The Truth About Vaccines.

Deep breath, and here we go!

It started in early April when I was having a conversation with my husband, Jordan, and his parents about vaccines. Our son is about 18 months, and Jordan’s sister has a 6-month-old. We were discussing the measles outbreaks all over the country, and kept asking ourselves, “Why wouldn’t people just get vaccinated?

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Before we go on, I want to say two things plainly and up front.

The first is that I am not a doctor or medical professional of any kind. I am an English and Religious Studies major from a small, liberal arts college in Alabama. The information reflected in this post is a result of my own reading, conversations, and research as a lay person, seeking information and answers to be better informed in my conversations around this issue.

The second is that I am pro-vaccination. I was before diving into this topic for my blog, and my research has only caused me to double down on that stance. My child has received all the vaccines available to him at this age, and I do not agree with or support the choice not to vaccinate unless specifically advised not to do so by a pediatrician because of life-threatening risk factors.

When I originally began kicking the idea for this post around, it was over a month ago. I thought I’d spend two weeks on it, but one conversation has led to another, which has led to e-mails back and forth with award-winning epidemiologists, moms who’ve chosen not to vaccinate, and vaccine experts. I have read and listened to so much - so many hours of work writing, reading, and learning - but what I’ve been exposed to is ultimately a tiny drop in the bucket of the loads of information out there to consume.

To be totally candid, one of the reasons I’ve spent so long working on this post because I’ve been trying to strike exactly the right, reverent chord of stating my opinions and the opinions of medical professionals, while still respecting the women who were kind enough to help me understand the reasons they chose not to vaccinate their children. The doctors I interviewed implored me not to be overly sympathetic to the anti-vaccination movement; the women I spoke to who didn’t vaccinate urged me to make sure I was doing my own research. It has been overwhelming, and so the best I can do here is relay the facts, as plainly as possible, and with the context I feel is important in understanding them.

What this month+ of reading, research, podcasts, and trading e-mails with new friends and with doctors has reinforced to me is that this is a very complicated issue.

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In an effort to actually get a conclusive answer to my “Why not just get vaccinated?” question, I posed it to my Instagram followers. Because of some partnerships I’ve done, I have a few hundred followers I don’t know personally, and I knew I’d have a broad spectrum of young moms with differing opinions. I asked them to Direct Message me if they had chosen not to vaccinate their children. I expected one or two replies and wound up with a little over a dozen.

Two women in particular offered themselves as guides through the mindsets of parents who choose not to vaccinate their kids. I took them up on their offers, and wound up with loads of information they provided to me in the way of explaining their rationale. There were tables, articles, and counterarguments to popular scientific theories. They poured so much effort and compassion into helping me get a clear window into their minds.

As I delved into the resources they sent, it became clear that lots of it was hyper-specific and in-depth. I decided I needed someone who knew more about this than I did to help walk me through the various anti-vaccination arguments.

Through some friends, I was able to hook up with two epidemiologists, one of whom is an MD/PhD and the other of whom is a PhD. I won't mention them by name here to avoid any unwanted attention, but both women teach at major universities and have published very well-known papers, made discoveries, and are considered top-tier experts in their fields. For the sake of this post, we'll call them Dr. Brown and Dr. Jones. I synthesized the basic arguments from my new friends and sent them to Dr. Brown (MD/PhD) first, then Dr. Jones (PhD) a few weeks later. They were both kind enough to reply with articles, data points, and research of their own.

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When I polled Instagram that day, I’ll admit: I did so with a very particular preconception in mind. The only people I’d ever met or heard about in the “anti-vaxx” community seemed to be willfully ignoring important data. I didn’t have much sympathy or empathy for them because I felt they were putting people at large (and now my child specifically) at risk.

Since polling my Instagram followers a few weeks ago, I have learned so much. As is usually the case when I have a strong (if uninformed) opinion about a group of people, getting to know parents of unvaccinated kids personally has softened my heart enormously.

