If you’re expecting, recently brought home a little one, or are looking for the perfect gift for a new parent, this is a roundup of my favorite sanity-saving items for adjusting to life with a new baby.
In this post, you’ll find:
- Basic products that take new parents from survivor mode into boss status,
- Minimalistic items to help a little person transition into a big world,
- The absolute best books that will serve as go-to resources for years to come,
- Descriptions of each item and why I would buy it again,
- Some commonly purchased products you don’t need right from the start (or ever),
- An honorable mention worth considering.
Just so you know, I incorporate affiliate links, from which I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you, to help showcase products I personally own and love, as well as to illustrate certain points or product features.
My Must-Have Products for New Parents
Life with a new baby is really not complicated. They eat, they fill diapers, and they sleep. Nevertheless, driving home from the hospital, I could not have imagined just how taxing those first couple of weeks would be.
Some products I had from the beginning and I can’t fathom having lived without them. Others products were late to the party and I know without a doubt, they would have saved a lot of tears and exhaustion.
The first couple of weeks will be grueling, make no mistake, but you don’t have to be miserable. A few very basic items can help you enjoy what will be some of the most precious moments of your life.
Before we get started, understand that this is not an ultimate guide to your baby registry; rather, it is a curated list of the top products that will make your introduction to parenthood smoother.
I really thought hard about the products that brought the most value to our lives and tried to provide as much information as possible so that you can decide whether they will benefit you before spending your hard earned money.
Do we really need more baby stuff?
Figuring out what you and your baby will need as you adapt to having a tiny, helpless human who is 100% dependent on you can be really overwhelming. There are a zillion and one baby products designed to fill every want you could possible have, and then some. You’re made to feel that if a need arises and you don’t have the correct product on hand, you’ll fail your baby. The truth is, when you first bring baby home, they don’t need much.
Your baby is a really cute potato with three functions: eat, sleep, defecate. You could literally just get by with boobs and diapers. Your baby doesn’t need all the latest baby gear, but she does need you to be the best parent you can be.
For that reason, I recommend waiting on some of the baby goodies, which you can always get later, and putting your hard earned dollars into some quality equipment that will be there for you so that you can be there for baby.
Here Are the Best Products to Power into Parenthood
Below I’ve listed what I consider absolute essentials that I would not go without. Unless otherwise noted, every product that I include a link to is something I own and love personally.
One of the most exciting ways to prepare for your new little bundle is building a registry and buying things. But where to start? The baby products I’ve listed here are for you as much as they are for baby.
The Boppy Lounger is a supportive, round cushion designed to comfortably cradle your baby anywhere. This is great because it’s super portable, since it’s lightweight and in no way breakable, and easy to store. Whenever I need to set Carrots down, whether it be to grab a snack, go to the bathroom, or take a shower, I use the Lounger.
Even if you have or plan to get a motorized swing, the Lounger is worth having. It can fit in smaller areas, like the bathroom, doesn’t need to be plugged in, and you can kick it across the room when your hands are full. The surface is fabric, but oh so easy to wipe off or vacuum.
I know my baby is comfortable, and the way it’s shaped gives babies ever so slight of an incline, which can help keep all of that precious breastmilk or formula in their tummies. Even using the Lounger every single day until Carrots was too big to safely use it anymore (almost five months), it’s still in great condition and is stored away in its carrier for the next baby.
Mamas, do not underestimate the importance of a quality pacifier, especially if you’re going to be breastfeeding. Babies need to nurse for a variety of reasons besides hunger: they nurse when they’re thirsty, when they’re tired, when they unsettled or out of their element, when they need comfort, and sometimes just because they like it. This is good and natural, and helps really establish your milk supply, but there are times when your poor abused nippies just need a break. Enter the binky.
I wish very much that we had introduced a pacifier in those early weeks. We waited the recommended three to four weeks, and Carrots refused both bottles and pacifiers. She did not show one lick of interest until she was five months old.
