Baby Gear: My Real Life List for the First Years

This past summer one of my sisters-in-law and her husband welcomed their first daughter (and our first niece) into the world. Yay! As they were getting ready for her arrival my SIL asked about recommendations for baby items to put on their registry. Never one to pass up an opportunity to talk about all things related to babies, I composed a lengthy email of suggestions and commentary, the substance of which I am copying here with a few edits. This post contains NO AFFILIATE LINKS. These are simply items I've enjoyed having and have found useful in caring for our four children during their first few years.  I hope it's a helpful list for you or someone you know!

Babies are wonderful. I highly recommend them.

What's Not on the List
Three items notably missing from the following list are bottles, a swing, and a stroller. For some people these things are indispensable, but because of breastfeeding and babywearing, I hardly ever used them, especially with my younger children. Knowing that they will be/are absolutely essential for some families, it feels irresponsible not to acknowledge their absence up front.

  • Carseats -  We've always had Graco, most recently the SnugRide Click Connect 35 and the Graco Extend2Fit. There are probably more current versions of each. Because the fabrics and harnesses vary from seat to seat and brand to brand, it's kind of nice to view them in person before registering or buying. An easy adjustment system will save time and frustration every single time you go out, and some fabrics feel cooler to the touch and more durable than others. 
  • For winter, we have liked Columbia fleece buntings for the car and babywearing. They're flexible and don't add a lot of bulk but are very warm, with built in covers for hands and feet. Skip puffy snowsuits or coats in favor of thin, warm layers. Skip any kind of blanket device like the JJCole BundleMe that goes into the seat under and around baby. These are extremely popular but not recommended by car seat experts, because they add bulk and prevent you from fully tightening the buckles to fit baby, and can compress in a crash leaving slack. If you're going to use a blanket or cover in/on the car seat, it should only go on over baby once he or she is already in with straps tightened (sometimes called a shower cap cover). 
Bathing, Healthcare, Skincare
  • A tub - We have a Primo Eurotub, and I like that it's shaped for a newborn on one side and an older infant on the other, and that it is easy to clean with no fabric components to harbor mildew. It is big and kind of a pain to store. 
  • Any ol' big plastic cup would work fine, but the Munchkin Shampoo Rinser is nice for bathing a baby.
  • Hooded towels
  • Soap/shampoo and sunscreen -  California Baby and Babytime are two brands I've liked. All our kids use ThinkBaby sunscreen
  • Nail clippers, brush, comb, etc. A Safety First kit like this gets you everything.
  • A temporal thermometer -  They're so fast and non intrusive. They use this kind at our pediatrician's office.
Breastfeeding and Table Feeding
  • Breast pump - Your insurance might provide a very good breast pump for free. Check there first; they'll work with local medical supply stores and you just fill out a form and pick it up. 
  • Boppy 
  • Chicco hook on high chair - One of our favorite pieces of baby gear! We used it as our only high chair for our first 3 children, but our 4th was a jumper, and to protect our table from warping as he threw himself up and down in the hook-on chair, we bought a Fisher Price booster seat that straps on to a chair instead. I must admit, being able to wipe down the plastic is really nice.  
  • Sippy cups (we like the Munchkin 360 Cups), bowls, baby spoons, toddler silverware
  • Washable nursing pads
  • Bibs
  • Burp cloths -  I like to use cotton prefold diapers. They're absorbent and wash well. The little things sold specifically as burp cloths are pretty much useless.
  • Nursing cover or scarf...or lots of people just grab a lightweight blanket if they want a cover.

  • Portable play yard/pack n play - The Bjorn Travel Lite crib has been a delight to travel and camp with, replacing our sturdy old Graco which was, ironically, pretty large when packed for travelling. Our pack n play also served as our co-sleeper. 
  • Crib (our youngest two children have slept in a Storkcraft Tuscany once they moved out of our room) and mattress
  • At least 2 sheets for the sleeping arrangement you choose, and a waterproof protector for the mattress or pad. I like to have lots of extra linens because tummy bugs happen. :( 
  • Small, dimmable LED touch lamp - I LOVED this thing for nighttime feedings. I can't find what I have available for purchase anymore, but this appears very similar. 
  • Swaddlers and swaddling blankets - I liked having some of both. My babies could get out of  wrapped blankets but not out of velcro or snap swaddlers. We had some cotton ones and a muslin snap one for summer. 
  • Halo sleep sacks, cotton for summer, fleece for winter. Per the AAP, no loose blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, etc. should be in the crib until baby is at least 12 months old.

