With an endless array of functional gadgets and gorgeous baby paraphenaila out there, it can be really hard to figure out what to invest in before your baby arrives, and what can wait until you have a better handle on what your needs are.
I was the first of my peers to get married and begin having babies. I always knew I would be. I've wanted a baby of my own since I was 5. The downfall of going first is that there is no one around to give you relevant advice. Sure there are women like your mom, or maybe a sister...but baby stuff evolves fast these days and advice from women that had a baby, even just a year or so ago is likely already dated. It's so easy to end up with a ton of things you never actually use and not enough of the items that you really needed.
I like to think that being a birth and newborn photographer gives me an edge on the advice front. I am constantly surrounded by brand new babies and getting to check out all of the cool new things available to moms...all the things that would have made life with my little ones easier. One thing I always say when asked for advice, is that you don't need a lot of the stuff you think you do. Start with a few essentials and wait until you are settled into a routine with baby to figure out what else you really need. Here are my top four items to have on hand to get you thru that first week or so you spend cocooned at home, resting and recovering.
1) A secure portable sleeping surface for baby
With my first baby I thought all I'd need was a crib. WRONG. In those first few weeks of new motherhood, I found it really hard to get any rest myself when I had to get up every few hours to retrieve baby from the crib. The second time around I got wise. I bought a co-sleeper that attached to my bed. It was so great to have my baby right there next to me, but on his own sleeping surface. And it had wheels, so when my legs got so swollen (thanks pre-eclampsia) that I couldn't climb into the bed, I wheeled him out to the living room where I could sleep on the couch. If I had to do it again, I'd get a Dock-A-Tot.
2) Zip up sleepers
Stock up on zippered sleepers in NB and 0-3 months. If it doesn't have a zipper, SKIP IT. The last thing you want to do with a fragile, wiggly baby in your fog of sleep deprivation, is snap snaps, button buttons, and navigate a floppy head thru a neck hole. Zippered sleepers are your best friend. Save the cute stuff with snaps and buttons for when you go out...or just invest in more cute sleepers. These are pretty much the only things my son ever wore until about 3 months or so. I love how easy they make life. Also, I try really hard to keep my babies in fitted clothing without characters, graphics, and text so that they are always photo-ready. These fit the bill.
3) A GREAT nursing pillow
Everyone puts a Boppy on their registry these days. And they are great for nursing bigger babies, tummy time, and a place to park a your precious bundle (if you don't have a Dock-A Tot). What they aren't so great for is nursing a tiny newborn. Until baby has more mass, the Boppy just doesn't come up high enough to take any of the load off your arms. I suggest instead the My Brest Friend. Unfortunate name, amazing pillow. This thing straps around you and allows you to put the pillow ledge right where YOU need it to support baby's weight. It creates such a sturdy little ledge for baby, that you could even walk around with it while nursing. If that wasn't enough of a reason, it has a back pillow built in for mom. It's not pretty and the name is embarrassing, but it was a serious hero when it came to saving my back and arms. And for c-section mamas, it keeps all pressure off your incision site.
Even if you're breastfeeding and don't think you'll need them. Buy a few single packs of different kinds of bottles (or better yet, ask friends if they have any they have outgrown and buy new nipples). You just never know when you might need one. Even though cleaning them is a massive pain in the butt, I'll recommend Dr. Brown's for breastfeeding moms. They are the only brand I found that makes a preemie nipple, which has a much slower flow than any other bottle you can buy. That's key for helping to keep your supply up and baby from refusing the breast. Also if your baby suffers from reflux a slower flow helps to manage the spit up. Trust me, my son made me an expert in infant reflux.
Obviously, there are other things you will need, but these were the four major things that made my second postpartum experience so much easier than my first. You live and learn right?
Do you have a particular item that you wouldn't have wanted to live without in those few weeks at home with a newborn? Share your wisdom in the comments.