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Baby Gear Glossary: Baby Gear Essentials and Accessories
Updated on
March 29, 2024

Baby Gear Glossary: Baby Gear Essentials and Accessories

By Babylist Team
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Baby Gear Glossary: Baby Gear Essentials and Accessories.
Baby Gear Glossary: Baby Gear Essentials and Accessories

No-rethread harness. Anti-colic vent system. Stability Leg. Flip-flop friendly break.

Ever feel like baby gear lingo is written in a completely different language—one you never learned?

The Babylist Gear Glossary is your one-stop resource to help you unlock the techie terms and insider jargon you’ll run into as you build your baby registry and shop for gear. The series breaks down what you need to know about all things baby gear in short, easy-to-digest definitions and explanations. Each glossary covers a different category like car seats, strollers, baby carriers and more.

You’ve probably heard of a swaddle blanket, but what about a two-in-one swaddle?

You’re pretty sure you want to registry for an activity center. Or was it a play gym? Or maybe a play mat?

Wait, there’s a difference between a travel stroller and an umbrella stroller? (Hint: yup.)

The world of baby gear is filled with terminology that’s the furthest thing from self-explanatory. That’s why we’ve created this comprehensive guide with definitions for all the most common baby gear essentials and accessories you’ll run into as you build your baby registry.

Start taking notes!

Activity Center: An activity center is like a tiny amusement park for your baby. Activity centers usually feature a built-in seat that can support your baby in either a sitting or standing position (some even feature a bouncing seat) surrounded by various sensory activities like spinning toys, musical features and movable beads. Most activity centers let your baby rotate 360 degrees in their seat for a full view of the action and some even transform into activity tables for when your baby gets older. Your baby usually needs to be at least four months old in order to use an activity center, but specific age requirements vary by brand and model.

Activity mat: An activity mat is a safe, soft spot for your baby to play and explore. Also called a play gym or an activity gym, most activity mats can be used right from birth and feature a padded mat and an overhead bar with hanging toys for your baby to reach and grab. Many also come with small pillows that can help support your baby during tummy time. Activity mats come in lots of different material options and usually include some combination of fabric, wood and plastic.

Audio monitor: An audio monitor lets you keep an ear on what your little one is up to even when you’re not right next to them. Audio monitors transmit sound only, so you won’t be able to view your baby on a video screen—you’ll only be able to hear their noises and movement. Audio monitors tend to be much more affordable than video monitors, have a longer battery life and include a main unit and at least one (or more) portable parent units.

Baby carrier: A baby carrier allows you to wear your baby on your body hands-free (mostly!). There are several types of baby carriers to choose from: wraps, ring slings, and structured carriers. Each type is worn differently, features different carry positions (some of the more common positions are front-facing or inward-facing, hip, and back carry) and can work for various ages from birth through toddlerhood. (Be sure to check out our best baby carrier guide for all of our top picks on each category!)Babywearing boasts benefits for both parents and babies like bonding, soothing and freeing up your hands for getting other things done while also keeping baby close.

Bandana bib: A bandana bib is a small piece of triangle-shaped cloth that fastens around baby’s neck. Bandana bibs can be worn at mealtimes just like regular bibs, but many parents choose to use them throughout the day to catch drool and spit up—especially during teething when it often feels like the drool is nonstop! Bandana bibs are a great way to save on laundry while looking pretty cute at the same time.

Bassinet: A bassinet is a sleep space that is smaller than a crib and is designed for newborns and younger babies. Bassinets are usually placed next to your bed to give you easy access to your baby throughout the night. Many are also mobile so you can use them for naps during the day as well. Bassinets are used during the newborn stage until your baby is able to move around, push up on their hands or roll over, generally between about three and five months old.

Bassinet stand: A bassinet stand is used to elevate and secure a freestanding bassinet. Most bassinet stands are designed to be used either with Moses basket-style bassinets or bassinets that attach to a stroller. They’re a good investment if you are looking for a safe, portable sleep spot for your baby.

Bedside sleeper: A bedside sleeper is very similar to a bassinet but with one additional feature: a retractable side wall that can be raised and lowered to provide easy access to your baby. Many bedside sleepers also feature special safety straps or anchors that secure the sleeper to an adult bed and provide additional stability, especially when the retractable wall is in use. Note that bedside sleepers are required to meet the same safety standards as bassinets in order to be sold in the US. However, due to the lack of research or studies, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not officially recommend for or against them in their safe sleep guidelines.