The truth is that these parents love their children. They are nurturing, kind people, two of whom went to great lengths to type out pages and pages of their rationale for not vaccinating. Putting a human face on something that was simply an “issue” before has helped me so much in beginning to understand how people arrive at the conclusion not to vaccinate. It’s easy to call a point of view ignorant when you don’t actually know anyone in that camp; I am very appreciative of the moms who took time out to respond to me. These women are college-educated - certainly not ignorant, as is a popular refrain from the pro-vaccination camp - and have made this choice with that they feel is the best possible information that they can find. It’s very important to me that this post offers a kinder view of people with this opinion. I don’t think they’re right, but in all the cases I’ve encountered, they’re also trying their dead-level best to protect their kids. Like every issue, just because I disagree with someone doesn’t mean I have to demonize them.

And we don’t agree. In fact, we almost categorically disagree. But I have relished the opportunities they each provided: a chance to have respectful, intelligent conversation across lines of difference, especially with fellow women.

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Having said all that, let’s dive into the data. I hope you’re ready to nerd out.

What are some of the major objections to having one’s child vaccinated?

  1. Mistrust of government.

  2. Mistrust of the medical community.

  3. Mistrust of Big Pharma.

  4. Fear of vaccine injury or overwhelming a child’s immune system.

  5. Fear of autism caused by vaccines.

  6. Lack of clarity about ingredients, AKA the “heavy metals” argument.

  7. Ethical issues over “aborted fetal cells” being included in vaccine content.

  8. Believing that natural is best, and that the body can fight off illnesses on its own.

  9. Belief in information dispensed by groups like Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Children's Health Defense.

  10. Concerns about vaccine shedding, herd immunity, and lack of adult vaccination.

What does the medical community say?

Mistrust of the government. It’s hard to argue against a feeling, but Dr. Peter Hotez (MD, PhD, and vaccine expert) made a great point in a podcast where I heard him interviewed: “You don’t have to trust the current administration or any of its policies to believe that vaccines are effective and important. Plenty of people who don’t work for the government promote the benefits of vaccines.” The doctors I spoke to for this post are not affiliated with the government. Although it’s possible that they’ve taken advantage of government grant programs I’m not aware of, they both work for private organizations. (Dr. Hotez also works for a private organization: Baylor College of Medicine.)

Mistrust of the medical community. Any parent of a new baby has grappled with the thousands of decisions, both large and small, that come as a part of caring for a newborn. If the first time you hear about vaccines and their benefits is in the first appointment with your 2-week-old when your #1, hyper-vigilant concern is keeping them from harm, the idea of injecting them with live viruses could seem daunting and frightening. I don’t share this concern, but I can empathize deeply. There often simply isn’t enough time in those first appointments to have the types of long, careful conversations needed to satiate the minds of fearful new parents.

Mistrust of Big Pharma. Another great quote here from Dr. Hotez: “One of the things that anti-vaxxers say to pro-vaccination advocates is that they’re being ‘propped up’ by Big Pharma.” For this reason, I specifically chose to listen to or speak with doctors or epidemiologists who have no association to the pharmaceutical industry to my knowledge. Like the government point above, these people aren’t being compensated by the pharmaceutical industry for advocating for vaccines. HOWEVER - it is 100% understandable that people would be suspicious of Big Pharma in the midst of the opioid crisis happening in this country. To those people, I’d say: It’s possible to condemn the over-peddling of painkillers while still acknowledging the benefits of vaccines.

Vaccine injury/adverse reactions. The term “vaccine injury” refers to extreme shoulder injury, encephalitis, and other serious consequences as defined by the National Vaccine Compensation Act. Soreness at the injection site and even a fever for up to 24 hours are perfectly normal as a vaccine stimulates your immune system.

Vaccine injury is extremely rare. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), here are the numbers:

  • Between 2006 and 2017, 3.4 billion doses of vaccines were given in the United States.

  • Out of those 3.4 billion doses, 4,328 people brought cases of vaccine injury before the court and received compensation.

  • The HRSA is careful to say, though, that around 70% of those cases were not, in fact, paid out because the court concluded that vaccine injury had taken place. Rather, because the court and the client reached a settlement. (You’ll often hear the number of $4 billion being referenced as the amount of money that has been paid out by the vaccine court; this context is helpful in understanding that that number does not represent anything about the validity of the cases or verdicts.)

  • That means out of 3.4 billion doses, 1,299 led to vaccine courts compensating families.

