now that i know better

How Amerie Would Redo Her Baby Registry: With a Japanese Oatmeal Bath and an Airplane Bed

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

Registries are often wasted on soon-to-be parents. In this series, cool new(ish) moms and dads tell us about the stuff that has actually worked for them since they had a kid. In other words, if they could do their baby registry all over again, here are the items that would top their list.

Amerie, the Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and founder of the eponymous Amerie’s Book Club, is that person who carries around extras of her favorite things. “I never know when I might want to give one away,” she says. “I would have a book with me and I would say, ‘Take this book. I feel it’s calling to you.’” When she had her son, River, who’s now 4, she would approach moms on the playground to tell them about a life-changing diaper cream. That desire to share prompted Amerie to write her first book, though not until River was born did she know exactly what story she wanted to tell. “Once I held him in my arms, I was so cognizant of the messages children take in, of the images they’re seeing,” she says. “Then you realize that you’re providing it. It’s almost like a very wonderful kind of stress because you know that you’re basically everything to them.”

The resulting book, out today, is You Will Do Great Things, and it’s a letter of sorts to her 4-year-old. “I wanted my son to see himself in books that were beautiful and fun,” she says. “I wanted him to know how much we love him and what dreams and hopes we have for him, but I also wanted him to know that he has everything he needs inside, that he comes equipped for life.” In addition to the new book, Amerie told us about a few essentials she relied on when River was a baby — and continues to use — including the toothpaste that’s good enough to eat and the Japanese oatmeal-and-herb bath that comes in its own washcloth.

The sous-chef tower is really great because it allows you to move through your day with your child. So instead of just, “I’m going to cook something and then I’ll bring it to you,” it gets him involved in all the little things, the minutiae, which is what they really want to do anyway. It was great for allowing him to cook with me. He loves to do the dishes (we let him rinse). Whether it was mixing, stirring, or baking, it put him on the level of the kitchen counter and everything we do there. I can’t imagine us not having it because there were so many activities we did with him in it. And of course, it’s better than a step stool. At that age, they could literally topple over on one. I like that this is adjustable, so it grows with them. When he got too big for it, we used it as a pirate-ship tower.

You’ve probably seen different versions of this, but the reason I love this one is that it’s very sleek and chic but also very functional. Not only can they sit on it and push themselves with their feet, but they can also pull the bag behind them. (Adults can pull them sitting on it as well.) You can readjust the handle so you can put it across your shoulder if you need to. Plus, the top comes off and there’s some room to carry extra things in there. When you’re sitting in your seat, you can flip it over to extend your child’s seat so they can put their feet out instead of that awkward thing where they’re too short to come down but too long to be comfortable. This makes the seat like a longer bed and helps them lie down and take a nap. And the thing is, those wheels are fast; they can really move. He has so much fun with it. If you’re ever in an airport and you’re rushing, they will zoom past you.

We use it ourselves, but it’s great for River because it’s the perfect size for his hands. He loves to walk around and capture moments. It’s really great because he gets to see the pictures right away. We have a collection of photos called the “Christmas Bums”: One Christmas, he was just walking around taking pictures of everyone, but because of his height and because everyone was cooking, he just got everyone’s bum. It’s also great for us to capture moments, an idea I got from my sisters. Whenever we would have dinners, holidays, or just some family gathering, we would put the camera out so anyone could take pictures. We have a wall where we put up one of those laundry-line thingies and clip pictures onto it. It’s so nice, especially in this digital age when most of our photos live on our phones, to have something analog to see. And you’re like, “Oh, look at that moment. Remember this birthday? Remember this Thanksgiving? Remember when Auntie Angela came over and we hung out and had some little barbecue?” or whatever.

These are so nostalgic. Even though Choose Your Own Adventure books are for older kids — I think I discovered them in middle school — I thought that because River’s into making choices, I could just read them to him and keep him engaged. There’s a lot of text and hardly any pictures at all, but I thought, Let’s just try it out. He’s really into the Bigfoot and the Abominable Snowman stories. While we’re reading, I’ll say, “Where’s your best friend? Where’s Carlos? Should we go look for him? Or should we do this?” And he’ll say, “I think we need to go look for him now.” I think it adds another level of enjoyment for him.

