Alright… for anyone requesting a comprehensive handbook of baby gear ideas and recommendations I give you my take on baby gear essentials and registry items complete with pictures and mom insight for each. It’s LONG (forewarning) and starts with the ‘essentials’ and ends with the ‘extras’. Happy barcode scanning!
As anyone will tell you, every baby is different so I wouldn’t quite call this the BIBLE of baby gear but it’s definitely a good starting point for any new mommies or mommies to be out there. One thing you’ll learn with a baby… be flexible… kind of like the weather here in Colorado “wait a while and it will change” babies are the same. And what one likes another may hate, even if they both come from your ovaries and are raised in the same home. Also if you’re obsessed with research, check out the Baby Gear Lab where they compare and review almost every piece of baby gear you can find!
**Now updated with more wisdom after baby #2 AND baby #3 **
Here’s what I call THE ESSENTIALS, things you’ll need and love eventually. You may not need all of these the moment you walk in the door with your newborn so purchase accordingly.
Diapers: Can’t comment on cloth since we didn’t do that. As for disposable you will most likely find a brand you love, for us that is Pampers. We tried every other kind on the planet, and they sucked, so Pampers it is for us. I would caution against buying a ton prior to your kid being here, you’ll end up with waay too many of one size and not enough of another and you need to have some time to figure out which ones you’re going to like. Save yourself the hassle of returns and only buy 1 large package of newborn size and 1 big box of 1-2’s. When the baby is here you can purchase more as they grow and see what sizes you’ll need. I highly recommend a small package of the umbilical cord cut out diapers for the week or so that you have to deal with that, the alternative is folding regular ones over which causes leaks. A note for preemie moms- preemie diapers are hard to come by, we could only manage to find one option at the store and they came in a tiny package of about 30 diapers which lasts about 3 days… keep that in mind if you anticipate a preemie and stock up a little bit.
Bottles: Shocker, your kid may hate your boobs, it happens. Don’t be anti-bottle, again be flexible and have some bottles on hand. Keep in mind that even if you are breastfeeding you may want hubby or other family to be able to feed the baby too. Our preference, Dr. Browns (no, they are not hard to clean). For when I was breastfeeding I preferred the Breastflow bottles, they are much more similar to feeding from the breast and make transitioning easier. Baby 2 wisdom: if your kid is a porker you will only be using the small 4 oz ones for a short amount of time and will be off to the huge 8 oz ones. So don’t buy a billion tiny ones. Buy new inner parts and nipples for kid #2 when you re-use these bottles, they wear out after a while. Baby 3 wisdom: we opted for glass bottles with the third kiddo, I like the longevity, temperature consistency, and idea that no plasticy chemicals are leeching into his food.
Baby Wipes: Now this is something you can stock up on, BUT, I wouldn’t go crazy yet. Turns out our dudes have picky booties and we can only use Pampers Sensitive wipes on them otherwise we risk diaper rash hell, we’re not chancing it anymore. I would recommend using wipes that are fragrance and alcohol free regardless of brand.
Diaper Pail: I must say the Diaper Genie is the biggest waste of money on the baby market, some may disagree. Those crazy refills end up sucking you in for about a $250 lifetime investment. For me I wanted a pail that took normal trash bags so I didn’t waste money buying pricey refills, a pail that contained the smell, and that held a decent amount of diapers, simple. I LOVE our Diaper Champ, we had one for each kid, they take regular kitchen trash bags, and would hold about a week of diapers up until potty training time. As for odor, we didn’t have any huge complaints, I mean ANY pail is going to smell to some degree at times. The Munchkin nursery fresheners (baking soda scent discs) are a must to throw in the bottom of the pail and really help with smell all around. Baby 3 wisdom: a new pail came to town that enticed me, the Ubbi, it is made of metal and therefore doesn’t absorb odor like plastic. Now while the odor wasn’t a huge deal prior I will say that no matter what we cleaned our Champ with, including bleach, it still never got rid of the smell completely. So any option to eliminate this sounded great not to mention the Ubbi comes in a bunch of adorable colors to match the nursery! So far so good!
