So, whether you're expecting and would like some ideas (besides cloth diapers!) for what to stock the nursery with or have a baby shower to shop for, hopefully this post will provide a helpful resource. I also welcome any and all moms to share their own favorite must-haves in the comments since parenthood is SO personal and some of my faves might not be someone else’s cup of tea.
Swaddling blanket/sleep sacks - Hands-down, if you can only get one thing, buy a muslin swaddling blanket for those first few months. Seriously, it's that huge. Our daughter sleeps SO much better when she's all snugly “tucked in.” And even now, she sleeps tons better when she’s wearing a sleep sack...even in 90 degree weather. Game. Changer. Cradle - We actually have used a perfectly safe hand-me-down cradle for both of our children and it has been awesome. We're not co-sleepers but we like having Harper close by. Yes, she's getting to the crib point (*sniffle, sniffle*), but having the ease of grabbing her quickly for half-asleep midnight feedings and changes has been a luxury. Plus, I love hearing her little noises as she slumbers. Any well-rated cradle or bassinet you find will work if you don’t have a secondhand (and buying a secondhand one might be risky; we checked ours for any possible issues). But, for example, a family member had a bassinet that I felt could tip way too easily, so we politely declined any use whenever we visited. Just use your common sense, of course. Hand-me-down clothes - I've come to realize that clothes are the #1 clutter-maker in our lives, and baby clothes (especially the ones baby only wears for, say, a month) are huge offenders. While people will want to buy adorable new outfits, I love the idea of passing clothes along so that they actually get used. Plus, it's far cheaper than buying a whole new wardrobe for your little one every three months. And what if you don’t have a friend or family member looking to hand down clothes? There are some awesome local “garage sale” style Facebook pages and Mommy groups that are great for putting out the “looking for size 6-9 month” feelers. Oh, and be sure to pass the love along when you’re done for those items that are in good condition.SIDE NOTE: This also works wonderfully with maternity clothes. Babywearing apparatus - If you don't already know about the glory of babywearing (soothing baby, hands-free?? Yes, please!), Google it! I have an Ergo soft-structure carrier (easy for not-hot days and quick errands), a gorgeous Oscha wrap (it makes me feel purdy, not gonna lie), and my favorite is my Moby wrap (although I’m considering a Moby GO). There are tons of brands and price points, and many Facebook groups for all types of wearers, but all you need to know is that it's a great way to bond with baby without feeling like you'll never get up from the couch ever again. Plus, many find their baby carriers/wraps so useful that they never have a need for their strollers. This may or may not work for you (we’re about a 50/50 family but use our stroller less than we used to with our son; sometimes you just want that extra space to throw the diaper or shopping bags), but if you’re hoping to have some extra bonding with baby and want to try hands-free, well, anything at the same time, a carrier is perfect. A large bag or purse - Speaking of diaper bags...you don’t really need one. Sure, some people love having allotted spots for every item they’re carrying, but I found that either a super simple canvas utility bag or large purse handled our needs just fine. Of course, it depends on how long you’re leaving the house for, but I’ll often keep our cloth diapers in a tote in the car and grab a couple to bring into the store or house we’re visiting. Also...we tend to bring way more than we need to bring on a simple errand-running excursion. I carry the same bag for both kids now that I did with our son and it’s got room to spare. You live, you learn. Pack ‘n play - I know some people will insist this isn't a necessity, and for many it's not. But, if you have a two-story house or travel, like, ever, it's essential. It provides us with a crib and changing station on our first floor - and as our daughter gets bigger, it's totally going to be a playpen. Hooray for containment! Bonus item: Baskets/Bins! - This has become my go-to kid organizational tool. When they’re little, the wayward bin helps contain cloth diapers, wipes, and lotions; as they get older, they can hold toys and books. Overall, baskets and bins help me feel like things are at least relatively neat and orderly, and not in a fussy, hard-to-maintain way. So, what’s your must-have baby item? We’d love your ideas in the comments! Megan is a wife, mother to two young children, freelance writer, and educator. She shares her attempts at simplifying, among other things, at her blog, Meg Acts Out. When not busy meeting deadlines and chasing cats and kids, she enjoys acting in community theatre (where she met her husband), watching old movies, and sharpening her history buff skills.