Thursday, January 31, 2013

Baby Must-Haves (According to Tony)

It wasn't too long ago that I blogged about my Pregnancy Must-Haves, so now I'm proud to bring you a list of the things I couldn't live without after I had a baby, as well as Tony's favorites, as well as the things I thought I would need or want but definitely could have done without. As a bonus, I get to shamelessly promote pictures of my cute baby! After all, who could resist a little baby with this much hair?

 May I direct your attention to the little French outfit; we bought it for our baby in Nice, France at Galleries Lafayette, the day we found out I was pregnant. We were on our last European vacation before we moved to Boston.

As I mentioned with my pregnancy post, by all means do not take this list as the gospel of things to buy or avoid for your baby. In my experience, this is a summary of the things I've found that worked well for us (or DIDN'T work well). Who knows? T4 could have a completely different set of preferences, and then we'll really be screwed. Feel free to laugh at me if that happens. So, I'm going to begin this post with a list of:

Things We Absolutely Could Not Have Lived Without

1. The infant travel system. The Graco and Chicco systems seem to be the most popular; we bought the Graco because Babies 'R Us was having a sale (and we had an extra coupon). Both have good safety ratings and customer reviews, and the number one thing I've heard parents say is that yes, you can buy a convertible car seat and use it from infancy onward, but the absolute last thing you want to do is wake a sleeping newborn up by taking them out of the car seat when you reach your destination. I concurred. Will and I were blessed with a baby who would pass out the second we turned on our car's engine, and there wasn't anything on God's green earth that would have convinced us to wake our sleeping baby by taking him out of his car seat. Not to mention (and I realize that this was sheer luck), Tony really enjoyed his car seat, and he never had a problem sitting in it in restaurants, or walking around the mall or the city, etc. The nice thing about the travel systems is that you take the stroller out of your car, lock it into place, remove the car seat with the-hopefully-sleeping baby from your car, and the car seat locks right into the stroller. It was pretty cool, and it saved us a lot of unnecessary fussing. 

 2. Bonus from the picture above-Sophie the Giraffe for teething. I have no idea what is so darn magical about Sophie. I really don't. All I know is that she was a lifesaver during the teething stage. Tony would happily gnaw on her for an extended period of time, and it seemed to provide some relief for his poor, sore little gums. Sophie is a bit on the pricey side ($22.99 at Babies 'R Us), but it was well worth it to not have our little guy fussing from teething pain.

3. The bouncy seat.

Will and I quickly figured out that Tony was one of those babies who loved vibrations, soft, soothing music, and objects on which he could fixate. This handy little Fisher Price bouncy seat provided all three. I was a little hesitant to get it at first, because all I could think was, "well, I want to be the mom who holds her baby when he fusses! I don't want him to just hang out in the bouncy seat all day...I'll feel so lazy." Never fear, moms to be. First of all, the likelihood that you will have a baby who wants to do nothing but chill in the bouncy seat is pretty much nil. Second, if you have a high-needs, demanding infant (like Mr. RigaTony) who wanted to nurse 23 out of the 24 hours in a day, and constantly be held, wanting to put your baby in a bouncy seat for 10-20 minutes doesn't make you a slacker mom. It makes you human. When Will went back to work and it was just baby Tony and I at home, I found that the bouncy seat was perfect if I wanted to shower (I just brought it in the bathroom with me, and poked my head out from the shower curtain every 30 seconds to check on Tony), or if I wanted to get dinner started and needed my hands free to chop vegetables or cook something on the stove. Tony found it very relaxing, and one time he even stayed in it for 20 glorious minutes! That didn't happen too often, but this was still a lifesaver those first few months. The only catch is that it had a weight limit of 20lbs, and that meant my chunky little monkey didn't stay in the bouncy seat for too long.

4. The swing.
Much like the bouncy seat, I wasn't 100% sure how the swing would work out for us. And in the beginning, it didn't. I think newborn Tony was a little freaked out by the swinging motion, and he got so upset that Will and I quickly took him out of the swing and calmed him down. We didn't give it another try until he was two months old, and THAT time was much, much better. As you can see in the picture above, he was old enough at that point to be soothed by the swinging motion, and no longer frightened by it. He loved the soft, ocean-y music, and he was fascinated by the glowing light and the fish above his head. (This is also a Fisher Price model). I remember my mom telling me that she hated the swing for my brother and I that she had in the 80's, because you had to crank the handle instead of plugging it in, and by the time we fell asleep in the swing it would stop moving, and we would wake up screaming. These swings can either be plugged in or operated by batteries, and the gentle rocking/swaying/swinging motion was perfect for calming Tony down if he was fussy. This one is really going to depend on your baby; every parent has a different experience. There are parents who swear by the swing from Day 1, there are parents like me who found that it didn't work out at first but was a lifesaver once their baby got a little older, and there are parents who say their babies hated the swing and never adapted to it.

