I have some sweet people in my circle of friends who are expecting soon or are already first-time-parents. Some are going to be newbie moms, some are going to be returning veterans. In either case, it's always nice to have another mom's suggestions, keeping in mind this one sage piece of advice that I was given at my first baby shower 7 years ago: "Parent and nurture your child in the way that works FOR YOU--listen to other people's suggestions, but only use them if they work."
That is so true. So when "Aunt Tilly" insists on something, remember to take it with love and tuck it away if it just isn't working for you :-)
Here's my list of must have's:
Every baby is different and there are a million kinds of pacifiers out there ... and I'm NOT a big lover of these things after about 4 months ... but in those first few months it is really a soother for them and a help in helping them learn to soothe themselves. (The trick is to not get them too attached to it or you'll always be searching for it!) Luckily, our children were big fans of my pinky. That was GREAT! However ... it seemed like everyone else in our extended family thought they could also use THEIR pinkies ... which did NOT have their fingernail cut VERY short (to prevent scratching the roof of the baby's mouth) or extremely well washed hands. (HELLO?! People? Can I stick my unwashed hand in your mouth?! I often wanted to scream!) SO--thankfully we powerfully suggested they PLEASE USE OUR PACIFIER for the the baby!!! This is the kind that was universally loved.
The Hooter Hider.
My number one fav item was the Hooter Hider (or Bebe Au Lait which it is also marketed under) nursing cover. I nursed our three sons for 6 mo, 10 mo. and finally 15 months with Nolan. It was so hard with Brayden, but with each child it became so much better (so don't give up if it doesn't go well with one child! It can be so different with your next.) I wish I would have had this ingenious cover with Brayden and Easton as I would have been so much more confident especially out in public. It secures around the neck, has a flexible peep area on the top that ONLY YOU can see down into (to make sure the baby doesn't nip something the wrong way, ouch!) and it folds up SO crazy small into the diaper bag and makes a great blankie. Nolan LOVED this and would get SO excited to see me pull it out as he knew what it signaled he would be receiving soon. There is also a SUPER tutorial HERE to make your own! (This would be a wonderful baby shower gift!)
A Baby Sling.
The Maya Wrap or Sakura Wrap are baby slings that are SO handy. They also can be used as discreet covers for nursing as well as for toting your children around while helping with bonding as well as to keep your hands free to accomplish things. With our second son this was essential as our first boy was only a 2 year old (oh my!) And I soon found I did not have enough hands. period. The Maya wrap even works well for older children which is great when they want to be held and they're kinda heavy!! I recently found out how handy this was when I pulled this out to give it away and Nolan suddenly found he loved being close to me in it. So much for giving it away! (Sorry Carrie!) I feel like such an Indian-giver ... but oh my--pull at my heart strings for this fleeting time of sweetness with my growing boy! (Let me know if the seamstresses don't come through for you with one, okay Carrie?!)
I did NOT have a stroller for Brayden. It almost killed my body toting around that awkward car seat everywhere by hand! If I had a do-over I'd get one in a heartbeat. We did use a hand-me-down double stroller when Easton came along. It was huge and heavy and awkward but it worked--especially to contain my 2 yr. old and newborn!
This is one item that I insisted we get with our third child Nolan and it has definitely paid for itself! I made sure to get one that is rated to carry up to a 50# child as our boys tend to be tall Iowa lads and I knew I'd be using it more and longer with the third child than I did with the first as we are on the go constantly for hockey and it's great to store items and drink cups and coats for the rest of the family while on the go as well as to secure the little one while I'm tying hockey skates! Oh yes, and it's great for strolling!
A Baby Swing.
Although you can live without this ... it was really nice to have especially with our colicky first son.
Yes, clean your floors ... but actually a vacuum or other loud, monotonous sound is a great soother for an over stimulated baby! Nolan loved the sound of the dehumidifier in our basement. Every night when the rest of the house would go to sleep, he and I would head down to our basement to listen to it along with the late night comedy show. It was like a date ... and as a night-owl myself ... I really looked forward to it. So, tip back the vacuum (so the motor doesn't overheat) and let the soothing sounds whirl away the sadness. (Apparently noises ARE that loud in-utero!)
Murphy's Oil Soap.
And finally for the inevitable BLOW-OUTS that will occur from your sweet bundle. Try Murphy's Oil Soap as a Fabric Stain Remover. Seriously. It gets out those yucky, yucky stains unbelievably!
Now for the toys that are not-so-essential,
but that I found most helpful from the millions out there.
An over the head dangle-toy was SO great to keep them entertained so you can shower or have 5 minutes to yourself!
Piano Kick Toy was a super garage sale find (thanks Grandma LaVerne!) that kept Easton and Nolan SO happy when they got into the kicking stage.
Baby Einstein Musical Toy
This was one musical toy that didn't have annoying electronic music. It plays classical tunes (which are supposed to help children's growing minds develop! BONUS!)
Jingle-Jangle car seat toys are GREAT for entertaining while on the go or anywhere! LOVED THESE!
Sassy Toys are colorful, loved and great to stuff in the bag for baby to chew on or to entertain them wherever you may end up. The Link-a-Doos are especially great and versatile to hang any toy from a stroller or car seat or to link together and play with.
Graco Pack n' Play
This is another essential if you travel to Grandma's or anywhere that doesn't have a crib for the little one. If you don't have a bassinet it also works great as a close-by sleeper for the baby. (Please don't co-sleep with your sweet little one as the tragedy of a smothered baby would be horrible ... and it DOES happen. Don't do it. Either on a bed or a couch.)
There are simple ones for $50 (or less at a garage sale) or deluxe models with changing table and the works. We travel to Grandma's a lot, so this was an essential for us.
AND finally cloth diapers.
We used them for burp-up clothes. ESSENTIAL with our two first spitter-upper babies. And as one who loves to hold babies and help out in the church-nursery, let me say, it's great to give to someone ... just in case Spit Up Happens!
Hope this is helpful.
Remember that the two best things for a baby is Mom and Dad ... and their arms holding them.