Best for Families: Moms + Babies 2016
Whether you’re pregnant with your first or adding to a growing brood, finding the perfect resources for you and your little one — from baby sitters to birthing centers — can be overwhelming. So we took the motherlode of work and research off your plate. We polled local moms to compile a comprehensive list of favorite classes, shops, services and birthing teams for you, then did some digging to find out what makes these the top picks among local moms. Consider it a labor of love for you, our readers.
Best Childbirth Classes
Dallas County Winner: Dallas Association for Parent Education
Dallas County mamas love the private, four-part childbirth class at Dallas Association for Parent Education (DAPE), where parents-to-be spend as much or as little time as they want covering the need-to-knows of labor and birth and what to expect in the hospital and after baby arrives. DAPE also offers a Baby Care Basics class to help newbie parents learn newborn essentials such as bathing and diapering. Sign up for one or both classes online, but we recommend calling beforehand to speak with the instructor about what you want your private classes to include.
Collin County Winner: Natural Beginnings
Collin County moms opt to prep for delivery with childbirth educators Linda Worzer and Sharon Mattes because of their 50 years of combined experience and small class sizes. The comprehensive eight-week course is taught in each of the instructors’ homes, where expectant moms learn about nutrition, exercise, breast-feeding, comfort and relaxation techniques and postpartum recovery.
FortWorthChild Winner: Serenity Birth Services
Since 2008, Trisha Blizzard has educated Fort Worth-area parents on labor options, unexpected delivery circumstances and postpartum recovery through her Serenity Birth Services. Clients choose Trisha because of the class options: Choose private or group settings, multi-class or one-time programs and times that fit within a variety of schedules (since she knows parents can’t always commit to a weekly class). All parents-to-be get a 145-plus-page binder (sounds daunting, but it’s not, we promise) and videos to help answer all those pregnancy, delivery and new baby questions.
Fort Worth, 817/226-5475
NorthTexasChild Winner: A Joyful Birth
Childbirth classes are certainly not a one-size-fits-all format, and no one understands that better than Laura King of A Joyful Birth. King individualizes childbirth classes based on what mom- and dad-to-be want to learn in a one-on-one class setting. Whether you want one long nutrition-focused class on a Saturday or several weeks of shorter classes with a comprehensive overview of pregnancy, natural birth and postpartum recovery, King will customize classes for you and teach them in your home.
Denton area, 214/659-1569
Best Hospital to Have a Baby
Dallas County Winner: Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas
While every birth comes with a level of uncertainty, you and your little one are in good hands at Baylor, which assures unmatched care for high-risk pregnancies and a level III neonatal intensive care unit — the highest level of care available. Each of the 18 labor and delivery suites has a bathtub, an iPod docking station and access to birthing balls and other relaxation tools to make laboring moms more comfortable. After delivery, you and your new bundle stay in a private room in the New Family Center, which has a daybed for Dad, a flat-screen TV and wireless Internet (so you can announce your arrival to all your Facebook friends). Grab breast-feeding supplies and free tips and advice at the on-site boutique, which is staffed by lactation consultants.
Collin County Winner: Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano
For the fifth year, Collin County moms named Texas Health Plano the cream of the crop for all things labor and delivery. Why? Sixteen private birthing suites and a remarkable neonatal intensive care unit win new moms’ praises. Enjoy some of the pre-birth perks too, including parenting and childbirth classes, mommy mixers and breast-feeding workshops.
FortWorthChild Winner: Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth
Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth works hard to shatter the stereotype that hospital births mean cold and chaotic deliveries with a higher probability of C-sections. How? By helping parents-to-be formulate individualized birth plans, providing 18 soothing labor and delivery suites (laboring in water and water births are available for some patients) and the Breastfeeding Resource Center, which gives new moms nursing support.
Fort Worth, 817/250-2000
NorthTexasChild Winner: Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Flower Mound
Private birthing and recovery suites, a level II neonatal intensive care unit, 21 OB/GYN physicians, six certified nurse-midwives and “serenity time” non-visitor hours make Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Flower Mound a winner among moms. They also like the range of classes frequently offered in preparation for D-Day, including childbirth, breast-feeding and baby care basics.
