So, these are the little things that got us through that mysterious "4th trimester." For the record, I completely believe in the missing fourth trimester. Those first three months are a blur of nighttime feedings and crying (that will make a mama physically ache all over) and charting feedings and poopings. But it gets better. And if it doesn't, there's vodka.
(All photos are from Google Images searches. Here's hoping I don't get sued as I try to provide you with the most accurate information possible)
1. The Happiest Baby on the Block
by Dr. Harvey Karp, MD
I didn't know about this book until Baby Blue had been home for about a month. There had been a surprising amount of screaming and crying...and Baby Blue wasn't very happy, either. The worst time of the day, between 5 PM and 9 PM (the "witching hour" they call it), left me and Neal at our absolute wits' end. There had to be a better way (one that involved eating dinner before 10:30). When I was originally told about this book, it was explained as a reference for colicky babies...but Baby Blue wasn't colicky. He just took really short naps and had trouble during those early evening hours. He wasn't crying all the time (or even fussy in general) for no reason. Basically, I did not consider him colicky. But holy moly macaroni, was it tough to get him to go down for a nap. After one particularly awful night of tears and self-doubting, I downloaded the book to my Nook and read the 3 most important chapters, which outline the 5 S's of putting a newborn to sleep: Shh'ing, Swinging, Swaddling, Side-lying, and Sucking (but....um...not in that order, I don't think. They HAVE to be done in order). Big Mama and I tried it that weekend while Neal was out of town drilling with the unit. Voila! Baby Blue off-switch! I taught Neal the steps and within a couple of days, we had a soundly sleeping baby. If you are pregnant, read this book. Your sanity and your marriage will thank you.
2. Summer Infant Swaddleme Swaddles
This is not Baby Blue...although they have similar cheekbone structure. So, because "swaddling" is part of the 5 S's, it's important to have a swaddle. The nurses at the hospital made it look so easy breezy with that little flannel striped blanket that they brought him in. And, actually, Neal picked up on the technique rather quickly so I let him do most of the swaddling until we came home. But Baby Blue is a mini-ox with an iron will so he would often work those little hands and arms out of the blanket swaddle in 2 minutes flat. He got so good at it, we decided he liked to have his arms out and so we started wrapping him that way (or as much as you can call it swaddling when it's only from the armpits, down). As it turns out, he was waking up constantly because he didn't have any control over those little arms that we just left to move about at will and he was hitting himself in the head. The Summer Infant Swaddleme is easy to use and has velcro to keep the swaddle tight. Newborns are used to being confined (hello, womb-like conditions) so the swaddles really are like fabric gold. Plus, it made him all bundled and a little easier to carry about as I was still healing (which took 300% longer than I thought it would...which is a blog post for another day).
3. Sleep Sheep/Giraffe/Turtle...whatever
To give you an idea of how greatly we relied on this little fella during the first 5 months, I will tell you that we've worn one out. We received 2 as gifts and decided to keep them both so we could put one in the townhouse, but we never made it that far. One died so we got out the second, bigger one. The mini version has 3 or 4 sounds...rain, creek, ocean, and seagulls I think (which we never used because just hearing it through the monitor made me want to stab my own ears). The larger version also has the mother's heart...which we used once, but made me feel like Edgar Allen Poe was sleeping in the other room. Also, Baby Blue hated the ocean sounds...until we spent a weekend in Hilton Head and he took several naps on the beach over those 3 days. He came home wanting only ocean sounds. It made this Bahama Mama so very happy.
4. Fisher Price Deluxe Newborn Rock n Play Sleeper
"He is going into his crib on day one." I said these words. And I meant them. But on day 2, it was clear that he needed something a little more snug to sleep in. I was also literally losing sleep over the idea that he might aspirate while we were all sleeping. We got this as a shower gift and I thought, "that's nice. Maybe he can lie in it while I shower." But from day 3 until New Year's Day (so roughly 4 months), this is all he slept in. He was cozy and inclined (helping both of us sleep better) and he was portable. I did the 10 PM to 2 AM feedings and then carried him, rocker and all, into our bedroom so Neal could do the 2 AM to 6 AM shift. I also kept him in it for naps, while I was in the shower, and when I needed to get some housework done but he was still awake. It collapses (although still quite bulky for travel) and the insert can be laundered. The rocking motion was helpful on those nights that my back just wouldn't let me swing him anymore. If we hadn't gotten this at the shower, I feel fairly certain that we would have ended up buying it before the end of the first week.
5. Graco Duo 2-in-1 Swing and Bouncer
"We don't need a swing. What a waste of money." We said these words. And we meant them. Until the end of the first month. When Shana came down for a visit around the end of September, I made a comment about needing to run to Target to look at swings. Then she said, "I thought you got one at the shower. Had I known you didn't have one, I would have gotten you one. You have to have a swing." Truer words have never been spoken. We had to have a swing. We chose this particular one because it was on sale at Target and got decent review on Amazon. It has 6 speeds, we never used anything above 3. It increased Baby Blue's naps by almost 45 minutes...which is a lot, really. And when you're done with the swing (which we are now), you can remove the seat and use it as a bouncer (which we still do). My only complaint is that it only swings in one direction and if I had it to do over, I would probably buy this one:
the Fisher Price Cradle n' Swing because it swings both front to back and side to side. But the footprint is enormous...way too large for the 1970's Brady Bunch ranch in Georgia or the 1300 square foot apartment where we are now.
