Updated: Sep 26
There are so many THINGS marketed for babies. It can be overwhelming to create a baby registry with so many options. It's hard to know which are necessary and which will end up being a waste of money. The truth is, it's hard to know what you'll need until your little one is actually here (and you often need a lot less than you think)! Some of my babies loved certain things while the others didn't care for them. There are, however, a few items that I have found pretty helpful during that newborn phase, having gone through it with five babies. Here are some of my favorites!
1. A safer laundry detergent
Our skin is our largest organ and we absorb 60 to 70% of everything we put on our skin. It takes about twenty-six seconds for your skin to absorb something into your bloodstream. When you're
considering what products you'll allow to touch your baby's skin you're probably going to be pretty selective about what you use. Some of the more common baby laundry detergents are not
really all that baby-friendly...one of the most popular baby detergents received an "F" EWG rating for it's "potentially significant hazards to health." It's best to look for a laundry detergent that is free of dyes, parabens, sulfates, phthalates, toxins, and synthetic fragrances (and that actually WORKS to clean clothes!). My two favorites are Molly's Suds (unscented) Laundry Powder and Charlie's Soap Laundry Powder.
When we moved to our current house, we had to buy a new washing machine. I was not happy with the smell of our laundry coming out of that washer. It did not smell clean. At the time we were using All Free and Clear. Because I was tired of our clothes not smelling clean, I switched to a highly scented Tide laundry detergent. The scent was strong enough to "cover" any unpleasant mustiness or lingering smell. When I got pregnant with my last baby, I knew I didn't want to keep using a detergent with so many potentially
harmful chemicals so I began the hunt for a new detergent. The first one I tried after researching was Charlie's Soap Laundry Powder and, let me tell you, I was NOT disappointed! I figured I would have to sacrifice cleaning power and pleasant scent for a more "natural" detergent but I found that my laundry came out very clean and SMELLED clean after the first load! No fragrance...just CLEAN. It also doesn't leave a residue on your clothes or in your washer so I found my washer began to smell less musty after using it as well. I loved that it was a much safer and cleaner option to wash our entire family's clothes, including those of our upcoming addition! Another favorite is Molly's Suds Unscented Laundry Powder. It contains no harsh chemicals, parabens, toxins, synthetic dyes, phthalates, phosphates, or fragrances. It's safe for sensitive skin an does a great job getting clothes clean and fresh smelling. I always use Molly's or Charlie's to wash all of my fabrics and outfits for my newborn sessions as well.
2. A safer fabric softener/dryer sheet replacement
It's kind of silly to replace your detergent for something cleaner and safer only to throw a
fragrance-laden laundry sheet into the dryer with your clothes. This is an easy fix though! With a good detergent, your clothes will already smell fresh and clean so you just need something to keep static cling from forming in the dryer. Wool dryer balls work as a natural fabric softener, reduce static cling, are reusable, reduce clothing wrinkles, and save drying time. They are readily available at most stores and super affordable. I personally think they're cute and love to store them in a pretty jar in the laundry room. I like to have several of them so that if I accidentally leave one in my current pile of clean, unfolded laundry, I've still got more in the laundry room for the next drying load.
3. Tubby Todd All Over Ointment
All five of my babies developed pretty bad baby acne when they were a few weeks old. Everyone said it was normal and I just had to wait it out so that's
what I did with the first four. It took about a month to clear up. With my last baby, a friend had had a baby a month before me so she was experiencing everything a few weeks ahead of me. Her baby developed that baby acne and she was advised to try Tubby Todd All Over Ointment to clear it up and she raved about how it cleared up her baby's skin in just a couple of days. I ordered some for my own baby and was shocked at how well it worked. His skin improved drastically after just a couple of days and was totally clear within a week.
My little guy is two years old now. He developed a pretty bad case of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease last month and was super miserable. I tried ALL of the things to make him comfortable and the thing that seemed to bring him the most relief was an oatmeal bath followed by a rubdown of Tubby Todd All Over Ointment. It's super thick and creamy so a little goes a long way. It works so well and is so concentrated that I haven't had to use too much of it so I still have half a tub left, over two years later. I use it just about any time anyone has any kind of skin flare up!
4. Cradle Cap Comb
Only two of my babies got cradle cap, so it's not necessarily something everyone needs, but it's
good to know what works in case your baby does get it. I always assumed you had to use
expensive products to get rid of cradle cap but a cheap cradle cap comb/brush is all that's needed to quickly and easily get rid of it! I have the Safety First one and it costs just over $4. When I noticed some cradle cap building up, I just gave my baby a bath. I got his hair wet and used the blue brush part of the comb to massage some olive oil into the scalp to loosen up the buildup and then combed it out with the comb part. If needed, I'd repeat one more time before washing his hair with regular baby shampoo to clean the oil out. That's it! It was super satisfying and easy. I only had to do it once and it was gone!
