for Elena (and any other first time mamas)

Preface: Erik and I have known Elena and John since we (and baby Catherine) moved to Ravencrest Chalet four + years ago. During those four years, this couple got married, and we Snyders delivered three more children. Elena ALWAYS rejoiced with us as we welcomed each child, even though they had no children. We were thrilled to learn our friends are expecting in March. 

For Elena-
You asked us (as parents of four) to give you a pared-down, bare-bones, essentials list of what you might need for your baby during those first months, especially when watching your budget. I am sure you will enjoy discovering things that you love, but here are a few ideas that we've liked which I hope will help get you started.

1. you. you. you. your arms. your voice. your face. your love.
2. your man. John. Love each other. You two are the loving, living home for your baby to come into.
3. the Lord. With so many opinions out there - opinions which change! - seek Him... for even the little things. He will counsel you and John to give you wisdom for each situation.

Some practical ideas:

Breastfeeding: can't say enough good things about it! Good for you, good for your little one. Another one of God's brilliant designs. I could get going on this, but I'll stop here.

Water bottle: for you! Great to have some H2O on hand throughout the house or around the town, especially when you're nursing (and so very thirsty!).

Boppy: this "c" shaped pillow helped me with those little wobbly newborns to get started breastfeeding properly.

Breastpump: in the first few days when the milk comes in... ouch!!! I appreciated my little manual breastpump for those fast filling up times. Ahh, relief! Personally, I didn't need to create a huge supply, so we didn't buy an electric breastpump. Your situation may be different. However, when Jack was 2 months old, he got RSV and had to be hospitalized for a few days. He wasn't breastfeeding regularly, but I wanted my supply to stay up and running, so we rented an electric breastpump for a few months.

Diapers: we were in a living situation without a washer/dryer, so we opted for disposables. However, if we did have access to a good ole w/d, we might have gone more green using cloth. One bit of advice I do have is that, if you do decide to go with cloth, you might get some newborn disposables for that first month - when you're tired and learning so much anyway. Disposables might keep things simple at first. (Then, of course, you might never go back!!) You could also do a hybird approach: use cloth regularly, but have a few disposables to have for when you're out and about.

Wipes: we have a membership at Costco and find their babywipes excellent and essential... even for spots other than where you might think! (Think further down the line: great for our toddlers' hand-wiping and mouth-wiping at restaurants)

Bottom Cream: When we opened up our first tube of "Desitin" with Catherine, I was transported back 25 years to my lil' bro Zach's babyhood! That smell is unforgettable... and boy is it good stuff. Erik and I would put it on our babies not only during early signs of rash, but also at night for those extended diaper-wearing periods.

Burpcloths: my mom gave me a handful of old (like 25+ year old) cloth diapers that she used for my darling little doll (uh, brother) Zach. As an adoring sister who didn't mind when he accidentally spit up in my mouth, as a mama, I don't mind washing/bleaching those old diapers and using them as burp cloths. (They're super soft and absorbent). Highly recommended by Jude: they're now his fave blankets to sleep with, too!!

Bathtime: so soothing, especially helpful for establishing a bedtime routine. We like Johnson's Babywash - it's tear-free and gentle on delicate skin. Baby nail clippers are helpful when your baby's nails are soft after his bath... and even good to take along to the hospital! Those nails are growing while he's still inside you!

Bedtime: we started our babies in a "Moses basket" which was helpful for our living situation (a tiny house, playing toddlers, and visiting students). We would need to move them from our room to the couch and vice versa throughout the day.

Swaddling blankets: thin flannel blankets are great for wrapping up your little one so s/he feels safe, warm, and snug. You can google "swaddling" (or click here) for techniques.

Carseat/stroller: again, on a budget, we opted for the Graco Safeseat and its compatible stroller. These have worked hard for the past four years and have been super easy to use. The carseat's simple to get in/out of the car with its compatible base. Counting all our children (Catherine, 4; Camille, 3, Jack, 2), our stroller's been around the block - literally and figuratively-  for a sum total of nine years! The stroller's taken a beating on our mountain roads and carrying three (yes, three!) at a time. (I don't think Graco had three in mind when they designed our stroller, but it's worked great in a pinch!) When it finally "died" this past fall, we were repeat buyers of this fantastic stroller.

