Yes, this is a food blog. No, this isn't going to turn into a "mommy blog." But I've always enjoyed blog roundups of favorite things and found quite a few new items I love as a result. Also, all my friends all seem to be pregnant at once, so I've been answering a lot of questions about things they really need and my favorite brands, so it seemed to make sense to gather them all up in one place and direct everyone here.
There are dozens (hundreds! thousands!) of baby registry lists out there that tell you how many washcloths and bottles to buy and I'm definitely not trying to contribute yet another. Rather, these are specific items that I found the absolute most useful during our first 6 months with a new baby, and a little bit about why I like them so much. We did not register for baby gifts, so many of these items were sent from friends after Ryan arrived based on what they liked when they had newborns — and they were all real winners. We mostly survived those early days thanks to Amazon Prime… we were rather unprepared, so I literally overnighted things like the pack and play sheet and changing pad covers from the hospital. (Note: Amazon links are affiliate.)
Just a little background on us, since everyone's storage/lifestyle/etc is totally different: my husband and I live in a 4-story, very narrow row home in the city. We have one car but do most of our getting around the city via foot or Lyft/Uber. Our nursery is rather small, so we don't have a lot of room for excess "stuff", and we have no family room/playroom. We try very hard to consolidate all of the baby's things in his nursery, with the exception of the Mamaroo and one activity mat, which we kept in the living room.
1) Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat: There are dozens of car seats available, any they’re all safe, so it really comes down to personal preference. We went with the Chicco Keyfit 30 after talking to some friends, and I love it (which is a weird thing to say about a car seat, right?). I dread the day we have to move Ryan into a convertible car seat. This is works so well for our lifestyle which, like I mentioned above, means we take a lot of taxi rides or travel in other people’s cars. It’s a breeze to install without the base and it’s FAA complaint, so I bought Ryan his own seat for his first flight and he stayed in his car seat. Our Chicco Keyfit has been on planes, trains, and automobiles (busses, too!) and I love how easy it is to tote around. It also snaps into most strollers, if you go that route — we had a double stroller for our nanny share that his car seat popped right into.
2) Mamaroo Bouncer: Okay, not really an essential, but we used it every single day for his first 9 weeks. I had a horrific c-section recovery and couldn’t climb into our tall bed, let alone get up the stairs, so I slept on the couch in our living room every night and Ryan slept next to me in the Mamaroo. It was also the perfect place to set him down during the day and the multiple rocking motions and white noise options easily lulled him to sleep. We used this up until Ryan was about 6 months old, although he’s so small that he’d still easily fit in it weight-wise.
3) Pack and Play: We just went with the simplest one (no diaper changing station, etc). Once I could get into our bed, Ryan slept in this in our room until we transitioned him into his crib. We use it whenever we travel as a travel crib, so it’s a necessary item for us.
4) Diaper Bag: I went with a cross-shoulder bag from IKABAGS on Etsy. It has tons of internal pockets and is big enough to hold what I need - plus, it doesn’t scream “diaper bag.” If I could change one thing about it, I wish it had an outside pocket for my phone, but even without, it’s a great bag and one I will use after my diaper-toting days are over.
5) Aden + Anais Swaddle Blankets: These are on basically every baby list out there, and for good reason — they’re so versatile. The swaddle blankets come in two sizes — get the bigger size.
6) Love to Dream Swadddle UP: We were fortunate enough to receive several different hand-me-downs of various swaddling apparatuses, but the Swaddle UPs were my favorite. Ryan was able to kick himself out of the swaddle blanket by 6 weeks, so we started with this — I think he liked that he could still suck on the ends of the arm ‘flaps’ and keep his hands near his face, unlike the typical SwaddleMe type blankets. By 10 weeks, he only wanted to be arms out, so we could unzip the arm flaps but the rest of the swaddle was nice and tight and comforting. Since it’s form fitting, we still use it at 9 months as a layer for night time sleeping (we keep our house on the colder side) — pair of pajamas, tight fitting Swaddle UP, and then a sleep sack on top.
