10 Must Have Baby Items for New Moms

One of my friends from high school facebooked me recently to let me know she is pregnant (congrats Orly!) and asked me for advice about what I considered must haves for new moms. I have been considering compiling this list for a while now, but her wonderful news was just the impetus I needed to stop considering and actually write it. This post is also dedicated to Jbhat who is expecting her second child right around Jasper’s first birthday!

uppababyHere are the 10 things I couldn’t have live without those first few months. (The ones with a * are ones I am STILL using even now.)

#1) A Graco Snugride. Yes, there are other models that you may get more mileage out of, but the Snugride wins hands down not just for it’s high safety rating, but also because it is the lightest car seat on the market. This may not matter when your babe is just a wee peanut on his/her way home from the hospital for the first time, but fast forward 6 months and 10lbs later and you will thank me. Or your shoulders will anyway!

#2) Somewhat related to #1, any stroller that the Snugride can attach to. This can either be a cheap snap ‘n go in addition to your “main” stroller for later, or you can do like we did and get a stroller like the UppaBaby Vista that you can snap the snugride onto with a simple attachment. You can read the reasons why I chose the Uppababy here if you are interested.

#3) The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD. Better yet, get it in the gift pack WITH the miracle blanket (see #4) Dr. Karp’s methods for soothing baby are nothing short of miraculous and you won’t understand it until you SEE him work his magic on the DVD. It’s almost comical how the babies go from screaming to SILENCE in one second flat once he uses his techniques. Also noteworthy is his fourth trimester theory, it makes so much sense and is an invaluable reference for how to structure your newborn’s environment for the first three months.

#4) The Miracle Blanket. This worked so well for us that we swaddled Jasper in his miracle blankets until 6 months! We tried the others (Swaddle Mee etc) but our little Houdini found his way out of all of them except the MB. Worth every penny.

#5) A Yoga/Bouncy Ball. You can use it during labor as a prop to lean on like they show you in birthing class, but it’s true value is for sitting and bouncing baby on! I nearly lost my mind the first 4 months of Jasper’s life, but I would have ACTUALLY lost it if it weren’t for the bouncy ball as it was the only thing that seemed to soothe him at all. Make absolutely sure you get the ball that is the appropriate size for your height. My parents have one that is a tiny bit bigger than ours and I had a hard time staying on it (falling off the ball with baby counteracts it’s soothing powers!) Better yet, buy one like this that has a stabilizing base included and a cute baby design, or just this plain one with base that is a better bargain. (You can also find the yoga balls alone for like $13 at TJMaxx, Marshalls etc.)

#6) A video monitor* Yes, people who have never had one will say they aren’t necessary, but you know what? I did’t think a cell phone was necessary before I had one either! Some things you just can’t live without once you’ve lived WITH them and this is one of those things. Jasper used to – no joke – cry in his sleep. Not like a little whine, but a full out cry. The video monitor let me know whether he was just sleep crying or if I really needed to rescue him. Even now he will cry and with a quick look I can tell if it’s a “my head is down and I’m going back to sleep soon” cry vs. an “I’m standing in the corner of my crib and never going to sleep again” cry. Worth it’s weight in gold.

Jasper in his primo EuroBath

#7) The Primo EuroBath* I never understood the fuss when my girlfriends raved about it.. I mean it’s a bath… a huge bulky plastic bath. But I have since seen the light. It is the only bath your baby will ever need until they are bathing in a regular tub. Trust me on this one!

#8) The Homedics Lullaby Sounds Spa Sound Machine* (aka “baby crack machine”).  Its a sound machine with baby friendly sounds – heartbeat, rain, ocean – and for when baby is older it projects cute little moving scenes on the ceiling. Yes, the projection motor will break, but for $16 at Bed Bath & Beyond (when you use a 20% coupon) you can just buy a new one. Or just use it like a nightlight like we do. Jasper likes the “rain” setting!

My Dutalier Glider in the Nursery

#9) A glider*, or at the very least a very comfy chair in the nursery. They are pricey, but check this site for children’s consigment sales and find one for a fraction of the price.  I must confess that I didn’t realize the TRUE value of  my glider until Jasper started sleeping in his own room and waking only once during the night. Before that he was in a bassinet in our room so the glider didn’t get much action after the first few weeks postpartum (when it was the only chair that was comfortable enough to sit on for any length of time while my nether regions were recovering.)   But now, that chair makes my daily 4am stumble into Jasper’s nursery for his nighttime feeding totally bearable. In fact, I even enjoy our early morning snuggle time together.

