I got my first “Dear Darla” question! Well, my friend texted me but I’m answering it on the blog. She asked me what my must have baby items are. Ali this is for you! I want to start by saying that all you need to have to be an AWESOME parent is the capacity to love and the desire to try your very best. Everything else will work itself out. That being said, there are some awesome things out there that help along the way. Everyone is different and so we have different needs. That will show up when you are registering for your baby shower. If you live in the city or you plan to bottle feed, or you live in alaska, or you have 5 other kids, then your list will look different than mine. So, instead of telling you what you need, I’ll tell you what I use that I needed. Lila is about to turn 3 and Daniel is 3 months old now and there are some things I’ve needed that I’m so glad I had around. If you aren’t getting a baby shower, you may have to get things as you go along, and that’s fine too. Travel A Car Seat: Keep in mind that carseats last about 5 years and then the plastic in it “expires”. So, if you’re getting a hand me down, be sure to ask when they originally bought it and if it was ever in an accident. Those things could compromise the safety of the carseat and whether or not your insurance would cover anything in the case of an accident. With a carseat, just look for comfort and safety. A 5 point harness system is standard and push on the butt part to see if it’s cushy. Both of my babies have been car criers and the things that help us are adjusting and leveling the carseat and making sure the fit is secure and snug feeling. I used a Peg Perego system. Another thing to keep in mind is how many cars your baby will be traveling in. We have two cars and we ride with Jordan’s parents a lot so we registered for a carseat and 2 extra bases so it was easy to travel between cars and we didn’t have to wake the baby to move from one car to another. I also loved having the Baby Mirror in the car so that you can see your baby by looking into your rearview mirror.
Jogging stroller: I am a runner and a jogging stroller was high on my priority list. We didn’t get a regular stroller with four wheels and we’ve never wished we had one. Our jogging stroller is flexible and works well walking around and also is great when I lock the front wheel and go on a jog. It has the car seat attachment that works for our car seat, so I got to use it when lila was a newborn and can still push her in it today and she is almost three. We used the Mountain buggy stroller. It is so cool. The handlebar height adjusts for whoever is pushing it (Jordan is significantly taller than me), and there is a little pouch on the bottom to carry stuff in.
Sleep Bassinet/crib: Daniel sleeps with me. We take all of the safety precautions necessary. It just makes both of our lives a lot easier. He doesn’t have to get all hot, bothered and upset to get me to hear him and go get him to nurse in the middle of the night and I don’t have to fully wake up to feed him. We both fall back asleep much faster and we both sleep more soundly. However, I can’t lay with him for all of the times he sleeps. I have a crib, but I haven’t used it yet. I do use our bassinet, though. A bassinet is a little crib that stays next to your bed or somewhere in your room. It’s great for naps or any instances when you won’t be sleeping with the baby. It doesn’t take a lot of space, it rocks easily so you can sooth the baby from your bed and it still lets the baby sleep close enough to hear your sounds and feel close to you. I just use a bassinet Jordan’s grandma gave to Lisa for us to use. It’s a wooden one. It’s great for us and if you find one, grab it. However, I have heard awesome things about this Rock n’ Play. It isn’t exactly a crib but babies are apparently really comfortable in them and it’s super compact and portable. Look into it.
When you do get a crib, just make sure you get a few extra fitted crib sheets and mattress protecters. These will come in handy. Baby monitors: These things are like space stations now. Just get one that fits your living space. We have a video monitor that lets us talk back into the monitor. It gets helpful when your baby is ready to sleep in a different room. Diapering Swaddle Blankets:These things are a must for me. They are muslin swaddle blankets. They are large and light. They don’t get too hot and they are perfectly stretchy. Sometimes, when a baby is over tired and overstimulated, you just need to roll that little blessing up like a cigarette. It calms them and then they don’t keep waking themselves up with their hands. These blankets have worked best for me. They are also at target from what I’ve seen, but I can’t recall the brand. For the first couple months, I just have baby in a onsie and have a swaddle blanket handy. You can’t have too many of these. WubbaNubs: Okay, this one is new to me. Our cousins came over and they had one for their baby girl and I thought it was genius. It is a Soothie Pacifier but it is perfectly sewn onto a little plush toy. Lila loved those pacifiers but they didn’t stay put when we wanted them to. The clips worked but it was a struggle to clip and un-clip while keeping the tether out of the way. Daniel doesn’t love pacifiers all the time, but he will use one in the car. He loves the wubanub because he can hold on to it and I love it because it is ADORABLE. Ugh, I obviously can’t get over it. I mean, come on. They are called WubbaNubs. How about I show you 5 of them? Daniel has the blue baby dinosaur!
