big hits and near misses
We spent a lot of time when Munchkin was in utero debating what baby gear to acquire. While our parents somehow managed to raise us without a ton of extraneous paraphernalia, some of the newfangled baby items really do make life considerably easier. Others — not so much. Having survived Munchkin’s so-called fourth trimester, here’s our short list of the items we found the most useful, the ones we thought would be great but wound up being total duds, and the ones that we thought would be useless but proved indispensable.
Miracle Blanket — The nurses at the hospital could seemingly swaddle a newborn with a burp cloth, if push came to shove. Despite spending an entire week watching them wrap Munchkin into a tight, cozy bundle we could never emulate their dexterity. We even watched how-to videos, but Munchkin proved too much of a Houdini for us. No sooner would we finish wrapping him in his hospital blankets than he would free his arms and start flailing them around. Much as he would protest against being restrained when he was awake, the baby straight jacket really proved indispensable when putting him down to sleep. And we prefer the Miracle Blanket over similar products, such as the Halo Sleep Sack, because it is easy to use and accomplishes its purpose without noisy Velcro.
My Brest Friend — In addition to being invaluable, this item also wins the prize for being the most awkwardly named. While still pregnant, S scoured online reviews to see whether the Brest Friend or the Boppy made for a better nursing pillow. In the end she received one as a gift and the other as a hand-me-down, so she got to try both. There was no contest. As uncomfortable as it felt to ask people to please pass her Brest Friend when she needed to nurse, it was the better product by far. Even so, we are glad to have the Boppy as well, because it makes for a great lounging pillow now that Munchkin has grown a bit and has more head control.
Rock-n-Play — S calls this the baby whisperer, and it is the only item that came highly recommended by every single one of our parent-friends, regardless of their traditionalist or hippy/green leanings. It makes us more than a little apprehensive to know that we will soon have to transition Munchkin from his vibrating cradle to the cold, harsh crib.
Carriers — Between gifts and hand-me-downs, we have acquired a collection of nearly every kind of carrier on the market: slings, wraps, and soft-sided buckle ones that face both in and out. Munchkin loved going for walks and dozing in the wrap during his first two months, and now we’re testing out some new positions and carriers that let him stretch his legs and use his growing head control. The value of being able to soothe one’s newborn to sleep while still having both arms free cannot be overstated.
First Year’s Tub — This goes in the “unexpectedly great” category. One would think that a sink or a plastic bucket is all one needs to bathe a baby, but trying to hold onto and lather up a slippery, wet newborn is terrifying. S’s mom kept her nearly three-decades-old baby tub so we were able to compare the tubs of yesteryear with the modern offerings. Munchkin’s new tub comes with a handy sling insert that allows him to lounge comfortably and safely in the warm water while freeing up our hands to do the washing — quite possibly the best $15 one can spend on a newborn.
Fischer Price bouncer and play mat — S thought she would try to limit the amount of plastic in our home, but even she has been completely won over by the flashy lights, jangly trinkets, and catchy tunes that completely captivate Munchkin’s attention. It’s hard to argue with a happy baby, and Munchkin loves his kick-n-play piano and monkey bouncing chair so much that we even brought the latter on our road trip to Romania.
Sock-ons — This item is final proof that the baby industry really has thought of everything. S’s mom bought a pair on a whim and we loved them so much that S ordered another pair to ship to Moldova via Amazon. They seem silly, but they really are ingenious and solve perfectly a very simple problem, namely that it is impossible to keep socks on a wiggly infant.
Not every baby item has been quite as stellar. We returned some things, like the car seat bundle cover, because simple alternatives — in this case a blanket — accomplished the same purpose much more effectively. Other items, like the “sleep sheep” sound machine, we hope will prove useful later.
One item in particular — the Nuna Leaf — has been useless during Munchkin’s first three months but is beginning to show potential for redemption. Inspired, supposedly, “by the carefree float of a leaf on a breeze,” the Leaf looks great in our living room but mostly elicits squawks of unhappiness from Munchkin. His nanny has discovered an alternative use for it as a swinging tummy time apparatus, which probably wouldn’t pass Nuna’s safety test, but at least has rehabilitated the Leaf in Munchkin’s mind.
When Munchkin was just a few weeks old, D’s grandma tried to straighten his legs by force, afraid he wouldn’t grow or would remain hunched over the rest of his life. She brushed off our insistence that newborns tend to curl up in the fetal position because they yearn for the cramped but reassuringly cozy embrace of the womb. Munchkin still enjoys his snuggles, but we can no longer call him a newborn. In lieu of blank stares and instinctual rooting, now he smiles, coos, and gazes pensively into our eyes. He also rolls over, spends a lot of time looking at himself in the mirror, and grabs at the dangling toys on his playmat. He has graduated from newborn-sized diapers and clothing into ones that actually have numbers. The little man is moving up in the world.