There aren't many things we couldn't live without, but these are a few that we found particularly useful in Birdie's first four months:
Ergo baby carrier
I am in LOVE with this and so is Birdie. I know some people prefer slings or wraps, but I like the structured soft carrier style. It feels secure and truly hands-free. The belt area is wide enough that I could use it easily even without losing all the baby weight and it didn't bother my c-section scar even though it is designed to distribute the weight over the hips. My back and neck never hurt wearing this (and I have sprained my neck before and am a bit sensitive in that area) even when I have it on for hours. I use it for shopping because I believe sitting the carseat on the cart top is unsafe. I get lots of questions when I wear this because Birdie is nearly always sleeping in it and she seems so happy and comfy. Now that she's getting a little older, she sometimes uses the straps for chewing.
The carrier can be used for front, hip, and back carrying. I like that the baby faces in and not out in the front carry because 1) she's cuddled close to me and I can feel her breathing and she's not accessible to others and 2) she's not dangling by her crotch. Finally, it's not too girly for a dad to use.
A million (at least) thanks to Cat for the recommendation.
This was the only swaddler that I found that fit bigger babies. Birdie outgrew her first swaddler about a month before she outgrew the need for swaddled sleep. Her little arms would flail and she would hit herself in her sleep. Often, she wasn't able to fall asleep at all without being swaddled.
The large size goes from 15-22 pounds (though I used it starting at 11-12 (ish)(I think) because it seemed to fit better.) The microfleece was so soft and warm for my winter baby and I never felt like she was too cold to sleep without a blanket. As part of our bedtime routine, Birdie really seemed to respond to me putting her in her swaddler. She would settle down quickly once she was wrapped tight. Maybe she was comfy, or maybe she just knew it was time to eat, but either way, it worked. I'm sad that she doesn't seem to want to be swaddled (though I think she'd sleep better) any more because she always looked so snug and secure and happy.
Birdie is one of those babies who feels trapped in a baby body when she's sure she ought to be doing something. She had really good neck control from early on, and has always loved to sit (or stand!) upright. This gave her a whole new perspective on the world and she loves it. I had tried letting her sit in her carseat but that didn't really fly. She knew I was cheaping out on her and she just wasn't happy. So I went on craigslist and scored a bumbo and play tray for half price. And I got yellow, which I really wanted.
I sit this on my bathroom counter (gasp) when I'm getting myself ready and she gazes adoringly at herself in the mirror. She's also been on the kitchen counter (also a no-no, but I'm never even an arm's length away, so whatever) and on the raised area of the shower (seat) while I'm in the shower. This has eliminated so much crying/screaming. I can make myself a sandwich or wash my hair without a screaming baby because she's right there and she can watch me. Plus, watching a baby smile at herself in the mirror is pure gold. Birdie would rather look at her dangling playmat toys from her bumbo than from on her back. When she grabs them, she's at a height that she can actually get them into her mouth for a good inspection. She seems proud and happy to be sitting, so I'm happy.
Especially for Baby Deluxe Sleep Positioner
This is what I was trying to describe in my sleep post, but I'm sure I came up short. Though Birdie settled well being swaddled, she was still a wiggler. The sides of this gave her the feeling of being held and she didn't wiggle so much. The head portion can be elevated a bit and that seemed to help with gas.
Some of the reviewers on the TRU site gave this poor marks, but I have no idea what they're talking about. I didn't swaddle with blankets (or I put the blanket under the velcro-tabbed swaddler if she needed warmth) so I never had to worry about the baby being trapped under blankets. I have a big baby who is a restless, wiggly sleeper and I never had an issue with her flipping the thing over or rolling off of it even though I was using it after Birdie learned to roll (she can go from stomach to back. sometimes) and the instructions say not to. I knew it was time to retire it though, when she was able to inch off of it with her legs even swaddled. I think this is a function of my baby outgrowing it, rather than a flaw in the product.
HoMedics SoundSpa Lullaby
P and I gave this to Birdie for Christmas. It has two parts: a picture projector and a sound maker.
The projector tilts and can shine on the ceiling or a wall. It has three discs and the first time I shined it on the ceiling Birdie tipped her head back and just stared at the sheep and the moon for several minutes. I think she'll love it even more as she gets bigger.
The feature we've used the most though, is the sound. It plays three songs (the cradle song, twinkle, twinkle, rockabye baby) and three other sounds (heartbeat, ocean, rain.) There's a timer on it too, but we never use it because the thing is on all night long. P and I have gotten used to sleeping with "Birdie's Rain" each night. I've started using the music for naps and it's possibly working. We'll see.
I like that it's small and portable. I regularly move it back and forth between my room and Birdie's, depending on where she's sleeping. I brought it with me when we went to CA (actually, now that I think about it, I brought all of the previous items with us to CA. It really made it easy to keep things constant and familiar while traveling.)