In my short experience being a new mom (and with some input from Chris, the new dad) these are the items we’ve found we can’t live without, some for baby and some for me.
(Small disclaimer: Images are Amazon links and if you buy through these links, I get a small commission from Amazon.)
Cake Lingerie Nursing Bra
I bought a couple of nursing bras before Flint was born and they work fine for daytime use, but neither style ended up working well for overnight. It’s remarkably hard to prepare yourself for the weight of your boobs once they are full of milk, and the heaviness of such full boobs means you really need to be able to batten down the milk hatches at night, especially if you sleep on your side. This nursing bra by Cake Lingerie is wonderful. Soft material is nice on sensitive skin, and lots of spandex means a snug fit without binding. It has really easy to use quick release straps that I figured out how to do one-handed while holding a squirming baby with just a couple of trials.
Fisher Price Rock’n’Play Sleeper
This was an item I debated internally for weeks before finally adding it to our registry. I feared that our baby would become dependent on the rocker in order to sleep. And perhaps he has. But honestly, by three weeks in, I really didn’t care. I may regret it later when he outgrows this thing, but for now I will take him sleeping any way I can get him sleeping. To make myself feel better, we do still try to put him in his crib for at least one nap a day so he doesn’t completely forget about it, but at night, it’s the Fisher Price Rock’n’Play Sleeper all the way. (Note: This thing is kind of a pain in the ass to assemble and you feel like you’re going to break it the whole time and there’s no good tutorials online and I should have made one, but it’s too late now. Sorry. Just know that you have to really jam the pieces together and make sure the little indentions line up and try not to do it by yourself while you’re pregnant because you might cry.)
Aden and Anais Swaddles
These swaddling blankets are kind of ridiculously expensive, but we liked them so much we got two sets. I like them because they are extra large so you can really bundle baby up tight if your baby likes that, but they are also really thin and light so I don’t worry about him getting overheated. The loose weave is also nice because even if he did manage to break free of the swaddle and get the fabric over his face, he could still breathe through it. Bonus: after baby outgrows them, they make attractive and cozy scarves for the mama! Alert!: Cut the tags off when you get these. Once, Flint got the tag in his mouth while he was sleeping somehow and it was kind of gagging him until we got it out.
White Noise Machine
We started using this cheap white noise machine so that we could get our iPad back. This one has a few sounds (white noise, ocean, heartbeat, thunder, babbling brook) plugs into the wall and has a battery backup for power outages. There’s a timer function or you can leave it on all the time. If you have an iPad or even your phone, there’s also an app we used to use called Sleep Pillow. It has a jillion different sounds; the one we use is the oscillating fan. There has been some recent concern regarding the volume levels of white noise machines causing hearing damage so we make sure to have the volume down fairly low and not put it too close to the baby. I think it helps him calm down and go back to sleep especially after his final nighttime feeding around 4 am. It definitely helps Chris and I sleep, though. Babies are loud sleepers! Even when he is sound asleep, he’s squeaking and snorting and hiccuping and farting all night right next to our heads. Basically what I am telling you is the white noise machine might be more for the parents than for the baby, but it’s a good idea either way.
My friend Laurel (who runs a handmade jewelry shop with her husband Ash at ashhilton.com) told me before Flint was born that the video monitor was one of the most useful things when her babies were tiny. As described above, babies are loud sleepers and with a video monitor you can see if that noise was the babe waking up, or just the babe spitting up and quickly going back to sleep (albeit with a newly damp outfit). This Motorola monitor has really good image quality and a fairly large screen so if I want to, I can stare into it like a crystal ball and watch my baby breathing while he sleeps, which is very reassuring for worrisome mamas like me. To save battery life, the screen shuts off after a couple minutes when the unit is not plugged in, but the audio runs constantly and if you do hear a noise, you can flip the monitor back on to check with your eyes real quick.