5. An insulated water bottle
It's essential to stay hydrated when breastfeeding. Breastmilk is about 90% water and it's recommended that breastfeeding mothers aim to drink 128 ounces a day.
Dehydration can cause your milk supply to drop so keeping some nice, cool, refreshing water nearby at all times will help encourage you to keep drinking and stay hydrated. I try to avoid plastic as much as possible as it contains endocrine disrupting chemicals (easier said than done when just about EVERYTHING is packaged in plastic these days). I like to use glass or insulated stainless steel water bottles with a metal or silicone drinking straw to remind myself to keep sipping all day long. Insulated bottles keep cold water cold for hours so it is still refreshing even when you wake up to nurse in the middle of the night. I basically cart my water bottle around with me all the time! I love to pick a color that matches my home decor and a style that's nice on the eyes since it's sitting out where I can see it all of the time.
6. Sound Machine
In the beginning, babies will sleep through just about anything! Really, only very loud, sudden
noises will startle them and cause them to wake up. It doesn't take long, however, before they become more sensitive to noise. When my first baby was about three months old, my husband's friend came to visit for a few days. He's one of those guys that has no "indoor voice." We lived in a small house at the time and he would laugh uproariously or talk super loudly while my baby was napping and wake her up. I was not happy lol! I quickly ran out and picked up a white noise machine and it helped drown out all of the house and voice noises that would typically wake her up. Fifteen years later, we have a sound machine in every bedroom of our house and I have no idea how we ever slept without one! Having babies also caused ME to sleep very lightly. The smallest stirring of the baby in the bassinet had me shooting up to check and see if my baby was waking up. That really never went away so sleeping with a sound machine helps to drown out all of those little noises that would otherwise wake me up all night long.
7. Nursing Pillow
Breastfeeding is not always easy in the beginning (especially with your first baby when you are BOTH new to nursing). Positioning a baby's head, holding them up to the breast, and positioning your breast to basically "shove" it into baby's mouth when he opens up can be a challenge (we only have two hands)! Proper support under the baby to raise them up to breast level can make all of the difference! Once I figured that out, I started bringing my nursing pillow with me everywhere I went with my baby and it made nursing so much easier.
I've tried two different nursing pillows and like them both for different situations. I like the My Brest Friend nursing pillow for the newborn stage...especially when sitting in a chair without arm support. It buckles around your waist, is nice and firm (but soft), and keeps the baby lifted up nice and high at breast level. I love it for the newborn stage. It was a lifesaver during dinner time since my babies always wanted to nurse right when I sat down to eat. I was able to set them on the pillow and just use one hand to keep them into position once latched while I ate with my other hand. There is a little pocket on the front where you can keep a burp cloth or other small items you want at hand while nursing.
In the nursery, in my glider/rocker, I prefer my Boppy nursing pillow. It's really easy to slide into place, is nice and soft and snuggly, and the arms of my rocking chair keep it in place so it doesn't slide away (so a clipping belt isn't as important). I also prefer it for when babies are older as it doesn't lift them quite as high as the My Brest Friend (which isn't needed once they're bigger). There are lots of cover options and you can even find custom covers on Etsy. I have both types of nursing pillows in my photography studio so my clients can try them both out and see which they prefer!
8. Baby Wrap
I didn't really start baby wearing until my third baby. I had tried a couple padded carriers and they were a little bulky for every day home use. I felt a little handicapped when I tried to do things while baby wearing with my Ergo carrier so I typically only used it if we were out and about shopping or at a theme park or something. I learned that using a soft, fabric baby wrap to wear my other babies in was so much better.
It was a life-saver with other kids that I needed to be hands-free for, or just any time I wanted my hands free. It takes a minute to get the long wraps wrapped around and tied up but once it's on, you don't have to mess with it and it's not bulky like a padded carrier. My babies were so content to snuggle me and sleep once in the wrap. I love the Solly Baby wraps because they are really soft and have the perfect amount of stretch and come in the most beautiful colors! I bought three different colors to coordinate with outfits and to have backups while washing the others. The only downfall is they are really long, so I found if I was needing to put one on while out and about, I had to be careful not to let the long ends
drop on the dirty ground while I was putting it on. For this reason, if I had another baby, I'd like to try a Konny Baby carrier. My sister had a baby recently and she got one and loved it. It's very similar to the long fabric wraps in how it's worn and in bulkiness, but you don't have to do the first step of wrapping it around your body. It's already criss-crossed for you so you just slide it on over your head and then there is an outer sash that wraps around and ties to keep baby in place. There are a few different options and lots of colors to choose from.
