Baby stuff – what you need and what you don’t

When I was having my first child I turned to a few experienced moms (thanks again Sughra, Kim and Carissa – you know who you are!) who could offer me sage advice on the important things one needs when preparing for a baby.

And when I say “important,” I don’t mean the matching valance and diaper stacker for the nursery – I mean really important stuff.

A cute nursery with all the matching crap that baby boutiques advertise as must-haves for us sucker moms might look simply adorable but it’s not necessary.

And it doesn’t last. Sooner or later your kid will grow out of a crib, and he/she will have favorite colors and tastes in different cartoon characters, and before you know it, that $400-plus crib bedding set is out on the curb, to be replaced by Dora sheets and SpongeBob pillowcases.

I consider myself somewhat experienced now, after having 2 kids and buying/trying/returning all those wonderful things that I thought my little girls would need.

So here is a rundown of all those things that a new, and even experienced mom, should not live without. This is definitely not a complete list, so feel free to add more must-haves!

1. A good, everyday stroller. And I would say you should even splurge a little on this because a good stroller that takes care of business is a blessing. Trust me.

What to look for: Easy folding, reclining options, sun canopy, maneuverability

Top picks: Baby Jogger City series, Maclaren Quest, Peg Perego Pliko3

The Baby Jogger City Mini offers a reclining seat, big sun canopy, quick one-hand fold, and great maneuverability.

2. Baby carrier. Strollers are not always an option, and sometimes you just want a quick carry option, like when you are at the airport.

What to look for: Easy on/off, back support, sturdy, is baby happy in it?

Top picks: Ergobaby, BabyHawk, Baby K’tan, BabyBjorn

3. Feeding items – like bottles, sippy cups. Nothing is worse than a leaky bottle or a sippy cup that spills. I’ve bought the gamut and finally found the few that actually work.

What to look for: Spill proof, easy to clean/remove parts, good grip

Top picks: Munchkin, Foogo, The First Years Take and Toss

4. Shoes.When kids are walking, nothing is worse than a shoe that pinches or isn’t durable.

What to look for: Wide options, easy on/off, durable, slight room to grow

Top picks: Stride Rite, Robeez

5. Highchair. Forget all the fancy names. A good chair doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. These days a spacesaver feeding seat works wonders – and you can put it anywhere you want, thanks to the attachment straps, without it getting in the way.

What to look for: Recline options, easy-to-clean seat, travel options is a bonus

Top picks: Evenflo, The First Years feeding seat

The First Years Newborn to Toddler reclining feeding seat is perfect for small spaces and for babies just learning how to eat. Plus has all the features of a highchair.

6. Diaper bag. While you shouldn’t go overboard, spending a little more on a quality bag is worth it. After all this will probably be the only bag you’ll be using for a good while.

What to look for: Pockets, easy to clean, Mommy pockets, how does it wear/comfortable straps, dual/triple use – stroller, backpack, messenger, etc.

Top picks: Peg Perego Borsa MammaPetunia Pickle Bottom, SkipHop

7. Diaper pails. While this is an essential nursery item, beware of all the froufrou versions with costly refills.

What to look for: One-hand open/close, roomy for all those diapers, can you use a regular trash bag with it?

Top picks: Diaper Champ, Safety 1st

8. Recliner/glider. Whether it is nursing a newborn or reading to your little one before bedtime, a nice recliner works wonders and is great on your back. I wouldn’t care too much about the matching ottoman, though.

What to look for: A recliner that rocks, soft and comfy, easy to clean fabric (your newborn will inevitably spit up all over it)

9. Play gym/activity center. These are great for keeping little ones happy and entertained, without feeling boxed in like in a playpen.

What to look for: Hanging toys, easy to clean mat/toys, removable items that your kid can play with, folding option for travel/storage

Top picks: Bright Starts, Baby Einstein, Fisher Price, Tiny Love

The Bright Starts activity mat is perfect for a baby learning to roll over and crawl. Plus it folds easily and has an easy to clean surface.

10. White noise machine. When a baby is finally down, there is nothing worse than it waking up to a phone ringing or an ambulance roaring into the neighborhood. You don’t have to buy those pricey ones, even a small desktop fan at the strongest level will work. Plus you don’t want your child getting used to sleeping in silence.

What to look for: Good volume control, definite shushing sound, travel options, good battery life

Top picks: Sleep Sheep, Homedics SoundSpa, Massey desktop fan

What not to waste money on

Here are a few items I would not bother putting on your baby registry, nor spending money on:

Fancy shower spa bathtubs – All frills, no use

Baby wipes warmer – They might be good for winter nights, but the refill freshening pads are pricey

Baby shoes – Until your baby is walking those expensive shoes are of no use. (Except for photo shoots or special occasions.)

Playpen – Might be nice to keep a kid contained, but I have yet to see a kid who likes them. They are only useful for really small babies.

Extraneous nursery items – Besides the basic crib bedding set, don’t worry about the matching clock, valance, diaper stacker, nightlight, wall painting, hamper, etc. etc.

Lots of clothes – When your kid is a newborn, only buy the essentials because you’ll get tons of clothes as gifts. Plus you won’t know until a month or so if your kid is on the smaller side or larger side, or how certain items fit. Also, always buy on sale. I never buy baby/kid clothes for full price, unless it is a must-have item, or I need it for a special occasion. Babies, especially, grow so fast that before you know it, you are looking at a rack full of brand new clothes that don’t fit anymore. At least when you pay less you won’t feel so bad.

Check out your local resale store

Once your kids have outgrown their clothes and toys, if there is no option to donate to another mommy, instead of throwing them away take them to a resale store and get some cash back – so you can buy more diapers. Resale stores also carry new items so you might even end up finding a nice pair of shoes or an outfit for less.

Here in Houston there are a couple I like: Crayons Children’s Resale in southwest Houston and Thread Houston in the Heights

The perfect parent?

No one is a perfect parent but we can always learn from each other. And don’t write off anything unless you try it. Our kids are all different, and what works for one parent might not work for another. I hope this list helps! And please, feel free to add more to this list and share your top picks of other items.

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