Baby related thoughts: On baby gear

This is the fourth of a series of posts on pregnancy, labor, birth, and being a new parent. See intro and full list.

When I first put together our baby registry, we were under the assumption that we were still going to be living with our friends, Rich and Liz, who were themselves expecting a baby a couple months after us. We were essentially limited to our one bedroom, space-wise, and were planning to keep the baby in there with us until we moved out in August. Little did we know that we’d purchase a house and that the baby would have his own room from the start!

Steve and I try to be minimalists and non-materialistic anyway (the key word being “try”), so we ended up borrowing things and getting lots of things secondhand. We’re lucky to be in a community of generous parents who were more than happy to send gently used baby clothes and gear over to us. But even with trying to be minimalistic, we still ended up with a lot of stuff!

Here’s our registry list which shows all the stuff we got, the stuff we didn’t get, and relevant comments.

  • Cradle – Our friend gave us a beautiful handmade wooden swinging cradle that she had used for her son. She said that he used it up to 5 months. (We ended up using it only briefly because I found it easier to have Steven in bed with us for the first two weeks; then we transitioned him to his crib – see below.)
  • Crib – We didn’t originally register for a crib because we thought we wouldn’t have room and were planning on just using the cradle (see above) initially. When we found out we were going to be in a house, we planned to just find one secondhand after we moved. Our generous friends surprised us with a gorgeous used crib at my baby shower!
  • Crib mattress – We wanted an expensive organic wool and cotton crib mattress, and while it was listed on our registry, we didn’t expect to get it from anyone because of the hefty price tag. We ended up purchasing this ourselves as one of our big-ticket baby items.
  • Bedding – We registered for organic sheets (didn’t receive), organic mattress pad (received 2), and organic blankets (we received the two we registered for, plus about 10 other blankets!). We did not register for matching bedding/decor (sheets, blankets, crib bumper, diaper dispenser) as having a matching nursery was not a priority for us. We got one set of sheets but haven’t used them yet; up to this point, we just have the mattress pad and a waterproof wool pad over that as it’s easier to pull off and wash when it gets soiled. Now that Steven is starting to roll around in his crib, though, the pad isn’t enough coverage so we’ll have to start using sheets. I’ll probably pick up another set of sheets soon.
  • Receiving blankets/swaddling blankets – We used extra-large flannel receiving blankets and “swaddling” blankets the first few months until Steven outgrew them; Steven slept much better when he was swaddled. Steve never felt like he mastered the swaddling technique, so he really liked the Kiddopotamus “SwaddleMe” blanket, which has handy velcro tabs that wrap around and secure the baby tightly. We got the “large” SwaddleMe blanket when Steven outgrew his “small” one.
  • Sleep sacks – These “wearable sleeping bags” come with sleeves or without and zip up so that the baby stays warm without the risk of suffocation. We didn’t use them until Steven was 4 months old, and it took a day of letting him cry while going to sleep as he was used to being tightly swaddled. He still sleeps better when he’s swaddled, so we usually use the SwaddleMe at night and sleep sacks during the day. We got all of our sleep sacks from family and friends, although I bought an organic lightweight sleep sack because the ones we had were all fleece.
  • Bookshelf/changing table – We got an Ikea “Expedit” bookcase for the baby room, intending to use the top surface as a changing table. We got a few bins which have been useful for stashing baby stuff.
  • Changing pad – We registered for one of those contoured changing pads that go on the top of changing tables, but didn’t receive one. As it turned out, we just used a folded towel on top of the bookcase for padding and that has worked fine.
  • Baby monitor – We got a baby monitor but didn’t follow the instructions for charging it, so I think we broke the battery for the mobile receiver. It still works if you plug it in, but what’s the use of that? As it turns out, we haven’t really needed it, because I hear the baby fine from our room next door.
  • Baby health care kit – Includes a digital thermometer, aspirator, nail clippers, medicine dropper. The digital thermometer was very cheap, taking about 10 minutes to read one’s temperature, so we ended up buying another [better] digital thermometer later. The nail clippers were the most useful thing but we’ve since misplaced them – baby nail clippers are tiny and easy to misplace!
  • BumGenius diapers – We intended to cloth-diaper, and after some research, these were the ones I picked. We bought 30 of them. More details coming in another post.
  • Custom-made diaper pail liner and wet bags – On the recommendation of a friend, we bought two diaper pail liners and three wet bags from happytushies.com. I’ll save cloth diapering remarks for another post.
  • Diaper wipes warmer – Despite getting a reputation as one of the most useless pieces of baby gear, I enjoy using our wipe warmer because of the easy-dispensing and because cold wipes seem slimy and clammy to me. So it’s more for me than for the baby.
  • Seventh Generation Baby Wipes – I get these in bulk through Amazon; we’re on our second shipment.
