1. Medela Pump In Style Advanced. We have a love-hate relationship, but without this pump, I couldn't give her any breast milk. I haven't used any others to know that this one is far superior, but I'm still fairly certain there's no better pump out there. It's as convenient as pumping can be. I'm able to have my hands free (thanks to Mike's patent-pending Sports Bra With 2 Holes Cut In It, so if you ever get one, forget spending money on the brand name "corset" or whatever, cause sports bras work perfectly). Plus Medela makes a million accessories that make breast milk storage very easy. And I hear good things about their customer service in the event that something is wrong with your pump, which is nice because you can't really wait a while for replacement parts like you can for, say, a toaster.
2. My Brest Friend pillow. I didn't get one of these until about two weeks in, from some terrific friends of mine who were so supportive during our nightmare breastfeeding stage. I had a Boppy to start with, and it was no fun trying to position her on it to nurse. It wouldn't stay up high enough so I ended up hunched over, and it sags in the middle and it just wasn't comfortable for us. I actually use it now as a sort of body pillow, and we get some use out of it to prop her up for tummy time, and despite the tag's admonishings, we've set her in it to nap, so I'm glad we have it too, but as far as nursing I found it pretty worthless. The My Brest Friend was such an improvement. It straps around your middle and clips in place so you don't have to hold it up, and it really supports the baby so you can have at least one hand free rather than needing both just to hold the baby in place. I don't nurse anymore, but if we were nursing exclusively, I would be using this pillow every day.
3. Miracle Blankets. We have 4 (from Uncle Johnny) and they are in constant rotation. People who aren't familiar with them are usually pretty wary of them, thinking we keep our baby in a straight jacket when "she just wants her arms free! i can't stand to see them pinned down! she's wiggling, it must be that her blanket is too tight and restricting! let her out!!" These people are nuts; swaddling is magical to babies. I am extremely reluctant to believe anyone who says their baby did not like swaddling. Wynne startles like a madman when her arms are free and can't stay asleep more than 5 minutes at a time. She'll bang herself in the face, scratch her eyes with her unwieldy fingers and scraggly nails (so bad at baby nail-cutting). And when she's fussy, swaddling is always the first thing we do to calm her down. It's not a pacifier in itself, but it helps her to stop flailing, keeps a fit from escalating, and gets her attention so we can do the other things that calm her down. I don't think I'll ever waste my time with any other sort of swaddling blanket. This one is specifically designed so that baby arms can't pop out (though she does manage to bend hers at the elbows sometimes, she still can't flail them all around), and I feel certain that none of us would be sleeping if we didn't have these blankets. Our moms, both of whom disliked the tight swaddle at first, have come around because they know how well it works.
4. White noise machine and hair dryer. We have a little white noise machine that runs on batteries (handy for travel but we have to change the batteries often) and a sound machine that plugs in that we keep in the corner of her crib that we turn on whenever she sleeps. She, and I wager this is true of all babies, does NOT like quiet. It's much easier to fall asleep, and more importantly stay asleep, with background noise. And when she's really fussy, all we have to do is turn on the hair dryer (on high. low isn't loud enough.) and she'll stop crying almost immediately. Again, some people think we keep it too loud, but it turns out babies are used to a decibel similar to that of a vacuum cleaner in the womb, so the noise has to be fairly loud to work.
5. Happiest Baby On The Block, a book (by pediatrician Harvey Karp) about calming fussy babies. I don't think there's any new secret information in it, but it presents things nicely so that I can understand them. Basically, the point is that until 3 or 4 months, babies are really still fetusy and not well-equipped for life outside the womb, so we should recreate the experiences they're used to in the womb. Sensible and helpful.
6. Playtex Vent-Aire bottles. We tried several (nuk, breastflow) and these are the ones that work best for us, despite their many many parts. No fun to wash, but really what is fun to wash? We use the wide bottles with slow flow nipples, because we wanted something that would be similar enough to breastfeeding that she wouldn't refuse to nurse, which is no longer an issue, but I still really like these.
