Here's our, slightly belated, list of the things we couldn't have survived without during months 3 through 6.
Your baby changes so much and so quickly in these months that it's hard to make a concise list, but I'm going to try :) Mostly it's the "essentials", things you'll use every day, so not a lot of toys or other things that will vary from baby to baby.
This phase is such an interesting one since at 3 months your baby is still essentially a lump; holding their head up but still laying down most of the time, playing with very basic toys, etc. But by the end of this phase, they're (at least for Alden) sitting up on their own, playing with more toys, much more coordinated, and full of personality!
This list progresses from 3 months to 6 months so the things at the beginning of the list are most useful when they're still younger.
1. Bouncy seat: We have this one but we didn't have one at all in the beginning. I questioned whether we would ever need one, since it seemed like just one extra thing to take up space, but once Alden was old enough to want to be in the same places as us but still too young to sit on his own, we figured out that we needed something to give us a little freedom (for things like making dinner) but still keep him involved and active. Enter the bouncy seat. He loved to play with the toys hanging from the bar and had a blast kicking his legs to bounce the seat. It's definitely something that you will only use for a short period of time but while you need it, it sure is worth it!
2. Bumbo seat with tray: Alden only used this for about a month and a half (which made me happy that we bought it used for $20 from a local family); it took him a while to tolerate being in it and he grew out of it pretty quickly, but for those few weeks that we used it, it was awesome! Alden was emotionally ready to sit up long before he was physically ready. He used to get SO frustrated when he couldn't see what was going on or be right in the middle of the action. The Bumbo helped give him the freedom to sit and play or to watch the activity around him without one of us needing to hold him the whole time. I think it also helped him to develop his core and back muscles so that sitting up was a cinch once he was ready. He got a kick out of banging his toys on the tray to make loud noises or throwing his toys off the side and leaning over to get them. *Remember to ALWAYS, ALWAYS stay with your baby when they're in the Bumbo, even if it's on the floor. They're stable but not foolproof and active babies can definitely wiggle themselves into dangerous positions if they're not supervised. **Also, if you buy an older, used Bumbo seat make sure to contact the company to get a kit that retrofits the seat to have a lap belt.
3. Jumperoo/Exersaucer: We have this one that we bought secondhand from a local Athens family (which speaks to Rule 2 here). Alden loves this thing! It gives him a space where he can jump around like crazy without us having to worry about whether he's safe. It plays music, makes sound effects and has a million things attached to it for looking at/ pulling on/ chewing on. Alden usually spends a few minutes in the jumperoo in the mornings while we get bottles ready, pack the diaper bag, make lunches, etc. and he's usually pretty happy to talk and squeal along with the sound effects and try to grab the little monkey that hangs off the side :) I probably never would have bought one at retail price since you never know if your baby will like them, but snagging it used for $35 made it totally worth it!
4. Chicco Liteway Plus stroller: I got real sick of our giant whale of a stroller (the Chicco Cortina travel system with the KeyFit 30 infant seat) because it was huge and unwieldy and heavy and, did I mention, huge? We quickly jumped on the more-like-an-umbrella-stroller-but-can-still-hold-our-infant-seat stroller bandwagon and boy am I crazy happy that we did! I absolutely LOVE the Liteway. I mean, honestly, the first time we used it, I looked at Nick and said, "This stroller just changed my life." And I meant it. Really. It's that much of an improvement. Now that Alden's out of his infant car seat, it's even better! He can sit in the stroller and enjoy the happy parents that are pushing it around instead of having to fight it through doorways and around corners :)
5. Wet bag: If you're a cloth diapering family, you already have some version of this because they are pretty much indispensable. If you're not a cloth diapering family, you should have one because it's also great for dirty clothes post-blowout, wet swimsuits after the pool or beach, and the multitude of other disgusting things parents have to carry around (spit up covered burp cloths, anyone?) We have these PlanetWise bags, in medium and large, in the Orange Woods design and I like them. I feel like maybe there are better ones out there but these function well- keeping stinky and liquids in-and the fabric is cute. The medium one stays in his diaper bag/goes to daycare and the large one is what we use in his room at home. I do wish the zippers had pulls on them (even if it was just a little piece of leather cord or something) and I do feel like the fabric has started to wear a little faster than I would have liked (a quality you would expect your wet bag, which has to get washed a million times a month, to not have). Overall, we like them and I'd probably buy them again if I didn't find something exponentially better.
6. Nuk pacifiers: Alden still takes a pacifier to fall asleep, mainly because if I didn't give it to him, he'd nurse for 3 hours in his sleep :) He still likes to have one when he's bothered and it's become his most favorite teething toy. Even though he's starting to use them less and less, we still consider them a necessity. I'm hoping that he continues to wean himself away from them but I do enjoy the fact that he can now decide when and if he wants it. At night, he'll get himself almost asleep then take it out of his mouth and lay it in his crib. Periodically, he'll stick it back in his mouth for a little while but pretty much all the time, he sleeps without it. It's those 5 minutes when he's falling asleep that really matter ;)
7. Sophie! This teething toy is astoundingly expensive for something that's made to be chewed on but, I assure you, she's worth every penny. Within minutes of us buying ours, she was in Alden's mouth, happily squeaking away as he gnawed on her head :) Alden loves her, she's soft but durable and, surprisingly, the shape of a giraffe is perfect suited to being chewed on. Her knees, head and long neck make her easy to hold on to and give the baby a lot of options for places to chew. In short, get one, you won't regret it.
