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In packing for an upcoming trip in which we’re trying to take as little as possible for ourselves and for Paavo, I’ve been thinking about what items helped us survive Paavo’s first 3 months of life, and what I’ve come to call my “newborn survival kit.” Before Paavo was born I created a baby registry on Amazon and was overwhelmed. I started off feeling like I needed a million things and wasn’t sure where to begin. Then I polled all my mom friends and asked them what were their favorite things, and to my relief I received similar information across the board.
Now that I’ve had some time to actually implement my kit, I thought I’d share my list in the hopes that it helps other expecting moms out there in navigating the world of baby items. The common theme? There isn’t actually that much that a baby needs, and the mom needs just as much help and comfort in getting through the newborn stage. This list is loosely in order of importance and/or utility, and some items are even free!
Happiest Baby on the Block – We were given this book as a gift before Paavo was born and it was likely one of the best gifts we received. It has tips for calming a crying baby and was a lifesaver those first couple months. Though the book starts off a little gimmicky and you wonder if the author will ever get to the point, it eventually gives helpful advice that saved us during those 3am cry sessions early on.
Halo swaddle sleep sack – Stemming from #1, we swaddled Paavo right from the start to help calm him and put him to sleep, and to keep the moro reflex from startling him awake. While Matt mastered the art of swaddling with a swaddle blanket, Paavo could get out of my swaddles before I even finished wrapping him, so we quickly ordered one of these velcro sleep sacks and life was sooooo much easier. It’s a swaddle, a wearable blanket, and it’s velcro. Done.
White noise app – Also stemming from #1, the two tactics that have worked best for us from that book are swaddling and shhhshing. Early on we both got lightheaded from all the shhhshing, so we downloaded this app and it’s worked to calm Paavo within seconds.
Motherlove nipple cream – A gift from my friend Jessica, this saved my nipples from day one. I used this after every feeding for the first month and never had cracking or chaffing. A must have from the start!
Desitin for diaper rash – I read somewhere that it’s not a matter of “if” the baby gets diaper rash, but “when.” Well, I wish we’d heeded that advice before Paavo was born and had something on hand, but we realized our error when we changed a diaper on a screaming baby at 2am one morning, only to realize his bum was red and rashy, and we had NOTHING to soothe it. Nada. What were we thinking? The next day our pediatrician advised us to use Desitin and it cleared up the diaper rash almost immediately. It kinda smells funny and shouldn’t be used with cloth diapers, but is a miracle worker otherwise.
Nursing tank tops – The quicker the access to the boobs, the better, especially with a hungry mouth nearby, and these tank tops have fit the bill. They are cheap, there are tons of color options, they are easy to find at Target, you can use one hand to unsnap/snap them, and they layer well. I have two of these and a nursing bra that I rotate over and over again.
Trader Joe’s chocolate covered almonds – Warning: You will be addicted to these once you try them. Our friend Anna once bought us two containers of them. How long did they last? 48 hours. Yes, they are that good. Keep them on hand for those 3am feedings and you’ll have one happy momma. They don’t help with the weight loss, but hey, momma needs something to look forward to as she wakes up bleary-eyed to feed her little one.
Daily hot shower, the longer the better – Another necessity for mom. Early on, this was the only part of my day when I felt like I could enter this little cocoon where only I could go, away from dirty diapers, shirts that smelled of sour milk, and of course, a crying baby. I took a long hot shower every day (and still do), just to feel normal again. I’d turn on the bathroom fan and suddenly everything that happened outside the bathroom door was up to Matt to deal with because he was on Paavo duty for those glorious minutes to myself.
Patemm travel change pad – This was given as a gift to me and we’ve used it as our sole changing pad since day one, having never bought an actual changing pad or created a changing station. It’s portable, machine washable, comes in all kinds of designs, and perfect for traveling. You can find ones cheaper than the one shown here on Amazon or on the company’s website. (https://www.patemm.com/)
Activity mat (Animal Kingdom, as we call it) – Again, this was a gift from a friend (thank you once again Jessica!) and I was skeptical at first, but from the first time I tried it, when Paavo was around 5-6 weeks, he loved it. He bats at the hanging animals and practices gripping them, each of them making different sounds and with different textures. He only likes it for about 20 minutes at a time, but that 20 minutes can buy Matt and I time to both eat, and do that a few times a day and we’ve each eaten a meal without it getting cold! The one I linked isn’t the one we have, but you get the idea.
