One of the best things about working with expecting and new parents during my pregnancy was getting so much amazing advice! I loved to ask all of my clients what their favorite products and gear has been, and took a few items from each person. Now that Ollie is a few months old, I’d love to pass on all the great recommendations we got, and share what has worked for us!
The Big Things
Stroller & Carseat: Uppababy Vista and Mesa
We splurged for this travel system and I’m pretty happy with them. I love the fabric and look of the Uppababy, and how easily the carseat and stroller work together. The Vista comes with a bassinet, which we used for the first month for night sleeping, and still use for travel sleeping, or walks around town. We chose to go with the Vista over the Cruz because it can turn into a double stroller if we decide to have another baby.
My only complaint about the stroller is the weight. Now that I actually have to carry it up and down stairs and in and out of the car, I wonder if a smaller/lighter weight stroller would have worked better. I’m currently mulling over buying the Minu or G-Luxe for the car, and using the Vista for walks.
The first few weeks, we used the Uppababy bassinet that came with our stroller for overnight sleep. In desperation for longer stretches and more sleep for ourselves, we decided to splurge on the Snoo bassinet. If you haven’t heard about this thing, it’s a “smart” bassinet that oscillates and plays white noise. It has microphones, and when baby cries, it moves faster and bumps up the volume. It also works with an app to show you his sleep and when it is in soothing mode.
I wasn’t completely sold on it for a few weeks. At a month old, Ollie was sleeping 3-4 hours at a time and it didn’t feel like his sleep was improving. Looking back now, I think we just had unrealistic expectations in the beginning that he’d magically start sleeping 6+ hours in a row, but babies get hungry and wake up! Over time, sleep stretches got longer and longer.
When Sean went on his first work trip, I took Oliver down to my parents house to get extra help. A few nights without the Snoo, and I realized what it was best at–helping him back to sleep when he woke up without me picking him up. Giving him the pacifier and waiting a few minutes usually is enough. Sometimes I sleep through his wake ups, and see that the Snoo rocked him to sleep on the app when I check it in the morning.
Ollie is nearly 4 months old right now, and his longest stretch is usually 6-8 hours. Ollie’s bedtime is 7:30-8pm, we do a dream feed at 10pm, and our goal is 7am wake up. Sometimes we make it to 7am, sometimes he eats at 4am. Either way, we are not getting up multiple times a night to rock him back to sleep, which is huge!
Baby wearing: Solly Wrap & Ergobaby 360
I love both of these for different purposes. The Solly Wrap was great for the early days when baby just wants to snuggle up, and around the house. I also used it when I had to go get work done on my car and sat in the dealership for a few hours. It is a great way to let baby nap on you and still use your hands! Once Ollie started wanting to look around more, we haven’t used it as much. I would like to try it again since he is bigger and can have his head out of the wrap more.
The Ergo is great for walks around the neighborhood. We walk to Roslindale Village a few times a week, and take our puppy Harper for walks with Ollie 2-3 times a day, so this has been essential. It’s more structured, so I feel more comfortable walking with him in this knowing his head is supported properly and his hips are in the right position. I also love that eventually he can face out or be worn on our back. We’re still using the infant insert because he’s a peanut, but I think its time has come.
Only issue with both of these is that Ollie is a little heating pad and now that it’s hot outside, I cannot wear him without sweating through my shirt. We’ve started doing walks with the stroller, and Harper has actually been pretty good. It’s not always easy, but it’s better than needing a shower and change of outfit 3 times a day!
Breast Pump: Haakaa & Spectra S1
I got the rechargeable breast pump, which has been totally great. I can carry it around with me while I’m pumping so if Ollie is crying in the swing or I need to fill my water, I’m not tethered to the wall. I think I had to pay $50 to upgrade from what my insurance would pay for, but worth it!
The real suggestion here is the Haakaa. You put this on one boob while you nurse on the other and it collects your let down. Sometimes I get 2 ounces from one nursing session. Now that Ollie gets distracted and doesn’t nurse as long. I usually manually pump into this after each feeding as well to get a little extra. This really helps with building a freezer stack of pumped milk, and wish I had started using it earlier.
