While I was pregnant, I spent hours researching the best products. Everything from the easiest, safest, and highest rated products to #lifehacks and more… I read about as much as I could. However, I still fell for the overabundance of baby products out there! There are so many things we have not yet used for our baby girl and other things we went out and purchased (that we swore we wouldn’t need). This is a list of my top ten must-haves for a newborn that made our lives so much easier! When shopping for your own baby, keep in mind they have their own preferences and really don’t need much more than you, food, warmth, a million diapers and wipes, and a safe place to sleep.
Also, I seem to have a problem with making a list containing more than ten items. So, you’ll find some helpful tips and tricks disguised along the way! That still only counts as 10, right?
Let’s get to it!
Pack ‘N’ Play
I’m not talking your typical traveling crib type of pack-and-play—I’m talking the all out, bells and whistles type—it’s worth it. This is the kind we have. We use this multiple times a day (and night)! The newborn napper is the perfect place to soothe baby to sleep while you get some odds and ends done around the house. Even better, the napper has handles so you can move baby room to room with you as you get things done. The attached changing table is also a lifesaver—no more bending over to change baby on the floor or couch when you don’t want to go upstairs to where the actual changing pad is. And the station next to it? It stores everything you could possibly need: hand sanitizer, wipes, diapers, cotton balls, diaper creams, lotion… TV remote, hair ties and headbands, some ibuprofen and chapstick for mom… you get the idea. Plus, before you utilize the full “crib” portion it makes for some excellent storage of burp cloths, swaddle blankets, and sleep sacks underneath so you can have them on hand without taking up any extra real estate around the room. Double duty—if baby rooms with you the first few months, this can serve as your bassinet, and then later as portable crib/play yard.
Swaddle Sacks / Sleep Sacks
I tried a few, but found that these were our favorite swaddle sacks early on, before baby was too much of a wiggle worm. They were strong enough to keep her safely swaddled, and the zipper made diaper changes quick and easy at night, without unswaddling her completely. Most of the time she wouldn’t even wake up! The other swaddles that you have to completely remove baby from on the other hand… I would spend the next hour in a rocking chair. Note on diapers: we loved Pampers Swaddlers–no blowouts, and the wetness indicator was so helpful when we didn’t want to disturb her if we didn’t need to!
Next baby (who am I kidding, I may still get one of these now!) I would love to try the Miracle Blanket. They work especially well if your baby is able to wriggle their arms out of other blankets. These come highly recommended from the other mamas of the Cedar Rapids Mom’s Blog! Many give this blanket props for baby sleeping longer stretches.
Blankets and Swaddles
I have a constant rotation of swaddle blankets—the light, soft muslin kind. They are SO versatile, it’s no wonder they are often gifted to new mamas. Say hello to the baby burrito. Perfect for those first few days when you are doing skin to skin, changing diapers 15+ times a day, spit up is all over, and you haven’t mastered the burp cloth catch yet. My poor baby was hardly ever in clothes; I kept her swaddled. I felt like I was dressing her all day if I tried outfits: the buttons! The little leggings! The socks! It was a constant battle, but the swaddle was oh so quick and she looked oh so cute. Win-win. (I dress her now, don’t worry. I don’t want her to be the little flower girl in someone’s wedding who strips as soon as she makes it down the aisle because she doesn’t like wearing clothes because this mama was too lazy to dress her ten times a day. I digress.) Back to where we were: the versatility. Swaddle blanket, burp cloth, nursing cover, car seat cover, sun shade, a play mat, or rolled up to help with tummy time propping.
Hint: if you do go for clothes early on, we loved using ZIPPERED footie pajamas. No more fumbling with buttons in the middle of the night and makes changes quick and easy… plus, no socks to kick off.
We also love having a warm, fuzzy blanket. It can be a special quilt, too—just something a little heavier than a swaddle. It’s great for when it’s a little chillier for walks outside, a heavier car seat cover, cuddles on the couch, or a thicker play mat.
Rock and Play / Swing / Bouncer
Sometimes, you’re going to need to free up your hands, even if just to shower. A rock and play, a swing, or a bouncer is perfect for this! There are so many to pick from, and each one has so many different options, it’s really hard to pick a right one or a wrong one–it totally depends on you and baby’s preferences! Another great use–many love the rock n play or swing for lulling their babies to sleep (when nothing else seems to work) and entertaining them in the early days. Many rock-n-plays even come “motorized” now so they will rock on their own!
This was a LIFE SAVER. Funny thing is, we didn’t even know that a little slice of heaven was sitting right in front of us disguised as a fluffy lamb attached at the end of the crib for almost two weeks. What am I talking about? This. While that is the one we used (and we typically just carried around the sound machine), there are a ton of other great white noise products—even apps for your phone! We learned about white noise when little miss was 11 days old at her newborn pictures. The photographer kept the studio nice and cozy warm with loud white noise playing. At first, it seemed annoying, but trust me—you quickly tune it out. And the little miss I mentioned? Dozed right off to sleep and slept more soundly! Now this mama bear doesn’t have to hunt down daddy when he fills his Yeti with ice LOUDLY, or doesn’t step around the creaky spot of the hardwood floor that lies between the living room and dining room. I can work on finishing up my thank you notes, listen to parenting podcasts, scrub my kitchen counters, do my daily workout… (read: microwave a mug brownie and laugh while watching the Jimmy Kimmel and Melissa McCarthy lip sync battle that keeps popping up as I lay on the couch scrolling through my newsfeed.) P.S. Our only issue with this one is it is only on for 25 or 45 minutes. Sometimes we do wish it was one we could shut it off when we wanted it to go off, say after a full night’s sleep. We also take it with us in the diaper bag when we leave. If she falls asleep, we can slip it in beside her and it will drown out the noise of everything else so she can sleep soundly.
