Many clients often ask for my recommendations on “must have” baby products for their new life with a little one. I could probably go on for hours with this topic, and I like to think I’ve had my fair share of experience after wading through so many new things with my two kids. Here at Mara’s World, it’s important that we stand behind our recommendations, and that includes the products that we use ourselves. I’ve found that sometimes it’s worth a little extra money for some really great items, but that certainly is not always the case.
I’ve developed a quick-and-dirty list for the things that I just couldn’t live without, and I like to offer thoughts, descriptions, and potential alternatives along the way…here we go! This “must have” baby products series is divided into 3 parts. Part 1 addresses baby carriers, infant sleep aids, infant seats, and car seats. Part 2 is about baby feeding essentials: breast pumps, highchairs & baby feeding accessories. Part 3 covers baby skin care products.
I could not have survived life with a newborn without a really great baby carrier. My absolute favorite is the Sakura Bloom Essential Linen Sling. The ease of use, variety of carries, ability to go from newborn through toddlerhood just make this a clear winner. The other carrier that I really love is the Ergo Baby. Slings can be very expensive. It tends to be that the more expensive ones are a bit more comfortable, however, I do know of many women who have found great slings on Etsy. Just make sure that it’s a ring sling, and never a “bag sling” (bag ones are dangerous!). Also, take your time to practice, and make sure that you have your carrying methods down so that your baby is safe. Many baby stores (the ones that tend to sell slings!) will be happy to give you tutorials, and some cities have “babywearers” groups. Check out Babywearing International for more information.
The Ergo was my husband’s preferred baby carrier because it was easy to wear a child on the back. It also has the ability to front carry, and has an insert for infant use. Another great carrier along the same lines is the Beko.
Strollers also fall into the category of “ways to carry baby”. They range extremely widely in price, function, weight, durability, etc. There are probably too many products to even brush the surface of the stroller market! I will just leave you with my favorite couple items, but it’s important that you find the best fit for your family! We have and love our UppaBaby Vista stroller because of its functionality, and ability to easily convert from carrying one child to two children. Various attachments allow you to have a removable second seat, and/or a skateboard-like platform. This stroller is an investment, as are a lot of others in its “class”. It is not for everyone, for sure! If you plan to do a lot of walking, strolling, etc, then investing in a good stroller will be worthwhile. However, because of the UppaBaby’s size, it’s not the simplest thing to travel with…so, we also have an umbrella stroller. These also range in price and function. An inexpensive model will work just fine, but you have the option of getting one from some of the top stroller manufacturers like Uppababy or Maclaren.
Infant Sleep Aids
Unfortunately, I do not have the magic answer for how to get your new baby to sleep for long stretches at a time, but there are some products that I’ve found to be extremely helpful for facilitating sleep, and just making life a bit easier. I recommend using some type of bassinet, co-sleeper, or pack-n-play in your bedroom. Having your baby close makes for less moving around, facilitates breastfeeding, and keeps your baby in a recommended safe sleep environment. I personally like the Arms Reach Co-Sleeper because it safely attaches to your bed, keeping your baby literally an “arm’s reach” away. Using a small inexpensive bassinet or pack-n-play works just as well. Pack-n-plays are also wonderful for traveling with your baby as he/she grows. Many of them come with lights, sound, vibration, toys, etc, but a basic pack-n-play will save you money and serve you well. This will also double as a safe place to let your baby play for a few minutes when you need to do something like go to the bathroom!
Swaddling blankets can be very useful. Ones made out of muslin tend to breathe better, provide a bit more stretch and comfort, and seem to be easier to actually wrap. Adin and Anais muslin swaddling blankets are just wonderful. These blankets aren’t just for swaddling, they’re perfect for covering a stroller seat or car seat to block out light and bugs, perfect for playing on the floor, and often these blankets become a child’s lovie (special item they can’t live without!). Sleep sacks can also provide a safe way to keep your baby warm, and take some of the magic out of actually having to properly wrap for a swaddle (if they have a swaddling option). Adin and Anais sleep sacks are just as great as the swaddling blankets if you don’t desire a tight swaddle. For those of you who want to get a fail-proof swaddle, Halo Sleepsack and Swaddle and the Miracle Blanket are the way to go! Halo also makes sleep-sacks without the swaddling option, which are wonderful for maintaining a safe sleep environment.
It is really helpful to have a place to put your baby down for a few minutes here and there. A pack-n-play or play yard does the trick, but until baby can sit up well on his/her own, they can only be placed lying down where they miss a lot of the action. I found that bouncy seats come in handy when you’re eating dinner, trying to respond to a quick email, cooking dinner, or simply running to the bathroom! They provide a safe place for baby, while keeping him/her somewhat upright and allowing better interaction with the world around. They are also invaluable for babies with reflux because they elevate their head. Bouncy seats run the gamut in price from around $30-well over $100. Some seats come with options to entertain with attachable toys, sounds, lights, whereas others are simply a seat. Some give the option of a rocker as well. Rocking seats are a plus if your baby likes to rock, and you don’t feel like spending a lot of extra money for a swing. (My children hated the swing, and it ended up being a total waste!) This inexpensive Fisher Price bouncy seat worked well for our daughter, until my 2 year old son sat in it, and essentially flattened the seat. I have friends who swear by their Baby Bjorn bouncers with the toy attachment option. You can often find very gently used bouncy seats at your local second-hand child’s store. These stores can be a wonderful resource for toys, gear, and clothing.
While we’re on the subject of “baby seats”, a car seat is an essential baby gear item! Again, like most things in the world of baby products, these seats range vastly in price, function, transportability, etc. And, like most things, certain car seats will fit your family better than others, depending on if you desire the ability to attach the seat directly to your stroller, your car size, etc. Here’s a few words on the basics. You will have the option of getting an infant seat, which is often referred to as a “bucket seat”. These seats generally have the ability to safely transport a baby starting at around 5lbs, and go up to 20 or 35lbs. They are nice because they can be removed from a base in the car, and are often compatible with many strollers so you can take your new baby from the car and literally take them on the go! Bucket car seats are limiting in the sense than they are generally only useful for about the first year, and do get quite heavy and cumbersome to lug about. Some of the most popular seats (all with excellent safety ratings!) are the Graco, Maxi Cosi, and Britax.
If you’d prefer not to have an infant bucket seat, there are many car seats on the market that can be used from the infant stage through the toddler stage. These seats also offer the option of rear-facing (infants up to two years of age), and forward-facing (2 years up to the seat’s weight and height limits). These seats are not removable to carry your infant, and they do not attach to a stroller. The up-side of these convertible seats is that you will get much more than one year out of your purchase, and you won’t have to worry about lugging around a heavy seat with your growing baby! The biggest players in this category again are the Graco, Maxi Cosi, and the Britax.
I hope this list helps you start to weed through the basics of baby products. It is a crazy, overwhelming world out there! Be sure to check out parts 2 and 3 of my “must have” baby products series: baby feeding essentials: breast pumps, highchairs & baby feeding accessories and baby skin care products.