Saturday, June 4, 2011

Part 1: The Nursery (What Do You REALLY Need For Baby?)

Almost every Master List on the internet that tells you what you supposedly need for baby is affiliated with someone selling something and therefore will push products that you don't need that many of, or don't need at all. When you're considering which "tools of the trade" are necessary, which make life so much easier, and which ones just sound good but in practice miss the mark for practicality and compatibility with the life of a busy mom, it's really handy to get the opinions of other moms who have BTDT (been there done that). If you have a playgroup, pregnant mom's group, due date group, or online community of parents that you associate with, asking them what baby items were pure gold for them and what items were a waste of time or money will give you some valuable insight.

I'm currently pregnant with baby #4 so I have a little experience under my belt with these things. I know, you didn't ask me, but I'm going to pretend you did ask me and I'm going to make out a list of popular baby items and whether I think they fall into the "Necessary" category, the "Handy" category, or the "Cosmetic" category, or the "Waste" category. I'm NOT a minimalist so this could get long. ;) Mirage's Master List of Baby Necessities, version 3.5: Hold on, here we go!

THE NURSERY:
♥The Crib♥ [Handy] Yes, that's right, I didn't put it under Necessary! Why not you ask? Well this is a matter that is different for every family. If you are breastfeeding, then you are statistically more likely to wind up bedsharing (BTW that's not necessarily a bad thing- bedsharing is great if you and your spouse are healthy adults who have no sleep related conditions and do not take any medications or indulge in any substances that could alter your ability to wake up easily and stay on your half of the bed while asleep. Bedsharing can help the breastfeeding relationship, parent-child bond, and actually bedsharing saved my son's life. I would encourage you to research the risks and benefits of bedsharing and connect with bedsharing parents before making your decision.) and if you bedshare, depending on how long it lasts, you might have skipped the crib-stage altogether by the time baby moves out of your bed. In our house, we DO use a crib, but the baby bedshares with us and gradually moves to a bassinet/playpen beside our bed until he/she is about 10 months old. At 10 months we transition to a crib in another room. This is just what seems to work for the personalities, convenience, and emotional health of all involved in my house. So the crib is Handy but depending on your stance on cosleeping and bedsharing and space in your home and whether or not you have something smaller for them to sleep in like a bassinet or playpen plays more of a role than often mentioned in whether or not it will be used. My advice is to get a crib that will convert to a toddler bed so that if baby winds up sleeping in his carseat, your bed, or the playpen for the first 18 months of his life, you won't feel like the crib was howevermany thousand dollars worth of wasted wood and bedding. Regardless of whether or not baby uses the crib for SLEEPING, it can be used as a safe place to put the baby down while you use the bathroom or take a shower if you have pets or are bedsharing (since most adult beds have fluffy things like pillows and blankets that should not be used near baby unsupervised and also have a decided lack of railings to prevent baby from rolling off), therefore it is still handy even if you don't use it for baby's sleeping place until you convert it to a toddler bed. In other cribly aspects, you're gonna want one with a drop-rail that will be most convenient for you. If you can find one with a rail at all. They seem to be going the way of the dinosaur due to manufacturers who use parts from China and consumers who don't know how to read assembly directions making cribs unsafe- and of course since 99% of all cribs had drop rails or gates until recently, when the statistics predictably said that "most recalled cribs had drop rails" (well DUH, right, if most cribs have drop-rails then obviously most recalled cribs have drop-rails. Doesn't take a genius.), it prompted a most annoying boycotting of cribs with drop-rails or drop-gates and now you can barely find them. Drop rails were invented to save mama's back from injury as she lifted baby (and later a younger toddler) in and out of the crib half a dozen times each day. Now they are being "phased out" because of poor craftsmanship, irresponsible ownership, and accidents. I'm afraid I find this stupid because the cribs are still being made with shoddy hardware and parents are still putting them together wrong and accidents are accidents and will always occasionally happen because such is the nature of life. Banning drop-rails won't fix the root problems. (It'll create more mama back problems.) Lets ban shoddy products and have people who are trained to assemble children's furniture correctly like the trained people at Sears come out and install your new stove or dishwasher! If parents can't read the directions, lets get someone who can available for those who don't want to put the effort into doing it right for their kid's safety. Cribs COST enough that they SHOULD come with free delivery and installation! :p That's my two cents. If you wish to put the effort into finding a crib with a drop rail, there are two basic kinds of drop rails. One the whole front side slides downward and it is called a "drop-rail" or "drop-side", and the other type has a small panel along the top of the front which folds down and is referred to as a "drop-gate". Ours has the fold down drop gate and I really have loved it. It works great for us. My sister had one for my nephew where the whole front slides down but the time I babysat I could not for the life of me figure out how it worked so honestly I have no experience with that kind for comparison. Regardless of whether you opt for a drop rail or not, get one that takes a standard sized mattress so you're not hunting all over creation to find said oddball sized mattress and oddball sized bedding to accommodate it.

