Yesterday I wrote down a slew of recommendations for baby gear for a pregnant friend. She and her husband have parenting ideas similar to ours, so I get to pass along all of the info I’ve collected over the last 18 months (when I found out I was pregnant). Here is my not-so-concise list of recommendations (subject to updates).
Evenflo Triumph Convertible Carseat – fantastic ratings by Consumer Reports, more affordable than Britax, and the only carseat out there with an adjustment on the side rather than at the foot of the seat (which is important when your baby is going to be rear-facing for 1+ years). This seat will last a good 3-4 years depending on the size of your child. For newborns, you’ll want to get a head support (just make sure it doesn’t create extra bulk under the baby’s back) and you may need to use a swim noodle or rolled up towel to get proper recline.
Graco Snugride Infant Carseat – If you want a carseat that can double as a carrier, this is your seat. Again, great Consumer Reports ratings. It can snap into a stroller, and a big benefit is the reclining position, so baby won’t slump. We found it to be easier to install in a car equipped with a lap belt in the middle-back; if your car only has shoulder belts, then you’ll most likely want to use the LATCH system to anchor the seat properly.
Ergo Baby Carrier – we tried the Baby Bjorn, the Snugli, and a pouch sling and this is by far my favorite carrier. It’s soft and comfortable, puts the weight around your hips instead of your back, and can be used until your child reaches 40 lbs. (By contrast, the Baby Bjorn can only be used until the baby is 25 lbs.) There is an additional insert for use with newborns, and this carrier can be worn on the front, side, and back. Not only that, but there is an attached hood with anchors so that when the baby falls asleep, his head doesn’t loll to the side.
Bumbo – I did not register for this because I didn’t consider it a necessity but my friend Beth made this off-registry (gasp!) purchase for us. It turns out that this is one awesome little seat! It gave Jack a chance to sit up before he could do so himself, and he absolutely loved the new viewpoint. I am convinced that this seat helped him develop the strength to sit up more quickly than he would have otherwise. It was great for when Joe or I was home alone with Jack and needed to go to the bathroom or make lunch – we just plopped Jack into the seat, sat him in close proximity, and he was a happy camper. We only just now stopped using it at 9 months when he crawled right out of it (it had about a 6 month run).
Electric Breast Pump – I love the Ameda Purely Yours. It’s a double electric pump and one of two on the market that is recommended for daily pumping (outside of hospital-grade pumps that will break the bank) – because of both longevity and support of a healthy milk supply. I bought the one that comes in a backpack; along with the pump parts, it contains an ice pack bag for milk storage and a hand pumping adapter. I also love that this pump can be plugged in, used with batteries, or hooked up to your car for on-the-go pumping (which I have indeed done!). The tubing is designed so that milk never gets backed up, unlike with the Medela equivalent. It can also be more affordable than the Medela depending on the accessories you get.
Manual Breast Pump – If you only plan to pump occasionally or you want something that travels well, the Avent Isis is fantastic. It comes with a petal insert to massage the milk ducts during pumping, although I found it worked better for me when I removed the insert.
Bottles – see this post for more information on these. In short, we use Playtex Ventaire but I would recommend
Cloth Diapers – Cloth diapers are cheaper than disposables, better for the environment, and great for your baby’s skin. The type of cloth diaper you use really depends on individual preference, daily schedule/lifestyle, and access to a washing machine. If you plan to use a diaper service (in many cases more affordable than using coin-op machines), you don’t have much choice in the matter of diaper type. You will have to go with what the service provides – typically chinese prefolds. We actually prefer prefolds because they are cheap, highly absorbent, easier to wash and dry more quickly than other types, and did I mention cheap? If you want to purchase your own stash of diapers to wash, a stash of prefolds and waterproof covers can usually be obtained for less than $100 (varies depending upon newness of diapers, how fancy the covers are, and how many you need to work with your preferred laundry schedule). Unlike the cloth diapers of old, “prefolds” have a reinforced center and require less folding. There is still some folding involved, and you can use a Snappi to fasten rather than the sharp pins, but you can avoid folding altogether depending on which type of cover you get.
