Big City Baby
Some Thoughts on Having Your First Child in the City
Note: after reading this you mighty want to read Big City Toddler.
My wife and I recently had our first child (a healthy and absolutely wonderful boy) while living in a one bedroom apartment in midtown Manhattan. Having a baby in the city is a lot different than having a baby in the suburbs. For example, we live in a tiny one-bedroom apartment and we don't own a car. We've learned a few things along the way and hopefully this article will be helpful to those of you in a similar situation. I don't claim to be an expert so please take all of this as my best guess and not the final word on the subject.
Resist the Urge
One of the first instincts when you find out you are going to have a baby is to start buying things you think you will need. I'm going to assume that you live in a 400 square foot apartment like we do so you need to think very carefully about what you buy. Even if you live in a much larger space you should still resist the urge to buy more stuff than you actually need. This will save you money, cut down on clutter, and set a good example later on for your offspring. This article is primarily a list of items I find essential, broken down into categories. Remember, this is just based on what my wife and I have experienced, you should season to taste.
Even if you breast feed you are going to need bottles either for pumped milk or supplemental formula. Plus you can't say for sure if you (and by you I mean your wife) will breast feed or not. Thus, I recommend Dr. Brown's brand bottles. And by recommend, I mean that's basically the only bottles I have any experience with. Lots of other people seem to like them too and the baby likes them so you are probably ok sticking with Dr. Brown's. The one downside to these bottles is that they contain a lot of small parts which are annoying to clean.
I recommend you start with six of the 4 oz. bottles and two of the 8 oz. bottles. You won't need the 8 oz. bottles for a few months but they don't take up a lot of room and this saves you from having to go buy them when you are busy after the baby comes. Dr. Brown's also makes wide-mouth versions of the bottles but I haven't tried those so I can't say whether they are better than the regular bottles. All the parts inside the wide-mouth bottles are incompatible with the regular bottles so mixing and matching will be difficult.
Handi-craft doesn't explain their nipple system very well. All Dr. Brown's bottles come with level one nipples (as far as I know). These flow at a rate appropriate for newborns. The idea is that as your child gets bigger he can drink more quickly without spitting up, so you move to nipples with larger and larger holes. If you just start an infant out with a higher-flow nipple (i.e. larger hole) they will drink too quickly and spit everything right back up on you.
As your child grows eventually he will start straining and generally getting annoyed with the level one nipples because he will want to drink faster. This happened for us when our son was three months old. However when we then went to the larger level two nipples he started spitting up a lot. We ended up going back to the level one nipples and he is still using those at six months. I expect we will have to move to level two nipples fairly soon. You can of course always poke additional holes in the level one nipples I suppose.
Dr. Brown's bottles come with both a disc and a cap for travel. You have to put the disc between the nipple and the flow valve and the cap on top of the bottle to fully seal the bottle for travel. If you don't put the disc in but just put the cap on the bottle will eventually leak around the edges. I learned this the hard way several times.
The Buy Buy Baby store in Manhattan is an excellent place to buy all Dr. Brown's bottles and accessories. Their website unfortunately is not very good and I recommend you go to the store in person if possible.
A bottle brush is also critical for proper bottle cleaning. We started with the Dr. Brown's bottle brush which fits these bottles perfectly. However after about two months of use the foam scrubber at the top breaks off and falls apart. We then moved to a Munchkin brand deluxe bottle brush which doesn't have the foam top but does come with a nipple brush in the handle. This works fine and so far is holding up better than the Dr. Brown's brush. The Dr. Brown's bottles also come with a tiny brush for cleaning the flow valves and stems.
You need to spend some time thinking about how you will clean all these bottles. If you don't have a dishwasher, I recommend a bottle sanitizer. We have aFirst Years sanitizer and it works fine, although it is clunky and overpriced. Definitely skip the sanitizer if you have a dishwasher. However if you don't it's a really good way to make sure bottles, pacifiers, and breast pump parts are very clean. Update: this sanitizer broke after a year of use. This seems to be a common complaint on the amazon product page.
