September 9, 2011

baby gear guide

A while back I was asked to tell my favorite baby items, or what I would put on a registry.  It took me a while, and this probably isn't important to whoever asked anymore, but I've put together a pretty extensive list of baby gear we've liked (and I'll fill you in on what we didn't like too!).  I've done somewhat similar posts here and here, but nothing quite as complete as this list.  Let me know if you have any questions! 

Apparently I decided this was also a good time to dig up some old pictures.  Enjoy :o).

  • BeBand Maternity Tank  Everyone told me I would absolutely want to have a BeBand (everyone being people on the internet, I'm the first of my close friends to have a baby).  But I absolutely hated the thing.  It was always rolling up, and never successfully held on my too tight prepregnancy jeans or my too big maternity pants.  The tank however, was great for me.  It didn't really hold up regular jeans, but worked really well for keeping up maternity jeans that were still too big.
  • Gap Full Panel Jeans  I didn't think I would like full panel jeans, but when I really had a belly most other pants felt like they were being pushed down.  I enjoyed knowing that my bum crack wouldn't be hanging out with these.  I went with Gap jeans because I generally wore them prepregnancy as well.
  • Old Navy Maternity Boot Cut Cords  We couldn't wear jeans or sweats to work (boo, those were my favorites) but these were pretty comfy, and the only non full panel pants that I liked.
  • Non Maternity Empire Waist Tops and Dresses  I felt a lot of the affordable maternity fashions left a lot to be desired.  I had the best luck browsing stores for their empire waist tops and dresses.  I got some great ones at Francescas that I was able to wear post pregnancy as well.
  • Snoogle  I am a hardcore stomach sleeper, and when that wasn't an option anymore I was miserable.  No matter how hard I tried to stay on my side, I always wound up flat on my back and just didn't sleep great.  The snoogle helped me comfortably sleep on my side.  I will say it was incredibly hard to deal with towards the end of my pregnancy, but at that point my belly was big enough to keep me propped up anyway :o).
  • What to Expect When You're Expecting  Surely almost every pregnant woman has heard of this book, but I appreciated the fact that when I got carpel tunnel and my vision started to blur the book told me I wasn't crazy, it was indeed a symptom of pregnancy.
  • Belly Laughs  A short, blunt and hilarious book that can fill you in on some of the ups and downs of pregnancy.  Very quick to read and I loved it.
  • Saltine Crackers  I was nauseous 24/7 for what seemed like FOREVER.  Saltines were the only thing I could keep down for a while, so I never left home without them.
  • Prescription Prenatal Vitamins  Shortly before I became pregnant I started taking Women's One A Day Prenatals.  About two weeks after I found out I was expecting my stomach couldn't handle them.  They never stayed down.  Whatever prenatals my doctor wrote a prescription for did the trick.  Also taking them before bed and falling asleep as quickly as possible helped too!  Just something I suggest talking to your doctor about.
Errr... I didn't really have much of my bag packed before we made our unexpected trip to the hospital and ended up coming home with a baby, so I didn't really pack what I wanted.  But here is what I brought:
  • Make-up  I may have been giving birth, but come on, there were cameras around, make-up was necessary.
  • Toilietires
  • Brush
  • Blow Dryer
  • Comfy Athletic Shorts (2 pairs)
  • Target Nursing Tank
  • Cheap Underwear  I bought a pack of cheapies at Target a size larger than I usually wear, but they weren't the most comfortable, and honestly they didn't get ruined.  So I would just bring some comfy ones.  I personally HATED the mesh underwear things they had at the hospital.
  • Always Pads (but I used the giant hospital ones while I was there)
  • Flip Flops (I'm not a slipper girl, and I never walked out of my room until we left)
  • Pillow (in a not white pillowcase, didn't want the hospital to confuse them with theirs!)
  • Laptop
  • Camera
  • Camera Cord
  • two newborn size outfits
  • a 0-3 sized outfit
Next time I will remember to bring the charger for my video camera (whoops).  I also plan to look for a fun pillow case that is on clearance or at Home Goods or TJMaxx or something.  The only non white pillow case my husband could find that day in our house, was an old black one.  Which is now the background for several of our pictures from our hospital stay.  Also, Ryann was TINY.  The day we left the hospital she weighed less than six pounds, so none of the outfits I brought fit her (nor did the giant infant hospital gown that fit babies up to 16 pounds).  Even if my baby is full term I will bring at least one preemie outfit next time, just in case.  Also, I ALWAYS forgot to order food at the meal times, so I plan to pack some hearty snacks the next time.

