The First Year: Products
Since we’re already at almost 13 months (where did time go), I thought I’d do a products post for the dozens of soon-to-be moms I know. After all, one of my biggest questions was, “what do we actually need?” Most pictures link to products, by the way.
First of all, of course you need a crib. Do you really need something that is brand new and costs $300? No. In fact, by the time your child is eight months old, it will be so full of bite marks that you’ll be kind of sad at how torn up it’s gotten. We went with the $150 Graco Lauren crib from Target. It was on sale and even offered a free mattress worth $50 (they run this deal once a year – we got ours in March I think? Or maybe May?). This crib has held up well (except for said bite marks) despite being moved several times around two different rooms and disassembled/reassembled once for our move. The screws don’t budge, even after the abuse of a climber. We’re planning to save this for baby #2 and either refinish the rails/add a teething guard (because the finish wouldn’t be safe for a second chewing baby), or strip and paint the whole thing with non-toxic paint.
Thinking about a changing table? Forget it. Huge waste of money. Generally not sturdy. Who can successfully hold a baby and bend down to search the shelves underneath for diapers et al. anyway? Get a long dresser. We repurposed our guest bedroom furniture and it was perfect. This way, you have all the clothes accessible to the changing table if the first set gets peed on (I’m not kidding). Just attach a changing pad to the top of the dresser (the hanging straps screw into the back so it won’t wiggle much and you can add non-slip floor mat underneath for minimum slippage). Cheap and doubly useful. We got the Munchkin pad from Babies R Us with a coupon and bought generic Circo covers from Target. You’ll need two or three covers for all those wonderful spontaneous poops and pees so you can just pop the disgusting one in the laundry and grab the other one from your sweater organizer (more on that later). Bonus – if you have an old nightstand, it’s a great place to put all those extra bottles or breastfeeding equipment (pump, etc.) and it goes great next to a rocker.
Where should you put diapers, cream, wipes, and distraction toys if you aren’t getting a changing table? Get a plastic Rubbermaid basket. I have a green one from college that holds a wipe container and all the creams we could ever want, plus diapers. We also used the diaper hanger that came with our bedding set for the first year. Yes, it takes a few minutes to fill it up and some people find that to be wasted time, but with a C hook, you can hang it anywhere (including over that Rubbermaid basket) and if you actually fill it all the way up (3 packs newborns and 1’s, two packs 2 & 3’s, one and a half packs 4’s and 5’s – we buy in bulk on Amazon.com anyway), then you won’t have to refill it more often than every two weeks, or even less once they stop needing 12 diapers a day. And to give you an idea, those are ten, size 5 diapers, so they are HUGE! Imagine how many more would fit if they were size 2.
Ah, gliders and ottomans – probably one of the biggest points of contention, especially when Mom-to-be is coveting a $500 set from Babies R Us. Do you need a chair of some sort that rocks? Absolutely. My own mom purchased this for us because she didn’t have one when I was a baby and told us how terrible it was to sit on the edge of the sofa and rock herself back and forth for hours when I was sick. You will need a chair that has a rocking motion – just don’t spend a ton on it. We got this great looking one from Walmart (where I try not to shop if need be) for $130 something and it included an ottoman. While they no longer sell this exact one with an ottoman (it’s only $100 without), you can get a similar Storkcraft for $129. The ottoman isn’t a necessity, by the way, unless you are breastfeeding – then, it’s a lifesaver. They had several color combos that worked and bonus, after a year of abuse, it’s held up. There isn’t a scratch or a stain on it. We’ll be removing this from Clark’s room shortly to make sure it stays in good condition for a second child since he barely needs it now (and since it has cream fabric!).
Probably one of the smartest decisions we made was to get a cheap, Ikea high chair. It’s ultra lightweight, easily portable, contemporary looking, very sturdy, and super, super, super easy to clean (that’s the best part). Plus, since it’s basic white, it will never go out of style or have a specific-gender feel (part of the problem with Graco’s line…). We paid $25 (including an extra $5 for the tray). Seriously, best investment ever. We love this high chair and have abused it several times daily for the last nine months. Totally recommended. Cautiously optimistic? Go eat at your local Ikea – they are the same chairs available in the dining room for kids! Also, all three locations of It’s Just Crepes use these as well! If they can take a beating as a restaurant chair, they will be amazing at home. Even if I had oodles of money to spend, I’d still pick this chair over any others.
