Despite my initial hesitancy to turn this into a mommablog, I just don’t have it in me to write about anything else at the moment.
I’ve been emailing back and forth with a friend from Colorado this week. It seems she’s having as much trouble as I had finding one simple list of: shit you need. Now that I have a bit of experience under my belt, and, keeping in mind that my motto is “cheaper, smaller, lighter“, here it is. In case you haven’t been here before, let me assure you that I was not paid in money or gear or in any other way to write this. If you work it out, you shouldn’t have to spend a penny of your own: it’s all about Craigslist, grandparents and the registry.
Top 20: shit you actually need
1. Bottles (keeping in mind that since I never breast-fed, our house was a chem lab of pump-and-pour bottles):
- Glass: we use Born Free. They are fantastic, but pouring breast-milk back and forth from bags/pump-kits is not fun, so better for when you switch to formula.
- Plastic: Dr. Browns are great while pumping because the small-mouthed 6oz bottles fit directly onto your breast-pump system (Medela OR Ameda), and they honestly seemed to cut down on the bubbles/colic. However, they leak if they are not kept upright… which we found out when our carry-on luggage smelled rancid and we spilled breast-milk onto the heads of some fellow travelers. Not cool. On the other hand, Avent don’t fit onto anything and certainly don’t stop any bubbles, but have 3 nipple sizes as your baby grows, and don’t leak at all.
2 Breast Pumps:
I had three! Seriously, because after 7 days of NICU I was never able to get our baby onto the breast. Which sucked massively. So I pumped all her milk for 6 months, which also sucked massively. You’ll have to see which one suits your needs; we travel A LOT, so I settled on the Ameda. Just do NOT buy the expensive “bag” they come with - it’s a glorified purse and totally useless. Each have pros/cons, and here they are:
1. Hospital Grade Medela: can be rented from your local pharmacy. I highly recommend this for at least the first month. They are “hospital grade” for a reason - they cost like $1K new, but are great while you’re trying to get your milk supply going. Also, you’ll know if you like Medela or not.
2. Medela Pump-in-Style (serious misnomer): Pros: Decent pump, fairly inexpensive. Cons: the suction cups for your nipples come in limited sizes, especially the larger sizes; weighs a TON so not good for travel.
3. Ameda: sold as a “closed system”, supposed to be more sanitary than other pumps. Not true, because the two pieces that touch your milk the most (rubber seals and funnels) cannot be sanitized. Pros: light-weight, so good for travel, never pooped out after 6 months of minimum 10x per day use, can run on batteries! Cons: annoying beeping sound while pumping either a.wakes baby or b.alerts all bystanders that your nipples are engaged, rubber seals and funnels are fiddly and easy to drop/lose (pump won’t work without them).
Ok, the problem with being a garage-sale junkie and a new mom without a clue is that you end up with a lot of crap. I have 6 (count ‘em!) carriers!! Anything that goes over one shoulder is useless- your back hurts in about 10 minutes. The “Moby” is stretchy fabric and thus needs retying or fiddling every 10 minutes. Basically, the only one that made the cut is the Baby Bjorn. Only advice: don’t get the dark-colored ones. I walked all over Venice last August and I thought both baby and I would die of heatstroke. Also, white spit-up doesn’t really blend into black… red is probably a good idea. Eventually, we got a backpack too, because once their legs are long enough it stinks to hike with the Bjorn- they kick your thighs the whole way. Just make sure you get one with built-in storage for bottles, diapers, etc. so you don’t have to carry 4 bags. Another friend has Ergo and says it’s fantastic.
Spend your big bucks here. We got a cheapo one that was “good enough”, but the straps and locking system are annoying and fiddly with a squirming baby. My brother got this one which is way easier to use; they LOVE it, and I am ever-jealous. If you regularly use two cars then definitely get 2 bases - you won’t want to haul the whole system in/out every time you switch cars, and it will save confusion (who has the seat/base) if you swap off for daycare pickup/drop-off.
5 Changing table:
Don’t buy the whole kit and caboodle. We just bought one of these pads and put it on top of a waist-height dresser. It works great, and you don’t have to get rid of it after a year. Just make sure you buy at least 2 covers for it, because it goes about 5 days max before getting shit on.
6 Cloth diapers:
We bought like 5 different kinds since we really didn’t know WTF we were doing. Don’t waste your money on anything except the Rumparooz. They’re most expensive for a reason. First off, they are most adjustable, so they should fit from birth to potty training. After 9 months of serious yuck ours still look brand new, and they are the ONLY ones that haven’t leaked at one point or another (we also tried Fuzzibunz, Bamboozles, gDiapers and GroVia). Don’t let anyone tell you how “hard” it’s going to be. Those people are imagining folding diapers with pins. We’re talking about snaps and velcro - just as hard/easy as plastics. Just make sure you buy at least 25 so you’re not doing laundry every day. These suckers are expensive, so put them on your baby-shower wish-list!
7 Cloth wipes:
Also super easy, but I started to get paranoid about the warm/moist environment of the cloth-wipe-warmer (one microbiology class is all it takes to ruin your life!). So we swapped over to these biodegradable ones.