Although I came to the conclusion that all you really need for a newborn is somewhere to sleep, diapers, a carseat, and well, boobs, here are some items we liked right off the bat.
  • Pampers Swaddlers  I worked in childcare for three years before Ryann was born.  Pampers were always my favorite, and the swaddlers were so soft.  Now we use cruisers, and I am considering cloth diapers for the next kiddo, but I am a Pampers advocate.
  • Huggies Natural Care Wipes  Again, childcare experience decided on our wipes brand.  I also liked the Kirkland Wipes, but I think those come from Costco and we don't shop there.  Pampers wipes always seemed to thin or smelled funny.
  • Sleeper Gowns  Imagine this:  It is 3:45AM, this is the third time you've gotten up to feed and change your newborn.  You are beyond exhausted and a little bit delirious.  Do you want to fumble with 42 bajillion snaps?  No, I didn't think so.  Yes, there are zippered sleepers, but those didn't work for us when Ry was a newborn.  Save yourself some headaches, get some sleeper gowns.
  • Halo Sleepsack Swaddle  Neither Chris or I were great swaddlers at first.  Ryann would bust her little arms out in a matter of minutes.  But this little puppy did the trick, and made for an easier transition to the sleep sack.
  • Stretchy Blankets  When I did swaddle Ryann in a blanket, I preferred some with a little stretch.  Target had some great ones at the time, and Koala Baby Thermal blankets also worked well.
  • Arms Reach CoSleeper Mini  Our master bedroom is just large enough to accommodate our king size bed and two small nightstands.  This little guy fit next to the bed perfectly, and Ryann slept there comfortably for almost four months before we moved her to her crib.
  • Soothies and Avent Pacifiers  Ryann wasn't much of a pacifier girl, and completely gave them the cold shoulder around 3 months, but those were her two favorites (honestly we didn't really try any others until she started refusing those, so I don't think they are miracle workers or anything!)
  • Cotton Hats  It was still a wee bit chilly when Ryann was born, so we kept a soft hat on her the majority of the time the first couple months.
  • Burp Cloths  Ryann was a spitty baby.  A really spitty baby.  We had probably two dozen burp cloths (that my mom made for me) and had to do laundry at least every five days just for those.  Now they work great as booger rags, so her nose doesn't get all red and irritated from being wiped so many times.
  • Bright Starts Automatic Bouncer  This seat was great for quite a while.  It was a comfy place for Ry to sit and watch me while she was awake, and the gentle bouncing action did wonders for keeping her asleep when all she wanted was to be rocked.
  • Baby Activity Logger  I'm incredibly OCD/Type A about some things, and Ryann schedule was definitely one of them (still is a bit).  I have this app on my phone and LOVED it for keeping tabs on how much she was eating and sleeping, as well as wet and dirty diapers.  When the pedi asked me questions I had answers right on my phone.
    • Chicco Cortina Keyfit 30 Travel System  I LOVED our infant carrier.  I have nothing to complain about with that at all (other than the fact that it doesn't snap on to as many things as a Graco, but it wasn't a problem for me).  If I got to do it all over again I would just buy the infant seat, and get a snap and go stroller.  We still use the stroller from the travel system, but I think it leaves a little bit to be desired.  It has held up well and is pretty easy to use.  I would call it a fantastic mall stroller (nice basket underneath, two cup holders up top), but it isn't the most compact or sleek thing out there.  I'm still not sure what stroller I would rather have, which is why we haven't bought a different one.
    • Britax Boulevard 70 CS  Love love LOVE this carseat.  It sits fairly upright, has a steel frame, seems like it would be pretty comfortable to ride in, and the little velcro squares that keep the straps out of the way when you are trying to wrangle a toddler in there?  Awesome.  The hubby tells me it is easy to install as well.  He has a Boulevard 70 (without the click and safe technology) in his car and likes it as well.  My mom has a Graco MyRide 65 in her car and I HATE it.  It is more reclined than the Britax and doesn't install as easily.
    • Safety 1st Car Mirror  Ry is hopefully going to be rear facing until she is two (she is just now starting to seem a little cramped back there).  Being able to see what she is doing (or know when I need to sing loudly and horribly to keep her awake!) is a huge help.  Plus she is able to see me a bit too.
    • Summer Infant Slim & Secure Handheld Color Video Monitor  I think this, by far, would be the item both Chris and I would most recommend.  Having a video monitor has been really great for us, especially when we decided to sleep train.  I HIGHLY recommend a video monitor, and this one has worked great for us.
    • Organic Cotton Baby Wrap  I was interested in a moby style wrap, and saw these cute ones on etsy (by lovelyduds).  The wrap is well made and seems like it could work great, but it wasn't for me.  I hated dealing with all that fabric, and wasn't very good at getting it on all by myself.  I did wear it when Ry and I went to a bridal show with my bestie, and it was very comfortable and I got TONS of compliments on how cute it was.
    • Becco Gemini Baby Carrier  Since the moby style wrap seemed a bit much for me, I liked the idea of a more structured carrier.  I've never been a huge baby wearer, but this one worked pretty well the times I strapped it on.  To tell you the truth, the reason I didn't go with an Ergo carrier, was because at the time I didn't like the fabric options (terrible reason, I know), but now that Ergo has teamed up with Petunia Pickle Bottom to make some beautiful carriers, I might be interested in trying one of those the next time around.  I've found the carrier extremely helpful in the airport, when you can strap on your babe and have your hands free to do other things.
