If you’re expecting a baby and have begun the registering process, your head is probably spinning. Pacifier clips, bottle warmers, diaper caddies—there’s a lot of gear being marketed towards you (welcome to parenthood!) and when it’s your first baby, it can be very, very hard to discern what you need vs. what you don’t need.
When I was pregnant the first time around, my mom and sister came with me to register. Upon arriving at the big box retailer, I was excited—giddy even!—but was crying on a nursery recliner within an hour. If I couldn’t handle the registering process, how on Earth was I going to handle motherhood? Luckily my sister, a mom of four, was able to lend me her deep trough of knowledge that day, acting as my proxy. Her rapid fire commentary—“Those diapers leak!” “Those bottles have too many parts!” “A baby will kick right through that swaddle!”—was vital in me making smart choices when buying baby stuff. Because let’s face it: Shopping for baby isn’t cheap, and none of us want to waste money—or buy products we are never going to use—if we don’t have to.
Fast-forward five years. I’m now pregnant with my fourth baby, and I can confidently say that I've got this whole baby gear thing down pat. And I’m here to act as your proxy, just as my sister did for me that day years ago. So, go ahead and have yourself a good, hormonal cry on a nursery recliner, while I show you what you’re actually going to need and use the day that sweet baby is born.
There are many bottle brands out there, and finding the one that is just right for your baby is tough. The Avent set is a great place to start—they are BPA-free, have an anti-colic valve, and my favorite part, they’re comprised of only four parts. Which believe me, will be a huge help when it’s 2 a.m., you’re sleep-deprived and trying to prepare a bottle in a dark kitchen. I fed all three of my babies using this set and not one suffered from colic.
Philips Avent Essentials Set
This is probably the most important thing you need on Day 1 with baby, as most hospitals won’t discharge you unless you’ve got a car seat to put baby in. Like most gear, you’ve got a lot of options, but I’m in favor of Uppababy’s Mesa for a few reasons. One, it’s lighter than most bucket seats, weighing in at just 9.9 pounds. Second, the Henry Mesa’s fabric is the first and only naturally flame-retardant car seat on the market. Third, it’s super safe, having scored a five-star rating with the NHSTA. Visual indicators that turn from red to green when installing the base and when latching the seat into the base are super helpful in reducing anxiety—and will certainly nix you screaming, “Is it in right? Is it safe?!!”
Uppababy Mesa Infant Carseat in Henry
I also love the Mesa because it plugs right into my favorite stroller on the market, Uppababy’s Vista. Not too dainty, not too sporty, the Vista is juuuuust right, and sturdy enough to create a smooth ride even on a cobble stone street thanks to its shock-absorbing front and rear suspension. For your purposes, the Vista is fab with a baby because, as I said before, you can plug the Mesa right into the stroller frame and be on your merry way—or you can take advantage of the stroller’s super-plush bassinet (which comes with a UPF 50+ sunshade and ventilation window) that allows baby to continue snoozing as you head out to brunch. (Another bonus: Baby can actually sleep in the bassinet overnight and an additional bassinet stand is available for purchase!) As hard as it is to imagine now, a big selling point for the Vista—and a justification for its price tag—is its ability to grow with your family, from one baby to three kids, thanks to an attachable Rumble Seat and Piggyback skateboard.
Uppababy Vista Stroller with Leather Handles in Henry
MUST-HAVE STROLLER ACCESSORY
This is the best $8 you’ll ever spend. Attach the Mommy Hook to your stroller to hold everything from your dog’s leash to grocery bags to your purse. It’s. A. Life. Changer.
The Mommy Hook
If you live in a state that experiences winter, you quickly realize that doubling up on blankets when you’re outside just isn’t going to cut it—they’re not warm enough and they don’t stay put. Enter: Bunting! Like baby sleeping bags for strollers and car seats, bunting is a must when the temps dip and JJ Cole’s Bundleme is the granddaddy of the category. Lined with faux shearling, the Bundleme has wide openings for safety straps—which rest directly on baby—and the top layer can zip right off if your little one gets too warm.
JJ Cole Original Bundleme
There are lots of schools of thought when it comes to swaddling—personally, I’m a huge believer. All of my babies felt safe and secure when wrapped like a burrito…which meant they slept better! An anxious dad designed this swaddle system that has built-in board in the back of the swaddle that fully supports the baby’s head and neck. Meaning you’ll no longer be screaming, “Hold the baby’s neck!” across the room every time someone asks to snuggle your new bundle of joy. Bonus: It’s recognized by the Hip Dysplasia Institute as a “hip healthy” product.
Kepi Kozy Support Swaddle
Prior to having my first baby, I was adamant that I didn’t need a feeding pillow. “I’ll just use regular pillows,” I insisted. And then I had the baby and realized within a few days of being home just how imperative it is to have a sturdy feeding pillow to support your arms, regardless of whether you’re nursing or bottle-feeding. A feeding pillow also doubles as a surface for propping baby up on couches or beds during awake time and tummy time, and I love Nook’s organic materials, punchy colors (with nary a cow or lamb pattern in the mix!) and the fact that you can zip the cover off and throw it in the washing machine when spit up happens. (FYI: There’s going to be a lot of spit up.)
