This past weekend we went away to Ontario for a good friend’s wedding. The wedding was lovely and the weekend was a great getaway and it was our first time having a date night sans bébé (and we got to have 2 nights back to back). While we were there we also had the opportunity to catch up with another couple who we haven’t seen in almost 2 years. They were (and still are) great friends of ours and it was so nice to have the opportunity to see them too. We have the type of friendship with them that is so easy. The kind where you can slip right back into where ever it was that you left off without missing a beat, without any awkwardness. This was a really nice weekend as it was about rekindling past friendships. Perhaps, the nicest part was to realize that true friends don’t care about the distance between you or the time that has past. Anyway, as usual I digress. The purpose of this post is to talk about my favorite things for baby, but the intro was necessary. You see, my friends are having a baby of their own within the next couple of weeks. And like all expectant parents, they are clambering for advice on what to buy, what to expect, what to do and so forth. I have always felt strongly that it’s hard to give advice on what to expect and what/how to do things as each person’s experiences are so individual. But when it comes to what to buy, I have no fears on sharing my opinions! So this is it….my list of favourite baby things! This is by no means a comprehensive list. I could dedicate a whole blog to cool baby/kids things, but this is a good start. (Links to the various items are in bold and underlined). ♥= LOVE THIS ITEM (i.e. It’s on my Can’t Live Without List)!!!
Sleep Aids: Both of these guys got ♥’s because there really is nothing more valuable than sleep and both of these items were huge helpers.
- Tiny Love Sweet Island Dreams Mobile(♥)- This is the best mobile on the market as far as I’m concerned. There are lots of cute, plush, designer mobiles available that will look pretty and magazine spread ready. This is not that mobile. It has garish neon colours and is plastic, but what it lacks in appearance it makes up for 100 fold in functionality. Unlike those pretty mobiles which only play a tune for a minute or two, this will play music for 20 minutes and it is lovely classical music mixed with nature sounds. The mobile part is fantastic too, because as it spins the little animals actually pivot and wobble individually. Finlay found it highly amusing and would watch it for upwards of an hour, cooing, kicking, giggling and screeching all the while! Once baby is too big for the mobile it actually converts to a crib side nightlight and music box. To top it all off it comes with a remote so you can activate it while you’re still lying in bed The only issue is it didn’t really help him sleep. It was more for entertainment, visual stimulation and for quiet time. We got ours at Sears and they go on sale regularly for 20% off (just call and ask when they think their Tiny Love stuff is going on sale again and then start watching the fliers).
- Fisher Price Aquarium(♥)- Because we had the TL Mobile, I didn’t think we’d need anything else, but once Finlay hit about 5-6 months the mobile didn’t hold his attention anymore and we were in need of something that actually helped put him to sleep. This is where this LIVESAVING toy came into play. Many of my friends were using this and swearing by it so I broke down and bought it. I so wished that I’d done so earlier. It really helped him to self soothe once he was sleeping in his own room. It plays music for about 20 minutes, has bubbles, lights, and soothing ocean noises. There are about 10 different tunes or water-sounds to choose from. It also comes with a remote. It’s a definite sanity saver and Wal-Mart has them for the cheapest price (~$35).
Diapering: Again, this topic could be an entire blog all unto itself and believe me Cloth Diapering Blogs exist in abundance. But for the purpose of today’s post I’m going to limit this to a few main points. As most of you know, we chose cloth diapers and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. There were a lot of factors involved. They’re better for the environment, they’re better for baby, they’re better on your pocket book, and they’re kind of addictive too (trust me they’re way more fun to shop for then disposables….all the colours, prints, accessories, etc).
- Diapers: My favourites are the Bummis Prefold System with Bummis Covers and Snappi Clips when Finlay was a newborn and now I like the Bum Genius All-In-One or Bum Genius 4.0 Pocket diapers the best. We use doubled up prefolds with a snappi and a Bummis Super Brite gusseted diaper cover at night (and have never had a leak!). I think though, with cloth, it’s important to have a couple of different types/systems. The reason being is you may like one type better than your husband and so it’s nice for him to be able to use the ones he likes because trust me, if your partner’s not on board with using cloth diapers, you will fail at the attempt. Also, some diapers fit baby better at certain times. For example, I’ve found that I really like Bum Genius, but if Finlay’s just gone through a growth spurt, his legs may be a bit too skinny for them and then I switch him back into prefolds or FuzziBunz. Conversely, there are times when he’s been a bit more filled out and he fits better into something else. It’s just a good thing to have a bunch of options. We’ve used FuzziBunz, Bummis Prefolds and covers, Bum Genius All-in-one (one size) and 4.0 Pocket Diapers (one size) and Mother Ease Diapers and covers. In terms of the number of diapers you need, it’s highly variable depending upon your budget, the frequency with which you plan to do laundry, the system you go with, the age of your baby, etc, but a good round average number is about 2 dozen. There are a couple of excellent cloth diapering resources that can give oodles more information about cloth diapering systems, recommendations, etc (so instead of me just repeating what they have to say I’ll provide links for those who want more cloth diapering details).
