When I got pregnant (ok, maybe before getting pregnant too), I loved browsing through lists of baby essentials. It was so much fun! And it was fun because to me it was quite obvious that most of the stuff labeled as “essentials” were totally useless gadgets taking up space. Now that Loulou Maya is more than 2,5 (but still less than 3) months old, I can safely say that yes, indeed, those registry lists are loaded with tons of unpractical, unnecessary, not to mention unsustainable items. So what I will try to do today is to share with you the things that we got and actually used those first months of parenting. Our child is growing strong and healthy so far, so our parenting can be safely considered at least decent. You can trust me guys and gals.
The reason that I put “biased” up there in the title is that our parenting practices are somewhat (fine, a lot) crunchy. Therefore, the way we chose to invest our money might seem totally ridiculous to you and that is totally OK. I hate the labeling of parenting practices, so I will just give you a couple of points of what we are *trying* to do:
- baby wearing. There are three main reasons for this. The first is that we love keeping Loulou close to us, especially when she was a newborn and taking long walks seemed to be the only thing that helped relief her from gas pain. The second reason is that a baby carrier takes so much less space than a pram (stroller? pushchair? I am not a native speaker, you guys). Our home does have a storage space, where we could keep it, but it would be a pain to take it in and out every time. The third reason is convenience. Not only does a baby carrier take up less space, but you will be out of the house much faster with it too.
- second hand clothing. Yes, we did buy a few cute outfits around the 20th week of pregnancy, to celebrate, but then I was lucky enough to see that there were moms giving away whole bundles of baby clothes for free or almost free. My older cousin sent me another bundle as well, so we had more than enough. Babies wear the first size (56 or in other countries 0 -that is zero- or 0-3) for such a short time, that buying new is a huge waist of resources on many levels.
- cloth diapering. This one took a while to get started with, due to a lost order. We used disposables, while waiting for our order to arrive, and then had to order once more, from a different seller. Cloth diapering will take a big part of your budget at first, but will help you save a lot in the long run. For more reasons to cloth diaper, you can visit this post.
- breastfeeding. I had my heart set on breastfeeding for a long time before even getting pregnant. I did whatever I could to make it work and I was also lucky, so I am exclusively breastfeeding. I also did not have to go back to work and in my case, I work from home anyway. This means that I have no particular experience regarding bottles and breast pumps and formulas. I am well-aware that these things are essentials for many families though.
- co-sleeping. On the floor. Yup, that’s right. No fancy crib for us. Or bed, for that matter. We sleep on a mattress on the floor and that’s the way I have always liked it. While researching sleeping arrangements, I read that a mattress on the floor is a popular and very safe sleeping solution for toddlers, according to Montessori. That’s when we decided that a baby mattress next to our own would be the perfect solution to have our baby close to us, but not worry too much about rolling over her, when over-tired.
So, now that you know what we are all about, here is my biased list of newborn essentials:
- a mattress for the baby. Or you can have the baby sleep on your own mattress/bed. If you choose a separate mattress or co-sleeper for your newborn, make sure that it is level with your own bed and there is no gap between the two.
- a mattress portector. For the baby’s mattress and your own as well. Because even if the baby does not sleep on your own bed, they will inevitably end up there after a late night feed. And they will have an incident of explosive poop right there and then.
- a Moses basket, sleeping pod or even a big laundry basket, for baby to nap in. We live in a two floor apartment and this one was really practical. If your home has only one floor, you can just take the baby in the bedroom to nap.
- 3 pairs of sheets for the baby mattress and Moses basket. Newborns spit up a lot. They also pee and poop a lot and preferably the 2 seconds that they are left without a diaper. Everyone who has ever peed in a meadow can understand the pleasure of peeing while fresh air caresses your bottom.
- about 20 cloth diapers. Depending on the system that you use and how often you can do laundry, this number can differ. For example you can have 20 all in one diapers or you can have 20 pre-folds and 3-4 covers and so on. We only have 12 diapers size small and another 12 size medium plus 4 covers, but we are still using disposables when we go out or when we are super-tired during the night. The reason for that is that we are spoiled, because we used disposables the first month. I really hope that after our vacation, we will be 100% cloth though. I think that my friends who went cloth from day one did the best.
- 1.458.934 muslin squares. Or, you know, around 20. The point is, you will use these things everywhere. I thought that my mom and mother in law were exaggerating, when they kept asking me if I have enough of those. Well, you can never have to many. You use them as burp clothes, emergency diapers (or regular pre-folds), a protective layer between your baby’s rosy cheeks and the filthy cafeteria couch, improvised shading system, breastfeeding cover, handkerchief, swaddling cloth (the big ones) and even breast pad (the smaller ones, folded).
- baby carrier. Now, those things are definitely cheaper than a stroller, but still, do your research before you invest in one. Ring slings, mei tais, soft-structured carriers, woven and elastic wraps are the most popular choices. Dads tend to prefer the soft structured carriers with buckles, because they are the easiest to put on. Many moms, on the other hand, prefer the flexibility of wraps, as they allow you to position the baby in many different ways, many of which allow for discreet breastfeeding. When choosing a baby carrier, make sure to take into consideration the type of fabric as well, especially if you live in a particularly hot or cold climate. And it is a good idea to consult a baby-wearing specialist (or youtube videos of specialists), to make sure that you wear your baby in a way that is supporting both their body and yours.
