Thursday, January 31, 2013

Baby Essentials: The things we couldn't live without

Babies seem to come in cycles: you go awhile with no babies around and then suddenly everyone you know is pregnant all at the same time!  Inspired by four friends and my sister-in-law who are all expecting in the coming weeks & months, I've been thinking about the things we couldn't have lived without in the first year.  They're the things I recommend over & over to new moms & friends because they WORKED for us.  And I'd rather hear from someone I KNOW about something that worked for them, than to randomly try the millions of baby products out there.  Most of these are things fellow mamas shared with me, and I'm SO grateful!!  Here ya go...

Lansinoh Lanolin Ointment.  This stuff works wonders in those first few weeks of nursing.  No need to wipe it off before nursing, and I'd especially slather it on before shower-time- ooooh, that can be painful!  The tube lasts forever, I still have the first one I bought.  Totally worth the money!

Poke Root.  I was introduced to this at a mommy & me group, THANK GOODNESS!  It has been a lifesaver.  For whatever reason, I was really prone to clogged ducts while nursing.  They're super painful and a little scary/dangerous because they can turn into mastitis or an abscess really quickly.  When all else failed, a couple drops of poke root in a little water cleared the clog/lump within a few hours!  I'd much rather try something natural than resort to antibiotics. And you literally need a couple DROPS so the bottle lasts forever.  (Note, I didn't use the brand above, I used Blessed Herbs purchased at a local health store, but I'm sure they're all about the same.  Read here for more info about Poke Root and how it works.)

White Noise.  After those first few awesome weeks when the little one sleeps anytime, anywhere, at the drop of a hat, real life sets in.  And they start to cry.  All of the time.  For no reason.  Oh, was that just us?  We tried everything, and a few folks asked if we tried white noise, but I dumbly thought that SHUSH-ing loudly in her ear would have the same effect.  No.  In desperation we downloaded a free white noise app on our phones, and within seconds, yes SECONDS, babygirl was quiet, and then asleep.  We called it our baby crack.  It was a miracle.  So you must do two things: 1, download an app for your phone to use while you're out & about and can then slip into the baby carrier when you're driving, shopping, whatever.  Yes, you will lose your phone, but you won't care.  and 2, buy a machine to use at nap & bedtime.  Not a teddy bear or some other stuffed gimmick with white noise that plays for 15 minutes, an actual machine.  We take ours when we travel and it instantly creates the familiar sleeping atmosphere from home.  And it blocks out all sorts of other background noise.  Oh, and you're gonna want to CRANK up the volume.  The louder, the better.  It's real loud in the womb, they're used to it.

Boppy.  If you're into nursing for the long haul, Boppy makes life 10 times easier.  I was given an older hand-me-down and got a new one at my babyshower.  This worked out perfectly because one stayed upstairs and one downstairs! The older one is actually my favorite because the pillow is a lot firmer than the newer one, but either way, it makes positioning baby while nursing so much easier.

Miracle Blanket.  It's no mistake that the word "miracle" is in the name of this product!  We continued to swaddle babygirl after she came home from the hospital- we'd read lots of good stuff about swaddling, and she slept well while swaddled, so we kept it up.  We noticed she didn't sleep as well when she wasn't swaddled tightly, so we started perfecting our swaddle skills.  Then we gave up on the blankets and switched to the ready-made velcro swaddles.  They were great for a while, but babygirl started getting stronger and busting out of them.  And then waking up crying. Every parent knows you'll do anything for better sleep, so when a friend recommended the Miracle Blanket, we gave it a try.  MIRACULOUS! Now I have to say the hubs had trouble getting babygirl as tight as she needed to be in this thing because there are several steps.  But if you do it right, they are like a little burrito, and they're not getting out! Which results in amazing & awesome sleep.  Of course after a while I started to stress about "breaking her from the swaddle" and what happens when she starts rolling over- new moms will find 1,001 things to stress over.  Amazingly, we swaddled til babygirl was 6 months old.  In the same week she started rolling over in her sleep she also got strong enough to bust out of the Miracle Blanket, so we took that as our cue to stop the swaddle.  We quit cold turkey, and she was fine.  No biggie.  Oh, and for the record, I don't believe those parents who say their 1 week old baby "doesn't like" to be swaddled.  I think they're lazy and don't know how to swaddle properly.  Just my opinion, lol.