  • Allen’s Naturally Liquid Detergent – Also recommended by a friend, this concentrated detergent is all-natural, so I use it for washing all the baby clothes and diapers.
  • Bath stuff – We started out using Johnson’s Head to Toe Body Wash, but then received an assortment of Kiehl’s baby products and found the foaming body wash very fun to use. It’s almost gone so we’ll be going back to Johnson’s. We got a few hooded towels and about thirty washcloths, some which are still unwrapped (but I’m sure we’ll use them at some point!), including ten or so thin, tiny newborn-type washcloths. If we were the non-disposable wipe type, those would probably work nicely as reusable wipes; I’ve been finding them handy more lately for wiping up Steven’s mouth after I give him some infant Tylenol. The hospital had a little flexible plastic brush, which we brought home and found useful for washing the baby’s hair. My mom got us a big bottle of baby oil, which is good for cradle cap, and I got a jar of Cetaphil, recommended by the pediatrician, for Steven’s dry skin.
  • Clothing – We got plenty of clothing, used and new. I didn’t realize initially that “newborn” size is very different from “0-3 months,” or that “0-3 months” would be different from “3 months.” Sizes are not very consistent across brands, either, so that gets confusing, too! Steven outgrew his “newborn” clothes in about two weeks, outgrew 0-3 months by month 2, and has stayed in the 3-6 and 6 month range ever since (he’s now 5 months old). I don’t think you can really prepare that well for clothing and seasons and ages; you just won’t know if your baby will be in the 95th percentile for height (like Steven) or if they’ll be tiny for a long time. The larger clothes are boxed up in labeled boxes and stored in the closet.
  • Avent bottles – We got a set of Avent bottles which are yet unopened. I’m holding onto them in case we adopt a baby who can’t be breastfed.
  • Avent microwave steam sterilizer – Used for sterilizing bottles and breast pump components. The one we got came with bottles (which is why we haven’t opened our other pack of bottles). I pump/bottle-feed so infrequently, we’ve only ever used two of the four bottles that it came with.
  • Medela Pump-In-Style – A friend shipped us her breast pump, saving us the trouble of having to buy one.
  • Breast Friend feeding pillow – Recommended over the “Boppy,” this feeding pillow straps around your waist and supposedly positions the baby better for breastfeeding. I used this for the first month or so, but went with no-pillow breast feeding after that. Luckily a friend gave us hers, as they aren’t cheap, but now it’s just collecting dust.
  • Baby food stuff – We got a used food mill, lots of used and new bibs (which have been handy for the car seat, as Steven seems to spit up a lot when he’s in the car), Super Baby Food and Feeding Baby Naturally, and various used spoons, bowls, and sippy cups. (I haven’t yet started solid foods, so we’ll see how it goes!)
  • Feeding seat – Instead of a high chair (which wouldn’t fit in our home), we got the kind of seat that straps to an existing chair.
  • Baby carriers – We found a Baby Bjorn for only $8 at a thrift store which we’ve used the most frequently. We got a couple different kinds of baby slings, none of which I was able to figure out how to use successfully with Steven. I also bought an expensive Moby Wrap, basically a very long piece of fabric, which is more comfortable than the Bjorn for longer periods of time but more of a pain to get on. My sister gave us a Kelty backpack which we can’t use for a few more months. (I’ve heard from other moms that the Ergo Carrier is the best one out there – easy to put on and good back support.)
  • Car seat – Our friend is letting us borrow their once-used Graco infant car seat. I’ve ordered a Britax Boulevard car seat, as the same friend is having another baby soon and Steven is outgrowing the infant seat anyway.
  • Bike trailerWe’re holding off on getting one since they can’t be used until the baby is a year old.
  • Car mirror – My sister also sent us a car mirror that attaches to the back seat so you can see your baby… unfortunately it doesn’t work with our car!
  • Bouncy seat – A friend gave us a bouncy seat (the kind with a detachable lights-and-noise toy piece that goes across the front). So far this has been one of the most-used pieces of gear, although now that Steven is starting to be able to roll over, he doesn’t last as long in his chair anymore.
  • Pack and Play – We got a cheap one from a used kids gear store, and much to our regret, it’s impossible to close without two people wrestling with it. Next time… open it up and close it up to make sure it works easily! (We may try to ditch this one and get a better one, as we’re starting to use it more and more often.)
  • Jogging stroller – This was our other major purchase; we got a fancy Phil & Ted’s Sport stroller, which can be converted to hold two children (infant + toddler or toddler + toddler). Although one of the selling points of this one was that it reclined to hold an infant, Steven did not like riding in the stroller until he could sit up in it, so we’ve only started using it frequently. We also sprung for the shade cover.
  • Books – Lots of books, both used and new. Steven was very interested in Baby, Baby, which pairs photographs of babies with similarly posed animals, from about 3 months old. At 4 months, when he was able to sit up a little bit better, he started to enjoy having us read him other books, too.
  • Toys – Not many toys. A few rattles which Steven is mildly interested in (if hanging above him), several stuffed animals which he has no interest in yet, and some organic cotton “teething veggies” which he can’t hold to chew yet.

