Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Griner's guide to useful newborn swag

I've been meaning to blog about the stuff that really paid off during our first few weeks of parenthood. So here goes. Hopefully it will prove to be of use to future first-timers like us.

Vital: Swaddling blankets, regular and velcro.

Babies either love or hate swaddling. You'll know pretty quick. Ours is a lover. When she's fussy, nothing beats a tight swaddle. I think it's been the single biggest factor in Allison sleeping exceptionally well each night. (We usually have to wake her for the 2 a.m. feeding.)

There are tons of diagrams and videos out there to teach you swaddling, but I recommend asking the nurse or pediatrician once your newborn is actually out. Ask about "double swaddling" with two blankets. It can't be beat.

There are velcro swaddling blankets/sacks that are nice and highly recommended, but they'll never be as tight as a fine hand-rolled baby cigar. Remember, no swaddle is too tight, but it CAN be too loose (which poses a smother hazard).

Vital: Mylicon (but go dye-free and generic)

We call this anti-gas medicine "liquid diamonds," not so much because of its value as the fact that it only comes in teeny tiny bottles that last about two days. Honestly, I have no idea how effective it is, but gas is a huge problem for newborns, and our doctor said it's safe to give the baby Mylicon with every meal (and double at the last feeding of the night).

Try to find the generic version, and definitely get "dye-free." Otherwise, you'll be paying a lot and enjoying pink stains on everything you own.

Vital: Lots of pacifiers.

Just get a bunch. More than you think you'll need. Ditto for bottles, but we'll get to that.

Great: Diaper Champ

Simple design, and slightly less eco-disastrous than the Diaper Genie (which wraps each diaper in its own sack). As far as turd buckets go, I've been very happy with this one.

Great: Crib-side entertainment

Ours is a battery-powered jungle scene that lights up and plays music when you hit the button. (Amazon tells me it's called a "Fisher-Price Rainforest Peek-A-Boo Waterfall Soother." Vomit.)

It only runs for a few minutes, which is usually enough to knock the kid out. And I have to say, the music really doesn't bother me ... even after dozens of listens.

Great: A bassinet/cradle

We have a small house, but it's still been nice having the small cradle/bassinet that my dad built way back in history for my oldest sister. It has since held just about every baby in my family, and there's nothing better for easy baby stationing outside the nursery. As you can see in the picture, we even pimped ours out with an undercarriage black light. Just kidding. You'll only get to enjoy that upgrade if your baby has "teh jaundice."

That said, the kid doesn't really move around, so a laundry basket or dresser drawer (removed from the dresser, please) will do just fine.

Great: Dr. Brown's bottles (but hand-wash em)

If you're going bottle, this is the way to go. Easy to use and vaguely easy to clean.

Big caveat: Their clear bottles have been found to leach BPA, pleasantly described as "a hormone-disrupting chemical" that's been linked to premature puberty and cancer in lab animals. We had already bought ours when that study came out, so we're just careful about hand-washing the bottles themselves and using the dishwasher for the nipples and such.

There's supposedly a non-BPA model coming out, and there's also glass bottles if you don't mind the potential of your baby smashing it on the side of the crib and starting a bar brawl. (Karen has an awesome scar on her knee that has generally prevented us from seriously considering glass.)

Debatably great: Video monitor

Karen loves this thing because it provides immediate release for new-mom paranoid fears like "is my immobile baby still in the crib?" or "has someone replaced my baby with a big jar of Folgers crystals?"

I like that the monitor helps Karen relax, but I find it to be pretty pointless. Our house is very small, and I can hear Allison just fine from anywhere short of the backyard utility easement. Of course, if you have one of them fancy big houses with multiple floors and walls that actually inhibit sound, you'll probably want a video monitor.

Downside: You'll inevitably have nightmares about seeing zombies in the monitor. Or, if you click on the image above, you will now.

My favorite/most useful books: Happiest Baby on the Block, On Becoming BabyWise and Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads.

We read quite a few books. You'll likely end up with most of the standards, but be sure to pick up the three I listed above. Happiest Baby teaches you how to calm a screaming kid. BabyWise teaches you a very successful sleep/eat schedule. Be Prepared is mostly just entertaining for dads, but it has some tremendously helpful advice (like the fact that it's OK to feel no emotional connection whatsoever when you're staring at your newborn).

Well, I hope all that helps someone out there. Maybe I'll do an update in a few months when I figure out what's worthwhile for toddlers. Oh, and of course you should all feel free to post your own findings and suggestions in the comments section.


Toad said...

Nice post Griner-san.

