I've gotten a lot of requests for more baby product reviews and recommendations. And when I say "a lot" I actually mean that, as opposed to that fake "ohhhhh fine, since I'm being begged by so many people for my important thoughts on this important topic" thing you might do after like, one person asked you the question. On their Facebook wall. Where they asked everybody. But regardless! To the Opinionmobile! Away!
So while I don't really *do* product reviews, I do enjoy making a good list. And yo dawg I heard some of you also like lists so here I made you a list.
This list contains just about everything baby-registry-related that I have used and found to be Pretty Much To At Least Mostly Awesome. Some items/brands have been my favorite ever since Noah, while others are upgrades during the Ezra and Ike Eras that I now prefer. Everything here, unless specifically noted otherwise, was bought and paid for by my own damn self or is something I received as a gift from a friend or family member, NOT the company in exchange for linkage. (Amazon links are affiliate links, because, well, why the hell not? I do enjoy the occasional nickel.)
While a lot of this stuff can be used long-term (Ergo, strollers, toys, etc.), this is MOSTLY a list of stuff aimed at the first six months or so. Some of it is just gifty and fun and/or helpful, some of it is stuff we couldn't live without. Some of it is just the stuff we had hanging around from the previous go-rounds with babies and didn't see the point of replacing because it worked well enough, even though there *MIGHT* be something newer and better on the market.
I tried (and sometimes failed) to keep the commentary to a minimum, lest this entry become another Monster Listicle That Ate My Soul And Also New York City (see also: the cloth diaper posts), plus a lot of it is pretty self-explanatory.
I am keeping comments closed -- NOT because I want to squelch dissenting opinions or repress your right to tell me I am full of shit, but because I remember being pregnant and reading someone's glowing recommendation of something and going all, "YAY I WILL BUY THAT NOW" and then reading the comments where the BAJILLION contradictory opinions and alternative suggestions would start and basically make me cry. You don't want to make the pregnant ladies cry, do you? I MEAN DO YOU? God, you're such an asshole sometimes.
But if you have a specific question about anything on this list, please feel free to email me at amyATamalahdotcom and I will do my best to ramble wordily at you for awhile. (Though be aware that my answer to most "why product X instead of product Z" queries will likely be something super-non helpful like, "because I never tried product Z.")
Okay. That was a horribly ridiculous amount of wind-up because I haven't yet gone and inserted links to any of this shit yet and I'm procrastinating. LET'S DO THIS THANG.
Ergo I am a function over form kind of babywearer, it turns out, despite multiple attempts at Other, Prettier Kinds of slings. The Ergo is a structured, utilitarian front/side/back baby carrier and is the most comfortable model I have ever tried, with the least amount of did-I-do-this-right guesswork involved. Plus, Jason can wear it too.
AnnaCarrieBaby Mei Tai. Well, FINE. Sometimes you do maybe want something a little cuter. If I do have any complaint about the Ergo, it's that it's a LOT of carrier for a newborn. I wanted something less structured for Ike's early days, and used this one (with the Ergo Infant Insert usually). You absolutely cannot beat the low price and the carriers are beautiful and very well made. Do not be intimidated by the tying -- tying your shoelaces is more complicated than a Mei Tai, I swear. I still use it quite a bit for quick jaunts to the bus stop or if I happen to be wearing an outfit that matches the pattern better SHUT UP. (If you or your significant other are on the bigger/wider/bustier side I would recommend springing for the extra-long strap option.)
Rockin' Baby Sling. If you do want something that's just plain gorgeous (and not a Mei Tai), check these out. I used one of their pouch slings until Ezra was a year old, though sadly Ike never quite warmed to the pouch like the Mei Tai. Too thrashy and kicky, I guess. And then Ceiba chewed on the zippers and ruined it. GODDAMN YOU DOG.
(Sidebar: I fail at all ring slings, period. Just...fail. But Rockin' Baby also makes very lovely ones, if you prefer that style.)
Sucking Pads. Fabulous accessory for the Ergo or Mei Tai or Babyhawk or any carrier with shoulder staps that your baby can gum/drool/barf on. Ergo makes an "official" set of these but they are not as cute and don't have the taggies option, which is sooo worth it.
