I have a baby shower coming up for a lovely cousin and it made me think of what gifts, gadgets and gear were my favorites over the past couple years. This is highly personal and everyone will have different favorites but here are some of mine:
Books & Videos:
The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD I also received this in book form and I highly recommend the video instead for a couple reasons. First I think a lot of parents load up on books to prepare for the unknown, which is great but this one is fluffed up with anecdotes. The ideas in this book were extremely helpful to me in the first few months as a new parent, however the basics of it can be summed up in oh, say a 5 minute conversation. The video is also helpful because you can see the author demonstrate the techniques rather than interpret them for yourself.
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth Dr. Weissbluth is the head pediatrician at the office where we take our kids and while we do not see him for office visits they have new parent support groups where he will come and talk. We followed his “drowsy but awake” ideas from the start and have had very good sleepers. He also does promote sleep training in his books and whether or not you subscribe to that, he has many other unrelated ideas that can be applied without letting your child cry it out.
Mommy and Daddy Board Book Box Set This is a set of 4 little board books that show various animals kissing, cuddling or hugging their babies. When I first received this I felt a little short changed because the books are very short. As we started incorporating books into our daughter's bedtime routine though, it was nice to have the option to read a very short book to maintain our routine but get her to bed ASAP. As a toddler she still chooses these books from time to time because we act out the kisses, cuddles and hugs.
Go To Sleep My Love This is a beautiful book by the author of another very popular book but we prefer this one. The pages are just as beautiful but the words are more evenly proportioned on each page as compared to the other one.
Time For Bed This is just a nice, often overlooked little board book that has been a favorite bedtime book for us all along. The words are lulling, the pictures are nice and it ends with a mother and daughter saying goodnight.
Honestly there are SO many great board books for babies but those are a few that are not often on the radar so there is a good chance you will be the only one giving them.
I'm not going to tell you about my favorite gear unless it really makes life better or stands out…every exersaucer, activity mat, mobile, etc will be cool and cute. These items I found to really make a difference as compared to their competitors.
Baby Jogger City Select Stroller I know many people will be shocked at the price on this one but I am listing it because I wish we had gotten this rather than the standard issue travel system at babies r us when we registered. We bought our city select second hand when we were expecting our second child but if I could go back and do it all over again I would ask for money towards this, or suggest it as a group gift instead of all the other strollers we have owned. It can be changed 16 different ways (with some add on accessories), from a stroller frame to a single stroller, to a single seat plus carseat holder to a double stroller and then back to a single when the kids are getting too old. It handles like a dream. When my first child was born I used a Baby Trend Snap N Go Stroller Frame for a whole year which I loved (for the price especially) at the time and found sufficient although it is a little rickety after that much use. Having the City Select has been amazing though, even as a stroller frame and had we gotten this we would own one stroller rather than 6 now that we have 2 kids. File this under: Wish I Knew About This Product!
Note: We also have had these strollers (all of which we bought from craigslist, a daily deal site or received as a gift): Chicco Cortina, Cybex Onyx Umbrella Stroller, Baby Trend Expedition Single AND double jogging strollers. While the city select is not intended for jogging, it would have been fine for brisk walking which is all I've been doing outside. The expeditions are nice alternatives and I found that they handle very well but in hindsight I'd just have the city select for an every day stroller and for brisk walks outside and stick to the gym for running!
Baby Carriers. Everyone I knew that had a baby right before me registered for a Baby Bjorn Brand Carrier and I followed suit. I have to say it was very uncomfortable and I could not wear it for very long without my back hurting. It also is what I now know is called a “crotch dangler” because the carrier does not properly support baby's legs. So another thing I wish I knew more about the first time around was the baby carrier category. Here are some of the better choices, although there are SOOO many other options. (Google and YouTube will be your research friends!) The Moby Wrap is a nice option that is very versatile and really snuggly, it is great for newborns. The Beco Gemini Soft Structured Carrier is a great option if you want buckles instead of wrapping fabric around your body.
We had a pretty basic audio-only monitor to start with and it was totally sufficient until 2 things happened (on the same day!): my toddler learned to crawl out of her crib and we had our second child. We really wanted to see what the toddler was up to in her room after than AND the baby slept in a separate room so we needed another one anyhow. We ended up getting a new audio monitor with some advanced features, like a walkie-talkie like Talk button and DECT technology. Here is my tip though, and why I brought up monitors: We also bought a wireless video camera meant for home security instead of a pricier baby video monitor. It does not come with a base, instead you view the feed on your computer. If you are in the market for a video monitor this is a great alternative.
We received several handmade baby gifts for our babies. The most useful and cherished for us have been, in no particular order:
A taggie blankie with a link to attach it to our carseat (it has a cross stitched tag with our daughter's name and birthday on it)
Handmade baby quilts. I was nervous to use them at first, fearing stains or rips but use them all the time for tummy time, floor play and to bring along to other people's houses in case baby needs a place to nap. I love the way babies stare at the colors and shapes. I even used them with my toddler for color and shape recognition and playtime.
Cute hats. We had some lovely knitted hats that made for lots of adorable photo ops.
Amazon Prime Membership Amazon prime is a membership (that you can share!) that gives you free 2 day shipping on anything on their website that is fulfilled by amazon (third party sellers don't usually offer it). Because sometimes you may find yourself urgently needing bigger diapers, more wipes, cold remedies, baby gates, baby sleep advice books, babyfood cookbooks or appropriate clothing for next week's snow storm/heat wave/holiday/birthday party/growth spurt….and countless other things!
Cloth Diaper Cleaning Service Are mom and dad considering cloth diapers? A gift that will really make life easier would be diaper cleaning service!
Those are my main recommendations and things I would choose as gifts or registry items. Of course there are so many things to put on your registry though- swaddle blankets, sleep sacks, clothes, feeding accessories and nursing pillows. It can be dizzying. I hope this helps. If you already have kids, what are the must haves on your list?