Before we had Roen, we felt so confused about what to buy for this new stage of life. There are so many baby products on the market. Which are essential and which are marketing gimmicks that would be used twice, then dropped off at the Salvation Army? As an aspiring minimalist, I didn’t like the thought of buying anything we wouldn’t use often.
We’re now 67 days into parenthood and, though I’m far from expert, I have a much better handle on what is truly necessary for these early days with baby. So, consider this the ‘Baby Shopping Guide for Dummies’. It is by no means a comprehensive shopping guide, but I’ve found that in each conversation I have with a fellow mom, I learn at least one new thing. I hope you learn as least one new thing here. Many of these items are totally obvious, but read the descriptions below for insight and tips that might be a bit more obscure.
‘Baby Shopping Guide For Dummies’
I hadn’t purchased a single nursing bra in anticipation of breast-feeding Roen. My sports bras would be fine, I told myself. SO WRONG. In the early days, the last thing you’ll want is a tight elastic pressing on your breast (especially if you’re engorged, like most new moms are). Invest in two or three nursing bras, a tank top, a sweater, pyjamas and maybe even a dress — trust me, you will be so grateful to slip them on! My favourite nursing attire is by BOOB Design, who uses 83% sustainable materials including organic cotton and recycled polyester. Their clothes are so soft and comfy (see sweater above) — I wear my Swedish-designed BOOB bras and shirts almost every day. And right now they’re having an ‘up to 50% off’ online sale (from December 8th until the 11th) on AW16 styles (the discount will appear after you’ve entered the code BOOBVIPSALE at checkout).
My whole life, I’ve been so curious about breastfeeding. What would it be like? I’m lucky to say it’s been a wonderful experience — besides the pain! No one prepared me for this (probably because the joy totally outweighs the discomfort). The nipples are like feet breaking in a stiff new pair of shoes: they take a while to adjust. A good nipple cream will help the transition. I used non-GMO, lanolin-free Earth Mama All Natural Nipple Butter, made with mainly organic ingredients. One of my nipples was worse than the other and it required something more heavy duty. My midwife prescribed All Purpose Newman’s Nipple Ointment and it really did the trick. You may also need a pair of nipple guards which you place over your nipples in between feedings to prevent clothing from rubbing on them (yes, even this hurts!).
Unless you want to be covered head-to-toe in breast milk for the first few months of your baby’s life, you must stock up on nursing pads! You’ll wear them 24/7, literally. I bought fours pairs of non-disposables and a box of throw-aways for when your cotton pads are in the wash — both are from Medella.
Darren and I battled over this one. I insisted that a nursing pillow would have a short shelf life and that it was not necessary. I thought a regular pillow could do the trick. Thank goodness Darren ignored me and bought this one from West Coast Kids. It follows us around the house and serves as support during breast feeding, a cozy resting spot for Roen (her absolute favourite place to chill) and a pillow for me at night! I’m actually thinking of getting a second so we don’t have cart ours up and down the stairs so often.
Newborn Carrier / Wrap
When you’re heading out on foot, you’ll transport your baby in one of two ways: stroller or carrier. I’ve loved walks with Roen strapped to my chest in our Solly Baby Wrap from LYNNsteven — it kind of makes you feel like you’re pregnant again. And she’s like a little hot water bottle. Chest to chest, we help keep each other warm when it’s cold out. I also love the Solly because it’s stylish (totally adds to an outfit) and is easy to put on. We also have the Ergo 360 carrier (the majority of moms in the North Van Moms FB group recommended it) with the newborn insert and Darren and I both love it. So far, no back pain.
We drew major blanks when faced with the decision of which stroller to buy. Without any experience, it’s hard to know what to look for. At the end of the day, I’d say it largely comes down to aesthetics and price point. I’d admired my friend Jen’s Stokke Trailz for its sleek look and was sold when I learned about its sturdiness — this thing rolls over anything! Darren and I took it to a bumpy pumpkin patch and had no problem cruising the uneven field. It’s also extremely user-friendly thanks to its Scandinavian design — all the buttons are big and bold. I also like that the carriage is high, preventing me from having to bend over to get close to Roen. It’s also reversible and can go front-facing or back. It’s perfect when we’re dining out — she rolls up nice and close to the table. There’s tons of storage space down below too. PS – this super-cozy footmuff attachment is absolutely essential for the cold months!
*6 month update*: Now that we’ve been using our Stokke Trailz for over 6 months I can officially say…we still love it! It really is just so comfy – for Roen and me. I love the big cushy handle bars and the massive storage area down below. It’s so easy to run errands and shove everything (I mean everything) down below.