8. O Ball: We actually got this ball after I read a great post on the blog, Mama OT, about her top 15 baby toys for the first year. We, incidentally, already had a lot of the things she mentions (like a mirror, stacking rings, blocks, baby gym, etc.) but there were a few inexpensive things that we picked up after reading her list. The OBall rattle was one of them and I think it's in the top 3 of our best buys for Alden. He plays with it all the time and the way he plays with it is evolving as he grows. When he was really small, it was great for him to practice grabbing, transferring, etc. since it's so easy to hold on to; when he started teething, he could easily chew on the soft plastic; when he learned to shake, he could hear the rattles making noise; and now that he's learning cause and effect and his playtime is getting more involved, he's learning to roll it and throw it. For less than $5, I'd say it's a definite return on investment :)
9. Beaba baby spoons: These spoons are great for beginning solids. They're super soft so they don't hurt tender gums and they're really easy to clean. When we first started solids, we gave Alden a spoon to play with so he could get acquainted with them and he immediately took it straight to his mouth- since these are so soft, I wasn't worried that he would hurt his mouth. Also, now that he has teeth that are coming in, he loves to bite down on these during dinner :) They are definitely 1st stage spoons, though. Once your baby learns gets adept at eating from spoons, the bowls of these are a little shallow. We're actually getting ready to put them away for good since it seems like Alden has already grown out of their size. Totally worth it to have them at the beginning, though.
10. Plastic linking rings: This is another toy we grabbed after reading Mama OT's list and they're certainly worth the $4! We started out attaching them to Alden's car seat and he would grab at them and hold on to them while we were shopping or riding in the car. Now, he can pull them apart, chew on them and shake them to make noise. We keep short chains of them everywhere; the diaper bag, his toy bin in the nursery, our bedroom, and the living room play mat. He used to be pretty fascinated with them and would mess with them for long periods of time- now, his attention span for any single toy has drastically decreased, but he definitely still picks these up and I notice him playing with them more than some of his other "baby" toys.
11. Foam play mat tiles: Speaking of the play mat, we bought a set of these right before Alden started sitting up on his own. We knew that he was getting close and we wanted him to have a place in the living room that was soft to play on for those early sitter topples :) I think ours are just precious and they're super easy to clean. Best of all, you can buy as many sets as you want and they all connect to each other so if you have a really large space you'd like to make soft for baby, you can buy as many sets as you need. We got ours at Target for about $13 on sale.
12. Inchbug Custom Orbit labels: These are soft, flexible, non-toxic personalized "labels" for bottles, sippy cups, water bottles, etc. You can custom order your color and name/words, plus you can even add icons if you'd like (like stars, basketballs, etc.). This is one of those things that changed our lives the day we started using them. If your baby goes to daycare, school, play group, or even if you have two children close in age that drink out of the same brand of cups/bottles, etc. Inchbug labels should be on your list of necessities. They're completely washable (dishwasher safe), can be boiled and are so snug that your baby can't take them off. We have the pumpkin color and we just ordered some in the blue jay to add to our collection :) We also just ordered some of their personalized stickers so we can label his bowls/ containers for meals and am expecting their quality to be just as high as the orbit labels. We love these!
13. White noise machine: If you read our last "things we couldn't live without" post, you remember that we had a white noise app on our phones that we used for Alden to sleep. This worked great until he transitioned to his crib (around 14 weeks) and he was in a separate room. When Alden first moved to his crib, we would just leave one of our phones in with him since he didn't sleep in his room all night and it was easy to just grab our phone when we went to get him. Once we went on vacation, though, and knew that he would be sleeping in a separate room for naps and for part of the night, we decided it was time to get him a dedicated noise machine. This one works great, has a few options for sounds and even has a little night light built in, which I like.
14. Motorola Video Monitor: You would think that since monitors are such a useful device in most homes with babies that we would have put this on our newborn edition list, but Alden slept in his bassinet in our room until he transitioned to his crib and the monitor wasn't necessary. So we started really using this piece of astounding technology when he was about 3 1/2 or 4 months old. The monitor amazes me- it not only has video and audio, it lights up when the noise level changes, tells you the temperature in the room, has night vision and is remotely controlled so you can change the direction of the camera from the other room. Also, it has a walkie-talkie feature so we can creep Alden out at night and pretend like we're the voice of God ;) It's not cheap by any means but we got it on sale and plan to use it for a future kid/kiddos (we read a million reviews before we bought it and this one seems to last pretty well) so the cost, overall, isn't too crazy. We use it ALL the time, the range is great, and we think it was a sound investment for the peace of mind that it gives us. Plus, it was a lifesaver during the sleep training days- we could watch him and know that he was fine even though he was upset- I really think just those 3 weeks would have made the purchase worth it. Otherwise, I may have been in and out of his room 35 times a night :)
I can't believe I'm already writing this list! It feels like yesterday we were bringing our tiny little guy home to meet the puppies for the first time and now he's trying to crawl!! Crazytown.
much love, L&N