Baby Gear, the First Year

It's no secret that I am obsessed with research. I spent a huge chunk of my pregnant days on the computer, researching baby gear in order to create my registry. I just love investigating different brands and comparing styles so much that it's sort of like a sickness for me. And with the large amount of emails and comments I get from readers and real life friends, I figured I should just do a post about the baby gear we chose for Truman. Obviously, these are my personal picks and aren't the end-all-be-all choices for everyone out there. But since I frequently hear 'well, since you are the queen of research, what did you pick and why?' I'll share it all here.

I focused on the big dog items in this post, the ones that are fairly large investments and tend to be big decisions for new parents. It's not like you can't live without some of these things---it's not a list of necessary 'must haves' or anything. But it's just a run down of the big ticket items we chose for our babe after a disgusting amount of research.

Whoo, boy. A big choice for all parents these days, right? There are so many car seats out there that this can be an overwhelming topic when you have to choose between infant seats, convertible seats, top of the line seats, and low end seats. My best advice here is to find a store that lets you install a floor model into your actual car to see how it fits into your back seat and how easy the straps are to apply. We had great luck at a local Buy Buy Baby when we purchased our convertible seats and we were super impressed with their customer service, too. Those people know their car seats and therefore I feel pretty well informed, too! Also, because car seats are pricey try to find a place where you can use coupons. Both Buy Buy Baby and Babies-R-Us frequently have 20% off coupons and we've always used that discount before making a big purchase like this. Also, some online sites have free shipping PLUS coupons---like and albeeBaby. Shop in an actual store first to physically feel the seat and then compare prices online because it never hurts to save a little cash!

We decided to use an infant carrier seat first, then switch to convertible seats for a few reasons. First, I cannot imagine skipping the carrier seat and only using a convertible although I know some moms do this. For me, the ease of pulling the whole seat in an out with a carrier was priceless. We just had two bases (one for each car) and were able to strap T into the seat indoors where it was nice and warm and then placed the whole seat into the car. Also, if he fell asleep in the car (happened all the time, and I miss this convenience!), I could just remove the entire seat with Truman inside and take it upstairs to let him keep sleeping in the seat awhile longer. Now that we are in the convertibles we have to wake him up to take him out and that is so not fun! It was also great to keep him in the seat while using a shopping cart---you can just put the whole carrier inside the cart and go to it, instead of trying to put them in the front of the cart before they are ready.

We registered for the Graco SnugRide 35 infant car seat and chose this one mostly because it is rated very high in safety tests and seemed very sturdy when we tested it out. It safely holds a baby up to 35 pounds and I mistakenly thought we could actually keep T in there until he was that weight. But in reality, by about 20 pounds this seat was getting REALLY burdensome to carry around. At nine months we finally decided to ditch the carrier seat because the straps were also getting really tight and harder to get on and off Truman. We even kept the seat in the car and took Truman in and out of it, like we would with a convertible, for a few weeks---but eventually we knew we just needed a bigger seat with better straps for our big boy. I still think you can use these carrier seats for a long time if you keep them in the car and don't use the 'lug around' feature once baby gets too heavy. But anyway, we really loved our Graco infant seat and would definitely recommend it to you.

(Truman at 2 months old)

And then came the great convertible car seat search. Settle in for a lot of text about the research I did here.

We bought the Britax Boulevard 70 for our first convertible car seat that goes in Nate's car. We chose Britax because I think they are one of the best car seat brands out there. They have steel bars have 'Safe Cell Technology' which means that they compress downward in a crash with a lower center of gravity to reduce propulsion towards the front seat. All of the Britax models (the Marathon, Boulevard, Roundabout and Advocate) are great and they are all made from the same base, so they are the same size. The big difference lies in how much weight they hold, both rear facing and backward facing, and whether or not you have to re-thread the straps as baby grows. We were between the Marathon and the Boulevard which both rear face until 40 pounds, forward face until 70 pounds and both don't call for re-threading the straps. But the Boulevard also has added side head protection over the Marathon and I figure it can't hurt to exceed the safety standards there. Also, we tried the Marathon in our car and loved it and when we went to buy it they were out of the color we wanted. So we asked about that color in the Boulevard and it was the last one there, as a floor model, so our saleslady knocked off an additional 10% for us. So although the Boulevard is more expensive than the Marathon, we got that 10% discount plus another 20% off coupon which makes me VERY happy. Still a major purchase but in my mind it's worth every penny to be assured that my most prized possession in the entire world is as safe as possible in the back seat.