8 Diaper Service:
They don’t offer it out here in the boonies, which is the only reason we didn’t try it! I don’t know if it comes out cheaper or easier. Definitely, you should check what kinds of diapers they use - if it involves folding at all, I’d think twice - oragami is not something you want to do on a two inch bottom at four in the morning with zero sleep. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to try for a month or so; if you don’t like it, you can always still get your own.
If you’re nearing the end of your pregnancy you probably already figured this out, but don’t buy ANY new clothes for that baby!!! Seriously. People LOVE buying baby clothes, especially grandmas. And people like to clean out their nurseries and send you vast amounts of onesies. Strangers may even see your belly and stop to ask you if you want boxes of baby clothes. I now know why. We didn’t buy a single pair of socks for our beast, yet the house is overflowing with baby clothes, most of which she outgrew while they still had the tags on.
Hit up craigslist; everybody wants to get rid of those $500 cribs for $50! The mattress, of course, you should get new.
11 Diaper Bags:
This is actually a DO NOT NEED. They are totally worthless. Not worth even a penny investment. Glorified giant purse, falls off your shoulders incessantly, all the tiny pockets and pouches are just a way to lose the 500 pieces of tiny gear you now carry. Any shitty backpack is better! We have one of these, and it’s been literally all over the world with us (including some very questionable bathroom floors in Venice).
12 Diaper pails:
Just buy a regular garbage bin with a lid that you can pop up with your foot. ALL diaper pails smell like zombies, whether they cost 15 bucks or 150. At least you’ll get to reuse a regular bin. Just get one big enough to fit ALL your diapers at once… because if you’re like us, the laundry will be done while you’re using that last diaper.
13 Pack n play:
Yes! You want one! We got ours for 10 bucks on craigslist. Just make sure you get one that has an adjustable “floor” (the built-in changing table is nice, but not as necessary) - that way you can use it as a bassinet in your room now, and a playpen later. Because at some point, you’re going to get sick of running back and forth between rooms during the night, and baby will just end up next to you. Forget the “cosleepers” - you won’t sleep if you’re paranoid about rolling onto a baby all night.
Strangely important. Only ones worth purchasing are Robeez. Worth every dime. Everything else is either impossible to squish onto tiny feet, or kicked off by the time you get the second one on. You only need one pair per age, since it’s not like they’re running marathons.
Don’t waste your money on the “carseat/stroller” combo. The BIG strollers that let you snap in your carseat are just monstrously huge and barely fit into a house, let alone a car trunk. Just get this thing. It looks rickety, but ours has lasted us almost a year, including three weeks on the cobblestones of Europe. By the time your baby is ready for sitting up, you’ll know what you want in a regular stroller.
Get the kind you stick in their ear. It reads in about 3 seconds, which is better than trying to hold something in a squirmy feverish armpit for 10 seconds.
17-20 Shit we could not have lived without (in order):
1. These swaddlers. They sell them in cotton for summer and fleece for winter. Really, who wants to fuck around with tying up blankets over and over? We still use them as ’sleep sacks’, without putting her hands in. Don’t be surprised when, no matter how tight you wrap it, baby arms are out after like 10 minutes. Apparently, Houdini is busy in heaven, teaching babies how to extricate themselves from… EVERYTHING - shoes, clothes, swaddling, diapers, etc!
2. A baby swing like this one. Without this sucker, I would not have any hair right now. That said, my brother’s baby hated his and never used it. Again, got mine on craigslist for like 20 bucks.
3. SIDS monitor. As much peace of mind as possible. We have the Angelcare, which works great. Craigslist, 50 bucks.
4. Bjorn travel crib. Because we travel a lot. If you don’t travel, don’t sweat it. Very expensive, but only thing like it on the market. You can take it literally everywhere. Packs small and light, better than hauling around the pack n play. You’ll be tempted by these cute little tents for travel, but as soon as baby is crawling you can’t use them anymore. The travel crib will last longer.
Also, for momma…
PRACTICAL BOOBIES (Breastfeeding):
1. Buy Nursing Mother’s Companion and read it BEFORE you have the baby. I ended up using it as troubleshooting guide quite a bit, but wished I knew everything beforehand.
2. Go see a FEMALE DERMATOLOGIST for your nipple troubles (you will have them - we ALL do). OBs and Midwives are great for pregnancy and birth, but totally useless for nipple troubles. I had everything: clogged ducts, yeast infections, bacterial infections, blisters, bleeding… I don’t want to scare anybody, just let you know - whatever seems terrifying at the time is going to be okay; unless you’re the luckiest woman on earth, it’s not easy (your mom who “had not trouble at all!” will slowly start remembering her troubles as yours come up). I guarantee that you will, at some point, seriously consider severing your boobs from your body, but you’ll get through it.
3. Don’t let anybody talk you into nursing bras until you’ve been nursing for a couple of weeks- another thing you’ll need to size up a few times. I ended up giving up bras completely and living in these for the first four months.