Blog post category: Gear

Tula GIVEAWAY!

GIVEAWAY CLOSED  Congrats Kathleen L!


There’s nothing more essential to get you though holiday travels and general life on-the-go with a baby than a fantastic baby carrier!

That’s why this week we’re giving away a Tula baby carrier — which is one of the baby carriers most loved by TotScoop parents, and also happens to be one of the Editor’s Picks in our baby carrier guide!

If you haven’t checked out TotScoop yet, or added recommendations for your must-have baby items yet, now’s the time to do it!

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The Best New Baby Gear for 2017: Round-up from ABC Kids ’16

abc-kids-16

We recently returned from the ABC Kids Expo ’16, the largest annual baby & kids products trade show in North America.  For those of us who work in the industry, wandering the floor is a bit like being a kid in a candy store!

Here’s a sneak peek at all of the latest & greatest products coming out for 2017.  If you like a product, click through to the TotScoop page to see more info or “Want” it!

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REVIEW: Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light vs. Guava Family Lotus Travel Crib

Travel crib comparison: Baby Bjorn vs Guava Lotus

Today we’re reviewing and comparing two parent favorites in the travel crib category: the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light and the Guava Family Lotus Travel Crib (follow the links to read parent reviews for both on TotScoop).

First, let us preface this comparison by saying that you really can’t go wrong with either one.  They’re both great, very highly-rated products that parents absolutely adore.  Either would be a fabulous choice to take on a trip, to bring for Grandma’s house, or even to use as a small playard or secondary sleeping space at home.  Either would be much more portable and lightweight than, say, a Pack ‘n’ Play or any other playard.

That said, there are definitely some notable differences between the Baby Bjorn and Guava Lotus.  In this post we’ll highlight the differences between the two, and hopefully help you to figure out which might work better for your family!

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Back to (Pre)school: Backpacks, Lunch Gear, and Nap Mats, Oh My!

Top picks for preschool backpacks, lunch gear, and nap mats | TotScoop

Time for your little one to leave the nest and fly, fly away to preschool?  Dry your tears and check out these ideas for top-rated preschool gear.

Contents:

Preschooler backpacks

You’ll probably need a small bag to send along an extra layer, a change of clothes, etc.  I’ve seen plenty of parents just use a plastic bag, but if you want something sturdier or that your preschooler can carry him or herself, check out these adorable preschooler-sized backpacks. (Note: Make sure to inspect your kid’s cubby to make sure you buy something that will fit!)

Skip Hop Zoo Pack

Skip Hop Zoo backpack

These adorable and ubiquitous Skip Hop Pack backpacks ($20) are a parent favorite.  They’re compact, roomy, and come in a wide range of designs (which coordinate with the rest of the Skip Hop line).

Sugarbooger Zippee! Backpack

Sugarbooger Zippee backpack

If you want something a little different, check out the Zippee! Backpack ($25) from Sugarbooger.  Its boxy shape fits well in most preschool cubbies.  Note that it’s a few inches taller than the Skip Hop.

Pottery Barn Kids pre-K backpacks

PBK dino backpack

PBK also carries a wide range of preschooler backpacks (from $29.50), including this cute dino pack ($36.50).

Preschooler lunch

Lunch bags/boxes

Sugarbooger Zippee! Lunch Tote

sugarbooger zippee

The Zippee! Lunch Tote ($20 at Amazon) worked great as our primary lunch box last year and is still going strong, so I’d recommend it to anyone.  Not only are the designs cute, but it’s insulated, very roomy, and machine washable.  Sugarbooger also makes a cute reusable lunch sack if you prefer that style.

Dabbawalla Lunch Tote

Dabbawalla

Dabbawalla lunch totes ($28) get high marks from parents.  They are made of a neoprene-like material and feature a preschooler-friendly handle.  They are machine washable and come in a range of cute designs with preschooler appeal.

Built NY Big Apple Buddies Lunch Sack

BUILT NY lunch sack

These Built NY lunch sacks ($11-15 at Amazon) boast the design and function you expect from Built NY, all in a kid-sized package.  They are made from Built NY’s signature neoprene material, and are lined with an insulating material.  It is smaller and slimmer profile than some other lunch bags.

Skip Hop Zoo Lunchie

Skip Hop Zoo Lunchie

If you get one of Skip Hop’s backpacks (above), you may not be able to resist getting a matching Lunchie ($14 at Amazon).  They’re adorable and insulated, but in my opinion a little too small to hold a full preschool lunch (including drink, etc.).  We have one, but mainly reached for the Zippee.  Still, could be a good choice if you just need to send snacks, or don’t need to send a drink.

Food storage

Yumbox

Yumbox 4-compartment

The Yumbox Panino ($30) is our all-around favorite for hassle-free preschooler lunches.  It’s compact, yet fits a ton of food.  The divided compartments remind you to pack a variety of foods for a healthy lunch, and are (drum roll please) even leak-proof (!!).  We used our Yumbox as our primary food storage solution for preschool last year and loved it.  For most preschoolers, I recommend the Panino model featured here, which has a single large compartment that is more versatile (can accommodate a sandwich, bagel, etc. if needed).  For toddlers or younger preschoolers, however, the original five-compartment Yumbox may be a better choice.  TIP: The Yumbox’s Tritan tray is microwaveable, according to the manufacturer.  However, if you prefer not to microwave plastic, just use a silicone baking cup as a liner and your child’s teacher will be able to easily pop it out and microwave the contents.

