I wrote this post last year but never got around to posting it. But since I'm going to be an AUNT again I decided that it's time to give Uncle Dave and Auntie Karen the benefits of our hard won experience. Okay, so we're all pretty excited about having more BABIES in the family. Plus it's a good excuse to post some cute but previously unpublished baby pictures.
Many of my friends are having babies in the coming days / months and given our now extensive (ha! one year can you believe it!) experience we thought we would share some thoughts on what items we've found useful so far.
A car seat. We started with a Graco travel system which I was pretty happy with. The stroller folds really small and is light enough for me to get in and out of the car on my own. An infant seat is useful for bringing the baby into the house without waking them up, but you shouldn't be letting baby sleep in the carseat unattended or for long due to the danger of positional asphixiation; they aren't designed for that apparently. More useful is the ability to bring baby in and out of the car without exposure to cold (babies shouldn't wear snowsuits in a carseat). You can get nifty inserts for the seats which eliminate fussing with blankets; we were given one shortly before Elizabeth outgrew her seat and I wished we had one from the start. The other option is to skip the infant version and go directly to the booster that you'll need anyway. If you don't have winter I would recommend this route.
Diapers. We cloth diaper and part-time EC and I highly recommend both. That said, I recommend having several packages of newborn disposables around even if you aren't planning to use them. You can always donate them to someone else. If you have a small baby, chances are they aren't going to fit in your cloth diapers to start properly. If the diapers don't fit properly, you might not like how they work. Everyone says having a baby is life-changing but you don't know how you'll cope or quite how life-changing until you've experienced it. We were more overwhelmed than expected and had trouble establishing laundry routines. Elizabeth also went through twice as many cloth diapers as "normal", so although we bought a "two day supply" (24 prefolds and 7 covers), we had to do laundry every day for a while. Once we (sort of) got over the shock of being parents and were ready to cloth diaper, we were really happy to have disposables as backup for those times when we screwed up and ran out of diapers. At first we did laundry whenever we were running low on diapers. Now we do whenever the diaper bag is starting to get smelly. That's a big advantage to cloth; we never have to wait for garbage day to get rid of anything stinky! We have two different kinds of covers, which have slightly different weight ranges (something we've found useful). I also have to concur with the general comment that prefolds are pretty handy to have around. I used them extensively in those first few months when I was spraying the countryside with milk.
Cloth Wipes. Although we purchased a sample pack of all kinds of different fabric wipes, we found that old cotton clothing (t-shirts, pjs) cut up into squares worked much better and this is free. I'm not a big fan of disposable wipes; they tend to dry out and they make the garbage smelly. Brendan liked the purchased fabric wipes as spit up cloths (cuter to whip out in public)!
Diaper disposal. The few weeks we used disposables we just threw them directly in the garbage, but I am seriously thrilled we don't have to keep diapers around for a week anymore due to using cloth. We use a Wahmies diaper pail liner wetbag which is great. You throw the diapers into the bag (even though it's called a "wetbag", no water is involved), and when you are ready to do the laundry you throw the bag and all into the washing machine. We have two of these, so that we have one to use while the other is in the laundry.
Diaper bag. You need something to carry all your baby gear but it doesn't need to be fancy. Ideally it has a portable changing mat included. Ours is a fantastic knapsack which we received free from Nestlé. It's handy because I can sling it over the handles of our stroller. Yes, I know you aren't supposed to do that but I'm really not worried about overbalancing the stroller with our diaper bag.
Mattress Cover. This is essential if you are blessed with an abundant supply of breastmilk, or if you co-sleep at all. Statistically, most people bring their babies into bed with them at least once in a while. We started with the cheapest vinyl cover you could buy. It was really stinky at first and we spent two days allowing it to offgas before we could even contemplate it in our room. Vinyl isn't breathable so you end up a bit sweaty (and especially your baby will end up sweaty if left in the same place too long). We have no idea whether this is normal but the vinyl ended up getting kind of hard in places. Eventually Brendan accidentally leaned on one of these places and it popped with a loud bang. We popped our mattress cover into tiny fragments on both sides until we had to replace it. So what I'm saying is get an extremely finely woven polyester mattress cover instead. It's not waterproof, but it's good enough and it will last a lot longer.
Adult Diapers. At least four different people recommended these to me before I had Elizabeth on the grounds that they are great when your water breaks and not bad for after the delivery. I can attest to them being excellent for after a c-section as well. I found regular underwear extremely uncomfortable (especially true if you wear bikini cut underwear!) for a couple of weeks - the diapers worked much better. The hospital staff commented on what a good idea they were; it's apparently not something they see that often.
Clothing. It's really tempting to buy a lot of baby clothing but we've found there's tendency for that stuff to just show up, so we recommend getting only the minimum until after baby is born. You can always go cute clothes shopping later if you need to. We only had two outfits the week before Elizabeth was born but she's never been in danger of going naked. Every kid is so different; I heard about one lady who had onesies labelled with the day of the week (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and so on) and was shocked to go through all of them in a single day. Elizabeth never generated laundry at that rate. We did have a huge increase in laundry, but it was all mine. I was still going through several PJ tops every night for the first fourteen months!
Slings. Babywearing is trendy at the moment for good reason. I recommend you try out slings before spending lots of money on one. Keep in mind that some slings will be more useful than others at different stages. I loved our wrap in the summer and fall, but now that Elizabeth is mobile it's less useful. I've been using our Amauti more instead.
Diaper changing location. You really don't need to spend several hundred dollars on a special piece of furniture for changing, but don't leave this decision until you come home from the hospital like we did. We figured we could use the floor not realizing that I would be completely and utterly unable to bend down to the floor for weeks and weeks. Even if you don't have a c-section, your back will appreciate having a surface that doesn't require you to bend down, since you'll probably use this a lot. We just used a small table that we used to have in the hall. We didn't even bother with a diaper changing pad; instead using old towels on top of waterproof pads we were told to get by our midwives when planning a home birth. The advantage of towels instead of a diaper changing pad is that cleanup is much faster as you can throw the towel in the laundry if it gets dirty. Need old towels? We have a lifetime supply.
A crib. We planned to co-sleep but decided not to forgo the crib altogether just in case. I recommend having the option to change your mind about parenting decisions like that, especially after hearing from my mother-in-law who was completely and utterly unable to sleep with her babies in the same room. The best advice I ever heard about sleep is that the goal is for you and baby to both sleep well. We took the side off our crib and strapped it to the bed - and honestly it's been a great strategy for us. If you want to try natural infant hygiene, it really (really!) helps to have the baby in the same room as you.
Baby Hygiene supplies. Nail scissors, baby shampoo, nose sucker and q-tips. There's a reason this stuff is on everyone's must have list.
Breastfeeding care kit. Lansinoh, breast pads of some sort. I'd personally have a selection of breast pads including something like Lilypadz; that's because I was a bit traumatized by the puddles. There's no predicting what volume of milk you'll put out in advance, so being prepared.
That's it for the moment - Happy baby making!