After having two babies and talking to countless moms, one thing has become clear to me: There are SO many baby-related items you can buy when getting ready to welcome your little one, and it’s really hard to know what’s necessary and what brands are the best! There are also so many baby essentials guides out there – a simple Google search will give you literally millions of results! So I was hesitant to put yet another baby essentials guide out into the world – and hadn’t done so for a long time. But, because of the amazing feedback all of you have given me on my baby formula and children’s vitamins posts, and how many questions I’ve gotten about baby related items, I thought creating a set of guides related to kids and babies would be helpful to all of you!
Here’s why this guide is different: I am the most Type A person out there, so in creating my list of essentials, I combed through every single baby products site I could find, to come up with the short list of items that we couldn’t live without and were affordable for our budget. This saves you the work of having to go to Lucie’s List, Parents.com, What to Expect, The Bump, etc. if you just want a one-stop shop for everything! I am also super practical, so I’m not going to recommend things that are useless. 🙂
I definitely don’t want you to end up with items that just collect dust in your home. So, what do you actually need for your new baby? Here are the must have baby products you’ll actually use and love! Any items you’ve heard about that I haven’t listed here are ones that were pretty much useless and we ended up donating or giving away.
First Up: Transportation
We went with the UppaBaby line of carseats and strollers. It was a little pricier, but I liked how easy they were to use/latch/unlatch and fold up. They also held up super well – both Layla and Ayan have used this carseat/stroller combination and it still looks like new!
We bought an Uppa Baby Mesa Carseat. I love everything about this carseat! It’s super easy to install and secure enough for an infant. Getting the carseat base is a must! In fact, you might want two if you are going to be using multiple cars frequently. The Uppa Baby Carseat base makes errands super quick and convenient just snapping in the carseat each time you are loading the car!
We bought the Uppa Baby Cruz Stroller. We opted for this stroller over the Vista because the Vista is HEAVY. And more expensive. It also is a pain to fit through airport security (if you travel a lot). To think about managing that, along with an infant, diaper bag, carseat, etc. was just not going to happen if I was on my own. The Cruz is perfectly sized, compact, cheaper than the Vista and easy to travel with.
Lastly, the Brica Baby In-Sight Mirror is a great (and cheap) way to see your baby when they’re in the car and are rear facing. Totally a lifesaver as a new mom! It is definitely a must-have baby product on my list!
I’m actually going to write a separate post about this that goes more in-depth into sleep training, how to get your baby to sleep through the night by 4 months of age, etc. Because I ended up with two pretty terrible sleepers with Layla and Ayan, and managed to get them sleeping consistently through the night by the time they were 4 months old!
Layla was a terrible sleeper for the first 8 weeks. She literally did not sleep from 9pm-4am every single day for 8 weeks straight. She had day-night confusion, and did not enjoy sleeping when being held, or sleeping in a car, on a plane, or in the stroller from the moment she was born. Those first 8 weeks were some of the most stressful of my life, because in addition to having a baby that refused to sleep, I was also recovering from a pretty traumatic birth experience. The whole thing was totally ridiculous. The husband and I were so tired we started hallucinating imaginary babies in our house! I’m not kidding. We’d wake up at night and start lifting a baby that wasn’t there. It was crazy.
So needless to say, these products listed below were lifesavers for us – and are must-have for terrible sleepers (and probably must-haves for good sleepers too!)
This Fisher-Price Cradle & Swing saved our lives. This was literally the only place Layla would sleep: swaddled, put in the swing, with it on. Caveat here: the AAP doesn’t recommend putting babies to sleep in swings. However, Dr. Karp has no problem with it as long as you keep your baby reclined/flat, buckled in, and your pediatrician is aware of it. Here’s a video where he explains how to use swings for safe sleep. We told our pediatrician about it, she approved the swing for Layla’s sleep, and once we started using it we went from short stretches at night, to Layla sleeping for 10 hours at night without waking up (at around 8/9 weeks old)! We also used it successfully for naps. I think it taught her how to sleep through the night at a young age because the rocking motion of the swing would put her back to sleep if she woke up. (Another reason we used the swing, it’s MUCH cheaper than the Snoo, which performs a similar function). I don’t know what we would have done without this amazing device. Even if your baby is a good sleeper, it’s a great place to put them if you need some hands free time! The rocking motion + music + mobile in the swing are all helpful in keeping your baby entertained and relaxed (whether they are awake or asleep!).
