Fun With STUFF: The Baby Gear I Could Not and Will Not Live Without

Though I weigh every purchase carefully and do research and try to find deals, I REALLY LIKE TO BUY STUFF.
Publish date:
February 6, 2013
parenting, shoppables, babies, baby

Back when I was pregnant and registering for gifts I desperately asked for help navigating the terrifying world of baby STUFF. When did “bouncers” become something other than very large men who make you show them your driver’s license? Why were there so many categories of stroller?

The advice I most often got from experienced moms was "Don't worry about it. You really don't need all that much anyway and you can always run out and get whatever you need."

That's very sweet and sensible advice and I was deeply grateful to those who tried to help me in such a calm and rational manner.

But, COME ON! I like to buy stuff! Don't get me wrong, I truly admire the Zero Waste Lady. Theoretically I WANT to keep my life simple and uncluttered and I definitely try to wherever I can. And though I weigh every purchase carefully and do research and try to find deals, I REALLY LIKE TO BUY STUFF.

So, as a slightly experienced mom of an almost-one-year old, I can tell you this: No, I suppose you don't NEED a lot of stuff. You can probably get by with nothing but a wicker basket, a burlap sack and a bar of soap. But why the fuck would you want to when you can buy lots of awesome shit that makes your life easier?

So here are my best recommendations for STUFF. Some of it was short-term stuff, some of it long-term stuff. But it is stuff that I have used and used and used.

- Fisher Price Vibrating Rocker

One of the best pieces of advice the Experienced Moms gave me was “In the beginning you need places to put the baby.”

I chose this particular vibrate-y chair because it is marketed as "infant to toddler." In the early months, we used it so much that we bought a second one, the "travel" version to keep in the living room so we could have one chair in baby's room and one downstairs.

I used this thing a million times a day: to sit him up for 20 minutes after every bottle so he wouldn’t spit up right away, to sit him up while I put laundry away, put makeup on, put my shoes on, you name it. The vibrate-y function was also awesome for those panicked moments when baby was inconsolable at 3:30a.m. and we couldn't figure out why. Until he was about 9 months old and started to really twist around and bend all the way forward in it, I dragged this chair into the bathroom every single morning so I could shower.

However, I somehow didn't anticipate that once he was able to crawl and pull up to stand at 10 months he would want to CLIMB THE CHAIR. So our beloved vibrate-y chairs are being retired until baby stops trying to climb them and swing from their sides like he’s on a fireman’s pole. But this got heavy-duty use for a solid 9 months and will hopefully be used again once he's walking and able to actually sit himself in a chair without to trying to see what happens when he leans over head-first.

- Fisher Price swing

This was only in heavy rotation for 5 months or so, but what a 5 months it was! When baby was really little and still slept all the time, he would sleep in this thing for hours while my husband and I watched Prime Time TV like normal human beings. And from the time I was on my own when baby was two weeks old and my husband went back to work until the time he started suddenly fighting it at about 5 months, this wonderful swing allowed me to enjoy a leisurely breakfast in front of the television every. single. morning.

Baby would raptly watch the lights and the mobile and swing his way into a 45-90 minute morning nap while I watched ENTIRE EPISODES of "Intervention" or "Project Runway" from the night before. The lights! The mobile! The cricket sounds!

- Exersaucer

We used this thing from about 4 months until very, very recently. When I started using it, I had it on the shortest setting and I had to wedge blankets into the seat because he was a bit too small for it. Now he's past the height limit at the highest setting, but I'm not going to lie: I still use it once in a while if I really need to get some shit done and he's in a particularly explorative mood when I'm trying to make dinner and won't stop escaping into the living room (where I can't see him) to try to climb the coffee table.

We have some friends who have three kids under the age of 5 and a fourth on the way. They brilliantly refer to this wonderful item as "The Circle of Neglect." For the most part, though, I keep it away from him these days because all he wants to do is crawl through it and wobble back and forth on his belly.

- The Mommy Hook

This little item seems so simple, but it helped us stay fed. Until baby was big enough to sit in a shopping cart, I did all of our grocery shopping by putting either the basket or a big reusable bag on this hook attached to my stroller. I still use it if I’m just picking up a few things, or if I have lots of bags with me.

- Graco Play Yard

Indispensible. This play yard is still very much in heavy rotation and will continue to be until baby starts pitching a shitfit when I put him in it. For the first 3 months we kept it in the living room and used the bassinet feature. We've traveled with it to use as a crib and these days baby still plays in it while I have my breakfast. As long as there are a few good toys in there, he is good to go if I need to rest for 30-60 minutes.

He loves cruising the perimeter over and over while picking up toys and dropping them. That is hilarious, so what’s not to love?

- Summer Infant 3-in-one seat

I got this when he was around 5 months old and able but unwilling to sit up. This little chair helped him get used to being in a sitting position and has kept him busy and happy while I prepared countless meals and batches of cookies. It currently lives in my bathroom and baby sits in it while I shower in the morning. So far he's still happy in it and shows no signs of being able to wiggle out of it or tip the whole thing over. It's supposed to also convert to a toddler booster seat, so I think we will continue to get lots of use out of it.

- Chicco Music n' Play Activity Table

We've only had this for about 2 months, but this toy is amazing! Baby wasn't pulling up to stand when we got it, but you can take the table top off and put it on the floor. It's pretty sturdy and has a million cool things to play with, plus the underside of it is sort of like those giant Lego-like things and it came with a few of them. I've had some bigger kids over to play and they were also into it, so I'm confident this will get lots of use. I also love that the base is all open because I can see us maybe putting some water in there and going outside to splash around with it and throw dirt in and make a big mess.

- Toy Xylophone

We've only had this thing for about 3 months and baby still goes nuts for it. When we first got it he mostly just chewed on the mallet. Now he can bang on the keys with it pretty accurately. He still gets crazy-excited (like, SQUEALING with laughter!) when we play it for him and it's one of the few things that can lure him back into the kitchen when he crawls toward the stairs laughing and babbling to himself. I especially love that the letters of the notes are printed on the keys for when he’s a big boy. And he's chewed the fuck out of the mallet but you can barely tell!

So, what are your must-have baby items? What cool stuff is going to help me through toddlerhood? Potties? Poo stain removers? Tell me in the comments!