See my post: Are We Confused About Nipple Confusion?
I am specifically recommending the Naturesutten pacifier in particular for its outstanding quality. They are 100% natural, plant based rubber crafted in Italy. The price tag is higher than your standard options, but not outrageous or unreasonable.
Think about it, Mama: Your baby will be sucking on their binky for hours every single day. Do you want cheap plastic manufactured in China breaking down in your babies mouth and exposing them to potentially harmful chemicals?
Beyond the ingredient list, the quality of the design is obvious from the first use. Other pacifiers, Carrots would drop frequently or discard at the first sight of a toy; however, she instantly fell in love with her Naturesutten and used it all throughout the day.
The fact that it’s one single piece of rubber reassures me that the bulb won’t come detached and choke her, and the loop on the other side makes it easy for babies to handle. In addition, they can chew on any part of it, which makes it great for teething.
Obviously, diapers are a must have, but there are a metric butt ton of options out there. Even if you plan to cloth diaper, I would highly recommend just using disposables for the first couple of weeks so that you can focus on keeping yourselves and your baby alive, rather than doing laundry and learning the difference between the jelly roll and the bikini twist.
Of all of the diapers we’ve tried, Huggies comes out on top, hands down, specifically the Huggies “Little Snugglers.” First of all, they are THE softest. Like seriously, I wish my underwear was as soft as my baby’s diapers. Secondly, They’re the most absorbent. This is especially important at night. If you change a diaper during the night, your baby is wide awake and it can take forever to get them settled again.
We cloth diaper during the day, which saves us a ton of money, but we keep a package of Huggies on hand to use at night. Short of a poopy diaper, one Little Snuggler will get us through a full twelve hour night. Money well spent. In fact, they’re so absorbent that even when the diaper is loaded down with two gallons of pee in the morning, it still feels almost dry to the touch.
Worth noting as the best budget diaper is the Aldi brand “Little Journey.” They are nowhere near the quality of Huggies, but I prefer them to other generic brands and even the Pampers I’ve tried. They will hold a lot of pee, but the inner lining does not wick away the moisture like Huggies. If you’re on a tight budget, but don’t want to cloth diaper, I would recommend the Aldi diapers for daytime use and the Huggies at night.
Mamas, if you haven’t heard of this before, a padsicle is a cross between a pad and a popsicle. To make one, you open up a pad, drench it with a soothing/healing liquid like witch hazel, smear it with a comforting gel like aloe, and then freeze it. This might seem totally wacky–I certainly thought so. I had a very difficult time imagining ice in the land down under, but Mama, they felt soooo dang good postpartum.
For this concoction, I preferred using the pads without wings because the wings get rendered pretty useless in the unwrapping and freezing process. They also get goopy and messy and are generally in the way.
A SIDENOTE ON PADS….
After my extensive Pinterest research on birth and postpartum care, I was fully prepared for genocide-level bloodbath.
I got the heavy duty-super-ultra pads thicker than my mattress that would fit an adolescent elephant, and used a grand total of one.
For me personally, I found that I got through my heaviest bleeding in those two days at the hospital, and when I got home, didn’t need anything heavier than the long overnight pads. That could be very different for you! However, you might want to only get a small package of the really big pads until you see whether you really need them to reach from your navel to your lower back.
I thought I would tough it out and not buy any nipple cream, especially since they give you some at the hospital, but that mentality didn’t last long. I’ve heard a few moms say they didn’t really need it, but for just a few bucks, I say it’s worth having on hand.
I personally have pretty sensitive skin, so breastfeeding was incredibly painful for me in the first few weeks, even though my baby seemed to latch well. Like arguably worse than labor painful. The nipple cream they gave me at the hospital was super thick, which made it difficult and even painful to apply, since you had to use a lot of pressure to spread it, and it was very oily, which made big spots on my pretty new nursing bra. (The stains did wash out, but if the oil seeped through to your outer clothes, it could be super awk.)
