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Right now, retailers across the internet are having back to school sales with major discounts.
We’ve rounded up all of the best sales to shop for clothing, shoes, tech, and more.
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
While there is still time for students to soak up the summer sun, plenty of retailers are taking the opportunity to host back-to-school sales.
To save you the trouble of having to scour the internet for deals, we rounded up the best back to school sales in 2021 that are happening right now. From clothes, Apple products, and school supplies to mattresses and dorm room essentials, you’ll find everything you need for heading back to school. And, even if you’re not a student, you’ll likely find great deals on clothes, tech, and more. We’ll continue to update the best back-to-school deals here as they come up.
Overstock: Save on college dorm room essentials, including decorations, bedding, and more.
Pottery Barn Teen: Save up to 60% on all dorm essentials, including bedding, furniture, and decorations.
When do back-to-school sales start and end?
Although students head back to school in late summer and into fall, sales usually start in July and run through late August or early September. Many retailers have student and teacher discounts year-round though, so you can find discounts around the clock.
What’s on sale for back-to-school shopping?
Popular items for sale during back-to-school shopping include apparel, technology, school supplies, or dorm supplies for college students. Often, you can find office and school supplies cheaper than $1 during July and August. If you are unsure what you or your child may need, take a look at this back-to-school guide for shopping list inspiration.
It factors into many Americans’ decisions whether to even have a child. Parents – mothers especially – often weigh the cost of childcare in their decision to return to work. And when a kid has a disability, there may not even be childcare options that meet the family’s needs.
When schools and childcare facilities were forced to close or restrict access during the COVID-19 pandemic, millions more American parents and guardians – men and women alike – found themselves suddenly facing childcare insecurity. This affected their well-being and mental health.
A group of health psychologists surveyed parents throughout the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. About 4% of the parents reported having high stress levels “before COVID-19.” But by May 2020, that share had ballooned to 22%.
Meanwhile, sociologists who surveyed and interviewed US mothers in April and May of 2020 found that not having childcare affected mothers’ interpersonal interactions – such as increased frustration with their children – and quality of life.
How common is it?
In January 2020, 26 million working caregivers in the US “did not have an in-home care option” – whether a parent, grandparent or older sibling – for children 14 years and younger, according to a Rand Corp. analysis of data from the US Department of Labor.
A World Bank Report from December 2020 estimated that globally, over 40% of all children who needed quality childcare or preschool in 2018 did not have access to it. That’s nearly 350 million kids.
President Joe Biden has proposed some national policies to address childcare insecurity in the US – for example, limiting the percentage of income families need to spend on childcare to 7% by providing subsidies to care providers. This would likely improve access.
However, childcare insecurity is not always based on economic constraints. The quality of childcare, location, hours, and access for children with disabilities can all play a role as well.
The Conversation US publishes short, accessible explanations of newsworthy subjects by academics in their areas of expertise.
This shift has been underway in the US for many years.
In the early 1900s, my grandfather grew up in a family with nine children in rural Iowa. They all worked hard to maintain the farm and support the family. Some of the children left the farm to attend college, start families, and find work elsewhere. My father grew up in a city and worked as an adult to support his family as the sole income earner.
The next generation, the baby boomers, was raised during a period of economic expansion that accompanied an uptick in fertility – the average number of children born to a woman in her reproductive years. Post-boomer generations have had fewer children, contributing to a 50% decline in US birth rates between 1950 and 2021, from 25 births per 1,000 people to 12.
Economic opportunities, social norms, and changing gender roles – especially expanding education and employment options for many women – help to explain why fertility has slowed in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. That change has repercussions for trends in workforce numbers, employment, health care, housing, and education.
Explaining the decline in fertility
Each generation experiences unique circumstances that affect fertility. The overall trend in declining birth rates, however, is largely due to women’s changing roles, employment shifts, and advances in reproductive health.
After World War II, the US saw rapid change in gender roles with the expansion of women’s education and entry into the labor force. Starting with the baby boom period from 1946 to 1964, many middle- and upper-class women had increased opportunities to get an education beyond high school, which had typically been the end of women’s formal education.
In 1950, only 5.2% of women had completed four years of college or more. By 2020, this proportion rose to 38.3%.
In comparison, 7.3% of men completed at least four years of college in 1950 and 36.7% in 2020 – a smaller increase than for women.
This situation contributed to women’s becoming mothers later in their lives. For example, the median age for first-time mothers among women who were born in 1960 was 22.7 years, compared with 20.8 years for women born in 1935.
Moreover, the teen birth rate was a record low in 2019, with 16.7 births per 1,000 girls and women ages 15 to 19. Birth rates remain higher, however, among Latina and Black teens than teens who are white or Asian. In contrast, the share of women ages 40 to 44 years who have ever had children increased from 82% in 2008 to 85% in 2018. Foreign-born women tend to have higher birth rates than US-born women.
Geographic location also reveals important differences in the US birth rate. Women in New England have fewer children, partly because of higher levels of education. In contrast, women in the South and Great Plains have among the highest birth rates in the US.
Finally, economic uncertainty affects fertility trends. Economists estimate that a family will spend on average $233,610 per child before they are 18 years old. Financial upheaval during the Great Recession from 2007 to 2009 also contributed to declining birth rates, while the COVID-19 pandemic saw a 4% decline in fertility rates in 2020, the lowest since 1979.
A look at the future
Fewer babies and young people and a growing older population will undoubtedly affect future generations.
Several developed countries in Europe have also experienced declining fertility rates, with widespread social and economic impacts. In Italy, for instance, rapid drops in fertility have led to closing hospitals and schools. In 2019, the average Italian family had 1.2 children, part of a declining trend since the 1960s, when it was more common for families to have four children. As a result, Italy’s percentage of seniors is second only to Japan, with growing concern for future labor supplies.
In the US, lower fertility rates translate to fewer working-age people and possible labor shortages in many sectors of the economy. According to the US Census Bureau, the percentage of people age 65 and older has been growing, increasing by one-third since 2010.
Many economists and social scientists recommend a restructuring of work to support and retain the shrinking number of workers. These recommendations include more flexible work conditions, access to quality and affordable child care, immigration reform, and job security. Several of these measures would provide much-needed support for parents and particularly women in the workforce.
Second, living spaces and residential housing may also have to accommodate this growing elderly population with arrangements that include assisted living, retirement communities, and ways for people to age in place. These housing changes would help women in particular, who live longer than men.
Third, health services such as insurance, medical care, and employment will have to adjust to these demographic shifts as more resources are needed to support an older population.
Finally, declining fertility rates are a growing concern for educators and policymakers. The so-called “demographic cliff” will inevitably lead to school closings and consolidation, and declining student recruitment and enrollment in the US. One projection is that there will be 10% fewer college students in 2054 than today.
The overall decline in fertility rates has far-reaching effects on society and future generations. In the early 1900s, college education and a career were not options for women like my great-grandmother. Advances in reproductive health and women’s expanding access to education and employment have produced a demographic shift with implications for work, housing, health care, and education.
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It’s summer camp season.
If your kid is heading off to camp this summer, you’ll want to make sure they’re prepared with all the essentials.
We rounded up a packing list of products, some essential and some just plain fun, that you can get on Amazon in time for the first day.
Summer camp is right around the corner. If you or your child has put off packing until the last minute, you’re not alone. Camp is loads of fun. Packing, not so much. But, you can’t get to the summer camp fun without making sure your kid has everything they need for a great summer.
Related Article Module: Your ultimate guide to summer camping trips, including how to find a campsite and everything you need to bring
As former campers and camp counselors, we’ve packed many a camp suitcase. We know what kids will want in their trunks, from the classic options to some lesser-known but super practical purchases. We’re going to share all of those products with you. Plus, everything is available on Amazon Prime, so if you and your child are cramming packing into the last-minute, you’re in the clear. Keep reading to see our picks.
A laundry bag will help make sure none of their clothes gets lost, or end up in a dirty pile under their bed. The rainbow tie-dye pattern seems totally camp-appropriate, but if that isn’t really their style, these bags come in a variety of colors and designs.
Hydration is essential to keeping kids happy and healthy while they’re running around in the sun all day, every day. Since kids tend to lose things, we recommend sending them off with a pack of two water bottles just incase.
This may not be essential, but your kid will definitely get some points when they show up with this gadget. Bugs are an inevitable part of overnight camp, but sometimes they just get to be too much. This is essentially a souped-up fly swatter that lets kids zap pests in just one swing.
Sharing a bathroom with multiple others means they can’t just leave all of their products in the shower. They may even be showering in an outdoor shower. Whatever the case, they’ll need a good shower caddy to tote essentials to showertime — this one is made of a quick-dry mesh so it won’t get moldly.
Making memories that’ll last long past the summer is one of the best parts of camp. An autograph pillow makes for a fun activity and keepsake for young ones. This pillowcase comes with a black marker for signing — just stuff it with a pillow and pack it up!
The world of baby products – especially for non-parents – can be daunting and confusing. What’s needed? What works? What do new parents want or love?
