When you’re picking out baby items for the first time—or adding to your stash for Baby #2—it’s easy to get overwhelmed. There is just so much out there. How can you possibly figure out what the most useful baby products will be for your little bundle of joy, especially when you’ve never done this whole parenting thing before?
Here’s my strategy: Ask your friends for recommendations, compile your own list from the awesome book Baby Bargains, cross-reference the products with reviews on the Babies ’R’ Us and Buy Buy Baby websites, and then check out everything in person. It’s slightly exhausting, I know, but it’s really effective.
Here’s something that’s a lot easier: Look at this list!
Because chances are, even with all of that other research, you will not come across these super handy items that you will definitely want.
Honestly, I have no idea why people don’t shout about these awesome products from the rooftops, so I’m going to do just that!
This list is a companion piece to my new book, 107 Things I Wish I Had Known with My First Baby: Essential Tips for the First 3 Months. The book—which is filled with super practical tips for expectant and brand-new moms—also qualifies as something I wish I’d had. Why? Because knowing all of the common (mom)sense would have made my life so much easier in those early, sleep-deprived days, just as these products would have. If I had only known then what I know now!
So, without further ado, here are the super useful baby products that I wish I’d had when my babies were babies….
A SIMPLE CLIP THAT MAKES BREASTFEEDING EASIER
I breastfed both of my children and loved it, but man, I was a hot mess with my firstborn, especially in the beginning. I had the hardest time unlatching my nursing bra, lifting my shirt and getting the baby to latch properly while holding up said shirt and sometimes also wrangling a nursing cover, positioning my breast properly and trying to see where his mouth was. This little, unassuming piece of fabric—LatchPal’s Hands-free Nursing Clip—would have changed everything. You just loop it around the neckline and the bottom of your shirt, and clip it; your shirt stays put, making things a whole lot easier. Of all the products on this list, this is definitely the one that I’d wish I’d had the most.
A MAGICAL DEVICE THAT MEASURES BREAST MILK
If you’re new to breastfeeding, you’ll worry whether or not your baby is actually getting any milk in those first few weeks. And it will stress you out beyond belief. That’s where Momsense comes in. You place a soft, hypoallergenic sensor under baby’s earlobes, and the “smart breastfeeding meter” amplifies and records baby’s swallows—and lets you listen to them. I kid you not: I am nearly two years postpartum and a full year removed from breastfeeding, and I just teared up writing those words. I would have loved to have heard that sound when my kids were nursing, and more than that, this would have given me such peace of mind that my babies were actually eating in those early days.
A SAFE CRIB BUMPER
Padded crib bumpers can be beautiful, and every baby catalog will make you feel like you have to have one, but they’re also safety hazards. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has officially come out against them because they can add to the risk of SIDS. After stressing out every time I put my son in his crib and checking him obsessively because I was worried he’d suffocate on the damn thing, I threw it out and got a mesh bumper. They’ve made massive style strides since I got mine, which kind of resembles an’ 80s mesh shirt. The new ones, like this sea-foam one from BreathableBaby, come in a variety of colors and patterns, and of course, they still do their job—preventing baby’s limbs from getting stuck in the crib’s slats or preventing a pacifier from falling behind the crib.
A VELCRO SWADDLE
I used traditional swaddles with my firstborn, and I felt like I was earning a Girl Scout patch every time I did baby origami with a regular old piece of fabric. Sometimes it took a few tries, sometimes my baby Houdini-ed his way out of it, but I did it. Let’s just say that the velcro option is a lot easier and quicker. I used the Swaddle Me velcro swaddle with my second child, and she was as snug as a bug in a rug, which I told her repeatedly as I kissed her while wrapping her up, much to her delight.
A ONESIE THAT HELPS BABIES SLEEP
Swaddles are amazing, but it’s not always easy to transition your baby out of a swaddle when the time comes. (That time, by the way, comes when baby can roll over, around the 3-month mark.) Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit, which is slightly reminiscent of the StayPuft Marshallow Man, gives babies the same snug, secure feeling that comes with a swaddle but allows them the freedom of movement that they need for safety reasons. This would have saved me a lot of grief at bedtime during that tough transition period.
AN INSANELY COMPACT STROLLER
Kids are tiny. Kids’ stuff is massive—in quantity and also sometimes just in sheer size. Of course we all need strollers for our little ones, but even when they fold up, they’re annoying. They either still take up too much space or they topple over easily. That’s where the GB Pockit Stroller comes in. It folds up to a super tiny Inspector Gadget–like carry-on, which actually fits the dimensions of a carry-on—making it great for flights as well as for your home, which is likely already overrun with baby stuff.
CHILDPROOFING LOCKS THAT DON’T REQUIRE DRILLING
There are a few questions that I get asked all the time, and this is one of them: Do you know of baby-proofing locks that don’t require you to drill into your cabinets? As a matter of fact, I do! I have these adhesive Safety 1st Magnetic Cabinet Locks. You just use a magnetic key to open the adhesive-backed lock, and Open Sesame: The cabinet is open for you but otherwise closed for curious toddlers who should be nowhere near its contents. You obviously won’t need this right away, but you’ll need it sooner than you think; it’s always good to be prepared.
