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15 Must-Have Baby Products for the Frugal First Time Mom

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When my sister was pregnant with her first baby, she asked all her mom friends what their “must-have” baby items were. I thought she would hear all the same things I had already told her, but I was humbled when I learned that everybody had a different list of must-haves. One person suggested a diaper genie, while I’ve always thought a trash can on my back porch was perfectly sufficient for those nasty diapers I couldn’t keep in the house.

So with that said, my must-haves may be different from what your sister-in-law says you can’t survive without, but this is a list of items that make my life as a mom of tiny humans easier. I use most of these items every single day and will stuff them all in my car when I’m traveling.

These items also won’t break the bank. If you’re like me, you don’t have a millionaire aunt who’s going to get you that $1000 crib you’ve heard you “have” to have. These items aren’t cheap—they’re good quality baby products that I’ve used and have lasted, but are also a good price for what they offer.

1. Swing!

This is my number one for a reason. I’m amazed that some people don’t even use a swing because for me, it’s pretty much magic. It helped my first baby, Haven, learn to sleep like a pro in the first few months of her life. When she was sick at a year old, I pulled it out again to see if she would sleep in it. It worked like a charm. It was the only way I could get her to nap with her miserably stuffy nose.

I have only tried the Fisher Price Snugapuppy, but I have no need to search elsewhere because I LOVE it. We had my second baby, Jack, in a Rock ‘n Play (which is also great, especially for traveling) for the first little bit because we’re in a small room, but then he started struggling with naps. We moved things around to make way for the snugapuppy and bad naps have pretty much gone the way of the dinosaurs.

Reasons I love having a baby swing:

  • It has helped my babies learn to fall asleep on their own.
  • My babies usually fall asleep in it when nothing else will work.
  • It can be for fun or for naps.
  • The seat is adjustable, meaning it can be leaned back so the baby’s head isn’t too far forward.
  • It’s easy to move around.

 

2. Rock ‘n Play

The Rock ‘n Play is a great alternative to a bassinet. It’s a little cheaper than a bassinet, but not by much. It is, however, super mobile, which is very convenient. It’s easy to take to somebody’s house when you need your baby to get a quality nap.

Reasons I love the Rock ‘n Play:

  • It’s easy to move around.
  • It folds up easily, making it compact enough to take in the car.
  • It has a gentle auto rock.
  • You can play white noise, music, and other sounds.

 

3. White Noise Machine

People always told me to get my kiddos used to sleeping with noise, but it hasn’t worked out for either one. How much noise could I have made alone at home with my first? And if Haven, who is now a toddler, and I are now making a lot of noise for my baby, she’s probably throwing a tantrum, and I don’t want to make that happen.

I love having a noise machine. I actually use one for both of my kids, who are 2 years old and 3 months old. I was so annoyed on New Year’s Eve when my neighbors let off fireworks at midnight (I guess everyone does it though, right?) because Haven was sick and I really wanted her to get a good night of sleep. I looked into the video monitor, expecting her to at least be sitting up. Nothing. She didn’t even budge! The fireworks sounded like they were right outside my window, but the noise machine blocked it. Same with Jack. He didn’t even stir. They’re both pretty sensitive to noise, so I was shocked.

I was gifted two different noise machines for my kids: I have this one for Haven and this one for Jack. I prefer Jack’s because you can plug it in, but you can put in batteries if you want it to be more mobile. Haven’s is fun though because it displays colored lights and even projects pictures on the wall, but she’s actually just barely getting into those features.

Reasons I love white noise machines:

  • The sound is soothing to newborns.
  • It blocks noise so that I don’t have to worry about tip-toeing around the house when my kids are sleeping.

4. Adjustable Swaddle Wraps

Figuring out how to wrap a swaddle with just a blanket is such a mystery to me, so the swaddle wraps have been miracle workers. For Haven, the Summer Infant Swaddleme wraps were perfect, and we never needed anything else. We didn’t use them long, but for as long as we did, they were great.

Then Jack came along. They were great for the first couple months, but he proved to be more of an octopus than Haven was. After a few months of using his Swaddleme wraps, he started breaking through. I’m not sure if it’s because he was strong or because the velcro started to weaken, but I’m guessing it was a mix of both. I tried letting him sleep without a swaddle, but it was totally unsuccessful. Again, imagine trying to put an octopus down for a nap.

