There’s a much more zippy title for this post out there somewhere, I’m sure of it. Something more concise than what-we-found-useful-after-not-being-prepared-at-all-for-a-baby. See? Doesn’t really roll off the tongue. I really wanted to convey that we weren’t prepared in the least for Maya’s arrival, but in the end, that really did boil down to a collection of the simplest newborn baby essentials, so we’ll go with it.
I haven’t talked much about this before on FCV, but there’s a thing that happens when you try to have a baby for five years without success, or at least a thing that happened to me. Even when you’re on the path to making that baby happen, like moving to another country to adopt one, it’s still hard to believe it ever will. It’s not hopelessness, and it’s not quite unbelief, it’s more like disbelief. It’s hard to imagine it happening, because you spend so much time trying to be okay with it not happening. The closest I could get was imagining arriving at the hospital after getting a phone call that a baby was waiting for us. I could picture that, but I couldn’t picture a baby in our house (here or Dublin), and I couldn’t picture even holding it in my arms.
And even though I don’t believe in jinxing things, I didn’t feel comfortable preparing to have a baby until we knew for sure we would have a baby. When we moved into our Houston apartment (all 800 square feet of it!), we set up the living room and our bedroom, and stocked the kitchen with the essentials and hung photos on the walls, and then things sort of came to a standstill. Given, it wasn’t that long a standstill considering we were only in the place a month when Maya arrived, but still. Where the nursery is now, we essentially had a sleep out couch (the arrival of which nearly caused our divorce) and a little cabinet we thought might one day work as a changing table. When we bought the slightly-too-large-for-the-door-frame couch off Craigslist, the sellers were moving and offered us the cabinet for free, so that came to live in there, too.
Luckily, once we knew we were headed to the hospital to meet Maya, our friend Debs reached out to her incredible network of generous souls in the fostering world who lent us a car seat, a stroller, a changing pad, a bassinet, a bouncer and a baby bath, all in the space of a few days. And honestly, I’m not sure what we would have done if those things hadn’t arrived on our doorstep. I was being asked to make so many decisions I wasn’t prepared for in the NICU, like please choose a pediatrician for your new daughter and should she get the HEP-B vaccine before she’s discharged?, that I was overwhelmed and found it really hard to make any other basic decisions.
Also luckily, our friends and family were so generous and immediately Amazon-Primed us diapers and wipes, clothes and essentials they found helpful when they had babies. In fact, Maya is now three months and I haven’t had to buy diapers once! It’s a slightly unglamorous present, but jeepers, I appreciate it about six times a day!
All that to say, we kind of bootstrapped this baby thing and lived to tell the tale. And we don’t feel like we’re swimming in baby gear, which neither of us ever wanted pre-baby. So I thought it might be interesting (I always think these lists are fascinating on other blogs) to share what we found useful and helpful over the last three months.
Bassinet: We borrowed a sweet little bassinet from another foster family and just moved Maya out of it and into a mini crib (which, hilariously, I found by the side of the road a block from our house! Ha!). The bassinet (similar to this one) is on wheels, but sits up at hip height. It’s not quite as tote-able as a Moses basket, but honestly, we don’t have far to go in this little apartment! We rolled it from our room to the nursery the first few days, but it ultimately landed in the nursery for good. Maya probably could have gotten another few months in it, but once I found that mini crib and got it all cleaned and set up, it didn’t really make sense to have both in the room taking up space.
Changing table: We have that little free cabinet with a changing pad on top, and all of Maya’s clothes, pajamas, diapers and blankets fit inside. As she grows, we may need a little more storage, but for now it’s great that I can see everything she has. Babies grow so fast and I’m finding I really I hate if she only wears something once because it’s buried!
Car seat: Friends bought our special baby the Britax B-Safe car seat and it’s like Maya’s little space ship. It clicks into a base in the car and then easily clicks in to our stroller base. It’s great for an infant as well; since she was so tiny at the beginning, and didn’t even need additional neck supports.
Stroller: The stroller was literally the only thing I cared about when it came to baby equipment. I wanted a simple, streamlined, light, smooth stroller. I spent a little while looking and my parents bought us the Britax Affinity. We love it and like to tell everyone we meet all about it. It folds down to nothing really easily, and it was one of the only strollers that wasn’t eight million dollars that also fits a bassinet attachment. The car seat also drops onto the base, but it doesn’t perch on top the whole stroller seat like some strollers, which is too precarious for me.
Wrap: This is the only piece of baby equipment I had before we had Maya. A friend gave it to me last summer and I actually left it at my parents because I couldn’t bear to bring it to Houston when we weren’t sure if we would have to wait months or years for a baby. My amazing mom mailed it (so heavy!) once we had Maya at home and for a while there it was the only reliable way I could get her to nap! We walked our neighborhood sidewalks for hours each day. We have the Moby because it was given to us, but I think the Solly is virtually the same although more expensive and possibly lighter. The Moby is quite heavy and can get quite hot. But I would wear only a tank top underneath when the weather was warmer and it was fine. You can always throw a sweater or jacket on over it, which is harder to do with an Ergo or bulkier carrier. Maya slept in it on our flights to and from Maine last month and it was comfortable for both of us.