5. The baby gym.
I can't tell you how happy I was to receive this Baby Einstein Ocean Wonders gym at my baby shower. Tony loved everything about it; the music, the toys, the stuffed whale that was meant for support during tummy time (that so did not happen, by the way...more on tummy time in a minute), etc. It wasn't uncommon for him to play quietly for up to half an hour in his little gym, and many times he didn't even notice that I was in the room. It was fun for Tony, and a great excuse for Mama to catch up on email and Facebook. :)

6. The changing table
For whatever reason, a lot of parents get super worked up about the idea of a changing table. "What a stupid waste of money! What's wrong with changing the baby's diaper on your bed? Or buying a changing pad and putting it on the dresser?" Nothing is wrong with that, if you don't have back problems and you have a dresser that goes up to your waist. However, I've suffered from back pain for as long as I can remember, and the dresser we bought for Tony's room went up to my shoulders. So just buying a changing pad and placing it on the dresser was completely out of the question. Now, I'm certainly not advocating that you spend hundreds of dollars on a changing table; that WOULD be a ridiculous waste of money. We found this one for around $110, and truthfully, I couldn't have lived without it. It was the perfect height so I didn't experience any back pain changing Tony's diapers, plus it had a lot of extra storage room. (You will need it, not only for the diapers and wipes, but all of the millions of receiving blankets you will get as gifts at your baby shower. Trust me). Also, Tony had an aversion to "tummy time" from a very young age. He hated being on his belly on the floor, or in his baby gym, but I wanted him to be able to develop his neck muscles. I expressed my concern to another mother, and she advised me to put Tony on the changing table and try tummy time that way. I have no idea why, but it worked. Tony never resisted tummy time on his changing pad, and he was lifting up his head on his own in no time!

Things That Were Nice to Have, but Not 100% Necessary

1. The wipes warmer. Again, this is something that a lot of parents get worked up about. Now, I wouldn't recommend getting one if you live in Florida and the temperature rarely drops below 50 degrees. Spend your $30 elsewhere. However, Tony was born in January in Boston, and our apartment could get very cold very quickly. Tony screamed bloody murder whenever we put a cool wipe on his butt, but he was never really bothered by the diaper changes when we took a wipe out of the wipe warmer. Hey, if it made the changing experience even slightly less painful, I was all for it.

2. The shopping cart cover.
I'll confess that I'm somewhat of a germaphobe. When Tony was old enough to start riding in the shopping carts at the grocery store, the very first thing he did was try to put his mouth on the handle. I practically went into cardiac arrest, thinking about all of the germs he was picking up. I bought the shopping cart cover and was able to breathe a little easier, especially since Tony seemed more comfortable in the cart anyway. A baby necessity? Definitely not. Nice to have? Absolutely.

3. The glider.
My parents bought the glider and foot rest for me for my birthday, a few months before I was due. It was very easy to set up, it was super comfy, and I have to admit, it looked super cute in the baby's room. As I mentioned before, I have some pretty serious back pain issues, and I was so grateful to have this glider for those long stretches of time when Tony wanted to nurse, or he just wanted to be held.

Things That I Regret Getting

1. The Baby Bjorn.
Don't be fooled by the smile. Tony only looked happy because he was old enough to know what it meant when Mama had the camera in her hand. He HATED the Bjorn, and frankly, so did I. So did Will. Come to think of it, I have yet to find another parent who actually swears by this thing. I knew I wanted to try baby wearing, but I didn't really understand the difference between wraps, slings, carriers, etc. I just went with the ones I saw all over the place, and assumed it would work for us. Nope. One, it put a lot of pressure on my back. It didn't matter if I was carrying Tony in the front or on my back, it hurt a lot. Two, he always seemed very uncomfortable in it. I don't think Tony liked having his legs separated in such an awkward position, and we could never keep him in the Bjorn for longer than 10 minutes without him throwing a fit. I got rid of that thing as soon as we moved.

2. The super fancy schmancy baby bath tub.
When my mom and I were at Babies 'R Us early on in my pregnancy, she noticed a "baby spa" tub, and we took turns exclaiming about the cuteness factor. Awww, it had a little shower handle! And an attachment that would create a soothing, mini jacuzzi for the baby! How adorable! How relaxing! Umm, how about how full of &%$#. The only thing that I liked about this tub is that it had a little infant padding seat, and Tony seemed comfortable on it. Unfortunately, that lovely little seat grew mold very quickly, which completely skeeved me out. As far as the jacuzzi, Tony really enjoyed it...for the 10 minutes that it ran with four D batteries. Then it died, and Tony freaked out, and it took an hour of soothing, rocking and nursing for me to calm him down. Oh, and the shower handle scared him to death. Seriously, don't waste your money. Any infant tub will suffice.

3. Plastic toys that flash a million lights and play the most annoying songs in the world.

Honestly, it's hard to escape this one, for a couple of reasons. One, if you're a new parent, you don't realize just yet that your baby wants to play with your cell phone, TV remote, and car keys more than they will ever want to play with their baby toys. Two, well-meaning friends and relatives will have a lot of fun picking out toys that initially look really promising (I mean, a little piano that plays classical music and says phrases in Spanish and French? Why on earth wouldn't your baby enjoy that??). Three, like most parents I know (myself included), I want my children to grow up with an appreciation for music, culture, literature, etc. Baby toys seem like a great place to start!

Except those toys will drive you insane. You will be trying to sleep at night, only to have a bastardized version of "Old McDonald" playing in your head. Your baby will most likely become overstimulated by all the flashing lights and random songs, and throw a fit. And those toys have a mind of their own. They WILL go off at random times, even if you think you turned the switch to "off" and there is no one around. I am unable to describe the sheer terror of jumping out of bed in the middle of the night-naturally, when my husband wasn't home-because one of Tony's talking stuffed animals decided to start talking in the living room. At 3am. All I could hear was a creepy voice saying "you're my friend!" In my exhausted, middle-of-the-night state, I was convinced I was in the middle of a horror movie, and a toy was going to climb up the stairs and stab me with my chef's knife.

Well, that's my list so far. Veteran moms, please feel free to comment with your own favorites (or not favorites!). I'm always interested in hearing other opinions, and hearing what other babies liked and didn't like.

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