Friday, January 18, 2013

Baby Must Haves, Nice-to-Haves, and No-Need-to-Haves {Dear Best Friend...}

"Dear Best Friend..." is a series of posts addressed to my friend who is expecting in an attempt to answer some of her questions about pregnancy and parenting.

As a parent 'in-the-know', I get asked this question a lot! It's about time I write a post with my 2 cents on baby gear must haves. I tried to make this list as complete as I could, but most likely it will be periodically updated. With my experience using many baby items, I have come across many that just work so much better than others. Most of them were invented by other parents and not big companies. So this list offers a glimpse of unique items you may not find on other mom's lists. It is also geared toward the 'healthy minded' mom, straying just a bit from the main stream lifestyle.

Must Haves

Baby carrier*: The single most used item of baby gear around here. There are days I don't use a stroller, but this is used every day. It's a worthwhile investment for your sanity, the baby's comfort, and these short-lived days of them being little enough to wear on yourself! This article I wrote on another blog gives a little info on the choices out there. Personally, our needs were served best with a wrap style carrier (Moby wrap) for birth through 5 months, and a soft-structured carrier (the Ergo) through toddlerhood.

Stroller: Although this item will have the honor of gracing a post of it's own, I don't even need to mention you'll need one. When choosing one, keep in mind how you will use it. After years of experience, I realize that the two most important factors in choosing a stroller are fold and weight - those two will make you love it or hate it. Especially if you'll be using it every day.

Car Seat: The world of car seats is vast as well, keep in mind that it will most likely serve more than one of your babies. The most important thing about car seats is not which one you buy but how you install it! A cheap car seat that is properly installed is a better bet than an expensive one that isn't properly installed. So if you get a nice one and install it correctly, that's the best! I have the most experience with Britax and highly recommend the brand. When looking at other car seats they just seemed so much flimsier. But there are others I wouldn't mind trying for an infant car seat - like Maxi Cosi Mico and Peg Perego. Keep in mind also that the infant car seat is outgrown pretty quickly and by about 1 year of age you will need a convertible car seat that can be rear-facing. I think it makes sense to have that on a baby registry! For convertible seats I would recommend looking into the Britax Marathon, Boulevard, or Advocate (we have the latter), the Diono RadianRXT (very narrow and great for small cars/many kids), Peg Perego Convertible, or the Maxi Cosi Pria 70 (though I am not a fan of the fabric they use on this one).

Nursing Bra: The birth of your baby will begin a new era for you of being the live food provider for years to come! It is so important to have a couple of good nursing bras to make your breastfeeding journey more manageable. It's not going to always be easy, especially in the beginning. The right bra can make a big difference, especially when nursing in public. My favorite brands are Cake Lingerie, Hot Milk, and Elle Macpherson. I have had zero success with bras I bought in person and the ones I got online were just better tailored and didn't fall apart - of course they were more expensive. It is also very hard, as you will see, to find small nursing bras! It's like they think all nursing moms are at least a C cup - they are not! So I've had the best fit with Hot Milk in their 32B.

Nursing tank: On a related note, a nursing tank is extremely convenient and not just any one. I recommend Modest Middles that I recently had the pleasure of trying for myself. I wish I knew about it earlier! It makes it possible for me to wear any of my normal tops and nurse without exposing my back or belly. No need to buy a bunch of nursing tops that can be pricey. It is soooo comfy to wear. I have a code that can give anyone Free Shipping - MM172.

Cloth Diapers*: I can't fit everything about cloth diapers into a short paragraph for sure. Keep this in mind - there is no such thing as a perfect cloth diaper, because each one fits every baby differently. One might leak on my baby, but not on yours, etc. The trickiest past about cloth diapers is washing them, and it will depend on your water. You'll need at least 24 diapers for a newborn and with a toddler you only need about 12. So the best is to use cheaper prefolds for a newborn and invest in nicer one-size diapers for the rest of the baby's life. I'll be covering this in a separate post. (I'll be giving you an in-home consultation on cloth diapers as well!)

High Chair*: I let you have the Babyhome Eat, which is nice, but I recommend registering for a high chair that will grow with baby. On the top of my list is the Stokke Tripp Trap ($250) with the Baby Set ($45) that's sold separately. We use it every day and love it. The baby sits at the table, but there is an optional tray ($50) that's available. I love that it is a real, solid wood chair that grown with the child and even an adult can sit in it (see video). It's really expensive though. My next picks would be the Keekaroo Height Right ($160), the Joovy Nook ($130, compact), the OXO Tot Sprout ($250), or the Fisher Price Space Saver ($48) of you want something really small and inexpensive.