A GERM-FREE DIAPER BAG
It’s always kind of grossed me out that the changing pad has to go back into the diaper bag. I mean, sometimes you’re changing baby in the most unsavory of places, like a public-bathroom floor when there isn’t a changing table. I mean, ew. That’s why I love the Petunia Pickle Bottom diaper bag: The changing pad attaches to the outside of the bag and rolls out to make a makeshift diaper station, then rolls back up and stays separate from everything else. The pad even detaches so that you can clean it properly when you get home. Plus, the bags come in adorable patterns, like this Glazed Boxy Backpack in Indigo.
THE PERFECT BABY CARRIER FOR NEWBORNS
I have written about the Baby K’tan before and for good reason—it’s amazing. (Also check out Baby Essentials for Second-Time Moms.) I took my second child everywhere in it from the time she was a few weeks old till she was about 5 months old. While I’m a big Ergo fan and am still using it for my now-toddler, I always found the infant insert kind of awkward. The K’tan, on the other hand, is made up of two stretchy rings of fabric, and it keeps even the tiniest newborns snug and secure next to you—which is especially great when you’re running around after an older sibling. That said, I wish I’d had it for the first three months of my firstborn’s life, too, for snuggly walks and errands around our neighborhood.
AN ADORABLE DRYING RACK FOR BOTTLES
Two friends of mine had a garden-style drying rack similar to this one for bottles, and I had serious mom envy. Oh, sure, your regular old drain can do the job, but how stinking cute is this one from Baby Mate?
CLOTHING THAT HELPS BABIES WITH ECZEMA
My son had a mild case of eczema when he was born, but for a new mom like me, it felt like anything less than mild. I can only imagine what it would have been like if he’d had a severe case. For any moms dealing with this problem, there’s the Softsie. It looks like a regular cute onesie, but it’s actually infused with aloe, jojoba oil and vitamin E. It’s all-natural, organic, hypoallergenic and all-around awesome. In addition to the signature onesies—er, softsies—there are two-piece sets, swaddles and beanie hats. This whole idea is nothing short of brilliant.
A PRETTY NURSING BRA
My nursing bras definitely did their job, but they were ugly. Well, maybe not ugly—just really, really boring. They were oh-so-practical in their stretchy nudes and blacks, but something pretty sure would have made me feel more human and more like my pre-baby, non-leaky-boob self as I unhooked it and latched my baby onto my breast 653 times a day. This lacy number from Cosabella, called Never Say Never Mommie, is a lot nicer than what I had.
I also love these polka-dot bralettes by Lataly.
A MATERNITY COAT THAT DOESN’T FEEL LIKE A WASTE OF MONEY
If your pregnancy falls in between seasons, you might not think to get a maternity coat. Even if it doesn’t, you might not want to spend the money. I know I didn’t. I mean, I was barely going to be wearing it, right? WRONG. I was freezing before I finally broke down and bought a maternity coat at Destination Maternity. It was worth it, but what I wish had existed at the time was a coat that just added a panel to make room for my big, ol’ bump. Well, that exists now! There are options from Tasku Babi, JoJo Maman Bebe and Zeta Ville (below). It’s great for pregnancy and then for postpartum use—if you’re babywearing or if you just want to be you in a normal winter coat. That gives you a ton of bang for your buck.
SOMETHING THAT KEEPS BABY’S SOCKS ON
Newborn socks are the bane of every new mom’s existence. They just do not stay on tiny feet! For nighttime, opt for onesies with footies, and during the day, use Sock Ons. They’re little pieces of stretchy fabric that make sure those pesky socks stay in place.
RAW COOKIE DOUGH THAT’S SAFE TO EAT
Yes, I am listing raw cookie dough as an incredibly useful product because it’s something that would have made a pregnant and postpartum me incredibly happy. When I was pregnant and breastfeeding, I wouldn’t even think of eating cookie dough, with its raw eggs and potential for salmonella. But this Sweet Megan Edible Bake-able Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough doesn’t have eggs, so…you’re welcome!
107 SUPER PRACTICAL PARENTING TIPS!
Shameless book plug! But in all seriousness, 107 Things I Wish I Had Known with My First Baby will tell you all of the things that everyone, including the big parenting books, forgot to mention—about breastfeeding, diapering, sleeping and more. For example, did you know that…
• If your baby pulls off the breast or bottle, you should burp him immediately?
• If poop-splosions start happening regularly, you need to go up a diaper size?
• If your infant is suddenly calm and quiet, you shouldn’t mistake it for actual peace and quiet—and should instead get her to bed ASAP to avoid a meltdown?
If not, you need to. Trust me! Check it out, and Happy Parenting!
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