Thursday, March 26, 2009

The List

I've got a girlfriend who's pregnant and asked me if I would make her a list of what baby gear I found essential.  So I put together what *I* think you need, what you don't and why. Here's "the list":

Important things to remember and general items to get (and not get):

  • Breastfeeding is HARD!  Get a book (I recommend Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers by Nancy Mohrbacher and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett), read it BEFORE the baby gets here, take a class, and make sure you have a lactation consultant or at least an experienced breast feeding mother on hand in the hospital when you give birth.  Most hospitals have one, just make sure they know you want to make use of her.
  • Items sold for babies are often NOT for babies but for adults.  For example, some play mats have all sorts of bells and whistles and bright colored spinning things….none of which the baby gives a flip about.  They are designed to catch the parents eye and make you think “wow, I would love something like that.”  Babies don’t care about all that stuff.  They may find it entertaining briefly, but then they’ll be on to something else.  In general, the more fancy a toy is, the less the child will play with it.  Keep it simple – wooden toys, plastic rings that fasten together, brightly colored dolls/bears – these are the things that they will keep coming back to.
  • Do not get anything that makes noise and doesn’t have an OFF switch.  Trust me.
  • Babies are weird.  They will do strange things (like not poop for 10 days) and you will panic thinking there is something dreadfully wrong with them.  Get one of the First Year books (like What to Expect or Baby Talk) to have on hand for reference.  They are also fun for tracking “milestones” and figuring out what to feed them.
  • Consider signing up for a service like Trixie Tracker.  It’s basically a program that lets you input sleep times, feedings, diaper changes etc.  For a data driven person like me, it was great because I was able to see patterns in behavior, reinforce them, and tailor our schedule around them.  Without it, I’d’ve been lost – sleep deprivation mucks with your memory.

 The List

Worth spending the extra money on:

·         A glider/rocker.  This is an absolutely vital piece of equipment that is totally worth spending money on.  Make sure it reclines far enough and is comfortable enough that you can fall asleep and is wide enough that you would be comfortable having a small child snuggled next to you to read them a book.  This is a really expensive item (can be $500+) but is definitely worth it.  We got one that doesn’t look like a nursery item so we can move it into the living room eventually - and it's a dark brown microfiber cloth so it's easy to clean!

·         Car seat/travel system.  Make sure it is easy to take in/out of the car and that you can put it in the stroller with one hand.  Also make sure the stroller is the right height (or can be adjusted to the right height) for both you and your husband.  Nothing is more miserable than a stroller handle that is too low (or high).  We got a Chicco and were very pleased.  Make sure it folds up small enough to fit in your car. The reason you want a travel system rather than a separate stroller/carseat is because babies fall asleep in the car all the time and you do NOT want to wake them up when you get where you are going.  With a travel system, you just take the carseat and put it in the stroller and the baby stays asleep J

·         Pack ‘n’ Play. Make sure you can break it down easily and includes a changing table.  It is worth spending a bit more on this and getting a really nice one that has all the bells and whistles because you can use it as a crib in your room when you’re transitioning from the bassinet as well as a travel bed.  Make sure it folds up small enough to fit in your car. We got a Graco and have liked it.

·         Breast pump. If you’re breast feeding, this is a lifesaver. I won’t lie – you’ll hate using it. But it is great when you are travelling or when you need to be away from the baby for more than an hour or for letting hubby do the midnight feeding.  It also makes working so much easier.  I have the Medela Pump in Style.  Make sure you get extra shields and a bunch of the 2.5oz bottles with a nipple that fits them.  We called them JJ’s “shooters” and he was able to feed himself with them from a very early age.  Also get the car adapter, some freezer storage bags, and then stock the bag with magazines and a pad of paper/pencil.

·         Nursing bra. Go to a specialty shop that just does bras to get one of these so that it fits right and lasts.  The ones they sell at Motherhood and similar stores are lame.  Make sure you can fasten/unfasten the cups with one hand.

·         A digital camera. You will want to take lots and lots of pictures.  Get a good digital camera you are comfortable using, and practice with it before the baby arrives.  We bought a great digital SLR (Canon EOS Rebel xTI) and it is the BEST thing we bought for the baby.  I use online publishing services to make albums (like and my parents love the grandparent albums I make for them too.

·         Newborn pictures. Professionally done newborn shots are definitely worth it. I recommend doing a search for a local photographer - you can get some great deals and they can be more relaxed than some of the studios.  We went with TimelessbyKelly and were very pleased.

