Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Baby gear we would do differently

When I was pregnant and trying to figure out what baby stuff to get, it felt like the big trend was for people to say, "Only first-time moms buy stuff ahead of time. You don't need anything! Don't waste your money!" And while I appreciate the sentiment behind that (wipe warmer? Not necessary), I didn't find it helpful. Because despite the people chirping, "You don't need a crib! The baby will sleep with you! You don't need a stroller! That's what your arms are for!" I DID want a crib and a stroller. And a swing. And a glider. And a bunch of other stuff. And you know what? When the baby came, I was GLAD I had the stuff.

(The swing, by the way, was the number one thing that people said not to buy ahead of time. The baby might hate it! It costs so much! Just get one later if you need it! But I decided to take the risk on the swing, figuring that even if Callum hated it, the next baby might like it, and if not, since I bought it used on Craigslist, I could probably resell it and make most of my money back. And you know what? Callum DID like the swing, and we used it SO MUCH, and you know what I'm really glad I wasn't doing two days postpartum on one hour of sleep? Rushing out to Target to pay full price for an inferior quality swing because I was desperate.)

Anyway. My point is, I carefully researched baby products and purchased only what I thought we would actually need and use. And we made the executive decision to only buy things that we thought we would need right away. High chair? Bouncy seat? Jumperoo? All things that could (and did) wait. But Callum slept in his crib from his first day home. He napped in his swing. He bathed in his tub. And so on. All that stuff that we bought ahead of time? We used every single item. And I was really glad we had it.

All this is just a really long intro to say, if you're an expecting parent thinking you don't need all that junk? Great. Don't buy it. I'm sure you're right. But if you're thinking you DO need all that junk, and you WOULD like to have it, and now you're wondering if you're just being silly and naive to buy it? I don't think so. I mean, make careful choices, do your research, and only buy what you think will make sense for you, while of course understanding that some things might work better than others for your particular baby. But don't feel like you're being a ridiculous first-timer by getting stuff ahead of time. People's instincts are usually pretty accurate as far as what they think will fit into their lives and what won't be necessary. So if you think something will be useful and you want to have it? Buy it. We did, and I'm so glad.

Now. All that said, there ARE a few things that we learned from experience were not perfectly suited to us. Things that we actually ended up doing changing after a few months of experimenting. This still doesn't mean that the way we originally did things wouldn't work for a lot of people. But the lessons we learned are, I think, worth sharing.

1. Stroller.
We started with the Chicco Cortina stroller, which was purchased in a travel system along with the Chicco Keyfit 30 car seat. The travel system was so steeply discounted that it was almost the same price as the car seat alone. Since car seats should not be purchased used anyway, we were going to have to pay full price for it, so the sale price of the travel system made the stroller nearly free. And we used it for ages. And we liked it a lot. We still do, actually. It has great suspension. The car seat fits into it. It has a regular seat that reclines fully. It has an adjustable handle. It has a giant, accessible storage basket and lots of cup holders. It's awesome.

And it's also HUGE. It fills the entire trunk of our car. Even our SUV. It is FANTASTIC for around the neighborhood, but it is not so great for around town. So then we purchased an umbrella stroller to keep in the trunk (well, we put it on our registry and received it as a gift). It's the First Years Ignite, and I think of it as a compromise stroller. It's lighter and folds down relatively small, but it's still not super tiny and weightless. It has a sunshade, but not a huge one. It has decently high handles but Torsten (at 6'4") still has to bend a bit to push it. It's pretty sturdy but it's not great on dirt trails and hikes. It has a basket, but it's not very accessible. The seat reclines, but not all the way. So, it does a lot and as an umbrella stroller it's great. But we still prefer the Chicco, if only it didn't take up our entire trunk.

Enter the CityMini. We actually decided to get this when we got our SUV, because Montana rides in the back of the SUV, and there wasn't room for both her and the Chicco stroller back there, which meant that the umbrella stroller was our only option, which wasn't very helpful when we wanted to go on a hike. So I did a bunch of research and decided to splash out on a more expensive stroller that does everything at once. It's lightweight. It folds up small (and with one hand). It has big wheels and good suspension. The handle is high. The sunshade is huge. It's incredibly maneuverable. The seat reclines very far. And, for our next kid (since Callum has already outgrown his infant seat, rendering this a moot point for him), we can get a converter that allows us to fit the car seat into it.

Basically, I love this stroller. It is totally worth the money to me to have one stroller that does everything and fits in our car. We leave it in our trunk and we keep the Chicco set up in our garage for neighborhood walks. But it would also be great as a one-and-only stroller, as long as you don't mind taking it in and out of the car. And I think we'll donate our umbrella stroller to a battered women's shelter or something.

2. Dresser.
Sadly, when I was pregnant our Ikea hadn't opened yet. So we selected a simple dresser from Land of Nod, which my parents gave to us as a Christmas gift. We got a (fantastic) non-skid changing pad to put on top of it and ta-da! Changing table. And for a long time it worked great. The changing pad took up nearly the entire dresser, but we squished wipes and lotion on the end of it, and we keep our diapers in a basket next to the dresser anyway, so it was fine. But then Callum got bigger. And squirmier. And suddenly every diaper change involved wrestling toiletries away from him while listening to constant crashes as he knocked whatever he hadn't grabbed on the floor.