Planetbox Rover

Planetbox Rover

The granddaddy of preschooler lunch boxes is the five-compartment Planetbox Rover ($50 for lunch box only, $62 including carry case and magnet decorations).  We love that it’s stainless steel, so no worrying about any nasties leaching out of plastic.  Unfortunately it’s not leakproof (either the outer box or between compartments), but two small leakproof containers are included.  A great option, though, if you don’t anticipate sending a lot of liquidy foods to school.  Visit planetbox.com to customize your lunch kit (including carry case, magnet decorations, ice packs, water bottle, etc.)

Wean Green Lunch Bowls

Wean Green Lunch Bowl

If you want to send foods that will need to be warmed in the microwave, glass is the safest choice.  We love Wean Green for their baby food storage solutions, and they also make this larger Lunch Bowl (13oz, $16) — it’s leak-proof and is perfect for leftovers, soups, etc.

Bento & accessories

Many parents of preschoolers choose to pack “bento-style” lunches: including small portions of lots of different foods encourages your child to try new things and eat a balanced meal; also, presenting his or her lunch in an attractive (read: animal-themed) way often increases the likelihood that your child will actually eat it.  Here are some tools to make your bento lunches easier to make and more fun to eat.

Food dividers

Silicone baking cups

When you need to sub-divide larger food compartments(e.g. to separate wet and dry foods), silicone baking cups like these are a mainstay solution.  TIP: Measure the height of your food container and look for baking cups that are the same height.  Otherwise, food will spill over when your lunch box inevitably gets turned sideways or upside down.  ANOTHER TIP: These are also great for isolating foods in a larger lunch container that need to be warmed, so your child’s teacher can easily pop them out and microwave them.

Sandwich cutters

CuteZCute animal friends

CuteZCute makes a wide range of food cutters, including these awesome Animal Friends sandwich cutters ($9).  These work great with bread, cheeses, and non-striated meats.  We also love their Panda Pocket Sandwich Kit (especially for messier fillings like PB&J; $8).

Tovolo Sandwich Shapers

Tovolo Sandwich Shapers ($5-8 each) are whimsical and practical (as they use up almost all of the bread).  Also check out the similar Munchkin Silly Sandwich Cutters ($8).

Veggie cutters

Veggie cutter

Small vegetable cutters like these animal-themed ones are perfect for veggies, cheese, and thicker meats like salami.  They’ve been just the ticket for us to get our little one to eat at least a few otherwise unappetizing looking veggies with lunch.  Here are also some more practical ones if you aren’t into animal-themed everything.

Utensils & food picks

Sugarbooger utensils

Sugarbooger makes a great, flat stainless-steel silverware set ($4-9 at Amazon) that comes packaged in a travel case and fits well in lunchboxes.

cutezcute food picks

If you’re just packing fruit or something that doesn’t really require a full-on set of utensils, consider getting some food picks that you can just tuck into your food container.  They make eating more fun, and you don’t have to worry about the utensils getting lost.

Insulated drink containers

Thermos Foogo

thermos foogo

If you need to send milk to school, you probably want to invest in an insulated drink container.  The Thermos Foogo straw bottle  ($12 at Amazon) has worked great for us. It keeps milk cold until lunchtime and is the perfect size for preschoolers (10oz.).  It’s also leak-proof (when closed; it doesn’t have a valve) and is relatively easy to clean.  TIP: Throw the container itself into the fridge for a few minutes before filling it with milk, for extra staying power.

Nap mats

Note: Not all preschools require nap mats!  Check with yours first before buying.

Urban Infant Tot Cot

Urban Infant Tot Cot

We heart this modern and functional cot cover ($35-40 at Amazon) from Urban Infant. It’s a lightly quilted cot cover with attached lightweight fleece blanket that is designed to be used on top of a cot or mat.  Note that it doesn’t provide much padding, so is not designed to be used on the floor.

Olive Kids Nap Mat

Olive Kids Pirates Nap Mat

If you need a bit more padding, the Olive Kids Nap Mat ($37-57 at Amazon) is a great choice.  Designed like an open sleeping bag, it has a cotton/poly exterior and boasts a 100% cotton flannel interior.

 

Happy preschooling!  And don’t worry Mom, you’ve got 15 more years before your little one actually leaves the nest. 🙂


Note: All featured products and brands are editorially selected by our editors; we do not accept compensation in exchange for coverage.  This post does contain affiliate links, meaning we may receive a small proportion of any purchases you make after clicking on them (at no cost to you); thanks for your support!  See our full Editorial Policy & Affiliate Disclosure here.

The Minimalist’s New Baby Checklist

The minimalist's new baby checklist, from TotScoop. A guide to what you really need -- and what you don't -- for baby's first six months!

It seems like most baby checklists are a mile long.  Most of the retailers who author them, after all, are just trying to sell you stuff — and many sleep-deprived parents are only too willing to shell out big bucks for the promise of an extra few minutes of peace.  Babies do require a lot of stuff, but let’s face it, a lot of parents overbuy too.  For those who prefer a more minimalist approach, this article will outline the bare minimum essentials that you need for baby’s first six months — and will also provide advice from moms who’ve been there on what you don’t need.  (PS: For those of you who are decidedly NOT minimalists, also check out our Ultimate New Baby Checklist 🙂 )

Nursery & newborn sleep

Crib (must have)

For most families, this is a must have.  But hold on — a select few families who go with the “family bed” hardly ever end up using theirs.  If you think this might be you— wait until after baby arrives to invest in a pricey crib (a playard or travel crib might suffice for occasional usage instead).

Favorite brands/products: See TotScoop parent favorites for cribs and playards/travel cribs.

