I always like reading these types of posts because I learn about new things that I never knew existed — case in point, I just yesterday discovered these bottle labels from one of my kid’s classmates. Genius! So here are the things that have gotten me through the first five-ish months of parenthood.
The early days
There’s not a whole lot to taking care of a newborn…pretty much just eat, sleep repeat. The most important thing was having HELP — not help with the baby, since I was nursing, but help with the household, dog, cooking, etc. But there are a few products that did stand out.
the first few weeks of my baby’s life were pretty much all about breastfeeding. Nursing-friendly clothes, a pillow, nursing pads, lanolin — all key to survival! I liked the lansinoh brand of lanolin best — yes, it was really sticky, but also effective.
My parents very generously gifted us this one, which I liked because it fits well in our compact living space, and can still be used long after our babies no longer need to be rocked to sleep. I seriously lived in this thing during my maternity leave.
Muslin swaddle blankets
Aden + Anais are the preferred brand for the royal family, but honestly I have some carter’s brand too and can’t really tell the difference. These are great all-purpose blankets, for things like draping over the carseat in the germy pediatrician’s office, covering your boppy pillow when it gets drenched in spit-up and you haven’t had a chance to wash it, as a burp cloth, floor mat, and for a little warmth on chilly fall/spring days. I didn’t use them much for actually swaddling, though. For that, I used:
So much easier in the middle of the night, and they actually stay swaddled. There are a bunch of different brands — we started with these, which were fine, but not multifunctional. In retrospect I would have just gone with the Halo Sleep Sack, which we used to wean him off the swaddle and are still using as a regular old sleep sack on chilly nights.
New Yorker Subscription
Not exactly a baby item, but essential nonetheless! It’s striking how when you have a newborn, you feel like you scarcely have a chance to get up to pee or eat, and yet are basically spending most of your day sitting around. While I am not the best reader of books, I am a voracious consumer of long-form journalism. I pretty much devoured each issue of the New Yorker when it came each week, keeping me intellectually stimulated during those middle of the night feedings. A Netflix subscription was pretty great to have too!
I resisted for a while, but it has really cut down on the time I wasted running errands or waiting until I reached the minimum order amount to qualify for free shipping.
Out and About
Once we moved past the “fourth trimester,” it became less about survival mode. These items helped me when we ventured out of the house and when I went back to work.
I think I won’t LOVE any stroller until someone engineers one that is magically the weight and compactness of an umbrella stroller and yet fully-featured and rugged like that of an expensive stroller like the BOB or UppaBaby, with the ability to convert into a double. We settled on the Britax b-agile because it seemed like a hybrid of the two, and I DO love that it folds so easily and compactly and fits well in my car/home. But, I feel like it is still too big and heavy and will ultimately end up getting an umbrella stroller anyway. And if I’m going to still going to end up with two strollers, well I kind of wish I had just gone with a big, fancy stroller to begin with. But at the end of the day, I also think that it would have been a pain getting a huge stroller up and down the 10 steps to my house, and loading (and fitting) in and out of the car. So I probably wouldn’t change anything, could I go back in time.
Another thing I do love about the britax b-agile is that it is compatible with the bassinet attachment. While it surely fulfilled my fantasies of pushing a baby around in an old-school pram, I also found it very useful as a moses basket for little naps around the house, and as a travel crib. It folds down flat and doesn’t take up too much precious space in the car!
It took me a while to get the hang of using a carrier/wrap, but I am now totally a believer in babywearing. It’s an instant baby-calmer and sometimes that is the only place he’ll nap! I’ve also gotten the hang of breastfeeding while wearing him which is very convenient when out and about.
Aden + Anais burpy bib
Everyone says that cloth diapers make the best burp cloths, and while they’re really absorbent they’re kind of small/awkwardly shaped. You can’t really drape them over your shoulder well. Enter the burpy bib. They are contoured so they fit well on your shoulder AND are large enough to protect the front of your blouse. So essential for our morning commutes in the carrier to keep my work clothes dry! As a bonus you can snap them on your baby and voilà, it’s a bib! Love anything multifunctional.
You’re not really a “mommy blogger” (ugh…) until you have dedicated blog space to extolling the virtues of this disgusting and yet effective mechanism for clearing your child’s nostrils, are you? By the way this product is raved about online, I practically expected it to cure the common cold itself. Needless to say, I was a little disappointed. It is not a miracle worker. I can see, however, how someone who had been previously using one of those useless bulb aspirators would find this product revelatory.
I am kind of weird about storing and serving things in plastic, so I knew I wanted to use glass bottles. These are expensive but I swear to you, I throw them in my bag, take them on the metro, and at daycare they go from fridge to crock pot and they do.not.break. When you’re through with them as bottles, you can add a sippy cup top, or just a regular screw-on top and use them as reusable water bottles for yourself! Worth every penny. My only complaint is while they fit on my Ameda pump at home, I learned the hard way that they are not really compatible with the Medela pump I use at work.
In spite of the stupid name and high price tag, I have yet to find a product made by this brand that isn’t miraculous. LOVE their diaper rash cream, baby lotion, and their line of “mama” products for, ahem, postpartum relief.
Under the Nile
He has a footed sleeper and a few toys from this line, and they are the most unbelievably soft organic cotton you’ve ever felt. The sleeper is a flannel-like material that is nice and warm, and I like to put him in at night now that it’s cold. I read that synthetic, fleece pajamas all inherently include flame retardants, and felt like my efforts to find a healthier mattress would all be moot if I am just putting him clothing that contains the chemicals. So I am glad to have discovered a line of clothing that is warm and safe.
These clothes just seem to fit him perfectly — they are made for long and skinny babies! And they are so affordable. I’ve also heard, but have not verified, that Carter’s is one of the few remaining brands whose outlet stores are actually outlets, rather than “factory stores.” They hold up and wash very well for the price!
The one thing I DO hate about them is how half of the stuff they make has some ridiculous and cutesy wording like “mommy’s little cutie pie” on the front. Ugh. Carters, why must you ruin a perfectly good onesie with a stupid little saying???
My insurance company sent me an Ameda Purely Yours pump, and though it was free to me (well, “free,” I do pay through the nose in premiums), it retails for like half the cost of the Medela pumps and I think it works really well! I use a Medela hospital grade pump at work, and can also say I think the Ameda is much more hygenic and has fewer little parts to wash. Their customer service is also great — when I was having some suction problems they overnighted me an entire new pump kit.
I haven’t really found any parenting “how-to” books useful — as mystical as it sounds, you know your baby and you need to mostly let your instincts take over. But there are some that are not so much guides as they are informational and thought-provoking, and helped with my perspective and approach to things.
What baby items have you found essential? What products does everyone rave about that you could do without? I’d love to hear your thoughts!