Top Ten Necessary pieces of Baby equipment

Get these things (and get the one that’s RIGHT for you) or you’ll end up kicking yourself later.

Bouncy chair

My babies totally lived in this thing for the first several months. It is most definitely my number one piece of equipment. You can’t hold your newborn all the time, and this thing gives you a place to put them. Most come with some kind of vibrator and toy bar which are ok, but make sure the toy thing is removable since it works them all up. (Your babies will learn Olympic kicking skills if it hangs over the feet!) We had Fisher Price, I think. Don’t fall for fancy models which don’t do anything cooler than the $24.99 ones. And make sure it is the real seat kind, not the kind they hang in with their feet straight out the bottom.

Addendum: Graco makes these portable travel bouncy seats which fold up in half now, flat, and come with a bag. This is a tremendously helpful upgrade.  Especially if you’re going somewhere and need to pull out a seat from your closet, car, suitcase, or carry-on bag.

Crib.

Get one. Even if you co-sleep, you need a safe place to put your baby when you can’t be supervising. Doorbells, pets, other children, limited floor space… all these things make having a crib highly desirable. Even if you co-sleep at night, you can train your baby for naps in the crib and eventually they will transition better out of the family bed.

Some people want to use a Pack ‘N Play instead of a crib, and that is a good option especially if your other children are older and you don’t want to re-acquire a crib. I used a Pack ‘N Play for several months when our third and fourth babies came because our other kids were still IN cribs. It certainly didn’t bother the baby! They didn’t know they were supposed to be in a crib rather than a playpen. However, I eventually acquired a third crib because reaching all the way down to get my little baby out of the playpen was hurting my back. I’m kind of short and so bending all the way down over the side of the playpen to lay the babies gently on their backs, or scoop them up properly, was difficult… I kept waking them up because I couldn’t get them down that last half-centimeter very well. And I admit, the nursery looked so empty without a crib.  But to each his own.  if you do choose a Pack ‘N Play long term instead of a crib, just note that the playpen is not as long as a crib, and some have sides which are not as tall, so you may want to get your older baby out of there before he becomes a toddler.

Overall a crib is a good buy unless your space truly prevents it. I even found a crib useful in our first studio apartment because it gave the baby some space of its own. When that baby was tiny, I divided the mattress space in half with a bumper and stored diapers and stuff in the other half. But I would never recommend splurging on one of these designer expensive things unless you really feel you must. Save it for a piece of furniture that will last the length of your child’s time at home.

Addendum: Don’t worry if your crib is not one of these 5-in-1 things. Chances are, your child will want a new bed (or you will) by the time they are old enough to care about the headboard. And most regular cribs these days can be converted into toddler beds by just removing one of the side rails. They don’t advertise it, but you can often check the design in a store by looking at the floor model or pieces in the box.

Baby Carseat

This is a no-brainer, so I didn’t make it number one. You can’t get home from the hospital without one! Get the infant bucket kind with the removable base. You’ll be grateful when you have to change cars, you want to bundle your baby up in the cold, or you need a good napping place in a pinch.  A waterproof cover is also a compelling option if you don’t mind less choice in terms of color/pattern.

Sling/Carrier

I lived by the Baby Bjorn. I was a cheapskate so when a friend loaned me theirs for awhile but then needed it back, I tried two other generic kinds before indulging in the Bjorn again. Too bad for me! The Bjorn has the best make and easiest in/out procedure.  And most daddies like Bjorns =)

High chair

You don’t need it immediately because the baby is better off in the carseat or bouncy seat when they are first eating, but eventually it will come in high demand (around 5-7 months). If you use it as a portable seat in other rooms too, it can have even more advantages… a safe place to put your baby down when you’re on the phone, protection when he’s eating his snack from other children’s wandering fingers, a confined play area (try toys with suction cups on them if you don’t want to pick stuff up off the floor constantly), or even a little learning center (try reading them a story in there and showing them the pictures). If possible, get one with a plastic cover that can be scooped out and wiped down. And get one without attachments everywhere, one with a substantial & removeable tray (with at least a small rim), and one that isn’t so huge you need to factor it into your furniture plan. One of the high chairs we owned had an adjustable inclining back which was nice for five-seven month olds when they’re kind of weak supporting themselves. The other high chair we had was the Rubbermaid kind they have at restaurants… small, grey, low key, and with removeable wheels on the bottom. It was $120 and had a small tray, but it was great and just the right height to pull up to the table without the tray on when they were ready for family dining.  I’d buy it again in a heartbeat.

Changing Table

I’m not the fancy nursery type, so I didn’t get anything really impressive. But I had two babies without a table, and then I got a cheap one before the next two.  And I was really thankful for it. For the first year, it seemed kind of unnatural to change diapers on the floor because their bum/bodies are so small. A table prevents too much crawling away, pain in the lower back from bending, and stains on floors or beds. Especially for the “power poop” types, it is a real blessing…Yea, plastic mats!

 Addendum: People are really into fancy changing tables these days, but try to resist.  First of all, no thinking person can avoid detecting a changing table even when sublimated into an adult-style dresser combo (i.e. Pottery Barn).  Especially if it is the design with the slightly raised up cabinet for the diapers and wipes to rest on while you change the baby on the mat.  Neither does any thinking person contemplate putting a LAMP on one of those designs, so don’t fall for it when you see it in the catalog.  Second of all, changing tables with storage are great for the early months when your baby needs tons of changes and isn’t crawling around. But by the time they’re moving (or other toddlers are), the nice neat piles you make on shelves or stack in baskets are sure prey for beginning wanderers.  You’ll find yourself constantly cleaning these up or else living with the mess, which can look very cluttered.  Try and find an inexpensive alternative for neither reason.  Or get one with real  drawers.

