December 22, 2014
by Mommy Gearest

The MilkSense breastfeeding monitor (sponsored post)

I can still pinpoint the exact moment I shared my breastfeeding fears out loud. I was in a prenatal yoga class, eight months pregnant with The K Man, and we were sharing hopes and fears.

I knew I wanted to breastfeed, but I’d been having a recurring nightmare that I simply couldn’t.

And then the nightmare came true.

In June 2008, I gave birth to a boy, perfect in every way. He was latched and nursing within minutes of being born. Even in that new-mother haze, I remember thinking: “Wow…it isn’t nearly as hard as other women make it out to be. It doesn’t even hurt.” I lived in that bliss for the next 24 hours.

The nurses came to check on us every couple of hours and they’d often find me already nursing again, and everyone seemed impressed that this brand new baby and first-time mom had this whole breastfeeding thing worked out already. He peed and pooped right on schedule and we were invited to stay a second night or go home — our choice since everything was going so swimmingly.

Faced with another night in a shared hospital room, we chose to head home with our bundle of joy.

And then it all fell apart.

The content baby who was nursing so beautifully in his first day of life, who had barely cried, suddenly seemed frustrated and dissatisfied at my breast. He screamed. Without a bottle, it was impossible to know how much milk he was getting. The only way to judge his intake was output, and by night two he had only peed once. We tried to get re-admitted, but were denied. I made frantic calls to La Leche League and the pediatrician we had chosen during pregnancy who hadn’t even met his newest patient yet.

When The K Man was just three days old, he started passing urate crystals because of dehydration. It was clear that I had no milk.

Thankfully, our pediatrician was affiliated with Toronto East General Hospital’s free family breastfeeding centre, which became a second home to us for the next two weeks. They lent us a hospital-grade breast pump, a shoulder to cry on, patience and a lot of advice. Plus, they agreed that the little guy just needed some nourishment and supported my decision to temporarily supplement with formula, which I used in an eyedropper on my nipple, still bringing my baby to my breast.

I drank milk-producing teas all day.

Days four and five were filled with tears and more trips to see lactation consultants at the hospital. Still no milk. But by now I was bound and determined to get back to that beautiful breastfeeding connection my child and I made the day he was born. I nursed on demand and around the clock, followed by pumping each time, to stimulate my milk. I still had no idea if he was getting a drop.

Finally, day six arrived and so did my milk. With gusto.

Finally, my baby was peeing and pooing the way babies should.

Finally, we re-ignited our breastfeeding relationship. I tossed the eye dropper in the garbage and put away the cans of formula.

He put on weight so furiously that following week that the nurses and LCs at the breastfeeding clinic could barely believe the scales. The K Man went on to breastfeed for 14 months. I was an advocate of public nursing, and we managed to get out and about a lot with ease thanks to on-the-go breastfeeding.

Fast forward a little more than two years. For some reason, in the months and days leading up to Miss Q’s birth, I never wondered if I would have milk-production issues again. Fortunately, I didn’t. And she breastfed until she was two-and-a-half years old, stopping only because I needed to take a massive course of prednisone. Now nearly four, she still finds great comfort in laying her head on my naked breast, still calling them “milkies” with affection. She remembers her milkies fondly, recounting that it tasted “sweet like honey.”

By the time I nursed two babies for 44 cumulative months, I had amassed every gadget that could help me breastfeed successfully: a My Brest Friend nursing pillow, nursingwear, a Boba 3G baby carrier with easy-to-loosen straps that made public breastfeeding a breeze, and even a little wedge (the Utterly Yours pillow) to hoist my milky boobs into place for optimal nursing.

I hung out with many other nursing mothers during both maternity leaves, and I assure you that those breastfeeding gadgets were not the hot topic of conversation. But you know what was? The big question: How much breast milk is my baby getting? For those of us who either choose not to or are unable to bottle-feed (even bottle-feed using breast milk), trying to figure out how many ounces of milk your baby drinks in a single feeding is like the holy grail of nursing mommies. We all surmise. We all have theories.

Milk SenseThose of us who fall more on the Type A side of things will be thrilled to hear about the new MilkSense device, which is the world’s first breastfeeding monitor. After just three uses, it becomes customized to YOU and in just 10 seconds can tell you on average how much milk your baby consumed, and can help you remember on which side you last fed (hallelujah!). Best of all, it never comes into contact with your wee babe, and it has no negative effects on your breast milk. There are no Phthalates, BPA or PVC, either.

