Yeah, I claim to be the simple mama. Non-materialistic and all that jazz.
Tell my mother-in-law that as she watches in awe as I trek out the door in the mornings with 5 bags, 2 children, a Moby wrap, stainless steel water bottles and 8 assorted cats and dogs.
The cats and dogs are an exaggeration, but the rest is pretty darn accurate. I’ve earned my nickname of “tank woman” from the husband, and Mommy muscles to boot.
Although I’m very aware that there is a finite list of needs for a baby, like diapers (see below), wipes (homemade recipe coming in two weeks), some sort of clothing, and a car seat, I have a number of wonderful baby-care inventions around the house that just make life easier.
I thought I would have 15-20 items on my list here, but I had to stretch to get it to eight. The list focuses on the first six months, since that’s what I’m living right now, and I noticed a distinct pattern: most of the items are to help baby sleep better/longer and ensure a good nursing relationship/closeness to Mommy.
I’m guessing your average parents in 2011 would list things like exersaucers, bouncy seats, and pacifiers as “must-haves” for baby care – all things that allow parents to set their baby down and walk away. I’m not judging, just guessing.
Don’t get me wrong: I love our bouncy chair and will get plenty of use out of the exersaucer, but mostly just short times for quick kitchen prep or during a shower. I like to have my babies on a blanket playing if possible, and I’m learning that a few siblings are better entertainment than any lights, music and dancing fish.
Getting the Goodies
If you’re having a first baby, people will want to get you gifts. Tell them to skip the receiving blankets (which are so small they’re only good as burp cloths or handkerchiefs) and go together on one of these lovely items!
You might also consider signing up for Swagbucks, through which you can earn Amazon gift cards. I recommend including your referral link to Swagbucks when you send out that baby birth announcement via email to alllllll your family and friends!
Also, many items can be handmade if you have a halfway decent seamstress in your life. The Moby is a particularly easy pattern if you can find the right stretchy fabric. My mom made some ring slings and even a little one for Leah following Internet directions.
Without further dilly-dallying, here is my list of wonderful indulgences, the little things that fall squarely in the “want” category but are surely nice to have:
Katie’s Ultimate Favorite Baby Gadgets
Did you know it’s International Babywearing Week? I didn’t until yesterday, but how perfect that I’ll be posting videos later this week of John and me enjoying a few kinds of baby carriers. UPDATE: Here are the How to Wear and Breastfeed in a Moby Wrap videos
Any kind of sling will help you keep your sanity, especially if you have a baby who loves to be held/carried (most do). You can get dinner made, shopping done, and calm your baby by “wearing” them in a sling often.
My first sling was a “ring sling” that tightens using a double ring system. I also have a pocket sling, which is a one-shoulder dealie like a ring sling but without the rings and am testing out an Ergo.
This is Leah in her first month – a benefit of the ring sling is that you can slip it off with a sleeping baby so they’re all warm and cozy in their crib. I’m sure a baby is not supposed to sleep with the sling in the crib per governmental back-to-sleep policies, so please don’t tell the government on me. She turned out just fine.
Check out the site www.wearyourbaby.com for nifty ways to keep your baby close by using household items like sheets and sarongs. I vacuumed one day with Paul in a sarong when he was probably about a year old – what fun!
Why not a Baby Bjorn or similar?
My physical therapist friend explains that when babies are in a common carrier like Baby Bjorn that forces them to hang on their own pelvis, it’s an unnatural position and negatively affects their hip development. You need a carrier that allows the child to sit on their bottom, like a one-shoulder sling, Moby Wrap, Ergo, or Mei Tai.
For ages birth through 6 months, hands down my top essential item – used daily and amazing enough to be on the “needs” list instead of the “wants” – is a Moby Wrap. In fact, I somehow misplaced mine and scrambled around to get one, even before I bought diapers for the little one in utero! I had to be prepared…
The great thing about my “oops” is that my readers benefit: when I find my old Moby, I’ll be giving away this lovely one from Lullaby Organics in a giveaway!
