Whether you are expecting a baby or are purchasing for a new family, there are many (too many) choices when it comes to sleep. According to the Safe Sleep guidelines, the safest way for your baby to sleep is on his/her back in a safe sleep environment that is firm and free of extra items: no pillows, comforters, quilts or bumper pads. Now that we’ve had 2 kids, difficult sleep journeys aside, I wanted to share the items that worked best for our family:
Infant Sleep Necessities
- Bassinet – Although not necessary, we found it easier to have baby in our room from the start, allowing for easy access to breastfeed throughout the night. We found it more comforting to have baby close, and studies have shown it to be beneficial to baby as well. We used the bassinet that came with our Uppababy Vista, making it a great all-around purchase that we still use 4 years later!
- Bassinet Sheet – These were hard to find, but make it easier to keep the bassinet clean – babies spit up a lot!
- Rocking Bassinet Stand - We used the Jolly Jumper stand and had it rigged up to a belt to rock more easily without the parent having to sit up. Our boys were both rough sleepers, but it helped in the very early days.
- White Noise - I’d call this absolutely essential, although we didn’t believe it at first. You can buy white noise machines; we used an iPad playing a waterfall track from iTunes in the early days, or an iPhone if we were on the go. In the first few weeks, the sound alone sent Damien to sleep. Now that he’s older, we still play white noise on an old iPod Speaker Dock to minimize the number of times his older brother disrupts his sleep.
- Miracle Blanket - The recommendations on swaddling vs not swaddling keep changing. For our two boys, it was essential, but not long lasting. We tried regular blankets of many sorts and several specialty items. The longest one to last was the Miracle Blanket, since it was the hardest to “escape” from. Our boys both rolled early and were very mobile at night, so we stopped swaddling each before 6 weeks old.
Baby Sleep and Beyond Necessities
Our kids moved to their own rooms at 4 months, for Aiden, and 2 months, for Damien. I wish we had made the move earlier for Aiden, who struggled a great deal with the distractions of our room. For both of our boys, we have found the ideal set-up to be:
- Convertible Crib / Bedroom Set - We made the unconventional decision to buy convertible cribs for both boys, instead of using a crib for both. Our logic is that we are buying not just baby furniture, but furniture for their whole lives. Ideally, you would buy a whole set: crib (with conversion kit to make it a toddler bed and/or double bed), dresser, bookshelf, side table. By buying all items early, we ensured the items will never go out of stock. Tip: when buying a whole set, envision the style that would be appropriate for a teenager, not just an infant!
- Crib Mattress – Choose a mattress that is firm and ideally water resistant, eliminating the need for a waterproof mattress protector. Who wants to do extra laundry? Not me!
- Sleep Sack – A wearable blanket in the appropriate weight and size for the season. Aiden wore these until he was almost 3, when he switched to a blanket. You never have to worry about tucking in with one of these! Tip: choose one with a hidden zipper at the front or side. Avoid ones with snaps at the top, which come loose easily.
- Crib Sheet – Choose a sheet that fits snug and still has some softness to it. We have foundmany too loose. Our favourite crib sheet is from Skip Hop.
- Breathable Bumper – Although bumpers pose a suffocation / SIDS hazard for young babies, and a climbing hazard for older ones, babies have a habit of getting arms and legs stuck in the bars of their cribs! We solved this with a breathable bumper.
- Crib Rail - If your convertible crib doesn’t come with a safety rail for use in the toddler bed setting, a safety rail is essential. My 4-year-old still needs his (he rolls a lot) and we plan at least one more year in the toddler bed setting.
- Video Monitor - Although not essential, it is so helpful to see your baby to know if they are crying in their sleep (totally unaware) or if they maybe need your help. Plus, for older kids, you can spot when they’re not in bed! We personally use wireless cameras we connect to our phones, but if you’re not tech savvy, any baby video monitor should work.
- Toddler Bedding – For older kids, choosing bedding is not easy. Depending on how much your kid tosses and turns and the temperature of your room, you could choose a quilt or a comforter. Since top sheets cause an unnecessary amount of “can you tuck me in?” requests, we use a blanket only. We learned the hard way to ensure that the blanket is larger than the bed area, so it doesn’t come off too easily. We now use a thick quilt from Pottery Barn Kids that mimics a comforter, but without the need to wash a separate cover.
