I have been fielding a lot of questions about what are my must-haves for bringing home baby. The baby product market is constantly evolving, rolling out new & innovative merchandise to make a parent’s life easier. That being said, I feel pretty confident in my picks. Since many mamas only get 1 shot at a baby registry, here are the 10 baby products I cannot live without!
1.// Lovey Duds Baby Wrap
What it is: A cloth baby carrier unlike any other on the market. The custom front panel not only helps you position the wrap correctly, it aids against sagging caused by the weight of the baby.
Why I love it: Not only can you pick a custom fabric for the front panel, the length of the wrap is yards shorter than your box-store cloth wrap (think Boba, Moby) which makes it easier to use and use correctly. The wrap can be wadded up and tossed in a diaper bag before heading out the door, unlike many of the bulkier baby carrier options. Depending on where we were headed, I would pre-wrap myself before hopping in the car so all I needed to do upon our arriveal was pop the baby in and get on with my grocery shopping or playdate. I used the Lovey Duds wrap until Aria was about 6 months old, but I know some folks go longer, wrapping so that baby’s legs can ergonomically hang out. This is truly, without a doubt, my number 1 must have for baby. Once you get the swing of wrapping, you will never look back.
What it is: A swaddle blanket that tucks the arms in & keeps them pinned down using the baby’s body weight.
Why I love it: In 2012, as a bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived new mommy, I was desperate for relief so I tried nearly every swaddle on the market. Only 1 did the trick: The Miracle Blanket. A miracle indeed. I used this with Noah around the time he was 5 weeks old but used it as early as 2 weeks old with Aria. First, lay the baby down and use the small inner pieces of fabric to fold over each arm and under the baby’s back so that the weight of the baby is keeping their arms pinned to the side. After the arms are secure, pop their feet in the bottom sack and then pull the shorter side and tuck into the arm area. Finally, you will you use the longest piece of fabric to wrap the baby up like a burrito! Even the greatest Houdini has a hard time busting out of this swaddle!
What it is: If you had a baby anytime before 2013, you had a Sleep Sheep and your biggest pet peeve about said Sleep Sheep is that you would have to army crawl back into your baby’s room to turn it on after the 45 minutes were up. This sound machine is the answer to your prayers. You can run a heartbeat, ocean, rainfall or lullaby sound all night or set it on a timer. The sound machine also has a projector that shoots rotating stars on the ceiling to help baby drift off to sleep. The Munchkin Sound Machine is very similar to the myBaby brand and also features a night light at the base to help you sneak a peak on your sweetie before heading off to bed.
Why I love it: Stumbling upon this item at Target back in 2013 was like finding gold. Once purchased and proven success, my mom and sister both bought one for their house. The best part for me, a former-Sleep Sheep user, is that the sounds don’t end after 25 or 45-minute increments AND it doesn’t run on a battery which means no “oh sh*t!” moments when you are putting Junior to bed. It is light and compact so you can throw it in a bag for a weekend at Grandmas or move it around the house as needed. The light show projected on the ceiling tends to keep our 4-year-old alert and awake but helps our 2-year-old settle to sleep.
What it is: It is basically a portable bassinet that allows baby to feel swaddled and also to sit at an angle reducing the possibility of acid reflux. The newer models have a self-rocking feature and also a switch for vibrations.
Why I love it: I have used a Rock ‘n’ Play successfully with 2 children. In 2012, I used the bare-bones model with Noah. In 2014, I upgraded to the Deluxe (Snug-a-Bunny) model for the added comfort it looks like it gives the baby. I also purchased a Graco Little Lounger before I had Aria, thinking the “laying flat” option would allow for a smooth bassinet-to-crib transition. It was not well-received by Aria so we stuck with the RnP until she was 16 weeks old.
A lot of mothers have a number of concerns when it comes to using a Rock ‘n’ Play. Many think it will encourage chin to chest touching (a SIDS risk), others worry it will make it harder to transition to a crib, and some wonder how long you use it for. I have never been concerned about the chin to chest situation. My children have typically been swaddled while in the RnP (despite all of my photos here showing unswaddled babes) and the heads are generally turned to one side or the other. The transition from RnP to the crib was admittedly harder for Aria than Noah. Noah was still swaddled when we moved him to a crib whereas Aria moved to the crib the same time she was growing out of her swaddle (which also conveniently coincided with the 4-month sleep regression). Even though Aria used her Rock ‘n’ Play until she was 4 months old, we moved it to her room around 3 weeks of age so there would be no added issue of moving her out of our room and into a crib all at once.
What it is: A contraption that allows you to warm a bottle by pouring in a specific amount of water and turning on the hot plate base.
