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Also, check out the Baby Best Sellers at Amazon
Many of my friends are having babies these days and becoming first time parents. And each time, I am asked for advice or input on what to buy, what to do, or the must-haves on the registry. Well, here it is! I decided to write a post and then I can just send the link on over to my friends and to you my reading audience. Additionally, this is a great place for you (my reader) to share your suggestions and experiences too and then, this can become an evolving post because let’s face it! Times, technology, and needs can change quickly. So, please review the below “must haves,” add your own, or edit mine and let’s give the first-time parents some great advice on what to put on their registries, or buy. Include what worked, what did not, and simply put: THE MUST HAVES! Don’t forget to register – Amazon is a great way to register for family and friends near and far:
Here’s my Top 30 List (organized by category for easy shopping):
1. Car Mirror:
Here is a sample of one recent trending one, but we had a different one: Baby Car Seat is next but since kids these days are rear-facing until they are 1 year old and 20+ lbs or even 30+ lbs, I considered the baby mirror a must. Ours were fisher-price aqua- fishtank ones with a remote. We kept the switch “on” and that way, we could hit the remote in the front seat, and the lights would flash and songs would play, calming crying baby down. Undoubtedly, this can help the 10-minute drive which may seem like an eternity with a baby you can’t see or entertain turn into a seamless commute and if you are lucky, the music may lull baby back to sleep.
2. Car Seat/Stroller system- We used the combi because I am short and petite and the combi is light and easy to transport for me especially to take baby to/from doctor’s office and grocery or pharmacy trips. This is a must have for new parents. New parents recently remarked – “oh we do not need a stroller!” All the parents in the area responded, WRONG! The first time you wake sleeping baby up to transport them into a store or anywhere else, you will run out and buy a stroller. A system is the best and is made by companies like Combi, Graco, Chicco, Britax, Orbit, etc., but it provides ease of transporting baby from car to mall or stroller OR (and this is important)- grocery cart. Make sure your baby seat can latch into grocery carts because ours did not and I could only go to the store for a few items because I would have to hand carry it and push a stroller with one hand. Try to get your car seat inspected or installed at the hospital where you will deliver- they offer free services but you cannot leave the hospital with your newborn without someone verifying a proper car seat so have this installed 1-week before your due date if you can.
3. Head Insert/Comfort Fit insert– these are necessary for the first time that baby comes home. We had tiny babies and required a double neck and comfort rest. They come in a pack of 3 so it should work out that you could use any size you want but their necks need to be protected.
4. ERGO baby carrier or sling- We used the Ergo baby carrier with both kids but also had the Baby Bjorn. The Ergo carrier and infant insert are very good to use and so comfortable for both mom/dad and the baby. Until they get neck control, you cannot use much else. I know a lot of folks prefer the sling as well and this is an option as well and can be made at home with proper instruction. In any case, you need a safe, reliable, and easy to use carrier because I, for one, did not like pushing a stroller everywhere and did not travel in foreign countries with strollers- only the ERGO. Foreign countries do not have as many “lifts” or elevators as we do and having a hands-free baby carrier is a must have- maybe not right away but at least after the first couple of months.
5. Bassinet/Co-Sleeper/Crib and Pack and Play– I talk about this later as something we did not use much of – our kids like to sleep with us and I breastfed both babies and after 3 months of their lives, they co-slept with me so I could easily nurse in the middle of the night. You as the parent have to make the choice on this because not everyone can co-sleep but there are plenty of options for co-sleeping. For the first 3 months or so, I used a bassinet which was next to me and I could rock it too so the baby would go back to sleep if it was just a cry or something. This bassinet came with our Combi Play Yard and was part of the whole set. We loved the bassinet by itself too. In any case, after the baby was 3 months old, she slept next to me to nurse but there are co-sleepers or wedges available after that as well. If you have a pack n play, you can travel with them as well. Like I said, our kids did not take too well to the pack n play and it was tough. Then, my sister in law raves about hers – they are quite useful on travel and most hotels where you go provide them so bring along your sheets.
6. Nursing Pillows & Nursing Chair- I had both the “Brest”Friend and the Boppy Pillow. The Boppy can be used for the baby as tummy time and laying around as well so it serves multiple purposes. The Boppy is nice as the baby gets bigger but for nursing my little tiny newborns, my favorite was the Brest Friend because it provides more support and leverage and a strap I can tie around me to be mobile if I needed to be and the baby did great laying on this comfortable pillow. The Brest Friend also has a pouch that zips to put things in. I also loved my rocking chair with the footstool but we got a cheap one from Wal-mart- no need to spend $300+ at Babies R Us on a rocker.
