A little bit of advice from a two-time mom and family photographer who has seen a lot
“The most important thing to get for your baby is not a Rock n' Play, nor a good set of swaddling blankets, nor a high-end stroller. The most important thing to get for your baby is a village. Your village will keep you afloat. They will carry you when you are tired, feed you when you are starving, forgive you when you are unkempt and hours late and a neglectful friend who can't remember to wear socks let alone whose birthday it is. They will love your baby when you are too tired or frustrated to hold her at the moment because you are imperfect and human and have imperfect and human failings. They will remind you who you are when you start to think your whole life is only about poop. They will lift you up.”
(10 True Things About the First Year of Parenthood, Karyn Thurston)
First off, I highly recommend reading the article above in full for some really important practical-life information about what the first year of parenthood can be like for many of us in the West. I have also had a number of people thank me for sharing some of the physical things that I thought to be helpful in the first year of parenthood. Although there are ALWAYS new toys and gadgets out there, I figured I would at least share with you by category some things that I thought would be helpful that you can use to fill out your baby shower registry if that's helpful. Please please feel free to leave comments about things you also thought were helpful or other tips and tricks that worked for you. Enjoy!
Tip #1: Make sure to keep an organized place for your gift receipts so that you can use things as you need them and return whatever you don’t find helpful. It’s good to wait a little bit though, as you never know your parenting style until the day actually comes.
Tip #2: If you have one, your Flex Spending Account often covers lots of things for mom and baby. This counts even for the time that you are pregnant! If you have savings at the end of the year that don't roll over or you are wrapping up work, make sure to spend those resources on that nice pump, Vitamin D drops, bottles, baby healthcare items, breastmilk storage, and the like!
Tip #3: Register at multiple places and not just Amazon. Make sure you know who your primary audience is and make sure to register for a physical store that's in their area. People want to bring actual items to a baby shower (especially older generations) and navigating technology can be tough for some. This is another reason why saving gift receipts can be helpful as sometimes stores make mistakes and people purchase multiple of the same thing. You will also want to take advantage of the free registry gifts that Amazon and Target have. There are some great coupons and nice items in there!
Tip #4: Be prepared with post-partum supplies. Here is a list of things that I found to be helpful after having two natural vaginal births with minor complications each time.
Postpartum Supplies for Mom
TO TAKE TO THE HOSPITAL
Bottom Spray -Used every time I went to the bathroom for almost a month
Smoothies/Berries to help with digestion
Nice Depends -these are MUCH better than the hospital underwear. I LOVED this particular brand, but could only find small quantities of it at Target. You can also put pads and ice packs inside of them. The nurses were super impressed, ha. I would get two boxes, and if your birth turns out different than expected, you can always return them (gift receipts, woot)?!
All Cotton Undies- these are essential as you will be wearing large pads for a while. These granny pants are comfortable, cotton (helps prevent infections), and help hold things in as your uterus shrinks back to normal.
A nice black robe that has pockets (this is perfect to dress up when people visit you in the hospital, if you do a Fresh 48 session, or have visitors early on at your home).
Sitz Bath- You will need one most likely if you don’t have one. Especially if you get stitches. Sometimes your hospital will provide you with one. This is something you can ask on your tour.
Bath Herbs for Sitz Bath- This was really nice to do once a week
Chia Seeds and blueberries to put in smoothies, yogurt, or anything. They are great for postpartum regulation. Don’t use a stool softener (although your doctor may prescribe you. one). This is much better and won't cause you to go in the opposite direction.
Tip #5: Check out the number of Apps there are for nursing and ask friends who seem to have a similar disposition what worked for them. There are lots of different personality types out there, but I found it helpful to have technology help me when I was running on very little sleep. I couldn't remember how many wet or poopy diapers I changed, how long I nursed, or from what side without my app. It helped me record these things and then served as a great resource for future feedings, baby's care, and for future lactation and baby visits. Note: I previously used the Glo Baby App, but who knows what's out there NOW?!