Baby Lounger: SnuggleMe Organic
We used this all the time, especially in the early days. Ollie napped on it on the couch, our bed, even on the kitchen table. It’s only approved for supervised sleep, which sucks because Ollie loved sleeping in it. You also just need somewhere safe to put baby while you pee, fill your water, need to shake out your tired arms, and this was great. I still put him on this, and its great for tummy time.
Changing Pad: Keekaroo Peanut Changer
This thing is made out of some kind of plastic that means you can use wipes on it. One less thing to put in the washing machine when baby inevitably pees/poops on it. Not as cute as the changing pad covers, but I’ll take easy to clean any day!
Pack and play: Graco
This thing is fine. When I set it up, I hated it. It felt flimsy and cheap and hard to set up, and I wanted to return it. Turns out, I don’t need to set it up and break it down ever, so that doesn’t really matter. We currently use it as our first floor changing station, and storage area for other items. I thought he would nap on it during the early weeks, but he usually just slept on us and eventually I started putting him in the snoo for real naps. Eventually we will use it as a play space, and for now it is fine. If I could do it over, I would have gotten the 4moms Breeze instead, which I have heard is much easier to set up/break down, and has a simple, better quality look. Overall, I’d rather spend that money on other items, and the cheap Graco one is fine!
Breastfeeding Pillow: My Breast Friend
I heard great things about this guy, and chose it over the boppy. I like that its flat and has a pocket. I don’t love the piece that goes behind your back and it took me a while to get used to it. Overall this is another “totally fine” product that was a necessity in the beginning and I’ve come around to it. Now I can nurse him wherever without any support, but in the beginning I definitely needed it!
Little Must Haves
After getting tons of different kinds of baby lotion and diaper creams, all we use (and all our pediatrician told us to use) is Vaseline. Cheap and gentle for baby. I have yet to use or need a real diaper cream, we just use this on his bum after he poops or it looks red. It was also great for his circumcision and any dry skin spots in the early days.
One of my lovely clients gifted this to me, and it was her number one recommendation. Rechargeable (lasts a long time, I’ve only let it die once!) and just enough light to see during breastfeeding, middle of the night changes, and when putting baby down, it works great.
This thing is so good. It is so loud but we have gotten so used to it that we barely notice it. The Snoo plays white noise, but we find that having additional noise helps before we get him into the bassinet and in general just to have more! Also rechargeable so you don’t have to worry about batteries, and it doesn’t turn off. This is key! During sessions and the first few months we used the Shusher, which I love, but we found Ollie would wake up during naps when it shut off! This one just works better for us, and we can bring it on the go.
Trimming those daggers is hard. These clippers have a little window and a special diagonal cutting motion (or something) that helps prevent cutting their little fingers. Ollie’s nails grow like weeds and I have to trim them 2-3 times a week, so these things get a lot of use.
It works! So gross, but you have to do it sometimes.
Use this to give baby Tylenol or other liquid medications–they just suck on a pacifier and its so easy!
We use these for washing Oliver’s hair–he has lots of hair! I feel like it really got in there to help with his cradle cap without me having to push too hard on his sensitive little head.
Use this every time you nurse from the beginning! I forgot this advice and was bleeding the first night. It is not fun. I also liked the Earth Mama one.
After I used up all the witch hazel pads and ice packs from the hospital, I used this spray, and it was lovely. I had the balm too, but I did not want to touch anything 🙂 The spray works upside down! I also loved their belly lotion during pregnancy. I don’t know if it was because of this lotion, but I didn’t get any stretch marks.
Everyone loves to give advice, so feel free to stop reading now! Overall, my mantra is do what is right for you. You know your body and your baby better than anyone else, and you have to do what works for you and allows you to survive!
Everyone tells you to sleep as much as you can and enjoy time with your partner (and alone) and this is true, but hard to imagine until you are truly sleep deprived and can’t shower when you want to. Do the things you love doing and revel in them. I was someone who focused entirely on learning pregnancy and birth, and obsessing over the nursery. If I spent as much time reading about baby sleep patterns instead of obsessing over Little Unicorn swaddle patterns, I would have saved myself a lot of stress. There is no time to read baby books once baby comes. Birth is (approximately) one day.
