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Expert Reviews Parent and Baby awards 2021: Essential parenting products, tested by experts

All the very best parenting essentials you need for every stage of your little one's life

Having a baby is one of the most expensive life choices any of us will make. This is partly due to the fact there are various different products you need to buy – particularly in those early months and years – but also because there are literally thousands of options to choose from within each category. 

And due to the exorbitant prices attached to many of these items, it’s absolutely crucial that you make the right purchase. After all: once you’ve made such a sizeable investment, it isn’t always easy to change your mind. 

With this in mind, we’ve been running some rigorous tests to help you make these once-in-a-lifetime decisions. From car seats to prams, cots to bottles, we’ve selected the standout products in a huge range of categories in an effort to take the stress out of parting with your hard-earned cash. 

Welcome to the Expert Reviews Parent and Baby awards.

Expert Reviews Parent and Baby awards 2021

Best car seat

Winner | Nuna Prym | £399

Designed with the comfort and safety of both you and your little one in mind, the Nuna Prym car seat saves your back from the awkward twisting and lifting that comes with regular seats. As their name suggests, 360 seats like this one can rotate in a full circle, allowing you to switch easily from rear- to forward-facing when your child is old enough. They also allow you to swivel the seat to face towards the car door, making it much easier to get your baby or toddler in and out. 

The seat is reinforced with a steel frame and EPS energy-absorbing foam, while the cushion your child sits on uses memory foam, making it superlatively comfortable. It comes with inserts for smaller babies that can be removed as your child grows and has a wide seat that gives your little one a bit more room.

Perhaps best of all, the Nuna Prym has magnets built into the arm cushions; you can use these magnets to keep the straps out of the way while you put your child into the seat. It’s a small but incredibly thoughtful addition, and as far as we’re concerned it’s the cherry on the cake. 

Highly commended | Maxi-Cosi Coral | £239

Not only does Maxi-Cosi’s Coral car seat offer all the safety and comfort features that parents have come to expect from the brand, but it’s also the first so-called “modular” seat. This innovative design allows you to either lift the car seat out in one go or lift your little one out in the soft carrier, leaving the safety shell in the car. It makes moving your baby to and from your car unprecedentedly simple, even if they’re sleeping, and it’s much kinder on your back.

This car seat is compatible with all Maxi-Cosi stroller frames, too. It’s not cheap, and will only last until your baby is a year old (or 12kg), but we think it’s a worthwhile investment: we’re yet to find a more effective car seat for those precious first months.

Best pram/pushchair

Winner | Stokke Xplory | £864

From the luxurious use of woven fabrics to its superb one-hand steering and plush, ergonomic seat, the Stokke Xplory is a fantastic all-round pram-cum-pushchair.

The seat on the Stokke Xplory reclines to help your little one sleep or see more of the world, and it’s also height-adjustable – something that’s rare even on more expensive pushchairs. This has the added benefit of bringing your child closer to you, or indeed closer to the table at mealtimes, should you choose to turn the seat to face forwards.

Due to the nature of this height-adjustable seat, there is ample room under the pushchair for shopping; instead of a fixed basket, the Stokke Xplory comes with a nifty bag capable of holding up to 9kg of shopping. As a pushchair, the Stokke Xplory is suitable for children aged six months to three years but you can buy a carrycot if you want to use it from birth. 

Highly commended | Cybex Priam | From £829

The Cybex Priam is an incredibly well-built customisable pram/stroller hybrid, with rubber wheels and advanced suspension connected by a reassuringly solid frame. It’s suitable from birth (when used with a carrycot) up to four years of age or a maximum weight of 17kg, whichever comes first. 

Despite its luxurious styling – which is available in 17 colours – the Priam is perfect for on- and off-road adventures. You can even buy an extension pack that replaces the front wheels with a pair of skis, if that’s your thing, or swap in larger or smaller tyres, depending on the terrain. The Priam doesn’t have the height-adjustable seat seen on the Stokke pushchair, but its seat is positioned at the average height of a table, meaning it can act as a makeshift highchair. 

Best value pram/pushchair

Winner | Silver Cross Pop | £160

The Silver Cross Pop is the UK’s most popular stroller, and with good reason. Fantastically low price aside, it’s slim, light and still comfy enough for your little one. And don’t be fooled by that price: it’s supportive and rugged enough to work as your main pushchair.

