Strollers, carriers, and swings: oh my!
Bear with us, because there’s a lot of info packed into this section of the guide. These items tend to be some of the most expensive and frequently used, so we want to make sure you make the best decision for your needs. Grab a cup of tea, read on, and hopefully this will make picking the best baby gear a piece of cake! (Mmm, maybe grab some cake to go with that tea…)
Jessie says: “Newborns love to be swayed and bounced, so these are great tools for calming little one and keep them safe and secure while you get some things done. I could put Ben in his bouncer with a toy while I cooked or showered, which was great when I was home alone during the day. We had the Fisher-Price Snugabunny Bouncer, and it saved our bacon many nights when nothing else would make Little Man happy. I loved how light and easy it was to move around from room to room. I would also recommend dusting off your exercise ball (be honest, when else have you ever used it??) for the first month or so; when Ben was tiny, he LOVED to be bounced on that thing when he was fussy! As far as which one to get: some babies prefer bouncers, some prefer swings, you might have to experiment to find which one your baby likes best!”
Lela says: “I have the BABYBJORN Organic Bouncer. Sleek design, folds easily, removable and washable fabric for the inevitable spit-up.”
Jordan says: “My kid hated the swing, which made me glad we got one from friends as opposed to buying one new. We ended up getting the Fisher-Price Infant-to-Toddler Rocker, and that worked very well for us. It was a perfect place to put him while I pumped, and just rocking him with my foot kept him happy for surprisingly long periods of time.”
Caitlin says: “The Rock ‘n Play was indispensable when it came to my reflux baby, and we used it in place of a bassinet as well. You also need some sort of bouncer seat for the wobbly head stage, because being able to put baby down and use both hands is a must.”
Stroller & car seat
Jessie says: “For many people, this is one of the biggest purchases you make for your baby. There are a ton of options out there, so definitely do your research and test them out in store! Consider your budget, of course, plus space: will the car seat fit in your car, and will the stroller fit in your trunk/house? We didn’t have a garage at our first home, so we didn’t have a place for a larger jogging stroller. Also, the seats in my SUV slant back at an angle which prohibits larger car seats from fitting behind them, so that limited our options as well. We went with the UPPAbaby MESA Infant Car Seat and UPPAbaby CRUZ Stroller, because we felt that this system gave us the most versatility while fitting our specific space/size requirements. I love how simple it is to install the car seat either with the base or with a seat belt (so that we can use it easily without the base while traveling), and the stroller is a breeze to use and has a ton of storage in the basket below. We use the stroller and car seat every day, and they’re still in great shape, so I know we’ll get years of use out of them with Ben and any future kids. Once we moved to a new home with more space, we also added the Baby Trend Expedition Jogger Stroller to use for longer walks. Cheap and much easier to push over varied terrain.”
Lela says: “I have several criteria for evaluating what car seat to get rather than a specific recommendation. First, I recommend checking out the reviews on Consumer Reports. The primary function of an infant car seat is safety, so check which ones scored the best. Consumer Reports does more crash test scenarios than what the law requires manufacturers to perform, so I felt good about their analysis. Second, make sure your top choices fit in your car. I have the Chicco KeyFit and it barely fits in the back seat of our 2007 Honda Civic. The front seat passenger (usually me, and I’m 5’10”) has to move the seat a little further forward than is ideal. Third, remember that if your stroller and car seat are different brands, you’ll likely need an adapter, which will up the cost of your overall purchase.
My main tip for strollers is to consider what you need it to do for you. Contrary to the ads, there is not a one size fits all stroller for any situation. I live in Chicago; I walk a bunch, the sidewalks are treacherous at times, the snow is deep, and the curbs can be mini cliffs. I chose a stroller with big wheels and one front wheel so that I could more easily navigate the various terrains of my neighborhood. The drawbacks: this thing is kind of a monster, so it’s inconvenient to take on public transportation or fit in my trunk. Thus, I usually use the baby carrier for errands and only pack the stroller in the car for long excursions. As long as I don’t have to transport the stroller, it’s perfect for my neighborhood, which is where I do most of my walking. That being said, now that I’m pregnant with my second baby and less able to chase my toddler, a quick and easy umbrella option like the Jeep Stroller has been a lifesaver. I can strap her in when I can’t carry her or she won’t walk/be safe while walking. So even though I am all about simplicity, I own two strollers and even though I’m annoyed about it, it’s been working for us. The umbrella stroller is also useful when traveling since I can easily fold it, carry it, and pick it up, even with my belly and independent toddler. So if you don’t do a ton of outdoor walking close to home, or are loading a stroller in and out of a car a lot, something with more portable features would definitely be a good investment.”