Definitely buy, but don’t break the bank:

·         Boppies and covers.  A boppy is basically a C-shaped pillow you fit around middle that saves your arms from holding the baby up at the proper height for long periods of time while feeding or rocking.  You’ll want two – one thicker than the other, preferably – and two covers for each.  The extra covers are for the inevitable spit up/diaper leak issues so you can wash one while the other is on.  The extra boppy is for the same reason – occasionally, you will get a serious leak or spit up and will have to wash the boppy itself.  Plus, you can keep one on your side of the bed and one on your husband’s side, so you don’t both have to wake up to feed the baby.

·         A sleep sheep or other white noise/nature noise maker.  I like the little Sleep Sheep because it is very portable, velcros to the crib, bassinet, or any other handy piece of furniture, and has nature sounds (although the whales are kind of freaky).  Whatever you pick, remember you will have to listen to it for hours, so “womb sounds” and “vacuum cleaner sounds” might not be the best pick J.

·         Baby wearing system.  I like the Moby wrap – it’s reasonably priced and easy to use.  I also liked the Maya wrap, but it’s a bit more tricky to use (but much much nicer looking).  Baby wearing systems let you do things around the house (laundry, dishes, etc.) while carrying your baby because your hands are free.  I also used mine to go grocery shopping etc. because it’s a lot easier that hauling the baby carrier and stroller everywhere (those things have a huge footprint).

·         Bouncy seat and swing chair.  Both are good for soothing baby and freeing you up to move around a bit and do things like cook.  JJ likes both, but some kids will only like one or another.  These are good items to get used if you can.

·         Bassinet. Make sure it fits in your room because that’s where it will be until he’s too big for it.  Ideally, it should be the same height as your bed, so you can just roll over and scoop the little guy out when he wakes up in the night. You can get good used ones fairly inexpensively, just check for recalls first.

·         Footie pajamas, sleep sacks and night sacks.  It is nearly impossible to keep socks on them when they sleep. When they're really little, sleep sacks are nice because it is an easy “swaddling” which helps them feel contained.  Night sacks (little night gowns with elastic at the bottom) are also great because they're really easy to change a diaper in - and you will change a lot of diapers. When they're a bit older and not peeing/pooping so much at night, I like the zipper PJs. I recommend you have at least 8 pairs of night clothes because they tend to leak through their diapers a lot in the first 3 months, so you often end up changing the pajamas/sleep sack and the diaper both.  

·         Onesies. They will live in onesies until they are about 9 months old. Then you will want pants/shirt combos.  Before 9 months, avoid anything that is more than 1 piece.

·         Changing pad.  We got one of those contoured ones that is supposed to go on a changing table.  We put it on the bathroom counter and it’s been great. (Note: You cannot turn your back for a second while the baby is on the pad, even with the little seatbelt fastened.  They WILL wriggle out.)

·         Bottles and pacifiers.  We used Nuk bottles and pacifiers and never had any issue with “nipple confusion.”  I also have some Dr. Brown’s glass bottles, which are nice but we didn’t use as much because he couldn’t hold them himself (too heavy).

·         A baby quilt or play mat. You’ll want something to put him down on for tummy time.  It doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated – we just used a quilt my mom made for him. 

·         Board books.  You can’t have too many books.  It will be a while before he’s interested, but they will be around for a long time.  I recommend writing who gave it to him and the date in marker inside the front cover.

·        Toys. Get simple things like brightly colored rattles.  Things with lots of colors and textures are good – most everything will go in their mouths eventually, so keep that in mind.

·         A sterilizer. Vital for bottles and pacifiers.  We got a really simple one that goes in the microwave. 

·         Sleep masks.  Important if you have trouble sleeping with the light on.  You’ll want to leave a light on at first because you’ll keep checking on the little guy to make sure he’s breathing. 

·         Baby bathtub that fits in the kitchen sink.  It’s really hard to bend over the tub when they’re really little, so you’ll want something you can put in the kitchen sink so you have better control.

·         Nasal aspirator. The soft blue ones are best.

·         Behind the ear thermometer.  So much easier than putting one up his…um…well, you know.

·         Thin plastic wipes containers.  They’re a couple of bucks each.  You can fill them up with wipes and tuck into a purse, backpack, laptop bag, etc.  You can use them to clean your hands or the restaurant table as well as the babies bum.

