Guide to Our Favorite Baby Gear

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

  1. 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…
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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?
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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:

  1. A baby monitor. Especially a video baby monitor. Just be quiet and listen for the baby. She cries.
  2. 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.
  3. More than one stroller at a time. The apartment/loft/yurt doesn’t like that.
  4. 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!

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19 responses to “Guide to Our Favorite Baby Gear

  1. Totally agree w/ your picks, Evelyn! Especially the ergo & the wrap. I have a Moby wrap but it’s the same idea. I would caution new moms not to be scared away the 1st time you try to tie it around yourself – it takes some practice. There are some great you tube video demos out there as well. Our newborn falls asleep almost instantly in both carriers, so they make for a guaranteed nap as well! Took both on a plane trip & have taken both hiking as well- and they can be used until the kids are 2!
    Would add to your list: Boppy breatfeeding pillow. Use it everyday & it allows me a free hand to read a book or magazine while feeding the babe. For non-city dwellers: Get an exercise ball- the plastic inflatable ones you can get at Target. It is the one thing that reliably works to calm our kiddo & put him to sleep when he’s fussy. Plus you can get a much needed an workout!

    • GREAT additions, Sarah! The Boppy is awesome, and I forgot about the exercise ball. That’s the only thing I could sit on at the end of my pregnancy, and it still rolls around the house for anyone and everyone to play with. I *should* use it to work out more!

  2. OK, I have a piece of advice for people like me – people without kids whose friends have just had a baby and didn’t share their registry info.

    Buy 12-month-old clothes.

    Here’s why, in my ever-so-‘umble-child-free-opinion:

    In a year’s time, that baby will still need clothes, and a registry (if parents even had one) tends to focus on newborn stuff.

    Also, the weather will probably be very similar in 12 months’ time. Buy clothes to fit a 6- or 18-month-old and you run the risk of buying a cute outfit that is completely unsuitable for that time of year.

    And, let’s face it, folks, we have all lived long enough to know that there is no manufacturing standard for ANY size, and I’m pretty sure kids’ clothes are no different – err on the side of mini-toddler and the parents can always roll up sleeves and hems if the clothes are too big.

  3. I agree with most of this, for sure. I’m pretty sure I used almost all of these, though I went with the Graco Metrolite stroller, since it worked for both infant and toddler while otherwise fitting the above requirements. Then I got the double version when Surprise! Baby #2 came along so soon after.

    I prefer the Diaper Champ to the Diaper Genie because it will take regular garbage bags rather than the ultraspecial kind and because the diapers in a chain can get bulky and messy if they break open (on the advice from People Who Switched).

    Keep in mind, with breast pumps, that not everyone needs one or works well with one–or even has milk come in. So if you’re going to invest, maybe wait until post-birth. Also, the pump itself is absolutely fine to get used–and that one is fabulous (used it for two babies, though I rented it rather than buying). It’s BEST to get new tubes and suction cup thingies, which are only about $15 or 20. That way you’re clean and sanitized, because plastic stuff does get kind of nasty over time.

    I would add a Boppy pillow to this list. They’re fairly cheap, and even large women have found them useful. I found my Boppy far preferable to any generic pillow for nursing, since it snugged into place and I didn’t have to move it along with the baby when it was time to switch sides. It also saved me from tremendous pain in my arms (YOU try to hold up a nursing baby for the entire time he wants to nurse!) and my belly, because I had c-sections both times and really needed the pressure kept off my belly, thankyouverymuch. And then later it becomes a fabulous pillow for propping up baby. Yay for multipurposing!

    As for clothes for kids–keep it simple, simple, simple. People who get all the supercute frilly adorable (and god help me EXPENSIVE) stuff learn a harsh lesson quickly. Anything that baby wears will get bodily emissions from both ends all over it, and have you TRIED to get baby poop and milky spit-up stains out of clothing???? Keep to the basics, choose things that are EASY to get baby in and out of, and accept with gratitude any hand-me-downs that friends and family offer. Just because your baby is brand spankin’ new doesn’t mean all his/her clothing needs to be.