Diapering Changing station: You will be changing diapers. Typically, it’s not that big of a deal, but it helps to have everything in one place. Diapers, wipes, wet/dry bags, lotion, diaper cream, and toiletries should all be accessible where you need them. Especially because I use cloth diapers, it really makes my life easier when I have all of my tools in one place. Find a changing station that comes with your bedroom furniture, or buy one at a garage sale and paint it. It’s worth it to keep your sh*t together. (I’m sorry, I had to make a pun) Cloth Diapers: Speaking of changing diapers, you’re going to need some diapers. Don’t even get me started. I love cloth diapering and I wrote all about it including links to the great brands and products I use. (click here to read) You’ll typically need about 20 diapers to cloth full time. It feels like a big purchase up front but you save exponentially down the line. Diaper bag: I’m not a purse person. I love other people’s purses, but I have never been good at carrying them around. I am definitely a diaper bag person, though. Especially cloth diapering, I need to have everything together. Also, we are out and about a lot and it helps to have extra clothes for the kids, snacks and toys in case I need them. I used this diaper bag (different color) with Lila. It was large enough for cloth diapers, it had lots of pockets for organization and even little stroller clips. Pick whatever bag you want, just make sure it suits you. Jordan got his own diaper bag that we use all the time. It’s called the Daddy Day Bag and it is big, and comes with a built in cooler pocket. Cool enough for Daddy to wear! Ours is made by Quicksilver but I can’t find it anywhere. This one is similar.
Bouncy seat: This could be anything. It’s basically a little sling/seat for the baby to hang out in. There is usually some gently stimulating things hanging overhead and a music/vibration option to lull the baby to sleep. Tummy time mat: This is another item that can be just about anything that you like. Basically, you need a clean, safe, and soft place for your baby to play when he lies on the ground. Look for ones that have stimulating images and sounds on the bottom and top so your baby can play on his tummy, back or side. This is the one we have and It’s been great. Again, I would just suggest getting something gender neutral so that you can use it or pass it on. We love these! Lila calls it her Angel and it plays sweet gentle melodies as she drifts off to sleep. It helped us so much that we bought baby brother the blue one! Activity center: This is the step and play. It’s so cool, I can’t wait to use it with Daniel. It stays developmentally relevant and useful for a long stretch of time. The height adjusts and the seat can even be removed for the “cruising stage”. Baby Wearing This is a must for me. This is one of my secret weapons. I wrote about it in my Mom Hacks post. I wear my babies. Nothing makes them happier than being held by mommy, but mommy needs to use her hands to cook and clean and grocery shop and eat lunch. I have three different carriers. I use the K’tan for a lightweight easy to put on wrap, it fits great in a diaper bag and if you have to put it on outside, it doesn’t touch the ground. I use the ergo sport carrier for going on walks and being outside wearing the baby. It is strong and structured and disperses the weight and pressure evenly so that it is easy on my back. It is easy to put on and has a built in weather flap that you can use if it rains or the sun gets too bright and you want to protect your baby’s head. I use the infant insert until they’re strong enough to hold their head up really well. This carrier is great because you can use it for so long. I wore Lila from a newborn until she was 2 in this carrier, and it is still in great shape so I wear it with Daniel. I also use a Moby wrap. I made my own! Here’s how you do it!
Bath time and first aid I’m a baby bath kind of gal. I gave Lila a bath pretty much every night as part of her bed time routine. She liked baths but for some reason hated getting lotion on and getting dressed after it. Daniel, on the other hand, loves both. It’s what I do at the end of the night if he just won’t go to sleep. It wears him out, and relaxes him enough to give in and nurse to sleep. Selfishly, I love clean baby smell. I could get drunk off of a soft cuddly baby that smells like lavender. Gosh… I may just go throw Danny man in there now. I use a few different bath options, but for the first 3 months, I used these. Sponge/tub: The sponge is cheap squishy frog that you just lay in the bathroom sink and put the baby on. It gets him fully emerged so he doesn’t get cold and pee all over you. It squeezes dry and doesn’t get stinky. It washes easy and stores really well from one baby to the next. I kind of love it. I also use this angel care bath support. Jordan and I saw it when I was pregnant with Daniel. We were perusing the aisles the way you do when you are pregnant and are trying to bribe your baby out with cute clothes and toys and I swear we both heard a “ding! ding! ding!” when we saw it. It works in the big bath when we do buddy baths with Lila and even me sometimes. It lets the water in and dries easily. Whatever bath you use, just remember that Poop-In-The-Bath happens and you need a plan. Easy drain/wash/dry are a must for the baby bath you choose.
