I spent the better part of my pregnancy devouring every review I could find on baby gear–which items were the best, which were safest, which were most cost effective. The reviews I found the most helpful were ones that said which items the parents actually used.
Preparing for a newborn (especially your first newborn) is a major investment. Those “must have” items don’t come cheap, and there’s nothing worse than dumping money into a product that never gets touched.
So, whether you are on review number 569 or if you’re just starting out, I hope this round up makes prioritizing just a little bit easier for you. Without further ado, here are the ten baby items I could not live without for Lottie’s first six months.
10) Activity Gym
I cringed the first time I looked into activity gyms. Everyone says you have to have one, but man do baby supplies add up. Let me tell you, now that I’ve been there done that, I will never again question the value of a good playmat. Why? Because for the first six months of her life, Lottie used an activity gym just like this one from Skip Hop almost exclusively.
Here’s the thing–if you have an activity gym, save for the odd teether and maybe a lovey, you’ll hardly need another toy for the first several months of your child’s life. Lottie showed very little interest in any of her other toys until she was almost four months old. But I swear to you, the bird hanging from her activity gym could have been her best friend. Her whole face would light up the minute she saw it, and she’d happily sit and coo at it. Activity gyms also make a great option for the all-important tummy time, so you know you’ll get some serious mileage out of it.
If you’re worried about the high price point, I highly suggest adding this one to your baby registry. Due to it’s frequent use, you’ll want to opt for a high quality mat that can hold up to daily wear and multiple washings.
9) A Good Vacuum
I cannot even begin to tell you how much time I have spent sweeping the floor since Lottie arrived. (And by sweeping, I mean vacuuming. My friends have informed me that no one outside of my family refers to a vacuum as a sweeper. Weird.) A good, high suction vacuum is an absolute must. I personally use a Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional and love it, but any vacuum with solid suction will do.
- An anti-allergen seal to keep baby’s air clean
- Settings for both carpet and wood floors
- Something lightweight and removable from its base for stairs and furniture
8) Medicine Pacifier Doohickey
Seriously, though. These little wonders are AMAZING. Lottie managed to land an ear infection at only three months old, and syringe feeding her the medicine was terrifying. I feared for her life every time we shot that thick liquid into her mouth. She would choke every time. Enter the medicine pacifier.
This little doohickey makes administering meds SO MUCH EASIER. Hands down a must-have for any First Aid Kit.
7) Sound Machine
When I first began researching baby gear, I was blown away by the price of white noise machines. $70 for a machine that makes the same noise as a fan? No, thank you. I hemmed and hawed over the necessity of this purchase until a weekend at my parents when I realized my mom had a small speaker in her bedroom playing white noise. Through out the weekend, that same speaker played music, radio stations, news reports, and even Jeopardy.Look, if you’re going to make the purchase, you might as well get your money’s worth. We use our Echo Dot multiple times a day, every day. Lottie loved listening to music while playing on her play mat, and I loved getting my morning report and playing audio books during feedings. My favorite feature? Our impromptu dance parties when Lottie needs a change of pace (she’s a sucker for Can’t Stop the Feeling).
I now own two Echo Dots and am so, so glad I didn’t go with an expensive, limited use white sound machine. Spring for a cute case if you want to match your nursery decor (I love how sleek my charcoal fabric cover looks).
6) Travel System
It’s hard to beat the convenience of a travel system when it comes to choosing baby’s car seat and stroller. Life is so much easier when you can simply lift baby out of the car and go (especially if your little is born during holiday season like Lottie). Of all the items we chose for Lottie, I spent the most time on choosing my stroller. I read all of the reviews. I pinned every baby pin I could find. And when the system I had chosen got recalled for the second time in a year just months before Lottie was due, my mother and I headed to Buy Buy Baby to test drive every stroller in the store. The Chicco Viaro Travel System marked every must-have on my list.
My travel system needs were a bit more restrictive than the average mom’s. I have a spinal condition that restricts the amount of weight I can carry. I hadn’t lifted over 15 pounds in years. Most car seats are already over that limit before you even strap a baby in, so I knew I had to find the lightest option available that still met high safety standards.
As my mother and I went stroller to stroller through the store, lifting car seats in and out of strollers to test for ease and carrying them through the aisles (yes, we were those costumers), it quickly became clear that the KeyFit 30 was the best car seat option for me. It smoothly latches into the stroller and easily lifts back out. Best of all, it’s lightweight, coming in at just over 17 pounds (pretty darn good so far as car seats are concerned).
From there, deciding on a travel system bundle was easy. The KeyFit 30 can be bought in conjunction with either the Chicco Viaro or the Chicco Bravo. I opted for the Chicco Viaro, which I found to be easier to navigate with it’s three wheel design. The Viaro is easy to fold, has a lightweight frame, and comes with a very generous storage basket that I used almost exclusively for my grocery shopping until Lottie could sit upright on her own.