    • Snuggle Nest  With our small bedroom we considered cosleeping, but during a trial run Chris woke up inside the snuggle nest, so we decided against it.  I did use it a couple times when we traveled without Chris, and we also had it in the cosleeper for the first few weeks, when she just seemed way too small to sleep in an open bed.
    • Graco Pack 'n Play  We had our pack 'n play set up in the family room when Ryann was a newborn, with the infant bassinet on top for naps.  That was really nice.  Once she became mobile it was set up in our living room, so if I needed to get stuff done or take a shower she had a safe place to play.
    • Pack 'n Play Sheets  The pack 'n play mattress isn't the most comfortable thing, so we put on both a quilted sheet and a soft fuzzy sheet.  I know they were by Carter's and Koala Baby, but I don't know exactly which ones.
    • Travel Swing  I agonized forever over which swing to purchase before Ryann was born, and could never find one I felt great about getting.  Then she went through the phase where she wouldn't nap AT ALL unless she was being held and swayed.  So one afternoon out of desperation Chris went out and bought the cheapest travel swing he could find at Target.  It wasn't fancy, but it did the trick.  The only thing that sucked was the batteries were always dying.  I liked that it was small, and easy to move around the house.  Plus if she hadn't liked it we didn't waste a ton of money on a big fancy swing.
    • Boppy Pillow  Ultimately nursing didn't work out for me with Ryann, and even when I was trying to, the boppy never seemed to be much help.  But it was great for propping my spitty baby up after feedings, and keeping her in one place on the playmat.
    • Bumbo  We only used our bumbo a handful of times.  Ryann didn't seem to mind it, until we would take her out of it.  Then she would always cry a hard terrible cry.  I'm not sure what caused that, but I didn't like it, so we didn't use it.
    • Bundle Me Lite  This was perfect in the spring when Ry was a newborn.  It kept her cozy in the carseat without using blankets, jackets, or other bulky items.  I liked this product a LOT.
    • JJ Cole Carseat Cover  This cover was great in the winter months.  Babies and toddlers should not wear coats while strapped into their carseat, so this allowed me to get her all strapped in and just slip the cover over the top, without interfering with any of the carseat straps.  Another product I would highly recommend.
    • Coach Diaper Bag  My mom came across a diaper bag when she was at the Coach outlet, and bought it for me.  It has done a decent job.  Good sized.  Stands fairly well on its own.  Has lots of pockets.  But I don't LOVE it.  Waiting for the next wee one to try out a different one.
    • Regalo Baby Gates  These ones are fairly sturdy (unless your husband fails to open the gate door and barrels through it on accident) and I love the little walk through door.  We got the ones that expand to fit a variety of opening sizes.
      • Dr. Browns Bottles  We started off with some cheap Gerber bottles because at first I planned on nursing, so we hadn't really bought any.  Ry seemed pretty gassy.  Once we switched to Dr. Browns bottles a lot of those issues seem to get resolved.  They have a ton of parts, but they were also the ones recommended by our pedi.  I'm not sure how we ended up with the wide neck version, but it was definitely easier to not spill when putting the formula powder in :o).
      • Munchkin Formula Dispenser  This is great for taking formula on the go.  Fill your bottles with water, and premeasure your formula into this little guy.  Also great for premeasuring formula for middle of the night feedings!!
      • Healthy Care Booster  We started off with a big Fisher Price High Chair.  It was bulky, in the way, and Ryann never seemed to like it.  I liked that it matched my decor, but what are you going to do.  We grabbed this booster at Target and love it.  It fits on one of our dining room chairs and is easy to take with us if we need to.
      • Playtex Insulated Straw Cups  Ugh.  Sippy cups.  Ryann would never pick up and tip a sippy, so we moved on to straw cups.  First we tried the Munchkin brand, I couldn't even drink out of the stupid things.  We mostly use these playtex cups, but they tend to randomly start spewing milk everywhere.  Not cool.  We've also used the Nuby straw cups, but water and milk can sit in the top of the straw, which can make a big mess of its own.  I have yet to find a straw cup I like, but a kid's Camelbak is next on my list.  That will be great for water, not sure what to use for milk...
      • Gerber Soft Bite Infant Spoons by Nuk  These are what we used when we first started doing solids.  The spoon was flat enough that she could easily get the food off, but not so flat that nothing would stay on.
      • Take & Toss Infant Spoons  At first these were too 'deep', Ryann couldn't get the food off of them.  But now that she is learning to use a spoon herself they have been great.  Nice and light.  Plus if we leave them somewhere I don't feel bad since they are super cheap.
      • Gerber Forks by Nuk  Ryann has had a lot more success with a fork than a spoon, and these ones are great.  Easy for her to hold, not too big, not too small.
      • Oxo Tot Plate  Thanks to a rubber bottom this plate stays in place while Ryann is chasing food around it with her fork.  I haven't found a divided plate I love yet (they have to be pretty narrow to fit on the tray of her booster) but I didn't realize there was a divided Oxo Tot Plate.  Might have to give that one a try.
      • Tiny Diner Placemat  This placemat is wonderful for restaurants.  Another product that I would highly recommend.
      • Zoli Sumo Snack Stack  I ordered this after reading Shawna's review of the product.  Love it.  When I have another babe I'll be getting the smaller on the go feeder as well.
      • Inch Bug Orbit Labels  Another product I found via Shawna (she really is my go to lady for baby product info).  Dishwasher safe and super cute.
      • Bibs  This is one item that I don't really have any great suggestions.  Ryann hasn't worn bibs a lot, and I haven't really liked the ones we've tried.  The ones that are more like a shirt are nice because she can't pull those off.  Usually we end up just using a cotton one (meant more for drool but oh well).