Carseat: We went with a Graco Snugride, it’s great, used it for both kiddos. Durable, well priced, and fits more things (like strollers and our swing) than pricier alternatives like the Chicco stuff. I originally wanted an infant seat with the highest weight limits imaginable… then I carried my 5 lb baby around in it and wanted to die after 10 minutes and realized that doing it with a 30 lb kid would be ridiculous! Keep that in mind. Baby 3 wisdom: we went a completely different route for the third. The boys carseat was expired so we had to get a new one anyway and I went with one that would save my back (blew out my discs when the older dudes were babies) that had amazing safety ratings and other bonus features I liked. The Nuna Pipa is the lightest carseat on the market at 7.7 lbs which is worth it’s weight in gold especially with the newer AAP recommendations of rear facing as long as possible. Remember lugging a one year old in the infant carrier is HEAVY, those precious few pounds saved makes a difference (The Graco weighs 9.7 lbs). The Pipa had great height and weight limits (up to 32#s, and 32″) and was designed with a Euro seatbelt alignment when used without the base. Anyone who has studied carseat safety knows that Europe has much stricter safety requirements than the US and I prefer the euro seatbelt pattern. The base is also dummy proof, no straps to tighten, the latch system is fixed so there is no adjusting it just clicks in. The base also had a load leg which prevents internal rotation of the seat in a rear end collision, this was important to me. It wasn’t cheap but I am very pleased with the choice!
Extra Carseat Base: For hubbs car, grandparents, nanny or whatever.
Carseat Cover/Bundle Me: A must for winter babies and rainstorms, great for when they’re sleeping and you’re eating out, and keeps weirdos from touching your child unexpectedly… yes they really do this. Love, love, love our JJ Cole Bundle Me, and we got the Bundle Me Lite for summer. Baby 3 wisdom: We still have the bundleme’s but haven’t used them at all because we opted for a “free” Carseat Canopy (you can find free coupons everywhere). It’s adorable and serves a similar purpose although it’s not as warm so we use a blanket underneath to keep the baby warm.
Infant Carseat Head Support: Babies are tiny. And floppy. This keeps them snug and secure. Our little preemie size guy was swimming in his seat so we did the head support and body support. We got the JJ Cole to match our Bundle Me and the head and body support are detachable and reversible for flexibility. Baby 3 wisdom: our carseat came with an infant insert to use until they’re 11 lbs. so we didn’t need the head support/body support.
Stroller: There are plenty of strollers and travel systems out there. We went with a Graco travel system which was pretty good, if I had to do it over again I’d buy a stroller or travel system with a 3 wheeled jogger type stroller, even if you don’t use it for jogging it is easier to maneuver in general than a 4 wheeled one. Baby 3 wisdom: More Euro safety input here. Prams are all the rage in Europe for babies, they’re not big on the whole carseat clicking into the stroller thing and there’s a reason for it. When baby is in the carseat it shapes their spine into a C position which is not good, extended time in this position is bad for the spine and neck development and you shouldn’t exceed 2 hours in this position ever. Instead the best option is to lay baby flat which is why they all have prams with bassinet attachments where baby rides flat until they are about 6 months old and sitting up on their own. That in mind I wanted a stroller with a bassinet option and I searched high and low for a stroller like this that could somehow carry all 3 boys, there are a couple of options on the market but I couldn’t justify cost and the fact that the older two would only want to ride in it occasionally so we went with a single and kept our double (the Kolcraft Contours Tandem) for the off chance we’re at some festival and need seating for everyone, I’ll either wear the baby or one boy can walk, or I’ll buy a wheelie board attachment. The Urbini Omni from Walmart was amazing for the price, it functions just as I wanted and didn’t break the bank, highly recommend it! (you can now buy the stroller separate from the travel system)
Angelcare Monitor: This is something I could NOT live without… call me paranoid but this has saved me countless hours of worry and sleep. It detects baby’s breathing (yes it’s that sensitive) and alarms if there is 15 seconds of non-movement. I used this with both kids until they were nearly 2, it doubled as a bed alarm with Baby 2 when he started climbing out of his crib! Baby 3 wisdom: they now have the Angelcare with a built in video monitor so you don’t have to have both. Win win. We love it.
