Essential Baby Gear

Last week, my sister came over to play with the Bean and the Belle and as she was walking around the house she said, “Your house is full of kid stuff.” Which made me think, “What is my house supposed to be full of?”

Ehh… Probably a little less kid stuff, haha.

Honestly, after two babies, we have a lot of crap that my sentimental mom-brain can’t get rid of yet. If I could do it over again, I would try to buy a whole lot less and just focus on the necessities, although some things that have worked for Bean haven’t been a hit for Belle, and vice versa.

But considering both babies, these are my essential items.

Ergo Baby Carrier

Image Source: Amazon.com

We got the Ergo Baby Carrier in 2013 when we were preparing to take Bean to London for the first time. We tried it out a few days before we left and he tolerated it but refused to use it for more than a couple minutes at a time. It definitely helped when we were checking in for our flight, but it was useless after that. After that trip, it was put away and we resigned ourselves to carrying him everywhere, which was okay since J.D. was the one who had to hold him most of the time.

When Belle was born, I decided to get the Ergo Infant Insert so that we could try it again with her. I thought that if we got her into the carrier as a newborn, she would protest less — which was totally case with her. Belle loves the carrier and we use it everyday. She is super happy being pouched for hours and it was a total lifesaver in Rome.

Pack & Play Yard

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Image Source: Amazon.com

The Safety 1st Play Yard has been with us since Bean was born. We mostly use it as a diaper station and a catch-all for baby crap, but I’ve also used it as a safe place to keep the kids when I *have* to do something and can’t carry them with me. With Bean, it was when I had to go to the toilet. He didn’t like being left alone for any amount of time, regardless of what I put in the play yard with him for entertainment and so it was really for super short, “gotta pee” moments. As he got older, he would be happy playing in the play yard as long as I was in his eye line and he could still engage with me.

Now that we have Belle, we use the play yard almost every day. As long as all her needs are taken care of before I put her down, I can get Bean’s meals ready and take care of some of his more involved needs without having to juggle Belle. I did upgrade the play yard a bit with a  spring mattress, waterproof mattress pad and a mini crib sheet.

I think our play yard is an old model that they don’t really make any more but the features that we really like are the two adjustable floor levels and the removable changing area with storage. I also like that it didn’t have a ton of extras, like a bassinet, that we would have to store when the babies grew out of it. I guess I could do without the changing area and go super basic with it but I do like the extra storage space that comes with it.

Muslin “Baby Everything” Blanket

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Image Source: Amazon.com

When I was pregnant with Bean, I registered for and bought a ton of flannel receiving blankets. I’m not entirely sure why I did that… I think it’s because I’m a fabric junkie and my pregnancy hormones made me think that the patterns were super cute. At first, we used them as swaddles, but he quickly got too big for them and they were relegated to spit rags, which were also super helpful. But Bean really liked being swaddled so we had to find another alternative.

I ended up buying a 4-pack of Aden + Anais muslin swaddles, even though the $50 price tag sort of made me sick. They worked really well as swaddles because they are oversized (47″ x 47″) but since they are only one layer, they didn’t work well for other uses. The single layer of muslin was too thin for us to use it as a blanket or any type of cover — breastfeeding, stroller, carseat or whatever — since Bean’s little limbs would just toss it aside or a little breeze would blow and leave him uncovered. It was also too thin for me to put down on the lawn without having blades of grass poking through, thus defeating the purpose.

I later found a Aden + Anais Dream Blanket for $54 that is made of four layers of cotton muslin that was super soft and had decently cute designs, but I’ve never bought *myself* a $50 blanket and by that point, Bean was more interested in toys and stuff so I didn’t bother worrying about blankets anymore.

When Belle was born, my blanket obsession started again but I found a solution — the Baby Everything Blanket by Roxie’s House of Joy. I found their website a few months ago, and they offered a comparable blanket to the ones I was researching for half the price, $24. They didn’t have a ton of patterns yet, and I was too busy to get obsessed, so I just put myself on their email list and forgot about it.

After we got home from Rome, I got an email with a 60% discount code to use on Amazon and a notice about their new Emotional Marshmallow pattern and I had to buy it. It has four, super soft layers of muslin and is oversized which means that it will definitely remain a favorite even as Belle gets bigger. It is weighty enough to stay on Belle even when she tries to kick it off, but it’s super breathable so she never wakes up in a pool of sweat. We have used it as a floor blanket, breastfeeding cover, and I haven’t used it yet as a diaper changing mat, because it’s just too cute. It was less than $10 after the discount, so if I’m ever in a pinch and Belle has a total diaper disaster and it accidentally destroys the blanket, no biggie!

The customer service was also amazing — they emailed me after my package was delivered to make sure I received it, sent some helpful care videos and made sure I knew that they fully stand by their product and that they have a 60-day money back guarantee if the blanket didn’t work out for us.

I can’t wait until they release more patterns because Bean has been commandeering the blanket whenever Belle isn’t looking so we are definitely in need of another one.

If I had to do it over again, I would get only one pack of flannel receiving blankets, to use as newborn swaddles, burp cloths and on-the-go changing pads and then a couple Baby Everything Blankets to use in rotation and then a spare, or two, to keep in the car. I’m definitely keeping my eye on my email and waiting for new design alerts and *hopefully* another awesome code.