I’m still not sure about whether or not I’d recommend a Pack ‘n Play. We have one, and it’s come in handy when we’ve traveled overnight, but mostly it sits in our living room acting as a toybox and a wall to keep Clark from pulling all the DVDs off the shelf. If you travel, go for it. When Clark was a newborn, it was nice for having him sleep in our room and take naps in the living room, but once we moved him to his crib at 3 weeks, it basically became obsolete. If you can get a good deal on sale (Target regularly clearances their “old patterns” out every 6 months), get one. If not, make do without.
Speaking of Target’s clearance strategy, as soon as you get pregnant, start watching their baby clearance. We scored this $180 travel system (stroller and pumpkin seat that we used for the first year, including one car seat base) for $80 on clearance. Huge money saver and ironically, exactly the pattern we wanted (Clark’s nursery was woodland themed). You may not be able to get it that cheap, but sometime during a nine-month pregnancy, you’ll have a clearance season and save some cash. We loved the stroller especially because you could collapse it with one hand and attach the pumpkin seat to the top when they are still little.
I’m going to be a little controversial with this next one: the Arm & Hammer diaper pail. After a year of constant use, we still haven’t had to change the baking soda insert at all because we still have some left. Also, the bags are$5.99 for a pack of 10 (which on average last about 5-7 day, so you are talking two months for one pack). That’s cheaper than some kitchen trash bags. Finally, because the twisting feature is incorporated into the CAN and not the INSERTS (à la Diaper Genie), you can actually put regular trash bags in it, too – they just won’t snap shut to trap the smell when you put them in the garbage can outside. It’s has been totally worth the minimal cost – our noses thank us ever so dearly, and so do our garbage collectors!
Two more great tips left: buy as many clothes for the first year as possible at a store like Once Upon a Child. Our local OUAC has a bag sale of clearance (almost half the store) where everything you can stuff into a plastic bag is $15 every July and January. Both times, I’ve walked away with enough to cloth two babies for six months in one or two bags (approximately 60 pieces). The trick is to fill a cart with all your possible clothing pieces (I picked sizes up to 18 months and even some 24 month pieces), then find a quiet corner of the store away from the clearance, sort through what you want, take it all off the hangers, and start rolling. We only had to buy onesies and pajamas for the first several months. If you do have to buy clothes, go cheap unless it’s a special occasion. People are not kidding when they say that your child will only wear something once or twice before it’s too small, especially if you buy a ton of clothes. This way, when you find something you really do like, you won’t feel guilty splurging. Bonus – most of the clothes I get from OUAC are Children’s Place, Gymboree, Ralph Lauren, GAP, Adidas, Oshkosh, or several other high end, expensive brands, and some still have the original tags on them. They are all in amazing condition.
Lastly, buy organize your child’s closet. I know I’ve posted this before but it really works! The amount of organization is phenomenal. Check mine out:
This sweater organizer saves my life. Again, sorry for the crappy pics – I’m working with a cell phone now. Top to bottom: receiving blankets/spit rags, extra blankets, sheets and mattress pads, changing pads, extra wipes (we buy in bulk), extra toddler pillows. And see that large grey tote in the bottom of the closet? That’s a 30 gallon Sterilite tote that I use to toss clothes that don’t fit once they are washed. This way, I can easily put away clothes for a second child (or to sell to OUAC). Once a tote is full, I put it in our storage area.
This crappy pic is a hinged-lid tote from Target. I think it’s around 15 gallons. I use it to quickly put away keepsakes and it sits on the top shelf of Clark’s closet (hence why the hinged lid is so important – easy access). We have things like a newspaper from the day he was born, our favorite pair of newborn cowboy boots, his first bear, the first outfit we picked out for him, his santa pants, a box with his lock of hair from the first hair cut. It’s so much easier to remember to save things if you already have a designated place to put it all once your life is turned upside down!
The last organizational wonder I have is the shoe hanger. We keep his closet door open all the time (ultra-small room requires this), so we used an old shoe organizer and it’s been a great decision. In the bottom couple of rows, we keep toys so he doesn’t feel tempted to grab the things hanging higher. Then, the middle two rows contain extra blankets, towels, and washcloths (all rolled for easier storage), and finally, the top two rows are reserved for medicines, combs/brushes, Vaseline, q-tips, thermometer, etc. And there is nothing close that is high enough for him to climb and be able to access those top two rows, since they start at about six feet off the ground.
If you survived reading this whole things, congrats! I know it’s a lot of information, but I hope it helps new moms somewhere!