When I found out I was pregnant I pretty much immediately went into research mode. I had heard that babies needed a lot of stuff, but just how much stuff could a 6 pound baby really need?
It turns out, a lot. But how do you determine what you really need and what is just a “nice to have?” Or worse, a waste of money? Given we live in less than 500 square feet every product we brought aboard had to earn its place. After 7 months of testing, I’m happy to report that a lot of my initial research paid off, but I do wish I did a few things differently.
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First off, there are a lot of places you can get GREAT deals on baby gear (among many other things). My go-tos are Facebook Marketplace (for used – but in great shape – gear), Amazon (hello subscribe and save diapers! Get a FREE Prime trial here.) and TJ Maxx/Marshalls/HomeGoods (hit or miss, but I have found great deals on toys and clothes).
Now on to the products that have earned their keep!
Best Products for Sleeping
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies sleep on their backs on a firm mattress with only a fitted sheet in a crib or bassinet. The below is from personal experiences and what worked for us. Please do your own research and make your own decisions for your family.
1.I liked the idea of a bassinet because it took up so little space, but in truth I think Zoë spent a total of two hours sleeping in it. I wasn’t too upset about this as I spent $8 on a used Summer Infant travel bassinet on Facebook Marketplace. She hated lying flat on her back in the beginning and by the time she was OK with it, she would roll around into the sides of it which made me nervous. Instead I wish we had just started with her Guava Lotus travel crib from the beginning. The mesh sides are great for airflow and the side zipper offers easy access. The crib also folds up easily if you want to take along when you travel.
2.What Zoë did like to nap in was her Fischer Price Rock-N-Play. It is great for small space living because it folds up smallish when not in use. The rocker features an incline so the baby isn’t flat on their back. This is good for babies who have any reflux problems (like ours did). The model we had didn’t have the auto rocking feature, so learn from us and get the Auto Rock – N – Play model. It will be money very well spent.
Update: As of April 2019, all Rock-N-Play products have been recalled by Fisher-Price due to deaths of infants who were not properly restrained. If you have purchased a Rock-N-Play product please contact Fisher-Price for a refund or voucher.
3.I was so hesitant to buy the dock-a-tot, mostly because it is just so expensive. Nearly $200 for a glorified dog bed? I didn’t care how great the rave reviews were (Miracle sleep product! Best item I bought! Makes my baby poop glitter!), I was having a hard time coming to terms with the cost. It took me four months to take the leap, but I would happily spend the money over and over again. It wasn’t until Jason said to me, “would you pay $200 for a good night sleep?” that it really sunk in how silly I was being. OF COURSE I WOULD. At that point I hadn’t slept for more than 3 or 4 hours straight in months. A full night’s sleep sounded glorious. We started using the dock-a-tot at the same time we slept trained Zoë, so I am honestly not sure what did the trick. But, after a few nights she was consistently sleeping 10-12 hours straight. Worth every penny.
4.Zoë is a kicker. She was also really skinny. All this meant it was very challenging to keep her swaddled. She either kicked or wiggled her way out of nearly every swaddle we tried. Those muslin swaddles everyone raves about? Forget about it. They didn’t even work through her first night in the hospital. The Halo sleepsack/swaddle? Too big for small newborns (and way too hot for summer babies). The Zen swaddle? Nice in theory but I wish the foot piece also velcroed in place because Zoë quickly figured out how to free her legs. I personally didn’t like any styles with zippers because they got caught up around her neck. I was afraid they may get caught around her nose and mouth. The only swaddle that truly worked for us was the SwaddleMe Original Swaddle. Given every baby is different, I would register for a few different styles and see what works best for you! Once your baby can roll over on their own, switch to footed pajamas and a sleep sack.
5.When you live in a small home, you are much closer to everyone in it. Every sound you make can likely be heard by the baby. A good white noise solution is a must. For us that combination was a baby shusher and a soundtrack of Monks ohming. The shusher is great as it is battery powered so it travels easily. It is also worth considering subscribing to Spotify Premium so you can listen offline to your babe’s favorite tunes (Justin Timberlake lullabies anyone?). We were also adamant about getting her used to noise from the beginning. We never whispered once she went to bed or tiptoed around her. Now she happily sleeps through most things and only wakes up about half of the time when the dogs start barking.
