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HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Can you believe it’s 2020? At church on Sunday, my pastor said, “This is the last Sunday of this decade.” How weird is that? We are in a whole new decade! Look back at the last 10 years. Boy, how you’ve changed. Now, look forward on the next 10 years. Looking back makes 10 years seem like forever. But looking forward… looking at my 7-week-old asleep in his bouncer and realizing that in 2030 he will be 10 years old… makes it feel like a decade is not long at all.
If being a mom has changed at all in the last decade, technology has definitely made it just a little bit easier on us! There are so many products that this generation of moms take for granted that my mom just stares at and says, “Wow, I wish we had that when you were a baby!” We are so blessed to have these products at our fingertips!
Check out my 20 favorite products that I couldn’t live without! (Click here to follow my Pinterest board of “Must-Have Newborn Products.”)
Bottles and Pacifiers
- Bottle Sterilizer
What did we do before bottle sterilizers? Oh, that’s right. We boiled nipples. I’ve never had to do it, thank God, but I hear nothing but dismay from the previous generation of Moms about it. With a sterilizer, you don’t have to wait for a pot to boil or worry about leaving the stove on. It is an absolute blessing to be able to pop the bottles in the sterilizer, push the button, and walk away.
I personally use the First Years Power of Steam Electric Sterilizer. I love how tall it is, letting you sterilize up to 5 bottles and about a dozen nipples at one time, but skinny enough that it takes up very little room on my cabinet. It takes about 13 minutes to sterilize and most of the parts are dishwasher safe. The base that plugs into the wall just has to be cleaned with a damp cloth, so keeping this sterilizer clean is ideal for a Mom who doesn’t want to spend much time cleaning one more appliance, like me! The only possible con is that ever since I’ve had the sterilizer — almost 2 months — the light that turns on while it’s sterilizing doesn’t stay on the whole time so you have to guess when it’s done. This really isn’t a problem for me because I hardly ever sterilize bottles right before I need them. So, I just turn on the sterilizer and know that the next time I need a bottle they will be ready. When I do need a bottle immediately after sterilizing, I just set a timer on my phone for 13 minutes.
I drop my son off with my parents once a week to watch him while I work. They decided to buy a steamer for their house and purchased the Munchkin Steam Guard Microwave Bottle Sterilizer. This is great for grandparents or other family members who will be watching your baby often because of the size. The Munchkin Sterilizer fits in the microwave and can be easily tucked away in the cabinet when not in use. There are no plug-ins, so the entire sterilizer is dishwasher safe. Also, it costs less than $20 which is great since my parents will only be using it once a week and didn’t need to spend a ton of money on one.
A great sterilizer to have on hand for travel is the Medela Quick Clean Micro-Steam Sanitizing Bags. These were a life saver when I was in the ER 4 times in two weeks after Joshua was born and I was still breast pumping. These bags go in the microwave and can be used up to 20 times before throwing them away. They are small and lay flat, so they take up virtually no space and only take about 3 minutes to sterilize. They are also great if you don’t want to spend the money on a sterilizer, although, eventually you will be spending more money on the bags then a one-time purchase of the electric steamer. We decided to keep a stash of these bags for travel so we wouldn’t have to bring the electric sterilizer. You can get the bags in a 5 count for under $7, a 12 count for under $11, or a 20 count for under $20.
2. Bottle Drying Rack
You’ve probably seen the absolutely precious bottle drying racks that look like a patch of grass. They’re not just adorable, they are incredibly functional. The Boon Drying Rack comes in 3 sizes: Lawn — the biggest size, Grass — the small square, and Patch — the narrow rectangle. I personally have the Lawn and the Grass because of the number of bottles I have and the amount of space I have available on my cabinet, but I can see the Patch being great for traveling. The size you need is up to you and the amount of counter-space you have.
