The first time I walked into a Buy Buy Baby, I was completely overwhelmed. I had no idea that there were so many options when it came to baby items and at 20 weeks pregnant, I was tired, hungry and completely incapable deciding what kind of baby bathtub I needed. Then, I saw the price tags of things and considered the amount of room that they would take up in my house. I’m honestly surprised that my head didn’t explode.
Fast forward a year and I now know that choosing a bathtub was a completely minor decision in the scheme of things. But, in that moment, it was monumental. At least that’s what the people who manufacture and sell baby goods would have you believe. I mean, you don’t want to choose the wrong thing and put your baby at risk for some kind of serious injury, right?
The point is, babies need lots of things and it can be tricky to decide on the “must-haves.” I found the book Baby Bargains helpful in cataloging all the options and explaining which items carried the biggest bang for the buck. But, it is still a lot different when you actually use the items in real life. You might find that you get very little use out of the things you thought you couldn’t live without and that certain things don’t really work as well as you had hoped, either because they just are crappy items or they don’t fit your lifestyle.
So, as B approaches the one year mark, I thought I would do a few posts with some of my picks for can’t-live-without baby items, as well as things that we didn’t really get as much use out of as I thought we would. Hopefully, you will find this helpful if you are preparing to welcome a little one into your family (and now I’ll have a handy list to refer to, if I’m ever crazy enough to do it all over again).
Let’s start with baby gear (also known as the “big stuff”).
At the very least, you are going to need a car seat. The hospital won’t let you leave with the baby unless you have one. But, I highly recommend getting an all-in-one travel system. Infants sleep constantly (particularly when in motion), it’s a lot easier to just to move the car seat to the stroller and then back to the car, without waking the baby.
I love our Britax B-Agile Travel System. Britax car seats consistently receive high marks for their safety features and the seat snaps easily into a car seat base or stroller. The stroller is lightweight, maneuvers well on uneven city sidewalks, and is easy to open and close with one hand. I also like that both the car seat and stroller have nice, large canopies to keep out the sun.
The only drawback is that the infant seat is bulky, so it can be difficult to carry and maneuver, particularly as the months go on and that baby gets heavier. This is one of the reasons we just switched B over to a convertible car seat (also a Britax). I think this is just the way things are with this kind of system, and not necessarily a reflection of the design of the Britax products.
I can’t remember the specific figures that the car seat/stroller expert at Buy Buy Baby tossed out there, but this also ended up being a pretty cost-effective option, as the system also includes a base for the car seat. The other option, if you choose to go with two different brands for a car seat and stroller is to choose a stroller that allows for the use of a car seat adapter or to go with a dedicated car seat carrier, like the Snap-N-Go, for those first few months.
Ergo Baby Carrier
The Ergo is usually recommended as one of the most comfortable carriers. The way it’s designed distributes the baby’s weight evenly, so it’s easy on mom and dad’s backs and provides the ideal support for baby’s developing spine, hips and pelvis.
If you plan to use it when your baby is under 12 pounds, you should do so with the infant insert (sold separately). I felt like it just made the whole thing bulky. So, I mainly used it around the house, when B was napping but refused to do so in her crib. But, now, it’s one of my favorite items, to use when we running errands or taking walks, particularly because there are many days lately where B is just not a fan of the stroller. It’s nice to have my hands free when we are out and B still enjoys being cuddled up close to me. I’ve been leaving it in the trunk of the car so that I can make sure we always have it handy when we are out and about.
My love for the Mamaroo, which mimics the way that parents bounce up and down and/or sway from side to side when trying to soothe a baby, has been well documented in prior posts. We set it up in our living room, and B took lots of naps in it during those first few weeks. When she was having particularly fussy moments, it was one of the things that could calm her down when nothing else seemed to be working and our arms needed a break. The only drawback is that the base of it does have a rather larger footprint, which is not ideal in a small house. But, it’s still better than having a separate bouncy seat and swing to mimic the variety of movements that this one piece of equipment provides.
We originally set up the bassinet that came with the Graco Day-to-Night system in our bedroom for B to sleep in during the first few months. As soon as we put her in it on her first night home, she let us know that she hated it. I sent Chester out the next day to buy the Rock-and-Play and she slept like, well, a baby for the next four months. I can see where the deep, structured insert would make an infant feel secure and where the slight incline would be more comfortable for them than lying flat. Another plus, is that it folds up easily, so we were able to move it from room to room for naps, as needed. Did this make the transition to a completely flat crib more challenging? Maybe. But, I think we all appreciated good nights of sleep during those early months where we were trying to figure it all out.
Graco Blossom High Chair
I chose the Blossom based on the fact that it is like having four different seating options in one item: a traditional high chair, infant and toddler booster seats (to be used at the table) and a youth chair Plus, if you have children of different ages, you can use the highchair and toddler booster or the infant feeding booster and youth chair at the same time. We’ve mostly used the traditional high chair and infant booster a couple of times, but I have no complaints about it, and I like the flexibility that it can eventually offer. I also like that it has wheels. We currently keep it in the dining room when it is not in use, but wheel it into the kitchen so B can throw food on the easier-to-clean tile floor until her heart’s content.
Graco Day-to-Night System
I loved the idea of this system, which features a pack-and-play, portable bassinet, and changing station all in one, when I added it to my registry. But, as I mentioned above, B was not a fan of the bassinet. For awhile, we kept it in our living room, and sometimes she would take (very short) naps in it. But, after a few weeks, it was relegated to the basement. We bought the playard piece of it to my mom’s thinking she would be able to use it for naps there, but so far, she hasn’t.
(Horrible parent alert: we have never really trained B to sleep in her crib, either. When she was very small, I used to hold her for most of her naps. As she got bigger, she started taking naps in bed with me, in her car seat, or in her stroller/carrier if we were out. Yes, I regret this pattern of behavior now).
I still think the multi-use concept is a good one, but in general, a pack-and-play probably makes the most sense for people who plan to travel a lot with their baby. Or, maybe for those people who have three-story houses and want a second changing station/crib on a lower level. We personally just did not get a lot of use out of it. We have only traveled with B once so far, and we were able to borrow a portable crib from the hotel and I didn’t mind going up and down the stairs every time she needed a diaper change or a nap.
What were some of your baby gear hits and misses?