Stuff Sack. Sized perfectly for the Ergo or Bjorn, but will also hold two less structured carriers, like a Mei Tai and a pouch. Helps keep them clean and out of the way, and is great for tossing in the car or in a stroller basket without dragging straps behind you everywhere you go. (Note that Charlotte sent me one of these as a thank you for giving her sucking pads a previous shout-out. But this only means she is more awesome and you should buy stuff from her.)
Lanolin. So much lanolin. Then some more lanolin.
Medela Symphony pump. RENT, don't buy. I have a Medela Pump In Style now and it's fine, but the Symphony is the best pump I ever used.
Bebe au Lait Nursing Cover. WELL KIND OF. I honestly don't use a nursing cover anymore, unless I'm wearing something that's particularly not well-suited for nursing. I find covers in general attract more attention and take longer to get a baby settled under than a simple slouch-over-and-cover-with-hair-or-burp-rag technique. But this comes after nursing three babies and having a lot of practice at whipping boobs out. If you're a first-timer and think you'll be more comfortable using a cover, then by all means buy a cover and don't let anybody reverse-shame you about covering up when it's your right to nurse in public blah blah blah.
Dr. Brown's. All the parts are a pain in the ass, but for the spit-uppy/gassy baby these are a lifesaver.
Adiri Natural Nurser. Expensive, but if you find your breastfed baby is resisting the bottle, it's worth a try. I only own one but that was enough to use as a Gateway Bottle for both Ezra and Ike. Once they got used to it, other bottles quickly followed suit.
Note that I bought all kinds of bottle warmers and sanitizers before Noah was born, and quickly punted each and every one after discovering the 1) duh, dishwasher, and 2) duh, microwave (just microwave the water in a measuring cup, pour in bottle, add formula, shake, hot spot problem solved). (For pumped breastmilk I warm the storage bags up under running hot water.) (And then eventually I convince them to drink stuff at whatever temperature it happens to be at, because WHATEVER, HIGH-MAINTENANCE BABY.)
White Noise Machine, with the caveat that this thing sat around and collected dust throughout Noah's AND Ezra's babyhoods and I regularly declared it useless. Then Ike came and changed all the rules on me and this thing runs probably 18 solid hours a day now, good effing lord, on the "ocean waves" setting.
Fisher Price Soothe & GlowSpermSeahorse
Little Alouette wooden teethers
Anything by Whoozit
California Baby bath products
Mother's Special Blend oil for belly, boobs, etc.
Belly Bandit (especially for c-section pain management, but it'll also help you fit into your clothes and feel LOADS better at first)
iBaby Feed Timer app for nursing tracking, timing, which side, etc.
FOR CLOTH DIAPERING
Diaper/Wipes Clutch. When I used disposables, one of my favorite baby items ever was a Diaper & Wipes Pod by JJ Cole. But it's way too slim to hold even one bulky cloth diaper. So Etsy! To the rescue! This clutch is generously sized so you can fit a cloth diaper (or two, if you're talking newborn fitteds or smaller prefolds) along with your wipes case and a folded changing pad. Plus, so cute! Mine is a Day of the Dead pattern.
Planet Wise wet bags and pail liners.
Thirsties diaper covers, Duo or Original (I like both)
Wool covers. Knit, crochet or repurpose from old sweaters if you've got the skills, or bug someone you know who does, or get sucked into an Etsy search for a year or two.
Green Mountain Diapers prefolds and Workhorse fitteds. If you're planning to try prefolds DO NOT SKIMP. Go with the best, and GMD prefolds are amazeballs. (They also sell newborn starter kits that I wish I'd tried instead of hodgepodging it myself.)
FuzziBunz and bumGenius OS pockets. No, these are still not my personal favorite for Ike, but that's mostly because I've gone off the deep end with an endless love of mixing, matching and personalizing Ike's diaper for home, away, overnight, etc. and this is admittedly not the best entrance point for a newbie diaperer. I used pocket diapers exclusively with Ezra and they were great. I'm just nuts now.
