Fair warning: the intro to this list is pretty lengthy. If you're just interested in the goods, scroll past all this writing. If you want to know a little more about me and how I came to my conclusions, then keep reading...
I had my first baby nine and half years ago. Time has flown! Now baby number four could come at any time. We are in waiting mode around here. All the necessities and wants are in place. The car seat is installed. Arrangements for the other three kids have been made. In short, things have gotten real.
During this waiting period I think back to a decade ago and all the stuff and things I had for that first baby. While my family, friends, and I were excited and engaged in a bit of overkill, I cherish those memories and the love and attention showered, emotionally and materially, upon my growing family. There is inevitably something special about the first baby, and everybody who loves you wants to participate in that exciting life first.
Thus, with The Boy I did the whole planned nursery and huge registry thing. At the time, for a first baby, I was still pretty practical and very conservative in what I asked for and bought for myself. And I was thankful and used everything we were given.
When I had Little Mama a short two-and-a-half years later, I still had and was using almost everything from The Boy's birth. The only things I really needed were new clothes, diapers, and hair bows.
By the way, when you find out you are having a girl, it seems dresses and hair bows become a necessity rather than a desire. I stocked up on and was lavished with those things from others. As it turns out, Little Mama has never liked wearing hair bows (still to this day...not even a pony tail elastic) and she threw up on every pretty dress she wore and stained it. And that's reality, folks.
Even though I still had all the contraptions, gadgets, and doodads from The Boy's birth, I realized the superfluousness of it all before Little Mama came along. But we had it, so we used it.
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Fast forward another four years. We wanted a third baby, so I never got rid of the big or (what I thought were) important items--the crib, stroller, Skip Hop Treetop Friends Activity Gym, other particular toys, swing, Bumbo seat, etc. I loaned out some other things, like the changing table, walker, high chair, bouncy seat, adorable grass drying rack, and a very specific comb and brush set I HAD to have with the expectation to get them back for baby number three.
Now you should know we didn't intend to put over four years between Little Mama and Tres. Our plan was about a three year gap. But three years came and went and no baby. You know when I found out I was pregnant with Tres? Right after we signed contracts to sell our 100% done, needs-no-work, 2,000+ square foot home and purchase one that is 1,100 square feet and (was) in need of a complete remodel. Needless to say, that downsize forced me to embrace minimalism in all areas of life--not just with baby goods.
With Tres we had no changing table, no crib, no special toys, no high chair, and probably no whatever-else-you-can-think-of. I didn't get back most of the items we loaned out. Everything was given to friends, donated, or in a few cases (where it was necessary) thrown away. We just didn't (and still don't) have room for all of it. In fact, even all the bows were given away. I discovered pretty early Tres wasn't going to wear them either. Apparently, my girls prefer the wild, unkempt look.
As I said before, I had already figured out before Little Mama all of that stuff wasn't necessary. However, our massive lifestyle change and the birth of Tres made it all the more glaring how much is NOT needed for a baby.
So, while we did get some new things for this baby, a lot of the preparation entailed going through some things I stored in the barn's attic and getting rid of even more items I realized we don't need. For example, we got rid of the changing table before Tres, but we kept the changing pad and put it on the dresser in our bedroom. It was a good idea and we used it. But you know what's even easier and takes up less space? Putting a small blanket on the end of the bed. Just lay baby on it, change the diaper, and put it away (if clean, of course).
With all of that said, I present the following list of things we have gotten for this baby (or would have gotten if we didn't already have them). Some of these items are true necessities and a few are this-is-my-last-baby wants. Whether you're just getting started with babies or in search of a gift for the mother-to-be in your life, perhaps this list can help you narrow down and find something you're looking for.
Obviously, this is a necessity. You can't legally transport a baby in a vehicle without a proper car seat, but the hospital won't even let you get out of their parking lot without one. In case you haven't had a baby, you should be aware that a nurse has to verify you have a proper car seat before they let you waltz out with your bundle of joy. So, yes, this is the mother of all necessities.
