Grow-with-Baby Gear: 11 Items That Last Past the First Year
The number of decisions that need to be made when purchasing baby gear is overwhelming. It may be hard to look ahead to the tiny bundle in your arms (or belly) and imagine the big kid he will be in just a short year with different concerns, different needs, and different gear to make things work well. But, with a little foresight you can find many pieces of baby gear that will grow with your child. Although some of these items are more of an investment up-front, I've found that they save money in the long run by playing double (or even triple) duty as your child grows.
Ears and Eyes:
A video monitor is great not just for keeping track of baby while he's snoozing but can be used through the early elementary years to keep an eye on busy kids when you're busy making dinner or are otherwise occupied — especially when it gets a little too quiet. The two-way feature on some monitors is especially useful for being able to reassure babies from another room or let bigger kids know when it's time to put the toys away and start getting ready for bed. I use my AngelCare AC 1100, which has all of these features, to keep track of my seven year old as well as my infant!
Carry the Baby, Carry the Kid:
Many babies love to be carried and many of these babies grow into toddlers that like to be carried as well – my four year old still asks for her “gogo” at times. Some moms choose to invest in baby carriers for different stages of growth, such as a sling for infants, a wrap for older babies, and a large soft structured carrier for toddlers, but it's not necessary to do so.
After a lot of research, I found the Boba 4G Carrier that can be used with newborns through toddlers right out of the box thanks to its snap-in pillow for use with newborns and detachable foot straps that can be used for toddlers, both of which come with the carrier at no extra cost. If soft-structured carriers aren't your style, another good option is a ring sling that goes over one shoulder, such as a Maya Wrap Comfortfit, that can be used for newborns through toddlers and is great for discreet nursing. Extra padding on the shoulder make it more comfortable to carry heavier toddlers than most other ring slings.
Healthy All Life Long:
While not technically a piece of baby gear, a powerful blender is a great investment that I am glad I made for my entire family. I got a Blendtec, a powerhouse blender, to make nutrient-dense smoothies for myself (and my growing baby) when I was pregnant. I plan on using to make pur?ed just-about-anything for baby when he starts solids and my older kids have been enjoying fresh everything from our Blendtec, from fresh soup to fruit-based ice cream.
From Diaper Changes to Independent Play:
The Joovy Room Playyard is a great choice for a changing table and bassinet for baby in one. Once baby grows into a toddler and no longer needs a bassinet the Room can be used as a play yard and travel bed, both of which most families will need for years to come. As a bonus, the Room has a built-in nightlight and speakers for when you need to do a middle-of-the-night diaper change or your little one needs a little reassurance.
From Help Sitting up Through Ready to Dine Out:
A floor seat, booster, and high-chair in one? Yes please! The Ingeunity Baby Base 2-in-1 Booster can be used with the soft insert from about four months, when baby is able to sit with support, and works similarly to the Bumbo. Once baby is ready to sit at the table use the attached straps to fasten the base to a chair to use as a highchair. As baby grows, the soft insert can be removed to make room for your toddler to use the base as a booster. The included tray conveniently stores under the base making it a cinch to use the Baby Base as a highchair when traveling or eating out.
A Chair for All Ages and Stages:
Even the smallest newborns need to somewhere to lounge. Of course, this stage only lasts for a few months before baby needs a highchair. Then you blink and your baby no longer fits in the highchair but is not quite ready to sit in an adult-sized chair. The Stokke Steps Highchair is a great solution that is well worth the investment because it can be used from the first day home from the hospital up through the pre-teen years. Pieces can be purchased separately so you don't need to invest all at once. It's also a gorgeous piece of furniture that won't make your dining space look like it's part of romper room. If you prefer a more modern look, the Joovy HiLo is another good choice for a highchair that can convert into big-kid chair and comes in a range of great colors.
From Open for the Airplane to I Can Do it Myself:
While many moms purchase flimsy tableware when introducing solids there are good options available that don't need to be disposed of once your child is ready to feed himself. I love Silikids‘ mom-designed, toxin-free tableware that consists mostly of glass and ceramic covered in kid-friendly natural silicone. Glasses can be purchased with sippy-cup tops that can later be removed for older kids. Plates have nice sized compartments for baby food that can easily be used for toddlers who like to dip and older kids who want plates that look like the ones grown-ups use.
Warmth Through the Ages:
I've had two winter babies and two summer babies who turned into winter babies at around six months. Then, within a year all of the winter babies turned into winter toddlers. I spent too much on buying separate car seat covers, baby carrier covers, and stroller covers in baby and toddler sizes. I was so happy to discover 7 A.M. Enfant has a wide range of gear that will helped keep my newest addition nice and cozy on his the ride home from the hospital and has also kept him warm on his winter walks around the neighborhood in his baby carrier and in his stroller. The Pookie Poncho, recommended by the Car Seat Lady, works well as a cover-up for babies in carriers and infant seats then can convert to a stroller blanket for toddlers. If you only need a stroller blanket, the Blanket 212 Evolution has a simple and smart zipper system that allows the blanket to grow to three different sizes making it work just as well for my infant as it does for my four year old.
Diaper Bag and Purse in One:
I didn't realize with my first child how much of a beating my diaper bag would take, how much I would need to carry, or how long I would use it. As a result, I went through a few bags with upgrading a little each time in function and style. With my newest addition, I decided to invest in a bag that would last – last through the changing needs of my little one; last because it looks like my pre-baby purses and I won't grow tired of it; and last through anything a fussy baby and his tired mama could throw its way. I love PacaPod's ingenious system of having separate mom and baby compartments, with the baby compartment housing two removable pods for diapering/dirty clothes and one for feeding that can easily adapt to your baby's needs as he grows. For example, I'm not using the feeding pod quite yet with my newborn but once he starts solids I just need to throw it in the bag and we are good to go. I can easily see myself carrying one of these bags long after baby is in school. Options range from just over $100 (less if you catch a sale) to splurge-worthy luxury leather around $500. I drool over the Syndey, which is large enough to handle what I need for my baby and other kids while still allowing me to look pulled-together and have room for my mom-essentials including a laptop for when I have a few hours to myself when my son is at preschool.
Stroll in Style from First Day Home through First Day of School:
Nearly every family will need a sturdy stroller to use day-to-day. To cut down on clutter and expense, look for a stroller that can be used with a newborn through toddlerhood without the need to purchase lots of extras. I love the Mamas & Papas Urbo2, not just because of its sleek look, but because its seat can lie flat to accommodate a newborn, reverse to face a parent when baby gets a little older, and turn forward facing well into the preschool years. The Urbo2 also has a perfect blend of narrow and light enough to travel with while having a seat roomy enough for toddlers to nap comfortably and suspension to easily wheel over even the bumpiest sidewalk. The Urbo2 also comes standard with a belly bar and rain cover, which I consider must-haves to extend the life of your stroller. The Urbo2 won a prestigious What? Best Buy award when it was introduced in the UK because of its durability and great features, some of which are usually found only on higher-priced models.
Rock Your Baby Into Toddlerhood:
Most babies enjoy spending some time in a rocker or bouncer and many moms consider this a must-have piece of equipment so they have somewhere to put their baby when they need to cook dinner or shower. There are some models that covert to big-kid seats once baby no longer enjoys being bounces. Bright Start's Rhythm of the Reef Rocker coverts into a toddler-friendly rocking chair that can be used well into the toddler years. The Nuna Leaf Bouncer is a modern take on bouncers that can hold up to 130 pounds. My infant loves being swayed to sleep in it and my four-year-old regularly takes off the toy bar to use it as a reading chair.
What are your favorite grow-with-baby items?