If you’re attending a baby shower, this makes choosing the perfect gift a bit difficult. You want to make the lives of soon-to-be exhausted parents easier and brighter. Some people also seek the perfect gift that will be the talk of the shower.
Plenty of new parents put together a baby registry, but if most of the gifts are already gone or you want to add something extra, you’ll find 43 options below – none of which cost more than $50.
Below are 43 thoughtful baby shower gifts under $50:
This padded changing station includes multiple pockets for diapers and wipes, and it can be folded up into a clutch after baby has been changed. Parents can toss it in the diaper bag, clip it to the stroller, or leave it in the car for convenient changes.
A white noise machine so parents can get some sleep
A white noise machine will relax and calm both parent and baby, letting each of them get some much-needed rest. The machine goes all night long — blocking out the random noises of the neighborhood. They can control the Rest Mini from their phone, so they don’t even need to get out of bed.
A gift card for organic baby clothes that gives back
Perhaps known best for its matching family pajamas, Hanna Andersson also makes virtually every piece of baby clothing imaginable. Some of their prints feature rainbows, dachshunds, and Winnie the Pooh. Plus, the brand partners with Baby2Baby, providing children living in poverty with diapers, clothing, and basic necessities.
This functional diaper bag has a spot for everything. Parents can stash all their essentials with two bottle pockets, a wet clothes pocket, a wipe pouch, and multiple main-compartment pockets. Best of all: It’s machine washable.
Bra size can change rapidly and drastically throughout pregnancy and postpartum. Give a Third Love gift card so they can take the brand’s quiz and find the right size. Third Love’s 24/7 Classic Nursing Bra is available in sizes A-I.
An activity gym that stimulates the senses
Baby Einstein 4-in-1 Kickin’ Tunes Music & Language Discovery Gym, available at Target and BuyBuyBaby, $49.99
This music-themed activity gym encourages babies to kick, which is an important gross-motor skill. The set includes a piano, sensory toys, a mirror, and a prop pillow.
These essentials will set new parents up for newborn care success with lotion, bubble bath, shampoo/body wash, dish/bottle soap, table and high chair wipes, and hand sanitizer. Parents will feel good about using this brand that is free from sulfates, phthalates, parabens, and artificial ingredients.
Make the postpartum period a little less stressful by gifting some healthcare essentials. This kit includes nail clippers, a thermometer, combs, and a nasal aspirator. It even comes with a carrying case that has convenient see-through compartments.
Clever, unique bibs that actually make baby messes cute
Hudson Baby Food-Themed Drooler Bibs, available at Amazon and BuyBuyBaby, from $17.80
The only thing that makes spit up and pureed avocado stains funny is one of these food-themed pun bibs.
Mustela is another well-loved brand for babies, and this set of newborn arrival essentials has five products designed for delicate newborn skin. Parents can trust all the products to work together gently and effectively.
Honest is well-loved by parents because all of its products are meant to be safe, gentle, and as minimally processed as possible. This set includes face and body lotion, shampoo and body wash, healing balm, and other essentials that are hypoallergenic and free of parabens, sulfates, dyes, and other risky additives.
Cult-favorite cream moms swear by after breastfeeding
You don’t have to hunt far online for the most beloved new mom products for mention of Lansinoh’s Lanolin nipple cream. It soothes, protects, and is really effective. It’s also 100% natural and preservative-free.
Tethers that keep things like spoons and sippy cups from falling
The best thing you can give — if they don’t already have it — is probably an Amazon Prime membership. Parents can order essentials without leaving the house, pay less, and get it within two days with free shipping. It’ll also give them access to tons of other benefits. Plus, if they do have Prime already, your gift will convert into a gift card for them to use on any supplies they need.
A clever baby briefcase to store all of baby’s important documents
Hatch’s Belly Mask is a fun way for them to relax and spend time caring for themselves. The mask is full of nourishing ingredients like aloe vera and propolis to minimize stretch marks during pregnancy and soften skin postpartum.
This infant bath sponge is a slip-resistant cushion with a contoured shape that makes it easier to bathe newborns. There’s a slight incline to support baby’s head, neck, and back, and the foam is quick-drying for fast cleanup.
It’s not as fun as buying baby moccasins in a gemstone color, but diapers are one of the most practical and thoughtful gifts you can give a new parent. They’ll need as many as they can stockpile, and it’s a relief to already have them at home. Consider purchasing larger sizes — many babies grow out of newborn diapers long before their stash runs out.
This sling is comfortable, doesn’t have any complicated straps and buckles, and can be used with kids from babies to toddlers to help parents get more time with two free hands. When we polled Business Insider parents for their favorite registry items, one told us this is the only thing she gives as a baby gift because of how good it is.
Aden + Anais are known for making quality baby products, and this set of classic swaddling cloths is no different. They come in cheerful patterns and are made from breathable, lightweight muslin that can be used for virtually anything.
This WubbaNub pacifier is beloved among parents for good reason — a pacifier attached to a stuffed animal is less likely to fall to the ground a thousand times a day. They will thank you for this cute and clever gift.
If you’re a parent, don’t you kind of wish the mythical stork dropped off an entire bag of essentials at the same time? This Baby Basics Kit attempts to do something similar: grouping favorite products from trusted brand Fridababy for everything from “claws” (nails) to “flakes” (dry skin).
A silicone roll-up bib that will save them time and time again
What’s conveniently mobile, well-designed, extremely useful, and far better than the status quo it replaces? A roll-up, silicone bib with a shelf to catch the rainstorm of food that babies drop while eating. Plus, the Velcro means it’s easily removed. Even if it’s not on the registry already, parents will thank you for it.
Funny pacifiers that parents will get a kick out of
Playpens serve as the ultimate babyproofing solution, keeping babies and toddlers away from household hazards as well as messy mischief. But besides keeping toddlers from splashing in toilets or drumming on all the pots and pans, the playpen can serve as a safe place for sleep anywhere, from grandparents’ house to family vacations. Despite their versatility, playpens can easily spark parent frustration over difficult folds, bulky bags, and hard-to-clean surfaces.
For this guide, I tried out 11 playpens and travel cribs with my now 1-year-old son to see which options were simple to use, portable, and safe for sleep. Because playpens come in a few different variations, I looked at traditional options, playpens with bassinets, and outdoor play spaces. I tested each editorial review sample for at least two weeks, setting it up and tearing it down multiple times. Along with letting my 1-year-old play and occasionally sleep in the playpens, I torture-tested the top picks – a process you can read more about at the end of this guide.
Safety, however, is the primary consideration when considering any sleep surface for infants. I spoke with Justin Smith, MD, a pediatrician at Cook Children’s in Trophy Club, Texas, to understand what makes a sleep surface safe and what to look for when choosing a playpen. No matter which playpen you choose, be sure to follow the pediatrician-recommended safe sleep practices at the end of this guide and never leave your child unsupervised in a playpen.
The 4Moms Breeze Go Play Yard is sturdy and durable with plenty of space for play and sleep, and it sets up and tears down in seconds.
Pros: Easy setup and teardown, versatile design, sturdy, good play space size, one-year warranty on manufacturing defects
Cons: Heavy, bulky
When I put my son in smaller playpens, he wants out right away, but this is not so with the 4Moms Breeze Go, which gives him plenty of room to play. It is also compact enough that I can fit it in my master bathroom.
The play yard has an incredibly sturdy steel frame that holds the mattress a few inches off the ground. The mattress is firm and stable, while offering a little more padding than budget options. Baby food splatter wiped up easily from the nylon sides and mattress and left no stains.
The 4Moms Breeze Go looks and feels like a traditional playpen, but the only motion required for setup and teardown is pulling up or pressing down on the center, no locking and unlocking top railings. I could easily set it up with one hand and tear it down in less than 5 minutes. Two hands are needed for teardown and packing it into the included travel bag. Even the bag is well-thought-out — the zipper runs diagonally down one side, which makes it easier to fit the play yard inside.
At nearly 3-feet long when stored in the travel bag, the Breeze Go isn’t exactly a breeze to carry around, but it’s a trade-off for its excellent build. For parents who prefer a durably constructed playpen over a light and small one more suitable for frequent travel, the Breeze Go is an excellent choice.
Pros: Bassinet, changing table, and activity gym all in one; well-built; large play space; one-year warranty on manufacturing defects
Cons: Changing table difficult to disassemble, heavy
Out of all the play pens I tested, the Tiny Love 6-in-1 Here I Grow Play Yard offered the best all-in-one solution for sleep, play, and diapering. It has a bassinet, changing area, diaper caddy, and infant activity gym. The changing station was larger and more durable than others I evaluated and they play yard gives infants plenty of space.
While a playpen with a diaper changing station isn’t hard to find, Tiny Love adds one more perk: an activity gym to use entirely separate from the play yard. The gym consists of a mat and a detachable toy arch that is nearly identical to Tiny Love’s Gymini activity gym, one of the top picks in our guide to the best infant activity gyms. Even more, the gym comes with a developmental guide offering ideas on how to play with your baby. The arch can also clip into the top of the play yard’s frame to double as a mobile.