7. Formula- powder or ready to use– No one kid is alike and same goes for mom. I was blessed and lucky to nurse both kids for the first year but even so, we still took all the samples we could get from the OB’s office and then subsequently, from the hospital and pediatrician. Do not be afraid to ask for FREE samples. Formula does not come cheap. Go to the websites for Enfamil and Similac and sign up for all their free deals and coupons and use them! I am a huge advocate of nursing – breast milk is best but you may need to have formula on hand and it is a wise thing to do no matter how skilled you think you are at nursing. Every baby and every situation is different so be prepared and realize you are not a failure if nursing fails. Seek out your hospital and doctor’s office lactation counselors and join La Leche Group. There are so many resources and know you have help but also, do not freak out if you have to give the baby a bottle – babies are not as dumb as people claim they are and they will like the warmth of momma any day over a cold hard bottle.
8. Bottles & Bottle Accessories – You need bottles even if you are breastfeeding just so you can go out and get a break or return to work someday (if you plan to). We used medela (the ones that came with the pumping accessories) and Born Free bottles for the 2nd child since BPA free was not around for the first baby. In any case, Born Free plastic ones that are 6oz were my favorite. The bigger bottles are great as they start drinking more milk or need more than 6oz per feeding. A bottle brush is a must along with the accessories like low flow and then fast flow nipples. In the first 3 months, you need the low flow bottles and then it picks up the pace. Even if you do not think you will bottle feed in the first 3 months, have at least 2 bottles on hand … just in case! You never know what curves will be coming your way. A bottle warmer is not a must have per se unless you have multiple levels in your home and if your child takes the bottle or another member of your family will feed baby so momma can sleep especially if mom is returning to work. A bottle warmer can be kept on the other levels of the house and can be used to warm up milk or formula for the baby. Keep in mind that you cannot use a microwave to heat up breast milk nor should be used for formula because it does not heat evenly and baby can get burned. Keep a close watch on the milk or formula even with a bottle warmer. It was convenient for us in the middle of the night. Bottle Brush & Sanitizing System– If you are using bottles in the first few months or even in the first couple of years, it is important to have a way to wash bottles after every use and then sanitize bottles every 2-3 months. This goes for pump parts if you are pumping. Almost every company that sells bottles sell bottle sanitizers and/or bags for sanitizing parts/pump accessories and bottles. Whether on the go or at home, these are key to have within the first few months of life throughout the time the child takes a bottle. It is important to have a clean bottle brush every 3-4 months and try to set this brush aside for just the bottles.
9. Breast Pump & Accessories- My favorite and the one I used both times since I am a working mom was the Medela Advanced (pump in style) pump which is a dual action, fast pump which can also operate on a battery pack and trust me, the battery pack is useful when the lights go out at work. This was a great pump. Keep in mind you may not use it right away unless you run into nursing problems like I did but it is good to have at the hospital to help bring the colostrum in (the yellow milky stuff which babies need) and it can also help bring your milk in just in case you have a preemie or a baby that does not latch on right away. I would highly recommend a breast pump be in your home before the baby is born. Also, if you do not have one- do not fret, the hospital can do rentals on pumps and while you are there, will supply you with one and show you how to use it. Take all the help you can get at the hospital, once you get home, it gets daunting. These are sold just about everywhere so try to find the best deal and check on-line websites and medical websites like Hackley Medical Equipment. Keep in mind if you have a flexible health savings account, your OB/GYN can write you a letter of medical necessity and if you buy through a medical company, you can get the entire $225+ back which is a great deal! Used pump? Up to you because the tubing and bottles should be yours and new, The other thing you will need is bottles and pump supplies to pump with and into. You can freeze breast milk in bags sold by medela or by Lansinoh and you can get these at any store. Your frozen milk is good for up to a year! So, while the milk is in good, feel free to pump and store- you will thank yourself later like when you need to go out of town, or want to go to a movie with a girlfriend. Your baby can still have breastmilk and you get a little break.