I also have the Boon Stem, Poke, and White Twig accessories. These are the flower, cactus, and tree accessories shown in the pictures and are sold separately from the drying racks. I use these to dry nipples and other parts. I purchased all three because they were cute additions to the grass patches, but I really only use two at a time. The Poke (cactus) and White Twig are my favorites for drying nipples. The Stem (flower) was wonderful for when I was still breast pumping and needed a safe place to dry the tiny breast pump membranes (filters) after sterilizing. They fit safe and sound in the petals of the Stem. (You can buy the Stem and Poke together to save a few dollars.)
All parts are dishwasher safe which, if you can tell by now, is a huge plus for me!
A con of the Boon Drying Rack is that it doesn’t store as easily as other drying racks, but honestly I use it 24/7, so there is no need to store it. My parents, as I mentioned before, watch Joshua once a week and, therefore, need a smaller, more convenient-to-store option. They have the Munchkin Fold Cup and Bottle Drying Rack. The poles on the drying rack fold down to easily tuck it away in the cabinet. You can only dry so many bottles at a time, so it makes a great addition for family who only watches your baby for short periods.
I wasn’t planning on using a pacifier with Joshua, but because he was in NICU he has been using a paci since day 1 of his life. I tried several different pacifiers, but he seemed to enjoy pacies shaped like bottle nipples over the normally shaped pacies. Then, I gave him the Wubbanub and our worlds changed. Not only does he have a paci whose shape is more natural to him, but he loves the comfort animals that are attached to them. He holds on tight to his giraffe and deer.
They’re also great for his motor skill development because when his paci falls out he tries to push up on the animals to get it back in his mouth. He does this mostly without success, but the fact that he’s practicing using his hands and thinking critically at a very young age puts a big grin on this mama’s face! The large animal on the end of it also makes it easier to spot in the bottom of a bag than a regular pacifier.
One con of the Wubbanub is that if he is fidgety, he can knock or pull the Wubbanub out of his mouth easier than a regular paci because the animal has a bigger surface area for him to accidentally knock it out. I really don’t mind this because of how much he loves his Wubbanubs, but my parents get annoyed by it and ask that I send him a different paci. So, you may not want to deal with putting it back in his mouth more times than you would a regular pacifier. Another con is that you can’t sterilize it. The animal doesn’t detach from the paci, so you have to use paci wipes to clean it.
4. Paci Wipes
It is common for parents to suck the germs off a pacifier when it falls on the floor, but this could actually be worse for your child. Babies don’t have the bacteria in their mouths that we do and have a very underdeveloped immune system, so by putting a pacifier in their mouth that has just been in your mouth can give them bacteria that can cause gum rot and tooth decay for their sensitive gums and soon-to-be-growing teeth.
My favorite pacifier wipes are Munchkin Arm & Hammer. They are natural wipes with baking soda. I keep a package in my diaper bag so if I drop a paci on-the-go, I can just wipe it off.
Medela also sells breast pump wipes that can be used to clean pacifiers, but they are much more expensive — Munchkin brand is 13 cents cheaper per wipe — so when I was still breast pumping, I just used the Munchkin Arm & Hammer wipes for my breast pump parts as well.
The only con for the paci wipes is that the baking soda must taste a little weird to babies when they first put it in their mouths because my son always makes a face, but it goes away quickly. You can try letting it air dry for a few seconds to see if that gets rid of the taste, but he honestly forgets about it after a few seconds.
5. Tubs for washing bottles
An absolute lifesaver are my washing tubs! When my mom was staying with me in the ER, she asked for some tubs from the hospital staff so we could wash my breast pump parts. I still use them now that I am home and couldn’t imagine life without them. I found some well priced tubs for around $3 each here on Amazon.
I have 3 tubs labeled “Need to Wash,” “Rinse,” and “To be Sterilized.” When I use a bottle, I rinse it out then put it in the “Need to Wash” tub. This separates dirty bottles from the rest of my dishes and keeps them from littering my cabinet. I wash the bottles in this tub just as an extra layer of cleanliness so I’m not washing them in the same place I wash my dishes. As I wash each bottle, I place them in the “Rinse” tub. (My husband rinses them as he washes each bottle and skips the “Rinse” tub, but it just depends on what you’re comfortable with.) When I’m done, I rinse them one by one and put them in the “To be Sterilized” tub. This system is great because I can wash all of my bottles at once, but still have a place to put clean bottles while they are waiting to be put in the sterilizer since I can’t fit them all at once. I used to have a 4th tub labeled “Ready to Use” to put completely assembled bottles in, but they never seem to make it off of my drying racks before I use them, so I put it away.
