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First Year Gear — Our Favorites

2012 January 3
by Becky

One of my biggest questions while pregnant was “What do I need to register for?!”

  • I scoured the internet for lists of recommended products.
  • I asked friends to send me their personal lists of favorites.
  • I used Baby 411 to research products and narrow down brands.
  • I poured over BabyCenter.com for mom reviews.

But registering for baby stuff is just not as easy as you’d think. Not like a wedding registry where you just pick out all the stuff you really want. You NEED this baby gear so fill up those lists or you will end up with a pile of toys and clothes—cute, but not so helpful, especially at the beginning.

So Stu and I put together a list of OUR favorite (and maybe not so obvious) products for the first year. This list by no means contains everything you need, but I hope it will help expectant parents fill out their registries!

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1. Bob Revolution Stroller
We must say once a week how much we love this stroller. We knew a regular four-wheeled stroller wouldn’t work for our lifestyle. We love to walk, run, and knew we’d be maneuvering around restaurants and stores. So a three-wheeled stroller was the ticket. Yes, these are more expensive than most Gracos and Chiccos, but cheaper than the Quinny and Bugaboo. And they are certified for running/lots of walking. Little did we know we’d be moving to a city lined with cobblestone and brick sidewalks! The BOB Revolution Stroller is by far the most popular choice for maneuvering the urban neighborhoods. I’m sure Ethan appreciates the amazing shock absorption. This thing turns on a dime and rolls so easily even with one hand. It folds up nicely and isn’t really that heavy. (I can fold it and put in the back of my car while holding Ethan.)

2. Comfortable Rocking chair
Everyone needs a rocking chair or glider in their nursery! I spent weeks searching for the perfect nursery chair and landed on this one from Good Works in St. Louis. They handed me a pile of swatches and when I saw orange, I was sold. Yes, this chair was the priciest thing in our nursery. But it was worth every penny. It was comfy during nighttime feedings, is wonderful for reading books to Ethan before bed, and perfect for just sitting in while watching Little Man tear his room apart playing. I love that it’s a glider/rocker so pinched fingers or toes are not a concern. Whatever you get, make sure it has arms—you need them if you want to be comfortable!

3. Video Monitor
Another large-ish purchase was our Summer Infant Best View Video Monitor. We originally thought video was overkill and went with a traditional sound-only monitor. But when we heard nothing but static, Stu returned it and came home with this gem. See how we raved about it here. It has amazing sound quality—never any static—and we can see exactly what’s going on with the Peanut when he’s in his crib. It was great for those times when Ethan made noise, but we didn’t know whether he was awake or just stirring. We still use it every day and night. It’s also known as “E-TV”.

4. Bum Genius Diapers
There is no way I could fit all of my bumGenius One-Size Snap Closure Cloth Diaper 4.0 info on this post, so you’ll have to look back here or here or here(I also talk about the accessories for cloth diapering at those links…that is a whole different list!) But in a nutshell, these diapers ROCK OUR WORLD. I don’t know anyone who’s tried these and not liked them. They save money, help the environment, and keep your baby far far away from chemicals. Rumors fly about using cloth diapers, but don’t believe them! For the record, I rarely “scrape poop”, and if I did, it was only because the need was so infrequent in the first year we hadn’t hooked up our diaper sprayer. Just ask a friend that uses cloth or visit one of the million cloth diapering websites (cottonbabies.com, theclothdiaperwhisperer.com, kellyscloset.com, bumgenius.com, the list goes on and on). You can get set up to diaper from birth through potty training for under $500 (that’s BG, there are waaaay cheaper options out there). Oh and my husband has offered to discuss cloth diapers with any husband that is tough to convince…that’s how much he loves them. :)

5. Medela Freestyle Breast Pump
Yeah, I’m just getting two biggies out of the way right off the bat. A breast pump is a big ticket item no matter what, and breastfeeding will be one of the most challenging and important things you ever do, so treat yourself to some great pump equipment! Hands down,  this is the pump you need. The Medela Freestyle Breast Pump is extremely portable and easy to use. It’s tiny…that little yellow pod is the WHOLE pump! It literally clips on your waistband or slips in your pocket. The pump comes with a cooler, ice pack, tote bag, bottles, and flanges. But read my post here for info on getting your pump set up. And make sure to check Ebay! I got mine brand new for over $100 less than retail.

