I vividly remember creating my baby registry during my first pregnancy. I wandered up and down the aisles of Buy Buy Baby like a zombie, eyes glazed over and mouth agape. There was just SO MUCH STUFF. And I didn’t know what most of it was used for. How are you supposed to know? You’ve never raised a human before, and the sheer quantity of available baby gear is enough to give you anxiety. So I got it all. Because I must need it, right? If I don’t buy the rocker and the swing and the chair, I’m a bad mom, right?
Of course this is ridiculous. But new moms are impressionable and therefore especially sensitive to marketing, fueled on fear and doubt to buy buy buy. However, by the time the second kid rolls around, you’ve figured out what is a necessity versus what is frivolous. So today, these second-time moms use our wisdom (ie mistakes reaped from personal experience) to round up the top ten must-have baby items for all new moms:
- The Boppy
What is it? A breastfeeding pillow
When do you need it? Right away. Like I brought mine to the hospital.
There are several nursing pillows on the market, so it can be difficult to narrow down which one works best for you. I love the design of the Boppy for comfortable nursing, especially in the beginning when there’s absolutely no way you can get down the traditional cradle hold because newborn latches suck. Literally. (See this post on breastfeeding in the early days to prepare yourself!) But I also love the Boppy for playtime; it provides a perfect little “seat” in your lap for your newborn to lay in to look at you and it works great for early tummy time.
Registry Note: Register for two covers because…fluids.
- Activity Mat
What is it? A play mat with brightly colored toys and music
When do you need it? After the first few weeks when you feel ready to stop holding your baby and put her on the floor.
There are a million of these out there. Here’s what I’d suggest you look for. Sharply contrasting colors. In the early days of baby’s eye development, she will have a hard time discerning between similar colors, like pink and purple. So high contrast colors, like black and white or red and yellow, are ideal for your little one to look at. Also I’d suggest finding one with soft lights. Babies love lights, but a lot of these mats have bright lights that flash really quickly. The best one I’ve found so far on that front is this one by Jonathan Adler. But this one by Fischer Price is also great (bonus points on this one: the mobile on top moves).
- Dock a Tot
What is it? A multi-functional resting dock that can be used for playing, changing, and safe co-sleeping
When do you need it? Right away, like day one home from the hospital
With my first, I went the traditional route and assumed I’d use a bassinet right next to my bed until he was big enough to go straight into the crib, and everything would be perfect. That was definitely not the case. New moms are extremely paranoid, particularly when those hormones set in around day 3 post-partum. I was convinced that if both my husband and I were asleep at the same time as the baby, he would stop breathing. So for the first week we took turns holding him all night long. When I got over that fear and put him in the bassinet, I was convinced he would stop breathing if I didn’t check on him every fifteen minutes through the night. And, as it turns out, he didn’t like sleeping anywhere other than my arms for more than an hour, so I would sleep upright, supported by pillows, holding him all night. Long story short, nobody slept well. I would not recommend this.
With my second, I got a Dock a Tot, and it changed my life. We put it in the middle of our bed, and it’s designed to mimic the closeness of the womb. If I need to check to make sure the baby is still breathing, she’s right there next to me. But the dock has sides on it so there’s no worry of me rolling on her. Every family is different, and you need to decide what’s right for you, but for my family, this kind of co-sleeping is what works best for us in the early days. It is the #1 product I wish I’d had when I was a new mom.
- Kimono shirts
What is it? A shirt for a newborn that snaps along the sides
When do you need it? Right away
I did not know these were a thing when I was a new mom. I thought babies were put in onesies from the get-go. This is the kind of shirt the baby will be put in when you’re in the hospital. It allows the belly button to be out in the open air without any fabric rubbing against it, and it prevents you from needing to pull a shirt over a newborn’s head. And, trust me, in those first days, you will be terrified of pulling something over that teeny tiny head. When we brought my first home, we just kept re-laundering these hospital shirts for the first two weeks because we weren’t ready for onesies yet. With my second, I was prepared and stocked up on these ahead of time. Now, you won’t use kimono tops for very long, but they will give you peace of mind for the first couple of weeks. I loved these from H&M and these from Carter’s.
Registry note: register for 3-6 of these. And take the free ones home from the hospital.
- Diaper Box
What is it? A variety pack of diapers that allows you to try different brands
When do you need it? Either right away or after your baby has graduated to size 1 diapers
I find that new moms kind of default to either Pampers or Huggies because those are the most recognizable brands of diaper. However, there are way more brands out there and every diaper is slightly different because every baby is slightly different. My first-born was the king of peeing out the side of the diaper, while my second-born is proving to be quite consistent at blowing poop up her back. At first, with my son, I thought this was just the nature of a baby, so I got used to changing clothes and sheets all the time. But then I switched brands and the leaking stopped. It just turned out that particular brand wasn’t the best fit for him.