Nursing Pillow*: Makes nursing so much easier, especially for your back. I would recommend putting an extra cover on your registry, maybe even an organic cotton ($25) one. Baby E was actually allergic to the polyester cover on the pillow, it gave her a rash. I would always put an organic blanket on top first.

Woombie*: This genius, mom-invented contraption saved my sanity. Baby E hated being swaddled, but without a swaddle she would just startle herself with her arms. That means she would wake up every 5 minutes! I found the Woombie and bought one immediately when she was already a couple of months old and it was bliss at first try. She finally slept for a good long time. She loved that she could move and stretch around in it, but her arms were no longer in her face. This thing is priceless! It's nice to have more than one, but I got by with just one. I washed it in the morning if it got dirty from a diaper leak and it was dry by evening.

Humidifier: If you live in a climate such as New England here, this is a must have for winter. It will help keep sickness at bay and will help your baby breathe easier when he/she happens to get sick. I'm not going to recommend the one we have, but there are great reviews for the Tribest Humio, Crane Cool Mist, and Heaven Fresh. It's much better to have it ahead of time than to run to the store and get one that has bad reviews/or is overpriced at the recommendation of the pediatrician.

Waterproof Flannel Pads: I underestimated how useful these would be, especially with a girl! A boy just kind of pees on you or somewhere else he isn't supposed to, a girl is at least predictable. These waterproof pads saved the bed, couch, floor, many times. There is also the wool option, wool is naturally water repellent and wool puddle pads are a great chemical free alternative to the ones with plastic sandwiched in flannel.

Potty: Before you know it, your little one will be sitting on the potty. You would think these are all 'the same'. They aren't! I found one potty that makes me not want to use any other, ever. It is so awesome, and cheap! So much easier to clean! We love our Pourty Potty! Never thought I could use so many exclamation points in a sentence with potty.

Crib Mattress: This is one of the most important purchases for the baby. Babies sleep for a large part of their existence. It is so important to have a non-toxic, safe sleeping surface. Recently mattresses from China have been found to have large amounts of highly toxic chemicals in them. Fire retardants in mattresses have also been linked to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). I can recommend many brands that are safe for baby, check out Greenbuds, Obasan, Sopora, Naturepedic, Nook, and Lullaby Earth (most inexpensive).


Bouncer: Used one with both babies, it really helps when you realize you can't hold them all the time. Baby can coo in there while you're washing dishes, as you're getting dressed, watch you shower, hehe! There were nights that baby fell asleep in it, those desperate night when for one reason or another they just have trouble getting to settle down. The one I really recommend and I wish I had  is the 4Moms MamaRoo (it didn't exist when we had our first baby, and for second baby my Facebook following wasn't large anough for the company to consider working with Eco-Babyz!). There is really nothing out there quite like it. It moves more like you would naturally while holding baby (watch a video), not like a lawn mower buzz that most bouncers have. Something simpler, but also pretty cool is the Nuna Leaf. Really neat, wash a video.

Baby Swing: If you would get the MamaRoo mentioned above, you don't even really need a swing. These can be space consuming. But there are compact alternatives like the Ingenuity Portable Swing. We've had a similar one with Baby E which then was passed on to other babies and systematically destroyed. :)

Merino Baby Sleep Bag: It was hard not to put this in the Must Haves, but because of the luxurious price I put it here. I can almost say it is the single most useful item for baby sleep after baby outgrows the Woombie. Why? Because it will keep you from having to wake up all through the night to cover the baby with a blanket. Blankets don't stay on babies. Conventional sleep bags at most stores are made of polyester, the worst synthetic material for baby to sleep in. Merino sleep bags rock, regulate baby's temperature, repel stains, actually proven to help baby sleep better. Oh, and Woolino is one of my clients - but I'm their biggest fan! We use these every day and I don't know what I would do without them, I'm fully invested in this great brand!

Stainless Baby Bottle: As I mentioned to you, I never used a bottle with my babies. Even when I had to work away from them (remember the MTEL?) I arranged for the caregiver to stop by every 2-3 hours for a feeding! But of course everyone's needs are different and if you have to leave baby with someone, you'll need a good bottle. Plastic will leach chemicals, even the 'BPA free' ones (here is why). Glass may break. The best bet is stainless steel. The Pura bottle ($13.99) is neat, and the Eco Baba ($16.95) looks good.

Breast Pump: If you plan on leaving baby with someone regularly, you'll need a good quality breast pump. I recommend skipping the big brand ones and choosing Hygeia EnJoye single or double pump. It's more hygienic. Regular ones are a breeding ground for mold and bacteria.