- Diaper Sprayer- Not a necessity and in fact we didn’t even use it for the first 6 months, but it’s a huge help once baby starts eating solid foods! It’s much nicer to be able to spray of the poop into the toilet than to dunk your hands in.
- Wet Bag(s)-We use 3 large wet bags and 1 medium and 1 small one. They are all made by Bummis. The large ones fit perfectly into a diaper pail and have a zip and toggle close. You need at least 2 Large ones (so that when one is in the wash/drying you have another for in the pail) and it’s nice to have 3 so you have a bag for dirty clothes when you go away. The smaller bags are used with your diaper bag so you have something to put dirties in when you’re away from home. In retrospect, I would have rather have had 2 medium bags instead of a medium and a small as I find the small bag gets filled up really quickly with diapers, wipes, etc and really only holds one change, whereas the medium holds at least 2 changes.
- Barrier Cream- When using cloth diapers you have to be really careful about the creams you use on baby’s bum. The last thing you want to do is ruin the absorbability of your diapers and have leaks. We’ve used Bum Bum Balm by Dimpleskins since the beginning and have really liked it.
- Laundry Detergent- Again, this concerns absorbability. Some detergents have harsh chemicals, dyes, perfumes and additives that can affect baby’s skin or can create a film on your diaper causing it to lose absorbability. There are lots of detergents that have been created specifically for use with cloth. The problem with many of them is that they are only sold in specialty stores and on-line, and if you’re like me and want easy access to detergent without paying an arm and a leg for it then I recommend Down East detergent. On the East Coast it’s available in most Sobeys stores and is reasonably priced.
- Swim Diapers-Bummis Swimmi diaper is what we’ve always used and I really like it. I always have a little smile on my face when I see all of the other moms using the disposable (and expensive) Little Swimmers diapers when I get to reuse Swimmi over and over. Plus, it works just as well (and it’s under $15).
- Wipes and Solution- Again, I went with cloth wipes. You can use anything or make your own, but if you’ve got other things to do then cut and sew little squares of fabric I highly recommend the Fuzzi Bunz Wipes. They’re really soft and absorbent too. As for solution, you can use plain water, but I always liked having something a little bit more, especially for poopy-bums. I came across Punkin Booty Bits at a natural parenting store and loved them. They’re really well priced, are homemade with natural ingredients and smell great! My little guy has never had any kind of reaction to them either. Our favourite scent is, “oatmeal, milk and honey”. Ordering them on-line directly from the lady who makes them is the cheapest and easiest way to get them.
Diaper Bag: This is a spoiler item, meaning that it’s an item I bought to spoil myself. I bought a JuJuBe Be All Bag (♥) and I LOVE it! It’s definitely not the cheapest bag on the market, but I use it as my purse and I take it everywhere and the pattern is so cute (I got the Drip Drops pattern). It’s a great size if you’re using disposable diapers. For Mom’s like me who are using cloth, you may want to consider an even bigger bag like the Be Prepared (although personally, I wouldn’t be comfortable carrying around that big of a bag for daily use, and the Be All is plenty big for most adventures out).
Teething toys: Both of these items look like glorified doggy chew toys but with a higher price tag, but don’t let appearances fool you as my little guy loves both of these!
- Sophie the Giraffe– She’s become a staple teething toy in households everywhere. Finlay didn’t love her in the beginning, but once he started to teethe she became a favourite. He chews on all of her surfaces, but especially likes her feet and ears. I like that she’s made from natural rubber and food based dyes as he has chewed her spots off in some places. Downfall is she is expensive ($20-25), but if you search around on e-bay you might find someone selling “seconds” (i.e. slightly defected Sophie’s) for a lot cheaper (I got mine this way and paid about $15 for her with taxes and shipping included- her only flaw was her cheeks weren’t as rosy).
- Teether ball (aka the nipple ball) (♥)- This teether toy is the best! The price is right (under $10) and Finlay loved it from the start. There are lots of little prongs to grip onto and each one of them is shaped like a nipple. Before he was teething, he was sucking and slurping all over this toy. When it got left behind somewhere at Christmas time, there was no doubt that we’d have to buy a replacement! On PEI it’s available at Owl’s Hollow.
