Now that I have safely survived the first six months of motherhood, and don’t seem to have forever damaged my child in any way, I thought I would share some of my personal insights on this parenting business. Welcome to the first of a four part series of posts about, well, the first six months.

I am far from being an expert, and I am still learning new things every day about this whole baby thing, but at least now I can say that I have some real life experience in raising a baby through the first half of his first year. I thought I’d share some of my favorite baby (and mommy) products that have made my life a bit easier, and G’s life a bit happier.

At Rest
* Aden & Anais muslin swaddling blankets. These are the best! If your baby likes to be swaddled then these are a must (especially if you don’t want to get one of those swaddlers that you velcro around them). Newborns outgrow receiving blankets quickly. These are nice and big, but also lightweight. I liked being able to swaddle G in them, even in the hot summer months (he was born in July). These are wonderfully versatile blankets, too. They can be used as a blanket, carseat or stroller cover (to shield them from the sun, for example), nursing cover, etc. They get softer with each washing, and you can even double them up if you need a bit more warmth. If the price seems like a bit too much, they make a “for Target” model for about $10 cheaper. That’s what I have and they are great.
* Halo SleepSack Wearable blanket. I really like this, especially now that winter is here. Keeps him warm without the dangers of using a loose blanket for an infant.
* Cloud B Sleep Sheep. Cute, soft, sweet. We use it every night on the “ocean” setting and it is very soothing. It even makes me a bit sleepy!

* Nosefrida: The Snotsucker. This thing is both disgusting and wonderful at the same time. It really does work, though. I still use the blue bulb thingy for when he’s just a little stuffy, but when there’s a lot of snot, the Nosefrida is AWESOME.
* Vanicream Lite Lotion. It’s surprisingly hard to find lotion and bath products for babies that aren’t full of fragrances, dyes, and other things you don’t want on your baby’s sensitive skin. According to the bottle, it is “formulated without dyes, lanolin, fragrance, masking fragrance, parabens, formaldehyde.” It doesn’t really smell like anything, actually. And it isn’t greasy. I use this after every bath. I also have a bar of their soap that I will try out after we’re done with the Method body wash (which I also like).
* CJ’s BUTTer. I love this stuff. A lot. I use it on everything. It’s made for diaper rashes (cloth diaper safe) but it’s also recommended for eczema and all sorts of other stuff. I have several forms and scents. I’m constantly dipping into the big tub of Oatmeal, Milk & Honey BUTTer. I use it any time he gets a red or dry patch. I used it on his mild cradle cap. If he scratches himself, I dab some on the mark. I use it on his bum. I use it to help my diaper pins slide through his prefolds. I use it on my own dry skin (slather this stuff on your feet and then put on some cotton socks for the day and see what a difference it makes!). I like how it is all natural but also gives him a sweet “babyish” smell, especially since I don’t use icky scented baby powdery bath stuff. I put it on him after baths, especially on certain parts (like ankle and wrist creases). And it’s great for protecting his chin from drool! There’s an unscented option if you prefer that (I use the unscented on a q-tip to clean the moisturize the opening of his nostrils).
* Amber teething necklace. We’ve gotten some weird looks, but oh well. My son wears a necklace, and I think it is cute. Not only that, but Baltic amber has natural pain relieving properties. The warmth of the baby’s skin releases oils in the amber, which absorb into the skin. These must be used with care; never leave your baby unattended while he is wearing a necklace, and he should never put it in his mouth. I do think it relieved at least some of G’s discomfort while teething.

Baby Carriers
* Moby Wrap. Honestly, not much was better than have my son cuddled up close to me in his Moby during those early months. My son was a big guy and I must admit that I didn’t like this once he started to get a little bigger (beyond 3 months) but it is inexpensive and it is sooooo snuggly. At first I never thought I’d figure out how to wrap it, but once you get the hang of it it’s easy and lovely. When my best friend saw this picture, she joked, “I wish you carried ME around in that.”

