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I'm not a big fan of stuff, in the abstract, yet the first weeks with a baby seemed like an eternity, and time and again some inanimate object felt like the one thing that I couldn't do without. Every baby is different, but yours might have some things in common with mine, so here, looking back, are the random things that were most helpful during the past two plus months of parenthood:
The Swing: The space-hogging, silly-looking Fisher Price swing that my brother-in-law loaned us has been crucial. Leo, though he sleeps beautifully once the sun goes down, has a terrible time falling asleep during the day, and he definitely can't do it without being in constant motion. So most of his naps begin with me dancing him around in the sling and continue when I carefully transfer him to the swing. I'm not clear on when or how he's going to grow out of this motion addiction, but I'm very glad to have the swing until then!
The Bouncy Seat: My folks gave us the very classy Baby Bjorn seat, which is completely low-tech. It just sort of moves when the baby kicks. Not a huge hit at first, it's now coming in handy as a place to prop Leo up so he can discuss a book with me, watch me make dinner (well, half of dinner, then he invariably loses his temper), or bounce while we eat, kicking the seat rhythmically as we chew. I'm told that the battery-operated vibrating seats are great too, but that this one may last until he's a little older.
Baby Bjorn Carrier: This was a hand-me-down, and it has in common with the Bjorn bouncy seat the tendency to turn a poop diaper into a full-body mess. Don't Swedish babies poop? The seat and carrier both seem to squeeze everything up and out of the diaper. That said, Leo enjoys facing out for a very brief time, say a walk around the block. I think he'll enjoy this more as he gets older and less prone to over-stimulation.
The Ergo Carrier: Before 2 or 3 months you need to use the infant insert (sold separately) with the Ergo. The insert mimics a sling but it's clumsy to use. The plus side is that it is more ergonomic since it goes on both shoulders, unlike a sling, and it transfers weight to your hips, unlike the Bjorn. As Leo grows into the regular way of sitting in the Ergo we're going to love it, I can tell. It holds him close and calms him, and it has a pocket for phone, keys and pacifier and a hood to keep out sun. There are now similar carriers on the market, and some may be cuter and less bulky, but the Ergo is definitely a good one.
The Sling: This is the most important item we've got. The sling is Leo's retreat when he's done with the world and would really like to curl up in the womb again, and it always works. Plus, with different positions as he grows, I'll be able to use it through early toddlerhood. That said, it can be hard to figure out how to use a sling—I attended a baby-wearing workshop, which was helpful. And it's not a great way to carry a heavy baby a long distance since it rests on one shoulder. But hands-free, crying-free, in the house? That's worth anything!
The Breast Pump: For breastfeeding moms establishing a milk supply (particularly important in my case, since we had nursing issues), and for leaving the baby for longer than an hour at a time, this is critical. I purchased the Aventi IQDuo, which I love. It's hospital grade, meaning it can be shared, so it has a longer lifespan than the similar Medela Pump in Style (which people do share, despite the fact that the company doesn't recommend doing so). I bought my pump gently used, and will be able to pass it along to a friend when I'm done.
Your Baby and Child: By Penelope Leach, this is a down-to-earth guide that I find comprehensive and reassuring.
Kashi Go Lean: High fiber, high protein, lowfat cereal has been a major staple for me since Leo was born. I find the milk so thirst quenching and I often don't have time to make anything more complicated than a bowl of cereal. Add some fresh fruit, and it's very satisfying stuff. (Ok, that's my recipe for this week. Sorry!)
The Happiest Baby on the Block: We have the book and DVD and I highly recommend both. In the book Harvey Karp explains why infants can (and should!) be calmed by things that mimic the womb, and he shows you how in the DVD.
Swaddling Blankets: The stylish, lightweight ones from Aden & Anais are great for hot weather, the Miracle Blanket is wonderful for a baby who fights out of most blankets, and nowadays we love the Kiddopotamus. I asked my pediatrician how long she'd recommend swaddling for and she said she would do it till college if she could. It definitely contributes to Leo sleeping through the night by keeping his jerky, random movements from waking him up. And he loves it, cooperating completely as we wrap him up like a prisoner.
My Brest Friend: This is the most supportive (and ridiculous!) nursing pillow, and when nursing is tough at the beginning, it helps by freeing up a hand or two. I've passed mine along to Steph now that Leo and I can pretty much get along without.
Sleep Bras: These offer support and suppress leaking. They're cotton, so they're soft and comfortable, and they cross over in the front so that you can easily nurse in them. I don't really find nursing bras useful during the day—it's just as easy to slip the cup of a regular bra down as it is to unhook the little flap on a nursing bra—but I'm a huge fan of sleep bras. And while you quickly learn to just push up any old shirt, I think a few nursing shirts are nice to have as you're getting used to nursing in public.
The Yoga Ball: When your baby needs to be jogged about and you're ready to drop, this is the best seat in the house. Plus, you're toning your core!
Cloth Diapers: I'm using Seventh Generation disposable diapers for now, but the cloth diapers are so absorbent they're great to have on hand for spit up or exciting moments on the changing table.