Grandparents Guide to Baby Gear
If you’re overwhelmed by the idea of gearing up for a new grandchild, don’t worry — you’re in the right place. We’ve got the ultimate guide to baby gear for grandparents.
In this article, we’re focusing on the five major things you’ll want/need to host your grandchild at your house ~
Grandparent Gear Basics
- A safe place to sleep
- A place to set them down for a bit (like a bouncer seat)
- A convenient place to change diapers
- Feeding Gear
- Bathing gear
So take a deep breath — let’s begin
Sleeping Gear for Grandbabies
There are several options for newborn sleeping spots for your “grand.” There are cribs, bassinets, co-sleepers and play yards.
For grandparents, we recommend a “play yard,” hands-down. They meet all of our criteria: they’re affordable, lightweight, and easy to set up and fold back down.
Play yards are safe, economical places for babies to play, nap, and sleep during their visits. You may have called them play pens when your kids were little; nowadays they’re generically referred to as “Pack ‘N Plays,” though technically that’s a brand-specific term belonging to Graco.
Play yards are perfect for grandparents who live near or far because they’re easy to move around and fold up compactly for storage.
Some play yards also include a diaper changing station, which is a nice bonus (and one less thing you have to buy!).
Here are our favorite play yards for grandparents:
Graco Pack N Play Simple Solutions ~ $79 – Economy Pick
This particular Pack ‘N Play is a great value. It includes an “upper deck” bassinet for baby to sleep in (this will save your back from the pain of constantly having to bend over to the “lower level” to pick up your grandbaby), and—bonus!—you can change diapers here too with the integrated diaper changer. Stash diapers and wipes in the integrated mesh storage pockets and you are winning at this grandparent thing.
Pack ‘N Play play yards fold up compactly and come with a zippered storage bag so you can store it out of the way when the grandkids go home.
Warning: not very intuitive
We generally like Graco Pack ‘N Plays because they are affordable and fairly good quality — the one big downside is that the assembly isn’t very intuitive.
Meaning… if you don’t put it together in the right order (rails up FIRST, then push the hub down!), it is an exercise in total frustration. You must also take it apart in the exact reverse order. In other words, there is a lot of room for error — which leads us to our next recommendation….
4Moms Breeze Go & Breeze Plus ~ $219 & $269
The 4moms Breeze play yard is my absolute favorite pick for grandparents — for those who can afford it (it’s a bit pricey!).
Though a little more costly than the Pack ‘N Play, this play yard is STUPID easy to set up and take down. You literally just push down on the central hub to open it and pull it up to close it—all of which takes about 10 seconds (seriously, the PNP setup looks like brain surgery compared to this). You don’t have to worry about order of operations.
Check out this video:
They make 2 different versions of the Breeze (used to be 3): the “Go” and the “Plus.”
The big difference: the “Plus” ($269) has an upper decker bassinet and a care station for changing diapers, the “Go” ($219) does not! If you hate bending over to pick up heavy things… the “Plus” is well worth the extra dollars, especially if you think you’ll have more grandchildren to come.
Bouncers & Swings
If you’re a local grandparent who will have your grandchild frequently, you’ll probably want a place to occasionally put your little bundle of joy down (because hey – you’ve still got to do things like make lunch, go to the bathroom, or give your arms a break). A bouncer is a cozy little baby seat that sits on the floor (fun fact: it doesn’t actually bounce…weird, I know).
What Happened to Loungers?
A class of baby products called loungers and semi-reclined sleepers, such as the Fisher Price Rock N Play, are being phased out altogether due to higher than desired incidences of SIDS and other fatal accidents. Therefore, you won’t find any of them on the market after this year.
