Top 5 Pieces of Baby Equipment

When I was pregnant with my second child, an acquaintance who was pregnant with her first child asked me what was the one piece of baby equipment that I felt I couldn’t live without. Obviously there are tons of things that you need for a new baby; the super-obvious are things like clothing, diapers, and a car seat. Baby equipment and accessories have become a big market, and there are tons of catalogs and stores willing to sell you anything you could imagine and some things you couldn’t. But what are those basic must-haves?

Now every parent might have a slightly different answer to this question, but here is my Top 5 list (in no particular order) based on my needs and experiences.

#1 Bouncer Seat:

This was the answer that I gave my acquaintance. I love the bouncer because it gave me somewhere nice and safe to set my baby down, it was fairly portable (without the baby in it), and the cover could be washed in the washing machine; my babies have liked being able to sit up and enjoyed the soothing vibrations. My first dd had a bit of reflux as a baby and would spit up really bad whenever she was layed down flat on her back, so she spent a lot of time sleeping in her bouncer as well.

My older dd was also late at sitting up on her own, so she completely stretched out the first bouncer we bought which was a Fischer-Price Kick ‘n’ Play. I considered getting a different kind of bouncer as a replacement for our second child, but after reading reviews of a variety of bouncers I went for the Kick ‘n’ Play again. Now we live in a two-level home and I didn’t want to have to haul the one bouncer up and down the stairs, so I recently looked into buying an extra. Unfortunately, Fischer-Price does not appear to sell the Kick ‘n’ Play anymore, but I found a used one at Once Upon a Child. Now I am all set.

#2 Twin Mattress Set:

Since we co-sleep, we keep the twin mattress squeezed between our queen set and the wall. This gives plenty of room for a newborn to sleep safely, but keeps her really close by so I don’t actually have to get out of bed to tend to her feeding needs.

The twin mattress has also been great for segueing a bigger kid out. When our younger daughter was about a year old we switched her to sleeping on the queen set between me and my husband while our older daughter moved to the twin bed. After a few weeks we separated the twin and queen beds to get the older one used to not snuggling up with mommy or daddy at night. Then after a few months of that we were able to move her into her own bed in the other room. I expect we’ll do the same thing once the new baby gets close to a year-old; then daughter #2 will move in with her big sister.

#3 Pack ‘n’ Play:

It’s a bassinet, a changing table, and a playpen. The bassinet is definitely handy when you need to set a baby down quickly and don’t have time to deal with the buckles of a bouncer. I didn’t use the changing table much with my first because we usually just use a towel on the floor. In general I always felt the floor is safer, especially in case you forget something that isn’t within arms reach. However, after my then-two-year-old (almost three) jumped over the head of my then-newborn during a diaper change on the floor, I started using the changing table attachment in hopes that my newborn would at least live long enough to reach three months of age (the approximate weight limit of the attachment) without a major head trauma.

My kids have not used the playpen very much and have not ever been very happy about being in there. However, there have been those periods where they were too big for the bouncer but too small to be let to run loose through the house while I take a shower once or twice a week. And I must admit that the narrowness of the playpen does kind of detract from its usefulness; there’s not much room for a baby to roll over or have more than one or two toys at a time. But since I never had the money or space to buy a bassinet, changing table, and play pen separately, the pack ‘n’ play is a good deal.

#4 Feeding Seat:

The only experience with a high chair I really had was a monstrosity that had been purchased for my sister in 1967 and been passed down to me in 1977 and my nephew in 1990. The chair part was similar in design to the chair on a swing ride at a carnival. It was made to be strapped to a little table and used with a removable tray as a highchair, strapped into a rocking chair frame, have legs strapped onto it to make a little table/chair set, or be used on its own as a car seat. (My mom finally convinced my dad last summer that it was time to let the contraption go to its final resting place.)

When our first baby was born our kitchen table was used as an extra counter as we didn’t own a single decent kitchen chair. We also did not have room for a huge high chair in our cramped apartment. We bought a First Years Infant to Toddler Feeding Seat and never looked back. When our baby first started on solids, the seat sat on the living room floor until we moved and purchased a few chairs to make our kitchen table functional. Because it just straps to any regular chair, it has has been great for taking on trips and dinner with friends. Ours has lasted through two kids now, and I anticipate pulling it out of storage in about five months for this new baby to use.

#5 Umbrella Stroller

While a full-sized stroller is great for taking on huge trips to the mall, especially in the winter when you need a place to stash coats and bags, the umbrella stroller tends to be better for most things. It is usually a lot easier to maneuver in crowded areas. It is much lighter to haul around and folds more compactly for storage. They are also usually really cheap. The only downside is that umbrella strollers tend to have shorter handles, so if you are very tall you might have to hunker over it a bit. I think you can buy handle extension kits, but we’ve never bothered with it.

TIPS:

If anyone I know is expecting, I always recommend the book Baby Bargains by Denise Fields. It compares baby equipment based on price, safety, availability, and necessity. I am not sure what edition she is on now, but there is also a companion website with more updates, especially when it comes to safety recalls. The book is an independent project (meaning not tied to any company just trying to push its own products) and relies heavily on parental experiences and anecdotes in addition to the solid information.

I also recommend looking at the user reviews for any product before you buy it; the websites for Target or Babies ‘R’ Us are usually good resources. Sometimes there are issues with a product that you just wouldn’t anticipate. For instance, when I was looking to buy a different type of bouncer from what I owned before, I read about how the straps of the one I was considering were so short that they would cut into big or growing babies. I thought the Popesan bouncers looked so cute, but parents complained about their babies outgrowing the chairs in length by one to two months. There are also parenting forums out there that discuss various products.

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