Conveniently, our Ikea finally opened at just around that time. So we purchased this dresser. See how long it is? It is GLORIOUS. Callum can kick and roll and grab to his heart's content, and nothing gets knocked over. Plus there's room for everything we want to keep on there, even a lamp! And bonus: more drawers for clothing. So, the old dresser is in the bedroom that currently serves as my office, and will be put back into service once Callum is potty trained and graduates to a big-kid bedroom.

3. Diaper bag.
When I was pregnant, I read a bunch of diaper bag reviews and selected the Skip Hop Duo. A sale and a coupon allowed me to buy it for cheap at Macy's, which is convenient because we don't use it anymore. There isn't really anything wrong with it--though it's a bit narrow, which can make it hard to find things in the main compartment--but it was a pain to carry. It does have nice stroller clips, but when you just want to grab the bag and the baby? It was a little unwieldy. I probably would have stuck with it, but Torsten really hated it. So I bought him an Eddie Bauer backpack-style diaper bag for Father's Day, and now we both always use that one. It's just so nice to be able to put it on your back instead of having it weigh you down on one side and swing around clunkily while you're trying to wrangle a baby. The Skip Hop has been retired (though I did transfer its changing pad into the Eddie Bauer, since I found the Eddie Bauer changing pad inferior). Maybe I'll donate the Skip Hop to a shelter with the stroller, now that I think about it.

4. High chair.
Originally we purchased a Fisher Price high chair/booster seat combo instead of a more traditional seat. And I still think it's a great concept. So cheap! So easy! So compact! Straps right onto your dining room chair! And the reasons that this didn't work out for us are very specific to our particular baby and furniture. We have nice microsuede dining chairs that we did not want the baby eating (and spilling) on. So we put the seat on one of our old wooden Ikea dining chairs that was very compact and lightweight, with straight up and down legs. And our child is very large, and very squirmy. And the combination of these factors meant that Callum would bounce around during meals and rock his chair right off two of its legs in a terrifying manner. It seemed like it was only a matter of time before he managed to tip the chair over entirely and land on his head with a chair and booster seat on top of him. So we splashed out for a more traditional high chair, the Graco Contempo. And it works great. It's comfortable. It's nice. It's easy to clean. And best of all, it's sturdy. Callum can bounce in there with all his might, but that thing is not going anywhere.

So, those are the main things we've learned and changed as we've dealt with a real baby instead of just a theoretical one over the past nine months. (And by the way, Amazon Affiliates isn't allowed in Colorado so I don't benefit from people clicking those links--they're there purely for reference.)

So now it's your turn. What are some things that seemed great at first, but wound up just not working for you and your baby? And what did you end up doing (or what would you do next time) instead?


  1. I was blessed with an older sister who was just finishing her baby days as I was starting mine. Therefore nearly 90% of our stuff is hand-me-down, so we just took what we were given. I used her bassinet way more than I thought we would and was glad to have it (since I was breastfeeding but not comfortable co-sleeping, it was great to have the baby next to the bed for the first 4-5 months).

    We DID spring for a swing because hers was on its last leg. While I don't regret purchasing it, I regret purchasing it full-price. You were smart to buy yours on Craigslist. We did use the swing a lot for both kids and sold it on CL for about half the purchase price, but still. $150 for about 7 months of total use? Stupid.

    I’m really glad both of our strollers were shower gifts (a bigger one and an up-scale umbrella type). I’m not a major fan of either one, but the girl refused to ride in it (preferring to walk) after about 20 months and the boy is showing the same tendencies.

    I'm a BIG advocate for buying whatever your pregnant heart desires as long as it's used. Most baby stuff gets 6-8 months of use and is designed to be easily cleanable. I wish we had bought the few things we needed/wanted used our first time around.

    BUT! Everything, even the 10-year-old hand-me-downs that went through 4 kids, has now sold on CL and will pay for my new iPhone.

  2. We bought everything used, even the car seats. It came with the whole set of stroller, pack n play and a high chair. We used everything!

    We bought bouncers because everyone said they were amazing. My kid HATED them.

    For a high chair, we have a large Graco one as well that fits into our dining table perfectly, so we can have family meals with Oli. We also got a clip on one that we take to restaurants. He's right up to the table and loves it. I would buy that one again in a heartbeat. Like this one, but we bought ours second hand at a consignment store.

  3. i wish i knew why i find posts like this so fascinating, despite not having any children (or even PLANNING to have any children any time soon). but i DO! i read this with bated breath. BATED! (why??)

  4. I was shockingly blasé about all my baby gear. Homer bought the change table/dresser the day after Lisa was born (as a surprise, so I had no input), and everything else came as a gift or was borrowed. We hadn't registered or even researched baby supplies, so we got whatever the gift-giver picked. Even on the third kid, I was using the same stuff, except for the carseat which we also received as a gift.