Also think about how you will organize the bottles. If you aren't breast feeding you will go through bottles very quickly. Set up an area on your kitchen counter for bottle storage. We started out pre-filling the bottles with water and leave them sitting so that all we needed to do is pour in powdered formula. However I now recommend against this due to the concerns about chemicals leaching out of the bottles and into the water. Also remember to boil all the nipples and thoroughly clean all the bottles before the baby arrives so that everything is ready to go. I cannot emphasize enough how difficult it is to do anything involving complicated instructions or manual dexterity immediately after your baby is born. Mom and Dad will both be completely wiped out and low on sleep so it really, really pays to prepare everything ahead of time.
Other miscellaneous feeding items to consider:
Burp Rags: these really deserve their own topic as you use them all the time. Particularly for the first few months babies can be very bad at keeping their food down because the valve between their esophagus and stomach is not yet well developed. Then just when that starts getting better babies start teething which produces large amounts of drool. The bottom line is you need to have some sort of absorbent material on hand at all times. You will probably receive quite a few fancy burp rags as shower gifts. These are generally useless as they are never absorbent enough. What common baby item is really, really absorbent? Cloth diapers, of course. Purchase a large number of 'flat fold' diapers. We use the Gerber flat-fold diapers and they work just fine. Other brands should be similar. I suggest you have 24 of these on hand as you go through them very quickly
Bibs: you may or may not want to put a bib on your baby when you bottle feed him. I prefer bibs but my wife hates them. One advantage of a bib is that it stays on no matter how much squirming is going on. However, it can be difficult to get a bib snug on a baby because their chins are so chubby. Thus if you aren't careful you can end up spilling a lot of milk on your baby's neck and that can lead to redness, irritation, and potentially fungal infections. Even if you use a bib you might want to tuck a tissue under the bottle as well. Four bibs are probably enough. There are also bibs that are basically towels with elastic collars in the middle. These are more for when the baby starts eating solid food but you certainly can try them on a newborn as well.
As you may or may not know, babies require a lot of cleaning. Here are the baby cleaning and skin care products we use. Again these are only what works for us, your mileage may vary.
We have had great success with all the Mustela baby cleaning products. They don't cause rashes, dry the skin or cause other problems. However, they are very expensive so you might want to try something else first if money is an issue.
When you first bring your bundle of joy home you can't give him a bath because the umbilical cord has not healed yet. Until that happens, you can only wipe the baby down with cotton balls. Purchase several bags of jumbo cotton balls. We prefer real cotton balls over synthetics and the larger balls are easier to use. You can also use cotton squares. You can just use water at first or alternately you can use something like the Mustela no-rinse cleanser.
Babies have very delicate skin for the first few weeks so cotton ball wipe-downs are about all you will be doing. You should also use cotton balls and not regular wipes for the diaper area.
After the cord falls off you can start giving your baby regular baths. We use the Mustela foaming shampoo and the 2-in-1 hair & body wash. You could just use one cleanser for everything but the nice thing about a foaming shampoo is it doesn't run so it reduces the risk of soap in the eyes.
You will also need some baby washcloths. These are smaller and softer than regular washcloths. Get about four of these and you can use them either with a no-rise cleanser or to wash the baby in water. The best place to wash a very small infant is in the kitchen sink as it is probably higher than your bathroom sink. We washed our son in the sink for the first three months. Get a bath sponge to place in the bottom of the sink to support your baby.
You are going to need to dry your baby after bathing him or her. For this, you will need some baby towels. You can just use a regular towel and in fact that might be a wise choice in a small apartment. However we received several hooded baby bath towels as gifts and I personally like them a lot. The hood in one corner makes a good place to catch a squirming little baby and makes it easier to wrap him up. This one if your call but you might want to try at least one hooded towel.
After the bath I put a piddle pad on the couch and dry the baby in the towel on top of that, just to avoid any accidents. You need a large supply of baby lotion as you will have to lotion him up all over to prevent dry skin. Again we use the Mustela brand baby lotion but others are probably fine too. We did first use the Burt's Beeswax baby lotion but it gave our son a weird rash.
Rounding out the Mustela advertisement, Mustela makes an excellent whole body wipe similar to a regular diaper wipe. These are very useful after the first few months for doing a quick baby cleanup. I recommend them highly. Plus, the Mustela products all smell great.
