Why are new parents asked to put together baby registries? For weddings, you’ve lived a year or two on your own. You know what’s missing from your kitchen cabinets. Your towels from college are fraying; your sheets have little holes.
The baby registry similarly seems like a great idea. You get another shot at that cordless scanner and millions of items! But here’s the issue: you’ve never had a baby.
Expectant parents are the worst-equipped people in the world to arm with a red laser gun in a mosh pit of baby gear. You are most likely to choose things by thinking: Look at those adorable monkeys!
To add complications, some of us live in tight spaces. We apartment/loft/yurt dwellers have to sift through conventional knowledge to figure out what is totally essential. If a baby item doesn’t have at least three uses and fold-up, it can’t come in. So, with one or two pregnant friends in mind, here is my list of top-ten baby items that we have loved and used until they’ve practically fallen apart (but they didn’t, so they made the list).*
*Caveat: this compilation comes from an ultra-practical, pseudo-yuppie-kinda-white-trash, smoothie-making, one-child, unafraid-of-dirt point of view. Parents, chime in down in the comments section with the essentials from your own crazy worlds. Others will benefit from your road-tested advice!
Momsicle’s Best Baby Gear
- Graco Snap-n-Go Stroller and Infant Carrier/Car Seat. This stroller lasts until the baby is 25 pounds. It is rear-facing, lightweight, and folds up fairly easily. The best part is that the carrier snaps right into a car seat base, so if the bambino is sleeping, no need to wake her up to put her in or take her out of the carrier. This is essential, because you DO NOT want to interrupt nap time. Once K-Pants got too big, we graduated to our favorite thing in the world…
- City Mini Stroller. We. Love. This. Stroller. Our qualifications were as follows: 1) Stroller must be made of an ultra-light-weight, Superman-strength metal so that a small woman could carry it up and down the subway stairs with forty pounds of baby/baby stuff; 2) Must be able to push it one-handed for real (How else will you dodge tourists on the sidewalk while talking on the phone??); and 3) it has to fold up easily (not kinda-sorta easy, but you-can-only-use-your-toes-and-it-still-folds easy). I challenge you to find a different stroller that fits these criteria. There are very fancy strollers out there that look like homages to post-modern architecture, but they cross the street to avoid the dirty subway entrances that we hoi-polloi use. You can also find strollers cheaper (the City Mini runs about $225), but you will be very sad. And I will definitely roll past you, pushing my stroller with my right hand while making a papier-mâché volcano with my left hand.
- Magnetic Cabinet Locks. Some people go all out with the baby-proofing. We prefer to let the House Destroyer roam free with all the fragile stuff above his reach. My dad gave the best advice in this regard: Pretend like floodwaters will roll into your house up to four feet high. Decide what you will save and put it above the water mark. Granted, our house is always a mess with the piles of non-breakable stuff constantly moving from room-to-room (you’ll start to find shoes in the recycling). But, really, that’s what kids do, and it’s nicer not to have everything on lock down. For items where the-Great-Flood-strategy won’t work, the magnetic cabinet locks are just so cool! They stick on and have a nifty magnetic key that magically unlocks the doors (buy an extra, because you might one day lock the key in the cabinet).
- A Pack-and-Play. You don’t need a fancy one with soothing sounds and a mobile, though some people love that stuff. But you do need one with a bassinet feature that allows you to have an infant sleep closer to the top (which can then be removed for toddlers). We love our Graco. We actually don’t travel with it, but we probably would if we had a car. Still, it’s great for when we have guests and the Pants sleeps in our room for the night. Also, it can substitute for a crib if you are super tight on space.
- Medela Pump ‘N’ Style Breast Pump. Yes, it is a stupid, stupid name. There is no breast-pumping in style. And how come the ‘N’? Really, Medela? But if you’re planning to breastfeed, then there will be a lot of not-so-stylish pumping. The Freestyle model is not powerful enough, and you don’t need the deluxe Pump ‘N’ Style with a leather case. Totally unnecessary. Medela warns that if you use someone else’s breast pump, you might get Hepatitis C, and we fell for that. But you can get one used, just make sure it is in excellent condition and you trust the source. Do not buy a used breast pump from a crack-head or a prostitute.
- Ergo & Sleepy Wrap Baby Carriers. I know this is two things in one, but we love them both. The Sleepy Wrap was a gift from my friend Heidi; it’s a long piece of cloth that comes with multi-step instructions on how to wear it. We call it the Ninja Wrap. As you wrap it, you look like you are either preparing to face the Karate Kid or auditioning for Iron Chef America, but it’s super comfy and allows you to swaddle the baby when she is really little. My husband never got the hang of the ninja moves and prefers the Ergo, which we still easily use with K-Pants when he is not walking or in the City Mini.
- Lansinoh Nipple Cream. Buy a couple and then use it all the time. Lansinoh is awesome for dry lips, too. Aforementioned Heidi, who is a labor-and-delivery nurse, gave me a sample a long time before K-Pants arrived on the scene. Then I asked for a tube for my birthday, which is why I’ve been carrying nipple cream around in my purse for five years. Who doesn’t love 99% pure lanolin?
- A diaper changing pad and a Diaper Genie. We don’t like to get sucked in to things that require special refills, but the fact that the Diaper Genie tightly seals the diapers and is small enough so that you have to change the trash pretty often are both things that will help ensure your house does not smell terrible. You do not need a diaper changing table for baby, although they are awesome. You just need a cushy diaper changing pad to put on top of a dresser or desk.
- A dishwasher caddy for bottle nipples. Do you like doing dishes while sleep deprived? Neither do I. So I put all of our bottle and bottle accessories in the dishwasher on the top rack. We have a plastic Munchkin dishwasher caddy and we love it.
- A baby swing and/or bouncy seat. There are few things that it is worth moving the furniture around to make room for. The baby swing is one of them (if your baby doesn’t hate it!). If your baby isn’t a hater, she will probably be soothed into a peaceful state that may give you time to shower. My suggestion: borrow one from someone.
And here’s a list of things that can be nice, but you don’t need for your apartment/loft/yurt:
- A baby monitor. Especially a video baby monitor. Just be quiet and listen for the baby. She cries.
- An infant bathtub. Especially a temperature-sensing, jet flow infant bathtub. Do you have a sink in your bathroom? Good. Now don’t make the water too hot.
- More than one stroller at a time. The apartment/loft/yurt doesn’t like that.
- A diaper bag. Buy yourself a nice, sleek satchel instead. We bought a Columbia diaper bag thinking it would be sporty and utilitarian. But it still looks like a diaper bag and the hinges squeak like a rusty bicycle.
Please share an item that you love or love-to-hate below for the benefit of others. Otherwise, good luck with the baby gear stun gun. Go out there and buy some monkeys!