We have a few things to do around the house to get ready for the Littlest Senge's arrival. We're thinking about a big girl bed to transition Alice out of the crib, and working on plans to improve storage and function in the nursery to make it work better as a shared space. I also need to sort through Alice's baby clothes and get the rest of our baby stuff ready for action again!
Since this isn't our first rodeo, we already have almost everything we need (except a way to cart around two kids at once) but I'm thinking about replacing a few pieces of our arsenal. Now that I know what I'm doing and our gear has some miles on it, I have a better idea of which items work well, what works for us and our home, and what can be improved upon. Plus, I now have 2+ years of mom/baby/nursery/gear blog-reading experience. I've been keeping my eye on all the things I didn't know about or that didn't exist yet on our first go round (and pinning it all here).
I thought I'd share some of the things that worked well for us when Alice was a baby, and some of the new items I'm thinking about. This is all stuff that we researched, registered for, received as gifts, or bought ourselves - none of these products were sponsored, and the opinions are all my own. Though I do a lot of research, I haven't personally tested or compared other varieties of these items. These have all worked really well for us (or at least for me). I can only give my opinion and experience, this things may not work at all for you and your little one!
These are my "can't live without them" favorites that I used and loved more than anything else, these are the exact things you'll find at our house.
1. Angel Care Movement Monitor: This monitor sounds an alarm if your baby stops breathing or moving (or climbs out of the crib). The hope is that the alarm will give you enough time to respond to your baby and awaken or revive them early enough to prevent SIDS (or choking, strangling, anything else awful that can happen while you aren't watching). There are plenty of reviews from parents who believe this saved their babies' lives. We haven't had any close calls, but I do think that even the single-beep warning alarm can be enough to awaken a baby enough to make sure they keep breathing. It was vital for my piece of mind and helped me feel confident in letting Alice learn to sleep by herself and self-soothe.
2. Video Baby Monitor - not as vital for baby's safety, but super useful and entertaining. This tool definitely helped practice le pause, since we were able to check on her remotely to assess her needs. It is especially great for "cry it out" and confined tantrum situations, we are able to make sure she was OK without having to interfere with and undermine our strategies. Plus, I almost always want to look at Alice and this way, she can have her peace and sleep and I can still be amused by her! AND I can take overhead photos of her various crazy sleeping positions without waking her, and that alone is priceless.
We started with a Summer Infant monitor that we weren't super impressed with. The night-time infrared camera broke just a few weeks ago and we ordered the Motorola monitor pictured above to replace it. I can't remember if this wasn't an option when we were first shopping, or we didn't want to spend that much, but we are way happier with it. I'd recommend spending a little more for a better quality monitor that you'll hopefully only have to buy once. We're planning to add another camera to cover Alice's toddler bed when she transitions, so we'll be able to zoom and pan in on everyone in the nursery!
I should also note that we live in a teeny tiny house and don't use either of these monitors for sound. We can hear when Alice is awake or upset. We travel with the Angel Care sensor pad and parent monitor and turn on the sound when we are out of earshot, like at my parents' house. The sound on the new video monitor is also way better than the old one, and now I like to listen in when Alice is squishing around and reading before bed, or when she wakes up. The other morning, she was singing our song about Eli; "baby guy, baby guy..." Hilarious.
3. Exercise Ball: I bought one for labor, on the recommendation of many books and websites. I used it for maybe 30 minutes during labor before I couldn't keep myself on it anymore. It really came in handy once we got home though. As a few books/sites mentioned, it was the perfect mechanism for soothing a fussy Alice. It was much less exhausting to bounce her on the ball than to walk and jiggle constantly, and it strengthened your core like crazy while you watched TV!
4. Sophie Giraffe on Amazon: Ok, we probably could have lived without this one. Alice didn't go crazy for Sophie like some kids apparently do, but it's just one of those things. You definitely have to get one (or five) if you have a giraffe-themed nursery!
5. Boppy Pillow on Amazon: I never tried any of the other pillows, but we loved our Boppy. I always used it for feeding when Alice was tiny, and we used it to prop her (and ourselves) up.
6. Ergo Baby Carrier on Amazon: We didn't get ours until Alice was about 6 months old, but it became a quick favorite. As an newbie expectant mama, the Moby wrap seemed like the most basic and accessible choice for a brand-new little one, and the others just seemed too intimidating with all the buckles and straps and newborn inserts. Turns out, the Ergo is super easy to use and super comfy for baby and wearer. I haven't tested any other carriers, and I have no need to!