I have the Medela “Tender Care” cream, and it is so much better than the hospital stuff. It is really light and smooth, so it glides on easily without further agitating your poor cracked and bleeding nippies. It is all natural, which is worth knowing since your baby will essentially be eating it, and it is not at all oily. I bought the two ounce tube and still have tons left for the next time around.
Breastfeeding is so, so, so worth it, but if you experience the kind of pain I did, you might be tempted to quit. Spending a few dollars for that little extra relief will help you push through and stick with it.
The Haakaa is a silicone, manual breast pump that is compact enough to fit in your diaper bag or purse, effortless to wash, inexpensive, and 100% silent. I honestly have gotten more use out of this than my hospital grade double breast pump provided by my insurance, and it is arguably just as effective.
All you have to do is trigger a let-down, which I can do by gently massaging one side of my chest in a downward motion and briefly hand expressing, then squeeze the bulb of the Haakaa tight, place it over the correct spot, and suction does the rest.
The suction keeps it from falling off (which your hospital-grade pump won’t do), you don’t have to continue squeezing (pumping) it because the suction also pulls you milk out, and it doesn’t make any noise, so if you’re engorged or need to fill a bottle quickly, it can be very discreet to use.
I have found this extremely useful on long car trips. Where an electric pump would require an awkward, bulky setup, not to mention electricity (since mine isn’t battery powered), I can just pop the Haakaa on and fill a bottle in minutes, saving us from having to pull over every hour.
It can also be used during nursing on the opposite side of Baby. For some women, once Baby latches, their other side lets down as well and significant amounts of liquid gold are needlessly wasted. The Haakaa can suction onto that other side and allow you to save the milk you’d otherwise lose. If you attach it well enough, it can stay attached even after catching the occasional stray kick or bump from a nursing baby.
A Diaper Bag
Obviously, any bag can become a diaper bag, and if your budget is extremely tight, you might choose to re-purpose something you already have. However, a dedicated diaper bag that is designed as such can be really helpful as they have insulated pockets for bottles, and are compartmentalized with baby gear in mind.
That boxy, rectangular, plastic-y shoulder bag you might be picturing is a thing of the past. Diaper bags have become just as stylish as any purse or handbag, and come in all shapes, sizes, and styles.
I purchased a Ruvalino diaper backpack, which caught my eye because of the modern, neutral design, but has well exceeded my expectations in its function and quality. The color and backpack style make it neutral enough that my husband will carry it without complaint, but it’s far from being plain or ugly. You might never guess it was a diaper bag.
The front has a zipper pouch with three insulated bottle pockets, a spacious main cavity with plenty of room for baby essentials, and a discreet, flat pocket at the very back, lined with padding, which allows you to carry a small laptop or tablet safely without attracting attention. It also comes with a changing mat.
We have been using our Ruvalino for eight months and it still looks brand spanking new. We’re not particularly gentle with it, it gets thrown all around our vehicles, set on floors, tossed in shopping carts, etc., and it has yet to show a single sign of wear and tear. I also use it as my purse since it seems extraneous to carry two bags when I can fit what I need into one.
While I can’t attest to the quality of their other bags, I would probably get THIS ONE next time around. Mine has a flap at the top which is a little cumbersome to navigate when I’m in the checkout line with an arm full of baby and need my wallet, or only have one hand to reach in for diaper changing supplies in a public restroom.
A Baby Wearing System
Wearing your baby will revolutionize your day to day life. I didn’t get my baby wrap until a few weeks in, and let me tell you, those first few weeks would have been so. Much. EASIER.
When my husband went back to work (which was the day after leaving the hospital), and I actually had to get my own food and drinks (the horror), I either had to juggle my newborn and make something with one hand (a risky balancing act), or I had to try and set Carrots down.
If you haven’t spent much time around babies, you might not realize…They do not want to be put down. Yes, there are exceptions, but most babies, especially newborns, need to be held constantly. And I mean constantly.
