A Minimalist Mama’s First Year Essentials
I almost cringe at the term ‘minimalist’ nowadays. For so many it has negativity around it. Even within the community, it’s a competition on who has the least amount of stuff. I am even teased by my own husband about not being a real minimalist. I find myself preferring the term ‘essentialist’.
A while before my daughter came into the picture, I discovered minimalism. Which (to me) is having only in your life items you find useful and beautiful. I knew the benefits for littles to have the space to explore ideas for themselves, and how an abundance of toys and belongings can stifle their imagination. So I knew that I would be a minimalist mother. Around this time I was also discovering that I was about to have a baby girl.
Let me tell you, nothing makes a former collector turned essentialist, tempted to revert back to her old ways faster then walking through the clothing section of Buy Buy Baby with a scanner and a baby registry checklist.
For the most part, I held it together pretty dang well. I read reviews, I scoured pre-made checklists on Pinterest, and watched nursery tours on YouTube. It took hours, but finally I felt happy with the perfectly curated list of things that we had chosen for our daughter. Now, looking back almost 10 months later...I can see that even with my minimal mindset, I still requested too much.
Would it have been any different if we’d had a boy? Hmmm...maybe. But, I doubt it. The gender of a child affects the amount of stuff to a point but whether you are blessed with a girl or boy cub, the world around us does make us believe we need SO MUCH STUFF.
So here, almost one year later I give you what we really used and what we regret purchasing.
Essentials & Loves (in no particular order)
1. Rocking Chair - gifted to us by my best friend and her husband. I can’t even begin to explain what a blessing this item has truly been. It’s supported me (literally) on some of the toughest nights of my daughters life so far. It soothes her. It’s helped my posture not be quite so terrible while holding her. And it’s held me upright when I might otherwise have fallen over face first in sheer, utter exhaustion.
2. The Diaper Haul- this wasn’t so much as a single item as it was an activity. At our baby shower, we requested that each guest bring a box of diapers. Doing so would enter them into a raffle, where they would be entered to win a prize. Doing this, and having our wonderful guests play along set us up for not having to buy any diapers for the first six months of our daughters life. It was incredible!
3. Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Butter- natural breastfeeding championship aside, chapped nipples are no joke and I straight up owe at least a portion of my success to this stuff. Between this and rubbing my own breastmilk on my nipples, Baby Bear and I were in business after a couple weeks.
4. Always Discreet Boutique Disposable Underwear- I am a lover of the mesh underwear from the hospital as much as the next postpartum mama. But for me, what was even better then those, were the fancy schmany depends. They were super high waisted. They didn’t roll down my mommy tummy like the mesh underwear did. And, they were pretty darn cute, considering. PLUS, I didn’t have to worry about pads and underwear. I just bled into those and it was one and done!
5. A water bottle- as a breastfeeding mama you need A LOT of water. A Lot.
6. Rainbow Ball- hands down one of my daughters most favourite toys on the face of the earth. This ball makes her light up the way Thomas Rhett does. Passing this ball back and forth with daddy is what got her to laugh for the very first time. It’s one of the few toys she will genuinely play with for more then a few seconds. Rainbow ball is life.
8. Barry the Bear- one of our baby shower gifts was a gift card for Build a Bear. Before our daughter was born, Papa Bear & I went out and each made her a special stuffy. He made Barry & I made Harriet the Hare. Harriet is loved, but not the way Barry is. We use him for the monthly portraits to track her growth & size. And now that she’s taking interest in stuffed animals, seeing her squeeze and hug her bear is one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.
9. The Boon Spoon- this was life changing for a mama with a teething baby that also wanted to get fruit & nutrients into her. There are mesh ones that I’m sure are great but I heard they are hard to clean. So we went the silicone route. Ten outta ten, recommend.
10. Sleep Oasis- you might be thinking “What is this? This sounds magical. I need this! Where can I buy it?” Well, let me tell you the very important steps to create the ultimate Sleep Oasis.
Step 1- you get a essential oil diffuser & lavender essential oil.
Step 2- you get a white noise machine or download one of the many, many apps that exists. I just use my husbands old iPad as it wasn’t getting much use otherwise.
Step 3- turn on diffuser. Turn on white noise. Turn off light. Both Baby Bear & Mama Bear are usually out like a light pretty darn quick.
