There are so many products out there for babies. Like, so many. Do I really need a motorized swing, a hammock, a bumbo, a rock’n’play, a pack’n’play, a bassinet,  dock-a-tot, a crib, a jumparoo, a baby play mat, three types of strollers….you get the picture. And honestly, no. My husband and I decided that we wanted essentials and essentials only when we were planning for our daughter.  We saw so many other parents who had every single suggested item from their baby registry strewn across their home. Barely used, collecting dust and adding to the clutter. That doesn’t mean we brought Tess to sleep I a dresser drawer — although if Jared had it his way, she might have. 

There were a few pieces that I knew I wanted to invest in, pieces we would use daily. I spent a lot of time researching things like our stroller, pack n’ play and baby carrier. I wish I would have dug into car seats much more than I did — I ended up taking the recommendation of a friend but I really regret that, more on that later. 

I’ve created a list of essential, investment-worthy baby items that every Mama needs to at least consider! My husband is stingy — and don’t be confused, I love a deal. I shop at TJ Maxx and the Target clearance section before all else — BUT if there is something I feel is quality that will last, I don’t hesitate to plead my case with him. If you are planning to have more than one child, it only makes sense to invest in a few things that will stand the test of time. Jared and I always talked about if an item was something we would want to use over and over again. Some things that we expected to use daily and would continue to use with our future children, we were much more willing to invest in quality that was proven to last. Consider things like safety, whether the material will hold up, functionality, ease of use, storage capacity and even whether or not it will simply go out of style — I mean, I don’t want to hate the stroller/high chair/carrier/car seat in using EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.

1. Stroller

When we got pregnant with Tess we were living in the city. I loved our little house, and it was right in the middle of some great walking  districts. We were very close to Butler’s campus, the Monon trail, Eagle Creek State Park and the Broad Ripple area, which was super convenient. I knew I would want to have a stroller that I could easily maneuver on narrow sidewalks but that also handled the gravel trails by the canal and dirt hiking trails close to Eagle Creek. Plus I wanted a stroller I could jog with. So I was looking for one with a smooth ride for Tess. It was important to me that it was lightweight and easy to fold up too. I went back and forth a lot on this item. Trying to decide between a more affordable option, or splurging on a a nice jogging stroller. There are plenty of strollers out there on the market and eventually I narrowed it down to the B.O.B. Rambler and the Thule Urban Glide. There are pros and cons to each, but the Thule definitely fulfilled more of my must-haves. I mean, I can fold it up and lift it into my car with one hand while holding on to my babe, it just makes it sooo easy. You don’t realize how awesome that is until you actually have to do it! Plus I borrowed my cousins just to test it out (without a baby in and I probably looked like a total loon, but whatevs) and I looooved how smooth it rode and how easy it was to maneuver! I was sold. She always feels very secure in the stroller and it is easy to adjust her height in the seat. Now that Tess is a little bit older I’m looking to purchase he snack tray holder too, she loves having a tray in front in front of her. I would highly recommend this stroller if you’re looking for a great jogging stroller to last through multiple children. We considered ordering the double stroller too, knowing we would have more some day. But I think it would be just as easy to carry the smallest babe in my front carrier and push Tess in the stroller — but we will update that once we have a second baby to test that theory (:

2. Pack n’ Play

Before we had Tess I didn’t really think about things like where she would sleep, how long she would sleep there, whether or not she would like it…etc. After having Tess, it’s pretty much all I thought about. One thing that my cousin had recommended to me was a pack’n’play by Nuna, the Sena Aire Mini that she had used with her son. It’s different from a traditional travel crib in that super compact. It doubles as a bassinet thus eliminating the need for both. Which was HUGE in my selling point to Jared. Unlike a lot of the other travel cribs, this one really is small enough to be considered a basinet. It doesn’t take up half your bedroom — the petite frame makes it easy to tuck anywhere. The frame is aluminum which makes it super lightweight. I also love the mattress, its triple layered mesh which makes it breathable (IDEAL for a babe who gets hot and sticky easily like my little one) plus it comes with one organic cotton crib sheet. The whole thing folds up easily with one handle and tucks away in the storage/carrying bag. Plus every single padded piece can be removed and deep cleaned. Even the mattress zips off and is 100% machine washable. Which, with a newborn is HUGE. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I love how aesthetically pleasing the Nuna Sena Aire Mini is — because I do. When it is something that is always set up in our bedroom, I want to like it. Bonus: changing pad covers fit perfectly over the mattress so you can select any type of sheets you want — love customizing in that way. These are the ones I purchased this super cute cactus print, this one in the heather gray thin stripes, and these adorable flamingos. But I am also loooving this tropical leaf print, this unique parsnip print in a sweet mauve, and this farmers market print.

