Baby Basics: Products I Swear By

If you are a new mama, the myriad options for baby basics can be overwhelming, and babies are expensive so it can be terribly tempting to just grab the cheapest option and run. Not all baby products are created equal. We went through several frustrating periods of trial and error of testing different products to see if our daughter would have some kind of skin reaction, especially to diapers, diaper cream, and soap.
Some babies may not have any issues with the products that caused our daughter’s skin rashes, but there was a definite difference when we found just the right one for her.
Here are my favorite baby basics.

Pampers Swaddlers to this day (my daughter currently wears a size 5 diaper) is our favorite brand of diaper to use. We have the least amount of leaks from this, and we have tried several other brands in comparison including Huggies and the Pampers Cruisers.
The primary concern was definitely leakage. The Huggies Little Snugglers were the worst for leaking, they pretty much did this every time she wore them. For newborn poop, this was a big no-no. We attempted the Pampers Cruisers, and they worked okay, except at night. Ten hours was just too much for the Cruisers to hold and after two nights of waking up soaked, we gave up on those as well. The Swaddlers are consistently quality diapers, they rarely leak, and they are comfortable, no thigh rubbing, no rashes. You can subscribe and receive a regular delivery of diapers based on the frequency you choose, saving you the multiple store-runs having a baby in diapers usually requires. You can find some really helpful charts that estimate how many diapers in each size you need to figure out a delivery frequency that works for you, and it is super easy to go into your subscriptions and change as needed.
Just as important for preventing diaper rashes as the diaper, we only wavered from the Pampers Sensitive wipes once when the husband accidentally bought the wrong kind. My daughter’s butt promptly broke out after one use, and we couldn’t even bring ourselves to finish the pack, let alone the box. These are super gentle and have a very light scent.
We use baby wipes for almost every kind of cleanup imaginable from cleaning the butt to wiping hands after eating, you will find that you literally CANNOT leave the house without baby wipes. Pro-tip: Always have a backup pack in the diaper bag. Poop explosions, vomit, milk/juice spills all require a lot of wipes to clean up.
Next up, Aveeno Wash & Shampoo. This works wonders on my daughter’s sensitive skin. Its Pediatrician Recommended, made from oat extract, and works as body wash AND shampoo. You have the option to subscribe on Amazon to receive regular shipments of this product, we used about one bottle every two months when my daughter was a newborn, and now we go through a bottle a month. Subscribing can save you 5-15% on price (depending on how many Amazon subscriptions you have, the more you subscribe, the more you save) and also save you the hassle of thinking about it when you run out.
You will find you think about the health of your baby’s skin nearly constantly. Is it too dry? Is that a rash? Why is her scalp so flaky?! Desitin is another excellent product for preventing and then treating diaper rash. The Rapid Relief works best for daily use while the Maximum Strength is most useful for treating existing rashes. Buy one in the tub to use at home and buy a tube for on-the-go use. Trust. You will appreciate the convenience of both. This is definitely another instance where you will use this product for so long it might serve you well to subscribe to the product on Amazon, though the tubs last a little longer than the tube and can be ordered less frequently, depending on how often you take your little one out. But if you are buying the product anyway, why not get the discount and get them delivered regularly?
Here is a product you may not have anticipated as a baby basic but I use cornstarch in place of baby powder. You might have heard about the concern of a  link between baby powder use and cervical cancer. In 2016, a jury awarded a monetary judgment in favor of a woman who claimed using Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder caused her cervical cancer. Medical studies have not reached a conclusive decision as to whether or not there is a link. The problem ingredient is talc, which is a mineral mined from rocks, technically natural but can cause irritation. I am not one to mess with risk, even when it may be small. I don’t feel like I want to take the chance on my daughter’s health if there is an alternative that may be safer and achieves the same end. Cornstarch dries the bottom as quickly as baby powder. Cornstarch also makes an excellent dry shampoo, is cheap, and can be bought at most grocery stores.
Finally, another baby product you will need to buy very frequently (if you are not breastfeeding) is baby formula. I breastfed my LO until she was ten months old before I started having production issues. Her doctor advised me to switch to a soy-based formula as it would be easier to supplement with the breastmilk without getting a baby hooked on the formula so that she would refuse the breastmilk I was able to produce. The soy formula was horrible, and my daughter hated it. She refused to drink it, and I was still not making nearly enough milk to satisfy her. So I switched to this formula, and it was like night and day. She took to this like a fly to honey AND would still nurse from me when I needed her to. At ten months we were able to move towards weaning and supplemented with the formula until she was a year old and able to switch to whole milk. She had no digestive issues with the switch and seemed to respond as well to this formula as my breastmilk regarding weight gain and immune health.
And those are my favorite basic baby products. Those are also the things that will drain your bank account at the end of every week so I highly suggest coupon clipping, Pampers has a great rewards program that allows you to accrue points. In addition to coupons, Amazon’s subscribe & save option is also a good way to save some money and is available on many baby products like diapers, formula, wipes, food, snacks, etc.
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Working Mom: What I Learned About Self-Care From A Year of Solo-Parenting A Newborn While Working Full-Time

