The strangest thing about baby products is the speed at which you go from not understanding what something even is or why it’s useful to it becoming the most essential, life-saving item you’ve ever possessed. I was pretty excited to create a baby registry, actually. I like to shop, I like to research products, I like to make a plan. But it was harder than I anticipated – so many things and so. many. opinions. about all of the things. I like opinions (ahem) but I didn’t know how to weigh people’s rationales for liking one product over another or know what my preferences would be. Once Baby O was born, it was as though I had been given a code breaker and all those online reviews and discussions suddenly made sense and were speaking to me.
What got us through this barrage of information was hearing from other parents what their must haves were. And a few online resources were pretty helpful – the top one being Lucie’s List (and its registry cheat sheet), which I still rely heavily on.
Baby O reaches 3 months this week, so here are the top 12 products we couldn’t have lived (as happily) without:
1. Boppy newborn lounger.
I put this one on first though it was one of the last items we got – and we almost didn’t get it all. It wasn’t on any must have lists we read and it only landed on our radar through the niece of a colleague. We thought, why not. And it’s been probably our favorite baby item so far. The lounger lets Baby O perch on the couch next to us without having to be on our laps or at risk of pillows smothering him. He can doze into naps, have independent play time, or sit on the table while we eat dinner. It lets him be in the middle of whatever moment we’re in like the member of the family he is.
2. Boppy pillow for nursing.
This is an obvious one but I’ll just say, you gotta have the Boppy or the like. Breastfeeding does not (often) come easy at first and having this support to get the position right was literally the difference between him figuring out the latch and not. Some prefer the My Breast Friend nursing pillow, though for whatever reason it did not fit as well on me. Another bonus of the Boppy nursing pillow is it too can serve some “lounging” function down the road and we’ve recently found it to be a useful prop for tummy time.
3. Miracle blanket swaddle.
When we were about a month out from Baby O’s arrival, we attended a breast feeding and baby care class – a kind of buffet of all the basic info you need for a baby. Near the end of the class, the instructor dropped a bombshell — she said new guidelines for SIDS prevention meant that “the swaddle is out.” Everyone in the class basically freaked because swaddling was about the only thing we all knew about babies. As it turns out, the instructor was not accurate (and it was another lesson in working through the massive amount of baby tips data to find the truth), though there is new guidance for swaddle safety. Once Baby O arrived, the Swaddle went from theoretical debate to tangible necessity. Babies sleep better in a swaddle. Babie feel safer in a swaddle. Period. And my number one job was to keep my baby safe and develop a foundational sense of security. Thus – swaddle. So we went through a lot of swaddle options, neither of us ever learning how to swaddle with a blanket (it’s like advanced origami for the sleep deprived). In the end, we came to realize that the Miracle Blanket was our personal miracle. It’s a breathable cotton fabric, it fits him well, and he couldn’t get out of it by week 2. Aaand we could figure it out in the middle of the night.
4. Bouncy Chair. It’s a classic with good reason. It was not until about 6 weeks that this really took off – and now that we’re at week 12, touching the monkey toys hanging down has become his single greatest objective. Without the toys, its a good chair at a useful height that is portable around the house – even on the kitchen counter when cooking!
5. Rock N Play. Many have sung the praises of the Rock N Play, which is a portable bassinet. Baby O slept in his for the first couple of weeks (and many babies sleep in it for several months) and it was a great spot for him to land when we did stuff around the house. It is cozy and can help with reflux.
6. Soothie pacifiers – We made the mistake of thinking all pacifiers were created equal. Ha! When very helpful friends came over and witness us determine Baby O not so fond of pacifiers based on having tried the wrong kind, they quickly intervened. Lucky for us because at that point the only tool we had was our fingers, which for the first week of his life seemed great and charming and by week 2 had grown inconvenient quickly. Soothies, we discovered (thanks to our friends) are great for infants because they replicate a parent’s finger (plus, you can look into their mouth while they are sucking and they look like a guppy!). We now have at least 1 bowl of soothies in every room of the house and we never leave home without one.
7. Books for Parents – Two books have answered 95% of our questions, cut through too much internet chatter, and kept us from freaking out many times: Baby 411 (same people as Baby Bargains and a good source of just about any question you may have) and Heading Home with Your Newborn (by two pediatricians who are also parents and very helpful).
8. Car seat cover. Another pretty basic essential that should not go unmentioned if you have a baby in winter is the car seat cover. There are many rules about babies and car seats and it’s hard to understand what options are left to keep your baby warm. It turns out, this cover is the solution. It’s like a warm fleece sleeping bag and makes it possible to take baby on outings even when temperatures are low – and anything that enables getting out of the house in winter is worth the money.
9. The House in the Night – We love this book. The illustrations are beautiful and the black and white with pops of orange are perfect for the newborn eyes. And we found that reading a book before bedtime from the time Baby O was 10 days old was a routine that signaled a long sleep and helped him to distinguish between night and day quickly – and it has quickly become one of our favorite times of the day.
10. Video monitor. This should probably also be filed under obvious necessity at this point but let me just say the video monitor (as opposed to the sound-only monitor) is worth it, even at its steep price-tag. Here’s why: Babies fuss and cry in their sleep. In the first three months, it can be hard to tell if a cry is mid-sleep cycle or if he is actually awake and needing something. The video monitor helps you distinguish between the two and prevents you from the god awful occasion of waking a sleeping baby! Worth. It.
11. Breast pump kit. Pumping sucks. I did not think I’d have to worry about this until at least a month in, because the lactation consultant goddesses decreed no bottle feeding until 4-6 weeks. Well, as it turns out, I needed to pump by day 3 because the breast feeding wasn’t working perfectly and I needed to develop my milk supply – and then for the first 10 days I needed to mix bottle feeding with breast feeding until the nursing took off, otherwise Baby O would have starved. Thereafter, bottle feeding has been a once daily routine to keep Baby O used to a bottle and give the wife the opportunity to feed him, too. Having bottles on hand also gives us some flexibility in going out. So – pumping. It took me a while to figure out a routine and mostly I avoided it. What helped was creating my own kit for pumping so that it was as easy as possible. The kit includes an arms-free pumping bra (ignore the photos that incomprehensibly seem to advertise the product as a fashion choice) and a basket big enough to hold it all (pump, parts, bottles and a tub to hold them in). Maybe this seems simple, but it took us about 8 and a half weeks to figure it out. Having a basket helps to minimize the clutter and lets me easily move the pump station around the house so I can pump wherever and whenever I have the opportunity and need.
12. Routine! Ok, not an item per se but this has been the most essential thing. We have a pediatrician who recommended we set a bed time and routine as early as 2 weeks old and we’ve had a good sleeper since. More importantly, we’ve had a happy and calm baby. But not only is Baby O calmer and happier with the flexible routines – so are we!