Bassinet, cradle, or co-sleeper (optional)

Many families buy a smaller, cozier place for baby to sleep in the first few months, especially if they plan to co-sleep in the same room.  This is definitely a nice-to-have if you have the extra cash, but if you’re a minimalist, you can definitely avoid buying a separate piece of furniture.  A playpen with an adjustable height mattress or a “newborn napper” type station is a good solution that can be repurposed later for use in the living room.  Or, hey, you could go even more bare bones.  Consider that many babies in Finland sleep in a cardboard box for the first few months of their lives, and Finland has a much lower SIDS rate than the U.S.

Favorite brands/products: The Arms Reach is the most popular co-sleeper in the US; it can feel a bit flimsy, but does the job.  Moms also rave about the Rock ’n’ Play, which is even more affordable.  More TotScoop parent favorites here.

Swaddles and/or receiving blankets (must have)

You just need 2-3 blankets with which to swaddle your baby and/or keep her warm.  Don’t go nuts — lots of parents go overboard buying dozens of swaddles and receiving blankets even though they don’t even really know what they’re for.  Exercise common sense and just get a few items.  Wait until you see what baby likes and what you find easiest to use (e.g. regular square swaddle blankets, swaddle “aids” with velcro, regular blankets) before buying extras.

Favorite brands/productsAden + Anais swaddle blankets, SwaddleMe velcro wraps, Under the Nile swaddle/receiving blankets.  Check out our more detailed guide to best swaddles and receiving blankets here.  Also, more TotScoop parent favorites here.

Wearable blankets / sleep sacks (must have)

After baby transitions out of a swaddle (usually around 2-4 months), you’ll need some wearable blankets (a.k.a. sleep sacks) to keep her warm.  (Recall that the AAP does not recommend use of any loose blankets in the crib until after at least 12 months.)  TIP: Babies outgrow sized sleep sacks quickly.  Consider looking for an adjustable sleep sack.  They may be more expensive, but they are higher quality and last much longer.

Favorite brands/products: Halo sleep sacks, Baby Deedee Sleep Nest,  Merino Kids and Woolino adjustable merino wool sleep sacks.  Check out our in-depth guide to best wearable blankets here.  Also, more TotScoop parent favorites here.

Rocker/glider (optional)

Worthwhile if you don’t have any other chairs in your house that can offer you good head/neck, back, and arm support while you’re sitting with baby for hours on end (particularly if you plan to breastfeed).  If you’re going to buy new furniture, you might as well get something ideal — look for one with a tall back that reclines.

Favorite brands/products: Dutailier is one of the biggest, baddest names in nursery wood gliders.  See also the Monte Design Joya for our favorite modern rocker.  See more TotScoop parent favorites here.

What you DON’T need

  • A full crib bedding set (including dust ruffle, window valance, diaper stacker, comforter, crib bumpers, etc.):  Loose bedding is not recommended by the AAP until the age of 1, and crib bumpers are frowned upon for all ages.  And well, diaper stackers are just plain silly.
  • A changing table or changing table topper:  These are only useful for a short time, and a really not necessary anyway.  Just get a changing pad and put it on a dresser (if you have one at the right height) or on the floor (that way you don’t have to worry about baby falling off!).
  • A fancy diaper pail:  A fancy diaper pail is not by any means a necessity.  Just get a trash can with a tight-fitting lid (to contain odors), and plan to take out the trash every 1-2 days to keep odors to a minimum.

Gear

Infant car seat (must have)

This is one of the few bare bones essentials that you absolutely must buy before baby arrives — in fact, most of the time you won’t be able to leave the hospital in a private car without one.

Favorite brands/products: The Chicco Keyfit and Graco Snugride are among the most popular.  For a higher-end seat, our favorites are the Cybex Aton Q and the Nuna PIPA.  Also consider the highly rated Britax B Safe or UPPAbaby MESA if you are looking at full-size strollers from the same brands.  See our detailed buying guides and parent reviews here.

Car seat stroller (must have)

You definitely want to have a car seat-compatible stroller of some sort so you pop baby’s infant car seat in and out of the car.  You can either get a car seat stroller frame or a car seat adapter for your full-size stroller to accomplish this.  If you don’t mind getting an extra piece of gear, we’re very partial to the stroller frame, as it’s much lighter weight and more convenient.  But, if you’re a committed minimalist, you may prefer to just get the adapter.

Favorite brands/products: For car seat stroller frames — get the Chicco Keyfit Caddy if you have a Chicco car seat, the Graco Snugrider Elite if you have a Graco car seat, and the universal Safety 1st Clic It! or Joovy Roo (whichever one is compatible with your car seat) otherwise.  Try to get one with a click-in rather than strap-in connection.  See our full set of editors’ picks here.

Full-featured stroller (must have)

Yep, you pretty much need one of these, unless you plan to wear your baby in a carrier all the time (and never want to be able to cart around groceries, etc.).

Favorite brands/products: For lightweight full-size strollers — our top picks are the City Mini (GT) and Britax B-Agile.   For luxury strollers — we are absolutely salivating over the upcoming 2015 model (shipping Nov./Dec. 2014) of the UPPAbaby Vista.  Our top pick for an all-purpose jogging/full-size stroller is the BOB Ironman.  See our full set of full-featured stroller editors’ picks here, and parent stroller reviews here.

Umbrella stroller (optional)

Nice to have for in-and-out of the car and plane travel, but not strictly required.  Consider just getting a lightweight full-size stroller instead.  (Also, note that most umbrella strollers can’t be used until 3-6 months, when baby develops good head/neck control.  So consider holding off buying until later, until after you’ve figured out what’s really important to you in a stroller.)

Favorite brands/products: Our top picks include the UPPAbaby G-Luxe and and the Maclaren Triumph.  For a cheap travel stroller, check out the First Years Ignite.  See our full set of umbrella stroller editors’ picks here, and parent stroller reviews here.

