I spent the past two days cleaning out the storage closet. And I discovered, much to my chagrin, that I’m a bit of a baby stuff hoarder. I discovered that we have a LOT of baby stuff. A LOT. Seriously, the amount of baby clothing we’ve acquired could clothe an entire village of African babies. And I just sorted through all this a year or so ago so I figure if you could’ve seen the storage closet before that clean-out, you might have submitted an application to that hoarding show on my behalf.
Eight years ago when I was pregnant with Joseph and I went to Babies R Us to register, I walked down the aisle with that price gun and I honestly thought to myself, “I NEED this,” and I happily clicked away. Oh if only I could have told my younger self how much of that I did NOT actually need. After making it through Joseph’s first two years, I was a bit wiser and before William arrived, I did a major clean-out of the baby stuff (although I’m pretty sure I didn’t touch the clothing at that point). Then along came Andrew and in an effort to keep up with two preschoolers, I ditched a whole lot more stuff but might have gone a little overboard on my stroller collection. Then Katie arrived and I weeded out boy clothes (I mean, really, I learned that I had no patience for dressing a baby in cute outfits as a daily event…my babies have all been born in the heat of the Texas summer so onesies worked just fine with a few cute outfits for any occasions we might have; my rule of thumb now is that until 3 to 6 months, the pants and the shoes and the button down shirts really have no place in my storage closet).
I sat down after cleaning out the closet with a cup of tea (and no baby attached to me!) and reflected. I was actually a little embarrassed to think of all the things that have passed through my hands (whether I’ve used it or just passed it along) in light of the fact that there are women in 3rd world countries that strap their babies to their back to go work in the fields…I’m guessing there aren’t extensive baby wardrobes and bins of baby toys. I get the whole idea that babies only need your loving arms, but I’m also a bit realistic (dinner still has to be cooked and laundry still has to be done) and so I revel in usefulness and sometimes even convenience but I also value simplicity. Looking back, if I could’ve just visited with that young naive new mom that I was eight years ago, here’s the list I would’ve handed her…(please keep in mind, I breastfed exclusively, co-slept and used cloth diapers, so keep that in mind when viewing my list…you won’t find bottles or pacifiers, cribs or nursery accessories on here)
36 infant prefolds, 12 diaper covers and cloth wipes: Keep in mind that the more diapers you have, the less often you have to wash, however, the diapers do need to be washed when the pail fills up, so don’t go overboard here. Baby poop tends to be a bit, uh-hem, messy, hence the number of diaper covers (as baby grows, you won’t need as many diaper covers and less diapers will probably be sufficient). If you go with cloth diapers, just go with cloth wipes…you’re already doing the laundry, just throw those in with the diapers. And if you’re going with cloth diapering, don’t forget a pail liner and a wetbag for when you’re out and about.
I know they make lots of fancy cloth diapers these days and if that’s your thing and your budget is endless, then enjoy! Personally, even after trying out all-in-ones and pocket diapers and the trim bamboo liners they make nowadays, I still prefer my good old-fashioned prefolds (no pins required!). They’re inexpensive, extremely durable and I have never had the experience of a messy, need to change all the clothes poop explosion (well, that’s not completely true…the blowouts we’ve experienced have always happened with disposables!) I linked to the OsoCozy prefolds, but we’ve also had great experience with Bummis prefolds and Grovias prefolds. As for diaper covers, it’s your preference: snaps or velcro. I tend to prefer the snaps, but we have lots of velcro that we like, too! My favorite covers are Bummi’s Whisper wraps. As for cloth wipes, I’m not a big fan of flannel and we’ve had some bad experiences with wipes that feel so soft but they almost seem to repel water, so shop around and read the reviews. I do love the Grovia wipes. Two of my favorite diaper shops are Nicki’s Diapers and Mom’s Milk Boutique.