Jordan says: “The Britax B-Safe (Updated version: B-Safe 35, although at the time of this writing, the Britax was subject to a recall due to an issue with the chest buckle) was my infant car seat of choice, and I didn’t have any complaints with the exception of it being heavy, which I think is a hazard of any of the infant car seats you can choose.
After he outgrew the infant car seat, we bought the Chicco Nextfit, which we were very happy with. Easy to install (in a number of different cars), doesn’t move once you get it in, and comfortable for him. My only complaint is that during the summer I would pull him out and he would be soaked through with sweat. As far as performance goes: we were rear-ended in July of last year, and the Nextfit didn’t move an inch in a wreck that totaled our 4Runner. I researched to see if something better had come on the market, but I was happy with what we had. The only difference this time is that I bought the Nextfit Zip Air, which means the cover zips off and is machine washable (glory hallelujah!) and the fabric is more breathable. The only place that sells the Air version is ToysRUs/BabiesRUs, and while their prices look significantly higher, they are almost constantly running some sort of sale where you can get 20% off. We were able to pick up the new car seat with the breathable material for almost the same price it was listed on Amazon.
The Baby Jogger City Mini has been our main stroller so far. I’m about 5’6″, and I haven’t had any problems with my feet hitting the bar; however, my sister is about 5’10”, and she continually hit her feet on it when she was pushing, and that in itself convinced her to buy a different brand. My only other complaint is that the bottom rack is small, so fitting a diaper bag below can be a real challenge. The City Mini & the B-Safe can be made compatible with inexpensive adaptor that worked like a charm.
For about a year-and-a half, the only place we had to go on walks was a gravel driveway that was awful with my City Mini (while it’s made by Baby Jogger, it is NOT a jogging stroller), so we found a Schwinn jogging stroller at a garage sale that was a lifesaver. The bigger tires navigated the terrain so much better than the City Mini. It was a much older model stroller, so I can’t even include a link to the one we have, but if you have rough roads, I do recommend a jogger.”
Jessie says: “Unfortunately, I didn’t get much use out of my carriers because my boobs were in such a sorry state from breastfeeding, but the Baby K’tan was easy to use and felt nice and secure on the few times I used it. I would not, however, recommend the Beco Gemini, purely because of the ‘security’ buckles that required two hands to operate which made it very hard to put on by myself. Next time, I think I’ll look into the Ergobaby or the Tula Ergonomic Carrier, both of which have great reviews.”
Lela says: “I got the Ergo because I knew others liked it. I had no complaints except that I saw cuter designs for other brands. I also used the Moby Wrap around the house or when she was younger. I liked that it felt super secure and I learned the wrap pretty quickly. I also didn’t feel like baby was getting squished or slipping down to where I wasn’t sure if she could breathe (my main fear when she was a newbie). The copious amount of fabric was mildly annoying to manage and it could get hot in the summer, but let’s be real, wearing a baby is just sweaty business. I tried the ring sling as well, but I kept feeling like the baby was slipping down into the fabric and I just never got the hang of it. I know others who have loved it though, so it might have just been me.”
Jordan says: “I cannot recommend the Infantino Sash Mei Tai carrier highly enough. First of all, it’s only $30, but it’s also easy to put on by yourself in a parking lot (because no one told you how hard grocery shopping with an infant would actually be) and it’s super comfortable for you and baby. I wanted to leave the Mei Tai in the car, but I also wanted something for the house, so I followed this stupid-easy tutorial for a DIY Moby Wrap. Not exactly great for putting on the in parking lot, but perfect when you’re trying to get some stuff done around the house. I bought a jersey knit fabric, begged the lady at the fabric store to cut it for me, and stored them (because you automatically get two out of this) in the fabric bags that the baby’s sheets came in. Also, I can’t tell you how much it felt like winning to find a use for those sheet bags!”
