This list isn't for the wealthy; we were (and still are) often on our last dime during my husband's medical training. So there are ultra-high end products (like Stokke) that I never considered. But if you want the best bang for your buck, and an easier transition to "mom," here's what I recommend.
- Boppy Wedge Pillow. I tried the "snoogle" and found it really awkward. This, I loved. A few friends of mine passed one around to whoever was pregnant at the time. I did find that when my second pregnancy involved a smaller baby and a softer mattress, I didn't need it. But I couldn't have lived without it the first time around.
- Diaper Bag. As depressing as it is, you might want to consider a backpack diaper bag. When you have a baby on one hip, it's annoying to be balancing something else on your other side - you can't lean both ways at the same time. I have the Columbia Trekster but unfortunately the newest design of it gets bad reviews for durability. Too bad... I think it's absolutely the most convenient thing. It has a thermal pocket for a bottle, and special pouches for pacifiers, keys, cell phone etc. Easy access zipper down the side. Works great stuck under your arm for breast-feeding on the go. Has two straps with snaps that fit easily over stroller handlebar.
- Lansinoh Nursing Pads. If you plan to nurse, plan to leak. These are the best-rated nursing pads (bra inserts) in Baby Bargains. You won’t want to deal with washables (though I'll give you MAJOR environmental points if you do) and these stick really well in your bra and hold in place.
- Medela Sleep Nursing Bra. A necessity if nursing. Super comfy to sleep in; enough room for soothies or nursing pads, easy access for nursing. Get 2 because it will get thrown up on in the middle of the night. Get one size up because your rib cage expands during pregnancy and doesn’t go back down until 6 weeks out (plus your boobs are huge). You do sort of need 2 sizes of each bra for this reason … or you can wait on getting an actual nursing bra until you’re 6 weeks out, and in the mean time just wear a Target nursing tank under your clothes.
- Target's Gilligan O'Malley Nursing Tanks. The best bang for your buck in nursing tanks, at least for B-cup types. Great for public nursing so your tummy isn’t exposed. All I wore for the first 6 months.
- Bravado Bliss Nursing Bra. Absolutely the best nursing bra and I tried them all. Gives a ton of support. However, very expensive. I only wear on special occasions.
- Medela Breastmilk Pump. Medela is the best, but Baby Bargains rates Ameda just as high and Ameda is way cheaper ($110 cheaper), especially if you buy through breastpumpsdirect.com. I can’t compare it to Medela since I only have Ameda, but Ameda works fine for me. If I were going back to work I would probably fork over the money for Medela though.
- Bebe Au Lait Nursing Cover. You need one if you plan to nurse. And these ones are So. Nice.
- Miralax. Best laxative – it's not really a laxative at all, but an all-natural stool softener - so no side-effects and it's safe for nursing. They will give you laxatives in the hospital, but they didn’t give me any to take at home; just Colace, which basically doesn't work (according to me, and my husband's colleagues). Start taking Miralax as soon as you get home if you had any tearing, and especially if you're still on pain medication. I actually downed some on my way to the hospital with my second baby. My constipation was so severe after my first (due in largest part to the pain medication I was on - and that was a vaginal delivery) that I would have had to go to the hospital if my husband wasn't himself a doctor.
- All The Food You Can Get Your Hands On.
|You'll need an epic feast. Or fifty. You'll be starving but have little time to cook.|
- I have the utmost respect for cloth diaperers but because our laundry is two floors down, and my husband was working 100 hour weeks, I did disposables. I also fell in love with Pampers for their quality, although it seems anecdotally that different brands work better on different babies. Whatever brand you choose, the cheapest and easiest way to get diapers is to go on Amazon and register as an "Amazon Mom." I also HIGHLY recommend joining Amazon Prime - it pays for itself in gas, wear & tear, and TIME saved from NO MORE trips to Target or other errands - which are otherwise truly endless with babies and young toddlers. This way, everything you could possibly need ships free and you get a great price, delivered to your doorstep.