Best Baby Products for Getting Around
1.A lot of people debate over whether to get a carrier or a wrap. My suggestion is to get both as each has its place. A wrap is perfect for snuggling up close with a newborn and is much cooler to wear than a regular carrier. We got a Moby wrap, but I wish I had gotten a Solly Wrap, only because they are just so pretty. A wrap doesn’t offer as much support for their heads as a carrier does, so I tend to use the carrier when I know Zoë will probably fall asleep.
2.We started with the Ergobaby 360. I wanted a carrier that could grow with Zoë and allow her to sit forward facing, in towards me, on the hip and on the back. To use this with a newborn you need to use the infant insert, which is an extra layer of fabric around the baby. Add in the summer heat and we were both hot and sweaty! I also found that after a while of carrying her I would get quite uncomfortable. When I shared all this with an Ergo rep at a local baby event she told me I really needed their latest carrier, the Omni, which was released after Zoë was born. The new carrier doesn’t need an insert for newborns and allows you to criss cross the straps across your back for better weight distribution on petite frames. Ergobaby happily sent me their latest carrier for free as they “just wanted me to be happy with my product.” How is that for customer service?
3.I don’t know what the laws are in other states (or countries!), but in New York they won’t even let you leave the hospital unless you have a car seat. For that reason the Doona is a pretty genius product. It is basically a car seat travel system with the wheels already attached. You simply press a button and out pop the wheels so you can stroll all over town (or around the hospital). It can be used with or without a base, and is wildly convenient for travel. The drawbacks are that it doesn’t recline for napping, and the wheels don’t absorb anything making for quite a bumpy ride on anything but completely smooth surfaces. It fits in most airplane seats too, so it makes traveling with an infant that much easier.
4.As Zoë started to grow, she became less tolerant of spending any amount of time in her Doona. She wanted more space to move around in so we began the hunt for the perfect stroller. The YoYo and the gb Pocket stroller are great for their space saving abilities, but their wheels don’t handle bumps well. The Uppababy and Bugaboos of the world are great with bumps, but don’t really fold up well. We ended up with the Citymini GT. Its air filled tires handle uneven surfaces like a pro and it clocks in at 22.5 lbs. It has a large sun canopy and sports a single hand fold ability. It may be a little big for cruising, but it is the best combination for our dockside city ways.
5.Every stroller needs something to hold your odds and ends as you’re out for the day. I like this organizer from Skip Hop. Its a drink holder, toy holder, bottle holder, etc. While I don’t keep my money in the zipper pouch, it is great for keeping chapstick, subway card and ferry tickets easily accessible.
6.For a diaper bag I just use a backpack. If you go this route I would suggest making sure it has zippers that go all the way around so you can open it wide to find what you need and it has snaps for the handles on the top. This allows you to easily hang it from the stroller handle bars or a stroller hook if desired. Fjallraven and Doughnut make bags in this style.
7.Another winner from the guys over at Skip Hop is their changing mat. It holds diapers and wipes so all you need to do is grab it when its time for a change. The handle makes for easy carrying and it even has a strap that you can hook onto your stroller or bag if you’d like.
8.With babies, everything eventually ends up in their mouths. And, if it isn’t attached to them it will end up on the floor. To limit the times I have to employ the 5 second rule and take one for the team, I use these pacifier clips. They are honestly pretty genius as they are made of silicone and have zero metal in them. They are perfect for teething babies and for keeping pacifiers accessible. People honestly stop and ask me about them all the time as apparently most designs have a metal clip.
9.Electric breast pumps are great, but its really nice to have a Manual breast pump available as well. It is great for long car or plane rides when the baby is passed out from the vibrations or if you’re away longer than expected. I prefer the Avent model over the Medella (I honestly hated everything Medella), and this easily screwed on to the top of the bottles I use – extra convenient!
