If you are expecting or have newly become a parent, I have a few key recommendations to make adjusting to life with baby a little easier on you.
1. Playtex Diaper Genie Elite
This product is aptly named because it's like you wished away the stinky diapers and a genie appeared to take them away. There is no odor, no mess, and you just step on the peddle to toss the diapers away leaving your hands free to carry baby. Refills are reasonably priced and changing them is easy.
There are two models of this by Platex on the market. I definitely recommend paying the little extra for the elite model as it not only includes the foot pedal for hands free use but also seems to better seal in odors. As in seal them in completely. We have both models and while the standard version is still nice to have, the elite model is MAGICAL by comparison.
2. The Boppy
I had my doubts when people were trying to explain this concept to me before having the baby. A pillow you wear around your waist to put the baby on while it nurses? Why not just hold the baby in place? Why is this necessary? In my naivety I did not truly comprehend just how frequently and for how long you nurse. This thing came in so handy for the first several months that I cannot imagine life without it.
I've nursed with it and without it and it's just more comfortable for everyone involved with it. To the point where at five months Jude did not want to nurse without it at times. Holding baby in position to nurse, even as a newborn is surprisingly tiring and newborns nurse every couple of hours for thirty minutes to an hour sometimes. That's a lot of muscle fatigue! I had no idea going in.
It also made nap time easy in the early days, as Jude would not sleep without being held. On the Boppy he would just rest on it while nursing and doze so peacefully, and I could just let him stay there while I did other things because it allowed me to retain the use of at least one arm, if not both (depending on position). Granted I still couldn't get up and be mobile, but that was fine. I could at least read a book, browse the internet, chat with my family 3000 miles away, or feed myself.
Once baby out grows (around 9 months for us) it it's still useful as a neck pillow for you during road trips, or heck, while nursing!
3. A Quality Rocking Chair or Glider
Sometimes baby wants what baby wants and nothing else will suffice. A lot of the time what baby wants is to be rocked. You'll want to be prepared for this by having an appropriate rocking apparatus on hand. Let's be clear here, I'm all about penny pinching, but quality matters. If you skimp here you'll wind up with one that will need to be replaced frequently, negating the money you saved; or one which is noisy which will mean baby won't fall asleep in it, making the money you spent worthless.
I included the exact glider I own (gliders are nice in upstairs nurseries as they don't create a lot of noise for the people downstairs while in use), which Jude absolutely loves. I rocked him to sleep in it every night starting at 5 months and it moves so effortlessly that once it comes time to start getting baby to fall asleep more on their own rather than while nursed or rocked, it's a smooth transition. Usually I just sit in the chair with Jude now and he simply associates it with bed time, even if we don't rock at all.
4. A Swing
As previously mentioned, babies love rocking. Especially in the early months when they are incapable of moving on their own. Swings come in handy because they allow you to set baby to rocking while remaining independent so that you can get some much needed "me" time, or simply accomplish some house work. You may even get lucky and find that baby loves to doze off in it for naps.
In the early months for us, Jude would not sleep anywhere but on me and in his swing. So when I needed to get some good deep sleep, in his swing is where he went and there were no complaints. He would sleep there at five weeks old for hours at a time. Much longer than he would sleep anywhere else. These days it is part of our daily routine. He sits in it anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour every morning watching Sesame Street while I nap, make breakfast, or hop in the shower. It's a safe place he can be left happily while I do things that need to be done in another room.
5. A Pack 'n' Play
This thing serves the purpose of a portable changing table, bassinet, crib, and playpen. What more really needs to be said about it? They are stylish, easy to fold up and reassemble, and work in every capacity they are advertised to. We take ours on road trips all the time. I'm always amazed at how very little room it takes up when it's all packed away.
6. A Bottle and Some Formula
I know, I know: breast is best! I am a breast feeding mother myself. Breast milk is the staple of Jude's diet, even now that he's eating three solid meals per day. Making the decision to breast feed is an incredibly selfless act and you are doing something absolutely amazing for your little one. That said, sometimes you need to get a little gd sleep.
Breast feeding is incredible and incredibly demanding. You will be nursing every few hours day and night for twelve months or longer. You are going to experience sleep deprivation. Often. Especially if your baby is not only waking up hungry but is also a light sleeper and wakes up often. Even more so if you are like me and cannot pump or express enough breast milk for your significant other to take over a few feedings for you. This isn't a problem with formula fed babies. First because anyone can give your baby a bottle of formula. Secondly because formula is harder to digest meaning your baby feels fuller, longer. Which translate to: formula fed babies sleep at least six hours a night right from the get-go.
So every now and then, when you're really needing the sleep, go ahead and prepare a bottle of formula for baby. Even if you breast feed exclusively otherwise. I don't recommend this in the first month or every night as that will inhibit the milk supply you're trying to establish, but a couple of nights a week isn't going to hurt anything. And you know what else severely inhibits your milk supply? LACK OF SLEEP.
