We had brunch (at Talde! yum!) last weekend weekend with our friends Julia and Darius, who are expecting their first baby in March. They were asking us baby-gear-related questions, and, SHOCK, we realized we had some good advice to share. So, dear seven readers, here are some of our recommendations for things babies need in the first three months and some of our suggestions of what to avoid. (I’ll do a post later about things new mommies need.)
We registered on Amazon. It was super easy to create, and returns (for products bought through Amazon and not a third-party vendor) were even easier. If you go with Amazon, do your friends and family a favor and try to register for Amazon-supplied products, so that they can get free shipping if they spend over $25.
Amanda did a great job of pulling together a list too, and hers might be more relevant to people with cars and houses. There are also lists all over the internets and there is common sense, so don’t feel limited by this.
Watch this DVD before you have a baby. I repeat, watch this DVD before you have a baby. Then get a swaddle blanket. We used and loved the Miracle Blanket. I hear the Halo Blanket works well too. Mabel went about two and half months before she started breaking out of her swaddle (remember?), so after that, we just put her to bed in a onesie and a sleep sack.
Also, before you have a baby, or in your early days of owning one, read Having Your Second Baby First. That and Clever Baby were our favorite baby books (again, more on moms later, but The Nursing Mother’s Companion is great to have on-hand too).
Bassinet– Speaking of sleeping, due to the amount of overnight feeding in the first few months, you will want your baby close to you. We had the Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper, which nestled right next to our bed. It’s not the prettiest of bassinets, but it is certainly functional and had lots of storage underneath. Another great thing about the Arm’s Reach is that it folds up quite small and can be stored in a closet or under a bed. It comes with a sheet, but you might want to buy another.
Crib– Thanks to people on the internets who write about about products for a living, we learned, quite surprisingly, that Walmart (!!!) has reasonably priced, reasonably eco-friendly cribs that are actually quite attractive. We went with the Olivia, but I think now I would have picked the ParkLane because of the drawer underneath the crib. DON’T (DO NOT!!!) buy a crib set that comes with bumpers, a crib skirt, and a comforter. It’s totally unnecessary–just register for a few sheets (we have two regular and one flannel) and some Breathable bumpers. You can buy or make a crib skirt if you want one, and you will receive enough blankets that you don’t actually need the big old quilt that comes with a crib set.
Blankets– And speaking of blankets, we, like everyone, love our Adain + Anais muslin swaddle blankets (as well as our Target knock-off ones). We use them for everything except swaddling (she was breaking out of that when she was two weeks old). We also have a few soft, fuzzy blankets, a few receiving blankets, and a few beautifully hand-knitted blankets. Both of Mabel’s grandmas made her quilts too, so we have one for the chaise in her room and one for her glider.
Car seat– You need this to leave the hospital, even if you don’t have a car and only live one block away from the hospital. We have the Chicco Key Fit 30 (the number refers to pounds), and it is perfectly adequate for us. We have also had a 22 lent to us on the road, but I would just assume buy the 30 so it will last a little longer (unless you have a really tall baby). I hear the Graco car seat is pretty similar, so that’s worth checking out too.
Newborn clothes– to avoid situations like this, you should probably have 4-5 newborn outfits on hand for the first few weeks. And little newborn hats to keep that teeny head warm. And little socks. Trumpette has some great designs, and they actually stay on baby’s feet.
Onesies– Standard baby wear. We had 4 newborn, 3 short sleeve 0-3 months, and 3 long-sleeved 0-3 months to start, and that was sufficient. We also liked the sleeveless types for her to wear under t-shirts. Kimono-style is useful for teeny babies, as you will probably be nervous about squeezing the neckhole over their mushy little skulls.
