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I often get emails requesting advice on my favorite baby products and what I have found to be most useful. So, I’ve cut and pasted my response into a blog post with updates as things keep changing. She’s growing up way too fast!
Update: In addition to our toddler, we now have boy/girl twins (born June 2012), and I’ve added a few more must-haves to the list.
1) Birthing Advice. I didn’t really read any childbirth books. Chris and I took natural child-birthing classes together, and our instructor was super knowledgeable and really knew her stuff. She had answers for all of our questions and research to back everything up. The classes were beyond helpful, and I felt totally prepared. If you’re hoping for a natural childbirth, I would highly recommend hiring a doula. Ours was a doula/RN/midwife, and she was awesome. She helped us put together our birth plan and even attended a doctor’s apt. with us to go over the plan with our OB. Originally, we hoped to stay at home and labor as long as possible with her there, but things did not go according to plan (you can read my birth story here). However, it was great to have her there b/c since she was a registered nurse, she was able to unhook all the monitoring equipment so that I could walk around. The nurses at the hospital knew and trusted her, and just left us alone. I would hire her again in a heartbeat.
C-section: With our twins I had a c-section since Baby A was breech, and it wasn’t that bad. My advice to anyone who knows they will have a c-section is to walk often that first week after surgery. It will be painful getting in and out of bed, but the walking will help your recovery. Also, do not eat solid foods until you pass gas post-delivery and stick with liquid calories if you can. No one told me this, and the gas pains I experienced after eating those first couple of days after surgery were worse than the pain around my incision.
2) Food for Mama & Baby: I love love LOVE Nina Planck’s Real Food For Mother & Baby. The book has wonderful dietary advice for pregnant women, nursing women, and first foods to feed baby. I love the author’s philosophy – it just makes so much sense. As far as solids go, we started out doing Baby Led Weaning and have incorporated some purees into the mix. You can see all my favorite baby food recipes here.
3) Sleep. Oh my goodness, I cannot stress the importance of sleep for your baby. I was totally underestimating the amount of sleep Summer needed, and we kept mistaking her sleepiness for hunger. (Everyone tells you will be able to distinguish between tired and hungry cries after a few weeks. Well, I hard a hard time with that one.) I kept reading that babies need to be up for no more than 2 hours, and this was so true! When she was a newborn, she would just catnap for 20 minutes here and there making for really long days for me, but again, we were feeding here when she was actually just tired. At about 5 months, we started to get into more of a regular nap schedule. From what I’ve read, the first 4 months, you just do what you need to do to get the baby to sleep. After 4 months, you can do some sleep training, but until then the baby will cry b/c he/she needs something – diaper change, he/she is uncomfortable, hungry, just wants to be close to you, etc. There are several schools of thought on sleep schedules/training for babies, and we had great success with Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth. Again, babies need a ton of sleep, and I used to think that if I could keep Summer awake longer in the afternoons then she would sleep better at night. Um, no, the more sleep she gets, the happier she is, and if she is up for longer than she should be, she gets over-tired, and things just go downhill from there. Summer now falls asleep all on her own with little to no crying. Since she was about 5 months old up until now (she’s 8 months), she’s been napping twice a day, usually from about 9 to 11 AM and 1 to 3 PM and then sleeps from about 6 PM to 6 AM every night.
We’ve followed Dr. Weissbluth’s advice with our twins as well, and they are sleeping through the night and napping like champs!
4) If you’re planning to breastfeed, have a lactation consultant help you as soon as you can. The nurses were no help to me in the hospital – they saw Summer sucking and said, yeah that looks fine. Even the LC at the hospital wasn’t much help, and just sent me home with a pump, telling me to pump every 2 hours since Summer seem to have no interest in feedings (she was so small and we couldn’t get her to eat – all she wanted to do was sleep). Anyway, we found a good lactation consultant that did home visits, and without her, I would never have made it as long as I did with breastfeeding. If you’re a Nashville reader and would like a recommendation for a good LC, please email me!
