Yesterday we went to lunch with friends, currently expecting their first baby this winter, and they asked for our list of baby must haves. I couldn't initially come up with anything. We're in the 8-month "getting into everything" phase and goes from smiling to screaming in seconds mode, so I haven't thought much about the first few months in a while. But once we returned home, and I was turning on her noise machine to put her down for an afternoon nap, I thought "oh yeah, a noise machine is totally a must have!" So once she was asleep, I sat down at the computer and put on my "early days with baby" memory cap to come up with a list of the things newborn and 1 - 2 month old Adeline (and I as a new mom) totally couldn't live without. First, let's start with the most obvious items: everything we used to put Adeline to sleep the first few weeks and months.
#1. White Noise Machine
Multiple friends recommended various noise machines and in the end, we registered for the Marpac Dohm white noise machine. It has been great! We still use it consistently today. I especially like the two different noise level settings, I use the softer one for naps and louder ones for bedtime to give her a little more distinction between the two. Bonus tip for dog owners: we actually got Aurora her own noise machine (a less expensive version) and we turn it on all night above her kennel. It actually seems to keep her calmer at night and she stopped the random 3 AM "barking at a stranger on the street" fits.
#2. Velcro Swaddle Wrap
I know everyone feels differently on this, but I had several friends recommend various brands of the simple, no frills swaddle blankets and we received a few. I found these helpful in the early days to tuck around her in the bassinet at night (similar to how the nurses did around the bassinet mattress in the hospital). But beyond that, a few days out from the hospital, neither of us could remember how to use those blankets to actually swaddle her like we were shown in our baby prep class. I am so glad that friends recommended the Summer Infant SwaddleMe Velcro Blankets. They were super easy to use, kept Adeline nice and snug, and she slept so well in them for the first few months. The Velcro eventually gave out, and once she was getting close to turning over, we had to transition out of them, but oh man, these were the best thing ever.
#3. Video Baby Monitor
Even in a small apartment, we have found a video monitor really helpful, especially in the early days, when our neurotic new, lack of sleep parenting worries came up and we wanted to check she was still breathing without sneaking into her room to check and accidentally waking her. I won't reference our monitor here, because there are tons of options and price ranges to choose from and none seem particularly terrible. Ours is pretty small and simple. The second monitor type purchase we did just make a few weeks ago though was for a home security system. It's wifi enabled so we can check in on her from our phones when out, and that has given us a lot more peace of mind when leaving her with sitters (we obviously trust the sitters, it's just easier to glance at our phones and see her peacefully sleeping, instead of texting/calling the sitter hourly). I'm happy to share further details on that in private messages if anyone is interested.
This is completely a personal choice, as we did hear a lot about things like "nipple confusion" and not giving the baby a pacifier or bottle for at least 6-8 weeks. Thankfully Adeline didn't have any issues with that, because she had so many latching issues in the beginning, I had to pump and give her bottles regularly and pacifiers totally were part of our bedtime process after the first week and into the first few months (she gave up pacifiers around 3 or 4 months when she discovered her thumb). The Avent Soothie Pacifiers were great and even when Adeline stopped using them, she still enjoyed chewing on the outside rim, until we figured out what she was doing. And yes, we totally had the super popular WubbaNub, which are adorable, and I was honestly a little sad when she stopped using that one.
#5. Overnight Diaper
I don't even remember who recommended overnight diapers to me, but whoever it was, thank you! Once our pediatrician said Adeline could sleep through the night without being nursed (around 10 lbs I think), we switched her to overnight diapers so she didn't need to be changed in the middle of the night either. And she started averaging 8 - 9 hours at night around 2 months (if my memory is correct)! We've also used overnight diapers for travel (plane and 2-hour car rides) in case of blowouts and (knock on wood) haven't had one in the middle of a trip yet. They aren't available in newborn sizes, but that makes sense since you'll still be changing their diapers at night for the first month or so anyway.
