When my oldest daughter was 5 months old, she flew with us for the first time, to Grandpa and Grandma’s house, for the holidays. Before this milestone trip, my mom and I had a phone conversation that went something like this:
Me: “Hi Mom. I got your message. You’re all set on baby gear? What do you mean by that? I thought you were going to wait for my list. Did you get an infant car seat? (My parents were to meet us at the airport.) How about a bouncy seat? A high chair? And a crib?”
Mom: “Yes, I’ve got everything. I have the car seat, a crib, a high chair and a bouncy seat. I’m all set. Boy, what a lot of stuff!”
Immediately, I envisioned my frugal mom in the Nebraska version of the baby super store with an overflowing shopping cart and exact replicas of the baby gear I had at home, set up in my parent’s house.
Then I shook my head.
How did Mom know which baby gear to buy? She went gear shopping without consulting me? Wah? She has always been independent. But it was so not like her to just go out and spend without having that all-important shopping list.
Still, it was her first grandchild, so maybe she was just extra gungho. And maybe she asked her friends–other grandparents–for product recommendations. I gave Mom the benefit of the doubt.
Then, we arrived at Eppley Airport in Omaha. This is car seat that greeted us.
Actually, this isn’t the exact car seat because that first grandparent visit took place pre-iPhone, before we all could so easily snap photos of everything. But it’s a close cousin. It’s a car seat from an exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Michigan, where I found myself years later.
Picture this: The museum is filled with cars–from antique to present day–that tell the story of America’s automotive industry. Instead, I’m riveted by the car seat display because that’s where I spy a car seat that looked pretty much like what my mom and dad presented that December day in the airport.
I checked the exhibit caption. The car seat was circa the 1960s-70s. In other words, it looked and functioned nothing like the infant car seats of today and lacked all basic safety features, such as an internal, five-point harness.
“It only cost $15,” Mom said, with a slight upturn of the chin. It turns out that Mom loaded up at the local thrift shop. At that point in the history of baby products, secondhand stores could sell anything they wanted to, even if it had been recalled or, obviously, as in this case, it was a relic from someone’s attic. Ah ha! That’s why Mom had been so vague about the gear she bought.
At the airport, my husband and I glanced at each other. Then, I told my parents their car seat was unsafe and unacceptable. They looked at me like I was crazy. Dad said I was making a big deal about nothing. A mini generational standoff ensued.
The car ride from the airport to my parent’s house was nerve wracking, with me holding my daughter upright in the primitive seat. After that, we stayed home for the most of the trip. The rest of Mom’s gear was equally as vintage (and inexpensive). Needless to say, lesson learned. We brought our own baby stuff after that.
Helping Grandparents Safely Gear Up
Lugging your own baby gear to Grandpa and Grandma’s is certainly one option. The downside? It can be a hassle hauling travel baby gear, such as a Pack ‘N Play, a bouncy seat, a car seat and stroller through the airport along with your baby and everything else. Although most airlines will allow you to check your stroller and car seat for free, you may need to check everything else, and it can add up.
Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to rent baby gear. Confession: As a side gig, I rent new baby products to traveling grandparents and parents through BabyQuip, which has quality providers in over 90 cities in the US and Canada, including my neck of the woods, Westport, Connecticut. In fact, there’s even a Baby Quip quality provider in Omaha, which is near where my parents still live.
Then again, if you’ll be visiting Grandma/pa’s house often, or they’ll be helping with childcare at their house to help defray the high cost of daycare, it makes sense for them to get their own permanent set of decent baby gear, which is what this post is all about.
Why Grandparents Should Buy New Baby Gear
Because of the price, used baby products are tempting, as in $15 for a car seat at a tag sale? Sold! Or, you’ve got a car seat I can borrow? Why sure!
Fortunately, pre-owned baby gear is safer than it used to be. By law, thrift stores must now abide by laws governed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission to keep unsafe products off their shelves. It’s against the law, for example, to sell recalled or hazardous (outdated) baby products, like the vintage car seat my parents presented.
Still, Babyproductsmom advocates that grandparents buy new baby products when buying your own set of gear, for these reasons:
- Safety standards change frequently. When you buy new, you know you’re getting up to date products.
- You know how the products have been used–for example, that the car seat hasn’t been in an accident. (If it has–even a fender bender, it should be tossed. It has done its job.)
- You have the instruction manuals so you can assemble and install products properly and you can send in the prepaid registration cards to be easily notified in the event of a recall.
