When I leave comments on That Wife, I often begin by saying ”so this is my 2 cents...” That is essentially what this guest posting is all about – my unsolicited bits of advice and knowledge I’ve gained from four years of motherhood (which explains the semi-veteran part. I’m a veteran-in-training. I don’t think you can claim full-veteran-mom status until you’ve endured the teenage years).
Before I fling my advice at you, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Katy and I’m an (almost) 28 year-old mother of two whose married to an Air Force captain. Landon and I met at a junior college in Arizona (where we are both originally from), both transferred to BYU to finish our degrees, and married just before our senior year there. We are currently in Southern California at our second base assignment – Los Angeles AFB.
Before I found That Wife, I was a That Bride reader. I found That Bride the most random way possible – blog hopping. (As anyone else ever used that term or did I invent that?) Basically, I saw a blog of an old acquaintance, clicked on another blog from hers, then to another, then saw That Bride in the blog roll, and was intrigued by the name. I was taken in by her darling wedding plans and our shared beliefs (I’m a member of the LDS church as well), but continued to read because I enjoyed her thoughts and growing portfolio of beatutiful photos.
Since our own union seven years ago, Landon and I have added two boys. Grant is our sweet, funny, 4-year-old who also happens to have Down syndrome. We learned this hours after his birth and though it certainly put us on a roller coaster of emotions at the beginning, I can easily say he has so dramatically changed our life for the better. I could talk for hours and hours about this boy and how he is the best thing that has ever happened to us, but suffice it to say that for every 1 moment of challenge, there are…oh…10,000?…yeah, 10,000 moments of joyful pride, happiness, and laughter. (Does that paint the picture?:) Just nine months ago, Kyle joined our family and we couldn’t be happier. He is our smiley, chunky, eat anything, incredibly chill baby who confirmed an important truth questioned by many mothers awaiting their second child: will I love this child as much as my first? Oh, yes. Every. bit. as. much.
Feel free to check out our blog if you’re ever curious about the life of this military wife and mom of boys who attempts – but never excels – in way too many things.
Okay, thanks for reading the world’s longest introduction. On to the main topic.
Many mothers, as they await the arrival of their first baby, wonder what things to buy. With no previous experience, it’s hard to know what is truly essential, what is just nice to have, and what is fairly useless – used once and then never again. Along with that, sometimes mothers-to-be wonder what is worth spending more money on and what isn’t. That is where I come in! Think of me as that next door neighbor or friend who has opinions to share coupled with a little real-world experience.
Those first days you welcome that baby in your home, you truly only need a few general things – diapers, clothes, access to food (bottle or mom), car seat, and a place to sleep. Some of the additional things I will mention here you may not need for a few months, so there is no pressure to make sure you have everything possible before baby arrives. Also, this is not an all-inclusive list; I’m sure if I had more time I’d come up with a few more gems, but if you asked me on the spot, these are some of the first bits of advice I’d reply back with. Anyway, said in my best ‘Chandler’ voice from Friends: “Could this guest post be any longer?” So feel free to ask any questions – even more than I love to give advice when not asked is giving when I am asked!
Babies grow fast. Crazy fast – especially one like my second that started out an ounce shy of 10 lbs. Don’t go crazy buying clothes in the 0-9 month sizes. Not only for the obvious growing reasons, but also everyone else loves to get you clothes (not the items you tirelessly researched before adding to your registry…). On one hand, if you buy too much, they will outgrow much of it before they’ve had a chance to wear anything, but if you have too little you’ll be washing constantly - you have to strike a delicate balance. If you fear you need more of particular size, buy a few more clothes in a size larger than you need – they tend to shrink and they can just grow into them anyway. This is where finding a nice resale/mother-to-mother store can be helpful (The Children’s Orchard in California is a favorite of mine). I’ve saved a ton of money buying gently-used and still adorable clothing at these places.
In the super early days, it’s nice to have easy-to-dress things because they don’t help too much and those little legs and arms want to scrunch up all the time. In the earlier days they will also have more…um, shall I say ‘explosions‘…keep that in mind as you choose what they will wear. Too many snaps and stuff to figure out will just make life harder.
Two words: stock up. You will go through these like mad. Have a stack in any room you spend time in and those made of terry cloth absorb wonderfully.
Please don’t buy the wipes that you have to scrape with your fingernail to remove a sheet (do they even still make those?). Get the ones that ‘pop up’ one at a time. I know it’s a little thing, but when you’re in the middle of the world’s worst diaper situation, you’ll thank me.
