Five Favorite Newborn Essentials

A recent conversation with a friend who’s trying to conceive reminded me of how overwhelming baby shopping can be. A newborn is so small, and really very simple in hindsight (at least when compared with an eight-month-old baby), yet thousands of products are marketed to expectant mothers as “must haves”. I remember feeling overwhelmed and frantic when I registered for my baby shower, and deciding it was better to be over prepared than find myself without some vital newborn essential.

Today, I can easily point to five products that were lifesavers in those early weeks, and when I showed them to my friend, she found it particularly helpful to see them. I am not being paid to complete any reviews or advertise any products, so these are my 100% honest recommendations to help expectant mothers like my good friend.

  • Fisher-Price Newborn Rock ‘n Play Soother

Rock 'N PlayI was hesitant to invest in a bassinet, because they’re bulky and we were low on storage space. But I wanted to keep the baby beside our bed for the first few months, and we found this to be the perfect solution. It folds flat, which is great for travel and storage. The size and angle of incline were also reassuring for me, because I knew my baby couldn’t move around, roll onto her tummy, or bump her head on the slats of a crib. Newborns usually don’t have the mobility to do those things anyway, but seeing my daughter nestled in this bed helped to ease my irrational first-time-mom fears.

I later learned, from speaking to other moms, that the incline angle is a great solution for babies who suffer from reflux. I was unable to use the safety straps at first, because I was swaddling my baby, but the sides were deep enough that I knew she was held securely. My daughter first slept through the night at the age of six weeks, and she continued to do so until she outgrew her Rock ‘n Play at the age of four months.

There was a recall on these recently, due to some parents finding mold between the hard plastic framework and the plush hammock. I checked mine, and I did not find any mold. As with all baby products, the use of common sense is key. The hammock is easily removable and can be machine washed. Just be sure to wash it regularly and dry it thoroughly–especially after any diaper blow outs, or if your baby gets particularly sweaty during the night.

  • The First Years Deluxe Fold N Go Diapering Kit

Fold N GoThis fold-out changing mat would have been a bargain at twice the price. I thought I knew how to change a diaper before I brought home my daughter, but I ended up being in for a surprise! Not only does a steady diet of breast milk lead result in very thin, mustard colored stools, but my daughter seemed to pride herself on pooping at the exact moment when I removed her diaper. Towels were not a good solution, because she would stain them and the mess would soak right through.

This changing mat wipes clean easily, and as an added bonus, it has pockets to hold diapers and a case for wipes. I would pack three diapers into one pocket, put wipes in the other, and keep this diapering kit on my bedside table. It was handy for late night changes, and since I was breastfeeding, it contained all the supplies we needed to make it through the night. Restocking it each morning gave me a sense of confidence and order in the chaotic new world of parenthood.

After awhile, I got the hang of diaper changing and things weren’t quite as messy. But this diapering kit was still a lifesaver when it came to leaving the house with my daughter. Most stores and restaurants have changing stations in their restrooms, but I didn’t feel comfortable laying my baby directly on them. So I unfolded my diapering kit on top of the plastic tables for a softer, more sanitary changing surface. When we visited friends and family, I felt competent and courteous using this rather than changing my baby directly on someone’s couch or floor. My wipes never dried out, and it was easy to refold the kit with just one hand.

The only small problem I encountered was that the Velcro on the underside of the changing mat put a small snag in my bedspread. I have never had a problem with it on any other surface, and I’ve gotten into the habit of placing a clean diaper or my daughter’s cotton pants under that spot when I change her on a particularly delicate surface. One small snag was a small price to pay for the convenience of this awesome diapering kit.

  • Eddie Bauer Nursing Privacy Cover

nursing privacy coverOn several occasions I’ve wished I’d purchased more than one of these. It was affordable and still works great. Nursing covers are available in a wide range of prices, and I considered going with a more expensive mode, but I’m so glad I didn’t. The material on this one is somewhat sheer (if you hold it up to the light) but it serves the purposes of keeping eyes of my breasts when I nurse in public. It is lightweight and has an adjustable neck strap. Some moms simply use a receiving blanket as a cover, but that would make me nervous with a squirming baby. With this, I’ve been able to nurse while showing visitors around my home.