- bouncer seat. I was soooo against this thing at first. I thought that if we had one, we would just dump our baby there and bounce her to sleep, instead of making an effort to interact with her. Well, in our case, this was a wrong judgment. When Loulou started getting heavy, my back started killing me, as I was wearing her almost the whole day. She was also frustrated and I did bounce on my exercise ball to get her to sleep anyway. When I caved and we bought the bouncer, when she was 1,5 months old, everyone in the home became happier. She loves her chair. I think it gives her a sense of independence. In that sense, I think that Loulou is much like our rabbit, Noah: she loves being around people a lot, but does not particularly enjoy being held all the time. Sure, when she is upset or sleepy, she loves a snuggle, but she also loves observing me cooking or folding the laundry or her dad playing the piano or working, while she bounces away, wiggling her little feet. If you choose to get a bouncer, keep in mind that it is not safe for the kids to nap there.
- car seat. Despite the fact that we do not own a car and we don’t even drive, we did get a car seat, to bring Loulou Maya back home from the hospital. When we go on holidays, Loulou will be getting around in cars a lot as well and having a baby in a car without a car seat is just wrong and extremely dangerous. Should you buy a used car seat? There are mixed views about it. I feel that if you know the family that you get the seat from, are sure that it has been stored properly, is not expired and has not been involved in a car crash, then it is fine. But don’t quote me on that one. Use your own judgment.
- adult furniture for baby items. Because what the hell are you going to do with this tiny, snow-white themed closet, once your baby is a bit older and there is not enough space to hang her outfits? Sure, you can sell it, but why not buy adult furniture from the start? A dresser is an excellent way to store onesies, towels, sleeping bags, baby sheets and that million muslin squares. And the top surface doubles as a changing table as well, if you get one that is wide enough!
- 6 long-sleeved onesies, 6 short-sleeved onesies, 4 shirts, 2 pairs of tights, 4 pairs of trousers, 2 sleeping bags, 2 sweaters/cardigans, 1 jacket, 2 hats. Of course all these depend on the season that your baby is born. A summer newborn will probably not need a jacket (unless you live in the Netherlands, where it was 12 degrees the 20th of August. Or, you know, northern Europe in general? I guess Canada as well? Fine, get a jacket anyway!). I have to admit that we have many more of each, but that’s because of the bundles of free clothes that we got. And still we seem to be using the same 3-4 ones over and over again, because they are our favorites.
- a diaper bag, which can be any kind of bag really. No need to buy a fancy, super expensive one. You just need to remember to keep the essentials in there: diapers, a wet bag for the dirty diapers and soiled clothes, an extra outfit for the baby (and a shirt for you, if you want to be super-organized), baby wipes, diaper cream.
- on-the-go blanket. A soft blanket offers protection and comfort to babies. Having one in your diaper bag allows you to put baby for a nap anywhere, without much fussing.
- a blankie or soft, cuddly toy. I thought this one was useless and Loulou Maya would never reach the point of being interested in one, but now, at 11 weeks, she loves grabbing and sucking things. She often comforts herself by sucking her soft dog toy and burying her face in his drool-covered fur. So it’s a good idea to have something dedicated to this purpose. Better yet, have two, so you can throw one in the washing machine regularly.
- a baby-gym. Even if your newborn seems totally not into it at first, it does help babies develop. At first, even just staring at the hanging mobiles is great work for newborns. Slowly but steadily they will start trying to hit and grab them. Sure enough, it is better to get your kid to nature and allow them to use trees and bushes as mobiles, but unfortunately we don’t always have the time to do that or the weather is so-freaking-bad!
- baby books. Babies love to chew on soft books and the love even more the ones with different textures or the ones that make sounds (or both). Additionally, baby books usually have just images, which allows you to create all sorts of different stories every time you “read” them to your child. Reading to your baby helps them evolve their linguistic skills long before they actually speak. It is also a great bonding activity. I have to admit that I do not feel a natural inclination to talk 24/7 to a human being that can not understand much just yet and I tend to make stupid “baby” sounds to her, which is great to help her develop her dialogue skills, but if I want her to have a more extended vocabulary, reading books to her is a great tool.
As you can see, my list is missing some pretty serious “essentials”, like a changing mat, baby bath and baby phone. Scandalous, isn’t it? Let me explain a bit why I chose not to include these items. About the baby phone, it’s just that we don’t need one. Our house is pretty small and I can hear every tiny sound Loulou makes, even when I am downstairs and she is napping upstairs. If you have a bigger home, I think it is much better to have the baby sleep in the same room as you, instead of relying on a baby phone, to check on your baby’s well-being. Judging from the experiences of other moms I have read online, having a baby phone does not prevent new parents from getting paranoid and going to check their baby’s breath every 15 minutes anyway. Regarding the baby bath, it is a bulky item that we did get, but I do not consider an essential. You can shower with your baby and if you are worried you will drop them, you can use a shower sling, until you get more confident. The reason that we got the baby bath is that bathing is part of Loulou’s night time routine, while I am a morning shower person and showering twice a day is a bit much. As for the changing mat, yes, we have one, but most times we just change her on the couch or bed. That said, you do need a waterproof fabric or surface of some kind, to protect your furniture. Or, you know, a thick towel will do as well.
I would love to read your own suggestions and ideas!
*You can check out all the “Family and Parenting” posts here*