I’ve gotten quite a few questions regarding baby products and I see Mom friends asking questions on Facebook a lot about baby gear. Since I spent countless hours researching baby products and have now tested ours out for almost 8 months, I thought I would share my recommendations. I didn’t include every single thing item you need, just the things I found most critical and most useful for everyday life with a baby. As I think of things, I will update the post.
General Advice for Baby Prep: Start focusing on preparing for the baby and try to not worry too much about the pregnancy (that is what you have a doctor for). Not a single day went by that I wasn’t reading or watching videos to learn about delivery, breastfeeding, baby gear, and baby care. I watched, listened and read everything I could get my hands on. I took pages and pages of notes. I have spent the majority of my life as a student, so I just carried over skills to prepare for the most important test of my life- Motherhood. Once your bundle of joy has arrived, you will take what you have learned and use what works best for you and your baby. I got the foundations from the books, but didn’t do everything they suggested (although in retrospect I probably should have) because at the time it was just too hard or too much that I didn’t want to deal with. For example, both books say naps should be in the crib. Liam napped like a champ in the baby swing (I’m talking 2.5 hour naps), but crib naps were a fight. So, I went with the swing because it made both of us happy. When we were both ready (about 6.5 months), we moved naps to the crib with no issues.
BOOKS: I read these books cover to cover three times before Liam was born. I made notes, highlighted, etc. Then I typed up notes and the things I would want to reference once the baby was here. For the first three months I referred to the books constantly to help as issues arose. I cannot say enough glorious things about them. I strongly believe that my good-natured, happy, sleeping through the night at 5 weeks baby is because of what I learned from these books. They don’t just tell you what to do, but WHY it is important and why it is good for your baby.
Moms on Call – I read about Moms on Call on a blog over a year before I got pregnant, but it stuck in my mind. As soon as we learned I was expecting, I ordered the book and watched the free videos. I highly recommend the book and watching the videos. It is very similar to Babywise (below) but much easier to read and has suggested schedules which I love. I followed most of what they recommended right from the beginning. It covers breastfeeding, baby care, common baby illnesses, and of course sleeping/napping.
On Becoming Babywise – Several of my friends recommended Babywise to me and I am so glad I listened. Reading it is a bit boring and complicated at times, but it is worth trudging through it. I learned a lot about breastfeeding from this book too. http://www.amazon.com/On-Becoming-Baby-Wise-Nighttime/dp/1932740139
What To Expect The First Year – Great reference book that goes month by month of a baby’s first year. I enjoy reading each month and knowing “what to expect.” http://www.amazon.com/What-Expect-First-Second-Edition/dp/0761152121
Halo Sleepsack Swaddles – Our hospital used these for the babies and we fell in love. They make swaddling stress-free. They are very easy to use and safe for the baby. Liam did break out of it sometimes, but it didn’t wake him up. We swaddled him until he started rolling over consistently (4 months). I used the sleepsack swaddle and just wrapped the swaddle part around the middle with him arms out until he outgrew it. Now I am using just the sleepsack. I recommend getting a couple and taking them to the hospital! We used a fleece one since it was winter and it was warm enough for just a diaper or pajamas.
White Noise machine I bought the one recommended by Moms on Call. At the time it was only $10 on Amazon and has worked great (they went up on the price for some reason but still under $20!). No need for all the fancy stuff. Just set it on white noise and turn it up loud. We take it with us everywhere we go to stay overnight!
Baby Connect App – I LOVE this app. It has a timer for breastfeeding and you can track everything from naps to diaper changes to feedings. It makes neat charts and graphs too. It kept me sane the first few months! It is so hard to keep up with everything on your own and this makes it fun and easy.
Travel Crib – I think most travel cribs are basically the same. I went with one by Chicco that has a changing table that flips over the top. I don’t think a separate bassinet attachment is necessary. We used the bed and changing table constantly the first two months because the official changing table was upstairs in the nursery (which we never went to). We used the crib every single night starting from the first night at home. We kept it in our room for the first two months. If we had a single story home with his nursery being closer, I probably would have only kept it in our room for a month and then moved him to his crib. We use it for him to sleep in when we travel as well. Now we use it frequently as a play pen. It is a really handy item! http://www.target.com/p/chicco-lullaby-se-playard-perseo/-/A-13802259
Flannel Blankets – We bought these to use on the changing pad for the travel crib (we didn’t have a cover for that). We use it on the regular changing pad too (just lay on top of the cute cover we bought so I’m not washing constantly). It is great to put down under the baby and throw in the hamper if it gets dirty (they get dirty ALL the time in the first few months). They are also great to clean up messes and throw over baby boys who spring a leak during a diaper change. Very useful. They are cheap and come in a pack of 4. We ended up with 3 packs! http://www.target.com/p/just-one-you-lil-duckies-4-pk-flannel-receiving-blanket-set/-/A-14518033#prodSlot=medium_1_11&term=flannel+baby+blanket
Baby Swing – As I mentioned before, Liam took his naps in his swing. We learned the very first week that he loved his swing. We have the Fisher Price Little Snugamonkey and it is awesome! It is very sturdy, has several speeds (although there isn’t a lot of difference between the speeds) and most importantly plugs in to the wall! We have used it a TON and it is still going strong. http://www.toysrus.com/buy/activity/portable-swing/fisher-price-cradle-swing-my-little-snug-a-bunny-v0099-4360510
Rock-n-Play – We used this thing constantly for the first 4 months (until he got so big and mobile that it wouldn’t contain him). It is couch level which is fantastic, especially if you have a c-section. He never napped in it beyond the first week, but it was a great, safe place to lay him when he was little. I put him there while I ate meals (we pulled it up to the table during dinner) and during the day for him to play. If you have a c-section, getting up and down off the floor and picking your baby up from the floor is difficult. This made recovery so much easier! It is a necessity, but is definitely nice to have. I think they all work exactly the same, so go with the one you like the looks of! It is very lightweight and easy to move around the house.