RebelBabyCo. newborn and OS fitteds. Yes, I know. Still on hiatus. But I'm stubbornly still pimping these as the Greatest Diapers On Earth because ONE DAY Leanne will come back and the world will be a better place because of it. Bookmark and practice patience. (SADFACE LEANNE COME BACK I NEEDS SOME MORE DIAPERS PLEEZ.)
Cheribums and Angelbottoms. Cloth diapering on a budget but aren't interested in prefolds or buying used/seconds? Donna makes basic, no-frills fitted diapers and soaker pads out of inexpensive fabrics. Jason and our babysitter love these because they're easy to put on (and don't leak), and I love them because I was able to almost double my diaper stash (hooray for less laundry!) for hardly any money at all. You will still need covers (and a sweater de-piller, if you're twitchy about pilling flannel after a few washes), like any fitted diaper.
bummis Fleece Liners. Great for preventing rash/chapped skin in prefolds or other cotton diapers, and keeping poop stains to a minimum.
Thirsties Stay-Dry Duo Inserts and Thirsties Fab Doublers in cotton velour. GREAT for boosting the absorbancy of just about any diaper for overnight or other long blocks of time. Could honestly build an entire diaper using just these and a waterproof cover. Ike is a CRAZY HEAVY WETTER and I couldn't live without them.
Gift cards to Hanna Andersson for baby clothes that are cut generously enough in the butt for the added bulk of cloth.
(I used to own and recommend a wipes warmer, which SOUNDS ridiculous, but I actually found it quite awesome for keeping cloth wipes wet and ready to go without a trip to the sink. But then it cracked and leaked and completely ruined the finish on the top of our changing table. So fuck you, wipes warmer! YOU'RE OFF THE LIST.)
You don't need fancy specialty appliances or equipment. I use a pot with a steamer insert from Ikea, a Cuisinart mini-prep that I've had for ages, and a small bullet blender/grinder of the non-babyfood-infomercial variety. (Though any blender will do -- the bullets are nice for small batches and easy cleanup. And also my MIL gave it to us as a gift a long time ago so YAY FREE AND ALSO SMOOTHIES.) Get some ice cube trays with lids, though plastic wrap will work too. Sheet pans for roasting, a strainer/colander, peeler, Ziploc bags and a fork. That's seriously it. Maybe an apple corer if you're fancy.
For recipes, Cooking for Baby and Baby Love make great gifts, though you can get all the basics online at sites like wholesomebabyfood.com for free and then start combining/tweaking/inventing your own from there.
Playmats by Peppermint Pinwheels
Shabby Hoot Owls by JP Pinkdaisy
Eddie Bauer Infant Travel Bed. When we went to the beach this past summer, space was at too much of a premium to justify the Pack-n-Play, especially since I guessed there was less than a 50% chance Ike would actually sleep in it. Instead we brought this and it was perfect. The Pack-n-Play is essential when your baby gets bigger, but for traveling with a newborn, you can totally skip the bassinet attachment option and go with something like this.
ASSORTED AND MISC. GEAR
washPOD. Teh babeh bukkit! BEST TUB EVER.
Angelcare monitor. We had a fancy video monitor once. We lost the receiver. By the time Ike arrived I was all out of neuroses and wanted a basic old skool monitor, with none of that crazy video/movement mat/heartbeat-checking nonsense. Just light up and transmit sound when he's crying, godammit. This is that monitor, and it's great.
Diaper Dude Messenger Bag. You know, as my kids get older I generally ditch the utilitarian diaper bags and go for a nice, oversized purse that suits my taste. (cough Coach cough yesstill) And then I have another baby and go RUNNING back to this thing. It's about as basic and un-fashion-y as it gets, but I can 1) fit everything I need in it, even with THREE children making clothing/toy/accessory contributions, 2) not kill my back and shoulder because it really isn't big at all, just well-designed, and 3) hand it over to my husband to carry without insulting his sense of Man Shame at carrying something flower-y or babyish.
