Having a Baby? 36 Products and Tools You Need for those First Three MonthsExpectant Moms, new baby, Parenting Tricks — By Rebekah on June 26, 2008 at 8:16 am
With several friends who are having their first (or second or third) babies soon, and because, to these new Moms at least, I’m considered an “expert” (after all, I’ve got two boys who are now almost-3 and almost-1 year old), I’m being asked a lot nowadays for advice on What to Buy for Baby. In a prior life (with more time on my hands than as an entrepreneur), I might have gone registry shopping with a friend, or spent time over lunch leisurely perusing a registry list and offering advice. But now, this advice becomes a blog entry, which will actually serve a triple purpose: helping my friends, the Moms Out Loud Mom community, and myself. Yes, Jim and I are officially trying for our third (the ovulation kit is on my shopping list for this weekend).
WHAT TO BUY FOR BABY
DIAPERING – My own simple calculation suggests that you will change just over 8000 diapers per baby from birth to potty-training (at age 3). That’s a lot. So you want to get this right.
1. Diaper Bag: I’m probably breaking some rule of blogging here, but I have to confess on this one: I don’t know the best answer. I bought a unisex-looking Eddie Bauer backpack for Jack, thinking this would be a great way for my husband or me to haul diapering supplies around. I hated it every day until the strap literally broke when he was just over 1 year old. (They no longer sell this, so maybe they figured out it was crap). For now, we are using (I’m blushing) literally the free Similac bag that we got at the hospital when Luke was born (for me) and a standard Jansport backpack (for Jim). Why are we using these? Other than me being a horrible shopper (why go find something else when you have something that works, even though it is ugly and made of the cheapest fake vinyl stuff), they’ve got the most pockets – and I’ve found organization is key in traveling with your baby. You need to be able to find wipes, hand sanitizer, tissues, extra diapers, extra clothes, etc. at a second’s notice. A friend of mine swears by her J.J. Cole System diaper bag ($56). Would love to hear your ideas, so please comment back!
2. Diapers: With a newborn who basically truly only eats, sleeps, and poops, diapers are an essential. The best I found are Pampers Swaddlers, although other Moms have told me that they also tried several and ended up with Huggies Gentle Care or even the Kirkland brand from Costco. You should have a pack at home for when the baby arrives (read my blog on “How Many Diapers a Day?” for an idea of quantities required, at least initially). Because both my babies were large (8+ lbs. each), we skipped the newborn size entirely and went with size 1. Plus, just like Momma likes her clothes a little baggy, I’m a fan of slightly bigger diapers than the size guide says.
3. Wipes: Due to quantity used (my record is seven in one diaper change) and the fact that I can’t tell a real difference between effectiveness of different brands, I stick with Kirkland brand from Costco. They’re a good size, so you can do simple changes with one wipe without feeling like you need a little more and also not feeling like you’re wasting anything and hurting the environment. My only complaint is the packaging; generally the plastic pack is OK, but because I keep a pack in every well-used room of my house and both cars, it would be nice to have a nice holder. (When will they come up with a wipes holder like they have for facial tissue? I can picture one with pink flowers or blue airplanes for the nursery, green/brown stripe for the mini-van, etc.)
4. Boudreaux Butt Paste: This is, quite simply, the best over-the-counter diaper rash cream I’ve (and my other Mom friends) have found. You will need Boudreaux in a large size for every changing station and a travel size for every diaper bag.
5. Changing Pad/Cover with Waterproof Pad: You will definitely need a set place to change the baby, that is not on the floor and not on the bed. Reason: you will want leverage (i.e., standing up) to change them, especially when they get squirmy around 5-6months. For both boys, we opted for a 3-drawer chest instead of the standard changing table for its height (it’s taller than standard changing tables) and because we wanted closed drawers instead of shelves. (Read my blog on Gravity if you wonder why this is important; less temptation the better.) You will want a two-side contoured changing pad with a changing pad cover that matches your nursery. Your registry list will tell you to buy more than one cover (which are $15-25 each), but skip that and just get three or four waterproof pads ($8.99 for 3, or $3 each) and throw them in the laundry as needed.
6. Wipes Warmer: The wipes warmer was an item I originally didn’t register for, and I wished I had. When your baby wakes up in the middle of the night for their feedings/diaper change, you want them to go back to sleep asap. For some reason, having those wipes warm seemed like it would allow them to slip back into dreamland a bit easier. We’ve gone through two Prince Lionhart Wipes Warmers, and I would recommend them to everyone.
7. Dimmer switch for a lamp: Again, in the middle of the night, you will want to keep the room as dark as possible when changing the baby. We opted for a standard lamp and added a lamp dimmer switch ($10.97) to it so we could control the amount of light and also how quickly the baby needs to adjust to it. If you are a real Sleep Nazi like me, you may even opt for a trick I found with my second baby – using a LED reading light for middle of the night changings (recommended only once you are a diapering expert).