Nook Niche Organic Cotton Feeding Pillow
MOTION CHAIR A
This just in: Babies LOVE motion, because it reminds them of being inside your womb. (Awwww!) And while it’s hard to imagine you’ll ever want to put that sweet angel down, there are times when it’s going to be necessary. Like when you have to go to the bathroom, or when you need to sleep for 10 minutes. But despite their tiny size, babies have huge opinions when it comes to motion chairs, so I’ve included my two favorites, both of which are leading in consumer and critical reviews, too. The first is the 4moms Mamaroo4, which sways just like moms do when they’re holding baby, essentially providing you with a hands-free way to rock baby to sleep. That really is the best feature of the chair, with added perks in the form of adjustable speeds and movement patterns (which you can control via the brand’s app), ambient sounds and MP3 plug-in capability (yes, you can pipe your favorite Coldplay song into the Mamaroo’s speaker).
4moms Mamaroo4 Infant Seat
MOTION CHAIR B
My second-but-equally favorite chair is Fisher Price’s Rock’n Play, which rocks and vibrates and plays music…all by itself! The brand’s app means you can manage all of these features from your phone. Ya know, like in the middle of the night, when baby starts fussing but it’s not time for feeding, you can simply pick up your phone, enable rocking, and baby falls back asleep. Genius! I also love the soothing light projections showcased on the chair’s overhead canopy, it’s perfect for lulling babies to sleep, or just keeping them quietly content while you take a much-needed shower.
Fisher-Price Premium Auto Rock 'n Play Sleeper with Smart Connect
Remember all those bottle parts I told you about? Yeah, there’s a lot of them. And if you’re in a jam and can’t wait for the dishwasher cycle, hand-washing and drying on this easy-on-the-eyes rack is going to be clutch. I like the lawn because it can hold all of your bottles and parts at once, but if you don’t have a ton of counter space to spare, opt for Boon’s Grass or Patch.
Boon Lawn Countertop Drying Rack
I’ve said it before—I’m not a huge fan of diaper bags, mainly because they typically look like a child’s bag and well, I love me a designer tote. That said, I don’t love it when a bottle leaks in my quilted Chanel purse…sooo, diaper bag it is! And JJ Cole’s backpack is my go-to because it allows me to be hands-free to deal with the many mishaps and messes the day brings. The cute, minimalist patterns of this option are, dare I say it, even stylish? Yes, apparently diaper bags can be stylish!
JJ Cole Backpack Diaper Bag
Some might say that you don’t need a crib on Day 1 with baby, and I wouldn’t disagree. But for two reasons it’s on this list. One, because when you’re nesting, the crib really seals the “We’re Ready to Be Parents!” deal. And secondly, while you might keep baby at your bedside for the first weeks and months, it’s probably a good idea to introduce the crib early on to get them familiar with the smell and feel of their eventual nighttime habitat. And there’s no better option than the Sleepi from Stokke. The Scandinavian brand has cult following for a reason—they make safe and gorgeous designs that are seamless with your adult aesthetic. Bonus: This crib comes with a conversion kit that turns it into a toddler bed—meaning you get at least three years of use out of it (helping to justify that cost!).
Stokke Convertible Sleepi Crib & Toddler Bed
I bow down to pretty much anything Parachute churns out—towels, bathrobes, you name it—and the brand’s recent foray into baby bedding does not disappoint. While the cashmere baby blanket epitomizes luxury and the essential baby quilt is as cozy as the adult size that came before it, the percale crib sheets are hands-down the best you can buy right now because they’re crazy soft and they are completely free of harmful chemicals and synthetics. The subtle print is soothing and will complement any nursery design.
Parachute Percale Crib Sheet
The baby mattress game has changed a lot in the past decade. Whereas you once had one or two options, the market is now flooded with fancy mattresses that cost a pretty penny. And while a $300 baby blanket isn't worth it, I have to say that a mattress is—you're going to have this sucker for three-plus years, and your baby will be sleeping on it (even if for short, mid-day naps the first months) up to 16 hours a day. Read: You'll be getting your money's worth. My favorite, favorite mattress you can buy right now is the Newton, for multiple reasons. First, it's got a zip-off cover that you can throw in the wash if (Meaning: when) baby spits up or has a leaking diaper and the core of the mattress can be scrubbed clean in the tub or shower. Second, it's super breathable thanks to a design that allows air to flow through the mattress (Read: if your baby flips onto their belly in the middle of the night, there is less fear of suffocation). And third, its comprised of air and food-grade polymer—no foam, no latex, no springs, no glue. If that doesn't help you sleep at night, I don't know what will!
Newton Crib Mattress
Celebrities like Whitney Port and Alicia Silverstone swear by Monica + Andy, and I get why. One snuggle against the brand’s organic cotton blanket and you, too, will want one for your stroller, car seat and nursery chair. And the cutie patterns ensure you’ll nab some adorable first-photo shots when you’re about to leave the hospital with your babe.
