The Infamous Baby Gear Post

As you all know, I’m a self proclaimed minimalist. Our living area is small and open, and I want to keep it neat and tidy. I had a slight panic attack when I found out I was pregnant and declared “There will be no plastic baby gear in my house”. Well, that was impractical, but in general we managed to keep the baby gear at bay – and I’d say that Thomas has grown up to be a good kid who can self entertain and socialize, so I don’t think we failed miserably by not providing him with constant new things.

There are so many blog babies brewing, and my friend Sarah has been asking for baby product recommendations. I sent her my detailed baby gear spreadsheet, but thought I’d do a quick blog post about our most used gear broken down by age for the first year.

In short, I’d sum up the first year by saying that Months 0 – 6 require some equipment, and months 6 – 12 require less equipment and more learning and developmental toys.

The Whole First Year:
Medela Pump in Style Advanced (PISA) breast pump – Before I returned to work, I was working on getting my milk supply up and also introducing T to a bottle. I pumped the first month after every feeding, and after the first month once a day I threw in a pumping session after he was in bed to build up a freezer stash and make a bottle for Thomas.  Then I went back to work and pumping was Thomas’s lifeline during the day. The pump and I were attached at the hip for a long time, and I highly recommend a good pump – especially if you think you’ll be returning to work or leaving baby for nights out.

Grilled Cheese appetizer in one hand; chardonnay, clutch and breast pump in the other at a Sorority Sister’s Wedding when Thomas was 10 weeks old. I’m super classy.

Carseat - My personal opinion is that you don’t need a 30 lb, 30 inch capacity infant carseat – by the time the baby is over 22 (more like 16) pounds, you won’t be wanting to carry around an infant carrier. I promise.

For Thomas, we had the BabyTrend FlexLoc (with the 30 pound, 30 inch capacity). 2 years ago, Consumer Reports had it as the #1 carseat, and that ranking has fallen. Here’s the story on car seat ratings though – every car seat on the market is safe, the ratings are mostly about  ease of use and fit to vehicle, and sometimes they incorporate things like extra EPS foam, etc. I loved the BabyTrend (so easy to adjust the strap height, though a pain in the a** to replace the cover after washing), but our old car seat played a starring role in the daycare drama, and we won’t be reusing it with McKiddle #2, so I’m considering lighter weight options (the Maxi Cosi Mico is my favorite, followed by a plain black Graco Snugride 22) that only go up to a 22 pound weight limit. On a side note – I cannot wait to buy a new car seat and a double stroller – I wrapped so much emotion into that damn car seat from April on, and it’s time to move on.

At 11 months we moved Thomas to a convertible – though he would have still fit in his infant carseat. We purchased a Britax Marathon 70 and I adore it – right down to it’s Cowmooflage fabric. In all practicality, the Britax Roundabout would have been fine – Thomas will be a freshman in college when he weighs 70 pounds, but I liked the Cowmooflage and the Roundabout didn’t come in that fabric. Priorities, people. Priorities. For B’s car (where Thomas rides less frequently) and when we air travel, we have a Cosco Scenera – a top rated carseat that costs less than $40 at Walmart, but isn’t quite as comfy or easy to install as the Britax. It’s perfect for the 2nd car and really lightweight for checking at the airport.



Stroller - I swore I wouldn’t be the girl with the 3 strollers that everyone says you end up with. In general, I think travel systems are bulky and kind of a pain – I wanted to avoid that, so we bought the snap n’ go, and I intended to buy a good umbrella stroller for 6+ months, but then I wanted a jogger for the trails and running in our neighborhood. So we now have the 3 strollers every mom told me I’d end up with, and I’m currently obsessed with finding the perfect multi-use stroller as a result. Our garage holds:

  • Baby Trend Snap N’ Go – Handy fort he first 6 weeks, but I only used it for outings a 2 months, preferring the jogger for around the neighborhood. If I’d known about the Baby Jogger City Mini in 2010, I would have bought it without thinking twice and happily had only one stroller.
  • Baby Trend Jogging Stroller – I bought this because it was inexpensive (I would have loved a BOB) hoping that we would need a double stroller soon and wanting to double than single. I tolerated it at first as a placeholder before we had two kids, but grew to love it. I highly recommend this stroller if you don’t want to spend a mortgage payment on a jogger – and if we decide we want a real jogging stroller with 2 kids (I’m leaning towards an all-terrain that’s not technically a jogger), we’ll purchase the double version.
  • Chicco Umbrella Stroller – This is our stays in the car and travel stroller. I tolerate it but don’t love it. It’s nice that there’s a semi-recline and as far as an umbrella stroller goes, it does the job. But the shoulder straps are short, the crotch strap isn’t adjustable, the canopy’s a sham and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you want to spend $80 on a stroller because it comes in cute colors when you can get the same purpose out of a basic $20 umbrella stroller. But I do love that it’s orange, totally worth $60, right? :)