Chris and I always said we didn’t want a lot of baby stuff, but we have found everything listed below to be very helpful…Update: Now that we have three children under the age of two, anything that makes my life easier, I want. 😉
1) For the car seat, we got a Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat and Base. The car seat is simple to use and is the number one rated infant car seat in the U.S. If you will be using the car seat in two separate cars, you may want to think about purchasing an additional base. You’ll also need a stroller, and although we put a lot of mileage on the stroller that came with the Chicco Travel System, it was a bit bulky and cumbersome. In hindsight, I would have simply purchsed The Keyfit Caddy for when I needed to pop the carseat into a stroller rather than getting the whole Travel System. A few drawbacks to the Chicco Keyfit Infant Seat: It doesn’t fit into some snap-n-go stroller frames, and nor does it fit into the front basket of grocery shopping carts. The straps often get twisted and need to be fixed before buckling baby in, and I’ve noticed all our kids easily get hot in the seat on warm days. None of these things are a big deal for us, but I thought they were worth mentioning. I really do love our car seats.
Update: We purchased a Britax Marathon car seat when Summer was ready to move into a forward facing car seat, and we love it. We also ended up purchasing a Bob jog stroller, and we both love it. It maneuvers around so well compared to our bulky Chicco. Another wonderful around-town stroller (for when you’re ready to upgrade from the caddy) is the City Mini. I have friends who love their City Mini’s, and I hope to get a double one for the twins.
To keep the babies warm in their car seats and strollers when it’s cold out, I love the JJ Cole Bundle Me.
2) We got this crib from Amazon and I love it. It’s smaller and low the the ground which I like. Plus I love the design – very classic, and it converts into a toddler bed. For the twins, we purchased two Gulliver cribs from IKEA. We were looking for an inexpensive but highly rated crib since we had to buy two. I love how simple they look, they were easy to put together, and you cannot beat the price. You can see the set-up for our nursery here, including cribs, dresser, changing pad, etc.
Crib Bedding: As far as bedding goes, you don’t need a complete set as you really won’t use the quilt (except maybe for tummy time on the floor), and we ended up removing the crib bumpers for the twins as one of them kept smooshing her face into it – not safe. So, in hindsight, I’d probably just get a few crib sheets and a cute crib skirt or make my own. If you need a bumper to keep arms and legs inside the crib, I recommend getting a mesh one.
3) The swing, a lifesaver those first few months. Summer loved it and often fell asleep in it, and now I use it when I need to do stuff around the house and want to keep her entertained. We purchased a second swing when the twins arrived, and they were lifesavers those first few months with two infants and a toddler in the house. The twins napped in their swings A LOT their first four months.
4) We didn’t get a bassinet but opted for a Pack ‘N Play. It’s great b/c you can use it as an infant bed and a crib when you travel, but it can also be used as a playpen. For the first few weeks, we co-slept or I had Summer in the Pac-N-Play next to the bed. Then we started putting her in her crib and I slept in the guest room right next to the nursery. So, it wasn’t inconvenient to feed Summer in the middle of the night. However, if I was sleeping in a room far away from the nursery, then I would probably use the Pac-N-Play so she could be closer to me. If you get the Pac-N-Play, I would get two of these quilted sheets for it. Update: Summer loves playing in her Pac-N-Play. We keep it downstairs in the dining room, filled with a few toys, and refer to it as Summer’s Office. She happily sits in it and plays while mama drinks her morning coffee. For traveling purposes, we recently purchased a PeaPod Tent for naps and bedtime.
The twins slept in the Pack ‘N Play for 8 weeks in our bedroom before moving to their own room, and we recently purchased a second Pack ‘N Play to keep downstairs for their naps during the day. They love sleeping in the Pac-N-Play, but Summer always preferred her PeaPod tent.
5) Baby Monitor – We got this one, and it’s fine. Some people told me to get a video monitor, but for us, I didn’t think it was necessary.
We did end up receiving this video monitor for the twins as a gift, and I have to admit it’s really nice being able to see the baby, especially since we have two. I also like the “talk” feature for when they are older, and I can say, “Get back in bed” over the speaker. 😉
6) Baths – We got this bathtub. We used it for Summer’s very first bath in the bathtub.
7) Diapers – Pampers Swaddlers. We’ve tried several other brands but always go back to the Pampers Swaddlers. I tried the Bum Genius cloth diapers but was not a fan. They leaked horribly for us. Once all of our babies started sleeping through the night, their diapers would often leak, and so we started putting two diapers on them. Then when they were big enough, we switched to Huggies Overnights for nighttime (smallest they come in is size 3). No leaks. Love them. We purchase our diapers in bulk on Amazon through their subscribe and save program.
