Hospital Bag and First Year Faves

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I have been sitting on this post for awhile because I've been trying to make sure I include everything. The Lion is almost 18 months old and, as I'm sure any new mom can attest to, the past year and almost a half has been a whirlwind. I am tired enough for two full years but it seems like only yesterday He was born. Motherhood, y'all. It is not for the faint of heart but it is the most beautiful thing I've ever done.

So, like many mommy bloggers out there, I've decided to pull together a list of my favorites from the past year and a half... including those hospital bag items that every new, first-time mom frets about as their due date gets closer and closer. 

Let's start with what to bring to the hospital. I was going to do an entire, separate blog post about this, but you really don't need much. Remember, whatever you take to the hospital, you have to bring back... with your newborn and sore body. Don't go overboard.

What to bring TO the hospital: 

  1. Chapstick.
  2. Slippers or comfy socks. I hate socks, especially those loose hospital socks. So, I packed some slippers. Just make sure they're loose-fitting because your feet will be swollen.
  3. Bluetooth speakers. I labored for over 25 hours, 13+ hours of that time I was unmedicated while experiencing Pitocin contractions... but, I had worship music going the entire time and I only dropped one F-bomb. So yeah, the music helped.
  4. Extra long phone charger (like 6-10 feet long) because there's no guarantee from room to room that an outlet will be near your bed or in a convenient location.
  5. Hair clips or scrunchies for obvious reasons.
  6. Your own pillow (if you're picky about that like I am).
  7. Nursing pillow (my favorite is listed below).
  8. Nursing bra and tank tops that allow for easy nursing (I'll note my favorites below).
  9. Dark, soft, lightweight, loose-fitting pajama pants and a robe. Dark, because you're basically having the heaviest period of your life after you give birth. Lightweight because, if you're like me, you'll have hot flashes. Soft and loose-fitting because you're going to be sore. A robe because you're going to get visitors and you may or may not be wearing a bra and be a hot mess. It's nice to have something to cover up as people stop by or as you walk the halls.
  10. Camera. I brought my DSLR camera for those first moments after my son was born... I had Anthony take photos of him while they measured him and checked him over as I was doing all of the post-birth fun stuff. I told him to get pictures of his hands, his feet, his toes and fingers, his head, his face, his every little everything! The lighting will suck and you can't use flash, but you'll want those photos because, moms, you're trapped on a hospital bed birthing your placenta and possibly getting stitched. You don't get to see those sweet moments right after they take your baby from you before they wrap him all up like a burrito.
  11. Deodorant wipes. Listen, you're not allowed to shower for like 24 hours or something and having a baby makes you pretty gross. And, if you're anything like me, you'll struggle with postpartum body odor (#hormones, #realtalk). These will come in handy throughout your stay at the hospital (and after) so you can re-deodorize as visitors come and go and hug you all day.
  12. Baby's coming home outfit along with 3-4 sets of pajamas for your baby... and bring a Plan B in a size up or down in case the one you planned for doesn't fit. Judah was only in Newborn (NB) size for like 2 weeks and the NB size in some brands never fit him at all because he was so long.
  13. Two swaddle blankets (and heavier blanket if baby is born during Fall or Winter for transporting baby to the car the day you leave).
  14. Car seat. This may seem obvious, but don't forget it!
  15. Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, face wash, face wipes, moisturizer, etc).
  16. Snacks.

Things you'll want to take home FROM the hospital or make sure you have at home already:

  1. Mesh Panties from hospital. Bring home as many as they let you. Ask multiple nurses if they are being stingy with them. They're weird and ugly, but so much less stressful than worrying about wrecking your own underwear.
  2. Super thick and long pads - the ones that go from belly button to lower back... TRUST ME.
  3. Dermoplast spray with the BLUE top (you can find this on Amazon... get the double pack and make sure the top is BLUE).
  4. Squirt bottle(s).
  5. Stool softener. The doctor will probably prescribe this to you after birth and you'll begin taking it at the hospital, but if not... buy some, bring it, and take it. Nobody talks about that first postpartum poop, but I will... briefly... it's SCARY. I texted my best friend from the toilet for moral support. You definitely want the stool softeners.
  6. Pee pads for your mattress - like the ones you put under a potty-training toddler's sheets. I, thankfully, never needed them but I was glad they were there just in case I bled through in the night. I also had one under my sheet for a couple weeks leading up to my due date in case my water broke in the night.
  7. Nursing pads. I used the washable, cotton ones AND the disposable ones. 