For diaper cream, we only use Triple Paste. We started off with some of the other creams and while they seemed fine, the one that really worked when we had serious diaper rash (thanks to a few bouts of allergy related issues), the only one that solved the problem was the Triple Paste (recommended by the kids’ GI doc).
clothing: My recommendation here is KEEP IT SIMPLE. Really. No baby cares about cute pants or a matching cardigan. In fact, I’m pretty sure that elastic waistband must feel like a ton of pressure on an already sometimes gassy baby and the cardigan is just awkward. Stick to onesies (whether the traditional onesie or a one piece romper or even a dress with a diaper cover) and accessorize with socks, mittens, and hairbows (if it’s a girl of course!) Don’t go crazy on the amount you buy…those itty bitty babies grow fast and before you know it, you’ll be squeezing him into the next size up. If it’s cold or baby needs some extra warmth, use Baby Legs or just swaddle that baby in a blanket! My preferred brand? Carter‘s. Their stuff lasts, it’s cute, it’s sized as expected and if you use a coupon or wait for a sale, it’s totally reasonable. Oh and the shoes? Really? I have yet to meet a walking baby. You’ll probably want a small pile of receiving blankets to swaddle and wrap that baby up and we did use the the gowns with a few of them (they’re super handy at diaper changing time!) but we were never big fans of the sleep sacks (might be because just the thought of them invokes a sense of claustrophobia in me).
Baby Beco: There are two things that fall into an “I cannot live without this” baby gear category…the Beco is one of them. This beautiful little carrier gave me freedom to move and chase little ones and chop veggies for dinner. I cannot imagine how in the world I survived without this….yes, I am that dramatic about this carrier (it’s the only one that didn’t leave my back aching by the end of the day…even Dax wore it and didn’t complain). It looks like their design has changed (my strap don’t cross in the back), but I promise, this is one carrier that is worth swooning over. I have also used the Moby Wrap, the Maya Wrap, and a few others that I’m failing to remember the brand…Beco is my absolute favorite.
bouncer: Here’s the other item in my “I cannot live without this” baby gear category. I’m not putting a link here because ours is eight years old and isn’t sold anymore, but I’ll give you this piece of advice…simple is better. You don’t need to pay top dollar for this (in fact, both of ours came from a consignment shop in excellent condition…pretty sure we didn’t pay over $15 per bouncer)…I promise your baby really doesn’t care if it sings or flashes colors at him. He only cares if you can put your foot on the stand and bounce it or if you can switch that sweet little vibrator on (that vibrator makes it possible for me to put a sleeping baby in it and turn it on then like a whirlwind, I can zoom around the house tidying up, tossing laundry in, and getting dinner in the oven…all while baby sleeps in the bouncer).
a baby bath, a baby bath cushion: That’s two different items there. First we always used a separate baby bath for the little bitty ones (here’s a link to one although ours didn’t have a sling, but it looks similar to ours and I imagine it works just as well). Then when they were a little bigger, we used that totally simple baby bath cushion and seriously loved it. Don’t be overwhelmed by the options out there (who knew they could add so many bells and whistles to a simple bath)…keep it simple.
a highchair: We have just a plain old fashioned wooden highchair. No bells, no whistles. It doesn’t recline or have a height adjustment. And it worked beautifully for four children.
a travel system: You don’t NEED this. You could get by with the infant car seat (or even a rear facing adjustable car seat) and a stroller but this is one of those things that made my life a little more convenient. I liked having a car seat that hooked right onto a stroller especially for the times when the baby fell asleep on the way to somewhere and I didn’t want to have to unstrap from the car seat to move to the stroller. It made shopping and times when I didn’t want a carrier on, convenient. My only regret? I must have bought the world’s largest travel system…it was the size of a yacht (although the advantage to having a yacht size stroller is that you can do some serious grocery shopping without having to get a cart!). If I had to do it again, I’d go midsize.
