Getting Your Home Ready for Your Baby

The best car seat and stroller combo, and other essentials for keeping your baby safe and comfortable

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Babies come into this world on their own schedule, even amid a global pandemic. And while so much might feel out of your control as soon-to-be parents, having the right gear ready and waiting can bring some peace of mind that your little one will be safe and snug at home.

In the months leading up to the birth of your baby, it seems as if there’s an endless list of things to buy. Start with the essentials highlighted below—a travel system, smoke and carbon monoxide detector, humidifier, blender, and laundry detergent for sensitive skin. They all were impressive in our tests.

There are also a few items you can take off your list. “Skip crib bumpers, quilts, pillows, loose-fitting sheets, and wedges or other sleep positioners," says Joan Muratore, an expert on baby gear and Consumer Reports' test engineer for strollers. "The safest crib is an empty crib." A fitted crib sheet is all your baby needs. In colder weather, a zippered sleep-sack will keep her warm and safe—without the loose blanket.

The Chicco Bravo Trio is the only travel system to snag an Excellent rating for stroller and car seat performance in CR's tests. The Chicco KeyFit 30 infant car seat earns top-notch ratings across the board. It’s one of the easiest to install using a vehicle’s LATCH system or its safety belts, increasing your odds of getting a secure fit. It earns a Better designation for crash protection. (That means it provides added safety beyond models that score Basic, but less than those that score Best.) This car seat maxes out when your child reaches 30 pounds or 30 inches tall. The Chicco Bravo stroller is a cinch to fold, fairly easy to maneuver, and garners an Excellent rating in our safety tests.

Technically speaking, you don't need a carbon monoxide detector in your baby's room—though you should install a smoke detector in every bedroom. But you might like the peace of mind afforded by this combination smoke and CO detector. The Universal Security Instruments MIC3510SB is one of a few combination detectors that has both photoelectric and ionization sensors, meaning it can detect both smoldering and flaming fires (most combo models have only one of the two), in addition to having a CO sensor. As a result, this USI detector is the only combination model to perform well across all of our smoke and CO tests. It runs on a sealed 10-year battery and features a hush button. But it can’t connect with other detectors.

When your baby gets a stuffy nose, a cool-mist humidifier can thin the fluid and mucus, making it easier for her to breathe, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The Crane Owl cool-mist humidifier, part of Crane's Adorables lineup, can humidify a room up to 250 square feet and earns an Excellent rating in our noise tests, making it a good choice for a bedroom. Be sure to drain, rinse, and dry the humidifier daily, and follow the manufacturer's instructions for routine cleaning. Otherwise, it can release bacteria from standing water into the air.

The AAP recommends introducing solid foods when your baby is about 6 months old. Until then, you may want to make your own baby food, and our tests have found that blenders are better at puréeing food and less expensive than most food processors. A heating element in the base of this 7.4-cup blender makes it possible to cook foods either before or after blending. The GoWise is the only blender we've tested that has a designated baby food preset (though we didn’t test it). It earns an Excellent rating in our purée test.

Regular detergent is fine for washing baby clothes unless your baby’s skin becomes irritated, according to the AAP. Some baby detergents contain allergens such as fragrance, however, so consider one meant for sensitive skin. Most major manufacturers say their hypoallergenic formulas don't contain dyes or perfumes; Kirkland Signature Ultra Clean Free & Clear carries that claim. It earns a Very Good rating for removing dirt and is one of the least expensive hypoallergenic detergents we’ve tested. If your washing machine has an extra-rinse cycle, use it to rinse away detergent residue for anyone in your family who has sensitive skin.