Sounds to me like MilkSense would have taken away that one last nagging question that logic could just never satisfy for me. I would have added peace of mind, especially during my first breastfeeding experience. Especially when it was in turmoil in those early days. That little bit of extra control would have helped provide me with some confidence and security in a situation where I felt so out of control. It also would have helped me figure out if I could have fed a whole baby soccer team as I suspected.

When you buy MilkSense, it also comes with something called the Bscale; and this won’t look like an alien contraption to those of you who had midwives come to your home to weigh Baby in those first few weeks. It’s very similar and means fewer trips to doctors and clinics just for weigh-ins.

Tracking the side, date and time of feedings is usually pretty important in the first months of breastfeeding, and MilkSense does that for you, too. So you can do away with apps or random scraps of paper. And you no longer need to rely on what I liked to call the “scrunchie method” — whereby I used to put a scrunchie on the wrist matching the side on which I just nursed. Or needed to nurse from next. Hmmm…therein was the problem — I never remembered!

Just keep in mind that MilkSense doesn’t work with colostrum, that liquid gold that first feeds your baby before your full milk comes in. Your baby needs to be about a week old to start using the device. Your baby must also weigh more than 4.4 pounds and MilkSense is therefore unsuitable for preemies. Watch for it on store shelves in the U.S. first on January 11, 2015.

At the end of the day, it’s impossible to know if you’re going to have breastfeeding problems before you actually start breastfeeding your new baby, but I hazard to guess that the vast majority of nursing moms — whether they’re nursing their first baby or their fifth —  wonder how much milk their babies are getting.

It’s not even about worry for many of us. It’s just about wonder.

And it sounds to me like MilkSense satisfies both.



DISCLAIMER: I was compensated for this post, but I agreed to write it in the first place because I am passionately pro-breastfeeding and believe that with the right support and tools, most women can be successful. It’s a powerful (and free!) way to feed your baby and has so many wonderful emotional and nutritional benefits. I have not, however, personally tested this device and can therefore not make any conclusions about its functionality.

December 18, 2014
by Mommy Gearest

Holiday Inn: Stay, park & go to Pearson

Holiday Inn Pearson airportWhen we took the kids to Punta Cana earlier this year, our flight left Pearson at 6:30 a.m. We had to be there two hours in advance to do the baggage dance, and we live more than an hour away from the airport.

Add one of the worst snowstorms of 2014, and you can figure out that the math was not on our side. We got those poor kids out of bed at 3 a.m.

So when we went on our recent family vacation to Orlando, Florida, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that we needed to stay closer to Pearson. After a bit of Googling, I discovered that the Holiday Inn (located just five minutes from the airport) has this tidy little package called “Stay, Park & Go.”

I probably don’t need to break that down for you. You stay overnight before your flight, leave your car parked where it is and go directly to the airport via the hotel’s free shuttle.

With another early-morning flight in the mix, we booked. And we were thrilled that the Holiday Inn then invited us as guests to check out this convenient travel package.


For $169.99, you get one night’s stay at the Holiday Inn on Dixon Rd. in Mississauga, parking for up to 16 days and a free shuttle to and from the airport, which runs at 20-minute intervals. Compare that to more than $100 per week for the mid-range Park ‘N Fly lot, and not waking up at 3 a.m. to catch a flight and I’m down with the extra $70.

The shuttle runs 24/7: on the hour, and then 20 and 40 minutes after the hour. It didn’t feel like a very long wait going out or coming back.

The hotel has indoor and outdoor pools, fitness centre and a hot tub.

While basic, we found our room at the Holiday Inn spacious and clean. It was perfect for a one-night stay with a purpose.

Parking was easy breezy; and it was no problem retrieving our vehicle when we returned (thankfully, since it was after midnight and we had two small kids in tow).

For families who live a good distance from Pearson airport and/or have kids who’d find it challenging to get up in the middle of the night to travel, this is a smart option. It shaves off that “what-if” travel time you need to consider should you run into traffic or bad weather. We woke up, grabbed a shuttle 15 minutes later and were at the airport within 30 minutes of rising. We could never accomplish that driving all the way from our home in Courtice.


There’s only one room available with the park and go package, so if you want a king-sized bed or a suite or anything beyond two double beds, you can forget it.

When you return from your trip, you will have to wait for a shuttle to get back to your vehicle, so consider how old your kids are and the time of day you come home to weigh whether it’s better for you to have your car immediately accessible or not. For us, the package was still a better choice because of our early outbound flight at the front end of the trip.