Thus, the ones recommended below are explicitly recommended for “playing” (not sleeping). Here are our favorite baby bouncers and swings for grandparents:
Bouncers for Grandparents
Fisher-Price Infant-to-Toddler Rocker ~ $37
This inexpensive rocking seat can be used from infancy through toddlerhood. It’s easy for grandparents to store away when not in use, and—yay!—it doesn’t require any batteries. For local grandparents, this rocker can serve as a good “playtime” spot, or even a place to feed the grandkids (it has two recline positions).
Bloom Coco Loungers ~ $199+
For the design-conscious grandparent, you’ll love the Bloom Coco “Go” Organic Lounger. It’s perfect for grandparents because it folds up super slim so you can tuck it away when not in use. You can also carry it easily from room to room. See also: Best Bouncers and Swings
Ingenuity Soothe ‘n Delight Portable Baby Swing ~ $75
This lightweight swing/bouncer seat folds in half easily for storage and for moving from room to room. It has a deep, machine-washable seat (because blow-outs and spit-ups happen!), 6 speeds and 6 songs/sounds. Takes ‘C’ batteries.
When your grandchild comes to your house, you’ll want a good spot for changing diapers. You can always do it on a bed, but that solution requires a lot of bending over—not to mention newborn diapers can get quite messy, as you may recall.
You really don’t need to buy a stand-alone “changing table.”
The easiest solution is a changing pad that fits on top of a dresser or table (see photo below). The inexpensive Summer Infant Contoured Pad (~ $19) is well-liked; you’ll also need to get a changing pad cover ($10-$15) to protect the pad from all the poop and pee!
Another well-liked option is the Poopoose changing pad ($49, below) and Poopoose changing pad cover ($19). The Poopoose has a much better security belt, so it’s good if you’re concerned about your wild monkey rolling off the changing table while your back is turned (it happens!).
One more option — If you prefer a non-cloth changing pad you can very easily wipe down (and that doesn’t require a cover), we highly recommend the awesome (though somewhat pricey) Keekaroo Peanut Diaper Changer ($129). Some think these are a little more….hygienic.
For disposable diapers, you’ll need some sort of diaper pail for your house (unless you really want to walk each dirty diaper to the outside trash can each time).
If your grandchild is in cloth diapers, you’ll need a container that’s appropriate for soiled cloth diapers. We recommend you use a hanging “wetbag,” such as this Planet Wise Hanging Wet/Dry Diaper Bag.
For disposables, here are our top three diaper pail picks for grandparents:
Dekor Mini ~ $24
Diaper Dekor makes a mini version of their popular full size diaper pail, which is perfect for grandparents. This one opens with a foot pedal, so there’s no bending over or squishing the diaper through a tiny slot. Downside: it requires special refill bags.
Munchkin Step Diaper Pail ~ $64
The Munchkin Step Diaper Pail is the best diaper pail in the “odor control” department. Downside: it requires special bags and a baking soda dispenser that you’ll need to buy refills for (at some point) to control odor.
Ubbi Steel Diaper Pail ~ $69
This diaper pail is made of steel (which blocks odors) and doesn’t require special bags (yay!). It’s the top seller for diaper pails on Amazon, and is pretty much as good as you can get, if you don’t mind spending the extra moola.
Feeding your Grandbaby
If you’ll be feeding your little bundle – either formula or pumped breastmilk – you may be interested in keeping some feeding supplies at your house to make those visits smoother for everyone.
It may be worthwhile to keep a set of bottles (whichever ones your grandkid is using at home). Babies can be very particular about bottles, so be sure to ask mom or dad which kind the baby takes.
Note: if your grandchild is breastfed (most are these days — and that’s a good thing!), it may be difficult to share in the feeding experience – at least at first. That said, most nursing moms (especially those returning to work) will eventually pump to create a stash of extra milk, which is stored in bags or bottles.
Breastfeeding isn’t always easy, so I know your daughter/DIL will appreciate any moral support you can offer during this time
. There is a lot of pressure in this day and age to breastfeed due to the new(ish) research published over the past 20 years that point to better health outcomes for breastfed babies, lower incidences of SIDS and a multitude of other benefits to both baby and mom.
