Park of the Week: Tom Bass Park 3

After a while of exploring new playgrounds, you might start feeling like many of them look the same. If you're suffering from such playground ennui, take a trip to the Tom Bass Park 3 (not to be confused with Tom Bass Park 1 nearby).

Here's the main play structure. As you may notice, it is totally and completely covered. Not with those mini-canopies you see at some playgrounds providing shade for maybe half a slide. This canopy is no joke; I think it could be pouring rain here and you'd be totally dry. Also, cute orange flowers sprouting all around, because why not?

The height of this play structure is perfect for toddlers. Non-walkers will need some help but could be entertained here as well. Older toddlers might be interested in the rock wall (we personally did not dare to try it when we visited).

At ground level by the main play structure is a veritable orchestra, with bells to ring and drums to play wherever you turn.

Lana is one-and-a-half now, and these were the perfect height for her. Also note the lack of wood chips - amazing!

There is also a slide that's just the right level of challenge for a toddler to do on her own.

If you get bored, I saw at least two other playgrounds in this park, both within a 3-5 minute walk. Here's another one we explored - also shaded and toddler-friendly, though not as unique as the first.

There is only one aspect of this park I did not like. While parking is easy to find in one of the free lots, there is no sidewalk leading directly to the playground. So you'll have to hoof it across the grass, parts of which can be quite soggy. I did it with a stroller and it was worth the minor annoyance, but still, a path would have been nice! 

If you go: 
  • Address: 15108 Cullen Blvd, Houston, TX 77047. (Make 3rd left after turning onto Cullen Blvd if you're coming from up north.) 
  • Parking: Several free parking lots throughout park

Newborn Sleep Tips from a Certified Pediatric Nurse

In this post, Nurse Jacque of Oh Baby Concierge brings new parents (and parents-to-be) some useful tips on the #1 topic of interest in our world: sleep! How do you swaddle a little one? What should baby wear to sleep? How do you set up your crib? You'll find out in this information-packed video from a certified pediatric nurse. Like what you see? Nurse Jacque offers in-home classes in infant CPR, baby care, and more, as well as over-the-phone assistance and postnatal home visits!

Park of the Week: Boundless Playground at Eastwood Park

If you love the Playground Without Limits on West Gray, you've got to visit the one-of-a-kind Boundless Playground in Eastwood Park. With new equipment and few crowds, this is the perfect spot for your baby or toddler to play.

We visited on a Saturday morning, when the playground was mostly shaded. We saw a few other families, but there was more than enough space for everyone. And with what felt like miles and miles of ramps to crawl or toddle on, Lana was entertained for ages!

The playground has plenty of smaller slides that babies and toddlers can enjoy. Note, also, that the ground here is fake grass, not wood chips!

One of my favorite features was the set of child-size noisemakers, aka "musical instruments". I'd never seen anything like it at another playground. Here, Lana is shaking some oversized-maraca-type things (Perhaps they have an actual name...I don't know, I'm not a musician!) 

We also loved the fact that the Boundless Playground is surrounded by tons of green space, rather than cars/traffic for babies to wander out into. (This stands in stark contrast to the Memorial Park Playground Without Limits, which is located right by a parking lot, making for what might be my most nerve-wracking playground visit to date).

The cherry on top of this playground cake was the swing set located right by the main play structure!

I usually finish my playground reviews by mentioning disadvantages, but I can't think of any this time! Overall, this is one of the best playgrounds we've discovered in Houston thus far. 

If You Go
  • Address5000 Harrisburg, Houston, TX 77011 
  • Parking: Free parking lot. The playground is also accessible by light rail!

Your Unofficial Guide to Houston's Websites for Parents

Houston New Moms might be Houston's only website for parents of babies and toddlers, but our city is also home to a slew of general parenting sites. They might not be relevant if you have a newborn, but as your babe starts walking, running, and exploring the big wide world, you'll find them more and more useful. Here's a guide to what's out there!