#10) An ORGANIC crib mattress. Yes, these are expensive, but once I read that in countries like New Zealand where they “wrap” the mattresses to prevent off gassing of materials SIDS is virtually non existent I was adamant about going organic for this item.  Please note that I am not suggesting that you are a bad parent if you buy a regular mattress, I am just telling you why I chose the mattress that I did. Plus I think that this information needs to get out there more, it’s pretty compelling and is totally underreported in the USA.

There are so many other products I absolutely love/d, so I will be writing a “Registry Redo” post soon (all the things I would have registered for then knowing what i know now) and that’s where you come in.. what am I forgetting or never knew about? What were YOUR must haves as a new mom or even now?  Orly, JB and other pregnant readers present and future can surely benefit from your experience!

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Jason Ross says:

Great listing. I was also recently inspired to create my own list and thought you and your readers would appreciate it. http://www.ordinaryparent.com/lessons-learned/10-must-have-baby-items/ thanks!

Marcia says:

I absolutely love this list, but I’d have to add one more thing… probably goes well with #4, because you can’t swaddle your baby forever. I love, love, love my baby sleep sack. When your baby is a couple of months old, the sleep sack provides the same kind of security that swaddling would. The one I have is called the Lullabag. I like this one more than other ones I’ve used because you can unzip it from the bottom. It’s such a pain when I have to take my daughter our of the whole thing. She gets cranky and is so difficult to put back to sleep.

Cynthia says:

Ariana…I wanted to check out the cosignment store but the link isn’t working. Pls let me know what it is thnx!!!

ariana says:

Cynthia, sorry about that! Thanks for letting me know. I’m going to update the post with the correct link but it’s http://bellsouthpwp.net/g/y/gyrojoe/kcg/index.html

Jill says:

Thanks for mentioning the organic mattress. I didn’t know anything about them until after Ava was born — I wish I had known before we bought a mattress!

ariana says:

Sherean, I edited the address for you..

Also, have you looked into babyhawk carriers? These definitely work for big babies. Jasper isn’t huge into being worn these days, but I do love the Babyhawk (you can wear them on your back too).

Sherean says:

I had my web address wrong on previous post. I keep forgetting it’s a .net, not a .com!

Sherean says:

Love your list! Mine would be similar, but with a few variations.

Car seat: We got the Chicco Key Fit 30, the BIG infant car seat that is HEAVY, but that turned out to be a wise decision because Hunter weighed 21 lbs by 6 months. He would be busting out of the Snugride! (Who knew? He was only 6lbs, 13oz at birth.)

Yoga ball, but we didn’t use it to bounce him. We use it to sit on and roll around between his “gear.” So if he wants company while he’s in his Jumperoo or activity center, I just sit on the ball and roll myself over to the next “station.” (I joke that he’s doing circuit training.)

The swing that a friend handed down to us was the biggest lifesaver. And to think I wasn’t going to buy one! He slept in this for naps or just hung out in it while we ate. He was still in it up until about 5 months.

I used a Moby wrap when he was teeny-tiny and used to get a couple hours of work done while he was safely sleeping next to me. Then as he got older and was more interested in being face out, we switched to the Baby Bjorn. Now I’m back to the Moby cuz he’s close to the weight limit on the Bjorn. Tried the Ergo, but he doesn’t want to face in – even on the back. IF ANYBODY HAS ANY OTHER IDEAS FOR CARRIERS FOR BIG BABIES, PLEASE TELL ME!

On the registry re-do, we got our regular stroller but did not have a snap and go for the car seat. I finally bought one at 4 months – a little too late. In those early months, it would have been so much easier to snap his car seat onto that then carry the darn thing in and out of everywhere we went.

We ended up not using monitors at all cuz his room is so close and the house is small. I didn’t get a glider but do have a comfy chair in his room.

Stuff we didn’t need: sleeping gowns. I still don’t get them. They ride up. He lived in his footie pajamas for at least 2 months. I only put him in a “real” outfit if we had company! Didn’t need wipes warmers, bottle warmers, etc. Probably could have done without the mobile on his crib, too. I’m sure everybody here already knows you don’t need the bumper or quilt. Just buy sheets. And get a cute window treatment and rug to decorate the room.

Oh gosh, one other must have: a Flip video camera. Cannot say enough good things about this one.

ariana says:

Jen, yes, that’s the same tub! No, it definitely does not fit in the sink, we use it on the counter next to the kitchen sink.

