baby advice

First of all, let me preface this ridiculously long blog post with the disclaimer that unless you are having a baby soon, going to in the future, or for some other reason are interested in our opinion regarding what “stuff” was good to have and not have, read on.  If that doesn’t apply to you at all, feel free to stop reading and come back tomorrow for more pictures of our totally adorable kiddo!

If you are still reading, it means that you value our wonderful and very knowledgable opinions (ha!) or you are nieve enough to think that our opinions are actually something of value…  Either way thanks, we’re flattered!

After confirming that we were going to be expanding our family and realizing that we were going to need more than just diapers and a bed to put the kiddo in, we started looking into baby stuff. Let me just say I almost ran the other way at this point because holy camoley there is so much stuff out there!!  A HUGE thank you goes out to the family and friends (specifically Jennifer, Nan and Shannon) that helped us out when we were first starting out.  Many, many of their suggestions were taken and are included below.

*First – Before you get totally overwhelmed with all the babystuff out there just know that you probably don’t need 1/4 of it.  It seems like there is so much out there but most of it is something that you won’t need or don’t want to have.  Jamie and I had no desire for our house to look like Babies ‘R’ Us threw up in it- we really tried to take the minimalist approach.  Which is primarily why we choose items that were good for multiple purposes (convertible) and we spent money on certain items that we knew we were going to use with Jay and any other children that we have.  I was surprised at how generous people were at our shower.  We only had 1 and we received most everything from our registry.  I would make sure to register for items in the $20-$50 range as well as a few higher-priced items so there is plenty of variety for people to choose from.

Our registry recommendations are:

-Don’t register for diapers – if people are going to get these for you, they are going to buy them without you registering for them.  We decided to start stocking up on diapers as soon as we knew we were pregnant.  I always purchased them when they were on sale or if I had a coupon- take a look at the note below regarding how many we bought etc.

-Don’t register for clothes. (Unless there is an outfit that you love and can’t live without.) People LOVE to purchase baby clothing- it’s cute, it’s tiny, and they simply can’t resist- so you will have things for your kiddo to wear, no worries on this front.  Same goes for blankets, socks, toys and books; these are gifts that people like to give.  Also, once you find out what you are going to have, see if there are any friends that have little ones that you could borrow clothing from.  They grow so quickly at that age that they out-grow everything before they wear it out.  More than half of what Jay wore for the first year of his life was a hand me down or borrowed- which saved us a bundle!

-Our registry was pretty cut and dry, no extras and most things neutral in color and style (not geared for boys) so that if we have a girl at some point she won’t be stuck will all “boy” stuff.  Swing, highchair, stroller, carseat, etc.

Our list of essential must haves:

* Nursery Furniture-

We went pretty minimal/ convertible on everything in here as well-  we have a crib, a large dresser, chair, book shelf and toy shelf/ bin which held burp cloths and blankets when Jay was young.  The dresser, book shelf and toy chest were purchased form IKEA and we love all three of them.  The toy chest mostly held extra burp cloths and blankets since it was so close to the chair we fed him in and was therefore easy to reach late at night but now we are transitioning it to hold more toys.  The dresser is rather large but I keep diapers, wipes, his toiletries, clothes, extra blankets etc in it.  Honestly, I don’t really hang anything in his closet, I just cycle his clothes into his dresser from bins that are separated by size and stored in his closet.  We also attached a changing pad to the dresser and it therefore acts as our changing table- I didn’t want to purchase a piece of furniture that I wasn’t going to want after a few years.  We have a convertible crib, one that can change into a toddler bed and also a twin bed.  It is very nice and was a gift from my Mom.  We spent a little more money on it especially since we wanted it to last through multiple children.

Mattresses range in price from cheap-o to ridiculously expensive.  I think our mattress cost about $80-$100.  It is a good, middle of the road mattress.  It has held up very well and we will be reusing it when #2 eventually comes along.  I looked into all of the organic ones but ended up with just a regular mattress and we like it.  The biggest thing that you want to make sure of is that it fits in your specific crib the way it should- our little one is all over the place when he sleeps and it would not be great if it didn’t fit well.  Another plus about this mattress is that it is fairly light so I can pull it out of the crib when I need to change the sheets.  This makes the (very) tight-fitting sheets easier to get on in my opinion- I am short and being forced to bend over the railing would be a pain.