Before diving into stroller shopping, I didn’t realize I’d need a separate stroller for running. But yes! They are totally different. I asked moms in my Facebook group which running stroller they preferred. Every single one of them recommended the BOB. That’s all I needed to know! We went with the BOB Revolution Pro. Maneuvering is so easy and smooth thanks to a single front wheel and special brakes make downhill running safer. I cannot get over how smooth this stroller is! Turning corner is a breeze; so easy, that you can turn a corner using just one hand. The double canopy shield is also perfect for shielding Roen from sun, wind and noise when she falls asleep. It’s so comfortable that she falls asleep every time we jog. There’s a small pouch for my water bottle (and her breast-milk bottle) just below the handle bars and it’s ideal because it keeps bottles upright so they don’t spill. We got the add-on carseat to make transfers from stroller to car easy (and tear-free). This stroller is seriously perfect!
We have a hand-me-down Maxi Cosi and love it because once you install the base in your car, getting your baby safely hooked in for car-rides is one super simple step. One of the main things you need to know about your car seat is whether it’s compatible with your stroller (fortunately many different brands are compatible with each other). Often car seats can clip right into stroller bases, meaning you don’t have to transfer your baby (and wake them up!) when you’re coming and going. Purchasing a neck support insert (for your wobbly newborn) doesn’t seem absolutely necessary to me when you can roll-up swaddles to place on either side of the head.
Diapers and Wipes
Once we get into our groove, we’re going to consider cloth diapers, but for now we’re using Seventh Generation Disposables. Pro tip: buy them via Amazon Prime and have them delivered to your front door. Also, you won’t find a lower price. Same goes for wipes (we use Seventh Generation, as well).
We have two change stations set up in our home, each with a change table and a basket filled with diapers, wipes and nursing pads. One of our change tables is the Keekaroo Peanut which is a soft, rubber-like material and very easy to wipe. The other is a blow-up from IKEA ($9) that doubled as Roen’s bed for a few weeks. Being so light, it’s easy to cart around the house, travel with and wash.
Bassinet / Crib*
Before Roen, I didn’t even know what a bassinet was. If you’re like me, a bassinet is a tiny bed newborns sleep in before they graduate to the crib (see, this really is a ‘dummies’ guide!). Bassinets (pictured above) are portable and most often placed next to the parents bed. Ours is part of the Stokke Home Concept, a furniture set that comes with a matching crib/bed, a bassinet and dresser/change table. The best part about this ‘system’ is that your child will use it from birth to age five — the crib turns into a toddler bed and then a real big kid bed (it was also easy to build…said Darren!). From birth to day 30, however, Roen would cry at night unless she could see us, so she slept in this blow-up change table from IKEA (it reminds me a bit of the DockATot) and seemed very content. She then graduated to a Moses basket, which she couldn’t see out of as well. We felt it’s a good transition bed before she moved to the bassinet, which is where she is currently at four months old. We love it because it swings — this helps calm her at nap and bedtime. She’s growing so fast that she’ll soon be in the crib (below).
I expected to use a sink or a big salad bowl for bathing Roen, but when we got a brand new hand-me-down baby bath from a friend, I realized how great they are — more for Roen than for us. It allows her to sit comfortably while enjoying the warm bath water without flailing around and feeling unsafe with just a hand supporting her. You can get by without a baby bath, but it’s such a joy to see her sitting there enjoying the experience. We’re glad we have this one.
When we first brought Roen home, I was so scared to expose her to anything remotely unnatural. I was even scared to walk by the fume-emitting carwash when we took her out for her first walk! Using a 100% natural soap, made by a company I know and trust was essential. This Sleepy Time Foaming Baby Wash from K’pure Natural Body Care (a Mission-based company owned and run by Karen Johnson, a mom of four) fit the bill perfectly, made with purified water, organic pure castile soap (coconut oil, sunflower oil and castor oil, rosemary extract), organic lavender essential oil.
Just like adult beds, baby mattresses don’t come with the beds! (Not sure why I expected them to?) We went with Nook’s Pebble Pure. It’s 100% organic, breathable and contains zero non-porous plastics or toxic fire-retardants. They also come in 11 different colours. If you’re looking for a lower price point, Nook has options. You’ll also need a crib sheet and I found lots of cute options at West Coast Kids.
This one is more of a luxury than a must-have. Since newborns love motion (which simulates the feeling of being in the womb), you’ll find yourself constantly bouncing/dancing when holding your baby (or even when you’re not holding them…it becomes a habit!). A rocker allows you to provide that feeling of motion while sitting (if you had a vaginal birth, you will appreciate this!). This is the Monte Jackson Rocker, which I’d never guess came from a baby store (West Coast Kids) — it’s modern, stylish and has a high enough back to provide head support (crucial). If we didn’t have a baby I’d still want this for my living room!
Babies love ‘shushing’ because this is what they’ve been listening to for nine months in the womb. This sound does a tremendous job of calming them. The shusher, a small device that makes repeated shushing noises, was a game-changer for us! Especially at bed time. It’s part of our routine and Roen loves it. Plus, it saves your mouth from lots of unnecessary exertion. The shusher lasts for ten minutes and then turns off automatically. You could just download a shushing app, but then you’d have to leave our phone with baby. We got ours for $30 on Craigslist.
