The Best Books to Read Before Baby

After reading quite a few books to prepare for our little one’s arrival, I made a list of some of my favorites. These Best Books to Read Before Baby were all lifesavers for us!

The most helpful books to read before baby arrives!
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Books are listed clockwise from top left corner.

If you know me, you know I love to travel, and I haven’t helped but noticed how different child-rearing is in other parts of the world. Bringing Up Bébé is an insightful look into how the French do it, in their own elegant, even-keeled fashion. #lifegoals for sure!

I didn’t have a strictly outlined “birth plan” going into labor, but I had a good idea of what I wanted. I wanted to give the whole natural birthing a shot, but wasn’t going to hold it against myself if I ended up wanting a little pain management. Even though I ended up getting an epidural, I was still so glad I had read Mindful Birthing (at the recommendation of the midwife in our group of OB/GYN’s.) Moral of the story – I don’t think it hurts any of us to be a little more mentally prepared for this crazy, life-changing event, no matter what birthing method we choose!

At first I was a bit hesitant to dive into The First 40 Days because, TBH, I thought it might be a little too “woo-woo” for me. But at the recommendation of my prenatal yoga instructor, I finally gave in and am so glad I did. Even though I didn’t follow the recommendations to a T, I tried to incorporate many of the principles they recommended, which rely heavily on ancient Chinese practices. If nothing else, there are some great recipes to get you through those first few months with a precious new babe in your life!

In case you’re overwhelmed by the thought of finishing SIX books before your baby arrives, this one can easily be put off for a few months. We chose to do Baby-Led Weaning with Raia (which we started when she turned 6 months old) and this book is basically the Holy Grail of this newer concept of introducing solids to your little one. We have been soooo happy with BLW, I highly recommend it!

I know this recommendation has the potential to stir up some controversy, but I stand strongly by it since it worked so well for us. We opted to follow The Sleep Easy Solution for sleep training based on the recommendation of some friends. Yes, it does involve some crying, but it is not full-blown cry-it-out (or CIO as they call it in mom world) and, YES, it works. Raia now sleeps 11-12 hours straight almost every night and is on a much better nap schedule than she ever was before we did sleep training. Method aside, what I love about this book is that it prepares you for EVERY sleep situation or roadblock you’re likely to face with your little one up until they are 5 years old. Yes, I still refer to it every once in a while for guidance and reassurance.

Last, but definitely not least, The Happiest Baby on the Block is one you’ll DEFINITELY want to get through before baby arrives. It talks a lot about those first few months after baby is born (which, let’s be honest, are TOUGH) and gives you great pointers on how to soothe your little one when they are still getting used to being “earthside.” And yes, this book is where we learned how much of a lifesaver a hairdryer can be in the most trying times!

And, there you have it – my list of the Best Books to Read Before Baby! It may seem overwhelming, but I promise many of these books are pretty quick reads.

As always, if I missed anything you highly recommend, please drop it in the comments below!

Here’s to all my mamas out there!

Essential Baby Products Months 6-12

A list of what we considered were the essential baby products for months 6-12. The perfect reference to start your baby registry or Christmas list!

A list of what we considered the essential baby products for our little one's months 6-12.
This post contains affiliate links.

I hope you’re ready for Part II of my roundup – what we consider to be the essential baby products for months 6-12!

I’m sure I accidentally left out something, but this list is comprised of the things I considered “must-haves” during those second six months of our little babe’s life, and now is the perfect time to make your purchases with so many great sales going on at the end of the week.

So, without further ado…

Items are listed clockwise from top left.

Raia is still getting comfortable using the walker part of this VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker, but she loves the little activity panel. We feel safe with her on this one since our house is all one level with absolutely no stairs, but do use caution if you live somewhere that is multilevel!

These bibs are seriously the only bibs you’ll need once your little one moves on to solids. I love that they cover so much of them, can be wiped dry but are also machine-washable. Plus, can we talk about how cute all the designs are?