      • Bath Sponge  We actually got ours in a gift set with this tub.  We never liked the tub, but the froggy cushion was great for sponge baths on the counter.
      • Bathroom Sink  The cheapest easiest tub we had for Ry, was our bathroom sink.  It was the perfect size when she was an infant.  We lined it with towels so it was comfy, and it was comfy for us because she was nice and high off the ground.  There are some other tubs I wouldn't mind trying, but at the end of the day the sink did the trick.
      • Non Slip Tub Mat  We thought about getting the Munchkin Inflatable Duck Tub when Ry was ready to transition out of the infant tub, but I didn't want to deal with storing it.  So we tried a bath with just a non slip tub mat.  Worked like a charm.
      • Aveeno Baby Calming Comfort Bath  Not really sure if it was calming for Ry, but I loved the scent.  I've heard some iffy things about Johnson and Johnson products, and one of the moms of a kiddo I had in class who is a dermatologist (sorry for the run on sentence) used Aveeno Baby products.  So that is what we stuck with.
      • Washcloths  Try and avoid the itty bitty cutesy washcloths with embroidered designs.  The embroidery can hurt a babes delicate skin, and you can get a nice big cheap pack of colorful washcloths that will do the same thing.
      • Pottery Barn Bath Wraps  We've gone through several different towels, and these have by far been our favorite.  Again, avoid embroidered designs.  We had a couple towels with things on them, and if we weren't thinking about it, drying her off with that section of towel would leave roughed up skin.