Bouncer – For us, a bouncer wasn’t our favorite item, but we are still using it. Liam liked it ok, but never loved it. I use it in the bathroom and the kitchen. I always put him in it while I shower or get ready for the day. I also move it to the kitchen when I am prepping meals. Again, it is a great, safe place to put baby when you need your hands!
Stroller – We went with the Uppa Baby Vista. It is amazing. It has all the bells and whistles and I just love it. However, it is really pricey. I found it at the closeout store for half price and my sister gifted it to us otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten it. A close second is the Britax B- Ready. It is almost identical. I recommend watching the videos on Baby Gizmo for strollers and car seats. That really sold me on those two strollers. I purchased the adapter so that our Graco car seat snaps on the Vista frame. If we had gone with the Britax B-Ready stroller we would have gotten the Britax Chaperone car seat that snaps on with no adapter.
Infant Car Seat – My only recommendation here is to get the LIGHTEST one you can find. They all have to meet strict safety requirements so they pretty much tie on safety. We went with the Graco Snugride 30. Everything I read said that babies generally grow out of them by height instead of weight, so getting an infant car seat that holds a heavier baby doesn’t do you much good at all because they will grow out of it anyway and the seat itself is heavier. The reason to purchase infant seats is for their portability, so get one that is light and easily portable! Trust me on this one. As for an extra base, we really haven’t used ours much at all. They aren’t expensive, so it is really just a convenience factor. If you will be splitting time between two cars it is probably worth it. For us, we almost always take my car because the stroller is in it. It is not difficult at all to buckle the car seat in without the base for short trips.
Diaper Bag – I originally got a stylish bag. I learned right away I had made a huge mistake. It wasn’t near big enough and did not have enough pockets. So I bought a new one that was massive and had lots of pockets. I went with the Pottery Barn Kids bag linked below. I love it. I was naive about how much stuff you have to bring with a newborn. Yikes. Get BIG bag with lots of pockets.
Baby Monitor – We tried out several monitors before deciding on one. We ended up with a Motorola video monitor and it is really great. I tried to get one that worked wirelessly that I could use my phone or ipad as a monitor. It just wasn’t practical. They signal would break down and the screens would time out (even plugged in). So I had to turn on the phone, go into the app, and wait for the camera to load the picture. At 2 am, that just does NOT work. So I went with a traditional video monitor and have no complaints. I can roll over and peep at the screen to see my baby at 4 am and not have to completely wake up!
Pacifiers – The Avent Soothie that they use at the hospital didn’t work for us. Liam would spit it right out. My lactation consultant also said they were not good for breastfeeding babies because of the shape of the nipple. She recommended a Nuk pacifier with an angled nipple because it is more like real breast nipple. Liam needed a little training on sucking and the LC actually said a paci would help (and it did). After a couple of weeks, I switched to the MAM pacifier and we have used it ever since. I love the simple, streamlined appearance of the MAM. They only negative is the traditional paci clip doesn’t work and the MAM paci clips are awful.
Bottles: I use the Medela bottles and nipples that go with the Medela pump. I have six of the standard bottles and recently bought 3 8oz bottles. We don’t use a bottle to feed all that often and I never pumped more than a couple of times a day, so I made do just fine with these. Liam had no trouble with these and never rejected them.
Breast Pump – First off, I recommend renting one from the hospital for the first month. It is much stronger and will help establish your supply. Also, once you have opened your purchased pump, you cannot return it. A lot of women cannot breastfeed and I would hate to see someone throw away $300 on a pump they aren’t using! So rent one until you know you are going to stick with it! It was $30 for the month at my hospital. I have the medela pump-in-style in a bag. A friend passed down hers to me so I didn’t have to buy one (no milk actually touches the pump). If I was getting a new one I would get the Freestyle. I hate being tied to the wall when pumping. With the freestyle you can walk around while you are pumping. I’ve heard that it is just as strong as well, but obviously I can’t say from experience.
Breast Pump Car Adaptor I DEFINITELY recommend purchasing the cigarette lighter adapter! It makes road trips at breeze! You can pump while driving and feed baby the bottle without having to stop for half an hour to feed! It has been a lifesaver for us! They make a 9 volt and a 12 volt.
