Baby Gear: What to Get When You Are Afraid of Overrunning Your Home With Baby Stuff You Don’t Need

Warning:  Very long and wordy post about baby stuff that is probably only interesting to moms and dads-to-be.  Sorry to bore the rest of you. 

The title pretty much sums up where I was when we had our first.  We lived in a 700 square foot, one-bedroom apartment.  We loved our space and didn’t have any plans to move.  With no storage attic or basement to really hide stuff away, everything we had was accounted for.  There was nothing in that apartment that I forgot I owned or could even misplace, because it was all right there.

When we got pregnant and decided to register, I was immediately completely overwhelmed.  Analysis paralysis set in whenever I would look at those Babies R Us registry lists of everything under the sun that you NEED for that new baby.  I didn’t know what I needed!  Where was the “no seriously- this is what you’ll use and the rest can stay at the store” list?

Was this my destiny? And did it have to be in these cutesy colors?

Reading books and blogs helped, but sometimes overwhelmed me too.  (Maybe I just get overwhelmed easily?).  When it comes to baby stuff, everyone has a slightly different list of “must-haves”.  Welcome to parenting- where everyone has a different system that works for them.  You’re experiencing this already when you register.  Or when you’re pregnant, and you opt for deli meat on that sandwich and get the stink-eye from a friend who knows you just made your baby dumber as a result.  (Ahem.)  Again- everyone has a different system that works for them.

I took my sister to the store to help me register.  She knew such helpful tips as “Don’t buy Gerber onesies.  They sort of feel like cardboard.  Buy Carter’s instead”.  See, I never would have known that.

Here’s a few things that worked for me:

1.  Graco pack and play WITHOUT the bassinet and changer attachment.  I borrowed a friend’s copy of Baby Bargains when I was pregnant, and found it very helpful.  At that time, Baby Bargains was giving high marks to Graco for the easiest, most durable pack and play.  I liked some other brands’ colors and designs much better, but opted for the slightly cheesy Graco pattern because so many people said it was easy to use.  (Graco has much nicer fabrics and patterns now, which is nice.)

I remember going to a friend’s house when my first was a baby, and we tried to set up her Chicco pack and play to put my little one down for a nap.  We are both pretty smart people, but neither of us could figure out the right system to get the darn thing set up.  We were slinging those side rails up and down for 5 minutes before it finally clicked into place.  Her comment was that “her husband always does it”.  Well, I don’t want to always depend on the hubs and/or five minutes of sheer frustration to use our pack and play.  Graco has worked well for us.  And that bassinet attachment/changer thingy?  Skip it- it’s just another thing to store after a few short months of use.

If you have the trunk space, store your pack and play in your car instead of in your closet.  Why lug it in and out of the house every time, when you will be using your pack and play most frequently when you are on the road?

2.  Avent bottles.  As I have mentioned before, we have been in various apartments with nary a dishwasher in sight until just a few months ago.  With this as the case, Avent bottles have been simplest for us.  There are no little tubes or parts to clean, which is handy when you’re hand-washing.  I know other friends have used Playtex and Tommee Tippy with good results, too.

A hitch with bottles is that some babies will only take a certain kind of nipple from a certain kind of bottle.  So my advice is to get a couple of bottles, try one out, then buy a few more if they work.  Don’t unwrap and sterilize 14 Avent bottles, only to find out your baby projectile vomits after you feed her from this particular bottle.  Just sayin’.

3.  A good swaddling blanket.  We received this one from a friend before our first came along and it became the one we reached for every night at bedtime.  It is nice and big and makes a good tight swaddle, which worked well for our babies.  When little Monkey came along, aden + anais blankets had become very popular.  We got a couple of those, which worked really well as nursing cover-ups and blankets to lay out for play time, but I didn’t love them as swaddling blankets.  They were too gauzy and stretchy and inevitably my babies would lose the baby burrito feeling we were going for.

4.  Burp cloths.  Lots of them.  We had a basket in our living room strictly designated for burp cloths.  I didn’t want to have to do a full load of laundry just to have a few more of these handy, so we registered for (and received) a lot.  It was kind of like when I went to college and my sister told me to buy extra underwear, so I wouldn’t have to do laundry as often.  Ah, such wisdom.  I can wear my jeans for days on end before washing, but my drawers…  you get the idea.

Same with burp cloths.  Just trying to save you from extra laundry duty.