I decided to try out the HALO Sleepsack Swaddle because it seemed like it might work for him, and I’m so glad I did. It’s enough to keep him wrapped up, but when the time comes, I can also just use it as a wearable blanket for him.

So I’d really recommend both….The Summer Infant brand is a bit cheaper, but still good quality. The HALO Sleepsack Swaddle is a great option for a little wiggle worm. There’s lots of area to stick the velcro to, which is different from the Summer Infant swaddle. If I could go back, I would have just gotten a few HALO swaddles for Jack. You never know how wiggly your baby will be, so maybe it’s better to be safe than sorry…which sounds dramatic, but when you’re a sleep deprived mom, you NEED your kid to nap and nap well!

Reasons I love swaddle wraps:

  • They’re easy to figure out!
  • I am not good at swaddling.
  • They’re tougher than swaddle blankets.
  • They help my baby nap and nap longer.

5. My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow

I don’t know how people nurse without this. Seriously. I used to try with Haven, but now, if I don’t have this, I give Jack a bottle because I know our breastfeeding sesh will be unsuccessful. I have a Boppy pillow, but I’ve found that for me, it doesn’t work great for breastfeeding.

I love the My Brest Friend pillow because it wraps around my back and is adjustable, so I can make it as tight as I want.

Reasons I love the My Brest Friend nursing pillow:

  • It stays in place thanks to the adjustable strap.
  • It holds my baby up for nursing.
  • It makes nursing soooo much easier.

6. Muslin Swaddle Blankets

As I said above, I don’t swaddle with blankets…I’ve tried and it was disastrous. I still love having aden & anais Muslin swaddle blankets, though. I use them for a few reasons: 1) As burp cloths – when babies spit up, they don’t make it a priority to spit up on your tiny little burp cloth. I like putting an entire Muslin blanket out to catch any spit up. 2) A lightweight blanket – it’s not always cold enough to warrant a thicker blanket for your babe, so this is nice when they just need something light.

I know people also use them as nursing and carseat covers too. And of course, if you’re not a terrible swaddler, they’re a great option for a lightweight swaddle.

Reasons I love Muslin swaddle blankets:

  • They offer more protection for your clothes and other stuff around you than a typical burp cloth.
  • They are lightweight, perfect for days that might be chilly, but not really cold.

7. Backpack diaper bag

With Haven, I had an over-the-shoulder diaper bag, but my hubby and I decided to get ourselves a backpack diaper bag when Jack came around. I’m so glad we did! It is so much easier to carry, especially in those moments when I’m trying to hold a carseat with my big baby and then my toddler in the other arm. An over the shoulder bag just wouldn’t fit into this equation. We looked at a lot, but this is the one we decided on.

Reasons I love having a backpack diaper bag:

  • It doesn’t get in my way.
  • It has a lot of space.
  • It’s not too masculine or feminine – it works for both my husband and me.

8. Comfortable Nursing Bras

With Haven, I just had two padded nursing bras that I switched between. Before I had Jack, I decided to go for something more comfortable since I hang out at home most of the time anyway. For some reason, I’ve never been a comfy bra wearer, but after I got these, I can’t go back. I wear them all the time, not just at home, and they work great. They are not padded at all, but I haven’t had any problems with that. Or maybe I should say I haven’t had many problems…I pretty much always neglect to wear nursing pads, but that’s my own fault. I really love these bras and will probably continue to wear them long after I’m done having babies.

Reasons I love these nursing bras:

  • They are so comfortable!
  • I can wear them anytime, day or night.
  • They adapt to my changing bra sizes.

9. Bouncer

I like to keep Jack upright after eating because he’s had a little bit of acid reflux. The bouncer helps with that, and it also makes my life a lot easier. He seems to like hanging out there rather than just lying down on the floor when I can’t hold him.

I bought my bouncer on a Facebook yard sale page, but it’s pretty much a more ghetto version of this one. I’ve rarely seen them cheaper than this, even used (which doesn’t really make sense…).