7. Soothie pacifiers. We have The First Years brand ones and love them. We have several other kinds too and she'll take them just fine, but I like the soothie kind. As we JUST discovered, the Munchkin pacifier clips sold at Target will attach to these kind (with a little force) so they don't go flying whenever the baby lets go (which she does. a lot.), and in our house with concrete floors, and with crumbs and fuzz and my hair all over the floors, it's nice not having to chase after the thing and rinse it off every five minutes.
8. Footed sleepers that zip or snap. So much better than having to pull a onesie over a tiny baby's head. And who invented shirts for babies? There's nothing to keep them down around their bellies where they belong. They all ride up and bunch up under their armpits and you're constantly yanking the shirt down. For the same reason, gowns are hit-or-miss for us. I like having her in them at night so diaper changes don't wake her up too much, but they bunch too. Wynne pretty much lives in footed sleepers. The last few weeks, however, she gets really hot and sweaty in her carseat or when she's being held to nap, so we also use lots of short sleeved onesies to keep her cooler.
9. Pampers swaddlers diapers and Huggies wipes. For this baby, Pampers is it. We still get leaks (dirty diapers only; I guess this is bound to happen no matter what), but other diapers leaked with far less mess than Pampers. And I love Huggies wipes because they are very easily torn in two. I like working with a smaller square and feel like I can use the whole wipe more efficiently this way. I usually only need 1, torn in half, for wet diapers and 2 or 3 for dirty diapers. I want to switch to cloth diapers here shortly, so when we do I'll try to do a post about what we like and how it's going, but for now we're using disposables so we love Pampers.
10. Other brand stuff we use: Enfamil Lipil formula (it's sorta frothy, which for some reason makes me think it's gentle on her stomach), Earth's Best Organic whole grain rice cereal (flaky like instant mashed potatoes! i tried food processing brown rice myself but i'm gonna need a much sturdier blade to really pulverize that stuff), Trumpette baby socks (the only ones we've found that don't fall off), Rockin Baby sling (I love it, Wynne tolerates it in short doses; had to watch youtube videos to figure out how to get a baby in and out of it), Moby wrap (again, youtube videos are important. we used this a whole lot early on, now it's hit or miss), Chicco (evidently pronounced key-co) baby gear. We have a Chicco carseat, stroller, and play yard, and they are awesome. I really like the quality of Chicco products and that they have a variety of gender-neutral colors; Baby Luve bath covers, which cover her up in the bathtub so it's not all chilly and drafty on the parts of her that aren't submerged. I don't know what bath time would be like without them, and I don't want to know. We could probably use a large washcloth or a small hand towel to the same effect, but these are designed for a baby's shape and aren't as thick and heavy as regular towel terrycloth. We luve them.
So there you go. Lately, Wynne has been throwing the worst fits I've ever witnessed. She fights sleep every single time we try to get her down (except the middle of the night feeding), and it's gotten way worse this week. Hysterical red-faced screaming. I don't know if it's teething, some phantom pain I can't recognize, or just that she's chronically overtired, but y'all. It is sapping me of all my strength and patience, neither of which I had in abundance to start with. If I can distract her, usually with the hair dryer or standing in front of the bathroom mirror (she likes looking at our reflections) with the vent turned on for noise, sometimes the wailing will subside so that I can get her swaddled. Then I usually have to take her to a pitch black room (for us the bathrooms are the only rooms without windows) with some white noise, and rock her and pat her bottom (kinda hard) and smush her tight against me until she falls asleep. It's a production, and if it wasn't so stressful and terrible it'd probably be pretty funny. But I'm just throwing it out there in case it helps anybody else. Loud noise to distract her from the fit (hair dryer, bathroom vent, white noise machine, motorboat sounds, loud rattle- pill bottles work in a pinch), swaddle her (quickly! she hates being put down and having her arms pinned down- initially), pitch black dark room (no cracks of light, shadows, NOTHIN), pacifier, hold her tight so her legs don't feel free and she can't arch her back, rock/swing and pat her bottom and wait it out. Also lots of prayer thrown in there.