My youngest just turned two. TWO!! I officially have no babies left in my house. He’s a toddler now, and I am NOT happy about the way he insists on continuing to grow up. I think it’s very inconsiderate of him, really.
This is why we carried through with our… let’s say… long-term-no-more-babies solution (which is a euphemism for “hubby on the couch with a bag of frozen peas”)… when Charlie was only a couple of weeks old.
We both knew for SURE that our family is finished with four kids… NOOOOO doubts there. But I was also like, “we need to do this NOW, before we have no babies left and I start getting clucky all over again.”
I know myself too well. For the past nine years that’s been my knee-jerk reaction. Oh no, he/she is not a baby anymore!! Quick, let’s have another one.
I’m like a drug addict except I’m addicted to babies rather than crack. That seems like an odd comparison, but it’s not really. Both addictions are extremely expensive, ruin your body, kill brain cells, make you look rather haggard, and severely curtail your social life and career prospects. And yet we keep doing it anyway… ?
All jokes aside, I have honestly adored the baby stage with all my kids. Apart from the sleep deprivation, it’s been a golden season of life. They have brought me so much joy.
Interestingly enough, even though I started blogging while I was in the thick of baby-making, I’ve never really blogged much about baby stuff. So today’s post is a bit of a nostalgic trip down memory lane. After four babies, I’ve realised I do have some things to pass on. Because while I can’t solve all your sleep and teething woes, I can certainly share some shopping advice! Ha!
There is so much STUFF you need to buy when you have a baby. Interestingly, instead of buying more for each subsequent child, we whittled our collection right down. There were things that we realised we just didn’t need after all. With a bit of trial-and-error (thanks, baby #1 for being our guinea pig) we also found some favourites that worked really well for us. So I want to pass on what I learned.
Here are my tried-and-true baby gear essentials.
Once you have a baby, nothing – NOTHING – is more important than your sleep. It becomes the holy grail of motherhood. At playgroup, mothers clutch takeaway coffees as they talk in terms of hours. “Ugh, I only got 3 last night.” “I got 5, not so bad. Bit patchy though.”
Once you have more than one baby, your house will become home to random loud noises – screams, wails, raucous laughter, sibling fights-to-the-death, bouts of manic crying. I know you don’t believe me yet, but it’s true. That’s why, if you have a fussy sleeper, and definitely as SOON as you have more than one child, you need to grab yourself a white noise machine.
All of my babies have slept to the sound of white noise. I don’t know why it’s so calming – perhaps because it mimics the muffled sounds from within the womb? We’ve used various devices, from a radio tuned to a frequency in-between stations, to an app on our phones. This little portable speaker is perfect, because you can pick it up and stash it in your nappy bag for trips away from home.
With the gentle steady hush of static, baby will sleep deeper and more calmly, and you will not have to stress so much about keeping the other kids quiet during nap time. (I even use this when I am having a day nap on a weekend! I’m a very light sleeper since having kids, and this works really well at blocking out environmental sounds.)
Who knew you needed to use your hands quite so much for everyday activities?
Well, obviously we all know that, but it doesn’t really hit home until you are carrying a baby and CAN’T DO ANYTHING ANYMORE.
Go hands-free with a carrier – it’s perfect for that restless time of day where baby just wants to be held, but you have a thousand things to do. Baby will be content, you’ll love having your little bug close, and you’ll feel like such an independent free woman to have the use of both your right and left hands, simultaneously. It’s the simple things.
This carrier is a classic. I love it because it’s comfortable and supportive, and it’s extremely easy to clip on and off. When my babies were little, I ALWAYS had a spare Baby Bjorn carrier stashed in the car, for those little errands where it is just not worth setting up the pram.
I was a late-comer to the magical world of the zip-up swaddle. I started out the old-fashioned way, with muslin wraps that we folded into intricate baby-origami, from which they would eventually escape (and then cry to be wrapped back up). It was not until my fourth child came along that a friend passed down some of these. My world was officially changed. So simple!
In my experience, my babies have all slept like 100x better with a swaddle than without – especially in that newborn phase where the startle reflex is still strong, and they jerk themselves awake so easily. And these swaddles make it so easy to do. One zipper, and baby is snugly swaddled and can’t escape. The fabric is soft and stretchy, so baby doesn’t feel trapped, but they are snug enough to give the cosy womb-like support that baby craves to sleep well.
