Is anyone else completely overwhelmed by the amount of baby stuff that is available for purchase on the free market? This is my fourth pregnancy, and I still feel an outstanding level of stress when I even contemplate going to Babies R Us. If you go in there, you’ll become blinded by the cute colors and patterns and come away feeling convinced that you need all of the things. I’m here to tell you that you don’t.
The truth is that you really don’t need much of anything for baby. But of course there are certain items that make things easier and who isn’t looking for things to be easier when you’re being controlled by a tiny, unpredictable, screaming poop-machine?
Here are a few things that I have found useful in my dealings with newborns (and a few things I think are a complete waste of money):
1. A good swaddle: The key here is a good one. Not a receiving blanket that isn’t big enough to cover an actual peanut, never mind a real baby. I’m talking a swaddle wrap that has heavy-duty Velcro. And when you wrap the kid in the swaddle, you better do it like you mean it. Prior to Baby No. 1, a friend who had her first baby six months before me, wrote me a note along with the swaddle she gave me. I still have the note to this day. It reads: “You have to wrap them tight. Tighter than you feel comfortable.” And she was right. If your baby is getting out of the swaddle, it doesn’t mean they’re Houdini. It means you’re not doing it right. So sack up and wrap that kid up like the next four hours of sleep depends on it. Because it does. Not all swaddles are created equal, so beware. I’ve had excellent luck with the Swaddleme brand by Summer Infant.
2. Swing: Again, the key here is getting one that doesn’t suck. For Baby No. 1, my husband and I cheaped out and bought some clearance model swing that matched our living room décor. You know what else it did? It made our baby scream like her toenails were being pulled off with pliers. She hated that thing, like whoa. But she loved the swing at daycare. The one that looked like a papazan chair (man, I hate those chairs) and was decorated with pastel bunnies or some other stupid looking thing. It turns out babies aren’t concerned about your decorating motif. And in this case, you shouldn’t be either; if it makes them happy and keeps them from screaming, you should buy it.
In our experience, the Fisher-Price Snugabunny Cradle ‘n Swing is just that item. I do feel compelled to disclose that this swing is approximately the size of a late-model Buick, so you’re gonna want to clear out some space. But it will be totally worth it when you get to sleep (or take a shower—or poop!) uninterrupted. My babies No. 2 and 3 slept in that thing for the first eight weeks of their lives. Now, I’ve heard about the Mamaroo Swing, and I have to admit that I’m intrigued. Our Snugabunny broke (because it turns out that its motor is not meant to withstand the weight of a baby and a 4- and 2-year-old in it all at once … good to know), so we’re in the market for a new swing for Baby No. 4. We had such success with the Snugabunny that I’m hesitant to switch, but something about the Mamaroo is very alluring.
3. Breast pads & Lansinoh cream: I like disposable breast pads because who has time to wash something that is soaked with milk 40 times a day? Not me. Forget the environment, and give me convenience. I stock up on those bad boys with Amazon Subscribe & Save because I love anything that can be delivered to my door without me having to think about it. And the Lansinoh cream will be your savior, should your nipples come to resemble shredded beef, as mine always do. Without it, you will be unable to shower, as the moment the water touches that newly sensitive area, you will involuntarily leap 4 feet into the air and cry from the pain. So get some Lansinoh cream and use it liberally. (But be forewarned that it will ruin any clothing that it comes into direct contact with, so cover it up with a breast pad.)
4. Diapers & wipes (duh): Obviously you need these items, but what I am here to suggest is that you sign up for Amazon Subscribe & Save and never worry about running out of either of these essentials ever again. It’s $100/year to join Amazon Prime, which is a steal at twice the price when you consider that you just tell Amazon what type and size diapers and wipes you want, how frequently you want them, and BAM! they deliver it to your door. It requires zero effort. And, trust me, zero effort is what you’ll be wanting to put forth when you realize what a pain it is to leave the house with a newborn. Plus, you get some percentage discount when you use Subscribe & Save and a greater percentage discount when you sign up for Amazon Mom (which is free). So, really, there is no way to beat it.
5. Playmat: I’m a big fan of these for when baby gets a little bit older (maybe 3 months). I like the ones where the toys dangle down from overhead, so you can place baby on his back and he has something to look at. I usually keep it in our bathroom and put the baby on it while I’m shower/getting ready for work. We have the Fisher-Price Rainforest Melodies and Lights Deluxe Gym, but you can pick your favorite.
6. Baby Bargains by Denise and Alan Fields: Instead of listening to me ramble on, just go buy this book. My husband describes it as the “Consumer Reports for baby crap.” And he’s totally right. The wonderful authors of this book do all the dirty work and lay it all out for you. Just make sure you get the most recent version (which I believe is the 11th version); otherwise you’ll end up with old crap that no one recommends anymore, and then your baby will scream.
(I must stress here that this is my opinion only. I know some of you will swear that these are essential items—and to that I say, good for you and your warm rear end.)
1. Wipe warmer: Life is hard. If the worst thing that ever happens to my kid is that his rear end is wiped with a room temperature wipe, then I think they’ll have made out pretty well.
2. Baby bath towels: Yes, these are cute. I think I received 348 of them at my first shower. But you know what works just as well, if not better, than a towel that is smaller than the baby (albeit with cute fish embroidered on it)? A regular bath towel. (If you’re dead-set on having a kid-themed towel, just get a kid-sized one rather than a baby-sized one.) Trust me, the baby won’t know the difference.
3. Bottle warmer: I’ve never had one of these because my first two babies were willing to drink cold milk. The third baby steadfastly refused to drink cold milk, so we warmed her bottles with hot water from the sink and a pot that we already owned.
4. Toys: Again, they’re cute, but your baby will happily play in the Tupperware drawer and/or with a plastic spoon. As for newborns, they love to look at ceiling fans.
There are also lots of baby items that I am unable to identify their meaning and purpose. They’re probably decorated in an appealing way and have pictures of adorable babies, sleeping peacefully on the packaging with wording that assures you that you simply cannot live without this product. Don’t get sucked in! Put it down, and back away slowly.