I’ve been thinking a lot about making a kind of “best and worst baby purchases” post because when I was pregnant, I found it a bit overwhelming how much baby stuff there is. Not just categories of stuff, but the different brands and options for each category! And a lot of stuff can be really expensive if you get it new, so I didn’t want to spend tons of money on things that I wasn’t gonna end up using or that Theo hated.
So I thought I’d go over some of the things that I really ended up loving that I think was worth the money, and some things I kind of regret getting that I think you may want to skip out on. I actually ended up making a post so big that I thought it would be more easily digestible if I split it into two different posts. So this will be the “best purchases” post and the “worst purchases” post will come in a couple of weeks.
Keep in mind that these lists are always super personal because every single baby is so different, and everyone’s lifestyle is different. Something I find really useful that Theo also likes, you might find super inconvenient and your baby hates! Although I’m trying to be helpful, it really just comes down to your own family’s needs and likes.
And in case you are wondering, this post is not sponsored. I’m just sharing my experience with some of the specific products we got that I ended up loving.
1. Well-Made Structured Carrier
We got the Lillebaby Complete All-Seasons Carrier and I highly, highly recommend it, or some other similar structured carrier.
Because we don’t have a car, and the metro station by our house doesn’t have an elevator, we ended up wearing Theo quite a bit, especially me. Basically any time that I had to go somewhere with him by metro, I would wear him instead of trying to get the stroller down the stairs. Of course, you can just ask someone to help you carry the stroller, but for me, it was just faster and simpler to wear him.
I would also let him nap in the carrier when we were out, which means basically wearing him for up to 2 hours at a time. Unfortunately, he tends to only fall asleep in the stroller if we are walking around outdoors. And forget about just falling asleep in my arms! He hasn’t been able to do that since he figured out that there’s a whole interesting world out there to be starred at, no matter how tired and cranky he is. The Lillebaby carrier has a super useful hood that I use to block out light and the rest of the world when I’m trying to get Theo to take a nap anywhere besides in his crib at home.
If you think you might wear your baby for naps and your carrier is at all uncomfortable or digs into you, that would be a miserable couple of hours! Your baby may also go through very clingy or fussy phases where they always want to be held, and frankly, you can’t just spend an hour holding them. You will probably have other things you need to be doing! So sometimes I would even wear him in the carrier around the house while I’m making dinner or cleaning.
I know a lot of people like to use wraps instead of structured carrier, but I have essentially no upper body strength and also bad shoulders and upper back due to years of desk/computer work (also I just have a lot of tension in my body). So it was essential for me to get a structured carrier with a huge hip band, back support and soft, supportive shoulder straps.
Essentially, I knew my limits and what I would need to be as comfortable as possible. And let me tell you, a good carrier is absolutely worth the money if you plan on wearing your baby a lot! I can basically carry all of Theo’s weight in my hips/legs and the shoulder straps have never been uncomfortable for me.
It’s also super easy to get him in by myself, and there are six different positions he can be carried in. And although Kyler’s 5’10” and an average-sized man, and I’m 5’2″ and petit, we can both use the carrier easily and comfortably. I LOVE our carrier.
Now, if you live in the suburbs and are just planning on driving your baby everywhere and then using a stroller, or if you live in a super accessible city, or if your baby falls asleep easily in your arms, you could probably skip getting the fancy carrier and just get a cheaper option or a wrap for those odd times you have to wear him/her. For us, I would say our Lillebaby is a must-have!
2. Supportive High Chair
This is another item that you could go super cheap on and be fine, but we found that the benefits of a more expensive item that can do more was actually worth the extra money. We got the Ingenuity Trio 3-in-1 high chair, which can turn into a booster chair when they get older (an added bonus, in my opinion). But there are a lot of high chairs that can transform in a similar way.
The real features that I think are worth the cost is the curved back of the seat that can also recline. This basically enabled Theo to sit in the high chair at a way younger age than normal, which is about 6 months or whenever they can hold themselves upright comfortably. This curved, reclined seat kind of cradled him before he could hold himself up in a sitting position.