Why I love it: A few weeks ago I was on a group text where we were giving our product advice to a newly-pregnant friend. We were all on the same page when it came to wipe-warmers (NO!), but the views on bottle warmers were scattered. As someone who pumped exclusively for weeks 5 – 12 with her first and then switched to formula after 6 weeks with her second, I am a full supporter of the bottle warmer. For those that say to just pop a bottle in boiling water, tell me, what is it like to have all that spare time in your life?
My favorite bottle warmer by The First Years not only allows you to warm a bottle up in 90 seconds (max) and also allows you to warm a bottle from your bed in the middle of the night. How, you ask? The cooler container on the back. It holds 2 bottles and an ice pack that can keep 2 bottles cold until you are ready to use it (up to 8 hours). The slim cylinder cups on each side of the warmer can be filled before you go to bed so all you have to do when you hear a baby cry is dump the water in and press the on button. Ironically, this is how we got Aria to start sleeping through the night. One night she woke up for her feeding and by time the bottle was ready, she had stopped crying and was back asleep (and so was I!) Bottle warmer with cooler, I think I love you.
What it is: Extra large muslin blankets, packaged in sets of 4 with different patterns. The blankets can feel rough to touch at first but only grow softer over time.
Why I love it: I registered for these with my first baby thinking I would use them as a swaddle, but the fabric was truly too much to work with and didn’t wrap baby snug enough (aka a lot of breaking out of the swaddle). Instead, I would lay them on the floor for tummy time and play time, use it as a stroller blanket, a nursing cover and over time, it became his blankie (once the SIDS risk lessened). When I had Aria, I went out and bought the brightest pink Aden & Anais swaddle pack on the market and began brain-washing her to love these muslin blankets as much as Noah does. 2 years later, the mission successfully completed. Both kids are highly addicted to their ultra-soft blankies. The best part about it being a pack of 4 is that neither child notices when I switch out 1 blankie for washing with another blankie from the pack. I can’t wait to buy my next pack for baby #3 and have all my kids on the blankie bandwagon with me!
What it is: A monitor that comes with 2 cameras that has two-way talking capability and also allows for you to scan the room. You can view as many as 4 rooms (if you have 4 cameras) from the monitor. During the daytime, your view will be in full color and will switch to night-vision if placed in a darkened room.
Why I love it: This is our second Summer Infant monitor. We first had the typical handheld, 1 camera monitor but it died (post-warranty). Summer Infant, being outstanding in their customer service, sent me a list of monitors I could purchase at a deeply discounted price. We scored with the Dual-View. There is nothing like grabbing the monitor and pressing the talk button at 3 a.m. to say “Find your paci”. Sure, Noah cried the first time he heard my voice booming in his room saying “GO TO SLEEP!”, but we’ve all gotten very accustomed to being able to speak through the monitor and avoiding any extra bedtime drama. I know there are better monitors in terms of picture quality, but for the price of 2 cameras and a monitor that allow for panning the room and two-way talking, this is a great bang for your buck!
What it is: You’re right arm. No, seriously, if you are a breastfeeding mama (or hope to be one), you will treat this pump like it’s another appendage. This breast pump includes a tote bag that the pump itself is carried in as well as an insulated bag and frozen pack molded to store and keep 4 bottles cold. It also includes all the basic necessities needed for pumping breastmilk. Not included: the answers to questions like “Mommy, what are those?” and the undoubted hit on your sex life after your husband sees you pumping. It ain’t a pretty sight!
Why I love it: My sister had a baby 10 months before Noah was born and swore by this pump. Unfortunately, insurance was not handing out free pumps back then, so I spent a whopping $200+ on this bad boy. I haven’t regretted it once. When I had Aria, I was eligible for a free breast pump and I thought “Hooray! A pump to keep in Cincy at my mom’s and one at home so I’ll never run the risk of forgetting it!” Oh, my dear friends, I was so wrong. Not all pumps are created equal. Some are not even created well enough to express breast milk and that was my experience with my freebie, the Ameda Truly Yours. Oh, the horror when I took my “Insurance Pump” on a weekend trip to Cincinnati. Aria slept her longest stretch that weekend and I was engorged and in pain. Looking for the immediate relief I would have gotten with my Medela, I plugged the Ameda in and sat down only to have a drop of milk expressed every 45 seconds. Luckily, I would be seeing a fellow Medela-user later that afternoon at a family party and I was not ashamed to borrow hers. I ran into a guest bedroom and pumped 16 oz within minutes (and could have gone for more if I had more bottles). Friends, even if you have to shell out the cash yourself, this Medela is WORTH EVERY PENNY.