Baby Monitor/Video Monitor: I prefer the video monitor (yes we used it along with our Angelcare because at that time they didn’t have the all in one Angelcare). We bought one that would accept multiple cameras (for future kids), that zoomed in and out, that had color and night vision. But most importantly, it had a dedicated digital signal so it can’t interfere with a neighbors monitor. I didn’t want to chance the idea that the neighbor’s analog signal crossed over to mine and they got to peep on my kid on accident, or worse watch me breastfeeding or something else equally creepy. Baby 3 wisdom: although we’re not using a separate monitor now I have seen several of these “wifi” capable monitors on the market and it SKEEVES me out. I was worried enough about the hacking into the monitor before but this takes it to a whole other level, there have been numerous news stories of this happening, I would strongly advise against this kind of a monitor.
Pack N Play: I decided to forego a bassinet or co-sleeper that has no use after a couple of months. A pack n play serves the same purpose while baby is still in your room and can be used later for traveling, etc. We picked one that had a bassinet insert, a changing table, and a mobile. Baby 3 wisdom: we threw all that out the window for the third ha! After baby 2 slept in our bed until he was 8 months old I knew there was the possibility of this happening again, so we bought the First Years co-sleeper. It has rigid sides so you don’t have to worry about rolling on top of baby, folds up easily for travel, and has a built in light which is kind of nice.
Nursing Pillow/Boppy: We used this all the time with both dudes. They napped on the Boppy, they hung out on the Boppy, did tummy time on the Boppy, they ate and breastfed on the Boppy. #2 even slept on the Boppy in our bed in-between hubbs and I for quite some time, a non-traditional co-sleeper. Get one and an extra cover. Baby 3 wisdom: I opted for another “free” product this time and I’m so glad I did. The Nursing Pillow is much smaller and softer than the traditional Boppy which I found to be a lot easier for breastfeeding and fits a newborn better than the huge Boppy. It doesn’t have removable covers but you can throw it in the laundry.
Baby Bathtub: We landed on the Fisher Price Ocean Wonders one, it had an infant sling and toys attached. Baby 2 widsom: much easier to shower with baby than use a giant obnoxious tub. Baby 3 wisdom: We wanted a tub again especially for those first few weeks or so that they can’t submerge with the umbilical stump (usually a week-ish) and they’re too small and floppy to shower with you yet. Knowing it would be a short lived item I went for cheap and foldable, let me tell you how much dang room one of the regular baby tubs takes up, unless you have a surplus of space get something that folds away. Got the Summer Infant bather and it’s been fine for what we wanted.
Baby Shampoo/Lotion: We love the Johnson’s Nighttime for the smell, we use it all time. I also prefer the Johnson’s regular baby lotion, mostly for the smell, I just love that traditional baby smell. Let me give you a tip here, baby’s have a small surface area, we have just now finished one large bottle of baby shampoo, our kid is 13 months old. You do NOT need a Costco sized assortment of these things! Baby 3 wisdom: we now go with organic and natural things, it’s been a lifestyle change in general so I love the Ology Lavender Chamomile shampoo and lotion. Also love some sort of vapor bath shampoo with menthol for when baby is stuffy and sick, helps a lot!
Bath Towels/Burp Cloths: hooded towels are nice but they outgrow them quickly. Burp cloths are necessary for a lot of moms although we never used them.
Sleepers: Gowns suck. Carters Sleepers are the best, I got a million of them at the shower and took half back assuming that you didn’t need that many… I was then buying them all back a month later. I actually preferred the button ones early on because you didn’t have to pull out their entire body to change a diaper but now have zips which are fine. Sleep sacks are good too until they are crawling and standing. And if you have a houdini baby check out the swaddle sleep sacks, they worked great but we still had escapees…
Receiving Blankets: Cotton and fleece, for swaddling and snuggling. Your kid may be freezing or a hot box, you’ll need both especially for changing seasons. Gauze ones are really great for summer babies. You don’t need 100 but a handful is good. Baby 3 wisdom: I broke down and bought the expensive Aden and Anais muslin ones and actually love them, a couple is plenty, but they’re huge so you can use them for a long time and can use them for multiple purposes (nursing cover, carseat cover, etc).
