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I’m not truly a hoarder, but when it comes to things for my kids I may go a little overboard (or a lot overboard if you ask my husband). Our budget has always been tight, so as we had family and friends getting rid of items when they were done having kids I started to stock pile some things for our future family. We had plenty of just about everything for both of our first two children to the point of major excess. Now, as we look forward to welcoming our third child in the next few months I’ve started to weed through all the baby ‘stuff’ to determine what we really need and what I can get rid of! It’s time for momma to take back some control and get all this baby chaos organized. So I’ve gotten rid of the things we didn’t find helpful and paired down all the excess to only what we really need to keep for use with our newest little one. Some of these things seem obvious, but as I attended a baby shower last weekend for first time couple who apparently didn’t have much experience with kids I realized that I totally take for granted in what I know about kid’s stuff and certainly don’t take it lightly. Hopefully you find this list helpful, whether you have your first kid on the way or are a veteran parent! Please share your favorite items in the comment section as well so we can all find useful products together.
Young Baby Stage Items We Have and Love:
Place for feeding baby…
This one falls into the duh category for me, but I’ve found that there are certainly some things that can help the feeding process with a new baby go a little more smoothly. For ease of feeding the first few months, I recommend finding a spot in your home that is comfortable and gives your arms support. (Personal tip: I love our boppy pillow as it allowed me to keep baby close – when I nursed or when I bottle fed – and highly recommend investing in one.) Then call this your feeding area and leave some essentials close by. Burp cloths are essential, even if your baby isn’t a spitter and I always made sure I had a couple (I preferred the flannel kind) by my chair! I always enjoyed getting to spend a few minutes reading a book so I left that by my chair too.
If you plan to pump at all it is helpful to keep the pump and accessories in a bag or basket near your ‘pumping station’ too. Don’t forget that you’ll want a way to keep your pumped milk organized in the freezer – so be sure to get bags compatible with your pump and plan for a basket or bin to help make sure you are using the oldest bags first.
There are tons of bottles (and formula) on the market and everyone has an opinion, but find ones that works for you and stick with it! I rarely hand washed our bottles, which means I never used a bottle brush (at least on bottles) so for us a dishwasher basket has been a lifesaver – we actually own two and keep one at Grandma’s house too! Another must have at our house is our bottle warmer because it was a fast way to heat bottles from the fridge/freezer and I didn’t have to mess with the stove in the middle of the night (note it is not recommended to heat bottles in the microwave as it can heat unevenly and potentially burn baby). (Personal tip: both of our children were almost exclusively bottle fed and to make nights go fast I always prepped a bottle before I went to bed so I literally just had to heat-n-serve for those mid-night feedings!) Make sure you always test a drop on the inside of your wrist to ensure you aren’t burning baby – there were a couple times that my kid refused a bottle and I realized after a few minutes it was because the milk was too warm!!
Place for changing baby…
As my husband likes to say, “what goes in must come out”, so plan ahead for taking care of baby’s bottom. Many people purchase an actual changing table, and while that may be what works best for you we opted to go a different route. We used part of our counter in our bathroom to hold a changing pad for our main floor and just put the diapers and wipes in a basket next to it. Upstairs in the nursery we placed a changing pad on top of the dresser with supplies in a basket or the top drawer. As our kids get older we can easily remove the changing pad from both locations so we can use them for other things. Some people use a wipes warmer, but I didn’t find it helpful for anything other than drying out our wipes.
Don’t forget that you also will want a place to put stinky diapers – unless you take out your garbage every day or plan to carry poopy diapers out to your main trash bin I recommend having a diaper pail. None of them keep the smell totally hidden (and for real hold your breath when you go to change the bag) but we have found the diaper champ to work well and have one by each changing station – I personally love that I can use any type of bag in it so I don’t have to stress about having the proper replacements in the house all the time.
Because I picked up used items I had multiples of these – which adds to clutter, but was nice because I didn’t have to carry items room-to-room as I needed them. With our firstborn we survived a couple sleepless weeks trying to move the bouncy seat in our sleep so my daughter would rest before we picked up an automatic bouncer – it was amazing and I won’t ever give it up! We actually bought a Mamaroo (highly recommended for baby #3) so I’ll let you know how that works. If you have limited space they make great new options that work as both a bouncy seat and swing so it’s totally a money and space saver.
The possibilities in this category are truly endless so ask around for recommendations and don’t be afraid to pick up one of these used (as long as it isn’t stained and all the buttons still work used is great). Sometimes kids don’t like to swing so getting used items is also a great way to see what your child likes best without breaking the bank.
