Babies and Stuff....My Minimalistic Approach
*work in progress- pictures coming soon*
Babies are tiny humans that come with a few basic needs. To be held, to be fed, to be changed/dry, to have a safe place to sleep, to be warm and safe. Somehow the marketing and 'stuff' industry has done their job well and babies now 'need' lots of 'stuff' just so you can 'survive'.
I tend to keep a minimalistic approach to my life and parenting. I have privileges that allow me these core parenting options: I stay home, I breastfeed, I bedshare, I cloth diaper, and I believe in baby led solids at one year. I believe in child led and respectful parenting. I have giant babies. Here are my 'must have' baby items for new parents- from a two time mom four years into the gig, and below my reasons explaining the reasonings. While I will share what specific things worked for me there are lots of options out there! Please do research among fellow parents, the internet, in person, and always feel free to ask me!
The need: to be held. Solution: baby carrier!
Check out this blog post about my top recommended carriers. To recap: a skin to skin shirt for early days of lounging and a ring sling for a one and done carrier solution that can last you newborn to end of wearing (should you so choose).
Babies need a safe place to be and I will touch on this in a few other places as well, but as someone once said, we build babies from the ground up. They need free space to play and caregivers need a safe place to let baby be so they can do things (sometimes you just don't want to pee with baby on you or you're getting things in and out of the oven).
The need: to be fed. Solution: Milk.
While this topic can be its own blog post and there are numerous resources out there on breastfeeding (I'll link some soon) this has become another area of 'stuff' ranging from pillows to bras to special drying racks for bottles. My number one must have? A lactation consultant- a well trained, friendly, available, IBCLC can be your biggest ally on your breastfeeding journey. Not all IBCLCs are created equal so do some research before baby arrives to find one (or two) in your area that you get a long with and who has done trainings past their initial certification. My thoughts on pillows, positioners, etc.- skip it! Babies (and you) get used to your comfort measures at home and too many times you see new moms lugging around a Boppy pillow and 1200 other things just for a quick trip to Target. Get used to making yourself comfortable with what you'd already have; practice nursing in a carrier; practice lean back positions for easy nursing in a chair. (Always do what works for you- at first nursing takes patience and practice, this is once you have the initial hang of things) My thoughts on covers: you do you boo. Personally I hated covers as did my kids. I felt comfortable nursing in public (as it is now your legal right in all 50 states!) but there were times I'd like to be a bit more modest (military ceremonies, weddings, etc) and for that my sling tails, a muslin blanket thrown over the shoulder, or a nursing shirt would be helpful.
My thoughts on nursing clothes: they can be helpful but they aren't the end all be all. If you want new clothes- treat yourself! There are many different styles to choose from. Same with nursing bras. Personally I'm an up and over kinda gal and my kids like to touch skin when nursing. I never bothered with the clipping of nursing bras and almost all shirts can be nursing accessible. Dresses get a bit tricky at times, but unless you're wearing a turtleneck romper to the ankles, most clothes are fine.
The need: to be changed/dry. Solution: diapers or EC (elimination communication)
We choose cloth diapers for our kids because they are environmentally friendly, I know what is on their skin, and long run MUCH cheaper (even taking into account washing costs). You can really get into it with cloth diapering, some diapers even have cult like followings for different prints. We started with pockets and switched to flats and covers. I like the way that KangaCare Rumparooz fit my kids, so that is what works for us. We do a flat during the day and a prefold at night. A quick google search will show you all sorts of ways to fold diapers- keeping it simple we do just a tri fold. I did have a fitted for newborn days that was pretty nice and if we have another I may grab 1-2 more fitteds for the early days.
How often do I wash? I have enough diapers to last 3-4 days, I try to wash on day 3 so I'm not back logged and nothing is sitting wet for too long. My wash routine is: rinse; heavy duty hot wash with extra rings; rinse. I hang covers and hot dry insides.
Skip: anything extra- wipe warmers (just use warm water or just have your kid get used to normal water, ice could would be kinda mean to their tush); baby powder and creams- find one good cream (we love Lemongrass Spa's Healing Elements Balm or coconut oil) and air time for rashes.
How to start: start learning about different types and styles of diapers, feel different diapers in your hands, see how different people cloth diaper. Wraps, Slings, and Harmony shows some great tutorials on her t-shirt cloth diapers.
Biggest advice for cloth: try a few before investing a lot. You may be intimidated by flats/covers and then find pockets annoying to stuff. You may like the ease of an all in one. Try some different types out, borrow from friends. Then you can invest (as much or as little) to what works for you and your set up.
EC- Elimination communication? We did partial EC with our kids, this is the practice of watching your child's cues and holding them over a vessel to eliminate. There are a lot of great resources on this.
The need: safe sleep. Solution: with caregivers.
Safe sleep is needed for all humans and babies are no different. Not every care giver will feel comfortable bedsharing (baby in your bed) but co-sleeping (baby in the same room as you) but co-sleeping will save you countless hours of sleep. We are designed to sleep with our young. I'll link resources that explain this in depth; but each their own.
