Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Things you want for your first baby (i.e. registry items).

Some close friends just emailed asking what they need for their first baby, arriving in a few months. Thought I'd post here:

Their questions:

Crib
In my opinion, cribs are overpriced and rather silly. Most kids outgrow them in ~2-3 years, so it's a short-term purchase. I've only read negative things about convertable crib-beds, which can easily end up costing more than a regular crib and separate toddler (or normal) bed. So - go for something simple and, imho, avoid Jardine enterprises. Our two cribs were recalled by them and the process was rediculously bad. Also - our cribs have drop-sides, which seemed like a useful feature - in 2 1/2+ years and 3 children later, we've never used them except by accident. Keep in mind you do want an adjustible height mattress-frame in your crib, and I think even the least expensive cribs have these.

Crib Mattress
I don't recall which exact one we got, but we got medium/high end of what they had in-stock at BabysRUs. The second time around, grandpa got the highest end one (hypoallergenic, etc). I don't think kids know the difference, but baby comfort may help all of you sleep better.

Car seat
For the first ~6-9 months, you'll almost certainly use an infant car seat. By law (and safety) these are all rear-facing. Our kids are all large and out-grew theirs in 6-9 months. We were very happy with the Graco SafeSeat and SnugRide (SafeSeat is newer and has a higher max-weight/height, so you don't out-grow as fast). A great thing about the Graco seats is that there is a ~$59 snap-and-go style stroller from Graco that folds up tiny in your car/garage, but the car seat clips securely into it. That was by far our preferred stroller for the first ~6 months.

Playpen/Play yard and/or Bassinet
We highly recommend any of the pack and play models. Our three kids *never* used any of the entertaining accessories (mobiles). However, the clip-on noisemaker with battery powered light was very useful when travelling with our oldest. It helped us see him in the dark and the noisemaker helped him fall asleep.

Stroller
Absolutely avoid any of the "delux" / "travel" / "combo" offeres. Those strollers end-up being give-away or leave-by-the-curb items. They're heavy, hard to push, don't fold well, etc. Basically, they're registry fodder for eager grandparents and family. Again, you probably won't need anything but a snap-n-go to snap your infant carrier into for at least half a year. By ~6mo most kids can hold their heads up and you'll want to look for a stroller then.
Note: The second-hand market for strollers is huge. Most parents, at least that I know in the bay area, seem to go through 2-5 strollers for their first kid, so there are tons available on craigslist for 20-50% of the new cost and only a couple years old.
For in the car / travel: Highly recommend middle-level (non entry-level) MacLaren strollers. We have one of their doubles and it's awesome. Their high end stuff is often heavier which is actually a big negative, while their low end stuff looks quite uncomfortable for the kids. Their mid level models usually have more seat padding and adjustable leg support and recline. The MacLaren strollers also seem quite well built and while we got a very used one, everything on it works perfectly and easily.
For big walks around town or in parks: Highly recommend the Mountain Buggy Urban (Single/Double). We have both the single and double (three kids) and they're all great. When you're tired and pushing a cranky kid back from the park one-handed while trying to call your spouse on the cell, these strollers are a lifesaver. Seriously, we've had several other models and nothing compares to the ease of pushing these and one-handed operation. They're expensive but (a) you can get used and (b) they hold their value very well for resale on craigslist. Most of the people I called to get a used one had sold them by the time I called.
Breast pump
Hopefully you won't need one. If you do there seem to be about two decent options. Keep in mind, if you end up pumping milk full time, this will be a major effort for both the Mom and Dad, with the latter doing the ~6x/day cleaning of parts etc. A great option is renting a high-end ($1000) Modela pump from a local medical supply store or from a Day One early-parenting center. With something like a ~$75/yr membership you get unlimited book rentals and discounts on all of the equipment. On the middle-end don't look at anything under ~$200. We bought and threw-away several cheaper travel models before paying for a middle-end pump. Also, hospitals should provide pumps for mothers as-needed so you really don't need to think about this (I think) until after your baby arrives. They'll have consultants as well who can direct you to local suppliers (in our case there was a medical supply store across the street from the hospital so me, Dad, ran over there and came back with a Modela).

And "what do you wish you had from the start...":
Noisemakers - i.e. nice alarm clocks with high quality white noise. All three of our kids like these. They help them sleep and helped us tell the time when we were doing middle of the night feeds etc. They also serve as mini night-lites. We got this model, which is now cheaper than we paid ($18, non affiliate link): http://www.amazon.com/HoMedics-SS-4000-Classic-Machine-Projection/dp/B0001W01L0 and liked it enough to purchase a second exactly the same.
Good quality Baby Monitors. We have two of these: One super-cheap and mostly annoying (hard to tell if it's on or getting signal, no battery, etc). One nice sony with built-in rechargeable battery, signal monitor, status-led, etc. The rechargeable is great as Dad can do things like take out the garbage and still listen in on baby.
Crib Bumper -We didn't get one of these in the the second time around and, on several occasions found one of our twins with an arm or leg stuck in his crib slats. Not really stuck mind you, but for a moment. We like the very basic and inexpensive "breathable crib bumper". It basically keeps Baby and their accessories (pacifiers, small stuffed animals, etc) in the crib and early-on prevents bonking against the side of the crib.