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6. Bumbo or BeBe Pod Seat
It took a while for us to start using this because babies have to be able to hold their heads up to sit in this chair. But once he had the neck muscles, we used this chair every day. Ethan ate in it and played in it, indoors and out. It was a very safe place to put the Little Man and he got to feel like he was part of the action. It was basically our high chair until he was ready for the real thing. We bought the Prince Lionheart bebepod Flex Baby Seat because it was on a super sale, but I had originally registered for an orange (go figure) Bumbo Seat.  To me, they are the same thing. The BeBe Pod has built in straps to secure baby to the chair OR to secure the seat to a table/chair. While I initially thought they were cool (especially when he was just starting to sit up), I ended up cutting off the straps because they were stained with food and I couldn’t get them clean.

You can’t go wrong with one of these seats! We used ours from around four months to 11 months. I have friends that used their well past a year though, so it’s a baby item that will last a while.

7. Activity Mat
Ethan loved his activity mat. He could just lay on it and play with or stare at the toys for 30 minutes or more—decades in baby time. I loved this particular one because it was super stylish! The animal toys had fun rings or crinkly ears, and one played Twinkle when pressed…this song had super-power effects on Ethan when he was crabby. This mat folded up nice and compact too so we could tote it around while visiting family.

8. Bouncy Seat
If you plan on using the bathroom or taking a shower with a baby around, then a bouncy seat should be top on your list of baby gear. We started using this seat when the Peanut came home (basically a newborn) and I’m still using it as he’s just turned one. We’ve used this seat to rock him to sleep, restrain him while we need a few “personal” moments, and calm him during a fussy period—the vibrating seat is something we could all use around the house! As you can see from the photo above, when babies get bigger they need to be strapped in. Ethan can actually get himself out of this on his own if not buckled up! It’s pretty hilarious. Ours is a Fischer Price but I think the model is discontinued. 

9. Infant Tub
I dedicated a whole post to our 4Moms Clean Water Infant Tub, our infant bath tub of choice. No matter what the brand though, you need something to help keep your tiny newborn from drowning while not breaking your back…it makes bath time SO much more fun! We used our tub every other day until Ethan was six months old, both in the kitchen sink and in the bathtub—worked great both ways. I never worried about my bitty Peanut slipping to far into the water and didn’t have to kill my back/neck/shoulders holding him in a safe position. I also loved the temperature gauge. If you are going to buy an infant tub, the 4moms Cleanwater Infant Tub is a great option! The only negative is the size…when you aren’t using it storage could be an issue. I’d also look into the Puj tub…it’s a very cute, space-saving option.

10. Neutrogena T/Gel Shampoo
Maybe a strange thing to put on our list, but not an obvious one. Instead of using regular old baby shampoo/wash, we use T/Gel to help clear up Ethan’s cradle cap (dry scalp). Perfectly safe to use on babies, this shampoo gets rid of the icky scales on top of baby’s head almost instantly. The only draw backs are the price (high!) and the fact that it’s not “tear-free”. Can’t get this stuff in eyes. But one bottle lasted us a whole year (we used it every other day) and it smells great.

11. Bath Squirter Toys
Since I’m taking bath time, I may as well bring up some toys. My friend Catrina gave us our first box of these super fun squirters and we had to get another. We named them all— “Puffy”, “Wally”, “Humpy”, and “Hammy”—tons of fun. They were Ethan’s favorites, even when he was tiny he could hold or chew on a colorful toy to calm himself during bath time. You can get a whole box of them at Target for around $10.

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12. Bouncer Seat/Doorway Bouncer
We didn’t start using this until month seven or so, but Ethan used the Johnny Jump Up for quite a while. He started out just hanging in it, sometimes slowly spinning, always looking around in awe. But now he can really get this thing going! Not much entertains the Peanut for long periods of time, but he can be happy in the Jump Up for 20-30 minutes—ie: forever in baby time. Especially if there is some good music playing and we are busy doing things around him. We all get to dancing and jumping with the right song. The jumper is a great tool to strengthen those little leg muscles for walking!13. Catch the Moon CDI can’t be absolutely sure, but I think this is Ethan’s favorite album. It is certainly my favorite! I never mind turning on this CD in the car or while playing in the living room. The songs aren’t annoying, they are really cute, and who doesn’t love Lisa Loeb? I’ve gushed about this here in the past, and had to make sure it was on this list. Just try to resist singing along to “Little Red Caboose.”

14. Oball Rattle Toy
When I saw this adorable toy tied to the top of a baby shower gift, I knew it was a good one. Noisy, easy to grab, and colorful…perfect for babies. Little did we know it would be THE FIRST toy to catch Ethan’s attention. For months and months we carried this toy everywhere. Sometimes Ethan would lock it in his little tiny hand for hours, startling himself whenever he moved and it make a noise. It is a go-to gift for all my friends’ babies. I alway find them in-store at Target but Amazon has them as well. Make you sure you get one with rattles…some are just plain.