Flower Mound, 469/322-7000
Best Birthing Center
Dallas County Winner: Birth and Women’s Center
The Birth and Women’s Center, located in a 100-year-old home just three blocks from Baylor University Medical Center, offers moms-to-be prenatal care, delivery support and postpartum care from a nurturing staff that includes certified nurse-midwives and birth and postpartum assistants. The center supports natural deliveries, water births and the ability to design your own birth plan, and boasts low numbers of mothers requiring transfer to the hospital or C-sections. After delivery, plan to attend one of the MaternaTea events (held every six to eight weeks), where new moms share birth stories, introduce their new additions and connect over shared experiences.
Collin County Winner: Allen Birthing Center
With five certified nurse-midwives, two birthing suites and thousands of deliveries under its belt, Collin County’s oldest birthing center wins the top spot. Deliver at the Allen Birthing Center in a bed or tub or opt for an at-home delivery, then visit the center to get answers to those fourth trimester questions and receive checkups and annual wellness exams.
FortWorthChild Winner: Fort Worth Birthing & Wellness Center
As the first accredited birthing center in Tarrant County, Fort Worth Birthing & Wellness Center offers a range of women’s wellness services in addition to pregnancy and labor and delivery care. Moms love the one-stop shop since there’s a full staff of midwives but also birth education classes taught on-site. Later in 2016, the center plans to expand to include a hospital-based midwifery practice at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Southwest Fort Worth.
Fort Worth, 817/878-2737
NorthTexasChild Winner: All About Babies Midwifery & Birth Center
North Texas babies have been stepping into the world with the help of four midwives, student midwives and Mom, of course, at this three-suite, 7,500-square foot birthing center situated on 3.5 acres of peaceful farm land since 2010. So it’s absolutely no surprise that moms return to this soothing place often for the community-style postpartum events that let new moms socialize and talk baby with each other.
Dallas County Winner: North Dallas Doula Associates
Melissa Espey-Mueller, the founder of North Dallas Doula Associates (NDDA), has topped this category individually twice before, but this year the honors go to Espey-Mueller’s entire practice, serving Dallas moms since 1999. Fourteen doulas make up NDDA to provide an unparalleled range of pregnancy, labor and postpartum services, including loss and infertility support, lactation consulting and mom-to-mom lunch events. NDDA works with all birth plans and birthing teams, whether you will receive an epidural in the hospital or deliver naturally at home.
Collin County Winner: Jessie Prim
With more than 32 years of experience (not to mention five kids and three grandkids of her own), Jessie Prim works to make childbirth one of the best experiences in a woman’s life by dispelling childbirth fears, helping moms-to-be select a birthing team, working to get Mom the birth she envisions and assisting with postpartum recovery.
FortWorthChild Winner: Abbey Robinson, Fort Worth Doulas
With over 14 years of experience with different birth scenarios, including hospital, natural, multiples and VBACs, Abbey Robinson has swept this category for the past three years. Robinson prides herself on working in conjunction with other birthing professionals such as OB/GYNs, midwives and nurses in an attempt to give women the birth they desire. Fort Worth Doulas now offers placenta encapsulation and hourly postpartum services too.
Fort Worth, 817/343-7545
NorthTexasChild Winner: Great Expectations Doula Services
After years of working with moms-to-be on her own, Maria Pokluda expanded her practice to serve the Dallas-Fort Worth area with four labor and two postpartum doulas. Pokluda’s wide range of birth specializations — including hospital, home, VBACs, and multiples — have gained praise from clients for nearly a decade and allowed her to win this award for four consecutive years. In addition to working with moms all over the area, Pokluda trains doulas internationally.
Dallas-Fort Worth Area, 214/223-0226
Dallas County Winner: Kristine Tawater, Dallas Birth Center
Previously the owner of MotherMe Midwifery, Kristine Tawater, who has been a midwife for five years, recently opened Dallas Birth Center and is known as the pick of the midwife litter. What separates Tawater from the rest? She doesn’t fill her calendar with clients. She takes on fewer mamas-to-be so she can give each the attention and care needed throughout pregnancy, delivery and the fourth trimester. Plus, she still travels throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area for home births. And Tawater’s new birth center offers expectant moms chiropractic, massage and lactation consulting services too.