Now, buckle up and let's get to the fun part... necessities and favorites from baby's first year+ of life:

  1. Solly Baby Wrap - I got two in case of spills, blowout diapers, etc. SO glad I did! This is first on the list because that's how strongly I feel about this product. The joy I found wearing Judah in the wrap the first several months of his life were, hands down, my favorite moments! Judah grew out of his around 7 or 8 months because my child grows like a weed, but most babies get about a year or so in the wrap.
  2. A good glider. We splurged a bit on this and I'm so glad we did. We got an upholstered glider that also swivels and we picked out a fabric we loved. So many sweet, beautiful, heavenly memories in that glider those first several months. Between the Solly wrap and the glider in his room, my eyes fill with tears thinking about those moments... *sigh*... My advice is to get some sort of ottoman to go with it. Don't spend the money on the matching one, just find an affordable, comfy one to rest your feet on. 
  3. Lillebaby baby carrier. Specifically this brand because I love the back support pad. I got the Complete All Seasons and I've been happy with it. I don't wear Judah nearly as much as I did when he fit in the Solly because at a certain point he preferred to be crawling or walking whenever he could. But it's great to have a carrier for those times you need to get things done around the house or you have to take the dogs out or go grocery shopping, etc. etc.
  4. Owlet Monitor - A GODSEND. Judah still wears his and he is 17 months old. As a first time mom, I struggled with severe bedtime anxiety those first few weeks. I'm talking full-on sobbing meltdowns when the sun would set knowing that I couldn't keep my eyes on him at all times as we slept, worrying I wouldn't hear him choke or something. We got the Owlet after about a week and a half of bedtime stress and it was a total game changer. The peace of mind alone is worth the investment, but knowing that it might also save my son's life if something, God-forbid, happens is priceless. Worth every. single. penny.
  5. Soft, wireless nursing bra. I like this one from Motherhood Maternity. 
  6. Tank Tops a size or two up for easy nursing and postpartum bod and a lightweight zip-up hoodie. Don't spend a ton of money on nursing shirts. Just buy tanks and tops that you can easily pull down when it's time. I love these ones from Target... stock up. Pair them with the zip-up hoodie for the perfect nursing combo.
  7. A crib mattress wedge (like this one, but they make cheaper ones). This helped with Judah's gassy tummy. 
  8. Video monitor. It doesn't really matter which one you choose. Just make sure you can see your baby clearly. This video monitor paired with the Owlet monitor is a mighty duo for an anxious, first-time mom. 
  9. Sound Machine. Again, it doesn't really matter which one you choose. My only suggestion is to listen to the sounds before buying (you can do this at Buy Buy Baby and Babies R Us). I chose one with the least obnoxious rain sound I could find. 
  10. Breast pump, wet/dry bag, and hands-free pumping bra.
    1. So, I use the Medela Freestyle breast pump and I like it okay but my nursing journey has been mostly breezy (thankfully). I know others say this pump isn't the strongest, but I like it because it's portable and lightweight. There are other really great pumps on the market that I know nothing about, but your insurance probably covers most of them so pick one that makes sense for you. Also, it's worth it to get extra pump bottles, freezer packs, and an extra pump bottle cooler. I brought two coolers (8 bottles) with me two work everyday for the first nine months. And don't forget to change your pump membranes regularly!
    2. Wet/dry bag to store your pump parts at work. My former boss had the same one and she had problems with hers starting to smell. I've never really had this issue. I'm not sure how she was cleaning hers, but I just used my water/vinegar cleaning spray and a paper towel at the end of each work day and a few times a month I'd turn it inside out and really clean it well with the same spray. It's still going strong, 17 months later!
    3. Hands-Free nursing bra. You only need one. So, what I did was just keep this bra in my nursing backpack and wash weekly or bi-weekly. I would just put it right over my clothes and bra while I pumped then took it off and threw it back in the bag. Don't wear it as a daily bra - you'll look weird.
  11. Covered Goods nursing cover. Okay, listen. Babies really don't like being covered while they nurse and I hate using a cover and avoid using one as much as possible. But there are times it comes in handy (not because I feel shamed into using it, but because I personally feel more comfortable in certain situations... to each their own). So, of all the covers, I like this one because I use it for other things as well (car seat cover, grocery shopping cart seat cover, etc). But, if I'm being really honest, what works BEST for nursing, is a muslin swaddle blanket tied around your neck like an extra large bib. 
