Congratulations! You're pregnant! One of the first things you probably did was run out and buy some pregnancy books, and spent the next week reading them all cover to cover. Soon after that you likely started thinking about how fun it will be to start buying all the STUFF for baby! We see so much baby stuff everywhere. Advertised in magazines and on TV, recommended by friends and family and any stranger who gets a whiff of your being pregnant. There's just. so. much. stuff.
But how much of it is really necessary? Or even useful?
Any seasoned parent will tell you that the bulk of what they received at their baby showers either was never used or not all it was cracked up to be. The trend of the moment may not be the most practical gift.
Of course, everyone's "need" list will look a bit different. This is the list I wish I could give to first-time-pregnant-me, from three-kids-later-me.
A Good Carseat
This one may seem obvious. Of course you're going to buy a carseat. And if you're anything like me, you're going to spend hours and hours pouring over research & reviews about which one is the best one. But one thing I've learned after having several CPST friends, is there is no ONE perfect seat. The best seat you can buy is the one that fits your car the best. So take that research & hit up your local big box baby store & try some out. Yes! Many stores will accompany you to your car with several seats so you can actually install them & see how well they fit. Another important note is that you don't have to get the infant seat. Many people go right to a rear-facing convertible seat and never deal with lugging around the huge monstrosity that is an infant seat. And don't invest in any aftermarket positioning devices (like a head positioner or shoulder belt pads) or blankets that zip into the seat behind the baby. The only thing that should be between the belts and the seat is the baby. Check out The Carseat Lady for lots of great safety info. Then find your local CPST at SafeKids.org and schedule an appointment with them before and after baby gets here.
A Good Baby Wrap or Carrier
Having been a babywearer for almost 10 years now, I can tell you that buying a good baby carrier will be so much easier for you than it was for first-time-mom-me. I was gifted with a Bjorn with my first, but thankfully I'd educated myself a bit on comfort and safety of carriers, and decided to return it. Finding the Ergo I replaced it with wasn't as easy as just exchanging it at the store. Ergos then were a specialty item. But now you can get a wide range of great carriers at most big box stores, and some beautiful options at smaller specialty stores. With my first baby I had that Ergo (that I loved, and lived with us for many years and all three babies), and a Moby wrap. I swore by my Moby wrap. I'd stick my fussy baby in it, walk around the block, and she was out. Naptime win! With my third I upped my game a bit, and traded my Ergo in for a Tula and my Moby in for a woven wrap. And then a ring sling. And a Mei Tai. And another ring sling. If you're lucky enough to have a babywearing group in your area, go to one of their meetings & check out their lending library! Babywearing has so many benefits for both mom & baby (less crying... from both of you!). If you're on Whidbey, check out Whidbey Island Babywearers.
Yes, babywearers, I said it. A stroller. But there's a huge caveat to this one. Ditch that mammoth travel system for something light & spry! If you do choose to go the infant seat route, I can't recommend enough a basic stroller base like the Snap N Go. But even that will only get you so far. I opted for a high quality umbrella stroller, and there are plenty out there. The UppaBaby G-Lite is what I got. It's handles are tall enough for me (something I struggle with); it has a pretty good sized, easily accessible basket; it steers nicely; and the best part: it doesn't fill my entire trunk. This is especially important when you're a few kids in and that trunk is now filled with soccer gear, Girl Scout supplies, and backpacks. New mom me went through at least 3 strollers before learning this lesson. I used a stroller so infrequently I didn't want or need a huge one, but I did want something good quality.
Rock N Play Sleeper
The Rock N Play Sleeper has been the target of scrutiny for years, however, I dare you to find a mom who had one & didn't absolutely love it. I didn't invest in one until baby number three came around. What was I thinking!?! It's the best. It keeps baby in a slightly inclined position to help with that reflux so many babies suffer from. Most have a vibrate feature to soothe your baby off to la la land. And it folds easily so transporting it from room to room or even out & about with you is a breeze. Seriously. This is the best thing ever.
Natural Foo Foo Stuff
I'm a little bit crunchy. Like granola. I'm not SUPER crunchy, but I still think I fall firmly into the crunchy camp. I mean, I've had babies at home & nursed them for several years. So it should come as no surprise that when it comes to my baby gear, I like the natural foo foo stuff. Mostly this means organic clothing & bedding, and more natural brands of shampoos and lotions free of parabens, pthalates, and SLSs. My go-to lotion is coconut oil. My antiseptic cream is breastmilk. But I also couldn't live without amber teething necklaces for my littles, and whether you cloth diaper or not, there's nothing beating diaper cream in stick form to avoid sticky, gross fingers.
