Reflections of a First Time Mom

As I warmed up Austin's bottle this morning, I was thinking of how thankful I was for my bottle warmer. It's a really good one, in my opinion, and I thought, I should share this with people, so they know how awesome it is. And that led me to thinking, I should also tell people about some of the things that we bought that worked great for us, and some that we didn't end up using so much. And I was remembering how crazy stressed I was before Austin was born about what I needed to be ready for his arrival and how I hit up a bunch of my good friends for advice and then thought, well, why not make this a blog post.

This will get pretty long, so I'm going to put it under a jump. Also, while I am noting what worked for US, I realize these things may/will not work for everyone. I just wanted to share my experience and hopefully offer some tips. Also some reflections on things I wish I'd done. This isn't just product-related, either. And it may not be in logical order ;)


When I went to start my baby registries, I immediately felt lost and overwhelmed. I took a peak at high chairs and there were something like 95 different ones on the store website. I emailed some friends who'd recently had babies (thanks Mama Castner and The Sarah Lady and a few others) and demanded they tell me what exactly I'd need for the baby. They played along, like the good sports they are, and sent me their own lists of what they thought I'd need as well as what they needed.  I was so thankful for this - I'd done a lot of googling and couldn't find a really good, down to earth listing of what was needed online. Most of what I'd found were lists by the big baby stores done up to make you spend more money in their store.

Here are some of the things I found most useful, and not so useful (and this is not an all-encompassing list of what you need for baby - I just want to make note of things that actually made a difference to us):

Bottle warmer - going to start with this one since I've already mentioned it. I'm a formula feeder, and we make up enough bottles for a day ahead of time, so a bottle warmer is a must. We bought the First Years Night and Day Bottle Warmer and I cannot rave enough about it. Early on, when Austin was waking up twice a night for feedings, it was a major help to be able to keep the warmer in his room, and bring up two bottles at night to keep cool in the back of the unit. We'd fill up the little reservoirs with the right amount of water, and in the middle of the night it was a piece of cake to warm up that bottle and give it to him in his room, without having to go downstairs, get it out of the fridge, and warm it up down there. I'll tell you, I realized how much I loved this thing when our power went out and we had to heat the bottles up on the stove in boiling water. By the way, I love Dr. Brown's bottles. They don't seem to give him much gas (he only burps once after a bottle). I tried a couple of others (a freebie, and glass one) and didn't care for them as much. Also, don't bother with buying 4 ounce bottles - buy only 8 ounce sized. We didn't use the 4 ounces beyond a couple of weeks, it's better to save your money and only get the larger size. We have 12 bottles, so if needed we can avoid doing dishes on a given day.

Receiving blankets - this one is important, I think. The hospital receiving blankets rock. Why? Because they are HUGE. Every receiving blanket I got at my shower from brands like Carter's were just too small for swaddling. Good for maybe wrapping baby up in occasionally but not practical for sleep time. The best receiving blankets I got were from my Mother in Law. She made us 8 blankets, and they were extra large and swaddled Austin for several months. The size is key to keeping the swaddle tight while the baby sleeps. If you can sew, I'd suggest making your own, much larger than the regular store bought ones.

Diapers - I've tried Huggies, Pampers, and Pampers Swaddlers, and I like the Swaddlers the best. They have a yellow line that tells you when the baby is wet (helps to avoid diaper rash, I think, because you don't leave them in a wet diaper too long), and they're soft and fit really well. The Huggies felt really hard/papery to me, and I have to say the same for the regular Pampers.

Baby Swing - this is a "skip it" in my opinion. (or get a used one). I loved the swing Ali bought us for my shower. But we didn't end up using it beyond a couple of weeks after he was born. He never cared for it. After a couple of months he'd cry if we tried to put him in it. They're just so expensive, if you're paying for things yourself, this is one I'd avoid spending money on. He much preferred the next item on my list:

Fisher Price Rock & Play Sleeper - this one was recommended by The Sarah Lady and I'm so glad she did. This avoided us needing a bouncer, and it's nice because you can rock it with your hands or feet. Austin fell asleep in this a lot. We'd sometimes sit him in it to watch a little Sesame Street (yes, we do let him watch TV on occasion - I love TV, why shouldn't he? :) ). We used it for months, finally putting it away when he started trying to pull himself out of it (which I'd say was around 7 months?). We'd bring it back and forth to my mom's house every day, too, because she'd put him in it during the day as well.