And wipes warmers? Fairly silly if you ask me. One of those products that sound nice but you won’t use it but a few times. Besides, we didn’t have perfectly warmed wipes used on our hineys and we turned out just fine.
Of all the bathing stuff out there (and I’ve used quite a bit of it at one time or another), my favorite is this simple little thing: the Munchkin Foam Bath Cradle.
It can be used in a large sink for cushion, but I used it the bath tub even when they were really small. In that itty-bitty baby stage, I just filled the tub with enough water to mostly cover the cradle (as they got older and bigger I could add a bit more water). While lying on their back, they could still safely splash around and feel secure while I did what I needed to do. Then as baby starts to sit up on their own, they can sit atop this foam cushion to give them more stabilty.
Love the cost (under $10), the relatively small size (compared to those massive plastic bathers that were a pain to keep around), and the fact that I can just throw it out when baby doesn’t need it anymore (I’m in love with anything that doesn’t clutter up my life). For the almost-sitter, some of my friends also love tubside bath seats like this one.
“Pack n’ Play” / Bassinets
Many of those Graco Pack n’ Plays come with bassinets (as do the other similar brands). First, I highly reccommend the Graco brand. I’ve found them to be the easiest to set up and collapse compared to other brands. I dreaded setting up the other ones I’ve tried and I didn’t care for their bassinet features either. If you get this type of sleeping arrangement – either in the early days or for traveling when they get older, get the simpler version. The bigger, more expensive, everything-but-the-kitchen sink versions take up a ton of room and are harder to travel with. Most of the time when it comes to what baby stuff you choose – simpler is better. Repeat it to yourself. Make it your mantra.
Was that confusing? Don’t go with a cheaper brand – get a Graco – but don’t buy the most expensive Graco version either (the main section & bassinet are all you’ll really use).
There are a dozen different car seat configurations and systems. More important than what you buy and how much you spend, is how well it is installed and used. I’m a pretty laid-back mom – I don’t boil our pacifers everyday or hover over their every move like a helicopter mom - but when it comes to car seat safety, I don’t mess around. Read the manual, visit a highway patrol station, or ask a reliable mommy friend – but make sure you are using it correctly.
The number one thing I see tons of parents doing wrong is placing that little chest clip too low - it should be level with baby’s armpits. Should you- heaven forbid – be in a collision (especially a rear-end collision), having that little chest clip up near the armpits is essential. With enough force, the baby can be pushed up and out of the carseat if that little clip is too low. What that clip does is hold the sholder-part of the straps close together – in a collision, that clip may break (that’s okay), but it fulfills it’s purpose by keeping the shoulder straps close together and your little one from coming out the top. If can’t tell, I’m a tad passionate about this (maybe the word you’re thinking of is obsessive?). Many moms like to put those cute covers on the straps so they don’t bother their little schnookums neck - that’s fine, but don’t let those strap covers interfere with the clip being in it’s proper place (level with the armpits remember?).
And, please don’t turn around your rear-facing carrier seat (the one with the handle) to make it forward facing. The rear-facing ones are specifically designed to absorb and handle impacts when put in the rear-facing position only (and if your baby is young and small enough to still be in a baby carrier, they are not physically ready to be turned around either). The only time this is permissable is when you have a convertible car seat (one that is designed to be used rear facing first and then can convert to the forward-facing position -these types stay in the vehicle). Just be sure to read the manual and other car seat saftey sites to know when to turn it around for your child.
When they are in the baby carrier stage, most all brands of car seats are fine. Besides, in my experience, they aren’t in these types of removable, carrier car seats as long as they will be in the bigger, forward facing types that remain in the car (generally no sooner than a year and 20 pounds). And as I said before, the most important factor is how you use it: buying the most expensive, high-safety-rated car seat doesn’t excuse one from not learning proper use and installation.
That said, for the forward-facing and/or convertible style of car seats, this is where I think it’s worth spending a little more money. I love our Britax car seat (we have a Roundabout). They are often more money – sometimes even twice as much – but do have excellent safety ratings, are very well made, and just are heck a lot more comfortable for the kiddo. For the amount of time your child will be in it as they grow and especially for those longer car rides, they are much more fittingly padded and comfortable.
*this is a good time to note that I’m in no way getting paid to reccomend any of these brands in this post. I wish, but no.
