This is such a difficult question and one that I am asked several times a week from friends, clients, and strangers alike. People know their cell phone camera and point-and-shoot cameras aren't cutting it to take pictures of their lightning-speed kiddos, but aren't sure which "big camera" to purchase that will give them the results they want without putting them in the poor house and the camera becoming a dinosaur before it even arrives in the mail.
So here are some points I emailed a friend yesterday that I thought might be helpful to other people too:
1) "Nikon or Canon? Nikon or Canon??": Let me start by saying I'm a Canon girl through-and-through. I use Nikons in my 101 Workshops, but I truly can't speak to which body is better than any other. What I can say is that my professional photographer friends who shoot Nikon are beyond pleased and I'm sure whatever Nikon you choose will be fantastic. Having said that, I can only recommend Canon because that is all I have experienced. It's not to say that whatever Nikon you have or are considering isn't equally fantastic.
2) "Which Canon should I buy?" Check out this YouTube about Canon Rebel comparisons and note that the big take-away is that if you don't care about video (you'll use your cell phone, your point-and-shoot, your Flip, etc. to capture video), you might as well save some money and get the Canon Rebel Xsi.
3) What about the lens? I want the blur": "Blur" is actually called "bokeh" and you get that effect with shallow depths of field (an entirely different blog post and part of my 101 workshop) When you decide which body to purchase, ignore the lens they sell with the body. It's usually a 3.5 or even 5.6 and won't give you the "blur" that you would like in portrait photographs. In fact, if you can buy a body without a lens, do it. Put that money toward the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens...nicknamed the "nifty 50" because it's an awesome lens for right around $100. Buy the $5 Tiffen 52mm UV Protection Filter too (protects the lens from dust/dirt/fingerprints).
I can say that whatever camera you decide on is going to be a huge, humongous, awesome improvement. What you'll notice quickly is that babies...even little ones...are FAST little guys! They blink, they rock the "startle reflex" (where they jerk their arm up for no good reason and scare you half to death), they turn their heads at the wrong time, etc. etc. etc. A point-and-shoot, even the latest-and-greatest ones...just aren't going to cut it. You need a DSLR (like the ones you're looking at, or even a lesser version) to get those moments.
Another note, I buy ALL of my gear on Amazon. Yes, there are cheaper places but I love Amazon. Great customer service, great returns, great quality. And, for a little while longer, no sales tax (at least for CA). Feel free to buy through B&H or any other reseller...I'm just telling you what I've found to be the best solution for me. Here is a link to my gear (not that you need this gear...just want to share what I use): http://astore.amazon.com/brookebryandphotography-20
Good luck in your quest and don't hesitate to contact me with questions. I feel like I need to put a doctor's statement here that the views and opinions expressed here are mine only. Brooke Bryand/Brooke Bryand Photography can not be held liable for the photography items you purchase.
Most importantly - GET OUT THERE AND START SHOOTING!