This swim seat was the hit of the summer. We don’t have a pool and didn’t want to run up our water bill with a kiddie pool, so I found this simple seat that takes hardly any water but is still a blast for the babes, even if they’re not completely sitting upright on their own yet. I highly recommend it!

Hands down the best decision we ever made in purchasing baby products was this $25 Ikea Antilop highchair. It’s not too big and clunky and so easy to clean. Nothing fancier needed.

Long story short, these Ezpz Mini Mats are the only plates you’ll need for your little once they start eating solid food. They’re dishwasher and microwave safe and – extra bonus – quite difficult for the littles to toss on the ground!

We were lucky to borrow a couple of friends’ bouncers to try with Raia, and she loved this one! It was a great step up from the bouncer chair and rock-and-play once she got too big for those, and is great for starting to build up those leg muscles.

Once Raia started rolling over, we transitioned her to these armless sleep sacks which we still use to this day. They’re not too restricting but still make them feel like they’ve got a little extra comfort.

I know there is a lot of controversy on the safety of walkers like this Joovy one, but again, we live in a one-story home with absolutely zero stairs and lots of open space, so we felt safe getting this for Raia to run around in. She loves it! I liked the Joovy one in particular because it was much simpler and had a lot less stuff going on than many of the other walkers out there. We couldn’t be happier with this choice.

In the same vein as not wanting a walker with too much “stuff” going on, I also didn’t want a play mat that was loud and obnoxious looking. I had been eyeing the Little Nomad mats but, honestly, they were a bit out of our price range. I was so excited to find this Emma + Ollie one for practically half the price and we love it! I’ve actually been thinking about investing in another one soon as Raia’s toys continue to take over our living room.

This Play & Kick Car Seat Toy was a lifesaver for long car rides with the babe once she stopped sleeping most of the way. She loved kicking it to make music and playing with the little toys hanging down. I’m so sad that she’s outgrown it a bit now because it was endless entertainment!

This VTech activity cube is just the type of toy I love – one that will entertain the babe for many, many months! It has a lot of fun stuff for the younger babes, but will also continue to challenge them as they get older. Very multi-purpose if you ask me.

And that’s all I have for you today! Be sure to check in tomorrow because I’ll be sharing what we considered to be the essential baby books to get us through the first year. 

Also, be sure to let me know if there are other products that you consider “baby essentials” in the comments below!

 

Essential Baby Products for the First 6 Months

A roundup of the most essential baby products for those first six months. The world of new parenthood can be pretty overwhelming, and this list will guide you through all you really need to navigate it with ease.

A list of what we considered to be essential baby products during the first 6 months. The perfect gifts to add to your baby registry or Christmas list!
This post contains affiliate links.

With the holiday season quickly approaching and all of the pregnancy announcements filling up my news feed, I thought it might be the perfect time to do a quick little roundup of what we considered to be the essential baby products over the first year. And, if you keep an eye on some of these items over the coming weekend, I’m sure you’ll find some great Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals!

Also, have no fear my food-loving friends, I’ll be back with regular recipe posts next week!

I’ve broken the list down into three sections: 0-6 months, 6-12 months and books that have been lifesavers for us. I’m going to separate these essentials into three posts, since it would be awfully long to keep it all in one!

I know I was personally overwhelmed when searching for what to put on our baby registry and I relied heavily on what other mamas recommended on their own blogs. I hope this list of what we thought were essential baby products for the first year helps you narrow down your selection and that you find some of these gifts under the tree come Christmas morning.

Items are listed clockwise from the top right of the image.

The UppaBaby Vista was our stroller of choice due to good reviews and the fact that it can seat two whenever our second little one comes around. It’s a nice and sturdy stroller, with tons of seating options and has held up well for the entire first year. We actually used the bassinet that it comes with for Raia to sleep in for the first few months, and they even sell a stand to go with it that folds up and stores easily when it’s not in use. We also bought the UppaBaby Mesa car seat that clicks into the Vista and used that as our car seat for the first 8 months or so. The only downfall I can see to the UppaBaby products is that most accessories come at an additional cost – but to me, you pay for the quality you get!

