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18 Things That Made My First Year Of Parenthood Easier

Here's the stuff that kept me sane and (mostly!) within budget.

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Hi guys! πŸ‘‹ I'm Melissa, and I just finished up my first year of taking care of a tiny human.

@melissaharrison / Instagram / Via Instagram: @melissaharrison

(^That's her! She's pretty awesome.)

This time last year, I remember spending hours combing through Google searches, Amazon reviews, baby books, friends' advice β€” all trying to figure what I actually needed and didn't need.

So now, with a year of ~parenthood~ under my belt, I wanted to put together a list of the things that made my first 12 months a little β€” and, in some cases, a lot β€” easier.

@melissaharrison / Instagram / Via Instagram: @melissaharrison

But before that? A quick disclaimer: All babies are different, so none of these things below are one-size-fits-all. But I wanted to share the things that were most useful for me personally β€” in hopes that these might help someone else. That said, let's do this! πŸ‘Ά

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1. This handy Target cart that makes a perfect mission control for diaper changes.

Target, Melissa Harrison / BuzzFeed

I searched around for budget-friendly diaper stations and landed on this three-tiered rolling cart from Target. (It's similar to the Ikea Raskog, but available in different colors.) It's really practical, fits easily next to the changing table, and the tiers pack a ton of storage space.

Get it from Target for $24.99.

2. This cotton swaddle sleep sack that turned out to be a total sleep game-changer.

Halo / Amazon

Every parent will have different things they swear by when it comes to getting their baby to sleep well β€” and this Halo wrap was my MVP.

How it works: Velcro sides snugly hold a baby's arms in at night, so they're less likely to "startle" awake. Without the sleep sack, my kid would only sleep for 2 or 3 hours at a time in those first few weeks. But once I started using it, her sleep time immediately doubled.

This version is also great because it's light and breathable, and converts into a sleeveless version once your baby grows out of swaddling.

Get it from Amazon for $14.38+.

3. Zippered pajamas (instead of buttoned ones).

Melissa Harrison / BuzzFeed

Any time you're changing a diaper (but especially before bed), the last thing you want to do is try to line up a half dozen button snaps while your baby wiggles all over the changing pad. I can't stress this enough: Zippers ALL THE WAY. πŸ‘

Get a two-pack of zippered PJs from Amazon for $15.99.

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4. A few different pacifiers, because babies can be ~picky~.

Amazon

If you use a pacifier, I'd recommend starting out with a few different kinds. The shapes and weights of each can vary β€” and some babies will take to some, but not others. (Mine loved Soothies, hated everything else.) So try a variety!

From left: Get a two-pack of Nuk pacifiers for $5.13; a four-pack of Soothies for $7.28; or a two-pack of Mam pacifiers for $5.99; all on Amazon.

5. And handy pacifier clips so you're not constantly picking up dropped ones.

These can clip right to your baby's shirt and are especially useful for times when you can't reach them right away β€” like if you're driving and they're in the backseat. (I especially loved this set because the fabric is super durable.)

Get a four-pack from Amazon for $8.99.

6. This free iPhone app that turns your phone or tablet into a baby monitor.

ITunes

Having a small apartment can mean not having to buy a baby monitor. But if we're staying overnight with family in bigger spaces, my husband and I use this app to turn our phones into a two-way baby monitor, complete with sound and video.

Download the app here.

7. A tiny and portable sheep-shaped white noise machine that you can attach to the crib, the stroller, the carseat β€” or anywhere else your baby snoozes.

Cloud b / Amazon

Meet Sleep Sheep! A fellow mama gifted this to me β€” and it's now one of my own go-to gifts for new parents. There are a ton of white noise machines out there, but what I love about this one is that it's small, soft, and light enough to take on the go.

Get it from Amazon for $24.95.

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8. A lightweight Rock 'n' Play that can double as a nap pod or playtime seat.

Fisher Price / Amazon / Via amazon.com

There are SO many baby rocker/sleeper contraptions out there β€” from the low-frills Rock 'n' Play ($44.05) with exactly one extra feature (vibrate, on or off) β€” to ultra-luxe ones like the automated, Bluetooth-enabled, multi-speed/multi-sound MamaRoo ($219.99). I went with the former, lol.

And TBH? It completely got the job done. Especially in the early days, it was a cozy spot where my daughter could sit back and ~watch the world~ (or just watch me eat lunch). Bonus points because it was light, portable, and collapsible, so it easily loads in the trunk if you're heading to a playdate or road-tripping to visit family.

Get it from Amazon for $44.05.

9. A tub of Aquaphor for the inevitable first bout of diaper rash.

Aquaphor / Amazon

This stuff is GOLD. I tried several different diaper rash remedies β€” the creams, the butt pastes, etc., β€” but Aquaphor ultimately worked way better (and faster) than everything else. It also worked on dry skin patches, like on baby elbows or knees. Keep it stocked!

Get it from Amazon for $12.79.

10. This magical 10-second trick that would cure any random fussiness, especially in the early days.

View this video on YouTube

Robert Hamilton / YouTube / Via youtube.com

IDK what else to say other than...it worked like a charm? Baby booty shakes FTW.

Watch the video here.