Another important point to consider: it’s impossible to say how many of those cases were caused by an unidentified and underlying immune deficiency. Roughly, the odds are 1 in 1 million that you will experience vaccine injury. For context, the chances of being struck by lightning are 1 in 700,000. So - yes. There is a risk in getting vaccinated. But it’s very, very small. For further interesting reading, the New York Times just published a piece on this topic.

Overwhelming a child’s immune system. This was a really interesting and important set of facts that I came to understand. Babies are exposed to hundreds of antigens from the second they’re born, which means they’re perfectly capable of handling the immune response triggered by vaccine antigens. However, a child’s immune system is NOT strong enough to withstand an infectious disease, which is why they’re vaccinated so early for things like measles. For a deeper understanding of how scientists have combined vaccines to make them more effective and even safer, this article is a great read.

Fear of autism caused by vaccines. The idea that the MMR vaccine (or any other vaccine) causes autism has been definitively and roundly debunked. Andrew Wakefield, the former MD who alleged that there was a link between vaccines and autism, has been stripped of his medical license and the study he published has been discredited for a number of reasons (both scientific and ethical). Interestingly, Andrew Wakefield is also the person who directed and starred in the popular anti-vaxx documentary, Vaxxed. (The not-so-subtle subtext I’m trying to get across here is that Vaxxed was created by a man who’s had his medical license revoked, so the material in it is questionable.)

Lack of clarity about ingredients; concerns about “heavy metals” or aluminum. The most helpful piece I found here is this great article that breaks down exactly what’s in a vaccine and how vaccines are made. I won’t even try to paraphrase it here - she says it best.

For parents concerned about thimerosal, From Dr. Jones: “Some vaccines did contain thimerosal, a mercury salt, but that's like saying that table salt = chlorine gas. Basic chemistry demonstrates that compounds have different properties than the elements from which they come. And thimerosal was removed from childhood vaccines almost a generation ago. It is present in some multi-dose flu vaccines but one can ask for those to be thimerosal-free, and it has never been demonstrated to have caused any harm. Aluminum is not a heavy metal, and again, is in the form of salts and not metallic aluminum in vaccines.”

From Dr. Brown: “Aluminum is not a heavy metal. Aluminum is used in vaccines as an adjuvant – meaning a substance that is added to vaccines that stimulates a stronger immune response.  There is no aluminum in any live vaccines, including MMR. Aluminum is naturally present in the environment. There is normally a very small amount of aluminum in (the) human body.  The amount used in vaccines is so small that it does not make an impact on the total.”

From Dr. Hotez, when asked, “What’s in a vaccine?”: “Liquid, like saline or saltwater plus antigens.”

Ethical issues about aborted fetal cells being used:

From Dr. Brown: “No, there are no fetal cells in the vaccines. Viruses require human cells to grow in the lab, and some grow better in fetal cells. Also, fetal cells divide well, which means that they can be preserved long term to grow the vaccine virus – because every batch you make you need to make it the same way.  The original fetal cells which were used in vaccine development came from elective pregnancy terminations. These cells have resulted in medical products that have saved the lives of millions of people.”

From Dr. Jones: “Many viruses can only be grown in human cells, so fetal cells are the best way to grow these. The cells are removed during processing--think of it like the dirt in which we grow carrots or potatoes. Even religious bodies have demonstrated that they are fine with these types of cells, though of course would prefer an alternative (that does not currently exist).”

In response to information cited by RFK Jr. and Children’s Health Defense, particularly the data about “wild measles” being preferable to the MMR vaccine:

From Dr. Jones: “There is just no evidence to support what he claims. We know wild measles is associated with deaths in around 1-2 per 1000, encephalitis, pneumonia, and years of immune amnesia, not to mention the chance of SSPE which is universally fatal and horrific. Yes, there was a clinical trial that showed measles eliminated cancer in *one patient*--but they gave her a megadose of a *genetically-modified measles vaccine*, not the wild virus. There also is one epidemiological study that suggested fevers from measles is protective against later cancers but it's pretty poorly done and doesn't have other support (it has not been repeated or supported by other investigators).”

Vaccine shedding and questions about herd immunity.