As soon as he was old enough to use it, we transitioned to this electric toothbrush. I think he was around 3. We explained to him, “We need the brush to go on every single tooth, but don’t go too hard.” I’ve explained to him about recessed gums. I’m like, “We’ve got to clean these teeth and get them done well.” He likes to help too, so we give him a chance and then we do it. The electric toothbrush is really the only way, I think, to clean your children’s teeth properly, especially if they’re doing it on their own.

We pair it with this toothpaste, RiseWell, which is unlike pretty much all the others. It doesn’t have sugar or another glycol that’s not great. They put something in the toothpaste that allows the teeth to remineralize in a healthy way. Grown-ups can use it too. And if the kids eat it, it’s okay. There’s a cake-batter flavor that he loves. He does this thing where we brush his teeth and then he goes, “I swallowed it because I couldn’t help it. It’s just too tasty.” I just want to give everyone this toothpaste and say, “Use this one.”

River had a couple of diaper rashes when he was a baby, and we were given the requisite medicated cream, but I don’t like giving him medicated anything constantly. You’re telling me we have to put this on a child every day? They’ve got this medicine in them, and it’s drying and pasty. I thought, There has to be a better way. My husband found the Burt’s Bees Multipurpose Healing Ointment. Every time we’d change River’s diaper, we’d apply a very thin layer where he would be at risk for a diaper rash and around the front because sometimes those diapers can be drying. He never had another diaper rash again in his life. I actually would sit down and tell moms about it on the playground, “Oh, you ever heard about …,” like I’m in a commercial. And it’s not just for preventing diaper rash. We still have it. You can use it on their face; you can use it to moisturize elbows. I’ll use it on my knuckles. It’s great as a cuticle cream. It’s fabulous.

This is just a great shea butter. I love natural things, but the only thing is that sometimes shea better can be really chunky. I’ve done the whole thing where you melt it and you have to keep melting it and melting it, and that’s just a little time-consuming for me. The whipped shea butter is great because we use it on River and ourselves, too. You still rub it, but because it’s whipped, it’s already pretty much melted. I mean, I have a ten-step beauty routine, but for my body, I’m like, slap it on fast. It’s wonderful. It’s what I use instead of body lotion.

River dealt with some eczema when he was really little. He was always scratching, so we were trying to think of anything that could help. We wanted something gentle, and of course, we know that if you have dry skin, oatmeal helps, so this was our way of giving him an oatmeal bath. It comes in a cotton satchel that acts as both a soak and a loofah but a very gentle one, even for infant skin. It has yomogi, an anti-inflammatory Japanese herb, something I’d never heard of before but wanted to give it a try. Now it’s great because he uses it himself, but when he was really little, it was a really good way to clean him up without using something as harsh as a washcloth. Washcloths can be gentle too, but I felt like this was very soft because it already had the ingredients inside. You put the satchel into the bath and give it time for the oatmeal to really soak through. And then the herbs inside begin to work. It’s just this smoosh-y linen satchel that’s very puffy, like a small pillow. It’s very gentle on their skin.

The Bogg Bag is our swim-lesson bag. I saw another mom carrying it. It’s great because it’s pretty big and can fit all his swimming gear, like his slippers, and it’s great for sitting by the pool. That bag is made for the water — it has holes in it — but it also has a little compartment where you can keep your things dry, like your phone. It’s so low-stress and low-maintenance. I wish I’d had it when we went to the beach, but I didn’t know about it yet. Even if you get sand in it, you could just rinse it off with a hose or put it in the bath and run it. It’s the Crocs of bags.

Being around an infant makes you realize how they’re taking everything in. And not only are you their shelter, their comfort, and their food, you’re also how they see the world. They’re going to have their own way, but it’s going to be formed first by whatever you think. When they get older, they pick up on even something flippant you’ll say when you’re talking to your girlfriends. You might say, “Oh my God, I hate it when this and this happens.” Then you realize you don’t really want to say that around a child because hate is a pretty strong word, and you don’t want to talk about negative things so how about focusing on the things you love? There’s an audiobook, too, and it’s magical. It’s soundscaped: There are sound effects as you turn the pages. Listen, I was really impressed. You hear the environment, so as you see the main character going through the story, you hear the leaves and the water. There’s also music. I narrate, and my son added some sound effects too. It’s just really, really cool.

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How Amerie Would Redo Her Baby Registry