12 Must-Have Baby Products for Newborns

If I've learned one thing since being pregnant, giving birth and now parenting, it's this: Everyone has an opinion.

For every person you find that suggests co-sleeping, there are 10 more that say no way. This person says breast is best, while that person says formula is A-OK, and another says it's actually best when you mix the two. This OBGYN says a glass of wine per night is fine when expecting, that one says once a week is a better frequency ,and your friend's doc says no wine is ever OK, not even a sip. And don't even think about deli meat, even though your OBGYN said it's totally cool.

It's just.too.much.

And it doesn't stop at differing opinions on how to parent or what to do (or not to do) while expecting. The opinions, research and experiences extend into what you actually need for the baby. Many people reside in the school of thought that all babies really need is love, clean diapers and a few pairs of pajamas, while others are in the market for any item that will make their lives easier. 

I think we can all agree that there is A LOT of stuff on the market for babies. A LOT. As a first time parent, how the hell are you supposed to know which brand, which model, how many or what size? 
The baby registry experience is fun, in theory...until you start it and are overwhelmed by the number of choices you have with EVERYTHING. 

I was completely consumed with making the best choice for our baby (whatever that even means) when it came to our "stuff". I've learned something about myself over the years: I'm impressionable. And by that, I mean that I tend to take other's experiences close to heart; I trust them and value them, especially when it's in a realm where I have no experience or knowledge. I also know that I am extremely indecisive, so I look to these people to basically make decisions for me. 

For the registry process, I did extensive research, asking friends and family, reading books (Baby Bargains was the best) and consulting what I consider to be the Holy Bible: Lucie's List. (Sidenote: Meg, who runs the site, has awesome info on everything from registry to pregnancy to postpartum. I highly recommend signing up for her emails if you are expecting - she gives you a no-holds-bar rundown of what to expect/advice for each week and it continues after you've had the baby, including sleep tips and feeding pointers.) Anyway, for the registry stuff, she goes through each major category of stuff, and gives you three options based on your budget. She's also pretty frank in "Don't waste your money on this." Check it out here.

In any case, I will be the first to admit that we registered for and received several items that we just "had to have", and that have gone unopened or unused. I also am guilty of buying several items that I can safely say were unnecessary.

One prime example: Clothes. Don't register for clothes. People will buy you clothes, whether you register for them or not. While I was pregnant, I bought several outfits that were so cute I couldn't resist: think chunky cardigans, blue jeans and shoes. While no one can resist a baby in blue jeans, here's the reality: It's very likely that your baby won't wear any of those adorable items in his/her first months of life, despite your best intentions. 

For one thing: babies spit up a lot. They also poop a lot. Sometimes the poop is not contained to the diaper, and sometimes, the spit up is so plentiful that you can't just wipe it off with a rag and go about your day. You will put your baby into an adorable 5-piece outfit and I promise you, that baby will ruin the outfit before you can even take his photo in it! For another thing, these outfits just aren't practical. Sure, they're nice to have for special occasions, like holidays or even meeting people for the first time, but when you're at home all day with a newborn whose diaper you are changing approximately 15 times/day, the last thing you will want to do is take his shoes, socks, pants and shirt off each and every time. And finally, babies grow so fast. I can't tell you the number of items in Liam's wardrobe that were only worn once or not at all because he outgrew it before I could find a time for him to wear it. *tears*

See exhibits A, B, C. He wore each of these ONCE.

Onesies are where it's at.

In any case, that was a long way of saying, it is crazy overwhelming knowing what to register for. And I want to add my opinion to the 6.983497891283 billion others out there on what items are truly "must haves" for your baby. Here are 12 things that I've found to be lifesavers in the past few months:

Goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: Every baby is different and you may have to try different items until you find something that works for you.