Caitlin says: “I’ve experimented with the Moby Wrap, the Ergo, and the Stokke MyCarrier. Pros of the Moby – great for snuggling tinies. My newborns loved curling up inside there. Cons – it is obnoxiously long and sometimes tricky to tie on correctly. It is also very hot. Ergo – easily my favorite bigger baby carrier. Pros – easy to wear and put on, comfortably for you and baby, can be rolled up and stuffed in a big diaper bag. Cons – the newborn insert, while providing great support, is HOT. Would not recommend wearing it outdoors in the South during those blistering summer months. Even inside it can be a bit much unless the AC is turned way down. Stokke – loved it for true hiking/ long days in the carrier for older babies (mine goes up to 40 lbs). The back carry feature even has a metal bar to reinforce back support for the parent. Cons – complicated to put on with all of its hooks and zippers. Also expensive.”
Jessie says: “I had the Boppy Newborn Lounger and found it super handy as a cozy spot for Ben to hang out and nap before he was mobile. Before he was able to roll, I put it on the couch where he was able to watch what was going on without being underfoot (especially important with a big dog in the house). I wouldn’t say this is absolutely necessary, but it was definitely handy for us!”
Jordan says: “We used a Baby Einstein Activity Jumper, and it was wonderful for entertaining the baby while I fixed dinner or tried to accomplish anything, really. When he could stand, he also liked standing beside it and playing with it.”
Caitlin says: “My babies loved the Bumbo Floor Seat once they were bigger and had better neck control. It allowed them to ‘join’ me in places all over the house – on the kitchen counter while cooking, on the table during mealtimes, etc. I even used it during bath time once my babies stopped liking to lay down during their baths (but careful – it does float, so keep it in low water only!).”
Jessie says: “We use a WiFi security camera so that I can check on Ben through my phone (even when I’m not at home!) rather than needing to carry a video monitor around with me. We have this one, but I think there are better options available now (although we’ve had no complaints with ours). We also have the VTech Audio Baby Monitor; if we hear a peep, I can just pull up the app and see what he’s doing!”
Jordan says: ” Our WiFi could be very spotty/nonexistent at our last house, so I specifically wanted a monitor that was not WiFi dependent. We ended up with the Summer Infant Clear Sight Video monitor, and we’ve been very happy with it. I would call a video baby monitor a necessity in our house, because our little one oftentimes makes a lot of noise while still being asleep. If I’m going to walk into that bedroom, I want to make sure he’s really and truly awake.”
Caitlin says: “I am not sure how we lived through baby number one without the video monitor. It is a game changer when it comes to sleep training! No preference for any brand – just buy something within your price range. I’d also recommend buying one with dual camera capabilities so that you don’t have to buy an entirely new system if you go for baby number two.”
Jessie says: “I have been using the Skip Hop Duo diaper bag since Ben was born, which has worked fairly well. It’s lightweight, easy to clean, durable, and big enough for the essentials without being too big. Also, it isn’t hideous! However, I sometimes lose things in the main compartment, so I’m curious whether something like the Jeep Perfect Pockets Back Pack would be easier to organize/find things. I also just got the JJ Cole Changing Clutch, because sometimes I don’t need the whole diaper bag when I’m running some quick errands and it’s nice to just throw this in my purse and go. Plus it’s actually big enough to cover the whole changing table in a public bathroom, and has a handy pouch for diapers and wipes.”
Jordan says: The diaper bag is a hard one. My little boy just turned two, and I’ve been through at least four. My current situation is my favorite, though I don’t think it would have worked when he was an infant. I found a tote I love at Target (which they no longer carry, it seems) and I bought a diaper bag insert that fits down in it. The nice thing is that the insert is removable when I need to drop him off with someone. Since I’m a SAHM, I don’t have the daily daycare drop-off, so removing the insert every once in a while is not a major inconvenience. Early on, I also gave up on the idea of carrying a diaper bag AND a purse, so I bought a wristlet that would accommodate my phone and any essentials so I could stow it in the diaper bag and remove it if necessary. Definitely a lifesaver.”
Caitlin says: “Now that I have more kids than arms I have my eye on the Fawn Design diaper bag/backpack. I struggled with some neck and shoulder issues around the time with my second baby turned one, and my doctor recommended I make the switch from the one-shoulder style diaper bag to the backpack as a way to relieve some of the uneven pressure on my neck and shoulders. The Fawn Design bag does the job while looking incredibly chic.”
Okay, there you go–hope this helps you figure out which baby gear items to have on hand (or at least points you in the right direction). If you’ve found this helpful, be sure to check out the rest of our Ultimate Baby Registry Guide too!
Are there any items of baby gear that you’ve found indispensable? Let us know in the comments below!