Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Registry Recommendations

Creating a baby registry can be a very overwhelming task (especially if you are like me and haven't spent much time around babies prior to creating one). Where should you register? Which brand is best? What products do you actually need? The questions are never ending.

In an attempt to help all of you first-time moms, I thought I'd put together a list of the baby products that we found to be useful and worth our hard-earned money. Some of these items were recommended to us by seasoned parents, some were things that I read about in baby books, and some are things that we just happened to stumble upon. I realize that everyone is different (and what suits us may not suit you), but all of these product have - at one time or another - been a lifesaver for us, so I'm more than happy to recommend them to you!

1. Swing.  Personally, we went with this one, but really any of them will do. This one just happened to match our decor.  These things are totally worth the money! Basically, if you ever want to get anything done around your house, buy one. You can strap your baby in and feel safe knowing he/she won't fall out. Ours has a built-in mobile and plays music. Those combined with the swinging motion will almost instantly put your baby to sleep. I will warn you that there is a weight limit (so you can't fit your adult self in it), and they don't make an adult version. Trust me, I checked.

2. Vibrating Chair.  We went with this one simply because it matched our swing. Now, I know what you're thinking. Why do I need the chair if I have the expensive swing? Because you do. When you're exhausted from not having slept in three days, the last thing you want to do is lug a swing around your house. This chair has legs that fold in and only weighs a couple of pounds. I would put Tay in ours and set it right outside the bathroom door so that I could take a shower every day (or every other day, whatever). It's great for traveling, too. We took it with us over the holidays so that no matter whose house we went to, we always had a safe place for Taylor to nap (because, let's face it, you do not want your baby laying on the floor when your nieces and nephew are throwing wrapping paper and boxes everywhere on Christmas morning).

3. Car Seat & Stroller.  There are a TON of car seats and strollers to choose from. After a lot of research and many hours spent reading reviews, we finally decided on this car seat and stroller combo. I knew right away I didn't want a traditional "travel system", because most strollers that come in those sets are bulky, hard to maneuver, and all of my friends who shelled out money on them told me they were a waste. So I was over-the-moon excited when I found this new line from Graco. The company had just released this set, and I was so excited at the thought of getting a car seat and jogging stroller for less than $350 (have you ever priced jogging strollers? Wowza!!). I loved the simplicity of the black and grey (no hot pink or butterflies for this momma) and was so impressed by all the built-in features on the stroller: one handed fold (that actually woks), an extra long sun shade, 2 cup holders for mom & 2 cup holder for baby, an enclosed area on the handlebar for my phone & keys, a spacious basket (for my 500 shopping bags), and actual rubber tires (rather than those plastic ones that are on most strollers). And it's so easy to navigate whether shopping or running on the trails. It is a bit bulky and does take up most of the room in the back of my SUV, but that minor detail pails in comparison to how happy it makes our babe. She is always comfortable and loves the reclineable seat which allows her to snooze comfortably while we're out and about. If you're a momma on a budget, I highly recommend this duo. I've used the stroller more times than I can count in the past 10 months, and I am yet to have a single complaint!

4. Pack 'n Play.  If you buy nothing else on this list, buy a pack 'n play. They come in various colors & patterns and can be purchased with or without mobiles, changing tables, and infant sleepers. We chose this one because the color scheme was simple and matched our bedroom decor. I didn't want something bright and flashy cluttering up the one room that I would be inhabiting for months. But that's just me. I liked that ours came with an additional changing table, but we were only able to use it about a week before it started to lean and we had to remove it. Thankfully, Taylor's nursery is right across the hall from our room so this wasn't a big deal. Rather than spending money on a separate bassinet, Taylor slept in our pack 'n play from the day we brought her home until we moved her to crib at 8 weeks old. We put it near our bedroom window so the sunlight would hit her during her naps (this helped define her days and nights and was crucial in developing her sleep schedule). My advice? Skip the bassinet and buy a pack 'n play. You'll need that extra cash for diapers anyhow.

5. Glider & Ottoman.  This was a must have for us. I knew we'd be spending long hours in the nursery feeding and rocking a fussy baby. Thankfully, she isn't fussy that often, but the feeding is inevitable. We LOVE this glider (and the matching ottoman, which is sold separately). It's gender neutral and will match nearly any color scheme. It is tall enough that even my 6'4" husband fits comfortably in it, it provides just the right amount of cushion and support, and the fabric is easy to clean as well. Taylor has covered ours in spit up numerous times, and it still looks brand new. I'm a firm believer that you get what you pay for, and this piece of furniture is no exception. It's one of my favorites in our entire home.