If there’s anything you don’t want to have to battle with when you’re a new parent and extremely sleep-deprived, it’s using a regular old blanket to swaddle your baby! These Velcro SwaddleMe swaddles were a LIFESAVER and were much harder for Raia to break out of than just your average blankie swaddle. She slept in these until about 4 months.

Full disclaimer here, I don’t recommend committing yourself to just one type of bottle before baby is born, but these Joovy Boob bottles were the clear winner with Raia. If you can, invest in a few different kinds of bottles when you’re first starting out, and see which your little one takes to. We also tried Como Tomo and Dr. Brown’s.

A warm, glowy salt lamp was another thing I never thought we’d need but I’m so glad my husband picked it up at Home Depot one day shortly after we got home from the hospital! First off, it’s dimmable, so you can adjust the brightness yet never have to be completely in the dark, especially during that first month or two of endless middle-of-the-night wake-ups. It also casts a warm amber glow, so it’s very comforting. And supposedly it helps clean the air too? I mean, I’ve not tested this theory but there doesn’t seem to be too much of a downside here.

A pack-and-play is an absolute MUST if you plan on doing any sort of traveling with your little one in the first year (and beyond.) The one thing I would recommend is to get one that has a sleeping shelf a little higher up for when the babe is young, before he/she starts crawling or pulling him- or herself up. This is also a great option to keep at the grandparent’s house for whenever you visit!

We didn’t want to invest in a clunky infant bathtub seat while we were still living in our tiny rental, so this foldable, easy-to-store Puj sink bathtub was just perfect. That is, until Raia grew out of it. After a few months, we simply transitioned her to the regular tub and made a little cushion and headrest out of towels for her to lie on.

An activity play mat is a great way to give your little one some tummy time or entertain them before they are too mobile.

The ErgoBaby 360 was another lifesaver when Raia was little – and still is! In fact, I just recently had to look up the weight limit on it so we could still use it for her. Now I mostly use it when she is fed up with being in the stroller, but when she was little (and before we did sleep training) this was literally the ONLY way I could get her to nap for a solid amount of time and still be able to get things done around the house.

Another baby essential we couldn’t live without is a portable white noise machine. Raia has always been a pretty good sleeper, but I think we may have white noise to thank at least partially for that. We love that this one has different noise options (we’re big fans of the Ocean setting!) and is easily transportable. We take it with us on every trip we go on!

Once Raia started becoming a little more alert and wanting to see what was going on, we started using this bouncer chair (at about 3-4 months.) I loved putting her in it while I was cooking dinner, doing chores, etc. and she loved all of the fun accessories like the mobile, the music and the vibrations.

Any breastfeeding mamas out there who are also a fan of my cocktail recipes (or wine, or beer for that matter) this one’s for you! You can dip these MilkScreen test strips in your breastmilk and it will tell you if any alcohol is detected. Clearly whoever thought of making these is a genius.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me if I used a Dock-a-Tot (the answer is no) but what we did use that I couldn’t recommend more is the Fisher-Price Rock n’ Play. We’d heard mixed reviews on letting your child actually sleep in one, but we ended up mostly using it for naps and those moments you just needed a free hand. They have fancier ones, but we found that all really needed was the vibrating feature to really calm the babe down.

Mamas, this one’s for you. I’m sure I’m not the only first-time mom who didn’t even think about needing nursing pads before she went into the hospital. Although I confess I did use the disposable nursing pads when I first started nursing and at night, I hate making so much waste so I used these washable, reusable Bamboobie pads whenever I could.

Okay, so there is one downside to the salt lamp, and that is that it’s HEAVY. So there was no way we were going to travel with it. Instead, we got a smaller, lighter, battery-powered night light to set up anywhere Raia happens to be sleeping while we’re on vacation. Just remember to bring along some extra batteries!

I’ll be sending out the 6-12 month and recommended books lists in the coming days. In the meantime, let me know if there are any 0-6 month essentials I missed in the comments below!

Super Simple Pumpkin Carrot Muffins (Baby- and Kid-Friendly!)

