Top 10 Must Haves for the First Time Mommy
By Melissa Petro Cates
I have an almost 7-month-old son, and although he is my second born, a baby is a baby is a baby. When the end of my pregnancy drew near, I carefully balanced my laptop on my belly and nestled down with my Welch’s fruit snacks (I was an addict for 9 months) to surf the web for what amazing new products had cropped up in last 18 months that would make the “baby days” easier, neater, quieter, and the most coveted of all: more rested. It seems almost unconscionable to advertise such promises to either pregnant women or new mothers. Afterall, we are walking a razor’s edge. At any given moment we could burst into tears (be them joyous or woeful), burst in to laughter, fall asleep mid-sentence, or suddenly remember we forgot something. You follow?
Anyway, back to couch, the computer, and those scrumptious fruit chews… It wasn’t long before I remembered I forgot something—I had done this before. I managed to bring my first son from wrinkly, sleepy preemie to walking, chatty 18 month old in rather uneventful fashion. I will be the first to admit that I bought, and on occasion discarded, a lion’s share of accoutrement along the way, and the best advice I would go back and give myself is this: wait until you need it to buy it.
You cannot possibly imagine life with a baby before you have one. Some moments are as tender as a Johnson & Johnson commercial, and others are tricky, leaving you wishing you had three arms and nerves of steel. You will pace the length of your hallway at times bouncing and shh-shhing, and other times slow dancing as you gently kiss that fuzzy head asleep on your chest. Oh, those sleeping snuggles. I tell you, they are the stuff true love is made of.
The question is: what stuff do you need to calm the cries, clean the pacis, carry the baby, and otherwise claim a confident stake in motherhood? I’ve got you covered. This is not a frilly list; it’s the basics. The can’t-make-it-a-day-without list.
1. Bouncy Seat
I know any mom who has one swears by a Mommaroo. They sound amazing with their momma-inspired swing patterns and MP3 hookups. Truth is, I never needed that much intervention for my boys. We have been very blessed with happy, quiet, nap-loving babies, so a simple bouncy seat that hooked into a swing was all we needed. The other perk of a bouncy seat is that it can easily be ported from room to room. I borrowed a second one from my sister when I had Graham to have one on each floor. A vibrating function is a plus for lulling a newborn into dreamy slumber.
2. ErgoBaby Carrier
Oh, the baby carriers. Which one don’t I have? Ok, so I only have three, but that is two too many. My first was the Moby Wrap. I can’t hate on it, because I do think that, once on, it is the coziest, most supportive place for a newborn. However, even once I built up my skills, it still took too darn long to get on and get right. I also have a Baby Bjorn (that I now keep in my car, just in case). My complaint with this one comes after wearing it through Midway airport holding a tiny three-month-old—my back was en fuego. Enter the Ergo. It evenly distributes baby’s weight across your hips allowing you to wear it as long as needed without needing a whole tube of Icy Hot at the end of the day.
3. SwaddleMe wrap
I am a big swaddler. I believe it makes babies sleep better and longer, and anything that promises those two things is a must. It has been my experience, both with my 5.5 lb baby and my 7.5 lb baby, that the only thing that you can get tight enough to keep those little arms down and make baby feel secure in the early days is a blanket. My favorites are Aden+Anais muslin swaddling blankets. However, as only a parent knows, time goes by and babies get bigger. The Summer Infant SwaddleMe wrap is my favorite after trying the Woombie and the Halo Swaddle Sack. I swaddled Austin for 4 months and Graham for 5 in these babies!
4. White Noise machine
Okay, if these were written in order of importance, this would be first on the list. With all the books that I have read on baby sleep, I should hold an honorary PhD on the subject. Soothing white noise is calming for babies and helps their brains achieve deeper and more prolonged sleep. I don’t think it matters which one you choose, but I would steer clear of ones with too many unnecessary bells and whistles or any lights that could stimulate baby or keep him awake. Both of my boys have this one by Conair.