Eva, we liked our moby too for the first couple months, then Jasper started trying to bust out of it (and most carriers) shortly after. Thanks for the link to the teething rail, I’ve been thinking I should start looking into that!

Kari, we have those too! They were perfect for our August babies.

You are so right about the things we didn’t need. For me the sweet peace soothing center is on the top of the list! Oh and the combi pod bouncy chair. But Jasper was wierd b/c he didn’t like to sit until recently so that skews the results :)

kari says:

Great list – completely agree with every single line item:)
WISH we would have had the euro bath…
one more – in addition to the miracle blanket – we used AND STILL USE our Aidan and Anais swaddle blankets for everything.. not so much swaddling – but for stroller and car window shades, an impromtu picnic blanket, public changing table cover – you name it… we have used them :)perfect weight, size – we always have a couple in the car, one in the diaper bag, a few at home, they are the best.
I was lucky enough to get two sets as gifts.

can i tell you that the first time i walked into BRU, i may as well have been entering a foreign planet!

i have an idea for your next list… “top ten things i THOUGHT i needed and registered for, but were a complete waste of time.” i bet we all have a huge pile of “used once” baby items that we thought we must have!

Bethany says:

Thank you! This is so helpful. Can’t wait for your next “registry must-haves” post!

Eva says:

Couldn’t live without our Moby Wrap! At 9 months we’re still using it almost every day. She loves it so much on our walks that she demands to be taken out of the stroller. So comfortable!

Also couldn’t live without my PISA. Best decision I ever made, shelling out the bucks for that. At this point I know where every single-occupancy bathroom with an electric socket is in the whole hospital.

And we LOOOOVE the jumperoo! She spends AT LEAST a half hour in it every day and it gives us a bit of a break.

Ariana, I have a product suggestion for you – now that Jasper has teeth, you’ll need one of these for your crib: http://tinyurl.com/o93ebf
To our horror, we discovered her teeth marks on the railing since she’s just the right height…

Jen says:

Ariana, question about your tub…

Is it the same as this BRU one? http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2404856

Also, does it fit in your kitchen sink? We have a standard-sized kitchen sink (nothing too huge) and this seems like it wouldn’t fit in there. I’ve been eying this one for a while because I’ve heard great things about it and it gets perfect ratings on BRU, but I figured I would only be able to use it in the actual tub and that I would have to get something smaller (like this: http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3332084) for sink bathing the first few weeks when I might be too tired/sore to be bending over the bathtub.


ariana says:

I agree with you all about the baby carrier, I just couldn’t squeeze all my recommendations into 10! We loved our babyhawk the most I think.

Sarah, we bought the angelcare monitor and then never set it up until he was too big (ie sleeping in the sides of his crib which sets it off!) but we should have done it sooner. Much sooner. Also, I am sooo with you on the over the head thing. It makes me laugh now to think of it but I used to put EVERYTHING on him from the bottom up! If it didn’t fit from the bottom it wasn’t going on him ;)

Sarah says:

I forgot to mention that the Kate Quinn kimonos I love are organic, too!

Sarah says:

I agree with what’s been said already, but I just want to emphasize how absolutely invaluable our baby carrier has been! We actually prefer ours to a stroller most of the time. At first, we danced and bobbed while wearing our son to soothe him when he was a crabby baby. Later, it just offered a fun and easy way to take him places.

Also, someone got us a motion sensor monitor that beeps if the baby doesn’t move (breathe) for a certain period of time. This became a lifeline for us when our “nap-in-arms” baby would only go down in a crib for naps on his stomach. At first we would sit watching him, terrified of SIDS, but then we hooked up the motion sensor feature on the monitor and were able to feel comfortable about walking out of the room. Soon after that, he started moving onto his stomach at night, and I’m certain that I would have lost hours of (all-so-precious) sleep worrying about him had we been without this feature.

One last thing (sorry!): I found that my baby hated having anything put over his head for the first few months, and discovered that I LOVED kimono onesies. Kate Quinn has some absolutely beautiful ones that are super comfy!

I posted something along these lines soon after being home…what a great idea to do a Registry Do-Over Post: I may have to copy you on this one!

Kristen says:

There are so many of these I agree with you with!

#1) A Graco Snugride.

