Gearing Up For Baby

Luca Gattoni-Celli
13 min readOct 8, 2020

April 4, 2021, Update: Clarifying four-minute sleep training method, adding some updates based on our experience with the second baby, and mentioning another item we have not ended up using.

April 26, 2021, Update: Magic baby hold and accepting that your baby will sometimes just cry inconsolably.
October 2, 2022, Update: reliability is an easy to overlook attribute of baby gear. Our very nice video monitor stopped charging, probably because the micro USB slot was worn out, and we paid something like 30 bucks for an audio only monitor. It is way more robust and the battery lasts a long time. If I had it to do over again I would save the hundreds of dollars we spent on a video system.

Congratulations! Becoming a parent is daunting but exhilarating. If nothing else it will probably be the most meaningful thing you ever do. I personally love being a parent. During the sonogram for our firstborn, the technician said I was the most excited dad she had met. My wife and I were certainly very excited to be parents, but it has been even more fun than we expected, possibly because we started off with seemingly the world’s easiest baby.

Our second is on the way though, not to mention that our firstborn daughter is going full toddler, so all bets are off! (Update: Our son is extremely smiley but much closer to average in fussiness. He is also huge!) That is probably my main takeaway for you starting down the path of parenthood: Try to minimize expectations and just go with the flow. Expect the unexpected, certainly in the first few months, when our firstborn noticeably changed every two weeks.

For example, for a brief stretch our daughter cried when she peed, which stood out because otherwise she hardly ever cried. One of our questions for her one-month checkup was, “She never cries, is something wrong?” Every child is so different that no one can meaningfully tell you what caring for her or him will be like. Though I can confirm that the first few weeks were the most intense experience of my life.

As friends become parents-to-be, I have found myself repeating certain well-worn thoughts and advice that we have particularly valued, on the stuff of parenting, both purchased and learned. So here they are in one place. A former colleague with two children gave me the most memorable and likely best advice I ever got about being a parent: “You just have to love your kids, man. You just gotta love ’em.” Everything else flows directly from that.

Baby Stuff To Know

Despite liking to think of myself as not materialistic, I really like gear, maybe because I like feeling smart about what I buy and enjoy functional, durable things that do a job well (like my belt and wallet which are both “minimalist” and “tactical,” which is hilarious). Anyway, to avoid indulging that vice, I want to start with the stuff we have learned about being parents that is worth sharing.

Most parents have a favorite baby book or parenting author. Ours is Emily Oster, a public health economist with two kids. She also has two brisk, funny, rigorously researched books about kids: “Expecting Better,” on navigating pregnancy, and “Crib Sheet,” on helping your child survive and hopefully flourish through toddlerhood. We like that they are evidence-based and non-judgmental (yet charmingly irreverent!). Oster is committed to organizing information to help parents confidently make decisions for themselves.

Sometimes your baby will just cry inconsolably. It can be overwhelming, which can impair your ability to try different things. One thing you should definitely try is the magic baby hold, cradling your baby belly-down, which can relieve gas and generally breaks the tension. Or not! Your mileage may vary! But it honestly usually helps. Here is a picture:

I have a few hot takes but other than roasting the classic book “What To Expect When You Are Expecting”— unnecessarily long and granular, will make you a hypochondriac — I do not want to be judgmental either, because parenting is super-controversial for good reason. The stakes are obviously as high as they could be. And basic things like breastfeeding, baby feeding in general, and most of all sleep are devilishly difficult to hash out. Despite all of the attention baby poop gets from Hollywood, it is hands down the easiest part of the baby nuclear triad (sleeping is the hardest, eating is the wildcard).

The unreliability of breastfeeding is a fitting extension of the heinously complex yet incredibly robust process of human pregnancy. The biggest thing I learned is that we were not in control. Our main labor nurse said she specialized in labor and delivery because it is rewarding and does not have a lot of death or complications. That is technically true but the last bit is hilarious because labor in action feels like one giant complication, rendering most birth plans almost irrelevant. Think of your birth plan as a wish list and try not to make it an end unto itself if and when events deviate from it. Again, try to go with the flow, as absurd as that might sound.

Do not take people’s advice, especially the unsolicited stuff, too personally. Parenting is really tough. I think a reason many folks have narrow, absolutist opinions about the merits of rocking a baby to sleep, for example, is that you are so glad, and often relieved, when you find something that actually works, your reptile brain hisses in your ear: “THIS IS THE ONLY WAY IT CAN BE.”

Facebook debates about babies are actually pretty subtle but feel like this

About those hot takes: We co-slept with baby #1 and plan to again with #2. This means our infant slept in our bed, under specific conditions designed to prevent us from suffocating or injuring her. If you want to learn more we enjoyed the book “Sweet Sleep” from La Leche League (a group that, to be fair, can be a bit absolutist). Co-sleeping is common practice in most of the world and for most of human history, but basically makes us hippies in the U.S., which is not how we see ourselves, although we are sort of composting and like to go for hikes and own two Subarus. (My wife: “Maybe we are hippies.”)