We used the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib. Much more lightweight, compact and easier to assemble than a pack n play, and I thought it was easier to break down and put up than the Lotus also. It served all of the same functions that a pack n play would (e.g. a play yard if Layla or Ayan was awake but needed to be in an enclosed space so I could get some stuff done). We got a ton of mileage out of this because Layla would use it as a toddler bed when we traveled until she was 3, and Ayan still uses it when we travel! It’s super high quality – another product that still looks like new after over 4 years of frequent use.
Sound Machines are a must-have baby product, especially for light sleepers! We used the Marpac Dohm-DS All Natural Sound Machine from Week 1 onwards. It’s cheap, functions well, and is loud enough but not too loud that it’s annoying. This is a great sleep saver! Layla has always been a light sleeper so we still keep it on in her room to drown out outside noise so she doesn’t get woken up.
As a new mom, you are constantly worrying about what is happening in your new baby’s room when the door is closed! Are they sleeping? Have they rolled over to their stomach? They are whimpering, do I need to rush in there? A video monitor puts new moms at peace and is a must-have baby product! We used this video monitor from Motorola – which, interestingly enough, doesn’t have great reviews on Amazon but has worked amazingly well for us. It’s been super reliable – we haven’t had any issues with it in 4 years! We still use it for Ayan now. If we were buying a new monitor today, I’d probably go with this one from Infant Optics – great Amazon reviews, same functionality as the Motorola one. A video monitor is also perfect for sleep training and when kids begin standing/sitting in their crib while falling asleep.
Related to sleep: Swaddling!
The Miracle Blanket Swaddle really is a miracle. We bought 4 of them – they come in lots of colors too which is nice. All of the other swaddle blankets were completely useless for us. Don’t even waste your money on them! Layla got out of them in 0.5 seconds and did not sleep. This was the only swaddle that she stayed in, that suppressed her startle reflex, and calmed her down when she was sleeping or upset. It might seem like a lot of material and “complicated” to use, but it’s really not. Once you do it once it becomes like second nature and is super simple! Also, some babies cry initially when they’re put in this because they don’t like their arms down, which leads moms to think it won’t work. Trust me, it will – your baby will get used to it really quickly! This swaddle is good for 0-3 months (or until your baby grows out of it or starts rolling over).
After 3-4 months, we transitioned to the Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit. They have two sizes, 3-6 months and 6-9 months. It looks ridiculous but works like a charm and is great for transitioning out of the swaddle. Both of our kids would immediately calm down in it, and we were able to sleep train both of them in it, and both kids slept 12 hours straight through the night in the crib from 4 months onwards wearing this suit. It is magic! Totally worth it!
Swaddling products that we never used – but have a lot of buzz/good reviews on Amazon.
The Aden + Anais Swaddles. Totally useless as a swaddle, but great as a baby blanket. So even though we didn’t use these for a swaddle we loved putting them on both kids when they were in the carseat or stroller, to block the sun in the car, or even as a makeshift nursing cover when we were out.
The HALO Sleep Sacks. These just ended up collecting dust at the bottom of both kids’ dressers. Sometimes we’d use them as a blanket when we were out and about if it was a particularly cold day, but we couldn’t really find a good use for these. I’d suggest you buy the Miracle Blanket first! There are plenty of other swaddles out there (zip a dee zip, swaddle me, summer infant, ergo baby, etc.) – the Miracle Blanket still wins 🙂
When it comes to must-have baby products you have to include a baby carrier! They’re so multi-functional and we used them for both kids. There are TONS of baby carriers out there, and some of the trendiest ones (e.g. the Boba, the Ergo, etc.) I think are either unnecessary for the price or unnecessary for how complicated they can be to use. We used two carriers for both kids, and both were amazing: 1) The K’Tan — it’s like a wrap but all the work is done for you. It keeps baby super snug and close to you while being really comfy to wear. The downside is that you need two sizes for dad/mom because it’s not one size fits all, so there was no way the husband could fit into the XS K’Tan for me! 2) Infantino Flip 4 in 1 Carrier — this is basically like the Ergo360 or LilleBaby but SO CHEAP, comfortable and super functional! Now don’t get me wrong, the Ergo360 or LilleBaby are both great carriers and people love them, but the K’Tan and Infantino were so much cheaper and equally functional, I’d recommend them first. For a carrier that doubles as a nursing tank when baby is 0-15 pounds, the Lalabu is a favorite of moms I know.