My first week home with Carrots, there was one day it took me an hour to make a sandwich because she was so distraught at being laid down for any amount of time. If only I could have worn her. My hands would have been free to fix food, and she would have been content to feel warm and secure.
Have you seen those parents in the grocery store whose entire shopping cart is taken up by a clunky infant carrier, or worse, the infant carrier is perched precariously on the handle bars? You don’t have to be that parent! You can wear your baby on errands, and it will save you SO much hassle–I cannot even tell you. Usually, your baby will be captivated by all of the new sights or sleeping because of the soothing movement as you walk. AND your hands are free and your cart wide open, with no risk of the baby’s car seat tumbling tragically from the cart’s handle bar.
It’s also incredibly beneficial to your baby, if nothing else. Your baby has been in the womb for his entire life, and is used to the tight, warm enclosure of your body and the reverberations of your voice and heartbeat. Suddenly, every time he wakes up, he’s been laid in a cold, lonely crib or bassinet where he can’t feel, hear, see, or smell you. Or, you could be wearing your baby and strengthening your bond, so effortlessly they might as well be part of your clothing, and so familiar to them. Tell me, which would you prefer if you were your baby?
Now this segment is going to get a little lengthy because there are three basic options and all are good, but all different, so hang in there.
The wrap is a really long piece of stretchy fabric, usually a jersey knit, that wraps around your body in such a fashion that you can slide your baby in and wear them like a kangaroo joey.
- It is very secure, as you have two layers criss-crossing between their legs, and one coming all the way up their backs to support their floppy little necks.
- It looks complicated, but it is actually the easiest and most comfortable for a beginner baby wearer, in my opinion.
- It is the best ergonomically. The stretchy fabric spreads the weight evenly over your whole back and shoulders so that there are no sore points, and you don’t have to stand at weird angles or compensate for the weight of the baby on your front.
- Two downsides: a) it can be hot in the summer; b) it takes time to put on and remove.
(I have a KeaBaby wrap)
There are several variations of the ring sling, but they all look pretty similar and do the same thing. It is a long piece of sturdy fabric with two aluminum rings at one end. The tail of the fabric is threaded through the rings like an old fashioned belt and can be tightened or loosened easily with one hand.
- They have the most variety of styles when it comes to fabric choice and extra features. Some have padded shoulders or have shaped pouches for the baby to ride in. They come in thick silk, light linens, cottons, or bamboos, and a multitude of colors and beautiful patterns.
- They are incredibly versatile and adapt with your baby as they grow. You can even carry a toddler on your hip. (Wraps can do this too, but you have to learn different ways to tie them, whereas the sling doesn’t change.)
- They are easy to nurse in. You can even use the extra tail of the sling as a nursing cover. While you do have to be extra careful and conscious of your baby’s safety, you can even nurse on the go, such as while grocery shopping.
- They are quick to put on and remove, just about as simple and quick as putting on a shoulder bag.
- The downsides: a) much steeper learning curve for new baby-wearers (my opinion); b) can be less secure or even dangerous if not worn properly; c) not as ergonomically comfortable, especially when worn for long periods of time.
(I have a Hip Baby sling)
We call the structured baby carrier our backpack carrier because it is basically a baby backpack. We like THIS ONE. It allows us to wear Carrots in several different ways and it’s easy to operate solo. The structured carrier is super for my husband because there’s no learning curve. All he has to do is buckle it on and he’s golden.
- Great for husbands/fathers or part-time baby wearers because all you have to do is buckle it on. In other words, it’s very difficult to screw this up (but still possible; don’t underestimate a dad).
- Best device for long excursions/walks/hikes, especially with bigger, heavier babies.
- The downsides: a) harder/less discreet to nurse in; b) not as womb-like for Baby.
