I’ve been at this parenting thing for nearly 10 months and while that doesn’t make me an expert, I have had enough time to form some opinions on baby “must haves.” As more and more of my friends are turning up pregnant I find myself making suggestions about certain gear or accessories that will save their lives in the first months after baby.
When I was pregnant, registering for gifts was one of the most difficult tasks. Everything was so shiny and bright and I found myself longing for three different stationary entertainers – one shaped like a car, one like a piano, and one that was jungle themed. I mean, variety is the spice of life, right? Fortunately, I had some experienced mommy friends who helped me focus and kept me from 10 different versions of everything.
Here are my Top 10 Baby Must Haves. Best part is, none of them will break the bank. We certainly didn’t skimp but we made a point to refrain from buying high end baby gear when middle of the road would do. Hopefully, some other new mommy out there will find this list useful as they start shopping for their own little nuggets.
1. Arm’s Reach CoSleeper: It’s no secret that Savannah shares our bed but in the beginning she was so little that I didn’t feel comfortable keeping her on the bed with us all night. I found the CoSleeper far more user-friendly than a pack n play because the baby is a the same level as the bed and it attaches to your mattress so you don’t have to worry about any gaps where the baby can slip through. I literally, slept with my hand touching her all night long. It’s also great if you have a pet in your bed already. Lola seemed to instinctively know to stay out of the CoSleeper making it Savannah’s own special retreat.
2. Ergo Baby Carrier: We’ve tried a variety of baby carriers. The Moby never worked for me and I loved the Peanut Shell sling but Savannah got too heavy for it around 4-5 months. The Ergo is the only one we’ve found that has been useful for the past 10 months straight through. Mike wears it more than I do but we both get good use out of it. Savs falls asleep within minutes of wearing it and it’s pretty good on our backs unless we end up wearing her for too long. But, keep in mind she’s a 20 pound baby and no carrier is going to make that easy. The one criticism I’ve heard is that some babies don’t like facing in but she’s never seemed to mind it that much.
4. Books: I’m a big reader and so I make an effort to read at least one book a day with Savannah. I know she’s still too young to really understand the words but I find she’s always been interested in the experience of rocking and reading together. No matter how extensive your library is, you will always feel like you’re reading the same book over and over again so I highly suggest you invest in a good variety. I received The Peace Book by Todd Parr as a gift and his books have since become my go-to gift to new parents. The messages are wonderful, pictures bright and cheerful, and words simple enough that even the youngest readers can follow along. I also recommend all of classics: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Guess How Much I Love You, and Goodnight Moon. And of course, three of our favorites: Oh, The Places You’ll Go, On the Night You Were Born, and The Little Engine that Could. I also suggest you get board books because little ones love chewing on them and board books are much more resilient to destructive baby hands.
5. Medela Pump In Style Advanced Breast Pump: Buying a pump before you have a baby is a bit of a challenge because even the most well intentioned moms-to-be can’t predict how breastfeeding is going to go for them. While we purchased ours early, I didn’t open it until Savannah was at least two months old and I was sure I was going to continue breastfeeding when I returned to work. My Medela Pump in Style is with me even more than Savi is so I would certainly say I have a love-hate relationship with my pump. Mechanically, it works great and I’ve had no problems except that I melted the tubes once trying to disinfect them in the microwave (rookie mistake) and had to buy a new set. It’s quick, easy, and relatively light weight. That being said, I’m so sick of carrying this thing around! If I didn’t have to pump, I’d probably breastfeed forever but since I do, I will be weaning my little one at 12 months without a doubt. Had I known I’d be one of those moms who pumps in the car, on planes, and in public restrooms, I definitely would’ve gotten the Medela Freestyle. Using it without the electrical cord has cost me about $50 in batteries by now but the battery pack works pretty well. Honestly, I have no experience with other pumps but I would recommend the Medela PIS. Considering I pump more than anyone I know, I think that’s a pretty good endorsement.
6. Hands Free Breastpump Bra: It’s a little intimidating to look at but without a doubt, a must have for a working mama. Or any woman who would like use of their hands while pumping. I use mine so much that the zipper is breaking and it’s fraying on the edges. This will certainly be going in the trash can when I retire my pump but it has made multi-tasking entirely possible and for that I’m grateful.
7. Nursing Bras: If you breastfeed, you may as well hang up your pretty underthings for a little while. It’ll be all about functionality and ease of use. I have a number of nursing bras but two favorites: The Medela Comfort Nursing Bra and the Bravado Original Nursing Bra. Both are sleep bras but I wear them all the time. They’re racerback and the Medela is pretty high cut so they don’t work great under work clothes. You’ll still need other, more traditional non-underwire bras for work but if you’re anything like me, you’ll wear your sleep bras every chance you get.
8. My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow: Can you sense the breastfeeding theme here? I was all about making life easy in those first days with Savannah…hell, I still am. I did everything from our bedroom and this nursing pillow made night feeds so much easier. It’s sturdy, comfortable, and it supports the baby well. Plus it has a pocket for your phone and a strap to keep it around your waist. A boppy would’ve been great to double as a tool for tummy time since this won’t but even without that feature, I would recommend My Brest Friend.
9. Aden & Anais Burpy Bibs: I still use these all the time and wish I would’ve saved the money I spent on all of the cheaper burp cloths and purchased more of these. In my opinion, it’s all about quality not quantity with burp cloths and I found myself rewashing these over and over so I could use them instead of the others in my collection. They’re soft, large, absorbent, and double as a bib when baby gets older. They rock!
10. City Jogger Mini Stroller and the Snap N Go: I hesitated to include a stroller on this list because it’s such a personal purchase but I couldn’t be happier with our stroller choices and feel obliged to share them with the world. Every infant carseat manufacturer makes some version of the Snap n Go and I highly recommend it even though it means having to buy two strollers. It’s the only thing you’ll use for the first few months or if you’re like me for the first 7-8 months. We traveled a bit with Savannah and this was so easy to get on and off planes and in and out of hotels. It’s great not to have to wake the baby by moving her from her carseat into a stroller, and it’s relatively inexpensive so if it gets beat up you won’t be heartbroken. As for the City Jogger, I was determined not to be persuaded by the hip, do everything, look super cool stroller choices out there – and there are a lot of them! I knew I wanted something light, easy to fold, and simple to use. While shopping, I imagined lugging my stroller in and out of my trunk by myself while simultaneously balancing a crying baby on my hip and the City Jogger fit the bill. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles but I’ve learned that bells and whistles make the stroller heavier. And it’s not a true jogging stroller although you can run with it on city streets. To be honest though, when Mike or I go for a run it’s a chance to have “me time” without the baby so we never would’ve used a jogging stroller anyway. It’s worth a second look but at the end of the day, like I originally said, a stroller is a very personal choice.