An easy-to-make muffin loaded with pumpkin puree and shredded carrots. Naturally sweetened with applesauce, these muffins are perfect for kids, babies and adults. A great on-the-go snack!

These one-bowl Pumpkin Carrot Muffins are super simple to make, freezer-friendly and naturally sweetened. They're both adult and kid-friendly!

If you’re looking for a simple, healthier snack for fall, these Super Simple Pumpkin Carrot Muffins are for you! In fact not just for you, but for your kids, babies, kids’ friends, neighbors, babysitters…Well, you get the idea. They’re sure to please even the pickiest eaters and, since they’re only sweetened with applesauce, you don’t have to worry when your kids keep on going back for more.

As I mentioned in this Healthy Carrot Cake Pancake Recipe post, we opted to do baby-led weaning with our little one and she has shown no sensitivities to eggs, other dairy, gluten, etc. If your little one HAS shown sensitivities to any of these, obviously use your best judgment. Again, mother always knows best!

These one-bowl Pumpkin Carrot Muffins are super simple to make, freezer-friendly and naturally sweetened. They're both adult and kid-friendly!

Since these Super Simple Pumpkin Carrot Muffins are SUPER easy, and since we’re in Texas busy getting ready for my sis-in-law’s wedding tomorrow, I’m going to keep things short and sweet today. I mean, if you know how to stir a spoon and you know how to operate an oven, you’re in pretty good shape.

These muffins also happen to freeze well, so if you have a minute to bake some up this weekend, you’ll have the perfect treat for your whole family for the next week (if you’re lucky.)

These one-bowl Pumpkin Carrot Muffins are super simple to make, freezer-friendly and naturally sweetened. They're both adult and kid-friendly!

Read on for the recipe!

Super Simple Pumpkin Carrot Muffins (Baby- and Kid-Friendly!)
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
35 mins
 

An easy-to-make muffin loaded with pumpkin puree and shredded carrots. Naturally sweetened with applesauce, these muffins are perfect for kids, babies and adults. A great on-the-go snack!

Course: Breakfast, Snack
Keyword: after-school, baby-friendly, breakfast, carrot, freezer-friendly, kid-friendly, muffin, naturally sweetened, pumpkin, snack
Servings: 12 muffins
Calories: 100 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 cup milk of your choice
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 cup spiralized or grated carrot
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease muffin tins or line with paper liners and set aside.

  2. In a large bowl, whisk together both flours, baking powder, salt and pumpkin pie spice. 

  3. Add eggs, pumpkin, applesauce, milk and orange zest and stir until combined. Stir in carrot.

  4. Scoop batter evenly into prepared muffin tins and bake in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. 

  5. Cool in muffin tins for 5-10 minutes, then remove and let cool completely on a wire rack. 

Easy No-Bake Honey Roasted Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

These Easy No-Bake Honey Roasted Peanut Butter and Jelly bars have a honey roasted peanut and oat crust and a jammy strawberry filling. The gluten-free treat is sure to please adults and kids alike!

These Easy No-Bake Honey Roasted Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars are the perfect gluten-free after-school snack for both kids and adults alike!

Is there any combo more classic or delicious than good ol’ PB&J? I don’t think so. And if you beg to differ, these Easy No-Bake Honey Roasted Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars are here to show you what’s up.

To all my fellow Trader Joe’s fans, I know you won’t blame me when I say one of their kitschy products inspired me to make this totally addicting, no-bake recipe. Sure, I’d enjoyed my share of honey roasted peanuts back in the day when my dad would take down that classic Planter’s can from the kitchen shelf after a long day at work, but my indulgence in those sweet and salty goobers stopped as soon as I was responsible for buying my own groceries. It’s not that I didn’t like them, it just never crossed my mind to throw them in the shopping cart.

That all changed, of course, when I saw a gleaming bag of Honey Roasted Peanuts staring back at me from the “What’s New” section of my local TJ’s (anyone else ALWAYS get sucked in by that section?) Let’s just say they’re now a regular item on the hubs’ and my weekly shopping list, and we enjoy them almost daily in the same way my dad always did – as a little late afternoon nibble to hold us over until dinnertime.