10. Nursing Bra & Nursing Accessories– I cannot emphasize the importance and usefulness of a good nursing bra or several. Denver has a specialty store in two locations called Bosom Buddies and they are very helpful. My hospital, Exempla Lutheran in Wheat Ridge also had a nursing nook but none of those bras worked for me. The only bras that worked for me were the ones I got fitted for at Bosom Buddies. My favorite brands are Bravado and Medela. The key is not to wear underwire or even jogging bras that push on your breasts for threat of clogged ducts (and this is quite painful). Make sure you have 2-3 bras you love and then remember to buy Lansinoh or Medela Nursing Pads at any store – place them inside especially the first few months to avoid leaking from soiling your shirts. I found I needed these pads more with the 2nd child than the first. You may need Lansinoh cream within the first few days of childbirth and nursing as well – the pain subsides as your body gets used to it but keep that sample tube from your OB’s office or the hospital handy. Buy a full tube only if you need more. Make sure you have a kit- a bag to put your milk bottles in and ice packs- you may need ice packs for the milk but as the kiddo teeths, you may need them for your nipples too! Lanolin is a necessity too.
Extras in Feeding
11. Burp cloth & Bibs- The most useful thing was buying a pack of cloth diapers and using them as burp or spit-up cloths. They are white and cotton generally and anyone who holds baby should put one on his or her shoulder and then burp the baby on their shoulder with the cloth on there. I guarantee the baby will spit up- it is normal and natural. Most babies always drink more than they can handle (sounds like us sometimes huh?) only difference: they spit up. These are so useful; they are soft, and they clean-up easily. Okay, here are my two cents on bibs. If you want to have 1-2 on hand, fine but you do not need them til they eat solids. Most friends and relatives will give you these as presents, often attached to a cute outfit so do not buy a ton on your own even if they say “Daddy’s little princess” or “world’s best man” etc.. on them. Cute but as I look at our donation bins, I think… why do we have an entire bin of bibs? Even as they grow older, you will probably use waterproof ones anyway that cover their entire arms and outfit instead of the little ones.
12. Pacifiers– I know I know… your baby will never need one and you do not plan on using them. Just buy some at the hospital or BPA-free ones ahead of time (2-3 on hand is good), and keep them with you in the diaper bag and on every floor of the house. My first one was hooked to a Pacifier and the 2nd one never touched it so it all depends but why risk a screaming baby and a sleepness night when the solution is simple. They will eventually ween off of it and you will look back and wonder why you ever freaked out in the first place.
13. Baby Bumbo Sitter- This will not be useful until the baby reaches 3 months+ but as soon as they have a little neck control, this is great! They can sit it in it for everything. My friend gave us this as a gift after our first baby and it was one of the most useful things we used for both kids. We used it to prop them up to eat solids, to hang out while we ran around and had to do things in the house, and to just sit in. It helps their spine and helps them sit up quicker, and is a baby sitter of sorts too. You can put it outside as you BBQ and they can be part of the family fun without you toting them around.
14. High Chair – You will not use a high chair for at least 5-6 months – your baby needs to have neck control so ’til then, the Bumbo works good or a baby Pappasan or chair that vibrates for feeding. But I really liked the Bumbo because it provided them a lot of stability and neck support. When we went on trips we had a GRACO clip-on high chair that we could attach to tables (not glass) and it worked great but I would not spend on your money on travelling high chairs. We found ours was a waste. As far as high chairs go, do not try to get the best top of the line one – not necessary and no one cares but you. You just need a safe, functional high chair and Big Lots carries these for $30-$35. Why spend more when you can get what you need for less?
Clothing & Bathing for the first 3 months– Do not buy a bunch of clothes because you are excited about having a first baby. In retrospect because I used to do this, I think it is funny that people run out and buy uncomfortable polyester dresses with bows for girls and little baby tuxedos for boys. I am a comfort-first person and my kid was treated no different. You do not know their rash-tendencies or allergies yet – get cool comfortable clothes that can be layered when necessary and COTTON (to me) was key.