6. Versatile Car Seat
When you’re shopping for a car seat, make sure to buy one that serves multiple purposes. We have the Graco Fast Action Fold Jogger Travel System which transitions easily from car seat to stroller.
We chose the jogger model because we live in the country and knew I would need higher quality tires for walks — the tires are basically bicycle tires. I love how easily the stroller folds up to fit in my trunk or the closet. Grandparents and other family members can buy the base separately so they an easily put your car seat in their own vehicle. When Joshua gets bigger, the stroller grows with him and so does the car seat! We will be using this car seat and stroller for years to come.
7. Baby Swing
Joshua absolutely loves the Fisher-Price Cradle ‘n Swing. In the early morning hours when he won’t sleep in his bed, I put him in his swing and it lulls him to sleep. It has 3 swinging positions, 6 swing speeds, 16 songs/sounds, and a moving mobile.
I love how easy it is to change swing positions because he doesn’t always like the same position. I also love how little room it takes up in our small house; it’s only about 3 feet by 3 feet and 44 inches tall. All the padding is machine washable and you can plug in the swing or use batteries.
The only con is that the sounds and mobile only go for about 20 minutes before turning off. Fortunately, the swing will keep going until you stop it. I’ve had him in the swing for up to 4 hours and it hasn’t stopped swinging.
He also loves his Fisher-Price Baby’s Bouncer. Once he turned a month old, his naps started getting shorter and shorter, so I keep him in his bouncer in the living room all day so that when he wakes up I can play with him.
I think he loves it so much because he can sit up and look around. He doesn’t like laying on his back too much. The machine itself doesn’t bounce; it only vibrates, which he seems to like, so you have to use your foot to bounce it yourself, which is a con for me. I bounce his bouncer so often that sometimes I find my foot bouncing even when it’s not on the bouncer (say that 10 times fast). Another con for me is that the toy bar makes it inconvenient to put him in and get him out of the bouncer. But you can easily take it off, so I just keep it off unless we’re playing with it which we don’t do often because he isn’t too aware of his surroundings yet.
We’ve been swaddling babies for thousands of years. Mary knew what she was doing when she wrapped Jesus in swaddling clothes. We don’t just do it to keep them warm. Swaddling your infant is actually beneficial to your baby’s health, as well as your beauty sleep.
Swaddling your child has been proven to reduce the occurrence of SIDS. It also soothes your baby because they feel snug and warm like they did in the womb. An added bonus is that it helps them sleep longer. By swaddling your baby, you keep them from waking themselves up with the Moro reflex. This is a startle reflex that babies have that causes them to flail their arms and legs while sleeping which can wake them up.
We started out with the Amazing Baby Swaddle. Muslin swaddles are great for babies under 7 lbs and newborns. I love how soft and light-weight the Amazing Baby Swaddle is compared to other muslin swaddles I’ve tried. I also love the easy-to-follow instructions that come on the tag (see picture). However, we were only able to use this swaddle for a week because my son was very strong for a newborn and kept kicking it off.
We then moved to the SwaddleMe. I absolutely love this swaddle because it has velcro that makes the swaddling process easy and more difficult for your little one to escape. My son, however, is a mini-Houdini and gets his arms out every once in a while when he’s really mad. It comes in 2 sizes. The small/medium is for 0-3 months, 7-14 lbs, and up to 26 inches. The large is for 3-6 months and 14-18 lbs. There is a hole in the back of the swaddles so you can still swaddle while your baby is in a car seat or swing. I personally don’t use this feature, however, because you should only swaddle while they’re sleeping, and it isn’t recommended by car seat manufacturers to swaddle while in the car seat.
