I first wrote this post when our firstborn was six weeks old, and then I updated it every once in awhile to say how those must-have items stood the test of time. Now that we are parents of two, I’ve revisited this list a few times and it’s funny how back then, some of the things I originally had on my list seemed so necessary but now? Not so much. So, I’ve revamped this post – as of February 2016 – from the perspective of both a first-time mom, and a mom of more than one. Fair warning, this post is wordy, but I think I can pretty confidently say these are 10 items that will make your life with a baby (or more than one baby!) so much easier.
I first saw an Orbit in the wild before I had any children of my own. There was a mom at a local coffee shop, and her baby was chilling in an Orbit. She had the seat turned in such a way that the baby was facing her, but the stroller body was facing the other direction. It was the coolest baby accessory I had ever seen, which actually at the time wasn’t saying much since I didn’t regularly look at baby accessories anyway. But, I knew that if/when we became parents, I wanted the Orbit system.
Well, that day eventually came and one of the first things I did when I started researching all of our baby gear options was to seek out the Orbit. I was in sticker shock at the price tag at first, but came to realize it was fairly on par with its competitors, but one-upped them on the simple fact that it could orbit, hence the name (! haha !). Since getting our Orbit, they’ve gone from the G2 model to the G3, but it’s all cross-compatible. Which was good to know since when we got pregnant with #2, we knew we wanted to keep things going with the Orbit, but our infant seat hadn’t stood the test of time very well, due to user error (Pro Tip – thoroughly wash all covers of all baby gear before stowing it away for 2+ years, or else strange things will grow on the fabric rendering all of it useless and you’ll have to rebuy most of your stash, and it will be painfully heartbreaking).
The Orbit system has been the perfect fit for our family; it really has grown with us as we’ve changed and our needs have changed. From the Orbit line, the only thing we haven’t used is the accessory to turn the stroller base into a double stroller, because by the time our second child came, our first wasn’t interested in strolling around anymore. But Orbit had our backs with the super cool Sidekick Stroller Board – aka skateboard attachment – that we have gotten so much use out of, particularly at places like the zoo or the museum. Check it out in action in the collage up there, bottom right photo.
I think what makes the Orbit so special is what makes it called an “orbit” – the fact that the seat swivels on any of the compatible bases (except when forward facing, with the convertible seat). I love the ability to swivel the infant seat to face me when putting my baby in, or taking out, of the car. Here are some other pros to the Orbit system:
- Installation is a dream, seriously. The case is a cinch to install, and the convertible seat – when installing it forward facing – is, hands down, the easiest car seat I have ever installed. That thing does not budge.
- Covers are easily removable on both the infant and toddler/convertible seats, and easy to get back on, too.
- The stroller has a one-handed closure, and folds up fairly compactly. It can be pulled behind you like a rolly suitcase, if you’re traveling or something and in that case, the infant seat will attach to the stroller to make it easy to tote behind you.
- The infant seat has a nice, deep cover/sun visor that has a hidden piece of fabric you can pull all the way down to totally cover the seat – great for if your baby is asleep and you don’t want anyone peeking in.
- The handle on the infant seat is really comfortable on your arm – no pinching!
- The panniers are a nice accessory that attach to the stroller, and double as mini shopping carts. Also, there’s a stroller bag that can slide under the stroller base that has a strap with it – it can be carried like a diaper bag, and has a lot of room inside it for diapers, wipes, etc, which cuts down on what you’re carrying around with you.
This just scratches the surface, seriously, but I think you get the idea of just how much we love the Orbit system.
I don’t know if memory softens things, or if this is really true but I felt like it was a breeze transitioning my son from the swing to the crib for napping versus my daughter, who I had visions of still being in the swing at 18 years old (ha!). Both of my children loved their swings, and both of them took naps in them. The swing was a godsend, and even more so with my daughter because I really didn’t have the luxury of holding her for long naps like I did with my son (which was a fact that made me a little sad!).
We transitioned my son out of the swing at four months. I have no memory of how easy or difficult this was, and I only know it was 4 months because I have pictures of him in the swing at the start of his fourth month and at the end of it, he was in the crib (thank God for cameras on phones, amiright?!). My daughter didn’t say goodbye to the swing until she was 6 months old, and we did it cold turkey. It actually wasn’t that bad of a move, just a day or two of whining on her part at nap time. Either way, I would do it all over again. The swing is a must-have.