15. Ikea Mula Hammering Toy
I never expected Ethan to use this toy in the first year, but sure enough he did! Around month nine I pulled out this toy, showed him how it worked, put the hammer in his hand, and let him have at it. He immediately started pounding away just like I’d demonstrated. The hammer has since become Ethan’s favorite toy! He hammers stuffed animals, tupperware, blocks, toy cars…anything. It’s the cutest thing. And for $5.99 this toy is a no-brainer. There are similar toys in other stores too…but probably not as cheap.

16. LeapFrog Learn and Groove Musical Table
We gave this LeapFrog Table to Ethan for Christmas, you can read about it here. Ethan went nuts. And surprisingly, it’s not too annoying (as sound toys go), has two volume settings, so we like it too. There are so many things to do, fun songs and sounds, and it’s a nice way to practice standing and walking. I found mine, gently used, on a local mom message board for $10! 

12. Sophie The Giraffe Vanilla Teether
It’s actually not that easy to find toys for infants. They have such small hands and aren’t very coordinated—not everything works! And while the big Sophie is wonderful later, Mini-Sophie is a great option to keep even the tiniest of fingers busy. These used to be a little tough to find, but now they are everywhere.

13. Toy Straps
Speaking of toys, how about a way to keep them off the floor? Ethan couldn’t seem to keep a hold of anything when we were out. And I cringed every time Mini-Sophie or a rattle would fall on the floor of stores or restaurants. So I ordered a couple of these straps to secure the toys to the stroller, high chair, or even right to Ethan! It really cut down on the spur of the moment sanitizing of toys in public places. OH and the toy in this picture was one of this favorites from newborn to 6 months+. I have no idea what it’s called, but you can find them at Toys R Us and Target.

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19. Miracle Blanket
Since I mentioned swaddling, I can’t forget to mention the Miracle Blanket! We thought our friends were crazy when they showed us their daughter wrapped up in this baby straight-jacket. But this thing is truly a miracle worker. You can’t make it tight enough—babies love it. If you want to sleep in those first few months, get this item on your list ASAP. Read more about how fantastic it is here.

20. Nursing Cover
After a few weeks of super-awkward breast feeding with your newborn, you’ll want to leave the house from time to time while still having the option to nurse your baby. Therefore, you’ll need a nursing cover. Yes, when you get REALLY good you can do this with a simple blanket or jacket. But especially at the beginning, having a nursing cover with an open top is a great thing to have in your diaper bag. You can make eye contact with your baby and see what you are doing down there—not everyone gets a perfect latch on the first try! I have the one shown above, by Bebe Au Lait (it comes in over a dozen cute patterns), but there are other brands with kookie names like Hooter Hiders and Udder Covers. I’m sure there is a whole Esty store dedicated to these contraptions if you want to go handmade. They aren’t expensive and really do offer privacy. You will be a confident public-nursing mom in no time with one at your side!

21. What To Expect When You’re Expecting
This was, hands down, my favorite baby/pregnancy book. I actually grabbed this book the morning my water broke…I didn’t know what to do! I read this book every week to see what was coming up in my pregnancy. It seems to be right-on with accurate and up-to-date information as they are constantly editing for new editions. If you don’t buy any other book, buy this one! It’s so easy to read and really interesting.

22. Fresh Baby So Easy Baby Food Trays
People will tell you, “You can just use regular ice cube trays” when it comes to freezing your homemade purees and foods for baby. But when you whip up a batch of blueberry puree, don’t you feel better if there is a lid snapped on tight?! I don’t know how your freezer looks, but ours is packed and there is a very real possibility of knocking over a thing our two. So I loved these BPA-free freezer trays for purees, risotto, pasta sauce, mashes, and anything else I made for Ethan and wanted to freeze for later use. Just break the cubes into zip-lock bags marked with contents and date, then store in your freezer. If you are going to make your baby’s food (read about that here and here and here—it is so much fun!) then these are a good, small investment ($11 for two on Amazon).

23. Happiest Baby On the Block Book and/or DVD
I can’t say this is the BEST book out there, only because I didn’t read much of anything else baby-calming wise after Ethan was born. But this book taught us enough about calming techniques to keep us happy through Ethan’s fussiest phases. We learned the “5 S’s”, the importance of swaddling, and all about the “Fourth Trimester”. We really felt like this book and it’s accompanying DVD helped us so much! Plus they were easy and fun to read. Download the Happiest Baby White Noise from iTunes…Ethan listens to it every night and sleeps like, well, a baby!

