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Baby Gear 101

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** Updated in July 2014 after going through all of this with Ethan **

I’ve had several friends over the last few months ask questions about baby gear – what kind of gear do we have? What is worth having and what isn’t? I decided that I might as well blog about my opinions so that others can read about it as well. I’ve included a link for almost every product I mention – clicking a link will open a new window so you can keep the ones open that you like.

Note: This IS a lot of stuff! You can totally survive WITHOUT a lot of these things… but I figure that I might as well tell you what I think about these things so you have a jumping-off-point if you want to purchase any of these kinds of items! 🙂

Second note: Before we were expecting, Zach and I SWORE that we would NOT register at Babies’R’Us… going into that store just drove us nuts. Once we actually looked at everything we needed, we realized there really isn’t another option. Target has a lot of good stuff (we go there now when we can), but they just don’t have enough. So just prepare yourself to spend lots of time at Babies’R’Us in preparation for your baby. I think after the first year we were able to go to Target to get most things we needed.

Car Seat

We have the Chicco KeyFit30. It’s a great car seat – one of the top rated. There are a lot of other ones out there and I bet they are all pretty much the same. Carrying the car seat is the hardest part – the handle is just not very ergonomic, but none of them are. I suggest getting a car seat base for each of your vehicles – it’s so easy to snap the car seat in and out without having to mess with the seat belt every time.

Pack’n’play

We have the Chicco Lullaby LX – we didn’t nearly as much use out of it as I had hoped. It has a great changing table on it that both of our moms use during the day when they watch Ellie, but I just always take her to her room – so at this point it doesn’t get a lot of use. Our model is not as portable as I had hoped. The is a mobile that can attach to the top but with the changing table on top, the mobile won’t fit. I would suggest getting the smallest, most inexpensive pack’n’play you can find. I really like the Graco pack’n’play that my parents have. Both the Graco and Chicco pack’n’plays have a bassinet feature that allows you to have the part that the baby lays on higher up (like the highest setting in a crib). This is really helpful if you use it a lot – the only reason I know that is because the few times we’ve used a pack’n’play at hotels on vacations, it’s really hard to lean all the way over to place Ellie in the bottom of the pack’n’play. Imagine holding your baby and bending at the waste to lay your baby on the floor – that’s how uncomfortable that is. Once she gets bigger we’ll have to have it on the lowest setting – but with as much as you pick up a newborn, the bassinet feature is really nice.

I recently allowed a friend of mine to borrow our pack’n’play and she will use it in their bedroom for a night-time bassinet. I think this will work well for them and I’m glad it’s getting lots of good use!

Bassinet

We didn’t use one. Ellie’s nursery is very close to our bedroom, so for me it was easy to go into her room to nurse and care for here there every night. I have a rocking chair in there, so it just made sense to keep her in her own room from the beginning. This way we never had to fight with the transition from our bedroom to hers.

See note above about the bassinet feature of the pack’n’play.

Baby Monitor

We have the Sony 900 MHz Baby Call monitor. We’ve been really happy with it. It has it’s fair share of interference, but not any more that other monitors would. The volume control is helpful and I change it depending on if we’re sleeping or if we’re downstairs with the TV on. Ours has the lights on it that get brighter if the cry intensifies…. this is helpful because I can take a shower with the monitor close by and don’t fear that I won’t hear her cry – I can see the lights.

Rocking Chair/Glider

Totally worth having one in the nursery! I spend so many hours in our glider every single day and night. I’m glad we spent the money on a nice chair that is comfortable and glides nicely. When we no longer need it in the nursery, we’ll probably put it in our living room – so it’s kind of dual-purpose.

Changing Table

We have a changing table topper – it sits on top of a dresser and we’ll pull it off when we no longer need it. I love this concept because I wasn’t too thrilled about having a piece of furniture that is useless after a few years. I do change Ellie on the floor sometimes (after baths especially – since I slather with lotion and it’s just more fun to be on the floor after bath time), but for the most part I use the changing table all of the time. Once she gets bigger and starts to try to roll off of it I know it will become more difficult – so we’ll see if we keep using the changing table or just always use the floor. Either way, when we’re done with the topper, we have a perfectly good dresser still available for use.

Bath Tub

This is one of top baby gear items we have that I totally endorse: Summer Infant Right Height Tub. We started off with one of those slings you put in a normal bath tub (or you can do the sink, but we never did). We wasted so much water to fill the tub each time, we thought that was a little crazy. So we got this one – it has a great positioner for the baby to rest on and with its own tub, you use half the water. It sits on a high base, so we don’t have to bend way over to give Ellie a bath. Ellie could sit up in the tub these days, but we keep using the positioner (it’s easier to get her whole body clean with her laying at an angle) and she just loves relaxing in the tub!

