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As a mom, we’re constantly seeking advice, referrals, opinions, and so forth from other parents. I have scoured the internet searching for “the best _________ to use for _____.”
Lately, I have had many friends become mommies and daddies and I have been asked many of these questions. As a new mom I always wished there was some kind of magic list, letting me know what products and brands to use and what not to use.
It has taken long hours of research, phone calls with my mommy friends, trial and error, but after three kids, numerous daycare kids, and other moms’ experiences, I’ve compiled my own list of my favorite baby/toddler/preschooler products and recommendations. I call it my “as close as you’ll get to a parenting manual” list. I know these things come in handy for all parents.
To Use for Diaper Rash: A & D Ointment (no cream…unless it’s the only thing on hand). When I notice red butts, A & D goes on immediately. A & D has vitamins to help heal but it also creates a barrier from urine and poop in the diaper, which is something cream and paste diaper rash products do not do. A visit to the doctor may be required if A & D doesn’t work or the rash gets worse. Yeast is a common problem in any child wearing a diaper and a bad diaper rash may require an ointment especially for yeast. If this is the case, use the yeast ointment first and apply a light layer of A & D over it to create a barrier so the yeast medication can do it’s job.
Best Diapers: Target’s Up & Up brand. They’re non-scented, cheap, super durable, and don’t have harsh chemicals. My oldest was a Pampers only kid, my middle was a Huggies only kid, by the time the third came we just wanted something to hold the pee in….and we found it. I highly recommend trying these diapers out. I was (and still am) surprised at how awesome these diapers are–I like them much better than Pampers and they hold up as well as Huggies.
Best Wipes: Target’s Up & Up brand non-scented wipes. They’re hypoallergenic, clean up the messiest of messes, and decently priced. I know some of my parent friends feel that they’re a bit too thin, but I’ve never had an issue with them.
Best Sippy Cup: Playtex sippys. All Playtex cups and valves are interchangeable with each other, which helps big time when reaching for a cup and can’t find the lid….just grab one off of another sippy! Playtex makes beginner sippys with handles, insulated sippys (which are a fav around here as they keep the kids’ milk and water cold for long periods of time), or lightweight sippys which are perfect for a little one year old’s hands.
Best Bottles: All three of my kids have used different bottles and my favorite among the three have been the Playtex Ventaire (they make wide and regular-I prefer the regular size). I know many of my parent friends recommend Dr. Brown bottles, but there’s just too many parts and pieces for my liking. The most helpful suggestion I received was to purchase several different bottles and try them out. Even doing that, we had to go out a purchase a couple of more until we found the one that worked best for each baby.
Best Burp Clothes: Skip anything that says burp clothes and go right for Gerber cloth diapers. These are so much more absorbant than any burp clothes I’ve used, easier to wash (they don’t stain as much), easier to put around a baby’s chin while drinking a bottle, and fit nicely on your shoulder.
Best Board Books: These are a MUST HAVE for babies and toddlers. I’ve recently discovered these are handy for children learning to read. For a while there, my two oldest had outgrown board books, but with Max beginning to read, these are the perfect books for him. Easy to read, large letters, and he loves reading them to his little sister! Two of my favorite children’s authors are Leslie Patricelli and Sandra Boynton. Another tip-look for their books (and all other board books) at TJ Maxx as they are usually half the price as book stores.
Best Infant Toy: Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes. I don’t know if it’s the music or the lights that captivate attention, but I’ve seen a five year old yank this toy away from a baby so they could take a look at it.. It’s small which makes it easy for little hands to hold, makes a great car seat toy, or easy to throw in the diaper bag when headed out. Best $9 you’ll spend on a baby toy.
Best Toddler toy: It’s a tie between two Fisher Price toys – Little People and Wheelies. These toys let your child use and develop their imaginations, they’re safe for the youngest of kids (no small parts whatsoever), and they can get lots of use-my five year old still somewhat enjoys these play sets.
