Baby Essentials: The Food Edition

Now that you’ve got the gear to keep your baby contained and safe, what do you need to keep her ((Okay, I know not all babies are girls. I am too anal retentive to say “them” when I’m not referring to more than one baby and too lazy to type “him/her” every time. Thus, all pronouns for these posts will be female in gender. I have a girl and it makes it easier for me to do it like this.)) fed? Also, I’ve realized that these reviews might seem one-sided or not totally comprehensive. I can only write about the products with which we have experience and can only give you my and DB’s opinions. You might hate something we loved or think that something is completely necessary when we only viewed it as “nice to have”. To each their own, eh?

Disclaimer: I talk about, gasp, breasts and breastfeeding and nipples and such in this post. If this bothers you, don’t read it.

The AAP recommends exclusively breastfeeding your baby for the first 6 months and then a combination of breastfeeding and baby food until 12 months. Well, that’s all well and good if breastfeeding works out for you. And if you’re a stay-at-home mom who never needs to pump and never needs to be away from your baby for more than 3 or 4 hours at a time.

But, if you’re like any other mom I know, at some point your baby will need a bottle of either expressed breastmilk or formula – so you can go to work, so you can go on vacation, so you can go out with your girlfriends and have a few drinks, for whatever reason. So I’ve got recommendations here for items that are useful for both breastfeeding and formula feeding.

Breast Pump – When I was pregnant, I had big plans for breastfeeding on maternity leave and then pumping when I had to go back to work. So I spent hours researching which breast pump was the best and why. I also spent hours debating the merits of this pump versus that pump, manual versus electric, single versus double, with the DreadBrewer until I’m sure he knew more about breastpumps than he ever thought he would. Ultimately, I decided on the Ameda Purely Yours Breast Pump. This is highly recommended. It got great reviews on Amazon, was a double pump so I could knock out both knockers at once (ha!), and had the added bonus of being a “closed system” so I could use it for subsequent babies without having to worry about mold or other contamination. And it rocked – for the seven days that I actually used it. ((Fate and circumstance and life and whatever else you want to call it intervened and made it impossible for me to breastfeed or exclusively pump. So the Littlest Brewster is a Similac baby – Don’t judge me and I won’t judge you.)) I have since given it to my sister-in-law for her use and she loves it and has been very successful with it. Also, it came with this nice bag for you to tote around your pump and pump parts in, which makes it convenient on-the-go. I have heard from other moms that it’s a good idea to go ahead and have some spare parts on hand (valves and tubes and such) in case one part breaks in the middle of the night and you don’t want to run to the store.

My Brest Friend – Again, with my big plans for breastfeeding, I got a My Brest Friend pillow while I was pregnant to have on hand for postpartum. Again, for the seven or so days I used it, it rocked. It was nice that it clipped around my waist, so it stayed on me even if I had to rearrange things or get up to get an extra spit rag. It was thin enough that LB wasn’t jacked up above my nipple. It had a spiffy pocket where I could stash things like nursing pads or my phone. The cover was removable and washable. I will say, however, that these cost quite a pretty penny new (close to $40, I believe) but I found one at a consignment shop for $13. If the thought of using someone else’s nursing pillow skeeves you out, shell out the bucks for a new one because this was very useful.

The Boppy – In addition to the My Brest Friend, I also had a Boppy nursing pillow. ((I’m like a Boy Scout – I wanted to be prepared for any eventuality when it came to nursing. Except, of course, for the eventuality of not being able to. No, I’m not bitter at all…)) When it came to nursing, I didn’t really feel like the Boppy was a very good nursing pillow. It was so fat that LB had to practically face downward to get the breast in her mouth. But, now that we use it for other things, the Boppy is great. It’s very useful for propping your baby up if she hates tummy time, supporting her as she learns to sit up on her own, and posing her into cute positions for her monthly update photos. However, I don’t particularly think that this is worth the hefty price tag that new ones cost and would recommend trying to find a used one and slapping a new cover on it.