Stroller

We have MANY strollers – mainly because we were so blessed to get so many hand-me-downs that we never really had to make a decision about which one to get. The Snap-n-go is perfect when the baby is young (probably up to about 6-months). Just pull the car seat out of the car and it snaps into the Snap-n-go. It’s not bulky and easy to maneuver.

Once Ellie got a little older, she became too heavy to really pull the car seat in and out of the car too often and she definitely likes to sit up and see what’s going on – that’s where an umbrella stroller comes in handy. We had one handed down to us but it was actually a little too bulky for me – I wanted something as light as possible. You can read my Umbrella Stroller post about that whole decision. In short, we passed down the hand-me-down stroller and purchased one of the cheapest umbrella strollers at Babies’R’Us. It even has a sun-shade!

Another stroller we have is the BOB Revolution SE – probably the best jogging stroller out there. We had a jogging stroller handed down to us – which was great to try out and see if we really would use it. It had a fixed wheel which made walks really difficult (the fixed wheel is great for actually jogging though). Once we realized we would use it a lot more with a couple extra features, we handed down the jogging stroller and got the BOB. Ellie gets to enjoy the great outdoors in the BOB on a jog or a walk at least every other day. It has a great sunshade and a wheel lock feature that Zach uses when he goes for a jog. If you plan to be outside much – it’s definitely worth the investment! The BOB has a car seat adaptor that we did not purchase because we already had the snap-n-go and since that was less bulky – I never wanted to put the car seat in the BOB. If we didn’t have the snap-n-go, we probably would have just done the car seat adapter for the BOB and gotten over the bulkiness (the brand of car seat is specific to the seat adapter, so pay attention to that if you are going to pick one up).

We also have a nice Maclaren that a friend of ours gave us. We keep it in Zach’s truck and use it when we need it. It’s sturdy and smooth-riding.

Once both kids were old enough to ride in the stroller and we were going on long walks, we bought a double mountain buggy from some friends. It has served us well but it is really bulky and we have to intentionally put it in the car if we need it for a trip. We also bought a double maclaren recently on Craig’s List because we wanted a light-weight double stroller for some vacations while the kids will still ride in a stroller. We will most likely be able to sell both of these double strollers on Craig’s List for just about as much as we purchased them for because they really don’t get worn out! Almost all baby gear has a secondary and third market for sure!

Wrap/Sling

We have a Mei Tai, similar to this Mei Tai Baby Carrier. Ellie LOVED being wrapped up in it with Zach carrying her…. for some reason she never really liked it with me though. When she was under 6 months, we used it a lot and she was very happy in it. Other than the first 6 months, we never really used the wrap with her.
With Ethan, I found a used Moby-Wrap and he loved it while he was tiny. If he got fussy, I was able to put him in it and calm him down! Recently, I borrowed an Ergo-Carrier from a friend. Ethan has really enjoyed riding piggy-back with this!

We have a hand-me-down backpack carrier, similar to this REI Baby Backpack Carrier but we don’t hike and so we’ve never used it. Again, something that we could sell on Craig’s List probably! 🙂

Baby Swing

We have heard mixed reviews about babies and baby swings. Many people have said “our baby hated the swing, I can’t believe we bought one” and others have said “we couldn’t have survived without the swing!” We are in that second group of people. We didn’t buy one, but ended up borrowing one from our good friends when Ellie was only a few weeks old. She was congested and slept so much better sitting up. We used it so much that we actually ended up purchasing our own, but kept the borrowed one so that we could have one in her room and one in the living room. This has been one of the best baby gear items for us. My suggestion is to borrow one from a friend and then go from there. It’s a big piece of equipment and quite the investment that is worth nothing if your baby doesn’t like the swinging motion. These are the two swings we have and we have been happy with both of them (the down-sides listed below are really minor):

Fisher-Price My Little Lamb

PROS:

  • Soft, comfortable fabric, cool mobile

CONS:

  • Battery powered only (unless you hack it like Zach did and make an AC adapter for it) – D Cell Batteries get expensive
  • The “lap bar” is tough to get on and has toys built in – so sleep time can be disrupted (Zach took the toys off since we use the swing for naps)
  • More difficult to get baby seated (mobile doesn’t move out of the way)

Fisher-Price Rainforest

PROS:

  • AC Adapter included (and battery option)

  • Mobile can be pushed up and out of your way

  • Lap bar is easy to situate and lock down

CONS:

  • Fabric is nylon – great for playtime, but not really soft for napping

  • Recline function on the seat isn’t easy to actuate

Boppy

Everyone seems to get a Boppy. Even if you’re not breastfeeding, it’s a great pillow that can be used in so many different ways. Ellie took naps on the Boppy for the longest time. Then we used it as a support as she sat up a little bit. Now is sits behind our couch and I haven’t yet found a good purpose for it, but I’m so glad we had it and it was totally worth it for 6 months. If you are breastfeeding and you find the Boppy isn’t as helpful as you had wished, try the My Breast Friend – it’s the same kind of concept, but it buckles around your waste and is really easy to use. We had one handed down to us so I ended up using the Breast Friend downstairs and the Boppy upstairs – I really did get great use out of both of them!