8.) Wipes. I use cloth wipes, and I wrote a blog post about them here. Update: My wipe warmer started to smell funky, even after bleaching it. So, for now, we’re using disposable wipes – we just use the Kirkland brand from Costco and have had no problems with diaper rash.
9) Swaddling blankets. Swaddling is key – really helps calm a newborn down. We use the Happiest Baby on The Block method, and these are my favorite swaddling blankets. We were given a ton of different ones, but I only use the Aden + Anais are they are a great size (really big) and they are made from Muslin which is a really breathable material. If I use anything else, Summer gets hot. We swaddled her a lot in the beginning, but now she prefers to have her arms free, and so I just swaddle her lower half.
Update: No longer swaddling, but still use the blankets all the time – carry one in the diaper bag, car, etc. Great as a stroller cover, etc.
2nd Update: We have now have newborn twins, and I have discovered a new favorite swaddling blanket: The Miracle Blanket. Despite many recommendations, I was too cheap to purchase this blanket when we had Summer, but we got a couple when we found out we were expecting twins. They make swaddling so easy, and the baby’s little arms stay inside the blanket. Love these blankets and worth every penny in my opinion! Babysteals.com sometimes offers the blankets as their deal of the day, and so make sure you sign up for the site’s daily emails.
3rd Update: Still love the Miracle Blankets, but the twins started wiggling out of them around 12 weeks old, and so we now swaddle in Miracle Blankets, and then zip/velcro the babies up in HALO sleep sack swaddles. They go immediately to sleep without a peep as soon as they are swaddled, and I am not looking forward to the day when we can no longer swaddle.
10) Bottles. I planned on breast feeding exclusively, but that didn’t work out as planned. So, we use the Medela bottles. I never researched bottles as we had to supplement Summer with formula one night and just bought the bottles our lactation consultant had with her. They’re fine. The only problem I’ve had with them is that sometimes the nipples collapse, but if you loosen the lid a bit to allow more airflow, problem solved. Many of my friends use the Dr. Brown’s bottles, but I didn’t want to deal with washing all the separate parts. If you do bottle feed, I would recommend purchasing a bottle brush for washing them and some sort of bottle drying rack.
11) Pacifier. We didn’t plan on using a pacifier as I read it causes nipple confusion, but Summer always wanted to comfort suck, and so we ended getting her a Wubbanub, recommended by the lactation nurses at the hospital. She loves it, and although we don’t give it to her during the day, she still sleeps with it every night. It’s a Soothie Newborn pacifier which you can buy at Target, and I was told that it is good for training the baby how to suck at the breast. For the twins, we use the Soothie pacifiers as well as that’s what they were given in the NICU, and I attach them to everything with these pacifier straps.
12) Diaper Pail – I have never been a fan of Diaper Genies. I baby-sat a lot growing up, and they just seemed more trouble than they’re worth. We use this diaper pail – it’s small and simple. I empty it once a day and use Target or Trader Joe plastic bags to line it. I threw a few Arm-N-Hammer scented discs made for diaper pails in the bottom, and we’ve never had a problem with smell. I got those at Target. Still love our simple diaper pail – we now have three.
13) Bac-Out cleaner. Works great when spit up happens on items that can’t go through the wash – i.e. carpet, pillows, etc.
14) Burp Cloths – You can never have enough of these. We keep them all over the house and use them as towels and wipes when we’re feeding the babies. They will soften up after a few times through the washer.
15) Bouncy Seat/Infant Lounger– We never had a good one with Summer, but the twins love this infant seat.
For the first few months of the twins’ life (and we’re still using them at 5 months old), we often set the babies down in their Boppy Infant Loungers. WE ABSOLUTELY LOVE THESE, and I wish I’d had one for Summer.
16)Summer had a lot of fun in her Bounce Bounce Baby Activity Zone, and we plan on using it with the twins as well.
17) White noise machine. White noise is key, and we keep it on all night and during naps. We never really used it with Summer, but it has helped tremendously with the twins’ sleep. We use this white noise machine turned on the highest setting as well as a box fan in their room. You can never have too much white noise!
