When getting ready to bring a child into this world it is incredibly easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of gizmos and gadgets that will make your life easier, your day smoother, and get your three-month-old into a better college. Seriously though, doesn’t it seem like some of the marketing stretches that far? If you choose brand X over brand Y for your child’s bib they’ll be sure to score higher on standardized tests in high school; common, really?!
Although babies don’t need a ton of gear to survive there definitely are a few things that will make the infant years smoother for everyone.
As a stay at home dad of twins and a self-proclaimed gear junkie/product research enthusiast here are my top 10 recommended pieces of baby gear.
1. White Noise Sound Machine
Although there isn’t really a ranking with these recommendations if you’re going to take away one piece of gear to implement into your life I would highly recommend a white noise machine.
Our first sound machine was an old alarm clock I had from college that happened to have a waterfall sound on it.
It worked well enough and I liked how widely adjustable the volume was. It’s downfalls: the clock was SUPER bright – I ended up covering everything that emitted light with layers of electrical tape just to keep their room dark. The kicker, and the part that made me start researching sound machines, was that if the power was interrupted and then came back on, the unit would reset and the sound would have to be manually turned on again.
The spring after the boys were born we had frequent storms and would have brief interruptions in power – resulting in me or my wife getting out of bed to reset the sound machine. After a few incidents of this I began to research other options. I came across the Marpac Dohm white noise machine and after an hour or two of research (I enjoy product research) ordered the Classic version with the two-speed fan.
After installing it into the nursery here were my impressions:
- The max volume was not as loud as the electronic sound machine, but it was loud enough as we never turned the other one all the way up anyway- it could become obnoxiously loud.
- The sound from the Dohm Classic was fuller, a more solid and pleasurable sound. This makes sense as the Dohm’s noise is mechanical – it comes from the fans forcing air through the housing versus projecting a digital recording. I hadn’t noticed until I heard the mechanical version, but the electronic white noise definitely has a “tin” sound to it.
Fast forward many moons to the night we decide to try turning off the audio baby monitor in our bedroom. We couldn’t sleep, it was horrible. We had slept for over three years listening to that white noise machine piping through the baby monitor feed and now, the room was silent.
We decided to get a white noise machine for the master bedroom too. This time we opted for the single speed Dohm Uno.
My personal opinion after having used both versions – save a few dollars and get the Uno. We still have the Classic and the boys continue to use it every night – but we only use it on one setting so the extra money spent on the variability wasn’t necessary.
If you’ve never slept with a white noise machine the first experience may cause you to think that it’s too noisy. However, it does a terrific job of blocking out noises outside the bedroom – such as Mom and Dad watching a movie after the kiddos head to bed – and I truly believe it lends itself to a better quality of sleep because of it.
2. Red Light Bulb
If I recall correctly this tip came from one of the home visit nurses that we had out for a checkup.
It’s controversial whether or not red light helps to preserve night vision, or allows your night vision to return quicker, but from my own experience using a low wattage red light bulb during nighttime feedings and diaper changes it was definitely less harsh than its traditional bulb color counterparts. We ended up getting a two pack of bulbs and placed them in a lamp inside the nursery and one in the hallway outside the boy’s bedroom.
We ended up getting a two pack of bulbs and placed one in a lamp inside the nursery and one in the hallway outside the boy’s bedroom. We picked ours up from the local hardware store but here is a link to an example of what I’m talking about: Red LED Light Bulb.
3. Wearable Blankets: Halo Sleepsacks
These wearable blankets were gifted to us before the boys were born and we thought we’d give them a try once they arrived.
Let me tell you, they are AWESOME! The newborn version has “wings” that Velcro together – a built in swaddle with no folding!
We loved them so much that we continued to purchase the Halo brand Sleepsacks in each size as the boys grew and I can’t recommend them highly enough.
4. DIY Crib Co-Sleeper
This little tip is a doosey and one that I can only take partial credit for. I had been researching co-sleeping and the various ways folks have chosen to sleep with their newborns in the past and came across tons of folks making bassinet sized co-sleeper cribs that they butted up next to the adult’s mattress.