15. Onesie shirts (white cotton) & hand mitts – these are great with just a diaper. Gerber sells these and there are options in the baby clothes’ aisle. Some of these shirts have long sleeves and some have short sleeves. Babies have this weird cord thing hanging there at their belly button with a clamp the first few weeks and there are instructions to keep this clean and swabbed. These shirts are great and there is no danger of them getting tangled up on there plus the long sleeve ones have these sleeves to put their hands in there so they do not scratch their faces up with their fingers. If you get the ones with the long sleeves, then you do not have to buy gloves for the baby- we needed mittens/gloves so the babies did not scratch themselves or injure themselves. After all, they do not know what their hands and fingernails are capable of yet. Jammies & Clothing options- either two piece or a bodysuit and HATS For after the cord/belly button thing falls off (this day will be creepy for you), keep the area clean and then they can wear body suits which are great in winter to keep them warm head to toe at night because they cannot be in blankets for fear of many factors early on. The key for clothing is this- you will be changing them a lot – sometimes all night so, try to make it easy for you – swaddle them in just the t-shirt I described above and diaper- make it easy for you. Sure, a french berret may look cute along with some lacy headbands but they may not stay on your child’s head. Babies are often bald and despite it being 90 degrees outside, they may get cold. I thought the hospital hats were the best. Try to snag a few of those and then buy them as the kid’s head grows. The key is warmth and safe so if straps are hanging down, that may not be the best choice the first few months of life.
16. Swaddle – Receiving Blankets & Hospital Blankets- speaking of swaddling, take all the striped swaddle blankets from the hospital you can and learn to swaddle them from the nurse. Practice will make perfect. Swaddling is a key if you put them in a big enough blanket or you can buy a ready-made swaddler but we found this did not work for us – our babies ran smaller and the hospital blankets were perfect.
17. Laundry Detergent– Until you know what kind of allergies your baby may have, it is smart to wash his or her clothes, hats, tiny booties and hats in separate hypoallergenic (dye-free) laundry detergent which is mild. We also were lucky to get some free bottles of Dreft detergent and stain treater. Dreft stain remover is a must have to get out spit-up, vomit, and other stains out of clothes.
18. Cotton Hooded Towel Set with Plenty of Cotton washcloths – babies cannot sit up in nor be in a plastic or the regular bath tub alone and they shiver easily so keep them warm. Plus, these are great to transfer them from bath area to the room where you may diaper/change them into clothes. We loved ours!
19. Bath Tub with a Sling & the Bath Sponge– We used the Fisher Price Aquatics Fish Tub (blue) – the key is to have a sling because until 3-4 months old they have neck control and are quite fragile. After 1 month, you will want to use this tub. Until then, do the techniques taught by the nurse to do a “sponge” bath with cotton washcloths and warm water. The best thing we snagged were two sponges with soft bristles (white) on one side and orange sponge on the other along with the little pink hospital tub you will already get. These were from the hospital and helped us bathe the girls until they were 6 months old. These are perfect for bathing until the kids get older and the sponge and bristles are gentle on their skin and their scalp (which is still soft). The pink tub is still being used by the girls to store their toys during bathtime or put water in.
20. Bath Products– Many parents including myself register for these crazy $20.00 gift baskets of bath and body products for a baby. This is nuts! All you need is hypoallergenic body wash, gentle lotion, and the diaper rash creme discussed below. Trust me! Once you figure out your kids’ skin type, allergies, etc., you will be fine and can buy more in bulk if necessary but the gift basket is a giant waste at this stage. Just get what you need at Wal-mart or Target and get out! Save your registry for better items.
Health and Safety & Diapering– the generals on this are- your baby is not mobile nor requiring latches and what not til much later. For now, you just have to keep an eye on them and perform the essential functions. So, there is no need to baby proof your home or build a crazy nursery – the baby does not know- only you do!
21. Baby Monitoring System– There are many options out there now including video monitoring systems so you can see the baby in his or her crib. I cannot believe how much technology has evolved. I was okay with the system we had but certainly video monitoring makes parents feel better especially where SIDS is concerned. Sometimes you hear a noise and have no idea what it means. A video monitoring system takes the guessing out and you can observe baby without running into the room and risk waking them up. Dual monitors or multiple monitors are a must if you have multiple levels in your home or your master bedroom is on a different level altogether. There are also remote pager systems so you can clip it on and listen as you do errands and go room to room.
22. Thermometer- We finally, on the 2nd child, bought the Exegen Thermoscan temporal thermometer that gives you a reading within a few scans of the temporal of the infant. This is useful to have. For the first baby, we used ear and other methods and trust me, it was horrible. This is much easier and as the kids grow up, they participate in the temperature reading and it is a fun game instead of screaming and a tug-a-war.
23. Safety Nail Cutter for infants- This is a must-have for sure! The safety first ones or the First Aid ones- with a magnifying glass or without (I rarely used the magnifying glass) but these are the safest nail cutters and I still use it on my 4-year old!
