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There are plenty of guides out there as to how to prepare for the birth of a baby—so many, that figuring out which to use can be overwhelming.
I was fortunate enough to have four or five friends or friends of friends preparing to welcome a little one just before I did. When I asked for their advice on everything from registering to what to bring to the hospital, I got wonderfully detailed and comprehensive responses. I quickly learned was that moms love sharing their tips and experience. . . . so here I am, doing the very same thing!
I’ve compiled their dos, don’ts, and must haves, and added my own thoughts in as well. While I recognize I’m adding to the wealth of knowledge already out there, I know I appreciated information from people I really knew. In hopes that this advice may new moms or for those with friends expecting, here goes!
What to Read
The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy – My doctor recommended this over What to Expect When You’re Expecting. It has a better tone and good information.
Your Pregnancy Week-by-Week – I used some of the weekly exercises described here. . . . I didn’t use them often enough, but I liked thinking about them.
Baby Bargains – Try to check this out of your library. It has lots of advice as to which brands to buy for different items. Kind of like this list, but with more opinions compiled. Dads seem to really enjoy this book.
The Nursing Mother’s Companion – This book taught me how to breastfeed. Read the chapter that runs up to feeding a two-week-old baby before yours is born. That’s all you’ll need right away. Save the rest for later, once you feel comfortable with what you’re doing.
The Happiest Baby on the Block – Or watch the DVD! This was great information on how to swaddle and what else to try to calm your little one’s crying. It’s good to build up your arsenal before the battle begins.
How to Shop
Use Craigslist! We got our glider/ottoman, co-sleeper bassinet, baby sling, first stroller, and changing table there and saved at least $700.
For purchases from Babies ‘R’ Us, use their coupons. One mom returned nearly everything big she got (breast pump, stroller, car seat) and bought it back with a coupon, earning herself an extra $150.
For purchases from BuyBuyBaby, use not-yet-expired coupons from Bed Bath & Beyond. Twenty percent off a few big purchases really makes a difference.
Shopping online: Currently, we’re getting 30% cashback on diapers at Diapers.com, which we thought was a great deal. I also just signed up for Amazon Mom, which gives you free two-day shipping (like Amazon Prime, but free). Take a look for good deals like these; they’re certainly out there!
The Big Stuff
Crib: I have nothing to recommend as far as cribs because my parents passed along the one they used for my brother and me. So, I guess, check your parents’ attic?
Glider/rocker: GET ONE. Dutalier is considered the best brand out there, and moms agree their chairs are spectacular—classy and comfortable. We bought our glider/ottoman combination from Craigslist for $200 instead of $500+ new. We would have liked the lock on it, but it didn’t turn out to be necessary. Ours reclines, which is nice sometimes, but also unnecessary. It’s great to have somewhere other than the couch to sit. Plus the gliding motion soothes parent and baby in the middle of the night, and it’s super comfortable to nurse in.
Diaper Genie: I’m not sure this was necessary. I think it’s really just a glorified garbage can—but if you can get this for less than a garbage can with a self-closing lid, then go for it.
Boppy pillow: Good to help get you situated in the beginning with positioning during breastfeeding—you may even want to bring this to the hospital so a nurse can help get you settled. There’s a waterproof cover available to protect the pillow, which is probably worth it.
Receiving/swaddling blankets: Every mom has a different preference for these. We used the simple Carter’s blankets until we were given one by Aden and Anais. I like that it’s a lighter weight, plus it’s much bigger and wraps around our growing guy better these days.
The Ultimate Receiving Blanket by Swaddle Designs. I saw a friend use one of these to swaddle her six-month-old, and it was a dream.
Halo Sleep Sack and SwaddleMe. We used these, but not right away. The sleep sack in particular worked wonders, and we wish we’d started to use it sooner!
Miracle Blanket. One mom recommended this–which is essentially the same as a SwaddleMe, but I haven’t used one.
Swing or bouncy chair: These work for some and not for others, so it’s best if you can get one for cheap—or better for free—or at least try one out at a friend’s before buying. It seems that every kid likes these for some period of time, but whether that’s a week or month will depend on your little one.
Pack and Play: Most moms recommend Graco models, but Chicco are good, too. We keep this in the living room so Jacob has a place to nap and otherwise hang out while we do things around the house. We like the feature that raises the mattress up, but the small bassinet feature isn’t necessary. The changing station doesn’t support baby very well; our little Peanut rolled and we took it off about as quickly as we put it on. There are some models with lights and sounds and whatnot. Ours has a simple wind-up mobile, and Jacob loves it (and I love it because it doesn’t use batteries!). He smiled at those teddy bears before he smiled at us!
We also bought one on Craigslist to keep at Grandma and Grandpa’s. We spent $25 on it, it’s in great shape, and it’s totally worth it to have a bed at their house and not have to lug ours out when we visit.
Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper Bassinet: This is super helpful if you’re breastfeeding. It’s pretty easy to find on Craigslist—we found ours for 25% of retail! It is basically a freestanding bassinet that attaches to your bed so baby is right there and you don’t always have to get up for late night feedings.
A Pack and Play can do this job as well, but I like having this in the bedroom and the Pack and Play in the living room, rather than moving one piece throughout the day.
Go for the original size over the mini, because it will last longer as your child grows. The mattress can be lowered, and this can be used as a play yard (a la Pack and Play) as well.
You’ll want extra sheets for both the Pack and Play and the Co-Sleeper. I’ve found the Graco Pack and Play sheets are too thin. The Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper are a more durable fabric and construction, and those for the original sized Co-Sleeper fit on Pack and Plays, too.
Baby gym: This is a great thing to have once baby can focus, and especially once he starts reaching for things. We have the Twist & Fold Gym, Baby Animals by Infantino, and this Farmyard Activity Gym by Pottery Barn Kids is also recommended.
White noise machine: Some moms love having a white noise machine to soothe little ones to sleep. Personally, I don’t like the idea of white noise, because I fear children will become dependent on it to fall asleep. But then again, I have a child who falls asleep very easily, so I never even tried it. Other mothers, however, feel this is essential.
Clothes: If you’re having a shower—even if you’re not—you will probably get tons of onesies. And you’ll need them! Carter’s fit very well and wash up well. I like BabyGap, but another mom thinks their fabric isn’t as durable. Her babies live in clothes by Gymboree. Gerber runs extremely small and are very thin. Before you take the tags off things and wash them to prepare for baby, take stock and make sure everything isn’t for newborns or 0-3 months, as baby will grow out of these sizes quickly.
You’ll also want burp cloths, hooded towels, washcloths, and blankets—both to snuggle with and to lie on the ground for a clean, safe playtime.
Look out for information on breastfeeding, getting out and about with baby, and more in the second installment—coming soon!