Top Five New Mom & Baby Essentials 

As a woman who didn’t plan to have kids until getting pregnant at 35, I didn’t pay much attention to baby products. When the time came to think about a baby registry, I asked my sisters and friends for recommendations, and also reviewed the internet “lists,” which overwhelmed me. Do we really need all this stuff and, lord above, where do we put it? 

It turns out we did need many of the standard registry items. But my most-loved products, the items that brought the most comfort in those early days, turned out to be essentials I never thought to ask for. Below are the top eight products every mama should have on hand when bringing a new little one home. Buy them for yourself, buy them as gifts, spread the word.

1. Takeya 64 oz Motivational Water Bottle

A Giant Water Bottle, like the Takeya 64 oz Motivational Water Bottle 

Cost: $30

What we like: If you can count to two, you can stay adequately hydrated for you and baby.

There are so many numbers swimming around your brain once baby arrives: times (what time did he eat last?), volumes (how many ounces did he eat?), frequencies (how many wet diapers today? how many poops?), durations (how long did he sleep?). And that’s just baby. Mama counts, too (not to mention a second or third child). When did you eat last? When are you due for your next pain med? When did you pump? How many ounces did you get? How much water have you had today to fuel all that breastmilk you’re trying to produce? 

Having a giant water bottle on hand helps simplify the answer to that last question. The general guidance on water consumption for new mamas seems to be “a lot.” I targeted more than half my weight in ounces each day. Instead of attempting the impossible task of trying to remember each glass of water, eight to 12 ounces at a time, or worse, taking the time to track it in an app on my phone, I counted to two. I told myself to drink two of these giant water bottles in a 24 hour period: one during the day, one during the night. Two “glasses” of water to get me above 120 ounces in a day. A chore? Sure. Manageable amidst all the other numbers floating around? Yes. 

2. Night Lights

Soft night lights, one portable, one plug-in, like the JolyWell Egg Night Light with Dimming Function and the Betus Himalayan Salt Wall Lamp Night Light

Cost: $24 egg night light, $15 salt lamp night light 

What we like: Nothing makes nighttime feedings better, but bright direct light makes them worse.

Waking up every 90 minutes at night is brutal. There’s no way around it. And whether those intense nighttime feedings last for three weeks or three months, the name of the game is pain reduction for mama. For me, there was nothing to be done about the brain fog, the weighted eyelids, and the impossible task of lifting my recovering, leaking body out of bed… again… just like I did the first four times tonight. First, let me tell you, you will get through it. It won’t always be this way. Second, control what you can control, and for me, that was the lighting in my waking and feeding environments. 

Turning on the overhead bedroom light, or the bedside table lamp, every wake up felt like a papercut on a burnt finger. That’s where the egg night light comes in handy: with the tap of the top, there’s just enough light to avoid tripping over the dirty robe on the floor on your way to the bassinet at the end of the bed. Plus, it fits in the palm of your hand and is easily carried to the changing table in the nursery to change that poopy diaper you’ve been trying to talk yourself out of for ten minutes (maybe it’s just a fart?). Baby blissfully sleeps through the whole thing and is never the wiser to your work, or they’re screaming their little head off but not because of a rude overhead light at 3:30 AM.

So why the plug-in night light, too? Why not carry the egg light from room to room? Because always give yourself one less thing to do when you can. Those first three months I fed baby in our living room at night. Total personal preference here. It just felt better to walk into the open living room four to five times a night rather than confine myself to a tiny nursery. Inevitably, baby and I paced a track from the front door in the living room, around the dining table, down the galley kitchen, and back again. The plug-in night light lit that track with a calming pink glow that seemed to say “it’s all going to be okay, really,” even when I had tears stinging my bloodshot eyes from the overwhelm of how hard it all is (at first). My man turned on the night light when we went to bed, right after he filled my water bottle (see above) and soft light consistently welcomed me to the living room throughout the long nights. It became a small but memorable comfort I wouldn’t trade for an extra $15 in my pocket.

