It is hard to believe that our little one is three months old, meaning that his baby shower was nearly five months ago! The night after Charlie’s shower, my husband and I were sitting on the floor of his nursery, overwhelmed with love and gratitude for our friends and family, but even more overwhelmed by all the stuff! How could babies need so much? We folded itty-bitty onesies and stashed away sleep sacks having no idea what they were for.
Being a first-time parent is a steep learning curve! It wasn’t until a midnight baby breakdown that we remembered we had these things called “sleep sacks” and decided to give one a try. Magic. Cue one of many “ah-ha” moments in our little parenting world. Despite all the “must-haves” I registered for, I have found that there are about 10 things that I can’t live without. And it wasn’t until after Charlie was born that I learned what was a must, and what was a frill. Because it is in those moments of desperation, deep in the depths of the night, that I have come to learn what we need to function with this precious and tiring little baby.
When I photograph newborns, I am often one of the first visitors during baby’s first weeks home while their new parents are in the sleep-deprived throws of that learning curve. I am always sharing the little things that have worked for us with my clients, so I decided to make a list (in no particular order or importance). We newbie parents have to stick together!
1. Halo SleepSack – Ah, the magical item everyone told us about, but we had no clue its purpose until that middle of the night moment of desperation. The first night we swaddled Charlie up in the Halo, he immediately calmed down, his moro reflex was literally “under wraps” (like what I did there?), and we both felt silly for not remembering we had this earlier! Since that night, Charlie has gotten stronger and his body is a little furnace, so he tends to get hot and break out of his swaddle. We have spent lots of money on Amazon in the wee hours of the morning as we rock or feed Charlie trying to find a more perfect sleep solution. But long story short, we always come back to the Halo. There is a pile of rejected non-Halo sleepsacks in the corner of our room that came with big promises, but sleepless nights. So Charlie continues to be swaddled in his Halo with a fan on in the room and only the occasional break out of his strong left arm. (He will be outgrowing the swaddle soon – a transitional phase I am not too excited about!)
Side note: Check out Dr. Harvey Karp’s “Happiest Baby” method for sleep. It may work for you!
2. My Brest Friend – When I was pregnant, I had ignorantly joyful images of my sweet newborn baby latching on for the first time and nursing blissfully while I cradled him in my arms. Fast forward to the hospital recovery room when multiple nurses would come in and forcefully shove my breast into baby’s mouth, holding him there trying to get him to nurse. Breastfeeding is not easy. For many of us, it comes with tears, sore necks and shoulders, and pain! But soon enough you two will find your rhythm. The brest friend pillow is beyond amazing when it comes to support for you and baby. I find it much better than the boppy as it is more structured and flat.
3. Baby Car Mirror – When Charlie was 4 weeks old, I bravely strapped him into his car seat and made my first solo voyage to a mom’s group lunch. I left on time, but was 30 minutes late due to the fact that during the 20 minute drive, I pulled over four times to get out and check on him. He was peacefully sleeping each time, but that didn’t quell my new mom paranoia. In the parking lot outside the cafe, before even going inside, I ordered a car mirror. I can’t say the mirror has helped me be on time, as life with a newborn throws punctuality out the window pretty quickly, but it has calmed my nerves when driving around together.
4. Wipe Warmer – I did a lot of blog reading during my nights of insomnia during pregnancy, and so often saw that moms listed wipe warmers as a frivolous expense. So we didn’t register for one. But three days before little Charlie was born, I was visiting my cousin’s new baby who had a wipe warmer. We had a long conversation about the fact that if we were being changed multiple times a day, we’d want warm wipes on our booties! (Enter the first of many “mom conversations” I never thought I’d have.) I have to say, we LOVE the wipe warmer – and it has a little night light for midnight changings. When we are out and about and using cold wipes on little Charlie’s booty, he definitely squeals. Reasonable, if you ask me.
5. Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play – This thing is wonderful. After weeks of trying to get an infant to sleep flat on his back in a large bassinet, we came across this as an alternative sleep space. It is inclined, light weight to move all around the house, breathable, vibrates, and rocks. The only bad thing is that Charlie is already growing out of it!
6. Baby Brezza Sterilizer Dryer – I actually inherited this gem as a hand-me-down from a friend who just had her second child. She told me that now that she was on to baby #2, she was much more relaxed and didn’t ever use this. Score for us! We use this thing every day! We are endlessly washing bottles and pump parts, and this is a lifesaver. We don’t have to run the dishwasher every day, and we don’t have to create unnecessary trash using sterilizer bags. I never saw this item on any “must have” blog, but in our household, she is a daily fixture!
7. Dr. Brown Bottles – When I registered for bottles, I knew little about reflux and spit-up and baby gas. Well, there are about 20 bottles in our cupboard, and only one kind that we actually use. The Dr. Brown bottles slowed down a 4 oz. feeding from 5 minutes to nearly 20, giving Charlie time to digest, breath, and most importantly, get sleepy! The magical insert slows baby’s suction and prevents them from gulping extra air – all things I discovered are important during that steep learning curve. Four months ago, I would have just assumed a bottle is a bottle.
8. Hands Free Pumping Bra – A girlfriend of mine gifted me this at my baby shower and we had a good laugh at the picture on the box of a slim-and-trim mom pumping while at her computer doing work. While I am not pumping at the computer, nor am I slim-and-trim (I am happy to hang onto that baby cushion around my mid-section), I LOVE this bra! I pump once a day for our nighttime feeding, and those twenty minutes are so much easier hands-free. Now once a day I find myself sitting in my nursing chair, strapped up to the pump, reading a book. This is an image I am certain my husband never knew would be a part of his daily life back in our young glory days, but we are redefining sexy.
9. Black and White Baby Book – I received three of these from fellow new parents before Charlie was born, and didn’t quite get it until he was about 4 weeks old. As an English teacher, I was eager to jump into our baby book library. and with futility, tried to read a book to my newborn each day. I quickly learned that Charlie was too young for colors and lots of words and would get squirmy and fussy. Then I opened up the wordless black and white baby book and he completely stilled and stared at the images for a solid 10 minutes, which is a long time for my little wiggle-worm. Now this book is part of our daily routine. I make up a new story about the images each day, and Charlie still looks at the book with some pretty good focus!
10. Feed Baby App – I am sure that all new moms share in the experience of being told countless times while in the hospital to feed their newborn baby every 2 hours. During recovery while in the hospital, nurses were in my room every hour, so I was pretty much nursing non-stop. But when we got home, I became so fixated on time and would stress when more than two hours would pass! My husband found an app called Feed Baby that I still use. It tracks sleep, diaper changes, and feedings. We now only use it for feedings, but it is great! It keeps track of what side I am nursing on and for how long, and sends little alerts when 2 and 3 hours have passed since the last feeding. I am no longer fixated on the clock!
Bonus: Pink Noise App – This is so great for nighttime. It drowns out our squeaky floors when Charlie is asleep and we are still up and about and provides the background noise he needs. Although, we have recently “graduated” to rain water as a background noise instead so my husband and I don’t go crazy! Three months of pink noise will do that to you!
What “must-haves” would you add to the list?