I’d been racking my brain trying to figure out some delicious way to work them into a recipe when my Instagram feed was suddenly filled with all my friends’ kids starting their first days of school, holding up those cute letter boards saying what they wanted to be when they grow up, showing off their cute new back-to-school clothes. Almost immediately, I realized the perfect recipe would be something easy and semi-healthy that all these mamas and papas could make as a treat for their little ones after a long day in the classroom.

These Easy No-Bake Honey Roasted Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars are the perfect gluten-free after-school snack for both kids and adults alike!

We all know that PB&J is a quintessential back-to-school combo, and I was going to make it into something special that these kiddos would look forward to coming home to. Hence, these Easy No-Bake Honey Roasted Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars were born!

I’m all for a little indulgent treat now and then, but I also believe that there are tonnnnns of delicious healthier options we can all choose from every day. So in creating this recipe, I wanted to find the balance between indulgent treat and healthy sweet. The recipe is also extremely easy and requires no baking, so you can make it at any time during the day (or even the night before) and it will be ready to be enjoyed by your hungry little ones as soon as that dismissal bell rings.

These Easy No-Bake Honey Roasted Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars are the perfect gluten-free after-school snack for both kids and adults alike!

Everything for these Easy No-Bake Honey Roasted Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars comes together in just a couple of easy steps.

First, you’ll want to make a strawberry “jam” that will serve as the top layer of the bars. This is an easy, stovetop process that takes only 20 minutes or so (mostly unattended) so don’t stress because I mentioned the word “jam.” Once you’ve simmered some strawberries, maple syrup and water until everything is broken down and combined, you’ll simply stir in some chia seeds to help it all thicken up and not make TOO big of a mess when you go to cut into everything.

Strawberries simmer over the stove to make a delicious jam for Easy No-Bake Honey Roasted Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars.

While your jam is simmering, combine those OG honey roasted peanuts, oats, butter and some dates quickly in a food processor to make a crumb mixture that is then pressed into a baking dish to form the crust. Spread the “jam” over top, pop everything in the refrigerator and, voila! You’ll have these Easy No-Bake Honey Roasted Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars sliced and ready to feed some very hungry little mouths.

A honey roasted peanut and oat crust makes up the base of these Easy No-Bake Honey Roasted Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars.

Now, I know I’ve mentioned the kids gobbling these up, but be sure to set aside a few for yourself. You’re not going to want to miss them. Plus, they’re gluten-free! Even more reason for every single person in your family to enjoy them.

These Easy No-Bake Honey Roasted Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars are the perfect gluten-free after-school snack for both kids and adults alike!

Read on for the recipe!

Easy No-Bake Honey Roasted Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars
Prep Time
30 mins
Refrigerator time
2 hrs
Total Time
30 mins
 

A tasty, no-bake bar with a honey roasted peanut and oat crust and a jammy strawberry filling, this gluten-free treat is sure to please adults and kids alike!

Course: Dessert
Keyword: after-school, dessert, gluten-free, jelly, kid-friendly, no-bake, peanut butter, snack
Servings: 12 bars
Calories: 200 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
For the jam:
  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds OR 1 teaspoon tapioca flour
For the crust:
  • 1 cup honey roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 3 dates, pitted and halved
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
Instructions
  1. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper, leaving enough on each side to assist you in pulling the bars out. Set aside.

  2. Combine the strawberries, maple syrup and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and allow to simmer until fruit is broken down and forms a jam-like consistency. Remove from heat and stir in chia seeds. Let cool slightly. 

  3. While the strawberries are simmering, make the crust. Combine all crust ingredients in a food processor and pulse until mixture resembles the texture of wet sand. Dump contents of food processor into prepared baking dish and use your fingers to press it evenly along the bottom. 

  4. Spoon cooled strawberry jam on top of the crust and spread evenly. Cover and chill for at least two hours, if not longer. 

  5. Cut into 12 bars and enjoy!