Baby Carrier: A Bjorn, a Moby Wrap, a ring sling, a mei tai, whatever… or ALL of them like us. Our kid had colic for 12 weeks, he lived in the various carriers literally ALL. DAY. LONG. Baby 2 taught me that the bjorn style carriers give you a longer use time when they get heavier. Baby 3 also is living in the Bjorn since he refuses to be put down although I am seriously looking into getting a Lillebaby (similar to an Ergo) so that I can nurse while he’s in the carrier.
Wubbanub/Pacifiers: Another could not live without item. Dude #1 had 3 wubbs and they were wonderful. The only pacifier to have in my opinion. The animal makes it easier to find in the middle of the night and it’s also easier for the baby to put into their own mouth early on and you don’t lose them like socks because they’re big. Also any parent who has dealt with a screaming kid in the car while trying to drive and simultaneously reach into the carseat to find a tiny little pacifier can understand how the attached animal makes it a must have. Dude 2 wasn’t big on any paci’s but Dude 3 is learning to love the wub, regardless they’re a mainstay in our baby world and I give them as gifts to every new parent.
Soothing Sound Machine: Any kind you want. I love the Fisher Price Seahorse and the Cloud B Sleep Sheep. I bought the sheep because it plays for 45 mins vs. the seahorse that only plays for 10. Others highly recommend the Homedics Sound Spa and for baby 3 we opted for a portable travel version. White noise is your friend when sleep training kiddos, they are a MUST have.
Bibs: stock up, you’ll need them if you’re kid is a puker like my first, when they’re teething and drooling everywhere, and you’ll use them again when they start eating solids. My advice get the larger ones so you can use them as they grow and get the laminated/plastic-y ones that wipe off so you aren’t washing cloth ones after every meal.
Breast Pump/Pump Bra: I recommend renting one until you know if breastfeeding will work for you or not. Hospitals and lactation consultants rent them and they’re hospital “grade” which means they’re more effective than any of the retail ones, even the good ones. Once you’re ready to purchase, Medela has some great options like the Freestyle and Pump In Style Advance. A double electric is best to get the job done quickly. Baby 3 wisdom: I like the PISA Metro bag because I can take the pump part out and use it without toting this gigantic bag around, key for traveling. Also invest in a pumping bra, it will save your life especially if you need to pump often (working moms, exclusive pumpers, etc). I prefer the hook/latch rather than a zipper because it’s easier to get on and I LOVE the stretch neoprene and cutsie polka dot fabric of the PumpEase. I tried the Medela brand and hated it.
Baby Medications: Infant Tylenol, Infant Motrin (you’ll use after 6 mos old), and Mylicon- boy did we use a lot of Mylicon, Vicks vapor rub, Baby Orajel. Gripe water, also a good option for the fussy gassy babies. Baby 3 wisdom: they make these fabulous kits with all the meds in one travel case. Great investment!
Diaper Rash cream: We went through tons and tried every kind out there. The one that worked the best by itself was the Triple Paste.
Thermometers: get a digital arm one at least (can also be used rectally), we used the Exergen Temporal one that reads off of the forehead which is nice for a quick result or a sleeping baby but it didn’t seem to work that consistently after a while. Baby 3 wisdom we went with a Safety 1st ear one that can also test the temp of things like food or the bath tub, dual use.
Nose Sucker: For every day run of the mill use, the rubber bulb syringes are fine. The ones at the hospital are the best, they’re more pliable and work better, take it home! However, baby 3 got sick with the most awful nose congestion and I went all over town to get my hands on the electronic Graco nasal aspirator because nothing was working to un-stuff the poor kid. After using it, I can’t recommend it enough. Also please avoid the Nose Frida, as if the ick factor weren’t bad enough it is a germ rocket, the sponge/filter does not prevent microscopic bacterial and viral particles from transmitting to whoever is using it so you will undoubtedly get sick with whatever your kiddo has. Bad. Just bad.
Nail clippers: they grow fast! One of the baby hygiene sets is great to have around.
