Simple Questions That Can Help You Choose the Right Baby Gear
Simple Questions That Can Help You Choose the Right Baby Gear
February 11, 2020

Simple Questions That Can Help You Choose the Right Baby Gear

Simple Questions That Can Help You Choose the Right Baby Gear.
Simple Questions That Can Help You Choose the Right Baby Gear

With the whole internet at your fingertips, choosing the right baby gear can sometimes feel like studying for the SATs. You know the right answers are out there somewhere, right? (Proceeds to study endlessly.) But spoiler alert: there is no such thing as the right answer when it comes to babies. There’s only what works best for you and your family. Except how are you supposed to figure out what’s going to be worth the money before you buy?

We’ve partnered with Walmart to help sort through some of the more common “this or that” questions you may find yourself asking as you consider your gear needs. Right now, Walmart has a ton of savings on baby essentials through the end of February. You can save up to $50 off car seats, up to $100 off strollers and there are even savings on some of our Babylist favorites. So if you were looking for an excuse to buy that swanky swing or upgrade your car seat (or just want $50 to pocket toward a much-deserved massage) now is the time. Otherwise, if you’re not sure what you need yet, we’ve got you covered.

Infant Car Seat vs. Convertible Car Seat

There are two major categories of car seats for newborns: an infant car seat and a convertible car seat (and we have a whole rundown of what makes them different from each other right here). The biggest differentiator is portability vs. longevity. Infant car seats make it easy to get your newborn around (they easily pop in and out of your car and onto a stroller), but there’s a shelf life of about a year to a year and a half before your baby will outgrow it and you’ll have to buy a bigger unit.

Convertible car seats can be used rear facing or front facing from birth to booster seat (up to 100 lb or more). But they’re too bulky to be lugging around often, and you’ll need another way to get your baby from point A to B when they aren’t in the car. Is it worth the extra money to buy something you’ll only use for a little while? Consider what your priorities might be:

Infant Car Seat:

  • Are you the kind of person who is going to go stir crazy in your house with a newborn? An infant car seat will make it easier to leave the house.
  • Infant car seats are less likely to disturb your baby when transferring from the car to a stroller.
  • You will need to replace an infant car seat once your baby outgrows it. Will you mind the extra cost and a spare car seat lying around your house?

Convertible Car Seat:

  • Are you the kind of person who prefers a one-and-done approach? Convertible car seats can last from birth through childhood, eliminating the need for any additional gear (saving you money and space).
  • If you plan on babywearing when you’re out, or live in a walkable area, the benefits of an infant car seat might be moot to you anyway.
  • If your baby is a car napper, you’ll likely end up waking them while transferring in and out of a convertible car seat.

Travel System vs. Standalone Stroller

A stroller is usually considered a baby gear staple, but how much of a staple it ends up being depends on your lifestyle. If you live in a walkable area or want to exercise with your baby, you want to prioritize a higher-end stroller with more bells and whistles. If you plan on babywearing or only using the stroller for brief periods of time, you may be better served by something more low key and affordable. But those aren’t the only questions worth considering before you invest in a new set of wheels. Do you need a travel system? A stroller that can accommodate more than one baby? Here’s what you’ll want to think about as you choose your baby’s ride:

Travel System:

  • Do you plan on buying an infant car seat? One of the easiest ways to get around with a newborn is to purchase the accompanying stroller (aka the travel system).
  • Travel system compatibility means you can transfer your baby from the car to the stroller, without having to unbuckle them.
  • Keep in mind that systems aren’t always perfectly matched. You may love the car seat and only feel so-so about the stroller. So prioritize the gear you’ll use more.
  • A travel system isn’t the only way to use your infant car seat with a stroller. You can always purchase a conversion kit or a standalone infant stroller like this one.

Grow-With-Me Stroller:

  • Do you already have a baby at home? Or do you plan to add to your family sooner than later? In either case, a stroller that can adapt to more than one baby might come in handy.
  • Grow-with-me strollers can offer up to twelve different riding positions for children of various ages, giving you plenty of bang for your buck and lots of versatility.
  • Some grow-with-me strollers can accommodate multiple infant car seats, which is a particularly helpful feature if you’re expecting twins or have multiple babies still in infant car seats.
  • Because a grow-with-me stroller is designed to hold more humans, it isn’t always the slimmest profile gear option. So keep an eye out for how the stroller folds and make sure it works with your storage plans.