#2) Not just any stroller, but the Bob. Yes, it’s expensive, but it goes from infant all the way til you don’t need it anymore. After making fun & critizizing me for getting such an expensive stroller, my mom loved it so much she bought one for herself. And, it’s not very often that guys can get REALLY excited about a baby-thing.

#4) The Miracle Blanket. I forget which one we used, I think it was Kiddopotomus.

#6) A video monitor. Yes!

#8) The Homedics Lullaby Sounds Spa Sound Machine* (aka “baby crack machine”). Yes!

#9) A glider*, or at the very least a very comfy chair in the nursery. Yes! I really wanted the Potterybarn Dream Rocker and should have just shelled out the money!

#10) An ORGANIC crib mattress. Yes! Total peace of mind!

Victoria says:

Yes yes yes to all!!

The only other things I can think of that you didn’t mention was the:

Itz Been Timer

Huge lifesaver for me, in fact we still use it! So convenient to remember when the last diaper was changed, when the last feeding was, what side was last used, etc

The Boppy, which I also still use just because it makes bf’ing so much more comfortable for me

Sling/Baby Bjorn to give my arms a break!

Swing/Bouncer/Jumper/Exercauser to have somewhere to put him when I need to eat/shower/use the bathroom

Pearl says:

great list! totally agree with the Miracle Blanket.. we loved it.. until our boy started escaping that too!! he didn’t resettle well, so we found a great sleep sack called a Peke Moe which is for transitioning baby from swaddling – http://www.pekemoe.co.nz and I would DEFINITELY recommend it to others.. in fact next time I would use it frm the start! thanks!

ariana says:

Thanks for the reminder Heather! I only left mine out because jasper HATED his, it was our biggest failure. So I didn’t feel comfortable suggesting one because I don’t have one I have used and liked. I know that the swing (and the bouncy chair) are saviors for so many people, just not us!

Heather says:

Don’t forget the baby swing! Hours of soothing enjoyment!

ariana says:

Yay, I’m so glad you guys found it useful. I will definitely do the full registry list because I know I was TOTALLY overwhelmed when trying to do this.. I didn’t know an exersaucer from a receiving blanket!

JB, you can email me anytime, (about anything!)

Kimberly, don’t be sorry, your comment has tons of good info, and many of the items you recommended are ones that I also love (I am SOOOO with you about the Medela lanolin, 1000x better than the Lansinoh!) but you’ve mentioned some new ones like the hands-2-Go that I didn’t know about, so thanks for that!

I totally agree about the camera too, I wanted to put that on there as well as some of the breastfeeding stuff, I guess I shouldn’t have limited myself to 10 :) I’ll definitely include them on the expanded registry post :)

Kimberly says:

Oops… sorry, Ariana – I guess I sort of commandeered your post! My comment is as long as your original!

Kimberly says:

Great post… here are some of my must-haves. I totally agree with several of yours…

