Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Baby Gear: The Early Months

1. Mamaroo - This thing is the Cadillac of baby swings/bouncers. It has settings like "car ride" and "tree swing" and you can even plug in your iPod to play music (although we've never done that). I think it's probably like every other swing or contraption in that sometimes she just DID NOT want to be in it and nothing would substitute for being held. But this thing saved us during many a witching hour when it would put her right to sleep so we could get laundry done and dinner made.

2. Ubbi diaper pail - Really happy with this purchase. Because it's stainless steel, it keeps the stink completely contained (unless you leave the lid open). Plus it looks great. It was more expensive than traditional diaper pails, but it uses regular trash bags, so no spending money on special refills.

3. Aden + Anais swaddle blankets - Probably on every mom's must have list, and for good reason. So many uses, and they're soft and adorable. Skip the traditional receiving blankets and get these.

4. SwaddleMe swaddles - We didn't use the Aden + Anais blankets much for actually swaddling though. No matter how tight we wrapped her, she'd always wriggle free. Instead, the SwaddleMe's are where it's at. Easy to put on, hard for her to get off.

5. Stroller blanket - We got this one (personalized with her name) and love it. It's been on her car seat pretty much every day from day one. At first, we used it to cover up the whole car seat when we took her out (to minimize germs and help her get some rest). Now I throw it on her for warmth after she's buckled in, since big bulky coats in the car seat are a no-no.

6. Sleep Sheep - People have mixed opinions here. Because it cuts off after 45 minutes, some people prefer a sound machine that stays on indefinitely. My opinion: it's great in the beginning. We used it every night when she was in the bassinet in the room with us. Did it help her sleep? Who knows. But it didn't hurt and I liked that it provided a bit of white noise for us too so that we couldn't hear her every move. Also? It's adorable. Now that she's in her nursery, we basically use her humidifier as white noise, but may buy a sound machine down the road.

7. Video monitor - We got this one and love it. I think a video monitor in general is a good investment -- I can check to make sure she's still breathing, see if she's awake but not making noise yet, or just stare at her in whatever cute sleeping position she's in. And it was essential during sleep training because I could look to see that she was doing just fine, even though she was wailing away. This one has a nice big screen, can pan and zoom, has a two-way voice feature, and even shows the temperature in the room.

8. Car seat/stroller - We chose the Chicco Keyfit 30 seat and stroller frame and have been pleased. I was given advice to forgo the travel system stroller in favor of just the frame and I'm glad we did. Even though the travel system seems like more of a deal money-wise, I'm not a fan of the strollers that come with the travel system. They don't look that great and can be heavy and bulky. The stroller frame is light and was super easy for me to manage on my own from the very beginning. We also got a regular stroller (this one) for when she outgrows the infant car seat, but have only used it a few times so far, so I'll update you on how we like it later.

9. Petunia Picklebottom diaper bag - Overall I really like this diaper bag. It's big, it looks good, it has easily wipeable water-resistant fabric, and I love the built-in changing pad. Two negatives though: if you stuff it too full the flap won't close completely and it's messy looking. And the velcro on the front flap is LOUD. Like wake-the-baby loud. Not good when you're out and about and she's napping and you're just trying to grab your wallet or water bottle.

10. Boon drying rack - I hand wash ALL of our bottles, pump parts and accessories. Every single day. Some people probably think I'm crazy and swear by the dishwasher for this task, but for some reason I prefer to hand wash (I think it's because everything's all wet coming out of the dishwasher so I'd just have to lay them out to dry anyway). That being said, the Boon Grass drying rack was (and is) a must have for me. In fact, eventually the Grass wasn't enough room so I upgraded to Lawn. But instead of swapping Grass for Lawn I just kept Grass out too and now use them both! I also bought Stem and Twig for small pump parts, nipples, pacis, etc. Love love love.

I also recommend:

+ Burp cloths - Lots of them. We have some pretty/personalized ones, but plain, old fashioned cloth diapers serve the purpose just as well.