More expensive nursing covers are often wider, and their tops stay open better so you can watch your baby as she eats. I’ve always felt sufficiently covered when I’ve used this, and it’s easy enough to take a peek at my daughter. Personally, I prefer that the top doesn’t stay open on its own, because it gives added privacy from people who walk past me while I’m seated. I may not be as thrilled with this cover if I compared it to others like the BeBe Au Lait, but at one third of the price, I’ll stick with the Eddie Bauer.

  •  Gilligan & O’Malley Cotton Nursing Cami

nursing camiThese tanks are an absolutely brilliant idea. They provide easy access to one breast while keeping the other, and your postpartum belly, completely covered. The material doesn’t cling to your body, and I was comfortable in one the day after delivery. They are available in a variety of colors. I like to wear them over a nursing bra since they don’t provide much support, but depending on your body type and comfort level, you might opt to skip the bra altogether.

They look like standard tank tops and can be worn alone on hot days, or layered under regular, non-nursing tops which you would then unbutton or pull up to nurse. The sides are easy to snap down with one hand, and I have never had one stick or break. I have also never had one come unsnapped by accident. Several different companies make nursing tanks, but these were so affordable, I haven’t felt compelled to try any others.

  • All things Medela

medelaSince I was planning to be a stay-at-home mom, I didn’t think I’d have much use for pumps, bottles or other feeding accessories, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Due to a particularly complicated delivery, I was unable to produce any milk in the first five days of my daughter’s life. She lost an alarming amount of weight, and we ended up having to supplement with formula before we ever left the hospital. Our nursing relationship wouldn’t have stood a chance if it weren’t for the innovative thinkers at Medela.

At the hospital, I was issued a Medela Supplemental Nursing System (SNS). It involved an inverted bottle of formula and tiny tubes which I taped to my breasts. My baby still latched onto my breast, still received colostrum, and still stimulated milk production. She wasn’t at risk of nipple confusion, but she was getting the nutrition and calories she needed. We got to go home, and when my milk eventually came in, we were able to discard the SNS. We’ve been successfully nursing ever since! There’s no way to know if you’ll end up needing to supplement (and I hope you don’t), but other Medela products can prove to be just as useful for you as the SNS was for me.

Even if you plan on being with your child at all times, it’s a good idea to pump and freeze some milk. Pumping will help get your supply established, and the frozen milk will be invaluable if you happen to become ill. While it’s advisable to continue nursing if you get sick (you’ll pass antibodies to your baby through your milk), some illnesses can cause a temporary decrease in supply. When my daughter was three months old, I was unexpectedly hospitalized for appendicitis. Fortunately, I had enough milk in the freezer to sustain her until all of the medications from surgery were out of my system.

The Medela Feeding Gift Set pictured here includes three bottles with collars and three slow-flow nipples, as well as six storage bottles and twenty storage bags. Medela’s parts are all interchangeable, so you can pump, freeze, thaw, and feed your baby all with the same bottle. Fewer dishes to wash means more snuggle time with your baby.  I used the Pump In Style Advanced double electric breast pump, because I found a great deal on it, but Medela offers other less expensive pump options as well. A single, manual pump such as the Harmony would most likely suit the needs of a mom who won’t be pumping often.

Obviously these aren’t the only items a new mother needs, and as I sit here I can already think of five more. I’ll probably make a ‘Part Two’ to this post, but no products I’ve used can beat these five in terms of convenience, quality and affordability. I am still using everything but the Rock ‘N Play, and it has all held up wonderfully. I look forward to reusing each of my fantastic five favorite newborn items with our second baby (a couple of years down the road).

Please feel free to comment and share your own favorites, or ask questions about any of these products.