5.  A bouncy seat.  We have never used a swing for our two, though I know some people swear by them for calming their babies down.  But the bouncy seat- that is something that gets a lot of mileage around here.  Once your baby is a bit older and tired of laying on his back, a bouncy seat is a nice way for the baby to be more upright (which helps with keeping foods down after feedings) and able to see around a bit more.  It is easy to move from room to room with you as you’re cooking, doing laundry, or whatever.  Also, you can easily switch around the little dangly toys that hang off the bouncy seat, when your baby gets bored of what’s there.

At any given time, at least 27 people are trying to sell these on Craigslist.

Watching the washing machine, of course.

6.  Booster seat.  If space is limited, an easy thing to knock off your list is the full-fledged highchair.  They take up more space and- again- are more to store in the long run.  A handy aspect of the highchair is that many adjust so that your baby is leaning back slightly in the beginning for feedings, then you can make it more upright as your child gets older.  We just used the aforementioned bouncy seat for feedings initially, when neck strength wasn’t too great, then switched to the booster.

Things to borrow, if possible:

1.  Moses basket, co-sleeper, or bassinet.  These are slightly bigger items that are really handy in those first few months, but then your baby outgrows it, or starts sleeping in the crib, and it is one more thing to store.  I have found it convenient to mooch off of my friends for these items, then return them when their time is up.  Most moms are happy to lend these things out because, after all, what good is it doing in that storage space, when someone else could be using it?

2.  Exersaucer.  Frequently referred to as “ugly plastic monstrosities,” no one can deny their usefulness.  Baby is contained, upright, and occupied?  Winner all around, in my book.  Again- great to borrow, if you can, just because of their bulk.  And most moms are eager to lend these out as well because they are so darn ugly.

Things to splurge on, if you’ve got the cash burning a hole in your pocket:

1.  A good stroller.  We were given the BOB with our first and found the double BOB on Craigslist when number two came along.  It cost an arm and a leg, but I have never regretted it.  Some weeks the kids are in and out of the stroller more than the car, so having a stroller that is easy to maneuver (one handed) and nice and smooth has been well worth the extra money.  I found Baby Bargains to be helpful with this decision as well.  They had a whole section on determining which stroller was best for your lifestyle and that helped me narrow down the bazillion options.

Now that I’ve written this solid-gold list of stuff out, I know others have their own lists of what worked and did not work for them.  Feel free to chime in and leave a comment.  It might help some other overwhelmed mom-to-be out there.


14 thoughts on “Baby Gear: What to Get When You Are Afraid of Overrunning Your Home With Baby Stuff You Don’t Need

  1. Have I returned number 3 to you? If not….I’m sure I can find it…..somewhere…..In other news, your list is already so perfect, how could I add to it.

    • oh that’s smart. we got one of those convertible cribs in a style that happens to take up a ton of space. yours would have made much more sense.

      oh hindsight, why do you foil me…

  2. Agree on all fronts! Another must-have is a breastfeeding pillow and I found mybrestfriend (yes, really) to be much better than the boppy. A lot of people love bumbos – I found them to be not very useful/super dangerous because my two both loved to try to flip out of them from the get-go. Cloth bibs are another thing to stock up on because once the teething starts it’s a lot easier to change a bib than a onesie. Btw, anyone that anticipates having 2 under 2 (or thereabouts) – I absolutely positively adore my Baby Jogger City Select stroller – the only stroller I ever need (even if I only have one munchkin with me Instead of both.). Great post, Katherine!

  3. Totally agree on the swaddling blankets!!! (FULLY.) And also on the spit up cloths (how can so much come out of them??!) And we went with the Fisher Price Space Saver high-chair/booster combo ( And have been pretty happy with it. Lastly – we were told by several people not to bother with a changing table…but we ended up getting one any way – and have used it for almost EVERY SINGLE change for 16 months. I mean…it’s like you say – everyone gets their own rhythym of what works for them. That’s what worked for us.

  4. Thank you for posting this!! You must have been reading my mind: I’m totally overwhelmed and ignorant about baby registries!

  5. Oh, my goodness, how I need this.

    We aren’t pregnant (yet!) but I still get overwhelmed with the amount of stuff they claim you NEED if you are going to have a baby. Our apartment is tiny, like yours was, and we have a small amount of stuff, like you did. I really want to keep it that way. Thanks for the advice!!!

  6. I have found I like the gauzier blankets for swaddling baby when he’s bigger. The other receiving blankets are now too small to swaddle my 4 months old. Totally agree on the BOB stroller. We didn’t do that and I’ve regreted it. Get the simplest highchair you can find. I liked the white plastic ikea chair. I couldn’t stand the large padded highchair from chicco The tray was too big and it was a total pain to clean. Worst $100 spent on baby stuff.

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