Shelves/Storage – Aside from the toy storage we have one small book shelf in Jay’s room which I purchased after he was born- we quickly out-grew the basket that I was using to hold his books.  This is great since now that he can crawl he has access to his books.  It’s small and if we could have fit a larger one in the room we probably would have gotten one. We already need to find a new place for books- his library is ever growing.

Also, I would consider getting dark curtains for the nursery.  You can get black-out curtains at most home stores and at target or, if you can sew or know someone who does, you can purchase black-out fabric from Jo-Ann’s and make your own.  We purchased some black-out fabric and then used a queen sheet (it was the right color brown and cheap) to make the curtains in Jay’s room. I wasn’t sure that this was going to be necessary but they really are a lifesaver for morning and afternoon naps!

Really Good Items That We Loved – These are a few of the items that we used all the time and I consider essentials.

Carriers-  We had four and I loved all of them for different reasons and still use two of them even though he a year old and 20lbs.  Both Jamie and I preferred to be “baby wearers” as opposed to people who used a stroller all of the time.  This kind of bit us in the butt later on since he didn’t like his car seat until he was about 5 months old and didn’t nap well for awhile but I would still do it the same way if I had to do it over again.  We have an action baby carrier, two bjorns (one was a hand-me-down) and a sling.  The sling was great for when he was tiny and also for when he started supporting himself and sitting up on his own. I would put him in it and use it as a support when he was heavier and I needed to use my hands more. It was also a gift (free) which made it pretty appealing since I am not sure I would buy one if I had to.  I would probably spend my money on an action baby or bjorn if I had to just choose one. The bjorn we have is the lightweight breathable one since we live in FL and carrying a little one can get very hot in the summer very quickly.  We did spend a little more money on it but I still use it and it has great back support built-in which is nice now that he is heavier.  The action baby is nice since it can be worn both on the front and the back.  It was great for when he was really small and had to face in and now when he is big enough to ride on the back (but I didn’t use it for about 3-4 months when he wasn’t quite big enough to ride in the back but wanted to face out and see).  I still really love the action baby and it’s cute too- lots of patterns and colors.

Travel Swing – We were given two swings, a travel one and a full, side-to-side/back-to-front one.  Both were wonderful and great to have.  The small one was nice, it worked just as well and folded up when we needed it to.  The portability was nice when you want to move it to another room- ie you want a quick shower, need to fix something to eat etc.  We left the bigger one in one place for the most part and moved the smaller one if we needed it.

Bath Tub – We were given an infant tub which we used for months until we were also given a bath ring that he sits in (now we don’t use anything).  However, if we were to purchase them on our own we might have considered getting one that converted to a toddler bath as the baby gets older.  I’m all about stuff that can be used longer than just a few months.  I couldn’t find a link online for it but it basically came with the tub, an insert for the baby to lay down on and then an insert that was a ring he could sit up with.  We have friends that love theirs and that is the way I would go if I were to purchase it myself.

Monitor – We opted for a monitor made by Sony.  It’s alright aside from the occasion that it says it’s out of range but that has more to do with our house than the monitor.  That being said, I will be purchasing a video monitor for our next little one. There have been multiple times when I have wished that I could just take a peak and make sure that he was alright or times when I was letting him cry it out and it would have been great for me to flip it on and see (for my sake) that he really was just fighting sleep and didn’t really need anything.  The peace of mind that it could bring would be well worth the money in my opinion.

Breast Pump etc- If you plan to breastfeed, I would suggest getting a pump.  We have the Medela Swing and love it.  It’s powerful enough but not too expensive.  We didn’t purchase ours until a month or so in (because I had a manual one and wasn’t sure if I would want/need the other).  I needed the other one to keep my milk supply up, also for when he started sleeping better and I needed to pump before bed and also so I could get out every once in a while for my sanity.  When you are feeding, just knowing that you can leave and leave a bottle will help with your sanity, even if you choose not to do it that often.  As for milk storage we used the lansinoh bags and still do.  They can be frozen flat which means that they store a whole lot easier than a bunch of plastic bottles.  We have been lucky and I usually have extra milk in the freezer so storage is a big deal.  I would also invest in lanolin which is helps with sore nipples and can be a girl’s best friend!  Oh, and take the lanolin to the hospital with you, you will more than likely want to use it right away.  A boppy pillow is super handy when breastfeeding and we also used it to prop Jay up when he couldn’t quite sit on his own but didn’t want to be lying down.

