When I was expecting, one of the most overwhelming parts was trying to figure out all of the baby gear. I’d never pushed a stroller before, let alone have to choose one among hundreds? And what the heck is butt cream (the answer: a miraculous life-saver!)? And, what, I get to shop for a new purse (i.e. diaper bag)? Swings, rockers, cribs, teethers, the list went on and on. If I was indecisive before, this was the motherlode. My advice? Chuck those ridiculously long lists you get from Babies R’ Us and Target and start with the basics. There are very few things a newborn actually needs the first few months, and everything else is what Amazon Mom is for (sign up now! Trust me, going anywhere with a baby to shop is…just not gonna happen).
So here’s my list of both essential and what-a-waste-of-space-and-money baby items.
Baby swing/rocker/rockabye cradle, etc. – In case you were wondering, baby swings are HUGE and require lots of floor space. This isn’t to say don’t get one. For a lot of parents one of these automatically moving devices is the only way to get baby to sleep in those tired early months. But know that you only use these for a relatively short period of time, and then have to store it FOREVER. My advice: borrow one. I’m sure you have a friend or two who is more than happy to get a bit more storage space when they’re done with theirs. And different babies prefer different things, so your baby may love the swing, but hate the rocker, etc. So don’t invest a lot into these until you know what they like – and it may not be the same with the next one – another great reason to borrow.
Pack N’ Play – This was one of those items everyone kept telling us we just had to have. Well we have it. And it’s barely been used. I think it might be helpful if you lived in a multi-story place and needed a place to set the baby down in on both floors (but that’s also what the swing/rocker is for). And some parents can set their baby down in one with toys as kind of a playpen type situation, but ours didn’t like that confined feeling by the time she was old enough to play with toys. We used one with a Newborn Napper station to have her sleep next to our bed in our room until she moved to her room at 3 months. But in retrospect, we could’ve just used a co-sleeper which takes up far less space. It’s also useful to keep one at Grandma’s house if you plan on having baby sleep there often. Or if you plan on travelling a lot with the baby (ha!). So think about what your situation is before registering for this, because once again, you’ll have to store this sucker for a long time.
Wipes/Bottle Warmers/Sterilizer – Luckily we didn’t end up getting either one of these, and I don’t really see the point. Unless you have a super-sensitive baby, ours was perfectly content to be wiped with room temperature wipes and drink regular temp bottles. My kitchen counter is already crowded with more appliances than I care to admit, and I didn’t want to add one more. If you- like the Grandmothers-are obsessed with baby only having warm bottles, it’s really not that hard to do it the old-fashioned way. And sterilizing in hot water isn’t rocket science.
Beaba or any other baby food making machine – I know we all dream of being that mom that makes fresh organic purees for our babies each and every meal time – but let’s get real. I used my Beaba only a handful of times, froze a bunch of food cubes that I still find in the freezer a YEAR later, and really could’ve just done it all with a steamer and blender. Or an organic Earth’s Best jar – just sayin’.
Bumbo – Just what is this thing? Totally useless, is what I say. An infant seat that’s useful for maybe a month. But you’re not supposed to use it until they have head control, and by that time them sitting up on their own is just around the corner. It’s also been recalled so many times, so why risk it?
Run To the Store and Get These Now!
Miracle Blanket – Swaddled baby = more sleep = happy you. But if your baby is anything like mine was, all those cute swaddles, with or without velcros will not be strong enough to hold in that infant who wants their limbs to be free. A swaddling with just a blanket? Forget about it. It’s all about the Miracle Blanket, which totally lives up to its name. It was the only thing that could keep Little Miss swaddled all cozy and tight like a bug, and more importantly, added precious HOURS to sleep time.
Brest Friend nursing pillow– The Boppy sucks. The end. I can’t tell you how drastically my life changed for the better after a desperate late night run to BRU culminated in this purchase. It’s far more comfortable and makes breastfeeding a breeze.
Infant Tylenol – I can’t even tell you how many bottles of these we’ve been through (seriously, why don’t they just make them bigger?!), and having to run out at midnight with a screaming baby for this is no dream scenario.
