The Real Deal Baby List

19 months! How can it be that it’s been so long since the birth of Augustine?! The last year and a half have flown by, and with that countless of onesies, shoes, and rattles. Edging ever closer to two, I’m now thinking back at all of the good things, and useless things, I acquired in preparation for my little bundle.

When August was first  born we were living in a spacious one bedroom, complete with three rescue pets. Fast forward 19 months later. Now the five of us (August, Peanut, Butter, Tomato, and I) live in a vintage 2 bedroom with way more leg room, and yet, we’ve actually down-sized since adding square footage. I’ve found that the adage “less is more” truly is the way to go. Less stuff means less to wash, clean, trip over, and, the most important thing, it means less clutter. So with that context in mind, here are my favorite “I can’t live without you” items that I’d recommend to any urban parent, as well as a few things I’d urge you to leave off your list.

Must-Haves

Sniglar Crib: When looking at cribs I was overwhelmed by the clunkiness of even the most modern of designs. Many people advised against getting a crib – saying to use a pack and play or  to co-sleep. But with my brood of critters, and need to keep the design of my space flowing, I decided that a crib it would be. I was hoping to find something sleek, simple, affordable, and small enough to fit into my bedroom alongside my queen size bed and vintage dresser. And then I found it. August’s Singlar crib, from the mother of all square-foot-savvy design houses: Ikea! Not only was it sleek and lovely to gaze upon, the space conscious design allowed me to squeeze it into my bedroom without any problems. It also has that gorgeous sanded beech wood that I knew I could pop some color on in a snap. I can’t praise the design (and value!) of this piece enough. Plus – since it’s Swedish – you don’t have to worry about the materials being comprised of toxic chemicals like flame retardants. Yuck! And once he’s old enough for a bed – this beauty will convert. Can you see just how in love I am with this thing? Go get one or put it on your registry!

A Rocking Chair: This is something I didn’t have, didn’t think I’d need, and now that I do, I wish I had scored it sooner. Having a designated nursing and “let’s get ready for sleep” spot has significantly helped with August’s routine. And the reason I recommend going retro with a rocking chair instead of a glider is that it will take up less space and with all the milk sprays of the early days of nursing, you don’t have to worry about the upholstery soaking up all those wayward liquids, so keep that in mind should you be considering a glider. Our rocking chair was scored second hand from my apartment’s previous inhabitants. I found a cushy pillow and seat cushion to strap on it and it works like a dream. I find that it puts me to sleep just as easily as August!

Vintage Dresser: My vintage dresser is one of my all-time favorite furniture pieces, both pre and post baby. Picked up from a Craigslist add, this classic piece has six sets of drawers, a nice wide surface, and a detachable mirror. Once pregnant I knew that I’d need a place to change the babe, but didn’t want to buy something new. So the dresser it was! Adding a foam changing pad to the top, and emptying the drawers of my stuff to make way for the baby’s, this furniture piece provided the perfect place for flipping diapers, clothes, or just having a coo fest in the mirror. I also love knowing that further down the line, once he’s potty trained, I can reclaim it for use in my own bedroom. So it’s an item that will far outlive the early infant years.

Baskets: And lots of them! Whether for diapers, nursing supplies, toys, books, clothes – you name it! Having a bunch of cute and chic baskets available will make you feel organized even in those crazy newborn days. I’d also encourage you to add a Moses Basket to your list. This sweet newborn sleeping nook not only allows you to move your baby throughout your apartment in the early days, it will double as a play spot when your kid is older. August adores this thing, even at his older age.

Sleep Sacks: These were great for our little bean. You can pop your babe in a pajama onesie and then zip them into this in lieu of a blanket (which is a no-no due to SIDS risk). They also make them with a swaddle attached which is pretty cool too. I had a hard time figuring out how to swaddle using a plain cloth so having these at my disposal were a must.

Air Purifier: We already had one of these in our home to help with indoor air quality, but an unforeseen use post-baby was using it to create white noise. Trying to get a bambino to take naps in a bustling, loud Chicago neighborhood, was a challenge. And the moment I discovered that the air purifier could pull double-duty our entire sleep regiment changed for the better.

