Hello everyone! We are having a lazy Saturday over here. R is working today and I'm working tomorrow, so nothing too exciting for our household, other than watching old Survivor seasons on Amazon (I am HOOKED).
So I thought I would take the opportunity of a slow day to post a follow up to my previous Newborn Essentials post (for clothing). This time I thought I would share what stuff/gear/gadgets/doowikkis have been absolute musts in our home for the last five months of baby time. I'm sure in another 5 months I will have an entire new list of essentials, but for the early infancy/newborn stage these have been key. I would recommend the following items whole heartedly for any mom to be out there!
1. Rock n' Play. This little piece of fabric and plastic is spoken of on parenting blogs with the same kind of quiet reverence usually reserved for cherished antiques or works of fine art. And I'm sure there are some babies who hate the almighty R n' P, but I think the majority of infants, especially in the early newborn weeks, LOVE this thing. There are many, many versions of this out there, but we went for the deluxe auto rock n'play with smart connect. The smart connect feature (basically it means you can turn it on and off and adjust settings with your phone's bluetooth, even from another room) is absolutely useless (except for when you want to turn it on from a hiding place for the sole purpose of freaking out your dog, which does provide some solid entertainment), but the auto feature is key. If it's plugged in it will rock forever and ever. Some of these run on timers and the rocking shuts off after a certain amount of time. I think most people out there who work to get a newborn to sleep and transfer them into the rock n'play do not want them to suddenly turn off just as your little one is getting into a deep sleep. So again, the auto part is a must. Ryley slept in this for all of her naps (minus the naps on us) for the first 12ish weeks of her life. She also slept decently in it at nighttime for the first couple of weeks, and I know some people's babies sleep at night in these for months. They are light. They fold up and are easy to bring in the car. When Ryley got a little older she would hang out in this happily awake. They are not cheap but way more affordable than the fancy Mammaroo. The only con I would say is that they are a little creaky, so if you are a light sleeper you might have a hard time having it go in your room (it drove my husband crazy, hence why we stopped using it in the bedroom after a couple of weeks despite his desperate 2am efforts to get the screws in tighter to stop it creaking). But overall definitely an essential for us!
2. The Boppy. Obviously this is key if you are breastfeeding, but I think you would get use out of it even if you don't breastfeed (for example as the perfect place to pose baby for pictures). The lactation nurses at the hospital were not fans of the Boppy for some reason (they frowned on many things), but it has been like a 5th limb to me over the last 5 months. I honestly am going to be a little distraught when I put it in storage in the future. Early on there were days were the Boppy was almost literally attached to my waist for the majority of the day and night. Either the baby was eating on it or the baby was sleeping on it. And if the baby was awake, chances are she would be in or on the Boppy. Babies are floppy little jellyfish the first few weeks. They need something soft and firm to keep them from flopping around too much. Enter the Boppy. For our next kid I seriously plan to buy a 2nd Boppy, just so I can keep one in the car and one at home. I use it that much, and when I am out somewhere and breastfeed without it, it's way less comfortable for me and baby. Plus they come with adorable changeable/washable covers! I would honestly say this has been the #1 most used and useful item for us.
3. A bouncy seat. Another absolute essential. This is something of which I will also likely buy a second one for kid #2 (if and when that happens, not right now people!). Except for the fact that my husband would think I was crazy, I would get one for every room. For the first few months, you honestly just need easy and safe places in your house to put the baby in. You can't just put a baby on a wood floor or even on a rug if you have two huge crazy dogs like we do. You are terrified to put them on an elevated surface just in case. But you also need to put them down from time to time. As adorable as they are, you really don't want to hold a baby while you say, shower, or pee. And this is where the bouncy seat comes in. I would say don't splurge on pricey ones. We got this one for like $25. It's from Amazon. It's bright and ugly. But it's light and easy to move around the house or put in the car. It vibrates. It has a little toy bar that still entertains Ryley, despite having looked at it about 1000 times by now. Early on she just stared at them and now she likes to pull the toys into her mouth. They are cheap and simple and worth every single penny and then some. And yes I do think you need both a swing and a bouncy seat for a baby, because as similar as they seem they definitely serve different purposes and you will use both. For example you can't put a swing on your kitchen counter while you cook (as pictured above)!