You may be thinking, "Don't you already have something suitable lying around?" And the answer is a big ol' nope. For one thing, that's a fairly large item to hang onto and keep stored away. And for another more important thing, car seats have expiration dates. You can find them stamped on the seat, in the manual that comes with the car seat, or by looking up any serial numbers with the manufacturer. Usually, the expiration date is six years from the date the car seat is made.
Here's an article from the Washington Post explaining why car seats expire. My main concern is a loss of integrity in the components due to time lapse and exposure to extreme temperatures.
With all that said, this is the new car seat that has recently installed in my vehicle:
We've used a Graco, carrier style car seat with all of our children. They are convenient for getting baby in and out of the car and we trust the brand. In fact, pretty much every person I know with children has started off with a Graco car seat of this kind.
I was graciously gifted the particular car seat shown above, and it's very nice (way nicer than anything my other kids have had). I probably wouldn't have spent that much on myself, but a great thing with this brand and style is that Graco offers seats in a range of prices and the starting price point is very affordable.
(For your information, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administation also recommends replacing car seats after a moderate to severe crash.)
This item is a total want. After already having three kids, I have an abundance of baby blankets that have been gifted to me. I don't really need more baby blankets. However, I have put all the other kids' blankets in their own personal storage container for when they're grown (maybe to use with their kids). Rather than stealing from another child's baby blanket stash, I thought it would be nice for this kid to have something all its own (everything else is a hand-me-down at this point). I bought two Little Unicorn brand muslin swaddle blankets, and that is the biggest splurge I've engaged in this pregnancy. Not to bad, eh?
I love the bison print and was originally going to get this set off Amazon:
Very cute. But I ran into a first-world problem after seeing the tropical leaf print in this set:
I wanted them both, but I don't need six blankets. I could not find them for sale individually on Amazon, so I went directly to Little Unicorn's site and struck gold. As you can see from this Instagram post, I now have one bison print and one tropical leaf print blanket.
I'm going to be honest, it was a big deal for me to pay as much for two blankets ($16 each) as I could have given for either set of three shown above. Plus, I had to pay shipping, which is something I NEVER do. I always meet the minimum for free shipping, but on Little Unicorn's site it is $75. I probably could have found that much I wanted if this was baby number one or two, but for baby four I couldn't justify it. I consoled myself by remembering this is the last baby, these are the only luxury items he/she will be getting, and they were purchased with the mindset of becoming a keepsake.
This is one of those items you don't know whether or not you need.
The Boy wouldn't take a pacifier; he sucked his thumb. Tres wouldn't take a pacifier and she didn't suck her thumb. Little Mama LOVED pacifiers, and they were a lifesaver. As much as she was addicted to the pacifier, we didn't have a terrible time taking it away when she got too old for it.
Because of my experiences, I am a pacifier fan, if the baby will take it. In the hopes he/she will, I needed to have a couple on hand. These are my favorite and this is what is on standby waiting to see if they'll be useful:
I like this particular style because it is all one piece. I don't have to worry about it coming apart in baby's mouth (which can happen with other styles) and there's no space for water or spit to get trapped and breed germs.
Speaking of pacifiers...
If this baby takes to them, I will need a pacifier clip. This isn't an immediate need, though. When they're tiny, babies can't throw pacifiers (and lose them). However, after a few months and some gross motor development, a pacifier clip can prevent finding multiple pacifiers under the seats of your car several years down the road.
Fortunately, this is an item I kept from my previous children. If pacifiers are in our future, we are prepared.
I actually have two clips. One is a fun print from Ulubulu called Happy Cappy.
The other clip is from a discontinued brand, so I can't suggest it. I've been pleased with both my clips. I mean, they held up. What else can I say?
If I had to get new clips today, I'd probably stick with the Ulubulu brand, as I'm familiar with it and they have a lot of cute prints. I've also gifted them to others without complaint.
In the introduction, I wrote that we don't have a crib. You may be wondering where the baby will sleep. My answer is in this:
And now you might be thinking, "But that isn't a bed!" I'm here to tell you that it can be.
