My very first advice to any new Mom is this:
Do what’s right for your family.
Cosleeping/breastfeeding/delayed solids or two-week eviction notices/formula/rice cereal at four months?
Do what’s right for your family!
I have as many opinions as the day is long about childbirth, baby-raising and kid contraptions but that doesn’t mean my opinion is right for you. In fact, I know its not right for you – your family is YOURS and its different than mine. And I’m really glad about that :)
I do have three kids though and I’ve been to the rodeo a few times. In doing so, I’ve found something some things (products, skills and experiences) that I absolutely love/couldn’t survive without and I wanted to share them here in one place. So, if you want to read for the next 20 minutes I present to you:
Mama Must Haves 2014
1. A stroller. Specifically a Phil & Ted:
Its $700 but its worth it if you plan on having more than one kid, so buy it for the first baby. (Hint: I found mine on Craigslist for $50.) The configurations seem endless for the baby+toddler combo, its easy to maneuver, people will stop you at the park and ask about it. My sister has the zip-on sunshade and I think that is a worthy add-on. While we’re on the subject of add-ons, I also suggest getting the carseat adapter so baby can go from car to stroller without waking up. I don’t have that option and wish I did. I also have the world’s heaviest carseat and regret that purchase every time I lug my sleeping butterball to church in her carseat only for her to wake up for the opening song. Curses! What I’m saying is this: Choose your carseat wisely. (And if you want my opinion on convertible car seats I only say this: We use Britax because I was a little paranoid as a first time Mom (although I think Costco ones are perfectly safe) I will probably stay a Britax Mom due to their incredible easy LATCH belt clip. We’re forever moving carseats around and that fact alone is worth the extra money what with my easily-getting-frustrated-and-swearing-tendencies.)
2. Arms Reach Cosleeper:Its pretty much a glorified pack-n-play, with the added benefit of a side that drops down to bedside height so it offers all the benefits of cosleeping without the fears of cosleeping. Its probably a terrible time to tell you that I never once used it as its intended, instead setting up 18″ away from the bed so this c-section Mama could put her feet on the floor to pick up the baby who would eventually fall asleep nursing in the bed anyways. But. But. It was nice to still have the side dropped enough to see baby whilst my tired head lay on my pillow. The less effort the better. Again, super expensive retail, but I got mine for $50 on Craigslist. Its also one solid color, comes with no extra dangly things, mobiles, shelves, and/or musical abilities making this simple Mama’s heart glad.
Side note: I recently saw a pack n play that you could open and close with one hand. I think I’d throw my Arms Reach cosleeper out the window if I could get my hands (hand?) on one of those bad boys. I’m fairly certain the devil himself created the instructions for how to set up a baby play yards. Proceed with caution, patience and maybe a glass of wine.
3. An Ergo baby carrier:
Lifesaver. I’ve had mine through three babies and its still good as new. It truly is ergonomic and easy to wear. Front, back and on the side (which I haven’t tried). The instructions say wait till baby is 12lbs before you use it or buy the infant insert, but I found that after the first few weeks I was able to use it if I rolled up a receiving blanket under baby’s bum. Save your money ;) They go for +$120 in the store and online, but Amazon usually has them on sale, so put it in your cart and just keep checking back. I think I got mine for around $70. Blueberry picking, the beach, hiking, grocery shopping, cooking dinner…carrying your baby close to your heart AND being hands-free? Priceless. I even learned to nurse baby while wearing it which made it even more useful.
4. A Moby wrap:
My friend had one made for me and I cannot say enough how cute it is and how much of a hassle it is to put on. FOR THE LOVE. But. But. After I learned how to wrap it on (tighter than I imagined at first) it was the best. Especially in those first few weeks when the Ergo was still too big. I know Mamas who use them for bigger babies, but I usually stopped using it after baby was big enough for the Ergo.