I thought this was fantastic – if you have one baby. There was no way any of the units in the photos I was seeing would comfortably hold two babies. Then it hit me, the convertible cribs we had sitting in the nursery turned into day beds – meaning one long side was designed to come off.
I did some investigatin’, measurin’, and figurin’ and came to the conclusion that we could take the side off one crib, then butt it up to one side of our bed and viola we have a co-sleeper big enough for two infants and it didn’t cost us a dime!
I used some webbing straps to attach the crib to the metal frame of our bed so there was no way it could be moved away.
Also, there will be a gap between the main mattress and the crib mattress- just the combined thickness of the crib frame and the main bed frame, ours was about three inches. I slid the crib mattress over that gap and then filled the far side in with some rolled up beach towels (see photo).
For me, this was an original idea. I was sparked by the photos of smaller bassinet co-sleepers but hadn’t come across anyone using a full-size crib adapted into a co-sleeper.
However, in doing some research for this article it seems there are many other brilliant parents out there that have come to the same conclusions – and now I’m pleased to spread this bit of advice onto you!
Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take a ton of photos of the setup back then and can only find one photo to share with you. Google “DIY Cosleeper” and select the images tab to find more examples of this awesome hack.
5. Happiest Baby on the Block DVD
This DVD was given to us as a gift and it was one of the most beneficial gifts we received.
The concepts of recreating the womb after birth in order to provide familiarity and comfort to your newborn baby is obvious, yet often not thought of. I highly recommend the DVD over the book as the concepts are easy to grasp, yet the visuals and step by step instructions are very helpful and I can imagine it’d be harder to grasp via text only.
Check your local library for availability or see if any veteran parent families have a copy they’re ready to pass on before you buy a new DVD as it really is a watch once or twice type of video before you’ve got the concepts committed to memory.
Happiest Baby on the Block- DVD.
6. Bandana Bibs
While this piece of gear didn’t necessarily change our lives in an earth-shattering manner it was a tweak on the traditional that definitely brought us joy.
Traditional bibs are what they are – sacrificial pieces of cloth used in an attempt to keep clothes clean. The bandana bibs however, are near equal in function, yet far exceed in form – the look spectacular and definitely add to an outfit versus covering it up. Amazon has a ton of pattern offerings that you can check out here – it’s where we ordered ours from.
True, these won’t help much during meal times but for the rest of the day they were my go to accessory. And if you’re looking for an awesome mealtime bib check out the Ikea sleeved bibs below – these were fantastic on our baby-led weaning journey!
Have you heard about baby-led weaning yet?
If not, check it out – LIFE CHANGING!
Here is a decent place to get started: www.mamanatural.com/baby-led-weaning
7. Boppy Nursing Pillow
- Nursing or Feeding Support
Worn around the adult’s stomach the pillow is used to prop up the baby for feeing
**Obviously I didn’t nurse, but I used the heck out of this pillow while bottle feeding!**
Supporting the baby on their back before they can sit up
- Tummy Time
Provides support while laying on their stomachs. We found it best to only use it in this manner occasionally – tummy time is meant for them to work their muscles to prop themselves up right?
Provides support while learning to sit upright and helps to keep the kiddos from toppling over
There is not a ton to this recommendation – it’s just a pillow in a specific shape – but it was invaluable and one that I highly recommend to anyone with a newborn.
Plus, they’re super comfy to nap on yourself 🙂
8. Nail Trimming Scissors
Trimming newborns nails can be intimidating. They’re paper thin yet can be super sharp if you don’t stay on top of trimming them.
Most of us use the traditional lever style clippers (like these) to trim our nails. Have you ever accidentally cut INTO your nail or the surrounding skin with the sharp, curved edges of the clippers? It hurts and is definitely something I’d like to avoid when trimming my baby’s nails.
These nail scissors are curved so you’ll always be cutting away from the finger, and they have a rounded, blunt tip. When your baby suddenly jerks their hand away there is no danger of accidentally stabbing them.