Despite having a crib and large, comfy swing, both The Boy and Little Mama spent the first few weeks of their life sleeping in their car seats. It's what they preferred. I couldn't get them to sleep in anything else. Furthermore, the car seat was inclined, which eased some of my fears about them aspirating on spit up. Sleeping in the car seat was also convenient because I could easily move it from room to room and I was able to rock it if they needed soothing. The rocking from the swing was okay, but they clearly preferred the motion the car seat offered.
When Tres came along I purchased a smaller version of the popular Pack 'n Play (more on that in the next section). We had a full-size Pack 'n Play we used for traveling and baby-sitters for the previous two kiddos, but it was just too large for the house we now live in.
We used that nifty contraption for a lot of Tres's crib years, but the first large segment of her time with us was spent in a Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play on loan from a friend.
You can see from the image above, the position is very much like sitting in a car seat. Tres easily fell asleep in it. I liked it better than using the car seat because the rocking motion was smoother and, being higher than a car seat, it was better for putting beside our bed.
I gave it back to my friend once Tres outgrew it, and she gave it away before we knew this baby was in the works. Man!
I decided to buy our own Rock 'n Play since the one loaned to me was so successful, but as I was shopping around I found that funky looking chair rocker thing you saw up above. It's real name is the Infant-to-Toddler Rocker by Fisher-Price.
After seeing it, I went back and forth between it and the Rock 'n Play. I ultimately decided on the Infant-to-Toddler rocker as a compromise of needs and value. The rocker is able to be used for a longer period than the Rock 'n Play. It can rock, be stationary, and converts into a chair for when the baby is older. It's also cheaper than the Rock 'n Play. The only downside is that it isn't as tall as I would like. However, it is taller than just using a car seat. It gets good reviews and many of them were commenting on how well it served as a bedside sleeper. I am hopeful that I made the right decision.
(And thanks to my sister for gifting me this rocker! 'Cause I know she's going to read this!)
Small Play Yard
But where will the baby sleep when it outgrows the funky chair?
Simple. In the Graco Pack 'n Play Nimble Nook that I have kept since having Tres.
From the previous section, you know the Nimble Nook is just a slightly smaller version of the full-size Pack 'n Play. This was a great solution for our cramped quarters until Tres was ready for a real bed.
The Nimble Nook is not the smallest play yard on the market. There are multiple options, if you're looking for something more compact.
I apologize for not having any pictures of the items mentioned in this section. Amazon wasn't cooperating with me, but you can click on the underlined text links to see what I'm talking about.
This is definitely not a need, but it sure is handy. If you've ever formula fed a baby, I can hear you saying, "Amen!"
With The Boy I breastfed until month nine, and I made it to ten with Little Mama. Even during those breastfeeding months, I supplemented with formula from time to time. I was working full-time and sometimes the milk stash got low while they were with the sitter. You do what ya gotta do!
Formula dispensers are a great way to have several rations of formula ready to go and they make the whole prospect less messy when you're out and about.
I wasn't working outside the home by the time Tres came along, and we had a very successful breastfeeding experience. Even though she never received formula, the dispenser isn't a waste in cases like this. They make it easy to dole out pre-portioned sizes of dry snacks, like Cheerios, when you're out and baby is getting cranky.
If we didn't already have a dispenser, we would be getting one. As it so happens, I kept ours. It's very similar to this one:
If you work and you want to breast feed, a pump is a necessity. Even if you don't work, breast pumps are often very handy. Even though I was home with Tres, I pumped because I wanted to have some stored for occasions when I might be away at feeding time or to use in her cup after she was weaned. Breast milk is also great for mixing into baby cereals and for making homemade baby food.
With all my kids, I've used the Medela Pump In Style Double breast pump, and it's the one I'm using for this baby.
In between Little Mama and Tres I replaced the pump motor. I used it so much with the first two, I felt it had lost a bit of its power. I think this was natural given the mileage I put on it.