Crib: Not a necessity?! You got that right. We bought a crib for $50 on Craigslist before our first baby was born. She slept in it a handful of times and only during the day. The rest of the time she slept with me! It just worked for us, as she nursed many times throughout the night and it was the only way for me to get any sleep. She was content next to me. When she got a little older and became a wild sleeper, we side-cared the crib next to the bed, making sure there is no gap for her to fall through, and this arrangement worked well. Then we had so many bruises from the hard beds, we decided to get rid of them altogether. Best decision we've made, wish we did it earlier. We love just having a crib mattress next to our mattress, so much more freedom and not being constricted by the hard beds. No babies falling off. Come to think of it, that's what families slept like for eons. If you must have a crib and want to go the traditional Western route, I recommend an American made one from Atlantic Furniture. Of course craigslist always works great if nobody buys you one!

Changing Table or Pad*: While you can change baby anywhere, you'll realize the first few days with baby home that you are spending about 2-3 hours a day just on diaper changes! It really helps having an organized, designated diaper changing station. I found that I only needed this for the first 6 months. So getting a changing table isn't practical, unless you get one that converts to a regular chest of drawers. But you do want to have a changing pad (like the one I let you borrow), I really like Naturepedic or Oeuf. You might want a couple or organic covers too.

Glider Chair or Rocker: Not necessary, but nice to have to rock baby without much effort. I used it mostly with newborn and infant, now it's mostly empty. But it can be a great spot for reading too. We got one from the in-laws that they found somewhere and fixed up. There are many on Craigslist, if you want you can borrow mine! If you want to register for one, the Babyletto is most stylish (and expensive), the Stork Craft and Dutalier are great. Or you can just get a cute rocking chair on craigslist and make cute cushions!

Play Yard: By all means not necessary, but I can see why someone would want one. But now that I've seen the 4Moms Breeze, it almost makes it a crime to use any other play yard. We had a cheap one we got free, it was a battle I tell you. They are a pain to set up. The Breeze is the only play yard you can set up at the push of a button (video)! But in all fairness, I would consider the Joovy Room2 or the Aprica Haven.

Snot sucker: Eventually your baby will get sniffles and when they are congested and can't sleep at night, any relief is welcome. The NoseFrida snotsucker is a great item to have. It's a little tricky and I had to get used to it, but it is so much more effective than the bulb thing you get at the hospital! There are other brands out there as well.

Disposable Diapers: For the first few days from the hospital, maybe you don't want to think about laundry. Sometimes maybe the diapers are in the wash and you're going out with baby. Disposables are convenient for sure - but they are not all created equal! To avoid chemicals on your baby, try some biodegradable, eco-friendly. I've tried them all and now cannot use anything but Bambo Nature, they are made in Denmark and are the purest disposables out there. They cost an arm and a leg, but they do not leak, ever! Baby can wear one for 6+ hours (tried that on a road trip) comfortably, no 'chemical' smell. Never leaked even when he slept for 10 hours. It is worth putting on a registry! We buy one package every 3 to 4 months since we only use them when we are out.

Felted Wool Blanket: Another favorite item, you may know it in Russian as 'pled'. I have a crib size felted wool blanket that we got when Baby E was younger, it gets used every day and still looks like new. Most blankers are polyester, i.e. made of petroleum. They aren't breathable and contain all sorts of toxins. Natural felted wool is amazing, regulates temperature, repels liquid and stains, it is super soft. Something like this or this is great.

Hamper: Babies create a lot of laundry. I registered for one and still remember who gave it as a gift at the baby shower! (you know Linda, whose cat we watched?) It really makes sense to have a separate hamper for the kids, I always do their laundry separately because it just doesn't make sense to throw it in with daddy's work shirts. We have one very similar to this, but in a plain linen color. I really like the OXO hamper though.

Foot Muff: Some strollers come with foot muffs, but most are sold separately. It's a must have for winter walks in New England. I can't believe I don't have one! I've tried getting one to review with no success. The best ones are from 7 A.M. Enfant and Snug Science (the latter grows with baby and is adjustable), JJ Cole is the most popular cheap one, and this one from Perinka is something interesting to consider.

Snoozeshade: This is a great sun shade to have in the stroller for when your baby needs some shade or privacy for a better nap. It's perfect for summer and great to keep mosquitoes out too.


Wipes Warmer: Had one, ended up returning it. It just wasn't useful, was cumbersome, didn't even use it as it seemed silly. Besides, if you're having a summer baby, a cool cloth wipe will actually feel pretty good on a baby tooshie!