6. IP Camera.  Since my husband is uber tech savvy, we decided to get an IP camera rather than a baby monitor. This was one area that I allowed him to have complete and total say over (which doesn't happen often). Since he did the research and installed the camera, my knowledge is limited on this subject. But Jake loves it and - to me - that says a great deal. We both had to shell out $5 on an app in order to view the camera on our iPhones, but it was worth it. The clarity and reliability of this camera far exceeds that of any baby monitor, plus we will be able to reuse this camera to spy on our children for home safety in the future. As any good tech junkie does, the hubby has been looking to upgrade our camera. Why? I don't know. I think it's completely unnecessary, but technological upgrades are like crack to him. If you want to shell out the extra cash, he also recommends this upgraded camera. (But I think the one that we have works perfectly fine.) Regardless of the route you go, I highly suggest purchasing some type of monitoring system. Even now, when Taylor wakes up in the middle of the night, we are much more willing to let her self soothe because we can see and hear her every move. Allowing her to learn to put herself back to sleep was vital in establishing her sleep schedule. It sucks, but it's necessary.

7. High Chair.  This is another item where there are a ridiculous amount of types/brands to choose from. After a lot of research, we decided to go with this chair. It's easy to clean, has multiple height and reclining positions, and the grey color scheme fits well with our kitchen/dining room decor, but I HATE the straps on this thing. Taylor screams every time I put her in it, because the straps take forever to buckle. The shoulder straps have to click into the waist straps which then click into the leg strap. This seems easy enough, but try doing it one handed while trying to hold down your squirming baby. Yeah, not so easy. The chair comes with an extra tray that snaps on top of the regular tray which may come in handy later when she moves in super messy eating baby mode but, for now, this feature does nothing for me. Looking back, I wish we would've bought a chair that can be hooked on the side of the table (which would be a much better option for us since we travel so often), but we're stuck with this thing until she is old enough to move to a booster seat. (P.S. I have my eye on this one.)

8. Cloth Diapers.  Not for diapering (unless you choose to go that route), but for use as burp cloths! These things are way more absorbent than any other brand we tried. No, they aren't cute, but after you've been spit up on the for the seventh time in one day you won't care what it looks like anyway. All you'll care about is it's ability to remove the regurgitated milk from your hair/face/clothes. Spend your money wisely and buy these for every day use at home. The best part? At a little over $1 per cloth, you won't feel bad about tossing them and buying new ones later on (which you will, because no amount of washing will remove the smell of sour milk completely).

9. Bottle Brush.  We have hand washed all of Taylor's bottles since she was born. Occasionally, we will steam them in the microwave after we hand wash them but, for the most part, we just wash them as we use them. I cannot say enough positive things about these bottle brushes. We have gone through five over the past ten months. They come with a small, twist off, wire bristle brush that is great for getting in those tiny crevices, and the built-in stand on the bottom assures that the brush remains upright and won't leave a puddle of water all over your counter top. We use this brush in conjunction with this Boon drying rack and love the combination. Having a separate washing system for Taylor's items ensures that her bottles/spoons/sippy cups are always clean when we need them. If you love buying cleaning products as much as I do, I highly recommend adding both of these to your list.

10. Travel Food Dispenser.  When the tot was a few weeks old, Jake signed us up for Citrus Lane. For those of you unfamiliar with this company, you pay $20 per month and they send you a box full of age-appropriate goodies for your tot. We have received all sorts of fun things in our monthly boxes including toys, clothes, snacks, gadgets, and coupons from various companies. A couple of months ago, we received this Zoli food dispenser and now we never leave home without it. It's great for taking snacks on the go. I fill each compartment with a different snack (puffs, yogurt melts, graham cracker pieces, animal crackers, etc.) and leave it in the diaper bag so that Taylor always has something to snack on no matter where we are. It comes with a twist off spout which makes it ideal for storing formula as well. And my favorite part is that each compartment can be removed from the others making clean up a breeze. I seriously love this thing. Put it in your Amazon cart now. You won't be sorry.

11. Changing Pad.  These are all pretty much the same, so I don't think it matters which brand you actually buy. However, look for one that has contoured sides and is waterproof (because it will get peed on - and often). Rest assured that no matter which one you buy, if your baby stands up on it and leans over she will do a front flip off of it. At that point, you'll know it's time to start changing diapers on the floor. Until then: SAVE YOUR BACK! I highly recommend purchasing one of these even if you don't have a changing table. We sat ours on top of Taylor's dresser and never had an issue with it moving or her falling out of it (until the front flip occurred). But hey, mistakes happen.

12. Wipes Dispenser.  Numerous people told me this would be a waste of money, but I am continually thankful for it. Not only does it keep the wipes moist, but it's visually appealing as well. Rather than constantly having to buy those flimsy packages of wipes, we buy the jumbo boxes, refill our container once every couple of weeks, and save a ton of money in the process. Our wipes never dry out, and the weight on top ensures that only one wipe comes out at a time (as opposed to the seven you get when you attempt to pull one out of the travel packages). For me, this was totally worth the money. I should note that this isn't a warmer. We didn't splurge for one of those. The kid has to learn hardship at some point in her life.