Tip #6: Have no shame in registering for breastfeeding gear if this is the direction you would like to go. You never know what your birth story or lactation story may be like, but it's nice to have the gear just in case.
Two Hakkas. You will often be switching them out, so it's nice to have two AND to have lids. You can check out this video for some awesome "hacks" if you don't have the suction bottom to prevent spills (like keeping a mug to put it in by your nursing station).
Milk Storage Bags. These are awesome. It’s nice to have a storage bag organizer for the freezer too. The one listed below was helpful to quickly freeze the milk you put in (since it has a metal tray), and then store for later use.
3-in-one Breast Therapy These are helpful to assist with pumping/letting down, and also if you have any infections or pains. If you end up getting mastitis, thrust, or the like, these are essential.
Soothies for when you have more pain and want instant relief. These are amazing, but only last 72 hours. If you end up getting mastitis, thrust, or the like, these are also essential.
Disposable Breast Pads (you will want to change these frequently at first)
(reusable breast pads) are great for later on when you’re more established.
My Breast Friend pillow (way better than other nursing pillows I think, and very helpful for newborns, as they go higher)
Vitamin D drops for baby (needed for all breastfed babies)
Hands-free pumping bra, this is super helpful to be able to pump and fold laundry or whatever
Soft nursing bras you can wear while sleeping (note, don't purchase these until a month or so in as your size with change all over the place until your body and baby establish a sort of rhythm)
Cover for nursing - These sort of covers are big, provides great coverage, and allows me to see the baby and thus re-adjust. I also JUST got this one, now that we are a little more established. Think it will be helpful/give more coverage. I can let you know how it goes if you’re interested.
A lactation massager. This can be helpful to help you let-down if you have trouble with this. This was helpful for me later in my breastfeeding stage when I was looking to get EVERY drop of milk I could (nursed my kids to about 18 months).
Mother’s Milk Tea - Note: if you have a nut-allergy, see if this actually makes you feel off. Some people say that fenugreek is in the peanut family and you should be cautious of.
A Postnatal Probiotic can be super helpful for avoiding things like thrush. This also helps keep your gut healthy as you work through so many chemical changes in your body.
Tip #7: If you are indeed hoping to breastfeed register for a new fun water bottle you will use AND some of your favorite healthy snacks (and then hide them from yourself until it's time, hehe). You can't believe it until it happens to you, but you get HUNGRY and SUPER THURSTY (way more than when you were pregnant)!! You need to keep up your healthy calories and drink LOTS of water, so have your friends get you some yummy snacks that they can easily add to your baby shower gifts.
Tip #8: Know what are the essential non-gendered baby accessories. Here is a list of things that I thought were particularly helpful:
A wipe dispenser that actually works - this is very helpful (especially with the Water Wipes listed below)
Gentle Water Wipes to use while they are tiny and also when they get a bum rash so it doesn’t sting.
Bum brush - This helps to prevent and to clear up diaper rashes (can sanitize in boiling water or if you're brave...the dishwasher). This makes it so much easier to apply the cream. Your hands stay clean and you get good coverage. It's nice to have both sizes for home and travel use.
A & D Cream (Prevent) - We use this at night once she sleeps for longer stretches (6 weeks and on for us) so that we don’t have to wake her up to change her in the night
Changing pad liner (These are easy to clean and soft. Easier to quickly switch to a new one, vs. a whole changing pad cover)
Dekor diaper pail (awesome, and can be used for both regular and cloth diapers)
The Windi can be helpful for helping a baby to pass gas or have a bowel movement. It has a similar sort of effect if you take the baby's temperature rectally sometimes.
Pacifier wipes are nice to have in the diaper bag for when you're out and about and the pacifier falls, gets touched by a cousin, etc.
Baby nail file (after you clip the baby's nails, they are quite rough and scratch the baby ever more often. This keeps them soft).
One baby towel with hood, and multiple baby washcloths (seriously, baby wash cloths are good for everyone...especially mom a bit after postpartum).
High capacity bottle drying rack - don’t get the grass, this is way better
Baby monitors: We like this one for the easy setup, lack of wifi needed, large monitor, and clarity.
