Baby Gear – A Veteran Mom’s  Essentials

It’s no secret at this point – we’ll be having our sixth (and probably last) child in a few short months.  This is one of the big reasons I have been busily dejunking my house.  I need some order if I’m going to survive!

After going through the first categories (Clothes, Books, and Papers), I will admit I hit a wall.  My housework had fallen by the wayside as I tackled the categories, and people were running out of underwear and hot meals.  

But I also wasn’t sure where to focus next.  “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” calls for the next project to be “Komono,” meaning miscellany…but that meant almost everything else in the house!

I worked on a small project here or there.  I tried to work on the sub-categories she listed, but it just didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere.  I went through my CDs, all 8 of them.  I now have three. 

I felt like I had lost my drive and direction.  So I focused on getting caught up on the laundry, and just putting everything back in the home I had assigned.  

Each day I would go through and “reclaim” the areas I had already done.  Books would be returned to the shelves, papers to their pile to be gone through, and clothes washed and folded.  Pretty soon, the house was looking quite neat on a daily basis.  I felt like I should be moving on. Instead of continuing in order, I decided to work on what I felt motivated by – baby stuff!

All of the stuff for our upcoming child, in one glorious pile.
Thanks to the generosity of my cousin, my room had become baby central.  Clothes, cloth diapers, and all other baby paraphernalia lined every wall in our room.

After collecting all of it, I sat down and made a list.  Not of what we had, but what I knew I needed.  See, I’ve learned something after five kids: you don’t need much. Certainly not this much!

 So I’d like to share my must have list, after almost a decade straight of having little people ruling my life.  Here are the only items I’ve found I really need for taking care of a newborn:

  1. Carrier – My carrier has been indispensable.  I’ve tried out at least 6 different ones, and settled on an Ergo.  Because of the weight distribution to the hips, I can easily carry around the 20 month old if I need to.  A carrier allows you to carry a fussy baby and still have your hands free to get something done, or leaves your stroller free for the next oldest sibling.  Most importantly, it keeps baby close for bonding with you.  I’ve also found strangers are much less willing to get in my baby’s face when he or she is in a carrier, as opposed to a car seat or stroller (a definite pet peeve of mine).
  2. Diaper bag – This might seem obvious, but save yourself some money on all the other trinkets you might have purchased and use it to buy a bag you love. This is your workhorse, and you will carry it around with you daily for at least a year or two.  It took me 5 kids to finally figure this out!  I splurged on a Matt and Nat diaper bag, so it looks like a purse and I can just keep using it indefinitely.
  3. Car seat – Another obvious must.  We prefer one with a detachable base, so you can carry the baby in the house without waking them up if they are taking a nap.
  4. Clothes – Don’t go overboard!  I see so many awesome clothes at garage sales and second hand stores that were worn only once before they were outgrown, because they had so many.  I stick to a handful of outfits and bodysuits, and keep a couple spare onesies on hand in case of a laundry emergency.  Shy away from investing in many small clothes, since I’ve heard many moms that either skip the newborn size entirely, or zoom through it in several weeks.  And keep in mind that people will want to give you gifts!  In terms of particulars, I’ve gotten to the point where I only buy long sleeve shirts with the fold over hand covers.  They work much better than the mittens and preventing your newborn from scratching her face up.  And I skip on shoes until the child is walking, usually around shoe size 5.  Baby shoes are cute, but that’s all.
  5. Blankets – I swear by wrapping blankets.  I have never tried the commercial swaddling blankets, but I sewed some simple ones out of flannel, and they have worked wonders.  They are not a cure all, but I’ve found that they help babies sleep better and longer, and be less fussy.  I aim for 3-4, so I have a spare if a diaper leaks at 3 am.  They double as nursing covers.  I also keep one or two heavier blankets for warmth, and for tummy time on the floor.  So it’s a plus if they are a little padded or have an interesting design.
  6. Toys – This is more applicable to the 3-9 month range.  My basic toys: one rattle that is small enough to be grasped by the tiny hands of a 3 month old, one toy that will roll (such as a ball that jingles), a small soft lovey, something black and white with strong contrast, and a teething toy of some sort.
  7. Diapers – We have tried cloth and disposable.  It’s easy to get sucked into the idea of saving money with cloth, only to pay for expensive cloth diapers and then switch to disposables when you are sleep deprived and overwhelmed.  Just be warned, it happens.  You can do quite a bit of research on this topic, and there are pros and cons to each.  I won’t judge whatever you chose!  I’m picky about the brand of disposable diapers – I prefer Pampers up to size 2, particularly the Swaddlers with the indicator line.  My second choice would be the Costco brand. At size three I find regular Huggies work better.  But I would encourage you to try different brands, as they have different fits, which will change how often your diaper leaks or blows out.  I’m thinking about doing cloth again though, since I already have everything.
  8. Swing – This is the one and only piece of baby gear that I have found to be a keeper.  We have tried everything, from exersaucers to Johny-jump ups, to play mats and bouncers, to boppys and more.  The only one I have left after 5 kids is the swing.  Everything else just didn’t merit the space it took up.  Swings have come a long way in the last ten years.  My electronically gifted father had to alter my first swing to plug in to the wall so we could stop paying a fortune for D batteries.  Now most of the swings are sold with a plug (and you definitely want one).  We have Fisher Price papasan swing we love.  Honestly, I could get by without it if I needed to, but I find it helpful, especially in the first few months.  By the time the baby can roll over and sit up, the swing’s usefulness is pretty much over.
  9. A crib – We have used the same crib for all six kids.  I would maybe recommend a teething guard, but since mine is already decorated in teeth marks, I haven’t bothered.  I’ve also found crib sets to be a waste, since specialists recommend removing such items to reduce the risk of SIDS.  The bumpers never prevented my kids from getting a limb stuck between the bars, but helped them get leverage to catapult themselves out once they could stand.  So I just stick with sheets and a mattress protector.

And that’s it!  I have tried, and discarded, almost everything else on market.  If you’re thinking “But what about…,” no, we probably don’t have it.  I won’t even have a changing table this time.  It just ends up being a glorified storage unit.  I plan to put a changing pad on my dresser.  After the baby learns to roll over, I feel more comfortable changing them on a blanket on floor, anyway.

I feel like marketers love to prey on new moms and their hopes and fears, and exhaustion.  All your baby really needs is you.  No amount of gadgets will override that.  And seriously, you will survive without a wipe warmer!

The baby gear that remains after the purge.
After making the list, I was able to face my own growing pile and remember that I don’t need to be worried. I already know what I need!