Baby Books: I could probably write an entire post (or for that matter and entire blog) on great children’s books. My Mom was a librarian and so I was raised in a reading environment and thus wanted to raise a reader too. We try to find time every day to read a book or two. With that said, here are a couple of our absolute favourites:
- Baby Boo! (♥) – This book is the clear winner for young babies and as such deserved a sentence or two about it. We were given this book in the hospital when Finlay was born as part of PEI’s raise a reader program. It’s a GREAT book and he LOVES it! It has lots of pictures of babies and is interactive. It’s part of the Amazing Babies series of books and due to the popularity of, “Baby Boo!” we ended up buying a bunch more of them.
- Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox.
- Matthew Van Fleet Touch Books (Tails and Dog are our favourites).
- Sandra Boynton Board Books (Snuggle Puppy and Barnyard Dance are favourites).
Advice Books: These were all hugely helpful to me during pregnancy and the first few months.
- Birthing From Within by Pam England(♥)- A pre-labour support reference which is even better when paired with the program (if available in your area) or the Keepsake Journal Activity Book (if the program isn’t available).
- Breastfeeding Made Simple by Nancy Mohrbacher and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett – A fabulous breastfeeding reference.
- The Baby Book by Dr. Sears- A huge reference book for babies 0-24 months that is devoted to the attachment parenting method and has lots of medical advice too.
Highchair/Chair: The absolute best baby chair/highchair is the First Years Newborn to Toddler Reclining Feeding Seat (♥). I love this product for so many reasons. It’s portable, it’s easy to clean, it doesn’t take up a lot of space, it can be used from the time a baby is a newborn right up until they are 2-4 years of age, and it’s inexpensive. You can get this from Wal-Mart for about $40 and we have used it for everything from a baby seat to put Finlay in as a newborn (it doesn’t vibrate or play music, but it’s a comfy spot especially when there’s an extra pad put into it- We used this Pad made by Summer) right through to a fully functioning high chair. Friends of ours with a big 3 year old still use it as her booster seat too. I like that I can set him on the counter beside me while I read the paper, or use it at the table, or take it into the bathroom and set up toys on it while I’m having a shower.
Activity toys: Finlay is an incredibly active baby. From the time he was born he was alert and curious, so naturally he has loved doing things where he can be active. We try to get him outside a lot for walks, beach visits, stroller rides, etc, but some days are just not terribly nice out. During those days I try to make sure he gets to use one of the following
- ExerSaucer (♥)- This replaced those baby walkers that my generation had as kids. They were the saucers on wheels and invariably we all know someone (or were someone) who rode one of these down a flight of stairs, hence why they are now banned in Canada. This is their stationary cousin and it’s a lifesaver! Friends of mine call it, “The Ring of Neglect” and while I don’t use it to neglect Finlay, it certainly does keep him occupied so that I can get stuff done (showers, meals, blogging, etc). There are probably 100 different variations of this toy. We have the farm themed one. There are also 3-in-1 versions which can come apart and be used earlier and later in a child’s development. Those were expensive and there were none available 2nd hand in our area. I found the farm based one second hand for $25. New they’re around $100-150 depending on what features you want on it.
- Jolly Jumper– Finlay really likes this toy. Some babies are swing babies, some are vibrating chair babies and some are Jolly Jumper babies. Finlay’s a jumper! He’s been in his since he was 3 months old and still loves it. It won’t be long now though until he’s too big for it and that will be a sad day for both of us! Again, we got this used for $20 and I have the model that attaches to your doorway so it hardly takes up any space.
Bath tub: Yet again, The First Years, has made another product that can be used for multiple stages in a child’s development. We have The First Years Sure Comfort Deluxe Newborn to Toddler Bathtub (♥) and we love it. It’s easy to clean, perfect for newborns, great as baby get older/bigger, fits in a big sink or bathtub and is priced well. I got mine 2nd hand for $5!
Baby Carriers: I’ve used 3 different carriers and have liked all at different times. Originally, I bought the Moby Wrap and had planned to use that exclusively, but I found it awkward witha newborn and was worried about squishing him into it. It was mostly due to the fact that I didn’t know the product all that well, and now as I’ve gotten more comfortable with it I think I would have been fine, but because of my worries, I ended up buying a Baby Bjorn (♥). I actually loved the Bjorn! It’s only down fall is that it doesn’t fit him anymore (which makes me sad)! So now we’re into a Maya Wrap. I really like this wrap and perhaps in future, I’d use just this and the Bjorn. I like the hip carry position with it and it is really comfortable and well made. None of these carriers are cheap but sometimes you can find them gently used for a deal. Our Bjorn we got 2nd hand for about $30 on eBay.