Bouncy-Seat

I love our Bright Starts Teensy Turtle bouncy seat, but it is definitely a short-lived piece of equipment. We put Ellie in it when she was first born and probably stopped using it at around 4 or 5 months. When she couldn’t sit up yet, she could sit in this at the dinner table with us and feel like she was part of what was going on. I would use it in the kitchen too while I was getting dinner ready, etc. She learned to grab at things while sitting in the bouncy seat with the bar over-head, so that was a really good thing. The vibrating and bouncing motion was nice for her but it wasn’t a must-have. The nylon fabric was easy to wipe down and if it got too dirty, it was easy to take apart and throw into the washer. I’m glad we had it, but it’s already in storage.

Bumbo

The Bumbo is a must! Ellie started sitting in this around 4 months and I believe it really helped her learn how to sit up. Again, she could sit at the dinner table or in the kitchen to be a part of the action. It’s kind of a pseudo-high-chair before a high-chair is really needed. I bought the attachable play-tray when we tried to feed her cereal while she sat in the Bumbo – mainly to keep her from touching her feet with cereal on her hands. Other than that, the play-tray wasn’t worth much to us. We still use the Bumbo sometimes to keep her in one spot while she sits up. I clip her nails with her in the Bumbo – it cuts down on how much she wiggles!

High Chair

We have heard from lots of other parents that our high-chair is one of the best – the concept of it at least. Ours is the Safety 1st Recline and Grow high-chair. It’s one that attaches to your existing dining room chairs. This way your kid is at the same height as everyone else. This high-chair grows with the kid – it ends up being a booster-seat. There is a removable tray plate on top of the tray – which is really easy for cleaning. We’re really happy with our high-chair so far! If only Ellie would decide to really eat some food while in the high-chair, that would be nice 🙂

We also got the Chicco Travelseat Hook On to use when we go to people’s houses that don’t have a high-chair. We use it at some restaurants and if we try to have a picnic somewhere outside! It’s really convenient, portable and easy to set up.

Floppy Seat

Although it’s an extra thing to carry, I really like using the Floppy Seat at the grocery store or other places where your kid goes in a shopping cart. With Ethan, I found this green sprouts cart cover that we kept in the diaper bag to use at restaurants. It was less bulky than the floppy seat and did the job very well. We stopped using the cover at restaurants when the kids were about 1 year old, but I still use the floppy seat for Ethan at the grocery store – carts just gross me out!

Activity Mat

Ellie loved being on her back on the activity mat (similar to this Tiny Love play mat) up until about 6-months. With bars that crossed over-head, we were able to place different objects to hang down for her to bat at. This piece of equipment really helped her develop some good hand-eye coordination.

Jumper/Exersaucer

There are so many different kinds of jumpers and/or exersaucers out there… the point is to get the baby to start to “stand up” and start to use their legs a lot more. We have a really girl hand-me-down by Bright Starts jumper that is so cute. I don’t think any specific one is better than any other. They are large pieces of equipment – but it’s totally worth the space that it will take up in your living room! There are also doorway jumpers that I think are helpful – we got one from goodwill but since we don’t really have a doorway that it worked with in our main area, Ethan didn’t use it much. The doorway jumpers are a little less expensive and would save room though if you can make it work.

Diaper Pail

Get one. We used cloth diapers, so the Diaper Genie was out of the question. We just bought a step-trash can and we have pail-liners that fit in it. If you do regular diapers, I think this kind of trash can would be ideal as well. It’s hands-free and the lid closes quickly – keeping the smell in. BTW – I have no idea if the Diaper Genie is worth it or not. With Ethan, although we’ve used disposables, we just use grocery sacks and throw the poopy diapers out to the trash can. It’s a hassle I suppose but I just didn’t want to buy a diaper genie!

Diaper Bag

Don’t get one at the beginning. I polled all of my friends to find the perfect diaper bag and still ended up using something different than the one I picked out that would be “perfect”. The hospital gave us a small sling backpack diaper bag that is perfect for a few hours away from the house. I love it because it’s small and never weighs too much because not that much can fit into it. Later, I ended up getting a big backpack from Target for a vacation that I now use all of the time. It has just the right amount of pockets and we can be gone all day long and everything I need fits just right. You won’t really have any idea how you’ll use a diaper bag until you’re actually living life with a newborn… so if you could stand to maybe use an existing bag you have until you really decide what your needs will be, you won’t waste your money.