4/5 (higher marks would be awarded if there were additional room categories available with this package)


DISCLOSURE: IHG, which owns the Holiday Inn brand of hotels, is a client at the firm where I work. I do not work on the file, nor am I encouraged in any way to report positively about Holiday Inn or other IHG properties. Opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

December 17, 2014
by Mommy Gearest

Wordless Wednesday: Sock it to Me

Sock it to Me socks

Do you really need to write much when you see socks with this level of fabulosity? Seriously. We love Sock it to Me socks in this house, and you can see why. Fun colours and patterns; lots of different styles for men, women and kids; and extra stretchy fabric that (a) actually stays knee-high when they’re supposed to and (b) fit around Big B’s gargantuan calves. That man is a beast. Well, done, super socks.

December 7, 2014
by Mommy Gearest

ergobaby original carrier: now in Dewdrop!

Although I’ve reviewed the first-generation ergobaby soft-structured carrier as well as a more recent third-generation ergobaby carrier (which also includes a dad’s perspective), the new Dewdrop colour was begging to be shown off, and I knew just the mom to give it a whirl. She received a Dewdrop ergobaby SSC in exchange for her honest review.


Melanie is an east-end Toronto mommy of a soon-to-be six year old (whirling dervish) son and twin baby girls — 6 months old as I write this. I am a full time TV producer, when I’m not on maternity leave. I don’t have much free time on my hands at all right now, but if can I can score a few hours over a nice dinner and a bottle of wine with close friends — or even my dear husband — life is good!  But then, after complaining that I never get time alone or away from the house, when I do….I MISS MY BABIES! (Crazy, right?!)

A bit about me:  After giving birth to our first child, I was thrown for a loop because right away, I realized motherhood wasn’t as easy as my friends made it look…but they didn’t have colicky babies! The day my boy was born, the crying and screaming began.  My son was verrrrrry colicky and this raged on for many, many, MANY months — nine to be exact (but who’s counting?). After battling some health issues of my own, it was time to dust myself off and start trying for a second child. This would prove to be yet another uphill battle. Getting pregnant and staying pregnant this time seemed impossible. I got pregnant the first cycle of trying with my first and now, cycle after cycle, it just wasn’t happening.

I decided to seek the help of a clinic for cycle monitoring; I didn’t want to use any fertility drugs or treatments because I was petrified of having multiples. After having one colicky baby and almost jumping off a bridge, I couldn’t fathom managing two!

Well, guess what?  After more than a year of trying naturally, I finally got pregnant — with TWINS!

After getting over the shock, I started to think about all the extra STUFF we needed!  Two of just about everything.  We had a hand-me-down carrier, but what if both babies needed/wanted to be carried by a parent at the same time? We had heard good things about the ergobaby carriers from friends so, when given the opportunity to review one for Mommy Gearest, we jumped at it.

ergobaby DewdropTHE GOOD

I love the feel of the cotton and I love ergo’s designs — ours is “Dewdrop.”  Grey with a striped hood, so nice and neutral.

I also love that it comes in organic cotton.

What’s also great about the ergobaby carrier is that it’s easy on the baby’s body; there’s no pressure on anything and they can sit in it pretty naturally from what I can tell.

I was worried about what appears to be a lack of lumbar back support because I do have a rotated pelvis and some lower back pain. That said, I can honestly say that so far, I’m very comfortable using the ergo carrier — probably because of the nice padding on the straps and the support around the waist.

I must admit, I’ve only used the ergobaby as a front carrier so far but you can eventually use it to carry your baby on the side (hip) or on your back.  I will be experimenting with this soon. Give me time, people!

The other positive here is that this carrier can be used up until your baby is about 45 pounds!  That’s called getting “bang for your buck.”


The ergobaby carrier was tricky for me to use on my own for the first several weeks.  There is a learning curve — especially with the top clip. [Editor's note: It shouldn't take any more than two or three weeks to master the top clip closure; if you're still having trouble, it could be positioned too low. Try moving it up closer to the nape of your neck. If you're still finding it challenging, try to hit a store that specializes in babywearing and they should be able to help you troubleshoot.]



So…where can you get it?



December 5, 2014
by Mommy Gearest

Circulon cookware will find the foodie in you

I always enjoyed baking and cooking as a kid. There are plenty of memories swirling around in my head that involve my froggy-adorned kid-sized apron and helping my mom in the kitchen.

