Ask the Editor: Vol. IV, No. Twenty

May 16, 2024

This week, we have questions about birthday gifts, diaper bags, what to do when your shampoo stops working well, and more. Let’s dive in!

Abra:

My sister in law turns 50 this year and while we don’t usually exchange gifts, this is a big one and I want to get her something special (but not more than $150). Yes, she has kids and a job, if that helps. THANK YOU! The Amazon pre-populated gift ideas list is terrible…

BN

I don’t think you can go wrong with a fantastic pair of earrings. Mejuri has some of the nicest pairs available. I love these chunky u-hoops for every day. For something a bit more modern, try these Patra hoops, which have a triangle shape. But the best choice for a gift are these convertible hoops, which come with an extender to give you an every day earring and a date night earring.

Hi there, I need some help. My brother is recently divorced an expecting a baby, which he will have sole custody of starting from birth. Everyone in the family was assigned part of the registry to help out. I was given the diaper bag, but I don’t have children of my own, so can you advise me on the best place to start? Arielle

Start with the bag itself. We have the Dagne Dover Indi Diaper Backpack in olive. It’s a great choice — a good size, washable, lightweight, gender neutral. I added the Joey diaper clutch because I have yet to see a clean changing table and the pad is invaluable. Plus, if you’re just headed somewhere for a minute, you can just take the clutch and not the whole bag.

As for the additions, a some of these wipes and a case of diapers from Costco. Oh, if he doesn’t have a Costco membership, he needs one. The diapers are a great buy. It’s also helpful if he chooses a formula brand he can buy there or at Target. Ours wasn’t always easy to find, and while I loved it, not being able to just grab a can somewhere made it tougher than it needed to be.

Lastly, if you haven’t settled on a type of bottle yet, Smilo are the only way to go IMO. They are designed to prevent air from getting into the baby’s system but, unlike Dr. Brown’s, with no small parts to wash. They cut my bottle washing time by 70%, which is huge when you’re surviving minute-to-minute those first few months.

Also, one of my girlfriends laminated a list of things to check for in the diaper bag and put it on a key ring. That way it hung inside the diaper bag and you could just run through the list quickly before you left. I was constantly forgetting burp rags, so this would have been a big help. You simply can’t remember everything when you’re not sleeping much.

From Instagram: Can you remind me which maternity t-shirt was your favorite?

Whether you are expecting or just want a great, semi-affordable t-shirt, this $48 Ingrid & Isabel scoop neck shirt is A-number-1 in my book.  Runs a hair small, which is why I am still wearing mine two years post-pregnancy.

Abra,

I hate to wash my hair, so I’m a 2x a week girlie.  Recently, I’ve noticed my hair doesn’t feel clean.  Any tips.  I use Kristin Ess shampoo from Target and I prefer to be in that price point or at least at that retailer since it’s also my grocery.

Katy

It’s probably time to change shampoo.  Shampoos, especially those meant for dry hair, build up over time.  Depending on the shampoo, you might notice a lack of efficacy after a few weeks or a few months.  

I recommend a three step change: a scalp scrub, a clarifying shampoo, and a change in wash strategy.

First, your scalp may need a good scrub.  There are plenty of scalp care products out there, but I like this one from Goop’s diffusion line.  I’m not a subscriber to the Goop cult, but some of the products are really good.  I like this scrub because it’s not too abrasive and a bottle lasts a long time.

Second, I use this K18 detoxifying shampoo, but it’s only available at Sephora.  So instead, I recommend this Odele shampoo.  No need to fully abandon the Kristin Ess, just use it once a week for daily washing or twice-per month for irregular washing to give your hair a boost.  

Third, have you tried washing your hair upside down?  It sounds odd, but I swear it keeps hair cleaner longer.  Just remember to wash your face after you wash your hair, since the soapy water will run everywhere.

 

Abra,

I need a not fussy work dress for a doctor’s office. Something that doesn’t look like I’m an extra on Suits. My colleagues all wear scrubs, and I feel underdressed to be their “boss” in jeans, but I don’t want to go all in on the managerial vibe.