Booster seat: A booster seat is a type of car seat that elevates your child in a vehicle’s seat, making adult seat belts fit better on smaller bodies. This is important in order to ensure that your vehicle’s safety belt is positioned correctly across your child’s body. Boosters don’t come with their own belts, but use your vehicle’s seat belt instead. Many have clips that guide the shoulder and lap belts into the proper placement.

You should transition your child to a booster seat when they have reached the maximum weight and/or height limit of your forward-facing car seat. You’ll also need to make sure your child is mature enough to sit properly in a booster before making the switch. That means no leaning, twisting, or reaching over to poke a sibling—just sitting up properly.

Bouncer: A bouncer is a baby seat that’s powered by baby’s own movements or by giving it a quick nudge with your hand or foot. Bouncers are usually lightweight and close to the ground and tend to be fairly compact. (Some even fold for easy storage.) They range in price, but many are quite affordable. A bouncer is a safe spot to put your baby when you need a break or need to get something done.

Breathing monitor/movement monitor: A baby movement monitor uses sensors to track your little one’s movements while they’re asleep and alert you if there’s a problem. Some monitors also track stats like your baby’s breathing, heart rate, oxygen saturation levels and temperature and provide sleep analytics that can help you gain insight around your baby’s sleep patterns. Movement monitors use all different types of technology for tracking including wearables like a sock or a band, a clip that attaches to your baby’s diaper, or sensors that are placed beneath your little one’s crib mattress. Most work alongside a video monitor.

Keep in mind: these types of monitors are not medical devices and aren’t meant to be used as such. They provide little to no protection against sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and are not to be used in place of safe sleep practices.

Bunting: Think of a bunting like a giant wearable blanket for your baby. Buntings are meant to be worn over your baby’s clothes and protect your little one from cold temps, wind and other unfavorable weather conditions. Buntings are generally made from warmer fabrics like fleece or down and have features like a hood and fold-over mittens built right in.

Changing pad: A changing pad is a soft padded mat designed to provide a soft, safe spot for diaper changes. Most changing pads are portable and can be used on top of dressers, changing tables or even on the floor. Traditional changing pads require a separate cover to keep them clean, while some newer changing pads are made from a wipeable material and can be used sans cover.

Conversion kit: You’ll often see the term ‘conversion kit’ used when shopping for a crib. A conversion kit allows you to turn your baby’s sleep space from a crib into a toddler bed. Conversion kits aren’t available on all crib models (since not all cribs convert into toddler beds) and usually include a rail and sometimes a few other small parts.

Pro tip: if you’re buying a crib that converts to a toddler bed, purchase the conversion kit at the same time you’re purchasing your crib (assuming it doesn’t come included with your crib, which many do not). You don’t want to run the risk of the kit being discontinued or otherwise unavailable a few years down the road when it’s time to make the switch, so it’s better to just invest in the kit upfront.

Convertible car seat: A convertible car seat is an infant to toddler car seat that can be used with children of various ages and sizes and can change from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing one. A convertible seat starts in a rear-facing position for babies and toddlers and is then turned forward-facing as your child gets older. A convertible seat can take you from day one through the preschool years and beyond; just note that most convertible seats are heavy and bulky and aren’t designed to be easily taken in and out of a vehicle, which is why many parents choose to start with an infant car seat and then switch over to a convertible once their child maxes out their infant seat. You can check out the differences between the two types in our full roundup of the best car seats.

Convertible stroller: A convertible stroller converts from a single stroller to a double. Like double strollers, convertibles come in either in-line (tandem) or side-by-side configurations. Convertibles are a good choice if you’re planning on having two children relatively close in age.

Diaper caddy: A diaper caddy stores all of your diaper changing supplies (and more!) all in one compact, organized place. You can keep your diaper caddy in a permanent spot next to your changing area or tote it around from place-to-place if you have changing stations set up in different areas of your home. Diaper caddies usually have dedicated spots for supplies like diapers and wipes, diaper cream, lotion and other babycare necessities.