+ Waterproof quilted pads - We have these. They're great to put down on the changing pad so that if they get messy you can just throw it in the wash instead of having to wash the changing pad cover. Also great to use if you need to change baby on the floor, a bed, etc.

+ Gripe water - Instantly cures hiccups. It's magic! You might think hiccups are no big deal, but when your baby gets them 8 times a day and can't fall asleep because they're too busy hiccuping, you'll swear by this stuff.

+ Baby Aquaphor - This is my diaper ointment of choice. I registered for and received a ton of Boudreaux's butt paste but barely used it. The first time Ava got diaper rash the doctor recommended Aquaphor and we've been using it ever since. It's also good for all of baby's other rashes, dry patches, scratches, etc. My recommendation in general when it comes to baby wash, lotion and diaper cream is to not stock up until you know what you like and what works for baby. We have about 5 different kinds of baby wash, but because she has a bit of eczema we now have to use boring ol' Dove Sensitive body wash (although I did really like Burt's Bees Baby and hope we can get back to using it again eventually).

+ OxyClean - I've just discovered this as the only way to get poop stains out of clothes. Mix a scoop full in a bucket of water and soak for several hours. Works better than anything else I've tried.


+ Baby Whisperer - Has some good information on listening to your baby's cues and getting them on a "schedule." Although we never had much success with the schedule she prescribes, it was still nice to have a guideline to aspire to.

+ Baby Play Book - It may seem silly to buy a book to tell you how to play with your newborn, but if you're like me you'll suddenly find yourself looking at your baby on week 2 of maternity leave thinking "what am I supposed to do with you all day?" This book gives tons of ideas for little activities for you and baby to do, organized by age. Some of them are as simple as "peek-a-boo" and "itsy bitsy spider" but sometimes mom-brain can make you forget everything you ever knew, so it's a helpful refresher. I'm still using it for the 3-6 mo activities (it goes all the way to 12 months).

+ What to Expect the First Year - This one is cliche but I really do find it useful. I read up each month on milestones to expect and issues that might arise. It also starts out with helpful information on newborns: feeding, bathing, diapering and what's "normal." My advice though: read this section before the baby comes, or you'll frantically be reading up on how to bathe baby or clip her nails just as you're about to do it. Not smart. (Or maybe you're thinking "everyone knows how to bathe a baby, why would I need to read up on that?" in which case you can just ignore my neurotic-first-time-parent tendencies and move right along.)

Things I would've done differently:

- The glider in the nursery. I'd get the exact same one, except with the reclining feature.

- Bumbo. I like the concept of the Bumbo just fine, but there have been some concerns about its safety (it was recalled after we received it and we had to request and install safety straps). My biggest gripe though is that I find the tray really hard to get on and off (I like to use the tray for toys so she has something to play with). Had I known about the Mamas & Papas Baby Snug I probably would have gotten it instead.

- Thermometer. We received a high-tech temporal thermometer, but when they're that young doctors only consider a rectal temperature to be accurate, so we just use the boring thermometer that came in a health & safety kit.

- Car seat handle cushion. I just had to have one but never ended up using it. Same goes for the car seat cover. We ended up throwing her stroller blanket over the car seat (it's much more versatile) so I returned it.

- For what it's worth, we never got a wipes warmer and have never missed it. I can't imagine it would be anything but aggravating. Something else I was told we didn't really need was a bottle warmer, but we did get one of those and we do use and like it.

Hopefully this little roundup will be helpful to some expectant mom out there. But of course, different things work for different people and it seems like everyone has a different opinion when it comes to what you need and don't need. So you just have to trust your gut at first and then figure out what works for you with a bit of trial and error.

I decided to split breastfeeding/feeding must-haves into a separate post, so look for that coming soon. And this post covers the 0-3 month range, so I'll try to post another gear list for when baby is a little older -- like toys, high chair and stroller -- once we've used our stuff enough to be able to recommend it or not!

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