Mattress Pad Cover: Blowouts are not unusual… and mattresses are not cheap, even if yours is ‘laminated’ and wipes off I’d recommend a pad for longevity
Extra Sheets: For the crib, for the pack n play, and for the changing pad. See above, doing a load of laundry at 2 am because of a blowout would not be on my list of fun, extras sheets are a must in my book.
Diaper Bag/Backpack: Get one that has lots of storage and organization. The Skip Hop Studio Tote worked pretty well for me with the first. I went to something gigantic when I had 2 under 2 because there was a LOT of stuff I had to tote daily. The Timi & Leslie Charlie was nice but a giant black hole. For baby 3 I invested in a more attractive, less baby bag looking Petunia Pickle Bottom satchel which looks like a purse so I can keep some sense of normal style and it also has the option to convert to a backpack which is very helpful when wrangling a bunch of kiddos.
Swing: some kids love them, some hate them and will never use them. If you don’t plan to have more kids that can get use out of one consider buying used. We had a hugantic Graco Sweetpeace Soothing Center which I loved at the time because it plugged in, played lots of different sounds including your Ipod, and was specially intended for colic with it’s arc rocking motion (although it didn’t work on our colicky baby). We got maybe 3 months of use out of it with both kids, it occupied way too much room in the living room so we got rid of it. Baby 3 wisdom: don’t break the bank, your kid may hate it. We went with a portable and foldable swing this time so it could go away when I didn’t want it out. Genius. The Graco Swing By Me is a great compromise, cheap, convenient, adjustable height, etc. Did I mention cheap? Did I mention it folds away? Ok. Baby gear takes over your house like a tornado.
Baby proofing items: You don’t need these immediately but once the little one is mobile things should be prepared. My must haves: outlet covers, surge protector cover, door handle locks, baby gates, cabinet locks.
Baby Detergent: anything that’s dye and fragrance free is good for their sensitive skin, but again I just like that “baby” smell so I go with the store brand baby detergents
Onto the ‘NICE TO HAVE AROUND BUT NOT MANDATORY’ list. There’s no shortage of baby gear available out there, you could get lost for hours just in Babies R Us with all of the gadgets and gizmos. Not all of them are necessary and there may be things you love that others hate. Here’s some of the things we’ve accumulated that are nice to have around.
Glider/Nursery Chair: Honestly I won’t be getting one for our second nursery because I could count on both hands the amount of times that I used it. But plenty of moms use them all the time to breastfeed and rock baby, I did this out on our living room couch. Plus our extra bedrooms aren’t exactly huge and putting a crib, a changer/dresser, and a full size chair takes up the entire room. If I was to get another one, I would probably opt out of an ottoman to save space, and I would definitely get one that reclines- much more comfy! Just some food for thought on that one…
Jumparoo/Exersaucer: I preferred the Jumparoo because it was more “stationary” and he loved it! The bouncing alone is entertaining. We had the Rainforest Jumparoo, it’s cute, adjustable, and great for keeping them contained so you can do dishes, run a load or laundry, or take 5 minutes to eat. After being well loved by 2 kiddos we got the My First Pet jumper for baby 3. Any kind of stationary entertainment is a must if you want to get anything done, plus it is good for their development and motor skills as long as you don’t use it as an 18 hour a day babysitter.
Floor Seat/Bumbo/Bebe Pod: These are nice for helping baby build muscles to sit up on their own, plus you’ll find that they like to sit up and get a different perspective on the world rather than staring at the ceiling constantly. These are nice for feeding early on also. I bought the Bebe Pod because it featured more options than the Bumbo, it had a tray, removable place mats, and an attachable toy, plus the leg holes were wider. Baby 3 wisdom: the Bebepod only lasted so long before we just didn’t use it anymore and it was very easy for baby to do a nose dive onto the wood floor with, they tip over pretty easy even while placed on the floor which I didn’t like. So we went with the Fisher Price Sit Me Up which has a much wider base, meaning less tippy, it has toys, a tray for feeding, oh and it FOLDS away. Noticing a theme? Baby gear that goes away is a great thing since they use these items for such brief periods of time.