Baby Gear You Can’t Live Without: Infant swing and bouncy seat. Lifesavers for a fussy or gassy baby or when your arms need a break. I strongly recommend looking into the Fisher Price two in one bouncy seat/swing. It sits low to the ground, has five speed settings for the swing and vibrates like a bouncy seat. I had never used one until I had my third child and I really wish I had had it for my other two.
Best New-ish Baby Gear: Fisher Price Rock and Play. My youngest slept in hers for the first seven months of her life. It cradles them just enough (for those babies that like to be held) and sits them slightly inclined which is great for those babies with reflux or digestion issues. I am now using it for a daycare baby who loves it just as much!
Best Onesies: Carter’s brand, hands down. They fit true to size, cute, and just the right price for those first few months when they’re constantly outgrowing clothes faster than you can buy them!
Best Baby/Toddler/Kids Clothes: BabyGap. Yes BabyGap can be pricey but shop sales (online they constantly offer 30-40% off) or clearance (pay attention to online deals at the end of a season. I got Elizabeth shorts and t-shirts for $2 a piece for next summer). I’ve also never had any issues with stains coming out of BabyGap clothes, which is the reason Old Navy did not get best in this category. Lately I’ve had MANY Old Navy kids clothes that I just can not get the stains out of. Old Navy has great clothes otherwise and are a great price. Check out ON sales and clearance and you can get some amazing deals.
Best First Shoes: Circo brand at Target. This brand makes one shoe in sizes 2-4 toddler, one for boys and one for girls, that is the perfect learning to walk shoe. It’s a semi-soft sole, seems to cradle their tiny little feet, and is absolutely perfect when they’re learning to pick their feet up. These shoes usually run about $15 per pair. I also love Nikes for the next step up, once they’ve mastered walking and you’re not worried they’ll fall over in the middle of the room. Try Kohl’s for your toddler Nike purchases. You can usually get excellent deals on his/her first pair of Nikes (around $19-$32 depending on the deal they’re running).
Best Infant Car Seat/Booster: Graco brand, all the way. Love the Snugride infant carrier and the Graco Nautilus is my favorite car seat ever made. Only down side to the Nautilus is it is forward facing only, so I’m counting the days until Miss E turns two and we can snatch her a Nautilus. The best thing about this seat-it’s the last seat you’ll ever buy your child. It has a five point harness, high booster, and then it comes apart for just a small booster seat. It’s incredibly durable, easy to take apart, and has a built in cup holder, which is a BIG deal for my kids (and me too so I’m not constantly chasing down rolling sippys in the van)!
Best Diaper Bags:
Skip Hop diaper bag – has tons of pockets and is durable. Mine lasted 4 years and 2 kids.
Petunia Pickle Bottom – more expensive, but has lots of pockets, roomy, and can be a backpack or over the shoulder bag.
My newest favorite is a clearance bag I found at TJ Maxx for $20. It’s a Thermos brand and is completely insulated. It was absolutely perfect for our outings this summer for the kids’ snacks, meals, and drinks. Doesn’t have a lot of pockets like the other two bags I mentioned, but definitely has plenty of room. I recommend this bag if you have toddlers.
Stupidest Baby Purchase: Boppy pillow. I know some of my friends can’t live without theirs, but a regular pillow works just as well. The only time this was useful was when my babes were learning to sit up on their own and it helped support them or as a head rest for myself during middle of the night feedings. Oh well, after three kids it got its fair share of use.
Best Baby Wash: Up & Up brand equivalent to Johnson’s & Johnson’s Shampoo and Body wash. Non scented and hypoallergenic, it’s great on baby skin and we still use it for our skin sensitive five year old.
Best Laundry Detergent: Purex. Skip the Dreft for your babies (contains lots of harsh chemicals that can irritate babies skin–something we learned the hard way with our first), try a Free and Clear detergent such as All, Purex, or (more pricey but good) Seventh Generation. I felt the Free and Clear detergents didn’t get our wash as clean as I would like, so I tried out Purex and have bought it ever since (4 years now). It’s a very light detergent, gets all of our clothes clean, and is gentle enough for our skin sensitive oldest child. Wins all around.