This is the one we picked, and it made leaving the house a whole lot less daunting. We also recommend having a couple bases if you can, so you don’t have to worry about which vehicle to take. While this pretty much speaks for itself, we loved having something we felt kept her safe and yet was easy for us to use and can transition as she grows from car seat carrier only, to stroller/car seat combo, to stroller only. We found something that is light and easy to maneuver was great as those first few times you leave on your own will be intimidating enough!
Wrap, mei tai, ring sling, soft structured carrier… I suggest at least one! I have a wrap, and a soft structured carrier, and the SSC is the one I use the most. This is the kind I have, and it has been one of my favorite purchases. After weeks of doing everything one handed (resulting in De Quervain’s tenosynovitis and wrist/hand injections… #momlife), the first day I wore this, I felt free! I got my sweet baby snuggles and she was happy to be close all day, yet I could eat with two hands! I could read a book! I could type on my computer again! I could go for a walk outside without having to push a stroller through gravel and mud! (I seriously started to drive into town just to go on walks. Anyone else get a little stir crazy locked up inside?!) Oh, the adventures to be had. Better yet, during those growth spurts where your sweet sleepy baby insists they are NOT sleepy? Lulls them right into dreamland. Plus, it is so much more portable when you go places that may not be stroller friendly!
Healthcare Items / First Aid Kit
These are the types of things you won’t use often (hopefully) but will need sooner or later and will be glad you have them on hand! We got lucky they were there when we needed them; otherwise hubs may have been making a couple late night trips into town!
Our little girl got horribly congested when we first brought her home, despite the humidifier running (a cool mist humidifier is also a great thing to have!). We used saline drops and this awesome snot-sucking gadget. Gross? Yes. So gross I gagged just looking at the crazy device? That would be me. But when it’s 2 am and you haven’t slept in what you’re sure is 72 hours, your baby is crying and stuffy, and that dumb little bulb you brought home from the hospital just seems to be making things worse? Or you can’t even tell if you’re getting anything? You’re desperate and you’ll try it. And then you’ll realize, hey, this isn’t so bad. In fact, gross is the furthest thing from your mind—about as far away as the boogers are from ever making it to your mouth. Use the Frida and help that little snot factory feel better. I promise you’ll feel better too after you get some much needed sleep now that baby can breathe.
Also, gas drops. I knew babies could be gassy, but oh my goodness did we struggle with this! She was SO uncomfortable she would be squirming and screaming and her stomach would be tight. We tried warm baths and massages, bicycling her legs, sitting upright vs lying down, and burping as often as possible. But when we added gas drops to everything else we were doing (and I made sure to eliminate any foods from my diet that could be causing issues) she finally started to get some relief. I’m only a few weeks removed from that time now, but it seems like light years ago since we don’t have as bad of gas issues anymore as her system matures. You may never need them, but you’ll be glad you had them if you do!
Also great to have on hand early: infant Tylenol (just in case and as recommended by your doctor!), thermometer (we love the forehead scanners), nail clippers (baby nails are crazy sharp!) Vitamin D (if recommended from your doctor for exclusively breastfed babies), a soft-bristled brush, and hand sanitizer. Tip: there are great kits you can purchase that contain many of the healthcare and grooming items you will need for baby! Like this one.
The boppy was a must for us, for more reasons than one (I’m sensing a pattern). I did breastfeed, so the support it gave us during feedings was great—my back didn’t hurt afterward and it is comfortable for baby. It’s also great for just holding her! It gives your arms a bit of a break, and can make it easier for visitors to hold her as well. Great grandparents and little cousins can all hold her without too much trouble with the support from the boppy! My husband also uses the boppy when he tries to get Little miss to take a bottle (which we’re still working on, 5 types of bottles, lots of patience, and one worried mama later). It’s also great for propping up baby and for helping with tummy time! She is so much happier with tummy time when she can lay on the boppy rather than flat on the floor and it helped her get comfortable. Just make sure to be sitting there, too, as they can really get those little legs going! Hint: get an extra cover so you can rotate them through the wash, and also get the waterproof cover as an extra layer of protection from spit up so you don’t constantly need to wash the pillow as well.
Diaper Pail (if using disposables)
We originally just planned on purchasing one diaper pail, but ended up with a 2-pack that was on sale for about the same price. This is the one we use. We keep one upstairs and one downstairs and that has worked out so well! Since we have two diaper changing stations, it has been nice to have a second pail to use so I’m not always running up and down even though I could use the exercise! (hint: if you have multiple floors, a second station is so handy! Ours is basically a basket where we keep extra burp cloths, diapers, wipes, rash cream, etc.) But even if you only have one (a lot less bulk!), a diaper pail is great. It separates the diapers from the regular trash, keeps the smell to a bare minimum even when full, and is so easy to use. This is one of the only products that doesn’t do double duty (haha) but is worth it when you’re changing so many diapers!
There you have it! My top ten favorite items that made life with a newborn so much easier. Every baby is different, and we all have different lifestyles–so tell me, were any of these necessities for you, too? Are there any you would add, or take of this list? Something I should try with any future babies?