Bottles/Cups – Even if you are planning to breast feed exclusively I would plan on getting at least 1 pack of bottles.  We started with Avent  4oz bottles and have stuck with them since.  The 4oz size was perfect for when he was first born, the 8 or 9 oz would have been way too big. I like them and we haven’t had any problem with them, if they are put together properly (make sure to read the packaging and show anyone that needs to put them together without you being there).  I also bought a few pacifiers to have just in case and I was glad that we had them.  We used the soothie kind and still do- Jay uses them at night and during naps in the day.  When Jay got a little older we started to introduce the sippy cup which was no easy task.  He didn’t much care for it and I didn’t have a ton of luck until we started using the born free brand.  I had a ton of people recommend starting with these so we tried them and we have been using them since.  They are really easy to hold and soft enough without a suction that he could drink easily from them right from the first use.

Play Mat- We were given two- a butterfly hand-me-down and also a blue one (like this one but blue). Jay loved playing under his when he was small and it was great to have somewhere that I could put him if I needed to use my hands.  When he started rolling over it was also a great place for him to have tummy time.  I thought that this was more useful than bouncy chairs and exersaucers.

Stroller – We have the city mini jogger and LOVE it.  We waited to get it until Jay was a little older (during the late summer when it was too hot outside to carry him comfortably but we still needed to get out for sanity purposes).  I would highly recommend it and it is good until they are 45lbs, I think.  We did register for the snap-and-go that fits an infant car seat but used it only twice since Jay didn’t like the car seat when he was young and would just scream when we used it.  Honestly, if I were to do it over again I would just go with a carrier when they are young and then get a city mini jogger for when they are a little bigger.

Car Seat – We were given a hand-me-down and really liked it.  It was the older version of the Graco Snugride.  Aside from the fact that Jay hated the infant carseat (he would have hated any one that we put him in) we loved it; it fit him well until we were ready for one that would allow him to sit up a bit more.  We now have the Britaxx Marathon and we got that because Jay was getting long and he likes riding in the car much more since he is sitting up and can see out of the window better.  This one is 5 star crash rated and will last him until he doesn’t need to be in a car seat.  We preferred to spend more money and not worry about safety rather than skimp in this area.

High Chair- Our is the Graco Blossom again it is the convertible many stages type which I would suggest and we love it.  It has an insert with it so it can be used when they are fairly little (we would put him in it to sit at the table with use during dinner even before he was easting solid food) and is also very easy to clean- something that is important.  We love the removable clear tray cover- it makes cleaning it so much easier!  I would register for this especially because you will need it before you know it and it’s nice to not have to purchase it yourself.

Cloth Diapers– we used these (and still do) as burp cloths. (Thanks, Sandra Blessin for the tip!) They are not as pretty as some of the others but they are WAY more absorbent and that was so much more important to us than looks.  Purchase many of these, you will go through a lot of them and it’s nice to not have to worry about doing laundry every day.

Pack and Play– is a simple Graco one without any of the extras.  We have never wanted or needed the extras (bassinet, changing table etc), they are much cheaper if you by one without it and you don’t have to find places to store the extra stuff if you don’t have it.  This is great to have especially now that he is mobile and doesn’t stay in one place while sleeping (you can’t just surround him with pillows in the middle of a bed).

Things You Can Live Without –

Wipe Warmer- honestly I think this is really a joke.  Our kid survived with a cold tushie and I am pretty sure they all can.

Bottle Warmer-we borrowed a friend’s for awhile but it really just took up space and we did’t use it often.  If you breast feed, the bags that I recommended can be warmed with warm tap water.  However, it may be something you would want to have ifyou were going to use formula but I can’t say for sure since we didn’t ever use formula.

