Okay, so here is my best advice for all the baby gear you NEED, and all the junk you don’t. Now that have had my third child, I feel like I’ve been through enough baby gear in the past few years to be able to tell what is useful and what is unnecessary.
For the nursery:
- a crib, not a bassinet (those things are tiny and you can only use them for a few months anyway) If you can find a convertible one in the same price range as a normal crib, then great, if not, I wouldn’t pay extra for the convertible (meaning, turns into a toddler bed) option. Especially because when #2 comes along, the toddler bed turns back into a crib anyway. You can get a nice toddler bed for $30 on its own.
- dresser, not a changing table, because they are multi-purpose. Changing tables are expensive, flimsy, and it’s a pain because the shelving at the bottom is open, so when the little one starts crawling, then they are into everything. A nice dresser can be used for storage, grows with the child, and you can still bolt the changing pad to the back of it and remove it later when you don’t need it anymore.
- a glider is a necessity, with a footstool, for nursing, stories, cuddling, etc. Also, get a side table with enough storage for bottled water, books, snacks, nursing pads, spit up cloths, your phone, etc. Because once you sit down to nurse you’re kind of stuck there for a while (it’s time consuming in the beginning, but gets faster as the baby gets more used to it). Those first few weeks, my husband always got SO sick of me calling “Can you bring me a bottle of water?!” (Nursing makes you thirsty!)
- big wastes of money in the nursery: a wipes warmer and a diaper genie. You might end up getting these anyway as gifts, since they seem to be popular, but they are completely unnecessary. I had a diaper genie and it was such a pain. Yes, it did make the nursery smell less. But the refill packs are so expensive! I eventually sold mine and now I use a regular trash can. I throw in the pee diapers and when I have a #2 diaper, I take the bag out to the trash. I keep an old kleenex box stuffed with walmart bags right next to it and it’s much much cheaper than spending $15 a month on fancy diaper genie trash bags. Also, those “sets” of bedding! They cost like $50-100 and they are actually hazardous to the child. They aren’t supposed to have bumpers past like 4 months, and they aren’t supposed to have blankets until like 12 months. So what is the point? I just put a sheet in my crib and that’s it.
- not wastes of money: baby monitor, night lights, baby sized hangers (10-20 is usually enough), 3 crib sheets (I like the Carter’s jersey knit kind, because I have found that others shrink over time and then it is impossible to stretch them over the mattress)
- clothing: most first-time parents will probably get lots of gifts that will take care of most of your clothing needs. Things to keep in mind: shop for the season, if you’re due in July, you won’t need size 0-3 months winter gear, etc. Also, nobody ever gives you jeans, and those are a necessity. If you don’t get them as a gift, in the smaller sizes you’ll want lots of pj’s. Cute dresses and fancy outfits are adorable, but most of the time you’ll just want the baby in pj’s. Oh, and socks! Nobody ever buys you socks.
On the go:
- carseat/stroller: for my firstborn, we got one of those travel systems, that has a carseat and stroller together. It was very convenient, but then #2 came along, and that single stroller sits in my garage collecting dust. I know it’s going to seem strange to have just one baby and a double stroller, but in the long run, I think you will really appreciate it (and in the meantime, you just have more storage space for your coat/bag/shopping). I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my sit’n’stand. It is by Baby Trend. When I got mine, it was on walmart.com (with free site-to-store delivery) for $120. It is AWESOME. I know it’s intended for 2 kids, but I have fit 4 in it at one time (while out with a friend and her kids). Now that I have 3, I still don’t need to buy a bigger stroller because my 4 year old, 2 year old, and newborn all ride in the sit’n’stand. And it doesn’t really look too much like a double stroller if you do have just one kid in it, since the back seat is just a bench and not a chair. Most major brands of carseats are compatible with it, so you can still do the travel system thing, where you snap the carseat into the stroller and into the car real easily, but you just have to buy the carseat separately in the beginning. It’s not the common way of doing things, but if I could do it again, this is what I’d do. For the carseat & base, I like Graco much better than Evenflo. (I have Evenflo and I’m jealous of all my friends’ Graco infant carriers). The Evenflo Z handle they say is easier to carry, but I think it feels awkward. Also, the Graco can be strapped into a car without the base if you need to use somebody else’s car and don’t want to move the base over, so it’s more convenient.
- baby carrier: this is one of the things I recommend spending the big bucks on. I got a cheap ($15) Infantino carrier and I never used it because it wasn’t comfortable or convenient. Also, If the baby fell asleep in it, it was impossible to get them out without waking them. Then my friend let me borrow her baby bjorn (I think they are around $80) and I used it, no joke, like 12 hours a day when my daughter was a newborn. I think it made a lot of difference that she was the second baby so I also had a toddler to take care of, but it was so convenient to be able to hold her and still have both hands free. Also, she was a very fussy child and hated to be put down, so I don’t know what I would have done without it. I used it for almost an entire year, not only just when she was brand new, and I think it will become even more valuable when I have 3. I got mine used on eBay for around $20. Once the baby can hold his/her head up and gets a bit heavier, I like the Ergo carriers. It is amazing, and you can still wear a kid that is 1 or 2 years old. I got this one used on ebay as well.
- pack’n’play: this is really only necessary if you will be traveling a lot. It could be really handy if you, for example, travel to see family for a day, because the little one will need somewhere to sleep. (They will sleep in the carseat the first few months, but generally, once they start getting a little bigger, they need a crib). I use mine only occasionally, and mine was a hand-me-down so I didn’t shell out over $100 bucks for it like many do. I honestly don’t think I would have bought one. We don’t travel much, even on day trips we tend to cut the day short by 2pm or so to get the kids home for naps, but that’s what works for our family.