Everyone told me this, so feel free to eye roll and read another pregnancy book. My favorites were:
- The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth by Genevieve Howland
- Expecting Better by Emily Oster
- The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin
This is probably obvious coming from a photographer, but take photos of yourself! I didn’t do a maternity session, and I regret it. I wanted to take weekly photos of myself, but time went by. I have a few great images of myself while pregnant, but I truly regret not having more. Whether you pay for a maternity session or snap images on your iphone, document this time! It feels like forever, but it goes by so fast.
My birth story is a little crazy. The one minute version is that things went quickly and just as we were about to leave for the hospital, I started pushing (involuntarily) so we called an ambulance. After going to a different hospital than planned, Oliver was born 20 minutes after admission.
My favorite birth resource was the Birth Hour podcast. I still listen to it, 4 months after Ollie was born. I am now obsessed with birth, and credit my ability to stay “calm” during the stressful time when I thought my husband was going to deliver our baby in the bathroom, and kind of knew what to do.
If I could do anything differently during our birth, I would have hired a birth photographer. Again, I know that this is skewed coming from a professional photographer, but everything happens so quickly and you are in such a fog that remembering to take any photos is impossible. My husband took one photo of me during labor (screaming during a contraction in the ambulance) and I treasure it. The photos of Ollie on my chest right after birth are amazing, but I wish I had a (professional quality) image of the first moment I saw him, and Sean’s reaction, photos of the three of us, etc.
If we have a second baby, this will be a priority for me. I would love to start offering birth photography, but now that I have a baby of my own, I’m not sure how I could make it work!
Guys, this time is really hard. Sleep deprivation changes everything. Try to remember, this is just a tiny blip in a long love affair (quote from my mom.) Take any help that friends and family offer and enjoy the snuggles. Everything else can wait. When you can and feel ready, give baby to someone you trust and take a nap.
Overall, give yourself a break and time to adjust. I went into motherhood thinking I knew everything about babies because of my job. I was only worried about birth, and thought that having a newborn was the easy part. I wonder how many of my clients have laughed at me after a session when I said, I just wish I could have a newborn forever! There are great and terrible things from every stage. Try to enjoy the great things and remember the terrible things are temporary.
Find a support group, even though it is so hard to leave the house, it’s worth it. I loved the BI (free) mom’s groups in Dedham, Milton, and Chestnut Hill. I also did Rachel Hess’ “Getting Started” class in Roslindale. I cannot recommend this enough–a small group, a general topic every week, amazing advice. I wish I could keep going forever.
Broken record here, HAVE PEOPLE TAKE PHOTOS OF YOU WITH YOUR BABY! Whether you pay for a newborn or family session, or just ask your partner and friends to take photos, get in the picture! I have 1000000000 photos of Ollie by himself. I have 1000 selfies where I look terrible, but at least I’m in them. I have a few AMAZING professional quality images that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I hired 2 photographers for newborn sessions–one studio session and one lifestyle in our home. I’m planning on doing a family session when he’s about 6 month old and every year (maybe twice a year.) I take my own photos with my real camera every week and every month, but I want images of me and my husband and my baby together! Whenever we see friends or family we try to remember to ask them to take a photo of the three of us, and even if I am wearing sweats and haven’t washed my hair in a few days, I am happy I have them!
We did shifts overnight with baby until very recently. We slept in separate rooms so whoever didn’t “have the baby” could get real sleep. It sucked not sleeping in the same bed as my husband, but it worked for us to maximize sleep. Again, do whatever works for you!
Now, I credit Ollie’s long stretches of sleep to giving him pumped bottles at night. I was nursing at these times, but he would just fall asleep and not eat much, and then be hungry 3 hours later. We give him 3-4oz at 7:30 and another 3-4oz at 10pm when we go to bed. Pumping for 2 bottles every day (now plus pumping for daycare) is super annoying but man is it worth it to get a good stretch of sleep.
My favorite sleep resource is Taking Cara Babies.
Good luck and enjoy this stage of your life!