Teethers – Everyone warns you about sleep, gas, etc. but I felt like I had never heard of teething until I had a baby. And once it starts, it never ends. You may not need these right away, but when you do, you’ll be wishing you didn’t have to run out to the store or online to buy one. And you’ll need lots – like socks, these little suckers seem to mysteriously disappear. And come on, Sophie the Giraffe is everywhere for a reason. My daughter preferred the Zoli Teething Sticks which are nice because they can stick it far in their mouth to relieve those awful molars coming in.
White noise – Whether you register for a white noise machine or use an iPod with speakers like we do, white noise is a godsend. If you live in a close-quarters apartment like us, it helps to mask any “outside” noise (i.e. dogs barking, creaky floorboards, the TV) and helps soothe baby to sleep.
The Happiest Baby on the Block – Harvey Karp’s book and 5 S’s are famous for a reason – they really work. If you’re lazy like we were, just rent the DVD from Netflix, or watch YouTube videos. Those five S’s will be indispensable the first 3 months. And a yoga ball. You will start to hate your yoga ball.
Nosefrida Snotsucker – Swedes. They’re great with design and nasal aspirators, who knew? Seriously, this somewhat disgusting-in-concept-awesome-in-real-life contraption kicks those old-fashioned bulb nasal aspirators asses. And come flu season, when baby seems to have endless stuffy or runny noses, you’ll be sucking up snot in no time.
Infant car seat – Well this one’s kinda obvious because they won’t let you leave the hospital without one. We just got a Graco one, but the Chicco ones seem to be very popular. Try these out in store and imagine a 12-pound baby inside and make sure you can carry it without pulling a muscle.
“Wait and See” Items
Stroller – this is one I’d recommend you wait and see. Borrow a Snap N Go in the beginning, and once you finally get a hold of this baby thing, you’ll know more about what you want/don’t want. Try them out – either at a store or borrow a friend’s for a walk. We started out with one kind, and ended up with the UppaBaby Vista which we love . (TIP: like cars, these seem to go on sale at the end of the deal to make room for the newer models, which is how we scored ours at an awesome deal)
Baby Carrier – Like the stroller, I find this to be an essential item, but try these out first. I started out with an Ergo because it’s all I’d ever heard before, but found it too bulky and hard to put on for my petite frame. I found the Beco Gemini to be far more comfortable (and baby can face forward). But others say the opposite, so try them on or buy it from somewhere with a flexible return policy (i.e. Amazon). You won’t need this right away, but you’ll want it soon when being able to be hands-free is like a dream come true. I also highly recommend the Boba Wrap for the first 2-3 months. Get (or register) this one BEFORE baby arrives. And, more importantly, learn how to put it on beforehand. By the time we got one and figured it out, we only got to use it for a short period of time. But it was a miracle. We’d drop Little Miss in, and she’d fall asleep instantaneously!
Crib – I understand the strong nesting urge and wanting to have baby’s nursery set up and perfect before they’re here, which is why I got a crib way before she was born. But I also know that once they’re here, parents are prone to change their minds about what they thought they were going to do. You may decide you want to co-sleep, in which case you didn’t need that crib. For us, we all needed better sleep so putting her in her own room worked for everyone. But we didn’t do that until around 3-4 months. Point being, you’ll have at least that long to decide your more permanent sleeping arrangements, and you may or may not want one in the end.
Bottles – Who knew babies were so picky? Not me. While it’s tempting to register for a 20-piece bottle set, I’d hold off. Personal experience and talks with lots of mamas have led me to now know that every baby prefers different bottles. Some are more flexible and will take any bottle, while others need a specific type, at a specific temperature, with a specific nipple. So register for one or two of a couple different kinds (I’m partial to the Dr. Brown‘s), and just know that not all of them may get used.
And that about covers it, although honestly, I could just go on and on. And at the end of the day, all they really need is food and loving parents, so try not to stress too much and enjoy what’s to come. And take as many naps as you can now – you won’t regret it, trust me.