- Toddler Pillow - Pillows are very personal. The recommendation is to wait until age 2-3 before introducing a pillow, and then introducing one that is toddler-sized. Pillow cases can be hard to find (Pottery Barn Kids has them). Aiden at age 4 still doesn’t want a thicker pillow, as he still sometimes sleeps on his tummy.
- Blackout Curtains – You need to block out the light to get babies to sleep a decent night, and particularly for naps. Aiden has blackout curtains behind his nicer curtains, though Damien has a thicker curtain with blackout sewn into the lining (from Pottery Barn Kids).
Those lists seem exhaustive, but if you’ve been to any baby store, you’ll know that you are pitched far more that you don’t need. You don’t need teddy bears that play heartbeats or fancy night lights or mobiles (distracting) or toys for the crib. Bedrooms are for sleeping – keep it simple!
Before Aiden was born, we decided to purchase a stroller that would eventually work for two kids. We fell in love with the UPPAbaby Vista and haven’t regretted the decision. My only beef with the stroller was that the seat doesn’t come forward enough, but models 2010 onward have additional seat positions (ours is a 2009).
When we were expecting Damien, Aiden was still enjoying the stroller (funny, since he hated it as a baby!), so we opted to get the second seat to start with. The UPPAbaby RumbleSeat is a second seat for the stroller that works for children up to a certain weight limit and can be used with the main seat or the infant car seat – we used both. Aiden had no problem getting in the back seat, though we did find the rain shield slipped back more than we would have liked. The stroller was still manoeuvrable, but it wasn’t as easy.
Since I really didn’t need to be pushing around an extra 35-40lbs (child plus seat), we told Aiden not long after he turned 3 that he had to start walking everywhere. Given Damien also doesn’t love the stroller, our walks are not very long and this has worked out.
A couple of months ago, anticipating the warmer weather and knowing that Damien can now snack in the stroller, we bought the PiggyBack to accommodate longer walks. Walking to the library from our house is possible with Aiden, but it’s very very slow and Damien only has *so* much patience, so we’ll do a combination of walking and riding to get there now. The introduction of the PiggyBack made for a lot of tantrums to begin with, since Aiden wanted to ride it all the time, but it has become a powerful tool to get him to leave the park when it’s time to go home. He loves having a chance to “rest” with Damien and having him there really keeps Damien from getting too fussy when he’s tired.
If you have a child who loves to walk, you may not need either accessory. If you do, I would probably go for the PiggyBack. Although it can be annoying to push (I tend to kick it), it is definitely the most compact option to choose from and gives you a little more flexibility.
If your car looks anything like ours, it’s strewn with Cherrios and other snacks, toys, blankets and stuffed animals, plus packages of snacks, wipes and other kid-necessities. It drives me crazy and makes for taking on extra passengers embarrassing.
In my first attempt to organize the clutter, I bought a backseat organizer like this one but soon found that the angle of our seat meant the toys fell out of the pouches and the big stuff still ended up on the seat. Last week, I bought a new organizer bag that fits in the centre seat of our car and it’s been perfect!!
Although the bag can double as a cooler, with a strap to remove from the car, for us it’s an organizational dream. I can stash away toys, books, water bottles, snacks and all sorts of other goodies. I put Aiden’s two “car loveys” at the top of the bin, so he can easily reach them when he wants them. Having to reach around to give or take things away was driving me crazy.
Aiden seems pretty content with being able to reach what he wants from the box and knows to put it back there now, instead of throwing it on the floor. Success!
A couple of weeks ago, I learned of the Wishbone Bike from a friend and immediately went out to buy one. I’ve always intended to buy Aiden a balance bike, but those are marketed to kids 2+. Tricycles are also aimed at that age, since the ability to pedal is not something kids at Aiden’s age can figure out yet.
However, the Wishbone Bike is aimed at kids 12+ months!!
The Wishbone Bike starts with 3 wheels – a stable and light base for kids to push themselves along. Later on, it converts to a 2-wheel balance bike. Not to be outdone, the frame flips over when the child is 4-5 and becomes a taller balance bike – one of the tallest on the market.
Aiden can successfully get on and off the tricycle and push himself forward. He doesn’t get much speed yet, just barely reaching the ground, but I figure that, with regular practice, he’ll be flying along by summer time.
Also, he may get a little upgrade on his birthday – the temptation to pimp out his ride is just too much!
