Part 7 of Bringing Baby Home Series: Bits and Bobs
You've bought the crib, decorated the nursery, stocked the changing table, and registered for a trunk-load of tiny clothes. But besides these more obvious (and fun!) purchases, there are other items you will definitely need (or want) for a newborn child. In this last article in the Bringing Baby Home Series, Bumbershoots by Nana identifies the remaining odds and ends that can make life for a newborn and his or her parents much easier. Read on for tips, product information, and more!
You may be able to suspect that baby has a fever simply by feeling his or her forehead or by crying cues, but you’ll still want a reliable baby thermometer in your medicine cabinet to help you take baby's temperature. The degree of fever says a lot, so it is important to have accurate information.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends using a digital thermometer. Mercury thermometers should not be in your medicine cabinet; the silver liquid inside is dangerous if the thermometer breaks.
Use a digital thermometer to take a rectal (in the bottom), oral (in the mouth), axillary (under the arm) or tympanic (ear) temperature. Other methods are available but are not recommended by the AAP. When it comes to newborns, the AAP states a rectal temperature gives the best reading. Tympanic temperature readings work best once a child is 3 months or older.
When selecting a thermometer, look for the following features:
- Flexible tip
- Wide base (for rectal thermometers)
- Backlit display
- Data retention (so you can keep track of temperature fluctuations)
- Secure battery covers
For a list of top thermometers, click here.
2. Baby Tylenol
If your baby has a fever or signs of being in pain that can’t otherwise be eased, giving them the proper dosage of Baby Tylenol may bring some relief. Before you give a newborn (or small child) any medication, though, check with your pediatrician and know how to safely give it.
3. Nasal Aspirator
Nasal aspirators suction out the mucus of a congested infant. While they should not be used more than three or four times a day, they can be incredibly effective - especially when used in conjunction with saline/nasal drops. Whether you opt for a bulb aspirator, a Nose Frida, or a battery-operated aspirator, clean it thoroughly with soap and water after every use to prevent the risk of bacteria buildup.
For a list of top nasal aspirators, click here.
1. Humidifier (Vaporizor)
While you might not need a humidifier (also sometimes referred to as a "vaporizor"), they are great to have on hand if your little one gets a cold or if the heat is cranked up. Humidifiers add moisture to the air, which can help baby breathe, loosen mucus, and can prevent baby's tender skin and lips from getting dry. The AAP recommends using a cool mist humidifier over a warm mist one to avoid burn-related injury. It is essential to properly clean and maintain your humidifier because if you don't it will transmit bacteria, even mold, into baby's air.
When shopping for a humidifier, look for the following features:
Experts often suggest looking for a model that checks these boxes:
- Generates cool, not warm mist
- Is easy to thoroughly clean and dry
- Automatically shuts-off if the tank runs out of water
- Is appropriate for the size of the room - too small and there will be no benefit; too big and you risk mold growth. Look at the model's recommended square footage when shopping.
- Directional flow - having the option to point the mist where you want it to go is always a perk
For a list of top humidifiers for baby, click here.
2. Colic Drops
Some parents rave about gripe water or gas drops as a way to help a baby suffering from colic. These are generally over-the-counter treatments, but we recommend getting your pediatrician's advice before giving baby any medications, over-the-counter or otherwise. For more information on colic and colic-related products, click here.
1. Babyproofing Essentials
Technically it is not necessary to do much babyproofing for a newborn. With some exceptions, safety risks that you can avoid with babyproofing arise once a child becomes more mobile. That said, it is never too early to make your home safe for baby. For more information on how to babyproof your home, click here.
Decorating the nursery is so special. You pour your heart and soul into it. You want a special place for baby, and you want it to reflect the love you feel and the family you are making.
When it comes to your nursery, properly secured furniture (like a crib, dresser, and changing table) are the basics, but really the sky's the limit. Much of the nursery-related items - including sleep spaces like cribs and bassinets, baby monitors, crib sheets, mobiles, rocking chairs, black-out curtains, and other needs and wants - are discussed in "Part 1 of the Bringing Baby Home Series: Baby's First Sleep Space". Check it out for more information. But here are a few odds and ends, and some additional information, to consider as well.
According to baby vision researchers, you can enhance a child’s visual development by surrounding baby with a rich and interesting environment, tailored to his or her stage of development. Consequently, your nursery can be developmentally-supportive as well as beautiful. Some even believe how you decorate can make your baby smarter: How to Decorate a Smart Baby's Nursery and Here's How to Design a Nursery that Will Make Your Child Smarter.
1. Wall Color and Art
There is science behind virtually every aspect of a nursery should you choose to consider it - even wall color. Want more information? Read this article about the psychology of nursery wall colors.