Something else that might be different from when yours were little: babies are only to consume breastmilk or formula for the first 6 months; that’s right – no water and definitely no juice. Also: while babies in the last generation were started on solids as early as 6 weeks, babies nowadays will usually wait the full 6 months before starting solids. I will tell you right now that breastfeeding (and feeding in general!) is an area where there is often great dissent among the generations, so buckle up!
Okay, back to logistics… Babies generally like drinking warm milk or formula, rather than cold. If you’re going to be bottle feeding your grandbaby at your house, you can simply warm the bottle up the old-fashioned way by placing it in a container of hot water from your microwave or stove. If you prefer to use a bottle warmer, the best rated are the Dr. Brown’s Bottle Warmer or the Kiinde bottle warmer (though they both get mixed reviews).
Note: You should never microwave milk or formula directly to heat it, as microwaves cause dangerous “hot spots” which can burn a baby’s mouth. Furthermore, it’s always a good idea to test the temperature of the milk on your wrist or arm before feeding your grandbaby to ensure it isn’t too hot.
If you’re washing bottles in your house, you’ll also want to have a simple bottle brush on hand.
A bottle drying rack can be handy as well, especially if you don’t have a dishwasher. We like the Grass Drying “Rack” ($14, below).
You’ll also want some burp cloths (take your pick!) and possibly some spit up bibs or cute bandana bibs for your more drooly grandbabies. Traditional cloth diapers work really well for this, too (multipurpose!).
Getting Comfy While Bottle Feeding
Bottle feeding can make your arms pretty sore, especially if your grandchild is a slow eater. It’s best to do this while sitting in a chair with arm rests so you don’t have to hold their weight the entire time. You can also use pillows to prop up your arms.
For something you can take and use anywhere, we recommend…
The Nursie Slip-on Arm Pillow ~ $39
The Nursie pillow slips right onto your arm and supports baby’s head and neck while she bottle feeds, making it comfortable for you to prop her up (this positioning also aids in digestion, by the way). It’s machine washable and compact enough to fit in a bag, or tuck away in a drawer when your grandkid isn’t around.
Babies under 6 months definitely need some sort of support while bathing, as they cannot yet sit up.
In a pinch, you can do it in a sink as long as you have two people (one holding baby up and the other doing the washing), but it’s not a long-term solution.
For grandparent’s house, we recommend…
Baby Bathtubs for Grandparents
Angelcare Bath Support ~ $19
This highly-rated seat is made from soft, mildew-resistant mesh that is very easy to clean. It goes inside the bathtub (requiring you to bend over…) or a large kitchen sink. You can hang it up to store it, unlike many larger infant tubs that will take up a lot of your floor space. If you’re going to use this one in your tub, do yourself a favor and consider getting a bath kneeler to save those knees!
Summer Infant Comfort Height Bath Tub ~ $29
Although this tub takes up a bit more space in your bathroom than some others, it has some great features grandparents will appreciate. Its height makes it easier to reach baby without needing to bend over the sink or tub.
You can also opt to place the newborn holder directly in your sink if you like (another back-saver). The sturdy platform later converts into a tub-kneeler (aka knee-saver) or a step stool for when your grandkid is older and needs to reach the sink/potty. The main part of this tub will work for older babies and toddlers up to age 2, so this one packs a lot of versatility into one little tub!
Blooming Bath ~ $39
This highly-rated, adorable flower tub is super comfy for newborns, and it prevents them from slipping around. It works best in divided sinks, but can also work lying flat. Best of all, you don’t need to lean over the tub to wash your grandbaby.
Clothing and Sleepwear
If you’re a frequent caregiver, it can’t hurt to keep a couple of spare outfits around for those inevitable blowouts. And spit-ups. And drooling. And eating. And playing.
I can’t even count the number of times my kids have needed a change of clothes when we’re visiting grandma and grandpa — and then another an hour later. I learned the hard way to store some extra outfits at my mom and dad’s place for those inevitable occasions.
