It's starting to feel like a lifetime ago that Cheech was a newborn, and about two lifetimes ago that I was madly searching through baby sites and blogs to figure out exactly what she was going to need. I know that at some point on this blog I had made mention of writing regular posts about the absolute baby necessities, but I'm a new mom, and if I've learned anything in the past 9 months it's that new moms can't always do the things they intend to do. Now, however, a family member of mine is expecting a brand new baby, and since I told her I'd help her out with the must-haves and the must-have-nots, I figured I'd share the list here too.
As hard as I did try to keep my baby gear fairly streamlined, I still ended up with a bunch of stuff that was completely useless to us. I think this is somewhat unavoidable considering random gifts you'll be getting from friends and family members, and the fact that all babies are SO DIFFERENT that it's impossible to know the products that work best for them until they actually come along. So although this list does have specific brands, it consists of items that I have found to be highly successful amongst other moms I know. Here goes...
Don't even bother with other swaddling/receiving blankets, because these blankets reign supreme. We have a set of the Classic and the Bamboo, and they were both such lifesavers. First off, they are the only swaddles I'd come across that were actually big enough to properly swaddle a baby. Cheech got over conventional swaddling pretty quick, but we used these to modify swaddle her (arms out) for a few months. They're light and breathable, but still manage to keep baby warm. They're also great for diaper changes when you forget your changing mat, and perfect for blocking the sun out of strollers without creating a pitch black cave.
Those first few months, Cheech didn't want ANYTHING pulled over her head. I found myself favoring all her kimono-style onesies and tops to avoid a baby-panic attack every time we dressed her. My favorite ones, BY FAR, were by Baby Soy. Super soft cotton in solid colors that are actually very lovely... how can you go wrong? I was obsessed with her Baby Soy Kimono Top; She only had one, but I kid you not, she wore it until it was a crop top on her.
This thing SAVED us (I wrote all about it here). In fact, we had a regular Boppy, and I can count the number of times we used it on one hand. I had developed pretty severe carpel tunnel due to pregnancy that tok months to clear up. My doctor suggested that I prop Cheech on a pillow and lay next to her during feedings instead of holding her, because my condition was so bad. Had it not been for the newborn lounger, that wouldn't have exactly been the easiest thing to do.
Since Cheech became a bottle-fed baby by the time she was a month old, bottles were serious business for us. Before she was born, I was concerned with making sure we used glass bottles, but not much else. I quickly learned that a "cool-looking" bottle does not necessarily a good bottle make. I had two issues when it came to bottle-feeding with Cheech. Once was that she was extremely gassy, and the second was that she liked to take her sweet ass time polishing off her bottles. I found that the flow on most of the nipples I tried resulted in 30- 45 minute feedings... and that was when she was only taking about 2 1/2 ounces at a time. The Dr. Brown's bottles were the solution to both my problems, and I've never looked back. The day we started using them, I noticed she was getting much less tummy aches, and feedings were starting to move along a little more efficiently. She still eats like a bird (rarely takes more than 3-4 ounces at a time), but at least she's getting them down in about 15 minutes. HUGE improvement. Oh, and look, they come in glass.
OK, so it took four months before Cheech warmed up to the idea of being toted around in a carrier. But after about twenty crying fits in her Ergo, I am happy to say that she FINALLY reformed. Baby wearing is AWESOME; I love it, Cheech loves it, and it's safe to say that it has made our life so much easier. It's great (and about a million times easier than a stroller) for running just about every errand, going for walks, and lending a helping hand when Cheech is dealing with some serious separation anxiety (pretty common as of late). I plan on wearing her for years to come, and of all the carriers I've tried, the Ergo is hands down my favorite.
"Gerry" is actually just the name we gave this sweet little guy. There's a sheep version too, if that's more your style. Bottom line: It doesn't have to be Gerry or the sheep, but do yourself a favor and get a sound machine. Your baby will sleep SO MUCH more soundly. I'm pretty sure it was one of the first things I suggested to Jamie, and they ended up using an industrial fan. Whatever works, works. We also have an app on our phones and our iPad... that's how strongly I believe in the power of white noise when it comes to babies. We still use Gerry for traveling, but we're currently using this machine at home.
To be perfectly honest, we're all about breaking the baby rules in this house, and Cheech has been sleeping under a blanket with a pillow since she was about 5 months old. At that point she was fully rolling back and forth in her sleep, and fighting me for *my* pillow every night, so I figured she was probably ready to sleep like a big girl. Before that, however, I heavily relied on sleep sacks to keep her warm at night. She only lasted in them for a couple months before she learned how to sleep on her side, and therefore no longer wanted a sleep sack or to be swaddled, but I'd use them anyway on extra cold nights. I'd also like to add that many babies will, in fact, still use sleep sacks well into their toddler years, so they're still a great investment.
If you remember, Cheech HATED baths in the beginning. Now, she starts crawling toward the bathroom right around five o'clock every night to remind me that she needs a bath before bedtime. She has become obsessed. Those first few months, we ended up just giving her sponge baths, but right around her third month is when I transferred her to her EuroBath. Ok, so I know it just looks like some giant tub, but it is so much more. One side securely holds younger babies who are still not able to sit up on their own. And by "securely", I mean your baby ain't going anywhere (this is obviously not suggesting you leave the room while your baby is in the tub... you know that, right?). I can't tell you how nice it is to plop your baby in a tub and have TWO HANDS totally free to wash and rinse all those little fat folds. I've never had to worry about Cheech slipping and sliding all over the place in this tub. In fact, even though she's been sitting up for months now, she still enjoys the reclining position because she loves kicking her little heart out in the splashy water. I'm certain I'll be using it until we transfer her to showers.
I'm pretty sure this is the only brand of baby socks that actually STAY ON. Very handy when you're trying to keep extra tiny feet warm.
Must Have Nots
Remember my stroller woes? Oh man, had I known what I know now, I would have totally held off on the stroller. Chances are, you'll be able to roll your new baby around in their infant carrier/car seat for those first few weeks, or even months, so no need to rush into purchasing a stroller. My MIL had gifted us a B.O.B stroller before Cheech was born, and we love it now, but it's really not suitable for tiny, little infants. I would say that we didn't actually start religiously using it until she was around 5 months old. Trust me, your baby doesn't need a stroller right away. I'm not saying not to buy a stroller, but I am saying it is something you can wait on until after he/she is born.
Like Jamie and Ben, Joe and I also co-sleep with our baby. Now, I'm perfectly aware that co-sleeping is not for everyone, but if there is even the tiniest bit of you considering it, skip the crib. We had discussed co-sleeping but honestly, I really didn't think we were going to go with it. But when Cheech was born, EVERYTHING changed. She kind of didn't give us a choice. I don't want to get to into it in this post (I'll save it for another), but Cheech sleeps better when she sleeps with us. So, co-sleeping it is. Don't get me wrong... the crib is great when I need somewhere to put her while I draw her a bath, or need to use the bathroom, but we could have just gone with a Pack n' Play. Remember, your baby will most likely be in a bassinet those first couple months anyway; The crib can wait.
Yeah, don't even bother... or, at least, keep them to a minimum. Remember, they can't actually play with toys until they're at least 4-5 months old. For those first few months, they're so preoccupied with getting to know their new world, that something as simple as a ceiling fan is about all the entertainment they can handle. Cheech has a teddy bear/rattle that she's had and loved since the beginning, but it was quite a while before she took the time to notice any of her other toys. Books, however, she's always been big on. Babies LOVE to hear their parents voices, so reading to them is a win win in my opinion.
Photo, Anna Hedges