3. High Chair

This is something that sits out at your home day in and day out. Not tucked away in your master bedroom behind a closed door. But out in your kitchen or dining room. All.The.Time. So, I didn’t necessarily want one that was covered in an obnoxious pattern or splashed with super bright colors. Not that there is any problem with those, it’s just not my style. Plus, if you noticed most of the things we’ve purchased for Tess have been as gender neutral as possible in order to be used with all of our children (with the exception of a few clothing items and the flamingo changing pad cover I couldn’t pass up!). So, we opted for this highchair from IKEA. It’s also the most affordable chair I’ve seen on the market. Even if you don’t have an IKEA nearby and you are required to pay the $9 shipping charge — it is still under $35. Or it’s available on Amazon too for $52 — if on principle you don’t want to pay nearly ten bucks for shipping. Compared to other aesthetically pleasing highchairs like this one, this cute one or this uber chic option, it’s incredibly affordable. It’s easy to clean and wipe down after Tess makes a mess — and don’t kid yourself, your child WILL be a mess when they are learning to eat. Don’t freak out over it, learning to eat and feed themselves is all part of their sensory development too, so just let it happen (I am constantly reminding Jared of this — she’ll wash clean, promise). One thing that we decided to add was this cushion and cushion cover — the cushion is available at IKEA also, but if you purchase from YeahBabyGoods she sends you one of her custom cushion covers, the cushion insert plus the cushion cover from IKEA.

3. Gathre Mats

Ok, there are plenty and I mean PLENTY of portable changing mats out there for you to tuck in your diaper bag. But I honestly would never use any other than Gathre ever again. Tess is the queen of blowouts (sorry, kid, it’s true). Especially before she began eating solids. No matter what type of diaper or what position she was in when she pooped, it always went everywhere. Always. These changing mats are amazing. Not only do they help to contain the mess, when they get covered in poo you can simply spray them clean or use a wipe to swab it down. You simply cannot do that with any other changing pad — the nylon-y material absorbs some of the mess, it’s unavoidable. But these, they wipe clean right away and you’re not stuck carrying around a stinky changing pad. Plus, for some added disinfectant you can just lay it out in the sun to bleach it clean when you get back home. Serious Mom win. This size is so perfect for sliding underneath your highchair too. When your little one flings food all over it, simply fold it up, take it outside and shake it off. Wipe with a damp cloth and boom, you’re done. Saves from sweeping, getting out the dust pan, then mopping every single time your child eats. Again, huge mom win for the time saving aspect!

4. Crib

When we were looking at cribs I was really disappointed with the quality and materials used for most affordable cribs. Maybe it’s because my uncle owns a furniture store — but still! The cribs at Target, Walmart, or any other retailer were really shoddy quality. Who wants to place their precious, perfect bundle in anything less that something sturdy, safe and appealing? Or maybe I’m pickier than the average. What I found were cribs I liked that cost waaaay too much money for us at the time. Like this gorgeous option. Buuuut $820 wasn’t quite in the nursery budget. Instead we shopped around and found this crib at IKEA that we absolutely love. It’s solid wood, but still super lightweight because of the design.