We’ve continued to use these nail scissors well past the newborn stage and on into toddlerhood and adolescence. While they’re definitely too small to use on my adult nails I anticipate using them until my children are responsible enough to cut their own nails.
9. WubbaNub Pacifier
Should you choose to use pacifiers there are oodles and oodles of options out there. Some mimic the shape of a mother’s nipple, others are designed specifically with future dental health in mind. The shape of pacifier you should choose is outside my scope of expertise but I’ll tell you what we chose and why.
We really liked the Wubbanub brand – they have a small plush animal permanently attached to the pacifier.
The major benefit to this combination was that when the boys dropped the pacifier out of their mouth that it didn’t go rolling onto the floor, the weight of the animal kept it right where it was. They were also SUPER easy to keep track of and I don’t recall ever losing one.
If you’re interested in this concept but don’t care for the Wubbanub’s style pacifier there are tons of options out there for small plush animals that have a strap that you can then attach to your pacifier of choice.
Although a stroller is not an absolute necessity when having a child, it sure does make your life infinitely easier!
My recommendation – get a frame stroller, or more likely if you only need to carry one baby, a stroller that has a carseat frame adapter, for the first years when your child is in an infant carseat.
Throughout our “stroller days” with our twins we had a total of four strollers.
- Frame stroller – Joovy Twinroo
- Jogging stroller – BOB Dually
- 2 Single umbrella strollers
- Double – front to back – traditional style stroller
Let’s start with the two that I’d skip the next time around: the front/back traditional double stroller and the umbrella strollers. Both styles were purchased used at a consignment sale; the umbrella strollers specifically for use in the airport on a cross country trip. The front/back double was crazy inexpensive and a style we were interested in trying out since at that point we were out of the frame stroller and solely using the jogging stroller. What didn’t I like about them? Wheels were too small, frames were too flimsy, and the push took so much effort that I couldn’t recommend them.
Onto the goodstuff!
When the boys were small enough to be in the “bucket” carseats – the style that can click into a base that is installed into the car – the frame stroller was our go to. Being able to simply remove the carseat, with them still secured in it, and securely click it into the stroller was fantastic. No messing with seatbelts or transferring sleeping three-month-olds through various weather extremes.
It was not uncommon to see me pushing this stroller through the grocery store, utilizing the HUGE storage basket underneath while also hanging reusable shopping bags from the handlebar using The Mommy Hook.
For all its wonderful qualities – specifically the transferability of the car seats and its narrow design, its not perfect for everything. The wheels are durable, but hard and small. This is not the stroller that you’re going to take on a walk on anything other than pavement. For those situations I recommend something with pneumatic tires.
Pneumatic tires are filled with air just like a bicycle tire so they push and maneuver wonderfully. We chose to go with the BOB Duallie double jogging stroller and to be honest if there was a DOUBLE car seat adapter available for this stroller (they do make a single, say for a toddler and a newborn) it may have been the only one we ever used.
The tires are HUGE and the push is almost effortless. Even when the boys were getting up towards 25lbs each I could easily push this stroller one handed with the bottom basket full of gear.
Don’t get me wrong – this stroller is a major investment – but there are many savvy ways to save on a big item like this.
Some things to consider: buy used, this stroller is so well built that by the time we sold it after three years it still had many years of use ahead. You could add the item to baby registries that give discounts, keep an eye out for sales and manufacturers coupons, or ask friends and family to direct their showering of gifts towards this huge purchase – we did all of these and it was such an amazing piece of gear that added value to our lives daily!
The awesome thing is, many single strollers offer adapters to allow for infant carseats to fit right on and you’ll be able to use a single stroller for everything!
Babies bring a ton of excitement and change into our lives. Our whole schedules alter, everyone is experimenting to find their new normal and the joy you can experience as a parent is unparalleled.
Along with all these wonderful experiences comes frustration and moments you’ll just throw up your hands – sometimes having the right tool for the right job can make a tough situation significantly easier to move through.
Hopefully some of the lessons and tricks I learned along the way will help you shortcut your potential frustrations and allow you more time to be present and embrace the joy and happiness that surrounds bringing a child into your life.