When people discover that we use cloth diapers, we get one of two reactions. If they are a cloth diapering family too, we will usually start comparing diaper brands and talking about how much we love cloth diapering. If they don’t use cloth, we usually get inundated with questions. So for those out there who are curious about cloth, here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions:
Is it really cheaper to use cloth?
Not at first. You have to buy everything you will need for diapering up front, so the initial outlay can seem a bit pricey, but in the long run we are saving. The savings will go up exponentially when we have a second child and can reuse everything we bought for Zayden. We will likely spend $0 to diaper our second kid.
What do you do when you’re out of the house?
While some cloth diapering parents find it more convenient to use disposables when they’re out of the house, we use cloth when we’re out-and-about as well. The diaper bag really doesn’t look that different in the end. We pack the same number of diapers, but also bring a wet bag for dirty diapers. We also have a zippered pouch of cloth wipes and a small spray bottle with diaper wipes solution (a cup of water mixed with 5 drops of tea tree oil) instead of disposable wipes.
Doesn’t it make diaper rash worse?
Sometimes. It depends on how sensitive your baby’s skin is and how often you change your baby’s diaper. There are a lot of causes of diaper rash, but prolonged exposure to moisture is one of them. Cloth diapers don’t contain gel, so they don’t have the same “stay dry” properties as disposables. The easiest way to avoid diaper rashes if you use cloth diapers is to change your baby’s diaper as soon as you realize it’s wet. A good diaper cream can also help in situations where you won’t be able to change the diaper frequently (e.g. overnight). We have been known to switch to disposables temporarily in order to clear up a particularly persistent diaper rash.
If I wanted to use cloth diapers, how many would I need? What else would I need?
Depends on how often you want to do laundry and how old your child is. New and Green has a helpful article on what you need to get started along with other helpful resources for first time cloth diaperers.
Don’t you hate doing all that extra laundry?
Not really. It’s not as much extra laundry as you would think. I probably only do 2 more loads per week than I did pre-baby. And I would way rather do a load of laundry in the comfort of my own home than have to head out in the pouring rain and cold to buy a box of diapers when our supply runs out.
Cloth diapers seem so complicated. How did you figure out how to use them?
Not all cloth diapers are like origami with safety pins. We weren’t interested in a lot of fussing and folding ourselves, so we use pocket diapers. They look just like a disposable, no folding required. All you have to do is stuff an absorbent cloth pad inside them.
Aren’t cloth diapers much bulkier than disposables?
Yes. That is probably the one downside for me. Zayden tends to grow out of his pants a little sooner because of it. But the extra padding does come in handy with all the falls he’s been taking since learning to pull up.
Ew! Don’t you hate cleaning up a poopy diaper?
Don’t you? All babies poop the last time I checked. Even those who use disposables are supposed to knock the solids off a dirty diaper into the toilet so that the waste can be properly treated.
What do you do when you’re on vacation?
We use disposables and then switch back to cloth when we get home.
Is it true that kids who wear cloth diapers are potty trained faster than kids who don’t?
I’ll let you know in a few years when we actually tackle potty training, but that is the rumour. The theory is that because cloth diapered kids know what it feels like to have a wet diaper, they make the connection between the sensation that they need to go and using the potty faster.
I’m sure you know how to use them properly, but don’t you have issues with babysitters and daycare?
Because we use pocket diapers (see above), they are pretty straightforward and all our caregivers have caught on pretty quickly. There are some daycare centres out there that refuse to use cloth diapers; we won’t consider those types of centres when it comes time to put Zayden in pre-school.
Are cloth diapers less absorbent than disposables?
The gel in a disposable can absorb a freakishly large amount of liquid, but so can a lot of natural fibres. The hemp inserts we use for overnight are particularly absorbent.
So what are you, a big tree hugging hippie?
Sorry to disappoint you, but you won’t find any Birkenstocks or organic ancient grains granola in our house. Cloth diapering is not just for hippies and environmentalists. Concern for the environment is part of the reason we chose to go with cloth, but we also did it for our son’s health (we wanted to reduce his exposure to unnecessary chemicals as much as possible) and to save a bit of money. And to be honest, I did it because I think cloth diapers are cute. There are different colours and designs to choose from that make diapering a little more fun for me. In my view, when it comes to style, the difference between disposables and cloth is like the difference between a paper gown you get at the doctor’s office and a really cute sweater.