Nursing Chair

I already talked about this in an earlier post. The rocking glider types are great, and the footstool provides a lot of support too (especially if you’re short). Make sure the arms are padded because that’s where the baby’s head goes.  And that’s where your arms will go if you keep using it into the toddler/reading years.  The cheap ones at Walmart skimp on the padding, which you’ll eventually feel.  The only thing I didn’t like about our glider was that neither the chair nor the footstool had a stopper. I would have liked to make it stationary at times.

Stroller

Sorry this didn’t come up earlier. There are a million and a half theories on strollers. I assume you know your own custom needs. I had every stroller in the book at some point: singles that accomodated carseats, singles that didn’t, doubles that accommodated carseats, side by side doubles, three different types of single or umbrella strollers, and a large single that could actually hold two toddlers sitting real close to each other. I always wanted to try the Sit N’ Stand, and I was never a fan of jogging strollers because they were so huge. Get what you like.

Brand names do matter, but nothing above MacLaren or Peg Perego quality seemed to really be worth it. I saw strollers for $800 or more in the mall and test drove them, but they weren’t better than regular designers.

Side by Side doubles usually are a nuisance for doorways and hallways.  But they’re lighter and less bulky.

Tandem doubles are usually more flimsy and heavy/clunky to use. You have to get help with someone holding the doors open for you.  But they are skinnier and accommodate baby seats.

Umbrella stollers are good, and I think everybody needs at least one.  But take note of whether the handles are two hooks or one bar. You can’t steer with one hand on the hook model, but the bar models are usually a little larger and sometimes don’t fold up into the compact way that the hook models do.  Lots of umbrella strollers don’t accommodate cups, purses, or cargo… some have baskets but fill up once you’ve put a blanket in there.  So if you can find a tiny model that holds your coffee, good for you.

If you’re only going to have one or two babies, nothing is wrong with Graco or lower end models. I would only have invested in more expensive ones had I known, from the outset, that I was going to have four or five chicks in a row.

Pack ‘N Play

Fabulous for travel–don’t depend on hotels having good portable cribs. Don’t fall into the “playpen” idea, though, if you want your baby to actually sleep in it when you travel.  We used it successively less as a playpen (a “safe” place for baby to just be), as we had each of our kids, and the results confirmed our suspicions: when we traveled and wanted them to sleep in there, our first screamed his head off in it, the second was mildly disturbed about it, the third was textbook fine in it, and the fourth actually liked it. Just use it for sleep and never, EVER use it as a punishment place. (Even though old-fashioned childraising books will sometimes recommend this.)

Addendum: I had one crazy mom friend of mine mention that she used to put her baby outside in the playpen while she did yardwork… for a “safe” place to be.  While ridiculing her at the time, I actually found myself doing this one day when I wanted to be hands-on with my toddlers in their kiddie pool, and it worked 😉  Because we were outside, the baby didn’t seem to mind being in the pen at all and didn’t mind sleeping in it later either.   What do you know?

Pop-top Disposable Plastic Cups with Lids (like “Take and Toss”)

They sell these things as “disposable,” but we always held onto them. They are better and less expensive than the iconic sippy cup. Bright colors, lots in one pack, easy to clean (no special wands to get in the crevices and pieces of regular sippy cups). My kids have used them from six months old to six years. They hold eight ounces, are light, disposable if necessary, stackable, and you can use them with or without lids. When my kids got old enough to use them without lids, we slit the lid openings with a knife a bit so we could use them in places where we didn’t want spills (like the car) but they didn’t have to suck hard to get the drink out. Love them, and now no more fortunes being doled out to Gerber-Playtex-Avent whatever!
A final word: Don’t get stuff that is gender-based in color unless you only want to have one child or you have enough money to buy new ones if subsequent children are different. (Or, if you don’t care that your boy is in a pink carseat, or vice-versa!)

Getting things all in one theme is nice, except that rarely do you have the stuff all together in the same place to appreciate it (like they do in the catalog, with the carseat, stroller, playpen, and high chair all next to one another).  This appeals mostly to the order/image-oriented first-time buyer parent.

Also, one rule I always tried to follow which saved us mucho dolares: Never spend lots of money on a baby furniture piece that will need replacing as they grow out of it.  If you are totally attracted to design, try Craiglist or classifieds.

Strollers and carseats are the most practical items to buy new.  They will get the heaviest use.  The rest can be second-hand with no worries.

If I could do things over again, and known from the beginning that I would have four children, I would have spent more money on the stroller and nursing chair, so that they would have been more durable and nicer to use. I would have spent the same money I did on the other stuff, which was not much (yard sales or friends’ hand-me-downs when possible).

Sometimes I think people overdo it on the baby stuff because they want so much for things to be nice and in order when the baby comes. You tend to relax with subsequent children because you aren’t trying to please yourself so much. You still want things nice and in order, but you aren’t feeling out of control so much that you need to coordinate everything.  Either that, or you are distracted by life enough that folding everything nicely in the old drawers is all you can find time to do!

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3 thoughts on “Top Ten Necessary pieces of Baby equipment

  1. I totally agree with getting a bouncy seat and sling! Though, I found a pouch to be much easier for popping little ones in-and-out than the Baby Bjorn. (Though I loved dancing around the kitchen with the BB.) And by the time the 4th came along, we skipped having a crib and used the pack-n-play for anything a crib would be used for. . . Much more portable. (Then again, we were moving a lot then, and had downsized on everything. . .)

  2. Your advice has been very helpful! My daughter is pregnant with her first child, so we’re very excited but want to be careful spending wisely. I’ve printed it for future reference. Thank you!

  3. hi! this post is really helpful. the content would help new mothers or mother-to-be out there who are just new in having a child and stuffs like these. i’m gonna tell this post to my sister, she just had her new baby few months ago . thanks!

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