Clothes / Swaddling / Layette
You are going to receive huge amounts of baby clothes at the baby shower and as gifts from everyone. This is a mixed blessing. It's nice to get the clothes but you will end up not using half of what you receive. I therefore recommend that you purchase a few standard items and just assume your friends and family will buy you everything else. At the top of the list are some newborn side-snap tees. These shirts are great for sleeping and hanging out at home. Since they don't snap underneath like a onesie they make diaper changes easier. Obviously these don't really work when you are out because they ride up. Purchase five or six of the newborn size to start and consider purchasing another six of the six-month sized snap tees as well. Our son sleeps in these every night.
One brand I particularly recommend is Carter's. Their clothes are very high quality and uniformly fit very well. A big plus is they are not covered with offensive logos. Their onesies are excellent but don't worry too much about about buying any of these as you will get literally dozens as gifts. Do however purchase several pairs of baby shorts and pants in both newborn and larger sizes as you tend to not get as many of these as gifts. Remember the season your child is born will determine what mix of clothes you need. I strongly recommend purchasing both newborn and six-month sized floppy hats for when you go outside. You don't want sun in your baby's sensitive eyes.
Purchase a selection of baby socks, again in both newborn and slightly larger sizes. I hate to be too specific about baby clothing sizes because the manufacturers don't bother with any sort of standardization. You should have on hand perhaps four pairs of newborn socks and four pairs of the next size up, all in stretch cotton. Also purchase a mesh wash bag if you don't already own one. These socks are so incredibly small that they get lost in the laundry very easily.
If you've read this far and are still wondering what layette means, that's just the fancy term for all the clothes and blankets you need for an infant. Remember that so you don't look confused later on.
There's a lot more about infant clothing that I'm not covering here, mainly because as I mentioned you will receive much, much more baby clothing than you could ever use. The trick is to separate out all the useless stuff and keep what you actually need. Buy a few of the basics such as snap tees and socks and then prepare to sort through your shower gifts for what you really need. Remember that even baby clothes end up taking up a lot of space.
Once you or your wife have done the hard work of actually having the baby, the hospital will expect you to take your little darling home. This brings us to the endlessly fascinating topic of baby transportation. Dads, take note here as this is one area you can be actively involved from the start. You won't be having the baby and you might not be feeding your child that much at first but you definitely will be transporting the baby. In addition this is one of the more gadget-heavy areas of baby care so it's easier for men to understand.
First order of business: buy a carseat, even if you live in Manhattan and expect never to drive anywhere with your baby. The hospital basically won't let you leave without one, although conceivably you could tell them you live a block away and intend to walk home. Otherwise they will insist you put the baby in a carseat before you are allowed to leave the building. This is somewhat of a farce in NYC as there is no real way you could ever use a carseat in a cab so any future baby car rides in the city will be without a carseat. This actually is legal so you might feel a little bad but that is the way things work but you will have to get over it.
Anyway, as an urban dweller you should try to find a carseat that is as light as possible and easy to carry. We use a Babytrend Flex-Loc and that is a decent carseat. In particular it has a triangular handle so you can more comfortably carry the seat with the baby in it. It's also nice to have a carseat with a sunshade to protect baby's eyes.
All modern carseats come with a large heavy base which is meant to be permanently installed in your car and make moving the seat in or out of the car easier. Throw this away or try to find someone who needs an extra base out in the suburbs. It is really not that hard to secure a carseat with just the regular seat belt. You run the seatbelt though the slots on the sides of the carseat and latch it, that's it. The one gotcha comes if the belt is the type that allows you to lean forward normally and is spring-loaded to snap back (most newer cars have this sort of belt). In that case you must first pull the belt out as far as you can before securing the carseat. This engages a locking mode so you can then ratchet the belt down as tight as possible (your goal is really, really tight) to hold down the carseat.
Infant carseat manufacturers make things a lot more complicated than they need to be. Just follow my advice to forget the base and learn how to secure the carseat with the seat belt. Where are you going to keep the base in your apartment anyway?