BigKidSmallCity aims to be the go-to resource for things to do with kids in Houston. Like Houston New Moms, it was created by a local parent, so the content is authentic and well-researched. Founder Jill Jarvis is an all-around awesome person, always willing to help fellow entrepreneurs and share some of her hard-earned knowledge.

I find BKSC particularly useful for learning about upcoming family-friendly events in Houston. Sometimes, the sheer amount of text, videos, calendars, etc, can be overwhelming - but just click around for a bit, and you'll be sure to find a treasure trove of great information.

Mommy Nearest - Houston Edition

National website Mommy Nearest arrived on the Houston scene a few months ago, and has already put out tons of excellent content. Just a few of my favorite posts: 30 Top Kids' Birthday Party Venues, Kid-Friendly Bars/Beer Gardens/BreweriesPro Tips for Attending Houston Sports Games with Kids, and 18 Places for a Family Photo Shoot. These locally-focused posts are mixed with national posts that candidly discuss the ups and downs of parenthood. Mommy Nearest invests in great writing, and it shows in the quality of their content.

In addition to parenting articles, Mommy Nearest also has a free app that helps parents find family-friendly places nearby, from changing tables to playgrounds to fun things to do. Think of it as Yelp for parents.

As you may know, I'm a proud member of Mommy Nearest's team of contributors. (You might wonder if I'm being a bit biased with my praise here; in all honesty, I applied to write for Mommy Nearest in the first place precisely because I was so impressed with the quality of their content).

Mommy Poppins - Houston Edition

Mommy Poppins is a national website just launching in Houston. From the looks of it, the site is similar to Mommy Nearest, with a mix of local and national content as well as a searchable map of camps, party venues, etc. Like Mommy Nearest, this site is professionally designed and easy to navigate.

Kid Fun Houston

Kid Fun Houston started as a Facebook group; it's since expanded to add a website, though most of the action seems to happen on the original group. Kid Fun aims to help parents and caregivers find fun things to do in Houston with kids. They also organize some events for kids around town. One fun weekly feature is Marketing Monday, which allows readers to market their businesses to the Facebook group each Monday.

I've found some fun ideas on Kid Fun Houston, but the content does seem to get repetitive, with the same ideas cycling through posts again and again. I definitely recommend checking it out, but it's not a website I find myself returning to regularly.

Houston Moms Blog

This blog publishes content by a group of Houston moms. Some posts are Houston-specific, but many read more like emotional personal blogs, (i.e. "How dare people from other neighborhoods come play on our playground? or "I really <3 my husband" or "Existential mommy crisis!") The content is created by a team of unpaid contributors, so quality tends to vary from good to cringe-worthy. 

Dispatches from the Children's Museum

As you may know, Lana and I live next door to the Children's Museum. And I mean literally next door - we can see it from our windows. When new friends discover this fact, they ask a lot of questions: Is it totally awesome? Is it actually terrible? Do we ever want to just give up and move to the Heights?  So, for anyone who might be curious, here is an insider's view on life smack-dab in the middle of the Museum District.

1) How often do you really go to the Tot Spot? 

All. The. Time. Lana's nanny takes her to the Tot Spot every day, and I also go with her a couple afternoons a week. On weekends, my husband will sometimes take her as well. Some of the staff know her. One of the staff members recently told me he loved watching Lana learn to walk over the past few months. I sometimes fear that they will ban us from the museum because we've been really pushing the whole "unlimited free visits" privilege :D

2) Do you get sick all the time? 
Not really. We've been going to the Children's Museum since the spring, and Lana has only been sick a couple of times since then. However, these were viruses picked up from friends and family outside the Tot Spot. 

However, winter is who knows what awaits us during flu season?

3) Is living next door to the Children's Museum the most awesome thing in the world?
We love this neighborhood - the Children's Museum, the Zoo, the Science Museum, the Health Museum, and the MFAH are all in walking distance. All of these have top-notch kids' exhibits and programming, and are super-affordable with memberships. Oh, and we never have to pay for parking!

And, don't forget Hermann Park, which includes the train, the 3-in-1 playground, the lake, the beautiful new Centennial Gardens...what else does a mom need?