Theo’s always been super curious and loved just looking around at everything, so we started sitting him in it at around 3 months. We basically just used the high chair as a means to have him in a different position/location, so he wouldn’t be bored just starring up at the ceiling.
He would sit with us while we ate, he would watch us cook dinner, and when he started getting more interested in toys, he would play happily with toys in his high chair for at least a brief period of time.
While it’s not necessary to get this type of a high chair per se, getting your baby at least one item that will allow them to kind of sit up safely at home without you having to hold them is super useful, I think. It’s more interesting for them to have that extra position they can be in before they can sit up on their own, and I didn’t really want to hold him 24/7.
And since we needed to get a high chair at some point anyway, I thought we might as well get one that had multiple uses/features, rather than getting more items that can only do one thing each. Also, I feel comfortable walking away from Theo in a high chair for a minute if I needed to. So for me, I think getting a slightly fancier high chair was definitely worth it.
3. Activity Centre
I was originally against getting one of these because they just take up so much space and cost over $100. But then, a couple of things happened. For as long as I can remember, Theo has loved standing. I’m talking from like 1 or 2 months. And from the age of about 4 or 5 months, he’s been expressing so much boredom when he’s in one place or doing one thing for too long. He couldn’t sit unsupported yet and I also couldn’t just spend hours holding him on his feet so he could bounce up and down (which he loved doing).
So we gave in and got an activity centre! We ended up getting the Woodland Wonder Activity Jumper. I found it the least offensive in terms of how loud and obnoxious the design and noises were. We also wanted one that could specifically let him bounce up and down. They make stationary ones, but Theo really enjoys bouncing. And as I mentioned above, if you can get items that have multiple uses (he can stand if he wants to stand, and bounce if he wants to bounce) it is definitely worth the extra cost!
And let me tell you, it’s been worth every penny. We put Theo in it every single day. He loves standing in it, bouncing up and down, looking around, putting the owl in his mouth…And you can easily move it around to whatever room you’re in so your baby can get a bit of a change of scenery and keep themselves occupied while you’re trying to do something.
And I consider this a bonus, but for some reason, Theo loves pooping in this thing. It’s like the pressure on his butt makes him go or something! So if it’s been a while or I want him to get it all out before we leave the house, I just put him in the activity centre for a few minutes and he poops.
Does this thing take up a good chunk of real estate in our rather small living room? Yes, definitely. But it just keeps him so occupied/entertained, and even lets him exercise his leg muscles and get all his energy out in a safe way without me having to wrangle him.
Our activity centre is definitely one of those things that made me go, “Yeah, now I understand why there’s so much specifically-designed baby stuff you can get.” I mean, yeah, you can give them cardboard boxes to play with (a cardboard paper towel roll is Theo’s current favourite toy), but the designers of baby stuff do kind of know what they’re doing. The activity centre is so durable, has so many uses, and stimulates Theo in the exact ways that are appropriate for his stages of development.
That’s not to say you need to get them a million toys at all. But a couple of well-made pieces of baby equipment can really occupy them in safe ways (freeing you up to do stuff) and stimulate/interest them for months. I definitely think an activity centre is worth the money!
4. Monitor App
A baby monitor is definitely a personal preference kind of thing. I know a lot of parents want to be able to see their baby via video monitor or have access to different stats and things like that. If you aren’t into those extra features and just want something to alert you that the baby is awake when you’re in a different part of the house, I highly recommend forgoing the traditional baby monitor and getting an app instead.
Because it’s on your phone, you will always have the “monitor” with you, and you don’t have to carry around an extra device. We use Baby Monitor 3G, which was $5.50 (per device), just a fraction of what a traditional monitor costs. Although we haven’t ever tried using a traditional baby monitor, I find this to work just as well as I assume a regular monitor works. It might actually be more reliable. It’s not limited in range or anything like that. As long as your device is paired with the device in the baby’s room and both devices have internet, you can monitor. I’ve even used this to check in on Theo while I was at the doctor’s office!