- Best Wipes: Costco's Kirkland (strong enough to grip; thin enough to get crevices). If you don't belong to a Costco, you can order your wipes like you do diapers on Amazon.
- Best hint: When you first come home from the hospital, wash the wipes out in the sink to get the soap and chemicals out - your baby's ultra-sensitive newborn bottom will thank you.
- Best Ointment: This saved us when my firstborn had a really awful rash just home from the hospital: Use Aquaphor first, and then put a big blob of Desitin. Don’t rub the Desitin in; just stick a huge glob in there so it’s chalk full of Desitin.
- Diaper disposal: If you breastfeed, their poop won’t smell until you start solids so you don’t need anything fancy right away. I never did need anything for my firstborn but my second born could clear out a building. The new thing is the Dekor – it’s hands free.
- If you're going practical, Carter's is the cutest and best-quality for your dollar. Gymboree is great too, just be sure you use coupons and Gymbucks; their quality has declined recently as they're now marketing to the masses with excessive sales, so be sure you buy on sale.
|Claire in Gymboree. TDF!|
- If you're going obsessive, I find that Ebay and Zulily are amazing for high-end outfits. Check out my blog post, "Designer Baby on a Budget." If you're on slightly less of a budget and you want to find deals on ultra-high end stuff, sign up with GILT (it's free - just like Zulily).
|Lei dress from Zulily, paid around $20.|
|Twirls & Twigs dress from Zulily, paid around $30. |
These resell really well on Ebay, check out my Ten Tips for Reselling Baby Clothes on Ebay.
|ELK brand (Australia) shoes from Zulily. |
Reviews say they're as amazing as See Kai Run and Stride Rite, but way cheaper because they're not as well known yet.
|Petticoat Dress by Llum, got it half off on GILT, will resell on Ebay for $20+.|
- If you haven't already, you should also sign up with MyHabit. MyHabit is Amazon's version of Zulily. It doesn't have quite the daily selection but it does have some super high-end brands (think Oilily, See Kai Run, Stride Rite, and Sophie Catalou) and shipping is only $4 flat. They discount everything until it's all gone so you can score ridiculous deals on designer babes shoes end-of-season.
|$200 boots by Italian Designer Ciao Bimbi. $53 on MyHabit, free shipping.|
- If you have a winter baby, and especially if it's a boy, consider that you might want to just keep him in footed pj's ("sleep and plays") most days, since dressing him up is going to be a hassle and socks get pulled off. That's all I did for my son other than a few treasured outfits. With my daughter I went crazy and dressed her every day... I was less overwhelmed since I'd already done it before, and I was pretty sure she'd be our last baby. Zippers are easier than snaps.
- Sleep Sacks with sleeves (Carter's has these) are a great substitute for pj's for easy night time access. Halo sleep sacks (without sleeves) also great to layer with jammies in the winter, to keep your baby warm. The cotton ones are lighter and I use them all year 'round - especially once Matthew started climbing out of his crib. I use microfleece in the winter.
- Swaddles: I recommend holding off on these, as neither of my babies liked them. Get a cheap one like Kiddopotamus to have on hand in case you want to try it. In my case, the cradle swing got rid of the need for a swaddle - with my first I sometimes took a very thin, stretchy blankie (not a hazard) and swaddled him by stretching it tight and tucking it under in the swing. It was so easy to do and it became his "blankie." If you do that, get two of whatever blankie you use. My second wanted nothing to do with swaddles or pacifiers.
|Claire in Carter's, with See Kai Run "Smaller" shoes purchased off Ebay|
Check out my blog post "Designer Baby on a Budget"!
- Oball Rattles and Winkles are great for really young babies.
- Sassy's "Wonder Wheel" was great to suction to the high chair to keep my son entertained while I prepared more food.
- The Leapfrog Musical Table is a lot of fun for toddlers, and you can start using it at a pretty young age by removing two legs and leaning it on the floor.
