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    19 Things That Made My First Year Of Being A Mom A Little (Or A Lot) Easier

    The first year goes by quickly! Here's what helped me keep it together for both of my little ones.

    Hello! I'm Kathleen and I have two kiddos. My son is three and my daughter is one, so I am all about the toddler life right now.

    A family photo of the author, her husband, and their two kids.
    Kathleen Shea-Porter / Via BuzzFeed

    Here's a picture of our little fam! It's reeeeeeeally hard to get a good one with everyone looking and smiling these days.

    But when I was a first-time mom to a new baby, all I really wanted to have was that wipe-the-dirty-pacifier-on-your-jeans-second-time-mom energy.

    The author holding her son when he was a baby.
    Kathleen Shea-Porter / Via BuzzFeed

    So I set out on a mission to find things that would make life less stressful and help with the adjustment to parenthood during that unpredictable first year.

    There are so many products out there, but the ones on this list really stood out for me after two kids.

    It's easy to go overboard with baby things (some of them are just so cute!), but you don't actually need as much as you think you do. And some of them you don't need at all. Looking at you, diaper rash ointment applicator.

    Baby stuff can also get super expensive. Two tips for that? 1) Put the majority of your money toward things you'll use nearly every single day — like a stroller or carrier. And 2) Take advantage of local parenting groups — like Facebook groups, IRL neighborhood groups, or school or church groups. People want to offload baby items THE VERY MINUTE they're done with them, so check those first. You might score some real gems while helping another parent reclaim some closet space.

    OK, let's get to the good stuff!

    1. A pack of versatile muslin swaddle blankets, which will come in handy in ways you won’t even see coming.

    A four-pack of swaddle blankets.
    Amazon / Via amazon.com

    These aren’t just for swaddling, friends. Need additional shade over the stroller? A makeshift changing pad? A nursing cover? A stylish baby toga after a surprise blowout? You’ve got everything covered and under control with one of these in your bag.

    Get a four-pack from Amazon for $29.99.

    2. This cute AND functional backpack — which is way more practical than the standard one-shoulder baby bags.

    Amazon, Kathleen Shea-Porter / Via BuzzFeed

    I used to have a HUGE baby bag, but here’s what I learned: you will fill that bag with as much stuff as it can hold... and that’s mostly things you don’t need. Save yourself the headache and backache with this bag. It's much smaller than your average baby bag, but still has space for the essentials: wipes, diapers, a spare onesie, snacks and a bottle, a toy, and a pacifier. Plus, you can use it again after you're past the baby bag stage.

    Get it on Amazon for $36.99 (available in 28 colors).

    3. A Google for Families email account so your little one can have a digital baby book of sorts.

    View this video on YouTube

    youtube.com / Via YouTube

    Remember this Google commercial where the dad wrote emails to his daughter? 😭It stuck with me, so I set up Gmail addresses for each one of my kids once we decided on their names. I shoot them quick little emails on their milestones, or whenever there’s a story I want to make sure they know when they’re older. For their birthdays, I invite family and friends to email them, too!

    Make sure you set the email address up as a Google for Families account so you can have ownership over the address until you’re ready to turn it over. And now your guilt about not putting together a perfectly crafted baby book is absolved! (Though those are great, too. Props to you crafty ones!)

    Set up a free Google for Families account here.

    4. A pack of disposable poop bags for when you're out and about and need to keep dirty diapers contained.

    A box of dog poop bags
    Amazon / Via amazon.com

    Pro tip: They make poop bags for babies, but the ones for dogs are usually cheaper and work just as well. My family tries to avoid single-use plastics whenever possible, but these eco-friendly poop bags are a must-have when you’re on the go. They’re perfect for throwing away dirty diapers (it’s especially courteous if you’re using public trash cans), or keeping blown-out onesies contained. They're also helpful when we, ya know, walk our dog. 🐶

    Get a pack of 120 bags for on Amazon for $6.99.

    5. A reliable remedy of choice against the dreaded-but-inevitable diaper rash.

    A tube of Boudreaux's Butt Paste.
    amazon.com

    You’re probably going to freak out and maybe call the pediatrician the first time your baby gets a diaper rash. But don’t panic! Diaper rashes happen. There are tons of fixes out there — and you may have to do some trial and error to figure out what works best for your kid — but in our case: it was this butt paste. It reduced any redness and got us back to baby-soft skin quickly.

    Get it from Amazon for $6.98.