2. Soft Rug
If you have hardwood floors, you may want to consider a soft rug for baby to lie on and practice tummy time! Another option is a thick, soft blanket, like the incredibly cozy, luxurious ones Bumbershoots by Nana makes!
Reading to your little one enriches both of your lives in innumerable ways. Not only is it time spent together, cuddling while you read helps your little one feel safe, warm, and connected to you. Hearing words (even if the child doesn’t yet understand them) helps build a rich network of words in your little one’s brain. Kids whose parents frequently talk/read to them know more words by age two than children who have not been read to.
Also, when you read aloud using emotion and expression, you promote your little one’s social and emotional development and it conveys that there are concepts and meanings behind the words. Emotional intelligence, empathy, what is appropriate or not appropriate – reading aloud while honing your acting skills can teach a lot!
Studies also show that children who were read to as newborns not only have a larger vocabulary, but more advanced mathematical skills than kids their age who were not. And reading exposes your little one to visuals (shapes, patterns, letters, numbers), and in some books, textures, that they will begin to recognize later on. Consequently, when stocking your nursery, you may want to start creating that first library for baby as well.
For a list of great books to read to your baby, click here and click here. For more information concerning the importance of reading to your little one, click here. For more on the science of reading to baby, click here.
4. Toys/Activity Mats
Brand new babies don't need toys, though in short order toys specifically designed for small infants will definitely be enjoyed. Remember, while stuffed animals are cute and fun to snuggle with, they are not safe to leave in the crib with baby. For more information about safer sleep conditions, read this article.
5. Storage Bins/Baskets
Lots of odds and ends come with baby, and storage is a must. I keep a basket of diapers (always) stocked on the changing table, together with a basket of diaper creams and the Nose Frieda. I also keep soft baskets of toys for baby to explore. Baskets and bins can also be used for clothing storage while you search for the perfect dresser.
6. Baby Hangers
Your hangers will be far too big to use with baby's tiny clothes and sleep sacks. Pick up a pack or two of baby-sized hangers if you have a closet to use.
You will want a laundry basket for baby's soiled clothing. Your separate diaper bin will be used for soiled cloth diapers.
Soft, gentle lighting is a must for late night diaper changes. Be sure to secure the lamp cords and lamps so baby's exploring hands and kicking feet don't cause them to tip onto baby.
Newborn Car Travel
1. Safe, rear-facing car seat that properly fits your vehicle.
When it comes to selecting the car seat that is best for you, there is a lot to research. But it is worth the peace of mind and certainly worth the time in the event of an accident.
Best Practices. The expert consensus is that babies and toddlers are safest when they are rear-facing (looking out the back window) and in a car seat with a five point harness. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that a child less than one year old should only be in a rear-facing car seat. It goes on to state that children between the ages of 1 and 3 should remain rear-facing until he or she reaches the top height or weight limits identified by the car seat's manufacturer.
Why is rear-facing better? All car seats are crash-tested for a forward impact as this is the most common type of crash. In a forward impact the child’s head, neck and back are supported by the child restraint during the first and most intense phase of the crash. This is important because a child's neck bones don't even start to be strong enough to resist the massive amounts of force experienced in a car crash until the age of two.
Applicable Law. Best practices recommended by the experts do not always align with state law. State car seat laws are the result of compromises between the best practices recommended by safety experts and what legislators feel are practical, enforceable, and will be tolerated by the general public and their voters. To find the laws in your states or states you are visiting, click here.
Car Seat Selection. Research and buy the safest car seat you can find and afford. For infants, that is a rear-facing car seat with a five-point harness. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Car Seat Finder identifies car seats that meet Federal Safety Standards and strict crash performance standards, then rates them based on ease-of-use. You can also check safety ratings with Consumer Reports. Additionally, there are many online articles and blogs that can help provide you with information, such as Whattoexpect.com, Babylist and SafeWise.
Note that not all car seats fit well in every vehicle. In fact, studies indicate that child car seats and vehicle seats don't align properly more than 40 percent of the time. Consequently, be sure to determine whether a car seat you are considering will fit and function optimally in your particular vehicle.
Helpful tip: If you can swing it, consider getting a car seat base for each car in which baby will frequently be a passenger. While installing car seats becomes easier with practice, it still takes time and requires precision and attention to detail.
For tips and recommendations relative to selecting, properly installing, and using a car seat, read “Baby’s First Car Ride!” For a list of best newborn car seats, click here.
As noted, baby's car seats should be rear-facing for as long as possible. Obviously it is near impossible to see how your baby is doing while you’re driving if the baby is rear-facing. As such, some parents want a baby car mirror.
