I see a lot of lists out there touting what parents should buy in preparation for their little one’s arrival… and I have to say… most of it is useless! You honestly don’t need a wipe warmer or a Diaper Genie (though they can be nice). Here’s my guide to items I have found to be the most helpful for my clients in the first few months of their baby's life. This is by no means a comprehensive or authoritative list, it's just things I like and recommend to clients.
Hands down the best breastfeeding pillow goes to the My Brest Friend. A lot of people use a Boppy for this purpose, but they just aren’t made to support a proper breastfeeding position--they're actually supposed to be used to prop babies up. The My Breast friend is flat and sits right to the mom’s body and has two little lumps on each side to support baby’s head. I have seen this pillow change a struggling nursing relationship for the good in one use—I kid you not!
As much as possible dress your babies in soft, organic cotton. If unavailable, regular cotton is fine. Avoid synthetic fabrics as they do not allow the skin to breathe. When Baby is brand new, various onesies with easy diaper access will be your friend. You don’t NEED specific pajamas for babies, but the ones that zip can be handy in the night when you don’t want to navigate a bunch of snaps. Kimono style baby clothing is nice because you don’t have to pull anything over the baby’s head. Popular clothing brands are Carter’s (which is affordable but the quality is not amazing), Target (lots of cute stuff but again, quality is lower), and Baby Gap. There are lots of fancy baby brands out there, but do consider the length of time he or she will spend in such tiny clothes and don’t exhaust your budget on the fanciest of outfits. If you’d prefer more natural fibers, Burt’s Bees is a more affordable option. If you can spend a little more, Kate Quinn Organics has gorgeous kimono style bodysuits in fun prints and soft fabrics. Ditto on all this re: socks and hats. Mittens are a nonessential baby item and prevent babies from feeling their environment. Keep baby’s nails short (by filing them) and there’s less worry of scratching.
Wow, one of my favorite topics! I love babywearing for so many reasons: bonding and breastfeeding (baby stays close, warm and snuggly), convenience (you have your hands free so you can do all sorts of things and baby will be happily snug on your chest), cognition (baby participates in the world at the adult level, has access to more language, sees more sights than in a stroller, etc.). There are a lot of great options on the market for moms and partners interested in wearing their babies. The go to among a lot of clients is a Moby wrap for the early months and an Ergo clip carrier for later on. I find that dads really like the Ergo because of its resemblance to a backpack. These are but two of hundreds of great options. I really love ring slings—which are one continuous piece of fabric fed through two large rings. A great brand is the Maya Wrap—once you get the hang of it, it’s an easy, slip-on-and-off carrier for small babies and toddlers. It is a wrap that will carry you far in your journey. I also love theGirasol woven wraps from Germany. Gorgeous, strong woven fabric in fun colors—and can be wrapped in a variety of ways depending on the size of baby or child. Please note: I do not advocate for Baby Bjorns or similar carriers. The International Hip Dysplasia Institute does not recommend carriers of this nature for hip health. You want your baby’s carrier to have a wide seat that goes knee pit to knee pit. Also, wearing babies facing out can cause the baby’s back to straighten in an uncomfortable position. Always wear your babies facing toward you until they are old enough to sit up, then switch them to a hip or back carry so they can see more of the world.
Many of my clients choose not to cloth diaper, although there are several wonderful diapering services in Los Angeles to take a lot of the work out of cloth diapering. My clients often want a more environmentally friendly, yet easy to use diaper, so I recommend the Honest Company. These diapers are compostable (only through diaper/composting services, not at home), which helps put less diapers in landfills, and don’t contain chlorine or bleach, so they’re safe for baby’s sensitive skin. I also find they hold moisture well and aren’t as stiff as other natural disposable brands. Bonus: they come in awesome patterns that change frequently. Fun! This company also makes a host of natural products, including, wipes, baby soap, infant massage oil and more.
I encourage families, especially those who are exclusively breastfeeding, to co-sleep (meaning the baby sleeps in the same room as the parents). Co-sleeping can be done in several ways: baby sleeps in a bassinette or Moses basket by the side of the bed, baby sleeps in a co-sleeper butted up to the bed (such as an Arm’s Reach co-sleeper), or in the bed in a Baby Delight Snuggle Nest. Some clients do bed share, and I always point them to Dr. Sears’ guidelines on safe bed sharing. Any of these options are great, and it's up to you as a parent to decide which is most comfortable for your family. You’re probably noticing that I did not mention a crib. Some families co-sleep or bed share for 6 weeks, three months, a year, 'til preschool, beyond. For families who choose to put babies in their own rooms eventually, a crib is great, so long as it is new, well reviewed for safety, and has a new mattress for each child. It is tempting to use beautiful antique cribs that have been used for years in our family, but the safety guidelines have changed and old crib mattresses hold a lot of germs and dust. Do your research and choose a safe, sturdy crib. In the early weeks and months, however, co-sleeping might work well for you. Test it out and choose sleeping arrangements that feel safe and comfortable for your family. Happy sleep tip: invest in a white noise machine, just don't put it on too loudly for baby's sensitive ears. A nice low hum will help her sleep.