Dallas-Fort Worth Area, 469/399-6429
Collin County Winner: Amy Giles, Allen Birthing Center
Local mamas come back to Amy Giles and recommend her to their expecting friends because of her 14 years of experience, privileges at Baylor Medical Center of McKinney and commitment to keeping her patients informed during every step of pregnancy and delivery. Also winning accolades are Amy’s sweet bedside manner, delivery knowledge and excellent prenatal care, including nutrition counseling, as well as the welcoming atmosphere at her Allen Birthing Center (which also happens to be the winner of our Best Birthing Center).
FortWorthChild Winner: Carla Morrow, Fort Worth Birthing & Wellness Center
When Carla Morrow describes midwifery as a calling, it’s no understatement. With a masters and doctorate degree in nursing, this certified nurse-midwife works closely with moms-to-be from conception through the fourth trimester and beyond. Plus, you don’t have to deliver at Fort Worth Birthing & Wellness Center (which also happens to be the winner of our Best Birthing Center) to use Morrow as a midwife because she has privileges at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Southwest Fort Worth too. Morrow accepts patients on a co-care basis with an OB/GYN, making VBAC, high-risk moms and those who want an epidural rejoice.
Fort Worth, 817/878-2737
NorthTexasChild Winner: Heather Caudell, Obstetrics & Gynecology Associates
The only certified nurse-midwife at this women’s wellness practice offers more than delivery services. In her 10-plus years of experience at Obstetrics & Gynecology Associates, Heather Caudell has delivered hundreds of babies as well as provided pregnancy and wellness care for women in North Texas. Caudell’s “compassionate honesty” wins accolades from North Texas moms-to-be.
Flower Mound, 972/420-1470
Best Prenatal Massage
Dallas County Winner: La Bella Belly Pregnancy Spa
If anyone deserves a good massage, it’s the mother-to-be. While traditional massage parlors only offer massages after the start of the second trimester, the massage therapists at La Bella Belly undergo intensive prenatal training that allows them to massage safely throughout pregnancy (even those first few months). A special side-lying support system provides complete safety and comfort, while special techniques are used to target leg cramps, sciatic nerve pain and headaches and alleviate other common pregnancy woes.
Collin County Winner: Massage Envy
If anyone’s worthy of a massage, it’s the expectant mom. Enjoy a classic full-body massage at Massage Envy once you’ve started the second trimester. The oils and lotions used universally at the spa are non-toxic and safe for the baby, and the massage therapists are certified in prenatal massage. You’ll be positioned on your side and given a prenatal pillow to make you more comfortable.
Best Baby Furniture Store
Dallas and Collin County Winner: Buy Buy Baby
If you haven’t settled on your nursery design and want to peruse a variety of furniture styles, head to Buy Buy Baby. Find cribs that run the gamut from modern Scandinavian looks to traditional versions with arched lines, changing tables that have loads of storage and dressers and armoires that can grow with your kids — all at prices to fit a range of budgets (plus an online registry makes it easy for out-of-town family).
Best Baby Clothing Boutique
Dallas County Winner: A Tiny Hiney Baby Boutique
Tucked into the Preston Forest Village, A Tiney Hiney is an upscale shop stocked with trendy apparel and gifts for babies and toddlers. The boutique offers printed footed jammies, smocked dresses, reversible rompers and graphic tees, but they also have lots of options for whimsical gifts, like a pint-sized, feathery, bedazzled birthday hat or a soft tummy-time rug in the shape of a colorful animal. Better yet, get the new mom a BabyBriefcase, a plastic case with folders for memorabilia and important papers such as birth certificates and immunization records. See lots that you want — or need? Register in store or create a wish list online.
Collin County Winner: Dimples and Dandelions
Ruffled dresses, tutus galore, motorcycle tees and dapper button-downs (all in sizes newborn to 6 or 7) fill this boutique that local moms adore for wee little girls and boys. What truly sets Dimples and Dandelions apart, however, is the selection of couture dresses (that can be custom-made for sizes 6 months and up) with options for feathers, ruffles, tulle and flowers. Oh, and don’t forget accessories — from leg warmers to leopard-print booties.