These days (9 months) I give Jude a bottle every night before bed. Granted it's only a couple of ounces and he must breast feed fully first. It makes putting him down easier and keeps him comfortable for at least 9 straight hours, whereas breast milk only keeps him comfortable for about 3. Since taking up this practice we've gone from being up four times a night for an hour each time to being up only once or twice each night. What a relief!
This is also very useful for road trips or other prolonged travel as you'll need to stop less often. A meal before we hit the road then a bottle as we go and our travle time across the entirety of California is only 7 or 8 hours (depending on traffic). When we made this journey breast feeding exclusively we had to stop every 2 hours and the trip wound up taking almost 14 hours total! If you're stopping anyway though (bathroom break, lunch, etc.), you may as well breast feed too. Your milk production should not suffer from missing just a few feedings for a single day. If you can pump though it is better to just bring expressed milk in bottles for the road for sure.
Note about formula: Powdered formula is more likely to contain bacteria than premixed bottled formula. Also once you open a tub of powdered formula you have one month to use it in its entirety -- this will be difficult if you are only giving your baby one 2 ounce bottle a night. Therefor I suggest you buy the premixed bottled formulas, which are a little friendlier for this purpose. Once opened you have 48 hours to use them, but they contain less formula overall. They also sell powdered formula in packets, which is also good for this use though can be a little messier as resealing a torn open packet is impossible.
7. A Travel System
These are expensive, yes. They are also more cost efficient over time. They function as a car seat, an infant stroller, and a toddler stroller all in one and come with a fixture for the car that makes buckling baby in extremely easy on the go. You can also just grab the seat part of the car seat and strap it into other vehicles without the fixture. I love these things.
The one we have can also be used to go jogging with, meaning it handles all terrain fantastically. If we're taking a walk in the park and baby needs to be changed ASAP, you can feel free to roll through the grass, gravel, pavement, and up curbs freely to get to the restroom quickly. It also fold and unfolds easily, which is important when you're working on baby time. Babies want everything accomplished in 0 seconds. The closer you can get to this, the better.
8. Footie Pajamas
They say you shouldn't put babies into a crib with a blanket because your baby is gimpy and retarded and might die by rolling the blanket around its own head and suffocating. Jude has known how to pull fabric away from his face since like, the first week he was home, so I'm not sure how valid this concern is. That said, if you wrap up your baby for warmth at night and put them in a crib expecting them to stay wrapped up, you've got another thing coming.
I'm not sure when sleep paralysis kicks in, but it isn't at birth and it isn't at 9 months. Jude has managed to unswaddle himself 100% of the time in 3 hours or less then wake up cold and crying because of it. Jude has also always hated to be swaddled. How dare we oppress him? Babies move a lot when sleeping. I put Jude in his crib head facing left and when I go in there in the middle of the night to tend or check on him he'll have rotated 180 degrees and be in a whole new position. Trying to contain that in a blanket is hopeless.
This is where footed pajamas come in handy. With footed pajamas your baby will not need a blanket to stay warm. They come in a variety of fabrics, so you'll find something available for when it's 75 degrees and baby may just wake up due to a draft, or something more substantial like fleece for when it's like 40 degrees out and baby may actually get cold without. This also removes whatever suffocation risk everyone's so paranoid about as well. So, double win.
9. A Pacifier
Babies suckle for sustenance and for comfort. Thing is babies do not know the difference between a want and a need so if they feel the compulsion to suckle and cannot, they freak out. Some babies want nothing to do with a pacifier, especially breastfed ones. It took us days to get Jude to accept one and once he had he used his for only a couple of weeks before he was over it. Those few weeks were peaceful though as I no longer had to comfort nurse every time he had the urge to. I enjoy nursing, but there was a period of time, in the beginning, where I was literally nursing for about 19 hours per day. The pacifier changed this.
Don't worry about your little one becoming 'addicted' to it. Most babies lose interest all on their own once they discover their thumb or solid foods. It should be avoided during the first 4 weeks if you are breast feeding though, to avoid nipple confusion. Jude took to a bottle and pacifier and the breast interchangeably, I'm to understand this is very rarely the case.
10. Pampers Diapers
As stated in my diaper review, Pampers has been the front runner in diaper usability and effectiveness since Jude was born. Sizes 1 and 2 have a wetness indicator when you're new to parenting and may not be able to easily tell when baby needs changed, and the diapers are super absorbent and hold up to a lot of abuse (like trying to tug and wrap them around a wiggly uncooperative baby). Their shape also makes them pretty easy to use even on the go -- a lot of other diapers have a ruffled elastic type back that wants to fold in on itself constantly. These do not.
For the first few months I'd recommend the Swaddlers then move up to the Cruisers which are not only effective but adorable.