(A couple of friends and I got together to make a blog called Perfectly Normal that is a little bit more specifically about parenting. This is a post that I originally wrote over there but I'm recycling it today because for some reason it's one of my favorites.)
With so many baby products on the market, if you're a pregnant mom there isn't enough time to sort through it all, let alone get to the store to buy it. Not to mention that most of us can't even afford half of it. Don't worry though, you aren't a bad mom if you don't have the latest and greatest of everything. Babies really don't need that many things.
Babies need: SLEEP.
No one tells you that during those first couple of weeks most babies wake up if they aren't being held. Don't feel bad or worry that if you hold your baby while she sleeps that you'll never get her into her crib. Hold her, and fix in your memory how it feels to kiss that sweet little innocent head while she sleeps. My most used piece of baby gear is our giant rocker/recliner. It reclines almost flat and the arms are supportive. I think I spent the first month sleeping in it with the baby on my chest.
Swaddled babies sleep longer because they can't flail around and do that random face smacking thing. I think they feel safer and it's a more familiar feel to them to be swaddled. People tell me their babies don't like being swaddled or they can get out of the swaddle. Well, your baby can't get out of this blanket, and I personally believe that babies do like it. Too bad we can't ask the babies and settle this once and for all. My advice though? Give swaddling a chance.
Babies need: NOURISHMENT.
If Cylons can do it so can you!
Your body provides custom, free, portable, sterile, CUTELY PACKAGED meals for your baby. I know some babies don't take to it right at first, but give it a chance and get help if it doesn't come naturally. This is something most babies can learn if you help them, and it's so worth it.
Some frivolous but valid reasons to breastfeed:
Ease (lazy factor): You don't even have to get up.
Mommy brain: When you forget the diaper bag, you've still got food for the baby.
Time: You don't need to wash or mix bottles, or shop for formula.
Sleep: After a month or so you can feed your baby while you BOTH sleep. I swear.
If you are scared of trying to go back to work and pump, you don't have to be. Once your milk is well established you can have someone give your baby formula during the day and still breastfeed in the evening, during the night and in the morning. Your body and your baby will adjust.
Babies need: A HAPPY MOM.
You spend so much time getting things ready for when baby comes home from the hospital, get a few things ready for yourself too. Good pads and granny panties, one-handed snacks like frozen yogurt, cheese, muffins, granola bars and fruit - prunes, you'll need 'em. :) Lansinoh nursing pads and comfy clothes. Bring home that big water bottle from the hospital, and grab an extra squirt bottle too (it's great to keep at the changing table to squirt on washcloths for baby wipes).
A few other favorite baby things are:
Skwish toy. If I could only have one toy for my baby, this would be it.
It has wooden balls connected by rubber bands. It makes a nice sound, is fun to chew on, is easy to hold onto, and doesn't put out an eye when the baby smacks himself with it.
A Snap and Go stroller . It's $60ish and you just snap your baby carseat in and baby faces you. I LOVE it. When they grow out of that, follow it up with the 8 lb. $100 Maclaren Volo stroller that folds down so tiny you can fit it anywhere, plus it has a strap so you can carry it over your shoulder when your 2 year old insists in walking "my SELF." It doesn't recline, so you can upgrade to a slightly heavier stroller if reclining is important to you. (I could just eat up that chocolate color. NUM NUM NUM!)
Yes, it might be kind of tough when they're 2 or 3 and it's time to give them up. But really, isn't it worth a few sad nights if you can have something for a few YEARS that will calm them down almost instantly? We all have our own little dirty secret comforts. Let your baby have a binky. It doesn't make you a bad parent.
Our first and favorite game is changing diaper KICK time. I take the diaper off and the baby starts kicking. I start giggling, and the baby starts laughing and kicking harder. Sooo much fun. Sometimes I forget, but then I'll be changing a diaper and the baby will kick both legs so straight and then look me in the eye and laugh.
Journaling. Yes, that belongs on this list, because if you don't write about your babies now, you will forget. Write about how they smell and what silly noise they made and how it feels to hold them and how you felt the first time your baby smiled a real smile at you. You think you can't forget it, but you will. If you don't have time for a journal, print out these beautiful pages and make notes like, "She laughed at the cat today and tried to grab his tail." Or, "During his nap his lips were moving. I wonder if he dreams about me."
Good luck to you all. Every family is different, and you know (or will discover) the right things for your baby. Just follow their lead and don't let all the baby products get between you and your little one.
Also: Sunshine Kids booster seat
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