Sleep sacks: I loved having my baby sleep in a sleep sack. No fear of blankets being too heavy or getting tangled around him while he slept. Finlay is 9 months old and still sleeps in a sleep sack and probably will for a while. While there are a huge range of sleep sacks out there on the market. My favourite are the ones by Gagou Tagou. There are undoubtedly higher quality sacks, but the price of these “designer sacks” is really a turn off ($50 and up) especially when baby grows so quickly. GT’s sacks are made in light, mid and heavy weights and are very reasonably priced ($10-20 per sack). You can pick them up at most TAG stores and on-line.
Stroller/Car seat: This is such a tricky one as there are a zillion different strollers on the market with a zillion different purposes. To do an extensive review would require a whole post (and that seems rather boring). The same is true for car seats. So instead, I’ll just recommend my favourite. I ended up winning a Euro Grace travel system from a baby show. I found the stroller part of the rig rather cumbersome though (i.e. it was heavier than a lead balloon and difficult to fit in and out of my small car). I really liked the bucket car seat though and I have the one that went up to 32lbs and 32” which I would strongly recommend. Finlay is still able to use this system, whereas most of my friends who have babies that are younger/smaller have already had to upgrade to another car seat as they bought the model that fits 26lbs and 26”. The issue though is it’s extremely heavy to lug a baby around in one of those seats without a stroller or cart to put them in (the bruises all up and down my legs prior to buying the “SnugRider” are a testament to that fact). So as you’ve guessed, I recommend the Graco SnugRider Frame (♥) paired with your Graco bucket car seat (again buy a big bucket seat so you can get a lot of use out of it, because once you stop using the bucket seat, the SnugRider is useless). We bought this prior to a plane trip when Finlay was 3 months old and it was one of those purchases where I wished I’d had it from the very beginning. It’s AWESOME! It’s small, lightweight, portable and just a smart design. They’re not cheap and you may struggle with paying $100+ for a car seat stroller frame but trust me, they’re worth it (and if you are El Cheapo like moi try looking on Kijiji or Used sites. I got mine for $30 second hand and it’s the best money I ever spent!).
- Nursing wear- This is especially important at night as no one wants to go through a big production of undressing to give your baby access to your breast in the middle of the night. Majamas brand were my personal favourites and my absolute favourite was the Adelaide Gown (♥) which I wore late in my pregnancy and also took to the hospital with me to wear after Finlay was born. Undoubtedly having daytime nursing wear is equally as important for the same reasons, but I don’t have any personal preferences in brands (honestly, I think you can get away without using nursing wear if you’re okay with lifting up your shirt and showing your tummy).
- Breast Pump– I don’t think this is a necessity, but it certainly made my life easier to have around. If you’ve got the budget for it, the Medela Pump In Style Advance Electric Double Pump system was what I used and really liked.
- Sterilizing system– Instead of a big bulking sterilizing unit, or boiling bottles in pots and pans the sleekest system I’ve seen was the Medela Micro-Steam bags which could be used to sterilize bottles and pump supplies simply in the microwave. You can get these just about anywhere that breastfeeding supplies or baby bottles are sold.
- Other breastfeeding accessories-
- Nuby Natural Touch Breast Aid– an ice/warm pack used to help soothe aching breasts. Especially helpful in the early days to help with let-down, soothe pain from engorgement, etc.
- Medela Breast Shells– again a useful tool in the early days if you are experiencing nipple pain from breastfeeding. This helps take the edge off of pain experienced when your nipples get rubbed by your bras/clothes/etc but be warned you want to wear these with loose fitting tops or you’ll look like Madonna .
- Breastfeeding cover- My favourite was the Bebe Au Lait covers as they had the best quality design and nicer pattern options. I got a cheaper version as well, but the rigid material (metal?) in the neckline bent too easily and became distorted.
- Bottles-Finlay would not take a bottle until just recently, but when we did finally get him to take one, it was an Avent bottle. Literally, I have tried over 20 different brands of bottles and this one is the one he prefers and the one that in my opinion most closely simulates the natural breast. Another highly recommended bottle is the Medela Calma , but it’s really expensive and is for breastmilk ONLY and this not as practical to have a lot of.
- Other critical items include: nursing bras, nursing pads, nipple creams, nursing pillow, rocker/other comfortable place to nurse, bibs or burp cloths although I don’t have specific recommendations for any of these products.