I registered at Babies ‘R’ Us and Target for my 1st pregnancy. Between those two stores, they had most of what I needed within my tight budget. (If you are a boutique shopper with ample income, just focus on the items I used, not the brands.)
After my 1st baby, I haven’t had a shower or registry. Truth is, I didn’t need much after the 1st, making preparing for baby #1 even more important if you plan on having more than one child.
If I could go back and do things differently, I would not have immediately opened and put away everything I received from my registry. Your baby will have preferences or certain needs that you just can’t anticipate.
For example, I received tons of baby blankets. I’d open them, dutifully wash them in Dreft (which I haven’t used since!), lovingly fold them, and put them away in the baby’s new dresser. Turns out, I only needed one or two blankets, and I prefer the SwaddleMe blankets for newborns. Of course, I couldn’t have known this ahead of time, and I was so excited to receive gift for my new baby that I immediately opened everything!
Bottles are another classic example. Your baby may have reflux or be colicky, and there are special bottles you can buy for those symptoms. But if you’ve already opened, washed, and put away the bottles you registered for, you’re going to have to cough up the money for the specialty bottles. How much better would it be to return the unopened bottles, received a store credit, and use the store credit to get the bottles your baby actually needs? You get the point.
One other thing I would do differently? I wouldn’t be such a snob about hand-me-downs. I’m very embarrassed to admit this, but I wanted everything new for my 1st baby. Even though my sisters had each had several babies at that point and tons of hand-me-downs, I looked down my nose at it.
My baby was important enough to me to make the financial sacrifice to get her new things, I thought. Ugh. It was irresponsible of me on many levels to think this way. It hurt our bottom line and just created more waste! That’s the reuse part of the recycling triangle, right?.
Trust me, I have learned this lesson the hard way. My kids are now in almost-100% hand-me-downs on any given day, including underwear and shoes. There are 15 cousins to swap gear and clothes with! What a gift!
Below is a list of 20 things that I used and reused baby after baby:
|Pack-n-play||Breastfeeding gear||Diaper bag||Swing|
|Changing table||Bottles||Baby tub||Baby carrier|
|Swaddling blankets||Burp cloths||Nail clippers||Bouncy seat|
|Car seat||Pacifiers||Nasal bulb||Baby monitor|
1. Crib and mattress with a fitted sheet. I am still using the same baby crib with baby #4 that I received at a shower for baby #1. It came from Target but it’s been discontinued. It was relatively inexpensive, cute, and converts into a toddler bed and double bed. I got the least expensive mattress that they sold at Babies ‘R’ Us and a plain ‘ol white fitted sheet. You can buy adorable bedding sets, but the professionals caution against them because they pose suffocation hazards. So if you’re anxious about that sort of thing, you may end up putting the bedding away anyway.
My sister is a beautiful seamstress and she made a custom duvet with matching bumper pads for my 1st baby that I am also still using. To make sure the bumper pads were secure I weaved them in and out of the slats of the crib (see photo). It makes it cute and safe.
2. Pack-n-play. When my husband and I were 1st married we lived in a 700 square foot, one bedroom condo in Washington, DC. Space was at a premium, so we bought a Travel Lite pack-n-play (or play yard, as some call them). I kept the baby in the shallow level that comes with it next to my bed for the 1st few months so I could easily feed her at night.
It worked great for us! It was light weight and easy to transport, and I’ve used it for the 3 babies since for the same reason. Since it is smaller than a typical pack-n-play, using it as a travel crib for a toddler is tough. My kids adapted by sleeping curled up when we visited Grandma, but I must admit it was kind of pitiful.
3. Changing station and pads. I bought a cute changing table from Target with storage underneath for diapers, wipes, toys, etc. I used it as designed for baby #1 and then turned it into toy shelving for baby #2. We had so many toys at that point that I decided to use the top of a low dresser as my changing table (see photo).