I was 38 weeks pregnant when I was called in to interview for my dream job. Well, dream job in my career field, at least. I had applied on a whim and at the urging of a relative of my husband’s who called my attention to the job posting. I never thought as a new graduate with less than a year’s work experience I would get the position.
Even though I had an interview, I didn’t think I would get it. But then I had a second interview, with a side of more doubts. Everyone was amiable and professional, even when confronted unexpectedly with my enormous belly poorly hidden under a suit jacket that would not button.
Then I got a letter offering me the job, my first salaried position WITH benefits! At 41 weeks pregnant with my first child, faced with the impending 9-month deployment of my husband overseas the next month. I accepted, of course.
I was working at a public library part-time, just shy of full-time. The workload was smaller, I had been a library assistant/page. I mainly worked circulation and assisted the children’s librarian with programming. But I had few responsibilities where I had to make substantial decisions. That changed drastically when I accepted my new job as a Reference Librarian and Information Literacy Instructor. My new position required commitment beyond your typical 9-5. As part of my job, I had to engage with the community and contribute to my institution beyond the doors of the library. This means my job would follow me home from time to time.
At home, I (eventually…finally!) had a newborn. And a newborn who developed colic around 6 weeks old, just in time to send Daddy off to the Middle East. I began solo parenting the same time I started my new job.
I’m not going to lie.
It was the hardest thing I have ever done.
Parenting still is. Being a mom is incredibly rewarding but utterly exhausting, even with my husband home again to share the responsibility.
But going to work 5 days a week, then coming home to a colicky baby who needed to be breastfed once every hour, then also trying to find time to eat, clean, and sleep presented me with an extreme challenge.
How could I find a way to balance all these things?
How could I be happy when I was overworked, overwrought, and over it?
For a long time during my husband’s deployment, I could not find any kind of balance. I felt rushed, stressed, scared, and alone.
I want to pause here to applaud single parents. Bless you. I have so much RESPECT for you.
All day, every day, 24 hours, 7 days a week, I was wound up. I would go from breastfeeding to making my meals to breastfeeding to changing a diaper to comforting a screaming baby to breastfeeding to changing a diaper to cleaning to working to pumping to working from home to breastfeeding to changing a diaper to grocery shopping, etc. There was no minute in a day for me, for self-care, for my mental health.
I suffer from post-partum depression. Lucky for me, my OB anticipated this as she was aware of my husband’s upcoming departure. I was prescribed Zoloft which I am still taking and probably will need for the rest of my life. But even with the medication and medical support the depression would creep in and pull me under. I had to find some time for myself in the midst of this challenging period of my life.
Keeping a calendar was a life saver. Whether that is your phone, a planner, a desk calendar, keep track of your schedule. Besides your child(ren)’s regular check-ups, keep track of your own appointments, and make sure you carve time into that schedule for some time for yourself.
Hire a babysitter (and try to shake that guilt for spending time away from your kids when you aren’t at work), see a movie, get a haircut, a manicure, or visit a friend. You gave birth, that is not a life-sentence for isolation or imprisonment.
Children are meant to enrich your life not limit it. We make that decision ourselves.
Bullet journaling may help you to keep track of not only your schedule but your self-care. There are tons of fantastic templates out there for bullet journaling things like keeping track of the books you read, the movies you see, personal goals you want to set for yourself like starting a side business, pursuing a hobby, etc. I tried bullet journaling myself for a few months, and it was definitely a fun way of keeping track of everything.
Another way of alleviating the pressure of parenting and balancing your other obligations is to trust other people. My mom is my full-time babysitter, she watches my daughter every day I am at work which is incredibly reassuring. I know my mom, I trust my mom. I don’t have to worry that she is not going to care for my baby the exact same way I would because I learned how to be a mom from her. And she did a damn excellent job as a single working mother herself.
But what about when I needed a babysitter outside of my workday? It seemed excessive to ask my mom when she already watched my child 40 hours a week, and she works nights and weekends besides. (Seriously, my mama is a superhero.)
I had to learn to let other people help me. This included my husband’s family, his sister, and mother who are fantastic people and raised beautiful babies themselves. I had to trust the people who had genuine intentions of helping me out and caring for my daughter as profoundly as I do.
I never considered myself controlling until I became a mother. And I don’t necessarily think that having a controlling impulse as a parent is a bad thing. But there have to be limits to that, for your own sake. Allowing my sister-in-law to take my daughter to a picnic, giving myself a couple of hours of “me” time was just one example of how I needed to unclench and let people help me.
Besides allowing others to babysit your child, you have to be able to accept that you cannot do everything, and then, you cannot do everything well. I hate feeling weak. I hate when I fail at something. I am a perfectionist (see the controlling impulse above). There are going to be days when there are dirty dishes left in the sink, and when you don’t finish that report at work, and when you know your baby needs a bath but you skip it anyway, and when you know you need a bath but you skip it anyway.
It is okay to fall short of your own expectations.
Mama, you are doing your best.
Part of the process of parenting is just persevering through the difficult times. But don’t forget to appreciate those times for the joy and beauty they bring to your life as well. I went on auto-pilot a lot during this period and as a result there are some points I just can’t remember. Take time to pause, study your child’s face, and embrace the chaos for the blessing it is.
I think the most profound lesson from this past year of my life is seeing how much I could endure. I learned I could be independent, I learned I could be strong, emotionally and physically. I learned there is value in me apart from my role as a wife and a mother.
I had never known those things about myself before.
Somewhere in my head cold ramblings I hope you find some comfort, advice, and community. Remember, to fill the cups of others you must first fill your own.