Ergo Organic Baby Carrier – I loved taking walks with Tom attached to me – I liked talking to him and the extra calories I burned didn’t hurt either. When Thomas was 4 months, I bought an Ergo to replace the Baby Bjorn we had borrowed. The Bjorn hurt my back, and I’d read about spine development concerns with them and decided if I was buying my own, I’d go a different route than the Baby Bjorn. Love the Ergo – especially the hip carry and the back carry for hiking. We never used a sling for T since we wanted him to nap and sleep in his crib rather than become accustomed to being held to sleep, but I could see myself buying the infant insert for the Ergo or buying a Moby type wrap with #2 for when I need my hands free to play with Thomas while the babe is awake.

Sloppy hip carry Ergo wearing in the Washington Dulles Airport.
 B, C and T (asleep in the Ergo) snowshoeing in the Colorado Mountains.

Pack N’ Play – We had T sleep in his crib from day one (B and I were very much believers in forming solid sleep patterns from the beginning, knowing that we’d personally be better parents if we had a semblance of good sleep at night), but we used the pack n’ play on the first floor so I didn’t have to run upstairs for every diaper change. He took a few naps in there, too, in the early days. I love this pack n’ play because it has the changing table and bassinet feature, and also has the different levels for the mattress. Plus it was gender neutral – we don’t find out the sex of McKiddles before they’re born, but if we did I’d stick with gender neutral for big stuff anyway. It’s lived on the first floor of our house for 6 months, and we pull it out for travel and guests now.

Months 0 – 3

Onesies – pretty sure Thomas only wore onesies all summer long, but if he hadn’t been a summer baby, he would have worn cotton one pieces. I loved Kimono style onesies and union suits – especially that first few weeks – and baby mitten cuffs were a must with scratchy Thomas.

Bouncer. I swear by this bouncer and this bouncer alone. Instead of vibrating, it bounces. T loved it, I loved it, and all of our neighbors have loved it since we retired it when T was 7 months old.

Baby Play Gym – I never would have thought to buy this, but our friends loaned it to us and T loved it. He played on it happily well into the second half of his first year. I feel like any variety of play gym will do.

Months 3 – 6
We continued to use most of the equipment from months 0-3 in months 3-6.

Cotton One Pieces and Onesies with Knit Pants  – I’m controversially anti-adult clothes on babies (I change out of my adult clothes into yoga pants as soon as I can, why would a baby want to wear them?), so T spent the first year of his life in one piece cotton sleep n’ play outfits (I liked Old Navy a lot for these for boys- in general they didn’t have words on them – because I also don’t love words on baby clothes- and they were inexpensive) and onesies and knit pants (loved Carter’s for these for boys). I don’t love a lot of the baby boy clothes available on the market, so my go-to look (to this day) is solid or subtly striped knits with socks. And I love Hanna Andersson’s for day and night.

Boppy - I didn’t see the benefits of the Boppy until T was a little bit bigger – then the support while nursing was amazing and I fell in love. I also used the boppy to help him learn to sit up – we had borrowed a bumbo, but I didn’t love it and will just got the boppy route with #2 instead of buying our own Bumbo.

Months 6 – 12

Radio Flyer Classic Walker Wagon – This was hands down the best purchase I made in Thomas’s first year of life. I paid $10 at a garage sale in our neighborhood when T was 11 months old, but I would have happily paid retail for it and never thought twice about it. We had gross motor concerns with Thomas because of his daycare, and this wagon put all of my concerns at bay. Before I brought this walker home, Thomas was terrified to cruise b/c other walkers were too fast. This is heavy and stable, and gave T the confidence to cruise, and he was walking independently within 2 weeks – before he turned one. It’s the sturdiest walker ever, goes slowly enough for new cruisers and is the best thing ever.   We’ve loaned it to friends and it’s had similar effects – getting their kiddos walking in anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Our physical therapist even went out and bought one for her clients when she saw it at our house – said it was the best walking aide she’d ever seen. He still loves the wagon, and I appreciate that it’s attractive and wooden for aesthetics. I will never part with this wagon, and might sing it’s praises everywhere I go.