Newborn Must Haves

  1. Little Castle Glider: Invest in a good glider. We have this one from Little Castle, purchased at BuyBuyBaby. We use every day to rock, feed and read with Liam. I've also slept in it several nights (intentionally and otherwise). Plus, when it's not being used in a baby's room, we can use it as furniture in our home.
  2. Summer Infant SwaddleMe: Swaddles are one of those products you might have to try a bunch of. Liam is a Swaddle Houdini and gets out of blanket swaddles, so we invested in some other brands. SwaddleMe is our favorite, but we also saw success with the Miracle Blanket and Woombie. (We now have about 10 Aden + Anais blankets, which are great just to have for the diaper bag, walks, etc. I'd get at least a pack of those, too!)
  3. Baby K'Tan: This is great for a fabric carrier (I also suggest getting a structured carrier for when the baby is bigger). There are only two pieces of fabric and moms can get it on without any assistance (a must when you're home alone with the baby). We've used this for everything from walking the dog to walking around the house to traveling on an airplane. It comes in tons of colors and is affordable. Plus, you can wear in several different positions as baby grows.
  4. Medela Breast PumpHands-Free Pumping Bra + Quick Clean Wipes: I have the Medela Pump In-Style Advanced, which I got with the Metro Messenger bag (I got this through my insurance by paying a little extra). I love this model because you can plug it into a wall OR use batteries. You must also get a hands-free pumping bra, and I love the quick-clean wipes, especially now that I'm at work!
  5. Nursing Tanks: If you plan to breastfeed, get a lot of nursing tanks. I still wear them to bed every night, even though Liam only eats once. At the beginning though when you're nursing around the clock and most likely have a screaming baby in your arms, you want something with easy access.
  6. Wubbanub Pacifier: I love these for a few reasons: First, the animals on the end are cute and also serve a purpose: they help weight the pacifier down. It's hard for those little babes to be able to keep the paci in his/her mouth at first and I thought this helped. As Liam has gotten older, he also now holds on to the animal, which aids in his development in learning to grasp. Plus, the pacifier itself is a soothie, which we used int the hospital and Liam took to well. We have the elephant and giraffe!
  7. Bobby Newborn Lounger: Probably the most used product in our house. This little pillow is great for so many things. We used it as a napping spot when Liam was itty bitty. We use it at bathtime by laying his towel across it, so we're able just to lay him in the lounger wrap him in his towel, rather than the hard floor. Plus you can set this thing anywhere if you need baby in your eyeline - on the bed, floor, counter, wherever. It also travels great! 
  8. Fisher-Price Rock 'N Play: On second thought, this is probably the most used item! Liam slept in this next to our bed for the first 10 weeks or so. He still sleeps in this at night, only now in his room. It's great to move from room to room, or to set baby in while you're getting ready, making dinner, etc. 
  9. Earth Mama Nipple Butter: A lifesaver for your nipples, whether breastfeeding or pumping. A little goes a long way and it's lanolin/GMO free! 
  10. Onesies: See note above re: clothes. I'm not partial to any brand in particular, but I do recommend zippers over buttons!
  11. Fisher Price Cradle 'N Swing: We received the 4Moms Mamaroo as a gift after hearing that it was basically a miracle swing. While Liam liked it enough in the beginning, he soon began to cry any time we put him in it! Now that he's a little older, he likes it a *little* better, but still, I bet we've used that thing maybe 10 times. 
HOWEVER, once while visiting my sister, I put Liam in her Fisher Price Cradle 'N Swing. Nothin' fancy about it..just a regular old, affordable swing. Liam LOVED it. There's a mirror and mobile for him to look at when he's awake (we call the mobile peeps his "friends," as he tends to chat with them frequently). This is also where Liam would sleep for long stretches! The first time Liam slept 6 hours straight, it was in this swing. We ended up borrowing from my sister-in-law, as her son didn't like it. I think some come with little bouncy seats, too -- another good investment for when baby is older and needs to be entertained and you have stuff to do!

Other Must-Haves

Don't bother
  • Bottle warmers: We have found it to be just as easy to run bottles under hot water and it does the trick just fine. We also give him cold bottles sometime, the idea being so he can eat whenever, and he takes those, too.
  • Bottle sterilizers: Hot water and soap, or the dishwasher are totally fine.
  • Wipe warmers: A good idea in theory, but here's something to consider: What if you have to wipe your babe's toosh in public and don't have your wipe warmer? Then you might have a screaming child on your hands, angry because he used to warm wipes. While we did get one of these as a gift and found it useful when we were still doing middle-of-the-night changes (warm=less likely to wake baby), but also found it worked to just hold the wipe in our hand for a few seconds and let it warm up. Most of the time though, it's cold and Liam is cool with it.
Hope you found this helpful!

