As new parents, we are bombarded with stuff. The list of things that YOU HAVE TO HAVE seems endless. You may even fret about impeding your child’s development, lose sleep over the best fibers, or ponder for hours about the safety features of car seats and bassinets.
But one day, when your youngest is no longer a baby, you will think back on that period of frenzied spending sprees with a bit of amusement. In your new, relatively relaxed, non-diaper-changing/bottle-feeding/waking-five-times-a-night state, you will easily recall each of the bazillion items that you acquired for this parenthood game. More importantly, you will be able to tell anyone that asks your advice exactly which products you think are the best and why.
OK, maybe not. But at least you will remember a few of your FAVORITE things. There might even be a few items that were so awesome at making your life easier that you will proselytize these products to anyone who will listen. That is where I am today.
My baby is not a baby anymore: she is already four years old! Instead of lamenting the passing of her baby years, I am creating a list of my favorite things to share with those sleep-deprived folks who are in or about to be in the thick of it.
Nambe Baby Set — I have to admit that when I first received these as a gift from a beloved co-worker, I rolled my eyes and said something like “Are you giving me the proverbial silver spoon?” Although this set is actually made of stainless steel and includes two spoons, plus a fork. We gave our daughter the little spoon when she was about 6 months old, when she first started eating something besides milk. She loved to play with and chew on the spoon during those months, although she didn’t start actually using it for its intended purpose until a bit later. The smaller spoon and fork are the perfect size for a baby/toddler to maneuver, all by themselves (that is the important part). It may be messy, but it really encourages independence when we allow them to feed themselves. (And they become competent self-feeders much earlier than the perpetually spoon-fed tots!) That said, there are times when spoon-feeding is a must, and the longer handled spoon is perfect for that. I particularly love that they are not coated in plastic (read: icky chemicals that wear down in the dishwasher and can be chewed off and ingested). Instead, they are made of lovely and durable stainless steel. We literally carried these utensils around with us, to restaurants, to grandparents’ and friends’ homes, on vacation, and around the world. Our daughter learned to feed herself with these lovely utensils. She still uses them, although now that she is a “big girl” they have been reconciled to only dessert or grapefruit spoons. These are some of the few things that I will not give away, but will keep forever as a reminder of my daughter’s early years.
Inglesina Fast Table Chair — This is the most perfect chair for dining with your little one pretty much anywhere! The Inglesina is your baby’s own personal travel chair. It folds down flat in its own travel bag for easy transport; and it is fast and easy to set up. The entire cloth seat comes off so you can throw it in the washing machine. It holds up to 37 pounds so you can get several years of use out of it. These are ideal for many restaurants, especially for squirmy babies who are sitting up but not stable or still enough to sit in a high chair or booster seat. They take up less room than a stroller and they can be attached to almost any flat, stable surface. Really nice for staying at the homes of friends & family (or AirBnB/VRBO houses) who don’t have high chairs; this chair is easily attached to many bar tops, counters and dining room tables. Thanks to the hostess at Chez Panisse for turning me onto the idea.
Nose Frida — Learning to blow your nose is a tricky thing to do. Thank goodness and thank those Scandinavians for this thing. You may think I’m off my rocker when you hear what this does: The Nose Frida lets you suck the snot out of your kid’s nose. Thus, it allows your kid to get better faster, you to get more sleep, and your whole family to be happier. Simply amazing! Absolutely essential. And don’t worry, it is totally hygienic thanks to these handy little filters they make. And – WHOA! – wait until you see what can come out of those little sinus cavities. It is OK if you think I am nuts…I do realize this sounds strange. Just wait until your baby/toddler can’t breath through their nose and those colds drag on for days or weeks because they don’t know how to blow their little noses and those old-school bulb aspirators are useless. Or you could wait even longer until the ear infections start. Then come back and read this blurb and click right here to buy your Nose Frida. You can thank me and the Swedish inventors later.
Ergobaby Original Baby Carrier and the Ergobaby Infant Insert — I shopped high and low for baby carriers and read for hours about the pros and cons of each. We used ours from a few months old to almost 3-years old. We walked all over the place with our daughter, and she loved being right up next to us. (This is a separate topic, worthy of separate post, but I think worth mentioning here: any on-your-body carrier, and this one especially, is soooooo much better than slinging baby around in a hand-held carseat. Think of the odd, jerky movements that babies are subjected to in those things. Incomparable!)
Moby Wrap Baby Carrier — As I mentioned above, I researched everywhere for the best baby carriers. The Moby Wrap was better for the early months and I like that you can more evenly distribute baby’s weight on your body: because it is a wrap, you can spread out the cloth instead of focusing weight on two narrow straps. And it was a bit more versatile than the Ergo.
Baby Bjorn Potty Chair — These little potties are helpful for learning to potty. They are much less intimidating than climbing up to the big and kind of loud toilet. I suggest that every household have at least one of these, if not more. You should encourage your kids to sit on this and go potty at the same time you do. Monkey see, monkey do. They come in all colors. Most importantly, the bowl is removable so you can easily clean it after every use.
Squatty Potty — Once they are using the big potty, a step stool allows them to access the potty on their own. There are a million options out there, but the vast majority have this flaw: they are big, awkward and take up too much room. Mostly, they have straight edges so they don’t ‘hug’ the toilet. We stumbled upon the Squatty Potty in the most unlikely place and bought one for us parents to use, then we discovered that it actually serves two purposes: First, as intended by its designers to improve adult elimination (better bowl function & healthier gut…seriously!!); and second, as the PERFECT toddler-potty-step-stool. We love multitasking products. Because the Squatty Potty is made for use in front of the toilet, it has a curved edge so that it can be pushed back and ‘hug up’ to the toilet when not in use; and obviously, having more room in the bathroom is always a perk. They do offer plastic versions but we prefer the sturdy construction and prettier lines of the Adjustable Tao Bamboo model. Plus fast growing bamboo is one of the greenest construction materials available and this model is adjustable to either 7 inches or 9 inches.
I am not a big fan off too much stuff but these things were essential as far as I am concerned. They definitely made all of our lives better. Hope they do the same for you!