Black and whiteboard book that unfolds -this is a hit from the very beginning
Lots of muslin swaddles/blankets - we have tons, and we literally use them for everything - swaddles, burp cloths, blankets, nursing covers, stroller covers, etc
Flat bassinet - This is a personal preference. We had the Arms Rest co-sleeper that was the perfect height to go right next to our bed, and we brought it near the couch, the kitchen, in front of the bathroom, etc, too. wheels that we can push around the house (works best if you have one floor/no stairs in your house). Some people like Doc-a-Tots, and others like Moses Backsets. The later looks great for pictures and is super transportable.
Glider Chair with cushioned armrests. We LOVE ours, but it was given to us used. If you can find one, it’s TOTALLY worth it.
I love this scripture music cd, nice scripture lullabies that will also hopefully get stuck in your head!
This huge travel changing pad is super helpful and actually covers the nasty changing stations at restaurants and airport
My little one loved these teethers for the first TWO years of her life.
Tip #9: Register for a lot of gender-neutral NO BUTTON/SNAP clothing. This will be huge if you are planning on having more than one child. The newborn stage passes by so quickly and sometimes babies skip sizes, don't need certain seasonal items, etc. The good news is, if you register for gender-neutral clothing, you may be able to use these items again and again OR gift them to another friend no matter the gender of their little one.
Baby Hats that actually fit a newborn (take the one from the hospital and even ask for another)
Best booties (fit from 4 weeks onwards)
Pants with feet for 0-3m size (to prevent cold feet) - much easier than wearing pants and socks - anecdotally, once she’s getting closer to walking (6+ months), footed pants can delay walking (here are another pair with lots of color options)
Footies with mitten cuffs and zipper (even better if the zippers are backward from the bottom, so-called a front zipper. Sometimes Target’s Cloud Island ones are like this)
Using a regular backpack as a baby bag, instead of a special baby bag. Backpacks are bigger (so we can put a baby carrier, our sweatshirts, whatever else we need in it), easier to carry, work for dads and moms (most baby bags are girly looking)
I have a gallon-sized Ziploc that I keep in my purse with just wipes, diapers, an onesie, and a nursing cover. When I go on a short outing, I just bring that and not the full backpack.
Tip #10 Plan ahead and register for things that you will need three to six months or more down the road!
Bumbo Seat (4 months and onward)
Make Your Own Babyfood Cubes (6 months and onward)
Waterproof blanket for the stroller, picnics, and anything
Baby bibs that catch food
Here are a few other creative gifts you can register for:
1. A newborn photography session with a local photographer (cough cough)
2. A post-natal massage or chiropractor appointment for mom (man, having a baby does a number on your body)
3. A pedicure (it's probably been a while since this is something that mothers-to-be aren't supposed to have) and it's also probably been a while since the mother-to-be has seen her feet :)
4. GrubHub gift cards (bring on the take-out)
5. A diapering service (cloth diapers are a HUGE money saver, but it can also be a lot of work, especially when your newborn poop every hour). Gifting a diapering service can be really nice for the first few months as you get yourself settled into a "routine".
6. A window bird feeder. Parents will be doing a lot of sitting, rocking, and looking out the window. This is a nice distraction and will be a great thing to watch with your little one as they get older.
7. A collection of Stuffed Animals with guesses of which one will become their favorite (Jellycat Bashful Bunny is one that my girls have BOTH loved)
8. A Keepsake Box (could be personalized if the child's name is already known). This is a fun place to keep things like hospital tags, small trinkets, and other things over the years.
Tip #11 FREE YouTube Videos to Watch to help you prepare:
Bridget has TONS of great educational material, but here is her: PREPARING FOR BIRTH In The THIRD TRIMESTER As A Childbirth Educator + Birth Doula
Some realistic things with a funny perspective. She has some lighthearted real vlogs: 15 THINGS I WISH I KNEW BEFORE HAVING A BABY | Advice for New & Expecting Moms
Super detailed FREE birth class (the old school kind)
If needed: an old school pediatricians guide to Babycare Basics