Made with a metal and plastic frame and polyester fabric, the materials feel sturdier and more comfortable than those found in less expensive options. While the mattress is white, it cleaned up well for being spot-clean only, even when I left a splatter of squash puree to sit for a few days.
The Tiny Love Here I Grow assembles like a traditional play yard, with a center pull under the mattress and locking side rails, but it’s not overly stiff or difficult to set up or take down. The changing table attachment is tough to take apart, which you’ll need to do to pack it into the bag. Fitting so many pieces into the bag is also a bit tricky.
With all the added features, the play yard is on the heavy side. However, having sleep, play, and diapering from one play yard — including more ways to play than most — may be worth the added bulk for many parents.
Best playpen for travel
The Guava Lotus Travel Crib fits in a backpack to easily take it on the go, yet still offers enough room to play, a comfortable mattress, and easy setup.
Pros: Backpack-style carrying bag, lightweight, comfortable mattress, easy setup, machine-washable mattress cover and sides, two-year warranty on manufacturing defects
Cons: Folding isn’t as intuitive as other models
The best playpen for travel isn’t a playpen at all, but a similar option called a travel crib. Travel cribs have a thicker sleeping mattress that rests on the floor instead of a frame for a more portable design. The Guava Lotus travel crib’s portability, simple setup, washable sides, and comfortable mattress quickly earned it a spot as my favorite out of several travel cribs I tested.
The Lotus offers a generous space for sleep and play. The legs stick out a few inches so the crib takes up roughly 10 square feet of floor space. Because the mattress sits on the floor, there’s no weight limit and the Lotus can be used until baby is attempting to climb out. The mattress itself feels more comfortable than the other playpen mattresses I tested, but still firm enough to use with a newborn.
The sides also have a zippered opening as an alternative way to get baby in and out. Made with an aluminum frame, polyester mesh sides, and a foam mattress with a base plate, the Lotus is Greenguard certified to be free from heavy metals, formaldehyde, and PVC. Both the mattress cover and the mesh sides are machine-washable (air-dry only), a major plus for diaper blowouts. Baby food easily wiped off the mattress, and the mesh sides came out of the wash unstained.
The Lotus’s frame unfurls in a unique design: Unfold each leg, expand the top frame by pulling in one quick motion, then place the mattress inside. Folding is slightly more complex. The first few times I needed to use the instructions, but the process was still quick.
The backpack is a rather compact 24 inches on the longest side. I could carry the Lotus, the baby, and one other item simultaneously, something I couldn’t do with the other playpens.
Best outdoor playpen
As easy to set up as a folding camp chair, the Regalo My Play Deluxe creates a safe, large play space for baby.
Pros: Easy setup, generous play space, portable, sunshade, lightweight
Cons: Not for sleep, empty playpen will tip in heavy winds, only a 90-day warranty on manufacturer defects
The Regalo My Play Deluxe play yard provides a safe place to play in the backyard, at parks, while camping, and at outdoor events. Any playpen will help keep baby from getting into trouble outside — and a crib sheet can double as a sunshade in a pinch — but the Regalo My Play Deluxe is as easy to bring along and set up as a folding camp chair.
The hexagon-shaped play yard measures a roomy 4-feet across, making it the largest playpen we recommend in this guide. The larger size helps my son to play a little longer before wanting out and can accommodate bigger toys. The canopy provides shade and keeps out most flying insects, though there is a small gap between the top of the play yard and the topper where bugs could potentially crawl through.
Setup is simple. I could stretch out the metal frame, then lock each of the two levers with my foot while holding the baby. The optional umbrella-style topper pops open with a quick pull on a string. The longest part of the process is latching the topper to the play yard using several bungee cords, which takes just a few minutes. When collapsed in the carry bag, it is about 40 inches long.
The My Play Deluxe doesn’t include a mattress and is made for play, not sleep. It is less versatile and shorter-lived than playpens for sleep and play that go up to age 3. It’s also not one you’ll want to leave set up in the yard indefinitely. Big wind gusts weren’t an issue while my son was playing in it, but a good wind can catch the topper and tip the play yard if nothing is inside. Mud also has a tendency to stain the bottom.
While I preferred the Regalo’s built-in floor for keeping outdoor choking hazards away, the Evenflo offers a more affordable price and plenty of space. There’s no door, but at 5-foot-2, I can easily reach over the 28-inch side. If my son is playing in the center, however, I have to climb over the side to get to him.
Indoors, the gate system uses flat “feet.” Outdoors, those feet can be reversed to stakes, similar to tent stakes, to keep the gate in place. To switch to the stakes, you need to push a button on the bottom, pull out the flat foot, and reinsert it with the stake side out. Switching the feet was a little tricky at first, but once I found how to get a good grip on the foot to pull it out, it was much easier. The stakes aren’t necessary for outdoor use, but could be handy for older toddlers who tend to pull and wiggle the sides.
The Evenflo Versatile Play Space has a carrying handle for use when folded up, though it is a bit tougher to carry and travel with than traditional playpens that collapse. The plastic panels are durable enough to take outdoors and easily wipe clean with a damp cloth. I used the play space while camping and even forgot it outside in the rain with no issues.
Best budget playpen
The Evenflo Baby Suite Playard is large enough for both sleep and play, and the sturdy construction feels like it should cost more.
Pros: Lightweight, good size play space, easy setup
Cons: Mattress can be noisy and may slide, only a 90-day warranty on manufacturer defects
The Evenflo Baby Suite Playard is a simple budget option that offers a large space for sleep and play, fabrics that easily wipe clean, and uncomplicated setup.
The mattress is covered with a vinyl material, a design choice that is both good and bad. The good: The mattress and the sides of the Baby Suite wipe down easily. Even dried-up baby food didn’t leave a stain or require much scrubbing. However, that material makes the mattress a little noisy as the baby moves around. My son didn’t seem to mind the noise, but some babies and caregivers might. The mattress also needs to be strapped down because the vinyl is slippery and it could slide out of place.
With its traditional playpen design, setup involves locking the four top rails, pressing down the center, and securing the mattress. A button in the center of the rail depresses for teardown. The button is large enough to easily locate, and it didn’t stick like other budget models I’ve used in the past.
The play yard weighs less than 17 pounds and comes with a carrying bag, making it lighter and more portable than options like the 4Moms Breeze Go. While not as easy to set up or as high quality as our other top picks, the Baby Suite is lightweight, roomy, and easy to clean at an excellent price point.
What else we considered
I tested 11 playpens and travel cribs over six months to find the best options. Along with our top picks, I also tried the following:
Graco Pack ‘n Play Travel Dome LX Playard: I loved the Travel Dome that is included with this Pack ‘n Play, which would be ideal for newborn naps without packing the entire thing. The Pack ‘n Play wasn’t as easy to set up — I couldn’t get the changing station fully assembled — or as large as our pick for the best playpen with a bassinet, the Tiny Love Here I Grow Play Yard.
Skip Hop Play to Night Expanding Travel Crib: This Skip Hop travel crib has a unique design that converts from a sleep space to a larger play area, but it can be a bit tricky to convert. The mattress isn’t quite as soft as our top pick, the Guava Lotus, and it’s not quite as stable, but it’s a good alternative if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option.
Baby Jogger City Suite: If you want a bassinet for travel, this is a good option. The play and sleep space is smaller than others I tried, however.
Joovy Gloo: The Joovy Gloo is more akin to a portable toddler bed than a playpen. The tent-like bed is excellent for infants older than 6 months, toddlers, and preschoolers — even for outdoor naps. I love using the Gloo for naps on the go, but it isn’t tall enough for play.
Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light: An excellent travel crib, the Baby Bjorn is easy to set up and clean. It was one of my favorites, but the Guava Lotus offered the same perks in a backpack for less money.
Our testing methodology
I used each of the top picks in this guide for at least two weeks with my son, age 8 months to 1 year old during testing. Because playpens tend to take more abuse during play than sleep, we spent most of that time using each one for play. I evaluated them for durability, portability, ease of use, and safe sleep.
Durability: To test durability, I shook the frame, then folded up the playpen and dropped it from arm’s length a few times, not unlike what a playpen could experience while getting manhandled as checked airline baggage. Because my son was too old for a bassinet, I tossed some books into the toppers and checked for a sturdy, level sleep surface. For outdoor playpens, I left each one outside overnight, including in the rain and on camping trips.
Ease of cleaning: To see how well each option would handle diaper blowouts and spit-up, I splattered baby food on the mattress and sides.
Portability: I evaluated each playpen while in the bag, if one was included. I carried the playpens from room to room to see how easy they were to lug around. This test was prioritized for the travel category.
Ease of use: I set up and tore down each option several times, considering both simplicity and the length of time needed.
Safe sleep: I also evaluated mattresses. I pressed on each one to check for firmness and ensure there was no gap between the mattress and playpen sides.