·         Plastic clip on rings.  Lets you attach toys to everything – stroller, car seat, high chair, etc. – without them hitting the floor.

·         Convertible, portable high chair.  One that attaches to your kitchen chairs.  They’re much less expensive than regular high chairs and do just as well.  Plus they’re easier to use and to store when you’re done with them.

·         Baby blankets. You can’t really have too many of these.  Keep one in every car/room/etc.

·         Prefolds. Even if you’re not doing cloth diapers, these are great for burp cloths and can be used as dusters later.

·         A blender.  Whether you plan on making your own baby food full time or not, a blender is great tool for quick meals.  Just throw in a banana and voila!  Baby food!

·         Diaper cream.  Eventually, he’ll get diaper rash.  Usually at 3am or some other inconvenient to go to the store time.  Get some diaper cream ahead of time.


Nice to have, but not vital:

·         Moses basket.  This is basically a mobile bassinet.  It is really cool, but you won’t use it a lot, and they can cost a lot, so unless someone gives you one, I wouldn’t bother.

·         Diaper bag.  Honestly, an old messenger bag with your essentials works great.  Dedicated diaper bags are, in my experience, poorly made and tend to fall apart quickly.  My favorite diaper bag is an old west German gas mask bag my husband got at an army surplus store. I can put everything I need into it, it looks pretty cool, and it cost $2.

·         Wipe warmers and bottle warmers.  We got a wipe warmer for our shower and it has been nice, but I wouldn’t have bought it for myself.  Maintaining it has been kind of a pain.  We didn’t get a bottle warmer and ended up using a coffee cup filled half way with water, heated in the microwave.  Pop the bottle in the warm water and voila! Cheap and it works great.

·         Crib.  I know this sounds nuts, but we’ve hardly used our crib at all.  JJ stayed in his bassinet until he was too big, then we had him in the pack n play for a while because he wasn’t sleeping through the night.  He only started using the crib about a month ago and honestly we could’ve gone straight to a toddler bed.  I’ll be converting it to a day bed soon.

·         Hooded baby towels and baby wash clothes. Regular towels and wash cloths work fine, but the little hoods are nice to have to make sure his head stays warm and the little wash cloths make it easier to clean behind his ears.

·         Mommy and me anything. Classes, books…there’s a million.  I’ve got Itsy Bitsy Yoga and it was a lot of fun.  But then, so was just making faces at him.


Don’t bother:

·         Changing pad covers.  Pain to get on and off and cost too much.  Get some water proof/resistant cloth scraps at a cloth store.  They work great, cost very little and you can get all sorts of cute colors/patterns.  You will get the cover messy OFTEN so you want something cheap and easy to whip on and off.  I just folded the material up and laid it on top of the changing pad.

·         Bumpers.  They look cool, but the reality is that by the time the kid is in the crib (assuming you get one), you have to take the bumpers out because they’re a suffocation hazard.

·         Baby shoes.  They don’t really need them until they start cruising. 

·         Diaper pail.  Waste of money.  Get a good, kitchen trashcan with a step on flip up lid.  You will be able to use your regular kitchen garbage bags (instead of expensive "specialty" bags), and you’ll be able to use the trashcan when the little guy is potty trained.

·         Changing table. You can change a baby on any surface that is roughly waist high.  And you will. J

·         Baby shampoo, lotion, and detergent. Babies do not need special lotion, shampoo, or detergent.  They can use ours.  I do like the no-tears baby shampoo (it’s hard to get a baby to close their eyes when you’re rinsing their head), but for the rest, just use what you use on yourself. Honest.

·         Pants/shirts/overalls.  Cute but a real pain in the tuckus to change. Once they’re 9months+, the little outfits are great and easier to deal with.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

These feet were made for walkin...

... and that's just what they'll do.  Today's the day these feet are gonna walk on over to you!

Well, he's been taking a step or two at a time, but today he walked a good 10 feet across the room.  Go JJ!  Guess I better go get him some sneakers :)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Food glorious food!

Most people are unware that yogurt can also be used as a styling aid.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Child labor?

John was outside with JJ today next to the spa.  He saw we had weeds growing out of the flagstones and pulled up one, examined the root to make sure he got it all, and reached down to pull up another.  He looks up to see JJ holding a weed that he's pulled up, examining the root, then tossing it aside to pull up another one.  

Now, if he could only reach the mower handle....