baby | (a less obvious) must haves list

when we were tasked with the challenge of becoming parents, we tried to prepare as best we could. i read one thousand and one "must have" lists in order to figure out what we would really need. of course what works for someone else might not for another (case in point: we are so relieved we only spent $15 on a cute ikea trash bin rather than $100 on the diaper genie sort that requires specialty bags. it's doing the job just fine). so i took my research with a grain of salt.

most of the lists i encountered included really obvious and necessary things (like a crib! turns out, not actually a necessity), others included extravagent products (wipes warmer). some had bouncers and exersaucers (yikes plastic city!) and still more listed a rocking chair or glider as the end all be all (which, through a series of emails with a pregnant friend, it occured to me it is not).
i'll leave those decisions up to you.

what i will provide you with is a list of not so obvious baby gear essentials. i will clarify that these were must haves for us and our newborn. they may not be for you, but at least it will get you thinking beyond diapers and wipes.

one | receiving/swaddle blankets
we use these for everything! this is maybe one of the more obvious items on the list but for those women who are still pregnant i would like to emphasize how important they are. yes, they are for swaddling. they are also for keeping warm. and for supporting body parts in carseats. and laying over couches and chairs that may have scratchy material. but the number one use for us? we fold them in half and lay them length wise under baby's head. because babies spit up...a lot...all the time. we lay the blankets in beds, on couches and in cribs. this saves us from having to wash bed sheets, crib sheets or scrub couch cushions. buy a pretty one as a photo backdrop, and then stock up on cheaper ones like these.

two | twenty thousand burp cloths
ok, maybe just twenty. but for real, i mean twenty. we go through these at a rate that rivals diapers. we received a pack of three burp cloths at our shower and so i mentally checked it off my list. little did i know that three would last about half a day! three times we trekked to the store to purchase more burp cloths (and so that being said, i love these soft carter's ones but haven't tried much else). you want it to be absorbent (sometimes it feels like the baby spits up everything he just ate!) and you'll want them to be long as well. even if you don't burp your baby over your shoulder, when you're carrying him in places other than your own home, you'll want the protection because you don't have the luxury of changing five times. oh, and the reason you want so many is the smell and the wetness. one good spit up and you won't want that thing anywhere near you! that, and you need one in every room of the house each day. you don't want to have to go running to where you nursed last every time they throw up.

three | large absorbent washcloths
let me clarify: i am not referring to those teeny tiny baby washcloths that you will receive one million of (for the record, you'll need four-six of those at most. it's been three months and i haven't nearly reached the bottom of the pile we were gifted). what i'm referring to is 12 x 12 fluffy cloths like these ones. they will be used at the change station for two purposes: to clean up pee and spit up. for our little boy, we just lay the cloth over his privates while we clean his bum. it has caught the arc of pee many times! it's my understanding girls pee during changing too and although it won't be caught as neatly, you'll still need something to wipe her down with. and babies spit up on the change pad. all the time! so we use a different white cloth to clean that up.

four | boxes of kleenex
while it's probably not the most environmentally friendly, we keep a box of kleenex at our change station. sometimes we use it to catch the aforementioned spit up. but mostly we use it to create a dry bum. sometimes you just don't have all today to let it air dry. and let's be honest, you're taking a big risk with a naked baby and no diaper protection (we learned this the hard way). so after wiping (not for pees, sometimes we don't do anything during those changes), we grab a kleenex and dry him down. wetness is apparently the cause of diaper rash so the kleenex helps to solve this. also: boogies.

five | honest balm
probably any brand will do for the rest of these items but here i'm going to specifically recommend honest co. organic healing balm. it's for scratches, burns and diaper rash. it's an oily yellow cream and we have done scientific tests against sudafed and zincofax diaper rash ointments and honest balm works every time. okay, they weren't scientific. but basically we pad a white cream on and nothing happens. we put honest balm on and the issue is fixed within two or less diaper changes!

six | gel cold packs
i've tried and tried to find a super mini cooler but haven't had any luck. even the lunchbox style ones are too big. we have a version of this in the side of our diaper bag but it only holds one bottle and no ice pack. basically what i want to be able to do is pack 1-3 bottles and one cold pack in a pouch. this way i can fit it in the diaper bag and transport the liquid gold safely to grandma's house. we use a gel pack that was kindly given to me at the hospital when my jaw was acting up back in september ("sorry ma'am, you being pregnant means you can't have any of the drugs that will make you feel better, but here's an ice pack."). it's perfect because it melds itself around the bottles and doesn't take up much extra room in the plastic zip pouch

seven | dry erase marker / china pencil
i keep a stock of expressed milk in the fridge. jon uses it to give the baby a bottle, or to take to a family member's house. i like to know when the milk was made so that it doesn't expire. sometimes we also need to bring multiple bottles to the sitter's house and i want them to know which one to use first in case they don't need them all. hence, the pens. we use a dry erase for the bottles in our fridge, but since that is liable to rub off in transit, i use a china/wax/grease pencil to mark it when the bottle leaves the house. i sound like a crazy mommy here don't i? expiration dates are just very important to me - and although breast milk is pretty awesome in its lack of bacteria, it does expire (you can safely store breast milk 6-8 hours at room temperature, 6-8 days in the fridge, 6-8 months in the freezer).

eight | pacimal
my mom is a neonatal nurse and she discovered the pacimal from one of the moms in her ward. essentially it's a pacifier but with a big stuffed animal attached. i know, it seems counterintuitive right? but babies spit out pacifiers all the time - often on the floor. the pacimal can be positioned to stick around, even once it's spit out. my favourite hack is putting jackson in the bjorn baby bouncer and tucking his pacimal under the straps. there's other versions of this product but it's the same idea.

nine | a fan
there are one hundred and one reasons to have a fan when you have a baby. here's three:
cuddling and nursing babies gets hot. it helps the air to circulate in the sleeping room. it creates white noise which babies love.

ten | stain remover
rubbing the sullied clothes with water and baby detergent and leaving them to soak works too, but it's more time consuming so try this. you will find yourself using it often, especially if you want to keep those cute clothes cute.

eleven | water bottle with straw
let's just say, you will be doing a lot of things one handed. and since you're supposed to drink a ton of water after you give birth (especially if you are breastfeeding), having a water bottle with a straw component is key. some of my warmest memories of the early days are jon filling my bottle with ice cold water and feeding it to me while i tried to nurse jackson (something else he wouldn't have been able to do without the straw). because of the frustration and baby+mama heat making combo, i was boiling hot. it not only gave me the fluids i needed, it cooled me down mentally and physically.

twelve | nursing bras
i know, another obvious one right? i bought one soft nursing bra, and one fancy underwire for "going out." and those were pretty expensive! since then, i have bought four more inexpensive sports bras with "easy access." you don't have to wear a bra if you don't want, but sometimes it's necessary (leaking, snee, greeting people, the sheer weight of them!). so pick yourself up a number of these if you are breastfeeding (most of them will be in the laundry most of the time).

thirteen | patience.
oh, and a bottle brush. bottles and nipples are impossible to clean without one. 

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