* Ergo Carrier. Ahhh, this thing is wonderful. It is pricey but has already been worth every cent. It is so comfortable and my son loves coming shopping with me in this. I can’t wait to bring him places this summer in it, and have him on my back looking around while we hit up the farmer’s market and grab muffins and coffee on leisurely Saturdays.
* Maclaren stroller. Can this be considered a “baby carrier”? Sure, why not. I am big on babywearing but my son really enjoyed our trips to the park in the stroller before winter arrived. Also, when it was hot and humid, neither of us would have wanted me to wear him while we walked around for a couple of hours. This is a very high quality stroller that is easy to use, lightweight, and has some really nice features. It is also made to last and has a lifetime warranty. If Baby #2 arrives in the next few years, we’ll be able to use it for the next baby, or for G if the baby is being worn. We went with the “Ryder” model, in the “Albert Thurston” designer series. I scored it for half off on Gilt (let me know if you’d like a referral) but otherwise I would have went with the Quest. This rates as one of my husband’s favorite baby items. When we went walking with it (before winter set in, ugh) he would totally hog it and never let me push it. Men.

At Play
* Sophie the Giraffe. Yes, it is an overpriced, glorified dog toy. I couldn’t believe I was dropping nearly $20 on something I had to convince our beagle didn’t belong in her toy bin. But you know what? I would have spent five times as much on it. My son LOVES it. It was the first toy that consistently caught his attention, and it was the first toy he started to reach for. It is wonderful. It hardly left his hands when he was teething. It tags along with us almost everywhere. And, to be honest, there’s something so endearing about those sweet eyes and pretty spots. A++++

* Those stupid plastic keys. You know the type, I don’t even have to link to them. One of our friends got him these for Christmas and I’m pretty sure they’re his most-used Christmas toy, and they probably cost $2. He loves those damn things.
* Summer Infant SuperSeat. This thing is all sorts of awesome. Seriously, get one. It works a lot like one of those Bumbo thingamajigs but, in my opinion, has a better fit (at least for chunkier babies). I remember my sister’s kids couldn’t sit in theirs for long because the leg openings were so tight. This is much roomier. It can also be used as a booster seat when they get older. And, the best part, it has an activity center that attaches to it. We use this pretty much every day and my son loves it. We’re getting ready to step up into a larger activity center or Jumparoo, but this has been great for when they aren’t quite ready for it. It seemed to help G work on sitting up, and he could use his arms to support himself if he needed to. We lucked out and received this as a hand-me-down, and I’m so grateful for this one!
* Bouncy seat. I was surprised to like ours as much as I did, but it was great to have on hand. I don’t really use it anymore, but it was great when I needed to put him down while I did something (like empty the dishwasher or cook dinner) and was great so I could actually eat dinner. Well, with both hands and at the same time my husband did.

* Skip Hop Versa diaper bag. I finally found my holy grail of diaper bags. I started off with a Coach diaper bag that I loved and it was very pretty. However, it was heavy and bulky and not very practical. I’ve only had the Skip Hop Versa for about a month, but it’s awesome! If you need to carry a ton of stuff it’s probably not for you, but even if I need to go somewhere for the day with our cloth diapers, it fits without being too hefty. It’s lightweight, the strap is easily adjustable, and it has wonderful options for pockets. I got the one in black, and like that it looks more “purse-ish” and doesn’t scream “I’m a diaper bag!” but is also very practical. Love.
* Pishposh Mommy Carryall. This thing is very cool. I used it until I got the Versa, but am definitely not getting rid of it. It’s great for moms who would prefer to carry their baby stuff in one of their big ol’ purses. It fits a lot and keeps everything very organized. Cool product!
* Car organizers. This one is VITAL to my sanity. I have an Eddie Bauer car organizer that hangs over the back of one of the front seats, as well as a small backpack, and these store some necessities/”in case of emergency” items. Most of the time, if I’m out and about with my son, my car is going to be nearby. It’s nice to have a spare diaper, wipes, outfit, shirt for myself (you never know when the projectile spit-up will attack), mei tai, hand sanitizer, etc. on hand. I don’t need to worry if I leave the house without a spare outfit or diaper, especially if I’m just running somewhere quick and don’t expect to have to change him. I also keep some toys in a bin to keep in the car:

Nursery Organization
* Cube storage units. You know the type. They are great for storing toys or whatever else you need. I like that you can hide the clutter of toys by using canvas bins, but you can also display other items in the cubbies, such as books or nicer looking toys. It’s a practical piece of furniture that, in my opinion, is also aesthetically pleasing. On the top, we keep a lamp, a fan, and some Kleenex and hand sanitizer.
* Munchkin Baby Care Cart. Okay, so this has horrible ratings on Target’s website. I didn’t have problems putting it together (though the wheels were hard to get on) and it works for me just fine. Is it a super high quality piece of furniture? Duh, no. But I put it in his closet and use it store his clothes (just for whatever size he’s currently in), blankets, sheets, Boppy covers, etc. I don’t roll it around the house or put anything heavy in it, so it’s perfect for what I use it for. I like the openness of it and how easy it is to reach in and grab what I need.

