I've been meaning to write up my top ten list for baby's first year for awhile now. It's been gnawing at the back of my mind because when I was pregnant, all I wanted (besides to be able to see into the future) was a comprehensive, searchable database of everything that my mom and dad friends loved to use/have in their baby's first year. I wanted links to the products and short descriptions of why these things were life changing. I found a lot of the things below on my own and some were recommended, but all of these made bringing Ivan home, taking care of him and taking care of us, better.
1. Chicco Keyfit 30 - this infant carrier is the best ever. It came highly recommended by our friends N+A and it was the first thing I bought for Ivan. The day before he was born. Have I mentioned that we weren't incredibly prepared and that Ivan was a tad early? This car seat has great safety reviews, people reviews and is the easiest car sear I have ever used. Ivan left the hospital shy of 5 lbs. and the nurses told me that this was undoubtedly the best car seat for preemies (it is one of the few that says it is safe for babies as small as 4 lbs.). It has a padded insert that really got Ivan all comfy cozy in there. I'm also a huge fan of infant carriers - even though you can go the convertible car seat route - because you don't have to disturb sleeping babies, you just bring the car seat in, loosen the straps and baby keeps sleeping. Also, because it is so easy to snap into the base or seatbelt in - we'd leave the carrier with Ivan's care provider and Dad, Nana, Gramps, Grandma Ruby or me - anyone could pick him and the carrier up.
2. Medela Pump in Style - best breast pump for our lifestyle. I actually bought it off someone that used it for less than a month and just replaced the tubes. I began pumping hours after the c-section and continued every three hours, 24/7, for about two weeks. The hospital grade pumps in the NICU were awesome (= most efficient) and I came home to this pump, which was still pretty nice (nothing compares to the hospital pumps and they run about $800, I hear). What made it work so well is that everything fit in the tote bag, the side just opens (and creates a small counter) to plug into the pump and it came with the perfect cooler - fits four bottles with a contoured ice pack. I think this pump is the reason that I was able to nurse and provide Ivan with milk for as long as I did, so two thumbs up!
3. Dr. Browns Bottles - these might be more subjective, as these were the bottles that the NICU started us on and they worked, so why mess with a good thing? I'm finding it surprising that we didn't get the nipples and tops for the Medela bottles that I was pumping into, but the Dr. Browns made sense at the time. I have no idea if they worked better than any other bottles, but they are BPA free and with their fancy interior contraption, they claim to reduce the air that babies get, resulting in less gassy, fussy babies. Ivan wasn't gassy or fussy and we liked using these - even with the extra parts. They are also available with glass bottles, for those who want to steer clear of plastic. Oh, he also liked the nipples and didn't have any nipple confusion, so that was great.
4. Pack 'n Play - remember how we didn't have anything for Ivan when he came home? We actually borrowed a pack 'n play from Kami. She had this smaller version, which fit the smaller Ivan and fit in our bedroom really well. As he grew, we obtained three more regular sized pack 'n plays and they've been super useful. In our lifestyle, Ivan slept in a pack 'n play until he was six months old and we moved in with my parents, who still had my crib. Currently, my mom has one, C's mom has one and we have one to travel with (should have taken it to the recent wedding!). It's a portable napping station/containment device - so great!
5. Lily Padz - these should probably be number one, for me at least, because these let me be human while nursing. These made me comfortable doing anything while nursing and are worth every cent I spent on them. What are they? Adhesive silicone nursing pads. Like, they stick to you and create slight suction and you RARELY leak, like almost never. They don't slide around and they don't grow bacteria and they're reusable and they are the most wonderful thing ever. If I was going to the Oscars and wearing a backless dress, I'd wear these. Just saying. I actually wore them almost 24/7 for at least six months and then during the day until we stopped nursing. I want to buy stock in these.
6. Aden + Anais Muslin Swaddle Blankets - I originally wanted these because they were "cool." Even though they seemed overpriced. Sometimes I'm shallow. However, these have earned their rap as the go-to blanket. I'm not sure we ever even swaddled Ivan with these - he could conquer any swaddle. But as lightweight blankets, nursing covers and security blankets, these are so great! They come in a variety of patterns, are so soft (get softer with washing), always wash clean and white (yellow baby poop, anyone?), are huge (but not in the way) and breathable. For those type-A moms, they are perfectly square and fold beautifully. Here's the thing - Ivan is two and a half and one of these lives at grandma Ruby's, one at daycare and the other two here at home - we're still using them two and half years later and through all of the abuse, they are in great condition!
7. Changing table - disclaimer: this is not essential for everyone and I have friends that hate these. However, we found a changing table in the basement when we moved into our house (yes, we really used it) and C painted it glossy blue and it has been awesome. We've always had Ivan in a small space and usually this space has held a pack 'n play or crib, chest of drawers and his changing table. The changing table has held a changing pad (these covers or these are great!), wipes, diapers, burp cloths, bedding, blankets, extra wipes and diapers, shoes, socks, cloth diapers, etc. So, basically everything. We recently put it in storage at two and a half years, but I'm already missing the open storage and the pop of blue in Ivan's room.
8. Baby Bjorn and Ergo carriers - are these competitors? I have no idea. And I'm merely recommending the carriers that worked for us - really, babywearing (I think that is what it's called?) is awesome and I wish we would have utilized it even more. So, the Baby Bjorn was given to us and it was perfect for a tiny Ivan - the tall back offered neck support when Ivan was facing in and folded down when we faced him out as he grew. C actually used this the most as he was caring for Ivan during the days and redecking our 500 square foot porch. The Bjorn was so comfortable when Ivan was small and then we bought the Ergo so that we could also wear him on our backs. The Ergo is also very comfortable - especially with the supportive waist belt and a heavier child. I think we used this one up until Ivan was two, but I know that you can get an infant insert for tiny babies.
9. Swing, Vibrating Chair, Bouncer, Rocker - doesn't matter which one or two, it's just great to have somewhere safe to put the baby when you need to take a shower or put anything on the stove. There is a good chance that any given baby is going to prefer one over the other - Ivan could fall asleep in his swing, but didn't in his vibrating chair (liked it though). These seem a little short lived, so we liked to pick them up at garage sales. As Ivan got older, bouncers were great at letting his feet skim the floor, amusing him and keeping him contained - yay! At one time, we had a bouncer upstairs and downstairs because he loved them so much.
10. Baby Bullet - this might seem superfluous, we just found it very handy and useful. We're also fans of the Magic Bullet, so there is that. C made Ivan his first pureed meal - Thanksgiving, and he had turkey, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy blended together - it tasted great! So we continued feeding Ivan whatever we were eating, spices and all, blended to a consistency that he could manage. The other great thing about this set is the silicone bullet shaped tray you can freeze - we'd do this and pop the bullets out into a ziploc bag and then thaw them later to feed Ivan. This whole process was simple and created delicious, nutritious, quick meals for him.
11. Burp Cloths - you can use anything and you can buy the cheap ones at Walmart. Just don't. Get good, thick, absorbent, brightly colored burp cloths. They aren't disposable, they're washable and totally worth the cost. Fifteen brightly colored burp cloths lasted the entire time I needed them - rarely stained, washed great and because they were so bright, I never lost one!
It seems like that top eleven really tells the story of Ivan's first year! Hope it helps someone.