Whether you have a baby shower to attend soon, you're expecting your first (or another) child or grandchild, or you're planning to care for an infant in your home, this is a great list of truly wonderful products that will not only make your life easier, but make for a healthier child, healthier planet, and overall happier existence!
These are the best of the best for families that don't want to spend oodles looking for and trying every product out there - simply put, we've thoroughly tested these through the years so you don't have to! The only part left for you is to watch the sales and enjoy the benefits of these amazing baby products. (typical age range of use and average price are included for convenience, but may vary)
1. 0 - 36 mos of age: Beco Baby Carrier ($130) gives you a comfortable and convenient way to keep your baby close to your heart! This is by far the most comfortable carrier brand we've tried and also the easiest to adjust from mom to dad, front to back carrying positions, and is also fashionable (you won't dread wearing it). These carriers are more expensive than most, but well worth the many years of use and oodles of back and shoulder pain you'll save yourself from suffering from.
2. 0 - 100+ yrs of age: Nature's Baby Organics offers the gentle, effective bath and body products that work great for the entire family! Vanilla tangerine is our favorite scent, however they also have a rather lovely lavender scent.
3. 0 - 12+ mos of age: Prefold Cloth Diapers ($10) are great multi-purpose items! We recommend having at least several on hand, even if you don't plan on cloth diapering your baby. Why? Because they make the best burp cloths, nursing pads (to cover the opposite breast while nursing), and can be repurposed as cleaning cloths once baby grows older. They get softer with each wash (as long as you get 100% cotton, we recommend undyed & organic to avoid pesticide residues and lessen environmental impact) and can be tossed in with any laundry to be cleaned. We prefer Chinese over Indian, despite what published differences there are, so it's recommended you order half and half of both!
4. 0 - 18 mos of age: Sleepsacks are a necessity if you want to have the best chance at sleeping through the night. By providing baby with a comfortable sleeping environment, at the right temperature, you increase the likelihood of longer rest periods. The most important thing to consider is the fabric used in the sleepsack, it is very important to choose 100% cotton (organic is best considering the amount of time an infant sleeps, how likely it is to end up in their mouths, and how close to their faces [inhalation concerns]). Grobag ($40) offers several warmth levels (fits up to 5 yrs of age), Halo ($33) offers a lightweight organic cotton (fits up to 9 mos of age), and Aden + Anais ($30) offers two levels of cotton comfort (fits up to 18 mos of age). You will be happiest if you have 2 sleepsacks so you can rotate during laundry (remember, babies sleep several times a day). Note: our age recommendations are based on experience, not manufacturer claims as to size.
5. 0 - 12 mos of age: Wubbanub ($12) pacifiers are identical to the soothie pacifiers the hospitals provide from birth and we've not found them to interfere with baby's ability to breastfeed properly. Available in a wide array of cute animals, beyond the cuteness factor they provide the ability for the baby to self-soothe easily and also help prevent the all-to-common bouncy pacifier drop problem!
6. 6 - 36 mos of age: Totseat ($30) is a truly portable high chair solution that is comfortable and fits just about any chair you can imagine! The best part is that it is easy to machine clean and it folds up in it's own little pouch that fits inside most purses and definitely all diaper bags. You'll never have to put your child in a dirty restaurant high chair again, and honestly, if you're frugal or have a less-than-spacious home, it can totally be used for daily feedings for any baby that is capable of sitting upright with support.
7. 0 - 48+ mos of age: Links ($3-15) are plastic toys (make sure they are phthalate-free) that connect together to make a chain, but also secure just about any toy you can think of to convenient places like the handle on the car ceiling above baby's carseat (creating an instant mobile). You can also use links to attach toys to carseat handles, stroller trays, highchair seatbelts, diaper bags, baby carrier, or even your spaghetti strap tank top (this actually works out quite well if you're going somewhere that you'll be holding baby for a long time). Edushape Fishies are phthalate-free and pvc-free links.
8. 6 - 15 mos of age: Magic Bullet Mini-Blender ($50) allows you to simply add a portion of the meal you are having and purees it so that baby can eat the same meal! Of course, you should be eating healthy meals and if you aren't, your child is likely to grow up with the same poor eating habits regardless of what you try to feed them as infants and toddlers. Now is the time to start eating healthier and it will definitely be easier if you that your baby is going to be eating the same meals as you! Remember to serve the baby's portion into one of the many bullet cups prior to adding any salt, butter, spices, condiments, etc. Also, make sure not to feed your baby under 12 months of age the following: honey [botulism concern], seafood [heavy metal concern], non-organic vegetables [nitrate concerns].
9. 0 - 5+ yrs of age: Sunshine Kids Radian Carseat ($230) is a superior carseat compared to any others on the market (and in experience). Although many new parents assume they will like the "convenience" of a latch-in carseat model that can be carried by a handle with baby inside, we find the actual protection in these models to be seriously lacking. We highly recommend this carseat from birth through the toddler years as it has one of the highest rear facing weight limits, easy installation, fits 3 across in most vehicles, travels easily (seat bottom folds up), and the materials used are much better than any other we've seen or tested.
10. 0 - 48 mos of age: Organic sheets ($5-20) are highly recommended since infants and toddlers spend so much time in their beds, it's important to consider the impacts of inhalation and skin irritation from pesticide residues, chemical dyes, chlorine bleach by-products such as dioxin, etc. that may be present on bed sheets. Our favorite organic sheets are cotton velour from American Baby Company (ABC), which has every size imaginable (bassinet, cradle, crib, portable crib, pack n' play, changing table).
As always, it's important to invest in the quality products you will actually need to use, rather than just overbuying (and overspending on things you'll never need). Despite popular media belief, and much to the dismay of some very popular companies out there, infants do not require any special laundry detergent for their clothing IF you are using a non-toxic formula to begin with. We highly recommend Mountain Green (if you like the "baby" scent, they make an essential oil only based fragrance that will make all your baby clothes smell "babyish") or Dropps Baby (we do not recommend their scented formula).