* Nursing tank tops. I use the Target ones and they have held up just fine. I wear these every single day. I tried a few different bras but couldn’t find one that fit well and was comfortable enough to wear all the time. I don’t even wear a bra most of the time, I just wear one of these. Then, I can just put whatever top I want to wear over it, and when I nurse I’m not baring my stomach or my whole chest. Helps me be able to not completely flash my dad or one of my husband’s friends when I nurse.
* Reusable nursing pads. I used disposable ones at first, but they get expensive and are sometimes a little bit icky. If you’re going with the disposables, I highly recommend the Lansinoh ones. The others I tried just didn’t absorb as much (especially in the beginning, when I felt like my breasts were geysers that belonged in a national park), and the cheaper ones left bits of fiber and ickies behind. Washable, reusable pads are very comfortable and you just pop them in the wash with your clothes. I recommend getting a few pairs of them, so you’re not left without on laundry day. My favorite? Megaroo’s Nursing Pads. They are made with cotton velour and backed with a layer of PUL (the waterproof material that you see in a lot of cloth diapers and covers). She also makes AMAZING extended tab prefolds that come in super cute patterns.
* Lansinoh lanolin nipple cream. I used this stuff a lot in the beginning, when my nipples were still getting used to breastfeeding (and he was nursing every half hour). I don’t use it anymore, but it was great to have around in the beginning. Another perk? It can be used to lanolize wool diaper covers.
* Boppy pillow. I know these get mixed reviews, but ours has been used every day since he’s been home with us. I initially used it for breastfeeding, and for extra support when I held him; there were days when the ONLY way he would nap was in my arms, so I needed the support. But it was also great for some tummy time, and he still likes to lounge around on it.

The Icky/TMI/Not Fun Things
* This is actually just a tip for anyone who is pregnant and reading this, and hasn’t experience a vaginal birth before. Stock up on menstrual pads. You might not realize how long you may have bleeding and discharge for, but it is yucky and not fun. Have a lot of them on hand. You don’t want to have to go to the store on your first day home alone with your baby just because you ran out of the ones you stole from the hospital. Make sure you get a peri bottle from the hospital to help you clean up when you get home. Also… get a big container of Tucks pads. They are made for hemorrhoids (which, hey, might be a fun bonus after your deliver!) but they can also be used on your tender lady bits; I would sometimes wipe with them, and would also lay them on the pads a few times a day. Oh! And I heard a wonderful tip from someone online. Buy yourself some witch hazel if you don’t already have some, soak some pads with it, and put them in the fridge or freezer. Witch hazel is the soothing ingredient in Tucks pads, so this will basically be a nice, giant Tucks pad that is extra soothing.
* Okay, so this one isn’t icky or TMI or not fun, but also stock up on quick, healthy snack to have on hand. Do this before the baby comes. It can be very difficult to eat when you are with a newborn 24/7, and there were times that I’d look at clock and go, “Oops, it is 3pm and I’ve only had a bowl of cereal today.” Get fruit, fiber bars, and other snacks that you can grab between meals. This is especially important if you are breastfeeding; you need to take care of yourself and consume enough calories (and stay hydrated with plenty of water!). My husband was only able to take a week and a half off of work before I was thrown into parenthood full-force, so this was essential since I no longer had him home with me all day, making sure I was eating and drinking.

One final bit of advice… you don’t need a ton of stuff. I know, I know, I’m sitting her telling you all the products that were so great for us. But there are a lot of things you can wait to buy. In the very beginning, your baby only wants and needs you. Every situation is different, and what works for one baby won’t work for another. What one mother loves another despises. We never used pacifiers or a swing, but I’m sure other mothers would rate those items at the very top of their lists. Get the essentials and the things you will want early on, and don’t stress if you haven’t picked out what spoons you’re going to use when you start feeding solids.

There you go. The items that helped us through our first six months. Now that G is working on the second half of his first year, I am already finding new products that we love and starting to pack up some of the old stuff. You may have noticed that I left one glaring product line out of this: our cloth diapers. I have waaaaay too much to say about that one, so stay tuned for the next part of this series where I will talk about cloth diapering a baby through the first half a year, and what I have learned.