Okay, Moms – pay attention: This is my list of what I’ve learned to be essentials and nonessentials for my family (or at least for kid number one!). I’m not claiming that this will work for yours, but simply sharing with you what I’ve learned works best for us. Here are a few good principles to remember as you read:
Determine what fits best with your family’s lifestyle. For example, we travel a lot, so I often purchase/prefer products that work both at home and on the road. Make your decisions accordingly. Also, we plan on having a large family (whether through more pregnancies or adoptions). We now find ourselves purchasing items that can be used by multiple children, and that store easily in between babies.
Use products that grow with baby. This usually saves time and money.
Sometimes it’s best to wait until after your baby arrives to purchase items based on what you or your little one(s) prefers/refuses to use. I’ve tried to distinguish below on my list which items are applicable to this.
Talk to other mothers. Find someone in a similar life stage/style as you and pick their brain for what works for them. Get different opinions and reviews on products, taking what you want and leaving the rest.
Remember the Sprout app I mentioned in my last post? That’s where this list originated. I’ve edited it below accordingly, creating a list of the items I did not use even though I had them. On Sprout, these items are conveniently arranged into the categories of Feeding, Gear, Health and Grooming, Nursery and Bedding, and Layette. I used this list when I registered, and checked off items as I received/purchased them. Of course, trips to Target abounded as we learned what we preferred, wanted or needed. Please note that this list primarily focuses on newborns, and doesn’t completely apply to infants or toddlers. I’m sure I’ll share one of those at a later time. I’ve already begun writing tips for traveling with a toddler (instead of a baby).
Breast Pump with Accessories and Storage Bags – I used Medela.
Nursing Pads – Lansinoh Disposables worked best for me.
2-4 Bottles, including nipples – I’m so glad I didn’t buy more of these initially. Because of my ability to work from home some and take my child to the office with me, I exclusively nurse B. I probably should have gotten him into the habit of taking a bottle of expressed milk at least once a day, but I just always found it more convenient to nurse him. Regardless, even if I’d been giving him a bottle once a day, I doubt I would need more than 2-4 bottles. I know my family situation is not the norm, but you still might want to wait before buying several bottles – you never know if your baby will prefer or refuse certain types.
Bottle Brush – If you plan to use lots of bottles, this is a beneficial item to own.
Nursing Pillow / Boppy – I used my Boppy solely when B was a newborn. Maybe it’s the way I learned to hold and nurse him while he was in the NICU, but I soon began preferring sitting cross-legged style on the floor, nursing him without a pillow and instead using my knees for support. Again, not the norm, I know. But I share that so you know that everyone is different. Simply experiment and learn what your preference is.
Nursing Cover – A friend stressed to me that the key for a good nursing cover is making sure it covers a lot. It’s also helpful to have one with a shaped neckline so that you can see your baby easily. I used Tommee Tippee’s Closer to Nature nursing cover and loved it.
Car Seat – We used Baby Trend, and recently upgraded to a Graco convertible car seat (5-70 lb.).
Stroller – When it comes to the big gear, I simply let my husband research and determine what we wanted. We knew a stroller would be an important part of our traveling, so we wanted a solid, durable one (able to be thrown around in a trailer with road cases and the like). Nick chose a Jeep jogging stroller that works with most brands of car seat carriers. It has survived thus far.
Bouncy Seat / Swing Combo – I registered and received each of these separately. But after some experience with a baby and conversations with other mothers, I wish I’d registered for the combination of the two. One of my friends has a son and a daughter, exactly a year apart. She owned one of these combos when her son was born, and has found it very useful to continue using with her daughter. The bouncy seat is detachable and easily movable as she cooks, follows her son outside to play, or does laundry. When the baby needs to swing for a while, she simply reattaches it to the swing and turns it on. The combination of the two takes up less space in her house and seems more functional. This will be an item on my registry for baby number two.
Wrap/Carrier/Sling – See this previous post where I talk about baby wearing. I love it. My advice is to go to a store that specializes in baby wearing, who allows you to try on different products and determine which fits you and your baby best. I did this at Nappy Shoppe, where I buy all of B’s cloth diapers. They worked with us for over an hour, even teaching me how to put B on my back by myself, first showing me and then spotting me while I practiced. I’m so glad I did this rather than simply purchasing a product without first trying it.
Activity Mat – This was great after several weeks when B became more aware of his surroundings. He enjoyed looking at the different objects dangling over his head.
Diaper Bag – I recently confessed to a friend my problem of purchasing multiple bags in attempts to find the perfect one. The most helpful advice I can give you on this is to focus on functionality with your lifestyle. Check out this previous post to see some tips on different bags for different occasions.