FortWorthChild Winner: Zoe + Jack
Maybe it’s the fact that Zoe + Jack occupies a quaint converted house complete with a white picket fence. Or maybe it’s the selection of baby fashions (sized preemie and up) that run the gamut from frugal finds (follow on Instagram and Facebook for seasonal sale announcements) to boutique brand scores from labels like Kate Quinn Organics that have Fort Worth moms flocking to and naming this shop the best for the fifth year in a row. See too much you like? Create a registry so others can pamper your little one too.
Fort Worth, 817/989-2200
Best Child Care Center for Babies
Dallas County, Collin County and NorthTexasChild Winner: Primrose Schools
While it may be hard to leave your baby with someone else, you’ll have peace of mind entrusting your kids to the care of five-time winner Primrose Schools, which takes babes as young as 6 weeks. Infant-to-teacher ratios are kept small (about one teacher per four babies) and toys are developmentally appropriate. Plus, teachers read to the babies, create art with them and spend time outdoors with them in an infant-specific yard. Need additional reassurance? The open-door policy means you can swing by on your lunch hour to play with or nurse your little one.
FortWorthChild Winner: Children’s Courtyard
Children’s Courtyard, a three-time winner, provides a safe, stimulating environment for little ones starting at 6 weeks of age. Concerned about cleanliness and germs? Sick babies aren’t allowed and teachers wear booties in infant areas. And kids learn at their own pace: The center uses a milestone-based curriculum, which works with baby’s personal development rather than focusing on baby’s age.
Best Baby-sitting Source
Mom’s Best Friend
Whether you’re in dire need of a date night or looking to hire a full-time nanny, this baby-sitting service might literally become your new best friend. Mom’s Best Friend is a membership-only resource, so in addition to the cost of the sitter, you’ll pay an annual fee. In return you get access to caregivers who are up-to-date on first aid and CPR certifications and have passed a 10-step screening process (including five different background checks and numerous reference checks). In a pinch with a day care closing or a sick kid? Mom’s Best Friend offers holiday and sick care too. Plus, all sitters are trained to use “Nanny Notes” and record your baby’s moods, bedtimes, feeding times and any additional info you request.
Multiple locations, 972/446-0500
Best Prenatal Workout
Dallas County Winner: Oh Baby! Fitness
Pregnancy exercise comes with limitations. The instructors at Oh Baby! Fitness help keep expectant moms fit with water aerobics, yoga and toning classes designed to reduce swelling, soothe sore muscles and make you sweat — safely. There’s also a pushing workshop to prepare moms for delivery. Register online for classes at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, Texas Health Finley Ewing Cardiovascular & Fitness Center Dallas and Farmers Branch Aquatic Center.
Dallas area, 972/251-0888
Collin County Winner: Fit4Baby by FIT4MOM
Forget pregnancy modifications during group classes at your local gym. This mom-centric exercise program by FIT4MOM features low-intensity cardio, toning and strength workouts designed just for those sporting a baby bump. Plus, the moves you perform here reduce pregnancy aches, increase energy and speed up post-baby recovery. Locations throughout Collin County allow moms to connect with each other through social events and play groups when they aren’t exercising.
Best Mommy & Baby Workout
Baby Boot Camp
Losing baby weight is hard enough, nevermind finding the time to actually exercise and figure out the child care thing. Baby Boot Camp makes working out simple with outdoor exercise that incorporates your new addition in his or her stroller. Each franchise owner structures schedules differently, making it easy to find nearby classes that work for you — and junior’s schedule. Try the yoga-inspired STROLLGA, full-body STROLLFIT or a 5K training program. Plus, the StrollerFriends moms group serves as an informal playgroup for you and your kiddos.
Best Prenatal & Postpartum Workout
FortWorthChild and NorthTexasChild Winner: FIT4MOM
FIT4MOM is a pregnancy and postpartum fitness franchise that combines the social aspect of a mommy group with the health benefits of group exercise classes. Build strength at a physician-approved Fit4Baby class for expecting moms, tone and sculpt your post-baby body at Stroller Strides which incorporates — what else? — your baby in a stroller, or reach your fitness goals with another specialized class. FIT4MOM communities include mom-centric social outings such as moms night out and book clubs too.
