Annabelle is growing so quickly that remembering her newborn days is almost a distant memory. Thankfully we have tons of photos and blog posts to remember it all. It was when Annabelle was 6 weeks old we shared our Top 10 Must Haves for Newborns. So at 6 months, we thought we would share our recommendations for a growing baby.
Before diving in - these recommendations are based on our experience and what we have found particularly useful. We are trying to parent on a budget and have invested in things that we hope will last us a while. We have also learnt a few lessons about what we don't need and what others we know have had and never used.
These are in no particular order but here goes!
1. Car seat - We opted for a permanently fixed car seat that will fit Annabelle from birth to 4 years old. It also spins to make it easier to get her in and out. We spent awhile looking into and debating getting a seat with a ISOfix base so that we could take the seat in and out, but we decided against it. Our car seat shopping coincided with news headlines about the death of an infant who was in a car seat too long. Because their heads aren't stable for the first few months, prolonged sleeping in the car seat can cut off oxygen to the brain - this was enough to scare us out of bringing her inside or shopping while she sleeps in the seat, just in case! As it turns out, it was the best decision for our family, as Bisbee gets a bit excited when we arrive places and Annabelle always wakes up to her squeals, or to the car door opening, so we wouldn't have been able to carry her inside in the seat anyway.
If you want to read up on other health issues associated with leaving a baby is a car seat too long see here.
Just to be clear we know lots of people use travel systems to help keep their baby asleep and most babies are completely fine, we just didn't personally want to take the risk.
2. Car Mirror - I feel like we never really noticed how long we spend in a car until we had a baby. We used to think nothing of popping to the shops in the car. Now a quick journey takes double the time as strapping Annabelle in and making sure she has toys / blankets takes time. Once in, though, our lifesaver is the car mirror. Set up on the headrest facing Annabelle, we use it to check in on her (when it is safe to do so) when driving. We have Annabelle on the back seat and the mirror means that we can focus on driving. If she was in the front seat I couldn't trust myself not to look at her a lot!
In addition to the practicality of it, there is also the entertainment value for Annabelle, when she notices herself we know that she'll happily gurgle at herself for a few minutes.
3. Versatile Cot - having a bedside crib that doubles as a travel cot has been a life saver! We got our bedside cot on a GroupOn deal and it has been one of our best investments. From the day Annabelle came home until 7 months old she slept next to me in the cot wherever we went. With legs that tuck under a bed and adjust to different heights, it really fit anywhere. The fact that it came with a travel bag meant we could fold it down quickly and pack it in the car so Annabelle had the same bed no matter where we were staying.
4. Ergobaby 360 - We started off with a sling and loved it. It is still handy if Annabelle wants to sleep and I need to be on the move, but the Ergobaby 360 is next level. From about 3 months Annabelle was showing signs that she didn't want to face inwards. It started with her making every effort to turn her head to either side and ended with her full on pushing away from us when in the sling. We were told it isn't recommended for babies so young to face out because they can get overstimulated, but Annabelle is so nosy, and would make it so uncomfortable to face inwards, that we thought we should give it a go anyway. We headed to Mothercare to try her facing forwards in the Ergobaby and she was happy as larry. A quick online search for the best price and we found ourselves an Ergobaby 360.
The best thing about the Ergobaby 360 is that it can be worn so Annabelle can face in or out which is exactly what works for us. More often that not she'll be face out but if she gets tired I can switch her around and let her sleep. We have already used it so much, including Wales and the Cotswolds.
5. ZipUsIn - Makes every coat fit, this is something we wished we had found out when I was pregnant to have had full use of it. Essentially, it is a panel that you can zip into any coat to extend it over your baby in a sling or a bump!
I had to give up my favourite winter coat when I hit 20 weeks of pregnancy and this would have meant I could have worn it much longer. As it is, we are using it now and it has meant that we don't have to dress Annabelle in tons of layers as she sits snuggly in my coat in the Ergobaby. It is more comfortable than having an open coat or having my coat done up and Annabelle over that.
