April 29, 2013

things we couldn't live without: newborn edition

I love all of the lists that you can find on Pinterest that help make your life easier. Things like, "the 10 things you must have in your diaper bag" or, "all the crap I packed in my hospital bag for delivery and didn't use". These lists (mostly written by other bloggers) were sometimes the only places I looked for suggestions of what to buy, register for, or pack for the hospital. I found them to be a quick way to get Amazon-like reviews from other parents who had used and abused the products I was interested in :)

So...I've decided to make one of my own. Maybe someone will stumble across it and it will make their life a little easier :)

1. Halo sleepsack swaddle: If we had to narrow this list down to just one thing we couldn't live without, it would be the sleepsack. Our hospital used these for every baby right from the beginning and we got attached to it quick! Alden really seemed to sleep well and to be comfortable in it so we bought one to bring home. Little did we know that it was going to be the only thing he would sleep in for the first 3 months of his life :) Seriously, he still sleeps in it every night and we swear it helps him to stay asleep longer since he can't flail around and wake himself up. We have 2 fleece and 2 cotton- Nick likes the fleece better because he says they swaddle tighter but when it gets really hot, we'll only use the cotton to help prevent overheating. We bought one in our hospital gift shop (no where else had the newborn size at the time) and bought a couple more over time at Target when they had them in stock.

2. Nuk pacifiers: We had four different brands of pacifiers at home to try and Nuk ended up being Alden's favorite. We tried Soothies (by Avent, the ones the hospital will give you), Tommy Tippee Closer to Nature (both small and medium sizes) and some other Avent ones that have a snap on cover. Alden never took the Tommy Tippee, they just never fit his mouth quite right and the plastic mouth shield was really big on his face. He likes the Soothies but when he was really small, they were hard for  him to keep in his mouth since they're a little top-heavy. The Nuk ended up being the easiest for him to keep in his mouth and the nipple shape that fit his mouth the best. Really, though, pacifiers will depend on the baby. I can say that these are made really well, the handle on them is big enough for a pacifier clip to fit through easily and the hospital grade silicone holds up well to being washed and sanitized frequently.

3. Carter's blankets: These blankets are a versatile weight, great for the carseat when it's cold and to use inside when they just want something to cuddle in as well. We have 4 of them and I keep one in the diaper bag at all times, one for him to use when he's in his swing, one in his room and the other is strictly a swaddle blanket. We use the swaddle to calm him (using Dr. Karp's method-see below) when he's really upset and this is Nick's favorite blanket by far. We also have the Aden & Anais organic bamboo swaddle blankets (which are highly recommended both online and by friend of ours) but Nick hates them. He says they're WAY too big and stretchy for him to get a good, tight swaddle. Since Nick is the resident swaddle expert at our house, I trust his opinion :)

4. Fisher Price Ocean Wonders Cradle Swing: This swing is big, plastic and obnoxious and Alden loves it. There is a light that shines through a globe that has water and little shapes in it and stuffed fish hang from a motorized mobile. We call them his fishies because he loves them so much. He will stare and stare at them and, often times, the movement of the swing is the only thing that will chill him out long enough for him to fall asleep. We got this as a gift and had no idea whether he would like it or not, so we got lucky, but I would definitely suggest some kind of swing (even though which one might vary from baby to baby). We have discovered (the hard way) that the key to a swing being effective for Alden is that is move fast and have exaggerated swinging motions- he does not tolerate things like the mamaRoo or other bouncers when he's really upset, they just don't move enough for him.

5. Bassinet: We have a neutral-colored rolling bassinet that my parents found at a children's consignment shop for around $50. It's a very nice brand and it's specifically made for children who need to sleep on an incline and it has a kind of mesh "hammock" that you insert when they need the incline. Alden slept with the insert in for the first 2 months or so since it cradled him closer than the regular bassinet did and he seemed more comfortable but we have since taken out the insert and he still sleeps right next to our bed, perfectly happy :) There are a million brands to choose from and you can find bassinets at every price point under the sun. Pick one that you like but I would recommend spending as little money as possible to get it. You use it religiously for the first few months but then you'll pack it away for years (unless you have other children...but still). I wanted something that would work well, wasn't totally obnoxious looking and that I wouldn't feel bad getting rid of when Alden grew out of it- a consignment shop was a perfect fit.

6. Travel bassinet: We have the Brica Fold n' Go Travel Bassinet (seriously, who comes up with the names for these things?!). It doesn't seem like something you would need but we use it every day. We originally bought it to take out of town when Alden was only 8 weeks old and had never slept anywhere but his bassinet at home. We knew that when he had a lot of space to move around in, he often threw out his arms in surprise and woke himself up. The travel bassinet was our method of giving him a smaller space to sleep in in the pack and play so that he would feel more confined and sleep better while we were away. Mission: accomplished. In fact, it works so well that the bassinet now lives in his crib and he sleeps in it every night. Plus, it comes with it's own little mattress, a sheet and it folds up flat for super easy storage.