Wipe Warmer and Cloth Wipes
Not what you think. While a wipe warmer was voted “Least Useful Thing” by all the mamas I asked when I was registering for baby things, I found that after Flint arrived, I was wishing for an easy way to have warm, wet washcloths at my disposal for quick sponge baths and particularly messy poopy pants. I had the idea to get a regular wipe warmer and use it to hold wet washcloths and maybe that would work, but lo, a wet cloth wipe warmer is actually a thing that already exists! I got this one by Prince Lionheart and so far, so good. The machine comes with 4 reusable cloth wipes and I bought an additional 8-pack of cloth wipes, which are a very soft rayon terrycloth. I also cut out a billion 8×8″ squares of soft flannel with pinking shears and use those the same way. (I use them as “peepee teepees”, too, to catch errant pee fountains when changing diapers, as well as soft face wipes for spit ups.)
Chicco Key Fit 30 and Chicco Tre Stroller
According to Consumer Reports, this car seat scored the very highest in crash ratings, which is the only thing I even looked at when a choosing car seat. It holds infants and kids up to 30 pounds, so we’ll probably have to replace it in a couple years (maybe? I honestly have no clue how fast kids grow.) but the future expense is worth it for the added safety. My mom bought an extra base for her car so that switching the car seat around is easy. We also got the Chicco Tre Jogging Stroller that goes with this. It’s easy to assemble and easy to use, but though it folds up it still takes up probably 4 square feet of floorspace so it might not work great for you if you have limited storage. If you have a small car, it also might take up most of the trunk space. We will probably also get a smaller, “umbrella stroller” when Flint is a little bigger and tougher.
Ergo baby Baby Carrier
Everyone told me to get a baby carrier and I did, but I still don’t like the “baby wearing” practice. The Boba wrap I found to be complicated, cumbersome, hot, and it made me feel like an idiot trying to get it wrapped around my body and then like a mean mommy trying to get the kid crammed in there. The Ergo carrier is much easier to use, in my opinion. It straps on like a backpack, but in the front, and your baby goes in like a Trapper Keeper, but with a head sticking out the top. It’s pretty comfortable on my back and it feels secure when I take baby out on walks around the neighborhood. I’d say that while the Boba wrap is designed for moms who want to wear their babies around the house and everywhere, the Ergo is more for moms who want a practical, low-tech way to transport their babies from one place to another. (The Ergo has an optional newborn insert that I didn’t get and didn’t need, but I also waited until Flint was 10 pounds before I tried to put him in it and even then, I bundled him up with a swaddling blanket first to help him fill out the carrier.)
A must for sore, breastfeeding nipples. (Sorry I had to write “nipples”.) There are two camps on what’s the best lanolin cream for new moms and I’ve made friends with everyone (or no one?) by using both for different purposes. The Medela brand lanolin is soft and smooth and goes on so super silky that if you are in the “nips are about to fall off they hurt so bad” stage of breastfeeding — I still have days like that — it’s definitely the one to get. The downside is that it smells like lanolin, slightly musky, but Flint doesn’t care and neither do I. Lansinoh is the other major brand and while it’s been deodorized somehow leaving it smelling like literally nothing, it’s also much thicker, more like a paste, and can be a little painful to smear on sore nips. TMI: I use it before I take a shower as a protective coating since even shower spray is sometimes too much to take.
I tried, I really tried, to do the eco thing with these and I bought reusable, fabric nursing pads. But they are just not comfortable; they’re kind of itchy and they stick to my skin. I used them for the first month before fate brought me a sample of these Ameda disposable nursing pads and then I was like, “Oh geez, what am I doing torturing myself with these stupid flannel bullshits?” and I ordered a whole box of disposable ones. I make up for it a little by wearing a set for a couple of days, but if you have super leaky boobs you might not be able to make them last that long. Some kind of nursing pad is necessary, though, at least to hold the lanolin cream in place and keep it from staining your bras and shirts with greasy spots. Gross.
And that’s it for now! I’ll update this series with a new post in a couple months, but for now, do you have any items you can’t (or couldn’t) live without for your newborn? Leave a comment below!