Newborn carrier (must have)

Whether you need one of these depends in part on your parenting style, but we view it as a necessity for all but the most easygoing babies.  Be sure to get something that works well for the newborn stage — many standard infant-size carriers are simply sized too big, and/or require the use of bulky inserts.

Favorite brands/products: Stretchy wraps such as the Moby and Boba Wrap are the most popular for this stage.  Woven wraps (e.g. Didymos, Girasol, etc.) are pricier, but will last through infant and toddlerhood.  If you prefer a Soft Structured Carrier, our favorite newborn-to-infant options are the Beco Gemini, Boba 4G, and Lillebaby.  For ring slings, we love Maya (basic) and Sakura Bloom (luxe).  See our full buying guides and more TotScoop parent favorites here.

Infant carrier (must have)

This is a must for most families — for times when your baby seeks closer contact than a stroller can provide, and/or you need to navigate tighter spaces or uneven terrain (think festivals, narrow store aisles, hiking, etc.).

Favorite brands/products: Our favorite infant-sized Soft Structured Carriers are the TulaBoba 4G, Ergo 360, and Beco Soleil.  See our full buying guides and more TotScoop parent favorites here.

Bouncer/baby seat (must have)

Strictly speaking these are not necessities, but unless you are a super hard core minimalist, you will probably find at least one “baby holder” to be a worthwhile investment (just ponder how else you’re going to take a shower!).

Favorite brands/products: Our favorite is the Baby Bjorn Bouncer Balance Soft.  Fisher Price bouncers are also incredibly popular — they can be eyesores, but they’re cheap and the brightly colored toy bars are very effective at holding baby’s attention.  Another alternative is something like the Boppy Newborn Lounger.  See all TotScoop parent favorites here.

Floor mat and/or activity gym (optional)

It’s nice to have one of these for tummy time and/or playtime during the non-mobile stage (~2-8 months).  While commercially available floor mats and activity gyms are convenient, they aren’t essential; a blanket or towel on the floor will do the job just fine.  However, gyms with arches are handy because they conveniently position hanging toys right above baby.

Favorite brands/products: Our value picks are Infantino and Tiny Love.  Skip Hop makes our favorite products in this category.  See all TotScoop parent favorites in this category here.

Diaper bag and/or changing kit (optional)

You do need something that you can carry dirty diapers and lots of little accessories around in.  You don’t necessarily need a dedicated diaper bag, though — if you already have a roomy bag with plenty of organizing pockets that can be easily cleaned, you’re all set.  You can consider getting a small changing kit with a portable changing pad to organize diapers and wipes within your bag and simplify trips to the bathroom.

Favorite brands/productsSkip Hop and LeSportsac both make great diaper bags.  See TotScoop parent favorites here.

Playard / travel crib (optional)

To contain baby at home, or as needed for sleeping while traveling or at Grandma’s house.  Minimalists might consider getting a travel crib to use as either their primary crib at home, or as their co-sleeper for room sharing, in order to avoid buying yet another piece of gear.

Favorite brands/products: Top budget picks include the Joovy Room2 and the popular Graco Pack N Play series.  Our top premium picks are the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib, Guava Family Lotus Travel Crib, and Nuna Sena.  See all TotScoop parent favorites here.

What you DON’T need

  • Swing: For many babies, these are unnecessary — many babies will sleep just fine in lots of other places.  Plus, they’re huge and they’re eyesores.  However, if your baby has trouble sleeping anywhere else, don’t feel bad about breaking down and trying one.
  • Baby seat (e.g. Bumbo): These are popular, but totally unnecessary, and according to some doctors and physical therapists they can actually be bad for baby’s spine and gross motor development.  If used incorrectly, they can also result in falls and injuries.  Just use a bouncer or floor mat to hold baby instead.
  • Exersaucer/jumper: These can serve as additional handy “baby holders,” and can offer some incremental stimulation for baby, but if you’re already got a bouncer or a floor mat, they aren’t strictly necessary.
  • Shopping cart/high chair cover: Though favorites of first-time moms, these are totally unnecessary, and washing the cover after every use is totally impractical.  Worried about germs?  Just wipe down public surfaces before use, or avoid them entirely by using a carrier or bringing your own travel high chair instead.  Think you need the extra padding?  If baby is so wobbly that she can’t sit up on her own, she shouldn’t be sitting anyway; try carrying her around in a carrier or leaving her in her car seat instead.

Clothing, shoes, & accessories

Newborn & infant clothing (must have…in reasonable quantities!)

Clothing is another area where it’s easy to go overboard.  Yes, baby clothing is adorable; there’s just no getting around it! But, if you are a committed minimalist, you can get by with a lot less than you think.  Many parents end up overbuying clothing, and end up giving away (or selling at a huge loss) tons of like new or even never worn clothing (keep in mind that early on, clothing is outgrown in only a few months).  Just use your common sense to guide how much you actually need to buy: for example, if you plan to do laundry every three days, then you only need three days’ worth of clothes (taking into account a few changes per day, due to spit-up, accidents, etc.).  At the very beginning babies can wear pretty much the same thing night and day — so no need to invest in distinct daytime outfits vs. sleepwear, etc.

Tip: Pick clothes that will keep baby comfortable

What’s most important in the first few months is that the clothing you buy is loose and comfortable (e.g. not constrictive at the waist), and is weather-appropriate.  In hot weather, a simple short-sleeve onesie may be enough; in moderate or cool weather, one-piece sleepers or long-sleeve onesies along with stretchy pants/leggings/footies may be appropriate.  In cold weather, you’ll obviously need additional layers, particularly for going outside.  For the first month or so, until the umbilical cord falls off — consider side snap tees that won’t irritate the umbilical area.

