Thursday, June 18, 2009

Top 10 Baby Gotta-Haves

Being pregnant with your first child is one of the most exciting experiences in a lifetime. It can also be overwhelming with so many baby products to choose from. It's always nice to have a little guidance from family and friends who have the experience of taking care of a little one relatively fresh in their minds. In my case, my sister-in-law offered her 2 cents on things that worked for her when her kids were babies.

So, what are the things we shouldn't be without? It's all relative. Personal preferences, unique circumstances, and varying family cultures and lifestyles will dictate what specific products we end up using. Every baby is different and every parent has to do what works for them. I've read other moms' top 10 lists of gotta-haves ("10 Things Mama's Gotta Have" at Down Syndrome New Mama and "Down Syndrome Awareness--Gotta Have Its AND How I Used Its" at Take a Walk on the Happy Side) and it's interesting to note similarities and differences but the gist is we want our babies to have a loving, safe, comfortable, and developmentally stimulating environment.

Here is my top 10 list of things that made my life with baby Matthew a little easier (not in any order). A couple of these things were brand new and store-bought by us, many were gifts at the baby shower, a couple were hand-me-downs, and one was a just-because gift. Many, if not all, of these items can also be found at second-hand stores, such as Once Upon A Child, and garage sales.

Boppy Pillow
boppy pillowSome moms rely on these, some don't. I was one that did. It made it easier for me to hold Matthew at a comfortable level while I nursed him. When he was a few months older and almost sitting unsupported (not reliably), we put the boppy around him in case he fell sideways or backwards. We also tried to use the boppy for tummy time but we weren't very successful. "Down Syndrome Awareness--Gotta Have Its AND How I Used Its" at Take a Walk on the Happy Side has very helpful suggestions, whether your baby has Down syndrome or not, for tummy time sessions using rolled up blankets or towels.

Crib Toys: Alphabet Soup Musical Mobile and Fisher-Price Ocean Wonders Aquarium
Alphabet Soup Musical MobileI opted for this musical mobile for several reasons: it was brightly colored and matched the theme of the room. While this mobile only played one song (Rock-a-Bye Baby) and it had be wound manually, the music captivates Matthew. It's one thing that I still use to calm him down when he wakes up very upset.

We have the older model of the Ocean Wonders Aquarium, which does not have a remote control. The newer model does. This crib toy is advertised to soothe baby to sleep. Depending on your baby's sleep time routine and what is soothing to your baby, this may or may not work as a soothing device. (I personally find it very soothing and would like one for myself.) Fisher Price Ocean Wonders AquariumI've only used this once or twice to help him fall back asleep in the middle of the night when he was a baby. When he was able to sit up on his own, I had the brilliant idea of leaving it on thinking Matthew could start the music on his own by pressing the big blue button in the center and fall asleep to the soothing classical lullabies, bubbles, fish motions, and soft lights that fade on and off to the music. However, my plan was not so brilliant. Matthew played with it for an hour before he fell asleep. So now, I leave it off at night and only turn it on for him in the morning. The aquarium model has two other buttons that manually activate the starfish and clam. Matthew stays up for a few minutes to play with those buttons but thankfully he doesn't find them interesting enough to stay up an extra hour.

Maybe there are better crib toys available but these suit us just fine.

Sony 900 MHz BabyCall Nursery Monitor
Sony 900 MHz BabyCall Nursery MonitorWe still use this basic monitor and take it with us everytime we spend the night away from home. Sometimes I wonder if the baby monitors with video work just as well or better. But I'm obviously not curious enough to go out and buy one. This suits our needs. I've grown accustomed to listening to Matthew's different cries and know when he really needs me or not. The receiver is very sound sensitive too. I can hear Matthew rolling over or changing positions in bed when he's asleep.

There are fancier baby monitors available if your budget will allow. "10 Things Mama's Gotta Have" at Down Syndrome New Mama lists the BébéSounds Angelcare® Deluxe Movement Sensor with Sound Monitor in her top 10.

The First Years Sure Comfort Newborn to Toddler Tub
The First Years Sure Comfort Newborn to Toddler TubSimple, basic, and easy to clean. I wish mine came with the mesh net for newborns, but I managed just fine without it. I used this until Matthew was maybe 15 months old. When he was able to sit unsupported and move from a sitting position to his hands and knees more reliably, I began to bathe him in the big tub with a bath mat suctioned to the bottom so he won't slip while in it.

Baby Einstein Seek & Discover Activity Gym
Baby Einstein Seek & Discover Activity GymThere are many other activity gyms to choose from, some with more bells and whistles (more expensive) and some simpler (less expensive). I think they all generally serve the same purpose. We got this because my sister-in-law recommended it.

