In honor of Peanut turning seven months old today (sniffle!) I thought I’d pull together a list of all the goodies that have helped us figure out the first 6 months of parenthood. In case you haven’t heard, there’s quite a learning curve. :)
I remember the first time I walked into Babies ‘R Us, intending to start and finish my baby registry in one fell swoop – I almost had a panic attack! I honestly could not wrap my brain around the endless number of options for each thing, from car seats to bottles to baby wipes. It freaked me out. In the end, it was so helpful to me to go back home and ask a few friends what things they thought were helpful or useless when they were first starting out as parents, and then do a little of my own research.
There are a zillion ways to raise a kiddo and probably everyone you ask would have a slightly different list of baby gear that made their lives a little easier (or at least that’s what I found) – this is just our list, and hopefully it will give you a jumping off point when trying to make sense of the never-ending options out there. Fingers crossed that it makes things a bit easier for you!
On the Go: The Chicco Keyfit 30 infant car seat was highly recommended by friends and, more importantly, has great safety ratings. We have been really happy with it – however, like most infant car seats, it feels like it weighs a ton! Peanut can use it until she hits 30 pounds, so it should last us a good while even though she’s growing like crazy. We just decided to make my car the “family car,” so we only have 1 car seat and base (although some family members also have the base so they can easily whisk her away).
* Note: These links are just the first links I found to these products – not necessarily the best price, so you might want to do some additional Googling to find the best deals. Also, we bought a lot of our gear at resale shops – they are such a great resource so be sure to check them out!
We use this underneath the car seat base to protect the leather seats in my car, and so far it has worked well.
When it came to strollers I wanted 1 stroller to do everything. Some of my friends have 2 or 3 different strollers and that works well for them, but it just sounded like a pain and a lot of stuff to store. We chose the Baby Jogger City Mini and I love it! It has 3 wheels instead of 4 so it turns easily and is fairly narrow. It also folds up with 1 hand and I can easily get it in and out of the back of the car by myself – a must in my book. We used this adapter when Peanut was really little so that her car seat could snap onto the stroller – it was a pain to install but then it was really easy to use.
As for baby carriers, we bought both the Moby and the Ergo - and we use the Moby 99% of the time. The Ergo is great but I thought it was difficult to use the newborn insert, and also really hot in the Texas summer. Then, once Peanut got older, she wanted to face out so that she could see things but the Ergo doesn’t operate that way. Actually, that’s probably not fair – you can switch it up to carry your baby on the side or on your back, but those methods looked/sounded hard so we haven’t tried them.
The Moby, on the other hand, is a little difficult to learn how to use at first since it’s about 15 feet of fabric that you wrap around yourself, but once you’ve figured it out it’s really easy. And it’s SO comfortable – I could carry my 21 pound baby around forever since the straps are wide and it wraps around your lower back. I love it.
Chow Time: Feeding your baby can feel like a neverending job – and in the beginning it is. If you’re using formula, make life a little easier by preparing a day’s worth of formula in a container like this - it has measurements on the side so you know exactly how much you’re making. We were SO happy when my sister suggested this method because it saved us from making 1 bottle at a time, and made it easy to top off bottles if Peanut wanted a little extra.
As for bottles, everyone I knew seemed to recommend Dr. Brown’s – but we wound up hating them (too many parts!). In the end, the Medela brand worked for us (although we got the ones with the standard nipples, not the wide-based ones linked to here). Here’s a little tip – most bottles take standard sized rings which means you can buy cheapo extras, and you may be able to interchange your bottles with the ones that came with your pump. (And a random note about pumps – you might want to hold off on buying or opening yours since the hospital may recommend renting a hospital-grade one from them. Once you’ve opened yours you can’t return it to the store.)
For bottle cleanup, we’ve loved this drying rack with this cute little tree for drying the smaller parts – and it doesn’t look half bad hanging out on your counter. We went with the larger size drying rack and I’m so glad we did – it’s kind of ridiculous how many things we typically have drying at once.
And I’m sure bottle brushes are something that you’ve never given a second thought – and neither had I until we bought some really crappy ones. It turns out these these bottle brushes with the sponge on the end are just the best because the sponge can get into all the nooks and crannies – and the nipple brush has a hook that you can hang on your drying tree! Ah, it’s the little things.