But how do you know which diaper you’ll like best? Well, you don’t. So unless you want to buy a full box of diapers each time to test out, I’d suggest going with a company like Diaper Dabbler, where you can get a variety pack of different diaper options to figure out what works best for your baby. I like this company because you can either choose one of their variety packs or design a custom pack. Bonus: this is definitely the place to go if you’re interested in eco-friendly disposable diapers.
6. Carter’s Onesies and Freshly Picked moccasins-
When do you need it? Within the first month or so depending on how big you baby is
In my opinion, the carters onesies are the best for infants because they are soft and cozy and they come in packs of 4 or 5 with tons of color and print options. Both my babies rocked these staples in the first months and beyond. As far as ‘shoes’ go for newborns, the only ones you should bother investing money in is the moccasins from Freshly Picked. I am obsessed with all the adorable prints and colors, but they are also super functional. They slip on easy over squiggly baby feet and they stay put!
7. Baby Carrier
What is it? A way to wear your baby close to you, hands-free
When do you need it? Within the first month- the sooner the better so your baby gets used to being worn.
I’ve talked about this before, but I think it is a must for new moms to have a baby carrier in their arsenal. In the first few months, it’s truly the only way you can get anything done if you have a baby like mine that likes to be held all the time! Plus having your baby close gives you both comfort that is much needed. I prefer a soft wrap like Solly Baby(love the stretch cotton and awesome selection of colors) or Moby around the house, but a more structured one like the Ergo Baby is essential for moms and dads on the go. The Ergo Baby can take you far as it can transition to a front carry as your child grows. But as I said above, whichever you chose, start them in it early. I waited a bit too long with my first and he never really got comfortable being worn. So with my second I try to put him in the carrier at least once a day for a little bit. He actually falls right asleep in it actually and I can get a few things done around the house.
8. Stretch Jersey Swaddles
What is it? Blankets for swaddling your little one when they sleep (if you don’t know how to swaddle watch this video. I had absolutely no idea how to do this the first time around!)
When do you need it? Immediately. You start swaddling in the hospital.
There are tons of different kinds of swaddles out there. Aden and Anais, being the most popular brand and I stocked up on these the first time around. These are made in cotton muslin fabric and come in super cute designs and colors. But the problem with these is that once your little one gets just a little bigger they can break right out of the swaddle and get their little hands out. My guy startles himself while he is sleeping when his hands are out and then of course he’s awake! So I’ve found that swapping my muslin wraps for a stretch cotton option (like these from Solly Baby or MilkMaid Goods) keeps him snug and secure throughout the night. Trust me…you’re gonna need all the sleep you can get in those early days and beyond.
What it is? A canopy to put over your car seat to keep out germs, cold, wind, sun, etc.
When do you need it? Immediately (although fabric choice might depend on the season)
I didn’t have one of these the first time around and I really wish I did. I used to just throw a blanket over my carseat when I went in public to keep all those outside elements from reaching my baby. Now, I must say, I was much more uptight about this the first time around, but even now, I think the canopy is a must because the blanket was always slipping off or down on my baby’s face. Carseat covers are designed to stay in place and give you peace of mind that your baby is protected from the elements. I choose a canopy that came with covers for the seat as well, to make the car seat soft and cozy for my little one (and it looks cute, of course). The cover then attaches to the handle of your car seat and can be lifted when you need to sneak a peek at your sleeping (hopefully) baby as you wander up and down the aisles of Target with your Starbucks. Or maybe that’s just me:)
10. Natural Shaped Bottles/Pacifiers
What is it? Bottles and pacifiers that are designed to imitate the feel and shape of the breast and nipple
Again, something I wish I had known about earlier the first time around. I didn’t actually learn this was a thing until I took my first little guy to daycare when he was 6 months old. I was going back to work and attempting to keep pumping breast milk for him at daycare. He wasn’t taking the bottle easily and was getting frustrated during the day switching from being breast-fed to bottle-fed. And then when I came home and tried to nurse, he was even more frustrated and I would cry trying to relax. Of course, I already felt incredibly guilty going back to work and then to top it all off, he wasn’t eating like he used to. The providers mentioned to me after the first week, that I should try a bottle that is closer to nature so there isn’t as much nipple confusion, like these ones from tommy tippee. I ran right out that night and bought a set and he immediately latched on and sucked away. The base of the nipple is wider so they get the same feel as they would if they were nursing. I can honestly say these bottles eased my anxiety of being back at work and maybe even relieved a teeny bit of my guilt because I was still able to come home and nurse at night without the frustration.
This time around, I also opted for pacifiers that are shaped more like the real thing as well to help my little guy work on his latch and I’ve found that he is soothed much easier and faster with this kind of pacifier, like these from mam, instead of the ones they give you in the hospital.