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"This Too Shall Pass:" My Mommy Mantra

This post was originally written for the Today Parenting Team, an online community of parents sharing wisdom and experience. 

As every parent knows, the first weeks after your first child is born are some of the most difficult in your parenting journey. Full disclosure, I've only been a parent for 14 weeks to date, so I say this without much hindsight.

But even just a mere three months into our time as parents, and I can already say that the challenges of the first 6(ish) weeks already seem like a distant memory.

When you're in the throes of first-time parenthood in those first few weeks, boy oh boy is your world rocked. You have not one clue what you're doing. You don't know how to feed your child. You may have changed a diaper, but perhaps you had a little boy and have never changed a baby with such an unpredictable apparatus. You don't know how to hold your baby. You don't know how to get him to sleep. You don't know if you should wake him up. You don't know why he's crying, or how to make him stop. You don't know if it's too hot in the house, too cold to take him outside, or too dangerous to bring him into public. You just don't know.

On top of feeling like you have no idea what you're doing and you're doing everything wrong and you have no business being a parent, you don't get any sleep. New parents quickly realize: there is a reason no sleep is used as a form of torture. No sleep makes everything seem worse.

And then on top of THOSE feelings, there's the completely overwhelming, all-consuming LOVE you have for this little person. You know the feeling - the one where you cry just looking at your baby's angelic face because YOU made this. The one where it physically pains you to think about all of the possible ways he might be hurt or damaged in his life, and it equally excites you to know that you'll be able to help him discover the world.

Or maybe you haven't felt that overwhelming sense of love or connection with your baby, and for that, you feel guilty. Perhaps you've begun to resent your spouse because he gets to leave the house every day while you stay home with a baby attached to you. Or you resent him because he gets to sleep at night, simply because he doesn't have breasts. Maybe you're tired of assuring Dad that the baby is not screaming at him because he hates him.

The first weeks of being a new parent are a mish-mash of more feelings than I knew were possible, and much of the time, I found myself circling back to one key question: Is this normal? 
It was crazy making to wonder if I was the only mom who felt guilty for not "enjoying every second." I didn't know if it was "OK" that I cried every single day when my husband returned from work, sometimes because I was relieved to not carry the responsibility alone anymore, sometimes because I just needed a break, but most of the time, for no reason at all. Was I bad mom because I silently cursed at my helpless 3-week baby to please just go the __ to sleep? Was I a horrible person for feeling like I wanted to give up breastfeeding simply because it was HARD and EXHAUSTING and I felt like a cow and/or human pacifier?

One day, when my mom was there to help us in the first few weeks, I broke down in tears for what felt like the millionth time. "Oh, honey," she said, her voice coated with empathy and understanding. "This too shall pass."

That phrase has since become my mantra when I feel the stresses of parenting upon me. For every hard moment when I question my knowledge, my instincts and my sanity, I remind myself, "This too shall pass." Sure enough, it does. Fourteen weeks in, and guess what? Our baby doesn't wake up wanting to eat every hour. He doesn't sleep terribly - in fact, he's almost sleeping through the night. I don't feel scared to go somewhere alone with him, and my husband and I feel comfortable taking him out in public if we want to grab dinner or a drink. I returned to work this past week, and when my mom asked me how I was doing, I responded that I was terrible, that I missed my baby more than anything and that I hated being away from him. "This too shall pass," she said, and I knew she didn't mean that someday, I would NOT hate being away from him or missing him - just that someday, it would get easier.

Even for every amazing moment or first milestone, I like to remind myself "this too shall pass," because it reminds me to drink in the moment, and to remember that nothing, no matter how terrible or amazing, lasts forever.
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A Night In the Life of a New Mom

As a new mom, you know you're not going to get much sleep. It's just a fact. Also as a new mom, you will have the mind of a crazy person. Partly because of the sleep factor, partly because you don't know what the F you're doing, and mostly because you are so damn terrified of everything that you create anxiety around scenarios that are for the most part, far-fetched.