Covers for Cloth Diapers – For a newborn, our hands-down favorite was the Prorap. This cover has gussets on the legs to prevent leaks (although leaks are not totally avoidable with a newborn) and a dip in the front to accommodate the umbilical stump. Once the stump area healed and Jack outgrew newborn covers (at about 2 weeks of age), our favorites were Imse Vimses. They are on the pricier side, but we have had fewer leaks because no area of the diaper is exposed and the material is extremely breathable. Also, they make a “night” version that is double-enforced to prevent leaks. We also use Bummis and Bumkins (both great for those of you who don’t want to use snappis) now that Jack is bigger. Bummis don’t have leg gussets and there was a time when Jack was in between sizes, so it wasn’t a smooth transition. Bumkins didn’t work when Jack was smaller because the tabs have rough edges that cut into his belly when sitting. They are awesome now that he is bigger and fills out the cover better, and they require less washing because the material does not absorb smells. As far as fastener type – velcro is better for smaller babies (easier to fasten) but snaps are better for babies than can get velcro unfastened.
Odds and Ends:
California Baby products – they make shampoo, baby wash, sleep-inducing bubble bath, sunscreen, diaper area solution, etc., all with non-toxic natural ingredients.
A&D Diaper Ointment – one of a few ointments that are recommended for use with cloth diapers because it does not contain zinc oxide (which is also harsh on baby’s skin). The few times that Jack has gotten a rash, we’ve had great results with this ointment.
Hyland’s Teething Tablets – homeopathic tablets to take the edge off baby’s painful gums.
Breast Pads – I liked Lansinoh disposables when my milk was out of control (the only ones I used that never leaked), especially because they give you other gifts in the boxes (like their awesome milk storage bags). Later I switched to a thick cloth washable pad (basically, go with anything other than the paper-thin Gerber).
The Baby Book by Dr. Sears – I have this book as well as What to Expect the First Year. What to Expect has some major inaccuracies and is not up-to-date in many regards (the most glaring problem is the information on nutrition, which is not even in line with the AAP). The Baby Book is much more comprehensive, covers a larger time frame, and is organized in 3-month chunks of time to cover the variations in when a child reaches particular milestones. The Sears are very supportive of cosleeping and breastfeeding, as well.
Be Prepared – this book is aimed at dads, but it has good information for anyone. It gets points for humor, as well.
Happiest Baby on the Block – Dr. Harvey Karp tells you the basics of soothing a baby using the 5 S’s. We use these techniques every single day. I prefer the DVD since you get to see Dr. Karp demonstrate all of the techniques and how to combine them. If you were to only get ONE baby reference guide, this would be it. Oh, and get this before you have the baby so you can memorize it – you will need this information the most during the first week.
The No-Cry Sleep Solution – While the title is somewhat misleading (nothing is a cure-all when it comes to sleep, and there is little you can do to make your baby sleep through the night before s/he is developmentally ready), I still love this book. Tons of great ideas for gently helping your baby sleep better.
Child Behavior (ILG, Ames, and Baker) – This book is amazing. All of the information is based on research done at the Gesell Institute of Human Development. It is organized by subject (i.e. sleep, eating, intelligence) and also has an ages & stages section. If you want to know what to expect behaviorally, and a guide on how to avoid problems, this guide will help. (I have also heard that Wonder Weeks is a good one, but I believe this book covers more developmental territory.)
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Le Leche League – I prefer to use kellymom.com as a breastfeeding reference since it’s easily searchable and up-to-date with the research links provided, but the LLL’s book is great for when you can’t get to a computer.
That’s all I can think of for now. Feel free to ask questions if you think I forgot something (because I probably did). If you have other suggestions, go ahead and comment because I’m sure it will be helpful!