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.

I Bought It In A Drugstore: Beauty Product Review

Living in a rural town, easy access to high-end makeup is just not a thing. The nearest Sephora is over 100 miles away. Online shopping has saved my life more than once when I have run out of Kat Von D’s Tattoo Foundation (in 45, if interested) which is my all-time favorite foundation.
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But what about when I need something immediately because I ran out and didn’t plan ahead? What if, as a working mama, or let’s face it, a mama period, we just don’t have time to go to a beauty store where the prices necessitate making an informed purchase? What if you just want a product you can practice with or want to try a product you have never used before?
For me, all of the above applies. I have never used highlighter though. I have a contour kit, but really that is the most complex I get with my makeup. I have seen highlighter all over Instagram lately though, and the shimmery glow has me hooked. At the same time, I don’t know when I will be able to get to a beauty supply store, and I have never used it so don’t know how to use it or what colors flatter me. So I thought I would pick up a palette from my local drugstore. I browsed the various sections for colors that I’d like and finally settled on this palette from Revlon called Galaxy Dream, a holographic highlighting palette numbered 003 if that means anything to anyone.

These colors make me think of a futuristic, sci-fi fantasy, perfect for my nerdy soul. (Hubby dropped it in the checkout aisle, so the powder got a little loosened before opening…men.)

Tried to demo on the arm like others on Instagram but phone camera is meh.

I applied my makeup regularly and saved highlighter for the last step which is what I think you are supposed to do. I obviously didn’t look up any tutorials before applying.
Face without highlighter.
Face without highlighter.

I applied the bottom right color to the top of my cheekbone. I then applied the top left shade slightly above that and below my brow bones. I did not use all the colors on the first application.
I really like the subtle sheen of the palette, and the colors are neutral enough for a makeup newbie like me to not feel overdone or flamboyant when out in public. The powder felt smooth to the touch and glided on. I also appreciated the mirror built into the palette since my daughter recently shattered my makeup mirror. It is large for a hand mirror and square.
Face with highlighter.
Face with highlighter.

Overall I am pleased with the purchase and will probably use it nearly every day. It doesn’t feel heavy and the colors are light and the shimmer is just flashy enough to give me a nice soft glow.

I Tried A DNA Testing Kit: Here’s What I Learned

I was one of many who took advantage of DNA ancestry kits going on sale over the holidays. I purchased Ancestry DNA through Amazon for about $60 in December. Per Amazon Prime shipping, I received the kit two days later.

Collecting Your Sample

Included inside was instructions for collecting the sample and sending it in with a box with prepaid postage to send the sample in. The sample is deposited in a tube filled with a stabilizing fluid. You fill the top of the container with your spit (you have to wait thirty minutes after eating or drinking anything which was surprisingly challenging) and then seal it and break the barrier to allow the stabilizing fluid to mix with your spit.
The kit had to be activated before sending on the Ancestry website as well.

Waiting

Once the kit was mailed, you could track the progress of your sample through the Ancestry.com website. From arrival to processing to complete, your spit’s journey is projected in a little progress bar.
I mailed in my sample around December 22nd and received an email that my sample had arrived at their labs on January 4th. The website stated that the waiting period from arrival to the beginning of processing could take anywhere from 6-8 weeks due to high demand, but I ended up receiving my results on January 30th. About three and a half weeks from arrival which was a much faster turn around time than I had anticipated.

The Results

The result was delivered in a linked email which leads to the Ancestry website and is found under the DNA tab.

Home

 

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DNA Matches and DNA Circle redacted to protect identities.

From the homepage, you will find access to you ethnicity breakdown with the majority ethnicities showing from the home widget. You will also find added features unique to Ancestry.com which matches you with suggested relatives who have completed their own DNA samples and DNA circles that have already been mapped to shared ancestors.
The DNA Matches for me have been accurate thus far as I was matched with at least two known relatives, for example, Ancestry was able to accurately discern a first cousin as a first cousin. Which is cool. I had minimal contact with my biological father and his family, so I am very interested in connecting with more people from his side.
Consequently, not knowing my father’s family (he was adopted) led me to take the test in the first place. My mother’s side has a pretty detailed genealogy completed by my grandfather and uncle, so I was confident in the information I had on their pedigree.