You will spend a lot of time changing diapers, so you want products that you can trust! We used Pampers Sensitive Wipes, Pampers Pure Wipes, and Pampers Swaddlers Diapers. We liked Pampers the best because we literally never had leaks or diaper rashes with these diapers. For nighttime, we used Pampers Overnight Diapers which was great because we only had to change diapers at night if they were poopy — and these diapers helped with sleep training (stay tuned for my post on that!)
For diaper pails, my main tip is: don’t get the diaper genie. It’s a waste and is a pain to use – especially since you can’t use regular trash bags for it (you have to buy special diaper genie bags – an added expense!) Instead, we liked the Ubbi Diaper Pail. It is super easy to use, it takes regular trash bags, and it doesn’t smell! After 4 years, it’s still going strong and hasn’t broken once!
If you have a regular changing pad, these waterproof changing pad liners from Munchkin were amazing. We put this on top of our changing table pad’s cloth cover – which was great because every time we had an accident, we just replaced these instead of having to wash the entire changing pad cover. We had 10 of them in rotation! BUT – even better than a regular changing pad is the Keekaroo. Super portable, easy to clean, fits on top of any counter top or dresser top, lightweight and sturdy. It’s great!
Here’s my disclaimer: your baby doesn’t really need toys. You’ll get a lot of toys as gifts, and the best gifts we got were board books which both kids still love to read and stuffed animals which are great for imaginary play. Here are a few other things we had for Layla and Ayan that entertained her for the first year of their lives 🙂
Activity Mat: We liked this Fisher Price activity mat and got a ton of mileage out of it until Layla and Ayan were about 8 months old. And even after that, both kids still liked playing with the toys from the mat!
Sophie the giraffe: Was great for chewing and teething.
These stacking cups were a big hit too.
This bouncy chair from Fisher-Price was another great “toy” that also functioned as a place to put both kids when I had to do something really quickly. It was also great for bringing into the bathroom with me while I showered and got ready!
Other Must-Have Baby Products
As far as pacifiers, we loved the Soothies Pacifiers, They were the only ones Layla would use! I know some babies like the Nuk Pacifiers too – but Layla never took to those. Ayan didn’t like any pacifiers so for him, nothing was really needed!
My tip would be to buy one of each first, and then figure out which one your baby likes before buying more of a particular brand.
Nails: Your baby’s nails will grow fast! You will need some good baby nail clippers! We loved the Safety 1st Sleepy Baby Nail Clipper and still use it for both kids. You can also file your baby’s nails using this nail file if you’re scared of cutting their tiny nails at first!
Blankets: The Aden + Anais blankets did not work for us to swaddle, but we still loved them! There cotton blankets are the best, and as mentioned earlier, I really used the Aden + Anais Swaddles as blankets when we needed one! These are the perfect blankets for warmer temperatures.
Onesies: When it comes to clothes, my main tip here is to think about items that would be easy to put on (and take off!!) the baby. Zippered onesies (vs. the ones with 8 million buttons) are the way to go. Imagine trying to unbutton all of those buttons at 3 am after a diaper blowout?? No thank you. Zippered onesies all the way.
Snot Sucker: You will need a good snot sucker! I know this sounds strange, but it is seriously the only thing that works when your baby has a stuffy nose. The NoseFrida Snot Sucker is the best! The bulb suction things you get at the hospital are totally useless in comparison!
Laundry Detergent: When it comes to laundry detergent you will want one that is a free & clear detergent like 7th Generation. No matter what brand you choose, the important thing is that it’s free of dyes, sulfates, fragrances, etc.
Humidifier: A Humidifier is another must-have baby product! This is great for the winter months or if your baby has a cold / is congested!
Washcloths/Burp cloths: We bought a ton of cloth diapers because they are super cheap and you can use them for everything: burp cloths, washcloths, cleaning up messes, these things are useful, and they last forever.
There you have it! Our Must-Have Baby Products you will Actually Use and Love! What would you add to the list?
Be sure to grab our guide to your baby’s first year where we share even more essentials for feeding, sleeping, transitioning to solids, as well as other helpful tips for new parents!