A baby car mirror is a mirror that attaches to the backseat headrest, reflecting the view back to your rearview mirror. When selecting a baby car mirror, make sure it is shatterproof and crash proof so it won't explode in an accident. You’ll also generally want a curved or convex mirror so it provides a better view. And, of course, you will want a mirror stays securely in place - even during a crash.
Before I go any further, I want to mention the safety question. Some say baby car mirrors pose hazards, both in the event of an accident and with respect to the parent becoming a distracted driver. For more information about the safety of this type of product, click here. Should you remain in the market for one, click here for information about what to look for and for a list of top car seat mirrors.
2. Car Seat Blanket/Cover
If your baby is born during the cold months, you will be concerned about making sure he or she is warm enough. However, blankets and bulky clothing (including coats or sleep sacks) should never be placed between baby and the car seat harness. Bulky clothing, coats and blankets placed under the harness can leave the harness too loose to be effective in a crash.
A better practice is to put baby in a few thin, warm, well-fitting layers, with no extra bunching anywhere. Adjust the harness as described above, then place the coat, blankets, or cover on top of the harnessed baby to keep your little one warm and safe. That said, be sure the blanket or coat is firmly tucked in away from his or her face so that it cannot block baby's breathing passages.
For a list of top car seat-specific covers and blankets, click here.
3. Window Shading
If your car does not already include one, a sun shade provides protection against the sun's rays. While auto glass effectively blocks UVB rays from the sun, side windows allow UVA rays to penetrate. UVA exposure is associated with the potential for various awful things you want to protect baby from.
For information about what to look for in a sun shade for car windows, and top shade recommendations, click here.
1. Travel System
Because newborns can't sit up or hold up their heads, they should not be in a stroller unless (1) the area of the stroller where baby is placed fully reclines to a flat position, or (2) you have a travel system or bassinet attachment for the stroller. Once your baby is big enough, you can transition to a standard, umbrella, or travel stroller.
A travel system is a car seat and a stroller that attach to each other. You literally unclip the car seat from its base (the base remains secured to the car), snap it into the stroller component, and off you go! When you are done using the stroller, you unclick the car seat and securely click it back into the base.
For more information on travel systems and for a list of best travel systems, read "Part 5 of the Bringing Baby Home Series: Travel!"
1. Sun Shade/Rain Cover
Stroller sun shades and rain covers help keep baby comfortable. Generally, look to the manufacturer of your stroller or travel system for items that work best with your model. However, there are generic products out there that may work as well.
2. Car Seat Cover or Stroller Blanket
When it is cool outside, you will want to keep baby warm during your strolls. You will want a blanket, or if it is really cold, possibly a cover, to help baby stay cozy. For a list of top car seat-specific covers and blankets that should also work when using your stroller attachment, click here.
3. Storage Console
When you go for walks with baby, you will likely want to bring a few things with you - coffee, keys, a wallet, and if you are bottle-feeding and plan to walk awhile, a bottle. If your travel system or stroller does not come with built in storage for small items, you may want to invest in one that can attach to your model.
4. Bag Clips
When out and about with a newborn, you will almost certainly want your diaper bag. Bag clips affix your diaper bag to your travel system.
Baby carriers were discussed in "Part 5 of the Bringing Baby Home Series: Travel!" but I will include the information here as well.
Baby carrying allows you to move about and get things done while still holding your little one. In fact, the AAP recommends safe baby wearing for soothing, bonding, and nurturing baby’s development.
Newborn babies can be "worn" right away provided there are no medical concerns and the baby weighs around 8 pounds or more. However, not all baby carriers are safe for newborns. Consequently, when selecting a carrier, read the manufacturer's descriptions and warnings carefully to ensure it is safe for newborns.
Until baby is at least 4 months old, you should be able to see your baby's face while carrying him or her. You need to make sure baby's breathing passages aren't blocked. If a particular baby carrier does not allow that, wait to use it until the baby is older or return it.
Also, pay attention to features that can lead to overheating. For example, my son was born in the hottest part of our summer. The newborn insert his top-of-the-line, well-reviewed baby carrier - an insert necessary to support a newborn's head and use the carrier safely - was incredibly thick and warm. The first (and only) time we used it outside, it caused him to overheat, which can be dangerous.
Lastly, you will need to pick a carrier that you find most comfortable and easy to use. There are a variety of types to choose from. One is a wrap. A wrap is super-long piece of stretchy fabric you configure and tie around your body to create a carrier.