“All sleep options should be a flat surface with a firm mattress in order to be safe,” he said. “Parents should also be careful to make sure that the surface doesn’t have built-in bumpers or soft surfaces which could cause suffocation.”
If you plan to cover the mattress with a sheet, make sure that it fits tightly. Loose-fitting sheets and soft items like blankets and stuffed toys should never be placed in a portable crib with a child under 1 year old.
With any playpen or travel crib, it’s important read the entire user’s manual, which will also include weight, height, and age restrictions. For example, most bassinet add-ons are only rated to 15 pounds, with changing tables often having similar restrictions.
To protect children against injuries, caregivers should also provide constant supervision while they are in the play yard, whether they are awake or asleep. It’s also important to note that, like with cribs, once a child can climb out of a play yard, it is no longer a safe space for them to spend time.
Whenever traveling, Smith recommends making sure that the baby’s caregivers are also aware of safe sleep guidelines.
“Parents should keep in mind that travel is a particularly risky time for babies regarding safe sleep environments,” Smith said. “Make sure each caregiver, including grandparents, is aware that children should be placed on their back on a flat surface for every sleep.”
I grew up believing my parents had eyes in the back of their heads, but, sadly, I didn’t immediately sprout an extra pair of eyes after donning the title of mother. Video baby monitors are the next best thing. While there’s no substitute for being in the room with the baby, these monitors allow parents and guardians to to keep eyes and ears on the baby from another room.
A good video baby monitor answers questions that a simple audio monitor cannot, like, When did the baby fall asleep? Just 10 years ago, these monitors were clunky gadgets that played constant audio and offered a pixelated picture of the crib. Now they can send a detailed sleep analysis to your smartphone, play white noise, and even track breathing.
Keep in mind: Some of those features of smart monitors may not be as great as they seem. The AAP and pediatricians we spoke to emphasized there is no evidence that smart monitors prevent incidences of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Read more about smart monitors, sleep safety, and what our experts had to say at the end of our guide.
While features vary by model, video monitors typically come equipped with a night mode to see the room in the dark, a thermometer to measure the temperature in the room, and two-way audio to talk to the baby (or tell the toddler to get back in bed). Some baby monitors are fixed in place, while others have cameras that can be controlled remotely to pan around the room. With smart baby monitors, the list of potential features is even longer.
I tested nine of the top-ranked video baby monitors with my now 1-year-old. Each monitor that made the top of our list was tested for at least one month, including naps and nighttime snoozes.
With excellent picture and sound, the Vava is an affordable video baby monitor that has everything you need.
Pros: Clear video and audio, easy setup, remote panning and tilt, affordable
Cons: No VOX
Although the Vava lacks the fancy features of a smart monitor, it’s easy to use and offers clear audio and video, with a few extras including two-way audio.
Most standalone video baby monitors use a low-resolution fixed camera that doesn’t show the finer details, but the Vava’s video quality is so good that I could often see my son’s chest rise and fall as he slept. The handheld unit’s 5-inch screen is what really allows you to see the detail picked up by the Vava’s 720p resolution camera. The monitor’s night vision is also better quality than other units I tested.
With the controls on the parent unit, the Vava can be turned 270 degrees and tilt up or down 108 degrees, offering a view of almost the entire nursery except. The remote pan and tilt are preferable to using a wider lens because you can get a closer look at the baby while still being able to see if, say, a pet is accidentally locked in the nursery.
The Vava’s solid video quality is also paired with excellent audio. There’s no voice-activated alert (VOX) option, but the volume settings are varied enough that the fan in my baby’s nursery, while slightly audible, wasn’t annoying.
The 900-feet range didn’t once drop a connection in my house or even when I went out to the porch. Because the Vava doesn’t use Wi-Fi, hacking risk is low. The parent unit battery lasted for two daytime naps before needing a charge.
There are a few features that I would have liked to see, such as VOX, but the Vava had better video and audio quality than similarly priced monitors. Smart monitors like the Nanit and Miku offer more features and budget monitors like the VTech, a better price. But, ultimately, the Vava checks all the must-haves without a high price tag, making it our top pick.
The best smart video baby monitor
The Nanit Plusvideo baby monitor offers excellent video and audio, along with extras like sleep tips.
Pros: Sleep tracking and tips, contactless breathing monitor, quick alerts, reliable app, good video and audio quality, two-factor authentication
Cons: Pricey, sleep insights require subscription after first year
Many smart monitors deliver late alerts or poor audio, but the Nanit Plus doesn’t skimp on the basics in order to deliver the smart features.
The monitor’s audio was free of white noise, and I could turn the volume down enough not to hear the fan in my son’s room but still hear his cries. Picture quality is excellent, even for the night camera.
The Nanit was the most reliable smart monitor that I tested. It never crashed while livestreaming, though it can run few seconds behind depending on internet speeds. The one time the app stopped working (while using push notifications, not the livestream), it alerted me. For added security, it offers two-factor authentication, which Nanit says is continually audited for security compliance.
Unlike many breathing monitors, the Nanit Plus also doesn’t require extra devices. With a patterned fabric band, swaddle, or sleep sack, the camera detects pixel-level changes in that pattern to monitor the rise and fall of the baby’s chest. Even without the wearable, the monitor can still recognize movement to track sleep. False alarms can cause unnecessary worry, but I didn’t experience any.
The app’s interface is easy to navigate. It charts sleep times, duration, and time it takes to fall asleep. Using that data, Nanit Insights offers personalized sleep tips developed by a certified infant sleep coach. I shared these tips with Dr. Fern Hauck, professor of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences at the University of Virginia, who said they provided reasonable advice about establishing sleep patterns. However, these tips can also be found in inexpensive parenting books and are not the solution to every sleep problem.
Outside of the downsides of app-based monitors, like quickly depleting the smartphone battery, I have very few complaints. One minor inconvenience is that you need to go into the app and start a session in order to monitor breathing.
The Nanit Plus is one of the pricier smart baby monitors, although the wall mount option is less expensive than the floor stand. Insights also requires a paid subscription after the first year. Still, it’s $100 less than options like the Owlet and Miku.
Smart monitors are not for every family. Solid-performing, less expensive audio and video monitors are available, and breathing tracking isn’t studied for SIDs prevention (read more about this at the end of the guide). But, out of all the Wi-Fi connected monitors that I tried, the Nanit Plus delivered the best experience with the most reliability.
The best wearable-free smart baby monitor
The Miku accurately tracks breathing and sleep patterns without any wearables.
Pros: Sleep tracking, contactless breathing sensor, simple to use, plays lullabies or white noise, reliable app
Cons: Slow push notifications, white noise during livestreaming
With a radio-wave sensor built into the camera, the Miku tracks sleep and creates a color-coded chart that illustrates how well the baby slept. The well-designed app tracks data such as how long it took for the baby to fall asleep, sleep quality, and average bedtime, which may be helpful for new parents establishing a routine.
This monitor narrowly missed beating out the Nanit, largely because the audio had constant white noise detectable even at the lowest volume. (Audio performance could possibly differ based on the smartphone you are using — I tested using an iPhone 7.) The notifications were too slow to be a suitable substitute. However, if you’re looking for easy sleep tracking without any form of wearables, the Miku is a great option.
The app never crashed during testing and it can send push notifications that the baby has woken up. In order to avoid false alarms simply because the baby rolled over, there’s an intentional delay on those alerts. Unfortunately, the alerts are also delayed for cries. For that reason, I preferred streaming the audio.
Video is also easy to review with an option to watch the feed from any time the app detected motion or noise. The Miku also has a built-in sound machine — you can play white noise or lullabies and control them from the app.
Simple setup requires pressing a physical button to start a new connection, which feels a bit more secure. The Miku also has a built-in crypto security chip and includes features like two-way authentication.
Like with the Nanit, smart monitors are not a necessity. For some families, tracking breathing can lead to more worry and distraction. The AAP cautions parents that breathing monitors have not been studied for reducing SIDs. But, for families that want that extra tracking, the Miku offers those added features without the need to attach anything to the baby.
The best budget video baby monitor
The VTech RM5754 video monitor proves you don’t need to spend a lot to keep an eye on the baby, from anywhere.
Pros: Parent unit and Wi-Fi app, affordable, movement alerts
Cons: Lower night-camera quality, buggy app
The VTech RM5754 is a good monitor for those on a budget. It is unique because it’s a standalone monitor that also offers app access via Wi-Fi and VOX so you don’t have to listen to annoying background noise. The parent unit is the most convenient way to monitor, but the app allows you to watch the baby from anywhere.
The camera has a higher 1080p resolution and the parent unit a large 5-inch screen. The 100-degree wide-angle lens means you can see much of the nursery, but it doesn’t provide the close-up detail of some of the other monitors. While the night vision camera is low quality, it’s enough to see.
Audio isn’t the greatest. There were some audible static noises from both the parent unit and the app, but turning on VOX — my favorite feature — meant I only heard the static when there were loud noises in the room. The feature wasn’t explained in the user manual and is hiding in the menu, so it takes some tinkering to set up.