If you have an old smartphone lying around, you just have to download the app onto the old phone and leave it somewhere in the baby’s room. If you keep the phone plugged in, you can basically have the app running at all times and just tap into it on your phone when you want to monitor the baby.
There are three different noise sensitivity levels you can set the monitor at to either alert you to the smallest sounds, or only when they’re crying pretty loudly. I’ve always found the alerts to be quite reliable. And interestingly enough, we have a sound machine on in his room when he sleeps and the app knows not to alert us for that noise, but when he starts babbling to himself, it will alert us right away! Also, I don’t know how big of a concern this actually is, but there’s no way some rando can access your monitor because it has to be paired with the device that you leave in the baby’s room.
The only downside is although the app has video capabilities, because it just uses the phone’s camera, there’s no infrared or night-vision. So if you keep your baby’s room pretty dark like we do, you’ll only be able to see a black screen when the baby is napping. We don’t really feel like we need video, but some parents who also keep their baby’s room pretty dark, might be bothered by that.
5. Drool Bibs
This is definitely an “each baby is different” kind of an item. But ever since Theo was 2 months old, he’s been drooling like crazy. Every time we bring it up, people are like, “oh, he’s probably teething.” I mean, it’s possible, of course. But since it’s been 6 months of non-stop drooling and no sign of teeth, I’m gonna go with he’s just a super drool-y baby! Excessive drooling until they are about 2 years old is actually quite common. It just takes a while for them to learn how to work their mouth muscles and that they should swallow their saliva!
And even if your baby is not super drool-y right now, they might get that way when it comes to teething, and pretty much all babies will spit up (sometimes several times a day), so rather than changing their outfit multiple times in one day, a bib will save their clothes, and they’re super easy to swap out when they get dirty or soaked.
And not any old bib will do. There are a lot of types of bibs. I’m not talking about the cute cloth ones that will soak all the way through in about two seconds, or the ones with waterproof backs, but flimsy fronts with hardly any substantial absorbent material at all. I’m talking about the type with thick, fleecy backs and cotton fronts, such as the ALVABABY Bandana Drool Bibs or the IKEA Himmelsk bibs.
These things are the best! They are so absorbent without actually feeling that thick. No matter how much Theo drools or spits up, he’s never soaked through one of these bibs. They’re super cute too, which is a bonus! Theo’s basically been wearing these every single day since he was 2 months old.
The only thing I will say is, I regret getting so many ones that are white. After we started Theo on solids, the white ones started getting food stains on them that wouldn’t come out. So try to get ones in darker or brighter colours, which won’t show as many stains. You can also try to be more vigilant about cleaning the bibs immediately after they get dirty, but it’s just easier if you don’t even have to worry about it.
These are just a couple of things that, while I do really like them, I wouldn’t consider them “must-haves” or essential by any means. But I still wanted to mention them, in case you were wondering, “is this really worth it?”
1. Well-sealed Metal Diaper Pail
This is something I’m really glad I spent the extra money on, but I can totally see it being not the case for other people, especially if you plan on using cloth diapers. I hesitated between the Diaper Genie and the Ubbi Diaper Pail and ended up shelling out the big bucks for the Ubbi, which I do not regret.
Now this is speaking only from my limited experience with other people’s Diaper Genies, but it seems to me that the construction of the Diaper Genie is definitely flimsier and allows for odours to escape much more easily, even when the diaper pail is closed.
The Ubbi on the other hand has rubber seals on both openings (the lid that pops up and the hole that slides open) and once it’s closed, it’s like an air-tight seal that keeps the poopy smell inside of the pail. Now, when you open it, of course, the stink will waft into the room a little bit, but I would rather have to deal with a minute of stink that dissipates once you close the pail, than a slight lingering of poop scent that is just always there.