24. Nose Suction – Bulb syringe– The hospital will give you one with every kid- take them and use them as needed. There is a trick so learn it before you leave the hospital. In sum, you do not want to blow air into the nostril.
25. Rubbing Alcohol & Qtips or cotton swab- you will need these early on for baby because of the cord issue- he or she will have a clamp and the belly button will be there sticking out and will fall off within 10 days or so of leaving the hospital but you need to swab it daily with the rubbing alcohol. Keep that area clean and buy diapers that are for Newborn (they have that cut out at the top for the cord or just fold the diaper over).
26. Diapers, diaper trash bags (scented), and diaper rash cream- What can I say about diapers other than cheaper is not always better. We experienced this. Wipes- I recommend the Costco brand or Pampers. Huggies was too thick for us and too moist. We like thinner wipes. Anyway, as far as diapers, do not buy too much of one because we are not sure the store will take it back but buy small packs and see what works for your baby and for you. We always loved pampers for the baby/infant years and as they potty trained, used Huggies Pull-Ups and training pants. This is a must have: Diaper trash bags that are scented. When we travel to others’ homes or just out and about and there is no access to a trash can, if baby poops, you will need to wrap it up and take it with you. So the blue scented trash bags are a must in your home or better yet, in your car and diaper bag. These are great and can be used in place of the “special” diaper genie in the home as well. Diaper cream is a must to have around and a few tubes if you can. When the rash actually happens, it will be hard to find the one tube you tote around in your diaper bag or which may be at the daycare. So, have 3-4 on hand. Trust me, you can and will use it.
27. Changing Pad/Cover- It is important to get a couple or more of those changing pads. We still use them for our 2nd child at age 2 to change her diaper – either downstairs or upstairs. We have a nice soft changing pad cover so she is comfortable and you can add a pillow in too as they get older. When they are babies though, you need the changing pad covered and ensure those covers are washed in the hypoallergenic laundry detergent as well.
28. Swing and/or Exersaucer- Again, the exersaucer is better for 4 months+ but the swing can be used right away! As a 1 month old, I know my older one was fussy and the swing provided two things babies love: Motion + Sound/Music. She would fall asleep and I could transfer her but be careful of dependence. In any case, if I could eat a meal or get a quick shower, this was priceless even for 10-15 minutes. Some people use these contraptions for feeding too but would just not turn the swing on. That is another option.
29. Activity Mat or Baby Gym – if you get a mobile for the crib or pack n play, make sure it is cool and musical and not plain and if you get some tummy time mats with arches and toys, make sure the toys include mirrors and sounds. These are useful as they get older but certainly also provide a little baby sitting of the baby if you need to get things done as well.
30. Kids’ Sound Machine with light projection– As you will see below, crib mobile did not work for us but as the kids grew up, they loved light projections from the sound machine we purchased. Our second kid was noise sensitive and the first was not so I got this great sound machine, the Homedics Sound Spa Lullaby Relaxation Machine from Bed, Bath and Beyond (only $19.99 without the coupons) and I loved it so much, I got one for the other kid too. These sound machines are invaluable even for me as a light sleeper. It plays lullabies too and you choose the sound to play and it projects shapes and lights. I love it.
Warnings- Useless items (do not even bother)
Diaper Pail- Good lord! What a pain – we succumbed to this horrible commercialization and had a special diaper pail for diapers and special liners. WASTE OF MONEY. Baby diapers do not smell bad… not til they start eating solids. A normal lined waste basket will do and just empty your trash, or use your garage to store them. It is fine!
Wipe Warmer- We did not fall prey to this although I did register for it and then heard it was useless and returned them. Babies love the cool wipe and in the summer, it feels good. You do not need to warm them. They are in your home, they are warm.
Pack N Play– While we used the pack n play in our own home (as stated above), we did not travel with it once. It is useless since our kids did not like sleeping in cribs or pack n plays. But if you have multiple levels in your home, it is useful and we used our as a changing pad/storage for stuff on the first level with her crib on the 2nd level. Totally your call on what your needs are. Babies can co-sleep as long as you are okay with it, so why not?
Crib Mobiles- Some people love these and swear by them – I found them to be a waste of our money unless they play music maybe. Both my kids did not enjoy the mobile and even got terrified from the creatures hovering there. So, keep that in mind and maybe a crib piano or aquarium as one reader suggests may be a better option once the baby is older.