This week I’m sharing for discussion some of the baby questions that I receive most often in my inbox. Today’s question is:
When both of my children were babies, we lived in apartments, and though it would have been nice to do whatever I wanted for the nursery, looking back I’m kind of thankful that the apartment made us keep it simple in terms of baby stuff.
All of our decisions were made regarding usefulness, value, and storage.
First some general advice (and I’m skipping the part about buying used or borrowing since you know that already):
1. You don’t need it all at the beginning. For example, you don’t need the high chair right away. You don’t have to baby proof the house before your baby learns how to crawl. All babies are different, and you can wait and see what you need and then go find it on Craigslist, such as what I did with my baby swing (and maybe someone will offer you one in the meantime).
2. Choose gender-neutral colors for baby gear such as carriers, car seats, strollers, and high chairs to make it easier to use them for the next baby. Save the pinks and blues for clothing and blankets.
3. You don’t need to buy a lot of clothes. People will give them to you, and then you can see if you’re missing something. The way I store my baby clothes is to divide them by size so I can see what we have in the next size up. I realized when I had too many outgrown baby clothes that we were buying too much in the first place.
4. Go for multipurpose items. Before you buy something, try to think if you already have something that will do the same job.
(But since hooded towels are so cute, you should get one of those anyway.)
Bouncer seat. The smallest, no-frills, travel-size version you can find so that you can pick it up and move it from room to room. You want to be able to move it into the bathroom so you can take a shower. I use an inexpensive Fisher Price bouncer seat.
A place to sleep. The baby stores display bedding sets with matching blankets and bumpers, but you just need a sheet. You’re not supposed to use the other bedding in a crib, so skip it and get a couple of sheets and a waterproof mattress liner instead.
Crib safety has changed. If you’re using an heirloom crib, make sure the slats are no more than 2 ⅜ inches apart (a soda can shouldn’t pass between them). All of the drop-side cribs were recalled a couple of years ago.
If you co-sleep, travel, or nurse your baby on your bed, a Swaddlebees mattress pad saves you from a lot of laundry. It has fleece on top and waterproof PUL underneath. Since it’s not a crib-fitted mattress pad, you can use it on top of your bed so that you won’t have to change all the sheets in case of leaks.
High chair. I didn’t have room for a traditional high chair. I used a space-saving high chair that strapped to one of our normal dining chairs. The Fisher-Price Booster Seat is good for at home and taking to Grandma’s house (for babies 6 months and up).
Diaper changes. Instead of a changing table, you can put a changing pad on top of a dresser or use a towel on the floor with a basket of supplies. We’ll talk about diapers in a different post.
On the Go
Baby carrier. I’ve used a sling, a Bjorn, and a Beco Butterfly II. I like them all, but the Beco Butterfly II is the most versatile and truly goes from small baby to toddler. With all carriers, you should practice a few times for you and your baby to get comfortable with them. It’s easier to take your baby to the grocery store in a carrier than to put the car seat in the grocery cart and arrange the groceries all around the baby.
Car seat. I like the kind of infant car seat with a carrier seat so you can bring your sleeping baby inside and to restaurants and other people’s houses. Optionally you can get a travel-system stroller or a lighter stroller frame and keep that in the trunk of the car.
For a stroller, make sure the handles are high enough to make it comfortable so you don’t have to stoop over to push it. I like lightweight umbrella strollers, and the Chicco Capri is durable and goes everywhere once babies can sit up. That’s the one we took to Europe. (I prefer it to the more expensive Maclaren strollers.)
Diaper Bag. Instead of bringing everything with us when we go places, I repurposed an insulated lunchbox as a small diaper bag. I usually keep it in the car with a few diapers, wipes, and an extra onesie, or I can throw it in a larger tote bag. It’s insulated for bottles, and the short handle makes it easy to hang on a stroller. My son will be able to use it as a lunchbox when he goes to school. (From Lands’ End or L.L.Bean)
Bibs – soft ones for the teething and drooling stages and large, wipeable ones for feeding.
Soap – I use a gentle bar of pure olive oil soap for me, and that’s what I use for kids and babies too. Fewer bottles and products.
This type of nasal aspirator for a sick baby with congestion. I hope you won’t need it, but it works (drug free).
Bottles even if you’re nursing. When my babies are about nine months old I teach them how to drink from a cup, so we get to skip the sippy cups.
Fewer toys for the first year. Babies think everything is amazing, especially your face. They need some teethers, but not too many toys. I could put my son on the floor, and he would watch the ceiling fan for twenty minutes.
Baby shower gifts are often blankets, baby clothes (especially onesies), and what you put on your gift registry. (I had a registry for my first child, but not the second.) I love the idea to give used children’s books instead of cards at a baby shower. If you receive too many of something at a baby shower, don’t feel reluctant to return or exchange some of it; it’s the thought that counts.
When I see a long baby registry, it’s hard to know if expectant parents want everything new or if they would be interested in something I already have. Spread the word if you are interested in passed-down baby stuff. (In yesterday’s post I mentioned asking indirectly for baby stuff, but do ask.)
And one more thing. Don’t buy too many stuffed animals. Let your child have a special stuffed animal best friend, instead of a bunch of acquaintances. If other people are buying all the stuffed animals, it’s nice to donate them if you have too many. (My kids choose which ones to donate. Read more about that here.)