollowed, and the handlebar is telescopic, with an easy-to operate hand brake. With the proper adapter, you can even add your existing Graco, Britax, and other alt-brand car seat, and the UV 50 sun canopy helps keep your babies’ tiny heads protected from the ravages of the sun while outside.
There are a ton of additional add-ons from a cooler bag to bug and weather canopies to make City Select a premium stroller worth looking out for. Of course, even with the best stroller and car seat, you’re going to find yourself having to manually carry your kid well into toddlerhood, and for that, there’s a simple solution as well.
Baby Tula Baby Carriers ($149-159 at BabyTula.com)
Babies look cute and small, but when you have to carry them on long walks, you quickly learn how heavy those buggers are. Carrying them can quickly strain your back, neck, and shoulders if you’re not doing it in an ergonomic way.
Baby Tula’s baby carriers are an efficient way of fixing this problem, by distributing the weight just like a camping backpack through shoulder straps and a hip belt.
The construction is solid, and since I just reviewed the latest backpacks, bags, and luggage, I’m impressed at the thickness of the straps and strap-management system. Only one of the outdoor backpacks made for hardcore backpacking adventures had this very useful strap management feature.
There’s a pocket in the front so you can store some wipes, your wallet, or whatever you want, and there’s even a removable hood to support or protect your baby’s head.
The standard carrier can hold 15-45 pounds, while the toddler carrier holds 25-60 pounds. There’s also an optional $40 infant insert that can be used to support a smaller baby. No matter how many strollers, car seats, servants, parents, etc. you have helping watch your kid during those first few years, this piece of baby technology can be a lifesaver.
Speaking of which…
Blueair Aware ($199 at Blueair.com)
When you have a baby, you become extra-aware of all those hazards lurking around your home that are innocent enough to you but potentially deadly to your curious child. One way to get ease of mind is to monitor the air in their room (which a baby monitor simply won’t do).
Blueair sent in their latest WiFi-connected air quality monitor to check out. When used in conjunction with a Blueair purifier, you’ll have a smarthome air solution that ensures your baby is breathing healthy air and preventing possible illness and other issues.
This device measures air temperature, humidity, sound levels, and air particle concentration and provides a simple, color-coded alert when potentially hazardous levels are reached. Even when you’re away from home, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing you have access to protect your baby’s lungs from carcinogens and chemicals floating in the air.
And since I’m a techie at heart, we’ll explore one last tech brand that can be beneficial for your baby.
Vtech Video Baby Monitor ($180 at Vtech.com)
Need a baby monitor but don’t have an Internet connection? Vtech has you covered. The company responsible for some of the most high-tech cordless phones in the pre-smartphone era is still steadily creating great tech for the home that utilizes landline phone handsets, lines, and technology.
This baby monitor lets you monitor your baby through audio and video feed on a movable camera without the need for a WiFi router. Pan, tilt, zoom, and even communicate through the two-way speakers and connect extra cameras and monitors to enhance the experience.
Vtech Video Doorbell ($119.95+ at vtech.com)
A single mom friend of mine told me a scary story over the weekend – despite her constant vigilance to keep her baby daughter safe, a fluke of timing still managed to put her in unnecessary danger. While expecting grandma to come visit, she allowed her daughter to answer the door to a rough-looking vagrant seeking entrance to her home.
He didn’t force his way into her home nor harm either of them, but he easily could have and it’s not a situation that would’ve happened if not for the coincidence of his timing. To resolve this issue, Vtech has a video/audio doorbell that allows you to see who’s at the door from one of two (or however many you need really) handsets connected to the landline system.
With this system, you can extend the monitoring and security of your baby beyond just their room to cover the entrance of your home. But there are still windows and the garage. For that you need another system that uses Vtech handsets.
Vtech Wireless Monitoring System ($119.95 at Vtech.com)
Your cable company likely offers a home security package (and so do about a million other companies like ADT, etc.) For those of us who don’t live in an ivory tower to afford such expensive subscription services, Vtech has a DIY solution.
Featuring sensors for the garage door and a sliding glass door (more sensors can be added), and also working as a fully functional phone with caller ID, a digital answering system and more, this is a great way to monitor your home for break-ins or doors left ajar without paying for the monitoring system.
Of course this means you’ll have to call the police yourself, but the difference in reaction time si negligible in most scenarios.