*Now that my son is 3-months-old I found another swaddle he can’t escape from. The April Moon Boutique Swaddle (see picture) ties at the bottom, so my son can’t use his strong legs to kick free (use my code BE4R25 at checkout for 25% off!!!). Each swaddle comes with a matching hat. I am absolutely in love with this swaddle and very sad that he will be growing out of swaddles soon!
Babies are usually ready to stop swaddling between 3-6 months. Here is an article explaining how to know when your baby is ready to stop swaddling.
10. Dollar Tree Socks
Oddly enough, I ended up with no newborn size socks after Joshua’s baby shower. I tried putting him in 0-6 month socks, but they were way too big. My mom found these adorable $1 socks at the Dollar Tree, and they are honestly the only socks I want to have! They are soft, durable, adorable, and cheap! He’s going to grow out of them very quickly, so why bother spending more than $1 per pair, especially when these get the job done just as well?
11. Baby Monitor
If you’re planning on your little one sleeping in any room that you are not in, you’ll need a baby monitor. I love the Motorola Video Baby Monitor 5″. Many monitors nowadays require WiFi, but being that we live in the country, we needed a monitor that didn’t. The Motorola Baby Monitor is great for that reason as well as multiple others.
It is also a sound machine with 5 different sounds including sounds your baby would hear in the womb. You can talk to your baby through a speaker. The battery life is fantastic. You can move the camera position and zoom in and out from the video screen. It also tells you the room temperature.
The only con is that you can’t turn down the volume on the video monitor without turning down the noise machine. At first this was a problem because it was hard for me to sleep at night with the volume loud enough for me to still hear my son if he cries, but after a week or two it didn’t bother me anymore.
*Now that my son is 3 months, I have had more time to get acquainted with this baby monitor. In the last 3 months, it has shut off in the middle of the night 5 times! I was going to buy a new brand of monitor, but grew tired of reading review after review of every digital monitor having some sort of issue. So, I bought an inexpensive audio-only monitor to use at night as well as the Motorola in case it decides to shut off again. I am very happy with my VTech DM111 Audio Baby Monitor.
12. Baby Thermometer
The easiest way to take a kid’s temperature is with a smart ear thermometer. We have the Kinsa Smart Ear Thermometer. The Kinsa takes just seconds to get a reading. It connects to the Kinsa app on your phone which tracks all family members’ temperatures, symptoms, and when they last took a medication. This comes in handy when you have multiple kids sick and need to keep up with medications or temperature changes. You can also use it for teens and adults. A major pro for this thermometer is the unlimited amount of people you can keep track of. I have looked at other smart thermometers, and many only let you keep track of 3-4 people. The only con, as with any ear thermometer, is that you can’t use it until your child is 6 months old. For accuracy in children under 6 months old, you have to use a rectal thermometer.
13. Kinedu app
The Kinedu app tracks your baby’s physical, cognitive, linguistic, social, and emotional development. When you first download the app, you are prompted with some questions about your child’s current skills. With this information, you are given a daily video to help with development skills they need to work on. The app is free to get a video a day, but if you want access to the unlimited video library you can pay $120 a year. I am currently using the free version and love it. The only con is that sometimes the daily video is a repeat, but I believe that video will repeat until your child develops that skill.
Another great resource to help with baby development is YouTube or YouTube Kids. You can find ready-made playlists or make a playlist of songs to play for your baby during playtime or nap time. Click here to see my playtime playlist and here for my nap time playlist. I love playing VeggieTales, Silly Songs with Larry, and Baby Einsteins for my son.
I know, I know, it’s a screen, but I rarely show him the screen when I use these apps. I just start the playlist, sit the phone aside, and sing along with the songs and play with him. Every once in a while I show him the screen if the video is colorful to stimulate interest in colors and movement. These apps are great because I easily run out of songs to sing during playtime. I don’t play music for him during nap time because I use the noise machine on my monitor, but I do use it when we’re in the car so he isn’t crying the whole 45 minutes it takes to get to my parents’ house.
For Your Sanity
15. Crib/Changing Table Combo
We live in a very small house, so when we were getting furniture for the nursery I was worried about how I was going to fit a crib and a changing table in one room. I happened upon this wonderful item in the store one day. The Dream on Me Jayden 4-in-1 is a crib and changing table and has a ton of storage! It also grows with your child and becomes a daybed and a twin-size bed.