Best Blankets: Skip receiving blankets, invest in a swaddler (we loved the Summer infant swaddler), but don’t buy more than one or two as they use them for a very short time. Instead, invest in lots of fleece or light weight blankets. In my experience, receiving blankets aren’t large enough for swaddling and not warm enough to cover older babies. All of our receiving blankets are now being used as doll blankets for the girls.
Best Pacifiers: Whatever one your baby will take. I recommend MAM, but I know from experience, buy a package of each brand of pacis. Each child seems to have their own paci preference, but I do highly recommend pacifiers. In the first few months of life, sucking is a very important and comforting thing for babies. I know many parents who are freaked out of having their children become “paci dependent” but I call it my lifesaving “baby corker.”
Best Pack n’ Play: Graco. You can buy a simple pack n’ play or you can get a deluxe nursery pack n’ play complete with a bassinet, changing table, and storage area. Either way, Graco offers numerous types of packs (as we call them at our house) to fit your needs. I do highly recommend having one as it comes in handy. Packs are super easy to fold up and take with you anywhere and take up very little room.
Best Humidifier: Whether is warm mist or cool mist, I highly recommend Vicks brand. These run about $30 and come in very handy for sick kiddies. On top of running a humidifier when sick, use Baby Vicks on their feet-it actually helps the congestion and coughing!
Best Teething Remedies: Sophie the Giraffe is a miracle teething toy (with a super annoying squeak that you’ll manage to look past), Hyland’s teething tablets when their gums hurt and are having issues eating, a toothbrush to chew on for those nasty molars, and for those horrible, screaming, won’t sleep nights there’s Motrin….well, technically the Up & Up brand of Motrin. Repeated every six hours. For all of you mommies worried about “drugging” your child, trust me. Works wonders.
Best Gassy Baby Remedy: Mylicon gas drops (we used the generic Up & Up brand and worked just as well and waaayyy less expensive). Some of my mommy friends have used gripe water with success as well. For those constantly gassy babies, do frequent tummy time (helps expel the gas) or, at risk of being a “horrible” mother, let your baby sleep on his/her tummy. Just be sure you can check on him/her, but this has always helped our babies sleep better when dealing with gas and helps them expel it.
Stupidest Use of Floor Space, Yet Needed for Sanity Purposes: Exersaucers/jumperoos. Seriously, they take up sooo much room, but for those “my baby is crawling, trying to stand up, learning to cruise and is into everything” days it is a sanity saver. With my oldest two we had a Bright Starts Bounce Bounce Baby that was wonderful, took up minimal floor space, and the boys loved it. Sadly one of the toy bars on it broke and for safety reasons (sharp plastic on the end) in went on the curb. For our youngest, we purchased an Evenflo mega saucer. It was great, but was so big and took up so much room we only used it a couple of times.
Best Potty Chair for Potty Training: Fisher Price “froggy potty.” Can be found at Wal-Mart and Target for $12. Very simple, shaped like a frog, and all kids have loved these potty chairs (we’ve had to buy multiple of them because I like to potty train kids in pairs to help them along). Potty training tips that have worked well for us: a timer (set for every 15 minutes for the first few days, then 20, and work up from there in five minute increments until they get the “holding it” part) and we have the frog potty in our living room. Sound odd? Sure to some, until you have a house full of kids who don’t want to take time away from playing to pee. Works wonders and I’ve never had an issue with kids then transitioning to the big potty.
Best Outside Toy (for any child old enough to stand): A playhouse. Yes, they’re super pricey but Little Tikes or Step 2 makes super durable, will last forever, and will completely get its use playhouses. My youngest started to love ours when she was 8 months old and my five year old still happily plays with it.
