Before James was born, I worked in daycares & preschools, primarily in the Infant Classrooms. I was able to use nearly all the bottle brands, pacifiers, and diapers that are on the market. When I got pregnant I was so relieved to have all of that experience because it made many (definitely not all) of my Baby Registry decisions so much easier. In fact, I remember standing in front of the wall of bottles and pacifiers and knowing that if hadn't already tried them all out I would have been completely overwhelmed.
Long before James was born and even before I was pregnant with him, I knew that I wanted to use Avent bottles. I like Avent because you don't have to fiddle with all different pieces and inserts (like Dr. Brown's) and I wouldn't be using and discarding hundreds or thousands of disposable bottle liners (like Playtex Drop-ins). Unfortunately, all of my foreknowledge wasn't quite enough. James had a bit of reflux when he was born and often choked while drinking his bottle. This was very unnerving for my husband, who was usually the one giving James his bottles since I was breastfeeding. Also, the Avents sometimes leak. I can't explain how or why they do it, but there's something about the threads on the lid or the anti-colic mechanism in the nipples that make them leak. That is very frustrating at 6am when you have a screaming infant and half-awake parent.
When James was a few months old, Babies 'R Us released a line of Tommee Tippee products. These bottles are exclusively at Babies 'R Us. They were the first bottles I've ever looked at and thought to myself, "That actually looks like a breast." Since I was breastfeeding and James was choking up on the Avents, we decided to buy one and try it out. James rarely choked on the Tommee Tippees and these bottles never leaked. There are only two cons about the Tommee Tippee bottles: 1) it seems like if you use a traditional bottle/nipple brush to clean them, there's a high likelihood of damaging the bottles. Tommee Tippee sells a special brush to clean them for around $5.99. 2) I was able to use Avent bottles on my breast pump but the Tommee Tippee bottle tops were too wide. The storage bottles that came with the pump only held around 4oz and when James was bigger, I produced more than would fit in those bottles. Believe me, changing out bottles during the middle of pumping is a terrible pain.
Later, I found a cyst in my breast and it had to be removed while I was still breastfeeding. For about a week I wasn't allowed to nurse on that side. In an effort to make sure James stayed interested in breastfeeding, we went out and bought a few more Tommee Tippee bottles. (For those who don't know, bottles are easier to suckle than breasts because the milk flows faster from the bottle. This means, when babies are given only bottles for a period of time, they sometimes refuse to take the breast.) All in all, Avents are alright, but I definitely recommend Tommee Tippees.
Whatever bottle you decide to use, make sure that it's BPA-free. This is becoming a standard in baby gear, but for me it was a big deterrent from buying bottles used.
Now, for diapers. We use cloth diapers as much as we can and disposables at daycare and overnight. My understanding is that it's a sanitation requirement at daycare and overnight, the cloth diapers just don't hold what we need them to.
Thankfully we were able to avoid some of the up-front cost associated with cloth diapers by receiving hand-me-downs from my sister who used them for her oldest daughter. She gave us about a dozen pocket diapers. These diapers (like the one James is wearing in the picture) are adorable and also pretty convenient. After you wash them, they require a small amount of assembly but then strap on pretty much like a disposable. Very friendly to the skeptic or babysitter. The downside is that they run about $12-13 a piece. That can get pretty pricey when you really need around 2 dozen diapers.
In addition to those, we bought a dozen Econobum pre-folds for $50. To me, this is an unbeatable deal. For those on a budget, you can get 2 dozen diapers, fill your diaper needs, and only spend about $100! When your babies are tiny, its not uncommon to spend $50 or more every month in diapers! These diapers are slightly less convenient. They look more like what people think of when they envision cloth diapers. There's a piece of cloth that I fold in thirds, wrap around his bottom, then I add a water-proof cover (3 come in a pack) that snaps into place. These Econobums are designed to be one-size fits most depending on which way you fold the cloth insert and how the liners are snapped up. After every change, the cover is hung up to air out, unless it's soiled, in which case it needs to be washed. Obviously, the pro to this particular cloth diaper system are that it is so very affordable; the con is that it can be a bit of a hassle to juggle so many pieces when you're out and about. This is where I have loved having some pocket diapers and some pre-folds.
Now, about cleaning them. I had hard time nailing down how my friends in the States washed their diapers (apparently in other parts of the world, it's fairly easy to attach small water hose to the back of the toilet which is very useful for cleaning poopy off diapers). Personally, we keep our diaper pail in the bathroom because I do notice a distinct urine odor when we left it in James' room. The bathroom is aired out enough that I really don't notice it there. If a diaper is just wet I don't do anything to pre-treat it, it just goes in the pail (if it's a pocket diaper, I disassemble it first). For poopy diapers, I shake the soil into the toilet and flush the majority of it. Then I swish it around so that anything lingering is off and I flush again. When I get down to about 3 clean diapers, I start soaking the dirty diapers in the washer (in cold water). I wash the diapers in cold water without detergent first; then wash in hot water with detergent (I really like 7th Generation Free & Clear laundry detergent, but while it doesn't have to be that brand, there are specific kinds that are ok to use). After the hot water wash, the diapers are sent through a hot water rinse cycle. I hang up my pre-fold covers and machine dry everything else.
One thing that is important to know is that cloth diapers are much bulkier than disposables which affects which clothes will fit on your baby. I also think James looks like he's got an old man belly sometimes when he wears them :). Also, from what I understand, you can't use most diaper creams when you use cloth diapers. This is because the diaper creams are meant to keep moisture off your child's bottom and if the cream soaks into the diaper it can compromise the diaper's ability to absorb moisture. So when James has a diaper rash we usually switch back to disposables.
If you go with disposables, I have a few opinions about those as well :). I can't stand Huggies or Wal-mart Brand. They had tons of leaks and just weren't worth my money. Pampers were nice, but pricey. Luvs & Target brand are my go-to's. I usually buy whichever of those are cheaper. Recently, I got 2 cases of Luvs for 16.99 each and received a $10 gift-card to Target! Can't beat that!
Yesterday my husband and I purchased a jogging stroller. Hopefully I'll be able to endorse it soon, but I haven't been able to try it out yet. It's a Baby Trend Velocity stroller that I found on clearance at Babies 'R US. It was 30% off because it was out of the box, which was a great deal. Babies 'R US routinely releases coupons for 20% off one Baby Gear item (so much so that I try to avoid any large purchases unless I have one). I thought it was a long shot to use it on already reduced products, but they accepted it no problem! I purchased a $180 stroller for $103 and change after tax! I can't wait to try it out and let you know how it goes!