NURSING/FEEDING: Whether breast or bottle, feeding will take up most of your time with your infant for the first few months. Investments (and a few tricks) here will pay off.
8. Boppy Pillow: A baby staple, this pillow is extremely useful for feedings, for helping your baby with tummy time, and for giving him a place to rest on his back with an improved vantage point that laying down flat. You probably already either have one or have registered for one. Smart.
9. A breastfeeding class: This was one class I took before having my first son that paid off. While I will never tell anyone that breastfeeding is easy, this class helped me. Hospitals in your area will offer these at multiple times; sign up for one. At the least, take advantage of the lactation consultant who will come by to see you during your hospital stay to get some instruction. And if you still don’t have the hang of it, find a good lactation consultant (hospitals have a list – so will Moms Out Loud when we go live!).
10. Lansinoh cream: A friend of mine from college sent me one item when she heard I was pregnant: Lansinoh cream. When I got it (at 7 months pregnant), I didn’t quite know why she thought it was so important to send this one item, in quite a large size. After two days of trying to breastfeed, I understood. I went through that value-size plus several more during the 12 weeks I breast fed Jack. You will need this, even with good eaters.
11. Nursing bra: While I did not buy a lot of nursing tops because I found I spent most days in T-shirts or my husband’s button down shirts, my search for a good nursing bra ended with one I wore almost all the time (a $12 cotton bra from Motherhood Maternity) and several I pulled out when my favorite was in the wash, including more expensive options. At night, I slept in the basic sleeping nurse bra ($14.98), again from Motherhood Maternity.
12. A selection of bottles and nipples: A big mistake I made with Jack was registering for a “starter pack” of Dr. Brown’s bottles because that was the bottle in vogue at the time. And I got it. And then, those bottles became our measuring devices (they’ve got great labeling on the sides) for the water we then poured into our Playtex nursing drop-ins (by the way, the Target private label drop ins work just as well, but NOT the Wal-Mart Parent’s Choice ones of which I used two and threw the rest of the box away). My point: your baby will have to tell you what bottle/nipple system is right for them. Try a few and see what works best.
13. Breast Pump: DON’T buy a breast pump until after you know for sure you will be breastfeeding and pumping. With Jack, I pumped a few times a day because he had a very weak suck and was not making me produce enough milk, so I pumped to get my production up. With Luke, I pumped once during the entire 10 weeks I breast fed. The Medela Pump In Style was a good choice for me, but honestly I would have come out ahead if we had rented a pump (you can do so at lactationconnection.com). Or, just borrow a pump from a friend and bring home the plastic parts that the hospital will give you with their breast pump. It really works fine.
14. Breast Pump Bra: A product I heard about at a recent baby shower is a hands-free breast pumping bra. There are different types out there, but one is the Easy Expression Bustier – Hands Free Nursing Bra ($29.95 – $42.00). Basically, it holds the suction cups on your breast pump in place so that your hands are free to do other things while pumping – giving you back at least 20 min per pumping session. BUT – an even better idea is to take a sports bra and cut out small holes over the nipple area. Works the same way and you can save $15-20+. Maybe I would have pumped more with Luke had I known about this trick!
15. Nursing Pads: I heard about the Lily Padz when my second son was born, and ordered them right away. When I first tried the Lily Padz, I thought I had scored big. They were comfortable, breathable, felt great, and were supposed to be constantly reusable. But…they lasted about 2 weeks. I thought I had followed the usage and washing instructions, tried everything I could to get the “suction” back, but it didn’t work. Out they went. Back in came my standard washable cotton nursing pads, a bit more expensive (4/$4.90) than disposable but easy to wash (you’re doing laundry all the time anyway) and much more comfortable than the throwaways due to better breathability.
16. Gerber Breast Milk Bags: If you do pump, you will need to store your milk at some point. Don’t buy the plastic storage bottles; they’re too expensive and you will likely need to many of them if you plan to freeze any of your milk. The best bags I found are the Gerber Seal ‘n Go bags (25/$5.99) they actually do stand up after you fill them, which makes storage a lot easier. They are a little more expensive than the Lansinoh option (50/$9.99) but worth it.
TRANSPORTING: You spend a lot of time on-the-go, so your baby will, too. Here are a couple of things I learned along the way with my two little-ones.
17. Check car compatability. Not every car seat fits in every car. Check out www.CarSeatData.org to search your vehicle compatability with different car seats that you have in mind. This is web forum where users (like you!) enter compatability scores, so it’s not perfect. If you can’t find the information you need, check the car seat in your car before you buy. When you get serious about a certain style, your retailer should allow you the chance to test fit before you buy.