- The Fisher-Price Rumble and Learn Driver was my son's favorite thing ever and it really helped teach him to sit up.
- The Fisher-Price Rainforest Play Mat (or similar) is an absolute necessity. I even made my mom buy one off Craigslist to have when I visited once.
- The Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Learning Home has gotten lots of mileage around here, where not much else has.
- The "Baby Einstein Takealong Tunes" got us through many, many, many grocery trips - and saved many a nap when my babies otherwise would have passed out in the car before we could get home for a "real" nap.
- When they get older, Magnatiles are worth every penny. They get more mileage than anything else we own. Other than...
- Thomas Trains (the tracks and engines) are my son's absolute favorite. I like not having a train table - it's fun to get them out and build, and I LOVE being able to put them away.
- Radio Flyer Classic Tiny Trike: Kids are obsessed, and can keep indoors.
- Radio Flyer Walker Wagon: Loved this. So many uses. See photo below.
- Advice: Being able to put toys away is key. Any toy left sitting out won't ever get played with. If you can even put stuff in a bag up on a shelf, and get it out periodically when you're spending time at home, you will get SO much more mileage out of it.
|The Radio Flyer Walker Wagon has many uses!|
- I really believe the more stations, the merrier. Your baby is entertained all over again in a new “station,” plus this way you always have somewhere to set the baby down in each room.
- The Fisher-Price Rainforest Play Mat described above is a great station.
- The Rock and Play sleeper is also a great station - it weighs next to nothing so is super portable room to room, and keeps your baby up close to you. LOVE.
- We also have the Bright Starts Comfort & Harmony Swing. I could not have lived without this. The music is really soothing and it calmed my babies right down.
- Their feeding chair becomes a station with the Sassy toy described above.
- A "cradle" or "papasan" swing is also a great station, but is discussed under cribs, below.
- The Fisher-Price Rainforest Jumperoo (or similar) is fantastic when they outgrow the play mat.
- The Bumbo seat I found not necessary for my first. It's not entertaining at all. I did use it with my second, because she liked to watch her brother play - he was the entertainment.
- On pack-and-plays: We hardly used ours but it was, occasionally, a necessity. There is a great one on Amazon for just $44. If you fly anywhere annually, you should consider ordering it through Amazon for the $50 and just leaving it there, since you'd otherwise have to pay to check it as luggage.
|No sister left behind! Even my toddler can transport the Rock and Play Sleeper.|
|According to my toddler, the Bright Starts Harmony Swing was built for two!|
- We were given a crib used, free, so this is the one area I did not research.
- But BEFORE you transition to a crib, I strongly encourage you to consider purchasing a papasan or cradle swing. They may not be the magic bullet for all babies, but based on reviews they're the best thing ever for about 85%. A papasan/cradle swing is a swing that swing side-to-side rather than back and forth (more similar to the womb), and sort of cocoons the baby in a "cup" shape - and at a slight angle, which aids digestion. With my first, I was literally never once up rocking him after a feeding - we kept the swing right by our bed and I'd plop him in. If he didn't pass out right away, I'd turn the motion on for a little while. I did try to avoid the motion so he wouldn't get accustomed to it, but it was a godsend on many nights. After a few months we transitioned him to his regular crib for naps and then for night time sleep. Very smooth transition. We had the Fisher-Price Papasan Cradle Swing in Starlight.
|Fisher-Price Starlight Papasan Cradle Swing|
- Pacifiers. At the time I had my first, the best orthodontic pacifier was supposed to be the MAM. I also appreciated that they had a glow-in-the-dark version. But in reality, you'll probaby try fifty different kinds of pacifiers before finding the one your baby likes. Pacifier clips (they can clip to the car seat straps or the baby's outfit) are great too - so they don't get lost.
- White Noise. According to Baby Bargains, some studies have shown that noisemakers can cause long-term hearing damage. While I don't necessarily believe that, we went with a fan because I read somewhere else that fans reduce the risk of SIDS. I've found that hotels will generally provide fans if you ask for one.