13. Baking Soda.  A couple of weeks ago, Taylor had the worst diaper rash I have ever seen. I won't go into detail, but that shit looked painful. We applied every kind of cream and paste we could get our hands on to no avail. Finally, my sister suggested adding baking soda to Tay's bath water. Not only did it work, but it worked INSTANTLY. The next morning her rash was all but gone. I was in awe. Try it. It works.

14. Aveeno Lavender Wash & Lotion.  When my friend's baby boy was a few months old, he developed a horrible rash from head to toe and, for the life of her, she couldn't figure out what had caused it. Since it was summer, she assumed that it was a heat rash, but she took him to the doctor to be sure. The doctor asked her what type of shampoo/body wash she used on him. She replied Johnson & Johnson. He told her to immediately switch to Aveeno, because J&J contains harsh chemicals that should not be used on a baby's sensitive skin. So, she followed the doctor's advice and within a couple of days the rash was completely gone. Sure enough, the doctor (who just so happens to be our pediatrician now as well) was right. Now, I know that plenty of moms use J&J products on their babies every day without any side effects, but it's not something I'm willing to risk. Plus, the lavender lotion smells absolutely heavenly.

15. Whale of a Bath Tub.  First off, this thing is adorable. Even though it's pink, I absolutely love it. We used this tub for Taylor's very first bath at two weeks old until she learned to sit (and was too big to fit in it anymore) around 6 months. The recline made it easy to rinse the shampoo out of her hair without getting it in her eyes and the little, rubber seat ensured that she wouldn't slip or slide while in the water. We have used other tubs when staying with friends and family and almost all of them have a plastic seat that is slick when it gets wet. When using those other tubs, I would have to hold Taylor with one hand (to keep her from sliding) and then try and bathe her with other. Talk about a mess! I'm all for bathtub fun, but the only one who needs to come out of the tub soaking wet is the baby. Not me.

16. Bath Spout Cover.  Speaking of bath time, this spout cover is a lifesaver once your baby is old enough to sit in the bathtub. Like most kids, Taylor is fascinated by the water. She loves to dunk her head under the spout while the tub is filling up (and then giggle as if it's the funniest thing in the entire world), and she loves to put her hand over the drain to feel the suction as it empties. Our girl spends a lot of time at the front of the tub, and she is constantly bumping her head on the faucet. This cover will save you from many unnecessary bumps and bruises. It's durable, easy to put on/take off, and it's gender neutral. Simple yet genius. Besides, who doesn't want to bathe with a smiling, blue whale? So. Cute.

17. Boppy.  For me, personally, breastfeeding sucked. I won't go into the details about it, but I did not have a pleasant experience. During the short time that I suffered through it did manage to breastfeed, I relied heavily on our Boppy. It saved my arms from having to hold Taylor every time I fed her, and, after she ate, I would prop her up on it to reduce spit up. Even after I stopped breastfeeding, we used this thing daily. It's worth the money if you have to buy one new, but you can almost always find a used one (mine was a hand-me-down from my sister). Buy a new cover and you're good to go!

18. Sophie the Giraffe.  (Or as my dad likes to call it, Gerry the Giraffe.) I get that this thing ranges from $25-$30 (depending on where you buy it), but it is worth every penny. Once your sweet baby enters the world of teething, you will do just about anything to alleviate his/her pain. I don't know what kind of material this thing is made out of or what they do to it to make it so appealing, but Taylor prefers this toy over every other teething product on the market. We know because we've bought them all. A word to the wise in case you ever lose Sophie or forget her at home, a frozen waffle works too.

19. Soothe and Glow Seahorse.  Yep, you probably had one of these yourself growing up (or something similar). I know I did. And do you know why they're still around? Because they work. Taylor has slept with this thing every night since we moved her to her crib at 8 weeks. It's soft, its belly lights up, and it plays music. And it's only $15 to boot. A little advice? If you ever forget to pack this thing (and you will), download the free app "Relax Melodies"  on your iPhone and then turn on the flashlight. You've just MacGuyvered yourself out of a sleepless situation.

20. Baby Mirror for the Car.  When Taylor was an infant, she hated riding in the car at night. We registered for this on a whim (one of those end-of-the-aisle finds), and ended up loving it! It comes with a remote control that clips onto your visor (similar to a garage door opener). One button activates a light and another turns on music. This thing has been a life saver on so many occasions (screaming baby + driving alone at night = my nightmare). We also have this one in Jake's vehicle. It doesn't have lights or music, but it has an extra large mirror and will fit an iPad (which means you can turn on Baby Einstein and everyone is instantly happy). The best part about both of these mirrors? They allow you to sneak a peek at your baby while driving to ensure that he/she is okay. A little peace of mind is always reassuring to a momma who hasn't slept in days and is already a stressed out mess.

Aside from these products, we also use Avent bottles & binkies, Gerber Goodstart formula, and Pampers diapers & wipes. I won't go into detail as to why we chose these particular brands, because I believe these items are trial and error for everyone. My suggestion? Try different brands until you find something that works best for you and your baby.

Oh, and clip coupons whenever you can, because babies are expensive! Happy shopping!