One con is that the changing pad is an unusual size and I haven’t found any pad covers that fit. However, I ended up just buying a regular size pad cover and pulling it tight underneath the pad. It is also a cheap pad and is kind of thin. I couldn’t find any pads online that would fit this bed, but it really didn’t matter in the end. Your child will only be on the pad for a few minutes and the sides of the changing area are tall enough that they can’t flip off.
16. Baby Shusher
Another absolute miracle for parents is The Baby Shusher — AKA “The Sleep Miracle.” How often do you find yourself shushing your baby to sleep? My record is 1 hour and 22 minutes. This little device does the shushing for you! There is a human voice recorded saying, “shhh.” It has a 30 minute timer and a 15 minute timer, as well as volume control. I just put the shusher in the crib with Joshua and set it to the 30 minute option, THEN GO TO BED! It’s magical! No more nights of waking up every five minutes just to say, “shhh.” I thank God every night for the creators of the Baby Shusher.
17. Mom Planner
I’ve been using an agenda since the 4th grade. My favorite brand that I’ve been using for about 5 years now is the Happy Planner. This year, I have the 2020 Modern Mom Classic Happy Planner. It is specifically made with mothers in mind!
I love the Happy Planner because you can easily remove and add pages and accessories to make it exactly what you need (comment if you would like to see a future post about how I set up my Happy Planner). The Modern Mom planner makes life easier for moms by providing a space every week for an errands list, shopping list, calls/emails list, bills to pay list, and a focus area. Each month has a quote targeted for a busy mom like “Mom hair don’t care” and “You got this, mama” (my personal favorite). I love that all of my lists and planner are together in one place and fit easily in my purse for me to refer to wherever I go.
What kid doesn’t love a stuffed animal? Warmies Microwaveable Lavender Scented Plushies go a step further than just comforting your child. Warmies are filled with lavender, a scent known for it’s calming qualities, and can be heated in the microwave to relieve stress, tummy aches, anxiety, and colic. You can use this for your child, teen, or yourself!
Newborns are too small to have a stuffed animal in bed with them, so we only use the warmie when Joshua is in our sites. Joshua gets tummy aches often, so we heat up the warmie, put him in his bouncer in the living room with us, and place it on his belly like it’s giving him a hug. It’s safely away from his face and doing its job of warming his tummy and calming him.
19. Ready-to-Drink Formula Bottles
A great product to bring on road trips is ready-to-drink bottles. We use Similac Infant Formula 2 oz, but you need to find one that is exactly what your child drinks so you won’t have a baby with an upset tummy on your hands. These are great for travel because you don’t have to worry about taking the time to get out the formula and making a bottle. These are already made for you and don’t have to be refrigerated. They’re a little expensive, so we only use them for road trips. If you use the Similac Pro-Advance, you can get a 24 pack on Amazon for under $41 and a 48 pack for under $70 (both available at the above link). Some stores sell 4-packs in-store only.
20. Support Team
Probably the most important thing on this list of must-haves is a support team! I have been blessed with so many people who love my husband and me, and my son! I thank God every day for my Mom, Dad, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandparents, grandparents-in-law, and best friend.
Even if you just have one person you can talk to and confide in, don’t take them for granted. Reach out and find people who care for you and ask them how much they would be willing to help. These people watch my son during my many doctors appointments, give my husband and I nights off for date night, and are a phone call away when I just need to vent. Many of them brought meals for us to freeze before he was born and have surprised us with formula multiple times. I pray God reveals that person or people for you this week!
You do not have to do this alone! Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. God asks us to bless others. I know it’s hard to ask for help, I’m preaching to the choir, but you have to remember that you may be the person God is asking someone to bless. It also helps me to remember that my son needs me to let go of my pride. Formula is expensive, Mom! Let people bless you. Let people bless your kids! And then one day, you can bless others like you have been blessed!
You’ve got this, Mom! Happy New Year!