5. Diapers

We went back and forth a lot about diapers. It’s something that a lot of people just don’t consider. There are lots of chemicals, fragrance, dyes, phthalates and all kinds of other harmful materials in most generic diaper brands. We have cloth diapers that we use for daytime use (we’re currently in the process of moving and have been staying with my parents. Her washing machine does a horrible job of getting these diapers clean unless laundered on the longest setting (heavy soil) and with a presoak which totals almost 4 hours — not quite convenient! So we’ve been off using our cloth diapers for the time being, but once we move into our new home we’ll resume cloth diapering during the day and using Parasol at night). But we use Parasol diapers for nighttime and traveling. I tried Pampers, Huggies, Honest Company and Parasol diapers before deciding which we would use consistently. Pampers and Huggies are two brands that don’t disclose all of their ingredients, so they’re out. Plus I noticed that even when Tess was a newborn, I would change her diaper and she would still feel very wet with both Pampers and Huggies. When I switched to using The Honest Company diapers, she felt much more dry and I could tell her skin was able to breathe — less redness. I really liked them for a time. Especially when the alternatives were Huggies, Pampers, or Luvs (which we never tested out). BUT Tess always blew out of these diapers. Always. I also felt like Honest Diapers were a little bit stiffer and harder to fit snug on her. Parasol diapers are by far the softest, most flexible diapers I’ve used with her. They keep her skin SUPER dry and I use them overnight without worrying about any skin irritation. Recently, they redesigned their diapers and they only come in two prints which is a turn off to some, I know the Honest prints are adorable, but they’re not worth the blow outs for us. I will say that I received an email from Honest within the last month stating that they overhauled their diapers as well. We haven’t tried out the new version, but we are in love with Parasol and I don’t see us switching back. These diapers are definitely more expensive than some of the other brands (about the same as Honest) but it is such a good investment in my opinion. Tess has super sensitive skin, and I would never sacrifice quality for price when it comes to something she wears 24/7.

6. Carseat

Like I mentioned before, I wish I would have done a lot more research before allowing someone to purchase our carseat (as a gift) for our baby shower. I took the recommendation of a friend and the urging of my sister and mother-in-law because they used the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 and already had extra bases installed in their vehicles. And I absolutely hate it. There are so many features of this carseat that I do not like. It is heavier than many at 7lbs (also lighter than some, look around) there is no easy way to clean it or launder the interior, you cannot adjust the buckle that fits between the infant’s legs, to adjust the height of the straps you have to completely rethread them, installing the base is a complete nightmare plus I never feel like it is in tight/secure enough and so on. Not to mention the carseat is so cumbersome to remove from the base, I almost never release the seat on my first try which makes it SUPER hard to carry a sleeping infant into the house. She almost always wakes up while I’m struggling to get the seat out of the car. Plus the material used is not at all breathable. Tess is a hot-blooded babe, she gets sticky and sweaty fast. Rear-facing seats are already tough on hot babes, but with the material used in the Graco SungRide Click Connect 35 Tess gets hot and stays hot unless I’m cranking my AC on full blast the.whole.ride. Once you remove the infant insert, the cushion in this carseat is virtually nonexistent, I can’t even pretend it looks or feels comfortable. I could go on…so many things. But, Jared’s argument is that no carseat on the market is actually unsafe for your infant. Which is true. They’re all tested and retested and tested again. All the carseats on the market are safe. If I had it to do over again (and I plan to purchase a different one before baby #2) I would purchase the Nuna Pipa Lite LX Infant Carseat — I’ve carried it before and Tess has ridden in one. It’s only 5.7lbs, trust me those extra 2 pounds make a BIG difference. Tess loved it too. She was a completely different baby in this seat. It is lighter, much more cushy, different incline where she was able to see more of her surroundings and even catch more breeze, breathable material and super easy to clean and wash. Getting it in and out the base was super smooth. Seriously it’s everything the Graco SnugRide is not, and then some. Ultimately I’d say go in to a couple stores and check them out yourself. Feel the cushions, ask a sales associate if the cover/fabric is removable and easily cleaned, place it in the base and remove it a couple times, carry it around the store for a while and imagine it with an additional 5 – 15lbs (which is about how long you’ll carry it) and ask your friends and family for their thoughts. Also be specific, what do you like about it? What don’t you like? Is it easy to carry? Do you think it has held up well? Are there any parts of it you would change? A carseat is something you use soooo much, you and your baby should be happy with it!

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