5. Nursing caddy – Mama, let me lay it out for you. After taking 5 minutes to arrange your nursing pillows just so and just after undressing to a point that feels awkward even in the privacy of your own home and just after spending 10 minutes fighting with a surprisingly strong 7lb person who is screaming to eat but can’t manage to close his or her mouth long enough to accomplish that goal you will remember the thing(s) you forgot to pick up 17 minutes ago when the house was still peaceful. Its like a law or something. You will get tired of asking your husband to please just fetch me my phone/a burp cloth/the nursing log/a drink/a snack/the remote/the iPad/book/my nipple shield/lanolin/medication 12-15 times a day. (“Wait,” you’re thinking, “did she just type nipple shield?” I’ll get to it, sister) So for the love of sanity, make yourself a little basket to toss all of life’s essentials into when you’re feeding your bambino and take it with you when you nurse. Your husband will thank you and you’ll make it through those first few weeks with far less swearing than I did :)
5½. Nipple shields and other weird stuff:
If anyone has lead you to believe that nursing your baby is natural, wonderful and easy do me a favor and go punch them in the face. They lied. Well, sort of. The first few weeks (months) of nursing your new baby might be the hardest thing you have ever done. I know you JUST said that after pushing a person out of your lady parts but, congratulations. Now labor and delivery will be the second hardest thing you have ever done. Here is a confession: I took the rest of my blessed Percocet that the doctor prescribed me NOT for the major abdominal surgery I’d just undergone and NOT for incision pain as my uterus fused back together under my severed abs…no. I took it because of the vise-like grip that baby had on my boobs every two hours sohelpmejesus. Even after the third kid. Do yourself a HUUUGE favor and obtain a nipple shield and/or breast shells (handy little cups for your bra that give your nipples some much needed contact relief) and use lanolin like it is your best friend. Bleeding, cracked and blistered should never be ways to describe your girls. Just sayin’. Here is another confession: It gets easier. I promise! My theory is that your baby’s mouth eventually gets big enough to not be so vise-y and pinch-y, but the reality is probably that you get good at it because you are a Mama and that’s what we do. Get good at the hard stuff. And then nursing IS natural, wonderful and easy. Pinky swear ;)
Disclaimer: See a good lactation consultant if you have any questions; they can help a lot/nipple shields may reduce milk flow & letdown reflex so do your research/not everyone can nurse for various reasons, but I really really really urge you to give it a really good try before you quit/some women don’t experience pain while learning to nurse and I hate them a little bit. J/K about that last part ;)
6. Rocking chair – Maybe I’m just nostalgic, but I love love love the big ol’ armchair we bought when Jack was born. It lived in our bedroom for awhile, and now its in the living room. One can never rock a baby enough so make sure you have someplace comfortable to fall asleep. Many many hours were logged rocking the baby under the naive impression we’d eventually get back to bed. Such newbs. We also have a glider in the nursery, and while its smaller and less “Hi, I’m from the 90’s!” as the big brown behemoth, its not QUITE as comfortable for all-nighters.
7. A video monitor – We didn’t get one till Lucy was born, having been completely happy with the Fisher Price audio monitor my Mom used for my baby sister twenty years ago (Thanks, Mom!). But when sweet/devious Lucy finally got bunked with her brother we splurged and got the eyes so we could spy on their nighttime antics. Interestingly enough, when we started using the remote microphone function to discipline the escape artists, they thought it was the “neighbor lady” yelling at them? Weird.
8. Kickass diaper bag
Just do it. This is my thing, ladies. Get yourself a diaper bag you LOVE. Its going to be your purse for the next 3+ years. I hated every single flower-printed, baby-themed, vinyl-y sided tote I came across in the baby section. When I finally found a relatively boring but functional diaper bag by Gerber I bought it for $30. It has a slightly metallic sheen to it and definitely looked more BAP than baby bag. When it fell apart after Lucy was born, I just schlumped all the baby stuff into a regular purse I’d gotten at the outlets for $14. It fit everything, but since it had no pockets on the inside it was a hot mess most of the time. Purse, meet Mama. Finally, after somewhat obsessive searching while I was pregnant with Della I found the holy grail of diaper bags. Enter the Kate Spade Stevie. It has side pockets for quick access to bottles and my phone, has inside pockets for diapers and a changing pad included and stroller straps for easy transport. It zips closed to keep the minions from sneaking snacks out from under the pew at Mass too. Messenger type bags are the bane of one-armed Mom activities (which are pretty much all of them – try fumbling through a shouldered diaper bag while holding a screaming child on your hip, anyone?) and open totes are the joy of my klepto-kids existence. Trust me. Get a zipper. Most importantly, it met my ridiculously high “doesn’t look like a diaper bag” standard. People, it is CUTE. But the price tag? $395. Ouch. I still asked Brock for it. Of course he said “absolutely not” as any good husband should have. Since I am nothing if not persistent, I found out that Kate Spade offers a 75% off sale pretty often to their email subscribers. I waited a few months (I didn’t like the color they had on sale the first time they ran it) and I forwarded the email of my dream diaper bag to Brock . . . this time it was $150. Still outrageous, but I was in love. He again said “no”. Wailing and gnashing of teeth and “whyyyyyynoooooot!?” from yours truly. Not my finest moment. But. But. The day after my third child was born my sweet husband handed me my very first “push present” . . . and he is forever the best husband ever. Ever.