    • Your last line is my favorite: just because the baby is brand spankin’ new….

      We have a totally luxe hand-me-down cycle going with our friends in New Jersey who have excellent taste and take great care of kid clothes (how, I’m not totally sure). Clothes comes over here when they are too small for her boys, and then they get sent back for her #3 (currently baking).

      Also, GREAT additional thoughts on the breast pump.

  4. Never had the Snap N Go, because I had the Peg Perego P3 w/carseat. The bucket seat I had fit in this so it acted the same way. My kids are now 3.5yo & 5.5yo and I can still break this bad boy out when need be and have #2 sit in the seat with #1 standing on the jump board. LOVE. Folds easy, weighs nothing, meaneuvers through dry land, city streets and slushy sidewalks like a BadAss MoFo.

    Agree with the PnP (home, naps, travel, extra changing area. lovelovelove), the Medela Pump In Style Advanced was like a Milk Rocket that made my breastfeeding days almost blissful (as did the Boppy in every room!), Lansinoh was made by Gods, and baby carriers. The Rockin’ Baby Pouch saved me. When I was 7mo preggo with #2, my #1 was 1.5yo and going through a I Refuse To Walk phase. So I’d wear him on my hip in this while really really pregnant. Then when I had #2, she LIVED in this thing (the high-maintenance diva that she was). I was fine with the Bjorn when they were older, but this pouch was a lifesaver when she was itty bitty.

    Also: I respectfully disagree about the video monitor. I shared a room and still used it! I got to associate what each kid did (via video) with the cries/sounds they made. It made me understand what was going on better, so I created better sleepers and a much less too-nervous-to-not-peek me. I still use them to make sure they’re behaving in their rooms during naptime/quiet time. Absolutely worth the $$.

    • Kim, you are totally rockin’ the momma lingo: must be that breakfast with yo’ bitches. ;0) I have to translate the “jump board” for those not in the know. It’s a cool, fold-down platform with wheels that attaches to the back of the stroller so that a “big kid” can ride along, kind of like she’s on a stroller-propelled skateboard. Pretty awesome, and quite chic-looking!

      I tip my hat to your respectful disagreement. I’m too white trash for the video baby monitor, but I can see its merits. 🙂

      • What makes the P3’s “jump board” even MORE awesome?? The fact that it is stationary, slim enough that a long-legged impatient person such as myself can take full stride while pushing the stroller with 2 kids and not kick it, yet big enough that my kis has never slipped off it while riding.
        2 kids is da bomb, when u have da rite toolz.

  5. Great list. LOVED the ergo — and more importantly, Pippi LOVED the ergo. Could not have showered for the first few months without the bouncy seat. I borrowed a Medela pump, too — bought my own “kit” for the attachment parts, but the motor is totally fine to borrow. And yea for lanolin!

    We have the Diaper Champ — it’s good to be able to use regular bags, but I’m not sure it really holds the stink in. Or maybe my kids’ diapers are just extra smelly.

    My other life-saver that doesn’t take up too much space was the jumpster. Hang it from any doorframe — my kids LOVED it and it was a great way for me to be hands-free for a bit.

    Here’s my post on baby stuff to borrow (including the jumpster): http://ow.ly/3pYPS. Here are some things I wish I’d had the first time around (including the snap-n-go): http://ow.ly/3pYQN . And here are some baby gift suggestions (totally right about buying 12-month sizes!): http://ow.ly/3pYRE

    • Cyndi, you are awesome, as usual! Love the jumpster addition. I want a grown-up sized one!

      Thanks for the links to the additional posts. Parents and parents-to-be: definitely check them out. Cyndi has a very thoughtful, practical sense so they will be FULL of useful info.

  6. All the great comments. Had I written my list independently, it would look pretty similar to yours. I seriously considered City Mini stroller, but went with Maclaren. It is slightly lighter than City Mini (although City Mini has many other features that Maclaren is lacking) and I can carry it up and down the subway stairs.

