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We’ve updated this guide to add the BabyBjörn Baby Bib.
Keeping a squirmy infant clean is a task worthy of Sisyphus—the minute you get them washed, brushed, and diapered, it’s time to start all over. But the right tools can make grooming your kid a little less of a battle. From the best diapering supplies and tiny scissors that keep sharp nails at bay, to a snot sucker that really works, a catch-all bib, and supplies for a calming bath time, here’s what our staffers use in their own homes with their own kids.
Triple Paste Medicated Ointment, $27 for a 16-ounce jar at the time of publication Aquaphor Baby Healing Ointment, about $10 for a 7-ounce tube at the time of publication Boudreaux’s Butt Paste, about $7 for a 4-ounce tube at the time of publication
Keeping your infant’s skin dry is key to preventing diaper rash. Zinc oxide and petroleum jelly, the main ingredients in these three picks, are both great at sealing out moisture. It’s important that a diaper cream be concentrated enough to last a long time on the skin, and Triple Paste Medicated Ointment is a thick, smooth paste with 12.8% zinc oxide. It’s easy to apply and gives great protection—slather it on and you can see water bead up on its surface. It also lasts all night—it’s one of the only creams we’ve tried that’s still visible on the skin in the morning. Boudreaux’s Butt Paste, made with 16% zinc oxide, is similarly reliable and moisture resistant.
Aquaphor Baby Healing Ointment is another great choice. It’s almost as water-resistant as Triple Paste and Boudreaux’s Butt Paste, and it’s easier to spread because it’s made with 41% petroleum jelly. It also contains lanolin and bisabolol, which are potential allergens. But those ingredients serve to make this ointment thicker and longer-lasting than pure petroleum jelly (Vaseline), and that is a plus when your aim is protecting skin for long periods of time. Unlike zinc, which leaves a white cast, the Aquaphor ointment is almost invisible, and it works well on any skin that needs soothing—not just bums.
Wet Brush Mini, about $8 at the time of publication
Despite the fine, soft texture of my daughter’s hair, the first baby brush I bought for her barely smoothed the surface and did nothing to detangle the layers underneath. Instead, I found myself reaching for my adult-size Wet Brush to comb through her post-bath hair. Finally, I got smart and bought my then-1-year-old her own mini “Squirt” size, which was much easier to maneuver around her little head. Its tines are firm but flexible; they make quick work of tangles but somehow never tug or pull at delicate hair. The handle is also just the right size for small hands. Long before my daughter mastered brushing, she enjoyed waving this brush in the general vicinity of her head. This one comes in lots of fun colors, too, which helped us find it when the brush was accidentally buried in the toy bin.
Piyo Piyo Baby Nail Scissors, $10 at the time of publication
How hard could trimming a baby’s nails be? Hard enough, apparently, that 3½ years after my daughter was born, I was still the only one who could stomach the task. Baby nail clippers can seem scarily unwieldy next to those tiny, delicate digits—my husband is certainly not alone in having drawn blood with them—while files seem to take forever. I replaced those ungainly tools early on with these nail scissors, which make it easy to see what you’re doing and to trim off just the right amount. I love these scissors so much, I bought two more pairs so I can always have one handy.
FridaBaby’s NailFrida The SnipperClipper Set, $13 at the time of publication
When my son was a baby, he was wiggly enough that nail scissors, which require a bit more precision than clippers, wouldn’t cut it. We found respite in the NailFrida The SnipperClipper Set. These clippers have a spy-hole design, which allows you to see exactly what’s between the blades before you snip, and the curved edges are soft enough that they won’t cut your baby’s skin if you slip. They’re also extra-large, with a plastic panel that makes them fairly easy to maneuver. Yes, we sometimes still needed to sneak a trim in while he was napping. But these nail clippers, along with the included S-shaped nail file, saved his little face from myriad nail scratches.