11. A baby bathtub that fits tiny newborns β€” then converts to toddler size. (Plus, a handy rinser.)

The First Years / Skip Hop / Amazon / Via amazon.com

I used this baby tub in a regular-sized bathtub β€” but Amazon reviewers also point out that it fits over single- and double-sized sinks too. Once your newborn outgrows the mesh sling, this turns into a reclined tub that works until they can sit up comfortably on their own. Also handy? This waterfall rinser that cups up against your baby's head, and lets you avoid a dreaded shampoo-in-the-eyes disaster. 😭

Get the baby bathtub for $12.87 and the waterfall rinser for $8.99, both from Amazon.

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12. A practical all-purpose stroller and carseat combo that you can use well into the toddler years.

Chicco / Amazon / Via amazon.com

OK, so: This was our most expensive first-year purchase. But I'm including it here because I remember how loooong my husband and I spent researching and comparison-shopping β€” and how overwhelming it felt at the start. (The world of strollers runs deep.) The good news? A year in, we couldn't be happier with it. A few things that made this one β€” the Chicco Bravo KeyFit30 β€” particularly worth it.

1) The carseat is detachable, and you can directly transfer it from stroller to car, or vice versa. The latter is key for when your kid falls asleep in the car on the way home β€” and you can seamlessly move them inside.

2) It's also convertible. When your child outgrows the baby carseat, remove it. You're then left with the travel stroller, good for kids up to 50 pounds.

3) You can collapse/fold the stroller portion easily (and with one hand) β€” something I always appreciated if I was out solo and juggling a bunch of things.

TL;DR: Strollers are $$$, which sucks. But this one was worth the investment. It's functional and durable, and I know we'll be using it for a while. (Also: If you think about it in cost-per-ride terms, the price tag isn't as bad. Or at least...that's what I tell myself. 😁)

Get it from Amazon for $350.96.

13. A bunch of great podcasts for when your kid falls asleep on you β€” and you know better than to try to move or make noise.

BuzzFeed

During my maternity leave, podcasts ended up being the perfect thing to plug into on headphones during naps or night feedings β€” if I couldn't move and didn't feel like scrolling through Facebook again.

Some faves: How I Built This and Startup (for biz nerds and/or Shark Tank fans); Surprisingly Awesome and Stuff You Should Know (for tidbits and trivia); the Alton Browncast (for food); Song Exploder (for music); and Another Round and Strong Opinions Loosely Held (for identity and pop culture).

For even more podcast faves from BuzzFeed's staff, head here.

14. A simple, user-friendly book on the first year that you can keep within reach.

Mayo Clinic / Amazon / Via amazon.com

Google aside, it was really nice to have a physical resource to reference when certain milestones β€” crawling, teething, etc. β€” came around. And I liked Mayo Clinic Guide to Your Baby's First Year especially because there wasn't much fluff. Just clear, concise, and resourceful advice.

Get it from Amazon for $16.39.

15. An ugly but useful support cushion β€” because back pain (both during pregnancy and a bit after) wasn't fun.

Aylio / Amazon / Via amazon.com

I had some back and tailbone pain during pregnancy, and this pillow really helped with that. At home, I'd use it at my desk and kitchen table β€” and it made sitting down for long periods of time that much comfier. (Side note: I know this one's kinda pricey β€” but I bought the top-rated one because I wanted to make sure my back felt better ASAP. And it did!)

Get it from Amazon for $39.99.

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16. The Yoga with Adriene YouTube channel β€” which helped me keep moving in a way that wasn't too strenuous, stressful, or time-consuming.

View this video on YouTube

Yoga With Adriene / YouTube / Via youtube.com

Your body can feel pretty weird for the first few weeks after giving birth. And for me, starting to move again was key in getting past that weirdness. The free Yoga with Adriene channel has a bunch of at-home routines that are 15 minutes or less. (I'd aim to squeeze some in while my kid napped β€” because oddly enough, I usually found it more recharging/relaxing than sleep.) Also great: Adriene's got several videos that stretch specific body parts. I found this one for lower back pain especially helpful post-pregnancy.

17. A Diaper Genie, because πŸ’© happens.

Diaper Genie / Amazon / Via amazon.com

I didn't think I needed a fancy trash can, but when a wise coworker told me that this was his most important parenting purchase, I caved. And I'm glad I did! Because while rogue diapers are inevitable, they can definitely be ~contained~. Enter: the Diaper Genie. πŸ™

How it works: The odor-locking top clamps itself shut twice, and a carbon filter under the lid keeps things smelling fresh (provided you empty it somewhat frequently β€” which you have to do because it's also pretty slim. Probably for that reason). My advice, especially if you live in a smaller space? Get an extra/separate trash can, ideally one that keeps bad smells in check, like this one.

Get it from Amazon for $34.98.

18. A super practical Pack 'n Play that doubles as an on-the-go crib and portable playpen.

A Pack 'n Play is a staple on a lot of new parents' lists β€” and for great reason. I found this to be really useful both as a makeshift crib while traveling, and as a mini playpen at home. The best part is how efficiently it stores: The whole thing folds neatly into a rectangle and fits perfectly in closets or car trunks.

Get it from Amazon for $43.69.

The last thing that helped me through the first 365 days β€” at the risk of sounding completely cheesy? A support system.

Courtney Kaye Photography

Real talk: All products and prep aside, a baby is a big life change; one that's equal parts satisfying, challenging, and constantly evolving. So a quick TY to those who helped make that change less scary than I initially thought it would be: husband, family, friends β€” and (lol) the sanity-checking trinity of Netflix, Bravo, and Trader Joe's wine. Here's to year two! πŸŽ‚

What products or online resources did you find most useful during your first year of parenthood? Let me know in the comments!