This is what I’ve done since baby #2 and it’s worked perfectly! I have a basket next to the changing mattress with diapers, wipes, and Boudreaux’s Butt Paste. I recently updated my little arrangement and put diapers in the top drawer since I have two in diapers and the basket just couldn’t hold everything anymore. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to have an adequate changing station.
4. Velcro swaddling blankets. As I mentioned in the introduction to this article, I’m a big fan of the Swaddle Me blankets. They look like straight jackets because, well, they kind of are straight jackets. They come in different sizes and fabrics (lighter fabrics for summer, heavier fabrics for winter).
Many babies love to feel nestled like they did when they were in Mommy’s belly. The swaddling blanket can give them that security without the blanket accidentally covering their faces when they move around while sleeping. Although it’s not a perfect system–we’d wake up many mornings with the top part of the swaddle over one shoulder. We called it Toga Baby. No harm done, it just wasn’t as effective in that position.
The Swaddle Me also keeps babies from startling themselves awake like so many newborns do. You can change their diapers at night while keeping the top part of the swaddle on. This was a lifesaver when our little one had trouble going back to bed after nursing and having a diaper change.
You can also put the baby in his or her car seat with these swaddles on because they have a place for the buckle to come up between the baby’s legs. It’s not as practical as it seems, but I did use it a few times.
Some babies really, really resent the swaddle. They fight and struggle against it, making them cry kind of like you would if you were in a straight jacket. I don’t think this is typical, but these babies do exist. So if you get a bunch of swaddles at your baby shower, only open one. If your kid takes to it, keep them all. If not, return them all and get something you like better.
5. Car seat. My 1st car seat lasted through 3 kids. It was a gender neutral color and was a Graco travel system (car seat, base, and stroller). I loved it! I realize now it wasn’t as padded as the car seats my friends have for their kids now, but my babies didn’t seem to mind. I was able to pretty easily remove the cushion to wash it when the baby had major spit up or a diaper explosion.
6. Stroller. I have now had many strollers. They’re hard to keep clean and mildew-free if you don’t store them indoors, but they’re so bulky that they often end up living under the carport or on the front porch.
I didn’t have any complaints about the Graco stroller that came with the travel system until I tried a different stroller. I hadn’t realized how big and bulky the Graco stroller was–it took up the entire trunk of our Honda
Civic. With baby #2 when we were short on space in the Civic as well as our condo, I opted for an umbrella stroller as soon as the baby was old enough to ride in one (just a few months old). The only drawback is that it didn’t have storage underneath. It cost $20 from Babies “R” Us and I still use it with baby #4!
With baby #3, I asked for one of those little frame strollers (see photo on the left) that you snap the car seat into. It has a lot of storage, folds up easily and compactly, and there’s barely anything to get mildewed on it! The only down side is that once they’re out of the car seat, you can’t use it anymore, but it’s great while you can.
At several points in my life as a Mom, I have had two little ones who both needed a stroller at the same time. That’s why I bought my 1st double stroller, and umbrella double stroller.
Again, no underneath storage, but it folded up nicely and didn’t take up the whole trunk of my we-don’t-fit-in-a-sedan-anymore minivan. I was in heaven! I do have to tip the double umbrella back at every little bump on the sidewalk which is really annoying, but I don’t have the space for a double jogger. If I did, I’d be all over it even though I’m not a runner!
7. Breastfeeding gear. Most new Moms intend on breastfeeding at least some. In theory, you don’t need anything other than your boobs, right? There are lots of breastfeeding accessories, though, that can make the process much easier.
The most common breastfeeding accessory tends to be a Boppy. I used my Boppy with all 4 of my kids, and even would prop up baby #1 in it to get her to sleep better (not recommended by the professionals, but it worked great for us!). I have found that I’ve used it less with each baby. I think that as nursing got easier, I didn’t need it and it even became cumbersome to use it at that point.
If you want to breastfeed, it’s good have a breast pump. You don’t need to spend several hundred dollars on one. Chances are someone you know has one they’d be happy to lend you. I have 3 in my attic—one broken, one that works part-time, and the other that works all the time. (I realize I should probably throw 2 of them out.) I just lent the all-of-the-time working one to a neighbor.