Snap-n-Go stroller frame. If you plan to use an infant bucket seat (we use a Graco), put off the Big Stroller Purchase for awhile and get yourself a lightweight, easy-to-fold stroller frame. There's no reason to use a bigger or heavier stroller than you absolutely need to early on. I don't recommend the Maclaren version (we had one and it shed nuts and bolts constantly before breaking completely), but the Snap-n-Go is an inexpensive, handy thing to use while you get a sense of how often you use a stroller and on what terrain, how wide/heavy you're willing to go, etc. Sell it on Craigslist when you're done with it, if the limited-use-window of it bugs you.
Maclaren Triumph. Pros: Folds small, easy to carry, utilitarian, the complete opposite of those heavy, hard-to-fold $1,000 sidewalk tanks you've probably had clip your ankle at least once. Cons: Reclines but only slightly, and lightweight = tippy (unhook your diaper bag BEFORE taking your baby out lest you want the stroller to go TIMBER on you). Not really good for rough terrain where rubber tires would be more appropriate.
Phil & Ted's inline double. Pros: INLINE, not side-by-side. You can get through doorways and store aisles. Most people are shocked to even notice your second baby hiding out in the back. (And no, we've never gotten complaints from the rear rider, they seem to think it's pretty cool back there.) Rubber tires and great steering/handling. Lots of configuration options. Cons: Expensive, heavy and a pain-in-the-ass to fold up. Doubles kit and newborn cocoon thingie cost extra, bringing our total investment in this stroller to more than I can honestly fathom sometimes. (Lots of poor reviews on Amazon re: tires, recalls & poor customer service but we've experienced zero problems like that.)
(No, the Mamaroo is not on this list. It was great when Ike was teeny, but the truth is teeny babies will sit contendedly in a dresser drawer if you let them. Once he got bigger he wanted everything that the Mamaroo doesn't do -- a quick/fast-faced swinging motion, lights and toys to grab, general gaudy plastic-ness. The only saving grace of the Mamaroo for us are the white noise functions, which still will occasionally help knock him out for a nap. But you can absolutely get decent white noise machines for a HELL of a lot less than we paid for the fancy, shiny Mamaroo. And you can get an acceptable, more traditional swing for a lot less too. We've been using the same basic Fisher Price Ocean Wonders take-along swing since Noah was born and you know what? I LOVE THAT GAUDY PLASTIC PIECE OF SHIT.)
Fisher Price Rainforest Bouncer. You know, everytime I'm pregnant I start eyeing the fancy bouncy seats -- the European ones in the solid fabric with teak frames and maybe one small crossbar with some plain Waldorf-like wooden beads for baby to play with. And I think about how much nicer that would look in my living room than the ugly green thing we have that lights up and bubbles and plays Pop Goes the Weasel over and over and over. And then my babies are born and I'm reminded that OH YEAH, babies will sit there and watch the SHIT out of those lights and bubbles, and Pop Goes the Weasel is fucking magic.
Bumbo, though this is another one with an asterisk/caveat. The Bumbo was God's Gift and a Bag of Chips with Ezra, who was 50th percentile for length and super-mega thunder-thighed. He fit great in it. Ike is 90th percentile for length and has thighs like an underfed chicken. He slides around in it and the back doesn't come up high enough to support him properly so he flops over after a few minutes. Damn. We still use it, but it's not quite the go-to baby-containment spot it was for Ezra.
(gasps for air)
Dear God. DEAR GOD that's a lot of crap. And I'm know I'm probably forgetting entire categories, but after pacing through the house and staring at everything we actually use on a daily or semi-regular basis...anything I've left off probably isn't all that important. I mean, none of it really is, besides boobs and diapers. But it sure is fun, once you get past the deer-in-the-headlights nesting feeling of IF I PURCHASE THE WRONG KIND OF SWING WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE.
Anyway, hopefully this was kind of helpful for someone out there, and is the last time I need to bore the rest of you to tears with this kind of thing for a long, long time.
Now I must get back to figuring out what to do with my SIX-MONTH-OLD BABY who is getting TWO MORE TEETH and WON'T SLEEP SWADDLED and WON'T SLEEP UNSWADDLED and HATES NAPS and IS ROLLING ALL OVER THE PLACE and now that I think about it I should probably add some kind of Booze Sampler to the "For Mom" section of this list.
YEAH YOU KNOW IT.