Slings, Bjorns, Ergos
The best way to carry your baby around the city is on your body so you can keep your hands free and stay maneuverable. The first carrier to use is the sling as your newborn will be too small and his neck muscles too undeveloped for the other options. Go for one of the more modern slings with a strap and adjustable buckle such as the Infantino SlingRider. I know there are various sorts of other earth-motherish slings that are long bands of cloth you contort around your body. I guess you can try those out but why bother learning how they work? Your baby is only going to be in the sling for a month or so. Unless you plan on having twelve kids the effort of learning how to use one of these wrap slings doesn't seem worth it.
As soon as junior can hold his head up to some degree and is over eight pounds it is time to move to the front baby carrier. We use a standard Baby Bjorn. and I love it (and so does our son). However, there are several problems with this baby carrier:
- Very expensive.
- Only works for babies up to 24 lbs.
- Poor back support.
Item number three is why I think realistically you don't want to carry a baby much larger than 18-20 lbs in a standard Bjorn. That still gives you a solid six to eight months of use. I know that they make a sport version with more lower back support but I haven't tried it.
Babies love the front carrier because it gets them up high and they get to see everything. I feared that I would feel like a fool carrying my baby in one of these contraptions but nothing is farther from the truth. It's incredibly fun to wear a baby around. Everyone smiles when they see you and the baby has a great time. Our son almost never cries in the Baby Bjorn.
You will start out with the baby facing you at first when his neck is still floppy. Then after a few weeks or a month or so you can start carrying him facing out and this is when it gets really fun. Three things to remember:
- Always carry an extra pair of socks. If your baby kicks one off several thousand passers-by will helpfully remind you of this.
- Wrap a burp rag (cloth diaper, remember?) over the front lip of the carrier when junior is facing front. This will help soak up drool and spitup. Plus if you fold it the long way the burp rag acts like one of those continuous cloth towels you might find in a really, really old restroom.
- Put that floppy hat on your baby before you leave the house.
Carry your son or daughter on your body as long as possible. I believe with the Baby Bjorn that if you get in a habit of carrying him around every day it will strengthen your muscles and you won't suffer more than some occasional muscle stiffness. I have a bad back (herniated disc) and I've been able to use the Baby Bjorn just fine.
I am particularly interested in the Ergo Baby Carrier as a follow on to the Baby Bjorn. It works either front or back and you can carry a forty-pound child. The Ergo also positions the child low on the back so it seems safer and more comfortable than the backpacks which put the kid on your shoulders. Particularly in an urban environment you can't carry a kid up above your shoulders unless you are four feet tall.
Warning: I haven't tried the Ergo but a friend has one and loves it. I'll update this article if I do end up getting one.
You have to get a stroller to supplement the baby carrier, particularly as your bundle of joy grows. I'm going to cut to the chase here: if you live in a city you have to buy a Maclaren, probably a Triumph or a Techno XT. Forget the Bugaboo. The Bugaboo is ridiculously expensive (more than $800 when you add accessories!), doesn't collapse very well, and takes up the whole sidewalk. The Bugaboo is the baby representation of the SUV mentality. Avoid it and other similar contraptions. Also avoid any stroller which is a frame that supports the infant carseat. These are for people who drive around in cars all day and occasionally need a stroller. They are the futons of the stroller world, combining all the bulkiness of the Bugaboo and the inconvenience of a cheap stroller.
The Maclaren on the other hand is a work of art. It's still a substantial amount of money ($200 - $300) but you get a heck of a lot for that. The Maclaren is light because it is all aluminum. It collapses to a very small package due to clever engineering. There's lots of little storage compartments, and all the fabric can be easily removed for washing.
The big decision is whether to get the Triumph, with a seat that sits basically upright, or the Techno XT, with a seat that reclines almost to the horizontal. We went with the Techno XT. The advantage is that you can put a newborn in it since it lays flat, while the Triumph doesn't recline as far and is thus for three months and up. The disadvantage of the Techno XT is it weighs more (14 lbs vs 11 lbs) and is more mechanically complex. Plus it costs more. If you can handle the sling and Bjorn for the first months I recommend getting the Techno. You don't really have to use the stroller that much for those first months, although it does of course make longer trips easier. The Techno XT (but not the Triumph) also has extensible handles which makes pushing it easier for taller types.