5. Video Monitor
This may be overprotective overkill, but I LOVE my video monitor. When they are baby babies, it is peace of mind to peek in on them and see that they are okay. When they are toddlers, its just plain entertaining to see them talking to their stuffed animals and reading books to themselves. I added a camera to my system when Graham was born, so I can switch between the two boys on a whim. J
6. Happiest Baby on the Block
I read a lot of baby books when I was on bed rest at my sister’s with Austin in my belly. The only one that I would condone as completely useful and completely non-controversial is Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp. It gives great techniques for calming newborns and is written in a relaxed style that doesn’t intimidate like many others do.
7. Car seat adaptor for stroller
Whatever stroller you get, the carseat adaptor or the ability to pop the infant carseat into the stroller is essential. Here’s why: NEVER WAKE A SLEEPING BABY. Let’s say you are on the go with your little bundle of joy. You strap him into the carseat and get him into the car. You arrive at Walgreens to find him sleeping peacefully. If you don’t have a stroller with a carseat adaptor, you are going to have to either keep driving around for 45 minutes or wake him up (see above rule). This little gadget will prove a life saver more than once, trust me.
8. Nose Frieda Snotsucker
This sounds so gross, and maybe my threshold for gross is lower now that I have two baby boys, but it is really genius. There is nothing sadder than a snotty baby who can barely eat, barely breathe, and barely sleep. The bulb syringe they gift you at the hospital is okay, but it is irritating and can trap bacteria and moisture inside… yuck. This little contraption allows you to really clean out those little nostrils and give baby some relief. I use it with Simply Saline baby nasal spray and Maty’s all-natural baby chest rub (apply it to their feet!).
9. Pack N Play
I had both of mine in the pack n play bassinet in our room for the first 10 weeks or so. After moving them to their own room, the pack n play saw a brief break before it was brought back out as a play pen for corralling a newbie crawler when I need to walk away. You can take it with you as a travel crib, to boot.
10. Brest Friend nursing pillow and Newman’s Nipple Cream
These last two are a breastfeeding product tie. Breastfeeding is so much harder than I ever imagined it would be. It is really only those early days of adjustment and latching and soreness and learning on both ends that are tough. Hang in there momma, it gets so much better. And if not, don't beat yourself up. Breastfeeding is great, but the ultimate goal is a happy momma and a well-fed baby. If you have to hang up your nursing bra to find some sanity and peace, do what you have to do.
Anyway, back to the "stuff"... I used a Boppy pillow with my first son, and it always drove me crazy that it would not stay put while I was nursing. My sister sent me a BrestFriend pillow, and it lived up to its name. It is more supportive in its shape and has a strap that hooks behind your back to keep it in place. The Newman’s Cream is only available by prescription at a compounding pharmacy, but it is THE BEST thing out there for sore nipples in the early days of breastfeeding. In addition to pain relief, it contains and antibacterial/antifungal ingredient to fight infection/thrush. Don’t leave the hospital without an Rx for this stuff and a follow up appointment with the lactation consultant.
Honorable Mention: Amazon Prime Membership Because let's face it. Sometimes you really have to have something, but it has just snowed and the thought of packing up all the above mentioned gear to head to Target with a baby (or two) is just not one you can entertain. Boom. It's on your doorstep in two days. Thank you, American logistics.
So, there you have it. A small list of items that may well make you feel as if you do have that third arm or could possibly acquire nerves of steel. If there is anything that being a mom for two years has taught me, it is that you are only as good at it as you think you are. It's not about the stuff. It is about you. These babies need us to be happy, healthy, confident and in control. If you ever feel all of those things at once, please post a response to tell me how you did it. I kid, I kid. But seriously, it is quite a transition to enter to the world of motherhood, and these things have helped me keep my head on straight. By making my life easier, I am taking care of myself, so I can take the best care of those who rely on me for nourishment, love, and, well, everything. How grateful I am to be trusted with that charge.
Wishing you happy baby days and restful nights*,
*And if you are in the midst of not-so-restful nights, remember that these nights, too, shall pass. Hang in there, Momma! Xoxo.