Monica + Andy Coming Home Organic Cotton Blanket
Bathing a newborn is a stressful task. You’re chock full of new-parent anxiety, and mixing that with a wet, tiny baby (who is likely crying)—well, like I said, it’s stressful. So, you want a baby tub that is going to stay put and can be placed on counters, floors or in bathtubs, and Boon’s Naked is by far my favorite. The collapsible tub (yes, it collapses flat and can be hung on the back of a door) offers a reclining position so baby’s head and neck can be cradled while their body is submersed in water. Bonus: It grows with baby until they’re a toddler.
Boon Naked Collapsible Baby Bathtub
Having raised my first two babies in the city, I grew very accustomed to throwing dirty diapers down the trash shoot minutes after they were created, thus avoiding any yucky poop smells. But then we headed to the suburbs and guess what? No trash shoot in our new suburban home. Which meant we needed a dirty diaper solution and that came in the form of the Ubbi pail. It’s great because a sliding door minimizes the amount of stink you’re letting out, a rubber seals locks in odor and—my favorite part—no special bag insert is required. While I opted for the sleek white pail, Ubbi comes in 18+ patterns and colors (and I kind of, sort of, really want the pink with hearts!).
Ubbi Steel Diaper Pail
It’s going to be hard to pry yourself away from baby, so when you do, you’re going to want to be able to watch him or her obsessively via a monitor. I suggest pouring yourself a glass of wine, too, as monitor-watching is way more fun when wine is involved. Which one should you get? I recommend the Infant Optics option. There’s a reason this is the #1 selling baby monitor on Amazon. With more than 11,000 reviews and a 4.5-star rating, this monitor has all the standard bells and whistles (night vision, two-way talk, expandable up to four cameras, temperature display, color LCD viewing screen…blah blah blah). What’s really cool about it, however, is the interchangeable lenses that come with the monitor—you can swap between a normal, zoom or wide-angle lens to customize the camera to your baby’s nursery. And as the baby grows, the lenses grow with you. You might zoom when baby is an infant and you want to see every detail up close, but when toddlerdom hits and suddenly baby’s not in the crib, the wide angle lens will show you she’s in the corner reading a book (and not napping).
Infant Optics DXR-8 Video Baby Monitor with Interchangeable Optical Lens
HEALTH & GROOMING KIT
It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it. And by someone, I mean you. Every new parent needs one of these kits handy in those first days and weeks to trim newborns’ egregiously long nails or brush the cradle cap on their tiny heads. This kit gets the job done and I always delight in the fact that it matches the brand’s Naked tub. Because, matching is everything, am I right?
Boon Care Health & Grooming Kit
In the early days we moms and dads are always hovering, wondering and worrying when it comes to our newborns. You’re often going to want to know the temperature of your little babe, and I can’t recommend this thermometer enough—mainly because it doesn’t involve inserting something into baby’s ear in order to get an accurate read. That’s right, you can take baby’s temperature in just two seconds by gently placing this against their forehead, or even holding it up to two inches away from their forehead. Meaning, you can assuage your fears at 4 a.m. without ever waking them. Oh, the joys of technology!
Braun No Touch Plus Forehead Thermometer
If you’re hoping to nurse your little one, a breast pump is a must and Medela is my go-to brand. Why do you need it? For a lot of reasons—pumping increases milk production, but it also ensures someone other than you can feed the baby…and that you can enjoy a night out with a few cocktails every once and a while! Medela’s newest double pump is super quiet (so you won’t wake your partner up if you’re pumping at 3 a.m. or if you're getting it done during a conference call), and super-portable because it only weighs two pounds. It’s also faster than previous iterations, thanks to new technology that gets more milk in less time, and when charged, you can use it cord-free for a full-hour…who’s ready to pump while making dinner and doing laundry?!
Medela Sonata Double Electric Smart Breast Pump
Confession: I. Love. This. Bra. Not only is it comfortable, thanks to soft, stretchy jersey material, but it’s also plain ol’ pretty. Not surprising, considering the maker is Cosabella. When you’ve just had a baby and your body is recovering and your hair is falling out, you can feel VERY unattractive. You know what helps? A pretty little bra that is highly adaptable to your new form and is super easy to nurse in.
Cosabella Talco Soft Cup Nursing Bra
BUY FROM: Nordstrom, $98
If this is your first baby, you’re likely to have some visitors in the hospital. And while no one is judging you—quite the opposite, actually!—greeting your guests in old sweatpants and your husband’s t-shirt isn’t going to be a fond memory in all those photos you’re likely to take. Instead, treat yo’ self to a beautiful pair of nursing-friendly pjs that will make you feel like the queen you are.
Cosabella Bella 3-Piece Maternity Pajamas
BABY'S FIRST OUTFIT
If you're going to be looking glam in the hosptial, we want baby looking just as fly, obvi. And splurging on a Kickee Pants layette set is something you'll never regret. Soft as butter thanks to its viscose from bamboo material, the layette gown is to cute for words and has my favorite feature—flip paws for keeping hands warm and sharp nails from scratchign those pristine baby faces. The hardest part will be choosing which adorable pattern to get!
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