TIA! Amelia

For something relaxed and work appropriate I would go with one of two choices:

  1. MM LaFleur’s Emily Dress.  It’s a-line, comfortable, looks great on everyone, easy to wear, and it’s made from recycled fabric. Sizes 00-20.  You can also something find it on sale in the retailer’s pre-loved section.
  2. Boden’s Ellen Ottoman Dress.  Washable, easy-wearing, lots of colors.  An acquaintance works in insurance and wears this dress with low-profile neutral sneakers all the time.  

Maybe a strange question.  Fake plants for my desk?  I can’t keep real ones alive.

I’ve found that no one notices that a fake succulent is a fake succulent.  This one from Target is nice and affordable.  A lawyer friend keeps this Nearly Natural dark purple orchid on her desk because you really can’t tell it’s fake.  Just remember to dust fake plants or else it becomes obvious they’re not real.

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  1. Anna says:

    I’d love a more manly but still unisex diaper bag. We have the Herschell Supply one that is definitely unixex and the changing mat that comes with it is awesome (similar to the Joey but the pockets open on the both sides of the mat versus hanging from the bottom), but it’s a bit small for my partner’s frame. He used to have a military-looking one that was pretty great, but it got stolen, so now I’m looking for something we can both use with #2. I think the Dagne Dover is still a bit on the small side for him. I saw a Nike one that seemed to fit the bill, but the reviews were not the best.

  2. jules says:

    For my first baby I had a ‘real’ diaper backpack but found that there was nothing really special about it other than some extra compartments. For my second baby, we just used a sleek grey men/unisex backpack. 18 months later and honestly, I prefer it to a ‘diaper’ backpack.

    I keep a few extra trash bags inside in case I need to tote around a blowout, but I’ve found I’m within range of a trashcan 99% of the time. (I put it in the bag, tie it and toss it).

    I agree that having a lightweight changing pad/mat is great, I like ones without any attachments but that’s just my preference. I also got in the habit of having a few ‘spares’ in the trunk (a couple diapers, a pack of wipes, extra set of clothes) for the days I completely zoned out and forgot to re-up the backpack.

    It might already be on the registry, but one random thing that really helped us with both babies was a small portable nightlamp with a gentle orange glow for the nighttime feedings, diaper changes, etc instead of using the overhead lights, or a big bright lamp

    • Anna says:

      Oooh! Making him a little car kit to go along with the diaper bag would also be super handy! Maybe with one of those refillable wipe cases, a second changing pad, etc. I basically have diapers and wipes stashed all over the place (seatback pockets, random bags/backpacks, center console…you never know when you’ll need them!)

    • Belle says:

      Definitely ditto on the small lamp.

    • Ginny says:

      FWIW, we have the Herschel diaper bag and it’s worked well for us and is pretty affordable.

      My experience with the diaper bag wipe dispensers is that the wipes tend to dry out, and then you’re left with a dry wipe when you need it most, so I would skip it.

      I would also add that the one thing I wish I’d had was a bottle sterilizer to cut down on the cleaning/sterilizing time. I had no idea how much time I’d spend cleaning bottles and pump parts in those first few months.

      Good luck to your brother!

  3. Margot K says:

    I Read the last question as “Fake PANTS for my desk? I can’t keep real ones alive”…. and I thought “SAME” and fully expected a rec for the endless pants.

  4. KateL says:

    Kristin Ess also makes a scalp scrub. Even if you’re taking a break from the shampoo might be worth picking up on the Target run.

  5. Nicole says:

    I have a one year old. My diaper bag for baby would be: diapers, wipes, changing mat, waterproof bag (poop happens), change of clothes, pacifier, hat, muslin or flannel cloth/swaddle (they are handy for instant blanket or shade or whatever), burp cloths, a couple of toys, bottle (similac 360 total care required no prep), neckerchief bib, and a snack for parents.

    It ends up being pretty personal and new parents probably bring too much. But that was the stuff I would check for.

  6. Jessica Graf says:

    Another suggestion for a diaper bag for the single dad: Product of the North. I LOVE my diaper bag, it’s easy to clean, functional, and looks great. https://www.productofthenorth.com/products/elkin-sage-bundle

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