- Bottles. I read a ton of reviews on these and at least as of last year, Born Free were overall the best. But the lactation consultant at our local baby store said that Avent was most compatible with nursing, so that's what I got. Pretty sure it doesn't matter in the least. In any case, know that you'll start your baby with the 4 ounce bottle and later move to 8. There are also different nipple grades for different flows, so be sure your starter pack either has all of them or that you supplement. You want a smaller flow for a newborn and then you graduate up.
- Milk Storage. Lansinoh bags. Leave some room when you close it because milk expands a little when it freezes.
- Glider/Rocking Chair. We got along fine without one, because I used the cradle swing for motion. For nursing, I used a Boppy pillow and a nursing stool (the stool is VERY important). It happened that the Boppy worked perfectly with the chair I used - the baby's head was at the perfect height when the Boppy rested on the arm of the chair. But for all other chairs I preferred a My Breast Friend, since it buckles around you and holds itself at the right height. You might want to get both because the Boppy is really useful for tummy time anyway.
- Closet Storage: I loved this "closet doubler" that enabled me to double the hanging space in my closet. I also love using this Munckin organizer. If you can afford it, baby armoires are SO cute.
- Monitors. If you need to go really cheap, Angelcare makes a great traditional monitor. But you can get a video monitor for about $100 - or less, if you find one on Ebay or Craigslist. We got a used one free and I'm an addict. Here's a good, cheap one by Infant Optics if you're in the market.
- High Chairs. If space is an issue (like it is for us) and the kitchen chairs you already have don't have arms, don't get one. Get a feeding chair instead. Bonus: You can take them on any trips that involve a car instead of an airplane, super useful for eating dinner at the home of childless friends! There's a range and different stylistic options - pay close attention to how close you can get the tray to the belly and whether it sort of wraps around the sides when it's pushed all the way in, you'll save a lot of mess that way.
- Bath Time. For towels, I think it's worth it to get a higher-end bath towel like the Pottery Barn Kids "Nursery Critter Bath Wraps." You'll use it all the time and it's so nice to have it be thick and soft and cute. Makes a great gift too.
- Tub. We got the First Years tub based on reviews and price. Just make sure you get one that fits in the sink, to save your back. The AAP book (mentioned below) has a good section on how to do your first bath.
- Sippy Cups. I've pretty much tried them all and the Gerber Graduates are the only ones that never leaked, even over time. Unfortunately they're not very cute, but they're so great - love filling them with a Stoneyfield Drinkable Yogurt for a snack or meal on the go. But when you're first transitioning, check out the Zoli - my kids found the straw very easy and very enticing, probably because they'd seen Mommy with one too many iced Starbucks beverages.
- Baby Carriers and Slings. I recommend the Becco Butterfly II over several others, for all the reasons I state in my Amazon review. Even if you don't plan on "wearing" your baby, you'll probably still want a carrier. Your stroller can't quite go everywhere, and they come in handy big time when you have your second baby, or when you do a big grocery trip before your baby can sit up in the baby seat.
|PBK Owl Bath Wrap: LOVE.|
- Depends on your needs.
- The Graco car seats are the most versatile, meaning they work best with the specialty strollers.
- If you're willing to spend more on your stroller, I recommend the Britax B-Ready. I recommend it over the UppaBaby Vista, if you have any plans of having a second child and spacing them fewer than three years apart; both convert to a double, but the B-Ready's "second seat" gets significantly better reviews than the Vista's "rumble seat," and that includes reviews of people who have tried both. If you do that, get the Britax B-Safe car seat; it's compatible with the B-Ready, and get a snap-and-go that also works with it.
- The other matching "sets" like Graco's are all terrible. I'm not even sure they make them anymore; I don't see them on Amazon but maybe Babies R Us still has them. By the way, Babies R Us is almost always a complete ripoff.