Bouncer: they only use this briefly, if they even like it. One with sounds and vibration work well and buy you time to take a shower, just bring it in the bathroom with you. Similar to a bouncer, I loved our Kickin Coaster and so did HL.
Activity Mat: good for tummy time and playing. We got the Infantino Twist N Fold which is awesome because it folds away compactly! Has worked well for all 3 dudes.
Nursing Cover: always check out Udder Covers.com, they offer free cover codes throughout the year where you only pay shipping, I bought all of my covers this way.
Umbrella Stroller: Buy a cheap one, keep it in the car.
Stroller/Carseat Toys: Keeps them entertained a little bit, ones that they can chew on are better. Baby 3 wisdom: I always thought carseat mirrors were goofy and ugly but this little dude HATES the car, hates his carseat and screams at the top of his lungs any moment he is in the car. After trying everything imaginable we bought the Brica carseat mirror that lights up and sings and the kid is peaceful on car rides now! No joke. Lesson learned.
Sippy Cups: I liked the Tommee Tippee sippy cup for 4+ months- the youngest one I could find. After they got older we used every single design and brand ever made and decided that our faves were the ones without a valve but these wore out a little sooner than I’d like, our second faves are the Playtex ones.
Sheet Saver: These are little pads that tie onto the crib and sit on top of the sheets. They work pretty well to keep the sheets clean from puke or blowouts so you aren’t changing sheets all the time.
Crib Mobile: I prefer one that plays music. Keep in mind once they can stand they’ll start trying to swing from it so you’ll have to take it out of the crib.
Accessory Clothing: Hats for snow or sun, coats, snow suits, depending on your climate and seasons.
Highchair/Booster: Baby starts solids around 6 months or so, choose one that grows with your child if you want longevity. The key to high chairs is easy to clean! Food will be everywhere, in every nook and cranny. A removable tray that can go in the dishwasher is nice. A cloth cover is not something I’d recommend unless you enjoy laundry. Even the straps become crusted over. I preferred one that blended in with our furniture and chose a Graco wooden one. I needed another one when Dude 2 was able to eat too so we got a cheapo plastic Ikea one and it was fine for a while. Baby 3 wisdom: we’re going with a hook-on chair that can hook onto our dining table. It’s portable, cheap, easier to clean than the big ones, and it doesn’t take up floor space.
Baby Feeding Gear: Spoons, plates, bowls. The ones with suction cup bottoms are a lifesaver when baby starts “playing” with their food. Baby 2 & 3 wisdom: kids plates crack and break after a while, we’ve tried all the brands and actually our absolute favorites are Ikea Smaska plates & bowls, and the Kalas silverware, the plates are so easy to clean they’re magical! They’re also the perfect size and last a long time and you cannot beat the price!
Toy/Bottle Leash: this will keep toys and bottles off of the floor. We use them on high chairs at restaurants also.
Carseat Pad: The Piddle Pad is what we used in case there were blow outs in the carseat because washing and changing the carseat cover is quite the process.
Bottle Sterilizer: you can use any tupperware with some water in it but if you’d like a formal option there are plenty. I like our Munchkin one because it holds quite a bit of bottles and breast pump parts.
Car Seat Protector: carseats do a number to your vehicle and you wouldn’t believe the gunk that gets underneath them, these help.
Shopping Cart Cover: I opted for one with toys because I was more concerned with entertaining the kid than keeping some germs off of him. The Shop and Play was a win win.
Teething rings/toys: Gel ones that you can freeze are nice, try to find one that has a non-cold area for baby to hold onto, when they’re cold baby won’t be able to hold them for too long.
Baby Food Making Supplies: I loved making baby food, super easy, super cheap! I got the First Years baby food processor and the So Easy Baby Food kit for freezing to use along with my ice cube trays.
Woombie: The ultimate swaddle contraption that they can’t get out of
Formula Dispenser: for the formula feeders out there. Get one that’s big enough to hold 4 scoops of formula per section, usually these are taller than the others.
Onesie Extenders: these are great if you have a long baby or want to use those special onesies you painstakingly picked out for longer than a couple of weeks.
And there you have it… I’m sure there are some things I’ve missed, feel free to add your own must haves. Hope it saves someone a headache and some research!