Soaps and Lotions: This is all about your personal preference. I use this honey oatmeal soap we get from the farmers market on the kids and it’s great. If you want, stock up on some before winter hits! Towels and wash cloths: I didn’t need hooded baby bath towels, but I wanted them. I love wrapping a baby up in a soft baby towel and smelling their little baby heads. Have I said that enough yet? Cuteness at the end of a long day really helps. So, yes, get some adorable and fluffy hooded bath towels. The hood covers their little head and makes them look so cute you could eat them. Also, get some little wash cloths to use when you wipe their eyes and faces.
Natural solutions: It’s been helpful to me to have Lavender oil, Tea Tree oil, and also Coconut oil. I use melaluca oil in my cloth diaper wipe solution, and I’ve added a drop of lavender oil to coconut oil and applied it to the skin. Also, get an amber necklace. Wait, what? The baby is gassy? Amber necklace. I’m sorry, teething? Amber necklace. Your baby has… Shh, get an amber necklace. baby thermometer: Just get one that is a forehead scanner. A baby fever can be very dangerous and these let you check your child’s temperature without needing to wake them. We use ours for us too!
Feeding Nursing, once you get the hang of it, doesn’t actually require that much “gear”. However, when you’re first starting out, it will be helpful to have a few things on hand. Lansinoh Disposable Nursing Pads: You need nursing pads. If you don’t have them, you will leak and feel weird. These are disposable and work great. I only needed them for the first couple of months with Lila, but this time around, I still…I just need them still, okay? Anyway, I’m going to switch to cloth ones soon. I’ve looked at these Bamboobies Super-soft Washable Nursing Pads . They’re called bamboobies and that’s funny. Let’s just get all of the boob talk out now. Lila was tongue-tied and that led to some nipple issues. I’m going to elaborate on that whole deal in a different post, but just get this Lansinoh HPA Lanolin for Breastfeeding Mothers and put it in your hospital bag. Start applying it when you go into labor and don’t stop until the coast is clear. This was the brand that worked for me and I used it right off the bat with Daniel and we did great. Breast pump: I will be honest, I cried when I got my breast pump. I was so hormonal and the thought of being pumped just made me feel like a tired cow. I’ve since gotten over it and my pump has been handy to have around. Whether or not you’ll be working, you will need one. I don’t always pump my milk, but when I do, I use the Medela Pump in Style. Just look at this baby. It’s great. You do not, however, need a hands free pumping bra. Just get an old, or cheap new, sports bra and cut holes in the front big enough to get the small part of the breastshield to fit through but small enough to hold it there. Bing, bang, boom, hands free. Nursing tanks/bras: When I’m home with the babes I always just wear nursing tanks/camis. Easy access, can hold a breast pad, comfortable support and cute-ish. I get mine from target and…wait for it…H&M. Go there. They’re long and stretchy and durable. Also get some wireless comfy nursing bras. You’re going to want to get bras that leave you some room to grow. Trust me. Nursing Pillows: These help me a lot, especially in the first few weeks when you’re healing and you and your fresh baby are learning to nurse. They help you bring the baby to the breast and not the breast to the baby, which spares you neck and back pain. I’ve used the boppy and the My Breast Friend. Each has their pros and cons. If I was going to a desert island and could only bring one nursing pillow, I would say…boppy, but go to a store and take them out to see which you like better.
The last, but really the first, thing you need in this category is this book. This book is so great. I read through the first months of nursing Daniel and if you plan to nurse, I strongly suggest you read this book. Even if you don’t plan to nurse, I’d encourage you to give it a read. When looking for a high chair, just think about how your family eats. What kind of table? What height? We had this big chico high chair and it was great because Lila could just fall asleep in there and hang out in there with us, but it took up a lot of space and was hard to clean. This time around I’m going to use this one that hangs from the table. It’s easier to clean, portable and doesn’t take that much space. Well, that is all I have for now. I reserve the right to compile an updated list or make another list whenever I think about new stuff to add. I hope this is helpful to you and I can’t wait to get you awesome stuff for your baby! To my other readers, my mind is spinning! There is no way I remembered it all. What was one thing you are so glad you had/have for your baby? Thanks for the question Ali, I hope this helps!