Tip: Shop for easy dressing and diaper changes

For the first few months, when baby is small, consider side-snap tees and onesies so you don’t have to pull them over baby’s head.  For easy diaper changes, consider sleepers with full-length zippers (instead of full-length snaps) or gowns.  For ease of dressing, consider tops with built-in newborn mittens, and pants with built-in footies. Also, make sure you get a few skull caps to keep baby warm through the newborn stage.

Tip: Don’t buy too much NB clothing

A note on sizing: Most babies need NB sizes for a month or so, but not all do — consider buying mostly 0-3 month clothing ahead of time, and only a few NB size pieces, before baby arrives.

Favorite brands/products: There’s no shortage of baby clothing stores.  Just a few of our favorites include Under the Nile, Kate Quinn Organics, and Kushies for organic cotton basics; Gap, Old Navy, and H&M for cute, dependable basics; Mini Boden and Janie & Jack for splurge pieces.  See all TotScoop parent clothing favorites here.

What you DON’T need

In the first six months, you should have absolutely no (legitimate) need for…

  • Jeans, stiff pants, or pants with buttons: Too uncomfortable and/or impractical for newborns and infants.  You want loose, non-constrictive clothing with stretchy waists.
  • Shoes: You don’t need any real shoes until baby starts walking (or, at the earliest, cruising).  Companies sell “crib shoes” for non-mobile babies, but they’re just for show.  Footies, booties, or socks should be sufficient for keeping baby’s feet warm.  If you absolutely can’t resist some adorable crib shoes, make sure to get ones with soft soles that will not impede natural foot development.
  • Baby formalwear: Adorable, but totally impractical.  Even if you have a wedding or formal event — nobody cares if your six-month-old baby is in a cotton onesie and pants.  So whenever you see those seersucker or gray flannel suits, even on the sale rack — move on by!

Breastfeeding/feeding

Nursing pillow (must have)

This isn’t strictly a necessity (plenty of moms get by without one), but honestly if you aren’t on a super tight budget, we think it’s more than worthwhile.  Nursing is hard enough as it is, and you’ll use it enough to make it pay for itself many times over!

Favorite brands/products: The Brest Friend is the top recommendation of most lactation consultants, and therefore is our top pick.  The Boppy is also very popular, and can also be used for propping up baby, etc.  See all TotScoop parent breastfeeding favorites here.

Nursing accessories (must have)

If you plan to breastfeed, you will almost certainly need nipple cream/ointment at the beginning.  A few good nursing bras (including at least 2 daytime bras and at least 2 comfortable nighttime bras) and some nursing pads to stop leaks are also must haves.  A nursing cover is a nice to have, but not an essential; if you want to cover up, you can also use a swaddle blanket or similar.

Favorite brands/products: See all TotScoop parent breastfeeding favorites here.

Basic burp cloths and bibs (must have)

For burp cloths, you’ll need something soft and easy to wash that you won’t mind getting spit-up on.  But that doesn’t mean you need to pay a lot for fancy dedicated burp cloths.  This could be something as simple as an old t-shirt, a multi-purpose swaddle blanket, or (our favorite) a cloth diaper.  For bibs, you’ll probably want to get some basic, waterproof bibs once baby starts feeding from a bottle and/or drooling heavily (most babies start teething around four months).

Favorite brands/products: See TotScoop parent bib & burp cloth favorites here.

Pacifiers (optional)

These aren’t necessities, but many parents find them helpful in the first few weeks or month.  They’re so cheap that it’s probably not a bad idea to have one or two on hand.  Don’t invest in any more, though, until you figure out whether baby will take a pacifier at all, and if so which type she prefers.

Favorite brands/products: See TotScoop parent pacifier & teething favorites here.

Baby bottles (must have)

If you plan to ever be separated from baby at mealtime during her first year, you’ll need some bottles and nipples.  If you’re breastfeeding, pediatricians recommend waiting to introduce a bottle until around four weeks old, to avoid nipple confusion.  If you want to minimize how much gear you have to buy, skip the smaller 4oz. bottles (which babies can only use for a few months anyway) and go straight to 8-9oz. bottles.  Also, we recommend you buy one or two bottles from several different bottle “systems” to start; avoid investing in any one system until you see what baby likes best (many babies are very particular).  For breastfed babies, consider getting wideneck bottles with more natural nipple shapes to ease transition between breast and bottle.

Favorite brands/products: Our favorite general bottle systems are Born FreeAvent, and (for colicky/gassy babies) Dr. Brown’s.  For breastfed babies, here are wide-neck bottles from Avent, Tommee Tippee, and Dr. Brown’s.   If you prefer glass, here are top options from Born Free and Dr. Brown’s.  See all TotScoop parent bottle feeding favorites here.

Breast pump & accessories (must have)

If you plan to pump, a good breast pump is worth its weight in gold.  It’s worth it to get a double-electric pump (as well as a hands-free pumping bra) if you plan to do anything other than very occasional pumping.    You ‘ll also need milk storage containers if you plan to freeze milk longer term, and cleaning wipes if you plan to pump anywhere where you won’t have access to soap and running water.

Favorite brands/products: The Medela Pump-in-Style Advanced is our best bang-for-buck winner for double-electric pumps.  See all TotScoop parent breastfeeding favorites here.