  12. Nose Frida. Looks weird, sounds gross, is quite possibly the best invention ever made. Get it.
  13. Cloth bibs that fasten with snaps - not velcro. Teething babies drool and need bibs. We know this. And, trust me, you'll get more than you need at your baby shower. But, I quickly realized that I had a preference for snaps and a disdain for velcro. It's stiff, scratchy, and gets things stuck in it. Judah actually got a little red scratch on the back of his neck one day from the velcro on one of these bibs and I decided that all velcro bibs, no matter how cute they were, were going to Goodwill. I gathered them up and removed them from our lives. I'm sure there are pro-velcro moms out there somewhere, but I am not one of them. Give me snaps or give me no bibs at all!
  14. Diaper Caddy. So, if you don't travel much and have a built-in option for organizing diaper changing essentials, don't bother. But this is what we have on Judah's dresser/changing table and we love it because we can just grab the whole thing when we drive to Muskegon to visit family and everything is already packed.
  15. Changing pad and changing pad covers (at least two). Again, it doesn't really matter what one you get but I do recommend one with contours for when baby starts rolling. I love these covers because they are so soft and cozy.
  16. Aquaphor. I'm all about using natural, organic, cruelty-free things as much and whenever possible. But, I'm also about results - especially when my kid is uncomfortable. Judah had one bad diaper rash that would not get better. He was teething and this diaper rash was just persistent. I tried all the natural things I could possibly try and nothing worked. Even the prescription from his pediatrician didn't work. It was a few weeks before finally the pediatrician recommended we try a little hydrocortisone cream once a day and Aquaphor at every diaper change and this rash went away within a couple of days. So grateful for that magic jelly!
  17. Nursing pillow. I loved the My Brest Friend pillow because it clips around your waist so I could wear it around the house and it has a pocket for holding things. It's stiffer than others, but I really liked it. It's definitely not as great for lounging your baby in it, though, like I see lots of moms do with the Boppy. Keep that in mind.
  18. MAM pacifiers. So, I know most moms are all about these natursutten rubber pacifiers and cute little Etsy clips and things, but not this mom. My goal was to get Judah to take a one-piece pacifier like the Philips Avent Soothies, but they were too heavy and he couldn't keep them in his mouth when he was tiny and anytime he moved his head, they would fall out or get knocked out because they are bulkier and stickier than plastic ones like MAM and Nuk. But, after several nights of waking up to put his pacifier back in over and over again because he dropped it, I switched to the MAM and, again, a total game changer. As he got older, we bought the MAM Air ones which I love because I can see his smile through it and he can grab onto it better. Pro tip: get the glow-in-the-dark ones.
  19. Nail scissors. Don't bother with baby nail clippers. Those freak me out and you have less control over what you're clipping. Get the scissors and breathe easy. (Pro-tip: wait to cut nails until they are sleeping)
  20. Zutano slippers. These are great because they are warm and they stay on. Judah didn't even wear shoes until recently because I just keep buying these as he grows. He still wears them around the house almost every day.
  21. Grapeseed oil & Calendula Oil. Grapeseed oil was used every single day in our home for the first few months. Judah was a very gassy baby and the way we worked out the gas is by giving him belly massages, doing leg kicks, and giving him warm baths. I used this oil during the massages. The Calendula oil is great for his skin, especially now during the winter. I mix a little oil with his baby lotion and slather him up to keep him from getting itchy.
  22. Muslin swaddle blankets. I used these instead of those newer velcro swaddles. We tried those, but they are so noisy and startled Judah in the night. And the zipper ones didn't work for us because the Lion hated having his arms swaddled. So, these are great because they are soft, lightweight, quiet, allow you to swaddle arms in or out and can be used as lovies or lightweight blankets on the go as they get older. Make sure they are larger in size. Some muslin swaddles are too small to actually swaddle a baby.
  23. Halo SleepSacks for when baby is no longer able to be swaddled. They also make Early Walker ones with holes for their feet as they get bigger and want more freedom in their movement as they sleep. We always had 1-2 fleece and 1-2 cotton in each size so he had what he needed for the temperature in the room and the pajamas he was wearing.
