Next up, from Ally: "I'd enjoy reading advice you have re: how to prepare for your first newborn, e.g. what you should really buy (and shouldn't), etc."
What you should and shouldn't buy for a newborn is an interesting topic because it differs so much from person to person. I did so much product research before Claire was born -- studied "Consumer Reports' Best Baby Products," analyzed friends' baby registries, and asked a million questions of more experienced moms. I had fun with it, but in retrospect I think it was fairly useless. Babies are so individual, and what works for one won't necessarily work for another one. As such, "must buy" lists are almost entirely subjective.
My friend Sonya wrote just such a post recently: "Top 10 Baby Gifts." We have pretty similar parenting philosophies, but there was not a lot of overlap between which products she considers essential and which ones I do. Not only that, but I could create entirely different lists for Claire and Evan, who were very different babies.
I think that's enough disclaimers. Here are some of my thoughts on baby products.
In general: - Borrow or buy used whenever you can. There's no point buying a shiny new bouncer; you might have a baby like Evan who hates it. Even if you have a baby like Claire who loves it, it won't be shiny and new for long, so why pay more?
- Buy gender-neutral products! Unless you're sure you'd be OK with your son sitting in a pink high chair (or you're willing to potentially buy two of everything). It can be surprisingly difficult to find gender-neutral options, but the effort will pay off when you have a second kid and it's the opposite sex of your first.
Recommended: - Pack-and-plays, or "play yards," are essential for traveling with kids -- even if that just means going to a friend's house during naptime. Buy the cheapest, lightest one that you can. We have two of them: an expensive Chicco with lots of bells and whistles, and a cheaper Graco. Anytime we need only one, we use the Graco. It's lighter to carry, easier to set up and just as comfy for a sleeping baby.
- We used the Bumbo baby seat all the time, especially for Claire. Around the 4- to 6-month mark, babies love to sit up and look around, but they can't quite do it by themselves and bouncers are too reclined to help. The Bumbo helps them sit upright and happily check out the scene.
- We love the Sony Baby Call monitor. It has great battery life, great range and lots of channels to minimize interference. Best of all, it has a voice-activation feature so you hear silence (not static) when all's quiet in the baby's room.
- We never used any kind of swaddling blankets with Claire, but I don't know what we would have done without the Swaddle Me blanket for Evan. It is a lifesaver for babies who like to flail their arms and get themselves worked up when they're supposed to be falling asleep.
- I probably would have found it impossible to justify buying the pricey Medela Pump in Style breast pump, but I was lucky enough to borrow one for both kids (borrowing these is not officially recommended). In retrospect I think it would have been worth the splurge. It worked very well -- fast and efficient -- and except for the fact that it sometimes spoke to me I had no complaints.
- If you're going to use disposable diapers even occasionally, you're probably going to want something more than a regular trash can for dirty diapers. We have a Diaper Dekor (the smaller size, because we use cloth diapers about half the time) and have been really happy with it. It keeps odors at bay, it's simple to empty, and buying bag refills is easy.
- It seems like most babies love either their bouncer (Claire) or their swing (Evan). With Claire, we could have skipped the swing altogether. But I think most people would find a bouncer to be useful for the first few months, if only for keeping an eye on your baby while you shower. They're light and portable; when Claire was very young we sometimes even used it as a traveling bed. She also sometimes napped in it outdoors when she was still a newborn, and we used a handy-dandy netted bouncer cover to keep bugs off of her (it was summertime).
- When we were shopping for high chairs the Fisher-Price Space Saver high chair seemed like the obvious choice. We now have two of them and we still don't understand why they aren't more common. They attach onto a dining chair instead of replacing one (which means you don't have a displaced chair to store) and otherwise work just like any other high chair. I think they transition to a booster seat for toddlers, but Claire went straight to a regular chair from hers. Whatever high chair you go with, don't spend much money on it. They. Get. Gross.
- We didn't use a noise machine with Claire, although she did have an air filter in her room that served that purpose if I knew the house was going to be noisy while she was sleeping. We also never used a noise machine with Evan -- until we moved to this house. Which I love, but the walls are thin, the floors creak and Claire's room is directly beneath Evan's. It only took a couple of days before I realized noise machines were not going to be optional here. After some online research I bought two Marpac Sleepmate 580As and they are fantastic. They provide plain old white noise, not lullabies or heartbeats or anything else that noise machines are prone to provide. They run on household electricity, not batteries., and they're small, lightweight and portable. They don't block all noise, but they take the edge off without being obnoxiously loud. Love these.
Overrated: - My Brest Friend and other nursing pillows. The sweet friend who sent me a Brest Friend included a note saying she wouldn't have survived without hers. I found it to be bulky and not needed.
- Baby Bjorn and similar carriers. I thought I would love the Bjorn, and I did use it sometimes for Claire, but overall I thought it was more trouble than it was worth for quick errands. However, these are easy to find used, so I definitely recommend giving them a shot.
- Baby-wipe warmers, baby-food makers, pacifier sanitizers, etc. If it seems over-the-top, it probably is.
- Most store-bought toys, at least in the first year of life (and, I would argue, beyond). This is so cliche, but it's true: Babies are very happy exploring your kitchen cabinets, dumping rocks from one measuring cup to another, playing with anything that rolls or bounces, examining the dust on your floor, etc. You don't need many toys with batteries. Of course, I am in favor of accumulating as many books as you can get your hands on. :)
- Most baby-proofing items. We do have outlet protectors in most of our outlets and a baby gate a few steps up on the stairs (so Evan can practice climbing without risking serious injury). We have never babyproofed door knobs, cabinets, etc. (Really dangerous stuff we put far out of reach; undangerous but gross stuff, like toilets and trash, or things we don't want ruined, like unread magazines and laptops, we teach the kids not to play with. They have fairly free reign over most of the rest of the house.)
I know this is not nearly comprehensive. What products am I leaving out? How different are my "must haves" from yours?