7) Boppy: I know some people claim to like My Breast Friend (am I the only one who shudders at the name?) more and I haven’t tried it to give a direct comparison, but even at 9 months, we still use our Boppy every day for nursing. It’s also the perfect size to fit around your baby as support when s/he is learning to sit up, although that came after 6 months for us.
8) Burp Cloths: Perfect for everything from actual spit up to spills, runny noses, drool, and anything else imaginable. Sure, any plain cloth will do, but we received a set of these embroidered burp cloths from Moonbeam Baby and I love them so much, they have become my go-to gift for friends with new babies (especially those on their second or third, since they already have so much of what they need). Lots of cute patterns for boys or girls and you can choose the font and color. Bonus: these are roughly the size of a hand towel, so if they survive babyhood, I can use them as hand towels in Ryan’s future bathroom.
9) Baby Carrier: noticeably absent from this list is a stroller and that’s because we don’t use one. We wear Ryan everywhere, and have an entire arsenal of babywearing wraps and carriers as a result — stretchy wraps, woven wraps, ring slings, mei tais, soft-structured carriers — you name it, I (probably) own it. I’m actually going to write a separate post on this later because people are always asking me for the “best” carrier, so stay tuned. In the meantime, I linked to the Nesting Days carrier, because this was my absolute essential go-to for the first several weeks.
Honorable Mention: Aden + Anais Bibs — I can’t vouch for these personally, but when I mentioned to the other mom in our nanny share that I was gathering up all my favorite baby things to send to a friend and would probably turn it into a blog post, she said I had to include these because they are the most absorbent bibs she has used. Ryan isn’t much of a drooler (probably because he’s 10 months old and still has no teeth) so we’ve never kept a bib on him for drooling reasons. But if your baby is a big drooler, these bibs are apparently the best!
1) Skip Hop Alphabet Zoo Activity Gym: We borrowed this Skip Hop activity gym from our neighbors and still have it on the floor of Ryan’s nursery. The mat itself has fun flaps and textures to encourage reaching during tummy time and cute dangling animals.
2) Fisher Price Kick and Play Piano Gym: We picked this one up for our living room so we didn’t have to constantly carry one mat between 4 floors of our house. While the mat and hanging toys are better on the Skip Hop listed above, the kick and play piano was a huge source of entertainment for Ryan. Plus, the piano tilts to an upright position so even now at 9 months, he still like to sit and bang on the keys.
3) Manhattan Toy Winkle Rattle: Lots of different tubes to chew on and perfect for little hands to grab. We still have this attached to Ryan’s high chair and it’s usually the first toy that I toss into my diaper bag.
4) Munchkin Twisty Figure 8 Teether: Similar to the previous toy, but with lots of different textures for sore gums to gnaw on and great for eye-hand coordination since everything twists.
5) Melissa & Doug First Bead Maze: The recommended age for this is 1+, but reviews said not to wait that long, so I picked it up when Ryan was about 5 months and he took to it right away. He couldn’t quite get all the beads around the track at that point, but it definitely helped him work on his pincher grip while trying to manipulate single beads (and of course, he enjoyed chewing on it).
6) Skip Hop Explore and More Roll Around Hedgehog: This was our go-to upstairs toy for quite a while. The openings make it easy for tiny fingers to grab, the top is great to chew on, and the beads are fun to push around. Also: small and doesn’t make much noise, which is basically the criteria for great toys in my book.
7) Skip Hop Bandana Buddies Puppy: Lots of different animal options; we, of course, went for the puppy. Lots of different fabrics and textures, rattles, and has a little hook to attach to the stroller, car seat, activity gym, diaper bag, etc.
8) Fisher Price Shape Sorter: Right around 7 or 8 months, this became Ryan’s favorite toy, but as early as 5 months he was really into opening the lid, picking up the shape blocks, and, you guessed it, putting them right into his mouth. Now he likes to bang them together, but in his under 6 month stage, it was a great way for him to learn how to grab something and to practice taking something out of my hand.
9) Car Seat Toy: We don’t have the exact one I’m linking to, but a similar premise — something which hangs from the handle of your car seat and entertains and soothes a baby while in the car. Ours hangs a little lower and giving it a few quick jingles was enough to distract Ryan when he started to cry.