      I'm not going to do a full nursery list right now, because hopefully soon I will make myself actually 'finish' Ryann's room.  Then it can have a post of its own.  But here are some nursery essentials in my opinion.
      • Pottery Barn Chamois Sheets  I swear Ryann started sleeping better when we put these on her crib.  I wouldn't mind snuggling up in those.
      • Serta Contour Changing Pad  This just happened to be the one we bought, we wanted a pad to set on top of the dresser.
      • Boppy Changing Pad Cover  Again, nothing crazy special about this one.  But I suggest having a MINIMUM of two covers.  Three or four would be preferable, depending on how often you do laundry/how many times your kiddo explodes or spits up on the cover.
      • Breathable Bumpers  With no bumpers at all, Ryann got an arm or a leg stuck in the rails daily.  Obviously when she was younger I wanted to be as safe as possible, so we went the breathable bumper route.  They worked great.  Now we put the regular bumpers back in because she loves to cuddle with them.
      • Diaper Genie Elite  This thing can hold a big ol' pile of diapers.  But if you leave poopy diapers in there for more than a day, your room will smell.  So we end up sticking the poopy ones in a grocery bag and taking them straight to the trash outside.  If you really want one, great.  If you don't mind taking out your trash daily, just get a regular can that fits the space.
      • Loud Fan  We opted out of a white noise machine per say, and Chris just headed to Target and found the loudest littlest fan he could find (that was of course silver, it had to 'go' :o).  We sleep with a fan on in our room, so it made for the easiest transition when we moved Ry into her own room.  Plus if we were ever all sleeping in the same room, Chris and I didn't have to listen to ocean waves or nature sounds all night long.
      • Black Out Shades  However you make it happen (there may or may not have been a fleece blanket hanging over the window for more than a year), keep the room DARK during sleep times.  I don't know if it really helps 100%, but I like to have as few options as possible for reasons a short nap or an early wake-up happened. 
        People always told me not to buy too much newborn stuff.  They never wear it that long.  Yadda yadda yadda... so we bought maybe two things in the newborn size.  And then Ry was born, and she was TINY.  We ended up having to purchase some 'under 7 pounds' clothing from Gymboree and BabyGap (preemie stuff was a little too small pretty quickly).  We kept putting off buying newborn items because we thought surely she would grow quickly.  She did, but wore her newborn clothes until she was 8 weeks old.  Moral of the story?  Every baby is different.  You'll just have to wait and see.  The size we went through the quickest was 3-6 months, by 6 months she had reached the 50th percentile in height and weight, and has stayed there since.
        • Trumpette Socks and Old Navy Socks  The trumpette ones were super cute, and both of these were the only ones that stayed on her little feet.
        • Carter's Sleep & Play Pajamas  In general Carter's clothes have always fit Ryann the best, not sure why.  But especially for the first couple months she lived in her sleepers during the day.  I really loved the ones with the fold over mitts for the hands, because she scratched her face all the time, and those little individual hand mitts would NEVER stay on.
        • Pedipeds  We keep trying to buy cute shoes from Target and Old Navy, but always end up back in the Pedipeds.  Nothing else stays on or fits as well.
        • Infantino Square Twist and Fold Playmat  Our playmat saw tons of use.  Nothing fancy about this one, but it definitely did the trick.
        • Fisher Price Crawl Along Snail  Seriously one of Ryann's absolute favorite toys in the first few months.  It could get her attention like nothing else!
        • Stacking Cups  Quite possibly the best $4 we've spent on toys.  These cups can do and be lots of things, and have kept Ry entertained for long periods of time.
        • Jumperoo  Yes.  It is an eyesore.  BUT it did wonders for keeping the kiddo happy sometimes.  She didn't always love it, but I was thankful we had it.
        • LeapFrog Learn & Groove Musical Table  I believe we got this when Ry was about nine months old, and she still occasionally enjoys playing with it at 17 months old.  It's a keeper.
        • Little People Toys  These are Ry's 'buddies'.  If we are going out and about she will usually request to take a buddy with.  They are awkwardly part of our family now.  "Where is Hanna?  Uh oh!  Did you drop Christin?  Don't forget Juan!"  Yes, they all have names :o).