You can also look in a local consignment store if you don’t have anyone to lend you one. If you’re going to use a pump you want it to be a good hospital-grade one. I have used the Medela Pump In Style Advanced for my kids and it’s been awesome. You can adjust how fast and how strong it pumps the milk out of you which I really like. Since some of my sisters have used it with their kids, too, it’s lasted at least 7 kids!
It wasn’t until baby #3 that I got a nursing cover. If you get the Bebe au Lait Hooter Hider, you have an excuse to say “Hooter Hider” every day, and that in itself makes it worth it to me! Having a nursing cover made nursing much more successful for baby #3 than the previous babies because I didn’t have to go hide in a room every time the baby needed to eat. Best of all, I didn’t have to worry about anyone seeing my post-baby muffin top while I nursed!
They come in all sorts of cute prints (go gender neutral if you want to use it with future babies – if you care about that sort of thing), just make sure it has a sturdy frame at the top so you can peek down at your baby easily while you’re nursing. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, they’re a cinch to make.
For my 1st three children I used the Playtex bottles with the disposable liners (see photo right). When I was pregnant with my 1st, I asked two people what bottles they used. They both said Playtex. I was sold! The downside that I refused to acknowledge with my 1st 3 children was that you have to continually buy new liners.
I had a dishwasher that would wash the disposable liners without melting them (so I’d reuse them once or twice), but then it broke and the new dishwasher melted them. It would have made Salvador Dali proud.
With my youngest, I use the Tommee Tippee bottles and I really like them. They have only 3 parts (nipple, ring, bottle) and clean easily. I only bought the 9 oz bottles, not the 5 oz. bottles. You can use the 9 oz. bottles for as long as baby needs a bottle, but have to get new ones in a few months if you buy the little ones because your baby will start needing more than 5 oz. at one feeding.
The Tommee Tippee bottles also have an optional little baby formula dispenser that goes in the bottle. You can add the right amount of water to the bottle, put the formula in the dispenser, and have a fresh bottle when you need it. If you can’t picture it, click on the link.
9. Bibs and burp cloths. I really like the old cloth diaper burp cloths. Done.
10. Pacifiers. Two of my kids have been nuts over their pacifiers (we call them nunus in our home). They would take any kind I’d give to them, but I tended to buy them Nuk pacifiers. They do come in different sizes, so if you give one to your baby that is too big, it may gag him or her. Start of with the newborn ones, but again, if you get several packs don’t open them all. Your baby may not take to them and you may find yourself buying several different kinds.
With my last 2 babies I used the nunus that the hospital gave us called Soothies. They worked great for us! (The picture is baby #3 with his Soothie pacifier being held in place by a giraffe stuffed animal. Nunus fall out. And if you have a kid who cries when the nunu falls out, you get creative.)
I also recommend getting a pacifier pod to put on the strap of your diaper bag (more about diaper bags later). Diaper bags get gross, especially as your kids get older and you’re carrying crumbly snacks in there. A pouch keeps the pacifier in an easy-to-reach place and, best of all, keeps it clean! There’s nothing nastier than finding a nunu at the bottom of your diaper bag covered in cracker crumbs, dust, and hair with a penny stuck to it.
11. Diapers and gear. I use Pamper Swaddlers diapers on my newborns. They seem to be the best in terms of not leaking; they have a little cut-out so the diaper doesn’t irritate the baby’s umbilical cord stump; and, they have a stripe on them that changes color when the diaper is wet.
Once the babies are out of the newborn phase, my #1 priority is diapers that don’t leak, and my #2 priority is price. I found the best diaper prices at Sam’s Club–they range from 16-20 cents per diaper. I’m not particular about brand, just price and effectiveness, and I’ve been really happy with the Sam’s brand diapers*. It’s also great to buy them in bulk because you go through them so quickly.