In retrospect, these would be my top “for sure” items (besides the necessities, like a car seat and clothing) for at least the first five months:

  • BumGenius diapers
  • Jogging stroller
  • Bouncy seat (I probably would have only tried to borrow this if someone hadn’t given it to me for free, though)
  • Breast pump (again, would have tried to borrow this – or rent it as necessary – if we hadn’t received it for free)
  • SwaddleMe blankets (the velcro had nearly worn out on our one SwaddleMe blanket, so I don’t know if it’s as likely that we’d have been successfully trying to borrow this from someone else)
  • Infant Tylenol and good working thermometer

And my “probably could do without” items:

  • Excess of baby bottles. If I were to do it again, I’d just get one or two and then run out and buy more if we needed to. But if breastfeeding hadn’t gone as well as it did, I’d probably be thankful to have lots of bottles on hand.
  • Moby wrap: The few times that I’ve used this have been great for me, but so far the Bjorn is just a lot more convenient. The Bjorn is about to get grown-out-of, though, and the Moby wrap works with older babies and toddlers, so I may change my mind in a few months!
  • Breast Friend feeding pillow. I only really used this for a few weeks, and I don’t know if it was really that necessary… but since a friend gave this to us for free, I’m not complaining!
  • Cradle: I can see how a co-sleeper (one that comes right up next to the bed) would have been convenient in the first couple weeks of bed-side nursing, but a laundry basket (padded with a towel) would have worked just as well as the cradle we received! We transitioned Steven to the crib fairly quickly, though, and I know other mothers have used a co-sleeper for much longer, so it probably depends more on what your plans are for co-sleeping or not.
  • Infant caps: We got about eleven different infant caps of which we only ever used one – the one that we received from the hospital that we used on a few chilly evenings! (Steven was a spring baby and the weather was just starting to get warmer.)
  • Baby oil: We probably did not need such a BIG bottle of baby oil for cradle cap. A couple of little sample-sized ones would have worked!
  • Baby monitor: We aren’t using it since I broke it… and our house isn’t big enough to use it!

Things that are on lots of “must-have baby gear lists” (which you might find in Parenting magazine and the like) that we haven’t missed (but which many other parents find useful, I’m sure):

  • Contoured changing pad: The folded towel works fine… and is easy to replace and wash.
  • Baby bathtub: Not needed because one of us gets in the bath with the baby. It’s a team effort to give the baby a bath, but it works for us right now. Moms or dads who would be giving the baby a bath by themselves would want some kind of baby bathtub, most likely, as they get pretty slippery when wet!
  • Car seat stroller frame: This is a frame with wheels that fits an infant car seat. Since we already had a jogging stroller and were only borrowing the car seat, we didn’t bother getting one.
  • Swing: One mom was shocked that we didn’t have an infant swing, asking me, “How are you going to get your baby to sleep?” I can see how a swing would be very useful for napping a fussy baby, but Steven has been quite easy and we haven’t noticed the lack of a swing. We don’t have the room for one, anyway.
  • Diaper cream: With the kind of cloth diapers I used (BumGenius), the microfiber/fleecy interior lining wicks away moisture so Steven never has diaper rash. We aren’t supposed to use diaper cream on the diapers, anyway.

Anyone else with opinions? What did you find most or least useful? In retrospect, would you do anything differently with baby gear acquisition?