  5. I think one of the most expensive purchases that is also one of the most difficult to know ahead of time purchases is the stroller. Part of the problem is there are so many options out there. And the other problem is it's so highly utilized that parents really do want to pick the one that bests fit their family. While I'm very happy with our main stroller, I think I would consider a solid umbrella stroller. Right now, we have a very old, very used umbrella stroller for infrequent trips to the airport. I'm pretty sure a wheel will fall off soon and that's when we'll invest in a more stable umbrella stroller.

    We didn't purchase a swing (Sweets is against them) or a bouncy chair before Gavin was born. After he was a few months old, we thought Gavin might benefit from a bouncy chair. We bought one and he hated it. It sits, practically unused, blocking our fireplace. I can think of much cheaper ways to block the fireplace.

    We also didn't outright buy a highchair. Instead, we relied on a travel chair that attaches to our kitchen table. I actually love it, but we inherited a very nice highchair, which we've used far more than I ever thought. It was especially helpful to have the tray part of the highchair when Gavin was learning to grab at food, because the lip made it easier for him to pick up the food, instead of sweeping it onto the floor.

  6. We did the same thing with the high chair sitch (just buying a booster seat thing for a regular chair) because we have a medium sized kitchen and no separate eating area or dining room, so it's a tight squeeze at the table and the last thing I wanted was a big rolling high chair in the kitchen, too. And it was fine for Addy, who was a sedate little baby and a sedate little toddler and always sat still and ate pretty neatly.
    Enter Eli. We purchased a regular old giant-ass high chair for him by the time he was four months old, because a) Addy was still using the original booster seat thing and b) it was pretty clear he was going to be a more energetic type eater. And now I love that dang high chair, how easy to clean it is, how portable (it gets rolled into the living areas all the time) and how it can raise and lower to be level with whatever chair the adult feeding the baby happens to be in. Definitely get a good high chair, it's worth it.

  7. People told us not to buy ANY newborn clothes because we'd get TONS as gifts---but I think everyone we know must have heard about that, because we received a ton of stuff in larger sizes like 12m and even 2T, and I don't think anyone gave us anything in newborn.

    I was glad to have the infant seat from day one, because it's hard to know where to put a baby DOWN.

    We thought we'd use the heck out of a pack-n-play because it was one of the most-recommended-to-us items---and we didn't end up using it except to put the car seat in (to keep it out of the way, so we wouldn't take up floor space with both). We donated it.

    Our first stroller was too big, too. I got an umbroller---and then realized it didn't have a basket. So the stroller was our most-repurchased item!

    I was glad, too, that I ignored people acting like I was crazy to want to buy things before the baby was born. It was nice having the crib assembled, the bureau set up with a few outfits in it, a pile of diapers, a bouncy seat, etc. Like you, I didn't want to be doing all that research and comparison shopping WITH the newborn.

  8. Yeah see people always ask what they will need and I always say you won't know til you go through it the first time. It's so different everyone.
    For instance....We couldn't live without the wipe warmer. My kid is 2 and we still use it. As she got older we found we didn't use as many wipes as we did when she was young and it is awesome at keeping wipes moist for a long period of time.

    And the Pack n Play. We didn't get one because everyone said we'd never use it. Guess what we have borrowed about 9 different times in the last two years? Yup, you guessed it.

    It amazes me how different each and every family/kid is.
    I fully expect the next baby to need/want completely different things.

  9. The bassinet. HATED it. Owen never slept well in it and would mash his face up against the side. I didn't receive it from the registry so we bought it ourselves. Waste. I'll try it again with the next one since we have it, but if s/he doesn't like it I will sell it. I would just use the pack n play infant attachments next time.

    On a glad-we-bought-it note, I'm SO glad we shelled out the money for the BOB stroller. I want to make out with it daily.

  10. We did the EXACT same thing you did, bought the Chicco Keyfit 30 travel system....then a cruddy umbrella stroller....then the City Mini (the BEST stroller around!). I love my City Mini and parents have actually stopped and asked what brand it is when they see me collapse it one-handed.

    The BEST purchase I made was the Cooshee Changer: No covers to change, you simply wipe it down with baby wipes, or throw it in the tub to scrub.

    We never have used our Pack n Play, except when we took a trip to Florida. It served as a catch-all in our living room for a few months :)

    We did use the ItzBeen timer, I thought it was such a silly idea, but after baby came, it was a lifesaver:

    It's so easy to offer advice after baby :)

  11. I'm 100% in favor of Snap-n-go style strollers. Super lightweight with just a mesh basket below and our graco infant seat snaps in. It is PERFECT. I would tell you the brand but not sure off the top of my head but probably any snap-n-go style thing would be great. We haven't used our more traditional stroller yet (baby is now 5 mos)

  12. I have kind of the opposite advice. I know so many people who stressed about strollers, car seats, etc. (within reason, for sure, a lot of baby gear is reeeaaally expensive and you want to make sure you are getting the right thing for your $), but the biggest thing I think people overlook is having a baby thermometer. You never know when a fever may strike and if the baby is under three months you need to go to the hospital right away if they are running a fever. My sister had every possible baby gear item, except the thermometer, and she ended up having to take her 1 1/2 month old baby to the ER when she was running a fever (luckily our dad is a dr. and had a thermometer handy). Jen