I have also replaced the tubing for hygienic reasons. If water or milk somehow gets in there, it is so hard to get the tubes clean and dry again (but I think that's true of all pumps). Otherwise, everything I got with my first pump kit purchase (shown above) is what is being used with this baby.
If you work or travel, I also highly recommend getting either the battery pack adapter or the vehicle power adapter to be able to use the pump when you're not near an outlet.
I've only used my car adapter once, but if you've ever sat in traffic filled with milk to the point of bursting, you know every penny I spent was worth it. No regrets. (And in case you're curious, I was the passenger, and I was covered with a blanket.)
I really like the Medela brand, and that theme will continue with the next couple of sections.
Milk Storage Bags
If you pump, you need a way to store your milk. I have tried all kinds of milk storage bags. My favorite, by far, are the ones from Medela.
They are sturdier than other kinds of storage bags, which makes them better able to stand up on their own. This, in turn, makes them easier to fill.
Being that the Medela bags are the best, they are also not the cheapest. A more cost effective second place option are the bags offered by Lansinoh.
I have no complaints about the Lansinoh bags. They are the top selling milk storage bag on Amazon, so they're proven winners. I just prefer the Medela bags. However, I am more likely to buy from Lansinoh.
The price difference between the two 100-count boxes shown above isn't that much on Amazon. But I don't buy my bags on Amazon most of the time. It usually happens that I realize I need more bags immediately. Even if Prime does manage to get my order to me in the promised two days, that would be one day too long. Therefore, I normally purchase my bags in-store. The in-store price difference is typically much greater than what I'm seeing online. As such, it's typically Lansinoh in my real-life cart.
Besides Medela and Lansinoh I just haven't liked any other bag I've used. Some are so flimsy it's very difficult to work with them.
Without going into too much detail and running the risk of over-sharing information, nursing bras for sleeping are a necessity in my book. Regular nursing bras are too restrictive and uncomfortable, and nursing bras designed for bed are much easier for middle-of-the-night feedings.
As with the milk storage bag situation above, I've tried a few different brands of sleep bras and Medela is my hands-down favorite. Here are the kind I've used in the past.
For this baby I was given some new bras. They are Medela, but they're a bit differet from the ones I already have (nylon versus cotton). I haven't used this newer kind yet, so I can't comment on their comfort, but I have high expectations.
Again, I'm sorry there are no pictures in this section. Their exclusion was purposeful this time. It just felt weird to be slapping pictures of women in bras onto my site. The underlined text links will take you to the bras mentioned, if you want to learn more or read reviews.
When breastfeeding, nipple cream is a necessity. This is especially true for first-time feeders. I'm not going to sugar coat it, breastfeeding is initially excruciating. I have found it less so with each child, but skin is skin. It takes a minute for it to get accustomed to constant irritation, and nipple cream (by the way, I hate that terminology, but that's what it is) helps to protect tender skin and make things a little easier.
I can only recall ever using the Medela
or Lansinoh creams.
I think I used Medela with The Boy because it either came with my pump or was given to me. With every other child I've used Lansinoh. They are all the same in my book and perform equally well.
Here's another necessity for breastfeeding.
If you're body produces milk, it will leak. I can attest that the time and amount is unpredictable from child to child. I knew someone who saturated a shirt while she was still pregnant (total surprise while out in public). Some hardly ever leak. And even if you leak when first getting your milk, it may not happen very much afterwards. It's a gamble, so you'll want nursing pads on hand. (By the way, this natural part of life is one thing that makes a sleeping bra a necessity.)
With The Boy I tried, for economical reasons, to use the washable and reusable kind. It just didn't work out. They wouldn't stay in place. I quickly replaced them with the disposable kind.
As with several other items on this list, I prefer either the Medela or Lansinoh brand pads. I find both have a sufficient amount of adhesive backing to stay put. Here's an instance, though, where I'd probably choose Lansinoh over Medela. I remember them shifting the least of all I've used.
Some disposable pads are completely worthless. When deciding what to get, I say check out how much adhesive backing the pad offers. The more, the better. One little strip isn't going to cut it.
