In response to our cousin who is now pregnant with a baby girl, my lovely wife sets the record straight on products necessary to maintain the harmony in the household. No one knows better than she does around here. So, she takes over Raising Elle for this guest spot to steer this ship in the right direction. Take it, honey:
Mommies/Mommies-to-be: There is so much gear out there and you could spend an absolute fortune on things you may or may not use. I thought I’d send you a list of my favorites. Firstly, I’d say that, concerning clothes, go the used/resale route. Babies will fly through clothes, some things you will only wear once. Others you pull out of the bottom of the drawer and they still have the tags on them in they outgrew them a two months prior. Same with toys/gear. I’m surprised already at sven months how much she is done with certain items. So here is my list of must haves (at least were for us) or things I really liked.
- Swaddles…Make sure you get the kind that velcro shut. Ellison was Houdini and could get out of even the tightest blanket swaddle. Velcro’s still amazing.
- Sleep Sac…(Halo with the removable swaddle, I liked the fleece one). As you enter the cold winter months, your baby might be still be little enough that the sleep sac means you don’t have to worry about her kicking the covers off of getting tangled in her blankets (I’ll give you my two cents on SIDS later).
- Heartbeat Bear…Ellison still sleeps with hers. Actually, I”m addicted to it too. Hearing it on the monitor every night is so soothing. I helps relax the baby by simulating the sound of the mother’s “swooshing” heartbeat.
- A Swing…She lived in hers the first six months. Sometimes, it was the only way I could get her to nap. But they outgrow them quickly (about six months).
- Some kind of hands-free carrier…Jeff likes the Bjorn. I loved my Moby Wrap, however, she really outgrew it by about five months. It was so snuggly and when you first look at that long piece of fabric, you are thinking, “What in the !@*#&, but once you get the hang of it, it’s great. I would put it on when I left the house to run errands and then just pop her in and out as I went into stores. Sooooo much easier than lugging that awful carseat around. Also, great for toning your body post-pregnancy. That added weight of a baby helps get back into shape. Also great for trying to walk two unruly beagles. They made me nervous with the stroller, but with the wrap, I had both hands free. Moby Wrap runs about $40.
- Book recommendation: Happiest Baby on the Block…Don’t know if you are like me, but I was busy reading every book out there, wondering how in the world I was going to know what to do with a real baby! Really, the books don’t help. You just have to build confidence, which takes time, but we all get there! One thing I did not prepare for was colic. And I will pray every day that your baby will not have colic. The thing the author of Happiest Baby teaches in this book will help you to feel more confident as a mommy and will help you soothe a crying baby.
- I would hold off on any other contraption/entertainers…There’s a million out there and until you get to know Miss Violet, every baby is different. Ellison had a playmate and she liked that for the first three months. One you can hang toys from. We had an exer-saucer thing…huge chunk of change, she she would not even sit in for more than five minutes. We later found out that Ellison is a jumping kind of girl. Loves her jumper and loves her bouncer. I would’ve never known that, thus the exer-saucer that everyone insisted that we buy just sat in the living room taking up space until I traded it for a bouncer. Wait until she is about four months old for those investments and you have learned her personality and likes.
- Summer Infant Terry Waterproof Liners (3pack)…These are great for putting over your changing pad cover for all those leaks and then you can just toss them in the wash instead of having to wash your entire changing pad all the time. This little piece came from a friend of mine…Never would’ve thought of it and has made things much simpler.
- Infant Bathtub with a “Baby Stopper”…For instance, the Fisher Price Precious Planet Whale of a Tub. I like the that the stopper is removable. It was great when she was small to keep her sitting up and you don’t have to hold on to her to keep her from sliding. Now that Ellison is ready to sit up on her own, you can pull the stopper out.
- Safety First 5-Recline and Grow 5-State Booster Seat…Love my high chair. It hooks onto any chair you have and is soooo easy to clean.
- Boppy Newborn Lounger…I am sure you have heard of the Boppy pillows and I loved mine when I was breast feeding. The “Lounger” we called Ellison’s “Lazy Girl.” It was cool for putting on the couch so she could hang out or nap and you didn’t have to worry about her rolling anywhere. We probably used it for the first three months and when she started getting more active, moved her out of it. We used to be her on the dining room table in it so we could eat as a family. Good product.