6. Vests - SO MANY. Under every outfit is a vest/short sleeve babygrow, they keep Annabelle warm, protect her from spillage on her top layer and protect her clothes from nappy explosions. The start of every day involves 'where's a vest?'. It's amazing looking back at the newborn vest and seeing how much she's grown.
7. Secondhand Clothes - While vests are needed, they aren't what people see, that would be the outfits. We had window shopped for clothes from the moment we found out we were pregnant but held off buying almost anything as we knew we would get clothes for gifts. We thought we would fill in the gaps once we knew what was missing. We are still waiting to fill those gaps. Our family and friends have been so generous. The gifts are always well received as Annabelle grows out of outfits every 6 weeks or so.
One thing that has taken us by surprise is the amount of clothes we have received from unexpected people. Our friend Laura turned up with a bag full of baby clothes, and then Laura's co-workers. One in particular, Faye, has a girl who is 4 months older than Annabelle and when having a clear out she gifted us a giant bag of clothes in the exact size Annabelle needed recently. We were/are so grateful!
Also, on Facebook groups people sell nearly new clothes for next to nothing, too. It makes sense, babies grow so quickly, they may only wear an outfit a couple of times. Our other 'go to' is charity shops. We got a snowsuit that was from M&S and would have been £30, for £7. It was brand new!
Thinking about it, we have probably spent less than £50 total on Annabelle's clothes and most of that was on occasion wear - Christmas and Halloween. :)
8. High chair - we took the advice of the Mum forums and got an IKEA highchair for £15, and it is one of our favourite things. WE LOVE IT! Not only is it incredibly easy to clean (no nooks and crannies or padding for food to get stuck down - how do babies get it EVERYWHERE? Annabelle had sweet potato in her ear yesterday!), there are no complicated straps to figure out - easy in and easy out, it's lightweight so we can easily move it. It's also portable, whip off the legs and remove the tray and you can take it anywhere, or store it. Honestly I would have paid double or triple and still been happy!
And because it is so cost effective, L's parents have purchased one in the USA and are bringing it to our apartment in NYC next week, so we can still feed her in the comfort and style she is used to.
9. Playmat - This was on our baby shower gift list and was one of our best gifts. It's another thing we have used everyday. For tummy time, for distraction, for playing, for teaching Annabelle to sit - everything happens on the mat. It has become a permanent fixture in our lounge which is good and bad, but either way we wouldn't be without it.
The one we have has the extra bonus that it has sides and turns into a ball pit, it's not necessary but adds to the fun and the balls have really helped Annabelle's grip - we also have plenty of fun with them!
The bright colours, hanging toys and easy clean surface have all been huge positives for the mat and if you are looking for one we would definitely recommend it! It's from Amazon.
10. Aldi Nappies - These were on our newborn list too but I had to include them as they are a lifesaver! 7 months in and we still love them as much as the first few weeks and we haven't found anything that comes near, including Pampers! We are sad that you lose the very useful soiled strip after the first two sizes but it is true that you get used to your baby's bathroom schedule so it's easier to know when to change them as they get older.
Also, our buggy should be on this list. We got one that has the option to lay flat, but unfortunately Annabelle really doesn't like to lay back (in anything, she always sits as far forward as she can and gets annoyed if straps stop her!), so the flexibility has worked out. That and the fact that it is also forward facing, as she's happiest seeing the world.
We are starting to move to using cloth diapers at the weekends as we appreciate nappies end up in landfill but we have been surprised by the cost of getting started and so have been slowly growing our cloth nappy stash when we see good value ones on Facebook groups. We'll keep you updated on how it goes!
There are plenty of other things we could add to this list and I'll be sure to do a follow up post as Annabelle grows and we discover what a baby on the move needs, but the 10 things on this list are all things we could not/would not be without!
What are some of your most useful items for baby?