9. Doona Car Seat/Stroller
One of the great things about infant car seats is that they can so easily be lifted out of the car seat base so that you can transport a sleeping baby out of the car without waking them up. There are many travel systems that allow you to snap the infant car seat into a stroller base so that you can switch from car to strolling without getting baby out of their car seat. The downfall is, you have to tote that stroller around with you everywhere
and it takes up a lot of valuable trunk space. The Doona car seat has all of the stroller components built into the carseat itself. You lift the seat out of the base and push a button and the stroller legs fold out and down to the
ground. You always have a stroller with you any time you drive anywhere and it doesn't take up any more room than a regular car seat. I was gifted one by a friend with my last baby and I loved it so much! I was so sad when he outgrew it! There are so many carseat
and stroller options out there, but this is definitely my favorite. The only downfall is that it not going to work well in rough terrain and it's not great for running or jogging like a jogging stroller. My sister lives in the desert and is surrounded by sand. It would not be ideal for her situation but it works well for me as we've got pavement and sidewalks just about anywhere we go.
10. Breastmilk Collection Cups
I was very fortunate to be in a position to nurse my babies full time. I very rarely, if ever, had to pump. Having a little bit of breastmilk on hand in the freezer was very convenient however, if I was out without my baby and it ended up taking longer than expected. Whoever was home caring for the baby had that available to feed him if I was delayed into his feeding time. With baby number five, I built up that small stash with breastmilk collection cups. They are different than a pump or a Haakaa because they're not
actually expressing any milk (which is good if you're not wanting to increase your supply). You just stick the cups inside of your bra and they catch the milk when it lets down (instead of just leaking into your breast pads). I wore them in my bra when I was sleeping and would also put one on the breast I was not currently nursing on to catch the let down milk from that side. When I was done, I'd pour the milk into a breastmilk storage bag and store it in the freezer. This was the perfect amount of backup milk for my needs. If you need a large storage supply (because you're going back to work or will be away from baby for extended periods of time), you will need a Haakaa and/or a pump in addition to these, but if you just don't want to waste the letdown milk or want to build a small freezer supply like I did, these are perfect!
11. A Baby Shusher
There is a popular baby book on how to keep your baby happy. It recommends swaddling,
shushing, and swaying, among other things. It can get pretty tiresome to keep making the
"shushing" noise yourself to soothe your baby. A Baby Shusher does it for you! You twist the dial to make it "shush" for 15 minutes or 30 minutes at a time. There were times when my babies were changed, fed, burped, and snuggled but they just were not happy no matter what I did. That was when I broke out the Baby Shusher. It always helped settle them down! I use a Baby Shusher frequently in my newborn sessions to help babies settle while posing them. Moms and dads almost always comment, "We need one of those!" when I use one for their little one's session. Spoiler alert...I often gift my newborn clients with a Baby Shusher of their own, so don't go out and buy one yet if you've booked me for a newborn session!
12. A Professional Newborn Photo Session
The newborn stage does not last very long. It's a precious time that you'll miss when it's gone, but it's also a challenging time as you take on full-time care of a totally dependent little human, all while recovering from childbirth, dealing with crazy postpartum hormones, and operating on very little sleep. It can be hard to soak it up like you'd like! You will likely take lots of pictures of your little bundle at home, trying to capture all of those sweet little moments with your newborn, but this is the perfect time to hire a newborn photographer to professionally capture your brand new addition.
A great photographer knows how to soothe your baby, safely pose him, style beautiful setups, and beautifully capture him.
The resulting images are something that you and your family will treasure for generations to come. Newborn photography, as we know it today, was still a pretty new thing when my first two children were born in 2008 and 2011. While I was a professional event photographer by the time I had my second baby, I did not specialize in newborns and babies yet (the birth of my second daughter was the start of my newborn photography journey!). The resulting images I have of my first two babies are quite sad as a result. I really wish I had taken them to a professional newborn photographer instead of trying to do it myself. I am able to take my own babies' newborn photos NOW, after nearly twelve years of doing it professionally, but if you are not a professional newborn photographer yourself, this is definitely a time to invest in a newborn session.
Newborn photography requires a very specialized skill set, outfits, props, accessories, and posing tools, great use of lighting, and lots of experience. You won't regret investing in a professional! This is not the time to try and save money by doing it yourself or hiring a newbie or bargain photographer. Please do not hand over your fragile newborn to someone who is inexperienced! Save up and budget for the BEST. If you're in the Hampton Roads area in Virginia and looking for a photographer to capture your maternity stage, newborn stage, or any stage of your baby's first year, I'd love to help you! Click HERE to request more information or start the booking process. If you're not local, find a local newborn photographer whose work you love, and book your session early (by your second trimester if possible) to ensure availability! If your little one is here already, don't hesitate to reach out anyway...you never know if your desired photographer might have last-minute availability.
What were some of your favorite things during the postpartum/newborn stage? I'd love to hear what worked for you!