We’re almost a year into this whole parenting thing, and I can’t believe how the time has flown. While I can’t even begin to think about the possibility of having another little one of our own just yet, I’m incredibly excited for friends of ours who are expecting new additions to their families in the coming months, so I’ve been thinking a lot about baby gear.
I remember all too well how thoroughly overwhelming it was to figure out just what and how much (or how little) STUFF we truly needed for the baby. Mike and I did our own (extensive!) research, of course, but in the months before Julian was born, I also received a lot of wonderful recommendations and advice from friends who had started down this road before us. I never like to offer unsolicited advice or opinions to other parents-to-be, but I would like to share what has worked for us – the products we ended up loving and why, and what we would recommend to others who may be looking for baby gear in the near future.
I feel so lucky that I was able to (and continue to) breastfeed Julian, but it wasn’t always easy. Two things I was especially grateful for while we were getting the whole process down were Dr. Sears’ Breastfeeding Book, and a good nursing pillow. I hadn’t intended to get a special pillow for nursing, thinking I could just use one of the standard bed pillows we already had around, but my mom brought me a Boppy when she and dad came up for J’s birth, and it was so helpful, especially in the early weeks when we were working on Julian’s latch and he was so wee he needed the firm support it provides. I’m all for minimalism, but this is a specialized item I am grateful we had around.
As my maternity leave drew to a close and we started to transition him to bottle feedings during the day, we tried a couple of different brands of bottles. There were some that were specifically designed for breastfed infants, with a nipple that was designed to mimic the feel and flow of the breast, but Julian didn’t do well with them. I definitely wanted something without BPA and phthalates for our little guy, so we ended up going with these glass bottles from lifefactory. Julian took to them right away, and never experienced nipple confusion or any other issues. They are easy for him to hold himself, have sippy caps you can purchase separately, and the bottles have survived countless falls to the floor and other hard surfaces.
We did quite a bit of research before buying a high chair (and we waited until J was several months old to actually get one). We finally decided on the Inglesina Fast Table Chair, a nifty little number that hooks right onto our high dining table, and folds into its own little carry pouch for travel or meals out. It takes up a minimum of space in our apartment, and Julian loves being right at the same level with us as we eat meals together. The fabric cover is removable for cleaning, but it also wipes up well with a damp cloth.
I cannot say enough about the Arm’s Reach Mini Convertible Co-Sleeper. It was recommended to us by some good friends, and I have in turn recommended it to countless other parents-to-be. Julian used it until he was about 8 months old, and while he often ended up in our bed at some point during the night (and still does), this was probably the single best purchase we made for him. I truly believe that co-sleeping is why we were so successful at breastfeeding, and why my return to work after maternity leave was so relatively smooth. I know my mental state was helped by knowing that he was right there next to us, literally an arm’s length away, and that he never had to cry longer than it took me to roll over, pick him up, and bring him to me for a feeding or other care or comfort during the night.
We also absolutely love our aden + anais muslin swaddles. They’re great, versatile blankets for swaddling, keeping sun or wind off baby when you’re out and about, covering up while nursing, really anything you can imagine. They’re breathable and butter-soft, and they wash up beautifully.
Julian never really dug the whole swaddling thing, so once we switched him to wearable blankets, aden + anais were a hit again. Their sleeping bags are sleeveless, and again very soft and breathable, which is great since Julian tends to get pretty warm when he sleeps. The fact that they zip open at the bottom means it’s super easy to change a diaper during the night, too. Now that he’s (mostly) in a traditional crib, we’ve picked up aden + anais’ muslin crib sheets. I love them so much I wish they made bedding for grown-ups.
We spent a lot of time looking into diapering options for Julian, and we feel pretty good about the options we chose. We started him in gDiapers, with their flushable/biodegradable/compostable inserts (there are cloth inserts available too). These worked well for us for the first 9 months – he never had even a hint of diaper rash, and the diapers were typically leak-free throughout the daytime hours, though having extra plastic liners on hand was an absolute must.