The concept of vaccine shedding simply means that for a few days after a person receives a vaccine, they threaten to expose immunocompromised people around them to the diseases for which they were vaccinated. In the end, this concept is one that doesn’t hold water. This article was recommended to me by Dr. Jones and does a great job of addressing that concern, even including a tweet from Johns Hopkins stating specifically that it’s okay for recently vaccinated children to visit immunocompromised patients in their hospital.

Herd immunity is a simple enough concept: vaccinated people (or people who have naturally encountered and survived a germ or disease) protect immunocompromised people from contracting a particular disease. It’s important for exactly that reason - there are lots of people who are vulnerable. (think: children who are too young, chronically ill people, and people who can’t be vaccinated for a specific medical reason) and rely on the rest of us to vaccinate ourselves in order to protest them.

For herd immunity to be effective, a certain percentage of the population has to be vaccinated against or immune to a disease (and it’s different for every disease - measles, for example, requires 92-95% of the population to be immune to keep from spreading. An important note here is that an outbreak can still occur, but it can’t spread if effective herd immunity is in play.) Obviously, in many cases in the U.S., there’s low herd immunity because so many unvaccinated people have contracted measles. Here’s a great piece on Mental Floss that does a deep-dive into the hard math behind how herd immunity works, how diseases spread and at what rate, and why diseases seem to “favor” children.

The TLDR version of this is: vaccine shedding does not pose a threat to the immunocompromised; herd immunity effectively prevents immunocompromised people from contracting contagious and potentially fatal diseases.

My personal takeaways:

  • The anti-vaccination lobby is extremely powerful, and has done a truly remarkable job of making it a challenge to find clear, scientific data about vaccines online. I am now quite clear on why so many people have deeply held opinions that they feel are based in science, but are actually based on misinformation.

    1. The anti-vaccination lobby is also a bit of a mystery. I still have big questions: who’s backing it? Where is all the money coming from? What’s the ultimate goal?

  • There are some things that are black and white - easy to understand and digest. For example: vaccines do not cause autism. Full stop.

  • There are other pieces of the puzzle that take a lot of digging to understand. For example: the truth behind vaccine injury and whether the number $4 billion in payouts is accurate. It’s frustrating to me that this information is so misrepresented and has confused or misled so many people. It shouldn’t take hours of reading to figure out the truth.

  • I understand that time is always pressed at the doctor’s office, but I would love it if it was possible for vaccine education to begin as early as prenatal visits. The pressure parents feel at the pediatrician to just say, “Okay - whatever you think is best!” is heavy, especially for first-time parents. Having the space to talk through and ask any questions you might have is essential to eliminating misinformation and fear around vaccinations, and I think that’s a huge area for growth in our system. (A caveat here that I love our pediatrician, who always gives us time to ask questions. Shout out to Dr. Templeton!)

  • I understand why people are suspicious of Big Pharma. No need to elaborate. It just makes sense to me.

  • It is not only unkind, but unhelpful to assume that people who choose not to vaccinate are ignorant about risks, research, or data. At least in the conversations I’ve had, these parents are dutiful, involved, and extremely caring. If you’re curious or concerned, opening up a conversation can be helpful and informative for everyone.

Okay, folks. That’s it. I ask for your grace and understanding in reading and processing all this, welcome your questions, and am grateful for your time. Hopefully you’re leaving this post with a few more tools in your belt so that you can engage one another in conversation about this stuff. It’s been a fascinating journey for me.

Over and out.

A Comprehensive List of Baby Things.

A couple of months ago, I took a little poll on Instagram asking what people would like to see more of on DHDG. Though I don't identify myself as a lifestyle and/or mommy blogger, the overwhelming majority of people asked for baby-related posts, and I'm happy to oblige since that's certainly on my mind these days, too! 

The #1 request was for a list of baby product recommendations. I've already put together a list for girlfriends of mine, so I thought, why not share? I've tried to give you my "best of," broken down by category, but it was also important to me tell you why the product worked for me so that you can decide it you need it. 'Cause I SHO did not know what the hell a Mamaroo was before I had a baby. All of the bold product titles are links to the product itself for easier purchase. 

And if you're a person who doesn't have children, hopefully this will give you an idea of great gifts you can buy that aren't clothes for the moms-to-be in your life! 

For those of you who are SUPER TIRED of baby-related posts, here's a GIF for you: 

I hear you, normal people. I hear you. 