10 thoughts on “Baby related thoughts: On baby gear

  1. Wow. That’s a lot of thoughts. Now that #2 is coming very soon, I’m rethinking about what we have, what I would still like to have (I say “like to have” because if we survived without it the first time, then we probably didn’t “need” to have it… unless it’s something like more sheets that has will have to be used by two kiddos instead of one) and what I should give away or sell because we just won’t use it.

    My response/thoughts are:
    1. I hope swaddling goes better this time around. We only had medium sized receiving blankets that we couldn’t get tight enough to stay on. Now we have one Swaddle Me and hope this helps with the newborn sleeping. (Cross your fingers!)
    2. I’ve noticed the contoured changing pad helps a lot later (if you install in correctly to the furniture it sits on) when the kiddo moves a lot during changes and you can strap them down (for security or piece of mind).
    3. I totally second your thoughts on bottles, especially if you plan on breastfeeding. We really only have one bottle and even then only used it sparingly. If we needed more, we could always pick them up pretty easily.
    4. We have loved our feeding seat that attaches to a chair much more than the one that attached to the table. It sits in our car for all occasions (visiting family, eating out, eating at the park, etc.) But we do still have a highchair too.
    5. We use our Pack N Play all the time and even have one at Great Grandmas (because lugging it around can be tiring and take up lots of room in our trunk).
    6. We used to use our monitor set (I think we have the same one) all the time, but now rarely ever. I noticed we used it much more when we were visiting other people’s houses where the rooms might not be anywhere near where everyone else is hanging out (or maybe all our families’ houses are much bigger than our 2 bedroom apartment). We did think though that we might use it to monitor our babe while visiting our neighbors, but that didn’t happen much.
    And lastly 7. Because of the timing of our first child and of our friends having babies, there wasn’t many people around to ask to “borrow” items they weren’t using themselves. This time around, I think I will try to ask around to borrow items (especially those expensive furniture type items, like glider and cosleeper) instead of going out to buy them AND also offer items I’m not currently using to more people. The plus is everyone saves a little money, the item gets more useful use, people can take a real “test drive” with an item them might want to buy and maybe we won’t have to find room to store all the “outgrown” or “not yet” gear in our small place.

    (P.S. For anyone wanting to borrow – we have a Jumperoo, a Bebe pod and Bjorn that will probably get minimal use for at least the next 4-6 months.)

  2. Thanks again Corrie. I found the information on swaddling interesting because I hadn’t intended on buying a swaddling blanket, but I may reconsider now. Plus I will think about the number of bottles we need for breast feeding.

    I’ve got ~ 7 weeks to go and I bought our first thing this week, a moses basket through ebay.

    I think by not starting too early I am able to focus on the essential items, such as the car seat and pushchair that we will be buying this weekend.

    Fortunately we have also been offered the loan of a few things like a TENS machine, breast pump, baby bath, bouncy chair and swinging chair. This will give us the opportunity to discover if we find them useful without spending a lot of money.

  3. Hi Kate – An official SwaddleMe blanket isn’t necessary – any large blanket will do – but if you end up being ‘swaddle-challenged’ like us, the SwaddleMe blanket with its velcro tabs was very useful.🙂

  4. What a great list! – i have to say the Swaddle me just wasn’t for us – we like the Halo sleepsack swaddle is so much better and it is SO more economical than swaddle me since the swaddle part comes off and you have just the sleepsack when you need it. Swaddle me just wasn’t very good quality and the Halo version i know now comes in bigger sizes too we just bought the 10-18 lbs size. We got ours at Halosleep.com – try it out – i know you will LOVE IT like we do!
    Happy mothering!

  5. Carmen – That looks like an interesting product! We liked the SwaddleMe because it could bundle the baby up tightly, but yes, the velcro stuff wore out after a few months. (We also had The First Years blanket which was no good for us at all – it didn’t wrap tightly around the baby and was pretty much useless.) I’ll have to investigate the Halo brand next time around!

  6. What a great comprehensive list! So much of baby gear is subjective, and it’s hard to know until you’ve got baby in hand. We didn’t think we wanted – nor did we have the space – for a swing, but when Analise only wanted to be rocked side to side for a short (seemingly long) time, we splurged on a fancy swing. It was probably our Most Used item for both kids. Loved the SwaddleMe blankets for Josiah. One note on the baby washcloths… I keep a stack of baby washcloths in the kitchen for wiping up the kids after meals. The cheaper, flimsier ones are perfect for this🙂

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