I love the Moby for this age because it’s two shouldered, which means you’re more balanced and not sore from holding baby’s weight on just one side or the other. It’s so secure for the little one – I never feel like baby will tip out or bump anything as I walk, work in the kitchen, or play outside with the big kids. Plus, I can nurse in it even while I walk pushing Leah in the stroller.
I wear the Moby Wrap like clothing many days, sometimes from breakfast until dinner without taking it off my body. I’ll show you how it work later this week via video, and when I post the giveaway I’ll share a comprehensive comparison of the slings I’ve had experience with: pros and cons, best age and uses for each.
The Happiest Baby on the Block
My husband and I watched the video with this title before we had our first child, and it seriously saved our sanity. The 5 tips for content/sleeping babies contained within are a revelation, like “The Baby Whisperer” for rookies. The strategies basically mimic the baby’s experience in the womb and help them to feel comfortable and secure, much like the Moby Wrap and babywearing does. It’s amazing.
The happy baby techniques explain why you need the next three items…
Our little burrito, above, with big brother Paul. A swaddled baby is so much easier to hold onto!
My mom got us these Aden + Anais Swaddle Blankets when Leah was born 3 1/2 years ago, and they are still in brand new condition. For the newborn phase, they’re important for swaddling but also make a very nice nursing cover-up or shade from the sun over the carseat carrier for when you’re out and about. They’re very lightweight so that you and baby don’t swelter while nursing even in the heat of summer.
I used them incessantly when Leah was a newborn and continued to use them as sheets even now that she’s a preschooler.
They’re made of muslin, which must help them survive constant washing without seeming worn, and they’re so soft and slightly stretchy. Swaddling a baby is no easy task, and trying to accomplish it with a blanket that’s any smaller than these (as most baby blankets are) is asking for failure.
The Aden + Anais brand are not only large enough to contain baby, but thin enough that you can secure your swaddle so little Houdini doesn’t bust free within 30 seconds. A good swaddle helps baby stay sleeping so you can have some moments with two hands and no baby worn on your front, good for cooking and holding older kids on your rarely-empty lap.
Sleep Sack Swaddle
Big brother Paul with new baby Jonathan, three years later…
Now with baby number three, we’ve discovered the Halo Sleep Sack Swaddle, which is not as versatile as the blanket above but is an even easier and tighter swaddle. It has wings with Velcro that wrap around the baby (a friend recommends the Miracle Blanket for similar purposes).
Although my husband secretly hoped we could take even more than one home from the hospital, we ended up not using it as much as we thought. Here’s why, and it’s a dirty little secret most experienced parents have: we put our babies to sleep on their bellies. (Gasp!) It works to combat the startle reflex that wakes up back-sleeping infants, and because it was summer when John was tiny, it didn’t seem fair to wrap him in a blanket all the time.
However, for a new parent or anyone who is going to follow the “back to sleep” recommendations anyway, this item is a must.
Our secret to sleep with this guy is the tummy position and the next item on the list…
White noise CD
One of the pieces of the Happiest Baby on the Block philosophy is that infants are used to lots of noise in the womb, so they are calmed by white noise: vacuum cleaner, AM radio static, hair dryer, wind noise in a vehicle, exhaust fan over stove, a very loud shushing voice, etc. (We’ve used all of those in real life.)
All three of our babies have achieved better sleep in the first few months because we have a crazy CD with 45 minutes of hair dryer noise on it. We blast it, and they are calmed and less likely to wake once they’re sleeping in the crib. John will even settle himself to sleep when he’s slightly awake as long as the hair dryer CD is on, and it helps to drown out the sometimes loud and sudden (i.e. baby-waking) sibling noises in the house.
There’s no reason to make the house quiet to keep the baby sleeping, both because it’s better to train your kiddos to sleep with noises, and because the baby can’t hear anything through the hair dryer noise! This is the item we give people for baby showers if we can’t afford to give them a sling. Everyone thinks it’s crazy until they see how well it works.
I notice that you can get a sleep sack swaddle with a white noise CD for the same price as the sack alone at Amazon – a no brainer!)