Mirror for car…
As a new parent any noise my kids made set me on edge, especially when I couldn’t see them – I found this especially true when I was traveling in the car by myself. I really appreciated having rear facing mirrors so I could see the baby while they were behind me! Our pediatrician recommends keeping kids rear facing until age two, so this small investment will be one that is helpful for a long time.
Nose Frieda, snot sucker…
When you have children snot is inevitable. I was never able to make the bulb system they used in the hospital work very well for my kids so my husband went on a quest one night to find an alternative and stumbled on the Nose Frieda. It is amazing!!! Kinda gross at first when you think about having to use your own mouth to create the suction, but the filters protect you from any cross contamination and it’s SO much more effective at clearing kids out. I do also highly recommend using a nose saline first to help loosen the mucus and it works best when you have one person holding the kid’s hands still while the other person uses the Nose Frieda.
The recommendation these days is for baby to not have any blankets or pillows while sleeping until they are a year old as an attempt to prevent SIDS. We struggled, especially with our super cold winters, to keep baby warm enough on their own so we had several sleep sacks for cooler and cold weather and they worked great to help with temperature control. I don’t love doing laundry so we actually still used jammies and just left these in the crib to reuse several nights in a row. I have another friend who totally skipped the jammies and just used the sacks so the options are endless if you also struggle with temperature control at home.
When my children were first home from the hospital they slept well just laying in their crib, but as they got a bit older we needed to find a way to keep their arms still so they didn’t jolt awake. Plenty of people just use blankets to swaddle their children, but I never figured out how to make it stay tight enough, thus enters the wonderful SwaddleMe. It comes with velcro to hold their arms still and a pocket on the bottom for their legs. It was essentially fool proof and we used these for months with both of our kids!
I can’t recommend having a monitor in your kids’ room highly enough, for peace of mind as a parent but also to connect with kids as they get a bit older without always physically being together. At home our kids sleep on a different floor than us so monitors are a must have, but even when we travel and are in close space we bring the monitor along. We used 3 different kinds and they all have their own perks.
There are a couple features I would highly recommend no matter what kind of monitor you prefer: One would be a temperature sensor. We struggle with temperature control in our house so it provided more peace of mind to see what the temp was in a different part of the house without having to go there. The other feature I can’t imagine not having is the ability to talk from the parent unit to the base in the child’s room. As our kids have gotten older it has saved me a million trips or escape attempts for a variety of reasons because they can call for me and I can hear what they need. It is also helpful to reprimand without having to leave my chair or bed 🙂
-Our very first monitor was a Motorola video monitor. It was immensely useful when we had a newborn because we could see her then learn to identify all the crazy noises she made. It also worked to ease my mind a bit when I could see her in her crib. The only downside of this monitor is that it doesn’t have a clip so it makes it hard to carry around as I move around the house.
-The other monitor we’ve had from the very beginning was a second hand angel care breathing monitor. It has a sensor that goes under the crib mattress that monitors for movement, like from breathing. It was super sensitive and while it totally wasn’t necessary, provided me some extra peace of mind. I will caution you, however, that once you are used to using the monitor it will be super hard to stop using it. As our kids got older they slept in random positions or in the corner of the crib so the sensor wouldn’t read their movements, making it randomly go off and wake me (and the baby) from a dead sleep for no real reason. It took me a little while to wean myself from using it every night!
-When our second child was born we needed another monitor, but since I mostly knew what all her noises were in the night and she was in a larger room (meaning we’d have to purchase a video monitor that moved, which was out of our budget) we opted for a simpler one. It was great because it had a clip and the ability to talk back to our kids, but we had trouble with connectivity so actually upgraded to this VTech option that has a space scene night light that projects on the ceiling. We use the nightlight, but because it only stays on for 5 minutes we also keep one plugged in all night so it’s not a feature I would call essential, but it is pretty cool.
I deal with enough coats on and off with car-seats that I don’t prefer to deal with them with my baby too. We opted to get covers for our car seat. We used a canopy in the fall/spring when it wasn’t super cold and the JJ Cole cover when it was winter. You could certainly use blankets to do the same thing, but I always struggled with getting them to stay on in the wind or the endless kicking of feet as my kids wiggled.
Baby Stage (6 months+) Items We Have and Love:
Once baby starts to be mobile and especially with older kids in the house, it is important to have a safe and entertaining place to put baby down when you need to walk away – cause let’s face it, you should at least be able to go to the bathroom by yourself once in a while! We have several variations that we’ve enjoyed – I love our exosaucers with some toys attached so I’m not always picking up what is thrown down. They don’t need to be fancy with lots of bells and whistles, but we do also enjoy the one with a piano on the bottom to make music with baby’s feet. Personally we never used a baby walker that baby can sit in, but found that the walk behind or ride on style was more fun for our kids! I actually appreciated having multiples of these items too so I wasn’t always carrying them from room to room.