Bottles – There are more options for bottles out there than you could shake a stick at. It is absolutely overwhelming the first time you go to register and you’re supposed to pick one bottle out of hundreds of brands, styles, materials, etc. And, if you ask other moms for recommendations, they’ll tell you, “Well, don’t stock up on too many of one kind. Your baby may not like that brand.” She’s a week old! How is she supposed to tell me her opinion!?! LB never seemed to have a problem with the brand of bottle we chose and both DB and I highly recommend it: Dr. Brown’s Bottles. It has this venty straw that reduces the amount of gas your baby swallows, cutting down on colic, spit up, and fussiness. There are people who complain that the straw adds another item to the never-ending list of things to clean, but it honestly takes, like, 3 seconds. And if it means more food makes it into my daughter’s belly and stays there, then I’m a happy camper. Like most everything else on this list, they’re kind of expensive – a 3 pack of bottles is $15. We got 6 each of the 4 oz bottles and the 8 oz bottles. ((Technically, you could just go straight to the 8 oz bottles and save yourself some money. Granted, if your child is only taking 2 oz at a time, it seems kind of silly to put it in an 8 oz bottle, but hey – whatever works.)) You also need to get the different flow nipples, but you can wait and get those as your baby needs them if you prefer. One thing that I just discovered at Babies R Us and am totally pissed that it wasn’t available when we were registering: A Dr. Brown’s Starter Set! It’s got 2 sizes of bottles, 3 sizes of nipples – basically everything (or most of it) that you need for the first year! And it’s cheaper than buying everything separately! I want to say its $25 or $30, which is an insane deal when you add up the cost of buying things individually. People will ask how many bottles they need to have and the answer is: it all depends on how frequently you want to wash bottles. If you’re capable and willing to wash the bottle every time you feed your child, you only need one bottle. If you simply want to run the dishwasher every 2 days, you’ll need a lot of bottles. 6 is the number that works for us.

Drying Rack – This is one of the first items that DB and I have truly different opionions on. I think it’s a “nice to have” item, DB considers it “absolutely essential.” You can dry the bottles and stuff in the dish rack very easily. But, it is nice to have a dedicated area that keeps the pieces contained and upright. They make some really cute ones that look like grass; we have the standard utilitarian one that was much cheaper and has the little holsters for the Dr. Brown’s straws. If you have a ton of bottles, you may need two but I doubt it.

Bottle Warmer – Again, this is one of those items that DB classifies as “absolutely necessary” and I consider “nice to have.” DB pointed out that we use it every single time we give LB a bottle; how is that not absolutely necessary? I pointed out that, before Cris “lent” us her bottle warmer, we heated them up just fine in a mug of hot water. Granted it took a heck of a lot longer and was a pain in the butt, particularly in the middle of the night, but it worked. Also, if you never teach your baby any differently, you can give her cold formula or breastmilk and she’ll drink it down without a problem. The Munchkin brand one that we have works well, although it has started to occasionally over- or under-heat the bottles. ((The fact that it is at least 5 years old might have something to do with this.)) Just something to be aware of…

Formula Pitcher – Now, I consider this item to be absolutely essential. The DreadBrewer thinks it’s okay, but not life changingly awesome. When LB started going to daycare, we switched from the quart bottles of ready to feed formula (most excellent thing ever but very expensive) to the giant tubs of powder we had to mix ourselves (time consuming but waaaay cheaper). We tried a few things – mixing each bottle separately, mixing in a rubbermaid container – but nothing was quick and easy. Then, I decided to risk $15 and bought the Dr. Brown’s formula pitcher. And life was instantly better. ((Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a teeny tiny bit. But it is a really great pitcher.)) It mixes up to 32 ounces of formula at a time. The measurements are raised numbers on the side of the pitcher, so they’ll never rub off. The parts disassemble for easy dishwasher cleaning. It has a spinning mixer, so no clumps are left and (as long as you don’t go above the surface of the liquid repeatedly) no bubbles are created. Honestly, I can’t tell you how much I love this pitcher. If you’re going to be mixing large quantities of powdered formula, I say you should definitely buy it.

Okay, I know this post has gotten epically long, so I’ll sum it up with a few one or two sentence reviews…

Burp Cloths – Skip the traditional ones; invest in washcloths by the dozen. More absorbent, cheaper, multipurpose.

Formula Dispenser – Completely unnecessary. Just put the powder in the bottle and add the water when you get to where you’re going.

Ready-to-Feed Formula – Okay, this one deserves more than a few sentences. Get a case of the 8 oz bottles of RTF formula. Our one indulgence is one of these for the middle of the night or really early morning feeding – you can just pop it open, slap a nipple on it (or pour it into the appropriate bottle), and you’re good to go. No warming, no mixing, no measuring. It is awesome. If your baby doesn’t drink 8 ounces, just pour out what she needs and save the rest to add to the formula in your pitcher. These are also awesome for throwing in the diaper bag for emergencies. Or for giving to various family members or friends to keep at their houses “just in case.” I cannot stress enough – these will save your sanity at some point and make the price totally worth it.

Okay, I think this seriously stretches the limit of acceptable word count for a post! I’ll stop there and leave you in anxious anticipation of the next installment: Diapering and Toiletries! Fun times ahead!!

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