Diapering– A changing pad and cover are good things to have, although for Mabel’s first two months, we just changed her on two folded towels on a table in our bedroom. I will likely write more about cloth diapering later, but when we aren’t cloth diapering (daycare, vacations, etc.), we use Target or Whole Foods diapers. Or these. Or chemically ones that do neat things like change color when they are wet. Or whatever. We aren’t really that picky. Seventh Generation apparently dyes their diapers brown to make them took “Earthier,” so we don’t pay up for those. We considered doing Honest diapers, but they are kinda pricey, although I might re-visit the issue when Mabel starts full time daycare (stupid daycare that doesn’t allow cloth diapers). We tried G-diapers too and HATED them. They would work well if your baby doesn’t plan on pooping ever. For wipes, we are currently using the Whole Foods brand because Seventh Generation’s were too dry. I am going to look into making our own wipes one of these days. We had a wipe warmer, but that didn’t last long because it dried out the wipes even more.
Bottles– Aren’t these glass bottles cute? Yeah, NO daycare accepts glass bottles. Just buy the same brand as your pump, and you’ll be fine. We have six bottles, and that is enough for her to have milk at daycare and me to pump into at work.
Seat– Mabel did the bulk of her napping when she was 0-3 months in her Baby Bjorn Babysitter Balance Chair. She LOVED it. It was easy to bounce and folds up nicely too. We had a little neck and body support for her when she was really little. We also had a Nap Nanny, which was useful for napping, especially when she was reflux-y. Once she started rolling over, she didn’t want to nap in there anymore though, and in general, she wasn’t a huge fan of falling asleep in it (I would use it if she fell asleep in my arms). It’s pretty big too, so it’s not especially convenient for storing an apartment. We also have a vibrating seat that came with the swing that we hate; Mabel was not a fan, but I have heard that other babies like the vibrations.
Sound machine– We received this one from Homedics as a gift and love it. It has a variety of noise options (songs, waves, rain, etc) and these wonderfully creepy little projections. We use it every night, all night, and it does a decent job of drowning out the constant honking and screeching that comes with living in Columbus Circle.
Kitten mittens– Babies have nails that grow like weeds, and it’s a bit scary to try to clip them when they are so teeny tiny. Solution? Little baby mittens! We had 2 pairs, which was fine for the first two weeks until we worked up the courage to trim her nails (while she was sleeping). I think we bought them at Target for about $3. I suppose you could make them too, if you are into that sort of thing. Most long-sleeved newborn tops have extra fabric at the hand that folds over to cover the hand.
Babywearing– We took advice from friends and went with Ergo over the Baby Bjorn. We are very happy with it. She likes to look around, but she can easily do so from the side. The infant insert came in handy when she weighed less than 12 pounds. The Ergo is great for airplanes too–we drop her in, walk around, and she usually falls right asleep. I also use the Moby wrap and am a big fan. I wrap the end around me an extra time, so they don’t drag. I borrowed a mesh Moby-type wrap too that was very handy in the pool. I had a sling, but I never really used because I usually just wore her in the Moby around the house. It worked well for us, so I didn’t even bother trying the sling.
Frame for carseat– Babies can’t go in real strollers until they can support their heads, usually around three months. Did you know this? We didn’t. Fortunately, some clever person realized you can put wheels on the car seat and make a pretty decent stroller. Both Chicco and Graco have their own branded frames, but we just got this off-brand because it is was cheaper–it works just fine.
Real stroller– We have a MacLaren Triumph, and we love it. We take it everywhere. The storage is a bit limited though. We tried out a few different MacLaren models and decided on the Triumph because it is both lightweight and durable. It doesn’t lie flat though, so for teeny babies can’t use it (so use the car seat stroller frame or an adapter for your running stroller). We didn’t get a Travel System thing because it doesn’t fold as nicely as the MacLaren and car seat frame did and would have taken up too much room in our apartment.
Running stroller– Ryan did extensive research on running strollers and decided we should splurge and buy the Mountain Buggy Terrain. Part of me thinks it is because his secret girlfriend endorses it, but I do have to say it is a great running stroller. It has a handbreak, a wrist strap, two water bottle holders (I use one for water and one for my phone and keys–when I run. ha.), and plenty of storage space. When the baby is little, you will need to get a car seat adapter kit because you can’t run with the stroller seat lying flat (which it can do, which is great!). It is pretty big though, so apartment storage is an issue, and it can be heavy to push, especially with the car seat adapted into it (but you gotta lose those baby pounds somehow).