What it is: An ergonomic baby carrier that is designed for baby’s weight to be balanced evenly while the parent is wearing the carrier. It has a snap across the shoulder blades and one along the hips. Baby can be worn on the front, back or side.
Why I love it: I registered for an off-brand Baby Bjorn while pregnant with Noah and naive. We used it intermittently and then stowed it away and never looked back. When we moved to NYC for 3 months in the winter of 2013, we splurged big time on the Ergo carrier. Noah, a 21-23 month old child, saw New York City by Ergo backpack almost every day. It was a life saver to have while living in a 3-floor walk up and having to get on and off a subway without the hassle of a stroller in one hand and baby in the other. While I spent much of Aria’s infancy carrying her in the Lovey Duds wrap, I did eventually switch over to the Ergo around 8 to 9 months of age. It was just the ease and comfort we both needed to walk around The Yards in DC and for Aria to take a quick morning snooze while Noah played in the ocean while on our family vacation. I really am torn between my love for the cloth wrap and soft-structured carrier, but the each serve their purpose and do it well at different stages of life.
10.// B.O.B. Jogging Stroller
What it is: A light-weight, 3-wheel (front can be fixed) jogging stroller with real tires (a.k.a requires air to be pumped into them every so often), an extended shade with 2 viewing windows, elastic cup holders on each side of the seat, a safety strap and cargo storage below the seat.
Why I love it: Would you believe I lucked into being a B.O.B. owner? We registered for a City Mini Baby Jogger in 2012 and have been totally happy with it, seriously, the City Mini is an excellent stroller. This B.O.B. was donated to me by my mom’s coworker and honestly, I almost turned it down. I was all high on the Baby Jogger fumes and never really took Aria with me on my outdoor runs so I thought I could live without. Guess what? I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT IT. I look forward to popping that bad boy out for a run when the weather is just right (and I’m not carrying a bowling ball in my stomach). The stroller is so incredibly lightweight that pushing it and running at the same time becomes second nature. The safety strap is just an added bonus (and we have needed it before.) The ledge above the front wheel is even deep enough that if we need our 4-year-old needs to hustle up, he sits on there for a free ride. Ladies, there will always be a City Mini on the Facebook swap pages, but it’s not every day someone gifts you a B.O.B. Add this to your registry, today!
BONUS MUST HAVE// Emily Ley “The Story of You” Baby Book
What it is: A gender neutral baby book with guided writing space, open space to capture special moments and photos. Not only can this book be monogrammed but it can also be customized with the additional purchase of a foster care pack, infertility pack or adoption pack.
Why I love it: In the same group text where we debated bottle warmers also came a conversation on baby books. A few of us noted that our parents didn’t keep up with ours like they did for our siblings. I tried to do one for Noah. When life got too busy to record special moments, I actually thought “I will never forget this moment” many times when he laughed for the first time or ate avocados or said my mommy, but I did. Luckily, I captured a lot of great moments with my iPhone camera and can piece a few things back together for my yearly Shutterfly book. Up until now, I have felt completely satisfied with my makeshift baby book. A few weeks ago, a group of us gifted our sweet friend with the Emily Ley “The Story of You” Baby Book. All of our curiosities were piqued and we quickly tore into the gorgeous packaging that revealed the sweetest book I’ve ever held in my hands. Some of the pages brought me right to the memories of my two children in that time frame and I could feel myself reliving those sweet moments. Nearly brought to tears, I decided I had to have it. Although my baby book window has passed for Noah and Aria, Emily Ley has Big Kid Books to help capture all the special days during ages 2-6. Consider these purchased.
The other question I have been asked a lot lately by first-time moms-to-be is what diapers I use. It’s such a simple question and often a staple overlooked when greeted with all the glitz and glam of baby products. Since diapers aren’t necessarily glamorous, it didn’t make my list, but for general knowledge here’s how we dabble in diapers:
- Pampers Swaddlers until size 3.
- Pampers Cruisers until Age 1
- Target all the way until they are potty trained.
Y’all, don’t sleep on the Target brand. It has stood the test of two sensitive-bottomed, movers and shakers and has also been a blessing to our bank account once we stepped down from the Pampers price tag. Often, Target runs a special where you receive a $10 gift card for purchasing 2 boxes of a certain quantity so we stock up during those time periods as long as we can estimate the sizes well enough.
We’ve also tried Huggies and Luvs. Huggies leaked all 3 times we tried them. We’ve been purchasing Luvs here and there at the grocery when we are unexpectedly out of diapers and they have been a great and inexpensive addition to our diaper rotation.
Baby #3 makes its arrival in 14 shortish/longish weeks and I will be diving into deeper in our baby storage. If you want to know what I can live without, inbox me or leave a comment in the comments section! Am I missing out on a must-have product? Let me know!