Our transition to parenthood has been amazingly smooth, and for that we are very thankful! I think much of our good fortune is due in part to the fact that Isla is a super relaxed and happy kiddo. However, we also educated and equipped ourselves with helpful strategies and supplies in preparation for those challenging situations that inevitably accompany life with a newborn, and they have definitely come in very handy. I wanted to share our list of new baby favorites, the items we have found the most useful during our first month of parenthood, in case they might also be of help to other new or expecting mommies and daddies.
1. The Happiest Baby on the Block This is an excellent book that examines the concept of the “fourth trimester” and shares methods for creating a soothing, womb-like experience for your baby during their first months. Highlights include the 5 S’s (swinging, shushing, sucking, swaddling, and side/stomach position) which are AMAZINGLY HELPFUL for quickly calming a crying baby. Several of the items below (2, 4, 5, and 9) are all directly related to the 5 S’s. I cannot recommend this book enough!
2. White Noise App Like shushing, newborns often respond well to white noise. One theory is that the rushing sound is similar to the blood moving through the venae cavae (the large veins that return blood to the heart) a sound that babies spend months listening to in utero. Experiments have shown that the womb is a noisy place, and so we crank up the white noise LOUD. Isla calms down and her sweet little eyelids droop within moments (we’re literally listening to the app right now as Isla falls asleep for her nap). This particular app has a large catalog of white noise sounds, ranging from ocean waves to thunder storms to amazon noises (one of Isla’s faves) to cats purring. It has the traditional static-like white noise as well. We use this app on a daily basis, sometimes accompanied by shushing, and it was worth every bit of that $1.99 price tag and then some!
3. Lint Rollers Yes, I’m admitting that I lint roll my baby. Having a good lint roller (or 12) is an absolute necessity when part of your family is made up of furry babies. We have two cats and no amount of brushing and vacuuming can keep all of their hair at bay. I keep lint rollers stashed all around the house (rooms where Isla commonly spends time) and in our diaper bag.
4. Sleep Sheep on the Go Like his bigger counterpart, this fuzzy little guy plays 4 soothing white noise sounds (the ocean, rain, moving water, and whale sounds). We have both Sleep Sheeps, and particularly like the small size of the travel sleep sheep, as it can easily fit in Isla’s small bassinet at night, and also conveniently straps on to her car seat without taking up much space (very good for all of the traveling our little wayfarer will be doing!).
5. SwaddleMe Infant Swaddle Wrap My first introduction to swaddles was watching my sister-in-law use them with both of her girls, and to be honest, my initial reaction to seeing infants bound up like little baby burritos was to hyperventilate. I seriously had to practice some deep breathing the first time I wrapped my niece in her swaddle. While the thought of my arms being strapped to my sides sends me into a near panic, it has an incredible soothing effect on many newborns. With an impressive startle reflex, and little awareness or control over her limbs, Isla’ little arms and legs would flail all over the place, and after several minutes she’d become over-stimulated and stressed. Her body would relax the instant we swaddled her. The velcro in these SwaddleMe wraps make them far easier to use than traditional swaddle blankets, in my humble opinion, and the leg area is roomy enough for babies to be able to bend and straighten their legs comfortably.
6. Mini Convertible Co-Sleeper This is the best! It sits flush up against our bed so that I can easily see or reach Isla throughout the night, without even having to lift my head from the pillow!
It makes those midnight pacifier retrieval operations much easier than having to get up and walk across the room to a crib. The only challenge we’ve had with this is keeping our cats out of it during the day!
Apparently this model is now retired, but you may still be able to find it on Amazon. The new model is called the Mini Arc Convertible Co-Sleeper.
