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 in the time 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 the list.
As a product-testing journalist and mom of two, I’ve had 25 different strollers squeeze through the narrow doorway of my East Hampton home, virtually all at the same time (happy to share lessons learned about basement organization at a later date). And, in a way, owning 25 strollers is really just an IRL version of the endless options that overwhelm every parent trying to choose their baby items, isn’t it?
To that end, I got a fair amount wrong with the registry I created for my first son four years ago — including a clunky travel crib that was a colossal waste of money as well as a surplus of play gyms (you do not need three of them). But the obsessive journalist in me is still quite proud of the hard-won, actually great discoveries I’ve made along the way, like a $30 baby lounger that worked just as well as one for $220, an extremely convenient diaper bag that was worth the extra hundred bucks, and more in the list that follows.
As it turns out, OXO, best known as the kitchen-utensil brand, makes equally reliable nursery items. For the first year of my first son’s life, I battled the monster that is the wipes container. For some incomprehensible reason, wipes are designed to come out from the package in one unending loop. Imagine holding a tiny, writhing, poop-covered child with one hand while trying to rip just one baby wipe from the package with the other. It isn’t happening. Then, one day, my perpetually organized cousin introduced me to the OXO Good Grips Perfect Pull dispenser, which has a weight on the inside that holds the wipes in place as you pull. You can do it single-handed.
Before my two children were ready for full high chairs — and long before they were ready for the restaurant version of high chairs (wooden, short-backed disasters with virtually no support) — they were ready for the Phil&Teds Lobster clip-on high chair, which I actually did receive as a registry gift. And I’d buy it again and again. But this time around, I would eschew the wheel-in high chair (the version I used has since been discontinued, but it looked most like this) for this all-purpose version. The phil&teds clip-on takes up less space, is portable, folds up, and gives younger kids back and neck support. It’s ideal for small-space living since you can use it on a counter or breakfast bar, and it doesn’t take up nearly as much space as a proper high chair. And it’s easy to clean: Just tip it over the garbage can and give it a quick wipe in the sink.
White noise recalls the sounds babies heard in the womb, and even now, my kids, at ages 2 and 4, are soothed by it at nap and bedtime. But it took a while for me to land on the right machine: Some on the market are painfully expensive. Others aren’t powerful enough to block out ambient noise (that was the case with me and the Cloud B series, which is essentially a stuffed animal that comes with a night light and sound machine wrapped up into one but mostly functions only to decorate the ceiling with stars). I finally settled on the compact Dreamegg D1, which doesn’t break the bank but provides quality white noise that has reliably shielded my kids from the clamor outside their bedrooms.
A confession: I purchased four strollers with my first son. I owned the BOB Revolution jogging stroller (I’m a recovering marathoner), the gb Pockit, the UppaBaby G-Luxe umbrella stroller, and the UppaBaby Vista. None of those seemed quite right, though each served a distinct purpose. When I had my second son, I bought a side-by-side jogger (hated it) and then expanded my luxury stroller to its double-stroller stacked settings. Then I tested 25 strollers for a review piece I was writing and reevaluated every stroller investment I had made over the past four years. If I had it all to do over again, I would buy one stroller and one stroller only: a small one that does just enough of everything to get me through the years that require this mom appendage. The Joovy Kooper is a great all-around compact with the right features to bridge infancy and toddler-dom. If you live in a small space, you can fit it in your closet. It’s light enough to carry up and down the subway stairs with one hand. Although the luxury line of larger strollers offers some benefits — like, most notably, added basket space — in the end, I used too few of the features to make them worthwhile.
If I ever write a memoir, it will be titled Why Does Every Single Children’s Cup Spill: A Horror Story. I trusted far too many cups that advertised their “spillproof” qualities, the results of which pooled at the bottom of my diaper bag. For a while, we used the CamelBak kids’ water bottles, but then our kids bit through the straws, forcing us into sturdier territory. Straws, by the way, are impossible to clean. I could never escape the feeling that I was poisoning my children with particles of mold unseen. The Re-Play no-spill sippy cups can withstand my children’s gnawing. Rubber valves — which you can buy separately in bulk — can be flipped to the inside of the cup to make the thing truly spillproof. Flip it in the opposite direction and the cup metes out liquid at a measured pace. They’re made from recycled milk jugs, come in tons of fun colors, and are BPA free. They’re also dishwasher safe, and those rubber valves always come out of the machine looking and smelling totally clean.
It’s hard to know which diaper bag you really want to commit to until you actually live life with a baby. The first bag I bought, from Vaalbara Designs, was a beautiful one, and I still own and love it; it makes an excellent all-purpose tote. But the first time I used the Tory Burch Ella baby bag, I realized the designer had considered (and solved) problems even I hadn’t foreseen. The material, for instance — nylon — is easily cleaned should you find your bag covered, say, in spit-up, milk, or any other unseemly solid or liquid. Two insulated pockets are designed to hold bottles and keep them either hot or cold. It comes with its very own changing pad. And, as the pièce de résistance, the interior nylon straps, which clip on to metal loops, are there for the express purpose of holding on to the handles of a stroller. No more leaning over to retrieve a wallet while walking with the baby. Better yet, you can buy that compact stroller without fear that your diaper bag won’t fit into the basket below because it actually doesn’t need to.
Because I was a first-time mom, I registered for the MamaRoo, which is a $220 baby swing that can play music and move in all kinds of fancy directions. The MamaRoo is heavy, it needs to be plugged into a wall, and you cannot move it easily from one room to the next. The price point had me thoroughly convinced it was the best that money could buy, but when I needed a second, more portable baby soother, I invested in the Fisher-Price Baby’s Bouncer, which costs a mere $30. Neither of my sons seemed to prefer one to the other, and the Fisher-Price bouncer could easily be moved from room to room. We could even toss it in the car and bring it with us when visiting family. It vibrates, it has toys for entertainment, and, in case I didn’t mention it, it costs $30. If I had to do it again, I would skip the expensive baby swing and ask for a donation to the good old college fund. This baby bouncer is a lighter, less expensive, and equally loved alternative.
Further to the point above about the wipes dispenser, if you haven’t considered how many things you will be doing one-handed in parenthood (while holding a baby with the other hand), add cleaning to that list of tasks. This is where a cordless vacuum comes in. The Dyson, long a perennial favorite among tidy people like me, has many redeeming qualities, but what I disliked about a test run with it included both its prohibitive price point and its short battery life. The iRobot Roomba, which I own, leaves wide swaths of my floor untouched. The Shark Navigator Freestyle cordless vacuum, however, is a bargain for the money. It picks up crackers, pet hair, and whatever other detritus happens to be lying around my kitchen and living room, and it has a surprisingly long life for a battery-charged vac. If you had told me four years ago that I would have traded an Ergobaby for a cordless vacuum, I would have been deeply suspicious, and yet here we are.
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.