I also really like that you can use regular garbage bags in the Ubbi and you don’t have to buy special bags for it. And I don’t know this for a fact, but I think the Ubbi can hold more diapers in it than the Diaper Genie, which I appreciate in the summertime. I just don’t like the idea of poopy diapers baking in our garbage can outside, and I like only taking out the diaper garbage once a week, on garbage day.
Now, maybe your experience with the Diaper Genie is completely different and you don’t find it flimsy or smelly. Maybe you prefer to just throw the poopy diapers in the garbage can outside immediately. Maybe you use reusable diapers and don’t even need a pail. All valid experiences! For me, I think the Ubbi is worth the extra cost.
2. Pacifier Clip
We got the Kushies Silibeads Pacifier Clip, and this may seem like something you’d only be interested in if you’re using pacifiers with your baby, but we’ve never actually used it to hold any pacifiers. Instead, we use it for attaching small, gummable objects to Theo’s clothes or his stroller strap so he doesn’t drop them on the ground.
The clip part is actually super secure. Theo’s never been able to pull it off of whatever it was clipped on. And as a bonus, he loves holding, looking at, and chewing on the beads themselves. So it’s kind of its own built-in toy/teether! I highly recommend getting something like this for on-the-go!
3. C-shaped breastfeeding pillow
This is another item that we actually ended up using for a purpose it wasn’t intended for. I got the LEN nursing pillow from Ikea, and I did use it a bit in the beginning for nursing, right when Theo was born. But I ended up just holding him to breastfeed most of the time.
What we loved this pillow for was actually to help Theo learn how to sit up. A firm C-shaped pillow is PERFECT for babies when they are just learning how to sit by themselves! It kind of cocoons them so they can’t fall over backwards or to either side.
You can easily cushion it more with a throw blanket so they won’t slouch so much. And once they are more comfortable with sitting by themselves and don’t need to lean back onto it, you can still use it for extra security. There will be those odd times they might topple over ’cause they tried to turn their heads too fast or something, and having this pillow there to soften the fall really helps.
Of course you could just pile regular pillows around your baby, or get one of those products that’s actually designed to help babies sit up on the floor before they can do it independently. But as I’ve mentioned multiple times, I’m just a big fan of getting baby things that have multiple uses. If you’re planning on breastfeeding and you think you want a breastfeeding pillow, why not get one that can double as a baby lounger when they are ready for it?
This ended up being quite a long post. Thanks for making it this far if you’re still reading! I just feel like I’ve discovered a lot of things that I would not have known to even think about or consider before having a baby, and I’m hoping someone out there may find my insights somewhat useful!
If I had to summarize this pile of word vomit, I think my biggest “what to buy” tips are:
- Just wait and see what kind of a baby you have and then make your purchases. Chances are, you’ll need a lot less stuff than you think you do.
- Invest according to your lifestyle. We were willing to shell out big bucks for our stroller system and carrier because we don’t have a car. We knew we would need really sturdy, well-made, easy to manage, good all-around modes of baby transportation that would last. I love our Uppababy Cruz with the bassinet and car seat, but if you plan on just driving your baby everywhere and then using a stroller indoors or on nicely paved road, I wouldn’t bother getting such an expensive stroller system.
- Try to borrow/test the baby gear you’re considering if you can. I’m talking specifically the big ticket items and anything that has a lot of hardware, mechanisms or engineering (strollers, car seats, swings etc.) It’s really hard to imagine how something feels/works without trying it out for yourself. You might notice little things you hadn’t considered that could be a deal-breaker for you. And if your baby’s already here, you can test it with the baby to see how they like it!
Okay, this is the end of my really long post! I’ll post the part 2 aka “worst purchases” post in a couple of weeks, which I promise will not be this long! I just have a lot of thoughts and opinions that I wanted to share in case anyone out there feels like they are drowning in baby stuff decisions and finds any of this helpful.
What are some of your favourite baby purchases?