Now that I’ve been doing the motherhood thing for a whole four months I’m a qualified expert, right? And it’s high time I start doling out advice? Ha! If anyone has found that elusive manual people always joke about not coming with babies, please let me know.
Seriously, however, now that I’m emerging from the post-newborn fog, I realize that most of what I consider my newborn necessities weren’t on the Pinterest lists I read. A few were, but I was overwhelmed by the options when choosing them and now have clear favorites.
So, complete with helpful Amazon links (just click on the name), here are the best suggestions I can give any expecting moms. Or, if you’re looking for useful baby shower gifts, consider these surefire hits.
Sure, I kept reading to invest in a drying rack, but I thought my plastic, bulky dish drying rack would work just fine. Wrong! Thankfully, after hearing how much a friend loved hers, someone picked this up for us the week before William was born. It turned out to be the very first baby item we used, even before we brought the baby home. Within minutes of my arrival home we used it to dry pump parts. The lawn spikes are perfect for securely holding pump parts, bottles, Nose Fridas, and pacifiers (because we are those annoying first-time parents who immediately sanitize anything that touches the floor). Trust me, spring for the larger size and avoid playing baby bottle Jenga.
Not much can be said for having a baby in the NICU, but I am thankful we learned this trick during our time there. We registered for a huge bottle sterilizer, and the weekend before William’s arrival I dutifully cleared a kitchen cabinet for it, opened the instruction booklet, and, overwhelmed, begged my husband to take care of sterilizing our bottles. He must have been overwhelmed, too, because the bottle sterilizer remains untouched in our cabinet, hogging valuable space. Instead, just throw everything in these reusable bags with a little bit of water, microwave for ninety seconds, and bam, pat yourself on the back for actually managing to sterilize bottles/pump parts/whatever when you can’t even manage to brush your teeth. (For anyone not interested in saving time or space, please contact me for a great deal on a traditional sterilizer.)
Another NICU hack-while William was in the hospital we learned that NICU doctors now prefer for babies’ temperature to be taken under the arm, not rectally. Hallelujah! I generally love new experiences with William, but taking his temperature rectally is one I’m happy to miss. We looked into ordering the same thermometer our NICU used, but since we didn’t have a spare $300 lying around (thanks to all those NICU bills), we decided a $10 one would work just fine. This particular one really does get a reading in only sixty seconds, which is perfect for squirmy babies.
Supposedly not all babies enjoy these, but if yours does, I have one word for you-lifesaver. Nine times out of ten transferring a happy baby to a crib or Pack ‘n Play doesn’t work, but a good solid five times out of ten transferring to a Rock ‘n Play will. If those don’t sound like good odds to you, this is obviously your first baby. I’d like nothing more than to sit on the couch all day, every day just holding William, but since I unfortunately must eat, do laundry, get dressed, wash bottles, and generally go about the business of adulting, it’s vital to be able to actually use both hands every now and then.
There are quite a few Rock ‘n Play options, but go for the deluxe model. Rocking, vibration, soothing sounds, basically you want the Rock ‘n Play Cadillac. One of the first times I put William in his Rock ‘n Play with everything on, you could see his discerning little mouth make the same “Ooooh” sound adults make when sinking into a massage chair with a glass of wine. For the budget-conscious, the most expensive model is still only going to be about half the price of the new-age swings floating around stores these days. Be sure you get one with head support, too, because you are going to want to start using your Rock ‘n Play as soon as possible.
While it can be fun to scare your mother by letting her think you are truly considering using cloth diapers (be sure to mention scrubbing them in the toilet), what you really need these for are burp cloths. Large and absorbent, they put actual burp cloths to shame. We have several plain ones strategically placed throughout the house, and we always keep monogrammed or otherwise decorated ones in the diaper bag for going out. (Hint-monogrammed cloth diapers maker great shower gifts. Cute and practical!)
I know, I know, you’re probably rolling your eyes at this one. Why buy spa-quality washcloths for people who are not above regularly peeing in the bathtub? The regular washcloths that match your bath towels are bulkier than these and hard to manipulate around tiny features. The generic brightly colored baby washcloths look nice in their packages, but take them out and they are flimsy as can be. One washing before use and they curl right up. I’m pretty sure I had linens for my Bitty Baby doll that were better quality than they are. These bamboo washcloths are extraordinarily soft for your baby’s sweet skin, the perfect weight, and hold up after multiple washings. If you have a baby boy, they are also perfect for covering a certain strategic area during diaper changes.
Nothing is cuter than baby clothes, but sleepers aren’t the cutest. Before William was born I’d already bought him a closet full of clothes, but I had very few sleepers. (When it comes down to a smocked outfit or a sleeper, the smocked outfit is clearly always winning.) Well, guess what William wears almost 24/7? I’ll give you a hint-it’s not the smocked outfits.