What you DON’T need

  • 4oz. bottles: Babies can only use these smaller bottles for a few months anyway.  Save some bucks by going straight to the 8-9oz. bottles.
  • Specialized bottle drying rack and bottle brush: Unless you’re planning to do very heavy bottle feeding, a normal drying rack and bottle brush will suffice just fine.
  • Bottle warmer: Unnecessary (though you may choose to splurge on one if you’ll be bottle feeding a lot).
  • Sterilizer: Unnecessary (unless your doctor tells you otherwise, of course).
  • Pacifier pouch, clip, and wipes: Unnecessary.
  • Designer burp cloths and bibs:  Cute but unnecessary.

Bath & diapering

Diapers (must have)

Well, there’s pretty much no way getting around needing diapers (unless you are super crunch and are doing full-time Elimination Communication…).  Diapers should be changed promptly upon being wet or soiled, so you’ll go through quite a few in your baby’s lifetime.  Newborns go through 10-12 diapers per day; older babies fewer.

Tip: Save money by cloth diapering

If you are so inclined, you can save some money over your child’s diapering career by opting for cloth diapers.  As a bare minimum (if you can consistently do laundry every 1-2 days), you can get by with a stash of ~15-20 cloth diapers and ~5 diaper covers.  You can find several guides related to cloth diapering here.

Tip: Don’t buy too many NB size diapers

If you’re going disposable, consider buying just a single large pack of NB size diapers to start.  Some babies go straight to size 1 diapers, so you don’t want to overbuy.

Favorite brands/products: For disposable diapers — our favorite premium, green, non-toxic diapers are Bambo, Naty, and Earth’s Best (our value pick).  You can find a number of more detailed guides on diapering as well as TotScoop parent favorites here.

Wipes and accessories (must have)

For newborn wipes — you can hold off on the regular, solution-based disposable wipes for the first month or two.  Most pediatricians recommend using only wipes with water for the first few months anyhow.  For older babies, wipes with water will still do the job, or you can graduate to traditional solution-based wipes.  Reusable cloth wipes are also a great alternative at any age.

Diaper cream is also a must-have to treat rashes (once they appear; some babies are more prone to rashes than others, so no need to stock up prematurely).

Favorite brands/products:  For newborns — dry wipes like these work great (just add water), or you can get premoistened Water Wipes (which contain 99.9% water and 0.1% grapefruit seed extract).  For regular baby wipes, our top picks for safer baby wipes (including fewer questionable chemicals) include Honest Company, Naty, and Earth’s Best. Find more diapering guides & TotScoop parent favorites here.

Changing pad (optional)

A changing pad is not a strict necessity, but it sure is handy (to provide a soft surface and keep baby from rolling away).  If you want to go the strict minimalist route, you can just use a towel on the bed or on the floor too.

Favorite brands/products: Our top pick for a safer (e.g. no vinyl), but reasonably priced changing pad is the Oeuf.  If you have a bit more to spend, check out the  Naturepedic and the Keekaroo Peanut.  More diapering guides & TotScoop parent favorites here.

Baby bathtub / bath support (must have)

Some sort of safe place to bathe your newborn/infant (before they can sit up themselves in the big bathtub) is a must.  The best option for most parents is to get a infant-to-toddler tub, which have both a reclining newborn sling/position as well as an upright seated position for toddlers.  If you’re a minimalist, you’ll skip the newborn bucket tubs and sink inserts that will be outgrown after just a couple months.  If you like — and you have a suitable bathroom setup (e.g. a huge sink, or a tub that is comfortable to kneel over) — you can also consider skipping the infant tub and just using a bath support like one of these in your sink or big bathtub.

Favorite brands/products: If space is at a premium in your bathroom, get the The First Years Infant-to-Toddler Tub.  If you have a bit more space, get the Primo Eurobath.  See more baby bathtime buying guides and TotScoop parent favorites here.

Baby shampoo/wash and lotion (must have)

Unless you already use a very gentle shampoo/body wash and lotion for yourself, it’s worth getting a specialized baby shampoo/wash and lotion, especially for the newborn stage when skin is super sensitive.  Look for products that are gentle and fragrance free.

Favorite brands/products: See parent favorites for shampoo/body wash and toiletries on our main site.

What you DON’T need

  • Wipe warmer: Simply not necessary.  Life is rough, kid.  Get used to it 😉
  • Specialized baby bath towel, bathrobe, and/or washcloths: A hooded baby towel and dedicated washcloths are definitely not necessities.  If you are a true minimalist (and this is the true test, my friend, as baby towels can be truly irresistible lol), any towel or washcloth you already have sitting around the house will get the job done.
  • Tons of bath toys: One or two carefully chosen baby bath toys should be sufficient.  Baby doesn’t need much to be entertained, and any more won’t fit in an infant tub anyway.

Health & safety

Baby monitor (must have)

We consider a baby monitor to be in the necessary category — and preferably video rather than just audio.  But before you splurge on an expensive dedicated unit, definitely check out smartphone apps such as Cloud Baby Monitor, which may satisfy your needs (you do, however, need to have an extra device that can be left as the broadcasting unit in baby’s room).

Favorite brands/products: Our top budget video monitor picks are from Infant Optics and Levana.  For a bit more, you can upgrade to an Infant Optics model with interchangeable lens, the Motorola MBP33/36, Samsung SEW-3037W, or Dropcam.  See more TotScoop parent favorites here.

Baby thermometer (must have)

MUST HAVE.  A necessity, unless you already have a forehead/aural/rectal thermometer at home.  Rectal thermometers are the most accurate, but minimalists may be able to squeeze by with just an aural thermometer (which is more useful as baby grows).  Just be prepared that you may need to run to the drugstore to get a rectal thermometer as well if baby gets a high fever as a newborn.

