Despite the perennial search for the perfect stroller, the perfect car seat or the perfect crib, it tends to be the smaller items—the tantrum-quashers, sanity-savers and spill cleaner-uppers—that really make a difference in a mom’s day-to-day life.
Most of the time, we discover these items by trial and error: We once had a friend call all the way from France pleading with us to please mail another soft, stuffed rabbit we'd sent as a gift—her daughter had lost it, and it was the only thing that got her to sleep.
In fact, the wisdom of other mothers can be a potent thing. We spoke to a wide variety of moms to discover the inexpensive things that have made their lives infinitely easier.
Please, share your suggestions in the comments, below. We'd love for this list to grow as fast as our kids do ...
1. Toy Securer
Why it’s essential: Babies, as adorable as they are, are notorious for dropping and losing things: Toys. Sippy cups. Your smartphone. And, of course, the last thing you want is for your baby to pitch a fit when her most prized pacifier goes missing. That’s why it’s useful to have something to attach it to her car seat or stroller.
Recommended by a mom: The Simple Secure-a-Toy, $5 (for a set of 2); "Since it's so cheap, you can throw several of them in different places for when you need them in a pinch," says mom Cynthia Lee. "I keep at least one in different places—my purse, diaper bag and my son's backpack so whenever we are out and about, I can secure a toy or snack cup to his stroller or car seat without worrying about anything getting dirty."
2. Portable Cloth Changing Pads
Why it’s essential: You can’t help that you’ll most likely need to use those cold metal changing tables when you’re in a public restroom, but you can make it slightly more comfortable for your kids (and, therefore, you). Pick up a cloth changing pad to go on top of the changing table, which packs handily in a diaper bag and can be easily washed for multiple uses, making it eco-friendly.
Recommended by a mom: Circo Multi-Use Baby Pads, $12 "I own four cloth, multi-use changing pads that I still use all the time," says mom Katie Ginder-Vogel. "They're washable, and they're more comfortable for babies than disposable changing pad covers."
3. An Untied-Shoelace Solution
Why it's essential: As your kid becomes mobile, those tiny sneakers that, in the past, always made you go, "Awww, how cute!" will suddenly start fostering a new emotion—annoyance. In fact, you've probably lost count of how often you bend over to retie tiny shoelaces that have, yet again, come undone. Which is why a simple, easy-to-use device that snaps on kids' tied laces to make sure they stay tied should be a part of every mom's repertoire.
Recommended by a mom: The Snap-n-Step, $8 "If you have a kid that has feet, you need this product," said mom Alice Deiters. "It's changed our life on the soccer and baseball fields!"
4. A Good Bathtub
Why it's essential: Finding bath time not so fun? When your baby is really little, he might rebel against being placed in a cold, hard tub (or sink) and having water splashed all over him. But he's likely to have exactly the opposite reaction to a bath time that involves soft, squishy materials and the feeling of being enclosed and safe. Getting him clean, sans tears? Worth the money.
What's Your Cheap Mom Must-Have
Do you have any secret, cheap products that have saved you when you were in a bind?
Recommended by a mom: The Prince Lionheart washPOD, $35, which puts baby safely in the fetal position, and includes a soft foam insert that supports his head and torso while you bathe him. "My little guy hated baths until we started using this tub," said one mom we spoke to.
5. Easy Breastfeeding Cleaning Supplies
Why it's essential: When you're breastfeeding, it's important to find something that will effectively disinfect your supplies in the shortest amount of time. And if you're doing so at the office, you want a more discreet option than handwashing your breast flange next to coworkers busy refilling their coffee.
Recommended by a mom: Medela Quick Clean Micro Steam Bags, $5, which eliminate 99.9% of germs after three minutes in the microwave. "Tossing pumping parts and bottles into the microwave for a couple of minutes definitely beats washing them by hand to sterilize them for the umpteenth time," says mom Genevieve Lill.
6. A Feeding Reminder
Why it's essential: Especially for new moms with lots on their minds, remembering when and how to do everything can be a challenge. Feeding a new baby is one of those tasks that will occur multiple times a day, and even though a newborn will remind his mom when he's hungry, it still helps to have a reminder before it gets to that point.
Recommended by a mom: iBaby Feed Timer, $1.99 "The iBaby Feed app is especially great early on when you're too tired to remember when and how long you last nursed," says mom Beth Collins. "The app helps you log every nursing session, pump session and bottle feed, and it gives you cool stats like the average number of feedings per day and the average amount of time your baby feeds per nursing session."
7. Noise Machine
Why it's essential: Once your kid is asleep, you'd do anything to help him stay that way. But life must go on even as your baby slumbers, and any added noise you make during naptime risks waking him.
Recommended by a mom: Marpac Sound Screen Sleep Conditioner White Noise Generator, $45. "My son loves the white noise, and we love that it blocks out around-the-house noise," one mom told us on Facebook. "We've even had dinner parties after he's gone to bed, and he's slept right through them."
8. A Crossbody Purse
Why it's essential: A hands-free, crossbody purse is great for moms who need to use their hands for other essential things ... like catching toddlers hellbent on going in any direction but the one they are.
Recommended by a mom: "Gotta be hands-free to chase after my Ryan!" says mom Bonnie Kabinoff,who swears by her Kate Spade cross-body bag, though we think a bag of this shape at any price point will do the trick. Try: Kenneth Cole Reaction handbag, $30.
9. Swaddle Blankets
Why it's essential: As with the bathtub, finding a good swaddle blanket is essential for your child to feel warm, cozy and comforted during those first few months. The right blanket will be both soft and sturdy enough to hold up to multiple washings.
Recommended by a mom: Aden + Anais Cozy Muslin Collection. Several moms chimed in on Facebook to say they loved this brand. "These blankets were the perfect size, and they provided the perfect amount of stretch," said one. If your little one is super wiggly, though, you will need something like the Miracle Blanket, $30, which has a genius self-wrapping structure to keep him bundled in.
10. The Perfect Carrier
Why it's essential: Having a baby will only add to your already bulging list of activities and social circles. As such, most moms find themselves constantly on the go, always busy, and, sometimes, in places where strollers just won't cut it. A safe, comfortable baby carrier is essential for any busy mom-on-the-go.
Recommended by a mom: The Ergo Carrier. "It's so easy to get around the city, in and out of stores, and up and down stairs, as compared to a cumbersome stroller," said mom Jodi Bauer Tormey. While her pick is certainly pricey, you can choose a carrier that fits your child and your budget perfectly, and reap all of the same benefits.
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