4. The Dohm. I got this on the advice of my best friend who has used it with her baby, and I'm so glad I got it. I just wish I had bought it sooner. We use this for every single nap and for bedtime. It's basically just a white noise machine, but it uses a fan to make the noise so it doesn't have that static type sound that some noise machines do. It doesn't cut off. It's easy to use. It's small and doesn't take up much space. It does a really good job blocking out sound from outside the nursery (also very important when you have two crazy dogs!). It is a little pricey at near $50, but I do think again this is worth every single penny, and will be something we will use for the baby's sleep for quite some time. And when she doesn't need it my husband might steal it for when he works night shifts (he already has taken it into our room a couple of times!).
5. A mobile. I did not get this before having Ryley, because I knew we wouldn't really use her crib for a little while. I got it when she was around 6 weeks and it was an instant hit. Forget sleeping. A mobile is great for when you need to keep the baby entertained in a safe and secure place for a few minutes while you go to the bathroom or shower or do something that you can't do while holding her. Ryley would stare at this thing for a solid 10-15 minutes. It was also a good way to gently introduce her to the crib and get her used to it as a safe and "fun" place before trying to get her to sleep in it. I got this one from Baby's R' Us, but there are a million out there. My only recommendation would be to go for one that plays music and moves (this one you have to crank up which is kind of annoying because you have to go back in and crank it more every few minutes, I imagine there might be battery operated ones that play for longer periods of time). I would also steer clear of light up mobiles, just because that might be way more stimulating than you want for a bedtime routine (unless you want the club/rave vibe in your baby's room, and then by all means go for it).
6. Playmat. So we started out with the little pink one pictured above. I got it for like $25 from Baby's R Us and it worked great for the first 4 months. Babies can kick the keyboard to make music. The hanging toys provide a pretty solid amount of entertainment for the little brain of a newborn. However recently it was obvious that Ryley was starting to outgrow it, considering she would get stuck against the side bar if she tried to turn over and flail angrily until I rescued her. She still definitely needs a playmat so I decided to get this one from Skip Hop, because it gives her more room to move around. It is quite a bit more expensive, but it's not as bad as some comparable ones from PB Kids or the Land of Nod. Plus it's cute :) And the little hanging animals play music and squeak and do all kinds of things to keep a baby happy. In retrospect I should probably have gone for a more expensive but larger mat like this from the start that she would have room to grow in, but you live and learn.
7. Activity bar for stroller/carseat. So this is a little thing and it's cheap, but you will get A LOT of use out of it. This is also Skip Hop (LOVE all of their stuff, they sell it at Target and Babies R Us but they also have a website full of cute and adorable baby things, which I just recently found) but I got it for a shower. She may not look super entertained by it in the picture above, but this little toy bar has been super helpful in a variety of situations, in the car, on walks, in stores. It doesn't keep her happy and entertained forever, but it will definitely buy us a few more minutes of happy time, and sometimes those few minutes are worth their weight in gold.
8. Muslin swaddle blankets. Before I had a baby I wondered if these were just "trendy." And maybe they are trendy, but they are also so USEFUL. Like beyond useful. They are amazing blankets/swaddles because they are super soft but also light weight. You can put it on the floor over a rug and put the baby on it for play time. They are perfect nursing covers (you also want fabric that is super light for this because it has to go over the baby's face pretty much). They make great burp cloths. You could fashion a makeshift diaper out of it in a pinch. They're just the best. Aden & Anais makes great ones (also pretty pricey) but Target has cute ones that are pretty comparable in quality but cheaper (and they come in cute prints like flamingos!). If you are going to have a baby do yourself a favor and buy like 5 of these. Put one in your car, one in the stroller, one in the diaper bag, and a couple in your house. You will absolutely use them.
9. Merlin's Magic Sleepsuit. You can't use these until a baby is over 12 pounds, so I didn't start using it until close to the 3 month mark. Basically it's meant to be a transition out of the swaddle that will still muffle the startle reflex and allow a baby to sleep longer. And honestly it hasn't been 100% "magic" for us. Anyone who has read this blog knows that we still struggle with sleep. However I do think the sleepsuit has helped her sleep longer. More importantly I think it helps with the initial transition from being held to being put in the crib. Plus they look like they make babies look like a cross between the kid from A Christmas Story and a sumo wrestler, so for the comedic value alone it's worth it.