The VTech monitor also provides movement alerts, something uncommon with standalone monitors. From the parent unit, you can play white noise or lullabies through the monitor and turn on the night-light.
The app performance is inconsistent — it kept crashing on my iPhone 7, but ran much smoother after I updated my phone. The static is worse on the app and VOX isn’t available on a mobile device.
While I preferred the Vava’s better picture quality and sound, the VTech costs less and includes app access and VOX. This makes it a decent option for caregivers on a limited budget or families who can’t decide between a standalone camera and a Wi-Fi enabled one.
Our testing methodology
I tested nine video baby monitors over the course of several months with my now 1-year-old. The top picks were tested for at least one month. During that time, I evaluated the following features.
Audio quality: Parents will listen for a baby’s cries more often than watching the video screen, which means audio quality is still a major consideration. I listened for annoyances like static and white noise, as well as how sensitive the microphone was to both soft sounds and loud noises.
Video quality: Baby monitors don’t need cinematic 4K, but I looked for footage that was detailed enough to tell if the baby’s eyes were open or closed. Ultimately, I wanted a monitor that would cover the entire crib while still showing enough detail to see if the baby is awake or simply rolling over in their sleep.
Smart monitoring: For smart monitors, I also used the breathing tracking and sleep tracking. Thankfully, I never experienced what happens when a baby stops breathing. I did, however, research what I could into how the alarms work (including this Nanit and Miku comparison from Dad Verb using a robotic baby). I also noted any false alarms and eliminated options that caused more worry than it prevented. As noted throughout this guide, APA does not endorse breathing monitors for infants. Studies have not shown whether or not the devices have any effect on reducing SIDs.
Connectivity, battery life, and overall usability: Throughout my testing, I noted any app crashes and difficult setups. For Wi-Fi based monitors, I noted the battery life and range of the parent unit, including taking the unit outside. For smart monitors, I considered how simple the app was to use and whether or not the extra smart features were actually helpful.
What else we considered
Levana Mila: The Mila would be one of my top picks, except it’s not available yet. Originally expected out in June 2020, its release is now delayed indefinitely. I was impressed by its mode that turns the screen and audio off when no noise is detected in the room, which preserves battery life. The same mode also works with two cameras to display footage from the room when noise is detected.
Pampers Lumi: In addition to monitoring sleep, the Lumi uses a sensor on the baby’s diaper to track wet diapers, though it’s not recommended to wake a baby just to change a diaper. It simply wasn’t the best because anytime the sensor stops moving, the Lumi labels it a nap. The camera’s wide-angle fish-eye lens makes it difficult to see details, and audio is inconsistent across devices — on my iPhone, it generated constant white noise, but the iPad app didn’t have that issue.
Angel Care 3-in-1 AC337: This unique standalone monitor uses a sensor placed under the mattress to monitor breathing. To make sure an alarm is heard even if the parent unit has a dead battery, the alarm also sounds in the nursery so false alarms could wake the baby. I got a few false alarms and stopped using the breathing pad because I was worried about waking the baby up with those false alarms. The camera lens also isn’t a wide enough angle.
Cubo A.I. Baby Monitor: The Cubo uses facial recognition to alert you if the baby’s face is covered by a blanket or if the baby rolled over, while “detection zones” alert you if the baby enters a preset area. While this feature worked great, when I followed safe sleep tips, I just got notifications for rolling over and placing a hand over his face. The Cubo did have one feature I wish the other smart monitors had — push notifications are a chirping sound instead of the default, which means you know it’s a baby monitor alert and not an alert from any other app.
Owlet Smart Baby Monitor Duo: Unlike the Miku and Nanit, the Owlet Smart Sock tracks oxygen levels and heart rate — neither of which are recommended by the AAP. It doesn’t, however, track sleep data or send push notifications when noise or movement is detected. The smart sock is difficult to put on, and I don’t like placing electronics directly on my baby’s skin. I also had to try three different socks before getting one to work properly, suggesting some quality control issues. But, for what it’s worth, excellent customer service.
Standalone vs. smart baby monitors
Video baby monitors used to be simply a camera that allowed you to see and hear your baby, but the tech now falls into two major categories.
Stand-alone baby monitors are the traditional monitors that come with everything you need in the box. These monitors have both a camera and a parent unit with a screen that displays video.
Smart baby monitors come with only a camera; the rest is done via an app on a smartphone or tablet, connected via Wi-Fi. Because these app-based baby monitors are essentially running on a mini-computer (the smartphone), this type can include a lot of features that standalone monitors lack. Smart monitors can track sleep patterns, send push notifications for sound and movement, and some even track breathing.
With the Wi-Fi connection, smart monitors are never “out of range” like a traditional monitor. That means you can check in on the baby while you are out and the baby is with another caregiver, or you can work outside in a big yard and still use the monitor.
The downside is that these monitors rely on an internet connection. If your home internet is slow, the video will lag behind and occasionally freeze up, and when the internet is out, so is the baby monitor. App-based monitors can also fail if the app freezes. If that happens overnight, parents could potentially miss baby’s cries. Smart monitors will also drain your smartphone battery faster and granting access to the app to a babysitter can be a hassle.
Safety considerations for smart baby monitors
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not endorse breathing monitors for infants because studies have not shown whether or not the devices have any effect on reducing SIDs. “There are no data that other commercial devices that are designed to monitor infant vital signs reduce the risk of SIDs,” the AAP states. Every smart monitor that I tested came with a legal disclaimer that the monitor is not a medical device for preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). While we like features like sleep tracking, we don’t recommend buying a smart monitor exclusively for the sleep tracking. It’s unproven and often adds another item to the already too long to-do list.
Dr. Justin Smith, a pediatrician and the medical advisor for digital health at Cook Children’s in Trophy Club, Texas, told Insider Reviews: “There is no evidence that wearing a monitor will prevent or allow a parent to act in order to prevent SIDS. Parents should assess whether using a monitor would give them peace of mind or cause them stress and anxiety. False alarms are common and can lead parents to seek medical care for normal babies.” He emphasized that parents should adhere to safe sleep practices above all.
Dr. Fern Hauck, a family medicine doctor and University of Virginia professor that focuses much of her research on SIDS, echoed similar thoughts. “Some parents may feel more comforted by the home monitor and, at other times, monitors cause distress because of false alarms,” she said. “As a safe sleep expert, the bottom line is that we don’t have evidence that these monitor’s prevent infant death. There may be more evidence in the future.”
While our medical experts stressed that there is no evidence that monitoring breathing at home reduces the risk of SIDs, both pediatricians noted that parents that find more peace of mind from a smart monitor can choose to do so with a few safety guidelines in place. A smart monitor should never be an excuse not to follow safe sleep practices — for example, just because a monitor is watching the baby breathe doesn’t mean it’s okay to load the crib up with loose blankets, bumpers, and stuffed animals. Infants should be placed on their backs on a flat, firm sleep surface with no loose bedding. Hauck also cautions against moving the baby to their own room before the AAP recommended 6 to 12 months, even with a smart monitor.
Parents should also ensure the monitor itself doesn’t pose a hazard. Wearable sensors can also pose a choking hazard if a sensor becomes loose or comes off, according to Smith. “In addition, any sensor with a cord could cause strangulation. Battery-powered devices could cause skin sensitivity or a burn injury if it malfunctions,” he said. Monitors placed over the crib could be safer if the device isn’t able to be pulled into the crib or can’t fall off.
Because the last thing new parents need is to spend money on a device that will make them more anxious, we quickly eliminated the options that sent a lot of false alarms during testing. The Nanit Plus ended up being my favorite smart monitor because I still loved it even after discontinuing use of the breathing band. It has excellent features worth paying a little more for, like sleep tracking and clear audio and video. Parents, however, shouldn’t feel like they have to spend so much on a monitor to keep the baby safe because there’s no evidence that smart monitors are actually safer.
How does AI Sleep Monitoring work, and is it worth it?
Both the Nanit and Miku monitor the baby’s sleep, offering stats like how long the baby slept and when. The Nanit goes a little bit further and adds sleep tips, delivered once a week based on the infant’s sleep data.
Those tips are developed from a certified infant sleep coach, according to Nanit. The AI determines which tips to send based on the sleep data and the baby’s age, but the tips themselves were written by actual baby sleep experts. Essentially, using Nanit is like having someone tell you which chapters of the baby sleep book to read first for your particular baby.
The tips that Nanit Insights sent during my testing were similar to what I’ve read about establishing healthy sleep habits, such as a consistent bedtime. I shared Nanit’s tips with Dr. Fern Hauck, professor of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences at the University of Virginia, they provided reasonable advice about establishing sleep patterns.
You can find similar tips in a $15 baby book without spending $300 on a baby monitor. But, if you need to buy a monitor and prefer one that is Wi-Fi-based, having sleep tips tailored to your baby’s age and sleep habits is a nice extra. Don’t impulse buy the Nanit Plus at 2 a.m. while holding a wide-awake baby out of desperation, though.