Unless we’re going out for a long period of time, I don’t bring our diaper bag. Instead, I pop two diapers, a few wipes (in a ziploc bag), the roll-up change pad and a burp cloth in a small lightweight bag. What else could we need? I do love our diaper bag, though. It’s the So Young Black Charlie in all black with vegan leather. You’d never know it’s a diaper bag!
Swaddles / Cheat Swaddles
Before we’d mastered the swaddle (which is now proving to be an essential skill), we used these ‘cheat swaddles’ from Aden + Anais) and Roen loved them because it allowed her arms to be free. We’ve since learned that even though she seems to like having arms-free, she is much more content tightly swaddled, arms in, like a little mummy. That tight feeling makes her feel like she’s back in the womb, which is key for this ‘fourth trimester’. A tight swaddle often stops her crying instantly! Stock up on at least ten of these — they are very multi-purpose.
Since you will be using blankets daily, they are worth investing in. You’ll want to love your blankets! And you’ll probably need about three as they get dirty pretty quickly (spit-up etc). I find the ones that are too ‘fuzzy’ a little tricky if your baby uses a soother — it often falls into the blanket and winds up covers in fuzz. I’m also not a big fan of polyester blankies as they don’t breathe and your baby ends up sweaty. Here’s one of my favourites from LouLou Lollipop, a Vancouver-based company run by two sisters.
Owlet Smart Sock
Being the tech guy that he is, Darren discovered this one, which won ‘best of baby tech’ at the 2016 Consumer Electronic Awards. The Owlet a little sock/sandal that attaches to baby’s foot when they sleep and measures their oxygen and heart rate levels. It’s connected to an app on your phone that is design to sound an alarm if either of these levels dip below normal. It provides huge peace of mind! (Though I still find myself putting my finger beneath her nose to check for breathing sometimes! Normal, right?)
You’ll be looking for size ‘N’ (newborn) for your baby. The 0-3 month items might not fit for a bit unless your child is bigger. Look for items that are easy to put on (eg. zippered onesies and sleep sacks that tie at the bottom). Hats are a must to keep them warm and don’t forget socks (you won’t believe how tiny they are!). I am all about the hand-me-downs. Babies grow SO fast! But I did invest in a few quality pieces from locally-owned VonBon (pictured). This is Roen’s absolute favourite outfit. I’m tempted to buy one in each pattern because they’re so comfy, warm and easy to put on.
Four weeks in, I noticed that towards the end of her feeds, Roen was no longer sucking milk — she was just soothing on the boob. In place of the nipple, we offered her a newborn soother and she took it immediately. It’s saved her from lots of crying. My dentist friend said that as a dentist, she doesn’t recommend soothers, but can fix any problems they cause. As a mother, though: “EFF YES – anything that works!!” Roen loves her Natursutten Butterfly Pacifier (the one I’ve seen all the cool mom bloggers using) and her Avent Newborn Pacifier (this was the first one she used).
Loungewear For Mom
This might sound superficial, but you’re going to want some nice, comfy, ‘non-pyjama’ loungewear for all the time you’ll be spending at home on your couch. It was way too easy to spend the entire day in pyjamas during the early days with Roen, and I found myself starting to feel frumpy. A few stylish, cozy duds can help boost spirits. A few key pieces in particular became my new-mom uniform. I may or may not have worn this sweater from Paper Label, these sweatpants from lululemon, a headband from Boheme Goods and my Native Shoes every single day! (If you saw me, you know this is true! LOL)
A breast pump allows dad to help out with feedings so you can spend more than 2-3 hours away from your newborn without worrying about them becoming desperate for a feed. I can’t wait to get back into my morning run routine and the pumped breast milk/bottle combo means I can do this while Darren takes care of the morning feed. A breast pump also came in handy for me when one of my nipples became so badly damaged that I had to stop breast-feeding and let it heal. To keep its milk supply up during the 11-day healing process, pumping was necessary. My second-hand Medella does the trick.
Brita Water Filter Water Bottle
Thanks to Darren for discovering this life-saving water bottle at Canadian Superstore! (Wal Mart has them, too.) I’m pretty sure my water consumption doubled or tripled since I got this. It allows you to fill up at any sketchy tap and know your water is pure. I really think all my water drinking has helped with breast milk production, a general sense of well-being and energy levels. I’ve never been so hydrated in my life.
Seriously, spud.ca has been a life-changer. Getting Roen together and out the door adds so much time on to the usual routine — it is such a luxury to order groceries online and have them delivered to my front door the next day! (FYI the ‘next day’ delivery option varies depending on where you live.) Even if I loved the in-person shopping experience, it would be tricky to carry everything in along with the carseat. SPUD offers mainly organic products, many of them local. I’m one of their ambassadors (though would be including them here even if I wasn’t) and you can use code ‘erinireland’ to receive $20 off your first order of minimum $50.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten something! Check back as I’ll be updating this post as I think of other items we’ve loved using during these early days with Roen. Hope you found this post helpful.
*Huge thank you to Stokke, BOB, Nook, Monte and West Coast Kids for sponsoring these items! All opinions are my own — I would never recommend the above-mentioned items if I didn’t love them.