Boppy or other nursing pillow
Other than the Moby, this item gets the most use in our house these days. I’m constantly balancing baby John on it to nurse while I [fill in blank]: During dinner, while reading books to kids, while typing, watching TV, reading, snoozing on accident in the rocking chair…it always helps to have some support for the baby.
I prop the Boppy up on the arm of my armchair so I don’t have to lean over at all, saving my back from a lot of wrenching pain. Putting one’s feet up while nursing, by the way, is important to reduce lower back strain as well. You can use the sides of an infant carrier car seat as a footrest when you’re out and about.
The Boppy is also fun for propping baby up for playtime and even tummy time. This is Leah getting smiley with the camera:
I thought this item was a dumb money-making scheme. I figured our muslin blankets were perfect nursing covers and something with a dual purpose that I already had. I didn’t think I’d use it much at all, but a friend offered to lend her nursing cover to me, so I borrowed it.
I’m certain that if you ask my father-in-law what his favorite baby gear item is, he’d choose the nursing cover.
It goes around my neck and has a wire in it to make the top part stand away from my body so I can easily peek in and see the baby to help with latching on, and a busy baby can’t whip the cover-up blanket off, either. It makes dinnertime much more comfortable for all of us (but I don’t use it if people aren’t around since I’d rather see baby completely unhindered).
photo from Udder Covers
Why so Pricey?
I’m bummed that all the items on my list (with the exception of the CD and book) seem to be very expensive. I don’t like to spend a lot on my kids (or anything, for that matter), but some items have just been worth it. I probably spent one penny every time I wore my ring sling (I literally wore it out, shredded the thing) and would pay $200 for a Moby Wrap if I didn’t have one (they run $55-70 usually).
If you’re expecting, seriously, put the big items on your wish list. You can always find clothes for a few bucks at a garage sale, but you and your baby will appreciate a couple of these goodies even more than clothes.
For some smaller, not-so-essential but also fun baby goodies, check out this week’s massive giveaway ($240 value!).
What Diapers Does Baby Jonathan Wear?
Although I’m planning to start cloth diapering (for the first time!) when I have my own washing machine in my own house and I can put one foot in front of the other without wondering what I’m forgetting and feeling behind, for now, we’re using disposables.
My first two babies wore Pampers Swaddlers as newborns and Target brand after that. Now that my “green” consciousness has been raised, I’m seeking a slightly better option for this temporary time before cloth.
When I was making my first order on drugstore.com, I remember my finger hovering over the mouse, almost ready to bail on the decision since the diapers seemed so much more expensive than what I was used to.
Now that I learned some tricks over at Jungle Deals and Steals, I’m amazed that Seventh Generation Diapers really aren’t much more (maybe less) than the Target brand I used to buy, once I signed up for Amazon Mom and used the “subscribe and save” feature. (Plus they’re really free with Swagbucks, but why split hairs?) Since we’re only in size one for now, I chose “every 6 months” for ordering options and will cancel or change it to size two when I’m ready for my next order.
I’m even more impressed with how well they work. I figured they would be less effective than Pampers, but they seem to absorb as well and contain number twos excellently. In fact, a friend passed on a package of Kirkland brand size 1-2 diapers that her daughter grew out of, and I bet they have about a 50% failure rate on something leaking. They’re only sticking around as emergency backup in case we run out of 7th Gen before the shipment I ordered comes!
A daily phrase in our house this week as I tried to use up the Kirkland brand was, “Darn monkey diapers!” said every time someone got wet because John leaked. Crazy ineffective.
The “upgrade” from your standard diaper for Seventh Generation is that they’re processed without chlorine bleach, which saves baby’s bottom from exposure and, potentially more importantly, saves the environment from the pollution.
Some readers recommended other sustainable brands that might be even less expensive on Amazon, but after we had such success with 7th Gen I was afraid to break the system.
What are your favorite baby care items?
Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Mom4Life and Amazon and will earn commission. I received the Moby from Lullaby Organics after I begged and offered to give it away to readers afterwards. I would have purchased one if I couldn’t strike that deal; it’s worth it! See my full disclosure statement here.
I’m linked into Things I Love Thursday at Diaper Diaries.