Footie: A footie is another name for a one-piece baby garment that has long sleeves and pants that also cover baby’s feet. Sometimes also called sleepers, a footie is a great way to keep your baby covered and warm without using a blanket or socks that often find their way off of tiny baby feet pretty quickly.

Glider: If you’re shopping for nursery furniture, you’ve likely run into a lot of gliders in your search. A glider is similar to a rocking chair but instead of rocking in an arc-like motion, gliders have a fluid back-and-forth slide that requires less effort to keep the momentum going. Gliders make a great spot for feeding, cuddling, reading or just chilling with your baby.

Gown: Also sometimes called a sleep gown or a bundler, a gown is a one-piece garment with an open bottom. Gowns are perfect for the first few months of your baby’s life because they’re easy to get on and off and they provide quick access for diaper changes. They’re also a good way to keep your little one warm without using a blanket.

Grooming kit: A grooming kit contains everything you need to keep your baby looking their best! Grooming kits are your one-stop-shop for all things babycare and often include things like nail scissors, nail files, a brush and comb and a small mirror. Some also contain health and safety items like a medicine dropper and a thermometer.

Infant car seat: An infant car seat is a car seat that’s made specifically for infants and younger babies. Infant seats always face the rear of a vehicle and can be used from day one until your baby reaches the seat’s maximum height and weight limit (anywhere between 22-35 pounds, depending on the specifics of your seat). Some infant car seats are designed to attach to a base—the base stays installed in your car and the seat clicks in and out, making it easy to get your baby into and out of the car. To see the wide variety of options, be sure to check out our picks for the best infant car seats.

Infant lounger: A soft, portable spot for your little one to relax or play, infant loungers (also called baby loungers) keep baby snug and safe while giving your arms a break. Infant loungers are generally made from soft material like cotton and hug your baby’s body to help soothe and calm them.

It’s important to remember that infant loungers are not approved for sleep and should always be used under parent supervision.

Infant seat: An infant seat is just what it sounds like: a seat for your baby. Infant seats feature a wide base and a padded seat to support your baby in a seated position. Some also include a front tray with a few toys to keep your little one entertained.

Jogging stroller: If you plan on running or simply walking on rougher terrain with your little one in tow, you’ll want to consider a jogging stroller. Jogging strollers are specifically designed for running (or off-roading) and are built to handle uneven roads. They have larger wheels in a triangle configuration and better suspension systems than traditional strollers for a smoother ride.

While many jogging strollers accept an infant car seat and can be used from day one, you can’t use a jogging stroller to run or jog with your little one until they’re about eight months old.

Mini crib: Need a space-saving solution for your nursery or baby’s sleep space? A mini crib is a smaller version of a traditional crib. Many mini cribs come with wheels, making it easy to move the crib from room to room, and some can be folded flat for easy storage. Most mini cribs can be used until your little one is between two and three years old.

Multi-use cover: Multi-use covers tackle a few jobs at once. One long, stretchy piece of circular fabric, multi-use covers can be used as a nursing cover or infinity scarf as well as a car seat, shopping cart or high chair cover.

Pacifier clip: A pacifier clip gives your baby easy access to their paci and solves for you having to bend down to pick up a dropped pacifier every five minutes. Pacifier clips feature a spot for a pacifier on one end and a clip on the other with a short string in between. They allow you to clip your baby’s pacifier to their clothing so it’s always in reach. Just keep in mind that you’ll never want to put your baby to sleep while wearing a pacifier clip.

Play mat: A play mat is a soft, padded spot for your baby to play and explore. Play mats are usually made from foam, padded cotton or another type of soft material and can either be wiped down or thrown right into the wash. You can use most play mats from day one, but they come in especially handy when your baby is learning to roll over, sit up and crawl.

Playard: FKA is the playpen, a playard is an enclosed space with mesh sides that sits close to the ground and is a safe spot for your little one to hang out in when you’re busy doing other things or need a quick break. Many playards are designed for easy transport and have helpful add-ons like bassinets, changing stations and organizer pockets. Most can also be used for overnight sleep. You’ll be able to use a playard until about three years old, depending on your model’s maximum height and weight requirements.

Sleep sack: A sleep sack is a mini sleeping bag for your baby and toddler. Sometimes also called a wearable blanket, a sleep sack is a good alternative for keeping your little one warm without using loose blankets in the crib. Sleep sacks are usually made from cotton, fleece or wool and feature zippers or snaps for easy on and off.