There is a brand-new Techno XLR that has a bar on the front so you can attach the carseat. This is probably not worth the extra cost and weigh for the same reasons I detailed above for frame-only strollers. Also, the design of the Maclaren strollers does not lend itself to a cupholder because there is no horizontal bar between the handles as on strollers such as the Bugaboo.
Fun fact: I learned when I read the Maclaren website that the brits call strollers buggies. Who knew?
The Diaper Bag
When you select a diaper bag, be sure to get one in a gender-neutral color and design. Black or bright red are safe bets. No man wants to carry a floral pastel diaper bag. That's like being forced to carry a purse.
A further note on the Skip Hop bags: we also got a Pronto Canvas because we thought that would be a good alternative to the full-sized diaper bag. It's not. The problem is that the Pronto is designed like a large clutch purse. There's no easy way to hold on to it or strap it down. You can't attach it to a stroller and it is generally awkward to carry. What we should have got instead is the Saddlebag, which is another small bag that actually can be strapped to the back of a stroller. In general the Skip Hop products are very well designed and constructed.
Another fun fact I learned while researching this article: our friends across the pond call diapers knappies.
Parents would go insane if babies didn't sleep as much as they do. There's nothing like the feeling of accomplishment you get when you put that baby down in his crib and he stays sleeping. That means you get potentially an hour or more to do something not related to child care. Unless of course all the bottles are dirty and you haven't done your daily load of laundry yet...
Anyway, babies sleep a lot and reasonably expect an area on which perform this act. There are people who advocate co-sleeping which is where you basically put the baby in your bed to sleep all the time. I don't like this idea. For one thing, I was terrified of rolling over on my son when he was that small and immobile. For another, you and your spouse need a little breathing room.
However, you do need to keep your infant in close proximity to the bed. You could use an old-fashioned bassinet or the trusty dresser drawer but both of those leave something to be desired as far as infant safety (plus where do you then put your socks?). One big problem with most of the cribs you see for sale is that they are BIG. Nursery furniture companies assume you will be outfitting an entire room for the exclusive use of your darling offspring. That is not going to happen in a tiny urban apartment so different tactics are called for.
We went with the Arm's Reach Mini Co-Sleeper. This is a low crib with one side that folds down and a belt for attaching it to your bed. The idea is that the baby ends up sleeping on the same level as your bed but in a separate space.
The Mini Co-Sleeper collapses into a small package so it integrates nicely into apartment living. We ended up putting ours at the head of our bed as there wasn't enough room on the side. There is also a regular Co-Sleeper which is larger than the mini. I would recommend considering the regular Co-Sleeper as it has a removable floor so that it can be converted into a baby playpen later on. The mini lacks this feature but it really is quite compact and I think you can get a good 8 months of usage out of it. Plus you can actually fold it into a tiny package and save it for when you have the next child.
One issue is that the Mini Co-Sleeper comes with one sheet. The design of the co-sleeper mattress means you really have to use the official sheets as they secure to the mattress with velcro and fit the mattress very precisely. We purchased two extra sheets and that seems an adequate amount. Remember: if you baby throws up on one end, just cover it with a burp rag and turn him around. That's only partly a joke. Get the two extra sheets for sure.
Also there's a window between the first month and about 7 months or so where your baby can move his head enough that you don't worry so much about laying him down on a regular bed. On the other hand he also can't move around enough to roll off the bed. During that time you can just put the baby on the bed for a nap instead of in the crib all the time. We are probably going to move to a playpen / pack-and-play type of device for both a baby prison and crib as our son gets a little older and more agile.
It's weird, but cleaning the poop off your own offspring's nether regions is much less unpleasant than it may appear to the uninitiated. I guess that is part of the chemical or psychological bonding process. At any rate you are going to be changing a lot of diapers so spend some time thinking about how you want to do it. A good strategy makes diaper changes quick and convenient for everyone.
As for diaper brands, I believe there is no finer product on the planet than the Pampers Swaddler. That belief is of course based on my extremely limited knowledge of the world of diapers. What I do know is that the Swaddlers work very, very well. Freakish well, you might say - they are a true miracle of modern science. How do they hold so much baby pee?