6. Avent Bottle System
In my rainbows-and-unicorns-pregnancy-brain, I was going to breastfeed. I mean only breastfeed. Nothing with powder or a rubber nipple was touching that child's lips. Then a string of events lead my doctor to insisting on supplementation. So, we had to open the box of bottles that we got at the shower. We had registered for this set (which shows everything we have except for the bottle warmer. Babies R Us has the full system, with bottle warmer) in an off-hand, oh let's get some bottles just in case, kind of way. And while we were at it, we should just register for the full meal deal so we don't have to buy other pieces and parts later. Thank God we did. Just 24 hours after being released from the hospital, we were learning all about powdered scoops, goal ounces, and at what temperature all of that milk will come back up, curdled. Most bottles today are BPA-free and designed to reduce gas and colic, so, really it just comes down to picking the one that you fancy the most. I fancy this one.
7. Genius Babies anything
I'm showing this particular activity play mat because we have spent a lot of time here. Even during the first month, I would put Baby Blue on his back and he would frantically wave his arms and legs, trying to bat whatever I had suspended from the rings. We were introduced to the Genius Babies brand by my dad and stepmom. As it turns out, babies can only see contrast for quite a long time. They love the high contrast between red, white, and black...even if they can't see that red is, well, red. If I had it to do over, I would do the entire nursery in these 3 colors. As much as I adore his little nautical nursery with its sailboats and sea life, I think he would have enjoyed it more with contrast he could see. Sadly, he's too big (not necessarily too old, but literally too physically large) to play with this anymore. The toys hit him in the nose and he bends the poles when he pulls on them now. But what a great 6 months we had on this thing!
We also got this from Genius Babies:
the Bear View (hardy-har-har) Infant Mirror. This has been so popular with the little prince that we shuffle it between the cars instead of using the Brica mirror that we bought for the Pathfinder. But gah, y'know that mom with the child-themed car? That's so me.
So, that's it for the "must haves" on my list. There are, of course, others. We have the Chicco KeyFit car seat and stroller and have never regretted it. The installation of the car seat is easy enough for a caveman to do it and the stroller has enough space for my double-size diaper bag plus jacket plus purse to fit. When we take the all-terrain stroller, I really miss all that storage space.
There are, however, some luxuries that I must share. These are items that we've been given or I've stumbled upon. And I simply adore them.
#8 Aden + Anais Muslin Swaddle/Blanket
I was first introduced to Aden + Anais when we received one swaddle/blanket and a burp cloth from our friends. And to be honest, when I first opened them, I thought they were a bit stiff and not something we would use very often. But then one night I was behind in laundry and out of blankets and swaddles. I grabbed this blanket from the top of the closet. It was large...large enough to swaddle Baby Blue tight enough to get him to sleep. And soft...so, so soft. But then I washed it and it came out of the dryer feeling like a cotton candy cloud of awesome. I've spent a lot of time wishing Aden + Anais would come out with an adult-sized version of Baby Blue's blankets. And as if I had rubbed a lamp, they just announced they have one. I mean, it's a fairly pricey item, but it's on my Christmas wish list. Baby Blue has about 7 of these blankets now and I cherish every single one. We are never without at least 2 in the diaper bag. They provide a perfect first layer in the winter and now that it's warming up, I can cover him without worrying if he'll get too hot. Also, the burp cloth is a perfect everything size. Need a washcloth/burp cloth/pillow/cover/something to wipe the spit/drool/pee/poop/tears? It's perfect for that.
#9 Llama Llama, Mama Llama, and their Llama Drama
Hello, my name is Ally and I'm addicted to Llama Llama. We were given 3 in the series: Llama Llama Red Pajama, Llama Llama Mad at Mama (where Mama Llama drags Baby Llama all over something like Walmart on a Saturday afternoon when he would rather be playing with blocks in the sun), and Llama Llama Misses Mama (the story of Baby Llama's first day at Llama School). Then for Christmas, we got Llama Llama Holiday Drama. I love this series for 4 reasons: they rhyme, the llama is a boy, mama seems to be a single parent and while I never want to purposely exclude Neal, it makes for some nice bonding reading, and they say "llama drama." Baby Blue wasn't wild about reading at first, but we've been at it since he was a week old. Although we've given up on the pacifier, the not sleeping in our bed, the not watching TV (PBS and college basketball, I'm afraid), and an attempt to not continuously buy top-rated toys, we've kept up the reading. Now he enjoys other books besides Llama Llama (which will be covered in the 3-6 months post), but for awhile there, it was nothing but llama drama for him.
10. Gerber Side-Snap Shirts
A word about clothes: changing them was a screaming, crying, flailing hot mess for at least 2 months. Even after he got used to actually getting dressed, it took months for him to not come apart any time it took me more than .008 seconds to get something over his head. So, newborn clothes are sweet, there is no argument here, but we ended up giving a lot away that had never been worn...simply because I didn't have it in me to cause one more crying fit. Also, come to find out, the umbilical cord really needs to be getting air in order to dry up and fall off. It can't breathe under your standard onesie. So these shirts saved us from having to put anything over his head and they allowed his little stump to breathe. It took almost a month for that nasty thing to fall off, but it would probably still be attached if we hadn't switched to these shirts. (OK, that's not true, but it definitely feels like it sped up the process.) Also, he kind of looked like a little zen baby and who doesn't love that? I wish I could find these in 12 months. It would be his only item of clothing during the summer.
And that's my Top 10 for newborn - 3 months (now I'm going to have to look up a bunch of toddler-related items because Amazon thinks I just had a baby in the last hour). It felt like those first 12 weeks lasted a lifetime, but at least all of this made it a bit easier.
Have I forgotten anything? What would you add?