(I have the Infantino Flip 4-in-1)
Initially, I was going to bypass a nursing chair and just feed Carrots on the couch or in the bed. We lived in a little 700 square foot apartment near D.C., and it was already pretty cramped without a rocking recliner. I honestly didn’t think we could fit one. One day, my nesting brain decided I must have a nursing chair regardless, so I started searching for a used one. My extremely generous grandparents got wind of my search and sent me this one. I have no complaints about this chair. It’s comfy and holding up well.
Mama, let me tell you…I LITERALLY. Let me repeat that. LITERALLY lived in this chair for the first month. As in, I spent upwards of twenty hours a day in my nursing chair. My advice to you is even if you think you don’t have space for one, put it in the middle of the kitchen if you have to (pro tip: position it in reach of both the fridge and microwave). If you have to choose between a crib and a nursing chair because of budget or space constraints, choose the chair and get a a bassinet or Moses basket.
My chair came from Walmart, but at the time it was also available at Target. If you don’t go the second hand route, be sure to price check the chair you like at all the different stores.
The Baby Book authored by several members of the Sears family is my absolute top book recommendation for any parents. Not only will it serve as a go to reference for years and years, it’s very readable. A lot of reference books are dry and written like encyclopedias, but The Baby Book is conversational. If you only owned and read one baby book ever, it should be this one.
Another volume in the Sears Family Library, The Vaccine Book explains practically everything you could want to know about vaccines. It is written by one of the Sears children, Dr. Robert Sears, and he walks through each vaccine, how it’s made, the ingredients used, and his recommendations for the brands you might want to request (did you know you could do that?).
Many find the book controversial, despite the fact that Dr. Sears is pro-vaccine, because he raises concerns regarding the traditional vaccine schedule, as well as potential health risks associated with the ingredients and manufacturing processes. He presents an alternative schedule, which still incorporates all of the vaccines, if that’s what you choose to do, but spaces them out in a way he believes is safer for the underdeveloped system of newborns and small children.
I personally believe that no matter what you choose to do, be it vaccinate your children to the fullest extent possible or not vaccinate at all, you should be fully informed in your decision. Pediatric offices very rarely provide (what I would consider) sufficient information on vaccinations, and as a parent, you should know what you are injecting or not injecting into your children’s bodies. This book is a great resource to own.
While you might or might not take issue with the title itself, Baby Knows Best will broaden your perspective on how your new baby sees the world. It’s really easy to forget that babies are born fully conscious human beings with desires and preferences and feelings.
When it comes to caring for babies, the common tendency is to do things to Baby, not to do things with baby. Baby Knows Best encourages you to slow down and turn mundane tasks like feeding and diapering into opportunities to interact with your baby.
This is a good book, but I didn’t feel like I needed to own it. I enjoyed borrowing it from the library, and it definitely would earn a second read.
If you’ve ever seen The Big Bang Theory on television, you know Mayim Bialik is hilarious. What you might not realize is that she also has a Ph.D. in neuroscience. She combines both her humor and her extensive education in her book Beyond the Sling. This book is all about bonding with your child through attachment parenting in a way that makes sense. She defies contemporary parenting wisdom with her brutally honest advice on what works.
I borrowed this from the library, but I wouldn’t mind owning it. You can also find it on in both electronic print and audiobook on Scribd. (If you don’t have Scribd, you can try it obligation-free for two months with my special link).
You think you’re going to remember every sweet (and not-so-sweet) moment shared with your little bundle of joy, but the sad reality is that you won’t. A fun way to archive each phase of your baby’s life is with a scrapbook. I especially like the ones specifically designed for babies (through early childhood), as opposed to just buying a blank scrapbook.
My grandmother sent us this one, and I think it is so precious. It has sections for things I might never think to document.
Some Things You Probably Don’t Need
(at least right away)
A lot of the things you’re being told to put on your baby registry, you really don’t need, at least not from the get-go. You can save yourself a ton of expense and hold off on some of these items until you see whether you want to fit them into your life. In the meantime, the money you’d have spent on these items can go towards the ones I listed above, or toward, say, paying your hospital bill after Baby is born.