Many medical authorities in the U.S. condemn co-sleeping because of the whole rolling over onto your baby and killing it thing. Statistically, co-sleeping is a little bit less safe than if our little one had stayed in her bedside bassinet. But it works for us, so we do it. We take precautions that make a bad outcome extremely unlikely but at the end of the day we are going by judgement and instinct. Same for other unorthodox stuff we do like Natural Family Planning (which despite its reputation is extremely scientific and weirdly awesome, please look up the sympto-thermal or Marquette method) and baby-led weaning — starting at six months, cut food into the right shape to minimize choking risk, put it in front of your baby, and see what happens! I am not going to get into sleep training but we went from being fairly strongly against it to having surprisingly quick success with a four-minute-interval approach. Basically, you kiss baby goodnight then leave her alone in the crib. If she has not settled down after four minutes, go back in, comfort her, then leave again. Repeat until your child is asleep. We tried this after deciding we did not want to rock our one-year-old asleep. The first night with our daughter was just a little tough but by night three she was basically sleep trained, to our astonishment. Since then of course there have been ups and downs. Now approaching two-and-a-half years, she slinks into our bed around 6:00 a.m.

Our daughter is about 20-and-a-half months old and we are about a month into potty training. The accurately named “Oh Crap!” method we tried does not seem to be based on actual science and starts out as pure mayhem but, son of a gun, our tiny toddler figured out what to do in four days. Convincing her to do it took a bit longer. The method is actually extremely popular but my point here is that you will want to try some stuff other people find totally crazy, but it might work well for you, so just do some research and use your judgement. With that said, for the record, vaccinate your kids.

We strongly recommend baby sign language, which will help your infant actually communicate with you well before she or he is verbal. In addition to being fun and convenient, this cuts down on frustration that can cause tantrums. Even infants just want to be understood.

Random but important, make sure you know how to correctly install your baby’s car seat and secure baby in it. One of the nurses sent us home from the hospital with our firstborn incorrectly strapped in. Try checking YouTube.

A final thought, on babies hitting their heads. They do it all the time, to the point that I am convinced it cannot possibly be bad for them. One of our pediatricians explained that they can get a concussion, but not from the height of falling from their own feet. They might cry but unless they act strange or are bleeding, they are almost certainly fine. Your main job is comforting them and getting them back in action. Our firstborn fell into a metal railing and had what we thought was a pretty big goose egg, but when we called our pediatrician the nurse on call asked, “Is it two inches or more?” It was only one and went away in about an hour.

Baby Stuff To Buy is an awesome recommendations site for baby (and grownup) gear (but Nalgenes are in fact the best water bottles). My beloved Wirecutter covers the basics like strollers and car seats better than I could ever hope to, so in terms of buying advice, I have two general principles and a few specific recommendations of my own.

For safety reasons car seats must be purchased new, but pretty much any other item costing more than $200 can be had secondhand. This is particularly true of boutique items. Through the magic of Facebook Marketplace we got a ~$400 Dutailier glider chair for ~$75, a ~$500 B.O.B. Revolution jogging stroller for ~$95, and for $150 a Pottery Barn changing table dresser and crib worth roughly $800 new.

This is what 350 bucks looks like new. An ottoman will cost you another 150. We went with a $25 stool.

Quality items last. The furniture was about ten years old and in fine condition. The B.O.B. glides across hard surfaces and tackles curbs like a Jeep. These strollers have a cult following. You could even be the happy THIRD owner of a B.O.B. stroller. I think you would be crazy to shell out for a new one. Just hose or pressure wash it clean! (Without going down a rabbit hole, buying secondhand works well for other high-end items that are not cars.)

What baby stuff to buy, and not, can be tricky to figure out in advance without experiencing the tornado of a needy newborn for yourself. As a rule, less is more. You will figure out very quickly if you do not have something you need and vice versa. You will buy one or two things that you do not use. The only memorable example for us was, surprisingly, a nursing pillow even though breastfeeding was a bit tricky to figure out but ultimately successful.

We did dodge a few pitfalls like the DockATot — an overpriced crib insert with its own cult following. The DockATot could kill your child. It is not SIDS-safe by any basic standard. Infants should be placed on their back to sleep on a firm, flat surface — no pillows, blankets, or toys.

We also decided a wipe warmer would be a waste of money, but guess what? Some people find them indispensable to avoid terrorizing their little one with a cold wipe on the tushy. Every kid is different. And it may be that a wipe warmer would have placated our son during his first couple of months. We have not yet used our portable baby chair harness similar to this one, but maybe we will when number two is sitting up more on his own, hard to say.