Ethnicity Region Breakdown

 

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Ancestry provides three cards for easy sharing on social media.

You can share your results on your social media or by email with these predesigned cards which gives you three different options for displaying your ethnic breakdown. I chose to share the middle card.
I am a very white, freckled, coppery haired girl, so the high confidence ethnicity regions did not surprise me. My brother had done some digging on my father’s relatives in the past and had traced our birth surname to a Scandinavian name so seeing that reflected in a high percentage was very interesting and reaffirmed the information he had uncovered. Sidenote: since discovering our Viking heritage my brother has grown a pretty impressive red beard.
The low confidence regions however really interested me. I think it reveals a pretty complicated history of my ancestors’ immigration. I know some history which can explain the more southern regions. There was a time in history when Germanic tribes (Visigoths and Goths) settled all over Europe including southern areas which may explain the percentage of my DNA from those areas (the Iberian Peninsula and Italy/Greece).
I was also surprised by the 1% European Jewish. This may come in through several branches of the family tree. Jewish people have experienced many periods of migration, facing frequent discrimination and expulsion from various regions. Ancestry provides a brief history of each ethnicity region and explains that the Jews who settling in Germany were called the Ashkenazi Jews and spoke Yiddish. This is likely where my percentage descended.
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Ancestry provides an interactive map where you can break down each ethnicity region, including the countries that comprise the region and an overview and link to more history of the region and the people who lived there.

Migrations

Besides showing the ethnicity regions that reflect in your DNA, Ancestry provides insight into significant migrations relative to your DNA results. I had a couple of substantial migratory periods in my ancestry, including the movement of the Scots-Irish to the Appalachia region and then the Appalachians into the Ohio/Indiana/Michigan region post-WWII.
 

AncestryMigrations
Many Scots-Irish settled in Appalachia during this period and, due to the isolated nature of the region, the community still retains many of the linguistic, religious, and familial tendencies of their ancestors. This is where I still live today.

Pros and Cons of Ancestry DNA

Pros

Ancestry.com is a trusted genealogy website. They are good at what they do and provide the appropriate tools to really get the most out of your results.
Many public libraries have subscriptions to Ancestry.com meaning you can access the advanced features for free! The community college library I work at has a subscription as well, and many other colleges in our area are trialing the site as well.
You can connect with living family members.
Cost is low compared to other DNA Testing Kits.

Cons

Ancestry.com costs money to access advanced features (searching vital records, connecting with completed family trees that you are matched with, etc.) if you don’t have access to a subscription already.
Other DNA testing kits such as 23andMe provide the option to test for genetic health risks and whether you are a carrier, though this is an upcharge. 23andMe also can check to see what percentage of Neanderthal DNA you have retained. Which is…something?

Is Ancestry DNA Worth the Cost?

This is very subjective. I feel like these DNA testing kits appeal to a particular population, those who have been adopted or whose immediate relatives were adopted or who have lost track of their genealogy. And care about their lineage. Coming from Appalachia, many people here are very preoccupied with their family trees. During elections, it is not uncommon for candidates to list their parents and even grandparents in their ads.
I am both interested in my family tree because of the regional preoccupation and because my father was adopted. For me, the test was more than worth the cost just for the ability to connect with living relatives and more efficiently build my family tree on my dad’s side. I also have access to the Ancestry subscription through my institution and can dig deeper than the DNA service allows for nonsubscribers.
If you don’t have any weird deviations in your family trees like adoption and your family has had access to well-kept birth, marriage, and death records this service is probably not for you. It won’t reveal anything you don’t already know. However, the kits which test genetic disorders might be a more cost-effective method for those wishing to conceive who also want to test to see if they are a carrier for any kind of genetic disease.
I am pleased with my results, and with the service, I have received thus far from Ancestry DNA and Ancestry.com.
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