3. Blackout Shades

An easy and fast blackout shade solution, like The Sleepout Curtain

Cost: $100

What we like: Three words: Black. Out. Shade. #iykyk

We were open to purchasing anything that might buy us an extra three minutes of sleep, let alone a faster fall-asleep and later wake-up for baby. And Sleepout did not cut corners when sourcing their product material. This curtain is black out dark – not gray, not “darker”. Black, truly. And it’s mobile. It’ll go with the little stinker when he moves into his nursery full time (which I can’t talk about without crying), and it also comes with us on vacation. It’s so easy to install your baby could (almost) do it. 

Plus, if you’re like us, preparing for baby and living with a new addition meant a growing list of house projects that involved measuring, ordering, and manual labor: painting the entire interior of the house, ordering new living room furniture, finally cleaning and furnishing our outdoor patio, garage storage solution installation… the list goes on. Blackout shades were on that list, but then removed when found this affordable, no-screw-driver-needed solution. One less thing to worry about without compromising the result we wanted. Check.

4. White Noise Machines

A mini, portable sound machine like the Yogasleep Rohm Portable Noise Machine

Cost: $30

What we like: Cue sleep for baby, and a deep breath for mama, anywhere. 

 And while I’m not one for redundancy–who needs two sound machines?–I’m telling you,  we needed two. The mini, portable sound machine is marketed as one you travel with: bring it on vacation, take it in the car, to the park, or wherever baby might sleep. That’s true–we’ve used it all those ways. But the most valuable use case for this mini machine was setting it directly on baby after each nighttime feed as he and I paced the track from the living room, around the dining table, through the kitchen, and back again, waiting for sleep.

My routine looked like this: baby cries for food, mama unswaddles baby and gets him from bassinet, mama changes diaper, mama and baby head out to the living room, mama feeds baby, baby cries because he’s a baby, mama swaddles baby and holds him close, mama turns on mini sound machine and balances it atop baby, mama begins pacing the nighttime track while running a series of sways bops rocks swings and chachachas, baby cries, baby falls asleep, mama places baby back in bassinet, mama gets back in bed, 45-60 minutes later baby cries for food and off we go again. 

That single step of turning on the mini sound machine after baby had a full tummy and needed to go back to sleep was such an important one for us. For baby, it was (and still is today) a consistent cue that it’s time for sleep. For me, mama, it was something extra I could do to soothe my new baby and myself. Turning on that mini machine was a reminder that, regardless of baby’s cry status, he had been nourished, he was safe in my arms, and we were working toward the all-important (though often elusive) next block of sleep.

5. Selfcare

After shower feel-good basics, like this Kitsch Hair Towel, CV Skinlabs Calming Moisture Face Lotion, and Mara Universal Face Oil 

Cost: $20 hair towel, $52 calming moisture face lotion, $72 universal face oil 

What we like: Simple, achievable feel-goods for mama. 

Pregnant folks are constantly reminded that sleep and a shower will be in high demand and low supply once baby arrives. This was true for me, too, and while nothing (actually nothing) can fortify you like an uninterrupted four hour block of sleep (please, Sky Mommy above, deliver it for all of us), I developed an evening routine at least two times a week that felt wonderful: a hot shower, followed immediately by a hair towel wrap, the world’s most wonderful face lotion, and a luxurious face oil. 

The hair towel keeps wet hair securely contained while getting ready for bed. Plus, it’s super absorbent, so if you don’t want to sleep in it (which I’ve done many times), your hair is well on its way to dry when you crawl into bed. The face lotion is pure comfort in a bottle. This brand was recommended after a facial, and I’ve used it faithfully the last three years, even giving it as a gift. It has zero sting and is suitable for even the most sensitive skin. My sister uses it on her eight- and 10-year-old daughters after a day in the pool, and they’ve to come ask for it (as opposed to dodging her previous moisturizing attempts because those lotions “hurt”). And the universal face oil brings velvety smooth hydration. Two drops on either cheek and the forehead, followed by pressing and dabbing with fingertips, leaves glowy, saturated skin that seems to say, “you’ve got this, mama” before heading into the long nights. 

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