♥Crib Mattress♥ [Necessary if you have a crib.] It honestly doesn't matter what kind I don't think. I got a cheap one for $30 in WalMart. It feels just as good to me after almost 5 years of use as the Serta that came with our toddler bed. Make sure it's standard sized if your crib is, so it fits your crib and bedding!

♥Crib Bedding♥ [Varies] The sheets and pads are necessary, everything else is cosmetic. You are going to want 3 or 4 mattress pads and 3 or 4 sheets. One to be on the crib, one (or two- depends on how often you like to do laundry) ready to go in case of emergency, and one you just put in the hamper from the last emergency. ;)

♥Bassinet, Cosleeper, etc.♥ [Necessary] Necessary is relative of course but here's why I personally think these are a must. Unless you are in the minority who does not like to have baby in their room for at least the first few days or who cosleeps so exclusively that you never put baby down anywhere but your own bed, you ARE going to want someplace to put your newborn down. Most parents like to have baby in the same room for at least a little while and it's more convenient to have a smaller portable piece of furniture in there than to take the crib apart and move it from room to room. Some mamas like to have a baby bed in the living room so baby can nap within sight at all times. If you don't plan on cosleeping until baby is old enough for a toddler bed, you might also find it handy to "wean" baby out of your bed gradually using a smaller baby bed beside your adult bed. There are a million and one kinds of baby beds that are portable and/or smaller than a traditional crib. Cradles, folding travel beds, Moses baskets, cosleepers, bassinets, playpens, hanging hammocks, travel cribs... on and on the list goes. I have used a moses basket, a hanging hammock, and a playpen with a bassinet attachment personally. I like the playpen bassinet because it can be converted back to just a playpen for later use, and it folds up to take to Grandma's house easily. Not so easy to cart from room to room however. The moses basket is great for carting from room to room but hard on the back unless you have a stand for it, and takes up too much trunk space to take on long trips to visit the relatives. The hanging hammock sounded so good but didn't work out for my babies- they just hated it. :( So figure out whether you want something portable around the house or portable on long trips, something for the living room or just for in your bedroom. When it comes down to it there's no reason why if you're within view you can't just lay the baby on a blanket on the floor for naps while you're doing what you need to around the house. However it's beyond helpful to have something level with the bed and right next to it at 2am when baby cries for a midnight snack and you don't want to actually get out of bed or even sit up to get baby if you don't have to. An important feature to note is the WEIGHT LIMIT on the item you are interested in. My babies have all hit 16 pounds by 6 months and 20 pounds between 10 and 11 months. Some babies grow faster and some slower. For most of those alternative baby sleeping places the weight limit is 10-15 pounds. Keep in mind that your baby could outgrow this by 3 months old. Some babies are BORN 10 or more pounds (my 3rd was 9 pounds 2 ounces) so a baby bed that says to move baby out by 10 or 15 pounds would really be a huge waste for larger babies. Or if you have twins in it, keep in mind that while each twin might only weigh 6 or 7 pounds, together they may be over the weight limit. Whatever you get, make sure you find the highest weight limit you can for that type of item so you get the most use out of it.