Our friend and city baby mentor Jennifer says that Huggs fit girls better than Pampers so you might want to check those out. To prepare for baby's arrival, buy several large boxes of Swaddlers in the smallest size - 'N' for newborn. You can but them from Diapers.com which has the advantage of home delivery. However their prices are mediocre. The best price we've found in Manhattan is at Babies 'R Us. They also have good prices on formula but I would in general recommend avoiding that store like the plague as it sucks out your soul.
You will also need wipes. As I mentioned earlier, you should use cotton balls for the first month or so. I purchased a large case of Pampers Fragrance Free wipes from Diapers.com and that lasted five months so in this case go ahead and stock up. I'm hesitant to recommend stocking up on diapers because babies grow so fast. Also note that Pampers.com has a rewards plan where you type in codes from packages to get points. Two years of diapers and wipes will probably get you about enough points for a few kids DVDs and toys so save those codes.
One thing I wish we had space for is a changing table. It really does make diaper changes a lot easier (we've used them at friends' houses a few times). However you don't absolutely need one. Instead, you can put a waterproof changing table pads (piddle pad) down on the couch for each changing. Sit on the couch while changing the baby. If you bend over to do this all the time you will abuse your back to no end. So in the interest of saving space, forgo the changing table.
Finally as far as diaper rash ointments go I recommend Bordeaux's butt paste not only because it is fun to say but because it it works really well.
You are going to need a few devices to entertain, amuse, and otherwise fascinate your child. First start with the small things: pacifiers. your baby may or may not be interested in these. Our son went through a phase for several months where he loved the pacifier. Then he found his thumb and lost all interest. The pacifier I do recommend is the Soothie. Purchase ten of their newborn pacifiers as they get lost easily. I prefer the vanilla-scented ones for no particular reason other than they have this bizarre vanilla scent (not flavor). You will also need a pacifier clip otherwise they will end up on the floor when you are carrying your baby. Get a clip that can attach to the small hole in the soothie - most clips I've seen have a round rubber ring which will not hold a Soothie.
You don't need too many other small toys for an infant but people will tend to give you a lot of relatively useless stuffed animals and such. It is a good idea to pick up a few teething toys beforehand so you are prepared. One I particularly recommend is the Quacky Duck cloth baby activity book which has rubber corners for teething and is tons of fun for babies to play with while they chomp on it.
One larger item than has been absolutely invaluable for us is the baby play gym. This is a mat with overhead arms that you place on the floor. The arms hold various rattle toys, mirrors, and the like. The one we have and I particularly like is the Baby Einstein Kids II Play Gym. While I generally dislike Baby Einstein on principle, this is a very well designed product. It has a motion-activated music and lights activity star that babies find endlessly fascinating. Also unlike the more expensive Kids II Discovering Water Play Gym the music box isn't hideously loud. This is very important in a small apartment. While I generally try to keep the electronic beeping toys to a minimum the music from this device is not horribly grating.
I initially thought the play gym was a waste of money but it has provided several solid months of entertainment for our son so it has been well worth the $50 price. Also this particular play gym when disassembled takes up very little space - another key apartment factor.
Babies tend to get a little bored if they are left on the floor all the time so you should also consider a few other play items. First of all, go buy a Boppy as you will use it a lot. I don't really think it's a great breast feeding support (look to My Brest Friend for that) but it is a great way to get your baby sitting up. It keeps him from sliding down or flopping off the couch. We currently feed our son solid food by propping him up in the boppy on the couch so it also helps fill in for a high chair before your baby can sit up.
The best advice I can give about chairs and rockers is borrow a friend's and try it with your baby before committing. Our son gets completely annoyed in his rocker and we've never really used it. On the other hand, he (and other babies we know) enjoys the vibrating chair immensely. The basic $25 Fischer Price Soothe and Play Bouncer works just fine. There's no need to spend $100 on the Baby Bjorn vibrating chair, although it might be a good shower gift to ask for.
There are a wide array of baby safety and health products that companies want you to buy to clutter up your house. Don't fall for the advertising. Here's a fairly definitive list of what you will need:
Thermometer: Purchase a digital oral/rectal baby thermometer. This goes for all the baby health products: for some reason the kits are crap. You are better off purchasing individual products than buying some kit. The Safety First kit in particular is on sale everywhere and the items in it are worthless. Don't buy kits.
