Useful baby stuff

I've been asked a lot recently by friends for product recommendations for useful baby things (our son is now 18 months old). I remember how daunting it was to have a new baby on the way. A few friends dropped off literally truckloads of hand-me-down baby stuff, much of which were confounding collections of plastic tubes, cylinders, and funnels that were apparently supposed to connect in ways that might be useful. We are extremely grateful for what we were given, especially all the incredible baby clothing and things like co-sleepers, Pack & Play portable cribs, bouncy chairs, swaddles, and more. Every kid is going to be very different, but here's what Mako ended up using. Many of these recommendation originated from our good designer friends Jan and Peter, who have aesthetic requirements and tried to balance function with "least offensiveness." I've marked these recommendations with "J/P". Ours are either unmarked, or are marked with "P/E". Note that I haven't done exhaustive research or testing; a lot of these items we inherited from friends with older kids, and we didn't feel like we had to buy new things.

Nextdoor and Craigslist are great resources for used baby stuff (free or at a low cost). Most people with kids are in a constant state of looking for ways to get rid of things their kids have outgrown.

  • Diapers - Mako didn't seem to care what he used. We ended up with Pampers Swaddlers, which is what we were given at the hospital. When Mako hit 16 lbs, we started using Huggies Overnites at night (size 3 minimum).
  • Baby wipes - Mako had some mild butt rash until we switched to Water Wipes (thanks, Peter K., for the recommendation!)
  • Wipes dispenser - wipes are surprisingly difficult and annoying to get out of the package. OXO Tot PerfectPull makes it easier when you have explosions, etc. 
  • Baby Clothing - J/P: you really don't need too much. We recommend kimono style tops (open in the front) so that you don’t have to put it over the babies head. Just a little easier when the baby is tiny. P/E: we used hand-me-downs of all types. Mako didn't care—this is really for the parents. When we had to buy clothing, we often went to Carter's and looked for coupons. Functional baby clothing is fairly inexpensive.
  • Car seat - J/P: unless you are walking home, you can't take your baby home without a car seat. We have this one. The Maxi-Cosi Mico AP Infant Car Seat was was the least offensive according to Peter's design eyes. And, it also happens to be one of the lightest ones out there. P/E:  We use the Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat, which we like a lot.
  • Baby carrier - J/P: The Ergo carrier is very popular but I prefer my Beco Gemini. You can wear it 4 ways and you can face the baby in our out which you cannot do with the ergo. You also don't need any extra parts when the baby is small. Sierra fit in the Beco right away with out any "newborn insert" like the ergo needs. I still find that this is my most preferred way to get around town…I use this every single day (even if it is just to unload groceries from the car with Sierra), so make sure you get one you like and that is comfortable. This on feels like it distributes the weight most similarly to my outdoor backpacks. Maybe I am biased because it was designed by a climber.:) P/E: Totally agree. We tried 3-4 different carriers and also ended up liking the Beco Gemini the best.
  • Child carrier pack - For hiking, we've just started using the Osprey Packs Poco - Premium Child Carrier. We found one on REI Garage during a sale, and picked it up for a great price. At 18 months, Mako is the perfect length to back-kick me in the nuts when he's in the Beco Gemini carrier. It's really not pleasant, so I've stopped carrying him that way. Now, I can take him on hikes again.
  • Baby sleeper - something for the baby to sleep in for the first few of months if you aren't going to use a crib right away. J/P: we used a bassinet propped up by the bed for the first 2 months while Sierra was still feeding in the middle of the night. Our bassinet happened to come with our stroller so we used this instead of buying one. After two months, we moved her to her crib and we use the bassinet when she needs to sleep at other peoples houses. P/E: We used a hand-me-down co-sleeper (Arm's Reach Concepts Co-Sleeper Mini Arc), which worked well (thanks, Warren!). We put a Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper Bassinet Mini Plush Sheet on top of it.
  • Baby lounger / bouncy chair - J/P: just some lightweight chair that you can move around the house easily and put the baby down securely, so you can get things done but keep him near you. There are lots out there. We found the baby bjorn bouncer to be the least gaudy and Sierra used it until she was about 9 months old. P/E: I can't remember which bouncer we used, but it had a vibrating feature, which Mako didn't seem to notice. Any bouncer seems fine.
  • Changing table pad - J/P: some place soft for the baby to lie while you change his diaper. he will be visiting it often. We went organic for this one. P/E: We used the Summer Infant Contoured Changing Pad, plus some some cotton covers. No complaints, except that we never ended up using the strap and buckle. If you tuck this underneath pad, it can scratch the surface you put it on, so be careful.
  • Changing table - We eventually bought a changing table. The Delta Children Bentley Changing Table was sturdy and inexpensive
  • Pacifiers - J/P: any kind he ends up liking will work, but if you can get the baby to take a pacifier early it seems to be a great thing to have. If he will take it, it will be something that can almost always calm him down when he is fussy, which makes getting out easier. when you find one he likes, get 3 or 4. We have 4 - on lives in the crib, one lives in the car seat/stroller, one lives in the baby carrier, and one lives in the living room. Sierra likes these. P/E: Mako seemed to take anything, and we ended up with Philips Avent Soothies. We also sometimes clip them to Mako using Best Baby Pacifier Clips. You can stretch the hole in the pacifier out and push the button / clip through it.