The Ultimate Baby Cheat Sheet

My daughter is about 16 months old. As our first child, we had a lot of buying to do to get ready for her arrival. We had a baby shower of course but ended up buying most of the more significant items ourselves, except the crib which my coworkers at my old job bought for us as a gift WITH a crib mattress (they were seriously the most amazing people in the world, and I miss them every day).
The cost of preparing for a baby can be enormous, especially when confronted with all these lists of what baby should have. I scoured these lists on Pinterest for months. I made my own lists, I made Amazon wishlists AND baby registries. I wanted to be prepared for anything and everything this unknown nugget would throw at me, especially as my husband was preparing for an overseas deployment a month after my due date. Anything that would make my life easier as I solo parented a newborn was a must have.
As a result, we ended up buying many things it turned out we didn’t need/would never use. I realize every baby is different and for some the items we ended up wasting money on could have been useful. However, I think our experience was pretty standard. Some of the things we didn’t use because she had zero interest in the item, like a cosleeper bassinet. Some products I honestly forgot I had bought and got by fine without.
The items I did use were used heavily and were actual life-savers. This post is dedicated to those beautiful objects that sometimes made parenting a breeze. Or at least made me not want to rip my hair out as badly.
I will link all the items to Amazon for easy reference to what they are and an estimate of cost. Of course, you can buy these from your retailer of choice if you decide you need them.
Boppy

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Usually passed out like this post feeding.

Easily my favorite baby product and the thing I used the most. A boppy is a nursing pillow that fits around your waist. It is technically a nursing pillow but is useful for bottle feeding as it allows you free use of one hand at least. I breastfed, so the boppy allowed me to have both hands free (once Little Bit had learned to latch and stay latched correctly). Once she got older, we would prop her in this to help her strengthen her neck, and she learned to actually sit up using this pillow. My mom would even lay her in it for naps, and it was convenient for stuffy noses. The only caveat is that you need to invest in multiple covers. I had one, and the regular milk dribblings meant a lot of washing and not having a cover for the pillow itself which I needed during washings as well. I’d say a minimum of two but three might be better if you can swing it.
 