I promise that you really can survive without most of these things, and that you probably won’t use them much in the early if you do own them.
This on might shock you, but you seriously can get by without a crib. BUT WHERE WILL MY BABY SLEEP!? you might want to know. At night, Baby can either sleep in your bed with you, or if you aren’t comfortable with the idea of sleep sharing, in a Moses basket or bassinet next to your bed. During the day, you can do the same thing; plus, if you embrace baby-wearing, a lot of napping will take place in the wrap or sling. Before babies are able to roll, they can safely nap in your bed with safety rails and/or pillows on each side of them.
I have a gorgeous crib my grandparents got brand new for us, and eight months later we have yet to use it consistently. It’s finally getting used for naps because Carrots can crawl off of our bed when she wakes up and it’s no longer safe, even with gates.
A Ton of Newborn Clothes
Newborn clothes are incredibly cute, but so unnecessary. If you expect a newborn-sized baby (your OB or midwife should be able to reasonably guess), my advice would be to just get one pack of bodysuits appropriate to the season, maybe a couple of zip-up jammies, and save the cute outfits for later.
You probably won’t be going out much in the month or less that newborn size clothes fit anyway, and they outgrow them so fast, you’ll barely get one use out of any given outfit anyway. Save your money. You’ll need it.
Burp Cloths (if breastfeeding)
This might be a different story for bottle/formula fed babies, but from my personal experience breastfeeding, I never once got any use out of the burp cloths I so lovingly sewed myself. My baby hardly ever spit up, and when she did, it wasn’t on a predictable occasion.
Your baby might spit up more than mine did, and you might decide you need burp cloths. My point here is, you might want to wait until you see if you need them. If you don’t, money saved!
A Changing Pad and Table
These are kind of a nice convenience, but you don’t have to have them. I ended up changing Carrots on the floor most of the time anyway because I found that it was easier. If you do want a changing station, you can save a lot of money by repurposing a Craigslist dresser (or one you already have).
A swing, especially the motorized ones that are super common nowadays, is nifty and convenient, but again unnecessary. I can promise you that most babies would way prefer being worn tight against their favorite person where they feel warm and secure than left in the unmoving arms of a mechanical mother.
I’m not saying it’s wrong to have one–far from it–but if you’re looking to save money, or you have to prioritize purchases, consider saving your money on this gadget. Your baby might not even like it. I would test Baby in one before buying my own.
Your newborn can’t play with toys yet. They’re pretty much on a trip just from observing the goings-on in your home. Even once they’re older and grasping objects, you could get away with not buying a single toy. My eight month old is way more captivated with emptying a basket of diapers or banging a kitchen whisk on the ground than with anything I’ve actually bought her.
While I personally didn’t find this particular product a “can’t-live-without,” I know other moms do, so it gets an honorable mention here.
A Nursing Pillow
A nursing pillow is a C-shaped cushion that supports your arms and baby while breastfeeding in an upright position. The Boppy and My Breast Friend are two popular styles. I had a Boppy, and I did use it some, but more often, I used a normal, decorative pillow from my bed to prop up one arm while reclining in my nursing chair or I nursed lying down in bed.
If I had a smaller chest, I likely would have gotten more use out of it, so consider your physique when determining if this is something you need. My baby could lay in my lap and reach the good stuff without needing the extra boost from a nursing pillow.
Products for New Parents: Final Thoughts
New babies seriously need so little, despite what the baby industry tells you. Their most significant need is you. My best advice is to focus on what you need to provide what they need. Focus on the products that make your life that little bit easier.
New/expecting mamas: How is your baby registry shaping up? Are there any items on it for you?
Experienced mamas: What has your experience been with newborns and baby products? Was there anything you really wanted that you found you didn’t use much? What were your essentials and go-tos?