Reasons I love having a baby bouncer:

  • It keeps my baby upright.
  • I can easily take it to someone’s house, which is nice for traveling.
  • It helps baby be a part of everything going on.
  • It’s fun for the baby.

10. Video Baby Monitor

I have been made fun of multiple times for using a video baby monitor, but I absolutely love having it. We went for the first few months without one with Jack because we still use one for Haven, but we were given this one for Christmas, and I’m so happy.

Reasons I love having a video monitor:

  • I can see when my baby is awake from a nap before he cries, so hopefully I’m teaching him he doesn’t have to cry to get my attention.
  • I can see when my kiddos fall asleep so I know how good their naps were. This helps me understand sometimes when they’re grumpy.
  • I can see when my kid is really ready to get up. My toddler needs a little time to lie in bed after she’s woken up, so I like to wait until she actually sits up in her crib or starts playing around.
  • It’s entertaining! I loooove watching my toddler play around in her crib.


11. Comotomo and MAM Bottles

Both of these specific bottles were lifesavers for me. When I had Haven, I didn’t know I would be going back to work until two weeks before it happened. I hadn’t taught her to take a bottle, and by that point, she just would not. We tried so many bottles, but the only one that would work for her was the Comotomo bottle. This bottle was also great for my sister whose breastfed baby struggled with bottles.

Jack has used the Comotomo, but he does much better with the MAM bottles, so that’s all we use with him now. These bottles have both been so helpful! I couldn’t pick between them.

 

12. Snot Sucker (aka Nasal Aspirator)

I know a lot of people who use the Nose Frida, which I’ve never tried but would like to. I just found this at the store before I had Haven and it works well for me. I have to suck really hard, but it’s successful! I don’t know how people clean their babies’ noses without it…seriously, is there a trick? I should probably have a back up. I use this everyday to help keep my baby breathing easily.

Reasons I love having a snot sucker:

  • It helps my baby breathe easier
  • It is the only way I’ve figured out to clean my baby’s nose
  • It’s easy to use.
  • It entertains Haven when I clean out Jack’s nose…don’t why.

13. Up & Up Diapers and Pamper Swaddlers

I put both of these diapers because I think Pampers are the best for newborns, but after that stage, a cheaper brand will do the trick. I love Up & Up, which is Target’s brand of diapers. They are almost the same price as Luvs, which is kind of the value diaper, but they seem to be better quality. However, in the first month or so of Jack’s life, I was getting leaked on almost every time I fed him. His diapers just weren’t keeping it in. I did everything I could to avoid the leaks with cheaper diapers, but the only one that kept me from getting peed on every couple of hours was Pamper Swaddlers. I think after about a month and a half, I switched to the less expensive Up & Up and haven’t had any issues at all.

Note: Up & Up diapers are way cheaper at Target than Amazon, so I’d recommend just going into a Target store for these.

14. Pacifiers

Haven didn’t take a pacifier when she was a baby, and oh man, we could have used one. I wish I would have thought to try different kinds, but that didn’t hit me until Jack struggled with the binkies we got from the hospital. I had this one, unused, so I tried it, and it has helped him fall asleep for probably hundreds of naps.

Reasons I love a pacifier:

  • It helps my little guy fall asleep on his own.
  • It soothes him when he’s upset.
  • If my baby wakes up too early, I can often times give him his binky and he’ll fall right back to sleep.

15. Hyland’s Baby Tiny Cold Tablets

When I start to feel sick, I usually just take some zinc and my symptoms go away. These Tiny Cold Tablets are almost the same for babies. Obviously I can’t feel when my baby’s throat starts to hurt, but as soon as I notice symptoms, I start with this. They are amazing! They usually stop symptoms from progressing and have always helped Haven heal from colds quickly. I wish I could put these in every mother’s hands.

NOTE: These are only appropriate for babies age 6 months and older, unless your doctor says otherwise.

Reasons I love Tiny Cold Tablets:

  • It’s homeopathic.
  • It’s the most effective baby cold medicine I’ve used.
  • It seems to stop symptoms from progressing and shortens colds.
  • My kiddo loves them! She asks for them.

 

I hope this list helps! If you’re a mom who has other products you love, let me know in the comments! I love anything that helps make my life easier. 🙂

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