And finally, this may be a bit too Type A for you, but if you’re trying to get your baby on some sort of schedule I found it endlessly helpful to have a timer on my iPhone (like this one, but I think mine was free) so that it would automatically remind me how long it had been since Peanut had eaten/slept/etc. My brain simply couldn’t keep track of such things in the beginning. :)
Play Time: Different toys have fallen in and out of favor with Peanut over the past 6 months, but there are two things that she loved for months on end and that actually made life a little bit easier for us – a bouncer for when she was little and then an exersaucer when she got a bit older. Peanut truly loved the Fisher Price Kick & Play bouncer (an older model than the one linked to).
The vibrations would help her fall asleep, and as she grew she was absolutely enamored with the kicking feature – she would kick and lights and sounds would start playing on the toy bar. Seriously, the kid couldn’t get enough of it. But once she could really hold her head up she wanted something a bit more engaging so we switched to the Baby Einstein Around the World Discovery Center. It’s been a real hit, and seems to have helped her leg strength a bit for standing. There are tons of things to play with so she can entertain herself for awhile in it.
Changing: I know that many parents will swear by special diaper pails, but a friend recommended just a simple step trashcan lined with a bag from the grocery store – simple, cheap, easy to take out with the regular trash and we’re never left hunting for special-sized trash bags. This method isn’t for everyone, but we’ve loved it (even now that she’s on solids). As for diapers and wipes, the hospital used these and we kept using them at home – they have a wetness indicator that deserves some sort of Nobel Prize. However, they won’t cut the mustard once your little one starts sleeping through the night – after a lot of experimentation we settled on Huggies OverNites, one size bigger than she normally wears, and they are simply awesome! (Clarification – we only use the OverNites at night, and still use the Pampers for daytime.) We use these wipes - my cousin gave us this ginormous box at the baby shower and I like them better than any other brand I’ve tried. Finally, another friend recommended this little purse-sized diaper bag - it comes with a changing pad and has enough room for diapers and wipes as well. You can just stick it in a regular purse for those times that you don’t need to lug around an entire diaper bag, so it’s pretty handy!
Rub-a-Dub: For Peanut’s first “real” bath we put her in one of those blue baby tubs in the big bath tub – it was a huge pain trying to wrangle a floppy little baby and I knew instantly that we wouldn’t be using the bath tub again until she was able to sit up on her own. So I went on the hunt for something that we could put in our kitchen sink, and found this!
The sling design is just perfect for cradling a little baby, the mesh lets water flow right through it so there’s no danger from the water, and we’re able to stand and save our backs while using the sprayer on our kitchen faucet. Awesomeness. She’s on the verge of outgrowing it and I may cry.
Let’s Sleep: Ah, sleep. :) As a nervous new parent I was of course worried that Peanut would suffer some calamity during the night, while I slept unaware in the other room. For that reason, we opted for a video monitor – this Motorola monitor. We absolutely love it. I never have any problem seeing her or hearing her, we can pan the camera if she’s rolled to one side, and we can even talk to her if she’s fussing. There are all sorts of other features, but those are really the only ones we use. My only complaint is that the on/off button is hard for babysitters to find – to solve that I colored it in with a red Sharpie. Nothing but class around these parts. :) These suckers are expensive, but it should last through all of our kids and we think it was worth it.
Now onto breathable bumpers – I’m sure you’ve heard that regular padded bumpers are now a no-no due to suffocation and SIDS concerns, so we opted for a breathable mesh bumper that eliminates those concerns but still keeps her from sticking her arms and legs through the slats of her crib. I suppose she could still bonk her head on the side, but that hasn’t been an issue at all.
Last but not least, we absolutely loved these swaddle blankets for her first few months. We could easily wrap her up tight and keep her happy while she slept, and that in turn made us very happy. Once she showed signs of starting to roll over we stopped swaddling her, but until then these puppies were so great. Sometimes she would turn them into a baby tube top, but those nights were the exception. :)
So that’s a quick rundown of all the goodies that helped us tackle our first 6 months of parenthood! If you have any questions please ask away in the Comments. And I’d love to know what helped you through those first few months, so spill the beans! :)