We used this often, throughout the day, everyday. It was the perfect little play zone for tummy time and to practice rolling and reaching. The bold and bright colors provided great visual stimulation. While I wished the mirror was bigger, the music and lights star was an all-time favorite. It had two settings: continuous music play mode and the motion-activated mode, which worked for teaching cause and effect. We even attached it to his other toys after he outgrew the gym.

The First Years Newborn to Toddler Reclining Feeding Seat
The First Years Newborn to Toddler Reclining Feeding SeatThis was another recommendation from my sister-in-law. It's a space saver, portable (but not foldable), and easy to clean. It has two height adjustment positions and three reclining positions. We first used this when we introduced Matthew to rice cereal. Overall, we like this feeding seat as it serves its purpose. But to be honest, we're looking into getting another booster seat with a lower back. Matthew has gotten into a bad habit of rocking and hitting his head against the high back of this seat. He doesn't do it anywhere else but in this seat so his Occupational Therapist (OT) doesn't think it's sensory-seeking behavior. But that's another story for another day.

Evenflo Exersaucer
Evenflo ExersaucerI'm not sure what model we used but I know it is similar to the Mega model. We borrowed it from my sister-in-law when Matthew was 4 months old. At the time, he could hold his head up but he had not developed good trunk strength. We tucked rolled up receiving blankets around him in the exersaucer and put a pillow or phone books at the base so his feet could touch the "bottom".

The exersaucer was one of the things that helped Matthew develop trunk strength as he tried to stay upright in it, especially when I removed the rolled up receiving blankets around him. The colorful toys were appealing and good for reaching, grabbing and chewing. Being upright in the exersaucer for 15 minutes at a time also allowed Matthew a different play perspective, other than playing on his back or tummy in his baby gym or in a reclined position in his rocker.

Fisher-Price Rainforest Jumperoo
Fisher-Price Rainforest JumperooIf you have a baby who loves action, music and lights, get a jumperoo. When Matthew had developed strong head and trunk control (around 10 months old), we got him this jumperoo and he would bounce to his heart's content, giggling and smiling the whole time. This was great entertainment in addition to being good for visual and auditory stimulation, leg strengthening, learning cause and effect, and even eye-hand coordination. The toys on it were fun, colorful, and easy to operate, except for the tiger that popped up when a button was pushed. It really didn't pop up much and so I deemed it useless. The toys overhead were great for reaching and Matthew pulled on them constantly.

Bumbo Seat
Bumbo SeatI never knew such a seat existed until one of Matthew's therapists brought it over one day. It was perfect for helping Matthew learn to sit. There are other ways to help a baby learn to sit and strengthen the torso, such as using pillows, but this was easier. Matthew didn't mind being in it at all and his therapist let us borrow it until another family needed it. A few weeks later, Matthew's godmother came by with a bumbo seat just for him! Lucky boy!

Fisher-Price Learning Patterns Infant-to-Toddler Rocker
When Matthew was 0-2 months old, we used an automated swing to help soothe him as well, as relieve my aching arms. But when he was 2 months old, the swing didn't cut it anymore so we turned to this hand-me-down. It was roomy, sturdy, and had a switch for "calming vibrations", the sensation of which I likened to sitting in a massage chair. Although it didn't fold up for easier transporting, it was relatively easy enough for us to throw into the trunk of the car and ready for use at Grandma's house. The disadvantage of using this is you have to manually rock it with your foot. I didn't mind it. More importantly, I didn't have other kids to watch around the house.

Would you believe me if I told you that Matthew learned to rock this on his own? He did when he was 7 months old! I'd say "Rock, rock, rock" and he'd kick his legs up in the air toward his face and let them fall back down. This motion caused it to rock. I thought this was a great way to learn cause and effect. He used to rock his own pumpkin-type car seat too, much to the amazement of everyone that saw him do it.

UPDATE as of 6/27/2009
Other blogs that list their own "Gotta-Haves" for baby:
Things Mama's Gotta Have at Bridget's Light


Beverly said...

such a great list of things, great idea!

MaggieMae said...

Thanks Ria. Great list and reminded me of other "things" that helped with the boys' development. Maybe a note to 5 Minutes For Special Needs and a Mr. Linky link so everyone can jump in and add their $0.02!

To Love Endlessly said...

What a great list of Top 10s. Maybe I should think about making my own list. There's just so much stuff out there now. :-)

Ria said...

Thanks! I love your comments. Keep them coming. Also, feel free to share your top 10 with me. If you have your own list, feel free to link to my post and posts at DS New Mama and Take a Walk on the Happy Side (see links within my post above).

Cheri said...

Hi Ria, thank you for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. Sure, I would love for you to add us to your blogroll, thank you! Your little guy is adorable!!

So nice to "meet" you! :)

Lisa said...

You are welcome to link my post to yours:


Lisa @ Bridget's Light