- If you want to be able to jog with your stroller, a BOB Revolution is really a must. I hardly ever see any joggers with any other stroller. They hold up really well so check Craigslist and consider buying new and reselling later.
- If jogging is not a concern but you might do long walks and you want a stroller that pushes well, you might want to consider a City Mini - they have the easiest fold of all the all-terrain strollers and they're slightly lighter weight.
- There are two strollers that I couldn't live without, in ADDITION to my "all-terrain" walking stroller. The first is a "snap-and-go." It's just a cheap frame with a basket that you can pop your Graco car seat right into (be sure to check compatibility if you go with another car seat). It's the best thing ever because for as long as your baby fits in the infant car seat (about a year or so) you don't have to unbuckle and rebuckle into a stroller - you just pop the car seat out, snap it in, and go. It's PERFECT for air travel because it fits through the x-ray scanner and makes it easy to bring your car seat to the gate for checking it.
- The second is the UppaBaby G-Luxe. You might want to just start with these two strollers and never get anything else, because unless you do LONG walks you won't need anything. The G-Luxe is AMAZING. It's an ultra-lightweight "umbrella" (light as an umbrella) stroller unlike the others, it has quality wheels, a one-handed push and turn, a fantastic basket underneath and weather canopy, AND a CUPHOLDER! It *does* have the edge over the Maclarens even though those are more widely known. The cupholder is key, but reviews also say that the incline of the G-Luxe is slightly greater, such that your feet don't ever hit the back when you walk. The G-Lite is the cheaper version - it doesn't recline (meaning, you can't lower the back of your baby's seat for a nap) and the wheels aren't as great. It's still quite good though. We got our G-Luxe on Zulily (a flash-sale site). It was a great deal. If you're not yet signed up for Zulily, you'll definitely want to be as a parent. It's free, and they have great deals on all sorts of baby gear and high-end toys, as well as my personal favorite: designer baby clothes.
- Keep in mind that all of these strollers have a resale value. You can either buy them used or buy them new and resell. Either way it's a good deal.
- Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child is a must-have in my opinion. It takes you through what to expect at each stage based on biorhythms (meaning, they've studied what times of the day kids get tired and how much sleep they actually need). Two key highlights are (1) Sleep is a incredibly important to infant brain development; you wouldn't let your baby go hungry, so do your best to make sure your baby gets enough and *quality* sleep and isn't over-tired; and (2) Babies need more sleep than you think; don't feed your baby every time he's cranky, because a LOT of the time he's actually just tired even though he'll still nurse comfort. One of the most common mistakes new parents make is thinking their fussy baby is hungry when he's actually tired. This is partially because the baby will still nurse for comfort, and partially because cranky babies have a hard time falling asleep and don't stay asleep very well. Cranky babies aren't tired - they're overtired. Their bodies have started producing adrenaline to keep them awake, and that makes them cranky ("wired") and it also makes it hard for them to fall asleep. If you think about it, it's true for adults too. The key is to catch your baby when he's just getting drowsy and put him right down for a nap. When he stops babbling as much, stops interacting as much, etc.
- The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) reference books. Rather than being written by just one standalone physician, these books compile information on which leading experts agree, or largely agree.
- Our favorite kid books include: Snowmen at Christmas, Snowmen at Night, Pop Up Haunted House, Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site, Goodnight Moon, Big Red Barn, The Snowy Day, I Took The Moon For a Walk, Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night, Hooray for You, and Dear Zoo.
- I limit screen time but I'm not obsessive about it; I realize they don't learn anything from it until they're older but they don't learn much from crying while I make dinner either; I don't expect them to constantly learn, and we get out of the house every single day for an activity. Plus, I've found the bigger issue is finding something that actually holds their attention long enough to even potentially jeopardize their non-screen learning ;) Our favorite DVDs are "Baby Signing Time," the old cartoon version of "The Grinch," "Polar Express," and the Toy Story series, and our favorite Netflix shows (we don't get television service) are Curious George, Daniel Tiger, Justin Time, and Super Why. Right now anyway.
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