Exersaucer*: They're okay and I see why people use them. They take up a lot of valuable space though. My solution was the KidCo GoPod (which I let you borrow). It's genius! Not only does it fold into a neat little package like a pic nic chair, you can use it at home, at the beach, by the pool, at grandparent's house, etc. You'll get a lot of use out of it. It's great you can attach toys that the baby actually likes to it.

Toys: What?! No toys? You will come to realize that even when you don't buy any toys, they somehow magically make their way into your house and take over! So you bought one book, a nice wooden puzzle, and a set of blocks. Next thing you know you have 10 bins full of toys. Yeah, grandparents love grand kids to say the least and love is sometimes measured in toys. ;) On a related note, it is very important to communicate to your close relatives that you don't want a houseful of toys. Let them know that you would rather they give your children experiences and their time instead, or items that will get a lot of use and last generations. Oh, and I discovered that they aren't really interested in toys until about 18 months old! All Baby T plays with are pots, pans, utensils, bottles, food containers, the phone, you get the picture.

Moses Basket*: It's a hit or miss. You will not find out until the baby's arrival if it's even remotely interesting to him/her. Neither of my babies cared for it, but you know, it makes a great storage space for clean cloth diapers or stuffed animal toys!

Baby Monitor: This is something to avoid, here is why. Unfortunately in my situation I have to use one, I work on the third floor and it is the only way to keep an eye on babies sleeping on the second floor. I hope to eventually not use it, or find an old wired one. For now, I keep it across the room, as far away from baby as possible.

Diaper Disposal: No need for one if you will use cloth diapers. You'll need a good wet bag instead.

Shopping Cart Cover*: I have a hand-me-down and it didn't get much use. First, because shopping with small babies isn't that much fun. Second, it's much easier to just wear the baby in a carrier because they will be more content and you can walk away from the cart if you need to. Third, it's just one more thing to remember to take with you. I like actually using it when I do, but it isn't a necessity.

Baby Food Maker: Making your own baby food is great and every mom should at least try it. But having a gazillion gadgets in the kitchen can be annoying and a waste. Much better of having one high quality blender for all kitchen prep (such as Blendtec or Vitamix), which will get a lot more use.

*A star next to an item means I either already have or soon will either let you borrow or keep this item!  What are friends for? For passing on baby gear ;)

Moms, what were your baby must haves, nice-to-haves, and no-need-to-haves?

Disclosure: I want my readers to know that this post contains affiliate links. Meaning if you buy something via a link posted I will receive a small commission. It costs you nothing, but it helps me continue to run Eco-Babyz, thank you!


  1. I totally agree on your "not to have" list...all those are either useless, too pricey and you'll never use or you can use something else and take up too much space categories...the changing table for me is another useless thing which is expensive. with a good changing pad (i have an antimicrobial that i love) you can change your baby anywhere! :) Thanks for this useful list :)

  2. Great useful list, even for a mom-to-be third time around!

  3. ive never seen a nursing tank! apparently i didnt look very hard. sounds great! awesome list!

  4. I love the Woombie! I happened to use the heck out of the Exersaucer! Both of my sons ended up in the hospital as babies. The one that was 7 months at the time was entertained with books and the Exersaucer. I don't know what I would have done without it!

    1. It's so different for everyone, true! I never knew I would have liked a swing, we got a hand-me-down portable one and our first baby loved it, saved us on those nights when she just couldn't fall asleep! Never had it with the second baby, so I don't even know if he would have liked it :)

  5. I disagree with the high chair being a "must-have." I have found that it is much easier to feed a baby on my lap until they are ready for table food and then they can use a booster seat.

    1. That's great if that worked for you! I can't really imagine feeding on my lap as I'm always all over the kitchen with several things cooking at once. I guess you meant with a younger infant on your lap? Mine didn't start solids until 6/7 months, was exclusively breastfed until then, so I wouldn't be able to do it without a high chair. He started sitting up and eating table food all around the same time. So I guess it depends on the baby :) Booster seats are great for older ones, but I wouldn't feel safe putting a 7 month old in it, it wouldn't have enough support. I can't stand the big bulky high chairs though! We had one with our first baby and that monster took up half our tiny kitchen!

