Parenthood is full of unknowns. Particularly for first-time parents, the second that test reads “positive” is the moment your head is flooded with questions. What will my baby look like? Act like? Sound like? How will he or she change me? Change us? And, perhaps, the scariest (and most unnerving) question of all: what in the world do we need to BUY?!
If you’re a first time parent, the answer to this question is likely: everything. Whatever all the books, magazines, tv morning show contributors, and nosey, overzealous, “helpful” neighbors recommend — you’re buying it. After all, the baby needs it.
But as a
somewhat seasoned parent, I can testify that the “we’ll take one of each” shopping strategy for a new baby can take you into some very dangerous territory. Territory where your home becomes overrun with infant clutter. Clutter that takes up way more space than you ever thought possible. Before you know it, your first floor begins to take the shape of the infant aisles at Target. Everywhere you look there are fluorescent fabricated goods designed to soothe, light up, and, worst of all — sing.
Did I mention the fact that taking care of the baby registry often comes just a few years on the heels of the wedding registry. So, just when you’ve mentally and emotionally recovered from the twelve rounds you and your spouse went on dinner plates and power tools, its time to repeat that process all over again — on strollers and exersaucers. The best part is, it only takes a matter of weeks — sometimes minutes — to realize that much of the gear overrunning your home is nothing more than a complete waste of space. Nothing makes you despise the sight of that plush swing large enough to rock a baby elephant more than realizing your new baby doesn’t even like it!
Since Doug and I had successfully removed every last shred of baby-related gear from our home (which, by the way, is a sure fire way to guarantee you will have at least one more baby), we found ourselves once again starting from scratch. Now armed with the knowledge that no child on earth needs a wipe warmer, I set out with a minimalist approach to Penelope’s stash of gear. When I started shopping — around 6 weeks before she was born — I found that many of the other items I loved in the past had been “updated” or, even worse, replaced with newer versions. I couldn’t believe how many new products were on the market compared to just five short years ago when I brought our last baby home. Even diaper disposal systems were “new” and “improved.” Just when you thought ingenuity was dead, someone actually reinvented the trash can.
Admittedly, I don’t typically like newer versions — especially of goods/gear I already trust. I’m German. As a general cultural rule of thumb, we stick with what we know works. We don’t drink craft brews.
Thankfully, the shock wore off after a few sips of strong coffee and I was back on my game. I grabbed some tried and true products I knew I already loved and rolled the dice on some new things as well. Knowing that there might be a score of new parents or new “again” parents like myself looking for a little guidance, I have compiled a list of essential baby items below that I cannot live without.
7 years ago when I was pregnant with our first son, one of my best girlfriends recommended these cloth diapers not for cloth diapering purposes but as burp rags. Warning me that the pretty burp cloths often don’t absorb anything, she gifted me these guys which, on the other hand, saved me (and my clothes) at least a million times over between my first two babies — one of whom was a major spitter! They might not seem like the most glamorous of gifts, but I never attend a baby shower without them.
This battle tested pillow is good for everything from breastfeeding to elbow-propping to just giving baby a comfortable place to gently recline after feeding. According to my husband, it also makes for an excellent oversized neck-pillow. The best part is, you can customize a removable pillow cover to your taste and cleaning is a cinch.
A bassinet was one of the first new items I had never bought into with either of my prior two babies. Since my babies sleep in their cribs as soon as we are home from the hospital, I never had a need for a bassinet before. But, this time around, I just wasn’t interested in having a big, bulky pack-n-play sit around the living room for those first few months when baby isn’t super interested in napping in their cribs, so I started searching for alternatives. Another girlfriend of mine (a mom with a new pair of twins, no less!) recommended a breathable bassinet that travels easily and takes up little space. Best part is the collapsible design and zipper-canopy that makes indoor/outdoor usage so simple.
**Disclaimer: I am not the world’s greatest authority on baby-wearing.** I know that there are a zillion-and-one wraps, slings, and similar products that many may like more than the two I have linked here, but these two carriers have always served me beautifully for the different stages of my moderate babywearing. In the earliest days, I really prefer the Bjorn as I don’t love having to use a newborn insert for the Ergo — just too much fuss for me. But, as all my babies tip the scales at nearly 9lbs and only go up from there, the Ergo starts to save my back and shoulders as they grow.
As a veteran bottle feeder, I am so embarrassed to admit that it took me until my third baby to recognize the genius that is the Dr. Brown’s Bottle Warmer. I took a chance when I saw this product appear on Zulily (one of my all-time favorite product websites!), figuring anything that promised the perfect temperature every time was worth a shot — and it was. 3 weeks in and this puppy has been a lifesaver. The fact that the warmer comes with instructions on how long to warm liquids from various temperatures (frozen, room temperature, or fridge) by the ounce is a total game changer for bottle feeders everywhere.
The hardest part of using this product is figuring out how to actually pronounce the name properly (is the -ais silent or not? turns out it is, by the way). All kidding aside, these light, breathable blankets are the best when it comes to swaddling any new bundle of joy. The majority of the blankets I’d used in the past were either too small, too hot, or not warm enough. After Goldilocks-ing my way through other various options, I became a convert of Aden & Anais after my first usage. Turns out, Princess Kate actually knows what she’s talking about.
Not only does this carseat score the highest in safety ratings, but it is also the simplest when it comes to installation and mobility. The simply design allows you to “click” the seat in place without having to secure a hook or other piece of the seat into its base. It is also easily convertible with a score of various stroller designs AND comes with its own newborn insert. Even my parents — who equate modern car seats to those you’d find in the space shuttle — agree that this one in all its simplicity is a winner.
Strollers can be one of the biggest landmines in the land of baby gear simply because there are just too many to choose from. The truth is, different strollers will serve different purposes depending on where your baby is in their development. In the beginning, particularly when baby is still using an infant carrier, I prefer anything I can just click a car seat into. The lightweight nature and easily collapsible chassis of the Uppababy strollers make one-handed usage simple. It also has an incredible large basket for storing all the
crap your kids ask you to hold things you need while out and about.
Ah, yes…tummy time. I have yet to find any baby that actually enjoys craning their necks while newborn planking but, if we must subject them to the process, a great playmat is necessary and helpful. Supposedly there is something about shades of red,white, and black that help stimulate babies’ brains so, since we’re already working on Penelope’s Mensa application, I decided to give this mat a try. So far, so good.
Now I realize that babies survived for centuries being bathed in buckets, bins, and sinks, thus rendering actual infant tubs not entirely necessary, but this one has been fantastic in that the little detachable hammock allows you to sit your newborn inside without having to additionally support their head and neck.
** Honorable Mention: Playtex Diaper Genie Complete
Remember that reinvented trash can I referenced above? Playtex really has improved their Diaper Genie from the last model we had in 2010. For starters, its far easier to remove the trash bags from the canister. The design has also been made a tad smaller and sleeker, cutting down on its clunky nature. I know many would argue that regular trash cans can successfully serve the same purpose as the Genie, but there is something so convenient about not having to worry about the odor in the nursery.
So, there you have it — a few of my favorites that hopefully will help any new parents (or even more stubborn, seasoned ones like myself) narrow down their list of wants or even anyone who needs to grab a baby shower gift. If I have learned anything from each of my newborn and infant experiences it is that less truly is more. There is very little that a baby actually needs, so my advice, as with most things, is always to just keep it simple.
Next time I will be getting into one of my favorite and most recent projects: nursery design for baby girl!