I have several friends who are expecting their first baby or are new parents. Being one step behind, as always, I thought I’d throw my unsolicited advice in the ring. Let me start off by saying this, you will more than likely get conflicting advice. What I’m about to say might be the complete opposite of what other people have told you. As a new or soon to be parent, your head is probably spinning from the infinite possibilities of bouncers, rockers, playmates and strollers—mine certainly was. The glorious thing about it is there’s no wrong answer. One high chair won’t guarantee your child will grow up to eat his veggies and the crib sheets you chose won’t ensure a full nights sleep. At the end of the day it’s about you, your baby and your budget. Joe and I lean toward minimalists when it comes to baby gear. I’ve heard some people advise registering for everything you could possibly need. While I understand what they’re saying I can’t say I agree, and here’s why. What you added as a last minute “like to have” might be the big thing you receive at a shower and you could miss out on things that you considered “must haves.” We wanted Noah and Haddie to have everything they needed but we didn’t want to turn our house into the local branch of Babies ‘R’ Us. We chose the things we absolutely wanted and decided we could always grab more things, if we needed them. So here it is, a very unsolicited list of “must haves” to “I wish we hadn’ts.”
1) A Crib (bassinet). Hadley and Noah both slept in a bassinet in our room for about four months. When we were ready to transition them to their respective nurseries they slept in a hand-me-down crib from my sister. It’s well loved but worked perfectly for us. We didn’t buy bedroom suits for them for a couple of reasons. First off, it wasn’t in our budget to spend hundreds (if not a thousands) of dollars on a brand new set. Second, we didn’t know how our tastes would evolve over the years and didn’t want to be stuck with age specific furniture that didn’t fit our style anymore (and it’s a good thing we didn’t!)
2) Diapers + Wipes. Diapers and wipes are two things you can usually count on getting at baby showers. We did, and we were so thankful. Diapers can be expensive and you usually aren’t sure which brand will work best for your little one. We made a habit (starting at about week 20) to pick up a small pack of diapers each week when we went grocery shopping. It helped us stock up and it was was easier on the budget spending $8 at a time, same goes for wipes. As far as brands go, Luvs have yet to let us down. We picked them because they’re affordable and haven’t leaked for Noah or Haddie.
3) Swaddle Blankets + Sleep Sacs. They’re lifesavers—seriously. We used our swaddles faithfully until about 3 months when they could break free. They’re perfect for swaddling, a make shift nursing cover, and for quick clean up. We went through them pretty quickly each day so I recommend having at least 5/6, especially with newborns. We had a couple sleep sacs too for when baby gets too big to swaddle.
4) Onesies + Sleep&Play. Unless there’s a super cute onesie most people will buy “impractical” outfits for showers. I’m not knocking it, I’ve certainly done it. Outfits that you want to show off when you go to church or to your first party as a new family; but jeans and button-ups just aren’t practical for everyday. If I’m being totally honest with you, my littles stayed in their sleep&plays all day. Of course I changed their clothes daily (especially when they were newborns and spit up like crazy) but I didn’t dress them up every day. No matter how cute baby is you might have some sleepers you don’t want to put on Instagram, which is why those are perfect for nighttime. I highly recommend focusing your attention on ones that have zippers because one little button could mean wrangling a baby for twice as long as necessary.
5) Crib Sheets. We have some from Target, Babies ‘R’ Us,and Walmart and to be completely honest I can’t tell a difference in quality with any of them. I know we paid $5 more for the one we got at Babies ‘R’ Us, and it’s super cute, but as far as quality is concerned I can’t tell a difference.
6) Car Seat. We got a Chicco Keyfit 30 for each of our kiddos. We picked it because it fit into our budget and had high safety ratings. The reviews we read were accurate. It was a little heavier than others we tried but overall we were very happy with it.