Dr. Harvey Karp, of The Happiest Baby on The Block book and DVD, recommends swaddling newborns to mimic their time in the womb. It can help babies sleep, feel safe and calm, and can become a handy tool if baby is crying and other options aren’t working to soothe her. Aden and Anais makes lovely muslin swaddling blankets that are stretchy and work well for various swaddle techniques. For the mom on the go, or for those middle of the night swaddling needs, I do find that a Velcro swaddler is a quick, easy option. Summer is my favorite brand for this type of swaddler. Simple and performs well (i.e., baby’s arms stay inside). The Miracle Blanket is another good option but, without the Velcro, I find some babies are able to Houdini their way out of it.
Have several safe places around your home to put baby down (co-sleeper, crib, pack-n-play, swing, etc.). An infant swing is a fine place to put baby down if you need your hands for a moment, but it of course can serve as a place to calm the baby or let him nap. My clients LOVE the Mamaroo by 4moms. This high tech swing has numerous settings including, Tree Swing and Car Ride. Somehow 4moms has engineered a machine that closely replicates a more natural swinging motion. So helpful for when your arms and back are tired. Doula tip: keep your birth ball inflated after your birth--it comes in handy when baby wants to be rocked. Take a seat and try various levels of bounce 'til baby is calm or asleep.
Soaps and Products for Baby
As I mentioned, the Honest Company makes some great, natural soaps for babies and the whole family. Of course, Burt’s Bees also has yummy smelling baby soaps, powders and lotions. However, there are even milder, cleaner, fragrance free options for baby’s sensitive skin. My number one recommendation for soap is Kiss My Face olive oil soap. In bar form, it is an olive green, sort of slimy-when-wet, simple soap, consisting of two ingredients: olive oil and water. It makes a nice lather, but can leave the skin feeling slightly dry, so follow up this gentle bath with an all over coconut oil infant massage to hydrate the skin. My second recommendation is Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castille Soap. Make sure you get the fragrance free option (bar or liquid), as their all in one soap has peppermint oil and is a bit too invigorating for baby skin. Commercial baby soaps and lotions contain tons of chemicals—many of which are unpronounceable. Keep it simple and natural when it comes to your baby’s precious skin.
Boy, have these changed since I started babysitting a decade and a half ago. Gone are the walkie talkie style monitors we grew up with. Now everyone has video camera monitors with various levels of noise and movement sensors. Of all the ones my clients have used, I really like the Summer Infant 02000 BabyTouch Digitial Video Monitor. It is not the cheapest option on the market as far as video monitors go, but it is simple to use—helpful when you’re up at night and don’t want to figure out a lot of buttons. These are most handy for babies who sleep in their own room, or if care takers are doing things in other parts of the house while baby naps.
If you are breastfeeding but are going back to work, or are pumping so your partner or other family/friends can feed baby, you’ll want to find a bottle and nipple that are breastfeeding friendly. First a good brand that work for formula fed and breastfed babies: Dr. Brown’s plastic or glass bottles. For breastfeeders, Medela (who makes a great breast pump), makes a nipple called Calma that is engineered to mimic the breastfeeding experience—it fits on the average plastic baby bottle. The Mimijumi bottle is one of the most breast-like bottles I have seen on the market and even has holes that more closely resemble an actual breast! Very cool but a bit on the costly side.
Car Seats and Strollers
As with cribs, I don’t really have a brand recommendation for car seats. This is another area you must research and find the best-rated product for safety reasons. What I am seeing a lot of is strollers that have a car seat attachment conversion—seems like a good two-for-one option. I will be honest though, I’m not a huge fan of strollers. They are bulky and cumbersome, and I’d rather just wear a baby than drag a stroller around a grocery store or amusement park. But that’s me and that might not be you. Sleeker strollers seem handy—ones that fold up and are lightweight. Ones that carry your toddler and newborn look quite useful as well. There are many comparable brands sold in Target, Babies R Us and the like. Read safety reviews and pick one that best fits your strolling needs.
Well, those are my main recommendations. I hope they’ve been helpful for you. There are certainly tens of hundreds, if not thousands, of other baby product categories, but these seem to be the most helpful when baby first arrives. Take any product advice, even mine, with a grain of salt. Always choose what’s best for your family, your budget, and your baby. Trust your mother’s intuition and I know you’ll find what works for you!