Baby monitor security
Wi-Fi enabled monitors have another downfall: As with any Internet of Things (IoT) device, they are susceptible to hacking.
According to Deral Heiland, the IoT research lead for cybersecurity management company Rapid7, there’s no actual internet connection to hack into with a stand-alone monitor, and any hacker would have to be within range of the camera. Radio monitors don’t have the same encryption measures, but a hacker would still need to be within a few hundred feet of the monitor.
Wi-Fi based monitors have more risks, but they can be mitigated through a few best security practices, Heiland told Insider Reviews.
“Just like any camera-based technology, there’s some risk, but there are ways to mitigate that risk,” he said. “Most of the risk on camera-based technology is password reuse. Don’t reuse passwords. Don’t use the baby’s name, a phone number, or a home address, or anything that people can easily guess. Create a complex password that is not used on other accounts.”
If you choose a smart monitor, Heiland recommends looking for one that offers two-factor authentication, which requires a code to be sent to your phone anytime a new device tries to log in. The home Wi-Fi network should also have a hard-to-guess password that’s a series of random letters and numbers rather than a known phrase.
Brand matters, too. A well-known brand will quickly patch up any vulnerabilities to maintain its brand reputation. Off-label brands sometimes have known vulnerabilities that are never patched.
But a total lack of vulnerabilities isn’t necessarily a good sign. All technology has vulnerabilities, Heiland said, so with any IoT device, choose a company that has patched security issues before and provides a place to report them.
Unlike hacking into credit card data, there’s no monetary gain to hacking a baby monitor (unless your monitor has a paid subscription) — the outcome is just shock and fear. While you can find stories dotting the internet about baby monitors being hacked, Heiland said that in almost every case, it was a simple target of opportunity with a weak or default password.
Being a dad is tough, but for a new dad, it can be even harder. It’s like the first day of a job that they know nothing about. From midnight feedings to car-seat installation, new dads can feel overwhelmed and forget to come up for air, so this Father’s Day couldn’t be a better time to send in some support.
We rounded up thoughtful 47 gift ideas for new dads, ranging from a mug that keeps coffee warm long enough for him to finish it to a duffel bag that will get lots of use on upcoming family road trips.
Here are 47 of the best gifts for new dads:
A portable speaker
JBL Clip 3 Portable Speaker, available at Amazon and Walmart, $49.95
The JBL Clip 3 is the ultimate bluetooth speaker for new dads because it comes in a variety of colors, has an integrated carabiner to clip onto a stroller, car seat, or backpack, and most importantly, it is totally waterproof. Just pair the speaker with a smartphone and let dad relax with no worries of their phone getting lost while blasting “Baby Shark” for the hundredth time.
Moment is known for making smartphone-oriented products, but within the past few years, the brand has moved into mobile lifestyle, and if anyone is living that, it’s the new dad. This sling can hold a wallet, keys, phone, camera, snack bar, and other necessities. It’s perfect for running errands or a day traipsing around a theme park. It is made of Kodra nylon with a waterproof coating, which means it’s easy to clean.
New dads don’t have time to be in the kitchen preparing gourmet meals with made-from-scratch sauces. Bushwick Kitchen brings to the table some sweet and spicy options like a wildflower honey mixed with habanero peppers or sweet options like Meyer lemon honey. Dad will be taking breakfast to the next level in no time at all.
A duffel bag is a versatile gift because it can hold whatever dad wants. It could be a diaper bag, workout bag, or carry-on, and this duffel has packable backpack straps for hands-free carrying. It’s water-repellent, thanks to sustainable use of old windshield plastics from landfills, and it compresses down nearly flat for easy storage.
New dad life can be chaotic and frustrating, which is why the Veer Tote makes a great gift. Not only does it have padded handles and an interior water-resistant zip compartment, but the entire bag is made of coated waterproof fabric. That means dads can get it as dirty as they want and simply hose it down to make it good as new.
Comfortable running socks
Gift the Darn Tough Stride Micro Crew Ultra-Light Running Sock, available at Amazon and Darn Tough, $18.95
For many new dads, some form of exercise is crucial to maintaining mental health, but they can’t afford to get sore feet, or worse, blisters. This Stride running sock is made from merino wool for quick moisture wicking, provides arch support to reduce fatigue, and has seamless stitching to to prevent blisters and chaffing. Another plus is Darn Tough’s no-questions-asked lifetime guarantee. If dad starts having problems with the socks, just send them back and they’ll send a new pair.
Gift the Sunski Puerto polarized sunglasses, available at REI and Sunski, $48
Some dads worry when they welcome a child into the world, their style will cease. Thankfully, a new pair of shades is a quick way to shake up the routine. These sunglasses come in navy slate or black forest, are made from lightweight recycled material, and feature polarized lenses that eliminate glare and are easier on their eyes. Bonus, Sunski offers a warranty that if the glasses break under normal conditions, they will replace them or fix them.
Summertime is sandal time. Hunter’s EVA slides fit the bill for easy, lightweight, and durable footwear. The perforated uppers and contoured footbed keep dad’s feet cool and comfortable and you can’t beat the ease of simply sliding them on and off for the pool, errands, or even around the house. Unlike dad’s new shirt that just got some baby spit-up on it, these sandals simply wipe clean and good to go.
A compact flashlight
Gift the HX-4 LED Flashlight, available at Amazon and Coast, from $14.99
Fumbling for diapers in the middle of the night, remembering to take the trash out at 2 a.m., or looking for that tiny clip from baby’s teething toy that fell between the seats in the car — these are all reasons to have a great flashlight. This one is small, has a clip and a magnet to attach the light nearly anywhere, features a powerful LED in either white or red light, and can be rotated 180 degrees to make sure it’s exactly where dad needs it.
New dads rarely have both hands free, so eliminating the need to twist, pop, flip, or open their coffee container makes life so much easier. They can simply add their coffee, screw on the top, and pull the trigger to open up the world of caffeine goodness.
As any parent will tell you, getting out the door is rough. And getting your shoes on can be downright annoying when you’re holding the baby, diaper bag, keys, and much, much more. Thankfully, footwear brand Vasque has a new dad’s back…or their feet. The sock-like upper and memory foam footbed means they’ll probably just wear them all day, but the easy on and off makes them infinitely versatile.
The compact Marpac produces impressive volume, has a variety of white noise options, and offers a small nightlight. It also comes with a clip for connecting to the stroller for a walk (remember the outside?), in the car for an errand, or on the carrier as they bounce baby to sleep.
Restless nights and uncertain mornings may have dad missing their morning pourover coffee ritual. Turns out they can still have that rich flavor thanks to third-generation Kenyan coffee farmer Margaret Kemunto Nyamumbo. Kahawa has created a single serve coffee that looks more like a tea bag, is ready in five minutes, and 100% compostable. Bonus: You can send a tip directly to the women who picked the coffee.
Built by Thor and his legion of trainers, Centr is a one-stop-shop for workouts ranging from yoga to full gym routines as well as guided meditation and delicious meal recipes. The app includes short, effective workouts that are perfect for that new dad schedule and the guided mediation will slow dad’s anxiety.
If the secret to success as a new parent is organization, the Nomad’s beautiful wireless charger fits the bill. It’s slim, sleek, and able to power two devices simultaneously while also allowing for a USB-C and USB-A cord to be plugged in for a total of four devices at once. Mom and dad’s phones, AirPods, and the portable white noise machine will all be full and ready to go at a moment’s notice.
This grab bag of Tile options lets new parents rely on technology instead of their overtaxed brains. New dads can attach tiles to their keys, diaper bag, and wallet in order to make sure those items never stay lost for too long. And if they have their keys but not their phone, they can double tap the tile to make it ring.
There’s something about being a dad that really brings out their inner handyman. The Leatherman Wingman is loaded with 14 tools, including a knife, screwdrivers, bottle openers, and even a 1-inch ruler, so they can fix just about anything and pop open a cold one when they’re done.
The right underwear makes everything go so much smoother. The lightweight material is soft and breathable, and the patented BallPark Pouch keeps everything in place, whether they’re getting up for an early morning feeding or pushing a stroller around the park on a hot summer day.
Stealing away for a midafternoon nap in a hammock is an incredible way for a new dad to take a break from diaper changes. The Newdora Garden Hammock is easy to set up, adjustable, and packs down small enough to take anywhere.
Sleep, when it does happen for both dad and baby, is so much better on a set of soft sheets that make them feel like they’re sleeping on a cloud. These are great for delicate skin and hot sleepers, too, and they come in a variety of colors and prints.
A comfy pillow might be the most important ingredient for a restful night. The adjustable fill on the Coop pillow means it works for every kind of sleeper, and a 100-night trial means they’re not stuck with it if they don’t like it.
Made with tough plastic and rubber grips, the Stroll and Connect mounts easily to a stroller or shopping cart and won’t fall off in crowded aisles or on bumpy terrain. It lets a parent keep their hands free in case they need to use the phone on the go.