Stroller sleeping bag– We have two, one for the running stroller and one for the MacLaren. One was a gift, and one was a hand-me-down–both seem wonderfully cozy. The shearling one even comes with this adorable hat.
Travel crib– We have one from Baby Bjorn, and it is remarkably easy to set up and take down, and honestly, looks much nicer than a Pack-and-play. You will need to buy a sheet for the mattress too, but don’t pay for the Baby Bjorn brand–they are super pricey, and there are much cheaper, just as sheet-y options out there. Although the crib is really easy to set up, the case is a bit bulky, and the straps ripped off of ours. We are carrying it around in an old laundry bag until we can get to a sewing machine to fix the straps.
Burp cloths and bibs– Yep, you need them. Little babies spit up quite frequently. I’d recommend having at least 10 of each on hand so that you don’t have to do laundry too frequently. They are small and don’t take up much room.
Tub and towel– We had a Tummy Tub, but Mabel HATED it. So, for the first few months, we would take baths together. Now, we just put a bath sponge in the tub, and she is happy as a lark. Get a towel, with or without a hood, that is big enough to wrap around the baby. Also, a dozen or so little washcloths are good to have around.
Shampoo, soap, etc.– The nurses at the hospital told us not to use Johnson and Johnson, we have primarily used Mustela, Burt’s Bees, and Green Baby. All have been great. We use a loofah instead of washcloth in the bath because it gets more suds, but we still use washcloths for her hands and face.
Play mat– In hopes of avoiding, or at least lessening my participation in, the baby-industrial-complex, I was initially hesitant to register for a play mat, but my friend Sara highly recommended this one. She was right. It is awesome. We used it for tummy time when Mabel was really little, for her to practice grabbing when she was 3-4 months, and now for her hang out in (she tries to pull herself up on the sides and the bars that go across it). While this mat is a little pricier than others, it has all sorts of bells and whistles–textures, a singing bug, lots of ring for grabbing, etc. We dig it.
Diaper bag– I didn’t get a diaper bag per se. I just bought a regular bag that was cute and moderately gender neutral (so that Ryan doesn’t mind carrying it around) and bought a few insert pouches to separate the stuff we need to carry. We have the Baggu Duck Bag and use these large size zipper bags inside the bag.
Inside the diaper bag– If we take her out in disposable diapers, we take one diaper per every hour we are out, plus an extra two or three. If we take her out in cloth diapers, I usually take BumGeniuses rather than pre-folds, covers, and Snappis, and a wet-dry bag or plastic bag. When the baby is very little, you will need to bring 2-3 diapers per hour (better safe than sorry!). We also take a package of wipes and two or three Chux, and we bring an extra outfit (usually a one-piece outfit), extra socks, 2-3 burp cloths, and a bib. If we are taking bottles of milk, I put them in a small wet-dry bag (and throw in an ice-pack if time requires it). Finally, I try to carry hand sanitizer and travel-sized Vaseline (good for diaper rash–but not on cloth diapers) and deodorant (just in case a screaming baby happens to rattle your cool).
Things that are hit or miss: glider, swing, and pacifiers. When she was tiny, Mabel occasionally tolerated being rocked in her glider and sometimes would eat there, but neither lasted beyond a month or two. We bought a budget swing that she was sometimes into, but she did seem to really like the sideways swing my parents’ neighbors lent us when we would visit. Pacifiers lasted about two months for her, then she discovered she had fingers.
Things babies don’t really care about yet: toys, food, jumper things.
Little things that make a big difference: baby nail clippers, a Nose Frida, Boogie Wipes (although I wish they were about half the size they are), baby-safe laundry detergent. And probably lots of other things I don’t remember.