Best Maternity Store
Dallas County Winner: A Pea in the Pod
The days of frumpy and shapeless maternity clothes are long behind us thanks to designers like celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe and actress Jaime King, both of whom created fashion lines for A Pea in the Pod last year. Find flowing maxi dresses, structured moto jackets, tailored pants, chic tops and luxe denim that you’ll want to wear long after the baby weight has been shed.
Collin County Winner: Motherhood Maternity
The key to stylish dressing throughout pregnancy is figuring how to flatter a changing body while staying comfortable. Motherhood Maternity carries clothing that’s breathable, on trend and keeps our readers coming back (this is the store’s second consecutive win). The store also features affordable celebrity-designed collections, including dresses, knits, jackets, sweaters and denim from Jessica Simpson and boho-inspired pieces from Wendy Bellissimo.
FortWorthChild Winner: Target
Target’s selection of maternity clothes remains consistent, affordable and stylish. Besides being a one-stop shop for practically everything baby-related that you may need, the superstore offers a selection of comfy, on-trend fashions and staples like belly bands, leggings and intimates for your changing body.
Best Mommy & Baby Class
Dallas County and FortWorthChild Winner: The Little Gym
Winning for the third consecutive year, The Little Gym is the place to go for fun parent-infant classes, according to our readers. Classes are divided into three sections starting as young as 4 months: Bugs (4–10 months), Birds (10–19 months) and Beasts (19 months–3 years). The Little Gym works to boost baby’s motor skills and spatial and perceptual awareness at each developmental stage. Additionally, classes help little ones develop a sense of independence and foster social interactions — not just for babies but for new moms hoping to make friends too.
Collin County Winner: Gymboree Play & Music
There’s a reason that mommy-and-me classes are colloquially referred to as “Gymboree.” It’s the go-to for moms in this category. In the most popular class series, Play & Learn, little ones are grouped by age, ranging from newborns to 36 months. In these classes, babies progress from exploring the senses with tummy time to learning cause and effect with blocks before moving on to more advanced concepts like two-way communication and problem solving. Gymboree also offers music classes for 6 months and up and art classes for 18 months and older. Print a pass online, and your first visit is free.
Best Infant Swim School
Dallas County, Collin County and FortWorthChild Winner: Emler Swim School
Get babies comfortable with the water early at Emler, a swim school mainstay for more than 40 years. Enroll babies between 2 and 6 months in free Bathtime Babies lessons, where singing songs, playing games and splashing in the water with you make the pool a fun, safe place. Then sign up for the Waterbabies class for kids 6 months to 35 months (you get in the water at this level too) for more songs and activities, including going under water, that help kids build confidence in the pool.
NorthTexasChild Winner: Aqua-Tots Swim School
Whether you’ve mastered the butterfly or are really more of a land shark, the ability to swim or at least be comfortable with water is pretty essential. So start them young. Aqua-Tots offers Parent & Tot swim classes for babies 4 months and older and focuses on basics such as breath control (submerging) and comfort in the water. To keep your little one safe and happy, Aqua-Tots caps class sizes at four babies and keeps the pool temperature at 90 degrees.
Flower Mound, 214/396-7900
Best Resale Shop
Dallas County, Collin County and NorthTexasChild Winner: Once Upon a Child
If there’s no older sibling to rely on for hand-me-downs, head to Once Upon a Child, a multiple-time winner that sets the standard for what a kid’s resale shop should be: There’s a large selection of toys, baby gear and furniture that meet both mandatory and voluntary safety standards; you can find an array of products from clothing (sizes preemie and up) to swings and strollers, all in good condition and with no visible damage or missing parts; plus, you can either sell or trade in gently used items. Call ahead to see what items are most wanted at the time.
FortWorthChild Winner: Kid to Kid
Blink and your baby will be wearing the next size up, so when your wallet can’t necessarily keep up with the growth rate, you might want to look for secondhand pieces to add to the closet. For the sixth year in a row, FortWorthChild readers agree that Kid to Kid is the best place to find secondhand clothing from brands like Gymboree and Janie and Jack at heavily discounted prices (up to 70 percent off). In addition to kid fashions, the store carries maternity clothing and baby gear such as high chairs, toys and costumes. Sell your gently used clothes and goods for cash or in exchange for store credit at a 20 percent higher value.