Before I used it, I had no idea how the carrier + newborn insert would work for brand new babies. This time around, I definitely want to try out the newborn insert and use the Ergo in conjunction with the Moby. The Ergo is just a bit more streamlined and quick to use, better for more extensive activity when out and about, and can be easily adjusted from wearer to wearer, so switching off is quick and easy.
7. Kiddopotamus SwaddleMe: Swaddling worked beautifully for us and this was our favorite swaddling contraption. We used lightweight organic cotton in the warmer, summer months, and cozier fleece for the cooler, winter months. We called Alice our little pupa and loved how she would smile so big and pop her arms out for a nice big stretch when we unbundled her in the mornings.
8. Jogging Stroller - Baby Trend Expedition: I am really glad we opted for a jogging stroller. It's not the best or fanciest choice (BOB, I'm drooling on you), but I thought the Baby Trend was a great price (and the newer models come with mp3 speakers!). It was a good enough value that I would have wanted to buy it purely for the exercise factor if we'd chosen a different type of stroller. I'm personally partial to the sturdy and rugged ride with the single front wheel and air-inflated bike-style tires. Though I haven't done it as often as I would have liked, I enjoyed being able to take Alice along with me for some serious exercise.
9. Thirsties Diaper Covers: We used a diaper service until Alice was ten months old and then we bought a supply of about 100 cloth diapers from the service and started washing them at home. We haven't tried any other cloth diaper cover, but have been really happy with the Thirsties Duo Wraps with Velcro closures. We've kept a stock of about six covers in every size, with some overlapping periods (we're still using both the mediums and the larges with Alice right now). We tried one of the snap closures and didn't like it as well, though I'm interested in the snap/velcro hybrid.
Overall, the velcro kept the diapers on very well, and the Thirsties covers contained almost all of the mess, almost all of the time. We've had minimal wet outfits, just a few wet spots here and there, and virtually no blowouts (under 10, for sure).The velcro has deteriorated a bit over time, we may need to replace a few covers in each size. Otherwise, I think they are awesome. All in, we've probably spent about $350 on our own cloth diapers and we probably have to do laundry less often than the same investment in BumGenius (totally unscientific opinion). Diaper services generally cost the same or less than disposables, month to month, so I figure we've spent our diaper dollars pretty wisely. We'll probably stick to our own diapers from the beginning this time, but we haven't quite decided.
10. Moby Wrap: I LOVE the Moby Wrap. It was THE best for carrying around a tiny newborn. And when I realized I could wear my baby inside my house and actually get some things done, I felt like I'd just discovered the key to the universe. I'm sure that will come in exponentially more handy this time around, when we have an active two-year old underfoot as well. I might use the black one more often since the Littlest Senge will be a winter baby. I definitely recommend the lighter colors when using outdoors in warmer weather!
11. Ameda Gel Pads: My dear mother-in-law gave me a pair of these after I got home with Alice and they were the best thing that ever touched my skin. Even when all goes well, the first few weeks of breastfeeding is a pain like no other. But these, straight out of the fridge? Heaven. I will make sure to take a set to the hospital with me this time, and to have a few replacement sets on hand.
12. Medela Pump in Style: I went back to work when Alice was four months old, so a good pump was vital to our routine. This time, I'll make sure to pump from the very beginning, to build up my supply and my stock, so the Littlest Senge can practice bottles earlier than the week before I go back to work...
13. Baby Rocker Seat: Sometimes, you need a place to put your baby when you need to shower, pee, eat, get something done, or just give you and your baby a little space. We liked our Fisher Price model pictured above because it wasn't too plastic-y or garish, fit in with our decor relatively well, and was pretty low-profile.
14. Doorway Jumper: Once baby has more strength and motor control, it's great to have somewhere else to put them where they can strengthen their little muscles and burn off some energy. Bonus if they are contained and immobile, like in a doorway jumper! Alice loved her jumper; so much that we actually had to hide it recently because she's maxed out the weight limit but cries if she sees her jumper and we don't let her jump. We loved being able to park her in a doorway while we cooked or ate, or did any number of other non-baby-friendly activities, where she could amuse herself and still be part of the action.