For example, a few weeks ago, I brought Liam home to Iowa. Early one morning, my niece, Sloan, came in to play. I told her that it wasn't playtime, that me and Liam were sleeping, and to please go find her mommy until it was time to get up. She got mad and left the room. Instead of falling back asleep, I thought about how I felt bad that I couldn't play with her at all hours like I used to. I wondered if she was playing by herself in her playroom just outside my door. I couldn't hear her. Then I wondered if her dad remembered to lock the sliding door to outside, because if he didn't, she could think to open it and go outside. Yes, she was definitely outside. And she didn't have shoes on, or a jacket. And it was below zero. She would freeze to death! I lay there with bated breath thinking about how I'd never forgive myself if we found Sloan frozen outside, and how it would be all my fault because I'd turned her away. Then I heard her playing, and I breathed a sigh of relief. See? CRAZY, and not even just thoughts about my own kids -- I find myself anxious about ALL of them.

Many times in the past 14 weeks as a mommy, I've wished there was some type of device that could record the actual crazy thoughts running through my head. At night is when I find myself having the strangest dialogues. I'm not sure why - perhaps because it's dark and quiet and everything seems scarier when the sun goes down. I do everything from bargaining with God if he'd just let Liam sleep a little longer to contemplating going to the gym after Liam's first feeding of the day instead of going back to sleep (I told you...crazy thoughts).

While the thought process changes based on the baby's age and where is he sleeping, here's what a typical night in a new mom's head might sound like:

10:00 pm: "I'm so exhausted. I can't wait to get some sleep."

11:00 pm: "The baby is hungry AGAIN? Already?!"

11:30 pm: "Alright kid, let's speed it up..."

11:35 pm: "He's so adorable. I love this time with him."

11:45 pm: "Well, that should hold him over until for at least a few hours."

12 am: "Tomorrow, I'm going to workout, go to the grocery store and go on a nice long walk with the baby."

1:00 am: "ALREADY?"

2:00 am: "Oh shit! I fell asleep nursing! Phew, the baby hasn't fallen out of my lap."

2:05 am: "Please God, let the baby sleep until morning."

2:45 am: [You hear the baby cough.] "WHAT WAS THAT?" [wait to see if he starts to cry. Nothing.] "What if he's choking? He's not choking, I'd know if he was choking.

2;46 am: "But I forgot to burp him after he ate last. What if he's spitting up in his sleep and can't make any noises to let me know he's not OK?"

2:47 am: "I'll never forgive myself if he's choking and I didn't check. I might as well, I'm awake anyway."

2:48 am: [After sticking your finger under his nose to make sure he's breathing] "Oh, thank God."

3:25 am: [hear a whimper on the monitor] "Please don't wake up, please don't wake up, please don't wake up."

3:28 am: [baby crying] "God Dammit."

3:50 am: "Please, please, PLEASE: go the F to sleep!"

4:00 am: "He's so beautiful and peaceful when he sleeps. I'll just rock him a few more minutes..."

4:10 am: "I'm so tired." [baby cries]

4:11 am: Sigh.

4:15 am: "Thank God, he just needed his pacifier."

[Watch the baby monitor for 5 minutes to make sure he is asleep. He is. Get back in bed.]

4:21 am: [Baby fusses]


4:24 am: [Return binky]

4:28 am: [Hear sucking on the monitor, baby cries]

4:30 am: "I hate that god damn pacifier."

5:00 am: "Why hasn't the baby woken up to eat? Or made a noise? I better go check on him..."

[Put finger under baby's noise. He is breathing and sound asleep.]

5:01 am: "I love you, so much." [Cry a little bit.]

5:05 am: "Why are you crying right now? You're crazy. Sleep when the baby sleeps!"

5:09 am: [Baby cries]

5:10 am: "I knew he'd be hungry."

5:11 am: "Why hasn't my husband woken up once to see if the baby - OR I - need anything?"

5:15 am: "Maybe I'll just shoot for the grocery store and a walk tomorrow."

5:25 am[Baby has fallen asleep eating]

5:26 am: "He is so delicious when he sleeps. I could stay like this forever."

5:30 am: "I should change his diaper, but I'd hate to wake him. I'll just hold him a little longer."

[Lay baby down, go back to bed.]

5:35 am: "But what if he's uncomfortable with that dirty diaper on? I should change it."

5:45 am: "Seriously, why hasn't my husband woken up ONCE this whole time?! Screw him."

5:50 am: "Look at him, sleeping soundly. MUST BE NICE. I am not talking to him in the morning. Oh wait, it is morning and I've been up all night."

6:00 am: "I should just get up and shower right now."