And I LOVE the angel-wing design, where baby sleeps with their hands up and elbows bent – a much more natural position that having their limbs bound to their sids. This allows baby to suck on their swaddled fist to self-soothe. Tip: you can replicate this position using a muslin wrap – just fold the top edge down first and tuck their little fists beneath it, before bundling them up. Or, just use the zip-up swaddle. Even easier.
I bought this exact IKEA armchair with my first child (except with a white slipcover) and it has been used for every child since. You can get fancy gliders and expensive rocking chairs, but all I really wanted was a budget-friendly chair that looked good and would be comfortable to feed in. I’ve found this particular armchair to have the perfect dimensions, where the padded arms are a great height for breastfeeding (I often used a soft cushion as well for extra propping) and the back is nice and supportive, so you don’t feel like you’re sinking in and can’t get out. This armchair has a good firm foam seat, so it’s comfortable but doesn’t feel like quicksand.
I also like that this armchair is compact and narrow enough to fit into a small nursery, while still looking cosy and iniviting. Oh, and slipcovers for the win!! I kind of wish they’d had this grey cover back when I bought mine, as the white does get grubby fast. But I like being able to whip the cover off easily and soak it in the wash. And it’s been very versatile for both boys’ and girls’ rooms.
5. Rope basket
Every nursery needs storage. Rope baskets have become my go-to: they’re cheap, on-trend, and can be put to a multitude of storage uses. I currently use one for cot sheets, and another as a dirty clothes hamper. They’d also be great for toys, nappies… you name it. Best of all, they’re stylish enough to complement most nursery décor.
This falls into the category of “how on earth did I ever survive without it?!”
For my first two babies, I had a separate car capsule that did not lock into my pram. When I was pregnant with my third, a friend leant me her pram, which had a car capsule component. It was a total game changer. Imagine being able to keep baby asleep while lifting her in and out of the car…! With one click, the capsule locks into either the stroller or the car base, and baby sleeps through all of it.
This is the actual pram I had with my first two, which I heavily researched and read hundreds of reviews for. It really was a great pram – but the moment I tried my friend’s pram, there was no going back. I wish I’d had one from the start.
7. Travel cot
A portacot is an item you feel like you “need” when you have a baby, so we bought one. It weighed as much as an elephant calf and was harder to erect than a pole tent from the 60’s.
When we were going camping, we looked for something lighter weight and found the KinderKot – which unfortunately doesn’t seem to be in circulation anymore. We were instantly sold: it weighed less than my handbag, popped up by itself in seconds, and folded away into nothing. We eventually sold the portacot because from that moment forward, it sat under our spare bed gathering dust.
This travel cot looks like a fabulous KinderKot alternative. The moral of the story is: go lightweight, peeps. Lightweight and small. The last thing you want to be lugging through an airport is four children, three carseats, a stroller, and a baby elephant disguised as an item of baby gear.
8. Nappy bag
Fact: when you become a mummy, you feel frumpy. Your body has gone all out of shape, you are so sleep deprived you feel like the walking dead, your boobs are leaking at random intervals and none of the cute clothes you used to wear fit you any more. The least you can do to make yourself feel better is to get a stylish nappy bag. I got a new nappy (diaper) bag for each of my babies – it was like a little present to myself. Also, I kept needing bigger ones, because I kept acquiring more children. Then as they went off to school, I needed a smaller one again.
I definitely paid over the odds for some of my nappy bags. My first was a one-off Boho creation with a hand-embroidered tapestry strap, shipped from like LA or somewhere. It was quirky and artsy and I loved it to bits, until it fell to bits. My second was a designer leather style statement I bought secondhand on eBay (because buying it new would have cost me my left kidney). My third was as sexy as I could get when I had three small kids and needed something the size of a bowling bag to carry all their stuff.
With my fourth, I was so happy to find that my local Colette was selling nappy bags – and very stylish ones at that! – for like a quarter of the cost I’d paid for some of my previous buys. They are fantastic bags, with heaps of compartments and room for everything – there’s a change mat pocket, internal insulated bottle holder, room for drink bottles, slip-in pockets for phone, keys and sunnies; even little zip up pockets just the right size for a dummy (pacifier). They come in a lovely range of colours. Can’t beat them for style, practicality and value for money!
As a mum who cares about décor, I never wanted my living area to turn into brightly-coloured plastic baby gear central. So I struggled when it came to finding a play gym I actually liked. (I acknowledge that this is totally a first world problem.)