    6. This soothing seahorse with its inexplicably ~magical and mysterious~ powers.

    Amazon, amazon.com

    It seems like just about every baby has Their Thing™ that serves as their go-to pal when they need something soothing. For both of mine, it was this seahorse. Maybe it’s the mesmerizing, glowing belly. Maybe it’s the compelling classical music. Maybe it’s just because we all know that life is better under the sea. Whatever it is, my babies stopped crying whenever this seahorse’s siren song started. I give this to all my friends who are expecting because IT WORKS.

    Get it on Amazon for $12.97.

    7. Zippered pajama onesies — instead of fussy buttoned ones — so YOU don’t come undone in the middle of the night.

    Three gender neutral baby onesies with zippers
    Amazon / Via amazon.com

    Oh, sure, those tiny onesies with the snaps sure are cute, but it won’t be so adorable when you’re changing the diaper of your screaming sweetheart at 3:30 a.m. In our house, we've adopted the 'No Snaps After 8 p.m.' rule. Reach for the zippers instead!

    Get a three-pack on Amazon for $24.85.

    8. Something to put your baby in for a quick nap, playtime, or if you just need *a minute.*

    Amazon, Kathleen Shea-Porter / Via BuzzFeed

    There are so many rockers and bouncers out there, but this cute and cozy Sweet Snugapuppy Dreams Deluxe Bouncer from Fisher-Price did the trick for my family at a reasonable price. If you want to put something a little fancier for a group gift on your registry, I am also a big fan of the BabyBjörn bouncer, because there is nothing cuter than seeing your baby’s little legs kicking away.

    Get the Snugapuppy Bouncer for $47.99 on Amazon.

    9. This space-saving bottle drying rack so you can maintain some order in your kitchen — and in your life.

    The OXO bottle drying rack on a kitchen counter.
    Amazon / Via amazon.com

    It’s probably best to just accept that your entire home will be taken over by the baby, but you can hold onto some of that coveted counterspace in your kitchen with this upright drying rack. It was perfect for bottles and pump parts, and we’ve kept it around because it’s just great, period.

    Get it on Amazon for $24.99.

    10. These reusable steam clean bags — so all your free time isn’t spent sterilizing baby bottles and pump parts.

    Steam clean bags for bottles and pump parts.
    Amazon / Via amazon.com

    Once you get that baby down to sleep for the night, you’re free! Free to do all the things… like just sit and look at your phone waiting for the baby to wake up again (if you’ve been there, you know). Whatever time you have to yourself is precious, so make sure you aren’t spending it all cleaning bottle or pump parts. After you’ve rinsed everything, pop them into these handy microwaveable bags and sterilize them in just minutes. A single bag can be used up to 20 times, so you’ll get a lot of use out of each one.

    Pick up a pack of 12 bags for $11.99 on Amazon.

    11. And a combo (and comfortable!) pumping and nursing bra — because who actually has time to switch bras to pump?

    A model shows off a black combination pumping and nursing bra
    Amazon / Via amazon.com

    When I first started pumping, I used a bra specifically for pumping that, frankly, didn't even work that well. But finding this two-in-one bra was a total game changer. Not only can you easily switch between pumping and nursing with its drop-down clasps, but it also looks totally normal under your clothes. And it's actually quite comfy! No judgement if you never go back to an underwire bra ever again.

    Find it on Amazon for $36.

    12. A sleek and comprehensive baby monitor so you can get some of that elusive sleep all those experts talk about.

    Amazon, Kathleen Shea-Porter / Via BuzzFeed

    Is it weird to fangirl a baby monitor? The high-tech Nanit is definitely a splurge (though you can use your HSA or FSA dollars for it!), but it’s like having a baby sleep coach in your home. Each week, the Nanit looks at your baby’s sleep data and delivers customized tips and insights that are actually super helpful. For instance, it flagged for my husband and I that we kept putting our daughter down when she was already asleep, and coached us to instead put her down when she was drowsy so she could teach herself how to fall asleep.

    There’s even a sound machine to keep your little one snoozing and night light so you don’t trip all over yourself in the middle of the night. The camera connects to an app on your phone, so you can easily check in on your little sleeper any time. Plus, if you’ve ever wanted to see a movie of your life, you can watch yourself star in the role of Extremely Tired Parent in the nightly recap videos. If your budget allows, this baby monitor is really worth it.

    Don't need all that tech, or prefer something with a lower price tag? This classic sound-only baby monitor from VTech will get the job done for just $18.99.

    Get it from Amazon: a Nanit camera and wall mount for $299 or a Nanit camera and floor stand for $379.