♥Bedding for Bassinet, Cosleeper, etc.♥ [Handy] but not necessary. It's really nice to have 3 sheets for the pack-n-play for the same reasons 3 sheets are needed for the crib, but in reality you "can" use it bare. I have tucked a towel in as a bassinet sheet, folded a stiff blanket as a moses basket pad, and used them bare with an ultra stiff burp rag (do you know the kind I mean? It's like a fabric version of cardboard!) under their head and/or bottom.

♥Changing Table and Changing Pad♥ [Handy/Necessary] Oh so handy. For me, personally, this is Necessary! Do you really need a changing table? No, but it sure is a HUGE back saver! It's nice to have a place where all your supplies are there and you don't have to get up and down or bend over to change each and every of the 6-12 diapers a day. I would advise getting a changing table with drawers, or better yet a dresser/changing table combo. You will eventually need a dresser for the kid anyway, right? Shop yard sales and second hand stores for old but sturdy dressers you can turn into a perfect changing table by adding a pad, and later turn back to a dresser. I have a dresser that my mom screwed some boards into the top of in a rectangle to where the contoured changing table pad will fit right inside the rectangle. It's handy to have it be a dresser too where I can keep the crib bedding, the hairbows, socks, shoes, and onesies, bathing suit, pajamas, clothes, even books and toys in the bottom drawer in easy baby-reach. That's just what I like, what's convenient for me. I also have a basket on the dresser beside the makeshift changing table part that has the changing supplies in it, and the "diaper stacker" is hanging to the left of the changing table so I can reach the diapers but it's not over the changing table where it could fall on baby. I would not be without a changing table if I could help it. All it takes to convert a dresser is a nice contour pad which can be found at most department and baby stores.

♥Changing Pad Covers♥ [Handy] Changing pad covers will keep the baby from screaming at the feel of cold vinyl under their back, will extend the life of the changing pad, and can be coordinated to match the room decor. If you want them, have 3. Same Rule Of Threes as for the crib bedding; one to have on, one to be washed, and one to have onhand in case. 
 
♥Rocking chair/glider rocker♥ [Necessary] These are SOOOOO expensive but you really are gonna want one. When it's a 3:00am cry-session and you're too tired to pace the house even one more time and motion is the only thing that will soothe baby, it's easy to plop in the glider and close your eyes and just rock. It's also great when you just want to sit and watch baby sleep in your arms, it's therapeutic to rock your sleeping baby and just enjoy being a mommy. TRY THESE OUT IN THE STORE!!! If you are going to try breastfeeding you don't want to get a chair that's arms are in a bad position for nursing, and you won't know for sure unless and until you sit in it and pretend you are holding/nursing baby. Even if you don't breastfeed you want to make sure the chair is comfy before you spend $100-$1,000 on a glider with or without ottoman. Keep in mind that immediately postpartum your belly will still be squishy and largeish so you'll be holding baby in front of the extra squishy belly and if the chair leans too far back, you will have to prop the baby up to reach the babyfeeders. In summary, get a chair that you can see yourself spending lots of midnight hours in, looks wipe-off-able, lockable, and has a degree of back slant and height of arms that fit your body type especially if nursing. Oh and when you get it home, put it where you will USE it. Don't put it in the room with your toddler where baby will "eventually" go if baby is currently co-sleeping with you. If you do that, then you'll have the toddler in there asleep and it's midnight and baby's screaming and you are sure as the world NOT going in the toddler's room with the screaming baby to rock and possibly wake said toddler. Ask me how I know... :-s Take my word for it and put the rocker in the living room or in the room where the baby is actually going to be sleeping. It's really nice to watch a movie with DH in the evening while you rock the baby to sleep. Really nice. It's also really nice to be able to calm the crying baby at any hour without being 2 feet from a sleeping person. I personally prefer the rocker in the living room, after 3 babies and much trial and error! Lol!
 