A note to moms with additional little ones: A sit n stand really is a dream come true…our infant car seat attaches to the front of ours and then one kid can sit and one kid can stand…that’s 3 kids on one stroller!…this is how errands were possible when Andrew was a baby. Just be sure that you check with sit-n-stand to see if your infant car seat is compatible.
a boppy: My breastfeeding friend. It really did provide great support, especially when nursing in bed. We have multiple boppys (I got tired of lugging them around with me so I left one at each end of the house and one at my parents). I love that they’re supportive and washable.
These might be nice to have:
a hand pump: I kept this on hand for plugged ducts and the hormone induced panic of “oh my gosh, what if something happens to me and I don’t have any stored milk.” When I did pump to store, I used the Medela bags that hung from my hand pump. If you actually need to pump larger quantities, then you probably want to get something a little fancier (as in, electric).
a nursing cover and burp cloths: A baby blanket works just fine when you’re in a pinch, but it really is nice to have a cover made for nursing. My favorite? The Hooter Hider. And burp cloths are a must-have. I’m not picky about the burp cloths…if they can soak up a bit of spit up, then I’m good.
a cradle: I did use this with a few of them during the day…sometimes as a changing station, sometimes as a spot to put a napping baby. Cradles only last as long as your baby cannot pull himself up, so keep that in mind. Mine has wheels so it made it handy for moving from room to room. If you find yourself wishing for a cradle, aside from the cradle mattress, you might want to add a cradle bumper, some sheets and a mattress cover to your list. I think with William, I had a cradle mobile, but eventually I realized that those babies would much rather prefer to stare at a doting sibling than fish going round and round. A changing table is nice to have, too, but totally not essential (a bed or the floor works just as well). It’s nice to have everything organized on it. Be sure to get a nice pad for it that has a strap. I had a beautiful changing table gifted to me, but I’m not sure I would have spent the money on it.
a swing: I have a love/hate relationship with the swing. First of all, it’s not an essential. Two of mine have used it, two have not. Some kids like it, some kids don’t (you don’t know which kind of baby you’ve got, so don’t spend a fortune…you could get a baby that doesn’t like it!). I love that the swing we had could swing front to back or side to side. I hated that it went through batteries like nobody’s business. I loved that it sometimes lulled the fussy ones to sleep. I hated that one of mine got so attached to the swing that we were still using it until he got so heavy that the poor swing couldn’t move! I can’t provide a link to ours because I don’t see ours anywhere (we’ve had ours a long time and we bought it used) but it’s similar to the Fisher Price cradle and swing. And when that baby hits 6 months? Definitely invest in an outdoor baby swing. Worth.every.penny.
Sophie the giraffe: I’m not big on baby toys. But I love Sophie, as have my babies. Her ears are just irresistible to little budding teeth.
Baby Signing Times: I should probably list this as an essential, but I know not everyone promotes DVDs for babies, so I’ll list it as a nice to have, but I’ll tell you that teaching your baby how to sign will help as your baby gets older and wants so badly to communicate. It really is beautiful to see your 9 month old show you a sign and you totally understand it and avoid the whole frustration of communicating with a little person. All of ours have learned sign language (Joseph started with the original Signing Times series because he was pre-baby signing times) and I have seen great benefits thanks to the hard work of the folks over at Two Little Hands Production. Even now all of my kids sit captivated for Rachel and the Treeschoolers, their preschool line.
Nosefrida: While I wish your baby happy health and I know you’ll be praying that each illness passes you by, it will still inevitably happen. Aside from a thermometer, I find the Nosefrida essential. I get that it looks gross. Trust me. I’m a bona fide germaphobe over here, but this thing is truly awesome and you don’t have to worry that you’re going to suck those germs in…the filters really do work.
This list is not meant to be exhaustive…I’ve used other things than what’s listed here (like a pair of baby nail clippers and a tummy mat!) but these are the things I found most useful and helpful.
Here’s wishing you and your baby happiness! Don’t let the excitement of all things new and shiny at Babies R Us clout your good judgement…people have been raising babies for, well a long time, and most of these new things aren’t necessary. Choose what’s useful. Choose what’s helpful. But don’t lose sight of what’s important! Happy choosing!