Medela Handsfree Nursing Bra – This holds the bottles for you so that both your hands can be free. I use this all the time and it works great!
Nursing Pillow- I think whether you are bottle feeding or nursing, a nursing pillow is a must have to help keep the baby propped up (we use it when giving him a bottle of breastmilk so I assume it would be great for formula feeders too). I have the boppy. Honestly I don’t love it and wish I had the My Breast Friend (especially for the first couple of months). It has a strap around it to fasten to your waist and keep the pillow snug against your tummy. Liam always fell down (and still does) between the boppy and my stomach making the pillow pointless. For a while when he was tiny I started using a regular pillow instead of the boppy for better support. I really think using the My Breast Friend pillow will make breastfeeding in the early weeks SO much easier! Whatever pillow you go with, get two covers and a waterproof cover if they make it to go under the slipcover! Lots of baby messes happen on the pillow!
Soothies – Keep these in the fridge and place on nipples post nursing. AMAZING for the first couple of weeks to soothe the soreness. It says one time use but I used them several times (until they stopped sticking). You do have to clean your nipples after using before nursing again but that is OK!
Motherlove Nipple Cream – I didn’t use nipple cream a ton. I tried the Lanolin first but it made me tingly and itchy (apparently some people are allergic). The hospital gave me a sample of the Motherlove cream and I really liked it. They sell it at Whole Foods or Amazon if you are in a hurry for some!
BABY CARE ITEMS:
Aquaphor – This stuff is great. You can use it for diaper rash and just about any other skin issue such as dry skin. A great diaper rash treatment is aquaphor and corn starch (thanks Moms on Call). That magic works better than all the other 12 diaper rash creams that we have. Another tip is to slather it on baby’s bum in the hospital when he is still passing meconium. It will make that sticky tar poop right wipe off without any trouble. We have big tubs of it around the house. http://www.target.com/p/aquaphor-healing-ointment-3-5-oz/-/A-11005119
Nosefrida – It sounds gross, but every Mom that has one loves it, including me! Those nasal aspirator bulb syringes just do not work. Newborn babies have a lot of mucus from delivery and it gives them fits. This will get it right out! We still use it to this day! It was great for Liam’s first runny nose. http://www.walmart.com/ip/15126393?wmlspartner=wlpa&adid=22222222227000593243&wl0=&wl1=g&wl2=c&wl3=13690209430&wl4=&wl5=pla&wl6=34446462430&veh=sem
California Baby Body Wash – Liam had a little bit of dry skin and we switched to this and it cleared it up. It smells nice too (we jokingly call it spa soap). He has had no irritation with it at all. http://www.target.com/p/california-baby-super-sensitive-shampoo-bodywash-19-oz/-/A-12717095
Burts Bees Calming Lotion – We have used this almost every night since he was a month old. I don’t know if it actually calms him or not, but I like the thought of it :) http://www.target.com/p/burt-s-bees-baby-bee-nourishing-lotion-calming-6-fl-oz/-/A-13476493#prodSlot=medium_1_2&term=burts+bees+calming+lotion
Mustela Newborn Shampoo – Liam had dry scalp and this stuff cleared it up the very first time. The scent is quite strong, but it is worth it for a flake free scalp. We only had to use it a couple of times a week for maintenance. http://www.target.com/p/mustela-foam-shampoo-5-07oz/-/A-13967208#prodSlot=medium_1_1&term=mustela+newborn+shampoo
Vick’s Baby Thermometer – This is a great thermometer. It is inexpensive and easy to use. You don’t have to worry about inserting it too far due to the design of it. Everything I read said that a rectal thermometer is best and most accurate for babies (my pediatrician wanted us to have a rectal too). We were hesitant the first time we used it, but Liam doesn’t even notice it! http://www.amazon.com/Vicks-V934-Baby-Rectal-Thermometer/dp/B0002AHVZU
Sponge/Scrub from the hospital – Take the sponges with the soft bristles on the other side from the hospital. We managed to get 4. Use these every bath to scrub baby’s scalp (with the scrub side) to prevent cradle cap! Our birthing class instructor shared this tip!
Cuticle Scissors – Our lactation consultant recommend using cuticle scissors to cut baby’s nails. They work great, you just have to be careful not to cut his fingers.
Diapers – We used Pampers Swaddlers for Size 1, 2 and 3 (he never wore NB). After 1 box of size 3s I bought Pampers Cruisers and we use those now. We buy all diapers at Sam’s Club. They are $40 for a value pack box which is a great price. I think it is only $2 more than the best deal on Amazon that you have to pay $80 a year to be a part of (Prime). We tried Huggies and didn’t like them as they didn’t seem to absorb the poop very well, although the quality seemed better on the outside.
Wipes – We use Pampers Sensitive Wipes. We tried lots of different kinds and preferred these. Everyone likes different wipes so I recommend getting small packs of several kinds and picking your favorite!