7:00 am: [Hear grunting on the monitor. Look to see baby struggling to escape swaddle.]

7:02 am: [Go into baby's room. He gives you the biggest smile in the whole world, and you forget that you have gotten maybe 2 hours of sleep and that not too long ago, you were promising your first grandchild to Rumpelstiltskin if he or anyone would just let you sleep.]

"Hi buddy! Did you have a good night's sleep? I love you, I love you, I love you."

7:05 am: "I think we'll just stay home today..."
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Liam Albert: {3 Months}

How is it possible that I have a 3 month old baby!? I know I will say that every single month/year, probably until you're a grown adult. Sorry I'm not sorry, but as Mariah says, 'You'll always be my baby.'

Here's what you love and dislike these days:

We don't have a doctor's appointment until next month, so I attempted to weigh and measure you on my own. By my measures, you're about 15lbs and 24 inches (give or take a few ounces/cm). You're getting so big! You can still wear a FEW 0-3 month onesies, but your little legs are growing and so you seem more comfortable in 3-6 or 6 month stuff.
Look at those cheeks!
Still developing, but we think more and more that your eyes are going to be hazel. For now, they are just big, round, dark and beautiful!

Hair: Brown and really starting to grow more and more. You're sporting a touch of a mullet in the back.

  • You've always loved your hands, but your first has become especially interesting and seemingly delicious these days. You try your damnedest to get that whole thing in your mouth, to no avail. 
  • You love "jumping" and "standing" on our legs, or any hard surface.
  • Kicking is a blast!
  • When I lay you on the tops of my legs and bounce them or swing them, you smile and laugh instantly.
  • You love it when I sing and dance for you, probably because I look like such a fool! I make up a lot of songs, but you always calm down when I sing "You are my sunshine." (I cry nearly every time I sing this to you.)
  • Looking in the mirror is always super fun, you little narcissist, you! 
  • "Flying" with dad is a favorite pastime. 
Honestly, there's not much you don't like. But if I have to name a few:
  • You don't like waking up without a pacifier
  • You don't like being tired
  • You continue to hate being hungry. When you are hungry AND tired, it's a double whammy.
Well, you were sleeping great for a while - from about 9pm until 5am without needing a feeding. But in the past few weeks, you've been waking up closer to 2-3am wanting to eat. So, still usually only one nighttime feeding and then you go back to bed, but you've gotten in a bad habit of getting upset when you wake up and find you're without your pacifier. You go right back to sleep when we get it for you - but sometimes you spit it out over and over...and over and over...again.

You nap great - usually 1-2 hours in the morning, 2-3 hours midday and another little catnap in the late afternoon before a 9pm bedtime.

You definitely eat less frequently for the most part, going about 4-5 hours between feedings when you nurse. The few times you've been left in someone else's care for 8+ hours, you eat about 15oz. You make me work for it, that's for sure!

  • You rolled over for the first time at just 11 weeks old! I set you down for tummy time under the activity gym and walked into kitchen. When I turned around (literally 10 seconds later), you were about to roll over! I made sure you were safe while doing it the first time (you know, so as not to have you roll off the ottoman) and then I whipped out my phone to see if you'd do it again. Sure enough, you did - again, and again! You haven't done it much since that first day, but I couldn't believe you reached this milestone so early!
  • You've also got incredible head/neck and leg strength. You hold your head up so well for your age - we even tried you in the Bumbo seat the other night. You sat just fine, except for your chubby little thighs get you sorta stuck. You can also "stand" on our legs for long periods of time and you love doing that -- you're even starting to jump a little bit.
  • You've also started to grasp and grip toys. You get frustrated because you haven't figured out quite how to let go yet, but you can grab on tight!
  • You went on your first airplane ride to Seattle, Washington! We went to visit our friends Kyle & Beth, and their new little one, Griffin, who was born in October. You did great on the plane and we had a blast out there. You loved the outdoors and fresh air -- something we haven't gotten much of being cooped up this past winter.


  • You and I went on our first solo road trip! We drove to Iowa City to visit your grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles & cousins for a week while I still had some time on maternity leave. We were very busy getting you around to see all the people who love you most in this world.

You continue to be a very "easy" baby, from what I can tell. I love watching your continued growth and development, and seeing you discover the world will continue to be my greatest joy.
"You're embarrassing me, Mom!"
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