With a variety of holds, from jugs to crimps to pockets, the Metolius Project Board is great for releasing tension with a quick upper body workout. It can go just about anywhere inside or outside, and the fine texture is easy on the skin.
Nothing will fully prepare him for the chaos and confusion of being a new dad. However, Matt Coyne’s sleep-deprived take on parenting will give him a hilarious and honest reassurance that he’s doing alright, no matter how stressful it seems.
This essential shave set includes a razor with a comfortable handle and textured rubber grip, three German-engineered blade cartridges, foaming shave gel for a rich lather, and a travel cover to protect the blades.
Dad will love a cup of cold brew coffee, with less acidity and a smoother taste, when they need a pick-me-up after sneaking in an afternoon nap. The Takeya Deluxe makes up to 1 quart of concentrate. Plus, it’s easy to use and an incredible value.
The Instant Pot makes cooking dinner for the whole family a breeze. It makes soups, meats, yogurt, and pretty much everything else, even baby food. Easy cleanup means more time to spend with the little one too.
If they’re a coffee fanatic, they’ll love a bag of single-origin beans. Grown in the volcanic soil in the rugged mountains of the Indonesian island Sumatra, this rich, complex blend has notes of molasses and pineapple. And for those mornings where there’s no time to hassle with a French press, don’t overlook instant coffees, which have caught up in quality to the whole bean version.
New dads will love a pair of comfortable pants for sleeping or lounging around the house that won’t embarrass them when the in-laws show up announced. These soft, light micromodal pants from Tommy John are perfect, and they hold up nicely wash after wash.
Make those long hours playing on the floor count with a subscription to Lovevery curated age-appropriate toy kits. Delivered every two months, each one includes guides that show how each toy helps with a child’s development. They’re also a lot of fun.
Unfortunately, a new dad can’t wear lounge pants all the time. But just because they’re leaving the house for a bit, doesn’t mean they’ve got to sacrifice comfort. Bonobos chinos come in multiple fits and sizes, and the signature curved waistband give them an unobtrusive fit that makes them great for the office, a trip to the store, or a playdate in the park.
A phone full of pictures and videos is great, but they’ll want something to capture and hold onto the most special moments. This photo book, featuring a fabric cover and foil stamped title, lets him write down his memories and the details of each milestone.
This set comes with a razor handle and four four-blade cartridges that make for a great shave for when dad needs to clean up a little. It also includes a gentle prep scrub, shave butter, and hydrating post-shave cream.
Whether you’re running errands or spending a day in the park, a good baby carrier makes it so much easier. Made with 100% premium cotton, the Ergobaby Omni 360 is super soft and easily adjustable to fit waists and shoulders of all sizes. It works in multiple positions, too, front or back, face-in or face-out.
There’s just something about being a dad that turns everyone into an overnight handy man. This tool kit includes all the basics he’ll need for assembling or repairing all that new gear in the nursery and beyond.
Dad is going to need a good cooler for bringing food home from the store or packing up milk and baby food for a road trip to see the grandparents. This one has a 50-can capacity, but it still folds up small enough to stash under the seat when they don’t need it.
This blanket is made of breathable cotton/polyester blend fabric that will keep baby comfortable and cool. And the flour tortilla print that makes them look like a bundle of burrito joy is impossibly adorable.
Getting active and outdoors is great for kids, and something a new dad can do right from the start. With an REI membership, they’ll get annual dividends, exclusive offers, and more to get the gear they and their family will want.
Baby bibs often aren’t given much thought, but a quality one will make feeding your baby easier.
We surveyed parents and spoke to a pediatrician and a feeding expert to narrow down baby bibs to test.
These are the best baby bibs we tried with a 1-year-old, including silicone, cotton, and bandana bibs.
Let’s state the obvious – feeding babies can get real messy. If ensuring they eat a well-balanced meal isn’t enough, you also have to make sure fruit and yogurt don’t spill all over your kitchen floor. Luckily, a quality baby bib will make life much easier.
For this guide, I put 11 baby bibs to the test with my 1-year-old niece, Julianna Grace. Between breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I tried a variety of bib styles with her, from bandana and cotton designs to silicone and apron-style bibs.
I also surveyed 20 parents and caregivers, all of whom said they look for a bib that’s easy to clean. More than 40% said the biggest issues they run into are bibs not staying in place, irritating the baby’s neck, and not catching foods and liquids well. I kept this in mind while testing and choosing the top picks for this guide.
While testing, I took notes on how comfortable each bib was, how effective the design was at picking up food, and how it held up in the wash. You’d be surprised at how many bibs didn’t make the cut – and how impressive the top five were during feeding time in the high chair.
I also also spoke with Judy Delaware – an occupational therapist, feeding specialist, and certified lactation counselor – for more information on bibs and best feeding practices. Dr. Sarah Fleet, attending physician at Boston’s Children’s Hospital and instructor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, also provided her expertise in our FAQs section.
The Babybjorn Baby Bib has a convenient bottom pouch to catch food and spills and only requires a wipe to clean.
Pros: Keeps food from falling to the floor, adjustable neckband, easy to clean, BPA-free, made of food-safe plastic, quick to dry
Cons: Hand-wash only
Before I tested these bibs on my niece, my sister mentioned she swears by bibs with a catch pocket at the bottom to prevent messes. Though convenient, I didn’t think it was a necessity — until I tried out the Babybjorn Baby Bib.
It really does catch everything and also makes it easy to assess how much the baby is eating per meal. It was also one of the most comfortable bibs, thanks to the lightweight, thin beaded neckline that’s adjustable and prevents irritation to the baby’s neck.
The Babybjorn bib is made of durable, nonflexible silicone that doesn’t stick to the baby’s clothes like less-structured bibs. Julianna ate a chicken meatball, grilled zucchini, and roasted sweet potatoes for dinner while wearing the Babybjorn, and after removing some leftover food in the pouch, all it took was a wipe to clean.
Pros: Textured tip is great for teething, super soft, BPA-free, reversible, made of natural fibers
Cons: Doesn’t capture all food and spills
Julianna is in the notoriously brutal teething stage, which means she chews on just about anything to soothe her gums as baby teeth are erupting. When I discovered that Nuby makes a teething bib, I was intrigued.
The textured tip at the bib’s end is what sets it apart from other bibs, but it’s not the only feature that makes Nuby a standout. The material is extremely comfortable and the bib is the ideal size for feeding time. The reversible designs are also a nice touch.
Julianna ate her favorite chicken meatball again, with sauteed mushrooms, and though the bib didn’t catch every bit of leftover food, there wasn’t an unbearable mess. The best part: After feeding, I could toss it in the washing machine and dryer for a quick tumble.
Pros: Didn’t bunch up around the neck, comes in many unique patterns, wide design protects from spills, soft and comfortable, adjustable snaps at the neckline, easy to clean
After testing a few bandana bibs, the Copper Pearl Baby Bandana Bib proved the most practical because it laid flat on the baby to prevent spills, instead of bunching up around the neckline.
The designs are beyond cute (and though style is subjective, there’s a pattern for every taste). Copper Pearl is made of 100% absorbent cotton on the front and 100% polyester fleece on the back, so it’s plush and comfortable to wear.
Julianna ate French toast, bananas, and strawberries for breakfast, and the bib was impressive at absorbing drool and preventing spills. After feeding, a quick tumble in the washing machine and dryer made it ready for the baby’s next meal.
The best apron-style bib
The Panda Ear Short Sleeve Bib has an adjustable tie back, covers the baby’s shoulders to prevent spills, and the repel-tex material absorbs any small residue.
Pros: Short-sleeve design provides more coverage, great at absorbing drool, BPA-free, easy to clean, comfortable
Cons: May be too large for babies younger than 12 months, though the tie-back is adjustable; didn’t capture all food and spills
Apron-style bibs are great because they’re more like a smock rather than a chest covering. The Panda Ear Bib made the cut because of its short-sleeve design, which effectively covered the baby’s shoulders during mealtime.
Though the repel-tex material is super absorbent and easy to clean in the washing machine after meals, some of Julianna’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich slid off into the high chair seat. This wasn’t a dealbreaker, however, given the bib provides more coverage than others we tested.
Panda Ear makes fun patterns, too, and the tie-back feature was comfortable, caused no irritation, and enabled Julianna to enjoy her meal with a more precise fit. The bib runs a bit large, so I wouldn’t recommend ordering if your baby is less than 12 months old.
Pros: Food and spills remained on the bib, oval design covers some of the baby’s shoulders, easy to clean, 10-pack is great for multiple uses per day
Cons: Material isn’t as soft as others, but is still effective for feeding
The Green Sprouts Stay-Dry Infant Bibs are smaller than most, but have a unique oval design that acts as a shield on the baby’s shoulders to prevent spills. After Julianna ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, strawberries, and formula, most of the food bits remained on the bib’s surface, so the post-feeding cleanup was a breeze.
In our survey of parents and caregivers, nearly 40% of respondents said they use three bibs per day, with just over 10% using double that amount. That said, this 10-pack of quality bibs is an excellent value for those who just want something that will easily slip on.
