Seven months have passed since I published “17 Most Essential Infant Items.” A lot has changed since then. For instance, my son is now nine months old and he doesn’t use many of the things on that list anymore. I figured I might as well update my list, thus furthering my contribution to the Internet baby advice world.
These are things I find myself using every day. I’d say they are essential for us, but they may not be for you. Also, keep in mind I’m not including the obvious essentials such as a crib, car seat or high chair.
1. Breast Pump
Most of the items on this list are not in order of importance, but I put a breast pump on the top of the list because it is really one of the most important things I use every single day. I’m a working mom. My son goes to day care. He is still breastfed and in order to keep nourishing him with my milk, I gotta pump. I recommend getting an electric pump if you’re serious about collecting your milk. My husband brought home a hand pump back in the beginning and it was laughable. The Medela Pump in Style works great. It is the dorkiest thing you will ever attach to your body but I’m able to pump once at work to provide my son with milk for the following day. Yes, these pumps are really pricey, but the good news is they are always for sale on Craigslist and it’s really OK to buy a used one. The tubing and parts can be sanitized with Madela’s microwave sanitizing bags or if you’re really creeped about by it, you can buy all new parts. With its über sleek design you’ll be the most fashionable mom at work! (That was rife with sarcasm, by the way).
Now that my boy is mobile, I’m starting to phase out the Jumparoo, but it was crucial for about seven months. As soon as your baby has good neck and core strength, these bouncing harness toys are the perfect place to set him while you make breakfast, take a shower or just take a load off for a little while. They light up, play music and have enough toys to entertain your little one and you know he’s in a safe place. These can also be easily found in the Craigslist and garage sale zone. Don’t bother paying full price for one. Since my son is no longer interested in being stationary, I’m thinking of taking the bouncer to a kiddie consignment shop and trading it for a baby walker.
3. Hydrogen Peroxide
Before I get too carried away with my thrift store mantra (really, you’ll save thousands by buying things used) I might as well tell you how to best clean all the used baby items you acquire. I used to clean toys with a weak bleach solution, but thanks to Pinterest I’ve discovered that hydrogen peroxide is super for cleaning all the surfaces your baby’s mouth will come in contact with (i.e. everything). I just took a sprayer from a spray bottle and screwed it on to a bottle of hydrogen peroxide. I spray his high chair tray and all his toys with it, let them sit for a couple of minutes and wipe them down with a sponge.
4. Softee Blanket
We live in Alaska where blankets are of the essence. This item may not apply to those living in hotter climates, but we use a super fuzzy — some call it minky — blanket every night at bedtime. Someone bought us a really fancy one, but really, you could just buy a $10 fuzzy throw at the store, cut it in half and hem it. I’m in the process of crafting a back-up for our vacation. Yes, most of the time I find my son’s face buried in his blanket come morning but it’s starting to grow on him and the fuzziness soothes him at night (and isn’t self-soothing the ultimate goal here?)
We live in a semi-arid part of the world and a humidifier comes in handy up here especially during cold season. When my son’s nose is all stuffed up, this helps make the air in his room less harsh.
6. Cloth Wipes
One of the few items that carried over from the previous list, the cloth wipe is definitely essential in our household. I still use the wipes I made out of old receiving blankets. I stuff them in an empty wet wipes container, about 24, and wet them with water during diaper changes. Then I toss them into a regular wash. I know wet wipes are pretty cheap, but this is waaaaaay cheaper and I’m saving my baby’s bottom from harsh detergents and chemicals or something. Ok, ok, I’m doing it more for the saving money thing and less for the environment thing. But check out my neato tutorial here.
7. Homemade laundry detergent
Thanks again to Pinterest for showing me the light on homemade laundry detergent. I mix equal parts Oxy Clean, Borax and washing soda and just use a tablespoon per cycle. This is a huge money saver. This is a recipe for cloth diapers, since soap isn’t recommended for them. But you can incorporate Fels Naptha and make a general detergent and you’d still be saving a bundle.
8. Dimmer Switch
I am forever thankful we installed a dimmer light switch in our baby’s room. I should have included this on the first list. We use dimmers to wind things down in the evenings, for middle-of-the-night wake ups and as a general nightlight. No one is chipper in the morning when the light is suddenly turned on. This is an inexpensive and easy fix-up.
9. Internet Radio
Music is great for people of all ages and babies are no exception. I love Internet radio sites such as Pandora or Spotify. I’m really digging Songza because they help you choose the music you feel like listening to at that moment. Babies don’t need to listen to strictly baby music. My favorite Songza playlist is “Songs to Raise Your Kids To,” which is a mixture of all my favorite old tunes. I’ll put on music while getting breakfast ready, in the car and during playtime. Our son is getting into clapping and nothing beats sweatin’ to the oldies.
10. Pack ‘n’ Play
This is a recently acquired item in our house, but I’m happy we have it. This is a portable play pen/crib that folds up really easily. It’s perfect for your more mobile baby when you need to get some housework done because it keeps him in a safe place so you don’t have to worry about his exploring and a chair falling on him (that happened this morning as I was making breakfast). I also use it for nights at Grammy and Grandpa’s house. These run about $30-70 on Craigslist, so definitely buy a used one.
11. Zipper Jammies
If you think your baby is cute, he will be ten times cuter in footie pajamas. Our son practically lives in zip-up jammies. They are super convenient to get on and off, you don’t need to worry about socks and they usually have grips on the bottom of the feet so he can climb around without falling (as much).
12. Coconut Oil
This is the ultimate multi-purpose goop. Coconut oil comes in Crisco-like form and can be found at health food stores and even Costco. Not only is it nice for cooking as a replacement for saturated fats it can also be used for dozens of topical reasons. It’s great for dry skin and cures diaper rash. Check out this list for tons of other uses.
13. Used Toys and Books
You could easily spend a fortune on stuff for your child. Do yourself a favor and get used toys and books. See if your town has a Freecycle Web site. Go to garage sales and thrift shops and keep an eye out for sturdy toys in good working condition. The thrift shop is a gold mine for used books, usually just a few cents each. We have fully furnished our son’s nursery with second-hand toys and I’m happy to say none of them makes electronic noise and our son still loves them. There’s still a lot of love left in his toys for them to be passed on when he grows out of them. Pay it forward!