Thermometer Update: We just received the Exergen Forehead Thermometer as a gift and I highly recommend it. So much easier than traditional thermometers, and seems very accurate too.
Bulb aspirator: You can swipe several of these from the hospital so there's no need to buy one.
Nail clippers / nail files: The American Red Cross Deluxe Nail Clippers work extremely well. You probably want to purchase a baby nail file as well. Your baby's nails won't be hard enough for at least a month after they are born to really use the clippers, but they will be sharp enough to scratch. I just chew them off like a savage but a file works too.
Safety cotton swabs: I'm a fan of the Johnson's Safety Swabs because they are small enough to get in those cracks and crevices but also designed so you can't do any damage.
Petroleum jelly: This is good for chapped baby lips and irritated baby butts. We use Alba Un-Petroleum Jelly, available at Whole Foods stores.
Simethicone drops: (brand name Mylicon). These are very handy for when baby has gas. Get the store brand with the non-staining formula.
Infant Tylenol (acetaminophen): This is pretty much the only fever reducer / pain reliever recommended for babies under six months. Again get the non-staining formula if possible. This stuff is expensive and remember one reason it comes in such small bottles is it's not that hard to overdose on Tylenol and cause serious liver damage. Once your infant is six months old switch to baby Motrin (ibuprofen) and never ever use acetaminophen again, ever.
I recommend purchasing three books during pregnancy:
- The Experts' Guide to the Baby Years
- Caring for Your Baby and Young Child
- Mayo Clinic Guide to a healthy pregnancy
Avoid What To Expect When You Are Expecting. It is worthless primarily because it spends way too much time on very unlikely worst-case scenarios.
You should consider drawing up a list of people beforehand to notify when the birth happens. This is a great task to hand off to a friend or family member. Also consider whether or not you want to send out birth announcements (grandparents will really, really want you to do this). Again, draw up a list.
If you don't have a compact digital camera, now is the time to buy one. I recommend the Panasonic Lumix cameras as they are very easy to use and take very good pictures. I use the DMC-FX3 but any model is probably fine. Learn how to use low-light mode with no flash and how to use auto-bracketing. Then, set up a website for baby pictures. Any of the standard services should work fine. This might be a good time to invest in a Flickr Pro Account.
We took the birth classes at Real Birth and I have mixed feelings on them. On the one hand they do have some useful info. On the other you can probably read a book or two and spend the $300 on something else. It's up to you.
Spend some time thinking about child care. You will need a lot more help than you realize. Get this lined up before the birth. This is one thing that genuinely surprised me. Also if you can afford it hire a cleaning service to start cleaning the house weekly at around the seven month mark in the pregnancy. We have a wonderful house cleaner who also babysits our son on occasion and this has been an absolute lifesaver.
Here some of the websites I've referenced in this article and a few others that you might find useful:
- Buy Buy Baby - one stop shopping for almost all baby supplies. Note however that it's much better to go to the store if possible.
- I used to recommend Baby Style as a great place to buy baby clothes, but they went out of business. Janie and Jack is a decent alternative.
- Diapers.com - home delivery of diapers and related accessories.
- Drugstore.com - online drugstore.
- Fresh Direct - online grocery shopping and delivery (parts of NYC only).
- UrbanBaby - articles and discussion boards focused on living with a baby in the city.
- Barnard Babysitting Agency - get Barnard students for babysitting in NYC.
Having a baby in the city is an amazingly exciting and rewarding experience. I can think of no better place to raise a child. At the same time you have to be prepared and set realistic expectations. Ask yourself, "do I really need this"? for every baby item you bring into your apartment. I realize my notes are not comprehensive but they should go a long ways towards preparing you for this amazing new chapter in your life in the city. The most important thing to remember is have fun and enjoy this time with your baby as this time goes by incredibly quickly.
copyright 2007 Philip J. Hollenback
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Special thanks to our friend and baby mentor Jennifer Daniel. Her expert advice provided the core of this article and kept us from going insane when we had our baby.
Note that I've written a followup to this article called Big City Toddler you might want to read after this.