1. The Happiest Baby on the Block is an absolute LIFESAVER. I had the book, not the DVD, but that was enough for me. For new parents who aren’t really experienced with babies (I had a TON of baby experience by the time I had my own)the DVD is probably the way to go.
2. The yoga ball was also invaluable – we would’ve lost our minds without it during that “4th trimester,” a theory I completely agree with. Another tip is that for us, sometimes Daddy was the magic bullet with the HBOTB techniques… he was able to hold James tightly and surround him in a way I couldn’t just because of his size. He could bounce him right to sleep in his most furious, inconsolable times. This was really nice, I think, for him since he had something that I didn’t… and Mommy pretty much held the rest of the cards in those early months. :)
For swaddling, we loved the large rectangular flannel receiving blankets, or the stretchy square waffle blankets. I returned all the “swaddle blankets” we received at showers because both Tommy and I can get a regular swaddle crazy tight… we had no episodes of escaping! So learn a good swaddle technique (look again to Happiest Baby…) in case you are ever without your swaddle blanket, or decide to forgo them as we did.
3. On that note, those receiving blankets got (and still get) a LOT of use in our household. James was a summer baby, so we used them not only to swaddle, but also as a light cover in those hot months. We used them as spitup rags, since James was a huge spitter. I never left the house without 2 or 3 of them in my diaper bag. I love blankets and also have a pretty extensive collection of Koala Kids brand plush and satin/minky blankets in every color. I could never have too many!
4. I couldn’t live without my car adapter for my Medela PISA breast pump. I know it sounds crazy, but the car has become my primary pumping place, as a full-time working mom. If we’re on a longer trip and my husband is driving, I’ll double pump, or if I’m driving I do just one side. As a caveat, I never do this in dangerous driving conditions (weather, traffic, etc.) but we live in a relatively low-traffic area. I set up while parked and pump hands-free, so I’m never fiddling with it while driving.
5. My Peanut Shell nursing cover… LOVE IT. I also have a hand-me-down Hooter Hider which I use in a pinch, but I much prefer the PS. It’s taper-cut at the bottom, so it’s not just a big square, and I think the wire at the top is better shaped or something. This is one thing I seriously cannot live without!
6. Alba Organics UnPetroleum Jelly and baby lotion – I strictly avoid all petroleum/petrolatum based products (especially for James)due to my training in infant massage… so no baby oil, Vaseline, or regular baby lotions for us. The Alba UnPetroleum looks, feels, and smells exactly like Vaseline, and I used it to protect his circ. site and protect against diaper rash, as well as on chapped cheeks and lips. The lotion is great too, as we live in a very dry, high desert climate, so it’s essential to have a good moisturizer. There are a lot of good products on the market, but I like the Alba because I’m very sensitive to smells, and it’s virtually unscented. I also really love their Cocoa Butter lotion for me… used it throughout my pregnancy and not one stretch mark. I still use it daily.
7. A baby carrier. Slings never really worked for us (I tried when he was tiny) and I really didn’t want to deal with a wrap-style. In the beginning we used a Bjorn, which I absolutely loved until James reached 16-18 lbs. when it started to really hurt my shoulders and back. So I invested in an Ergo, which I LOVE. It goes to 40 lbs, and baby can ride in front, on your hip, or on your back. We use it a LOT, and I can wear him for hours with no back or shoulder strain.
8. Medela brand lanolin – MUCH better than Lansinoh in my opinion. They gave it to me in the hospital and I took home a ton of samples. It’s smoother, has little or no funky smell… a must-have for the first couple of months of breastfeeding, and still great for chapped lips on both myself and baby!
9. Hands-2-Go alcohol-free, kid-safe foaming hand sanitizer. I get it at Babies R Us and I always have one with me. I’m a germ-freak, but I hate the alcohol-smell and stickiness of Purell, plus I don’t really want that near my baby. The Hands-2-Go can be used on baby’s hands, too. And because it’s water-based, it feels more like you’ve actually washed your hands, not sticky like alcohol/gel based sanitizers. I also use it to sanitize the handle of shopping carts, and periodically my steering wheel, keys, cell phone case, computer mouse, etc. I told you, I’m a germ-freak! :) http://www.waterjourney.com
10. We co-sleep, and used a crib wedge in the early days when James was spitting up so much. It kept him propped up on a slight angle, and it made it a bit easier in the beginning to breastfeed sidelying in bed.

And one of the MOST important things… Ariana, I’m surprised you didn’t mention it, but I suspect it’s as much a part of you as your hands… A CAMERA!!! Have a good one, and know how to use it! Those early days are priceless, and babies grow and change in the blink of an eye. Also, make sure you get your husband (or SOMEONE) to take pictures with you in them… or you’ll end up with very few. :)

Sarah says:

Thank you so much for writing this post. I am 5 months pregnant with my first and working on our registry. This was such great information :-) I can’t wait for your registry redo!

Jen says:

This is so helpful Ariana…thank you! I can’t wait for your registry redo. I am pregnant and due in December so I will be registering in a few months and I can use all the help I can get :)

Keri says:

Great list! I’ve I just put a lot of our must haves for the first six months into the attic and got all sentimental!

jbhat says:

Ariana, I am thrilled and honored that you dedicated this post to me. You are so thoughtful. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Such great recommendations too. I will be emailing you soon about some of this stuff. I have more questions.


PS) I have been sitting on a bouncy ball at work ever since my second trimester. It’s great.

Lindsay says:

Thank you for this post! I’m 14 weeks pregnant with my first baby, and I love to hear recommendations from moms. I’ve read the Happiest Baby book but didn’t know there’s a DVD. Awesome! Thanks again.

ariana says:

Great minds Shane.. webcam on your iphone? You should write a post about parenting for the technologically advanced :) Very cool!

Shane says:

wow, we’ve been meaning to write our Must Have items too. We overlap on a lot of these things. Especially the ball, I glanced at ours sitting in the corner last week and recalled those long nights bouncing G up and down. And I agree w/ the video monitor although we just use a webcam in the nursery and can watch from our iphones.