Though I found the material not as soft as others, the bibs got the feeding job done without irritating my niece’s neck. When finished, the Green Sprouts bibs can be tossed in the washing machine and dryer.
In order to narrow down what types of bibs to test for this guide, we surveyed 20 parents and caregivers to better understand their baby bib preferences. Here’s an overview of the results:
85% of respondents care for babies between 4 and 11 months of age.
100% of respondents look for a baby bib that’s easy to clean, with durability being a close second.
Most parents and caregivers use three baby bibs per day and wash them daily.
What’s more, silicone baby bibs are the most popular type. Multipacks were overwhelmingly preferred, with 90% of respondents purchasing baby bibs in a two-pack or more, rather than a single bib.
When asked what issues parents and caregivers run into with baby bibs, the three most common problems include the bib not staying in place, irritation to the baby’s neck, and the bib not catching foods and liquids well.
With our survey results in mind, we tested each bib according to the following criteria:
How it held up while feeding: This includes how much of a mess was left over after feeding, how effective the bib was at absorbing drool and catching food, and the overall design of the bib.
How comfortable it was: This includes if the bib caused any irritation and the softness and durability of the material.
How simple it was to clean: While most bibs were washing-machine safe, we paid special attention to those that weren’t and how simple they were to clean when using a different method.
What else we considered
Below are the bibs we tested that didn’t quite make the cut:
We spoke to Feeding Littles cofounder Judy Delaware, OTR/L, CLC — an occupational therapist, feeding specialist, and certified lactation counselor — and Dr. Sarah Fleet, attending physician at Boston’s Children’s Hospital and instructor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. Both provided their expertise to answer commonly asked questions about what to look for in a baby bib and what to know while feeding.
What should a caregiver look for in a baby bib?
“I would recommend something easy to clean, comfortable to wear, and long enough to protect the clothes underneath,” said Fleet.”Being dishwasher or machine washable would also be useful.”
It’s great for a baby bib to tie around the baby’s body and not the neck for both safety and comfort, added Delaware. She also appreciates quick-dry fabrics and waterproof designs. Keep in mind that choosing a baby bib remains entirely up to preference, however.
What should I know about cotton and bandana bibs?
“The bandana-style bib is typically made from cotton and, in my experience, these bibs are used for both feeding and drooling but don’t hold up to the wetness that can occur during these activities,” Delaware said. “This bib can feel soft to the touch, but many caregivers quickly find the bib and clothing may have to be changed.”
What should I know about silicone bibs?
“The silicone bib is a caregiver favorite, but the front pocket may act as a place to pour or store things,” said Delaware. “The adjustable snaps may be irritating to tiny necks and many kids find silicone irritating to their skin.”
What should I know about repel-tex bibs?
“Repeltex is water-repellent and prevents the baby’s skin from feeling clammy or irritated,” said Delaware. “Look for a bib that secures around the body and not the neck.”
How often should I wash a baby bib?
Delaware recommends rinsing a bib after each use and running it through the washing machine one to three times a week. Fleet agrees, adding that food and saliva can become embedded on the bib’s surface and attract bacteria and pests.
What are safe feeding practices for babies?
“Each baby is unique in their skill development, and needs to be introduced to foods when they are developmentally ready,” said Fleet. “Solid foods should be introduced to an infant when they can sit unsupported in a high chair, with good head control, and are showing interest in solid foods.”
How can I encourage mealtime if a baby is fussy?
“Mealtime should ideally be free of distraction or screens and children should sit in a high chair or at the table,” said Fleet. “They should be allowed to feed themselves, and should not be fed against their will, as babies and toddlers generally eat when they are hungry and stop when they’re full.” Force-feeding may make them resistant to eat in the future, she added.
Fleet also recommends adding spices and flavors to infant and toddler foods. Toward the end of infancy, they may start refusing bland purees and prefer blended family meals, as they are more flavorful.
What should a baby’s diet contain for each life stage?
Below, Fleet provided a sample diet, unique to each month grouping. Be sure to speak to your pediatrician about any specific concerns.
0 to 4 months: Only breastmilk or formula should be given.
4 to 6 months: Single food purees can be given once daily along with breastmilk or formula.
9 to 12 months: Beyond 6 months of age, breastmilk and formula don’t contain enough iron, so solid foods are recommended more than once daily. The baby can try dissolvable solids, like puffs and veggie straws.
12 months and up: Three meals of solid foods and two snacks are encouraged, including puree, soft foods, or dissolvable solids. Bottles can be offered as snacks between meals.
A lot of moms spend their “day off” just like any other: cleaning up messes and watching the kids. In year’s past, I’ve been that worn-out momma.
For example, there have been many Mother’s Days when after opening my gift and shoveling down breakfast in bed, life would go back to normal, with a deluge of diapers to change and dishes in the sink.
But not this year.
This past Mother’s Day, I skipped the subtle hints and gave myself the one gift I wanted more than anything else: an entire weekend by myself.
No shouting toddlers. No waking up in the middle of the night. No endless list of chores. Just utter quiet and complete solitude. Hour after hour to do whatever I desired.
Fellow working moms, can you even imagine?
Even though Mother’s Day has passed, it’s not too late to coordinate your own escape. While many moms find it difficult to justify leaving their families, taking time and space for ourselves is not only good for us – it’s good for our loved ones, too.
Maybe you’re at a conference for work or maybe it’s a girls’ trip. Or maybe it’s a trip orchestrated solely for the purpose of being away. The point is that you’re not physically there to make dinner or help out with bedtime. You’re mentally unavailable to figure out why the baby is crying or carry the load of remembering to reorder wipes.
Not only does a strategic absence give the primary caretaker a much-needed break, but according to Bueskens, it can generate a “structural and psychological shift in the family” by redistributing some of the work that falls onto one parent by default (typically mom) and requiring the second parent (usually the father) to step up.
Now more than ever, families need to shake up their dynamic
I first wrote about strategic absence back in January 2020 in an article for Elemental, where I bemoaned the fact that the most time I’d taken away from my then-two-year-old were the 24 hours I spent in the hospital giving birth to baby number two.
I was long overdue for what some call a momcation – and was in the works of planning one – when the pandemic hit, adding another 14 months onto the two years I’d already essentially been sheltering in place.
A 2018 survey found the average mother ends up with a mere 30 minutes to herself a day. During the pandemic, you can bet alone time was at an even greater premium – at least it was in my household.
Now that people are vaccinated and travel is a bit safer, I could finally have the time off from mothering that I richly deserved.
The thought of just being in a space by myself for an extended period of time sounded magical: Imagine no one is touching you, shouting in your face, demanding snacks, and crying when you give them exactly what they asked for.
Give yourself a (modest) goal
Beyond leisurely bubble baths and uninterrupted sleep, experts say a strategic absence is time away to pursue other dimensions of yourself.
If you’re a type-A working mom like me – you love your job and don’t get enough uninterrupted time in your everyday life to focus on it – there’s nothing wrong with using your strategic absence to tackle a work project.
My goal for this past Mother’s Day weekend was to make a significant start into a new idea for a book proposal that’d been rattling around my head for months – exactly the kind of thing that requires significant “maker” time.
You want a plan – but don’t feel pressured
No one wants to come back from a vacation feeling like they need a vacation, and a momcation is no different. While you may use the time to be productive, it ought to be restorative as well.
After arriving at my destination, I spent an hour in line at Whole Foods. It started raining, I was cold – I’d forgotten to pack a sweater – and so instead of exploring a new restaurant like I’d intended, I went back to the apartment, zapped a microwave burrito, struggled with the beginning of my book proposal, and went to bed. It was pretty uneventful.
Fortunately, I woke up with a clearer head and zero distractions (the beauty of a strategic absence!), and I got straight to work. By day two, I knew I wasn’t going to end the weekend emailing my agent the 30 perfect pages of prose I’d promised her, but that was OK.
Ignore your buzzing phone
The most important part of a strategic absence is to protect yourself from intruders. Trust me, they will intrude.
A good friend will need to process the fight she’s having with her husband. Your cousin will want to know how your strategic absence is going or talk about where your moms went wrong when you were both kids. If enjoying phone conversations without screaming kids in the background was part of the plan, allow it, but if not, send those calls to voicemail.
The second I arrived and before I even put my bags down, I got a text from my husband complaining I’d overfilled the garbage can. It wasn’t a conversation we needed to have right then, and so I didn’t respond. I checked in with my family every night before bed, but other than that I ignored his messages.
Sure, I felt a little guilty, but they were never an emergency and I knew I wasn’t obligated to respond.
When I got home, my husband admitted that he’d actually enjoyed his time solo-parenting and said that, in some respects, it was easier. This isn’t unusual: Often without the primary parent’s micromanagement, the secondary parental figure develops competences and confidence. Do it often enough, and a strategic absence teaches your kids they can rely on both parents, not just mom.
In the end, I came back feeling more rested, connected to myself, appreciative of my family, and eager for my next escape.