Today marks day 18 of our son’s young life, but I can already tell some of the awesome purchases we made, and things we could have done without. Many parents will swear they couldn’t do without this or that, so consider this post my two cents on the subject of baby gear.
I’m not going to cover the obvious must-haves, like car seats and diapers/wipes. They’re either legally required, or just necessary to maintain basic baby cleanliness. I would also put cribs in this category, although some people will still argue that you can do without a formal crib for a baby.
What I’ll give you instead are my thoughts on some of the more unique items around the house that we’ve accumulated over the last year, and how useful they’ve proven to be in the large scheme of things under heavy testing. Granted, it’s only been three weeks, but in this high-pressure baby environment, we’re quickly losing patience for anything but the best of the best, and the most practical items. So I think it’s safe to make some initial judgments.
Here are some of the purchases we’ve made that have worked out so well, we consider them baby necessities:
- Diaper Bag. I thought this would just be another fashion accessory. Turns out it makes things easy to organize when you travel out of the house (and there is a lot of stuff to bring everywhere).
- Baby Detergent. Another product I had no clue about when we started this journey. Turns out regular detergent can irritate baby’s skin, so this is a better alternative.
- Pacifiers. Doctors are split on the use of pacifiers in newborns, but I would say the majority were for it. I can tell you that it spares us a great deal of crying when baby’s hungry and mama’s still getting ready.
- Washcloths. These small wonders are extremely versatile for jobs like wiping, cleaning, washing, and almost everything else. We keep a healthy supply around.
- Receiving Blankets. Like washcloths, these turned out to be more versatile than expected. Other than the obvious uses of covering and/or holding the baby, they can also be rolled up as propping tools, used as temporary sheets, and as privacy covers when breastfeeding.
- Bottle Set & Breast Pump. Even if you plan to breastfeed 100% of the time, sometimes you just won’t be home every 2-3 hours because of your schedule. A breast pump/bottle set is necessary (not to mention that you can freeze milk for over 3 months!).
- Good Baby Book. For someone like me, who had no clue how to do almost anything with a baby, an “instruction manual” was priceless. Thankfully, my wife came through with a couple of great daddy books.
- Good Thermometer. We went through two cheap thermometers before we realized that we were really getting what we paid for. So we spent the money for something decent and accurate, and something that takes less time than 2 minutes to get a reading. 🙂
- Pack-and-Play. If you’re away from home a lot (especially if you have extended family locally), this is a home away from home for the baby. Ours includes a bassinet and a changing table, and it’s really priceless (as well as portable!).
These are things we found to be extremely helpful in day-to-day life, but may be hard-pressed to classify them as “necessities.” They are:
- Baby bathtub with infant net. I know you can wash your baby in a sink and all that. But it just seems much easier when a baby bathtub is involved and you don’t have to worry about much except the bathing part.
- Diaper Champ. I recommend this one over the Genie because you can use your own garbage bags (not those expensive refills), and it seems to work just fine.
- Baby monitor. This has been a life saver, not only for the baby, but also for Mom! When I’m running around remote parts of the house while Mom is breastfeeding, she can call me over without having to scream and yell.
- Travel System. This is a stroller/car seat combination, and a lot of them are fairly expensive. But we purchased ours separately (and researched prices carefully, of course) for much less than the typical systems I see out there. It’s awesome when you want to take baby for a walk without waking him up.
- Boppy. This is a breastfeeding pillow (photos), and another one of those “what the heck will you use that for?” items. But believe me–it’s perfect for breast feeding, and it also helps your baby to develop coordination and muscles as they sit and lay in it when not feeding.
- Bassinet. It’s perfectly okay to have your baby sleep in the crib from Day 1, but a lot of people (like us) elect to have a bassinet in their bedroom for easier night time monitoring and feeding until the baby is a few months old. Bonus points if it rolls, since you can take it around the house with you!
- Reading Books. Nothing beats daddy-baby time when you’re reading a good book to the little guy. There’s something about the rhythm of reading that babies just seem to be enamored with.
- Bottle Warmer. We don’t have one yet, but I can definitely see the appeal. It takes 10-15 minutes and constant stirring and monitoring when trying to warm up a bottle “manually.” When there’s a screaming, hungry baby waiting for you, it makes things extra-difficult.
- Baby Hamper. Or any separate baby clothes area, really. It makes things super-easy at laundry time, since baby stuff should be washed in baby detergent, and usually has poop/pee/spit up, and all sorts of fun stuff on it.
- Bouncer. A small, portable bouncer is great for moving around the house and traveling, even when babies can’t quite bounce in it yet (you can bounce it with your foot!). Like a car seat, but more comfortable.
Ehh…Not So Much
We think these items may be useful for some people, or may get more use in the future, but right now there’s just not working out:
- Rocker/Glider. We have one, but it hasn’t gotten as much use for the baby as we had initially thought it would. It is, however, great when daddy wants to fall asleep or relax!
- Sling/Carrier. We have both a carrier sling, and one of those funny-looking backpacks. We’ll probably get use of the backpack in the future, but opted to use the travel system for walks, rather than the sling.
- Traditional Dresser/Furniture. Here’s a free plug for IKEA–if you have a chance to ever use this store for your furniture, do it. There are a lot of alternatives to “traditional” baby furniture that are more functional, safer, and a lot more fun-looking.
- Quick-prep Food. This was actually a suggestion we got from almost every baby website–‘because of the lack of time and energy, you’ll want to have frozen or quick foods to prepare.” We don’t feel like we’ve lacked either time or energy to the point where we want to sacrifice the nutritional quality of our food.
- Bathroom Gear. Yeah, our bathroom is decked out in monkeys. Too bad the baby’s using the other bathroom in the house. Oops!
- Baby Swing. This will probably get more useful later on, but for now, the little one’s just uncomfortable in the swing and the movements seem to be too drastic for him.
Don’t Even Bother
These are things we’ve either stayed away from or recommend avoiding all together:
- Clothes. Well, yes–you’ll need to clothe your baby. But it’s practically the only thing people will buy for you, and the stream of clothes won’t stop at the baby shower. Rely on gifts first, buy only when necessary.
- Fancy Mobile. Babies have a pretty hard time focusing on anything for a few months. I’ve also been told that for the first year or so, they see high-contrast shapes the best (black and white). So that huge, colorful, singing mobile you just got may not be worth it.
- Changing Table. I can see the benefits of having a changing table, but we opted to have a changing “basket” instead that can travel around the house to any flat surface (bed, couch, even the floor).
- Wiper Warmer. I just don’t see the point, honestly. The baby’s butt might get a little cold, but is that such a big deal?
For those of you with kids, let me know what you think!
- What products were priceless when your kids were babies?
- What could you have done without?
- Where did you get your purchasing advice, and how did it work out?
(The little guy is doing great, by the way! Thanks for all your questions and check-ins over the last few weeks.)
Photo by tanakawho