As a family we enjoy being outdoors and camping, but once baby is mobile it gets to be more of a challenge to turn your back on a baby (Case in point, my 8 month old daughter managed to get to the edge of the blanket and eat a mushroom from the grass when an adult was sitting on a chair next to her – yup that was a poison control call!). Our Playyard has been essential in letting our kids have freedom while letting me get something done and carry on adult conversations once in a while! These also work great inside if you want to block off something like a fireplace or create a smaller play space in a large room.
As kids get older you enter the joy of introducing them to new foods! Make sure you have a safe and secure place to feed baby – we love our Space Saver high chair because it doesn’t take up a ton of floor space and reclines for a younger baby. They also have a more compact style booster we have used as our kids have gotten older.
Obviously having bibs (our favorite are the plastic ones you can wipe down), plastic plates, sippy cups (my kids never did get the hang of having to tip a sippy cup so we’re all about the insulated straw cups at our house), and silverware are essential. When you first introduce food it’s essential to have a small spoon, then as kids start to feed themselves you can go with a style that is easier to hold – I don’t recommend the forks with plastic tips because it causes much frustration when it didn’t really pick up the food…we solely use the Gerber style and love it. I picked up some silverware at a garage sale because it was plastic, but the long handle prevented my kids from using it well so I don’t recommend it. Our second child tries VERY hard to keep up with big sister – complete with wanting to also enjoy cereal for breakfast by herself. This was my least favorite meal of the day until I discovered this awesome slotted spoon that allowed her to do it herself without spilling every last drop of milk before the cereal found her mouth!
Some people really love using the mesh feeder, but we never found it necessary as by the time our kids could handle the real food we just cut the bites small enough for them to eat. If you plan to make your own baby food, a food processer is SO helpful (we just used our full size unit – we got a handheld mixer as a gift but never made a large enough quantity while on the go to make it work well.) I froze our food in ice cube trays, but there are tons of other options available. (Check out this great blog for some info on making your own baby food if you need some pointers to get started). We made a lot of baby food from fresh produce and saved a ton of money rather than buying baby food, but be sure you do your research on what is safe to make on your own and certainly make sure you see which foods are age appropriate before you offer them to your child.
We had a high chair that traveled well, but sometimes needed something light and easy to carry to hold baby so she wasn’t always lying on the floor or the grass. We love our bumbo (and for sure get the tray) because it worked perfect outside or at grandma’s house. I also recommend getting some sort of seat for the bathtub to hold baby upright once they outgrow the baby bath.
Other random things we can’t imagine not having:
We have several strollers and some of them don’t have great storage options. We’ve made them all work by hanging a hook on each one to hold our diaper bag. Even when I don’t have the full diaper bag it works good to hang a water bottle or shopping bags, depending on what fun adventure we might be on. Just be careful that you don’t overload the back of a stroller or it will tip over when you remove your child…or do, just watch your feet when it tips back! There are also a ton of stroller bag options you can consider – we use one on our umbrella stroller as our kids have gotten older and we don’t need to have the full diaper bag with us at all times.
There are also great options to go over strollers to protect your kids – we have both a bug net and rain shield (there are also blankets you can get, but we just used regular ones) giving us plenty of options to get out to enjoy fun with our full family.
Having a way to carry baby around hands free is essential – especially at home or in spaces that you can’t fit a stroller. My kids often were fussy at the most inopportune times, so in order to get anything done I needed to hold them. While this works fine once in a while, at some point I need to be able to make dinner so my Bjorn was a life saver. We also love our backpack carrier (a more basic version of this) that includes a stand so we could put baby down anywhere without removing them from the carrier, if we needed a break or they needed a snack. There are tons of other options out there so I would recommend borrowing some from friends or joining a baby wearing group so you can try out different options with your baby because they can be particular about what you use!
When my second child was a month old my oldest was diagnosed with both the flu and RSV, thus entering a VERY stressful couple of weeks as a mom to attempt to keep germs away from one child – ugh. Thankfully the baby didn’t catch the germs that time, but we are SO diligent in watching for fevers, checking for temperatures several times daily during illness. We actually have two kinds of thermometers because it’s not always possible to take a rectal temp – our temporal thermometer has worked well to check temperatures without even waking up baby! Doctors prefer to have rectal temperatures when you call in and sadly I have yet to find a version that lasts for a long time, so we’ve gone through several. Even still we keep one at home AND in the diaper bag because you never know when you’ll need to do a quick temp check to see why baby is being fussy!
Good grief this post got out of control – I clearly am not a minimalist where kids’ things are concerned but I sure do love all the amazing baby accessories available to help making being a mom a little easier. I’d love to hear what you can’t live without for your baby or use all the time because there are tons of great products I don’t know about yet!
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