Bedding Set - another "skip it." Even though I too, was wrapped up in wanting a cute nursery and thought that I just had to have a cute bedding set, it's just not practical, and I have huge buyer's remorse. We spent something like $180 on a not-very-fancy-but-cute complete bedding set (the sheet, comforter, diaper holder, valence, bumpers, and bed skirt, plus a separate matching mobile) and after those first "look at our nursery" photos, had to put the bumpers away. They're not really safe for the babies to have in the crib, and I hear even later on, they can use them to pull themselves up (and possibly out) of the crib, so they're kind of useless. We bought a separate bumper, the breathable bumper, and that's been in the crib since day one. He's also never used the comforter, and the bed skirt is not necessary. You need more than one sheet if you don't want to be doing laundry all the time, so it's more practical to buy the sheets and items you need separately. It'll save you money.

Flea Markets - honestly, best place to get baby toys. You'll only pay a buck or two, go home and give them a good scrubbing with some Clorox wipes, and you've got yourself toys that would normally cost $10-$30 each on the cheap. I scored one of those alphabet puzzle floor mats for just $5 at the flea market this year, and having hardwood floors, it's been a saving grace. We put it inside his hexagon play area and it pads the floor in case he falls.  New, those things are around $80. I've also gotten a Bumbo at a yard sale for $12, less than 1/3 of a new one.

Baby care stuff:

Let baby sleep in his/her own room right from the start - I wish I'd done this. I was so worried about SIDS I couldn't stand the idea of putting him in his own room right away. We had him sleep next to us in a pack and play bassinet for the first month. Until I got some much-needed advise from the nurse at my pediatrician's office, that we should move him to his crib. None of us were getting much sleep with him in my room. Our sounds would awaken him, his sound would keep us awake. My need to look over at him and make sure he was breathing would keep me awake. He only had a couple of feedings a night but I was getting NO sleep. The night we moved him into his own room and turned the monitor sound to the lowest setting, all three of us started sleeping better. Now, I wasn't breastfeeding, so it might be more beneficial to your sleep if you are breastfeeding to have the baby in your room, I don't really know. 

The first couple of weeks - alternate shifts with your spouse, if you have that luxury. Brad had two weeks off when Austin was first born, so we could care for him together that first few weeks. Neither of us slept the first night home from the hospital - one of us would get up and the other would get up too. After that first night, we swapped to four hour shifts and that allowed us to get some sleep without worrying about the baby. I'd go up and sleep for four hours while Brad stayed awake with Austin, and then he'd go sleep for four hours while I stayed awake. We only had to do this for maybe a week or so before Austin started sleeping more regularly and went to his two feedings a night routine but it dramatically helped both of us out to do it that way.

Diaper bag - I keep mine in the car. I haven't used it as much as I thought I would because generally we're not out long enough to need stuff in it, but it does come in handy sometimes. Here's what I put in mine: diapers & wipes, a changing pad, small trash bags (just get the cheapies from the grocery store, no fancy trash bag dispenser is needed), a change of clothes and a pair of pjs, a toy, and an extra binkie. I also leave his medical vaccine record book in there because I use my diaper bag most often when going to the pediatrician appointments, since you strip the baby and I usually put him in a clean diaper. On occasion I've kept a package of boogie wipes in it. Sometimes a blanket, if it's cold or I think he'll need to lay on the floor (when he was younger and wasn't mobile). And then sometimes I've put in a few of the travel ready-made formula bottles.