You’ll want a couple (2-3 max) of each of the following:
Onesies + Pants + Socks
You can buy onesies (baby shirts that snap at the crotch) in packs on Amazon and at Target. We also love the ones from Baby Gap because they have stretchy necks that make them easier to get on/off.
Another style we love for grandparents (though pricier) is from Magnetic Me, which makes SUPER easy-to-use baby clothing that fastens with magnets instead of snaps (so clever!). This makes putting clothing on a wiggly baby muuuuch easier, especially if you find it challenging to line up those tiny snaps while baby is squirming away (I know I do!).
Our favorite brands for baby clothes include: Old Navy, Target’s Cat & Jack Brand, Baby Gap, and Carters (among others — see our full list here).
The Footed Onesie
Simplify, simplify, simplify! The footed onesie is the ruler of all baby outfits. It’s great because you can forget all about shirts, pants, socks and shoes— this one piece of clothing does it all!
This is totally the way to go, at least for the first few months of visits with your new grandbaby.
Swaddlers and “wearable blankets” (or “sleep sacks”)
Since loose blankets are considered unsafe for infants (and get kicked off by most toddlers), there’s a handy solution out there to keep babies warm as they sleep: swaddlers (for 0-4 months) and wearable blankets (for 4 months+).
If your grandchild will be napping at your house (and hopefully they will so you can catch a break!), you may want to keep a sleep sack at home in case mom and dad ever forget to pack one (which will happen…speaking from experience).
*Note: swaddle blankets are only to be used from 0-4 months, and you should stop using swaddles once baby can roll over.
Here are links to our favorite swaddlers and sleep sacks. For more on newborn clothing, you can read our full article here.
Don’t quit now, we’re almost done!!
Car Seats and Strollers for Grandparents
Much has changed since your babies were little.
Nowadays, car seats are a big deal – not to mention, big bucks. Car seats can seem very complicated to a first-timer, but not to worry – we’ll step you through it.
Big picture: children typically ride in some type of car seat until the age of 9 or so. There are three or four types of car seats: infant seat, a convertible seat, a combination seat (also called “harness to booster”) and a booster. Each is suited to a particular age/size range. There are also “all-in one” seats that attempt to cover all of these phases (some do it well, and some do not).
Children who sit in a rear-facing car seat are much safer than those who face forward — and “extended rear-facing” is a big deal now. Google that, your adult-child will be so proud
It used to be that all children’s car seats were turned around to face forward at the age of 12 months, but now they’re supposed to remain rear-facing until at least age 2…and some parents will keep their kiddos rear-facing until age 3 or 4.
Essentially, most infants will ride in an infant seat (or “infant bucket”) until the end of the first year (0-12 months). Infant seats click in and out of a “base” that can stay permanently in the car.
In a pinch, you can also buckle the seat in without a base (with a little know-how).
If you’ll have the child in your care frequently, it may behoove you to own your own seat. Conversely, if your time with them will be more infrequent, you can just use the baby’s normal seat (they are very portable) — OR you may just want to purchase an additional “base” of the same brand chosen by your daughter/son/in-law.
Car Seat Drama
I will warn you right now…car seat installation is the bane of existence for parents and grandparents alike. It’s tedious and takes a lot of attention to detail. It’s frustrating and can be physically difficult.
Not to generalize, but grandparents tend to have a little more trouble in this department because they’re a little more unfamiliar with car seats.
This is not to pick on any one group of people, but the truth is car seats can be a bone of contention between the generations. Grandparents may feel that parents are being overly cautious about their proper use and installation, while parents may feel like their parents aren’t being respectful of their child’s safety. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
I see it ALL THE TIME.
But it’s okay, I’m going to help you. Read more about how to install a car seat.