  24. Bottle Sterilizer. I like washing bottles and pacifiers by hand and using the sterilizer after as opposed to the dishwasher for two reasons. One, it keeps them looking nicer longer because the dishwasher is harder on them than this method. Two, you don't have to wait for a load to be run in the dishwasher. If you need bottles, pacifiers or pump parts clean, it takes ten minutes of your time from start to finish. 
  25. Boon drying lawn (the large one) and Twig (aka: "par par tree" where we dry all of Judah's pacifiers). 
  26. Pac N Play suite - one that comes with a changing station, bouncy seat, and diaper holder. We have the one linked and this is what we used as Judah's bed the first 8-9 months of his life along with this mattress (get the mattress... the bassinet pad is way too firm/hard). I loved having this by my side of the bed because it stored diapers, wipes, and everything else you could ever need, had a changing station (for the days when he still pooped at night and didn't want to change him on our bed), came with a bouncy seat which we used often (especially during showers), and was portable. Judah came with me to one of my best friend's bachelorette party weekends at a cabin and I just bagged this baby up, threw his mattress in the van and, for him, his entire sleeping situation was the same as it was at home. Then, when he grew out of it, it was perfect to keep in the living room with the mattress still inside as a play area for those days he was still learning to walk so if he fell or rolled, he wouldn't get hurt.
  27. A swing and a Jumperoo. I include these hesitantly because Judah really only used each of these for such a short time. But, when he did use them, I'm not sure how we would have gotten through without them. Again, I don't think it really matters which ones you get as long as they're safe, so do your research. Here are the ones we have: swing and jumperoo.
  28. Summer Infant portable play yard. I categorize this with the Nose Frida...  possibly one of the best baby inventions ever. We use it indoors, outdoors (spend the money and get the canopy) and it's the easiest play-yard ever made. Hands down. Once Judah was more stable on his feet, the Pac-N-Play went into storage and this took over and we used it every day for months and months and now it's in the van for whenever we might need it. 
  29. Baby Jogger stroller. This is another splurge item that was suggested to me by nearly every single one of my mom friends when I was asking about strollers. But, wow, they were not kidding and I am so glad I got it. It is a super soft ride for baby, easily converts to fit 3 kids as your family grows (an infant, a toddler, and a kid riding on the glider board), has all kinds of bling accessories (we have the mesh, shaded bug guard, the rain guard, the cup holder/phone and key pocket). It's bulky, but it's LEGIT. And it's easy to fold up and down. We got the City Select and I have zero regrets! I just bought the right adapter for our Chicco infant car seat and it just clicked right in. Then, when he grew out of his car seat and could sit in the Baby Jogger seat that came with it, we removed the attachment and clicked the seat in. So easy!
  30. Travel stroller. Okay, I know what you're thinking... "why would I buy two strollers instead of one?" And, that's a legitimate question. But, Let me explain. The Baby Jogger was necessary when Judah was an infant because they need to be able to stay in their infant car seats because they are not big enough to sit in a regular stroller seat. Plus, the Baby Jogger is just way more comfortable for your babies and toddlers. Everything is so adjustable, the ride is smoother because the tires aren't plastic, it's adjustable to face you or face outward. It's just a much better situation for long walks or rough terrain. The travel stroller, however, is great for mall walking or big cities. We love to visit Chicago and the Baby Jogger would never fit on a subway or bus. But, a travel stroller like this is perfect for public transportation and walking on busy sidewalks. So, I guess, in a way, if you're not traveling much, don't bother. But, if you travel or live in a busy city, you'll need a good travel stroller.
  31. DVD players for the car. Judah has never really been a fan of being in his car seat, which has made driving to Muskegon pretty dramatic at times... especially if I'm alone with him. I never understood the power of screen time until I made a one-day trip from Lansing to Grand Haven to watch my nephew play in a baseball tournament, from Grand Haven to Muskegon to visit one of my best friends and meet her new baby girl, from Muskegon to Montague to visit another one of my best friends and her two girls, then back to Lansing... without Anthony with us. He watched Trolls about three times that day and only fussed a little. My mind was completely blown and Judah had a new favorite thing... Trolls. We've since watched that movie at least one trillion times.