18) Baby Carrier. For infants, I love the K’tan, and when the baby gets a bit older, I love my Babyhawk Mei Tai carrier. We also purchased an Ergo Carrier from BabySteals.com. So comfy and definitely my favorite carrier for when the baby is 6+ months. Great for dads too.
19) As far as clothes go, we were given almost everything. Buy a lot of onesies – don’t get many newborn ones as he/she won’t wear them for long, but do get several 0 to 3 months. We love the sleepers with feet as it’s really hard to keep socks on a newborn. My favorite place to buy baby clothes is at consignment sales, Goodwill, Old Navy, and on Etsy.
Update: I have discovered socks that will actually stay on a baby’s feet. Seriously, Robeez are the best baby socks ever!
20) Boppy pillow – this is great for breastfeeding. Mine came with a cover with a hide-away strap that can convert the boppy into an infant holder, and I used to sit Summer in it often. It’s still great for propping her up as she’s not sitting up on her own yet, but it won’t be long! Update: Summer started sitting up on her own 2 months ago and we no longer use the Boppy that much. I do sometimes place it behind her if she is sitting on a hard surface just in case she should fall backwards.
Edited to Add: Many of my friends love the My Brest Friend breastfeeding pillow. Never tried it myself, but I hear great things about it.
21) Bumbo Baby Seat – We have the one with the tray, and Summer started sitting in it at about 4 months.
Update: The Bumbo was recently recalled, and so make sure to get one with the strap to buckle in baby.
22) Baby shampoo/body wash – Summer has sensitive skin, and we use this California Baby Wash or Dr. Bronners, and they both work great.
23) Books. Look Look was the only book Summer would pay attention when we started reading to her. She’s now enjoying story time more, but Look Look is still one of her favorites. It has something to do with the contrasting black and white images – newborns love it. Also, make sure you look into Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to see if it’s available in your area – if so, your baby can receive a free age appropriate book up until the age of 5. We love our Dolly books!
24) If you plan to breastfeed, here is some info on pumping. I never made enough milk for Summer (tried everything to increase my supply, but not much has helped). Anyway, after 4 months, Summer was starting to prefer a bottle more and more, and since each nursing session was taking up to an hour, I decided to stop as it was just getting to be too much. I’m still pumping, and Summer gets about 1/2 breast milk and 1/2 formula. We rented a Medela Symphony Pump from the hospital, and it’s great. I’ve done some research, and if you need to increase your supply, then a hospital grade pump is definitely your best option. It cost us $75 a month, and your insurance may even cover it. If you simply need to maintain your supply, then I’ve heard the Medela Pump In Style is a great option. If you do end up pumping for some reason, I highly recommend a hands free pumping bra – makes the time go by so much quicker as I could read or email while I pumped. I sometimes even fed Summer her bottle when pumping. I just made mine using an old sports bra. Update: I weaned myself from the pump when Summer turned 6-months old.
25) We opted for this booster seat rather than a high-chair. It was much cheaper, works great, and Summer can sit right next to me at our dining room table.
And when your little one is ready for solids, I LOVE these bibs. Great coverage and make clean-up easy. They also work well as smocks for art projects.
26) One of the best pieces of advice I received was to skip the glider/rocker and purchase a LaZBoy or some type of recliner for the nursery. You will spend hours in this chair and buying something super comfy is totally worth it! Trust me, if you have a vaginal birth, you will NOT want to sit on a hard surface those first couple of weeks. A recliner is great too, because after feedings you can simply recline back and take naps with your baby. Those quiet moments together with Summer asleep on my chest are some of my favorite memories from her first few months. Plus, you can always use a LaZBoy in another room after you’re done with it in the nursery. I’m pretty sure CD has big plans for ours post-babies.
27) Best Diaper Bag = a favorite backpack. Easy as that. Tried the Skip*Hop thing, but ended up ditching it after a few months. We have gotten a lot of use out of our portable changing station. We purchased one similar to this at Target, and it’s great for changing diapers on-the-go. I just shove it in my backpack/bag and use it all the time.
28) You’ll also need baby nail clippers and an infant rectal thermometer (I use alchocol pads to clean it and make sure to have for cleaning and . I would also make sure to have a first aid kit on hand. Also, take home a baby aspirator from the hospital. The ones from the hospital are the best!
Hope this helps any mamas-to-be or friends of mamas-to-be out there!