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A year ago this time I was creeping up on my due date.  Every day felt like forever and I just couldn’t wait to meet my baby.  So I spent hours and hours reading parenting websites and imagining what life was going to be like.  And I made lists.  Because that’s what I do.  One of the lists I made was what we would need to have when we brought Adeline home from the hospital.  I consulted numerous websites to make my list, but in hindsight it was woefully incomplete.  So here’s my take on what I really needed.  I hope it helps someone!

1. An exercise ball.  No, this isn’t so you can start working on getting your figure back immediately upon arriving home.  Jesus woman, give yourself a break!  (Although it will come in handy for that in a couple months.)  Right now, you need this for your sanity.  Maybe you’ll be lucky and you’ll have an “easy” baby.  But honestly, I’ve met a lot of babies in the past year, and only two, maybe three, do their parents consider easy.  I think it’s a myth.  So right.  Assuming you have a normal baby who pretty much hates being out of the womb, you’re going to have some really miserable moments in those first couple months.  So here’s what you do: swaddle baby if she likes it, hold her upright against your chest, sit on the exercise ball, and bounce.  Bounce.  Bounce.  Bounce.  For hours.  Night and day.  Ok, so I said this would save your sanity, but only at the cost of slowly losing your mind another way.  Pick your poison: screaming baby or bouncing?  I guarantee the bouncing will win.

bouncing Addie during Christmas celebrations (6 weeks old)

2. A Boppy.  This only applies if you’re breastfeeding, but hopefully you will, indeed, be breastfeeding.  (Or maybe bottle-feeding moms also use boppies?)  So anyways.  You’re going to spend a lot (A LOT) of time nursing baby.  If you nurse without the boppy, and to a certain extent even if you do, your arms will be tired, your shoulders will ache and your neck will hurt (moms instinctively turn their heads the same way as baby and watch as she nurses – if that isn’t the most beautiful thing, I don’t know what is).  But the boppy will definitely help.  And here’s the real key: in those early months, just let baby fall asleep nursing and nap in your arms.  With the boppy, you can rest her there and do a little relaxing yourself.  It’s crucial.

3. A sling.  Baby wants you to hold her.  All. the. time.  But you need to do other things.  You know, like eat, brush your teeth, go to the bathroom.  So demanding, I know.  Try the swing if that’s your thing.  But some babies, especially really young ones, don’t like it.  They want to be right next to mom, and can you blame them?  So get a sling.  That way you can wear baby around all day and get things done and you’ll both be happy.  I absolutely loved the Baby K’Tan.  It’s sort of like a moby, but it’s basically pre-wrapped so it feels very secure and you don’t have to worry about getting it all wrapped around you.  (It’s sized, so we bought one for me and one for David.)  Adeline napped in the K’Tan all the time and it was awesome.

hands free... for champagne! (about 3 weeks old)

4. Zip-up one-piece jammies.  Maybe I’m just lazy, but we kept Adeline in jammies pretty much all the time when she was little.  Of course people gave us a lot of adorable little outfits, but getting her into and out of them was not so easy.  And there’s also the fact that it was winter in Chicago, so we wanted to keep her warm.  But either way, I think it’s just easy and nice to keep them in jammies night and day.  I added the zip-up part because when baby is screaming and squirming it’s not as easy as it looks to snap up all those little snaps.  So much easier to just zip it up.  Especially in the middle of the night.  When you’re exhausted.  And you will be.

Addie in zip-up jammies, on the boppy (about 6 weeks old)

5. An empty bookshelf.  Ok, you can have story books.  But please spare yourself the insanity and don’t buy a library of baby books.  I speak from experience here.  Baby sleep books will make you feel like you’re doing everything wrong and they’ll give you really sad advice about letting baby cry it out at eight weeks old and you’ll be miserable.  They’ll make you think that if baby isn’t napping well and sleeping through the night at two months old you’re doomed to a lifetime of bad sleep.  It’s just not pleasant.  And for the love of god, do not buy any of those What to Expect books.  They’re full of bad advice about breastfeeding (the kind of advice promoted by formula companies to make moms fail at breastfeeding and switch to formulaSeriously.).  And they have all these lists of things that baby should be doing now and baby inevitably will not be doing those things and you’ll just drive yourself crazy.  But I get that you probably want at least a basic book so you know what the hell you’re doing, so let me suggest Dr. Sears’ The Baby Book.  And ok, I’ll break my own rule: get The Happiest Baby on the Block.  Amazing.