  32. Baby seat. A lot of people really love the Bumbo, but we have this Ingenuity one in gray and love it. In fact, we still use it to this day as it just keeps converting to meet his growing needs. We loved it when he was learning to sit up and especially after he was sitting as we keep it in the bathroom strapped to a chair and put him in it with some toys so we can shower without worry. We also bring it with us to Muskegon and use it for a high chair. Perfect!
  33. Activity mat. This one, in particular, because Judah loooooves music and every time his feet hit that piano he was filled with joy! He LOVED this thing. Bonus, the piano detaches and can be used as a toy as he grows!
  34. Nuby Spin N Teethe teether. Something about this particular teething toy just hooked the Lion. Maybe because it was easy to grab? I'm not sure but he loved it for a long time.
  35. The Amazing Make-Ahead Baby Food book, along with ten silicone ice cube trays and these glass Sage Spoonfuls jars in 2 and 4 ounce sizes which we still use to store his big people food leftovers.
  36. The Lollacup. The best weighted-straw sippy cup on the market, in my humble opinion. We have two (a blue one for water and a green one for smoothies). They aren't leak-proof if the lid is open, but what I find more important than being leak-proof is how lightweight it is, how easy it is for Judah to hold because of the (removable) handles, and how easy it is to clean really well. 
  37. Munchkin snack catchers (or "snack-traps" is what I call them). Perfect for little hands and contents inside almost never spill out. Judah is literally sharing his snacks with our dogs right now as I type this.
  38. Two silicone bibs. The only bibs you need once they start eating solids. Just wipe down and they're good to go. I keep one with his high chair and one in his diaper bag.
  39. This high chair or any high chair that doesn't make my house look like a daycare center. There are several on the market similar to this one. 
  40. These faux hardwood play mat squares... again, because they don't make my house look like a daycare center. 
  41. Jack n Jill natural toothpaste & Radius toothbrushes. Both are cruelty-free. The toothbrushes I especially like because the bristles are softer than others we have used.
  42. Bathtub mat (for when he graduates from the sink to the actual bathtub). I love this one because it's really heavy duty and comes in gray. Also, get a faucet cover!
  43. H&M Kids and The Children's Place. Basically, the main reasons I love these brands are because I have a long baby who grows like a weed and other brands cater to average or shorter babies and things never fit him right. These two brands are the only ones that seem to actually be on track with my son's sizing and fit him for a longer stretch of time. Plus, I find so many really stylish clothes for really great deals (almost always cheaper than secondhand finds of the same or similar items). The Children's Place pajamas are the best because they have footless pjs for long babies like mine. 
  44. Stride Rite Soft Motion shoes for those first few pair as they are learning to walk. They are comfortable and supportive for baby's feet as he begins his walking journey!
  45. Thrive Market membership. So, I had this before Judah but, boy was I thankful for it once he arrived - especially once he started eating solids! I save so much money on his toiletries and, as a family, we eat so much better because we cook more often and eat-out less and I'm very passionate about feeding our family quality, minimally processed and/or organic foods. 
  46. Netflix/Hulu subscription. You guys, a lot of what you do as a brand new mom on maternity leave or a stay-at-home-mom or part-time working mom is binge-watch TV shows and movies while your kid nurses and sleeps and you try to keep up with housework and cooking. That first year (especially that first year with your very first kid) is all about survival and adjusting your routine and keeping your sanity as you are alone often. The TV was one of my best friends. 
  47. The Instant Pot. WHAT DID I DO BEFORE MY INSTANT POT?!?!?! 
  48. An actual coffee pot (ditch the Keurig). Gone are the days of one cup of coffee in the morning. Mama's making a POT!
  49. Glow Baby app. We mostly used this when I was working full-time because it was so much easier to keep one another on the same page with poops, pees, medicine, naps, and meals. We don't really use it now that I'm part-time and the Lion is bigger. 
  50. Baby Boy Bakery First Year Baby Journal. I kind of petered out in recording everything the last few months of his first year, but I really love this baby book and it's easy to carry along with you in your diaper bag to record those sweet, messy, funny little moments.  