♥Rugs, Lamps, Curtains, and other Decor♥ [Cosmetic] Yeah they make the room look good. But that's about it. What you really need isn't a rug with butterflies on it to match the crib quilt (which you are afraid to actually use because of suffocation risks), wall hangings (that don't do anything practical but create another item you need to dust), and window valance (that covers so little of the window it can really only be called decoration)... instead, invest in a good dimmer switch and a room-darkening window treatment, and then splurge on a really cute nursery clock. If you're still feeling rich after that then maybe go back for the matching decor.

♥Clock, Dimmer-switch, and Room darkening blinds♥ [Absolutely Necessary] These are the three most important things in a nursery after the rocker, changing table, and bed. A clock because you will wish you had one to see what time the baby woke up during the night to eat and how long it's been since her last feeding. Room darkening blinds or blackout curtains are great because, especially in the summer, sunlight streaming in can wake up the baby or cause the room to get too hot to sleep. Blinds will help. Also when your kid is 2 years old and wants to wake up at 5:00am every morning because this is when the sun comes up in the summer... *ahem* Yeah dark curtains or blinds are a must. And the dimmer switch is AMAZING. Seriously you need one. You can turn the light on just a tiny bit, kinda medium, full blinding bright, or anything in between. Bigtime help when you want to sneak in and check baby in the middle of the night but don't want to blind yourself or wake the baby by turning the light on full bright.

♥Diaper Stacker and Hamper♥ [Handy] Okay yes these are cosmetic. But handy. Technically you can use the diapers right out of the package or keep them in a basket or a drawer and use the hamper down the hall or just take the dirties all the way to the laundry room straightaway. But I love having the diaps in the stacker ready to grab and apply to a freshly powdered little tush. And a hamper is important but I'm probably not thinking of the kind you are. I'm not thinking of the fabric kind that is really pretty and matches the rug that matches the wall hangings that matches the valance. Those are super cute but I'm talking about a vinyl one that won't curl up and stink forever if you throw the onesie your kid's diaper EXPLODED in into it. Or cloth diapers. If you're going to CD you'll want a hamper that's more like a trash can to contain the stench between washes, and you'll likely want a SEPARATE hamper for the soiled baby clothes because if you put them in with the diapers that's just asking for more of serious washload than baby clothes usually are. By which I mean, stains, stink, OxiClean... LOTS of Oxiclean.

♥Diaper Genie or other diaper disposal untit♥ [Waste] Yep I think a special diaper disposal can is a total waste of money. Splurge on a nice looking, sturdy, lidded trash can with a step pedal instead. You'll always wind up with random trash to toss (think wipes wrappers, bags the diapers came in, tags off new baby shoes and toys, the lint or strings that seem to come out of nowhere and randomly wind up on clothes, that baby wipe you used to wash baby's neck after she spit up or hands and chin after first cereal...) and will want a garbage can for that nearby even if you don't CD, so why not get one that does dual duty? To contain the smell, a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of baking soda in the bottom of the new trash bag will suck up the stench, and for added protection you can use little baggies to put the stinky ones in before tossing. Dollar Tree has diaper disposal bags by the box in their baby section. I also take the ziplock baggies from my kitchen that have been used and would be thrown away and put those dirty used ziplocks in a basket on the changing table for the stinky diapers. I used to wash the ziplocks to reuse for food but now I don't bother washing them and reuse for dirty diapers. I have even put some of the cleaner looking ones in the diaper bag for disposal on the go. I wouldn't want to stuff a handfull of ziplocks that had been used for those melty double chocolate muffins in the diaper bad where someone might see them, but you bet I'd reuse one I had almonds or cheerios in in the diaper bag. ;)

♥Fan or White Noise Machine♥ [Necessary] Baby will be less likely to wake up from the sound of it if you're out in the kitchen and accidentally drop a can of soup on the floor while she's sleeping in her room, or your toddler is in the bathtub singing at the top of his lungs, if there's some nice fuzzy white noise happening nearby. A humidifyer might even make a loud enough white noise to count.

♥Clothes and Diapering supplies♥ A given- and for another post!

So I shall leave you with this list for now and a vow to continue soon with more necessary and unnecessary baby goodies! :)