4) What are the downsides of your location?
Nearly every day, we hear that saccharine, sing-songy voice warning everyone that the museum is closing "IN "FIF-TEEN MI-NUTES!" In general, every museum announcement is audible from our bedroom/living room. When the museum has special events, we hear hours of kiddie music. This is really just specific to our apartment though, since we are so close - most other apartments in our complex get the great location without the annoying audio.

As for the neighborhood overall, I do wish there were more food options in walking distance. We've got Barnaby's and expensive sushi, and that's pretty much it.

5) Any pro tips on visiting the Children's Museum?
On weekdays, the Tot Spot tends to be less busy right at opening time, as well as mid-afternoons. Weekends are really insane - the Tot Spot often gets so crowded that it's just not worth going. Check out the much-less-crazy (and cheaper) Health Museum just next door. It's also a children's museum with lots of pint-sized fun.

The little library in the Children's Museum is totally free to visit (just get a visitor's badge at the front desk). So if you don't have a membership, you can still play there for free. It has frequent storytimes and a play area for tots. And, of course, tons of fun kids books and FLIP Kits with fun activities. It's also usually much less crowded than the rest of the museum.

Finally, there is a cute little outdoor area just outside the Tot Spot that is perfect for toddlers, and usually less crowded than the Tot Spot. 

Expert Q&A: Lactation Consultant Liz Ozkan

Nursing moms take note: today's sponsored post is chock-full of practical breastfeeding advice! Certified lactation consultant Liz Ozkan talks insurance coverage, weighs in on how to determine if you need professional help, and recommends the top products for breastfeeding support. Check out Liz's tips below, and stop by her maternity boutique The Mother Baby Bond, a one-stop shop for lactation support, nursing accessories, pump rentals, and more. 

1) What kinds of challenges can a lactation consultant help breastfeeding moms with? 

Since starting my practice, I’ve helped moms with latching issues, damaged nipples, low supply, oversupply and engorgement. I've also recognized (and reported to the physician) mastitis, ensuring mom got the treatment she needed. I helped an adoptive mom of twins induce lactation, she went on to breastfeed for 10 months! I’ve worked with premature or late preterm babies and with twins.

The majority of moms whom I’ve helped since I started my private practice have had issues arising from their baby’s oral anatomy, primarily lip and tongue tie. I have seen instances where the baby was able to breastfeed effectively (even with a lip and/or tongue tie) once mom learned correct positioning and latch techniques. Of course, in these cases, I do recommend that baby be assessed by a practitioner who is well versed in treating lip and tongue tie.

2) How can a new mom tell if she would benefit from visiting an LC? What are some signs that it's time for professional help? 

Any new mom, or any mom new to breastfeeding, can benefit from visiting an IBCLC, RLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant), at the very least for education and reassurance. That being said, if a new mom trying to breastfeed her baby is experiencing sore, painful, damaged nipples, breast pain, or emotional pain arising from anxiety, fear, exhaustion, she would undoubtedly benefit from a consultation.

If she is finding breastfeeding to be more of a chore than a joy, if she dreads latching her baby to the breast, if her baby isn’t gaining weight appropriately, if she is being advised to supplement with formula, it’s time for professional help.

What’s also very important to keep in mind is that, with most lactation consultants, the support doesn’t end with the consultation. I am available to my patients via email or phone. Sometimes a mom will email or call me with a quick question, sometimes she’ll need to schedule a follow up appointment.

3) Can you share some tips for breastfeeding success? 

Breastfeeding success stems from education, knowledge and preparation - and from trusting your body, your baby and your instincts.

One of the greatest challenges with helping a mom who is struggling with breastfeeding is to find the root cause of the symptoms. Knowing what questions to ask, being able to recognize the physical as well as emotional issues that are negatively impacting breastfeeding is crucial, and is the key putting a plan in place to help mom make her breastfeeding relationship work.