    I know these are not new comments, but here they are:

    1) Don’t get too many newborn clothes. Your child will grow out of them very soon. Think 1 month or if you have a large kid like me, he will never wear them. If you are registering for clothes, register for different months clothes. So you don’t have to keep buying more for at least one year. And keep it simple.

    2) Completely agree with your babyproofing suggestion. Ours is very minimal, and our little one loves to open and close kitchen cabinets. Keeps him occupied when we are in the kitchen.

    3) Get a combo dresser/changing table if you are going to buy a changing table.

    4) If you are going to invest in a swing or a similar item, wait till baby gets here. Our son hated swing, but loved the boppy seat. Seriously, do not get a new one until you try it with your baby first.

    • Thanks for your input, Jasmin! I totally agree about trying big stuff like the swing out before you purchase one. I think NYC has a good swap-and-lend baby culture because there’s just nowhere to store anything–that’s how we got our swing.

      Must insert here that you guys even have an electric piano on the floor. Now THAT is a fun baby toy!

  7. Evelyn,
    A great list! One thing we loved about our Graco stroller/carseat set was the fact that the baby seat fit into a small swing base that could collapse into the closet when unneeded. It’s great for small spaces. My greatest life-saver with both my kids was the First Years Safe and Secure sleeper. Against all doctor’s advice, my kids have always slept with me, and their first few months were much safer with this lovely little in-bed sleeper.

    • Bridgit, that’s a great suggestion on the in-bed sleeper. We used the pack-and-play to have K near us, but many nights he ended up in bed because I was simply too exhausted to take him the five-steps back to his “bed” after nursing. Very glad to get a good recommendation for this! 🙂

  8. Our list looks quite a bit different than yours, Ev, but that’s because we live in a smaller city (with no subway, boo). We’re coming from a crunchy-green-hippie-wannabe-and-broke-to-boot perspective, so our list is a lot more about “stuff you need to live sanely and cheaply with a baby”.

    1 – diaper service. We really wanted to cloth diaper (I switched to cloth pads a few years back, and they are so much more comfortable than ‘sposies that cloth diapers were absolutely non-negotiable for me), but we were scared by the incredible quantity of laundry that cloth diapers can generate. Our solution was a local diaper service that offered a gift registry, so we received 5 months of service as baby shower gifts. 😀 No diaper laundry and always clean diapers = happy momma of a newborn.

    2 – We also use cloth wipes. I know, I know, you’re thinking I’m crazy, because who besides crazy green hippies uses cloth baby wipes? Wet wipes are great for on the go (and at daycare), but at home, cloth wipes are the best. Long after we have finished using them for a dirty bottom, our little flannel wipes are still going strong. We use them for everything: hankies, hand-washing, napkins when eating in the car, face-washing, floor washing for small spills, etc. We have a billion of them thanks to my mother, her pinking shears, and the remnant bin at Joann fabric. If they get too gross, we just toss them, and still have plenty. We wash them with the regular laundry and they always come out just fine. Plus, added bonus, no tissue remnants in the dryer: a wipie left in a pocket that gets washed is just a clean wipie.

    3 – baby carriers galore. I love the Ergo now (with a toddler), but still prefer my wrap (mine is homemade) most of the time because it’s so much more versatile. But any and all carriers you get (with the exception of the Baby Bjorn) will do, as long as you’ll actually use them. The most important thing is to find one (or several, for different occasions) that you and baby both like. [For more on why not the Bjorn, read here: http://www.becomingmamas.com/why-you-should-avoid-crotch-dangler-baby-carriers/ OR you could just borrow a toddler to put in a front-facing Bjorn carry for an hour. Believe me, you will be running for the Ergo or wrap or ring sling as quickly as you can!] I was able to try out different carriers at our local green general store (with a borrowed infant, while I was pregnant), but you can also find them at your local Attachment Parenting International group, probably, or at a babywearing group or store in your area.