18. Test the feel of lot of different kinds. Do as I say, not as I did – which was basically to pick an infant car seat based on how well it matched my car by color of car seat cover. Bad idea. Test several for feel carrying, ease of getting in/out of stroller base and car seat base, etc.
19. Research the latest technology. I won’t pretend to know the best car seat/stroller. After all, I purchased mine almost three years ago – and even in that short amount of time things have changed dramatically. A quick trip to Lone Star Baby & Kids had my head spinning as I watched a very helpful sales associate demonstrate a car seat/stroller combination option to an expectant mother. A floor display on a new car seat/stroller called Teutonia gave me the impression of buying a customized couch, not a car seat. What I did decide is that when we do have our third, we’ll be getting a new infant seat/stroller.
SLEEPING: My first encounter with sleep deprivation was with my my first son, and almost pushed me over the edge. I went back to work at 11 weeks and was a basketcase by 16 weeks due to lack of sleep. Lots of lessons learned here; you get to benefit from them.
20. Moses basket: When my former employer sent a Moses basket to my hospital room the day I delivered my first son, I had to ask the nurse what it was for. Quickly, I learned, and it became both son’s sleeping spot until they literally grew out of it by two months old. In the early days, when they can sleep anywhere and everywhere, it was wonderful because you could bring them around room to room with you as you went about your daily activities. At night, we had them sleep in the Moses basket that we put in our hand-me-down bassinet because it seemed so much cozier. When we decided it was time to have the boys sleep in the nursery instead of our room, we introduced them to the crib by placing them in the Moses basket in the crib initially. There are a lot of options out there now, including these from Lilly Bean Designs and The Nursery Window.
21. Baby Swing: Another book I highly recommend is The Happiest Baby on the Block, by Dr. Harvey Karp. But – don’t buy it, just borrow your friend’s or the library’s, because once you learn the 5 S’s from the book, you’re golden. Another friend I know of says 20 minutes of the video is all you need. One of his “S’s” is Swinging, and since it was the only thing that would calm Jack down at the “witching hours” late in the day right around dinner, I have to say I’m a convert. The best swing I’ve seen (sadly, not mine) is this one from Graco, the Lovin’ Hug Swing ($130).
22. Healthy Sleep Habits/Happy Child: When I had Jack, encountering sleep deprivation for the first time in my life literally sent me almost off the deep end. I read every book out there on the market on infant sleep and made color coded Excel-based sleep charts so I could track every moment of sleep. The only book out there on sleep worth its salt (in my opinion) is Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, by Marc Weissbluth. I didn’t find it particularly well-written, but he gives good practical advice in his vignettes and there are several fundamental premises he bases his sleep training on which I identified with. I now have two great sleepers – Jack from 4 months on and Luke from about 6 months on.
23. Video Monitor: I remember seeing these in the store when Jim and I were registering and making the comment: “Wow. Who would need that? Isn’t that overkill?” Seven weeks later, we were back in the store, buying one because as we were trying to get Jack to fall asleep on his own, I couldn’t handle just hearing him and needed to also see him. (Please see my blog “Judge Not…” if I’ve just offended you; I’ve learned my lessons!) We are on our second type now; the first one we bought, the Safety First Sights & Sounds Video Monitor ($144) stopped working at 11 months (which, according to reviews we’ve now seen online is not unusual and in fact is almost like clock-work). Our second, this Summer Infant Baby Quiet Sounds Color Handheld Monitor ($181), has been going strong for two years and we also have added another camera (available on the Summer website for $100) to it so that we can switch between views of Jack’s room and Luke’s room.
24. Swaddle blanket: I am a firm believer in swaddling babies, especially until they’ve outgrown their startle reflex (around 3 months or older). (This is another one of the Happiest Baby S’s – Swaddle.) Receiving blankets might work for the first week or so, but your baby will quickly outgrow them. The Miracle Blanket ($29.95) was the only one that worked for us; both boys were far to strong (and big) for The Swaddle Me by Kiddopotamus ($10-$13) or the Boppy swaddle blanket ($10). I’ve also heard from some Moms that the SwaddleDesigns Ultimate Receiving Blanket ($24.99) works great – at 40×40, it’s a generous size for swaddling (though you’ll have to learn how yourself versus “wrapping” your child up like a burrito like the Miracle Blanket).
25. Pacifier: I had grand plans of not giving my babies pacifiers…until I actually had children and knew what the term “strong need to suck” actually meant. Once I figured out that “feeding on demand” for Jack was actually a form of using me as a human pacifier, we quickly bought several different types of pacifiers for him to try. The one he and Luke both settled on was the Mam paci, available everywhere. (This is actually also one of the S’s from the Happiest Baby book – Sucking.)
26. Noise machine: White noise can also help babies sleep, blocking out some of the noise of the household. You can buy these anywhere, including this Conair model at Target ($19.99). (You guessed it – another one of the S’s – Shushing.)