24. Planetwise Wet Bags
These are very necessary for cloth diapering, but I think anyone could get great use out of these wet bags. They have both wet and dry compartments making them great for diapering supplies and wet/dirty diapers/clothes. Keeps the smell contained and your diaper bag nice and clean. There are so many beautiful fabric options too! I carry mine around instead of my diaper bag for short trips to the gym. They fit everything you need!

25. Target Nursing Tanks
I was still wearing these tanks to bed almost every night over a year after having The Peanut. The support is very nice and the ease of access for morning feedings is great. These have paid for themselves 10 times over. I don’t know how any new mom could live without something similar, but I’m sure Target has the best prices.

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26. Pack ‘N Play
While you can usually find one of these to borrow from a friend or family member wherever you go, it’s nice to have one of your own. We have traveled with ours, set it up for other people’s kids to take a snooze at our house, and loaned it to a friend or two who had babies visiting and needed a place to sleep safely. I know lots of people use these for living room nap time too (although I’ve always been a believer in normal crib naps, when possible). Some of these can run well over $100, but others, like the one above (same one we have) are around $50-70. I love this Graco model. It has a bassinet (a mat that is suspended higher) for newborns and it’s easy to set up/take down.

27. Munchkin Metal Safety Gate
These aren’t a fun purchase, but a very necessary one. They also aren’t cheap! We had to buy three—two for the main stairs (top and bottom) and one for the basement stairs. So $150 later we had a safe house. But after using one of the old fashioned wood gates at grandma’s house, I was happy to have spent every dime. Not having to take down the whole gate every time we need to get by is incredible. AND we didn’t have to make holes in our rental house walls to install these properly. All good stuff.

28. iPhone (or just any really good smartphone)
I know, this is a big one. But I LOVE my iPhone 4. I had an old iPhone and decided to upgrade just four days before Ethan was born (I was trying to be early, but ended up being just in time!). I actually sold my old phone on Ebay for more than I paid for the upgrade! And I use the new one every day to snap quick shots and videos of Ethan doing cute stuff and can Skype with it too. It’s also great for checking emails one-handed while you have a sleeping baby on your chest…a very real need. I use it for my calendar, a million text messages, and lots of helpful apps. I love knowing I’m never without a camera. You don’t want to miss a thing with your baby! And this was a lifesaver in the NICU—no way I would have been as in-touch with family and friends without this gadget.

29. Ikea food bowls
Plain and simple, these BPA-free bowls are $1.99 for six at Ikea. We use them every day for Ethan’s meals. I defrost/heat up frozen purees in them and they are dishwasher safe. They are easy to hold and just the right size for little ones.

30. Diaper Bag

I’m only going to touch on the diaper bag topic briefly, because it’s a big one. There are a million diaper bag options out there and I really struggled with the choice. But once I stumbled upon the Go Gaga Diaper Bag, I was sold. The comfy spandex strap was a big selling point because I have a wimpy back, but also the fact that the bag is good looking without screaming “DIAPER BAG” and without being too girly, ie: the Hubbs won’t mind carrying this around town. Go Gagas aren’t cheap, at around $100, but no diaper bag is. They need to be durable and easy to clean because you use them a lot, therefore the price point is a higher one. These can be found at small, boutique-y baby shops (like Cotton Babies) or online. And hey, Ellen and Tori Spelling think they are the cat’s pajamas, so what more do you need to know?! (I’ve heard Petunia Picklebottom bags rock, also Skip Hop bags are really popular)

31. Munchkin Soft-tip Baby Spoon
Again, same as the bowls, these are simple but perfect spoons for feeding baby purees and solids. Dishwasher safe and easy to hold.

32. Moby Wrap
I’ve talked a lot about the Moby Wrap in the past. While there are lots of different carriers out there, I never went looking because I have been 100% happy with the Moby. It is the way I was able to fly, grocery shop, and socialize with a happy baby in tow. Yes, it looks confusing upon first glance, but after tying it once or twice you’ll get the hang of it. And it’s so comfortable! And affordable. AND it comes in dozens of awesome colors. I can’t say enough good things.