If a mom has had issues with infertility, has had any type of breast or chest surgery, has chronic health problems or an anomaly of the breasts (such as severe asymmetry, insufficient glandular issue) is a high risk patient, knows she’ll be having a caesarean birth, she would benefit greatly from a prenatal consultation or at the very least, taking a breastfeeding class.

4) Do you have any tips for getting insurance to cover LC services? 

Most lactation consultants, myself included, don’t take insurance due to the wide variety of coverage offered by insurance companies to their clients, However, you may be able to get a reimbursement directly from your insurance company. Questions to ask insurance would be:
  • Do you cover lactation consultations with an IBCLC (unfortunately, anyone can call themselves a lactation consultant, but the gold standard is an IBCLC, RLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Registered Lactation Consultant)
  • If yes, does the lactation consultant have to be in-network?
  • If yes, do you have anyone in-network?
  • If no, do you cover out-of-network providers?
  • If yes, do you cover 100%, only a certain percentage, or have a flat fee you will cover?
  • If you don’t cover out-of-network providers, why is that? (the ACA mandates that lactation support is to be covered 100%, but there are exceptions to the rule)
  • Will you apply the cost of the consult to my out-of-network deductible?
  • Would you cover a consult with an out-of-network provider if my doctor (OBGYN) write a prescription? 
I would like to remind anyone who wants to breastfeed, and especially breastfeed exclusively, the cost of a consultation (with regard to my fees) is about equal to the cost of buying formula for one month.

5) What are some of your favorite products for breastfeeding moms? 

  • Earth Mama Angel Baby Booby Tubes: These can be used hot or cold, to help with letdown, or to treat mastitis, plugged ducts, and engorgement (which all can go hand in hand.) Much better than trying to make a heat pack or using a frozen vegetable bag!
  • Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Butter: It’s soothing and less sticky than lanolin!
  • Simple Wishes Hands-free Pumping Bra: If a mom is pumping more than once a day, she needs to be hands free!
  • Medela TheraShells: They’re hard plastic domes with air holes worn over one's nipples. (You need to look at the picture, otherwise it sounds like some weird sci-fi contraption made to steal breast milk!) They keep sore nipples from coming in contact with your bra, minimizing pain while they are healing.
  • Medela Symphony Hospital Grade Breast Pump: It’s the Mercedes of breast pumps. Fast. Efficient. Helps increase milk supply very effectively.

Park of the Week: Sisters of Charity Park

It is a truth universally acknowledged that, as soon as a baby learns to walk, her primary goal in life becomes running away from you. If you are a parent of a little escape artist, take him or her to play at the Sisters of Charity Park downtown. This shady labyrinth of paths holds hidden treasures around every corner, and is fully enclosed to prevent an untimely escape.

The Sisters of Charity park covers one city block next to St. Joseph's Hospital. Outside, cars zoom by and doctors rush to work, but inside the gates, it is all peace and tranquility.

You can set your toddler free and let her lead the way down winding stone paths like this one:

Among the surprises you'll find: lime trees, a sculpture of Jesus as a kid, a small bridge, multicolored wildflowers, courtyards, with benches to climb...

...and our favorite, a path decorated with beautiful stained-glass windows. Lana liked them so much she walked back and forth past them several times!

We did notice just a couple of drawbacks at this park. First, the water features were not active when we went - the bubbling brook we had hoped to see was almost totally dry. Second, there were mosquitoes, so don't forget your bug spray!

Finally, because this park is so quiet and secluded, more reminiscent of a middle-of-nowhere forest than a large city, I felt slightly nervous being on my own with Lana. There was literally no one else in the park except a gardener tending the plants. Perhaps I've gotten a little too used to the noise and crowds of city life :) I think this place would be perfect for a family outing or a playdate with a friend, though. Or even an entire playgroup - there is plenty of space in the courtyards for blankets and strollers!

If you go:
  • Address: 1404 St. Joseph Parkway, Houston, TX 77002 (corner of St. Joseph & La Branch)
  • Parking: Metered street parking
  • Hours: The park is open 8AM-sundown on weekdays. In theory, it's supposed to be open weekends as well, but isn't always
  • Cost: Free!