When I was pregnant, I wrote a post on my personal site about all the gear we'd bought in anticipation of the small person's arrival. Now that the then-unborn small person is over a year old, I have the clarity of mind and the benefit of experience to tell you about the gear we loved and did not love. Here goes:
We have an UppaBaby Vista stroller. I did a LOT of stewing over stroller choices before we settled on the Vista. Living in the city and not having a car, the stroller is a key part of our Baby Support Equipment arsenal. The Vista met pretty much all of our criteria, and it has lived up to our expectations.
The UppaBaby tires are foam-filled rather than air-pumped, so they don't go flat. The suspension is well-made for a velvety ride. It comes with both a bassinet and a seat, and we used the bassinet for the first four or so months of the baby's life, when she was still relatively floppy -- she would sack out in there and we could tool around town for HOURS without a peep from her. The regular seat faces either way, reclines easily to several different positions, has an adjustable footrest, and sits a bit higher than many strollers. Our baby has always seemed to find it comfortable, although I will say that it seems a little warm in summer as it's pretty padded. The basket under the seat is capacious -- plenty of room for a diaper bag and a day's worth of shopping. The Vista also has a big sun canopy with UV protection that fits on both the bassinet and the seat -- this was key during summer to reduce glare and protect the baby's delicate skin from the raging sun.
My one minor complaint about the Vista is that it takes me several tries to collapse the frame, which has led to some awkward moments while a cab waits for me to hurry up and get IN, already. My husband gets it right on one try every time, but I somehow don't get the right combination of force and angle until I'm sweating, swearing and feeling like a giant idiot on the sidewalk. Nevertheless, it does fold up pretty small and the wheels come off very easily, which is handy when you need to put the stroller frame through an airport scanner or in a trunk with a lot of luggage. In short: love it, would recommend it and would buy it again (you can also easily add a jump seat for a second kid, if that's a consideration).
In addition to the Vista, we got a Quinny Zapp stroller, which folds up really small and I thought would be good for travel when the baby was out of the newborn stage. It has mostly lived in our closet, however. We have found it VERY difficult to collapse and unfold -- it takes both of us a good twenty minutes of grunting and sweating to fold it up. It's also kind of stiff and awkward to push, and the height is weird for me (I'm tall).
So for our umbrella stroller, I ended up getting a Maclaren Volo, which I love -- it's super-light and maneuvers easily, and it takes one second to fold up PLUS has a carry strap, so you can throw it over your shoulder to walk down the subway stairs.
Our infant carseat is a Chicco Keyfit 30, which we chose because it works with the Vista and, out of the three compatible options, it was the lightest and will last the longest based on the size and weight maxes. I also thought it looked cute. It has worked fine, and my daughter still fits in it (barely, as she is very long) at fourteen months.
Carriers: we have MANY. First, the Ergo Organic Baby Carrier. This is a great carrier that I have found easy to put on by myself, and it's comfortable to wear (although now that my kid is an over-20-pound toddler, I can't wear it for very long without my back protesting mightily). The only drawback to the Ergo is that for a newborn you need to use the infant insert, and in summer that sucker is HOT, for both the babywearer and the baby. Both of us ended up BATHED in sweat when I wore it on a hot day. I also wish there were a facing-forward option, but you can wear the Ergo on your back, which is kind of fun.
Second, we got the Serene Sling by Balboa Baby. I wore it exactly ZERO times. I just wasn't comfortable with how it squished up the baby, and it never seemed to fall right on my body. Carriers are such an individual thing, so others may love this (it is super simple, just one piece of fabric that you wear across your body). It wasn't for me.
We also have a mei tai. It is very cute (I got a red dragon print on one side and a floral print on the other) and very easy to put on. It was great when the baby was wee and I wanted to do something quick, like go down to the basement laundry room or take the dog out for a short walk. But I couldn't wear it for longer distances, as it didn't feel secure enough. Now it's better since the baby's so big, but it's not as comfortable as the Ergo. However, I will note that our nanny, who is very petite, loves this best of all the carriers, so again this varies widely.
Finally (I KNOW), we also have a Cybex 2Go, which we purchased after the baby was born, because we found that we wanted an option that didn't require an insert and could eventually be worn forward-facing. It's a great carrier for the first year, but now our baby's too big for it. I did love it, though, and will probably get the most use out of it if we have another go-round with the newborn/infant stage. It's also very manly and my husband liked it best out of all the options.
Crib: we have the Straight-Up Crib from Land of Nod. I love the classic-yet-modern, streamlined look of this, and I assembled it in about ten minutes (by myself! when hugely pregnant!). It's been sturdy and functional and fine. This is our crunchy-granola organic crib mattress, and I've liked it just fine, too (though I'm not the one sleeping on it, so maybe my daughter is the one to ask).
Bouncy Seat: The Baby Bjorn Organic Babysitter Balance. I love this because it is basic and unobtrusive (I didn't want anything that made noise, played music or vibrated), but it seems comfy and has three reclining positions. It also folds completely flat, so it stashes right into a closet when not in use. This was my baby-stashing place for a very long time when I needed to shower or cook or vacuum, and our daughter loved it from about two months til she was almost a year old. Early on, she would nap in it, but when she got bigger she would play with the toy bar (sold separately) or just hang out and take it all in. She is now big enough to use it as a regular old chair, without being strapped in, though she prefers to hang out in the dog bed.
Play Mat: We got the Shangri-La Activity Play Mat. It's very soft and fuzzy on one side and has bold black-and-white design on the other, and comes with a bunch of toys that attach to the soft arches plus some tummy-time toys (including one with a mirror) that velcro to the mat itself. It's a great variety of textures, colors and shapes to keep the baby entertained, plus you can easily add or change the hanging toys. It also stores well; the arches lie flat and you can wrap them in the mat and stow them in a bench or closet. Our baby loved it for many months, both for tummy time or for lying on her back and gazing at and grabbing the hanging toys.
Booster Seat: Instead of a high chair that would have taken up half of our kitchen, we got the Phil & Ted's Me Too Chair to clamp onto the table when our baby was ready for solids. It folds completely flat so is perfect for travel or restaurant outings -- the only problem is that many tables are too thick for the clamps. Overall it worked well, but then we got a round kitchen table so we had to get a Fisher Price Booster Seat instead, and that has worked great, also. I like how the tray is easily removed for washing and the seat is very easy to clean.
Baby Bath: Since we have zero room for a full-sized baby tub, we were psyched to run across the Puj Tub, which is a brilliant product of Scandinavian design and engineering. It's basically a piece of waterproof foam that folds into your sink and then lays or hangs flat for drying and storage. We used it for almost the whole first year to bathe the baby in the bathroom sink, and it was so easy to use and did not require crouching by the side of the tub (which is what we're doing now that she's too big for the Puj).
Diaper Bag: We have the JJ Cole System Bag (in gray and green). It's compact, comes with a fold-up changing pad and has lots of convenient pockets and compartments. It's also reasonably gender-neutral. It was a fine diaper bag, but I have also used my very own purse, with a Diapees and Wipees packet tucked inside, with equal success. I'm not really convinced you need a diaper bag, per se, but it's one of those things you FEEL like you need, and this is a good one.
(Photo credits: my Flickr photostream)