The one thing we did change up for baby #2 was to get a swing that could plug in. After my son moved on to his crib, we sold his swing because right around that time Fisher Price started putting out swings that ran on AC power instead of battery and I knew I would want that if we ever had more children. I’m so glad we went that route, because it was really annoying when the battery would run out mid-nap and you’d have to manually push the swing while quickly changing batteries.
We used the Rock ‘n’ Play (RNP) daily with both of our children – for nighttime sleep, and for naps. For both children, we kept them in our room at night and it was great to have them nearby in the RNP for quick nighttime feedings. Later, when they were moved into the nursery, in both cases they stayed in their RNP for a little while and we never had an issue with transitioning to the crib (sometimes there can be a problem since the RNP is slightly reclined).
We ended up with a new RNP for my daughter, and that one had a button you could press that would make the whole thing vibrate. We never used it, but it’s an interesting feature if your child is one who likes the feel of that.
The RNP has mesh sides, and the cover is completely removable and washable. You can fold it up flat, so when it’s not in use it can stand upright folded or slip under a bed. It’s also very portable since it can fold up, and it’s really lightweight. It has a buckle to keep the baby secure. There have been cases where a baby’s head has gone flat from extended use of the RNP, but we didn’t experience that with either child. I think it’s because there is a piece of plastic below where their head would lay, and I usually folded a thin burp cloth and placed it there to add more cushion. I think the main thing to make note of, though, is if your child starts sleeping 10+ hours at night, you should look into moving them to the crib (if they still need to be reclined, you can get a crib wedge).
Two babies, two different carriers. My son is on the left, in the Moby Wrap, and my daughter is on the right, in a Maya ring sling. The Moby gets a bad rap for the amount of fabric it involves, but I love how secure the baby feels in it. I never tried a sling with my son, but with my daughter I decided to give them a shot and I’m so glad I did. With a toddler running around, it was invaluable having a quick option to put on and plop my daughter in. I used that sling so much in the first few months of her life. I use the Moby now more often that she is older, and she likes to look around at her surroundings.
We also have an ErgoBaby, which is not my favorite carrier but my husband really enjoys it. It’s a structured carrier, meaning there is no fabric to tie or wrap. You just slip on the straps, snap the buckles, and go. I never feel like I get a very secure hold in a structured carrier, but plenty of people disagree with me on that point (my husband included!). It’s certainly worth checking out if you’re not into the idea of yards of fabric you have to tie.
For both children, I used the Boppy and Bumbo for different amounts of time and both had different levels of usefulness to me.
The Boppy I used for breastfeeding support with my son (it made a great arm prop), and every once in awhile I used it to prop him up. The Bumbo didn’t get used too frequently with him. I would say we used it for maybe a month, around when he was 4 months old and just learning to sit up. My son got the hang of sitting up on his own, rolling, and pushing up to sit very quickly.
My daughter, on the other hand, was born very small and didn’t have as good muscle tone initially as my son. We used the Boppy and the Bumbo for a few months, until her strength was such that she no longer needed the extra support or wasn’t falling backward when sitting up. The Boppy was great to place around her on the floor when she was practicing sitting, and the Bumbo was great when we were out and about (for example, my daughter was too small for a high chair and the Bumbo was a great stand-in, when placed in a booth with, obviously, someone sitting right beside her).
My one caution with these baby props is to not overuse them, because your baby will not be pushed to develop his or her muscles! These are great to use here and there, but not for long periods of time.
These are essential for quick diaper changes, quick dressing after bath, etc. If I can get a sleeper in a zipper versus snaps, I will choose the zipper every.single.time. Babies tend to not enjoy middle-of-the-night diaper changes, and a zipper makes the whole process quicker (though, if you do have a snap sleeper, only unsnap the bottom ones with the legs for a quick diaper change). Not to mention when you take baby out of the bath, he tends to not like being cold so having a zipper sleeper to get him into very quickly is a huge bonus!
Plus, they’re just so cute in little sleepers.
Both kids had the same activity mat, and they both liked it for different reasons. My son loved the piano – he loved kicking it and, later, playing it (it can flip to sit flat, so they can play it more easily). My daughter, on the other hand, was very into the dangling toys and loved grasping them and trying to pull herself up from laying down (crazy!). She also loved being in tummy time on the mat, whereas my son preferred no tummy time at all.
