If I had known then what I know now
I don't have many friends that have children so I received very little up-to-date advice on the things that would help me when I had my baby. Looking back there are so many things that I would do differently had I known.
Formula, Nursing & Nursing Supplies
While pregnant I would have taken the time to go online and sign up with every baby formula company. It turns out that they will send you a whole lot of free formula, bottles and coupons. If breastfeeding doesn't work out or isn't for you, you can try formulas before you buy and save money when you find the right brand for your baby.
Breastfeeding was really forced at the hospital where I was and I felt terrible as I learned that this does not come naturally for all mothers. Breastfeeding is a lot of work! If you are having trouble it turns out that there is help beyond the lactation consultants, in fact there are breastfeeding specialists that in a quick appointment can identify what the problem is (if there is one) and give you valuable information or even a prescription to help.
Not all breastpads are created equal. I had no idea about breast leakage until I had an abundance of milk and woke up morning after morning soaked and smelling of sour milk. First of all, if you sleep on your back you will leak less - less pressure. The thin breastpads that are inexpensive, do not hold a lot of milk and need to be changed often. Lansinoh makes a pad that is like a maxi pad, thin and gels when moisture is absorbed, slightly more expensive but what a difference!
If you breastfeed or even if you don't invest in a nursing pillow, a standard pillow is just not the same. A nursing pillow is designed to wrap around your side and support the arm that baby is resting on and if your baby takes his or her time feeding this will save you and allow you to be hands free. Later when baby is learning to sit up on his or her own you can place this perfectly shaped pillow behind them to cushion their fall.
I was trying to save money and thought, "Why would anyone need a bottlewarmer?" The reason is: time and temperature. Although you can warm a bottle by submerging it in boiling water or making it from boiling water and letting it cool, a bottlewarmer takes mere minutes and the bottle is perfect every time. We managed to buy one on sale for about $25 and after overheating and underheating a few times we figured out exactly what to do to make a refrigerated 4oz bottle the prefect temperature and it takes about 1.5 minutes. When your baby is screaming this is amazing!
Microwave sterilizing systems are quick and amazing. Like the bottlewarmer it is not an essential by any means but for every time I washed and then boiled water to pour over bottles, toys and pacifiers, this saves time and that is huge!
Baby clothing does not come in standard sizes. My baby missed out on wearing a few very cute outfits because I put them aside thinking because the tag said 9 months she couldn't wear it until then. When buying or receiving baby clothes always compare the outfit to what baby is wearing now and use that as a size guide.
Carseats and Strollers
Don't be cheap when it comes to your baby's carseat and stroller - you will be using both of these items for a long time. Now, where we live, your child must be in a rear-facing carseat for one year, followed by a foward facing seat and then booster until 80lbs. We bought a rear-facing seat designed to plug into our stroller which is good up to 22lbs, our baby is going to be over 22lbs before she is one year old - we now have to go out and get another rear-facing carseat. We should have spent a little more money and bought a 3in1 seat, rear-facing up to 30lbs and convertible into a forward-facing and booster to 80lbs. Carseats have expiration dates so be sure to check it and aim for one that is good for the next 8-10 years.
Toys & Accessories
There are so many toys to choose from where do you start? Buy a Sophie Giraffe or ask for it as a gift. There is truly something magical about this toy which appears to be a $25 squeak toy but my baby and all of the babies in our playgroup light up at the sight of Sophie. She was created in the 60's and is made of a special rubber and food paint, she is perfect for little hands and the contrasting spots and giant black eyes make her a delight for little ones. We truly do not leave home with her.
When it comes to setting up for your first child, you need everything so find out what stores allow baby registries and what incentives they offer. We found out that The Bay allows you to register and any items that you do not receive as a gift you may buy for 20 to 30% off. We registered and bought all of our expensive items during "Baby Week" and received 20 to 30% off in addition to the already reduced price - this meant a huge savings. The two biggest savings were our carseat (although we did this wrong) went from $250 to $135 and my breastpump went from $190 to $110.