I hear you, normal people. I hear you. 

If you're still pregnant...

Visit this post for my recommendations about products to use! 

 

Sleeping.

Moms on Call or BabywiseOkay, this is a very personal choice for everyone, but I'm gonna just tell you that sleep-training your baby as quickly as possible is the key to not losing your damn marbles. You can read all about the benefits of sleep training in this post, and (as an added testimonial to how effective these practices are) since I wrote the post, 3 different mama friends of mine have started sleep training their babies to WILD. SUCCESS. 

Rock-n-Play Sleeper. This thing is absolutely crucial if you aren't planning to use a bassinet. Jordan and I chose not to buy a bassinet given that we'd decided to move Mac to his crib during week 3 of his life, so we used this product as a bassinet during Mac's first two weeks at home right next to the bed. It auto-rocks and has white noise built in. Killer. It's also extremely lightweight, reasonably priced, and easy to travel with - anywhere we went during the first 8 weeks of Mac's life, the Rock-n-Play also went. We almost didn't register for this because it seemed like it was too similar to the Mamaroo, but it couldn't be more different; I used this 10x more than I used the Mamaroo. It's easily a Top 5 product for me.

White noise machineAnother must, especially if you're sleep training. We use a DOHM white noise machine in Mac's nursery. Sleep training system will tell you that you don't want a "sound machine" with features like ocean waves, heartbeats, etc.; you want an adult-style white noise machine with one sound: white noise. 

Halo sleepsack swaddlesYou'll know these because they've got Velcro on the "wings" that you wrap around the baby. Swaddling that little baby is a big part of sleep training/comforting newborns, and these are awesome. I've also heard people rave about Woombies. These are crucial in the middle of the night because you don't want to have to deal with a giant piece of fabric to swaddle at 2 AM (although you should also buy swaddle blankets and learn how to swaddle the "old fashioned" way so that you're always prepared in a pinch. Here's a great video that shows you the correct way to swaddle! 

Merlin's Magic Sleep Suit. This thing looks like a giant space suit/snow suit and is so hysterical and SO EFFECTIVE. We put Mac in it when he was around 12 weeks old and never looked back. Babies love the weighted, cozy feeling! Mac will be 8 months old tomorrow and is still wearing his!
*An edit: Magic Merlin Sleep Suits are not technically recommended for babies who are rolling over on their own. Our baby is extremely strong and capable of not only rolling front to back/back to front, but also crawling, while in this suit - so we feel comfortable putting him in it having carefully observed him on the monitor. That being said, I don't (and neither does the company) endorse putting a baby who can roll/crawl in this suit as it might be a hazard to your child's safety.)

Nuk/Wubbanub/whatever pacifierHonestly, we didn't go super trendy with the pacifier thing because...it's a paci. And it's going to get lost and dirty over and over. But people are crazy about Wubbanubs (they're the ones with a stuffed animal attached to the end) and say that they lose them a lot less. To each her own! 

 

Gear.

Chicco Keyfit 30 Car Seat. This was the most recommended car seat we found, so we got it. Super easy to install and to get out of the car. My only complaint about it is that it is on the heavy side, so when you add the weight of a baby in, it can get extra heavy very quickly. That said, we've loved it and I'd buy it again (and I had a heavy baby!).

Uppababy Vista. Let me level with you: this is an insanely expensive stroller. HOWEVER - it accommodates up to three kids, so it's the only stroller you'll ever need to buy. Several people told us that when they had their first child, they bought a one-child stroller, and wish they'd gone ahead and sprung for one that accommodated at least two children because they eventually had to sell the one-child stroller for much less than they paid, then buy a second stroller. The Vista is extremely durable, gorgeous, and handles like a dream. The stroller base stands up on its own (almost like a kickstand) so you never have to worry about propping it up on anything. Extremely easy to assemble/break down, and comes with both a bassinet and a rumble seat, so it grows with your baby. In fact, I know several people who've used the bassinet of this stroller as the bassinet in their bedrooms - double duty! We asked the women in our families (aunts, sisters, grandmothers, cousins) to put money toward this stroller instead of buying a baby gift, and they generously funded a large portion of it. 

This is not a jogging stroller, so if you're interested in one you can run with, there are lots of great, lightweight ones on the market. The Bob is one that I've heard really good things about from several friends.