Holding a baby shoe with a soft leather sole
  • Sun hat! A soft, floppy one with a brim and neck protection.
  • Onesies, button or zip sleepers, socks, comfy pants
  • Robeez shoes, or Zutano booties, or similar for winter. They stay on kicking feet. 
  • If you want a separate hamper for baby things that may or may not have poop or spit up on them, a large hanging wet bag can work well.   

Baby girl layette

Teeny tiny cloth diapers. These are Cloth-eez fitteds, which go under waterproof covers.

  • Diapers and wipes, disposable or cloth 
  • Rash cream
  • Backpack diaper bag (or regular backpack) - IMO, backpack straps are a must
  • Changing mat, if your diaper bag doesn't come with one
  • Wet/dry bag - this is handy to keep in the diaper bag for holding a spare pair of clothes and bringing home messy blow out clothes
  • A small garbage can with a step-open lid if you don't have one
  • Changing table and pad

Baby Carriers

Those who know me well know that I love babywearing, so this gets its own category. I've owned or tried on around 100 different baby carriers, including a dozen different brands of buckle carriers, and love to help other people get comfortable with this tool that's been such a blessing to me. 

The best way to discover which baby carrier will work well for you is to try them on. Like jeans, each will suit different people differently. If you are fortunate enough to have a local babywearing/natural parenting store or a local babywearing group with a carrier library, pay them a visit. If you don't (and many people don't), research, read reviews, see what your friends like, and go from there. Stick with a reputable babywearing brand and avoid cheap knockoffs from Amazon or eBay. Buying name brand carriers is not about status, it's about ensuring quality construction and materials as well as comfort for both of you. Save money by buying used; there are many active carrier swaps on Facebook.  

Having tried soft structured buckle carriers (SSCs) from Boba, Beco, Tula, Ergo, Lillebaby, Angelpack, Chimparoo, Onya, Soul Slings, Infantino, Bloo Kangaroo, and a few I made myself (one pictured above), both my husband and I agree--the Kinderpack is our favorite buckle carrier. The Kinderpack comes in 4 different panel sizes--infant, standard, toddler, and preschool. The infant size has a cinch at the base so it grows with baby until age 2 or so. Here's a video so you can see it in action. They do need to be at least 8lbs before using this. A few of mine were less than that at birth. You can choose between standard and plus length straps for Kinderpacks as well, depending on your body type. We use standard straps. I compared the fit of three panel sizes at 25 months old. The infant would still work, but the standard provided the best fit at this point. 

A wrap or ring sling is usable even with a very small baby and was my preference for the first few months. There are hundreds of brands and thousands of designs of wraps, both stretchy types (such as Moby, Solly, Happy, Sleepy, Boba, Ergobaby Aura) and non-stretchy woven types (such as Didymos, Girasol, Soul Slings, Apple Blossom Wovens, Natibaby, Lenny Lamb, Yaro, Pavo, and Dahlia). There's many choices in ring slings as well (such as Sakura Bloom, Wildbird, Maya Wrap, and wrap conversions from the woven brands mentioned previously).

Newborn in a woven wrap

There are also water-safe slings, carriers, and wraps just for use in the shower, or at the beach. I found these incredibly convenient to have as well. My favorite for a newborn is the Wrapsody DuO

Other Gear and Furniture
  • There will be times when you need a safe spot to set baby down so you can shower, cook, or clean. A playyard could meet this need, but I kept a bouncy seat in the kitchen, out of range of stove splatters.
  • Gate - Maybe not necessary depending on your living arrangement. We have needed several for our house. 
  • Outlet protectors 
  • Baby monitor 
  • Glider or rocking chair
  • Place to store baby clothes -- bins, hanging organizer, dresser, something! 


Some Mama Metal pieces

Bonuses For Mama - Non-essentials that are nice to have
  • Nursing clothing - I had good experiences with Momzelle and Latched Mama. 
  • Mama Metal - These necklaces and centerpieces just look like regular silver jewelry, but they are created to withstand tugging and fiddling. They help baby focus during breastfeeding and provide something to fidget with to distract from scratching and hair pulling. Typically the chain and centerpieces are sold separately so you can swap them out. Wonderment and Lovely Little Acorns are two artisans that sell mama metal, but many more can be found on Etsy.
  • Teething jewelry - These are typically made of silicone and are meant to be chewed on. A great distraction while babywearing. I've liked necklaces from Jellystone and Chewbeads, but there are so many cute ones


Popular Posts