- Pacifier clips…Attach those suckers to the pacifiers so that when you are walking through the grocery aisles and it falls off, you don’t have to do the sneaky “lick it clean” trick where you clean it before putting it back in your baby’s mouth. No telling what you’re putting in your mouth.
- STEAL the hospital’s bulb syringe…You can’t find them readily at BabiesRUs and, this too, was a tip from a friend. There is not a better one available in stores. This will help keep your baby’s nose clear of all that snot that surfaces in the first months. You pay for it when you’re in the hospital. It’s actually on the bill so it’s not technically stealing, but don’t leave it behind. It’s rightfully yours. The ones you can buy suck. Or technically, don’t suck as well as the hospital one.
- Find an indoor/outdoor stroller…I loved my stroller indoors, but on walks in our neighborhood, it drove me crazy (along with those unruly stupid beagles). Ended up with two strollers and the one for long walks actually has rubber wheels rather than plastic ones. I’m a happy walker now…except for the beagle issue.
- In the first few months, only a FEW toys that will grab her attention are necessary…Hang them from the stroller, car seat. Make sure they are bright and make noise. Love the Sassy brand toys. When she gets a little older: rattles that are easy to grasp. Ellison loved her maracas! Only now, at about six months, is she starting to really be interested in manipulating different kinds of toys: balls, blocks and, really, anything she can chew on. Keep it simple, make your own toys (I put two jingle bells in a sock…works like a gem), the clutter can pile up fast.
- Also, not available at BabiesRUs…music. All kinds. See Jeff for more instruction here. (Editor’s Note: Parliament, James Brown, DJ Shadow, Digable Planets and Fela Kuti for starters.)
- Something to love on…We have found a stuffed dog. Hold it between the two of you when you feed or rock. It then will have your scent on it and then leave it with her when she sleeps. Helps with bonding. She is already attached to her “Dottie Dog” and has been for a few months (Editor’s Note: It doesn’t have to be anything special. That stupid dog was a Wal-Mart $5 special. You want it to be a sentimental piece, but in reality, it doesn’t take much. And you might as well buy a couple. Ellison soiled her original pretty bad and it had to get washed. We had a back-up to slip in it Dotty’s place. Identical except not covered in puke…$10 investment).
- Okay, one more product: Baby Einstein Lights and Melodies Mirror…I have it hooked up in the car facing her. Call it her “lights!” She loves it in the car. Has a timer. Music isn’t too annoying. Can also be put in a crib.
Okay, here is my non-product guide to being a mommy. There is nothing in those stores that will prepare you for what is to come. While reading the books is nice and gives you some ideas, when she gets here, it will be trial and error for the early going. And probably more errors at first. As far as things you cannot buy, always be equipped with 1) a sense of humor 2) belief that this too shall pass 3) someone you can call when you have NO IDEA what to do 4) the ability to say to your husband, “I need to take a bath, take a walk, go for coffee.” He maybe unsure at first as to whether or not he can handle it and so may you, but shove him into it. It’s the best way to build confidence and Jeff appreciated being trusted. And 5) the ability to respond honestly to someone if you are having a really bad day. Some moms are terrible to new moms when you say things like “Isn’t this the most wonderful time of your life?” and you have not slept or showered or had a decent meal in days. At first, I was terrified to be honest thinking that if I wasn’t in love with being a mom, then I wasn’t a good mom. The truth is, it is hard but gets easier everyday. Be real with yourself and others. Lastly, 6) faith in God. The ability to pray when you have nothing else you can do. There are a million things to be worried or scared about as a new mom and the only way I go through it was knowing that God would take care of Ellison when I was not. I decided early on, during pregnancy, that I would refuse to be consumed by fear. I was so glad I had chosen this because when she arrived, I realized there were a million new fears I hadn’t even thought of before. Everything you read can scare you to death about SIDS and have you running to the crib over and over. I also chose not to overreact about SIDS and know that God had her safely tucked in His arms at night.