Sunday, September 9, 2012

9 Favorite Baby Items

I've had some friends and future/new parents ask me about my favorite baby items. I love comparing notes on baby items with other parents. I discovered that some of the things that I couldn't live without, other parents rarely used, and vice versa.

When it comes down to it, babies really don't need much. Part of me balks at all the commercialization of parenthood. It seems ridiculous right? As if parents are expected to shell out thousands of dollars for their tiny newborns who only really need to eat, sleep, and poop. I mean who REALLY needs a light-up wipe warmer? But when you're a new parent, you don't want to feel like you're not giving your baby the best right from the beginning. Even if you're inclined to not buy all the latest gadgets, there is "product pressure" everywhere!

But the other part of me welcomes products as useful parenting tools. There really is a gadget for everything. Some items truly are innovative and helpful. Why not buy something that will make your life a little easier? Is the commercialization really that bad? Like everything in life, I think there's a middle ground somewhere.

For most items, you probably won't know until you try them whether they will work for you. It's all about personal preference (yours and the baby's). Example: after putting together a fancy baby changing table with changing pad for my first son, we ended up only using it TWICE. It's so much easier for me (easier on my back and easier to maneuver) to change a baby on the floor. Also a parent can spend big bucks for a fancy swing only to discover that her baby HATES swings. You just never know.

That said, beyond the basic baby stuff (bottles, clothing, crib, diapers), these are MY favorite baby items:

(1) Jack 'N Lilly Originals. When it comes to baby shoes, you get what you pay for. I've shelled out the big bucks ($30) for a pair of Robeez and I've also purchased the Target knock-offs on sale. My favorite brand, however, is a brand we received as a gift for Jacob. Jack 'N Lilly are my faves. Sure, babies don't really need shoes. They can't even WALK! But in our house, shoes are the only way to keep socks on vigorous kicking feet. And when your baby starts to toddle around, the soft leather bottoms help your baby learn to balance. Plus, they're sturdy. Jacob used his for months and they are still in good shape for Ryan.

(2) Baby Bjorn. I've tried a couple carriers: the Moby, a baby sling, and the Baby Bjorn. My search for the perfect baby carrier ended at the Baby Bjorn. This thing is simply awesome! When Jacob was a baby, a friend gave us a used one. It was a life saver. When I have to cook or do dishes and the baby is crabby, I just plop him in it and get back to work. I've taken it hiking, to the beach, to county fairs, to museums. The Baby Bjorn is really easy to use, feels very secure, and can be used for babies as small as 8 pounds. In comparison, a baby carrier that is made up of a 30 foot cloth and requires an instruction booklet is not my style. Haven't compared it to the Ergo though I have heard great stuff about the Ergo as well.

Baby can be front or back facing:

(3) Swaddle blankets. Both of my kids absolutely had to be swaddled in order to stay asleep. There is something about being wrapped burrito-style that babies, especially newborns, just love. When Ryan falls asleep, I slip him in the swaddle blanket, secure it with the velcro straps and set him down in his crib. If he isn't swaddled when I set him down, he notices the change in environment and startles himself awake. The swaddle keeps him secure and stimulates the feeling of being held. I've tried swaddling my babies with regular blankets but I'm a crappy burrito wrapper!

(4) JJ Cole Bundle Me. This item keeps babies warm in their carseats. You slip the Bundle Me into the baby carseat carrier and pull the carseat straps through designated holes. It stays there until it gets dirty and needs to be washed. To use it, just put your baby in his carseat, strap him in and zip the soft, fleece layer over the baby. I want one of these for myself!

(5) Infantino Toy. This is absolutely my favorite baby toy. Now that Ryan can sit up, I can plop him on the floor and place this toy between his legs. It entertains him multiple times a day. He's getting so good at batting and grabbing the toys.

(That's my niece on the left. She and Ryan are gonna be buds!)

(6) Boppy Pillow. I always wanted one of these with my first son, but I never bit the bullet and bought one. I made sure to put it on my baby list for Ryan. This probably is THE MOST used baby item I own. When I was nursing, it was a great support pillow. I still use it when I'm feeding Ryan a bottle. When he was younger, I used to stick Ryan right in the middle and wouldn't have to worry about him rolling out. Now that he sits up, it's the perfectly shape to fit around his waist in case he flops over. The cover is removable for easy washing!

(7) Binky Clip. Both of our babies loves binkies. Binkies have prevented many screaming meltdowns over the years. And binkies nowadays are completely orthodontic and won't ruin a kid's teeth. Our doctor prefers binky-soothing to thumb-sucking, hands down.  The only problem with binkies is the fact that they are easily lost. On particularly crabby days, I'd rather lose my CAR than the binky. It's hard to find a good binky clip. The popular style (in stores near us at least) doesn't work very well (unless I'm just stupid and can't use it properly). My favorite has one end that wraps around the front knob of the binky and clips like a paperclip to a shirt, carseat belt, or bib.

(8) Walker. There are so many different kinds of walkers out there. In our house, these is a must have item. A walker not only lets your baby sit up and toddle around on his own, but it can double as a highchair, at least until your little one surpasses the weight requirement. Plus, when the baby is crabby and the 4 year old needs entertaining, I let HIM push the walker around. Two birds....

(9) Running or Regular Stroller. If you're a runner, a running stroller is a must-have, otherwise, get a regular stroller because the front wheel on the running stroller can be annoying. For that reason, I recommend the kind of running stroller with a swiveling front wheel- so much easier! If you plan to have more than one kid, I highly recommend a stroller adapts into a two-seater (usually by sticking an extra seat in the back/bottom of the stroller). We buy this type because we were on a shoe-string budget, and I regret it all the time. My only other advise on strollers is "you get what you pay for." We spent $200 on a stroller system (this means you can buy a carseat that snaps right into it). It was one of the cheaper stroller systems out there. It's held up pretty well but the level of quality is a little disappointing. The button that folds the stroller up tends to stick and is hard to use (my mom has never been able to do it). We've had the same problem with the matching carseat. The buttons that move the carseat handle are really hard to use. So spend the money on a quality stroller!

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