- You can use your new gear for multiple grandchildren as long as six to 10 years don’t go by between kids. (All car seats have a shelf life, which varies per manufacturer. Even if a car seat has never been used, it deteriorates over time. You don’t want to use an expired car seat.)
New grandparent gear doesn’t have to be duplicates of the products you have at home because grandparents’ needs can differ from yours. For example, Grandma may want to put the stuff away when your child isn’t there, or at least, store it so that it’s not so in the way.
To help Grandma and Grandpa safely gear up–and not go off the gear grid like my bargainista mom did–here’s a list of Babyproductmom’s suggested products chosen with Grandma and Grandpa in mind.
Key: These products have a secret weapon: They’re easy to use and compact or foldable, which makes it easy for Grandpa and Grandma to store them when your child isn’t there.
They make great gifts too!
Baby gear shopping list for grandparents
A folding crib, such as:
Babyletto Maki full-size folding crib
Babyletto Origami mini folding crib
Dream on Me Full-size Folding crib
The Dream on Me is the crib I use for Babierge rentals. It’s sturdy and looks like a regular crib, but it folds. My grandparent and parent customers love it.
What’s grand about them: Folding cribs take up less storage space than a regular crib when not in use.
What’s not so grand: Cribs, in general, are a puzzle to put together. Folding cribs are no exception. If Grandma or Grandpa isn’t handy or can’t make heads or tails of the instructions or decipher tiny print (it’s a challenge for everybody), Amazon offers a crib assembly service. Otherwise, grandparents should give themselves a good two hours to put the crib together. Pick a time of day when you’re freshest and caffeinated.
Insider tip: There are lots of mini folding cribs on the market (like the Babyletto Origami). In general, babies tend to outgrow mini cribs quickly. In fact, that’s why Babyletto created the Maki. Unless Grandma/pa lives in a small house or apartment, go with a fullsize folding crib for this pillar piece of baby equipment.
Safety update: Keep in mind that crib bumpers are out, so make sure everyone is up to speed–that “bare is best” for sleep safety. “I had a bumper on my baby’s cribs, but we know the baby doesn’t need it and that it’s a safety hazard,” says Pat Gabbe, MD, an infant mortality researcher at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. No blankets, sleep positioners, pillows, toys or stuffed animals in the crib either.
Grandparents will also need:
A crib mattress. Babyproductsmom recommends any crib mattress by Colgate because their crib mattresses are Greenguard certified (no off gassing), such as the economical Colgate EcoFoam Supreme. Foam mattresses are lightweight, which makes changing the crib sheet way easier.
A waterproof mattress pad. Even if the crib mattress is waterproof, a waterproof mattress pad can offer another layer of protection and help take the chill out of the mattress for your baby.
A folding high chair, such as:
What’s grand about these high chairs: Folding high chairs can be folded flat and out of the way. With some, such as the Graco Slim Stacker, the tray can be stored on the frame, which helps with organization.
What’s not so grand: Some folding high chairs are easier to fold than others. I can vouch for the Graco Swift Fold, which I just purchased for a Babierge customer, a grandmother to an 18 month old. The Graco Swift Fold is swift and intuitive. There’s nothing much to have to figure out to get it to fold, unlike some of the others I tried in the store and rejected on the spot.
Insider tip: Life with a baby is messy. Look for a busy high chair seat pattern or dark color. It hides stains better than pastel patterns and colors.
Safety update: The tray isn’t enough to keep your baby in her seat. Remind Grandma/pa to use the high chair’s internal 5 point safety harness every time your baby sits in the high chair (radar: fall hazard).
An easy to install car seat, such as:
Britax Endeavors infant car seat
The Britax Endeavors features an added safety feature, an anti-rebound bar and SafeCenter LATCH, an installation system that makes it easy to secure the infant car seat base in any car.
A convertible car seat
Or, grandparents (and parents) can skip the infant car seat stage and go right to a convertible car seat, such as the Britax Advocate, Boulevard and Marathon. These Britax convertible car seats also feature an anti-rebound bar and Clicktight Technology, which allows you to install the car seat using the seat belt instead of the Latch system. It’s super easy.
For more information on Clicktight Technology, go here.
Graco Snugride with Click Connect 35 infant car seat
The Graco Snugride infant car seat features Snuglock technology, which is Graco’s three-step installation system. The car seat installs in under one minute. You can install the infant car seat with the seat belt or Latch.
Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 convertible car seat
Grandparents can use the Graco 4Ever seat from day one, in rear facing mode, then turn it around when your baby is 2, and use it until the backless booster seat stage (years down the road): one and done! It features Graco’s Simply Safe adjustable harness system. The harness and head rest can be adjusted without rethreading the harness, which can be challenging.