#6. Daytime Sleep - Rock N Play Sleeper
I had multiple friends recommend the Fisher Price Rock N Play Sleeper to us, and it was seriously a lifesaver in the beginning. I know this seems annoying, because they don't fit in it for very long (especially if you have a long baby), but Adeline took the majority of her naps in this the first two months and I even put her in it and brought her into the bathroom so I could shower a few times early on. I've heard some people also have them sleep in this at night in the beginning, but Keith read mixed things on that (babies should sleep flat, could potentially fall out, etc) so I can't recommend that, but for the daytime naps it's amazing! It folds flat which is great for smaller spaces, and if your baby is anti the rocking feature (like ours was), just keep it unplugged.
#7. Nighttime Sleep - Bassinet
We initially planned to put Adeline in her crib from day one. Then we got home and she looked teeny-tiny in the crib, and even though her room is directly off ours, we freaked ourselves out and didn't do it. Keith ran out and bought the Chicco Travel Crib and it worked perfectly right up against our bed in our narrow room. It was easy to collapse, the sheet was removable for cleaning, and I liked the mesh liner that allowed me to peak in at her throughout the night in the beginning. She only slept in this for 6 weeks until we transitioned her to the crib, but it was such a comfort to have her alongside us at night, and it made the constant nighttime feedings that much easier in the beginning.
Those are the main items I could think of that were most helpful in the first month or two for Adeline's sleep. Babies sleep a lot in the beginning, but after a few weeks they gradually are awake more during the day, and then you need a few things to entertain them. Adeline is actually not a huge fan of most toys, she's all about those empty water bottles and crinkling the plastic container of wipes. However, there are a few toys she has continued to like from about a month onward, so I recommend the following:
#8. A Rattle
I still remember when Adeline figured out how to pass the Oball Rattle ball from hand-to-hand. I didn't even realize that was a big developmental milestone, but I happened to catch it on video and was totally "that parent" at her next check-up who showed it off to the pediatrician. This was one of the first toys she really interacted with, she still loves chewing on it, and now that she's crawling, she flings it across the floor and then crawls after it. Of course, every kid is going to be different but for Adeline, this one has been a hit.
#9. Sophie the Giraffe
I know $24 seems a little pricey for a rubber chewing toy, but seriously, ALL kids seem to love this giraffe. And yes, Adeline even loves her still today!
After the sleep-time necessities and a few toys, here are three things I didn't get in advance, even though pretty much every friend (and every baby must have list) said to get the first two. Don't be like pre-baby me.
#10 + #11 Nasal Care
Adeline had SO many boogers in the beginning (for some reason, she doesn't as frequently now) and there were definitely times we would put her to bed at night and one nostril would whistle because the other was stopped up. I recommend having some baby nasal spray (#10) on hand for occasions such as this. The spray helps loosen up the boogers and makes it that much easier to get them out with the Nose Frida (#11). Yes, this thing looks totally disgusting and I refused to register for one. I got some other nasal aspirator, which totally didn't work and after a few tries, I sent Keith to our local pharmacist for the Nose Frida. Sure it seems gross, and the first few times, it may gross you out a little. But it totally works and no you don't inhale any of the snot. Seriously, just get it.
#12. Coconut Oil (buy in the oil section at your grocery store)
On all the baby must have lists, I never saw this and yet, I still to this day use it so frequently. Best part? This is for both baby and mom! Our pediatrician actually recommended using coconut oil on every crease and crevice after bath time (behind knees and elbows, around neck and tummy line, behind ears), because Adeline would get a bit of dry spots in those areas. Also, the pediatrician recommended coconut oil for diaper rashes, and we never wound up having to use butt cream again after we started using the coconut oil for that. This is also the perfect segue into my final and most important must haves for the first few months. Coconut oil isn't just great for babies skin, it's also great for mom's skin! My lactation consultant recommended coconut oil to aid in nipple healing (yep, I said nipple on my blog...) and it still comes in handy today. Breastfeeding is immensely easier now than it was in the first two months, but there are still times where Adeline is a little too hungry, eager or aggressive and I need a little oil application for several days in a row afterward. Totally does the trick, much cheaper than lanolin, lasts a really long time, and is totally fine for baby to have too.