And now, a freebie…

33. YouTube Videos
I thought I’d throw in this FREEBIE! Find some great YouTube videos for emergency baby-calming situations. For instance,  Mr. Rhino was our go-to emergency stop-screaming tool for the whole first year of Ethan’s life. It’s not something we watched every or even every week, but if Little Man was losing it, Mr. Rhino was cued up on our phones and calmed him down in one second. It was like magic. We knew all the words by heart and still sing it around the house all the time. Just the melody alone puts a smile on Ethan’s face. Now we have many others to use for entertainment purposes or just to keep him awake in the car just before nap time…no sleeping in the car! Mamma needs nap time to get some things done. See more of our favs here.

Random Registry Tips

  • Don’t register for clothes. People will get them for you and you can fill in the gaps later. Clothes are super cheap and easy to find on consignment. You need the gear first and foremost because it’s expensive and people don’t always know what you need.
  • If you have showers earlier then one month before your due date (most of us do), immediately check the return policy on the big-ticket items you receive. Even with a receipt (which most people are kind enough to provide these days), some stores have stupid policies that will make it impossible to return items that you don’t end up needing or that aren’t right for you and your baby.
    Example: My parents graciously gave us a monitor that was highly recommended to them, though we weren’t sure it was what we wanted. We, thankfully, took it back to Babies R Us just days shy of their 30 day return window. We would have been out of luck had we waited till baby arrived. We returned it and got a gift card so we could return when we knew what we wanted for sure.
  • Try to take unwanted things back even if you don’t have a receipt. Many stores will give you store credit for the amount that the item is currently selling for. Not the best case scenario, but better then having something you don’t need.
  • Register early. The people who are planning your shower(s) will want to include the registry sites on your invitation. Also, people like to give early “congratulations” gifts and it’s nice for them to know they are getting you something you need.
    Example: My family wanted to all pitch in and get us a big item pretty early in the game. They knew we would be researching things like strollers and car seats and such so they wanted to get us exactly what we wanted. They ended up giving us cash because we were totally unprepared. It worked out, but it’s more fun for people to give gifts. :)
  • Check your registries often. Sometimes things get discontinued or go out of stock, and they could be items you really want. In this day of online registries, it doesn’t hurt to use the technology to your benefit!
  • Go neutral. If you plan on having more then one kid, you don’t want everything to be gender-specific. There is no reason your bumbo seat needs to be pink—get green or orange instead. Even if you don’t want more kids, you’ll be able to easily share/sell your gear with friends or on craigslist/ebay/consignment. Recycle!!
  • If you don’t get everything you need when the showers are all said and done, spend some time on craigslist or at local consignment shops. You can find nearly-new toys, clothes, shoes, Bumbo seats, bouncy seats, pack ‘n plays, strollers, etc. I know, it’s your first baby and you want everything shiny and new, but you’ll get over that pretty quick. Anything plastic is easy to wipe down and reuse. It’s better for your wallet AND the planet, that’s for sure!
Have fun!!!  And please drop me a line if this list helped you out!  Or tell me if you think I totally missed a super important item. It’s probably something I’ve used and just forgot. I can get it added to the list.
8 Responses
  1. Sandy Schon permalink
    January 3, 2012

    Great ideas. Wish I would have had this list when I was pregnant even though most of those things hadn’t even been invented way back then!!!

  2. May 21, 2012

    GAhhh, after reading about your diaper bag choice I was also sold. Turns out they stopped making them in October. The hunt is on. :-)

    • Becky permalink*
      May 21, 2012

      It says on their website they are no longer taking online orders, but they still have a list of retailers per state. Check out “Circle Me” in Lincoln, NE (http://www.circleme.me/shop/). If you can’t find one, I’ve heard good things about Petunia Picklebottom and Skip Hop bags too.

  3. Abby permalink
    November 29, 2012

    I am 5-1/2 months pregnant and reading everything I can get my hands on since I’m a crazy planner. This list is great! There are a lot of things on there I’ve heard of before and it’s nice to have those confirmed and the specific names and pictures of others are great. I get so overwhelmed when someone just says that they like a type of item because I like to know what a mom liked about a specific model and why. I am saving/printing/bookmarking this list so I never lose it!

    • Becky permalink*
      December 2, 2012

      So glad you like the list! I think it will be helpful to lots of moms. I spent a whole year compiling it to make sure I included the best stuff. I guess I need to start working on the graphics for my “Year Two” post! Good luck with everything!

  4. May 13, 2013

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  5. December 5, 2015

    A comfortable place to sit is nice, be in rocker, chair, or bed. With my first I really liked having a comfortable place to nurse. He never needed rocking and just nursed to sleep. With my second, I nursed everywhere and anywhere, usually on the bed, and didn’t really miss the chair. She really like the exercise ball a lot.

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