Bottles

We use the Dr. Browns bottles. Ellie was pretty gassy the first time we tried a regular bottle, so we just went ahead and moved to the Dr. Browns. They have a few extra parts to clean, but it’s been worth it for us.

Bottle Sterilizer

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends sterilizing all baby utensils prior to their first use and then sterilizing them after each use until baby is 6 months old. Boiling everything is a major pain, so I bought the Avent Express Microwave Sterilizer. It’s so easy and I really think it saves so much time! With the hard water in Colorado, we use distilled water when sterilizing so there’s not a white residue left on the bottles afterwards.

Breast Pump

If you plan on breastfeeding, you need a pump. Whether you plan on staying home full-time or going back to work, I suggest a full electric pump. Although I have used my pump more because I do work two days a week, I still use it a lot when I am at home with Ellie. If she is stubborn and decides she doesn’t want to eat for a while – I pump. I believe the amount that I pump while at home has helped to maintain my milk supply. Ellie has been so picky and finicky that if I just depended on her demands, I would have dried up by month 4! How you pump or don’t pump is your decision and you’ll figure out what works for you – you just have to be flexible and adaptable to your baby.

I have a Hygeia EnJoye pump. I love it! Most of the Medela pumps are actually attached to the bag that comes with it. The Hygeia pump can be removed from the bag – I like this feature a lot. When I use the pump at home, I don’t need to tote around the bag. The Hygeia pump is battery powered, which is so helpful to not have to keep it plugged in while using it. I plug in the AC adapter every night. The one thing I don’t like about this pump is that there is a record feature. They provide this feature so that you can record your baby’s cry to help while pumping. I don’t need. Many times, the record button has gotten bumped and recorded whatever is going on at the time. At other times, the play button has gotten bumped and plays in public when I don’t want it to.

Crib Gear

Don’t get a crib bumper. Despite the adorable idea of a crib bumper and the comforter that come in the all-in-one crib bedding sets, all you need is a fitted sheet (and a bed skirt if you want). When we attended our baby safety class they told us that crib bumpers were a huge SIDS risk. At that time we had already designed and received (thanks mom) our adorable crib bumper that was the key design feature in our nursery. We chose to keep it in the crib until she started moving around (which was around 3-4 months) or when she could roll over. Now the crib bumper sits in the closet and I’m trying to figure out how to repurpose it to something useful because it’s just too darn cute to sit in the closet!

Recently, Ellie started getting her leg stuck in the crib slats because she rolls around like crazy. To alleviate this problem we went and picked up a breathable bumper to prevent her from getting stuck, but it does not pose a SIDS risk. She doesn’t wake up screaming like she once was… which is always good!

Here’s an invaluable bed sheet tip we learned from some friends…Double wrap the mattress:

  • Start with an uncovered mattress

  • Dress the uncovered mattress with one waterproof mattress pad

  • Follow with a fitted sheet

  • Cover the fitted sheet with another waterproof mattress pad

  • Finish with a second fitted sheet over the whole thing

Why is this so helpful? In the middle of the night, if when your child’s bodily fluids escape and cover the entire crib, you can easily pull off one sheet and mattress pad without too much hassle. Then the next day after your laundry is done, you can re-dress the mattress for the next adventure in the middle of the night! 🙂 With Ellie’s throw-up episodes, this saved us some sanity – many times!

SUMMARY

As you can tell, a lot of this stuff only gets used for like 6 months. You could definitely survive without a lot of this stuff, but it sure is nice to have. We were blessed with a lot of hand-me-downs and we plan to pass along al our gear when we’re through the baby years. You don’t have to buy the most expensive gear either, you can usually get away with the least expensive gear because the baby won’t know the difference and it’ll last just as long as the expensive one. If you buy gender-neutral gear, you can easily use it for multiple children and then hand it down to family or friends when you’re done with it all. The great thing about baby gear is that it lasts quite a while because baby gear doesn’t get the wear and tear that big-kid stuff does later down the road.

That’s all the gear I can think of… I also have a long post-pregnancy blog post that I’ve shared with a few of my pregnant girlfriends – telling the good, the bad and the ugly about childbirth and the first few weeks with a newborn. It’s my version of “what to expect” that I didn’t know to expect, but I wish someone would have told me. If you want to hear all those gory details, let me know and I’ll e-mail you the link (it’s not available to everyone because it’s not something the whole world needs to read).

I hope this information is helpful to you if you’re in search of the perfect baby gear. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me. This is just one opinion of MANY – so ask around and I know you’ll learn lots more from other friends as well!