Babies need a lot of stuff, and there’s a lot of stuff out there for babies. Some of it we’ve found absolutely essential while some of it has been just nice to have. I thought I’d put a listing together of the essentials – what we just couldn’t have lived without – during the first three months. Some of the things are essential because we have twins while others would likely be useful for any singleton baby.
With twins, it’s important to keep track of who ate what and when, who pooped and when, etc. Try keeping that all in your head!
- record book – JustMultiples.com sells record books for multiple births. The Double Time Twins book holds 3 months worth of records. It has been perfect for our needs of recording feedings, naps, and other to-dos. Molly writes things at the top of many of the pages noting things that we did (“First pool party!”) or milestones they have hit (“First smiles!”) and I can only imagine how nice it will be to be able to go back and look at the book years from now.
- Itzbeen timers – With two babies, these have been so helpful. Just push the corresponding button (diaper, feeding, nap, other) each time you do something to/with the baby, and all you need to do is glance at the timer to see how long its been since the last change, feed, nap, etc. We use them mostly for feeding and naps, and it was tricky at first to remember to push the buttons, but now that it’s more of a habit, they definitely classify as essential, at least for twins.
- Boppy – Both for breastfeeding (one baby) or for setting one in to bottlefeed while pumping and/or feeding the second baby at the same time. They are also great for tummy time. Don’t forget the waterproof cover and slipcover. A spare slipcover isn’t essential but is helpful.
- My Breast Friend Twins – For breastfeeding both babies at the same time.
- cloth diapers – Why are the burp cloths sold in stores long, skinny, and thin? Our babies certainly don’t spit-up that little. Cloth diapers are the perfect shaped (and absorbent!) burp cloths, and they are cheap. Molly picked up twenty “asian prefolds” at a local mother-baby store for under $30. She bought the extralarge size for maximum coverage.
For a number of complicated reasons, the majority of feedings are done by us bottle feeding breast milk from Molly pumping earlier that day or the day before. This, of course, requires a large number of products that wouldn’t normally be used if one was exclusively breast feeding straight from the source.
- a good pump – The pump that worked the best, even over the hospital-grade one, for Molly is the Medela Pump in Style Advanced because it has a neat little feature that mimics the way a baby sucks, with initial faster sucking, then switching to the slower/longer sucks.
- milk storage bottles – For short term fridge storage, the Gerber First Essential bottles (also available at Target for just under $1 each) are just as good as the more expensive Medela bottles and they fit perfectly onto the Medela and Ameda pumps. Don’t waste time or money on the smaller 4 oz bottles, just get 5 oz or larger from the start. Note that for freezer storage, freezer-specific bottles or bags are probably best.
- labeling lids – OK, so it’s not like we would have died without them and they’re really more like a luxury product, but being able to save the time of applying and writing on masking tape, then removing it during washing, etc. is quite nice.
- good feeding bottles – Every baby takes to different bottle brands differently. Although the Gerber First Essential bottles are cheap, had nipples that didn’t collapse when sucked, and were keeping up well, we started only using wide-based nipples to encourage their ability to breast feed. One of our girls took very well to AVENT bottles/nipples while the other, who has a more difficult time with latch, can really only latch on fairly well to Tommee Tippee bottles/nipples.
- bibs – I guess these aren’t technically essential if your baby just doesn’t drool much or you don’t mind wiping their neck folds after feeding. But they do come in handy for catching curdled spit-up before it covers their clothes. I’ve looked all over for something that’s actually absorbent with a waterproof backing but haven’t found the right product. For maximum absorbancy, the Aden and Anais Snap Bibs are hands down the best. I think snaps in general are better over velcro; the velcro sometimes attaches to other items in the washer/dryer and can pull threads out or it scratches the baby’s back if not perfectly attached to the other side of the velcro.
- bottle brush – I like the round, stiff-brissled bottle brush, but it does “spit” at you when you pull it out of a narrow-mouthed bottle. Molly likes the soft-brissled AVENT brush. I don’t find any of the nipple-cleaning devices effective at all. Two thumbs and a pinky finger has worked best for me for cleaning the nipples.
- sterilizer bags – We used the Medela Quick Clean Micro-Steam Bags to sterilize the pump parts once per day. If you don’t have a dishwasher to sterilize the bottles once in a while, a large capacity microwave sterilizer may work better.
- bottle warmers – The ability to warm bottles to a consistent temperature in a very short amount of time is absolutely essential when there are two simultaneously screaming babies. We use the ones made by Munchkin, also available at Target. Although we are most often heating two bottles at one time, I’m glad we got two of these single bottle warmers, instead of a double bottle warmer, because the AVENT and Tommee Tippee bottles need to be heated on different settings with the same amount of milk because of the plastic thickness differs.
- Mylicon – For gassy babies. No one wants to deal with a nap constantly being interrupted by fussing and passing gas. It works, too.
- Miracle Blankets – …are simply miraculous. The best and most effective swaddling product we’ve found. Well worth their weight in gold. Going to a baby shower? Bring one of these! However, now that the babies are bigger and stronger, they often kick out of the foot portion of the Miracle Blanket, so we’ve been using a Swaddle Me or Swaddle Pod on top (next bullets), and that’s worked very well.
- Swaddle Me – Another swaddle product. The smallest size I could find in stores was Small/Medium, which is supposed to fit infants 7-14 lbs. Our babies were 5-5.5 lbs when we brought them home and these were way too big. They fit much better now that they are about 11 lbs each, but still when we put them in one of these by themselves, they tend to ride up too high onto their cheeks and activate the rooting reflex while they are trying to sleep. Their biggest use for us has been on top of the Miracle Blankets.