5) Infant Activity Chair
A couple months in to the stay-at-home-mom life, I hit my peak. I spent all day, every day watching TV or staring at my phone while Lottie either played on her activity mat, slept, or ate. I needed a new option, and I needed it fast. The Summer Infant 4-in-1 Deluxe SuperSeat changed my life. Picture a strap on highchair, but the tray rotates all the way around the seat, so that one side has a tray and the other side has fun sensory toys for baby’s entertainment. Okay, so maybe not the easiest thing to describe. Let’s look at an actual picture instead.
Suddenly, I could actually accomplish things at home with Lottie. I could even shower and eat during Lottie’s waking hours (gasp). I didn’t buy the infant seat with the intent of using it as a highchair. Now that I have used it that way for a few months, I don’t recommend it for purchase as a highchair. The tray is very narrow, leading to some pretty big messes, and if you have dogs in the house, it’s pretty much right at nose level. But if you’re looking to free up some time in your day where you can do something other than simply sit and stare, this little beauty is a godsend.
How your baby sleeps is such a personal decision. I decided on a bedside bassinet because I didn’t trust myself to co-sleep, but I knew I would want to have an easy visual at any time of night. After much deliberation, I landed on the Halo Bassinest Swivel Sleeper LUXE. I initially chose the Bassinest it seemed to have the smallest footprint for a small room. However, I soon came to love the many other features my LUXE offered.
I was impressed by the range of motion the swivel action provides. The Bassinest easily twists and slides for feedings, diaper changes, and checking baby. I tucked my Bassinest between the bed and the wall and navigated around it without issue. Additional features include:
- storage pockets for easy diaper changes
- a nightlight and floor light for late night feedings
- a nursing timer
- two levels of vibration
- Multiple music options
3) Pack ‘n’ Play
I bought a Pack ‘n’ Play for the sole reason that I had a gift card to burn, and it seemed like one of those things you’re supposed to have. I wasn’t convinced we would use it very often and literally bought the cheapest model I could find. That little cheapie came to be one of our most used items.
My base-level model came with a bassinet insert and a small changing station. While Lottie still slept in her bedside bassinet, we kept the Pack ‘n’ Play in our living room. Not only did it function as a safe, secure place to set Lottie down, it also provided us with an extra changing area. Once Lottie outgrew her bassinet, we used moved the Pack ‘n’ Play into our bedroom so we could share a room with her a few months more.
Now that Lottie sleeps in her own room, we’ve moved the Pack ‘n’ Play back into the living room. It’s so convenient to have a safe space readily available, and it makes travel ten times easier knowing we don’t have to worry about sleep arrangements. Follow this link to see a collection of Chicco play yards for comparison through Amazon.
2) Snug a Bunny Swing
When creating my baby registry, I originally decided against a baby swing. It seemed unnecessary. They’re large, take up a lot of space, and can only be used for a few months of baby’s life. But just a month into life with Lottie, I spent a week at home with my parents. One of my mother’s friends had lent her the Fisher-Price Snugabunny Cradle ‘n Swing, so we thought we might as well try it out. OMG, life changer.
Before the Snugabunny, I had to walk Lottie to sleep for nap time. I’d bounce her up and down until she’d finally give into sleep, typically a good thirty minutes after my arms went numb. Lottie LOVED her swing. She would happily hang out, making faces into the little mirror above her and cooing at the bird mobile. On the days when Lottie refused to nap, we simply put her in her swing and turned on the music. In the mornings, when she wasn’t really ready to be awake but didn’t want to be set down, the swing would gently rock her back to sleep.
Lottie is too heavy for her Snugabunny now, but I tell you, some days, I really miss that swing.
Hands down the one item I recommend most to any of my mom friends is the DockATot. The Dock was the one “dream” item I let myself put on my registry. All the celeb moms had one, and it looked really pretty. I never anticipated it would actually be gifted to us, but boy am I glad that it was. We didn’t co-sleep, which I believe was the Dock’s original intent, but the DockATot has so many more uses than that.When Lottie first came home from the hospital, she wouldn’t sleep anywhere except her Dock. For the first few months of her life, Lottie napped in her Dock on the couch, so I could keep an eye on her while still being sociable. When we traveled, it gave her a safe, consistent place to sleep. We used the Dock for tummy time, for changing diapers, as an activity gym (they make activity bars that you can buy separately), and as the perfect picture backdrop. We used our Dock more than any of our other gear, and I fully intend to ask for the next size up for Lottie’s birthday. This is one purchase you won’t regret.