There’s an excellent fully-extendable sun hood that comes right over the front to protect baby from the sun at all angles, along with multiple seat recline positions and calf support to catch the dangling legs of older babies. Best of all, the Pop folds to just 31cm wide – perfect for stowing it away in compact spaces. 

Highly commended | Hauck SLX Trio Travel System | £270

While £270 may still feel on the pricey side, this price covers an entire three-piece travel system, complete with a pushchair, carrycot and a car seat. Plus a rain seat, a drinks holder (these don’t tend to come as standard) and a massive shopping basket.

The main seat features an adjustable footrest and a removable safety bar to grow with your little one until they’re around three years old (or up to 15kg). Despite its plastic wheels, this system is smooth to push and handle. 

Best travel cot

Winner | Bugaboo Stardust | £199

Bugaboo recently branched out from its highly regarded pushchair range with the launch of the Bugaboo Stardust – its first-ever travel cot. The Stardust’s major USP, and the one that elevates it above the competition, is its “pop-up” design. Just like the pop-up tents or windbreakers you can buy, it’s possible to open this travel cot in seconds. And it folds down just as fast, at the touch of a button. 

While you might think this pop-up design would make the Stardust flimsier than other cots, you’d be dead wrong. And better yet, the Stardust can be folded and unfolded with the mattress inside. When you factor all of these features in, plus a bassinet insert and shoulder bag, the £199 price tag doesn’t seem quite so extortionate and this is why it took the best travel cot crown.

Highly commended | Joie Excursion Change and Bounce | £160

It’s not the most compact, lightweight or easily assembled travel cot but what the Joie Excursion Change and Bounce lacks in convenience, it more than makes up for in features. As well as being a sturdy, well-built travel cot, it comes with a full-size clip-on bassinet, a changing table and a bouncer all included in the price. What’s more, the bouncing seat can be placed either on top of the cot or as a standalone bouncer, as can the changing mat.

On the side of the cot is a “sound and light” attachment that switches on a nightlight, gently vibrates the cot and plays music or natural ambience when activated. The bouncing seat adds a toy bar with two soft toys and a five-point harness and pushes the Joie Excursion from good value to great value in our eyes.

Best baby monitor

Winner | BT Smart Baby Monitor | £130

We’ve tested a lot of baby monitors and we’re yet to find one that ticks as many boxes as this beauty from BT. The only real downside is that it’s quite pricey, but it’s more than worth the money. 

Not only is it the UK’s first voice-controlled baby monitor, allowing you to view the camera via an Alexa Show or listen to the audio from a Google Home, but you can also view the camera on your phone from anywhere – such as overseas while on holiday, for example. You don’t need to be on the same network or within range to use these smart features, as is the case with many rivals.   

These remarkable features – combined with an all-night battery life, two-way audio and lullabies – make this the best baby monitor we’ve used. 

Highly commended | Nanit Plus Baby Monitor | £299

Narrowly missing out on the top spot because of its high price, the Nanit Plus baby monitor has some superb features, including some that are completely unique. 

Instead of being perched on the side of the cot or on furniture, Nanit is designed to be positioned directly above the cot, fitted to the wall without cables. This gives you a full high-definition view of your little one no matter where they wriggle.

It comes with a monitor and will also connect to an app meaning you can view the footage at any time. You can use both the monitor and app to talk to your little one, and keep an eye on the temperature and humidity in their room. 

What really sets the Nanit system apart, however, is its built-in Personal Sleep Coach. Nanit tracks and analyses your little one’s unique sleep patterns and provides personal sleep tips, alongside daily updates. For some parents, this will feel like overkill, but for others, it’s super helpful in understanding how your baby or toddler is sleeping. 

Best thermometer

Winner | Braun ThermoScan 7 | £60

Endorsed by GPs across Europe, Braun’s ThermoScan 7 takes the title of the best thermometer because it’s fast, reliable and accurate. It offers three age settings –  0-3 months, 3-36 months and 36 months plus – and gives a reading in one second, which is perfect if you have a wriggly toddler. Elsewhere, the ThermoScan comes with a pre-warming tip and spare tip covers. We’ve had this thermometer for around a year and have not yet had to replace the two AA batteries that it came with. This is despite the fact we’ve been using the thermometer daily in recent months due to the coronavirus. A fantastic, affordable all-rounder that soon proves invaluable. 