7. Medela Contact Nipple Shield Now what I should really list here is “experienced, qualified lactation consultant.” Learning how to help your baby latch properly is ESSENTIAL to a happy nursing experience (and not destroying your boobs). I was SO fortunate that my class room mom this year is a licensed lactation consultant from the US (how is that for timing?!). She graciously offered her services to me, and taught me some very helpful methods for proper latching… and I have some hilarious stories from our session together. How many teachers out there can say they’ve been milked by their room parent?! Ha! She also taught me that breast milk can heal cracked and blistered nipples. Sorry if that is TMI, but suffering moms out there need to know this amazing tidbit! Forget the lanolin, just express a little breast milk onto the damaged areas. After using breast milk for just 24 hours I was seeing amazing results, and in under 48 hours everything was healed- and this was all while still breast feeding! Another wonderful sentiment my lactation consultant shared with me is that all babies are unique, and therefore not every nursing tip or trick will work for everyone. The important thing is finding whatever way works for you to nurse your baby. Isla was latching perfectly to the right side, but she was destroying the left side. The pain was so bad that I was near tears just thinking about nursing. So, I decided to try using the nipple shield, and it did the trick! Of course I was weary that it might cause nipple confusion, but the pain was severe enough that I had to try something. I only use the shield on the left side, and Isla is able to latch correctly on both. Happy baby, happy mommy, happy boobies.
8. Cotton Snap Up Sleep and Play These soft, snuggly outfits keep newborns warm and comfortable, and they bring me back to the 4th trimester theory again… here’s a great article documenting one mom’s newborn learning and success strategies. Isla has pretty much lived in hers since she was born. I especially love the jammies that have the fold over hand covers so that Isla doesn’t scratch up her face. While I love darling baby clothes, I definitely think that these one-piece sleeper outfits are the way to go with newborns.
9. Pacifiers We registered for a variety of shapes and brands, but the pacifier Isla has taken to, the pacifier provided to us at the hospital, is the Avent Orthodontic Infant Pacifier. I know there are a wide range of opinions and theories about pacifiers out there, with talk of nipple confusion, over-dependence, and such, but Isla finds the sucking reflex soothing, and she used a pacifier like a champ since the day after she was born. That’s reason enough for me to let her use them. Nipple confusion hasn’t been a problem, and we can worry about weaning her later (like my mom said about me with my pacifier, as long as she gives it up before college we’ll be fine!). Get yourself a few pacifier straps (with the alligator clips) as well, to prevent the pacifier from dropping to the floor a gazillion times a day.
10. Travel Boppy This is similar to the regular Boppy nursing pillow, in that it provides a comfy place for babies to rest while nursing, while saving Mommy from arm and back pain, but it can also fold and half and zip up for ease of travel. It has a long shoulder strap, so you can carry it like a bag. I was a little concerned that there is not a removable cover, but apparently the entire thing is machine washable. We haven’t tried washing ours yet, so we’ll see how that goes. I can report, however, that it lint rolls quite well!
11. Ergobaby Carrier If there were ever a magical baby sleep aide, we believe it’d be this carrier! Isla konks out the second we put her in her Ergo (this is no exaggeration!), and she sleeps for hours! While “instant sleep” is not the purpose of the item, it sure is a handy little bit of knowledge to have in our back pockets in case we aren’t able to cure some fussiness with our regular tactics. It also must mean that babies find the Ergo to be pretty cozy! The Ergo fits both Isaac and I wonderfully, and distributes Isla’s weight so that we are able to carry her with comfort. While she is not all that big yet, at just under 10 lbs, we have a friend who still carries her 35 lb son in it and has no back pain! Another aspect of the Ergo I love is the hood flap. I can easily flip to up to protect Isla from wind, sun, rain, snoopy people with no boundaries who want to reach in and touch her… yes, that happens fairly regularly here in Shanghai.
So, there you have it. Our “must have” new baby favorites. This list is not exhaustive of all the things we’ve found helpful, of course, but they’re the items we rely on the most (other than diapers!). While I am certainly no baby expert, these products have been crucial in helping us to have an amazing and stress-free first month with our baby girl, and I hope some of them are helpful to you as well!