Babies have a lot of stuff. (There is a lot of stuff involved in having babies?) As someone who both tries to keep the “stuff” to a minimum, and who doesn’t have unlimited funds to BUY ALL THE THINGS, these are the things that I have really found useful so far as the parent of a baby.
Ultimate Crib Sheet – Here is the secret that no one ever tells you. Actual crib sheets are a huge pain to get on and off (because mattresses are designed to fit so snugly in the crib for safety). I changed the crib sheet 3 weeks post-C section. and thought I might die. Especially when they are tiny, your baby will spit up on the sheets pretty regularly and you don’t want to have to change the actual sheet every time. Hence the Ultimate Crib Sheet – it’s a sheet that covers the actual sheet, but that attaches to the side of the crib with elastic, so you don’t have to take the whole mattress out of the crib every time baby spits up. If I was smart, I would have 2 of these, so that when one was in the wash, I could just put the other one on, but I make do just fine with one.
Swaddlers – Little babies (usually) sleep best when swaddled, and I found it much easier to use the velcro swaddlers. If you are a swaddling pro, by all means use the blanket ones (I hear good things about the aden + anais swaddle blankets), but whichever you use, I really recommend swaddling. Frances was swaddled until she was 7 months old, and I think it definitely helped with the sleeping (hers & ours).
Sleep Sheep – The Sleep Sheep is magic. We picked it up on a whim when we happened to see one in a store. Frances was maybe 2 months old at the time, and sleep was a little rough. She would wake up overnight for feedings (normal) and then take forever (1-2 hours) to go back to sleep. The Sleep Sheep saved me. I would feed her, turn on the Sleep Sheep, rock her for a few minutes, and leave. No more 2 hour fights to get her to sleep. Aaaah. I still use it both for bedtimes and for the occasional overnight wakeup.
Long-sleeved Onsies with mitten cuffs – When baby is tiny (0-3 months or so), you will want to cover their hands at least some of the time to prevent them from scratching themselves. I preferred the outfits with the built-in cuffs to the separate mittens (aka, baby boxing gloves), which had a tendency to fall off. I would put the long-sleeved onsie under her outfit (remember, we had a winter baby), and use those cuffs. Easy peesy.
Bibs – We got what felt like a million bibs as presents before Frances was born (Bibs! The ultimate unisex present!) and we thought, we will never use all of these. Additionally I thought, we won’t use any of these at all until she starts solids. Wrong! Most babies spit up (I hear there are some babies that don’t, but I think they are mythical creatures), and ours certainly did. After weeks of multiple outfit changes a day, Jami figured out that if we just put a bib on her, we’d only have to change the bib, not the whole outfit. Brilliant! (Bibs are no longer necessary for bottle feedings, but now she eats solids, so they are still being put to good use!).
For Entertaining (the Baby)
Playmat – If I had only one baby toy accessory, it would be this one. Frances has used it consistently all 8 months of her life (while other things have cycled in and out). It’s compact (pops closed and can be stored in a closet if you are feeling STUFF overwhelmed). It’s provides a comfy place to lay and practice rolling over. Now that she’s mobile, she doesn’t stay on it as long, but it’s still fun to play with the hanging toys.
For Getting Around
Moby/Ergo – Frances’ time so far has been pretty evenly split between Moby and Ergo. Moby was great for the first 4 months or so – comfy, easy for a baby to sleep in (because you can pull the fabric over their head easily making things darker and quieter). By about 5 months, Frances was big enough to use the Ergo without the infant insert (which we don’t have), and she was heavy enough that it was much more comfortable to make the switch. I find baby carriers especially helpful for public transportation (way easier than navigating the crowded metro with a stroller), and when she was tiny, I just wore her around the house all the time. She was happy, and I was able to actually get (some) things done.
Hands-Free Bra – If you are going to pump AT ALL, I really recommend getting the hands-free bra. It may look a little weird, but trust me, you do not want to have to be holding the pump onto your body for 15-20 minutes a pumping session. With the hands-free bra, you can at least read or surf the internet while pumping, making the experience much less annoying. I recommend getting the black version because it doesn’t show spots or stains as much – and as a heads up, I was able to use my Flexible Spending funds on the bra because it is a “breastfeeding supply”.
For Formula Feeding
Munchkin Formula Containers – So simple, so smart. Formula, once mixed only keeps for an hour unrefrigerated. So if you are going to be out and about during a meal time, you can’t premix the bottle(s). With this container, you just measure in the right amount and then carry bottle(s) with the appropriate amount on water in them. Easy, peasy. (I’ve also heard parents say that these are perfect for overnight feedings – keep in kid’s room, no need to go to the kitchen).
Dr. Brown’s Mixing Pitcher – When you are only mixing up 1-2 bottles of formula a day, it’s easy to do them individually. Once most meals are formula, it’s much easier to just do it once a day – voila, pitcher! I also find that it does cut down on the “frothing”
For Figuring Out What to Buy
Baby Bargains – It’s likely you will have to buy some baby equipment – a crib or a stroller, a car seat or a baby monitor. I found all of that overwhelming, so I was happy to read Baby Bargains (think of it like a baby-specific Consumer Reports), and go with something that they recommended that was a reasonable price (and most of their recommendations are reasonable).
So those are the things I have found helpful. Any handy items that I might not know about? Any suggestions for useful stuff for the parent of a toddler? (It’s coming! Oh so soon!)