Bottle Sanitizer (if you don’t have a dishwasher with the sanitize option)
My apartment did not come equipped with a dishwasher, so a bottle sanitizer was a must for us initially as I did not want to boil water constantly. There are several variations of bottle sanitizers including some you can put in the microwave but we went with a plug-in appliance that sanitized in less than 5 minutes. It worked great and was definitely much easier to use than more traditional methods. However, once we moved into our house with a dishwasher with sanitize functions, we no longer needed this appliance.
Diaper Genie
I have heard people bashing the Diaper Genie, that is was an overpriced garbage can, for years before I got pregnant and so was a little hesitant about this purchase, but it honestly makes a huge difference in odor. Where there are babies there is excessive amounts of poop. And that poop just progressively gets stinkier and stinkier as baby progresses from milk to solids (I have also heard formula fed babies have smellier poops than breastfed babies). The Diaper Genie shuts these odors in and includes a charcoal filter for additional smell protection. Your nose and the noses of your house guests will thank you. We bought two, by the way. You will need to purchase refills for the bags and the charcoal filters, but you can buy these in multi-packs.
Cloth Diapers for Burp Cloths
We did not choose to use cloth diapers over disposable diapers for our daughter. I really wanted to but in the end was too intimidated to
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She loved playing with the clothes too.

try. However, I got these flat fold cloth diapers to use for affordable burp cloths, and they were invaluable. They are simple cloth squares you can prop under baby’s cheek while feeding to catch dribbles, the keep nearby for spit up, for the use of general spills while unable to move to grab an actual towel, etc. They are super cheap to buy in bulk, and you can bleach the crap out of them, literally. Burp cloths with cute designs are way marked up for their purpose and not nearly big enough anyway. I had some burp clothes I had received as a gift at my baby shower, and they were suitable for one use before they were ready for the laundry. Not nearly as absorbent as the cloth diaper either.
 
Glider Rocker
This was a more significant purchase as a piece of furniture but also definitely worth the cost. There is only so much manual rocking a human being can do, even my National Guard hubby who lifts. A rocker is a huge help, and a glider rocker has the smoothness necessary for undisturbed soothing and near effortless transition from sitting to standing. They usually pair with a footstool which you will use, and you will be glad you bought both. We did not buy the glider linked above but bought ours from Walmart, and it has held up excellently and still gets some use today. Also, our kitty (RIP) peed on the cushion, and it came clean easily.
Pack ‘N Play w/Diaper Changing Station and Bassinet
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Bonus: You get pictures like this which are priceless.

I can’t recall the exact brand we have, but it looks very similar to the one linked above. We got massively lucky on this one, and our uncle found a gently used Pack ‘N Play with the diaper changing station and the bassinet insert (but not the little newborn bassinet on top) and gave it to us as a gift. Yard sales, by the way, are fantastic places to find baby stuff as babies grow so fast they don’t use anything long enough to really destroy it. But we used this thing regularly, the diaper changing station especially for quick changes in the living room where we kept this thing erected permanently for quick baby drops when I needed to have my hands free. I also would take it outside and let baby play in it safely while still getting fresh air during the summer.
 
Baby Gym
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The monkey was definitely her favorite.

This item gets a little less use just because the amount of time it is safe for baby to play with is so short. It is best for newborn to right before they start to crawl. After that, they start tugging it down on them or just crawling away to inspect more exciting things.  But my baby rolled over for the first time on this, and she absolutely adored the little toys that attached to it (and which un-attach for extended play options once the gym itself is no longer usable). I included it because you can purchase these at a reasonably low cost, no doubt you can find multitudes of them used in yard sales or at Goodwill.
 