(right after bringing this bad boy home, figuring it out in the nursery first---at 9 months old)

We got the Sunshine Kids Radian XTSL for the second seat that goes in my car. This baby is all steel (not just the bars like the Britax) and rear faces until 45 pounds, forward until 80 pounds. But my two favorite features that sealed the deal for us are that it folds up and has straps like a backpack so that we can easily carry it through the airport (already did that once and it was awesome!) and it's super narrow without the big 'lip' on the sides that most seats have. This means that A) it's incredibly easy to get T in and out of this seat, and B) it's the only seat that you can fit three across in a car (not that we need that right now, but it just shows you how narrow they are). I really love this seat and I'm glad I got this one in my car because I even like it a little more than the Britax. I have yet to take a picture of Truman in the seat but promise to do that soon.

One more thing about convertible seats and then I'll move on: all seats must pass the same federal safety tests to be sold in the USA, so really all seats are 'safe'. But some companies do extra testing and add extra features to ensure added safety and I think that both Britax and SK are some of the good ones out there. I'm not going to get all preachy here but I recently saw some of these You Tube videos and read this article on keeping your child rear-facing until at least two years old. The current law says you can forward face the baby at 1 year and 20 pounds so I figured that is what I would do with Truman, too. But after reading that article and seeing that You Tube video I will absolutely keep Truman rear facing until he's two. It makes my stomach queasy to even think about getting into an accident with him in the car and I want to do everything possible to make sure he would come out of that alive without a major neck injury. I know a lot of people worry about leg room and that the baby will 'not like' facing backward for so long but I really don't think he'll know any different and will just cross his legs or bend them up as needed. I'd rather have a broken leg after an accident than a broken neck---call me dramatic, but those links really did change my perspective.

We have the BOB 2010 Revolution stroller, plus the infant car seat adapter, and the handlebar console and it was one of the best purchases we made for Truman. I can honestly say that we have used the BOB more than I ever thought possible----for running and walking outside, of course, but also in stores as our only stroller. We didn't get a travel system and just recently bought a little $30 stroller to use in the airport----otherwise the BOB is it for us. We didn't even use shopping carts for Truman until about 10 months and instead we'd just pack the BOB in our car and put T in that for any excursions to Target, the grocery store, the mall, etc. It's quite pricey but luckily for us we used our REI dividend and paid nothing for it that way.

We chose the Revolution because we liked the idea of having the choice of a locked front wheel versus unlocked---and let me tell you, we LOVE the unlocked method and have never even used it locked. I just don't like how it steers when locked. The infant seat adapter is just a metal bar that goes across, to allow a little baby to ride in the BOB in his car seat. We didn't start to use the BOB without the car seat until Truman was about 7 months old so I'm glad we got the adapter. Also, Chicco car seats do not fit well into BOB----only Graco and Peg Perego seats technically fit in there, which is why we stuck with Graco for our seat instead of a Chicco.

The stroller looks huge and bulky but it glides like butter and it folds up nicely to fit in the trunk no problem. It's not really that heavy, either, and I promise you it's worth it's weight in gold if you are a runner/walker and want to take baby with you. I have logged many-a-mile with Truman in the BOB because he always slept for me on our outings and I could get some sunshine plus exercise while he rested. I love the BOB and it only took about 3 runs to get the hang of pushing a stroller in front of me.

(the day Nate bought it, with Truman just days old in the background!)

(in May at 2 months-with infant seat)

We registered for the Baby Einstein Musical Motion Activity Jumper, and I don't see it on the BRU site anymore. I literally just picked this one based on customer ratings on the BRU site and because Hannah registered for it, too. I loved comparing my friends' registries to get ideas and it seemed like a lot of mine got this baby, so it had to be good!

Yes, it's fairly hideous with obnoxious primary colors and all kinds of doo-dads hanging off it. And yes, it's pretty huge and definitely doesn't fold up like they say. But Truman loved this thing for many months and so we kept it out in our living room until just recently as the centerpiece for our babyville house. I like that it adjusts for height, let's them bounce and spin around without actually moving across the floor, and has plenty of things to occupy their minds. It wasn't too hard to wipe it off every now and then and we added a few extra dangly toys to the empty hooks for fun. Basically it was like one big seizure waiting to happen, over-stimulation to the max but so fun!