7) Walker. I remember walking down the walker/bouncer aisle wide-eyed. Joe and I were starting to get overwhelmed by the choices when he looked at me and said “is there one that doesn’t have a transmission?” It perfectly summarized how we felt. We didn’t want a walker that did everything. Just one that would allow Noey a little independence and have a couple toys attached. We ended up finding one at Kroger Marketplace that was simple and didn’t break the bank. To be honest, when both of ours were finding their independence they weren’t really interested in the toys on the tray anyway.
8) Swing. Another Kroger find and again with not wanting one that had a transmission. My main criteria was that it didn’t have an overhead bar (which most don’t). I’ve heard amazing things about a Rock and Play but they weren’t on my radar when I had either of my babies. Either way, a swing quickly turned into one of the most used baby gadgets in our house.
9) Pack ‘N’ Play. We didn’t necessarily need it as soon as they were born but we use the fire out of ours now. The first time I really saw the benefit was when we used it for Noah on vacation (before Haddie was born). Now with two kiddos, it’s handy when I have to run to the potty with Noah or switch out the laundry.
10) A Wrap. I didn’t have one with Noah. To be completely honest I wouldn’t have used it because I didn’t lay him down until he was four months old—I’m only sorta kidding. When I was pregnant with Hadley I started researching the best wraps so I could be hands free to play with Noah. I read great things about the Moby wrap but the main negative I read was that it got pretty toasty. That’s when I found the Solly wrap by Solly baby. She’s a mom who started her own company (bonus), they were made with organic cotton (bonus) and they were cooler than the Moby wrap (sold!). I used mine constantly and felt like I was still able to snuggle while I played with Noah. I can’t recommend them highly enough. And, this might be TMI, but you can even sit to pee while the baby is still in the wrap. You’re welcome, you can file that under “never needed to know.”
11) Highchair. We didn’t have the floor space in the kitchen for a traditional high chair when Noah first outgrew his Bumbo (another must have). We opted for a high chair that buckles onto an existing kitchen chair. It’s easy to store and handy to use. The only negative we’ve found is when we have guests over we are down one chair but lucky for us we have some extras stored in the garage. Bonus, it was $25 new.
12) Bottles. Even though I breastfed as much as possible there are times when bottles come in handy. My sister used Dr. Brown bottles with my first nephew and loved them. There aren’t any reviews that I trusted more than hers so that’s what we got, too.
13) Bottle Dryer. It’s not essential, I suppose, but you have to have a way to dry the bottles and propping them up is a pain in the neck. We got GRASS and it’s worked like a charm. It’s small (although they have a bigger size), bright and isn’t an eyesore—which is why I chose it. They also have accessories like this that we snagged for smaller bottle parts. It’s also great for sippy cups and pacifiers.
14) Baby Monitor. I read some horror stories about wireless baby monitors getting hacked and pregnancy hormones just wouldn’t let me get one that required internet access. It turned out to be a good thing because there have been times (like now) that we’re without internet and we would have gone without. That’s not to say video monitors are bad but this VTech audio-only monitor has worked just fine for us.
15) Diaper Bag. Our diaper bag was my big splurge. It’s an Etsy find that’s made in France and I love it! Stripes, yellow leather and lots of pockets, what could be better? The only “negative” thing I have to say about it is that the opening at the top is smaller than the bottom so it can be hard to find things in sometimes. It’s also a tight squeeze with two kiddos but I prefer to take two smaller bags than one enormous tote (but that’s a personal preference).
16) Changing Table/Pad. We heard from a lot of people that they never used their changing table. We almost didn’t get a changing pad because we didn’t want to spend money on something we wouldn’t use. We ended up snagging a used one for $10 to put on top of a dresser just in case. We are so glad we did. We rarely change their diapers (especially when they’re newborns) other places. It can be hard keeping diapers stocked throughout the house without toting a basket around with you although we did keep a basket in our room (when they slept in a bassinet) for late night changes.