  • Bottles - J/P: if you can get the baby to take a bottle early this will give you the freedom to get away to do your own thing (if you are breast feeding). Otherwise, he will need your boob every 2-3 hours so you can't do much without him. This is also good for going out in case you are in a situation where pulling out your boob to feed him isn't so easy. i just use the bottles that came with my pump and bought some nipples that fit in them. P/E: We ended up with Medela bottles and Dr. Brown's nipples (levels up with your baby).
  • Breast pump - J/P: to get the milk out of you to fill the bottles :) I got mine for free through my medical insurance. most insurance plans offer something so you should check what you can get. Dr. Browns nipples fit in these bottles and they are only a couple of bucks for a 2 pack of nipples. Sierra still drinks out of these bottles. They are small which was nice because they pack small and Sierra was able to learn to hold her own bottle fairly early. P/E: We ended up with a rented, high-quality pump from the hospital, which worked better than the free Obama-care pump we got.
  • Baby nail clippers/scissors - J/P: We did not know how sharp and how quickly baby nails grow. If we don't cut her nails every few days, she always wakes up with scratches on her face. We got these and they are a bit pricey, but I’m sure others work fine as well. P/E: We ended up with the same ones, and they work well, although Pam was always too afraid to cut Mako's nails because they were so delicate when he was a newborn!
  • Pajamas with fold over sleeves or baby mitts - J/P: even when the nails are short, Sierra was still sometimes able to scratch herself. She slept with her hands covered at night for the first 3-4 months. Sierra wore these all the time til she grew out of them. P/E: Mako never scratched himself, so we never had to cover his hands or feet.
  • Baby safe wash/soap - because their skin is so sensitive at first. anything baby safe is fine. P/E: we used Johnson's baby head-to-toe wash (thanks, Curtis, who gave us a ton of it) and Aveeno Baby Wash & Shampoo.
  • A few swaddle blankets - J/P: the aden and anais muslin blankets seem to be the ones that everyone gave us, and they seem fine. They are breathable and pack small. if you just keep one in the bag that you carry around with you, you have a makeshift nursing cover, picnic blanket, sun shade, and blanket all in one. People also use these for swaddling at night of for naps….we never swaddled Sierra so we just used them as a blanket. P/E: I loved all sorts of swaddles, but the only one Pam wanted to use was The Ollie Swaddle, which is velcro-based and is super easy to use. We also love the 36 x 36" Milkbarn Big Lovey, Grey Whale blanket, which is super lightweight, big, and versatile.
  • Soft cloths - J/P: we got this as a gift and it is really soft for using around the eyes and on the face. P/E: We ended up with a bunch of these inexpensive, soft burp clothes.
  • Bath / bath seat - we picked this one mostly because it looked the nicest. Sierra seems to think it is really comfortable. She feels safe in it. P/E: We ended up with the PRIMO EuroBath, which was big enough to grow with Mako until he started taking baths in the real bathtub at around 14 months (he won't stay in a bath seat)
  • Disposable changing pad - Our diaper bag came with a fold-up changing pad, but it's great to keep a couple of these in the car and a couple in your bag for emergencies. These pack really small. http://amzn.to/2b8LH92
  • Stroller - J/P: you might not need this right away. We use the beco a lot more around town (probably 98% of the time). There are a lot out there so if you think you might use a stroller, get the one that works best for how you will use it. We wanted something with shocks, that folded easily, and that handled well (bonus that this came with a bassinet that Sierra slept or napped in for many months...This is a little pricey, but we have the Bugaboo Cameleon3. P/E: We use the Baby Jogger City Mini 3W, which we love (with the Baby Jogger Parent Console). It's sturdy, light, and relatively inexpensive. We also use a hand-me-down umbrella stroller when we need to travel really light.
  • Running stroller: J/P: We just got a running stroller, and looking back now, if you think you might get a running stroller in the future, it might make sense to get just a running stroller from the beginning and get attachments for your car seat so you can just have 1 stroller. We did not do this at first because we just thought we wouldn't ever want a running stroller because they seem so big and obtrusive. So that is one thing to keep in mind...the running strollers don't fold up or pack small. They are big and heavy. P/E: We use the BOB Revolution SE running stroller.
  • Pack & play -We have a standard Graco Pack & Play, but ended up using the Lotus Travel Crib a lot more. Mako loves it and plays in it every day (it's his secret base / cave).
  • Nursing tank tops - J/P: I just wore these all the time for months and threw some sort of cardigan, long sleeve or sweatshirt over the top. I moved over to a proper nursing bra when I went back to work and had to wear regular clothes again.
  • Steam sterilizer - We used Dr. Brown's Microwave Steam Sterilizer to sterilize bottles and nipples.
