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Thursday, 24 January 2013

5 Things New Parents Actually Need

I know a few expectant parents right now.  As the time for baby showers draw nearer I thought I would take a moment to talk about some items that I, both as a mother and professional childcare provider, have found to be invaluable. These are the things I would actually make or even spend my hard earned dollars on.

5 Things Parents actually need:

1. Wrap/Sling

Baby wearing is awesome! There are so many benefits, not the least of which that it leaves you hands free. This was one of the only ways I managed to keep the house clean and baby happy when my kids were wee. Pop them in the sling or wrap and I was able to still load the dishwasher or vacuum.
But beware, not all baby wearing devices are created equally. For example, I have found that the Snugli and Baby Bjorn are no good if you plan to wear your baby for more than three minutes at a time. All the weight of your baby- and the carrier- are pressing down into your shoulders and it hurts- a lot!  Also, these devices have your baby sitting squarely against your tummy, without the option to shift them to the side.  Wearing Baby on your tummy is fine for things like walking (if you don't mind the searing pain in your shoulders), but doing things like cleaning or shopping without the ability to bend at your core is very difficult.
I used Little Star Slings for Walter, its a basic pocket sling and one of the most reasonably priced options on the market.  I loved my sling and even got a second (one for home and one for in the diaper bag to always have on the go).  I used my sling until Walter was well over two years old, he found comfort in it and would often fall asleep in it.
When I was expecting Audrey I decided to go the route of the Mobi Wrap.  Although costing more than double the amount of a Little Stars sling, the Mobi Wrap still gets my approval for money well spent.   Its amazing! Because of the way the wrap is tied around the body there are no pressure points and you can wear Baby for hours without being uncomfortable. There are different ways one can tie the wrap to situate Baby against your tummy, hip, or even on your back with additional options of having Baby facing in toward your body or out to observe the world.  Although tying the wrap can look mildly daunting to some I promise its a skill you can master with three attempts.  There are lots of videos on you tube to assist as well if you lost the instruction booklet or if still photos just are not cutting it for you.  The Mobi was so comfortable and well loved by both myself and Audrey that I never needed a stroller for her, marking a savings win for us.

2. Pacifier

Not every baby needs or wants a pacifier. Case in point- my son adored his pacifier and refused to be separated from it until he was 17 months old.  My daughter, however, never took an interest in them at all.
Pacifiers are designed to soothe and pacify Baby, but there is very rarely a need for this to be an expensive endeavor.  (There are some children born with cleft or palette issues for whom a special and much more costly pacifier would be required).  My son was a particular fan of the Wal-Mart Parents Choice brand of pacifier- it was the only kind he would take.  It was a win for me because at under $4 I got two pacifiers in a package and they came with caps to keep them clean while in my purse, pocket or diaper bag.  They came in different sizes for different ages and I even had a choice of some fun colour options. They held up great being washed in the dishwasher a million times and never broke down, swelled or cracked.   If your thinking of including a pacifier with a gift for expectant parents, I highly recommend the Parents Choice brand.

3.Sophie The Giraffe

If you're cheap frugal like me, the cost of this teething toy may shock you.  Or bring tears to your eyes.  At almost ten times the cost of a standard teether it is EXPENSIVE.   But the kids love it.  So much. To be honest I have never met a kid who has not adored Sophie.  If you run her through the dishwasher (as I do for almost every one of our hard surface, non- electronic toys to clean them) her squeaker will stop working after a few times.  But as a mom who does not always celebrate kids making the most noise they are able to make at any given time, this was actually a PLUS for me. :)  After about two years of constant use and washing Sophie's spots will begin to fade.  But she will stay soft, chewable and easy for little hands to grasp. Sophie's neck also fits in most standard pacifier clips, which means you can secure her to Baby or to your wrap, stroller or car seat almost eliminating the possibility of loosing such and expensive and well loved toy.

4. Tag Blankets

These are so easy to make yourself and 100% adored by babies.  Make it yourself, or have someone who can do it for you, if at all possible since the ready made store bought version comes in at several times the cost of materials for this blanket. You can make them as small or as large as you'd like.  I have seen them as small as 12 x 12 inches and as large as a baby quilt.
These are the kinds of comfort item that babies get very attached to very quickly. So if you are making it, have mercy on the new parents and make an identical second blanket so one can be washed.  Or, as I like to do, give what I call a "Pair and a Spare"- one for home, one for in the wash and one for the car/daycare/grandparents house ect.

5. Vibrating Bouncy Chairs

These saved me as a first time mom. Walter was very allergic to our cat (of course we didn't know this at the time) and had some pretty serious eczema as a result.  My poor little guy was itchy and uncomfortable so much of the time.  Needless to say, he was cranky! But that vibrating bouncy chair brought him comfort enough that he could sleep, and I could maintain my precarious hold on my sanity.
The chair we got for Walter was a baby shower gift and ran the gift giver around $30 - such a great value! The one we used for Audrey we got second hand from for $10 and was an even better value.  
There is no need I can see to spend $80 on a chair that will play lullaby classics by modern pop artists to Baby. I am going to touch on this only for a very brief moment here today- but there is NO need to spend $200 on a fancy baby swing.  A vibrating bouncy chair does not swing, I admit. But with bouncing Baby gets  movement which is what Baby is drawing comfort from- not from swinging in particular.

In a few weeks I will share with you some easy tutorials for other baby shower gift ideas for you to DIY. For now, hopefully this short list can help you get the most value from any gift you do decide to invest in.  Happy Thursday, gentle readers!

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