Favorite brands/products: Braun ThermoScan Ear Thermometer

Bulb syringe/nasal aspirator (must have)

A necessity until your child learns to blow her own nose.  Trust us, it’s worth it to upgrade from a bulb syringe (the kind they give you at the hospital) to a suction-powered nasal aspirator like the popular NoseFrida (MUCH more effective at removing snot).

Favorite brands/productsNoseFrida

Humidifer (optional)

Optional.  Helpful to decrease congestion and/or treat dry skin.  Note that cool mist humidifers are preferred to warm mist versions for mobile babies for safety reasons.

Favorite brands/productsCrane

Baby-safe cleaning products (optional)

If you don’t already use “green”/“safer” (i.e. EWG “A” rated) cleaners — such as all-purpose and bathroom cleaners, laundry detergent, stain remover, dish detergent, etc.— consider switching to them during pregnancy or when baby is born.  They’re safer not just for baby, but also for the rest of your family!  NOTE: Do your homework — don’t buy a product just because it markets itself as “baby-safe,” because often those are just as bad as conventional cleaners. For example, Dreft laundry detergent and most Babyganics products get terrible EWG ratings.  Check ratings on EWG first — see here.

What you DON’T need (at least not yet)

Toys & books (optional)

Babies need a pretty minimal assortment of toys and books in their first six months.  You don’t really need anything for the first month or two; if you like you can get one or two high-contrast items to encourage visual development.  After baby starts being able to focus on objects other than faces, a thoughtful selection of a handful of soft toys/books, grasping toys, and/or musical toys should be sufficient.  You don’t need to go overboard buying dedicated baby toys — as generations of parents will attest, simple household objects (try kitchen objects such as wooden spoons, whisks, mixing bowls, etc.) will do the job as well!

Favorite brands/products: Some of our favorite basic infant toy brands are Manhattan Toy, Wimmer-Ferguson, Sassy, Lamaze, and Infantino.  For premium, non-toxic (e.g. wooden and organic) toys and teethers, our go-to brands are HABACamden RoseMaple Landmark Toys, Under the Nile, and miYim.  Also see our editors’ picks and TotScoop parent favorites for toys and books.


What did we miss?  Tell us in the comments!

Note: All featured products and brands are editorially selected by our editors; we do not accept compensation in exchange for coverage.  This post does contain affiliate links, meaning we may receive a small proportion of any purchases you make after clicking on them (at no cost to you); thanks for your support!  See our full Editorial Policy & Affiliate Disclosure here.

The Complete Guide to Non-Toxic Baby Products

Every parent wants the best for his or her child. But many parents don’t realize that there are harmful chemicals in many mainstream baby products. In this guide we’ll arm you with everything you need to know in order to make safer choices for your child. This is going to be a long one — below is a quick preview of what’s ahead so you can jump around easily.

UPDATE 2/17: I’m in the process of updating this post — I plan to update recommendations and links, and also to expand to additional categories. So far I’ve made it through the Nursery section.  If there is something in particular you’d love to see updated or added, leave me a note in the comments! 🙂

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WEAR ALL THE BABIES!!!
(An introduction to babywearing)

An introduction to babywearing from TotScoop. Includes babywearing basics, top carrier picks, and online resources for buying carriers and learning more about babywearing.

In honor of International Babywearing Week (Oct. 5-12, 2014), today on the blog we’re featuring some babywearing basics, our top carrier picks, and the top online resources for buying baby carriers and learning more about babywearing. 🙂  We are passionate babywearers, so whether you’re an experienced babywearer or just babywearing curious, our goal is to help you discover at least one new thing to help you to wear your little one just that much more comfortably or for just that much longer. <3

Why babywear?

For those who are not yet sold on babywearing, the answer is, in a nutshell: because it’s awesome!  Your baby will love it, because it will enable him or her to stay closer to you.  Studies show that babies who are carried cry less and are healthier than babies who aren’t.  And you’ll love it too, because your arms won’t fall off, and you’ll be able to keep your hands free for other things — so you can actually GET. STUFF. DONE.

Not yet convinced?  Check out these articles on the benefits of babywearing from Babywearing International, Dr. Sears, and La Leche League International.

What type of baby carrier is right for me?

There are a ton of options available, so selecting your first carrier can be a bit daunting.  Here is an overview of some of the main types of carriers from Babywearing International (BWI), to help get you oriented to the basic lingo.

In general, the best type of carrier for you will depend on both your baby’s age and your personal preferences.

For newborns (birth to 4-6 months or so), your basic options are a wrap (either stretchy or woven), a sling or pouch, or a newborn-friendly soft carrier (e.g. mei tai or Soft Structured Carrier/buckle carrier).  Newborn-friendly soft carriers include both infant-sized carriers (which are sized for smaller babies) and one-size carriers that can easily adjust to accommodate smaller babies well (for example, the base might cinch or snap in, or an integrated infant insert might be included).

For the baby stage (approximately 6 to 18 months), your best options are woven wraps (stretchy wraps will no longer be supportive enough) or a standard-size soft carrier.

For the toddler stage (approximately 18+ months), woven wraps and toddler-size soft carriers are your best bet (the latter will have a wider base and higher back to better support your child as compared to a standard-size carrier).

In general, if you want something that’s easy to learn to use and/or want to be able to pop baby in and out frequently, a soft carrier is probably a better option for you than a wrap.  Wraps are infinitely adjustable, but have a much steeper learning curve and can be challenging to put on in places like parking lots.  Also, if you have shoulder or back problems, avoid one-shouldered carriers (such as ring slings/pouches).