  • Baby monitor - J/P: these are expensive and kinda crappy. use an old iphone and download the baby monitor app for $3.99. P/E: We had a DropCam in Mako's room, but ended up using a Infant Optics DXR-8 Video Baby Monitor. All of these products are, indeed, kind of crappy, especially if you're a consumer electronics fan. But the Infant Optics works well, and you can push a single button to turn on and off (or use audio only). It also unfortunately clobbers local Wi-Fi, so any Wi-Fi devices near the camera will probably go offline.
  • White noise machine - J/P: We think it's best to teach the baby to sleep with noise and to not rely on a noise machine. P/E: We used one for a bit. They all seem to be fine.
  • Activity mat - We had a couple of these handed down, and it seems like 100% of my friends had one. Mako spent a lot of time laying on one of these looking up at all the dangling goodies. Skip Hop Treetop Friends Activity Gym 
  • Newborn lounger - Mako spends a huge amount of time on his Boppy. Even at 18 months, he takes his milk on it.
  • Mattress underpads - We put waterproof changing pads under the crib mattress sheets so you can replace everything quickly in the middle of the night if there is a vomiting incident
  • Baby bath towels - J/P: we have these because we got them as a gift,  but not sure what is so special about them. Our regular bath towels are softer. But some of them are really cute.
  • Baby head support pillow - Newborns can't hold their heads up when they are in things like baby seats. We didn't use a head support pillow, and Mako favored one side, which resulted in a slightly-lopsided head. If you care about this, pick up a Baby Elephant Ears Head Support Pillow.
  • Crib - We use the Stork Craft Tuscany; it's sturdy, inexpensive, and can be converted all the way to a day bed in multiple steps. We use the Safety 1st Heavenly Dreams mattress and Serta Perfect Crib Mattress Cover.
  • Bottle drying rack - Boon Grass Countertop Drying Rack. We have bottles, nipples, pacifiers, toothbrushes, and more drying on this rack at all times.
  • Bottle brushPlaytex SmartSpace Baby Bottle Brush. It's hard to clean inside bottles and nipples.
  • Hanging jumperGraco Bumper Jumper. This is designed to hang from a doorway, but we adapted ours to hang from a ceiling mount (obviously, be sure that your mount can support the weight of a jumping baby).
  • Swing cradleFisher-Price Snugabunny Cradle N' Swing . Mako was not a good napper, and spent a ton of time napping while swinging. Our hand-me-down Cradle N' Swing was battery-powered only, but I used a couple alligator clips and soldered an AC power adapter in place of the batteries.
  • Outdoor swing - It's been so great having a swing in our yard. First, we used Eastern Jungle Gym High Back Full Bucket Swing With Coated Chain and an Eagles Nest Outfitters - Atlas Hammock Suspension System to attach the swing to a tree branch. When Mako got heavier, we used a Flexible Flyer Lawn Swing Frame anchored to the ground with a Flexible Flyer Ground Anchor Kit. The swing frame is not sturdy enough to be used without the anchor.
  • Glider - We did breastfeeding and bottle feeding a lot in a glider. We chose the Dutailier Modern Glider Multiposition and Recline, which looks good and has a great gliding mechanism. They have all sorts of combinations of multiposition and recline, and we chose one that has both. We also use a My Brest Friend Adjustable Nursing Stool while on the glider.
  • Baby proofing - I like these electrical outlet covers, which use a spring-loaded front plate so the outlet closes if a plug is pulled. We also have a couple light switches that a baby can reach (what?), and we use E-Lock Switch Guard Light Switch Covers on those. Finally, a few sharp table corners and bed frames are handled using Leyaron 12 Pack Corner Edge Protector, Table Desk Corner Edge Protector Guard Cushions and Baby Mate 8 PCS Ball Shape Clear Furniture Corner Protectors with Matt Finish.
  • High chair - We love this high chair, which is simple and easy to clean. OXO Tot Sprout Chair 
  • Hook on baby chair for table - We take this to friends' houses and keep it in the car in case we end up at a restaurants without high chairs. It doesn't work on all tables, but nothing will. Chicco 360 Degree Rotating Hook On Chair 
  • Sippy cups - We have settled on 2 straw cups, since Mako doesn't seem to be as great with sippy cups. This one seals completely and is leak-proof when in a bag: The First Years Take & Toss Spill-Proof Straw Cups, These are cheap and effective: Philips Avent My Twist N Sip Straw Cup Blue/Orange, 12 Ounce , Stage 3 
  • Food bowls and prep - Our basic baby bowl is the Gerber Graduates Bunch-a-Bowl. This one is great for mashing food like avocados (we make all of our own baby food): NUK Mash and Serve Bowl for Making Homemade Baby Food,
  • Bibs - Basic and waterproof: Waterproof Baby Bibs with Snaps, Unisex 
  • Wifi scale - This is totally unnecessary, but it's been fun to track Mako's weight over time: Withings Smart Kid Scale, Wireless