A Huge Water Bottle
This may seem like a strange thing for a baby gear blog, but trust me on this. When my close friends and family get pregnant, I start assembling a "my favorite things" gift basket for them. And the central item in each basket is a huge water bottle with a straw. I don't know why having a straw makes drinking so much easier, but it does. Hydration is SO important, both throughout pregnancy and in the postpartum period, especially if you're nursing. And without fail you'll sit down to nurse, immediately feel like you're deathly parched, and have no water at hand. Enter CoolGear. When I had my first baby at a hospital I was sent home with a huge water bottle that I adored (despite it's ugliness). When I was planning a home birth for my second it was one of the few things I knew I'd miss. So I hunted down this fantastic bottle that's a cornerstone of my baby gift giving. And much prettier than it's hospital counterpart. Trust me on this.
NoseFrida & Boogie Wipes
Two other items that always make the "my favorite things" basket are the NoseFrida and Boogie Wipes. There's nothing more pitiful than a baby with a cold. And for a mom who's likely already low on sleep, nothing more painful. NoseFrida to the rescue! There are several knock off designs and from my personal experience they seem to work just as well. But this is the original, the best known, and most easily found version. While it may sound gross to some, if you've ever fought with a bulb syringe this will come as a welcome relief. One end in baby's nose, straw end in to your lips, filter in between, and suck. It's amazing.
Boogie wipes are saline wipes that work magic on gross, dried on snot (or food, or whatever) that babies and kids seem to always manifest on their face. I'm not even sure where it comes from half
the time, but it's gross. I personally hate using diaper wipes on their faces. Their skin is so sensitive and with some of the bigger brands you don't really know exactly what's in there. I prefer the unscented version, which is just saline. They're super gentle, and even the scented ones aren't overly smelly like some diaper wipes can be.
While there's some research showing swaddling has some risks, swaddling is still part of almost every new parent's repertoire. It mimics that snug, compact space that they just spent 9 months growing in. I swore by my Miracle Blanket with baby two (the colicky one), then moved to lightly swaddling with muslin swaddle blankets. My third now uses two of those muslin blankets as his "blankies" and they are necessary for sleep! I did find the need to swaddle much less with my third, because we coslept. Sleeping close to me mimicked my womb well enough, apparently. And it's important to note that on top of the most common concerns about swaddling (baby being hard to rouse and hip dysplasia) that babies use their hands as part of the sensory experience of nursing, and a swaddled baby may not nurse as well as he might if you left him unswaddled.
What about the swings? Bouncers? Breast pumps?
Well, I'll be honest & say with my second (who was a colicky, refluxy, difficult baby) I couldn't have lived without our swing. In fact, I may have had a slight panic attack while packing to move cross country when he was seven months old and realizing there was no way the gargantuan thing was fitting in our car. But I do think in general they're overused. The Rock N Play is a great place to set baby when you hit that please-no-one-touch-me-ever-again point, but otherwise, toss that cranky baby in a sling & go on with your day. Breast pumps? Well, I think we rely too much on these, that many women (especially those not returning to work) don't need them at all, and plus, now all insurances are covering them, so no need to put it on your registry or spend money on one.
We have owned a crib with all three babies. They've each slept in it less than the baby before them during their newborn months. While co-sleeping isn't for everyone, even the AAP recommends room sharing for at least 6 months to help regulate baby's breathing and reduce SIDS risks. There are so many ways to do this from co-sleeping, to sidecar-ing a cosleeper or crib. And the newest research by Dr. James McKenna suggests we shouldn't detach sleep from breastfeeding, and has coined the word Breastsleeping to drive home the point how intertwined the two are.
(learn more about safe cosleeping here)
To wrap up...
My experience has been that no matter how much or how little I put on a registry, everyone just wants to buy clothes anyway (even if you've politely told them you got a HUGE amount of hand-me-downs and really don't need any). So KISS (keep it simple, silly), and kiss those trendy, waste of money items goodbye. Learn from first-time-mom-me's mistakes, and save yourself some sanity and money. Tuck it all aside for the huge amount of money you'll be spending on wine... I mean college savings. Yup, that's what I meant.