#13. Nipple Shields
No, not everyone will need these, but it's something that is rarely mentioned to expectant moms and I think would be helpful to have on hand just in case. This is not one size fits all, so buy different sizes and keep them in the packaging with receipt in case you don't need them. Adeline had lots of latch issues for the first two months and breastfeeding was excruciating. I do not say that as a scare tactic, because our breastfeeding journey changed so dramatically thanks to lots of external help. I only share this, because for some reason it seems like a lot of woman don't talk about the discomfort, pain, awkwardness, engorgement, chapping, and yes, even blood. Some are very fortunate and don't experience most of that, but the majority seem to experience some if not all. And if you don't have help and foresight, it would be really easy to feel alone and even give up. Which leads me into my final two biggest and most important recommendations for the early days with a newborn.
#14. Hire a postpartum doula
If you have a great community of family and friends nearby that are more than ready to lend a helping hand, and your partner can take some time off to be home with you, then you may not need a postpartum doula. Mine was a lifesaver though and I fully credit her with helping me not give up breastfeeding after one week (she introduced me to the nipple shield). We don't have family in town, and our closest friends here had a baby as well, so having the help of a doula was so wonderful in the first few weeks, especially when Keith went back to work after a week. My doula went grocery shopping, prepared meals for me, took Adeline on walks so I could nap. Seriously, so wonderful! And if I had suffered from postpartum depression, I can only imagine how even more amazing it would have been to have her around. Remember that you can't take care of your baby, unless you're taking care of yourself too.
#15. Finally, and most importantly, get several names of amazing lactation consultants. I waited two entire months before contacting one that a friend recommended. The nipple shields helped Adeline latch, but they didn't take away the pain. And sadly, it took me getting to the end of my rope and just about ready to totally give up breastfeeding, before I contacted the lactation consultant. I honestly didn't expect at that point that anyone could help. My goal originally was to nurse for six months, then once I started, it reduced to 3, maybe 4 months at most. The consultant showed me five new nursing holds and within one hour, the pain was gone. Gone! Not only that, but now she's on call for me any time I have a question (like about clogged ducts - ugh!), she FaceTimed with me the day after to help remind me of some of the things we discussed, and offers regular nearby meetings if you want to do a baby weigh in and just check in on progress. No it's not cheap, but some insurances will cover the lactation consultant up to 100%, so it's definitely worth checking. And look at it this way, if working with a lactation consultant completely changes your breastfeeding experience and allows you to nurse for 12+ months, that actually winds up saving you a ton on never having to buy formula! And no judgement whatsoever on giving your child formula. I just know it's expensive and if you really didn't want to, then hiring a consultant could be the saving grace. I only planned to nurse for six months before even giving birth, and eight months in now, I have no plans of stopping anytime soon. Also, for the first two months, I dreaded nursing. It wasn't bonding or some beautiful experience for me, it was painful and difficult. I didn't experience the bonding feeling until about 3 - 4 months in, and now, after eight months, it's actually difficult for me to imagine weaning her. That is a HUGE change from six months ago!
As I said earlier in this post, don't be pre-baby me. Buy the Nose Frida and have a few names of highly recommended lactation consultants to call if your breastfeeding experience isn't improving after a few days. There are plenty of items I bought and wound up not needing, or used for a short time and haven't used since (like the pump and bottles in the first few weeks of establishing my supply), so perhaps I'll write another post soon about the newborn must-not haves.
What items or resources did it take you having a baby to realize you actually did need? Anyone else anti-Nose Frida and now you've also seen the light? Please do tell.