        And there you have it.  I want to make it clear that I am not saying by any means that I think these products are the absolute best of whatever item.  But we have used all of these items.  Another great baby list to check out, is of course Shawna's.  If you can't tell, I was inspired by her organization for my own.  Her list is quite extensive as well, and she covers some areas that I didn't, or don't have experience with.

        Just like Shawna I would highly recommend using Amazon's registry system.  Nearly every item I've talked about above can be found on Amazon, and if I found something that wasn't on Amazon, I could add it to my registry anyway.  If you think you'll be using Amazon a lot, and want to get items quickly, I suggest looking into their Prime account.

        Again if you think I left out something you want to know about, or have any other questions just ask in the comment section!  Or if YOU know of an amazing product that I didn't list that you think everyone should know about, please comment with that as well.


          Tara said...

          For sippys you should try the new Tommee Tippee ones. My kids have loved them, they don't leak, and they have a version with a straw.

          meaghan said...

          I will definitely have to keep this list in the back of my mind for a few years down the road :) Thank you for sharing, and for the sweet pics of teeny tiny ryann. miss you!

          Caitlin MidAtlantic said...

          I LIVED in my Old Navy bootcut cords while pregnant. And with all the maternity clothes lending I have done since, I refused to lend out those pants! They stayed up, were super comfy, and made me feel like I looked awesome.

          I'm also a HUGE supporter of Halo Sleep Sacks - both the swaddle and regular styles. Laura was in them through her first two winters. I'd put her in them again this coming winter if I didn't think she'd miss her feet (as an almost 2 year old)!

          Ellen said...

          Thanks for posting this, what a great list! We loved a lot of the same products. I am looking into carseats now and am majorly leaning towards the Britax Boulevard 70 CS...thanks for the glowing rec - it helps!. Love your blog and Ryann is a doll :)

          Sarah said...

          Thanks for posting this! I'm for sure going to bookmark this and use it in the (hopefully near) future

          Unknown said...

          great post! i have a 3 month old and can relate to a lot of your suggestions.

          shawna [of styleberryBLOG] said...

          ;) thanks for the linky love!

          Amy said...

          I LOVE that you are keeping her rear-facing!!! Also the Britax Roundabout 50 is on sale at Target is KC area (I know Chipman Rd for sure) till Saturday Sept 10th. They are only $100 if you want to replace your mom's seat. They even offer rain checks!

          Jenny said...

          Ashley, this is perfect! I just found out that I am pregnant (after 14 cycles and multiple infertility diagnoses). I know a TON about getting pregnant, but not much now that I actually AM. This page is definitely bookmarked!

          Nicole said...

          Fun post! I need to remember this one when we have our next one so I can use your list with mine!

          Erin said...

          Awesome list! I've been thinking about this for awhile, to see if I want to get anything different than I did the first time. I'm definitely a "less is more" kind of person, especially with our small house, so I probably won't get anything else and will even get rid of a few things. I love reading other people's must haves!

          Rachel said...

          Ashley! Thanks so much for posting this--it is most definitely still helpful! We've just been trying to figure out what is a "must have" and what really wasn't that great, so this list is AMAZING! Thanks again!