OXO Tot PerfectPull Wipes Dispenser, about $20 at the time of publication
I swore I’d never buy a wipes dispenser. But now I’m telling you it is a diapering essential, particularly if you use disposable wipes. The PerfectPull Wipes Dispenser allows you to grab one (only one!) wipe at a time, using one (only one!) hand. Anyone who has experienced the frustration of pulling one—or five—too many wipes from a flimsy package while trying to diaper a squirmy baby will understand the appeal of this plastic box. Its airtight lid pops open with a push, and a weighted plate keeps premoistened wipes from emerging all at once. The container is easy to refill, and there are no tricky corners to clean—a simple wash and dry every so often keeps dirt at bay. It’s no exaggeration to say that this dispenser was a game changer in my earliest butt-wiping days of five or more poops in 24 hours.
Aquaphor Baby Wash & Shampoo, about $9 at the time of publication
My kid has super-sensitive skin and is prone to rashes. After months of trial and error, I realized that several of the “natural” washes I was using contained fragrant plant oils (like lavender) that smell nice but are potentially irritating. Now we use Aquaphor Baby Wash & Shampoo. There’s nothing fancy about this wash, but it is fragrance-free, and it has a not-too-thick, not-too-thin viscosity, so it spreads and foams well. And it cleans thoroughly yet doesn’t overdry. The Aquaphor wash is also a bargain—about 10 bucks for a huge, 25-ounce bottle at the time of writing. That works out to pennies per use, and I have a happier baby. Win-win.
Skip Hop Moby Waterfall Rinser, $10 at the time of publication
When my son was small, every new endeavor felt like a risky proposition. (Is he really ready for Cheerios? Will he be okay without a swaddle?) So imagine my anxiety when my husband and I transitioned from gently washing his hair with a damp washcloth to actually shampooing and rinsing. No matter how hard we tried to avoid doing so, we’d inevitably get water and soap in his eyes. He’d screech and cry, and then we’d get upset too. Luckily, bath time got a whole lot calmer when my sister-in-law gifted him this goofy rinser. As a play thing, it entertained him, helping him settle comfortably in the tub. As a rinser, it hugged his hairline so we could wash away the suds without stinging his eyes. As parents, we enjoyed that gift even more than our son did.
We tested 10 baby bathtubs and bath seats and found the Fisher-Price Sling ’n Seat Tub is the best basin and the Angelcare Baby Bath Support is the best seat.
Scalp Scrubbie, $9 for a three-pack at the time of publication
Often called by its innocuous nickname—“cradle cap”—infant dandruff is real and really common (up to 70% of babies get it). It’s also notoriously hard to get rid of, and if you do, it quickly comes back. When my child came down with a case of the flakes, I was thrilled to find the Scalp Scrubbie. It’s a gentle dual sponge/scrubber that can be used wet or dry. I loved that during bath time, I could use the sponge side to bathe my baby and the scrubber side for shampooing and deflaking. The scrubber side has the perfect texture to get rid of baby dandruff, and frequent use seems to stave off future cases. Each of the $3 sponges lasted about a month before needing to be replaced, a small price to pay to have a flake-free baby!
FridaBaby Nose Frida the Snotsucker, about $20 at the time of publication
This contraption, which lets you use your mouth to suck boogers right out of your baby’s nostrils, was the most disgusting and also the most useful baby tool we owned. It’s essentially a straw that has a filter inside so the mucus you extract from your infant or toddler doesn’t pass through to your mouth. Our daughter hated having her nose drained, which made my husband and I, as new parents, feel guilty when we needed to use this. But unlike awkward suction bulbs, this sucker works fast. Using it is way better than the alternative: a miserable, congested baby. As she did with most remedies for sick kids, our infant protested and then forgot all about it once she got some relief.
BabyBjörn Baby Bib, $20 for two at the time of publication
I could count on one hand the pieces of baby gear that have survived our three kids, and the BabyBjörn Baby Bib deserves special mention even within that elite category. This bib is easier to put on and take off than other ones we used. And it’s better than the rest at catching everything from spilled soup to spit-up: We found that the BabyBjörn’s rigid reservoir and stiff plastic construction could carry a sizable load to the sink without spilling. This bib may not be the most exciting item on the registry, but it’ll still be in service long after a kid outgrows most other baby gear. If you have your kid wearing the BabyBjörn in the right place at the right time, it will make you feel, for a fleeting moment, that you’ve got this parenting thing under control.
This article was edited by Jennifer Hunter and Kalee Thompson.
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