Whether formula or breastfeeding, it's likely that bottles will be needed. I prefer glass bottles, as I don't have to worry about chemicals leaching into baby's milk.
Yes, I do use plastic breast milk storage bags (see above), but even though they are BPA-free I still worry about other chemicals that could be in them. Yet, for storing large amounts of milk in my freezer they are the most efficient option. Using glass bottles makes me feel a bit better about cutting out plastic where I practically can do so. Life is about balance, right?
I got some Gerber glass bottles with silicone sleeves when I was pregnant with The Boy. I can't find that set any longer, but here are a couple of alternatives I found that look equitable or even better than what I have.
For a new baby I like these Dr. Brown five ounce bottles:
For an older baby, these Lifefactory nine ounce bottles look promising:
When using bottles, a bottle brush is necessary to properly clean all those crevices. Not all bottle brushes are created equal.
When I was at Babies 'R Us creating my mega registry with The Boy, one of the store employees came up to me and recommended this particular bottle brush:
As she so kindly pointed out, it is more sanitary than brushes with sponges attached to them and those sponges have a tendency to come apart and fall off with repeated use. She also explained how the bristles of the brush shown above curve over the tip for being able to clean to the very bottom and edges of bottles.
She made sense. I got the recommended brush and have used it for all children since.
Not knowing whether we are having a boy or girl, the common sense approach to dressing our little surprise is to have a supply of plain, white onesies on hand. Even if we did know the baby's gender, white onesies are still a cheap, practical clothing solution.
In warm months, the short sleeve onesies are great for wearing on their own.
In cooler months, either the long or short sleeve version are perfect for layering.
We bought a stock of them with The Boy and have replenished as necessary with each subsequent child. And, you guys, the smell of a new baby wearing a freshly bleached and laundered onesie...That's something I'm looking forward to!
Newborn Essentials Kit
I have found that grabbing one of these new baby medicine kits is wonderful for having a little of this and that on hand for whatever mild problem might be ailing baby.
It sure beats having to run out to the store late a night to grab some fever reducer when baby is teething because you never thought to stock it before.
My doctor turned me onto these probiotic drops for soothing finicky baby tummies.
The benefits of probiotics are widely touted and these drops are designed to offer those same benefits to babies.
Notice the bottle refers to them as colic drops. According to our pediatrician, she's seen significant improvement in reflux, colic, and spitting up when babies use these drops. I don't know if there's any study to back that up. It's just something my particular doctor has observed. Obviously, you should discuss using these drops with your own doctor before administering them.
Even though I don't know if this baby will be colicky or have tummy troubles, I went ahead and bought a bottle because I believe probiotics are good whether the baby has an upset stomach or not.
Furthermore, I've read somearticles in the last few years discussing the affect of good gut health on good overall health and how babies delivered by caesarean section miss out on their first exposure to the good gut bacteria they would normally pick up through a vaginal birth. Here's an article from New Scientist providing more information. And here's another from Wellness Mama for good measure.
Though the articles referenced above imply vaginally born babies automatically receive good gut bacteria, that isn't always the case.
About 25% of women have Group B Streptococcus colonized in their vagina or rectum, and some articles put the percentage of pregnancies affected by Group B Strep as high as 40%. While Group B Strep is pretty harmless for healthy women, it can be harmful to newborns. Because of that, pregnant women who test positive for it will be administered IV antibiotics while in labor.
Do you know what those antibiotics do? Yep. They get rid of that good vaginal bacteria mama could have passed on to baby. This Science Daily article explains it better than I can. This article from The Bump also offers more information.
I'm not saying that probiotic drops for a baby will solve all the issues with gut bacteria I've presented, but I feel good having them on hand for my baby no matter what labor and delivery brings our way.
That concludes my wants and needs list for my last baby. What are your thoughts? I know several of the items I listed aren't true necessities, but have I missed something you think all new mamas and babies need? How about those items that you really don't need but sure liked having? Tell me about it in the comments!
I love lists. If you feel the same, see my Pinterest board for all gift guides and lists.