Our top picks for baby carriers

We’ve spent hours upon hours researching and testing out baby carriers for our upcoming baby carrier buying guide.  It hasn’t been published yet, but we’re happy to be able to share with you here a sneak peek of our absolute favorites.

Top newborn carriers (birth to 4-6 mo.)

Boba Wrap

The Boba Wrap ($38 at Amazon) is a favorite for newborns.  It’s similar to the popular Moby, but features a more stretchy, airy fabric (due to its 5% spandex content) which bounces back and is more forgiving to tie (though you need to be extra sure it is tied securely).  It’s also more reasonably priced, and less toasty than the Moby in hot weather.

boba wrap

Sakura Bloom ring sling

Ring slings are some of the easiest carriers to get in and out of.  Sakura Bloom ring slings are stunning — they’re definitely pricey ($88-198), but they’re gorgeous and incredibly luxe.  Both linen (sturdier) and dupioni silk (lighter weight) versions are available, and in both single (lighter) and double layers (more supportive).  If you’re looking for something cheaper and easier to care for, also check out the Maya Wrap Baby Sling ($80 at Amazon).

sakurabloom_black

Beco Gemini

Sized smaller than most Soft Structured Carriers, the Beco Gemini ($130 at Amazon) is a fantastic option for the first 10 to 12 months.  It accommodates a newborn with no insert, has an adjustable crotch width, and features a substantial padded headrest that provides excellent head and neck support.  The Gemini is more versatile than most carriers, allowing four different positions: front-facing-in, back, hip, and front-facing-out.  The only thing about the Gemini we don’t like is the safety buckles, which sadly are a two-handed operation for most people.

beco_gemini

Boba 4G

The Boba 4G, described below, is a standard-size Soft Structured Carrier that also elegantly adjusts to fit newborns well.

Top standard (6 to 18 mo.) and toddler-size carriers (18+ mo.)

Tula Ergonomic Baby Carrier

Tula carriers don’t yet have mainstream distribution (you won’t find them on Amazon or at Target), but they are extremely popular in the babywearing world — and for good reason.  They are extremely comfortable for most wearers, and their quality and craftsmanship are undeniable.  The standard-size Tula ($149) fits babies from 15 lbs.; it can also be used from birth with infant insert (sold separately, $40).  The toddler-size Tula ($169) is designed for use from 18+ months (or 32″ tall and 25 lbs.).

tula_blue_zig_zag

Boba 4G

The redesigned Boba 4G ($128 at Amazon) is a great choice that elegantly accommodates newborns through toddlers.  It includes an integrated, two-position infant insert that allows you to wear smaller babies legs-in (one setting is for newborns 7-10 lbs., the other for infants 10-15 lbs.).  After 15 lbs., you remove the insert and wear baby legs out.  Toddlers are also made fairly comfortable in the Boba 4G, despite the fact that the carrier body is not huge, through use of the Boba’s unique stirrups.

boba4g_kangaroo

Top woven wraps (all ages)

Woven wraps come in so many different materials, patterns, and lengths that it simply doesn’t make sense for us to recommend individual products.  So instead we’ll focus on introducing you to just a couple of our favorite wrap brands.  (It’s a slippery slope — once you get into wrapping, you’ll discover lots more wrap brands that are also great!)

Didymos

Didymos is the gold standard of German-style wraps.  Their wraps are somewhat expensive ($130+ for a standard size 5), but are high quality and supportive and have high resale value.  Didymos wraps are available many different designs, including their classic “Indio” geometric pattern as well as various stripes and jacquards.  They also release gorgeous Limited Edition models.  You can’t go wrong with a Didy!

didymos_iris

Girasol

Girasol is a German company that produces wraps woven in Guatemala using the traditional weaving methods of the Mayan Indians. Girasol wraps feature stunningly beautiful designs (e.g. rainbow stripes in gorgeous tones), are thin-to-medium in thickness, are reasonably priced, and require no break-in period — making them a great choice for beginners.

wovenwraps.com baby carriers woven wraps for traditional baby wearing

Best places to buy baby carriers

Buying new

As always, for convenience, and also often price, our favorite online retailer for baby stuff is Amazon.com.

If you want a wider selection and/or a more personal touch, you may find it worthwhile to visit a specialty baby carrier retailer. Their owners are very knowledgeable; many offer free consultations to help you find the best baby carrier for your needs. Some of our favorites include PAXbaby, Marsupial Mamas, Granola Babies, Heavenly Hold, QuirkyBaby, Wovenwraps.com, and Wrap Your Baby.

Some more narrowly distributed brands may be easiest to buy directly from the manufacturer for the broadest selection (e.g., Tula).

If you’re interested in testing out a carrier (or several) before you buy, PAXbaby, Granola Babies, Heavenly Hold, QuirkyBaby, and Tula all offer carrier rental programs.

Buying used

Here are some of the top destinations online for buying, selling, and trading used baby carriers:

TheBabyWearer (TBW) FSOT board (registration required… 30 posts required before you can sell anything)

Facebook B/S/T groups (you must join each one individually…many also have a sister feedback thread that you must join before you can sell anything)

eBay.com

Your local Craigslist board (as always, be wary of authenticity and deals too good to be true)

Where can I learn more about babywearing?

Check out these helpful resources to learn more:


Did we miss anything?  Let us know in the comments.

Hope you got at least one new piece of information to convince you to try something new!  Happy babywearing! 🙂

Note: All featured products and brands are editorially selected by our editors; we do not accept compensation in exchange for coverage.  This post does contain affiliate links, meaning we may receive a small proportion of any purchases you make after clicking on them (at no cost to you); thanks for your support!  See our full Editorial Policy & Affiliate Disclosure here.