Some further thoughts from one who's BTDT a few times.

1. BOTTLES: Best move ever is to get those 4 oz jars of Similac you get in the hospital. I think we ordered them online by the caseload. At 4AM, you just unscrew the cap, pop on a nipple and you're good to go. No need to refrigerate the formula or clean the bottle. Can keep these right in the baby's room so you're good to go.

2. BABY NURSES: This may just be a NY thing, but we had a baby nurse for the first and it made a world of difference. Not one of these new age doulas. An old-school baby nurse who showed us how to swaddle, clean, rocked the baby to sleep at night so we got some sleep. She helped us set up the nursery, figure out how to use some of the equipment, etc. We had her the first 2 or 3 weeks, if I remember correctly.

STROLLERS: This is a bigger issue in urban areas than suburban ones. The Bugaboo is the stroller of choice for the BoBo parent, but costs close to $1000. (Fortunately came out after my kids were born) There are a bunch of similar models, some of which cost a bit less. Main feature on all is that they are easy to push and baby can lie down flat to sleep. Now after you've spent a small fortune on this, you get hit with the fact that by the time the rugrat is about a year, year and a half, they have outgrown this stroller- not physically, mind you, but functionally. Now that they're walking, you need a MacLaren Techno or similar portable stroller that easily folds up when you enter restaurants, buses, cars, etc. Claim is you can fold it with one hand, but not a skill I've ever seen anyone master. Still, much lighter than others.

BOOKS: Get Vicky Iovine's "Girlfriends Guide" series. She's the only one who tells it like it really is, warts and all. You will feel better after reading it and realize that you are not the only one who is clueless. She pisses off some of the sancti-parent crowd, but if you're reading Griner's blog, you have enough of a sense of humor to appreciate her.

NIGHTGOWNS: Even if it's a boy, he's not going to notice and makes changing diapers at 3 AM much easier than pajamas, which you can introduce at say 4 months, when you've got things down a bit. Italian pajamas (my mother's idea of an ideal baby gift) while no doubt chic, seem to be made for babies whose diapers never need changing- they open and close from the back and while that creates a "cleaner line" it also makes it nigh unto impossible to insert a baby into them. Save for photo ops.

Hope this helps.

Stacy said...

Oh nos! You brought my nightmare to life! Zombie in the monitor is just as scary as I imagined. Just wait for the day when your baby grabs the camera off the railing and trys to eat it. Waking up to jaws in the monitor was disconcerting to say the least.

Toad, I couldn't agree more about the back fastening pajamas. They are parent torture devises (and babies sleep on their back so it has to be less comfortable for them!) I'm convinced my mother-in-law was trying to test me.

The only thing I would add is sheet savers. Changing a crib sheet (especially if there are bumpers) is right up there with tearing out my hair

Griner said...

Thanks for the thoughts, Toad and Tater.

I also meant to add something, but I don't know what it's called. Those small pads that have waterproof bottoms. You put them on your changing pad, but on top of the changing pad cover.

See why I'm confused? Anyway, it's a hell of a lot easier to wash the small pads than the big ones.

Damn, now I'm even confused.

30 Minute Mommy said...

Great post! I couldn't agree with you more. I have never heard od the double swaddle and I am a big time swaddler. I am starting a blog roll for swaddling parents- drop me a comment if you would like to be on the list.

Andrea said...

Glad some of the books came in handy! I would agree that the swaddle is key.
Also, our baby was extremely gassy, so we went to the doctor and they gave us a prescription for these "magic drops." I think they were called Levison, but they are just souped up mylicon. So, if you have a very irritable, gassy baby, you should ask your doctor.
I know you are not quite there yet, but you will probably love a bouncy seat. It vibrates, which helps with the gas, and also entertains baby. This is a lifesaver if you need to take a shower and you are by yourself. You can stick the baby in the bathroom and strap them into the bouncy seat and, viola!
The bumbo baby seat will also be big once the baby is about 5 or 6 months old.

Good luck and enjoy it ... it goes by so fast!


vo0do0chile said...

I am not familiar with the "italian pajamas", but if it ain't snap crotch it don't belong on a kid who don't wear shoes. Elastic waist pants/shorts that you can pull down are acceptable if the kid can keep on real shoes. The reason the shoes are important is that if the kid doesn't have shoes on, the pants WILL come off in the process of changing unless you have the magic kind of baby that never kicks or wiggles it's legs.
I've had parents who thought they found clever things and sent their kids in button crotch and zip crotch outfits, but those are as big a pain in the ass (sometimes bigger) as one piecers and the like.