Before having a newborn who liked to rock and roll all night, I didn’t think it was possible to be too tired to pull someone’s head through a shirt hole. Turns out it is. We just truly did not have the energy to try to get anything over William’s wobbly newborn head. Honestly, the days and nights blurred together so much that the idea of getting him dressed “for the day” was laughable, and somehow he managed to need an outfit change about every three hours anyway.
We ended up loving the Little Me sleeper brand carried by Dillard’s but also available on Amazon. They’re around the same price as Carter’s, but they’re better quality, cuter, and you won’t end up in a who wore it best situation with your friends’ baby photos on Facebook. Whichever brand you go with, though, just make sure they have feet. Nobody has time for socks.
At four months old, the only time William has actually been in his crib is when my husband has put him in it to teasingly say “Tonight you’re going to sleep in your room.” (We all know William is the one really laughing about that.) Instead he sleeps in his Pack ‘n Play. When he was a newborn waking up every two hours we kept the Pack ‘n Play in the den and took shifts sleeping on the couch. Now that he grants us the luxury of only waking once in the night, we’ve moved the Pack ‘n Play beside our bed. It’s recommended that babies sleep in the same room as their parents for their entire first year. Of course, you could just move the crib to your room, but if you’re like me, your never-used crib is integral to your nursery’s design. It is so important that a room basically only ever used for diaper changes always looks Pinterest-worthy, am I right? Plus, if you ever travel anywhere overnight, the Pack ‘n Play is a breeze to, well, pack up and bring along, although you may find yourself oddly jealous of mini-van owners with all of their glorious cargo space.
Like the similarly named Rock ‘n Play, there are many different Pack ‘n Play options. For this one, however, I recommend going with a basic model. All you really need is a flat surface for your baby to safely sleep on. Cuddle coves, napper stations, bassinets, and other add-ons are not actually considered safe for newborns to sleep in, so don’t waste your money.
Don’t forget the extra sheets, though. At 2:00 in the morning, you’re going to need them.
You’ve probably heard to register for more than one type of bottle, but do you know why? I couldn’t figure out how a newborn was going to have a preference when I couldn’t differentiate between all the options available, so I took a gamble and only registered for Philips Avent Natural bottles. If only I had that luck in Vegas, because for once I came out on the winning end of a gamble. William would not take the NICU bottles, so his occupational therapist (Yes, William received “occupational therapy” because he didn’t like a bottle type. I have the bill to prove it.) had us bring our bottles from home. He took to them like a fish to water (or a baby to milk).
As far as I can tell, the main difference between bottles is the nipple shape. Philips Avent Natural nipples are large and round. They’re best for good breastfeeders. Dr. Brown’s Original nipples are smaller and better for babies who have trouble latching. If you register for two different bottle brands but they have similar nipples, it really won’t do any good at all. I recommend just getting the starter sets until you determine which bottle your baby prefers. You can always buy more of the preferred bottle later.
As I mentioned above, we got lucky and only used Avent bottles. However, I’m also recommending Dr. Brown’s bottles because of their anti-colic design. We have several friends who say it helped their newborns with painful gas. The special design means more parts to clean, though, so Avent bottles are easier on tired parents if gas is not an issue.
Even if you plan on breastfeeding it’s still a good idea to have bottles on hand. It’s not uncommon for newborns to require supplements in addition to breastmilk. If you’re lucky enough to not need to supplement, you can always return the bottles.
Doing laundry is not my forte, but producing dirty laundry seems to be William’s. Unfortunately my budget does not allow for daily dry cleaning, so I’ve had to learn how to handle spit up, poop, pee, and cord blood stains. Basically, name a bodily fluid and it’s going to be on your newborn’s clothes. Thankfully, OxiClean Baby is a miracle worker. Just sprinkle it in your washing machine for normal stains (spit up), or use it to soak tough stains (breast milk, I’m looking at you). It will save you time and sanity. I flew into sheer panic mode when our shipment was delayed over the holidays, but luckily trusty Amazon pulled through.
….which brings me to my final recommendation. Get Amazon Prime! You just can’t beat free two-day shipping. You never know how valuable it is until you’ve pushed a screaming baby through Walmart or tried to fit all the tasks you used to do in the evenings and on weekends into your one hour lunch break. Seriously, just get it. If you want to thank me (and you will), Amazon gift cards are appreciated.
I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. (Isn’t that cute? A disclaimer like this is a professional blog. I don’t actually expect this to happen, but far be it from me to stop Amazon from paying me for recommending things I was going to recommend anyway.)