Highly commended | Tommee Tippee Digital Ear thermometer | £38

Tommee Tippee’s Digital Ear Thermometer is the most straightforward in-ear baby thermometer we’ve used and offers a decent range of features. It takes just one second to give an accurate reading and stores the previous nine readings to make it easy to track if your little one’s fever is ramping up or calming down. The reading is given on an LCD display and the thermometer will sound an alarm if a fever is detected. Oh, and it’s equally as suitable for newborns as it is for adults thanks to its tiny tip.

It doesn’t have the age features of the Braun models despite costing roughly the same, which is why it missed out on the top spot. On the plus side, however, this does make it less fiddly to get to grips with.

Best highchair 

Winner | Joie Multiply 6-in-1 | £130

Our two-year-old has used this highchair since they were six months old and we’ve yet to find another model that ticks as many boxes and makes weaning so effortless. Courtesy of its reclining seat – with cushioned insert for younger babies – height-adjustable base and detachable tray, this seat can be used for weaning, as well as a booster seat and a play table. Incidentally, these are all features that go towards justifying the initial high price; the Joie Multiply 6-in-1 is still an investment, but it’s one that will last. 

Highly commended | Ikea Antilop | £19

The Antilop doesn’t have any of the bells, whistles or adjustable features of the winning Joie highchair but what it does offer is a cheap, functional, comfortable and easy way to get your child started with weaning and beyond. If you’re after something practical, on a budget, you can’t go wrong with this great value model. 

Best baby bottles

Winner | Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Complete Feeding Set | £70

With a generous set of eight bottles (four small, four large), a steriliser that cleans five bottles at a time, bottle warmers, tongs and a cleaning brush, the Tommee Tippee is an affordable, convenient and fantastic way to get everything feeding-related ready, in one single package. Rather unusually, the Closer To Nature design of the teat is created to look and feel more like the shape of a natural breast. For the reasons above, this is a popular brand among many parents we know, which is about as impressive an endorsement as you could hope for. 

Highly commended | NUK First Choice+ | £22

We’re big fans of the NUK First Choice+ range generally. Its unique teat design, with a flat part on one side and a curved lip on the other, can be easier for babies to take to. And with a built-in temperature control, you can quickly see when your baby’s feed has reached the right temperature. This set doesn’t come with the added extras of the Tommee Tippee kit, but you’re also paying a third of the price, which is why it gets our highly commended award.  

Best baby walker

Winner | Babylo Combo 3-in-1 | £65

Combining the best features of sit-in walkers and their push-along counterparts, the Babylo Combo is three products in one. It’s a static rocker, a seated walker and a push-along, all for a relatively affordable £65. We’re big fans of its versatility and style. Plus, when it’s not in use, it folds down, making it perfect for homes where space is at a premium. 

Highly commended | Red Kite Baby Go Round Twist 2-in-1 Walker | £50

A happy splash of gender-neutral colours, the Baby Go Round Twist is Red Kite’s flagship height-adjustable baby walker. It gets its name from its platter of twisty, fiddly toys on the detachable electronic play tray. The real USP here, though, is the fact it converts between a static rocker to a walker via a sliding mechanism at the base. It doesn’t have the third element, as seen on the Babylo Combo, but it’s worthy of a mention in these awards nonetheless.

Best steriliser

Winner | MAM Electric Baby Bottle Steriliser and Express Bottle Warmer | £90

If you’re not sure which type of steriliser you’ll need, the MAM Electric Baby Bottle Steriliser and Express Bottle Warmer offers a reassuring comprehensiveness. It can be used as an electric steriliser, microwave steriliser and cold water steriliser for up to six 130ml bottles, plus it has a food and bottle warmer, and breast milk defroster attachment. This steriliser and warmer also comes with one of MAM’s Easy Start Anti-Colic Baby Bottles and a 0-2-months dummy. MAM has managed to cram a lot of tech into a relatively small space and this kit has proven invaluable time and again.

Highly commended | Tommee Tippee Super Steam Advanced Electric Steriliser | £70

The Tommee Tippee Super Steam Advanced Electric Steriliser is on the bulky side and will take up more space in your kitchen than the MAM steriliser, but it provides greater versatility as a result. It has enough space to fit a range of baby bottles (up to a maximum of six), soothers, breast pumps, teethers and other accessories, and cleans them in just five minutes. It’s available in black and white, to suit a range of kitchen aesthetics, and comes with tongs and a dummy.

