A few months ago I found out that a good friend of mine in Barcelona (another American expat!) is expecting her first baby, a little girl. We finally got a chance to catch up over lunch last weekend and she pumped me for information on necessary items to have when you're expecting. Off the top of my head, I rattled off as many items as I could remember. But when I got home that day, I started making a more detailed list for her with links to the products on Amazon. Apart from telling her what I thought would be useful, I also told her what items I thought were totally unnecessary or which items we received and never ended up using. It occurred to me to post this same list here on the blog because I remember how overwhelmed I was when I was pregnant by all the lists of "must-haves" and "essential" items a baby supposedly needs.
Before we get into the list, I think it's important to mention that what may have been useful for the Professor and I may not be so for you. Our decisions on which products to buy were based on how much money we wanted to spend, the fact that we live in a big city, the fact that our apartment is small and that we are not fans of clutter, and the fact that I'm a stay at home mom who breastfeeds and co-sleeps. So my advice to you would be to think about what would work best for your life as you read this list. With that disclaimer in mind, here are my recommendations:
For feeding your little one:
- The My Brest Friend pillow was something I used several times a day every day when nursing the little one. It's a real back saver and arm saver especially when you've got a newborn who nurses for hours so many times a day. As necessary as this was, the little one outgrew it really quickly and after he was two months old, I stopped using it.
- The Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump has probably been the most essential item I received. Even though I'm mostly a stay at home mom, I sometimes teach classes for a few hours a week and I would need to leave the Professor a few bottles so he could feed the little one in my absence. The pump is very efficient but if you're going back to full-time work and still want to breastfeed, I would say to DEFINITELY get an electric pump. They're expensive but the manual pump that I have would give you carpal tunnel syndrome and it takes too long to fill a bottle.
- Comotomo Natural Bottles: Even though the breast pump comes with two bottles, we registered for the Comotomo bottles since they are slow flowing (meaning your baby won't chug the milk) and because the shape is meant to imitate a breast. We used the bottles that came with the pump to store milk in the fridge and then we poured the milk from those into the Comotomo bottles. Now that the little one is eating solids and purees, we use the old pump bottles to store his homemade baby food. They're the perfect size!
- Breast pads. nipple shields, nipple cream. I didn't register for any of these. I think if I'd have gone back to work outside the home, I would have been more self-conscious of leakage and I would have bought the breast pads. I never needed nipple shields and the hospital gave me nipple cream which I only needed for a few days anyway.
- Now that the little one is eating solids, I use this Immersion Blender to mash up all his food, but any food processor or blender would work. As for spoons and bowls, just make sure whatever you buy is BPA free. Also, chances are you'll receive a million bibs as gifts and you can't see why you need so many but trust me that you do.
- The little one loves his mOmma water cup and we like that it's spill proof! Since he's teething he also likes to gnaw on the straw.
For putting the little one to sleep:
- We bought this crib from IKEA along with an IKEA mattress and crib sheets and we barely use it. We never thought we would co-sleep with our baby since we were too afraid we'd roll over him or suffocate him. But it turned out to be the best solution for us. Even though we don't use the crib for night-time sleeping, I will sometimes plop the little one in there for nap or when I need him to play by himself in a safe place while I do stuff around the house.
- I went back and forth over giving the little one a pacifier but in the end, I did and it truly did help him fall asleep. He doesn't go for a pacifier anymore but you might find them invaluable in the first few months like we did.
- We received many swaddles and only used them the first few days after the little one was born. He didn't like being swaddled and figured out how to get out of them. Interesting tidbit: Swaddling is not big in Spain. In the hospital where the little one was born, where all they do is births, the nurses had never seen a swaddle before and had no idea what to make of it.
- We never used sleep sacks but I can see where they'd be handy. The little was born in the hottest month of the year so we didn't cover him until October. Then I started dressing him in warm, feet pajamas at night since every time I put socks or a blanket on him, he'd kick them off.
For diaper changes:
- Hands down, the most used thing we own is the Skip Hop Changing Station. If you have the space for a changing table, that's wonderful. But if you live in a small apartment like we do, then this product is for you. It's made of vinyl so you can wipe stuff off it or wash it in case of emergencies. But when you're not using it, you can fold it up and put it away and when you need to go out, just grab it and head out the door. It has a compartment for extra diapers and it comes with a plastic container for baby wipes. P.S. I think diaper bags are unnecessary if you have a changing station. Anything else your baby might need (pacifier, bib, burp cloth) will fit in your purse or stroller basket.
- The little only had diaper rash when he was two weeks old and it went away as soon as we switched to perfume-free wipes. In any case, the hospital gave us a care package that came with diaper rash cream so we never needed to buy it.
- The idea of a diaper genie kind of grosses me out so we never registered for one. Also we wouldn't have had the space for it anyway. We put dirty diapers in odor locking baggies we get at the supermarket. These ones are similar. Whenever we leave the apartment we just grab the full bag and toss it in the trash.
For getting around:
- The most popular strollers in Spain are the Bugaboo and the Maclaren. This is because they are both lightweight strollers that take up little space in your home when folded up and are small enough that they are easy to navigate narrow and crowded city streets. The Bugaboo was way out of our price range so we settled on the Maclaren. We like that it's suitable from birth and light enough that we can carry it up and down the stairs in our building (we live on the 3rd floor with no elevator).
- Easy as the stroller is, still easier is using the Ergo baby carrier. When we're popping out of the house to run errands or go for a walk, we strap on the Ergo and pop the little one in. He loves being pressed up against our chest and always falls asleep in it. Note: If I could go back in time I would have chosen another color besides black since you can see lint and spit up stains easier in black.
For bath time:
- We bought this baby tub and we love it. Because we're short on space, we love that you can fold it and put it away when you're not using it. We also bought the accompanying infant support.
For play time:
- I'm not a big fan of lots of bright, plastic and noisy toys so we have a very small collection of these. Up until a certain age, your baby will find amusement and entertainment in ordinary, everyday things (keys, water bottles, tissue paper, mommy's glasses, etc) so you don't need a bunch of stuff for them to play with. We got these stuffed animals because they're cute but the little one plays with them only sparingly.
- Ever since he was born, I've put him on his Activity Mat so he can stare up at the colorful, hanging toys. When he got older he would bat at them and try to grab them. Now that he's seven months old, he uses this mat primarily to lie on his tummy and feel the different textures. He also likes the little mirror and the bird that chirps. I love that when he's not using it you can just fold up the mat, disconnect the arms and put the whole thing away. It's nice to not be surrounded with baby stuff all the time and take your living room back.
- I've written before about his jumperoo. He, like most babies on Amazon, loves this thing.
Other things that came in handy:
- Nosefrida: Weird but effective way of clearing your baby's stuffed nose. Tip: If your baby's congested, take a hot shower and then bring the baby to the bathroom. The steam helps to loosen the mucus and is more gentle than the Nosefrida.
- Sophie the Giraffe: Now that he's teething Sophie is a life saver. We take her everywhere.
- Aden +Anais swaddle blankets: We didn't use these for swaddling but they're perfect as a light blanket, a discreet nursing cover when you're in public or to drape over the stroller on a really sunny day.
Things I think are unnecessary/things we never used:
- White noise machine
- Baby bottle dryer
- Baby wipe warmer
- Infant swing
- Boppy pillow
- Baby mittens
- Video monitor
- Car seat (we don't own a car)
I realize this was quite a lengthy post but I'm hopeful that some of you may find it useful one day.