27. Heartbeat CD: I learned a hard lesson about rocking your babies to sleep with Jack. Simply put, the lesson is: DON’T. You will be tempted, but don’t do it. The crying later as you try to train them to sleep on their own is not worth it. What I did like from those rocking sessions is this CD: Jesus Loves Me Fast Asleep (Amazon, $14.99). It has your favorite songs from Vacation Bible School with heartbeats playing in the backdrop. I used it at various times with my boys and just loved it, though it will not magically make your child fall asleep (as it claims).
28. Ocean Wonders Aquarium: What did help Jack sleep (besides the paci) was the Ocean Wonders Aquarium ($37) that we hung on his crib. By four months old, he could kick it to turn it back on, so we would hear him in the middle of the night kick it back on to hear “Brahm’s Lullaby” if he woke up.
29. Room-darkening curtains: One thing I strongly believe in is that giving your child a set place to sleep (as much as you can, which can be hard when you have older kids with their own schedules and activities) can help them learn how to fall asleep and stay asleep on their own. For good naps, room-darkening curtains are key (especially in this bright Texas summer sun). Here’s a set you can use behind any standard curtains that match your nursery. (By the way, for those of you paying attention and thinking that the other S might be “shade?”. Nope – it’s side/stomach. Read more here.)
BATHING: For both my boys, bathing was a fun ritual from the start and remains so today. Enjoy this time with them; it just might be your favorite part of the day.
30. Infant tub: We tried, no kidding, four different baby tubs with Jack. Nothing worked well, but I had settled for our third choice – until my sister came in and announced I needed the “blue one”. She went to the store for me and came home with the First Years Sure Comfort Deluxe Newborn to Toddler Tub ($17.99). Sure enough, she was right. The green hammock is great for when they are infants (even when you can only do sponge baths), and the tub itself worked for the boys until they were ~6 months. It’s now my standard baby gift basket for my new Mom friends.
31. Aveeno bath wash: I figure bathing our boys in the Baby Aveeno Wash & Shampoo ($4.29/8oz) is splurging on them like buying myself the Bath & Body Works Sensual Amber Body Splash. Although it costs 15X more per ounce than my own personal shampoo (yes, I buy the good old standard Suave for me), it’s worth it when I smell their yummy clean hair when we’re reading books before bed. The Aveeno Lavendar lotion ($4) is also great for keeping their buttery soft skin buttery soft.
PLAYING: The lack of play my boys engaged in early on was actually a surprise for me. I don’t know what I expected – or that I even had any expectations, in fact – but I guess when people said all babies do are “eat, sleep, poop”, I didn’t quite believe them. I do now. But – I did find a few things that kept them engaged during those awake play times.
32. Play Mat: From almost day 1, we had both Jack and Luke playing on their mats. Who knows if they got anything out of it, but we felt like we were good parents for giving them lots of interesting things to look at. Eventually they learned to kick the music on and touch the different parts of the mat to make different sounds. Our favorite, and that of many of our friends, is the Infantino play gym ($60), although several less expensive options are available.
33. Bouncer chair: Another essential; we bought one of the lower-end options and have been very pleased with it. Luke spent more time in it than he probably should have (as evidenced by his late crawling at 11 months), but it kept him happy. It’s the Bright Starts Bouncing Buddies Bouncer ($20).
34. Mirror: This was the only thing that would keep Jack or Luke on tummy time – being able to look at the “baby” in the mirror. A cheap, fun toy option is the Sassy Me in the Mirror ($12.99).
CLOTHING: Obviously, there’s an endless variety out there. Here are just a couple of suggestions.
35. Onesies: Unless you are a much more efficient diaper-er than I am, or your baby is the first baby in the world not to spit up a lot, you will likely go through 2-3 onesies/outfits per day, especially in the first few months. You will need a variety of different options. As much as I love Target, the onesies that come in a pack of 5 are only worth the money if you wear them under other things. In my experience, spending a little more for some thicker, more substantial onesies is the best option if your baby will wear them alone (like summer babies). Try these from Old Navy and The Children’s Place, or if you want to spend a little more (though, honestly, why?) Baby Gap has some good ones that are ultra-cute.
36. Pants: With my first son, I dressed him in one-piece play rompers consistently, until he was around 9 months old. Then I discovered pants. His bottom rarely saw another romper, and his brother only wore them on the occasions where we had run out of pants and we were backed up on laundry. My point: Pants are better than rompers. It’s the same principle for why, as a tall woman, I prefer tankinis over 1 piece swimsuits (even “long torso” ones) – having a top + a pant fits a wider variety of babies and you don’t have to worry about longer torsos/longer legs/etc. (Yes, one size does not fit all with babies, either.) My favorites, once again, were from Old Navy and The Children’s Place – great staples that look good and have lasted through two boys now.