11. A Comb- Baby Bear was born with a full head of fur. Excuse me- hair. She needed that comb. I needed it. Seriously? Who needs to worry about their newborns hair getting knotted? This mama did. Thank goodness for the comb collection. I always have two with me while combing as she usually likes to chew on one while I use the other. Recently we’ve moved on to using my brush, but in the early days we really appreciated the baby combs.
12. The Rattle- much like the Rainbow Ball, this rattle is life. I don’t know what exactly is inside it but it’s mimics white noise when you shake it. We actually have two. One for home and one for the car.
13. Ovol & Gripe Water- During the early days, I don’t know how we would have made it thought without both of these. Get them. You won’t regret it.
14. Thomas Rhett- Baby Bear loves all music, but country music seems to be her favourite. She loves Florida Georgia Line, Taylor Swift & Carrie Underwood. But she doesn’t love any singer like she loves Thomas Rhett. His voice can bring her out of a meltdown instantly. When he came to Edmonton earlier this year, we took her to see him. It was so wonderful to have her first concert be her absolute favourite singer.
15. Our Kuma Wagon- If you have ever lived in an apartment you know just how tough it is to bring groceries into the house. This is the original purpose for the wagon. As well as the one day beach trip(s) we knew we would take with our baby. We discovered it was also really lovely for family walks when she was sick of her stroller. It is also awesome to plop her in there with some toys when I want to have a quick shower and daddy isn’t home.
16. Carrier/Wrap- we didn’t get to use our wrap too often before she capped out the weight limits. So we upgraded to the carrier. Definitely a necessity in our family.
Regrets & Not Needed
Certainly not every purchase were great choices in hindsight. Despite the hours I put into curating and selecting items to bring into our home, a few unneeded products and ’must haves’ slipped in. Below are a few listed as well as items that we thankfully didn’t purchase and I’m glad stayed in the stores.
1. Bassinet, Moses Basket, Crib- the amount of stress that I put my husband and I through agonizing over where my baby would sleep safely makes my head hurt now to think about it. One of the first things we bought after finding out we were pregnant was the Moses Basket. Oh my goodness. It was so cute and aesthetically pleasing. I thought I was gonna die. Then we bought the rocking stand for it. And the bedding - which 100% did not fit. And so I went into full meltdown mode. We exchanged the stand for a bassinet. The Moses basket became a container for Baby Bear’s stuffed animals. The bassinet lasted...about as long as the Moses basket. It was used by Baby Bear twice. That’s it. Twice. She slept in our arms or the bed beside us. And don’t even get me started on the crib. The crib that at 9 months old she refuses to even go near if it’s slightly dark outside.
2. Snot Sucker-it freaked her out. It freaked Papa Bear out. It freaked me out. Nope. Sorry. Hard pass.
3. Baby Bath- we never got one, and glad we didn’t. Like so many things our old fashioned girl probably would have rejected it. She didn’t even start having baths until she was 7 months old. She would shower with us instead. And by that time she would have been to big for it. A laundry basket works great!
4. Wipes Warmer- these are a luxury item as far as I’m concerned. Would it have been nice to have? Sure! But my daughter would have had to use cooler wipes when we were out visiting. So I thought it was best for her to only have one temperature of wipe.
5. Bouncer/ Swing/ Jolly Jumper- through the first few months of her life, my daughter did have these things. They just didn’t last very long because she was too big for them. Her weight capped her out of nearly every baby contraption on the market pretty dang quick. We had purchased her an aesthetically pleasing bouncer brand new. She used it a handful of times. It was great for sticking her in while I showered! Her swing we thankfully bought second hand. It was missing a few pieces but she didn’t care. She was more interested in looking at the warning sticker label then anything. We got a bit of use out of it, but I’m glad we didn’t get a brand new one. Any of the activity centres were pretty much out of the question due to the size of them and the lack of space we had. Not to mention the weight restrictions. As for the jolly jumper, we borrowed it from an friend. She tried it a couple times. She hated it. The seat part was super uncomfortable. She was an early crawler (at 6 months) and walker (before 9 months) anyway. Once she knew she could move her body, she had little interest being trapped in anything.
Like all aspects of motherhood, the things you purchase to survive the first year (and beyond) is a whole lot of trial and error. I’m sure there are things we never tried that could have made our days easier. But those days are behind us, and we’re pretty happy with the items we have now. Doesn’t stop me from looking at Pinterest play room inspiration of course...but that’s for one day.
I think the number one thing to remember when it comes to items for baby is this: Our children truly just need a source of nutrition, cuddles and love, warmth, home and us. The rest is window dressing.
-Mama Bear 🐻