MomarooPeople either swear by this product or don't use it much. I was very glad I had this for the times I needed it, but Mac spent more time in the Rock-n-Play or in his crib. If you aren't sleep training right away, the Momaroo is wonderful for little naps and having a place to put the baby so your hands can be free during the day. It was 6 different swing motions, a built-in sound machine, and is Bluetooth enabled so that you can play music through it. My only "con" about the Momaroo is that it is heavy and cumbersome to move to room to room, so I wouldn't buy it if it's going to be your only swing. If you have a Rock-n-Play or another lightweight rocker/swing (like a Baby Bjorn bouncer, for example), you'll be set! 

Graco Pack 'n' PlayI love this product, but I've also heard people swear by the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib (which is more expensive, but much lighter-weight). You need something to take with you when traveling.

Boba wrapsLove these things so much. Easy to use (once you get the hang of it) and easy to roll up and stuff in a suitcase or diaper bag. People also love baby slings.

A 360* carrier. This is another must. At a certain age, many babies stop tolerating facing inward in carriers and want to face out so that they can look around! If you get a carrier, make sure that it's capable of front-facing when the baby is younger, then facing out when it's older. Any brand will do the trick - we have an Infantino.

Diaper bag backpack. This style of diaper bag is great because you're not carrying it in addition to a baby. Find one that stands up on its own (maybe even has feet on the bottom) - great for doctor's appointments when you can't fool with using both hands to go digging through the bag. We have this one and love it. 

Nest Cam. We use this as our baby monitor and I truly don't know why people use anything else. Nest Cam is the same price as other monitors, but doubles as a beautiful, sleek, and aesthetic home security system. It's accessible from ANYWHERE - it never goes out of range because it's connected through your WiFi - so you can access it from dinner or a movie if you go out and leave your baby with a sitter (not that I've done that...hehe!). It has night vision and the a microphone feature so that you can talk through it if necessary. It's so lightweight that we always travel with it and it's a cinch to set up anywhere we go. A Top 5 product for us. I recommend it to everyone. 

 

Feeding.

Clary's All Purpose Balm. This amazing product functions as a nipple butter/balm. It is a LIFE. SAVER. Bring it to the hospital with you and never let it out of your sight. Apply after each feeding. I've used it from the start and have never had any problems with bleeding or cracking (sorry for that horrifying TMI). Safe for baby to ingest because it's made of natural products. 

Medela HydragelsThese are fabulous gel pads that you put on your nipples after feeding - they just stay inside your bra until the next time. Unbelievably soothing and cooling because HELLO, breastfeeding hurts like a bitch at first. 

Washable breast leak padsNo particular brand. Just eco-friendly not to be trashing a bunch of pads over and over. 

My Brest Friend nursing pillowStupid name, amazing product. People will try to tell you that the Boppy nursing pillow is better. Not even CLOSE. I've used both and it's just no contest. I remember the first time I used MBF and what a game-changer it was; Mac had been slipping down between the Boppy pillow and me, and nursing had been terrible. MBF changed my life.

Cheap-ass Target nursing brasSO comfortable, so inexpensive, and you can sleep in them. Because ya sleep in your bra when you're nursing so you don't leak breast milk everywhere in your sleep. Charming.

Hands-free nursing braI bought a cheap one on Amazon and it's been great. Having to hold two pumping nozzles onto your boobs makes you feel like a straight-up clown. 

Electric and hand breast pump. Get a hospital-grade electric (or, better yet, battery operated) pump (most of them are covered at 100% by your insurance company!) and a hand pump. My electric pump malfunctioned early on in the first week we were home and it would have been TRULY DISASTROUS without the hand pump.

Storage bagsFor the moments when you have too much and need to throw some in the freezer! 

Cloth diapersNo, not for diapering - for burping/spit up! Buy these in bulk and use them as burp cloths. So absorbent and can take a beating. 

Doctor Brown's Slow Flow BottlesWhen you start your baby on a bottle, you'll want the style to be "slow flow." This prevents your baby from getting spoiled by how quickly they're able to suck down a bottle, then getting frustrated when they have to wait a little longer for milk while breastfeeding. They also are a lot less likely to swallow air if the bottle is slow flow, and preventing gas bubbles will be crucial to your sanity. 