There are really only two infant seats that I’ve singled out for grandparents (based on ease of use and weight); outside of these, you’re just fine picking from our regular list of recommend infant seats. There’s also a fabulous “all-in-one” seat you should consider as well.
You can also buy a car seat and stroller together (see below) – this is called a “travel system.” If you need them both, the benefit to buying the package deal is that you know for sure they will fit together properly. When you buy two different brands of car seat and stroller, many times, there are compatibility issues (American vs. European, etc.).
Infant Car Seats for Grandparents
Graco Snug Ride – Economy Pick
The Graco SnugRide is America’s best-selling car seat for umpteen years running. It’s a tried and true favorite. They make a jillion different versions of it, but there are two that are especially good for grandparents….
Graco Snug Ride “Snug Lock” Elite – $186
Long story short, there’s a new(ish) device called “SnugLock” that makes this car seat SO easy to install. Nobody will tell you it’s not tight enough – Yay!!
I prefer the “Elite” version of this seat, which gives you the ability to adjust the height of the harness straps (something you’ll have to do every few months as the baby grows) without having to perform surgery by re-threading the harness straps (another frustrating task).
Nuna Pipa Lite – $399 ~ Luxe Pick
I picked this seat because it is insanely lightweight (5.3 lbs! Most infants seats are 10-12 lbs). This is a high-end, beautiful luxury infant car seat that’s also extremely easy to install and has safety features galore.
For grandparents who want it all and have a little more to spend, you will love this seat.
Check out Eli’s video here:
Another solid option for grandparents is to purchase an “all-in-one” seat that spans all of the ages above, which makes it a very good value. The newer all-in-one seats are wonderful (though not lightweight!), and I have a (new) favorite for grandparents (teehee).
Evenflo EveryStage DLX – $230 ($199 on sale)
Again, installation on these seats is usually a huge pain, especially in the economy seats. The Evenflo Everystage has made everything as easy as possible.
I made this video at JPMA 2018. Check it out:
When looking at strollers for grandparents, there are two big considerations: weight and ease of use. You see, strollers can be SUPER heavy and unwieldy (especially for those who are petite) – and especially if you plan on putting it in your trunk a lot.
For the 0-6 month old crowd, the baby is usually in a car seat or bassinet in the stroller – unless you have a stroller that reclines all the way flat, which is a bit hard to come by. Thus, you may want to wait a little while before investing in a stroller. We talk more about strollers for the 6+ month up crowd here.
Here is the big stroller tradeoff: the heavier duty all-terrain strollers have air-filled tires and ride like a dream. You can easily push them over any kind of terrain: bricks, grass, uneven sidewalks. But the stroller itself will be much heavier than a “regular” all-purpose stroller.
Strollers with regular wheels are lighter but may be a little harder to push and steer, depending on your terrain. The lightest strollers of all are umbrella strollers – these are very lightweight and easy to store away when not in use. You may also want to look at travel strollers, which are uber-lightweight and compact.
- Top 10 Strollers (high level/general)
- Best Umbrella Strollers
- Best Travel Strollers
Again, you can always wait on a stroller purchase so you have a better idea of what your needs are.
Ok folks, that’s it for our infant primer for grandparents. Thanks for sticking with us!
For general gear, check out our gear guides page. We also have gear guides for twins.
Grandparents, we appreciate you! Good luck, thanks for reading and congratulations!!
Thank you for this very informative article. As a midwife I am overjoyed to know that information is so readily available.
I love your newsletters, but I was disappointed that the Grandparent’s Guide didn’t include any information on the need for flu shots and TDAP vaccines. I’m having a difficult time asking baby-to-be’s grandparents to get vaccinated and was hoping to find a resource written to/for them. Otherwise very helpful info—thank you!
That’s a personal request that we don’t touch. Best of luck!
I would have to hire a full time moderator if we were to write about vaccine advice. I feel your pain, but… we are not medical providers and that’s the one topic we don’t touch (and for good reason), as Melissa said. Very sorry!