Activity mats can range anywhere from $50 to $100+, but they’re worth the investment in my opinion because they are so versatile. Not to mention, in most cases the toys detach so they can transition to tummy time use, or you can take them out to attach to a stroller or car seat. Look for something that can grow with your child, too, as in the case of this one with the piano. My daughter is 9 months as of me writing this post, and my son is 3 years old, and they still get use out of this thing – the detachable toys are still a hit with my little girl, and the piano is a favorite go-to for my son.
I remember the day I first gave my son a pacifier. It was April 12th, to be exact – six days after he was born. I remember it because I felt bad giving it to him, like I was making a mistake or something. Funny how that mom guilt thing works. Well, as time went on, my son ended up rejecting his pacifier in favor of his thumb, but for those few weeks he took it, he loved it.
My daughter, on the other hand, has turned out not to be a thumb sucker so the soothies have been invaluable. Every night, after she nurses, she gets her paci and falls asleep. I know there will come a day when I’ll have to break the paci habit, but in the meantime she enjoys it for the comfort and I enjoy the fact that she’s comfortable!
The reason the Avent Soothie brand is our go-to is the nipple of the soothie (if that’s what you call it…) is similar to that of a real nipple, so if you breastfeed your child it will mimic that. It’s a very soft pacifier, also, and because it’s made of silicone it warms up immediately in their mouth. We’ve never had an issue with nipple confusion, and I think it’s all due to the design of the soothie. I’ll never have my kids use another type of pacifier.
You can get these pretty much any place that sells baby items. They are extremely versatile and portable and I would have lost my mind (and did tons more laundry) without them. They protect the changing pad, blankets, bedding, etc… They’re great. You can also fold one up and put it in your diaper bag if your diaper bag didn’t come with a changing pad in it, or if the one it came with is in the wash.
A lot of times, when I would nurse my kids in bed in the side position, I would lay them on one of these pads to save my sheets from getting stained or wet with the inevitable milk that would dribble out of their mouths.
With my daughter, a lot of times I found myself having to change her diaper all over the house so I made sure to keep one of these handy in the rooms we spent the most time in (check out my post on making a portable diaper change station for more information), to keep her comfortable on the floor but also to protect my floors.
10. Swaddling blankets –
The Summer Infant Swaddle Me swaddles were our go-to for our kids. I’ll admit that with my son, the swaddles really intimidated me and we didn’t pick them up until he was about two months old. I felt like he hated swaddling, and maybe he did in those early days, but when I finally got the hang of it, his sleep drastically improved. My daughter was the same though she did like having one little hand out. Both of my children had such strong startle reflexes that the swaddle really became indispensable to us for nap and nighttime.
The Aiden & Anais swaddle blankets are my favorite, but the Summer Infants I link to above are great for a quick swaddle (we’ve tried both the velcro kind, and the kind that unzip at the bottom, which is great for a quick diaper change). If you’ve ever wondered what the hole is in the back of the Summer Infant swaddle, I learned that it’s for swing straps. Mind.Blown.
The recommendation for ending swaddling is when your baby can roll him or herself from back to belly. My son mastered this around 4 months, and you’ll notice the theme here – we stopped using the swing, the RNP, and the swaddle all at the same time and moved him to his crib. My daughter stopped using those things around 6 months, though she hadn’t 100% mastered rolling at that point. I knew she was ready to stop, though, because the swaddle began upsetting her and her sleep became very interrupted. I know parents worry about when and how to stop the swaddle, and my advice is to watch your baby for cues. You’ll know when it’s time. As for how to get out of the swaddle? Just quit, cold turkey. You’ll have one, maybe two nights, of restless sleep – maybe – but chances are you’re not having consistent sleep anyway, so what’s the difference?
Hopefully this list helps you out, whether this is your first go-around or not. And while it may seem like you only use many of these items for a short period of time, I do feel like they’re invaluable during that period of time. Not to mention, if when your baby outgrows them and they’re still in pretty good shape, you can sell them at a consignment shop or on a place like Craigslist, so you can recoup some of your investment. If you think I’m missing something from my list, let me know by commenting. As always, thanks for reading 🙂