(First time in Tilly's Jumper---at almost 4 months old. Had to use blankets to prop him up and books under his feet back then!)

(Truman at 9 months----it's getting to be too babyish at this point)

We registered for the Graco Contempo highchair, in pattern 'Birkshire'. I picked it out online sight unseen specifically because it said it folded up and took up very little space---key when you live in a small place! And yes, it definitely does fold up nicely and we did try to pack it away behind our kitchen table each night for a little while. But now we just leave it out and roll it from the kitchen to the family room as needed. I like that it has a second fabric cover so that I can wash them as needed. And I like that it reclines as needed, too, because when he was really little he couldn't always sit up perfectly straight. We don't even use the shoulder straps anymore, just the lap straps, and I like that the big tray has a separate piece that pulls out for easy washing. So all in all, it's pretty big but we use this thing at least three times a day if not more.

(first time in the chair at 6 months----he is so little and short here compared to now!)

(in his chair at 7 months)

(and at 9 months with 'real' food)

The Fischer-Price Healthy Care Deluxe Booster Seat is an awesome 'first chair' and portable seat. We keep this one downstairs at my in-laws and it's great because it takes up little space sitting on a regular chair. We've even taken this one out to restaurants but I wasn't a huge fan of carting it around, so it stays at home now. It also has a separate plastic piece on the tray for easy washing but since the chair isn't padded like our big chair, it's not as comfortable for him. We still like having one big standard high chair and one booster seat, though.

(trying it out for the first time at 4 months)

5. Pack-N-Play:

The pack-n-play that we chose is the Graco PNP 'Pippin' and we love it so much we have two of them---one for home and one for daycare. In reality we rarely use ours at home but I know Lori uses hers a lot at daycare. The reason we chose this particular PNP is because it's one of the least expensive ones out there, with the least number of 'bells and whistles'. No changing table or huge mobile, just a basic PNP---which is just what we wanted. If you have a large home with two levels, it makes sense to get a fancy PNP to use as the primary sleeping zone/changing zone for baby. But since we are in a small house we just used the PNP for visiting babies and downstairs at my in-laws a bit. We've never even traveled with our PNP, although it is small enough to fit nicely in a car, because our friends/family always have a place for Truman to sleep without us carting our own PNP down there. So basically, if you are going to rarely use a PNP and want the least fancy one out there, this style is a great one for you.

The diaper bag I picked is the JJ Cole and it's most similar to this one: "System Bag 180" although mine is red, not pink. I do like it and would recommend it but I really don't even use it anymore. In the early days I had to leave the house armed with EVERYTHING possible except for the kitchen sink and this bag was perfect for overdoing it as a new mom. I like the changing pad that fits nicely inside and all the little pockets.

I already posted about it in my other 'baby gear:one month post' but the Arms Reach Mini Classic Co-sleeper was a fabulous purchase for us and we used it consistently for the first 2 months in the bedroom, and then another 2 months after that in the living room for a napping spot. Please observe how adorable my little man is here at just 6 weeks old.


I think those are all the big/important items we have and hopefully this post and my research helps someone out there who feels a little overwhelmed with all the baby paraphernalia out there! Questions, thoughts?


  1. OH my gosh. These pictures of Truman so tiny are breaking my heart because they totally remind me of reading your blog when he was first born and my mister was so tiny too. Waaaaah. :(

    PS - good post. :)

  2. already passed this on to some "with child" pals. Thanks!!

  3. Add that to the things no one told me about babies: the sheer amount of STUFF you need/acquire/borrow/steal/lust after.
    Have you and Nate read "Crawling" by Elisha Cooper? Freaking hilarious! I'm only 20 pages into it and laughing out loud.

  4. I am a local retailer in Virginia and teach a Baby Gear class at the local hospital. I think you are spot on about the products, for the most part, but what really bothers me is that you tell customers to go to the local retailer to see the products then buy it online. This is exactly why so many small mom and pop businesses are going under these days. Do you understand that when you purchase locally your money goes back to your community through taxes, jobs, to other local business, community services. For instance, I donate 1% of my local sales to a local charity. The benefits you get from shopping locally outweigh the cost savings. And I'm sure if you mention to the store that you found a certain price online they might just match it anyway.