Shag Rug or Rug Pad
So, as my baby was learning to sit up, crawl, and walk she was constantly falling like every other baby. The tumbles I could not prevent, but we had hardwood floors in the house. We needed to provide padding to diminish injuries, especially for her soft noggin. I ended up buying a shag rug for the thick pile AND a rug pad which resulted in the cushiest flooring I have ever felt. It is impossible for Little Bit to hurt herself when she falls on this rug and is super comfy just for floor play, especially for people like me who had hip problems during pregnancy. There is an upfront cost investment for this but entirely worth it. The rug pad also helps protect my hardwood floors and keeps the rug on top from moving which are additional perks. You could probably buy a rug with a smaller pile, and still be just as insulated, no doubt our setup is slight overkill.
Baby Sleepers
So. Many. Sleepers. I preferred these Carter’s terry cloth sleepers, but you can buy plain cotton ones as well. Honestly, this and onesies are all my baby wore as she spent most of the beginning of her life sleeping. Even when I took her out, she was usually dressed in a sleeper, though she was born in November, so the cold weather was a factor. Honestly, cute (often overpriced) newborn outfits that look like adult clothing is a money racket in my opinion. I bought my daughter some cute outfits, but they never seemed as comfy and would disrupt her sleep sometimes. A coming home outfit and special occasion clothes are really all you need besides sleepers and onesies in the beginning.
Onesies
Besides sleepers, I kept my baby dressed in onesies. On a couple of super cold nights in our old drafty apartment, she would wear both. But onesies are great basics and accessible to both put on and remove (you can roll them down over the shoulders and pull off from the bottom). They come in a million and one patterns and colors and are usually made of cotton.
Baby BathtubIMG_2945
Another baby object I have heard people say is overrated is the infant tub which sits in your regular tub. I found mine incredibly useful and much more comfortable than the sink. For one, the bathtub is ergonomically shaped for the baby to lean back on and support their heads. In the sink, without any additional support, you are using your own hand/arm (you will still need to keep one hand on the baby in an infant tub, at least until they can support their own head). But the tub also comes with a little hammock for newborns which was super useful and could be thrown in the washer afterward. The bathtub I use has three different options for baby to use, the hammock, a side sans hammock for newborns, and an infant side, all with varying angles as the baby develops. It saved water and offered additional support for baby. I bought mine for $5 at a Peddler’s Mall.
Baby Carrier
Finally, a product I found absolutely invaluable was a baby carrier. This particular one is a front carrier and is not meant for newborns. I think they recommend only using this product on infants 8 weeks and up as newborns cannot support their heads well. I attempted to use a Moby wrap, but my daughter hated the constriction of the wrap. The carrier allowed her hands and feet freedom, and she was able to use my boobs as a pillow. While solo-parenting this was the only way I was able to grocery shop as I couldn’t fit my food and her car seat in the shopping cart. This carrier felt comfortable on my back even after an hour of use, and the straps are adjustable. The carrier can be used up to 32 pounds, about the weight of my daughter now at 16 months.
Jumperoo
 
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Buttons and babies go together like PB&J.

Another of my favorite products, my daughter absolutely adored her jumperoo. Doctors advise against baby walkers so we bought this as an alternative for individual play and building leg strength. it has three height settings so it lasts quite a while (unless you have an early walker) and has a variety of entertaining toys. My daughter could spend hours in her Jumperoo bouncing and playing with the toys and listening to the music. Worth the investment and the space it takes up for sure. If you can find it gently used all the better! We had to buy ours new though.
 
 
 
Baby Swing
Baby swing barely made this list. Honestly, they are not worth buying brand new. Look for a nice, gently used one (always check for recalls when buying products used and always register new products for recall alerts). My sister-in-law found ours at a yard sale in excellent condition for about $20. They cannot be used for a long time, babies shouldn’t sleep in them. If they fall asleep you will need to move the baby to a safer sleep environment. And the weight and height limit is low, my daughter grew out of hers by about 4 months. But it did help with soothing some of my daughter’s colic symptoms which were bad from the time she turned 6 weeks to 3 months. Baby swings also take a lot of batteries and drain them quickly which can get expensive.
 


 
Besides diapers, diaper cream, formula, bottles, baby soap, etc. these were the most useful items in the beginning. Though I received a crib as a gift it got very little use and still is not used as baby cosleeps and has since birth. This is more common for breastfeeding mothers to do as they need to be fed more often and you get more sleep. Your comfort level for cosleeping is your own business, FYI. I never had a problem with my daughter and was always highly alert to her position on the bed. Also, solo parenting is terrifying and having her next to me in case of an emergency was very comforting.
I could easily raise another baby on just the items above, which don’t get me wrong, is still a house full. So save money and time and stick with the things that work.