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Expecting Better Author Emily Oster on the Baby Things Parents (Actually) Need

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Five years ago, Brown economics professor Emily Oster wrote the book Expecting Better, which used data to challenge conventional wisdom for pregnant women (cold cuts, for instance, are not that bad, statistically speaking). Since then, she’s become something of a hero to expecting couples, and now Oster’s new book, Cribsheet, is helping to debunk parenting myths yet again. We wondered what the mother of two uses in her own life, so we talked to her about the baby things she uses herself — and recommends to others.

You should wait to get this until your baby is about 3 months old, but as soon as your child gets some head control, get a BityBean. It’ll last till he or she is about 3, and it can be stuffed in a backpack. I’ve used a lot of baby carriers, but I got this one with our second kid, and it’s just so great because it’s so tiny. If you are traveling with it, you can ball it up and stuff it anywhere. It’s easy to use, and you can use it with a hood, which I recommend. I could wear it in the front or in the back, and it also just feels super-secure. I always like the things that have straps rather than those wrap carriers, which is probably just my own personal limitation.

When my daughter was a baby, we were trying to figure out what sippy cup to get. No matter what kind we got with any different straws, we always had problems with them, so my husband wrote my friend the engineer about them. She did lots of research on products, and she wrote back this email that began, “There is no perfect solution to the problem of infant and toddler hydration,” but ultimately this is what she recommended. What I like about it is that it can act as a straw cup or as a tip-up with different inserts.

This swaddle is not too hard to use and impossible for your baby to escape. When my first kid was born, we did not purchase any swaddle blankets and we had a doula come who was appalled. We like this one because the kid definitely sleeps better in it, plus it’s just easy.

Simple, flexible, easy to replace. There are lots of innovations in the world of baby bottles (you get ones that are shaped like a breast and all kinds of things), but this is just an easy one that works. I would say the only thing I learned the hard way is that they make different nipples with different hole sizes depending on the age of your child (the older they are, the smaller the hole, which makes it more difficult to suck), so if you use a 1-year-old’s nipple with an infant, you will have trouble.

A lovey is just a little security blanket, and this one comes in different animal shapes. Both of my kids had them from very young ages. Just make sure you get a few of them since your kid may get very, very attached. We bought nine of them, and the reason is that in case one gets dirty and you don’t want them to use it for whatever reason, you should have plenty more or else they won’t be able to sleep. Even then, it’s not a perfect system. One of my son’s got a hole in a very specific place, and now that’s the only one he will use. Even though I’ve got a million of them, he wants the one with the hole. I thought I was so smart, I even tried cutting a hole, but it wasn’t the same. He knows.

Primary is a baby clothes disruptor for people who don’t want to spend a huge amount of time thinking about clothes. They’re super-high-quality and last forever and they don’t have weird slogans or cutesy sayings. They also make everything you could roughly need. The only problem is that the clothes are all the same sort of color palette, so my son’s pajama T-shirts look similar to his regular T-shirts, and even though I have no problem telling them apart, my spouse has complained about that.

You can spend a lot of money, or you can get a crib that just works, like this one from Ikea. I liked that it’s not that expensive but looks nice and was easy to put together. Of course, you can go fancy, but when you get to the second kid, you sort of realize that a crib is just a wooden box, and you just kind of need one that works.

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Cribsheet Author Emily Oster on Her Favorite Baby Things