IKEA ANTILOP Highchair

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Image Source: IKEA.com

J.D. gave me a hard time when we went to IKEA and I wanted to buy this highchair for Bean since, at the time, he still couldn’t sit very well and he wasn’t really eating solid food with us at the table. I insisted because I needed another place to put him when I needed to get something done and because it was so inexpensive.

For a while, Bean used this chair *maybe* once a week for 10 minutes but as he got older, he started using it more and more. We were not very regimented about mealtime routines with Bean and sometimes he would use the highchair or a regular chair, but most of the time he insisted on one of us holding him. At about age 2, he started using it more regularly because we realized that he sits and eats more when he doesn’t have the choice to run off and play — duh, rookie mistake.

Bean was still using the chair when Belle was born, but as she got bigger and learned how to sit up on her own, we started transitioning Bean to a big chair again and passed the IKEA ANTILOP on to her. So far, she’s gotten a ton of use from it. She sits in it when she eats her meals and she sits in it a lot when I’m working on stuff in my craft room.

I love that the seat of this chair is completely plastic because both babies have puked it in at some point in time and I like that I can just detach the metal legs, hose the chunks off and then put it in the dishwasher to get it ready for its next use. Totally worth the $20 we spent.

Convertible Car Seat

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Image Source: Amazon.com

Bean was brought home in the bucket seat that came with our travel stroller system and he hated it. He would always cry when we put him in the car and he would not stop until we either reached our destination or when he would fall asleep after crying for so long.

We decided to switch to a backward facing convertible seat when he was about 7 months old because he looked squished in the bucket seat, and we were super ready to try another seat. My parents offered to get him a new seat and told me to do some research for the one that would work for us, and we picked the Safety 1st seat because it had the widest weight and height range at the time. It is super sturdy and the fabric on the chair is super plush and well-constructed, unlike some of the cheaper seats. He tried it out in the store and looked so happy so we knew it was going to be a hit.

I sort of wish we had opted for this seat right from the start and just skipped the bucket seat and the entire travel stroller system. Belle is using the bucket seat right now, and she does really well in it, but if we had started both kids out in a convertible seat, we would’ve saved the money on the travel system. Also, we wouldn’t have to be storing the seldom used stroller right now…

Video Baby Monitor

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Image Source: Amazon.com

We didn’t have a baby monitor when Bean was first born because I had decided that he would never leave my side. When he would take a nap, I would run to the bathroom to pee and then run to the kitchen to get drink or a snack and then run back to the room and quietly eat my snack and do whatever I needed to do super quietly.

We actually got our Summer Infant Video Monitor as a promotional item when we purchased Bean’s convertible car seat during the Great Giveaway at Babies R Us. It was one of those sales where if you spend $150 on something, you get a free video monitor. It was a huge steal. I’m not sure when this giveaway happens each year, but I think we bought his seat at the end of September or the beginning of October because I remember his first trip he took in it was when we were going to the Houston Greek Festival.

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Image Source: BabiesRUs.com

We use our monitor every single day. I can play with Bean in another part of the house while Belle naps, so she isn’t disturbed and I never have to worry about not hearing her cry. The video is awesome because if she makes a little noise, I can check to see if it’s a sleeping noise or if she’s starting to wake up and needing me.

I think if we were to do it all over, I would splurge for the set with multiple cameras so I wouldn’t have to unplug and relocate it whenever we change rooms and I might still try to convince J.D. that we need to upgrade our system since they will be useful for a long time.

Rock & Play Sleeper 

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Image Source: Amazon.com

I was not going to include this the Rock & Play Sleeper on my essentials list because both babies have officially outgrown this item and it’s currently just taking up space. As I was looking through pictures to make sure I didn’t forget anything important, I realized just how much we used our Rock & Play Sleeper during the first 6+ months of both babies’ lives.

I remember with Bean, he preferred to be held most of the time, but when he would lose his mind and refused to be comforted, he would calm down when we rocked him in this sleeper — the faster, the better. With Belle, she was happy snuggled in the sleeper from the very beginning. Since she had acid reflux, she would barf every time we would lay her down flat to nap so after changing our sheets a million times a day, I finally started putting her in the Rock & Play and the incline of the seat significantly reduced her barfing episodes. I think she may have only puked once while using the seat.

This rocker was such a huge help with both kids because it’s so light and portable that I could easily move them to any room of the house and the babies really liked the rocking movement. I think a lot of these seats have a self-rocking mechanism now which seems helpful but I think it might be a little less convenient since you either have to locate a convenient plug every time you move it to a new room or invest in a ton of D batteries because I bet they just bleed batteries dry.

My only complaint about the Rock & Play is that after Bean and Belle got a little stronger and learned how to sit up and started wanting to be more mobile, I didn’t feel like they were safe in it so instead, I opted to put them in the Pack & Play Yard. Now, the sleeper is completely useless and I guess we are storing it until I’m mentally ready to pass it on.

That’s it.

If I didn’t buy anything else for the babies except for the 7 items on this list, we’d be set, 100% into the toddler years and beyond. I mean I would still have to buy essentials like diapers, wipes, food and clothes but this is all the speciality gear that we would invest in if we had to do it over again.

Disclaimer: This post includes a lot of affiliate links for baby items that I deemed “essential.” Obviously all families have different needs but this is what has worked for us.

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