- boppy pillow: you NEED one of these if you will be breastfeeding. It makes it so much easier and more comfortable to hold the baby. Even if you don’t it’s fun for cuddle time (and it really helps if there is a toddler that wants to hold the baby, too). My husband even used ours a lot and he and the baby (both of them) would nap together.
- highchair: I like my Evenflo Expressions high chair a lot. It has a little hook on the tray to hang it on the chair, the chair goes up and down so it can be table level or couch level if I want to push it in there. One thing I wish I knew earlier is that I could use it a lot sooner than I thought. I didn’t get a high chair until my oldest was 5 months old, then when I got it, I realized that it reclined, so even newborns could sit in it. We put our second in it right away, so she hung out in there while the rest of us had dinner, or I’d use it as somewhere to set her while I was in the kitchen, etc.
- bottles/bottle warmers/all that: I nursed both of my kids for just over a year, and neither one of them took a bottle, so I can’t really say much about this. They both started using a sippy cup around 6 months (when I started solid food), so that saved a lot of hassle, since bottles seem to be a pain to deal with. If you plan on staying home (I mean not working, not never leaving the house) and breastfeeding, then you probably don’t need bottles.
- breast pump: these come in all shapes and sizes, from the very simple (manual pumps start at $15-20) to the very complex (double electric pumps cost in the hundreds). I have one of the very simple kind. I used it because I went on an overnight trip when my son was 3 months old, so I was able to pump enough for that, but with my daughter, I didn’t go anywhere, so all the milk I pumped is still sitting in my freezer. I did use some of it when she first started the baby rice cereal, I mixed it with that. But it’s up to you whether you think you will need one. The rice cereal works just as well with water or juice.
- nursing pads: in case you’ve never heard of these, they are round pads you wear in your bra so when you leak, you don’t have big wet splotches on your shirt. You will need lots of them in the beginning, but by the time my kids were 5-6 months, I wasn’t even using them anymore. Have a ton of them on hand before your milk comes in, because you will really need them!
- nursing bras/shirts: these have easy openings to make feedings easier. The bras are a must. The shirts are convenient, but not necessary. I liked to layer my tops so I could pull the top layer up and cover the baby a little, and still have the bottom layer to cover my belly.
- burp cloths and bibs: you will need so many of these, you won’t even believe it. There are never enough clean. I had a baby shower when I was pregnant with my son and I got like 10 bibs, thinking “why would I need so many”, and I returned like half of them to the store. Six months later, when he was going through that many in a day, I wished I had kept them.
- bouncy seat: these are those things that have a wire frame and a cloth seat and sometimes an activity bar over the front. Some babies do great and live in these things, some babies hate them and won’t sit in them for even a second. I had one of each. With most of these kinds of items (swings, exersaucers, pappasans, activity mats, jumperoos), I would say if you have the opportunity (maybe if you have a friend with older kids, or if your church nursery has them) try them out to see if the baby likes it before you spend $50-$100 on things you never use. One of the best things that I think all babies love is an activity table (some of them even lower to the floor for smaller babies) and I think they are only like $20.
- bumbo/bebe pod seat: I have the bebe pod, which is the cheaper version of the bumbo (I actually like it more, although there are only a few differences). They say it helps the baby learn to hold their head up and sit up straight. I started putting my daughter in it when she was only a month old. I don’t think this is something you need necessarily, but it is convenient if you’re playing on the floor together and the baby can’t quite sit up yet.
- baby toiletries: you won’t believe how long these things last. I am still using the same bottle of soap I opened when my daughter was born, and she’s almost 2 now! So don’t stock up on these kinds of things. As for medicines, I don’t know how your hospital works, but they give me a bottle of infant tylenol every time somebody gets shots, so I don’t bother buying medications. I do buy this Johnson’s Vapor Bath that I use as a bubble bath when the kids are stuffy or have runny noses, and it works wonders. There are a billion things in this section that you don’t need, but the basics are: thermometer, tylenol, soap, baby orajel, diaper rash cream (another thing that lasts forever so don’t buy more than one). You do need a baby bath tub. I like mine, it has a sling that comes out as the baby grows.
- childproofing stuff: the biggie is cabinet locks, everything else is kind of dependent on what makes you nervous. Get gates if you want to keep them out of a certain room. You might want rubber guards for your fireplace (if there’s brick around the bottom). All that is kind of up to you. They sell everything under the sun: refrigerator locks, oven locks, toilet locks, bifold door locks. A lot of it is over the top. Are these people leaving their babies home alone or what? Just get what you feel needs protecting.
- I mentioned this before, but I think it’s worth saying again: diapers.com is one of the best ways I have found to save money on diapers and wipes. Their prices are so low, shipping is free on orders over $49, and they even take coupons! (You just mail them in and they are credited to your account). They have tons of stuff on there, diapers, wipes, baby food, feeding supplies, they even have that baby bjorn I was talking about. All kinds of baby gear. If you decide to try out diapers.com, you can put in my referral code: chri2345, but whatever, I’m pitching it because I love it, not for the referral bonus. Amazon.com is another great site with low prices and free shipping (most of the time). And Target and Babies’R’Us/Toys’R’Us both price match, so you might be able to take a Walmart ad to one of those stores and match them with a store coupon to save a lot! **I have switched to cloth diapers since I wrote this post, but these are still great places to save money if you use disposables**
So in conclusion, as you can see, this long jumbled mess of words is just my opinion. If you take every single thing I said and do the opposite, I won’t be offended (nor will I ever know!). I am a strong believer in a mother’s instincts, and you know what’s best for your child. Good luck!