Boon grassThis is that adorable little bottle drying station you can sit right on your countertop. It's aesthetic enough that you don't feel like you're junking up your kitchen, but when you have multiple bottles at play, it's a life saver. 

Inglesina Fast Table High Chair. This thing attaches to virtually any tabletop or countertop, is easy to travel with, and pretty easy to clean. Make sure you get the tray, too!

Doctor Brown's Bottle WarmerYou don't think you need this, but the first time you actually need it, you'll be so glad you have it. 

Clothes, diapering, and bathtime: 

Onesies with long sleeves/mittens on the ends: Mac's favorite newborn nursing activity was to slice his entire face to ribbons with his razor-sharp fingernails. Mittens are essential to my child not looking like he is mauled at home. 

Old Navy newborn baby socks: Weirdly specific, but they make socks that are actually elastic and stay on Mac's feet. The standard white baby sock has no elastic in it and just falls off. Why they even make these I have no idea. 

Ubbi diaper pail. Great. We love ours. 

Boudreaux's Butt PasteDiaper rash cream that is excellent. 

Weighted wipe dispenserYou don't know it yet, but there will soon come a day when you need one hand to hold your poop-covered baby and only have one other hand with which to get a wipe and a diaper out of the changing table. Because of this impending reality, you'll want your changing table to be set up so that it's easy for you to do things one-handed. A weighted wipe dispenser keeps you from having to wrestle just one wipe out of the plastic dispenser (they have a tendency to get caught on each other like Kleenex, and before you know it, you've pulled 8 wipes out of the bag. Disaster.). 

For circumcised boys: Vaseline. They'll explain why in the hospital, but go ahead and buy some in advance. 

Boon Naked Collapsible Tub. This collapses into an angled setting for newborns and into a flat setting for babies ready to sit up. It also folds completely down making it incredibly easy to store when company is coming over. You can buy an insert to go in it so the baby doesn't slip down the sides. 

Keter Bath SeatAnother option for babies who can sit up and hold their heads up that you can just put straight down in an adult-sized tub. 

 

Toys and Accessories:

Before baby is sitting up: 

Boppy newborn loungerDifferent from the nursing pillow; this looks like a big doughnut with a place in the middle for the baby to sit. We used to put tiny baby Mac in it right on the dining room table while we were eating dinner. Easier than the swings (like the Rock 'n Play/Momaroo) because it's so easy to move from place to place! 

Dock-a-TotWe were late to this party because I felt like this was a little extravagant for a baby pillow. I don't think it's a must, but it's certainly nice to have. We used it the most when we were traveling - we checked it at the airport and picked it up at our destination. It helped Mac acclimate more quickly to new surroundings because he felt nice and hemmed in while he was napping/sleeping at night. At home, we mostly used the Boppy pillow or the Rock 'n Play when he was a tiny baby. 

Floor seatI don't personally have this, but I wish I had gotten one! This is a great transitional place for your baby to sit before they can sit up on their own, but after they can hold their head up. Anywhere you can safely contain that baby is a win.

Beach tent. This is amazing if you're a beach family! Also grab a battery powered fan to take with you on the beach. Makes for great naps! 

After baby is sitting up: 

Graco Doorway Jumper. Mac loves this so much and I use it in the doorway of our bathroom when I'm getting ready every morning. The only catch is that you do actually need a doorframe to use it, so if you have a more modern house without door frame molding, it won't work.

Baby Einstein Walker. Y'all, my child loves this so much it hurts. He cruises and coasts around our entire house in it. It's also great because it teaches your child the mechanics of walking without the risk of them falling on their heads! SO great. A Top 5 product for us. 

Below are some great toys, just listed randomly with no explanation other than they're fun, educational, or just plain cute! 

Skip Hop Activity Gym/Playmat
Jellycat Garden Tails Cloth Book
Baby Xylophone
Taggies
Teething Necklaces

Baby Paper
Munchkin Fresh Food Feeder

Hopefully this has been helpful! I spent a lot of time thinking about what we used most often, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that someone out there can use this to make the process of registering a little easier. And by the way - a products NO ONE needs? A formula Keurig. Just say no.