Some parents love the Baby Bargains book but we only used ours to determine that we should get a Graco Pack ‘N Play brand play yard (we got one with a changer that goes up to 30 pounds). Also, be sure to use browser extensions like Invisible Hand and Honey to get the best deal, and ReviewMeta to check the veracity and reliability of Amazon reviews.

Below in order of importance are a few specific products we rely on:

Keekaroo Peanut Changer

Behold the apex of human engineering

As noted, diaper changes are not that gross. But stuff, so to speak, does happen. For that reason, I genuinely consider our Keekeroo Peanut changing pad one of our prized possessions. More than $100 is a lot of money but it is worth its weight in gold. The changer can be cold to the touch, which bothered our son quite a lot when he was first born, to be fair. The outside is a seamless medical polymer that is soft, waterproof, stain resistant, and virtually indestructible. I cannot even imagine using a changer that absorbs liquid. How stain resistant, you might ask? We have good friends who bought a Peanut secondhand.


Not pictured: Protesting infant

This booger sucking contraption is extremely popular on baby gear lists, and rightfully so, because fun fact, newborns can only breathe through their nostrils, despite their frequent nasal congestion. Learning that was a memorable “it is a miracle we have people” moment for me.

If you give birth in a hospital it will likely send you home with a little suction bulb for removing nasal mucus, which is difficult to clean and does not work particularly well. The NoseFrida by contrast is the most beloved product on Amazon I know of, averaging 4.7 stars on more than 11,000 ratings. Keeping baby breathing is job number one.

The NoseFrida uses a “razor and blades” business model, with replacement filters sold for a premium. The filter is a foam insert that theoretically prevents the baby’s germs from reaching you. Avoiding your baby’s germs is, of course, impossible, but no one wants to breathe in a booger. The filter should allegedly be changed after every use, which makes me question who the real sucker is supposed to be. Honestly, we hardly ever did because it seems pointless. Use your best judgement.

Costco Kirkland Signature Diapers


At least compared to Huggies these things are amazing. We almost never had a leak or blowout. Cloth diapers are cheaper in the long run, but cannot match the crazy absorptive gel in modern disposables. Babies have sensitive enough skin that some are allergic to a given diaper brand, so watch out for that.

Supposedly Costco’s Kirkland Signature products are made by leading manufacturers and sold alongside their own brands for a lower price, but have to be 10% better by some objective metric. I have not been able to actually verify this but certainly believe it.

Baby Carrier

Did the green color’s tactical aesthetic attract me? Absolutely

See Wirecutter for recommendations but figuring out baby wearing is a game changer because it lets you do stuff while baby sleeps or just hangs out. My wife plans to wear baby #2 as much as she can, as do I. Our first only tolerated a cloth wrap carrier at first (we got a Moby; the Solly is more expensive with lighter fabric; both can be purchased used, so check online and consignment shops). We graduated to the structured Ergobaby when she got a bit older and have loved it.

A note on hiking: If you are considering a big, backpack carrier with an external frame definitely try it first. We are moderately adventurous hikers but not accustomed to backpacking, so the weight pulling us back felt awkward. If you learn how to manage your posture and position the waist belt high up, a structured, frameless carrier might work fine for longer hikes.

Rotary File Nail Trimmer

Little Martin’s Drawer Baby Nail Trimmer File with Light

Babies are born with razor-sharp fingernails. They absolutely do scratch themselves on the face, raising further questions about human evolution. You are not allowed to cut baby nails for the first few weeks. Once you are, your options are limited: dull safety clippers that do not really work, biting them off yourself (less crazy than it sounds once you have a kid), tiny super-sharp scissors (not the worst choice), and this ingenious, zero-risk solution. A great gift if you want to impress at a baby shower.

Zipper Onesies

Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Zipper onesies are the easiest to take off and put on. Most newborns spit up a lot, enough that I can remember our daughter was a few months old the first time one outfit lasted 24 hours. And mind you, the bar for changing the baby’s clothes is pretty high (as is the bar for changing your own). Babies also sometimes dislike diaper changes, so speed matters. Unfortunately, arguably the cutest little baby outfits have lots of buttons.

Honorable Mention

White Noise Machine

We held off on this for a while but eventually decided we both liked having our phones in case, um, we needed them. Every time we joke about how much this white noise machine cost the price goes up, but it was $20,000 well spent.

Having functional tools to help you nurture a human life is gratifying in a way that is difficult to articulate. But the truth is, your kids need only you. Welcome to the club. You are going to do great.



Luca Gattoni-Celli

Recovered federal tax reporter currently working as a management consultant. Catholic, husband, father, student of economics. SDG