Swaddle: A swaddle is a blanket that’s designed for snugly wrapping your newborn so they can’t wriggle out. Swaddling helps your baby to feel safe and secure and prevents the newborn startle reflex, both of which can lead to longer stretches of sleep.

There are two types of swaddles: traditional swaddles and two-in-one swaddles. A traditional swaddle is a large, thin blanket, usually made of a soft, stretchy fabric like muslin, cotton or bamboo. Two-in-one swaddles let you wrap your little one snugly or leave their arms up, down, in or out. They often come with features like snaps, zippers or Velcro that help make swaddling easier and ensure the swaddle stays secure.

Swaddle transition: If your baby is starting to outgrow (or protest) their swaddle but isn’t quite ready for complete freedom, you’ll want to know about swaddle transitions. These swaddle-like sacks are used to transition your baby out of a more traditional swaddle. Some swaddle transitions have removable wings so your baby can sleep arms-out, while others come in a sleepsuit style that helps to dull your baby’s startle reflex.

Swing: A baby swing uses gentle rocking motions to soothe and entertain your little one. Baby swings feature all different types of movement including side-to-side, back-to-front or a combination of both and can run on electricity or batteries. Many have other features like vibration, sounds or a detachable mobile. Most swings can be used from birth until your little one either hits the maximum weight limit or starts sitting up.

Keep in mind that swings are not approved for safe sleep.

Travel stroller: The term travel stroller generally refers to any lightweight stroller that’s designed with travel in mind. Travel strollers don’t have to be used exclusively for travel—many parents love them for everyday use, too—but features like a compact design, lighter weight and an easier fold make them especially ideal for hitting the road with your baby. Travel strollers strike a balance between traditional and umbrella-style strollers and some even fold up small enough to fit in the overhead bin of an airplane.

Travel system: A travel system is a car seat and a stroller that attach to each other. A travel system can be purchased in two ways: as a package deal from the same brand or as a “make your own” set that combines a stroller and a car seat from different brands using adapters. Package deals tend to be more economical than the DIY version and are guaranteed to work together, while travel systems from different brands will require separate adapters.

Travel systems make it seamless to move your newborn between your car seat and stroller. They also guarantee you’ll be able to use your stroller from day one, which isn’t always the case with all stroller models. (Be sure to check out our best baby strollers guide to help you decide!)

Two-in-one swaddle: Two-in-one swaddles take a lot of the guesswork out of swaddling. These swaddle-like sacks let you wrap your little one snugly or leave their arms up, down, in or out. They often come with features like snaps, zippers or Velcro that help make swaddling easier and ensure the swaddle stays secure.

Umbrella stroller: An umbrella stroller does what its name implies: quickly folds into a slender, vertical shape similar to an umbrella. Umbrella strollers are often lightweight but tend to lack some of the amenities you’ll find in traditional strollers like a large canopy or storage basket. You’ll also have to wait until your baby is at least three months old (six months for many models) to use most umbrella strollers.

Video monitor: A video monitor allows you to see what your baby is up to when you’re not in the same room as them. Video monitors come in a huge range of price points and offer an even broader range of features. A few things you might consider when shopping for one include screen size and display quality, range, portability, battery life and wireless capabilities/security.

Wearable blanket: A wearable blanket is another common name for a sleep sack.

Wet bag: Wet bags, sometimes also called wet/dry bags, are reusable waterproof bags designed with babies and toddlers in mind. Wet bags are ideal for storing wet clothes, swimwear, diapers or anything else you want to keep separate from the rest of your stuff. You can toss a wet bag right into your diaper bag or even attach some to the handle of your stroller when you’re out and about.

Wipes dispenser: A wipes dispenser holds a stack of disposable or cloth baby wipes. Wipes dispensers often have a weighted or slotted top, making it easier to get wipes out one at a time. (Pulling wipes out of the package they come in can get frustrating really quickly!) The sealed top also keeps your wipes moister longer than if they were in their original packaging.

This information is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. We do not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Babylist may earn compensation from affiliate links in this content. Learn more about how we write Babylist content and review products, as well as the Babylist Health Advisory Board.