- Swaddle Pod – For the most Houdini of babies (no names mentioned…Baby A), this works on top of the Miracle Blanket perfectly. No escaping possible! Of course, now that we’ve figured all of this out, it’s going to soon be time to stop swaddling because they’ll be rolling over.
- co-sleeper – We used an Arms Reach Co-Sleeper Original so the babies could sleep in the bedroom right next to the bed. Although the bassinet weight limit (30 lbs) is such that it can hold two babies for a while, we had to switch to separate sleeping areas around 2.5 months because they would wiggle themselves around all night and end up with their faces pressed up against the other’s body. But it was a great product and served the co-sleeping purpose well; now we use it as a separate play yard in the living room.
- Graco Travel Lite Crib – After moving them from the co-sleeper, we used two of these next to the bed. It is essentially a mini-play yard with adjustable-height bassinet. We had to get two of these anyway for use when we travel so it seemed like as good of a time as any to buy them and use them as a transition from sleeping together to next to each other.
- play yard – We ended up with the Safety 1st Satellite Premier Play Yard because of the location of the changing table, which leaves room for two babies in the bassinet while still having access to a changing area. They basically lived in this thing for the first month after birth whenever they weren’t being held or fed. The weight limit for the bassinet is only 15 lbs, like virtually all other play yards, so when they each got to 7-8 lbs, I just put two empty laundry baskets turned upside down under the bassinet part. Even now when we have two 10+ lb babies in it at the same time, there’s no evidence it is going to give out or anything, but even if it did, they wouldn’t go anywhere. Even though they don’t sleep in it much now, it is a great place to put one for quiet alone play time – the bear mobile is just mesmerizing, even though all they see are the bear butts rotating in a circle.
Awake Time / Play Time
While we have pretty much one of everything designed to entertain babies, I wouldn’t say any of them are essential. With twins, it is nice to have a Boppy or two to prop them in when someone gets fussy, but there’s not much I actually couldn’t have lived without during play time. That’s not to say we don’t use everything we have; in fact, we use just about every toy every day in some capacity, but in the grand scheme of things, we’ll probably get way more use out of the toys now that the babies are starting to reach for things, as opposed to during the first three months when they are most happy being held, on their back looking up at you, or on their tummy trying to see you by lifting their heads. If I had to identify the most useful awake/play time items, they would be:
- playmat – Our babies just love the Skip Hop Treetop Friends Activity Gym and so do we because it is so adorable! The colors are bright and attention-grabbing for the babies but aren’t so bright to be obnoxious.
- Bumbo seats – Although their use is short in duration (right now) and likely short lived over time (they grow out of them fairly quickly), it gets them upright temporarily so they can work on both their neck and core muscles. We got two of them half-price each from a local mom-of-multiples.
- bathing tub – Molly’s sister gave us an Infant to Toddler Tub with sling and it has been perfect. It fits well in the kitchen sink, even with the sink divider down the middle, which makes bathing at adult standing height (instead of leaning over into the bathtub, which we tried the first time and was very difficult).
- child-safe cotton swabs – To clean poop from crevices in sensitive areas. And ears.
- washcloths – You can never have too many washcloths with babies. While you could totally use normal/adult washcloths, the nap on baby-specific washcloths is much softer and kinder to their skin.
- soap – We use Johnson’s Head-to-Toe Baby Wash for all over washing. It does a good job and smells nice, too.
- bath thermometer – To make sure the bath water isn’t too hot. Ours has a digital readout of the water temperature as well as color-coded lights – green for OK temp and red for too hot.
- car seat – After browsing and debating for months, we ended up with the Chicco Keyfit 30 because of their great safety rating, excellent reviews, and easy click-in system with the bases and the corresponding stroller. Another reason we went with Chicco car seats was because we liked the Chicco double stroller (next bullet) more than the Graco ones.
- stroller – I guess technically if you had just one baby and you didn’t mind carrying the carseat everywhere, a stroller wouldn’t actually be essential. But with two babies, a good stroller is definitely essential. There are much fewer options for a double stroller than a single one, and after visiting the stores multiple times to try them out, we settled on the Chicco Cortina Together Double Stroller. Although it is quite large (even when folded up) and heavy, we love it. We debated the Double Snap N Go for a long time but weren’t totally comfortable with the way the Chicco carseats fit in it. We did end up borrowing a Snap N Go, and do use it when walking the dog around the block. But it doesn’t have the sunshades like the Chicco double stroller and it won’t be for long-term use because as soon as they grow out of the carseats, we’ll exclusively be using the Chicco stroller.
- receiving blankets – My favorites are the cotton flannel ones from Babies R Us. We initially used them as swaddles, and they are the best shape, size, and stretchiness to use for newborn swaddles. However, after about a month, the babies were strong enough to kick out of them so we moved to other swaddle items (see Sleeping section above). Now we use them as “ponchos”/extra large burp clothes to protect from splashes during feeding, to cover them in their carseats when going out, to put under them during tummy time or while they are in a bouncer or swing (to protect against poop leaks), etc. The uses are endless and they are so soft!
- love and support – To all of our family and friends who held, fed, changed, swaddled, did our dishes, grocery shopped and cooked for us, took out our garbage, fed our animals, changed the cat litter, walked the dog, suffered sleep deprivation with us, and helped us purchase these essential items (and more!) – THANK YOU. You were absolutely essential to us surviving the first three months.
Well, that’s it I guess. Other than diapers and wipes (of which there are so many kinds out there, I’ll leave that review for another time), I’m sure I’ve left something out that was absolutely essential – that we wouldn’t have made it without – but I’m just forgetting. Is there something you found essential for your newborn to 3 month old? Add to this list by commenting!