That said, we did decide after the first month or so to use disposables (Seventh Generation) overnight, and we moved away from the gDiapers entirely once J was on solid food, as the change in his diet made for bigger, messier messes that the g’s didn’t always contain well. I think if we had a washer and dryer of our own instead of having to rely on shared laundry facilities in our apartment buildings, we would have stuck with the gDiapers, and I’d definitely recommend them to anyone who is considering them. I also wish we would have been able to flush more of the soiled inserts as intended – unfortunately, both places we’ve lived since Julian’s birth have had older plumbing that wasn’t quite up to the task.
We’ve used Earth’s Best Tender Care Wipes from the start, and they are absolutely the best baby wipes we’ve tried. They’re big, thick, and really absorbent, they smell clean and fresh, and they really do the job on even the most challenging messes.
We used a regular step can and liner for diaper disposal until just a few months ago, when odor became an issue (ah, how I miss the days of sweet-smelling breastmilk poop… ). A lot of friends use, and love, the Diaper Genie and similar devices, but we decided on the Diaper Dekor Classic Pail and biodegradable bag inserts. So far it has worked really well for us.
We started out using two carriers: a basic Moby wrap and a handed-down Baby Bjorn Classic. The Moby was great when Julian was wee, especially for wearing him around the house. The Bjorn was great until he got to be about 15 lbs. or so. At that point, because we were using it so much, we decided we needed something with more lumbar support, and after A LOT of research, we decided on the Lillebaby NORDIC carrier. It’s very much like the ERGO carrier, but it is adjustable to six positions, and you can use it from birth until 42 lbs without having to buy any additional inserts. Mike and I both wear Julian in it daily, and it has been great for all of us. It’s super easy to adjust the straps when we switch off, and it’s also really easy to change Julian’s position in the carrier if, for example, he falls asleep facing out and we want to face him inward. We’ve taken him everywhere in this thing, even on airplanes, and it has been great. I have also had no problem nursing him in it.
We went with Britax for our biggest-ticket items: our infant car seat, stroller, and now a convertible car seat. Our Chaperone infant seat was subject to a voluntary recall for a possibly faulty screw, and we requested and received the replacement part in question within a matter of days. We never had issues with the seat, though, and although we used it far less than someone who actually owned a car would have, we thought it was great. Because of its size and bulk, we rarely used it as an infant carrier, but we did attach it to our stroller when Julian was very small, and that worked well.
The B-Agile stroller has been great. It’s lightweight but solid and sturdy, with great maneuverability and a single-handed fold. Again, we haven’t used it as heavily as some parents might since it has generally been easier for us to just strap Julian into a carrier and go, but when we have used it, we’ve been pleased with its performance.
We just recently purchased a Roundabout 55 convertible car seat for Julian, and used it for the first time while traveling in Indiana. It was very easy to get in and out of our rental car and Mike’s mom’s car, and the Britax rolling travel bag we purchased separately for it worked really well, too.
We didn’t end up buying a whole lot of “non-essential” stuff for Julian, but we did receive a couple of gifts that ended up being really useful and appreciated. The Fisher Price Rock ’n Play Sleeper was particularly nice when I went back to work and Mike was home alone with the baby. Our model didn’t come with any added bells and whistles, and it provided a safe place for Julian to hang out and nap or just abide while Mike worked or did other things around the apartment.
The bathroom in our last apartment was tiny, so fitting a standard baby bathtub into our space would have been tricky. Enter the puj tub, a soft and flexible baby bath that fit nicely in our sink. Julian seemed very comfortable sitting in it for bathtime, and I appreciated the extra layer of cushioning between baby and hard, cold porcelain. Both of these items are now being used by our new nephew Solomon.
You can find all of these items (and a few others) on my Julian – Gear board on Pinterest.
(I should probably mention that every product mentioned here was either purchased by us or gifted to us by friends or family members. I have not ever received any sort of free or discounted products or compensation from any of the companies mentioned in exchange for writing about them here or elsewhere, and all opinions are, of course, my own.)