11. Stroller/carseat (for us Citi Mini and Chico Key Fit 30). So obviously anyone reading this knows that a stroller and car seat are "essentials" for a new baby. And any carseat or stroller you buy is going to be safe thanks to rigorous testing done on any baby product that hits the market in the US. So really I will just say that for us, we have been extremely happy with the combo of the City Mini stroller and Chico Key Fit carseat. I think they are reasonable price wise (definitely can either find cheaper or pricier, but closer to the lower end price spectrum versus like a crazy Bob stroller or something like that). My favorite aspect of these are that they are extremely easy to use. You can fold the City Mini up with one hand (crucial if you have a baby on your hip). It's light and easy to stow. It maneuvers well. With an adaptor you can use an infant carseat in it which is what we've done. And we've been really happy with the Chico Key Fit carseat. The base is super easy to install and remove and install again. And the carseat itself literally clicks in and out of the base and you can do it easily with one hand (again very necessary!). Plus it's one of the lighter carseats out there. This is one of those choices you'll research for weeks or months (if you're like me at least), but the best thing you can do is go to a store and try your stroller and carseat out in person. Test it for its lightness and ease of use. Carry it around. Fold it up. That's the only way to know if you'll be happy with your choice!
12. Wubba Nubs. Before having a baby I thought a paci was a paci. But then I met some little friends named Wubba Nubs. And now we have like 6 of these guys. The best feature early on is that the weight of the stuffed animal will help keep the pacifier near your baby's mouth (without the stuffed animal Ryley was constantly spitting out her pacifier and then it would easily get lost). When the baby gets older the animal will also help them to be able to get the pacifier in their mouth when they lack the dexterity to get just a pacifier alone near their mouth. Plus they double as a soft little lovey. And they come in a variety of adorable animals! Ryley's favorites are this hippo and a colorful sea turtle her grandma got her at the Jersey Shore.
13. A Sling! I have talked here before about how essential a sling has been in our life these last few months, but I cannot overstate it. In the first three months especially, a sling was such a lifesaver. Out in public it would almost always instantly put Ryley to sleep and she would stay asleep while mommy was able to eat or have a beer. At home we put her in it when she was going through her fussiest phases and it kept her calm and happy way longer than just being held would. With her in the sling I could clean and cook and do things with my hands even on the days she would not allow anyone to put her down. When she hated the stroller early on the sling allowed us to take her on long walks. The first few times I took her out on errands the sling made it so much less nerve wracking, because I knew she would stay content there. They're just great. The one pictured is Serena and Lilly market sling (and can only be found on Ebay or Amazon because they don't make them anymore sadly, let's start the petition now to bring it back!). I love it because it's so easy to take on and off which is great for running errands. I also have a Baby K'Tan which is also pretty easy to put on and off (not as much as the Serena and Lilly one, but not as complex as the Moby, which I think you must have to have an engineering degree to get on correctly). The Baby K'Tan is also nice because it evenly distributes the weight between both shoulders and the baby can face outward in it when they get older. I know "baby wearing" has become sort of a cultural thing related to attachment parenting and all that, but no matter what style of parenting you choose, a sling will be your best friend as a new mom.
14. A structured carrier. There are so many out there, but we went with the Onya Baby Outback due to good reviews and my husband's preference for a "manly" carrier :) We haven't used this a ton so far, because we've mostly used the sling, but I think as Ryley gets older we'll use it more and more (especially now that she's almost big enough to go in it without the infant insert, which is kind of tricky to use). When I have used it I've found it really comfortable and Ryley has seemed to enjoy it (if falling asleep immediately=enjoyment). The big con for this is that there is no forward facing front carry position, which may end up being something we really regret as she gets bigger. But hopefully she'll be okay being carried on our backs, because everything else about the carrier I like, especially the fact that it has lots of zippered pockets to stash keys/money/ID/etc. And R will wear it, which is definitely important!
15. A jumparoo. Ryley wasn't old enough for this until about a month ago (when she was around 4 months), but after one minor blip of fear and confusion the first time we put her in it, it has been a massive hit. We went with the Fisher Price Rainforest model , and I cannot recommend it enough. It keeps her entertained for ages (at least long in baby time, which granted is slightly different than adult time). She bounces. She plays with the toys. She chews on everything she can grab. It is a non-stop baby party. And it gives mommy some time to get stuff done (or just sit peacefully and have a glass of wine).