Best baby carrier

Winner | Ergobaby Omni 360  | £155

Ergobaby’s award-winning 360 range is lightweight and made from a breathable synthetic mesh, with a stiff structure that can stand up to sporty hikes and allows you to carry your little one in four positions. The Omni 360 – our favourite in this range – supports newborns as standard, so there’s no need to buy a separate insert, and it has a detachable pouch for dummies, keys, or your phone. Being a fairly high-tech baby carrier, the Omni 360 does have a slightly more complicated array of buttons, belts and straps, but these simply add to its versatility.

Highly commended | Ergobaby Embrace | £75

Bringing all the quality and comfort of the Ergobaby Omni 360, but without the buckles, buttons and high price tag, our highly commended baby carrier is the Ergobaby Embrace. It’s cheaper because it won’t last as long – it’s suitable for babies from birth (or 3.2kg/7lb) up to 11.3kg (24lbs), rather than 3.2kg-15kg – and because it offers three positions rather than four. Yet it fits like a dream, supports the smallest of babies and looks stylish.  

Best stairgate

Winner | BabyDan Multidan Metal Extending Safety Gate | £30 

BabyDan’s Multidan extending safety gate ticks a lot of boxes in the search for the best stair gate. It’s step-free and has a screw-fit, wall-mounted design that opens both ways. It comes with a double-lock mechanism – one at the top and one at the bottom – but can be unlocked easily with one hand, and you can customise its width to suit whichever location you choose to place it in. All for just £30.

Highly commended | Fred Screw Fit Clear-View Safety Stair Gate | £150

No, that’s not a typo. This stairgate really does cost £150, but it’s a superb piece of kit  – although its price was the main reason it didn’t take the crown from BabyDan’s model. If you don’t like the cage-like nature of standard stair gates and don’t trust the stability of material gates, the Fred Clear-View Safety Stair Gate provides a happy medium. It’s also screw-fit and step-free. We love the fact that it can be used inside door frames or fitted to walls either side of the door, and that thanks to its 180-degree mount, it can even be installed at an angle. 

Best white noise machine

Winner | myHummy | From £40

myHummy products sit at the more expensive end of the white noise machine market, but with Bluetooth connectivity – which allows you to remotely control the machine with your phone – plus sleep sensors, they’re well specified. Each one is packed with firm stuffing, making them soft enough to play with without posing a suffocation risk. And inside there’s a removable ”Humming Heart”, which takes three AAA batteries and can be removed for standalone use or to wash the outer teddy. Some of the more expensive bears can even send a notification to your phone if the baby starts to whimper or cry – a handy alternative to a baby monitor if you’re travelling.

Highly commended | Munchkin Shhh Sleep Machine | £20 

This white noise machine looks similar to a colourful smart speaker (we think it looks a bit like the Google Home) and plays three sounds: shushing, heartbeat and white noise. A soft built-in nightlight mimics the womb by emitting either a pulsing light or a solid glow, and to save battery life, a timer will shut off the machine when it’s no longer needed. It doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as some white noise machines but for £20, you can’t really complain. 

Best nappy

Winner | Pampers Premium Protection New Baby | From £4

There’s a reason why Pampers cost as much as they do and it’s because they’re ideal for all ages. The British Skin Foundation endorses these nappies for newborns in particular: they contain an aloe extract to soothe your baby’s delicate skin.

Soft and impressively absorbent, the New Baby nappies will keep wetness from pee and soft poo away from your baby’s skin. They even have a wetness indicator built right in so you can see exactly when it’s time for a nappy change – before the irritation inevitably sets in.

Highly commended | Aldi Mamia New-Born | From £0.79 

Nope, that isn’t a typo. You really can get 24 nappies for less than £1 at Aldi and they give much more expensive brands a run for their money. 

For most babies, the shape of these super-affordable nappies fits snugly and is effective at preventing leaks either above the waist or between the legs. They don’t have the full level of backing from official bodies as Pampers’ range, but they also don’t cost as much. 

The best nappy choice if you’re on a budget or your child gets through a lot of nappies! 

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