    13. A spare shirt when you travel… for you.

    Amazon

    Please learn from my mistake. We were — no exaggeration here — about 10 seconds from touching down after a long flight when my son threw up. All over me. TWICE. He was cleaned up in no time (because I was sooooo prepared), but I had to wait at least an hour before I was reunited with my luggage. Now, I always keep a spare shirt in the car or in my carryon.

    Get a two-pack from Amazon for $10.99+ (available in 17 styles).

    14. A super practical at-home allergen introduction kit, because science!

    A picture of the Ready, Set, Food box, which is an allergen introduction kit for babies.
    Ready, Set, Food! / Via amazon.com

    Starting solids with your little one is fun and exciting, but I also had some fears about food allergies. Talk to your pediatrician first, but using an allergen introduction kit may help reduce the risk of food allergies for your baby. I used Ready, Set, Food!, which introduces peanuts, milk, and eggs to your mini in a controlled, gradual way. Can I say for sure that's the reason my kids don't have food allergies? Nope! But I don't think it hurt and made me feel more confident when starting solids.

    Get a kit on Amazon for $39.99.

    15. A stroller with a reversible seat so you can get that IRL facetime with your kiddo.

    Amazon, Kathleen Shea-Porter / Via BuzzFeed

    Telling you which stroller to buy would be like telling you exactly which car to get. Find the one that works for you and your family! But one function that was key to our stroller pick was a reversible seat. When babies are in the infant carrier seat in the stroller, they face you. But once they're big enough to sit forward in the stroller, you’ll miss making those exaggerated faces at them while speaking Parentese.

    A reversible seat is a pretty popular feature these days, so there are lots of good options at a lot of price points! You can opt for a full travel system like the Evenflo ($279.99), or just a single stroller like the Graco Modes Element ($129.59).

    If you’re planning on having at least two kids close in age, I recommend opting for a stroller that can convert to a double. We splurged on an UPPAbaby Vista (pro tip: you can score a big discount if you go for the previous year’s model), and we have been extremely happy with it. But check out the Mockingbird and Baby Jogger City Select Stroller for solid lower-priced options as well.

    Get the 2020 UPPAbaby Vista on Amazon for $969.99, or find the 2019 model on AlbeeBaby for $674.99.

    16. An effective (but still comfortable) baby carrier, so you can hold the baby *and* drink your iced coffee simultaneously.

    An Ergobaby baby carrier
    Amazon / Via amazon.com

    Those first few weeks of newborn snuggles are just the best. But when you’re ready to feel like a human again and venture out into the world, babywearing is a smart way to snag freedom and cuddles at the same time. My tried and true is the Ergobaby 360 because it can be quickly adjusted to fit the grownup who is wearing it (great if you're trading off with a partner), but also because it’s snug and secure. Looking for a cheaper option? Try the Infantino Go Forward for $54.44.

    Get it from Amazon for $129.98.

    17. The free Libby app so you can stay well-read (or well-listened).

    A screenshot of the Libby app.
    Libby / Via apps.apple.com

    Through Libby, you can take out Kindle and audiobooks from your local library — and all you need is your library card to get started. Find a good series that will take you through your leave. (For me, that was Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache books — there are 16 of them!) Those late-night feeding sessions will be far more exciting knowing you might find out whodunnit in the next chapter.

    Download the free Libby app here.

    18. A pair of out-of-reach wireless headphones, because your baby is going to try and grab EVERYTHING in sight.

    A set of Apple AirPods.
    Amazon / Via amazon.com

    I swore I didn’t need these… but turns out I did. Perfect for listening to those aforementioned audiobooks while you feed the baby. If you’re into Apple products, go for the AirPods — but there are many other less-expensive out there like these and these.

    Get it from Amazon for $129.

    19. A fan-favorite Pack 'n Play, because — just like everyone says — you’ll actually use it A LOT.

    A classic Pack 'n Play playpen and portable crib
    Amazon / Via amazon.com

    This one really isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s a classic for a reason. It's a portable playpen so you can put your baby down but still keep watch while you do stuff around the house. It’s great when you have visitors with a baby — and also perfect for when you travel. Best of all, it's space-saving and quick to store: the whole thing folds neatly into a rectangle and fits in closets and car trunks.

    Get it on Amazon for $54.99.

    I always say that parenting is a group project and we're all in this together. Good luck... and you've got this! 🙌 (And if you have any products, tips, or tricks that made your life easier, share them in the comments below!)

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