I remember when I first got pregnant and told my mom we were coming to visit so we could go shopping for baby gear. (She lives in a city of over a quarter of a million people, whereas my little town houses around 40,000, so her shopping is infinitely better.) She laughed and said deviously that she was going to take me to Babies R Us, which she described as the “Costco of baby stores.” A few months later she made good on her word and with a devilish grin on her face, walked me through the front door of Babies R Us. She was right – I felt like I was in Baby Wonderland.
Over the next few months I read a lot about what things we should and shouldn’t buy. I talked to experienced moms and dads as well as new moms and dads. I asked questions of my parents and sought the opinion of others who were pregnant and doing the same research I was.
In spite of all my hard work and research, the best way to know what exactly you need and don’t need is to actually have the baby and try to live with or without certain items. I know that fact won’t keep responsible parents from hunting for answers before the Big Day – and it shouldn’t! – so in the spirit of being a new parent, here’s a list of ten of the top gadgets I and other new moms I polled found most useful during the first year.
10. Hooter Hider. Mine was actually home-made and technically not a Hooter Hider, but these are the most well-known brand, I think. These “aprons” of sorts are made to hook around your neck and drape over you and Baby while you nurse, providing privacy and peace of mind. BONUS: If you use this while eating it keeps crumbs off of Baby.
9. Little Noses Saline Drops. Babies can’t pick their noses. And your fingers are WAY too big to fit in those tiny nostrils to do it for them. Plus, when you try, they really don’t like it (trust me). But, like adults, babies get boogers, and it annoys them and can make nose-breathing difficult. This is especially frustrating when they are eating and have to stop every few sucks to breathe through their mouths. These saline drops soften dried mucus in the nose, making it easier for you to suction them out and continue with your (and Baby’s) day. BONUS: You can use them on yourself, too.
8. Nursing Tanks. Since layering is in style big time right now, these tanks fit right into your pre-pregnancy style while still providing you with easy access to the important things when Baby’s ready for lunch. Stay covered up – no lifting your shirt to show off that C-section scar or scary stretch marks to the world – and still satisfy Baby’s mealtime needs.
7. Diaper Organizers. I bought one of these on a whim while out shopping with gift cards from one of our baby showers. It was a good price and allowed me to store useful things out of reach of baby yet conveniently close to the changing table…without having to drill holes in our 1970s-era panel-covered walls. I hung it on the end of the changing table and still use it; I can keep one hand on the ever-more-mobile Little Miss while I reach for a diaper, rash cream, powder or lotion.
6. The Boppy. I could NOT have nursed Little Miss comfortably without this wonderful pillow. When I was first in the hospital, the nurse suggested the football hold and it worked very well. But after a couple of days I got the hang of laying Little Miss on the Boppy in front of me to nurse and it was super comfortable, and freed one of my hands for doing something else like reading, using the TV remote, holding the phone, or eating lunch.
5. Wet Bags. Like it or not, gross accidents are sure to happen at the most inconvenient times. Especially when babies are young and their diet consists of nothing but liquid. Be prepared with style for those inopportune moments when you need somewhere to store Baby’s messy clothes (that you spent 15 minutes painstakingly selecting that morning!) until you can get home and throw them in the wash. If you prefer, a 1-gallon Zip-Loc baggie works, too…it’s just not as cute. Oh, and along these same lines, don’t forget to always keep a season-appropriate change of clothes in the diaper bag for these situations…for Baby AND you, if you like!
4. Compact Changing Pad. I hated it when I wanted to run into the store for something quick and couldn’t decide if I should take the diaper bag or not. It’s big, it’s bulky, it’s heavy, it’s one more thing to juggle…then I discovered these handy portable changing pads. The diapers, wipes and diaper cream all fit into the little pockets that fold up inside the pad when you’re not using it, and when you need to make a quick stop somewhere, it’s easy to grab and go.
3. The One-second Thermometer. If you’ve ever tried to hold a baby still for an entire minute, you know why this item is so valuable. Try holding a sick baby still for an entire minute. When Little Miss was first born, all I had was a regular old “under the arm” thermometer. She hated having me hold her arm pinned to her side long enough for the thing to give me a readout…which wasn’t all that accurate anyway. The faster thermometers are more expensive, but totally worth every penny.
2. Pacifiers with Caps. The bottom of bags get gross really fast. Crumbs, dirt, sand, tree pieces, garbage, splashed liquids from tables and counters, you name it. If you’re pulling something out of the diaper bag and sticking it in your baby’s mouth you want it to be as clean as possible. These pacifiers (or any with a cap; I personally prefer Avent brand) keep the nipple clean and sanitary so you can feel completely comfortable letting Baby suck away on it.
1. Ergo Baby Carrier. There are so many types and brands and styles of baby carriers out there that it’s impossible to name the absolute best. However, in my experience, I’ve heard nothing but positive about this one (from many sources), and have tried it out a couple of times myself and been impressed. It’s comfortable, durable, flexible, and washable.