The Big Stuff
Bassinet + Travel Crib: Guava lotus. It's more expensive than the popular Graco Pack n' Play, but it's only 13lb vs 22lb and folds up into carry-on size. You can buy a bassinet insert. It's been our only "crib."
Carrier: Lillebaby Complete Airflow. We've extensively used it hiking and international traveling, and it's held up phenomenally well. The air mesh is wonderful even in winter. It's $50 cheaper than the popular ErgoBaby, and it doesn't require an additional $25 infant insert. It fits both 5'4" mom & 5'10" dad well.
Stroller: Burley Solstice. Offroad strollers are ~$400-$600. BOB and Thule's reviews are bland; Burley is better built than other offroad strollers and has a giant bottom storage area. The shocks make me want to ride in it. We got a deal on factory seconds direct from Burley's website for $200 total, no shipping or sales tax, for a very minor cosmetic defect. Customer service is top notch.
Deuter Kid Comfort 3. Everyone gets the Osprey version, but the Deuter is 5x more comfy for the kid. The Deuter has a large washable pad in front of the kids' face and high sides so when they fall asleep, their head is supported. Kids' heads in the Osprey hang at 90 degrees and bounce with you.
Rocker: Baby Bjorn. It's ridiculously expensive, but it's tensioned so that when your baby starts moving or crying, it bounces, soothing them back to sleep. It also has 3 recline positions as your baby grows. Many babies don't sleep flat on their backs, and this one is just a simple piece of canvas fabric, rather than a plush pillow material that babies could suffocate on.
Changing "table": We don't have a separate changing table--they're expensive and just another piece of furniture you'll need to get rid of. We have a Lysol-able nylon pad we set up on a bed, chest of drawers, or the floor, and a simple box.
Diapers, Wipes, Changing
Kirkland Signature diapers: They're Huggies diapers rebranded.
OXO wipes dispenser. Buy the 1,000 bulk wipes at Costco or Amazon. This dispenser has a weighted plate on top so when you pull a wipe, the rest stay down.
Amazon Basics enhanced doggie bags to dispose of dirty diapers.
Childress changing pad. Simple, affordable, functional. It's no frills, doesn't have changing "station" pockets built in, folds up flat, and has a shower-curtain nylon material to disinfect and wipe clean. We have one for the house and one for the to-go diaper bag.
Diaper bag: really, whatever backpack you have. Marketed diaper bags are big, heavy, and expensive. The Tom Bihn Daylight Backpack works well, along with REI toiletry zips (one for diapers, one for formula/bottles). Packing cubes work really well too.
Blankets + Swaddles
Miracle Blanket swaddle. There's hundreds of swaddles out there, and we preferred ones without velcro or snaps. This one has a long tail you wrap around baby multiple times.
Woolino wearable blanket. One side's merino wool, the other cotton. This one works for 2 months - 2 years; there's snaps on the side to make the armholes larger. It's an investment that will last.
Woolino blanket. One side's merino wool, the other cotton. It's super soft and warm! Perfect for winter jaunts in the stroller!
Gerber wiggle proof socks. So many socks are short, cute, and non-functional. These actually stayed on. They run small--the 6mo size fit our baby starting at 3mo.
Primary.com. It is impossible to find baby clothes that don't come in multi-packs of mind-numbing greys/navy blues or pinks/flowers. Primary.com has a brilliant business: they offer 20+ solid rainbow colors and 20+ styles. Mix and match.
RoshamboBaby sunglasses. They're indestructible--bendable, flexible, chewable--and come in matching adult sizes! Proceeds help Autism charities. Don't forget the backstrap and ear adjuster kit for the kids!
Adjustable swim diapers. Fits newborn thru 3 years.
Breastfeeding + Mom
Motherhood Maternity Clip-Down Nursing bra. The price is right and it's comfy.
Lansinoh hot/cold pack. Microwaveable or freezer-able. Really helped to use warm before pumping to get the milk flowing, and to freeze to help reduce engorgement when stopping feeding.
Breast pump: If you can get one, rent a hospital-grade pump from a hospital. They're more powerful and more comfortable, and will save you tons of time not attached to a terrible vacuum device.
Feeding + Bottles
Dr. Brown's bottles. The green inserts prevent a vacuum in the bottle, so baby doesn't swallow air and burp.
Cloth diapers for burp cloths. They're cheap, they're white, they're big enough, they're thick enough. Most burp cloths are way too small, and they're 3x the price! Stash one in every room.
Munchkin formula dispenser. Another simple item that no one else gets right.
Boon Lawn drying mat. Comes in various sizes and colors.
Kirkland Signature Formula: Kirkland Signature is manufactured in the same facility as Similac at nearly 1/2 the cost. Comparing ingredients is nearly identical until you get halfway down the "Less than 2% of" list, and the containers are exactly the same. The Wirecutter also named Kirkland Signature as their Best Buy. (Sidenote: Similac for sensitive stomachs has corn syrup as the first ingredient and sugar as the 5th ingredient, instead of milk lactose and whey protein.)
Jumbo ice cube trays. We started offering our baby pureed food at 4 months. Spend an afternoon pureeing frozen veggies and fruit and re-freezing into ice cubes. Have a store of all kinds of ice cubes for easy meals!
Pacifier evolved: Wubbanub (Avent Soothie + beanie baby). They come in a vast array of animals. The pacifier is permanently attached to the stuffed animal, so it can rest on baby's stomach and they might find it again without needing your Pacifier Re-Insertion Specialist skillz.
Tub: Fisher Price Whale of a Tub. Who would've thought it'd be so difficult to find a simple tub? We were ready to resort to a Rubbermaid bin. Tubs nowadays have weird scoop shapes in the bottom to make it nearly impossible to drown, but then Baby can barely move and kick around! This one's literally a mini tub. (This isn't to be confused with Fisher Price's Planet of a Whale tub, which has weird scoops.)
3 Sprouts laundry hamper. Cute animals, great price, mesh bottom (so clothes don't stink like sour milk), the flaps have holes that double as the dirty clothes insertion point and handles.
Boppy Lounger. Almost thought of returning this gift, but it's great! You can lounge Baby anywhere in the house much easier than moving a Baby Bjorn-type rocker. Much more useful than the more popular Boppy Nursing pillow. Nearly 2,000 4.8 stars...
Bumbo seat. Once your baby can sit up, you can prop them up on the counter while you work! Can bring them in other rooms with you while you work. Comes with an optional tray.
Guzzie+Gus Highchair. This one fits thick tables and has a great 5-point harness.
KidCo pop-up tent. We used this almost everyday to bring Baby to the gym, to have Baby play while we're outside, and as a travel bed (we did a 2-week international trip with it). It folds up to 14" diameter and is 2.5lb.
4moms infant tub. The temperature control is kinda cool, but the tub was a terrible configuration. Baby would slide all the way down and be scrunched awkward.
Boppy Nursing Pillow. I only breastfed for a month. At that size, Baby was too small to even use the boppy nursing pillow. I had to stack pillows. Maybe when they're larger, if you breast feed that long?
The Baby Shusher. It's impossible to tell what noise level it's set at, and since it's shaped like a bugle, it's deceptively loud in one direction. And it only has 2 settings: turn off at 15min and turn off at 30min--it won't keep going.
Any baby PJs that are all snaps. Please, for the love of parents out there, use zippers.
- Get baby's hand/feetprints in first 2 weeks before they plump up and get fat--all their palm/sole features disappear. We used this ink pad.
- Have formula + bottles on hand before birth, and don't be afraid to supplement with formula in the first few days before your milk comes in.