Carrier and/or Stroller (Moby, Ergo, Catbird Baby) – Before Paavo was born I scoured Craigslist and consignment shops to find used carriers, primarily because I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on them, but also because I wanted to have a few options, see what worked best, and then either resell them or call it a sunk cost (but at least a cheaper sunk cost). We used the Moby wrap early on for walks and/or doing errands around the house, and while it worked well, I never felt super confident in my wrapping abilities and we stopped using it after the first month. I bought it used for $20 and didn’t end up reselling it. We used the Ergo (the original, though I’m linking the 360 because the baby can face outward with it) with an infant insert for some time, but it only faced inwards and Paavo fought it every time, and he seemed crammed and hot in the carrier. I bought that for $45 used and ended up reselling that on Craigslist for $40, so worth the $5 trial cost. We finally settled on the Catbird Baby Pikkolo carrier, a suggestion from a friend because it has the option to face outward, and Paavo loves it. He’s calm in it, he looks around, he falls asleep in it, and it’s less bulky than a lot of other carriers. Definitely the winner for us. We bought it new for $97 on Amazon and have been really happy with it. I also bought a Chicco Key Fit 30 infant car seat for $50 on Craigslist, along with a Chicco stroller for $30 that worked with the car seat, and I walked Paavo daily in that combo from week 4 through 14. I love both the carriers and the strollers because it allows us time to get outside and walk with Paavo. For our upcoming trip we are only taking the Catbird Baby carrier.
Girlfriends to text with questions and successes – I leaned heavily on both Google and my mom friends for random questions along the way, and I’ve also celebrated milestones with my girlfriends. Who else would truly appreciate texts like, “Only got up twice last night!”, or “OMG, the 3 month growth spurt is for real. Hope my nipples survive feedings every 90 minutes!”?
Mother or mother-in-law (or someone to help hold the baby while you nap, shower, eat, go to the bathroom…) – Even though Matt and I tag team Paavo duties, I’d love to have even more time with Nana (Matt’s mom) and Grandma (my mom), so we can get a break and do normal people things, like eat and sleep. I can see why so many cultures have multiple generations in the same household, as it’s incredibly convenient to have help in cooking, cleaning, and passing the baby around to whoever has the most energy and patience.
Swaddle blankets and burp cloths – As mentioned above, I’m terrible at actually swaddling with a swaddle blanket, but I was grateful to receive both swaddle blankets and burp clothes as gifts and used them for all sorts of purposes, such as a lightweight blanket in the stroller, a burp cloth (duh), a sun shade over the stroller, padding under my elbow as I breastfeed, and of course, a swaddle. Swaddle blankets aren’t at the top of my list for absolute necessity, but burp cloths are, and I’m traveling with one swaddle blanket and two burp cloths for our upcoming trip. The burp clothes were a gift so I’m not actually sure of the brand but I’m sure most kinds will do!
Baby 411 – Another book that was a gift and I read it cover to cover after Paavo was born. I found it fun, informative, straightforward, and incredibly reassuring. I was especially fixed on the sleep chapter and read it 4 times, and took notes.
Aventi pacifier (for some but not for Paavo) -I’m listing this because a lot of people recommended this one in particular to me, and it’s one of the 5 tactics for calming a crying baby, but it never worked for us. We tried a pacifier with Paavo after two weeks and tried it every.single.day. He never took it but I’ve heard a lot of people like these.
Yummy mummy for breast pump – I’ve included this website because of how easy it was to get a breast pump. I put in my insurance info, it showed me which ones were free, I picked it, then it billed my insurance and shipped me my pump before Paavo arrived. So easy. They have lots of other stuff, but I only used it for the free pump.
Finnish baby box – I’m including this because Paavo really did sleep in a cardboard box for the first 3 months of life, showing just how simple a baby’s bed can be. For our baby party, we asked people to pitch in whatever they wanted for us to buy this box. I’m in the process of writing up our thoughts on the box and will post that review as soon as motherly possible.
So there it is, the list of items that have helped get us through the first few months of Paavo’s life. In coming up with this list, I realized that items for the mom are just as important as items for the baby, like good food, good friends, and a hot shower. And even though I haven’t been getting much sleep throughout the newborn phase, my survival kit, such as the swaddle sack and the white noise app, have certainly helped me get more sleep than I would have gotten without them.
Anyone else have their own survival kit items? What did I miss? I’d love to hear what other people use to survive this stage! Up next, the 4 month sleep regression and teething, oh my!!!