While I didn’t grow up to be a kitchenista of any sort, I still love whipping up new recipes or circling back to old favourites (many of which are written on cue cards in my mother’s handwriting, circa 1980), and having good cookware has been important to me for most of my adult life. I say most because in university, I was happy enough with a $20 Teflon-coated pan in which I cooked just about everything. (Side note: I wonder how much Teflon I’ve consumed?)

When we did our wedding registry, pots and pans were the first thing that went on our list. Unfortunately, we didn’t choose wisely and ended up with Swiss Diamond cookware; this load of baloney came with big promises to match its equally big price tag. But it didn’t deliver, nor did the customer service. I’ve been planning to write a complete review but I still need to calm down to be as objective as possible. To say we felt robbed by Swiss Diamond is an understatement.

Thanks to the incredible generosity of William Ashley, however, we ended up with a great Le Creuset stainless steel set. Yet if you’ve ever gone from non-stick to stainless, you know the transition is a hard one. Everything is much more well-oiled or -buttered now and the cleanup is a bit more labour-intensive.

Circulon cookwareSo while I needed another pan like a hole in the head, when Circulon invited me to review a few pieces from its new cookware line, I thought I could at least provide a really good foundation for those of you thinking about what kind of cookware you want next. We received a covered straining stockpot (a.k.a. pasta pot), 12-inch skillet and the covered jumbo cooker.


What we love about stainless steel cookware that is historically the issue with non-stick cookware is the ability to use metal utensils when needed. A whisk, for example, isn’t something we have kicking around in silicone. Circulon cookware offers the best of both worlds: a non-stick surface that can handle metal utensils. Just note that using “sharp” metal utensils may void your warranty.

All of the Circulon pieces look great. Very sleek, very contemporary. Now, red happens to be the accent colour in my kitchen but who wouldn’t love the bright greeting of a red skillet cooking up a pound of bacon for Sunday brunch? Tell me, who? No one. That’s who.

These pieces will work on any type of stovetop — electric, gas and even induction.

They can go in the dishwasher. I repeat: THEY CAN GO IN THE DISHWASHER!

And unless you’re cooking on very high temperatures, Circulon cookware can go from stovetop to oven. This is great for keeping things warm or if you need to braise or sear meat but then let it cook internally at lower temperatures.

Everything we’ve cooked has been done evenly and exactly the way we intended.

I love the glass lids; they all fit extremely well and being able to watch a pot is every control freak’s dream. The stockpot gets a special shout-out here because the lid actually locks in place, which means when you need to strain out your excess water, you just tip it over with the lid on and you never have to worry about it falling into the sink, breaking and filling your dinner with shards of glass. I’d call that a good thing. (This lid is truly what makes the pasta pot my favourite piece in the Circulon lineup AND in my entire cookware collection).

All of the Circulon cookware we’ve tested (and we’ve been using them for months now) has remained non-stick, scratch-free and is incredibly easy to clean — use after use.

We’ve also pushed the limits in terms of cooking temps, pan-frying and boiling water on extremely high heats just to see if any flaking would occur. We’ve seen no such flaking but will definitely update this review in a year’s time should any occur. You probably don’t want to cook beyond medium-high since it may impact your warranty, though.

Pricewise, I find Circulon quite reasonable. That said, you’ll get a steal of a deal if you buy a whole set (as I look at the 11-piece hard anodized set online, it’s 70 per cent off and only $199.99*). But if you just need a pot here or a pan there, 12-inch skillets (griddles, pans, whatever you want to call them) are in the $100 range, while the jumbo cooker (which doubles for me as a wok) and pasta pot are about $170 each. This is MUCH less than our old Swiss Diamond cookware and even slightly less than our Le Creuset pieces. The way I see it is this: if the cheaper non-stick pans cost an average of $30, but you have to replace them annually, then even if the Circulon skillet gives you just five years, you’ve saved $50 — not to mention all that time going to and from stores to buy new skillets!


The handles on the pasta pot and all of the lids get extremely hot, barring you from picking them up with anything less than very good oven mitts. It would be great if these were silicone-coated so you could use your bare hands. The pan handle isn’t too bad if you’re cooking at low to medium temperatures.

I’m not a huge fan of the clear silicone (glue?) that sits between the rivets and handles. I think there could be a more seamless look here that matches with the otherwise upscale appearance of the Circulon cookware pieces.



So…where can you get it?

*Apologies if by the time you read this, the sale is over. However, sales come along all the time, so keep watching!