What’s grand about these car seats: Babyproductsmom recommends these car seat brands because they’re designed to be easy to install and they have added safety features that go above and beyond government safety standards for added peace of mind.
What’s not so grand: You’ll pay extra for a car seat with added safety features; these seats aren’t the cheapest car seats on the market.
Insider tip: For grandparents with arthritis or hands that aren’t so strong, the Unbuckleme device makes releasing the car seat buckle 50 percent easier.
Safety update: A convertible car seat should be installed in the rear facing position in the back seat until your child is 2 years old.
Grandparents will also need:
A coordinating stroller, such as…
BabyTrend Premiere Universal Travel Car Seat Carrier
It matches with the Britax Endeavors or any Britax infant car seat.
Britax B-Ready strollers (great for grandparents who will be strolling a lot)
Any Graco stroller with FastAction Fold. FastAction Fold technology makes stroller folding/unfolding so easy!
Graco Verb: It’s under $100 and pairs with the Graco Snugride Click Connect 30 infant car seat.
Graco Snugride Elite: It’s Graco’s car seat carrier and great for tight budgets.
What’s grand about these strollers: They’re easy to fold/unfold, which can save Grandma/pa’s sanity.
What’s not so grand: Strollers can be pricey. If budget is a concern, Graco offers good value.
Insider tip: If Grandma/pa will be doing lots of babysitting, you could share a stroller, like Linda Della Donna, 63, grandmother of Hunter, 2, and Zoey, 1 from White Plains, New York did, initially. But make sure Grandpa/ma learns how to fold it.
“I bought my son and daughter-in-law a Bugaboo stroller, then I couldn’t fold it,” Della Donna says. “I almost left it in the mall parking lot one day because my grandson was screaming in the car and I was so mad. I managed to cram the Bugaboo in the back seat unfolded, but after that, I bought my own stroller to use when I babysit.”
More strollers to consider
If Grandparents will be starting with a convertible seat (and skipping an infant car seat), they’ll need a stroller that reclines flat. Good options include:
Graco Breaze with Click Connect. The seat offers a full recline for your baby’s safety and comfort, and accepts Graco infant car seats, if you want to go the travel system route.
A compact diaper pail, such as…
What’s grand about it: It’s smaller than a regular disposable diaper pail (it holds 25 dirty diapers) and converts to a trash can when your baby is out of the diaper stage.
What’s not so grand: It’s not suitable for cloth diapers. If Grandpa/ma wants to use them, go with the Diaper Dekor Classic or Diaper Dekor Plus.
Insider tip: With the Diaper Dekor Plus Mini, you don’t need to buy special liners. You can use bags you have on hand.
A Folding Bathtub, such as…
The Stokke Flexi bath It folds flat and features a newborn insert.
What’s grand about it: When your baby is ready for a regular tub, Grandma/Grandpa can use the Stokke Flexi bath as a cooler (you know, for entertaining).
Safety update: Remind grandparents to keep a hand on your baby during bathtime and to never leave the room at bathtime, even to answer the phone or the door.
A changing table pad
No need to go crazy here. Grandma/pa can just get a changing pad that attaches to the top of a dresser.
What’s grand about it: A dresser changing pad doesn’t take up extra space.
Insider tip: A sight and sound projector can distract babies who like to squirm out of diaper changes, which can start to happen as early as five months or so.
Safety update: Remind Grandma/pa to use the safety strap on the changing pad and keep a hand on your baby at all times during diaper changes.
Baby clothes with magnetic closures
Snaps can be hard on older hands. But baby clothes with magnetic closures are grandparent-friendly, like these from Magnificent Baby.
Toys, games and books
Play is your baby’s work, so don’t forget to load Grandpa/ma up with games and toys and books that are match your child’s age. Playing is how babies learn and bond with caregivers, such as Grandpa and Grandma.
Safety update: For grandchildren of different ages, be careful about the toys you buy for the older kids. “Toys for a 3 year old can be choking hazards for 18 month olds,” Dr. Gabbe says.
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Sandra Gordon says
I’m sorry you didn’t like my article, Mary. But riding in a car in an unsafe car seat is no joke. There are lots of smart ways to save money, but buying outdated baby products is not one of them.
This is a patronising article. Your parents raised you well enough to ensure not only your survival but that you are healthy enough to look down your nose at them and disparage their intelligence. You had your kids – why should your parents spend a fortune in kit for them?