  5. Julia we must be twins - I have the EXACT same car seat, BOB, co-sleeper, and booster seat. And a similar Baby Einstein Activity thing. So, clearly, I second all your recommendations. Especially the BOB. That thing can handle like no other. Definitely better than the shopping cart like wheels of other strollers. I go over snow, ice, mud, anything in that BOB. I agree it is totally worth the money.

  6. Thank you so much for this post! I'm still tweaking my registry so this helps me a lot. I'm the same way with doing hours of research for every item, but your opinion means a lot.

  7. Ellie~

    I didn't mean to say that people should test them in stores and then buy online, but I can see how you read it that way. I meant that online purchases are also an option and sometimes have free shipping, plus it's easy to flip through different sites to compare prices instead of driving to multiple stores.

    We didn't buy any of our car seats online but I know people prefer that route. I certainly don't have it out for local mom and pop businesses, for heavens sakes. I mentioned BRU and BBB because those are the two big baby stores we have used and love, and I'm unaware of any 'mom and pop' stores in my area.

    Didn't mean to strike a nerve with you by mentioning online purchases. Thanks for the insight about asking stores to match online deals--that is a great idea.

    Tessa~haven't read 'Crawling' but it sounds awesome!

  8. Thank you. I love you :) (Pictures and links are my favorite.) I did want to ask, why did you purchase 2different kinds/brands of convertible car seats? Did one fit in one car but not the other? I just figured that we would find what we liked most and get 2 of them.

  9. LC~good question. We got two different ones because we really liked both and wanted the option of a good 'travel' convertible with the SK, but still wanted a Britax, too. I think getting two of the same kind is just fine but of course, we had to be difficult. :) I like both a lot and would get them both again.

  10. We have the same PNP, and I'm so glad we decided against one of the big, more expensive ones. We just don't use it enough to make it worth it. We've traveled with it, and it worked really well- it sets up and breaks down so easily! And my babe loved yelling at those elephants!

  11. I registered for that same baby carrier and playpen. GO me! I love these posts. Thank you so much for sharing!!

  12. Great post - love your recommendations. I have several of those same things, but I have to say, I love the hand me downs and garage-sale find versions. Obviously, not for car seats, but we got our pack and play for $10 and it is great for the total of ONE time we've used it so far! :-)
    Question - I'm one of the freaky new Moms with a five month old daughter and an overstuffed diaper bag. What are you bringing with you these days (AKA, what do I have to look forward to?) :-)

  13. thanks for the info on the car seats - we a re trying to decide on a convertible now that the infant is too everything (bulky, small, inconvenient...)

  14. Great post! I am due with my first baby in July and have been overwhelmed with trying to choose between what we would really need/use and just "stuff." This definitely helps! Thanks!

  15. Thank you SO MUCH for this! There were a few items on your list that I've had on mine to research and I love first-hand reviews!

  16. Thank you so much for sharing! We have some of these items on our registry. I definitely will look into the BOB stroller.

  17. Great research! And might I add, I feel pretty guilty benefiting from all your hard work! CD'ing comes to mind. You researched your butt off and I got the condensed version and was able to make a quick decision regarding what brands we would try. I love how much you research and now that we're looking into convertible seats soon, I may have to check yours out.

  18. Oh...I thought of another question. Do you know if Graco is one of the only brands that goes into the BOB? Someone told me Chico carriers won't fit.

  19. Oh...and you might need to do a CD recap of the first year too. Which ones were your favorite? Did you end up getting different brands along the way? What would be your advice for the ultimate starter set? Best cleaner too!

  20. working on a CD post as we speak!

    And yes, Graco and Peg Perego fit into BOBs but not Chiccos. I think I was the one who told you that! I thought I wrote that in here, too but maybe not.

  21. I loved reading this, even though I don't "need" the info anymore :) We made a lot of the same choices so of course I basically love seeing my own opinions validated!!

  22. We are looking to purchase a convertible car seat in the next month or so, and I remembered reading this helpful post when you first posted it - Thank you!

    We live in Key West and are quite far away from stores where we could try out the fit. Since we'll be ordering on line, I'm a little concerned about making the wrong choice on such a big - and important - purchase. We'll be putting the car seat into a four door car.

    If you had to choose between the Britax and the SK, which would you recommend?

    Thank you very much for your help :)

  23. Abby~we are thinking of buying two more Britax for Cecelia this time around, so I think I'd say I prefer those over the SK ;)

  24. Thanks for sharing the post! Really such a nice and decent information shared here with awesome stuff… baby gear and all baby products


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