There’s an absolutely endless list of baby gear available out there, so you will need to spend some time figuring out what will be useful for you and what’s not. I recommend grilling any and all parents you know to figure out what they couldn’t live without and what they never bothered to take out of its box – keep in mind that it’s going to vary so much, kid to kid. Here are the must-haves recommended in The Honest Life by Jessica Alba.
Two or three sheets (so you can always have a clean one while you’re doing laundry), preferably organic cotton with no synthetic finishes or flame retardants. (I don’t see a need for bumpers, but they should also be flame retardant free if you plan to use them.)
Babies do like to be bundled pretty tightly for the first few months. (Some pediatricians call this the “fourth trimester.”) Again, organic cotton if you can; I love the pretty, lightweight organic and bamboo muslin blankets by Aden + Anais.
Water- Resistant Matress Cover
Because babies’ diapers will leak.
I’m obsessed with these – they’re so much less stressful than trying to cover your baby with a blanket and worrying she’ll get it smushed on her face, and your baby still stays warm and cozy at night. Halo’s are PFC-free.
Rest of the Layette
Keep it simple – (organic) cotton onesies, leggings, pajamas, socks, and some booties. Dwell Baby has an adorable organic layette line.
Organic cotton or other nontoxic options. The ones with hoods are particularly helpful. You can’t have too many washcloths.
I prefer the kind that you can use right in your regular tub. And don’t forget cups for rinsing, plus a little wooden stool so you can sit next to the tub and save your knees!
High Chair or Bumper Seat
Keep in mind that some foam-padded high chairs may contain polyurethane foam, which off-gasses nastiness. You can find lots of beautiful, durable wooden high chairs with natural cushions in stores now. Bumper seats that can snap into a dining room chair are awesome too – just check that kids are strapped in securely.
You can’t leave the hospital without one. Fortunately, the Consumer Product Safety Commission regulates car seats pretty tightly for general safety. But lots of the plastic models leach gross chemicals like chlorine and lead. Visit HealthyCar.org for a list of the best and worst seats. No matter which model you buy, air it out for a few days on your back porch or other covered outdoor space before you stick it in the car. You can even use YouTube videos to figure out how to install them!
Swings and Saucers
I do swear by these because they are awesome baby entertainers whenever you need to do something requiring two hands, like taking a shower. But most options on the market use a lot of molded plastic, which can release fumes…and offer a lot of plastic parts for your baby to chew on. So maybe consider a gently used model or the most nontoxic option within your budget. You’ll bring fewer fumes into your house that way, and you can pay it forward when you’re done by reselling or donating it.
Slings and Carriers
You have to experiment here to figure out what works for you and your baby. Most slings hurt my shoulders too badly to use, so I stuck with the tried-and-true Ergobaby Organic Carrier most of the time. (I have to say having your little one snuggled on you is the best feeling ever.) If you do want to try a sling or carrier, start using it right away so your baby will get used to falling asleep in there. Then you’re home free – you can go grocery shopping or whatever because you know kiddo is just chilling.
There are tons of options in the marketplace – the best tip I got was to watch online videos of real parent reviews. Consider your needs, like whether you will primarily stroll in your neighborhood, use a car whenever you take your stroller, or job with your baby a lot. If you are in an urban environment and rely on public transportation, you might want one that is definitely a category to try to go gently used if you can – either via Freecycle or Craigslist or from a mom friend whose kids are outgrowing theirs!
Watch out for items containing:
- Flame Retardants – includes perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), brominated flame retardants (BFRs), and halogenated flame retardants (HFRs). It is found in crib mattresses and kids’ pajamas (as well as carpeting, paint, and stain-resistant fabric). PFCs, BFRs, and HFRs are endocrine disruptors, which means they mess with healthy hormonal development and can lead to reproductive and developmental disorders – that’s why it’s super important to minimize exposure in babies, kids, and pregnant women.
- Bisphenol A (BPA) – found in some pacifiers and baby toys (or any plastic labeled #7); recently banned by the government in baby bottles and sippy cups. It is a plasticizer that makes polycarbonate plastic clear and hard, but it is a proven endocrine disruptor. It’s associated with infertility, obesity, metabolic disorders, thyroid problems, and low birth weight.
Resources: Featured Image: KaleyAnne.com, Article information as appeared in The Honest Life by Jessica Alba