If you're expecting your first child, and if you're anything like me, you're probably thinking that you have to have everything that you will ever need for your baby's first year of life purchased, washed, put away, and ready for deployment at a moment's notice.
Now, I didn't listen very well when others told me this so I don't expect you to cancel your big shopping day at Buy Buy Baby this weekend, but let me give you some advice: your baby only needs a small handful of things for the first few months of his/her life. I hate to break it to you, but you will not be needing that fancy crib and dresser combo set, or that baby bath tub you spent weeks mulling over, nor will you be needing to have a full multi-seasonal wardrobe folded and put away. And yes, despite how you may be feeling now, you will be craving an excuse to leave the house, and going to pick out the perfect baby monitoring system or play yard might give you a reason for a much-needed outing.
However, there are some things more than others that you will be thankful that you did have prepared for those first few weeks of life, and some that you will be relieved you didn't spring for. So put down that shopping list, try to keep that nesting instinct under control (yes, Babies R Us will still exist after your baby is born). Aside from other obvious essentials like diapers and car seats, these are my top product recommendations to get you through the newborn phase:
1. Aden + Anais Muslin Swaddling Blankets: I'm so happy that I had these blankets for baby Reese, and not just for the chic designs and color combos they come in. He was born in early May, right when the summer weather was heating up, so the lightweight muslin material was perfect for allowing him to be swaddled without becoming uncomfortably hot. Plus, these blankets ended up being the blanket of choice for his swaddles over those specialty "swaddle sacks" as he was too small for them to fit properly at first. And much to my surprise (I thought the swaddle sacks were going to be the key to him sleeping at night), once he was big enough to fit them he had begun to assert his preference for sleeping with his arms by his head and his legs spread eagle, and absolutely refused to be put in a swaddle. Another take-away here: sometimes its best to get to know your baby first before investing in a ton of specialty items. But the uses for these wonderful blankets go way beyond your baby's sleeping needs. I would often use a muslin blanket to cover the car seat while Reese was sleeping inside while we were running errands or eating out. Instead of buying yet another "specialty" item, I would also use one of them in place of a strap cover to make the car seat straps more comfortable. The generous size and light weight material allow for the blankets to morph to become whatever you need them to be. A pure essential in my book.
2. The Mombo Comfort & Harmony Pillow (or any other type of breastfeeding support pillow): Whether you go with the BrestFriend, the Boppy, or the Mombo like I did, do yourself a favor and make sure that you have one of these if you're choosing to breastfeed your baby. Breastfeeding your newborn is tricky at first for anyone, let alone a first time mom; between coaxing your baby to latch on, keeping him/her awake during a feeding, and finding a comfortable position to sit in, it can often take up to an hour to get a single meal in. And having the right supportive equipment can really make a big difference and help to prevent a sore back and ease those tender nipples (just another thing to worry about, right?). One of the problems with preterm babies like Reese (born just shy of 37 weeks) is that they would rather sleep than eat which made feeding him very tricky and often a very drawn out procedure for the first few days. Having the Mombo provided wonderful support and kept my already fatigued body from getting deeper into exhaustion.
And while we're on the topic of breastfeeding...
3. iBaby Feed Breastfeeding & Diaper Tracking App: Like I said, breastfeeding is tricky at first. And the frustrations of trying to remember what side you last fed on and for how long will drive you to tears faster than the latest Johnson's Baby commercial. So make it easier on yourself and find a breastfeeding tracker app for your phone that works best for you. I found that the iBaby Feed timer was best for me, which also allows for you to keep track of diaper changes and breast pumping sessions. Again, another thing to help with all the micromanaging motherhood requires of us.
4. Nursing Tank Tops: Do not, I repeat, DO NOT purchase any nursing bras prior to giving birth. I can almost guarantee you that your boobs will nearly double in size once your milk comes in, and you will not be wanting to put them into anything constricting until the tenderness subsides. Yet, you still need support and something easy to wear that fits your new breast size So go ahead and stock up on a sizable collection of nursing tank tops to wear until your breast size settles into its new normal (for me, it was about two months... and I'm still having a hard time finding a bra that fits! More on that later...). The ones I purchased from Motherhood Maternity have held up very well so I recommend purchasing a few of those in your favorite colors.
5. Plenty of Onesies: Put down the frilly dress and the mini tuxedo! With the frequent diaper changes, leaky diapers and potentially constant swaddling needs, your new baby will most likely spend most of its time sans-clothing. Yet clothing is not always optional, so "onesies" are the way to go for the first few months. And make sure to get plenty of them, as you may be going through a few of them a day. Poop stains and leaks everywhere, so be prepared with a good supply to go around. Although you can get them pretty much anywhere where baby things are sold, I particularly liked Precious Firsts from Carter's in their newborn size.
6. A Good Bassinet: I hate to tell you, but your new baby would be perfectly happy sleeping in a pulled out sock drawer next to your bed. But there's no way you're about to do that to your precious little being that you just worked so hard to make. So if you're choosing to have the baby in the room with you during the first few months, make sure you have a sturdy bassinet that you like for the baby to sleep in. I chose the Harmony Cradle by BabyBjorn for its lightweight features and the mesh siding, which allows me to peek in at Reese without getting up. Plus you'll get a dual use out of it too, by using it as a rock and play to move your baby around with you while you're doing things around the house for the first few weeks. This made it possible for Reese to take naps wherever we were in the house and allowed him to become accustomed to the noises that often accompany our daytime activities, thus further enabling him to learn the difference between the day and night. Yes, I know you'll most likely going to have your cradle and the rest of the room all ready by the time the baby comes, but having such a portable sleeping apparatus was so invaluable for me, I had to put it on this list.
7. Fingernail Clippers: Yes, I know this sounds bizzare, but trust me, you'll need this. Reese was born with a full set of nails, which only continued to grow. And as an oblivious newborn, he was not careful to not to use them. I still have to trim his nails every week to keep him (and me!) from looking like he got into a fight with a cat. These clippers from Safety First have been wonderful to use as they're made specifically to care for those tiny baby fingernails.
8. Sunscreen: Duh. And yes, your need for this will not expire until you ship that kid off to college (and hopefully you won't be there to nag them about putting it on!). But you may be surprised by how early you find that you need to have a safe sunscreen ready and available. Obviously this applies more to Spring and Summertime newborns but it starts the sun safety habit early. You will be craving some fresh air and perhaps a trip to the park or to the beach may just be what the doctor ordered to shake off those "baby blues", and you will need to make sure you protect your newborn's skin. The rule of thumb here for sunscreen: until babies reach six months of age, you must use a sunscreen that provides a physical barrier (think white zinc oxide) from the sun instead of a chemical barrier (which is the typical sunscreen you use as an adult and includes those other sunscreens "for baby"). My personal recommendation? Newborn Sunscreen Towelettes by MD Moms