High Chair – I honestly feel like the high chair thing doesn’t matter. I was sold on getting a Stokke Tripp Trapp until I saw our friends’ using one and realized it was totally impractical for babies and by the time it made sense, Thomas would be sitting in a booster at the table anyway. We used a Fisher Price Healthy Care high chair from months 6 – 12 that our friends loaned us (I pulled it to the table so that T ate his meals with us) – it took up space and screamed “We have a baby”, but it was honestly a perfect high chair. And now he’s in a Fisher Price booster seat pulled up to the table – we’ll use the high chair again for #2 and graduate to a booster at 1, again.

Yoga Mat – When Thomas started moving and sitting to play, I put all of his toys on a yoga mat on our hardwood floors. It gave him a place to move comfortably and a little bit of padding, but rolled up quickly and easily when we needed it out of the way. We also have a large playmat, but this was great for those second 6 months when movement starting but not all over the place.

And for the toys:
Manhattan Toy Classic Skwish – A perfect toy for doctor’s appointments and church – mesmerizing and quiet, develops hand-eye coordination, and isn’t plastic.

Green Toys My First Stacker – A great fine motor skill toy. I appreciate that it’s BPA free and recycled material, I like the colors, and Thomas appreciates that it’s fun.

Vtech Move and Crawl Ball – I have the world’s greatest Aunt. I was mentioning that I was concerned that at 10 months Thomas wasn’t crawling, and she showed up at my house the next day with toys someone had recommended to her that got their child crawling. This was one of them – it enticed Thomas to crawl in his own way, so at least we knew he’d move, and he loved to play with it.

Vtech Sit to Stand Learning Walker – This is not a good walker for new cruisers who aren’t balanced on their own yet, but Thomas loved to play with it. It was a good purchase for entertainment, and once he was walking on his own, he enjoyed pushing it around the house. It lives in our basement play area now (I rotate toys to keep the interest alive) and T still goes over to play with it and dance to the music.

Things I wish I had had:
Aden and Anais Swaddling Blankets – They’re huge, they’re perfect for swaddling, and they’re lightweight for a summer baby. Thomas was a champion sleeper – in large part to swaddling, and as he grew, swaddling became more difficult. We received SO many blankets, but none did the job like these do- I just wish I’d had my own.


Things we didn’t use or won’t use again:
Swing - This is one of those things your kid will either love or hate. Luckily we borrowed our swing, because Thomas didn’t care for it. I will say, it sounds like a lot of parents who love the swing use it for naps, but since that wasn’t the route we wanted to go, we didn’t use it for that purpose, so we may not know the magic of the swing if you have a baby who does like or want to be swung to sleep.

Exersaucer/Jumperoo – We own the jumperoo and borrowed the exersaucer, so we won’t be not using them in the future, but I wouldn’t think I HAD to have one if we didn’t have access to them. T couldn’t reach the floor in his Jumperoo until he was about 10 months old, and the exersaucer entertained him long enough for me to throw in a load of laundry if necessary. We used one or the other every few days for about 10 minutes, but we spent most of Thomas’s awake time working on floor time.

Bumbo – We used it, but I don’t think I’ll miss it round 2. I’d rather put T on a playmat than sitting in the Bumbo, and I thought the Boppy pillow did a better job of teaching him to use his core to sit. That’s my totally unprofessional opinion on baby sitting development.

Note – I was not compensated for any of these recommendations, they’re just what we used. Also, Amazon affiliate links aren’t allowed for Colorado websites, so you can click away to your heart’s content.

Comments

  1. This is so helpful! Especially the part about the carseat. I was leaning towards one of the larger ones, but you’ve totally swayed me :)

  2. Anonymous says:

    your list is spot on with my opinions. Especially the car seat. I only went with one up to 22 pounds and couldn’t even use it that long b/c it was way too heavy at around 15 pounds. I also loved my Ergo and thought it was the best money I spent. baby gym was great but yes anyone will do, you don’t need to pay $80 for one. I tried a bumbo for one day and returned it b/c my kid barely fit in it and he is skinny. I actually did not use a boppy but used a regular pillow I had for support during breast feeding. I also have a swing we used only for maybe 1 month while I was making dinner. It looks brand new and I really need to get it on craigslist. I feel bad MIL paid so much for it and we never used it (but I never had it on my registry so not sure why she bought it) And we never had an exersaucer/jumperoo either. My kid was walking at 10 months so him not having those certainly didn;t hinder his development. In fact at times I think maybe it helped him be early at many things. Yeah to be a minimalist! Lesley

  3. An Ergo is just about my one and only “MUST BUY” if we ever have Baby #2.

    We bought a portable swing, jumperoo, etc all at the local secondhand store. Babies vary so much in terms of whether or not they like things like a swing and jumperoo that I think there’s no sense in paying full price for them.

