(Yeah, I know it's kind of sad that I am posting this nearly a month late. Sometimes that's how things go.)
Most Useful Products of Gwen's first three months
Gwen has been out of the womb for 116 nights. She has slept in this blanket for every single one of them. As recommended by our favourite baby book, "The Happiest Baby on the Block," swaddling REALLY WORKS for her. I know it doesn't work for every baby, but she is crazy about it. Her arms just smack her in the head otherwise, and who can sleep like that?
I know there are methods with which you can use any ordinary blanket to swaddle a baby, but I really appreciate having a blanket that was made exactly for that purpose. Having a pocket to slide her feet into, and a long flap that wraps around her three times, really keeps her bundled tightly, which is the key to a good sleep. She's always been a pretty good sleeper, once she gets to sleep, and I credit this blanket with much of that.
She's quickly growing out of this blanket - for example, we haven't been able to get her long legs into the pocket for about a month - but she's not outgrowing her need to be swaddled. Dr. Karp's book says some babies still require swaddling to sleep at one year of age; Chris and I joke that we'll be swaddling her in a queen-size flat sheet by then. But in the meantime, the Miracle Blanket has more than paid for itself.
The other reason Gwen sleeps pretty well at night is that we provide her with white noise (also recommended by Dr. Karp's book). It's said that the white noise reminds babies of the sounds of the womb. I bought this CD for less than $10 at Shopper's Drug Mart. Every night, I change Gwen into a disposable diaper, give her a bedtime massage, and hand her over to her dad, who swaddles her up while I ready her room for bedtime. I turn off the light, close the blinds, prepare myself for nursing, and put this hour-long CD on repeat. When Gwen comes back in, the room is dark and quiet with the soothing ocean waves helping to lull her to sleep. The CD stays on all night long and is WAY less irritating to Chris and I than the recording of actual womb noises we tried at first.
I have written often about how handy this sling is, and how often I use it. I have several different baby-wearing devices, but so far this is the only one Gwen is interested in. I won't preach the beauties of one sling over another, but I will definitely recommend that any new mom try a few slings as an alternative to the stroller/carseat mode of transport whenever possible. Not to sound like a broken record or anything, but it makes the baby feel as if she's back in the womb. Another bonus is that you don't have to worry as much about making sure baby is warm enough, as you're sharing body heat with her. My favourite part of babywearing, though, is having my hands free when I need them.
Just as important as having the right sling is having the right diaper bag. Again, I'm not going to tell you which one that is, because it's a pretty personal choice. What has worked for me is having two bags. Bag #1 is the All-Inclusive: with this bag, I could leave the house for 8 hours and have everything I need. If I have the sling on and this bag over my shoulder, I can meet any challenge: grocery shopping, meeting friends for lunch, a trip to the library, whatever. Bag #2 is the Short Trip bag: this is the one I take when I'm just heading out to the Healthy Beginnings drop-in, for example, or any time I know I'll be gone for less than two hours and will only be going to one or two destinations. This is also the one I use if I'm taking Gwen along for a walk in the stroller while I train for my half-marathon.
The all-inclusive is basically a large duffle bag with a lot of pockets, enough that it fits all the essentials of my long-gone purse, so I don't have to carry both. Three of the pockets are for my stuff (wallet, folded cloth bag for groceries, keys, sunglasses, etc) and the rest are for Gwen (diapers and related accoutrements, a change of clothes in case of blow-out, sunhat, toys, bottle and formula, receiving blanket, soother). It also has two large pockets I use to store the sling and the hooter hider Amber made me. I make sure the "adult" pocket, which has my wallet and bag in it, is at the front so I can reach in and pay for things with my free hand while Gwen happily snoozes in the sling, no fumbling required. Figuring out this system has made me feel utterly capable and unhousebound.
I thought this was overkill when my father-in-law bought it for us for Christmas, but I was so, so wrong. We have used this nearly constantly, even the very first night Gwen was home and she was sleeping A FOOT AWAY FROM OUR BED. Then, it allowed me to scrutinize the screen to check for evidence of breathing, which I did about every two-and-a-half minutes, without actually sitting up in bed to lean over the cradle. Now, it allows us to visually check on her and see how deeply she's sleeping, without walking in and risking disturbing her. As we take turns putting her to bed, walking downstairs and triumphantly brandishing the video monitor with its image of a happily sleeping baby has become our way of bragging about a job well done.
This is a very functional little monitor. You can control the volume separately from the video monitor, which allows you to just listen if that's all you want to do. But my favourite part is the lights, which light up according to how noisy the room is. Thus, if I sleep facing the monitor, the lights subtly wake me up as Gwen starts making noise, before she works herself up into a full-on cry.
Edit: Amberism asked why I didn't include the swing on this list, as it is indubitably an incredibly useful baby product. The reason is that I think of the baby swing as a must-have item, in the same category as diapers and a change table. Nobody needs a blog post to tell them they ought to have a change table (hopefully), and the same should be true of the swing - YOU NEED ONE. However, a Miracle Blanket and a Dreamsurf CD are a little more obscure.