High Contrast Everything: A baby’s vision is limited at birth, and slowly develops as the months go by. I remember reading about this while pregnant and not thinking much of it until August was born. Anything and everything that was high contrast, black and white, amazed him. I have this beautiful curtain with a massive monochrome mountain print from H&M’s home collection that he would stare at without end. The little Art Cards I scooped up from now closed Green Genes had the same effect. When shopping for bedding, art, toys, and books, look for things that are in black and white. Not only will it keep your nursery and home looking ultra chic – it will also stimulate your baby well past the one year mark.

Clothes: Ah – the baby essentials. Between gifts and my own little shopping sprees I found that August had waaaay too many clothes for his first few months of life. Sure there were lots of diaper explosions, but  6 onesies, a few pairs of pants, and some sweaters would have done the trick. I would often find that he had so many clothes that once a size change happened there were items in the last batch he had never even had a chance to wear. So my biggest clothing advice is to stock up on some basics and keep it simple. You’ll also do yourself a favor if you minimize printed items and stick with solids. That way you have any easier time coming up with your bambino’s outfits. And shoes are completely unnecessary until they start to walk. So hold yourself back – I know how cute and tempting those little sneakers can be!

Diapers: Oh boy. I so badly wanted to go the reusable route. But without an in-unit washer and dryer, and without the money to pay for the pick-up services in town, I ended up doing disposables. I even bought the whole g-diaper system, but hand-washing and hanging wasn’t cutting it in terms of cleanliness, so for this one I had to give in. In regards to the type of diapers, the most important element to me was that they be minimalist and fragrance free. The last thing I wanted was to smoosh cancer-causing chemicals next to my kid’s genitals, My experience with Seventh Generation diapers wasn’t the best – sure they were biodegradable – but since Chicago doesn’t compost they weren’t worth the diaper rashes August would get. And the Honest diapers – phew! Those cost quite the pretty penny! So I took the middle ground: generic Whole Foods disposables. But there’s good news for all you new mamas: Aldi just came out with their own line of fragrance free diapers – and they’re only $5 a pack! So there you have it. Check out the Aldi diaper line if you too have to go with disposables.

 

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Hand Towels: This sounds so silly, but I’d recommend registering for a bunch of hand towels to use on your diaper changing station, in addition to the fitted covers. Maybe it’s because August’s a boy, but there were lots of “spills” in the early days and which meant I’d have to wash the changer’s cover almost daily.
 
Infantino Baby Carrier: If you don’t end up getting the Ergobaby gifted to you I’d recommend this one from Babys-R-Us. It’s sleek, simple, lightweight, cotton and can be used for front and back carrying too! I also had a Boba wrap, which I loved for the early months, but then found was a bit too stretchy for when August became heavier. He’s 19 months old and I’m still  using the carrier. It’s a life-saver for running errands, walking the dogs, or calming him down if he’s had a rough day.
Baby Wash: You should definitely go all-natural on this one. I researched lots of brands and California Baby got great reviews yet I ended up buying Burt’s Bees products since they’re cheaper and also rank low on the toxicity scale. Your little one’s skin is like a sponge so be careful what you put on them. For most baths I found just using warm water was good enough. I only do a soap up once a week, or when he’s really gotten himself messy. To check on the toxicity level of things check out the Cosmetic Safety Database. It’s my go-to – especially with baby products.
Stroller: Up until recently I had been car-free for over a decade. More than 12 years without a vehicle – can you imagine?! Recent life circumstances have made having a car a neccessity, but I’m proud to say that for the first 17 months of August’s life, we walked and used public transit to get around. When choosing a stroller I knew it would have to be light-weight enough that I could carry it up and down the stairs to my apartment, sturdy enough to handle Chicago sidewalks, and versatile enough that it would last for more than the first few months of life. Besides the crib this is probably the item I put the most research and thought into. I ended up going with the Graco FastAction Fold Sport Click Connect Travel System. Not only did it come in an elegant black and grey color, it also had the bonus of a newborn car seat. Excellent! I didn’t want to shell out extra dough on something I’d barely use, but knew I’d need one to get home from the hospital. But back to the stroller. This beauty has a one strap easy to use folding system so I could pop August in one arm and condense and carry the stroller in the other. It also has a spacious undercarriage which makes it great for carrying baby supplies, groceries, and on my sillier days things likes plants and carpentry supplies. The back of the stroller has a drawstring that allows your kiddo to lay flat and take a nap, and also boasts a cup holder for both babe and parent. The handle-ability on this thing is also great. It’s smooth on sidewalks, concrete, or grass and can be navigated single handedly as well. We affectionately refer to it as our SUV (with the umbrella stroller described as a hotrod). Definitely worth the extra money!