    4 – nursing tops. Of course, you can nurse your baby wearing any shirt you own. But a nursing top will allow you to pop out the boob without also popping out your entire chest or your not-yet-ready-for-primetime post-baby belly. I got several nursing tops from the ebay stores of Motherwear and Expressiva (because $17 for a shirt is a reasonable price, but the $45 regular price on nursing t-shirts did not fit my SAHM budget!), and have made others using patterns I found on the internet, t-shirts from goodwill, and my copious spare time. 😀 They are so worth it. I also made my mom put snaps on all of my spaghetti strap tank tops, and wear them underneath regular tops and sweaters, so that I can nurse my wiggly toddler without baring aforementioned chest or belly in the cold, cold weather.

    5 – wet pads and waterproof mattress pads. We never bought a crib because I didn’t want to be stumbling down the hall to the nursery in the middle of the night, so G has always slept with us in our bed. Thus, waterproof mattress pads and wet pads (we bought some at BrU, and made some that were much larger from fleece and flannel). They are handy for catching leaking diapers in the bed or the jumperoo or the bouncy seat, and also for protecting the bed from barfing toddlers. Also good if you’re going to do nakey-time on the floor or your bed with a baby who’s just come out of the bath. Trust me, you want some of these.

    6 – a breast pump. I started out with an Avent hand pump and eventually worked my way up to an Avent iQ Uno (the grammar Nazi in me hates that capitalization scheme). Later I inherited a Medela double pump, but until I went back to work the smaller Avent pumps worked great for the occasional pumping I was doing.

    7 – the phone number of your local LLL leader or a breastfeeding support coach. Also, the time and location of their regular meeting. The leader/coach can help if you have problems, and meeting up with other mamas who are also breastfeeding–esp. if you have problems or if your family thinks that your 20-month-old should really not be asking for nursies anymore, and you disagree–will be a sanity-saver.

    8 – gift cards to the grocery store. This is one of the best gifts for a family with a new baby. Even better is homemade food to pop into the freezer. But the gift cards will not go unused, let me assure you.

    9 – a jumperoo or johnny-jumper once the baby is a bit older. Putting the baby in the jumperoo for 20 minutes was a lifesaver for me, because I could get dinner going or wash dishes while he was happily bouncing away. I think we got this (on Freecycle!!) when G was around 5 months old, and it lasted as the favorite toy for at least 5 months. It’s a space-hog but was totally worth fitting it into my 2-bedroom apartment for the sanity–and the arm break–it provided.

    10 – a convertible car seat and convertible stroller, which you can use for infant and toddler. Because we are broke and also because we are enviro-hippies, we wanted to get both a car-seat and a stroller that we could use until G didn’t need them anymore. So we got a convertible car seat (ours is a Britax Roundabout, but there are lots of others out there) and a convertible stroller that goes from pram for infants to stroller for toddlers, and whose seat can face either out to the world or back to the parent (ours is a Delta Pearl). These were great buys for us (and actually, being broke and with generous family, they were both gifts). G is still happily–well, as happily as he ever is when driving–sitting in his car seat (now forward facing), and the stroller is great when the babysitter wants to take him for a walk or we have a lot of books to return to the library or have to make a bunch of stops on an errand run in the neighborhood (but for a quick trip, I mostly still wear him in my wrap, see above!).

    • Allison, this list is CRRRRRRRRRRRAZZZZYYY! You rock! Thanks for bringing your particular “eco-hippie” brand of brilliance to the blog. Please let me know when you’d like to guest post, and pick your topic! xoxo, Ev

  9. Wow! This list is awesome! Thanks for the props, and I would just add: lansinoh milk storage bags for all that pumped mimi, and a freezer storage container (maybe two!). I love you Ev. I wish you and your family a beautiful Christmas day!

    • Yay! So glad you stopped by and left a comment! Great addition. And for those readers wondering, “mimi” is what Heidi’s son calls breast milk. It’s pretty adorable.

      Love you, too, Heidi!

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