10.I won’t get into the details but one of the many, MANY, unglamorous things you’ll deal with as a mom is leaking. Disposable versions don’t breathe so invest in a few pairs of Bamboobies. They are undetectable under even the sheerest of tops. They also make a heavier version for nighttime.
11.When babies are brand new it is impossible to keep shoes and socks on their feet. The only things I could get to stay on are these socks/booties from goumikids. They are so brilliant I have now bought the next size up. Get a couple pairs of these as they will be the only thing you use. I have literally lost one of every other kind of bootie or sock (never both!).
Best Baby Products for Feeding
1.For feeding your baby, every baby likes different bottles. You do you. I do recommend introducing a bottle semi early on though so they get used to eating from them. Regardless of what bottle you do end up with, a good bottle drying rack is super important if you don’t want your pump and bottle parts to grow mold as they are drying. I highly recommend the Boon Grass and Tree. The grass design allows for airflow to inhibit mold growth and the tree accessory is perfect for small pump parts and nipples.
If you are really trying to save space you can easily forgo a breast feeding pillow and use regular pillows, but it does come in handy. I got the Boppy and I wouldn’t say that I loved the design. It always slipped away and I often found myself needing extra support. What it is great for, though, is a sitting aid for Zoë. I don’t have to worry about her falling over and slamming her head into the floor. I also used the My Breast Friend travel pillow. I liked this design MUCH better. You snap it around your waste so it can’t slide away and it has lower back support.
3.Now that Zoë is eating solids (or purees) finding a great bib was important. I tried a few different styles and love the OXO roll up bibs. I tuck a spoon into the silicone pouch and roll up the bib to tuck it in her backpack. When food gets on it you can easily wipe down or rinse off.
Best Baby Products for Play
1.Once your baby starts engaging with their surroundings it is nice to have a play mat for them to engage with. I liked this Ikea play gym because it was much nicer to look at than the others and that the arch pieces disconnected so Zoë could use it as a clean play space once she outgrew the arches. It folds up nicely too when not in use.
2. The Baby Bjorn mesh bouncer is awesome. Its a safe place you can sit your baby if you have to do something – like go pee – so you don’t have to worry about them getting into anything while you’re away. Its is great for small spaces because it takes up such a small footprint and folds nearly flat. It has a toy bar (sold separately) to keep them entertained as well.. The cover pulls off for easy washing. Its expensive, but if you watch Facebook marketplace you can find them used.
3. I am really loving Green Toys. They are made from recycled products and so simple that Zoë loves them. She loves shaking the twist teether (Dewey hates it) and unstacking her stackers (hasn’t quite figured out how to stack them yet). I can’t wait for it to get warmer and take these bad boys to the beach, too.
4. Oball toys are great for small hands. The big holes allow tiny fingers to grab ahold and they are lightweight. I’m told they are dishwasher safe (wouldn’t that be nice!) as well. We’re loving the ball and I am pretty sure Jason is already working with Zoë on her soccer skills.
Indestructibles books are genius. They are rip proof, chew proof, waterproof, sand proof, poop proof, everything proof. I don’t know why every children’s book isn’t designed like this. They are so much lighter than board books and take up significantly less space. Zoë loves the crinkle sound that they make.
Best Baby Products for Bathing
1.When we first brought Zoë home I bathed her in our sink and used the Puj travel sink insert. It takes up very little space and just folds in half when not in use. Now I just find it easier to shower with her, but hold on tight because babies are slippery!
2. I love these washcloths for baths. They don’t save that much more space than a traditional washcloth, but I just like how soft they are. Babies have sensitive skin and a nice soft and organic washcloth is nice to have. I love them so much that I use them to wash my face too.
3.Baby nails seem to grow insanely fast. I swear I cut them every day. The NailFrida makes it very easy as there is a hole that allows you to see what you’re cutting so you don’t accidentally get their fingers. Really helpful when you are dealing with a wiggly baby.
All in all I don’t think I did that bad. Of all the baby products I bought I think the only thing I would skip the next go around would be the microwave bottle sterilizer, because really, who has the time? Oh, and you don’t need nearly as many muslin blankets as everyone says you do.