Photos/Videos - one thing I wish I'd done is document my pregnancy better. I really only took the standard bi-weekly belly photos. I wish I'd done it every week, side view and front view, and documented more of what I was feeling. Like how the girl from The Art of Making a Baby does. I love her weekly posts, and I wish I'd done something like that. I guess I was too busy focusing on being sick and miserable to do it. I am actually strongly considering going back and documenting my pregnancy Project Life-style. I can look at old blog posts and use my weekly photos to do it. One thing I do that I encourage others to do, is videotape your baby, starting as soon as he/she is born. I love looking back on videos I took of Austin when he was just a few days and weeks old. It's amazing to look back at the transition. That's something I don't have of me when I was a baby, so it's all that much more important for me to capture Austin this way. Pretty much everyone has video capability on their phone now, and that's what I use to take most of my videos. I don't think I've even used the video option on my new camera yet.

The hospital:

What to bring - this is what I used while in the hospital - camera, laptop (I was there for 6 days check-in to check-out), maternity sweatpants, comfy tshirts & nightgowns, toiletries. My hospital provided underwear, non-slip socks, and pads. They did NOT provide breast pads though, so if you're not breast feeding you might want to bring those. I had to resort to putting washcloths into my bra, and I soaked through those really quickly. I brought cards and my ipad and other clothes and things that I just never ended up using. I thought I'd want the games to help pass the time during my induction but everything rolled along so quickly and there were plenty of questions to answer and things to eat and tv to watch in the hospital that I never even opened them up. For the baby, bring a going home outfit (two, in two different sizes, in case the baby is bigger/smaller than you expected) and a carseat. If it's winter, bring one of those bundle me things for the carseat to keep him/her warm on the ride home. The hospital will provide you with everything you need while the baby is there, and plenty of goodies to take home with you.

Once the baby is born - I wish I'd taken some time to have it just be me and Brad. I called my mom right away, because that's what I do, and Brad's parents and my dad and stepmom, and I had visitors before I'd even left labor & delivery. Grandparents are excited, yes, but I should have taken a few hours to have it just be us before allowing visitors. I missed that family time with the three of us.

What to take home - if your hospital allows it, take everything you can. Take the underwear (it's a meshy, disposable kind and it was the only thing comfortable for me the first two weeks after my c-section). Take the pads, take the baby wipes and as much formula as you can (one of our nurses was amazing and snuck us an entire CASE of the ready made bottles to take home). Take a bunch of the pacifiers they give you in the hospital (if you are going to use pacifiers). Take the thermometer and the suction thing from the bassinet. Don't forget to grab the little piece of paper on the bassinet that has your baby's name and birth information too! It's great for his/her scrapbook. Oh, and before you leave, have the nurses show you anything you need - how to dress the baby, how to wash them, how to swaddle. Get as much information as you can. They are there to help you. At first I felt like I should already know what I'm doing but the second or third night with Austin I realized I had questions so I pulled aside a nurse and asked away).

A note on pain medication - if you have a c-section, they'll give you pain meds. My hospital really pushed Percocet on me (alternated with Motrin). The Percocet made me really sick, and I didn't want to take it. I finally stuck up for myself and asked to switch to extra strength Tylenol, and that made a huge difference in how I was feeling. Don't be afraid to speak up!

I'm sure there's more to say, and I expect to update this post for anyone in the future who stumbles upon it, but I've spent enough time typing this up today :) I hope it was a little helpful. Again, this is just what worked for US, and I recognize that every baby and family is different and things we did might not work for others. I'm just hoping to give some tips based on our experience.

Oh, if anyone has more helpful tips please feel free to comment!


  1. I actually just sent my friend Emily a list of stuff I loved. The Rock and Play was number 1 on that list! My friends daughter slept in Evangeline's every night until fairly recently even. Godsend.

  2. @SarahBeth - definitely! Austin loved his :) And it was really handy, too, to have him sit in while we prepared dinner and stuff before he could sit up on his own.

  3. This is extremely helpful - I'm going to bookmark this so I can refer back to it when I'm buying things for baby showers. I think you should also create a ListMania list on Amazon, like this one: I love looking at ListMania for gift ideas!

  4. This is extremely helpful - I'm going to bookmark this so I can refer back to it when I'm buying things for baby showers. I think you should also create a ListMania list on Amazon, like this one: I love looking at ListMania for gift ideas!