7. Boppy: Get one! Maybe two (upstairs/downstairs, bedroom/nursery). And buy at least two, if not three, covers. These things are amazing and you'll use them for everything. Nursing, sleeping (for both baby and yourself), propping the little one up for tummy time, providing a "chair" for them as they get older but are still unable to sit up on their own, etc. I used mine for every nursing session for the first 2 weeks while we were still perfecting our breastfeeding methods and I use it almost every day with him now to give him quality tummy time and to read him books. I would say to definitely get multiple covers since milk, spit up, saliva and countless other liquids will get spilled on it and you'll want to change the cover before it starts to smell like the garbage can ;) <- anything...="" experience="" from="" i="" know="" not="" or="" p="" that="">*Note: there is also a new Nursing Boppy which I highly recommend! Look for my thoughts in a separate breastfeeding edition of "things we couldn't live without".

8. Total Baby app from iTunes: This is $4.99 in the iTunes store which, in my book, might as well be $100 since I would never in my right mind spend $5 on an app for my phone (we're a free or occasional $0.99 app purchaser family). But having a new baby will quickly convince you otherwise. We could not live without this app (well, not literally, but we sure do enjoy it). It makes keeping track of everything from feedings to diaper changes to doctor's appointments and growth charts a breeze! We even use it as a simple electronic baby book of sorts since you can input milestones to the log (i.e. the day his umbilical cord fell off, the first time he slept through the night, and the first time he rolled over). My parents would probably make fun of us since the app is only useful if you have your phone with you all the time and, to them, starting a nursing timer on your phone while you're breastfeeding seems ridiculous...but, it has taken so many things off of the running "list" in my head and allowed me to not freak out if I don't remember exactly what time it was when he ate. All I have to do it check the app and it tells me exactly when he nursed, on what side and for how long. It has proven invaluable for pediatrician appointments as well- I can easily tell our doctor how many nursing sessions we have on average and she immediately knows if we're on track or not. This is great because I feel like we're getting the most accurate information for our baby instead of having to guess. Also, there is a pumping log and milk inventory which has made the app even more important now that I'm back at work and need to pay a lot more attention to my milk output.

9. White Noise Baby app from iTunes: This one is not expensive, $0.99, but it's another one that has completely changed our lives. The app has multiple types of white noise to choose from (a huge selling point- our favorites: hair dryer, pink noise and grey noise) and even has a screen with bouncing balls, cool colors and fun sounds for baby to play with. Alden sleeps with white noise every night. When he was first born, it was the only thing that would keep him from waking up every time he wiggled. It helps him calm down when he gets overstimulated and provides much needed "noise cover" when he's napping and we need to do dishes or clean the house. We have used this app at home, in the car, at Target and even while cuddling him in the doctor's office- it really is amazing. We refer to it like a drug in our house since Alden can be screaming at the top of his lungs and the second he hears the white noise, he's all cracked out and chill :)
*Note: this would only be useful if your baby responded well to white noise in the first place. Not all babies are as attached to it as ours so you may want to try a free app or some other form of white noise first to see if it's worth the purchase

10. Happiest Baby on the Block: This is a short movie you can buy from the iTunes store (or, I'm sure, rent it from many other places- maybe even Netflix has it). It's an instructional video made by Dr. Harvey Karp that teaches you his method for soothing infants called The 5 S's. Our midwife recommended it (especially for Dads) and praised the method enough that we bought the movie so we would be able to watch it more than once. The method is great since it's something anyone can do and is promoted as a great way for Dad to get confident soothing his baby. So often it's assumed that the Mom is the best at calming the baby (especially since she has the food...) and the Dad gets a little left out and loses confidence in his ability to make the baby happy. The movie is short but very informative and, honestly, it has been an important part of every "freak out" since we brought Alden home. Nick is a pro at the 5 S's and most of the time he's better at calming Alden down than I am. We are such avid followers that we refer to Dr. Karp as Harvey in our house :)

11. eMeals subscription: This is a meal subscription service that sends you a meal plan and accompanying grocery list every week and takes all the hard work out of planning your family's food :) We got a Groupon for a year's subscription a few weeks before Alden was born and we have really enjoyed it. Those of you who know us know that we are pretty into food and have always fallen squarely in the "foodie" camp of the world. We were hesitant at first because we felt like we were going to miss out on the exciting, yummy foods that we were used to but eMeals has numerous plan options (like Clean Eating, Gourmet, and Classics) that make it easy to accommodate your specific tastes. Meal planning for the week used to take us at least two hours (picking out recipes from numerous cookbooks or our "recipe box", making the grocery list, etc.) and now it takes us about 10 minutes (long enough to read the plan for the week and decide if we want to substitute any nights for other meals). The plans also aim to keep your weekly grocery bill low and will tailor the meals it suggests according to the weekly sales at certain grocery stores (we go to Publix) so it's a really easy way to save some money, as well. There is an app for your phone that even creates the grocery list for you and there's a new crockpot plan that we've been doing for the last couple weeks successfully. I'd say about 90% of the meals have been really tasty and the other 10% have just been OK (not gross, just not things we'd try again). We probably won't use this forever but with a new baby around and schedules all over the place, it has surely been worth the money so far.

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