Two for one helpful item: snuggle me pillow. This specially designed pillow for sleep and lounging creates a womb-like feeling, supporting baby on all sides. Its the size of a standard pillow and can be used in your bed until you feel comfortable with baby on your mattress. We also used this on the floor and couch (supervised, safety always) as a safe lounge spot in the early days.
The need: warm. Solution: clothes.
This may seem pretty obvious, and real talk- kids clothes are super cute and fun. Reality: its more laundry and your newborn isn't going many places that they need 50 different outfits for. I keep to the basic onesies (5-7), pull on pants (3-4 depending on the season), sleepers (2-3- these are the snap/zip jammies, not a sleeping bag). Newborns sleep pretty much all day. As they get bigger they roll over, then they start to crawl. Babies need clothes that allow freedom of movement. Babies are the yoga pant poster children ;)
Skip: socks (tiny feet, more socks to match, more for the dryer to eat) instead opt for booties (Zutano, Burts Bees Baby now offers); skip gloves, instead trim their nails.
Favorite brands: Burts Bees Baby, Hannah Anderson, Carters, Gap.
Photographer note: clothes should fit snugly/nicely for photos, so I never size up for photo clothes, all other clothes are sized up/allow for a little more wear.
The need: safe space. Solution: your home.
I am a firm believer that your home should be welcome to all in it- from the littlest, newest member to the caregivers. For this reason I make my home a 98% "yes" space and the 2% that isn't has a door or a lock on it. This has been a unique 'challenge' as in 4 years we have lived in 4 houses plus an extended stay at my parents house. Our children spend time on the (clean, mostly) floor so our house is a shoes off house, eliminating a lot of germs and dirt being carried throughout the house. A blanket on the ground also provides a soft spot. We utilize baby gates to keep safe spaces marked off from the rest of the house. Anything that they can reach is something that is safe for them. The TV is up high, cords are tucked away. Just as you don't want to say "don't touch, no" all day, babies don't want to hear that and should be free to move about their spaces.
Visiting family or friends? A play area (yard, play pen, or couches strategically placed to make a baby jail) can be a great temporary solution, or a solution for spaces like a home office, where you need to have less yes space on a regular basis but a safe space and a space to work (because, life.)
Skip: containment devices. These delay development of your child, giving them false senses of body positioning and control.
The need: to go. Solution: convertible car seat.
Car seats are meant for the car. As such a convertible seat will be a safe option for 98% of children. This seat will get you from newborn to booster- basically your one and done car seat option. Even my giant who outgrew the height for his infant carseat at 4 months and weighted out of rear facing around age three of a top weight limit seat has lasted in the convertible. The drawback- each car needs its own seat (vs a second base for a bucket/infant only seat). "But Kate, how do I take baby in and out of the car?" Babywear! Much easier and faster once you get the hang of it; and you have more room in your cart! (Infant seats ARE NOT SAFE to put on the top of a cart- EVER)
My favorite: Diono. We have both a R100 and 2 RXT's. We love them and they work well in our cars. Car seats are always evolving. Make sure you READ your owner's manual and follow the directions, as well as have a CPST (Child Passenger Safety Technician) check your install in person. Carseats for the Littles is a great resource as well.
Strollers? This really depends on your lifestyle. Babywearing is our solution for 90% of situations. We had the travel system as first time parents and it didn't feel right to me pushing the car seat in the stroller (its not safe, its an easy tip hazard) but it was nice to sometimes lay him flat and push him in the stroller. Kaedryn as second child didn't receive this luxury ;) Instead we opted for a Burley- a bike trailer that is also a stroller. This allowed us the option to bike safely with baby in tow (once sitting with full head control) or to stroll around the neighborhood. It has been great as they have grown as well- we always get compliments and questions about our 'stroller' which even fits through normal doorways! If you're not into biking there are many great options for strollers- choosing one that will lay flat for the newborn days and then transition to sitting is key for their development and safety.
The need: to be clean. Solution: showers ;)
Baby bathing- we kept it pretty simple. We would hop in the tub with baby or take a shower. We opted not to have a baby bath, a sink bath works as well. We use Lemongrass Spa Products on our skin and their baby prebiotic soap is divine smelling without any of the icky ingredients. Their company mission of fresh, clean, natural resonates with me and I've used their products for almost a decade now. Do your research and pick a safe soap.
Nails- aka tiny little talons. In case you didn't know, baby fingernails are sharp. Super sharp. I bite my kids nails hours after they are born, and for the first few weeks before switching to clippers. Just standard baby clippers. Explaining to them what I am doing while I am doing it, going at their pace. Files don't work great because their nails are so thin (yet so so sharp)
Snot suckers and other things- the Nose Frida got a lot of attention when it first came out- and sometimes, yes, its nice to just suck some snot out of your kids nose so they can just breathe! But each kid is different (first kid, snot machine, second kid is more boogers- kids you're welcome if you're reading this as a teen). There is a new product called the 'oogiebear' or something like that which allows you to pick your kids nose- personally I haven't tried it but I don't think my children would like me shoving something in their nose, they barely tolerate my finger and nose wiggling to get them out.