I recently subscribed to Amazon Mom and with the Subscribe And Save option, the cost per diaper for Luvs is the same as Sam’s. What’s even more enticing is that the shipping is free! So you don’t have to haul a giant box of diapers in and out of your grocery cart, car, and house.
(*Update: As of February 2013, Sam’s Club has changed their Simply Right diapers. Every time my baby has a dirty diaper, it leaks out the side! Do not buy them any more. Go with Luvs brand through Amazon Mom if you’re interested in a good diaper at the best price.)
I’m not picky about baby wipes either. I just want them to be big enough to clean up toddler-size messes and not tear. The Sam’s brand wipes fit the bill! I think they’re about two cents per wipe while Amazon Mom’s Subscribe and Save diapers are 3 cents each. Over the course of 7 years of changing diapers (and using wipes to clean up tons of other messes), those pennies have added up!
You don’t need a special garbage can for your baby wipes. I’ve tried many brands and none of them is 100% effective in eliminating odors. What I do is throw wet diapers away in the kitchen trash can (I hate taking out the trash, so I want as few cans as possible) and put dirty diapers in it too.
Many of my girlfriends tie dirty diapers in a grocery bag before putting them in the kitchen trash to help with odor control. If you really want a diaper pail in the nursery, I used and really liked Diaper Dekor. They sell special trash bags for them, but you can use a regular tall kitchen bag in them. The most popular diaper pails are the Diaper Genies but they need special bags, and that was just one more thing I had to worry about buying and running out of at an inopportune time.
12. Diaper bag or purse. There are so many options out there, but you don’t have to have a “diaper bag” per se. What you need is a bag with lots of pockets that is big enough to hold diapers, wipes, burp cloths, a bottle, and your wallet.
They can be too big, so make sure you get just the right size. I found the bigger my bag was, the more junk I put in it, the harder it was to find anything.
Your diaper bag will likely become your purse, so make sure it fits your style (again, if you care about that sort of thing). I’ve had messenger bag-type diaper bags, backpacks, and shoulder bags, large and small.
I swore I’d never go back to bags after using a backpack, but I did. The backpack was great because it didn’t come swinging off of my shoulder every time I leaned forward to put the baby in the car seat or put a pack of toilet paper on the bottom of my grocery cart. But I felt like a kid wearing a backpack all the time, so I opted most recently for a medium-size diaper bag that looks like a purse (see photo).
13. Baby tub and shampoo. I had a large baby tub that I would put in our bathtub to bathe the baby. Since our tub has gotten very full, I can no longer fit the baby tub in the bathtub and get another kid bathed at the same time.
The tub I used with the first 3 babies was this one. It worked great, but I needed to downsize with baby #4 so I bought a Summer baby tub. It’s lightweight, folds up for storage, and is small enough that I can bathe another kiddo in the tub with the baby.
My youngest is now 6 months old and I am starting to use a bath seat for him that clamps on to the side of the tub (pictured right), so that means you’ll only need the baby bathtub for about 6 months. You don’t need a special baby towel although my kids each have a different hooded animal towel like these. So cute, right?
14. Nail clippers. Cutting baby’s nails can be tricky. I have baby nail clippers that I don’t use because I…bite his nails. Yes, I bite them. Once you accidentally get your baby’s sweet little finger with the nail clippers you, too, will bite his nails instead. The nails often taste like sour milk and are gritty with dirt (yum!), but we Mommies make these (sometimes gross) sacrifices for our babies. But go ahead and get the nail clippers because you don’t believe me right now.
15. Nasal bulb. The best nasal bulbs are the ones you get in the hospital. The bulbs you buy in the store just aren’t as sturdy, so be sure to hang onto the one your nurse gives you. I use my bulb a lot to clean the baby’s nose when he gets congested. If you’re into popping pimples and that sort of thing, you’re going to love the bulb.