I just got through talking about how great it is to have a more cushy car seat, but that’s not so true when it comes to high chairs. It’s easy to be taken in by those plush, Cadillac-style high chairs displayed at the store, but - in this case - I highly suggest going for a simpler, pared down version. Really, baby just has to sit there and eat – nothing fancy. With all that extra fabric and nooks & crannies come a lot more cleaning. Babies learning to eat (and even the experienced ones) make a HUGE mess. You’ll wonder how it’s even physically possible. And guess who gets to clean up all those little nooks and crannies after every meal? Point to yourself.
It’s quite difficult to find a simple high chair these days. They all now seem to come with more features than my first car. I really like our good ‘ol Ikea Antilop high chair.
Bare-bones simple – - now that’s what I’m talking about! Whether or not you decide to go this simple, try your best to repeat the earlier mantra to yourself as you’re choosing a high chair.
I’m sure there are some beneficial differences between the way-high-priced $800ish strollers and those for around $100-200. But at the end of the day, they all have wheels and move in a forwardly direction when pushed. I don’t think it’s worth shelling out major big bucks for those differences, especially given the relatively short time strollers are used – but hey, it’s your money, not mine. Craigslist is an amazing resource for used baby equipment like strollers, so if your tastes lean toward the more expensive, look into buying gently used.
The biggest complaint about strollers that moms often have is the weight and size of the thing – and they don’t realize how it will impact them until after baby comes. Actually test the stroller over and over – see how easy it is to fold up, stow, and whether or not you want to do that 13 million times with that particular model. For lighter weight and size issues, I like the Metrolite line from Graco and Maclaren (especially love Maclaren for double strollers).
Where I do think it’s good to put more money and/or thought into your stroller purchase is when looking for a jogging stroller. If you plan to go on daily, “exercise” type walks (or actually jog!), jogging strollers are a must - way easier to push and are much more sturdy. If you had to choose which type of stroller is worth spending more on, I’d say the jogging stroller. We actually have two strollers now - the Maclaren that is lighterweight, easier to take in & out, and always remains in the car, and the jogging stroller that stays at home for those long walks and local excursions (both purchased for a great deal thanks to my beloved Craigslist).
A good jogging stroller makes those long walks much more enjoyable (and more likely that you’ll continue!). I didn’t get one until we needed the double version for two children – we have an Instep that I’m very happy with – it pushes like a dream! BOB strollers are also very popular and well-made.
This is an item I became extremely knowledgeable about with my firstborn. Grant was unable to eat by mouth for quite some time (mostly because of a problem he had surgically repaired when he was born – it’s kind of long story, detailed here if you’re interested) and had to be fed partly by gastronomy tube (g-tube) for a little more than 2 years. I began pumping very early on and continued through the rest of his first year – so yeah – I know a thing or two about pumping.
I can’t recommend a pump for the occasional, once-in-awhile use. I’ve never used or even bothered looking into those for my situation. There are manual and electric versions – either one would probably work for the occasional pumper. However, if you plan – for whatever reason – to pump more than a few times a week or daily, you simply must spend some bigger bucks and get the Medela Pump-in-Style.
I used mine around 5-6 times a day for a year and it held up superbly. It got additional use with my second child. Though not needed as intensely this time around, I still appreciated the fact that I knew it would be reliable and efficient. It comes in either backpack or bag form, and I could talk more about the specific features, but really – just ask anyone you know that pumps frequently and I’d almost bet that all of them would recommend the Pump-in-Style (advanced or original, even the Freestyle I hear is great). It’s popular for a reason and one of the few times where spending more for the brand name is completly worth it.
* * *
I’m sure there are other things I’d remember to share with you if you really were my neighbor. And if that were true I’d also be attending your baby shower and anxiously awaiting news of your baby’s arrival so I could get a meal ready to bring to you (I make a mean casserole!).
But in closing, I’ll impart one last piece of advice: Relax. I’m not going to say “take naps when the baby takes naps” because that doesn’t actually happen in real life (if it does, it only works with the first baby anyway!). What I mean is this: try to take it easy, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t expect to accomplish everything you desire right away or “be everything to everyone.” Relax mentally as well. You’ll figure out this mothering thing and do just fine. Don’t worry when the baby down the street is already crawling and yours is still content to just play on his belly. Babies are notorious for doing things when they darn well please – all you need to do is provide the opportunity and encouragement and they will develop along the milestones as they desire and are able.
Most of all, hug those little bodies, kiss those sweet baby cheeks, and realize the time they spend little is breathtakingly short. It’s gone before you have a chance to truly appreciate it, so amidst the chaos that is raising a child, take time to just be in love.