Featured: Solly Baby Wrap - Natural & Grey Stripe
Although they can be overwhelming and hard to use at first, once parents figure out how to use them, they love them. For wraps, we recommend Solly Baby Wraps. For a tutorial on how to use one, click here (then click again and again - they are worth the learning curve). For more great wraps for newborns, click here.
Another carrier is a sling. A sling is wide piece of fabric that goes over one shoulder and across your torso.
Featured: WildBird Ring Sling - Aerial Double Solid
Slings are soft and comforting like a wrap (or swaddle), but they don’t take an engineering degree to wear. For slings, we recommend Wildbird Ring Slings. For more great slings for newborns, click here.
There are also structured carriers, also called Soft Structured Carriers, or SSCs. These are more like a backpack. Straps slide over the shoulders and a padded carrying “pack” rests in between. You can wear them so the "pack" is up front (necessary with a newborn to 4 month old baby) or on your back (when baby is older).
Featured: Baby Bjorn Baby Carrier One
For newborns (and older), my favorite carrier was a structured carrier - the Baby Bjorn Baby Carrier One, in fact. You can use the Baby Bjorn from day one without an insert and it grows with your child. The straps were comfortable and the design supported my back, making it most comfortable for me. It also adjusts to fit partners of multiple sizes fairly easily. Another plus was that my husband felt more comfortable wearing it than the other carriers we owned.
Also widely recommended is the Ergobaby Omni 360. Note: for this carrier, you need to purchase the newborn insert to safely use it with your newborn or babies smaller than 12 pounds. The insert ensures baby stays in the ergonomic “M” shape or frog-leg position and maintains safe head and neck support while in the carrier. Full disclosure, the Ergobaby insert is what caused my son to overheat. That said it is well-reviewed and well-loved by many.
For additional information on baby carriers and some additional product recommendations, click here.
Baby bouncers are a great product. Place baby (newborn to around 6 months) in one when baby is wide-awake and you need to use your hands and don't want to/cannot babywear. The constant movement of baby bouncers is awesome for calming and engaging a fussy baby, too. As your newborn's eyesight extends to distances, they will be able to track you and enjoy the views. Baby bouncers are not safe sleep spaces, however, so if baby needs a nap, you should instead put him or her down in the crib or bassinet.
Most baby bouncers have the same basic design: a soft fabric seat with a three- or five-point harness buckle to keep baby safe and secure, set on a flexible frame that’s made out of metal or plastic. Beyond that, the styles vary by features offered, with the more sophisticated features driving up price point. Some bouncers vibrate, swing in a variety of patterns, play music, have light displays and toy bars, and are app-controlled, if desired.
When selecting a bouncer, there are various considerations:
- Safety. As with all baby-products, read up on the safety reviews and make sure the product you are looking at has not been subjected to recalls.
- Space. Babies and baby-related things have a way of taking over your entire home. Make sure you have a space for the model you are considering. If space is an issue, look for one that can be easily stored.
- Portability. As you move about your house, you may wish to bring the bouncer with you. Consequently, weight and portability may be important considerations.
- Price point.
- Adaptability. Babies usually grow out of bouncers by about 6 months. After that, their height and/or weight makes the bouncer prone to tipping. Some bouncers adapt into toddler chairs - for example the Nuna Leaf Grow and BabyBjorn Bouncer Balance Soft.
- Power source. Bouncers powered by more than human effort require power, be it battery or electrical-sourced. Vibrating baby bouncers are known to be battery guzzlers, which can add to the total cost of the bouncer and increase your carbon footprint.
- Easy to clean. This is a big one! You want to be able to remove and clean virtually every part. I say this from experience. When my son was very little, occasionally he would have a tiny bit of poo seep out his diaper. I naively thought this was the "blowout" parents always mention. Then one day in his bouncer he had what I now know is a real blowout. Poo went out his diaper, up his back and into his hair, out his legs, and all over the bouncer. The sheer amount was unfathomable. So yes, get a bouncer that is easy to clean.
We had the mamaRoo. The mamaRoo had five motions: car ride, kangaroo, tree swing, rock a bye, and wave and operated in five speeds. It also had built-in sounds and was MP3 compatible and Bluetooth enabled. There were several other features as well. Frankly, it had far more bells and whistles than we ever used and took up a lot of space, but it worked great. It also sold well on the secondhand market when we were done with it. F
In addition to bouncers, there are baby swings and rockers that can be used with newborns. For more information on those products and a comparison between the three (bouncers, swings, and rockers), click here. In reality, you won't need all three, but that article may help you decide which style to go with.
For a list of other top baby bouncers, click here.
Happy shopping! And more importantly, best of luck with baby!!!
Blog Cover Photo Credit: Wesley Tingey on Unsplash
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