  4. Thank you for this post. I am definitely going to keep it so I can look back to it when I’m ready to have a baby.

  5. to add to your comment on the aden and anais blankets-they are wonderful for nursing covers as well. baby doesn’t get too hot, super big to prevent sneak peeks, and each pack comes with a plain white-no crazy baby blanket pattern to scream “I’M NURSING A KID UNDER HERE!”. i tie a knot with two ends and just slip it over my head. when i’m done it folds up and takes minimal space in the baby bag or my purse.

  6. This is seriously so helpful. I’ve been doing some initial research and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Ryan is totally a minimalist and the idea of all that baby stuff just gives him fits. I’m trying to work with that. You are officially pinned.

    And I would sure love to see that spreadsheet you speak of. I’m a big fan of the spreadsheet. ;)

  7. And because I’m crazy and have more to say – I’m really happy to hear that you would have possibly gone with the City Mini Jogger. I’ve been leaning that direction precisely because I was hoping to go with one stroller. We’ll see if that works.

    Also, I’m wierdly treating your recommendations as the Holy Grail of Baby Recs. I mean, if it’s good enough for the McKiddles, it’s more than good enough for the Woodwards. ;)

  8. We have the Ergo infant insert languishing in our nursery closet right now, waiting for use ages down the road. You are more than welcome to borrow it. Remind me and I’ll give it to you at Callum’s party.

  9. OK, I have one thing to add–I agree that once the baby hits 22 pounds you don’t need to be hauling him around in an infant seat anymore–BUT it is helpful to have a seat that he technically can fit in IF you plan to fly with him. I would KILL for Callum to fit in his infant seat for plane rides. That way we could snap it into the stroller instead of having to haul it through the airport separately, and it would be much more compact and lightweight.

    Even if you don’t plan to buy the baby his own seat, sometimes there’s an extra seat on the plane you can take, and even if we are just bringing the seat to use on the trip and expect to check it, I prefer to gate check it so that it’s less likely to get damaged being thrown around with heavy luggage, which means hauling it through the airport anyway. At which point I would LOVE to be able to use our infant seat.

    That’s my only caveat with your 22-pound capacity policy. Otherwise I think you’re totally right!

  10. This is a great list. Next time around I am definitely getting an Ergo (I’ve borrowed my sister’s) and think I’ll send the swing to the Goodwill. My daughter spent approximately 20 minutes in it, total and it takes up half a closet to store. I always tell my friends to borrow, borrow, borrow. No reason so spend a small fortune on something you’ll use for 3 months (or NEVER!)

  11. Great recommendations! We didn’t have an exersaucer or jumperoo at home and I think that was the BEST thing we could have done for my daughter’s development – she was in it enough at daycare so I wanted her to have as much floor time as she could at home.

    The carseat thing is tough – I do agree with Jess, though that the infant carseat is SO much easier to travel with, and to use in different cars. MUCH easier to install – we used it for a really long time (probably 18 months at least?) in grandparents cars even when we had our big carseat just to avoid having to uninstall and reinstall those suckers every time. I have a peanut, so even now she’s only like 26 lbs at 2 years old, but we used the infant carseat in our cars until 1, but had stopped actually using it to carry her in quite a while before that.

  12. I love this list! I feel like I go overboard on clothes though.

    I ADORE that bouncer and will probably recommend it to everyone I know that has a baby until the day I die. If you have that bouncy seat, I think it’s really all you need. Like you, I never let C sleep in the swing (with the exception of a few naps), so it didn’t get a ton of use.

    Even though we moved C up to his “big” carseat at one, he could have stayed in his Chicco Key Fit 22 a lot longer. I probably won’t get another seat for baby #2, but I would recommend people get a higher weight limit seat simply because the longer a baby can stay in that seat, the safer they are. Our boys are tiny, but if you have a 23-pound 10 month old, they’re going to be much safer in an infant seat than in a rear-facing convertible.