Pacifier Cleaner- regular old soap and water work wonderfully for this

Bottle Sterilizer- again soap and water work for regular cleaning and then you can boil water on the stove to sterilize when you need to.  If you do want something super convenient (and you have extra money to spend on it) we have used these sterilizing bags (were were given a few that a friend had left over) and have been very happy with them

Cover for restaurant highchairs – trust me, you won’t be eating out all that much

Cover for Shopping Carts – some people use these all the time but I preferred to use the carrier instead and now that he is older I usually just use a wipe to wipe the cart down and buckle him directly into the cart.

Swaddling Blankets- we never used these. We just purchased some large receiving blankets which were cheaper and much, much better than the swaddling blankets since the velcro never stuck!

Bumbo– we used a friend’s about twice.  Wouldn’t say it was anything great and could definitely live without it

*Other –

Pregnancy Book – What to Expect When You’re Expecting. This book was used numerous times during the pregnancy to look up whether something was “normal” or cause for a visit to the doctor. This book probably saved us a dozen trips to the doctor by explaining that some odd or uncomfortable feeling was perfectly normal.

Sleep Book – Our favorite has been Baby Wise which I recommend purchasing and reading before the baby comes since it talks about what to do from day one.  It really helped me to get Jay napping, helped us to get him on a good schedule which in turn helped him to start sleeping through the night.  There is also book called Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth.  It is a good book (although it is written really technically and we didn’t like it as much) all about how much sleep kids need, sleep problems, all sorts of stuff like that but we preferred Baby Wise.

The importance of reading – The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. The book’s title would be much more effective if it was “How to make your baby smart, guaranteed”. Jamie highly recommends getting and reading this book. The message is simple: read to your infant, toddler, preschooler, elementary schooler, etc. If you do, you will be giving them a head start on life. It also has book recommendations for children of all ages in the back that you can reference for years. Many of Jamie’s favorite childhood books are listed (not coincidentally, his mom owned a copy of this book).

Diapers – I would start buying diapers NOW!  Honestly, I started purchasing diapers as soon as we started telling people we were pregnant and I have never paid full price for a pack.  We have an air conditioned storage room in the garage where I can store them and I asked Jamie’s family and my Mom to save coupons for me so I could get good deals. I think, but am not sure since I didn’t write it down but this is about what we used with Jay.  Keep in mind this will differ depending on your child and their size (ours is a little peanut- in the 10% for weight right now so he is still in size 3 at one year).

Newborn- 3 boxes (probably more- they pee and poop all of the time at this age)

1- 6 or 7 boxes

2- 5 boxes

3- 15 or so boxes. This is the current size, at a year old, we are in and will probably be in for a while longer.

4- we have 5 or so but I don’t know how many we’ll need

Sound Machine- Jay has one named Jenny (that is in a stuffed animal and is pretty adorable) and uses it every once in a while but almost every other parent I know swears by their sound machine.  We didn’t need it, it’s more of just another toy/ lovey for him, but your kiddo may love it.

Kick and Play or Bouncer Seat – We were given two of these by someone who said that they were a lifesaver.  Jay didn’t use them much when he was little, he didn’t really like them and by the time he did he had pretty much out-grown them. However, I think it just depends on your baby, I could see how this would be a huge lifesaver if they loved it.

Exersaucer- we have one of these and Jay likes it alright but I would recommend it like I would a bouncy chair- it might be something that your baby likes, it might not.  It just depends… If I were to purchase one again though I would consider getting one that is also a jump up or one that converts to a play station.  Jay LOVED a jump up that we borrowed from a friend and it would have been great to be able to move it to other places in our house; the traditional ones need a door frame and we don’t have very many in our house.  Jay uses his exersaucer now as an activity play area so it would have been nice for it to convert to this and to be more stable.

Ok, so this is probably WAY more information than you really need right; however, we figured if we were going to do this we should put it all out there.  Please feel free to ask us to clarify anything or send us any other questions that you may have, we are happy to help- there’s safety in numbers right?  But if you take anything from this at all please take this- what it all boils down to is that it will be different for every baby; what worked for Jay may not work for our next and what worked for us may not work for you.  Good luck, live and lean and most importantly enjoy the ride!

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