17) Rocking Chair. We were lucky enough to be given a recliner to use for both nurseries but this is something I would recommend splurging on. The last thing you want is to be dead tired, rocking a crying baby, sitting in an uncomfortable chair. Trust me. Buy one that’s comfortable, reclines a little, and works for you height-wise.
18) A Bumbo. They’re lifesavers when baby is too big to be content lying down but can’t sit up yet. We used ours to sit in the middle of the table to eat or in the floor to play. They’re super easy to clean, come in several colors and you can even get trays that snap on for finger foods.
So Glad We Didn’t/ Wish We Hadn’t
Because we tried to streamline our choices there aren’t many purchases that gave us buyers remorse, but we certainly had our share of first time blunders.
1) Wish We Hadn’t: Diaper Genie. I know these seem like the bees knees but I wasn’t impressed. Our trash man comes on Wednesday mornings, which means we take our trash to the road Tuesday night. Wednesday morning I start with a nice, clean genie. By Thursday evening/Friday morning the genie is full again and the stacking starts or we throw the diapers away in the trash until Tuesday evening—and start all over again. It’s not that it’s complicated to use but it’s just as quick, easy, and odorless (for me/us) to have a small trash can that we take out daily and don’t have to buy a special liner for.
2) Wish We Hadn’t: Nursing/Carseat Cover. When I was pregnant with Noah I registered for a nursing cover. I was so excited to use it, like it was a badge of honor. Problem is, babies are squirmy and it never seemed quite big enough for comfort. Same goes for a car seat cover. Every time I picked up the car seat, it uncovered baby’s toes or head. I realize you can custom make them bigger, thicker, add Velcro, etc., but that brings me to my next point. I’m not big into single purpose items. While the idea behind them is often necessary I’m not crazy about toting around 3 or 4 single purpose items when I can use one for everything. That’s why I’m so grateful our moms (yes, both!) made quilts for the kiddos. My mom and mother in law made baby quilts (big enough to fit on a toddler bed) that we use constantly. They’re the perfect car seat cover, nursing cover, impromptu changing pad and snuggle blanket for car naps and it keeps us from filling our diaper bag up before we have room to pack diapers.
3) Wish We Hadn’t: Overstocked On 0-3months Clothes. The other day I was cleaning out the garage (read trying to find the sweeper) and came across TWO Rubbermaid totes of 0-3 month boy clothes. I may have overdone it. In hindsight I can see why, with store after store of adorable funny/punny onesies, but truth is you don’t want dirty onesies just hanging out/stinking up the laundry room. I recommend 6-8 sleep&plays, 6-8 onesies/pants, and 6-8 swaddles for newborns. If you’ve met your “quota” but see a onesie you can’t pass up, try sizing up. Trust me, it comes in handy when you’re kids are 6 months old and have nothing to wear.
4) Glad We Didn’t: Splurge On A Crazy Expensive Stroller (right off the bat). Looking down my Pinterest list of “must haves” a stroller was near the top. We started shopping around and just couldn’t justify spending hundreds on a stroller we weren’t sure we would use. We ended up buying a used one for $40 to see if we used it or if it would collect dust in the garage. Anyway, months passed with very little use except the occasional trip to the mall. An expensive stroller just wouldn’t have been worth the money. Now, a couple years later, we know that we love taking walks and that we go to the mall for family dates a couple times a month. It would definitely be worth it to us now, but with all the other “up front” costs I’m so glad we didn’t splurge. After all, you can only spend your money once and that just wasn’t a newborn necessity for us.
5) Glad We Didn’t: Buy Everything New. Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not opposed to buying new but sometimes it’s simply not in the budget. I found several local kid sales (usually in the fall and spring) that we frequent every year. I can count on one hand the big things in my kiddos rooms that we bought new (with the exception of toys and clothes that family purchased). Most things are easily cleaned or washed and you can’t tell the difference, although we skip things with stains or bite marks.