I just might have to do some soul searching about my diaper bag obsession after re-reading the above paragraph. Moving right along.
9. Eleventy billion pairs of cotton underwear – The super adorable undergarments they give you to go home from the hospital with are great for a few days buuuuut…just do yourself a favor and buy a pack or two of Fruit of the Loom granny panties to make life easier postpartum. Buy a size up. Its less attractive but things are weird down there and comfort is key. You should probably stop wearing them after say 8 months, but who’s counting ;)
10. A haircut right before baby is born – My Mom is awesome and usually treats my sisters (sister-in-law included!) and I to a pedicure and/or a haircut in our last month of pregnancy. Its an expensive habit seeing as how she has 6 grandbambinos ;) Its the best present ever. In those bleary-eyed first few weeks of motherhood ain’t nobody got time for hair washing or toe nail painting. When you’re standing in the mirror looking at your stylish new underwear and the “I still look 5 months pregnant” lump where your baby used to live, just look a little farther down and check out your cute toes. You can see them now! See? Feeling better already.
11. A degree in swaddling
Swaddling is not for the faint of heart, y’all. You must learn proper technique and style. A large, lightweight baby blanket is crucial. None of those cute flannel generic receiving blankets work past the first week. Trust me. Its a constant battle, keeping your little ninja properly swaddled. They are small but smart. Just when you think they are asleep, a hand pops out and whacks them in the face. OK maybe they are not that smart. But still, keep ‘em swaddled at all costs. Sleep, theirs and yours, will depend on these skills. Learn them. Perfect them. I once swaddled a baby into its 9th month of life in the name of sleep, so swaddle on, strong Mama.
12. Learn to nurse side-lying, in bed – Seriously. Best Mom trick ever. More sleep for everybody. I even got so
lazy good at it that I can nurse both sides without rolling over. Just lean a little more when the bottom boob is empty. Prop a pillow under your butt to help. Bam. More sleep for you.
Obviously, my sleep issues are, well…issues.
13. Crocs Flip Flops
I have logged the past two years in these flip flops and they are hands down the best shoe in my closet. Fat pregnant feet or tired water-park-all-day feet they are so comfy and not that un-cute. I’ve converted at least three friends into believers. Try it, you won’t regret it.
14, 15, & 16…23. – There are a bunch of other things that I found indispensable in the first few months of motherhood. Things like baby swings (get one that as an AC adapter – eight D batteries cost as much as gold), bouncy seats, baby bath tubs, Bumbos, Johnny jumpers, Baby Einstien play mats, Exersaucers and scary looking plastic containment contraptions are all great. I’ve used all of the above at some point or another and they all serve a purpose. However, I highly suggest borrowing these items. Maybe its because we live in less than 1,000 sqft casa, or maybe its because their Toys R Us price tag seems crazy to me when you only use them for a few months – but I would suggest finding a small group of Moms to share these items back and forth with. At the very least, look for them on Craigslist or at yard sales and then loan them to the next new Mama in your group when your baby no longer needs it.
22. Baby medicine – If you’re reading this because you want to know what to give your BFF for her baby shower, think about this: Make a cute little remedy kit for the new Mom. Going to the store for things like children’s Tylenol/Advil, (a good) thermometer, Mylicon, baby saline nasal spray, and the best diaper rash cream (we like Bourdoux’s Butt Paste) seems like a monumental task the first time, especially if your little one is already sick. Having it on hand before you need it can be a sanity-saver. If your BFF is more crunchy than I, there are natural products that can help alleviate baby’s first fever, teething pain or congestion, too.
And there you have it. Do you agree? What couldn’t you live without the first few weeks/months postpartum? What baby gear was indispensable to you? What could you do without? Are wipe warmers really that awesome? And honestly, don’t you hate those Moms who say nursing didn’t hurt a bit!? Just me? I needed to go to confession anyway….