    Also, I was talking with a friend the other day whose daughter received physical therapy due to gross motor delays. She mentioned that jumperoos and exasaucers aren’t great for baby’s development because of the pressure and position they put the hips in. She said they were fine if the baby’s feet were flat on the floor. I used them both with C (the exasaucer was borrowed), but he probably never spent more than 30 minutes a day in them, which I think is probably reasonable for a normally developing child. Oh, interestingly, the same goes for baby carriers, except the Ergo and wrap-style carriers. I found that interesting, and thought you might too.

  13. @Longbrake – I’ve actually looked into the “infat car seat is safer” theory and it’s not super cut and dry – it’s more about the fit, and a concern for newborns in convertibles more than a 6 – 12 month old rearfacing in a convertible. And yeah, a 6 month old in a rear facing car seat might not have the same upper body support that a 1 year old has. But, from what I’ve read, as long as the seat fits an infant properly, it’s safe – many convertibles come with infant inserts to better fit a newborn to the seat, but fit rarely is a problem when you’re talking about a 20 lb 1 year old. Also, once a kid is in a convertible, parents are more likely to forward face their kiddo sooner, and rear-facing is absolutely 100% the safest for as long as the seat allows it.

    And yep, you’re absolutely right: jumperoos and exersaucers are not recommended by pediatricians or development experts. I wonder how long it will be before the bumbo makes the list!

  14. Ah, the Bumbo already has made the list! However, I’ve only ever heard concerns expressed over it when used in an institutional environment, like and orphanage, where children may be left for hours at a time sitting in one. I haven’t done a whole lot of looking into that, especially since I didn’t use mine a whole lot.

    Also, the car seat info is good to know! We moved C into his convertible seat when he was 19 pounds, so he still could have ridden in his infant seat at that point. I have to say, that now that it’s cold here, I sometimes wish I could still use the infant seat when I just need to run into a store for a quick errand. It would so much easier not to mess with coats on, out the door, coats off, into the seat, five minutes of driving, coats on to go into the store, coats off in the store, coats back on to go out, coats off to get back in the seat. In the winter, I think the convenience of being able to do that trumps the weight issue.

    Also, I was wondering why mittens made the must-have list. I never used mine and have actually gotten rid of them. I was thinking maybe I didn’t need them because C was almost always swaddled. I have friends whose kids have thin, brittle nails, and even though they’re older, she still has a hard time keeping their nails clipped, so that would be a case where they’d be super useful. Just curious since we had opposite thoughts on them.

  15. I agree with Kim. This is the Holy Grail of baby crap recommendations. Mostly because my 3rd (?) thought after HOLY CRAP! I’M REALLY PREGNANT!!!?! was about the plastic baby shit. ;)

    I’m sure that dooms me to a life surrounded by blinking plastic toys, but ya know. Whatever.

    Also… the words on baby clothes? YUCK!!! I’m violently opposed to words on baby clothes. Also… baby suits. baby bow ties. Creepy.

    I need to finalize my “results” for the baby gear post, but thank you thank you thank you for helping me out with this. :) :)

  16. I have been working on one of these posts too since we are at the 6 month mark….but it keeps getting longer and longer and longer. I agree with you on the carseat thing…we got a snugride 35 and at 20 lbs we are already eyeing switching to the convertible option.

    And strollers? I was right there with you. Totally thought our BOB would do it all. And we now own 3.

    Love the wagon walker recommendation…we are going to have to check that out!

  17. ahh i’m so excited to have this. if emily recommends it – i believe it!

    i’m still in the “overwhelmed by the decisions i must now make” phase, but luckily i’ve got some time!

    this will be my go-to resource when i go to make that registry :)

  18. Wow Emily! Your list is so thoughtful and detailed! Super impressive. While I have no personal need for it, I have many friends having babies so I skimmed it for gift giving purposes.

  19. By far, the best baby gear list I’ve seen to date in the blogworld. Maybe b/c I 100% agree with & are using almost every item you listed?

    Quinn hasn’t worn anything BUT those sleep n play outfits. We have all these cute clothes in her closet that she’s already outgrown, ha!!

  20. I’m currently in month 5 of pregnancy for the first time and I would love to hear your thoughts on how you picked the breast pump you did and why. Its amazing how many comparisons there are for cribs and car seats and much harder to find comparisons on breast pumps.

    My current plan is to go back to work full time (thankfully i work opposite hours to my husband so we’ll have baby all day with minimal day care), and my company is pump-friendly but I still am not sure what to compare!

  21. Thank you for this post. I am definitely going to keep it so I can look back to it when I’m ready to have a baby.