NURSING GEAR

Nipple Shield: OH MY GOSH! If you’re planning on breastfeeding register for one of these and bring it with you to the hospital. August was having a really hard time latching on the first couple of days and his weight plummeted to the point where they weren’t going to release us. Then one of the nurses secretly brought me one of these and it was a lifesaver. Nipple shields get a bad rap since people think they can lead to nipple confusion. But the honest truth is, that without this sucker (no pun intended!), we would never have been able to nurse. August had a bad latch and this thing saved the day. Buy two, so you can have an extra should the first get lost. Once August is weaned I’ll share the full truth on my early nursing nightmares.

Nipple Butter: If you’re planning on nursing consider investing in some high quality nipple butter. My favorite was the Mama Earth one. That stuff is magic! Smells great and is all natural. My pediatrician also recommended using it on August’s chapped skin. Register for two – you’ll want to use this all over you and the baby.

Lanisoh Nursing Pads: I had a box of these from the hospital and couldn’t use them – the material was too abrasive and it actually hurt to wear them. I had registered for reusable pads (like the overnight ones on your list) and they’re heavenly. I had four sets and just hand wash them as needed and let them air dry. So much softer!

Breast Pump: Ladies! The Affordable Care Act now requires insurance companies to cover the cost of a medical grade breast pump. Woo hoo! These puppies usually range in the $300-$400 range – so knowing that your insurance will take care of it is a huge relief. Plus – you won’t have to spend all that time reading comparisons about different models’s suction, flanges, and other scary sounding things!  You’ll need a referral from your OB/GYN, but they’re used to processing these requests now, so don’t hesitate to talk about it once you hit the third trimester.

Milk Storage: I registered for the Kiinde milk storage system and loved it. I’m no longer pumping at work (sweet relief!) but can say that having this system made the ordeal just a tad more bearable. The system is nice because it attaches straight to the pump outlet – so the milk goes right in the bag and can be popped in the freezer. I registered for the starter set which came with bags, nipples, bottles, the works. Plus, all the pieces are recyclable. Bonus!

Boppy: You know them, you’ve seen them, you’ve wondered, “Do I really need this weird pillow thing?” The answer is, “yes!” This strangely shaped accessory will help provide you with support while nursing and then transforms into a tummy time station and more as your baby ages. Plus – do a search for “nursing pillow cover” on Etsy and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see the vast array of cute cover designs that are out there. So do it – put this on your registry!

Infinity Scarves: No matter which side you’re on in the “free the nipple” movement, one thing is clear, not all mamas want to show their goods off to the world. I thought that the feminist in me would have a field day with boobing out with August – but the truth is – I was waaaay too self conscious about their size and girth to go cover free. In my quest to find covers that were practical, chic, and comfy for August, I found the simplest solution out there: infinity scarves! Yes! Those gauzy, long, looped scarves make the best possible nursing cover. Sheer enough for August to see my face through the fabric yet demure enough to nurse him anywhere and everywhere, I found myself rocking these throughout the year, no matter the season. And, as with many of the things on this list, you can keep these and use them long after your public nursing days are over.

EXTRAS

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Sound Machine: I didn’t think this would make a difference, but a friend of David’s got us one that’s embedded in a cute teddy bear and it helped so much with putting August to sleep in those early days. It has an adjustable volume and four different settings (birds chirping, white noise, heart beat, and whales). I thought these were hokey and didn’t have one on my registry and am so happy now that someone gave one to us! Definitely consider it.

Overnight Diapers: A close friend recommend these and they were heavenly in those early days when even the dampest diaper would wake him up in the middle of the night. As with other diapers, I recommend going fragrance-free.
 
Wipe Warmer: Speaking of diaper changing – this was another item I didn’t register for but I ended up buying and having shipped express. August hated diaper changes and cold wipes make the experience even more harrowing. Not necessarily an eco-friendly purchase, but I found that this gadget made a huge difference for both of us. When you’re changing 10+ diapers in the early days, you want that experience to be as stress-free as possible. I bought the “travel size” version so it wouldn’t take up too much space and really like it.

