Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Newborn Essentials: What We Actually Used and Loved

It's been far too long since I've been seen around these parts. My only excuse? Being a mama is just too much fun and I've been totally satisfied doing that.

So, since Junior is almost five months old now (what?!), we're out of the "newborn" stage and firmly in "baby" territory. And being on the other side of the newborn stage, I can tell you it was definitely different than I planned for. Some things were absolutely perfect for us and I'm so glad we had them. Some products were useful but not super necessary. And some products simply didn't work out at all. 

Here's the breakdown of how it all worked out.
I had big ideas and big dreams before Junior was born. I was going to be a babywearing, cloth diapering, super crunchy, hippie mama. Junior was going to love being strapped to my chest, and he was going to snuggle sweetly down into his Moses basket every time those beautiful brown eyes began to droop. 

Obviously, I had my head in the clouds. Some of the products I bought didn't get used more than a handful of times, and some products ended up being purchased out of last-minute desperation and saw more than an average amount of use. Turns out Junior had his own ideas about what mama would and wouldn't use during his first three months of life. 

What We Didn't Use/Need

1. Baby carrier. Nothing bummed me out more than this one. Turns out Junior couldn't stand being against Mama's chest without the opportunity to eat. Wouldn't sleep in it. Wouldn't relax. Wouldn't do anything but root and cry when the rooting was unsuccessful. Note: He's good with it now. It just wasn't going to happen in those first few months. 

2. Cute outfits and separate tops and pants. Truly, y'all, Junior spent most of the first months of his life either in footed jammies or just a diaper. It was freezing up here in MN and it was flu season, so we spent most of our time at home. When you're changing diapers 10-12 times a day, having clothes that zip up in one, swift motion is so much easier than having to pull off layer after layer. The only thing we ever needed in the newborn size was a large array of footie pajamas. 

3. Bottle warmer. Turns out putting a bottle into a bowl of super hot water works just as well as a fancy bottle warmer. And takes up less counter space, too. 


If you want some in-depth information on the things I thought I'd need, you can head to the Pregnancy tab and scroll through those posts. Otherwise, here's the breakdown of the things that we actually needed and used constantly during those first months. 

1. Infant Car Seat

I know. I know. Anyone who is a regular reader of this blog is probably shaking their head and saying, "I knew it. I knew should would need one." Well, y'all. You were right. I was wrong. You were smart. I was dumb. You are beautiful. I am unattractive. 


But seriously, I was so sure that a convertible car seat would be the only car seat we'd need for Junior. Why bother with an infant car seat when we'd have to switch to a convertible car seat anyway? 

Because it turns out that Junior hated that convertible car seat with a passion and screamed bloody murder every time we put him in it and Mama just couldn't take it anymore, y'all. Seriously. So after two weeks of simply dreading going anywhere because of that stupid convertible car seat, we caved and bought an infant seat. Nothing fancy. No bells and whistles. Just something more snug and more reclined for the little Bing Bong. It's an Evenflo Embrace LX, and it more than did the trick. 

Sigh. So much better. Lesson learned. 

2. Electric Breast Pump

Chances are, you're going to have baby bottles and the various accessories that go along with baby bottles if you're going to have a baby. You may not go all the way and get yourself a breast pump, though, and you may not go even further by getting an electric one. 

For us, it was a life saver in those first couple months. Junior and I had some difficulty figuring each other out for awhile, and breastfeeding became exhausting and discouraging at many times. The chance to pump a bottle so someone else could feed Junior was a welcome thing, not to mention the many times it helped relieve a lot of, ahem, pressure from the massive quantities of milk I was producing day in and day out. 

Now that we've figured out breastfeeding (and now that Junior refuses to take a bottle!), I use this item significantly less. If your main reason for not purchasing an electric breast pump, however, is that you plan on being a stay at home mom who exclusively breastfeeds, well . . . You never know.

Plus, most insurance companies offer discounts and/or free products for breastfeeding. It never hurts to call, and it can save you hundreds of dollars. Our insurance chose the brand and type for us, but the Ameda breast pump has been great.

3. Halo Sleep Sack

We had some interesting issues going back and forth between swaddling and not swaddling Junior. Junior has never been a relaxed or calm baby, and he constantly fought and strained against all the swaddles we put him in. Muslin blankets weren't strong enough to contain him. Some of the sleep sacks (I call them the caterpillar ones) were too confining on his lower half. But leaving him unswaddled at sleep times resulted in excessive flailing and restless sleep for him.

Then, in a box of sleep clothing kindly donated by some friends, we found a HALO SleepSack. It seemed super noisy and complicated (the velcro is quite strong and stiff, as are the flaps), but then it started to work wonders on Junior's sleep. That noisy and cumbersome thing actually turned out to be worth it. Junior fought against going in it almost every time, but once he was asleep, he stayed asleep. It was a beautiful thing. Suddenly our little boy was a better sleeper and a cheerful waker.

This just happened to be the brand we ended up loving for Junior. The loose sack part on his lower half was perfect for our active boy, while the tight and stiff velcro up top kept his arms confined so he wouldn't startle himself. Plus, Junior struggled with some major gassiness, and the loose bottom kept uncomfortable pressure off his lower half.

4. White Noise/Sound Machine

We couldn't figure out how to help Junior stay asleep at the beginning. He'd drift off, but then it became clear that the silence in our room was too loud for him. Go figure, huh? I downloaded a white noise app onto my phone, and, suddenly, Junior was able to stay asleep for more than ten minutes. Honestly, who has newborn babies who actually sleep? That's crazy.

After the app worked so well, we decided to buy something more substantial so as to save my phone's battery. The HoMedics SoundSpa was a great choice. It's the same brand our family uses, and it comes with some pretty neat features, too. We started with ocean sounds for Junior, but that ended up being too stimulating (that boy will do anything to be awake and engage with his environment). The white noise setting does the trick, though. It's constant and soothing. Even Levi and I can't fall asleep without it anymore! I depend on that sound coming through the monitor now.

5. Muslin Blankets

Now, I know I said using these blankets for their intended purpose--swaddling a baby--didn't work for Junior, but they are perfect for pretty much everything else. Extra-large burp cloths, something to set the baby down on, extra warmth when out and about, nursing cover-up . . . the list goes on and on.

And, like almost every other list you'll find online, the aden + anais swaddles are definitely the best. Great quality, super stretchy, slightly bigger than others, and they hold up extremely well under multiple washings. And these blankets will most definitely receive multiple washings if you're using them as much as we used (still use!) ours. They are definitely worth the higher price, and you'll get more than your money's worth. 


This may seem like a very short list, and you'd be right. Everything else we used with Junior worked well for us, but none of it falls into the category of essential. These five items are things I'd recommend to every new parent, and I wouldn't create a baby registry without them.

Later, I'm going to try to write a follow-up post about the cloth diapers we've been using. I've had lots of people asking how it's been working out for us, and I want to share.

Until then, let's not be strangers!

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