Standalone Stroller:

  • Is your stroller going to be your workhorse (i.e. you live in a city or plan on strolling a lot in general)? Then start with your ideal ride and work backwards from there.
  • Consider how your stroller is going to adapt with your baby. Many standalone strollers aren’t designed to be safe for newborns, so you may need to purchase a bassinet insert or a car seat conversion kit if you plan on strolling with an infant.
  • It’s easy to confuse more features for better gear. But think of your stroller like you would a car: a bigger SUV can handle more terrain than a small sedan, but that doesn’t make it easier to drive. You can see the full list of our favorite strollers (and who they might be good for) right here.

Chair vs. Swing

If your baby had it their way, they’d probably never leave the womb. But since that’s non-negotiable, they’ll usually settle for being held as often as possible. Enter: the swing or bouncy seat. Your baby gets comfort and movement and you get to put them down for a few moments to brush your teeth, make breakfast or put on pants. What separates most baby seats is the type of movement they provide (bounce vs. sway) and who or what is providing it (your hand vs. electricity). But is the price and floor space of a swing really worth it? Here’s what to keep in mind:

Bouncer or Rocker:

  • If portability is your number one priority, a bouncer or rocker might be the right soothing option for you. They’re usually low cost and low-profile, which makes them easy to move from room to room (you’re probably not going to bring your swing into the bathroom while you get ready in the morning).
  • These kinds of chairs require manual movement (aka your foot or your hand to get the bouncing or rocking going), so they don’t provide an entirely hands-free soothing option. Though many do have a vibration option built in.
  • There’s no guarantee your baby will be soothed by a swing or a seat. A bouncer or rocker offers an affordable entry point to figuring out how your baby likes to be soothed before you splurge on something more expensive. It might end up that your baby is perfectly happy in a bouncer, and you don’t need to spend the extra $100 anyway.

Swing:

  • If you want a better chance of comforting a fussy baby hands-free, a swing is the best tool to do it. The constant motion replicates your body’s movements more closely than a bouncer or rocker.
  • Traditional swings take up more floor space than their bouncer or rocker counterparts, and aren’t always easily portable. So they are less practical for moving around from room to room.
  • Some newer swings (like the mamaRoo) go beyond back and forth movements and provide a variety of true-to-life soothing motions.
  • For the best of both worlds, a swing/rocker hybrid can give you the automated soothing of a swing, with a detachable rocker than easily moves with you.
  • While swings are often more expensive than their bouncer and rocker counterparts, you can find affordable options starting around $60.

Traditional Video Monitor vs. WiFi Monitor vs. Smart Monitor

Can you believe there was a time when parents couldn’t spy on their babies from three rooms away? The horror. While most video monitors offer the same basic feature (you get to check in on your baby without waking them up or getting out of bed), recent advances in technology mean even more options for peace of mind. For example, WiFi monitors mean you can watch your baby from your phone, while smart monitor systems even track your baby’s breathing and heart rate. But do you really need that? Here’s what to consider when choosing your monitor:

Video Monitor:

  • If you’re mostly going to be checking in on your baby at night from the comfort of your home (and you don’t live in a big house that requires long-range connectivity), a standard video monitor might be enough technology for you.
  • A video monitor can also be a good choice if you have spotty WiFi or are concerned about the security of a WiFi video feed.
  • Video monitors can have a limited battery life and you may not remember to charge them as often as your phone. So if portability is one of your top priorities, this might not be a great fit.

WiFi Monitor:

  • WiFi monitors are great if you want to be able to check in on your baby when they are at home and you’re not. WiFi monitors connect to your phone, which means you can tap into your video feed on the go, at the office or anywhere WiFi is available.
  • WiFi monitors aren’t distance limited, so they can also be useful if you live in a large home where your baby may be several rooms away.
  • WiFi monitors are more susceptible to hacking, so you’ll want to make sure your feed is secure and your monitor has the latest firmware updates (more on that here).

Smart Monitor:

  • If you think you might lose sleep watching your baby’s every move, a smart monitor can offer extra peace of mind. Smart monitors can track sleep patterns and alert you to changes in your baby’s breathing rate and heartbeat.
  • Smart monitors usually pair with an app, so you can also keep a record of your baby’s sleep patterns and better understand their habits as they develop, which may come in handy later as they experience growth spurts and developmental changes.
  • Smart monitors aren’t perfect, so the flip side of that peace of mind is the occasional false alarm. They can also be significantly pricier than their standard video or WiFi counterparts.

And if you don’t need any bells and whistles? You always opt for an audio-only monitor which transmits sound only (if it worked for our parents…).

Choose the Right Gear for You

Have more questions about which gear is right for you? Our guides are here to help you choose the best gear for your lifestyle, from strollers to swings to car seats and cribs.

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