Baby Book & Keepsake Box: I am such a sentimental being and I knew that once the babe was here I’d have a hard time keeping up with things – so I forced my own hand by buying a month by month baby book Welcome Baby. This cute and simple journal forced me to take a few minutes each month and document all of the milestones that August was making. It also gave me a place to write him a little letter, insert photos, and make notes about my dreams for his future. This, combined with having a little keepsake box for his first onesie, pair of socks, hat, and other accessories, were my ways of making sure I had a detailed way of looking back at our first days together. Even though he’s still a little tyke, I find myself pulling both out each month to ooh and ahh at how much he’s grown.

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Natursutten Pacifier: This simple, yet incredibly effective, pacifier can be found at most natural foods stores. Made of pure rubber, it’s super easy to clean and the texture was August-approved.

Magic Bullet: Not only is this beauty a life, and money, saver once you hit the puree stage, it’s also great for you as a mom! In those early days you may not have time to make yourself a full meal, so having this blender around lets you whip up a smoothie in seconds. If you don’t already have a Magic Bullet in your life, now is the time!
Bobsweep: When I found out I was pregnant the first thing I treated myself to was a Bobsweep robot vacuum. This appliance has, literally, changed my life. I’m not one to buy fancy electronics, expensive purses, or any other kind of luxury gear, but this thing had my name all over it. I was envisioning myself 9 months pregnant and trying to sweep up rabbit poop off the floor. And then seeing myself with a newborn, trying to clean up coffee grounds. No way! Having Bob has changed everything. The cat hair, the dust, the debris, the flakes of life are all sucked up by this magical appliance. And now that August is a full out toddler, keeping the floors clean is more important (and more difficult!) than ever. Plus – the product support for this thing is awesome too! So definitely make the splurge – you’ll be so glad you did!

Red Cross First Aid Kit: This thing is great! It’s basic but has all the tools you’ll need for the babe’s first year of life. It’s a good thing to pack in the hospital bag, so you can have coaching from the nurses on how to use your particular nail clippers and thermometer.

Things to Skip

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Play Yards: Many of my friends insisted that I buy a play yard, or two. They said that having the ease of moving the baby room to room, and being able to collapse the “cage” was infinitely advantageous. But to be honest, I totally lived without one and never regretted it. Correction: I have two – but they’re not in my home. One is at my brother’s house, and the other is with my folks. I’d recommend using these for sleepovers rather than having one at home.
 
Receiving Blankets: People told me not to register for these (or any blankets for that matter) but I did anyway and now I have way too many. People will buy you blankets you’re not registered for, as well as make them (think crochet), so I’d recommend leaving these off and just registering for the swaddlers.
Burp Cloths: I registered for a bunch of these and barely ever use them. All you’ll need is three max – if that even. Just use one of those gifted baby blankets, or a wash cloth, instead.
gDiapers: Ugh! I hinted about this one above, and hate bashing a specific brand, but this one was a huge disappointment for me. I knew I’d be using disposable diapers in the newborn days, but had purchased a whole gDiapers kit for when August hit size 1. The gDiaper system was a great eco-friendly alternative. Or so it seemed. The diapers are made of an outer reusable shell with a slot for a disposable insert (think maxi pad on steroids). I loved them at first! After a few hand washed though, I found that the inner shell stains weren’t giving way and realized that I’d have to buy more of the plastic covers. What I also hadn’t realized was the cost of the disposable inserts that did the dirty work of soaking up the urine and poop. The gDiaper system, like all of the other reusable shell brands, is way way way overpriced. The inserts cost three times that of even the swankiest disposable diapers. I even reached out to the gDiaper customer service team to see if there were any less expensive inserts available anywhere, and they never followed up. After going through my first stash I could in no way justify purchasing the refills. So back to disposable diapers we went.
Toys & Rattles: When a babe is really really young, having one or two toys is really all they need. I went a little crazy with toys for August and found that by the time he was old enough to play with them, he had outgrown the age they were intended for. Investing in high contrast soft books and other visually stimulating items is more the way to go. And then, once your kiddo is actually old enough to play, you can have them go with you to the toy store and have them pick out what they actually like. So much better than wasting time, money, and plastic on all those infant tchotchke!

Baby Swing & Bouncer: I’m not saying to completely ignore these contraptions – but if you feel like your kid really would benefit from these – I say to borrow one from a friend. These items are so bulky, plastic heavy, and cumbersome, and they are for such a narrow age range, that it’s really not work the investment. Just bounce your babe on your knee, or swing them in your arms, instead.

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