But for real, it seems like the one design requirement for a play gym is that they be as garish and tacky as humanly possible. Also, we’ve always had wooden floors, and I find that the built-in mat on a play gym is always far too thin to give enough padding for a new baby.
I spent far too long trawling online stores, trying to find something that was both attractive and comfortably padded. In the end, I bought a wooden play gym, and never looked back. The play mat doesn’t come attached, so you can pop a sheepskin rug or a puffy quilt underneath, making it as plush as you like. It folds up when not in use and you can easily slide it away behind the couch. You can also dangle whatever pretty toys you like from it, making it suitable for either a girl or a boy. Best of all, a simple wooden frame looks stylish and Scandi, and will go with any decor. I bought mine from a little Israeli shop on Etsy, but you can buy them on Amazon as linked.
I didn’t have a swing for my first baby, but was loaned one when I had my second, and this was another case of never looking back. Once you’ve had one, you can’t live without it. There is nothing like a swing for settling a restless infant when you need half an hour free to make dinner, or for when you’re trying to potty-train your toddler and just NEED to put the baby down for a few moments without them crying.
The one I borrowed was enormous, but a good swing does not have to be huge. I ended up buying this compact little swing for my fourth child, and it was perfect. It is able to recline right back for a newborn and sit up a little for an older baby. There are a few swing speeds and some melodies. It’s no designer piece, but it’s not garish either, and it does fold away. Tick. Job done.
11. Baby wrap
I was a late-comer to the baby-wearing club, but let me just say, there is nothing like wearing your baby in a wrap. It is a little more tricky to get into than a Baby Bjorn, which you just clip into place – but once you’ve done it a few times you’ll be able to do it in your sleep.
Once baby is all snuggled up in there, it feels so delightfully snug and cosy. Absolutely perfect for a newborn, and surprisingly supportive. (If you tie it properly, there is literally no way bubby can fall out, and there is really good head support, too.) Many people continue using these right up to toddler age (with different ways of tying them) but once my little guy was about 6 months old, he was getting too heavy for me to comfortably carry him in the wrap, and I was happy to move on. But I wouldn’t trade those first months of snuggle-bug wearing for anything. It truly is beautifully bonding. My favourite thing in those early months was to wear bubba in a wrap and go for a walk on the beach.
I continued to keep the Baby Bjorn in the car for those quick errands where you have to get in and out of the car several times and just want to grab and go – I found the wrap best for situations where you put it on once and can leave it on for a while.
12. Booster seat
Of course, we bought a highchair when we had our first baby. Don’t you “need” a highchair, after all?!
Nope. We purchased this exact little fold-away booster seat for a holiday away with our first child, and when we got home, we just kept using it.
I love that you can strap it onto a regular dining chair or bar chair (as long as it has a back) and the booster will tuck completely out of sight beneath the table or bench. Ahhh – another décor friendly baby solution! We ended up selling our highchair, which was bulky, awkward and impossible to hide… and really is completely unnecessary when you have one of these.
This beauty does us for both home and travel, cost only $40, and the tray clips completely off so you can easily wash it in the sink after each meal – rather than trying to wipe down every surface of a space sucking, unhygienic highchair. We still have the original booster seat we bought for our first child – it has lasted us nearly ten years so far!
So that’s my roundup of baby gear essentials. Nothing glamorous, but these are the things that have stood us in good stead over nearly a decade of baby-wrangling.
Incidentally, can you believe my little Charlie bear looked like this only two short years ago?? This is why it should be illegal for babies to grow up. Even writing this post is making me feel clucky!!
See. Thank goodness we took precautions EARLY. #nomorekids #4isenough
Now excuse me while I go and cry a little bit over having no more babies to snuggle.
And let me know in the comments – what are your must-have items of baby gear?
Hi Karen, I stumbled across you a few days ago and am so pleased I did! I love your energy, enthusiasm and positivity, thank you.
I just wanted to let you know I’ve tried a couple of times to get your free e-book with the link but haven’t received it yet, though I am receiving your other daily emails (thanks again).
Keep up the great work Karen, best wishes, Michelle ?
Karen Schravemade says
Hi Michelle, I’m so sorry about the hassle with the book! I just emailed it through to you now. Let me know if you get it! Great to have you reading along with the blog, I really appreciate your kind words! xo