16. Angel Care Bath Seat. This has been just the best. We have used it from literally week 1. It fits perfectly in our sink. Ryley fit well in it when she was a few days old and she still fits great in it at almost 5 months old. The holes in it let water and soap flow through easily. It's soft. It's light. It's cheap. LOVE it.
17. Misc/Baby Beauty and Personal Care
-Diapers-have used Pampers, Huggies, and Honest. I am a peds RN and we do use Pampers in the hospital. But I have to say Huggies out of all 3 of these brands have been my favorite. They leak the least. They're the cheapest. And they're available at Costco in bulk!
-Wipes-literally does not matter. I think we buy Huggies brand also because they're available in bulk. But out of all the things you could waste money on with a baby, wipes would be like #1. You are literally using them to wipe away pee and poop. They do not need to be designer! They also do not need to be organic. I'm sorry, but your baby's bottom won't care. Again, as a peds RN, I will say that we do not use "organic" wipes at the hospital. Ryley's skin is super sensitive and Huggies brand wipes have been totally fine.
-Diaper cream-Boudreaux's Butt Paste-my favorite and we've used a few. Love the smell. Love the consistency. And it works really well.
-Lotion-Johnson and Johnson Purple Lotion. You will literally want to eat your baby.
-Shampoo/Body Wash-have used Johnson and Johson, Aveeno, and Cetaphil-all smell and work great and like I said Ryley has pretty sensitive skin
-Other misc things I would recommend are:
- Some solid nail clippers (they make ones with little magnifying glasses, which seems silly, but really helps when your baby has microscopic little nails)
-A basic thermometer that can take underarm and rectal temps (don't waste money on the infrared/forehead/pacifier/ear/magical ones, please as an RN I beg you, you need a basic thermometer that you can put up your baby's butt, a pediatrician will request a rectal temperature if you think your baby has a fever or if they have a fever using one of the other fancy thermometers because rectal is most accurate, you cannot put the ear thermometer up your baby's butt, get a basic one!)
-Children's tylenol (after 3 months, before then make sure to ask a doc first!)
-A bulb suction and saline drops if your baby gets a stuffy nose (they actually usually sell these together)
-Aquaphor (works great for anywhere your baby's skin is irritated, face, bottom, arms, you name it, Ryley had an awful rash on her chin early on from nursing and this cleared it up in like 2 days), get a giant tub of it and put it next to your changing table
-Humidifier (we didn't get one, but I know some people swear by them, and babies do tend to get stuffy/dry nasal passages)
-A cheap plastic comb/hairbrush
As far as bottles/feeding I'm not even going to get into that, because it's really trial and error to find what your baby likes. And if your baby is like mine you will spend a small fortune on every type of bottle/nipple in existence and she will refuse all of them until one day magically she takes a bottle like no big deal and then after that will take literally any kind of bottle without a care in the world.
Don't buy formula in advance unless you are exclusively formula feeding. If you are breastfeeding and just need some for supplementation down the road wait and get samples from your pediatrician's office (you never know what kind your baby will tolerate and it's better not to waste money on formula you won't end up using)! Whatever you do don't listen to Kristen Cavillari and make your own "artisan" formula from goat's milk. There are rigorous health and safety standards for baby formula out there for a reason.
And that's that. Like I said, in five months I'm sure we will have a whole new laundry list of necessary items. Babies change and grow. What is absolutely essential one day will literally be rendered useless the next. Which is why for the most part my recommendation is don't go for the most expensive option, no matter how trendy or fashionable it is. Cheaper brands like Fisher Price or Graco or Chico have been doing their thing for a long time. They know babies pretty well. Research some but don't go too crazy. If it is sold through a legitimate retailer then it's been safety tested, probably exhaustively so. Really you're buying for style/ease of use/personal preference so no matter what you get it will be okay. Keep your receipts. Ask for hand me downs/lenders if at all possible.
You and your baby will do fine :)
I'm a thirty-something mom of two, wife, pediatric RN, and writer with a passion for the all the big and little things in life.