Baby Papasan Chair.  This was babygirl's favorite piece of equipment.  She wasn't a fan of the swing or any other contraptions, but she loved to chill in her papasan chair.  We took off one of the cushions of our couch and set the chair on the couch so she could lounge with us (probably not recommended in case baby falls off, but we did it with success!).  We also traveled with it a few times and it travels great because the legs fold flat.  Nothing revolutionary here, different babies will like different equipment, but our girl liked this one.

NoseFrida.  The first time your baby has a stuffy nose and you try to use that blue nasal aspirator to clear the snot, you realize how USELESS those things are!!  You also realize that you'll now do ANYTHING it takes to make your baby feel better, including using a crazy contraption that involves SUCKING the snot out.  Yes, sucking it out with your mouth.  But don't worry, there's a filter and a long tube and none of that snot is gonna reach your mouth, even though you will freak out that it will.  But then you use it and realize how well it works, and you stop freaking out about snot touching your mouth, and you get excited about how much snot gets sucked out!  Might not be for the squeamish, but used in conjunction with saline spray, this will clear snot & boogers like gangbusters!

Amber Teething Necklace.  This is one of my most recommended items, I can't say enough about this necklace, for us it has been AMAZING.  Babygirl started teething early, at 4.5 months.  Those first two teeth were a nightmare: tons of crying, fussiness, drooling, low fever, lost sleep, chewing on everything (including while nursing- OUCH!).  I was desperate and was reading everything trying to find relief.  I heard about amber teething necklaces, and figured for $20 we had nothing to lose- if it didn't work it would look cute.  The first week I was super paranoid and would move the necklace to babygirl's ankle when she slept, but I quickly realized she was perfectly fine, and so it stayed in place on her neck 24/7.  At 16 months she now has 16 teeth, and the only 2 that were difficult were those first two.  I totally attribute it to the necklace after seeing what happened with the first 2.  She's had no drooling, no pain and no fussiness. Often she'd cut teeth without us even realizing until they were already through!  You can read more about how amber teething necklaces work here.  They're NOT for chewing on, it's the properties in the amber when it warms against the skin that make them work!  (Note, we purchased from Art of the Cure at the link above, and they were great to work with, the screw on clasp has never come undone, we've been totally happy with it!)

Wubbanub.  We were like many first-time parents and said we weren't going to use a pacifier.  Then they gave babygirl a paci in the hospital, and we thought, meh, whatever!  She loved that hospital paci, and there was no trouble with nursing, so we really didn't care.  But dangit, that little paci was getting lost constantly.  And forget about driving and trying to reach back and find a dropped paci.  For Christmas (when babygirl was 3 months old) she received two Wubbanubs- BEST.GIFT.EVER.  We completely replaced all her paci's with those 2 "woobies" and a year later they're still going strong.  When she was littler they were much easier for her to grip and get into her mouth alone, and she can find them in her crib in the middle of the night without crying for us to get her paci.  They can be thrown in the washing machine, and have held up great after a year of washing.  And, now that we're getting close to cutting off the woobie entirely, we're hoping that since an animal is attached, she'll be happy with just the animal.  Fingers crossed.

Baby Bullet.  We were lucky enough to receive the entire Baby Bullet set as a gift, and it was invaluable.  I like to cook and had planned to try and make all of babygirl's food, and with the Baby Bullet that was totally possible and super easy.  I could make big batches of food and freeze them to use later.  I have no doubt it worked out cheaper than buying jarred food, and KNOWING it was healthier too made me feel so much better.  Unfortunately its use was shorter-lived than I would have liked- babygirl decided early on that she wanted to eat OUR food.  But, I'm thinking of trying out smoothies in it, and I don't see why that wouldn't work great!

So there you have it, the list of things we couldn't have lived without in the first year, or so.  Some of them were more critical than others, but all of them played a big part in making life just a bit easier and I would whole-heartedly recommend them to all my friends and new mamas!!  So did I miss anything??