Bottles: We use the Dr. Brown’s system, which we were recommended by the speech therapist in the hospital as Maya was learning how to suck, and we think they’re great, although we haven’t tried any alternatives. They do, however, have four parts per bottle, which I’m pretty sure is twice as many as other bottles. So we are darn thankful for the dishwasher! I bought an $8 bottle piece washing basket at Target and we run the dishwasher once each night. Friends also gave us this hilarious and awesome faux grass drying rack which sits on the counter and holds all the pieces while they dry after they’ve been washed. Finally, we have a formula dispenser for on-the-go that’s brilliant in the middle of the night. We fill it with what we need before we go to bed and then we don’t have to measure and make a mess when we’re half asleep.
Bouncer: Another amazing friend who isn’t planning on having more kids sent us her BabyBjorn bouncer (and a swing and Ergo, but more on those below) and we use it so much. It’s simple and adjusts to a few different heights, it’s a lovely, un-annoying light grey, and it’s not bulky at all.
Swaddle Blankets: Maya was a teeny little thing at the beginning, and we had a stack of flannel blankets that wrapped her up into a perfect little burrito. She grew out of those after about six weeks, and we moved to a set of Carter’s swaddles that I really like. Some of the Aiden+Anais ones are too soft to swaddle, and some are too scratchy to be right up next to her skin. At three months, we still swaddle her at night with one of the Carter’s and then one of the bigger Aiden+Anais swaddles to make sure she can’t escape. Her hands are still like the best toys, so if she finds them she’ll be awake for hours. We tried some of those one-piece velcro swaddles, but they’re almost too restrictive for her. And we have some sleep sacks at the ready for when she’s allowed to have her hands free!
Diapers: I mentioned we were sent a ton of diapers at the beginning, and in our experience Pampers Swaddlers or Luvs work the best. Luvs have a little more wiggle room, but they’re purple, which is kind of annoying because you can sometimes see them through her clothes. And Pampers are what the hospital uses. I would definitely say steer clear of the Huggies. The second Maya pees, the Huggies smell so strongly of pee! There’s no grace period whatsoever!
Thermometer pacifier: My sister-in-law sent this, along with a whole bunch of amazingly useful things she loved when she had my nephew. It’s positively genius as long as the baby is old enough/willing enough to keep it in for thirty seconds. We got great practice in the NICU at taking Maya’s temperature under her arm since the nurses do it with every bottle, but the pacifier thermometer is way easier.
Clothes: Baby clothes are baby clothes, and people will likely send you tons, so these are just a few things I found helpful.
Wash and dry everything you’re going to keep right away so you know what size it actually shrinks down to. I kept a few things unwashed thinking they were enormous, only to realize they barely fit Maya once they had been laundered.
It’s nearly impossible to predict if your baby is going to spend time in the NICU, but if you think he or she might, or if you’re wandering aimlessly around Target wondering what to buy your brand new adopted daughter who happens to be in the NICU, don’t worry about pants! Maya had several monitors on her foot, so the nurses never bothered with pants or pajamas. They did love putting her in her own little onesies every day, but we never used the pants until she came home.
Carter’s for Target or Walmart make the best newborn socks that actually stay on and feel really cosy. That said, Carter’s terry cloth pajamas are a little scratchy for my liking. And we’ve preferred the zip-up pajamas for ease of changing at night time, instead of the button up ones. But hey, mismatched buttons haven’t kept the kid from sleeping.
I stocked up on plain white onesies in a few sizes because I like layering them under things, even pajamas at night time. They make some with the little mittens built in, which is useful at the beginning unless you have expert NICU nurses to cut your little one’s fingernails!
I’ve decided I’m a hat mom. As in, if there’s the slightest draft, the baby should have a hat on. Poor Maya, she has a full head of hair and almost permanent hat head. It all started because she always had a hat on in the NICU and I wanted her to feel familiar when we brought her home. Now it seems to be a little compulsive. But Old Navy makes great packs of hats that are nice and soft. Come to think of it, Old Navy makes a lot of great, not hideous baby clothes in really nice colours and prints.
For the bath:
We have a little lounger bath from Summer Infants that was hand-me-downed, and it works perfectly fine. I didn’t realize we were going to need baby towels until we went to give her a bath! We grabbed a set of three from Target along with little wash cloths. My parents added this rubber ducky to Maya’s stocking and it tells when the water is too hot! Cute and very clever.
Swing: Once Maya hit the one month mark, she went from snoozy newborn to overstimulated infant. It was so hard to get her to shut off and nap. I was really hoping a swing would help her drift off to sleep, just while she grew out of that phase, but for whatever reason it didn’t. She’s fallen asleep in it about twice, and otherwise just likes to look around at the ceiling fan. My wonderful generous friend who sent the BabyBjorn bouncer also sent the 4Moms Mamaroo, and we do use it during the day for a little down time now. It has a fun little toy that hangs down, and it has built in white noise sounds, so it’s very calming. I bet other babies would knock right out in it!
Carrier: We have an Ergo and a BabyBjorn carrier, both hand-me-downs, and we have yet to use them very much, but Maya only recently got big enough for them. I imagine they’re going to get a lot of use once she breaks free of the Moby wrap!
And that, I think, rounds up the basics of what we’ve used to keep Maya happy and healthy over the last three months. I have a few baby book favorites I’ll share in the next few weeks, but in the meantime, what were your newborn essentials? Or what were the completely useless things you thought you needed and never did?