When your baby is first born, you won’t want her in a onesie because it will put pressure on her umbilical cord stump. So you want separates for new baby boys and separates or dresses for new baby girls. My kids live in the little long-sleeved white wrap shirts that snap on the sides like these for the 1st few weeks of life. Long-sleeved because they have cuffs on them to fold over baby’s hands to prevent her from scratching herself. Before I knew this face-scratching was an issue, my 1st baby came home from the hospital bleeding on her face because she had scratched herself so badly on the car ride home!
If you don’t have long-sleeved shirts with cuffs, many people buy little mittens. I have never, not ever, had both mittens stay on for more than about 30 minutes. Know what works much better? Baby socks. Yes, put baby socks on your baby’s hands. They work much, much better. Beyond newborn concern with the umbilical cord, dress your baby to your heart’s content!
17. Electric swing. A swing has been essential with all of my kids. When we were very short on space with baby #1, I got a portable swing that my car seat would snap into. I really liked how compact it was and that I had a place to set my car seat when I walked in the door, but it went through batteries like mad.
My #4 is so happy in a swing that I borrowed from my sister. He talks and coos, and then quietly falls alseep on his own. Unfortunately, it’s battery-operated, too. I recommend an electric baby swing that plugs in so you don’t need to buy sock in D batteries like I do. Make sure that the swing swivels since some babies like to swing side to side, others back and forth, knowing that these pivoting swings often have a wide base and take up a lot of space.
18. Baby carrier. I had a wonderful sling that I carried baby #1 in constantly. She slept so well in it! Then it was recalled. I was so mad. I thought about keeping it anyway but figured I’d be happy with a new one, right? Wrong. They sent me a front carrier like a Baby Bjorn to replace it. It worked fine with baby #2 but wasn’t the same.
I really recommend a baby sling, especially if you’re into attachment parenting and baby-wearing. Be aware, though, that if you have back trouble the imbalanced weight of the baby in a sling may aggravate it. You’d probably do better with a front or back carrier.
Front carriers are great for easy maneuvering while holding your baby, and back carriers are great for the outdoorsy types. Although I did fold laundry tonight with my 6 month old in a back carrier, so they’re great for the indoorsy types, too!
19. Bouncy seat, floor mat, booster chair, exersaucer. My babies love to be held, but I have to put them down to get things done. Until my babies can roll, I set them on a play mat. I have an Infantino one that folds up for easily storage.
From newborn to about 4 or 5 months, I put them in a bouncy seat (see photo). Eventually they get restless in there because they want to be more upright. That’s when I move my babies to a booster chair. I use it on the floor for play time and a the table during our mealtime. Make sure it has a seat belt because babies at this age are wiggly.
At around the same time, my babies are also really happy in an Exersaucer. There are thousands of different types out there. I had a big one that even converted into a push toy! With baby #4, I kept the Exersaucer in the (very full) attic and got a GoPod. It folds up which is a big bonus for me because with 3 big kids, a dog, and a bunny running around the living room, I don’t have much room for a full-size Exersaucer. It has several levels so you can raise it as baby grows taller. So much gear, I know, but you will use all of it.
Lastly, I loved our Bumbo. I used it a lot with my 1st. Since then, my 3 boys have all spit up a ton, and the Bumbo made it worse. The part that goes between the legs pushes on their tummies and they just spit up constantly. For some ungodly reason, Bumbos are expensive! They have also been recalled because people didn’t use them properly. So if you borrow one or buy one at a consignment store, be sure to get the strap that now keeps baby from wiggling out. The new ones come with it.
20. Baby monitor. My old condo and current house are both small, so I really didn’t ever need a baby monitor even though I had several. My only advice is to not buy the cheapest one. I had lots of bad luck with baby monitors not transmitting properly. I haven’t used one since baby #2 when we temporarily lived in a giant home. You can look at the Amazon.com baby monitors that are rated 4 stars or more here. Good luck!
If you have any questions about products you’re considering, feel free to ask the opinion of the Mommy Mentors on our facebook page.
Much Mommy love, Mommy Mentor CurlyQ
As always, here is my have-mercy-on-me disclaimer. Thank you!