  6. Thank you so much for this thoughtful list. I wish I had read it when I was pregnant instead of now when my son is 27 months old! Luckily, he has been sleeping in the crib in his own room since he was six months. So for us, the crib was a good investment. It's a Bella Baby that we bought from my co-worker, along with a whole *bunch* of baby stuff such as the high chair, swing, bouncer, playpen, play mat, bumbo, bottle warmer, etc... for $350 in 2010. Another co-worker donated her old crib to us which stays at grandma & grandpa's house (my son won't sleep in that one as well as the one in his room). However, for the past two months or so, he has wanted to sleep with mama on the "couch" (at bedtime, he asks for the "couch" specifically). I don't know if it's because he *never* co-slept with us before and he's making up for lost time, or if he's just becoming more dependent on us? During the night, we will end up sleeping head-to-head, or he will even sleep with his head on my chest/shoulder. Of course, it makes me feel good, but I wonder if it's good for him? I would appreciate any insight you could give as this is our only child! :-)

    1. Thank you for the comment! I love used baby gear, it usually has so much life left and you save a ton of $! Maybe he just wants some extra snuggles? :) We are remodeling our master bedroom right now, so all 4 of us sleep in one room. The kids love it and we honestly don't mind! :)

  7. I'm so glad you listed the stroller as a must-have! A lot of people tell expecting parents that they don't need a stroller and that they'll never really use it. My B.O.B. stroller sometimes travels more than 100 miles a month. I use it to run 3-5x per week and I wouldn't trade it for any other stroller. I did trade a a much heavier and less expensive stroller to get my B.O.B. It is probably our most used baby item next to the breast pump.

  8. Thanks for this list! I'm expecting my first and we live in a tiny apartment... so it's great to know what's really not that needed!

  9. I really appreciate the tips on nursing bras. Even with tons of advice from friends, I've just gotten the advice that "it's personal preference", so it's nice to have some go-to brands. Plus, I had not heard about the problem with monitors, though I did read that cell phones could harm babies in utero, so it makes sense. Will definitely make me re-think the luxury of having a reality show of Baby sleeping while we're a few steps away.

  10. I think on my list I would move some musts to nice to have but this is a pretty good list. I didn't use high chairs much but loved my exersaucer. I found nursing pillows super awkward! I often wonder why we have a crib! It's not like my babies sleep in it!

  11. Aha, never thought we wouldn't have any use for a crib either :) Thanks for your comment!

  12. At my baby shower last weekend, all the experienced moms were laughing about the fact that it was much more important to them to keep their bellies covered than their breasts when nursing in public! Your recommendation of a nursing tank is very helpful!

  13. I think every parent or parent to be should read this. with my first i went all out and got everything! although with my second i did get a exersaucers and jumperoo- used and he loved them and was able to sell them for the same price I paid. I do agree on everything on there. I am really glad I read this because I never knew about the Wireless baby monitors! I have a corded one-a video one, but it has to be plugged in is that still safe? I haven't used it with my baby yet-because I only have a one bedroom apartment. but when I move to a two bedroom i plan to use it, as long as it is still safe!

    I really agree on the toy part! my kids have like, 8 boxes and two toy boxes full..ugh!

    thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you for your comment Carissa! I'm guessing there is no cord between the camera unit and the video unit, right? That's the kind I have and no, it isn't really safe. I use it out of necessity but I make sure to place it across the room, far away from the kids (at least 6-10 feet) and I always turn it off when not in use. Unfortunately that's a necessity for me since we live in a 3 story town home. So I would either avoid it if possible or use it sparingly and far enough away from the baby!

  14. Great list! I love my Moses basket! I use it next to my bed when they are little. It sits on a rocker holder so after I nurse them I gently rock them to sleep in it. I love it so much better then a regular basin net

  15. I really appreciate your thorough list and especially personal brand recommendations. I won't buy anything unless I can find super positive recommendations. We'll start purchasing everything for baby #1 soon and I am bookmarking this post to help along the way. Thanks!

    1. Hey me too! I usually read at least a dozen reviews on something before making a purchase :) I've saved a lot of money that way by not having to buy something twice because it doesn't work or breaks easily, or is just useless! You're welcome :)

  16. Hi Anastasia, thank you for this thorough list, one thing I didn't see though was a non-toxic baby food maker (the pot itself). Most baby food makers are made of plastic or metal, both of which leach chemicals (PVC, polymers, BPA) or metals (cadmium, nickel, chromium) into the food. That’s why i got MEC's non-toxic baby food maker, after a ton of research, they seem to be the safest pots to make baby food. I love these pots and use one of them to make yogurt regularly for my 3 kids now, they love it too. An added bonus was that they were made in USA. They’re made from tested, mineral rich natural clay and are unglazed. You should add that to your list…:)

    1. Good point and thank you for your input! I usually just used my stainless pans to cook food in, but I do think earthen cookware is pretty awesome!


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