So, you'll notice I didn't really get into car seats (infant or convertible). I didn't mention them because obviously you need them but because there are so many safe, great options out there, it really is up to you and your life situation. My advice is to research safety and recalls as much as you can and ask lots of questions (are they easy to clean, are they great for small cars, are they easy to remove, will they keep baby warm in colder months but are breathable in warmer months, what are the size/weight restrictions.... etc, etc) We used this infant car seat and currently use this convertible car seat, but I'm sure others would have worked great, too. Just make an informed, safe purchase and stay up-to-date on recalls even after you purchase and you'll be fine.

Things I wish I would have bought instead:

  1. I wish I would have registered for the Blooming Bath baby bath seat. We got the Puj bath tub because I thought it looked simple and convenient, but I hated it. I had to support Judah throughout each and every bath, even as he got older. It was almost as if it wasn't there at all as it was mostly back-up in case I slipped or something. The only sink I felt like it would have done well in is our bathroom sink because the sink was so small that it was really secure. But, then Judah would have been super cold the whole time because it is shallow. Overall, I was very disappointed with the Puj and really wish I would have gotten the flower bath seat instead. My best friend has one for her baby and she LOVES it. I will for sure be getting this next time around!
  2. Bottles. Now, I wasn't necessarily displeased with our bottles, but I wasn't in love with them either. We used Philips Avent Natural bottles and Judah did well with them and took to them right away, but I felt like the slowest flow nipple was still pretty fast which didn't help his gas. But, I also have a really powerful let-down while nursing so maybe the faster flow nipples weren't as big of an issue for him as I'm imagining. I guess I just wish I would have tried more options before settling on a bottle. This is less of a regret and more of a suggestion to try a few bottles before you settle.

Things you do not need and should not bother with:

  1. Diaper Genie. What a waste of space and money. Just put diapers in the trash can (it's helpful if your indoor trash has a lid). If they're stinking up the place too much, put them in a plastic grocery bag and walk them right out to the outside garbage.  
  2. Wipes warmer. I got one to keep in our bedroom for night time changes and never used it. Well, I use it to store wipes, I just don't plug it in. Just hold the wipe in your hand for a few seconds before putting it on their skin. 
  3. A super expensive diaper bag. I mean, I guess to each their own, but it's literally a bag that holds diapers, creams, toys, snacks, wipes, keys, chapstick, gum, and other garbage. For sure get one you like and you will be happy to carry around, but some of these diaper bags are just so extra it's laughable. I got this Little Unicorn one because it's simple, neutral, and neither my husband or I feel silly carrying it around. I've been very happy with it and it wasn't absurdly expensive. 

My last piece of advice is to pick a neutral color scheme for bigger items like car seats, strollers, diaper bags, Pack N Plays, wraps and carriers, etc. I love blacks and grays so everything I got is one of those two colors and it's awesome because it all kind of looks like it goes together and will be great for all future kiddos no matter their sex... bonus, the blacks and grays always seem to look cleaner! Although, I do work hard to keep these things looking really nice all the time so they last for years to come and will be easy to sell or will be a real blessing to give to someone in the future.

Hope this was helpful to those strong few who made it to the end! Happy momming!