Baby carrier: Great to have, not only when you're out and about. Sometimes your baby just wants to be near you... and you need to be doing something with the two extra hands you don't have. We used (and enjoyed) a Baby Bjorn during these times until our babies got older (and heavier). However, there is no back support in this system. As the babies grew, the Ergo Baby carrier has been helpful, as it has a great waist strap to take the weight off the shoulders and distribute it to the hips. 

Sun protection- especially here in the mountains at 8500 ft. you will want a little sunhat from the get-go,  and as he gets older, baby sunscreen is essential (those rays are terribly intense).  Depending on the season, your little one will need a snow hat. For those tiny tootsies, we like little leather slippers (Robeez) which are easy for Mama to get on, but difficult for baby to kick off! Additionally, they keep those little socks on. 

Bumbo seat (with tray): when your baby is old enough to support his head, you can stick him in this clever seat. It's mobile seat - on a counter top when you're cooking, or a tabletop when you're having a meal. The little one can get in on the action seated instead of lying down and because it's portable, he can "participate" in what's going on in all parts of the house. The tray is helpful when he's learning to grasp things. You can put teething rings (etc.) on it for him to grasp and chew... and later Cheerios. 

Johnny-jump-up: This little exerciser is great for time when your little one is able to support his head. We never got a "walker" simply because we hardly had any space in our home, but a J-J-U was great! It simply hangs in a door frame and lets him/her get some leg action. It's also a nice alternative to the bumbo seat. 

a camera to capture those beautiful memories for a lifetime! If your camera has a video component, even better. Those precious baby coos and "smiles in the making" are invaluable!

a library card - hopefully your local library has a good selection of childrens' board books to get started with. I found we could "read" (talk about the pictures) for as long as our babies were interested... and the interest grew! Books with Baby faces and animal books were a great hit to start with our babies.

books we enjoy: Although it's not written from a Christian perspective, A Child is Born hugely upped the WOW, GOD, You're utterly Amazing!! factor in my life. As your baby grows, God is faithful to bring just the right word, person, or book across your path for the questions you have. Personally, we recommend Shepherding a Child's Heart. Babywise was helpful for a season.

With love,

Any other mothers who have something helpful to add? Please click "Comments" and share your suggestions for the baby essentials!


  1. Thanks for the refresher course, Sarah... glad I enrolled!
    Something else that comes to mind when talking with new moms to be (biologically or thru adoption) is: It takes time to get to know your baby! Especially when the first came to us, I expected I would know every little thing about her, after all she had been living inside me for 9 mo! I just assumed I would know what every cry meant, every little squirm or squirt! It was baffeling to learn that it took time to figure those things out...
    Also, I am a big proponent of Babywise, but... I like to recommend to newby's, No book or routine can ever replace Mama. Don't rely so much on the plan that you ignore your own Mama-tuition. The first time around I found myself often frustrated b/c the baby wouldn't always fit the formula. And just when they seemed to 'get it' something would force change, i.e. growth spurt, sickness, vacation... The focus shouldn't necessarily be on the clock, but a good eat, wake, sleep routine and sometimes they do need extra cuddling to doze off to sleep - and that's ok!
    Wow! Thankful for the reminders!! I'm nervous this #4 is going to catch me by surprise!! =) love you and can't wait to see you soon - mq

    1. Well said! Can't wait to see you two, too!! (and the other precious ones in your family!)

  2. Anonymous1.2.12

    Great advice Sarah! All the items i was thinking. One more that i found helpful, was lots of Baby wash cloths for that soft skin. We live in a damp environment so things do not dry quickly so it was nice to have some extra ones. I found that wiping bottoms at changing time with it after baby wipes helped prevent diaper rash from developing. - Alisa

    1. Living in a damp environment... good point, friend. Please give your little man a big squeeze from your Colorado friends.

  3. AudreyKate loves the little flap books you sent her! They are definitely her favorites, especially "Open the Barn Door."