Best crib mattress: Sealy cozy rest mattress. We found ours at Target for around $70. It has lasted for five years, three kids, and is still in excellent condition.
Best crib sheets: Seriously, they’re all pretty much the same and will be pooped, peed, puked, and chewed on. Save your money and buy LOTS (you’ll thank me when your child has the stomach flu) of the decently priced and decent quality Circo crib sheets. We still have ones from when our oldest was a baby. The only crib sheets I’ve been upset about are ones we bought at Wal-Mart. They were so itchy, scratchy, and shrank the moment when washed we wound up throwing them out! We did buy Carter’s sheets because they matched our youngest child’s room, but I can’t tell the difference in quality between Carter’s sheets and the quite a bit cheaper Circo brand.
Best Changing Table: Skip the table and the large changing pad. With the first two we had a large changing pad built in on the top of their long dresser, with the youngest we had an actual changing table. We stopped using both when each child was around 4 months old because I was too worried about them rolling off while I was changing them. Instead, I opt for a small fold-up and go changing pad I keep with my diaper caddy (found at Target, it’s big enough for a package of diapers and any creams, hand sanitizers, etc. fit into the side pockets). I promise, it still gets the job done and is a little more convenient if you have more kids to chase after, making diaper changes in the living room a bit more sanitary.
Best Toy Storage: We use the cubby shelves (we got ours at Target and they have held up great) with cloth bins and Sterilite containers. So far these have worked great at containing the thousands of toys we have! We also have a few Sterilite 3 drawer shelves that work great. They’re not the most sturdy so I suggest tethering them to the wall so they don’t fall over, but they can sure fit lots of toys.
Best Educational Shows/Movies: Any of the LeapFrog movies are safe bets (can be found for $10 a piece in stores or several of them are on Netflix). As far as tv shows, I only let my kids watch PBS (we don’t have cable and I refuse to pay for it so PBS is all there is in this house!) and our faves around here are “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” (seems to be a favorite of all the kids no matter what their ages are) “Arthur” (great for preschoolers and early grade schoolers), and “Super Why” (great for the younger set learning their alphabet and letters, but older toddlers/preschoolers seem bored by it).
First Underwear: Gerber makes training pants, available in packs of 3 (I’ve found mine at Target from $4-$8). These are nice because they are a little bit thicker and absorb the urine when accidents happen. I discourage parents from going right to the “big kid” underwear because it is an even bigger mess.
Best Pull-Ups: Try out the generic brands of pull ups (Target’s Up & Up brand). They’re almost just as good as the name brand pull ups (keep in mind they’re not meant to absorb much anyways) and a few bucks cheaper. The only bummer is that they don’t come with cool Disney characters on them, just basic trucks for boys and fairies for girls. My kids didn’t seem to mind much though.
The Best My-Kid-Is-Potty-Trained-But-Still-Wets-The-Bed-Occasionally Solution: Goodnites disposable bed mats. These things have saved the boys’ mattresses and actually do their job. These can be found in with the pull ups at major retailers.
Best Breast Pump: Lansinoh Double electric breast pump. I know Medela gets the highest ratings and rave reviews for breast pumps, but try this one hundred dollars less breast pump and I promise you will not be disappointed. Mine lasted through three kids, hundreds of ounces of liquid gold, and still works.
Best Nursing Pads: For those first few days/weeks of constantly leaky boobs (sorry for the spoiler alert/mood killer folks, but TRUTH) Lansinoh disposable nursing pads were wonderful plus they come with a free tube of Lanolin (a very important must have for nursing mommas). Once we got a feeding schedule down, I switched to Reusable organic cotton nursing pads I found at Babies R Us. One of my best finds ever…too bad I didn’t discover them until baby #3. These absorbed magnificently and are super soft. I wouldn’t recommend wearing any tight clothing with these as they’re not the most discreet pads.
This post was originally featured on Ashlen’s blog, Kidspert.