Nursery Monitor – We registered, received and currently use a very functional, basic monitor without a camera. It has worked fine. However, I have determined that I would prefer a camera, and I plan to have one with baby number two. Then I can simply use our current one when we travel.
Disposable Diapers or approximately 18-24 Cloth Diaper Combinations – We cloth diaper and love it. I plan to write an informative post about this. But in the meantime if you’re interested and in the DFW area, check out Nappy Shoppe. Their staff is well-informed, kind and very helpful. I’ll even take you there, since I find excuses to go at least once a month. If you choose to cloth diaper, you’ll need additional/different items than I’ve listed here.
Wet Bag (for cloth diapers) and Hamper
Diaper Rash Cream – Boudreaux’s is a classic. I use Grandma El’s with cloth diapers and love it.
2 Pacifiers – If you plan to use pacifiers (B always preferred sucking on my finger instead), this probably is something you will need to pack for the hospital. Fewer and fewer hospitals provide these anymore. We received a few simply because B spent some time in the NICU, the only segment of the hospital that Baylor Dallas provides/uses them. Like bottles, don’t buy too many of these initially – you’ll want to wait and see which ones your baby prefers/refuses.
Nasal Aspirator – Our hospital gave us several of these and they’ve proven to work better than any we bought from a store.
Nail File – Okay, I may gross some of you out with this, but I’ve still never clipped B’s nails. A nurse in our hospital suggested that I bite them, which I still do to this day. I don’t know how much longer I’ll continue that, but it’s worked fine thus far. I’ll probably use a nail file before I attempt clipping for a while, though.
Cotton Balls – We use these to wipe his eyes at bath-time.
Large Hooded Towel – Nick quickly expressed his frustration with the small hooded towels for newborns. When B was only a few weeks old, we began using a normal, adult-sized towel with a hood attached. This is something that could easily be homemade if you can’t find one. Ours was a gift. We still use it today – it seems to be more effective than the smaller hooded baby towels.
Infant Bathtub – This has been our favorite. I like products that grow with the baby. We are still using this one even though B sits up now.
Baby Wash/Shampoo and Lotion – Our favorite has been the Johnson’s Lavender Bedtime products.
Crib and Mattress
Bassinet/Side Sleeper – For B’s first two months we sat this on the floor by my side of the bed. Once we moved him to his own room, we still sat this inside his crib for another month or so.
Glider / Rocking Chair
2-3 Fitted Sheets – I have two, but sometimes wish I had three.
2-3 Waterproof Mattress Covers/Pads – See previous comment on sheets.
1 Contoured Changing Pad with Changing Table – Our family is divided on this item, ha. Nick preferred using the changing table. I seldom did. I always used the floor. B is certainly too big for our changing table now, so we use it for storing diapers.
2-3 Changing Pad Covers
Nightlight – We keep a cheap, basic one plugged in behind B’s changing table. We also travel with one since we seldom know what our lodging will be like.
Open Storage Baskets – I read this tip somewhere and completely agree with it. All of B’s burp cloths, pajamas, socks, hats, etc. are in baskets in his room – on bookshelves, closet shelves, and the changing table. It’s quick and easy to slide a basket and/or reach directly into it for whatever item you need, rather than having to remove a lid with an extra hand that you seldom have available.
Trash Can with Foot Pedal and Lid
First Aid Kit
Swaddle Blankets – I could spend a lot of time talking about this. I love these items. Remember how I said I read almost every book about pregnancy and babies? If I had to choose one book to recommend to you, it would be Happiest Baby on the Block. (And I want to note: this book was not one that I found on my own, it was recommended by my awesome doula. Tired of hearing about Becky yet?) The most valuable piece of information for us for those early newborn days came from this book – swaddling. Before you determine that your baby doesn’t like to be swaddled, read this book, please. It might gain everyone in your home some additional hours of sleep. Although we used the previously linked swaddle blankets, B was so strong and active that we had to double swaddle him. We layed another blanket one top of the swaddle blankets to keep his feet from kicking lose the first layer. Nick was a pro at this. When Becky came by to check on me a few weeks after B’s birth, she praised Nick’s swaddling job, calling B a baby burrito!
Layette – This is what people love to give as baby gifts – clothes, pajamas, receiving blankets, hats, socks, bibs, burp cloths, etc. My advice is to wait until after your showers before even thinking about this stuff. It seemed to come in abundance, especially the clothing and homemade baby blankets.
Common items on the list that I received/purchased but seldom to never used: baby brush and comb, nail clipper, baby washcloths and towels, changing table, drying rack (for baby bottles), baby swing. We registered for and were given grooming kits, but I seldom open them.
What about you? What have you found helpful for your particular lifestyle? Please share your thoughts, comments, and why you use what you use or don’t use what you previously thought you would.