1) Skip Hop Grab and Go Wet/Dry Bag: This was a gift from a wise friend (thanks, Daisy!) who told me to always keep a clean change of clothes in the outside dry pocket and put the unexpectedly dirty clothes in the wet pocket — then toss the whole thing in the laundry when you get home. It saved us on many occasions from leaky diapers and wet clothes, and I’ve gone on to purchase two more (one for my own gym bag, one for our pool bag for wet swimsuits after swim lessons).
2) Babylegs: Essential for cooler weather babywearing. Now that it’s winter, I have a full on babywearing coat to keep us both warm, but once temperatures started turning a little chillier around September, I needed something to bridge the gap between Ryan’s socks and the end of his pants (which always hike up when he’s in a carrier). Babylegs are the perfect solution.
3) Zutano Booties: In the early days, we just put socks on his feet. Then one day, Ryan discovered his feet, which immediately resulted in pulling his socks off and we’ve been losing the battle ever since. These Zutano booties are literally the only booties/shoes I’ve found that stay on, thanks to an adjustable snap. Snap them up on the tightest setting, and these babies aren’t coming off. Seriously, if I had one piece of advice for a new parent, it would be to pass on all the adorable baby shoes and just buy several pairs of these instead.
4) Zutano Baby Sunhat: We had a spring baby, which meant that summer rolled around before he was 6 months old and got the go ahead to use sunscreen. A sunhat was absolutely essential to get through our many walks outside. I love the Zutano brand (again) because it’s nice and thick so the brim doesn’t flop in his face and it’s snug enough to stay on his head.
5) Milkies Milk Trays: If you’re planning on breastfeeding, you’re probably going to pump at some point (all the time, if you’re a typical working mom). If you’re pumping, you’ll probably be freezing milk at some point. Skip the freezer bags and get a set of these milk trays. Everything freezes in one ounce frozen sticks (we tend to call them boob-cubes) which thaw quickly and make it so easy to thaw just the amount you need, versus an entire 5 ounce freezer bag. Also, none of that layer of milk fat settling on top and sticking to the sides of the bag no matter how much you try to mix it before pouring the frozen milk into a bottle. I’d pop out the frozen milk and store it in gallon sized ziplock bags by the month, and now that my supply has tanked and Ryan’s getting half of his daily milk from my frozen stash, it’s so much easier to pull these out than the freezer bags. This is, hands down, my favorite pumping accessory.
6) Disposable Changing Pad: I pack a light diaper bag. I’m the kind of person who goes out to dinner with nothing but my wallet and phone in the pocket of my jacket, so it’s not surprising that I take such a minimalist approach to the diaper bag as well. I have a sturdy, waterproof, reusable changing pad, but it’s so bulky and takes up way too much space. Instead, I started using these disposable ones — no, not environmentally friendly, but unless you actually get bodily fluids on them, you can keep reusing them. Ryan is now 9 months old and we’ve used 11 so far, so I don’t feel too bad about the environmental impact. They take up basically as much room in your diaper bag as a sheet of paper.
7) Portable Wipes Container: Rather than continuously buy the small containers of wipes for diaper bags, I just bought a reusable container and stuff wipes in there. Works perfectly, and the wipes stay moist for months. Done and done.
8) Travel Diaper Pouch: Yes, you’re essentially putting a bag of diapers into your diaper bag, but it makes life so much easier. I stash a couple of diapers and the portable wipes container in here and then I can just grab this when I’m using something other than my diaper bag. The nanny grabs it when she takes Ryan to library storytime, I move it into our pool bag when we go to swim lessons, etc. Plus, diapers don’t get squished in the bottom of your diaper bag.
9) Pottery Barn My First Anywhere Chair: This was a gift that I never would have purchased on my own, but we love it. Ryan could prop himself up in it from about 3 months onward, and now he sits in it most evenings while I read a book to him. It’s also been the perfect backdrop to see how much he’s grown — in the beginning his little head didn’t clear the top, and now he fits in it like an actual person!
Reading is a huge part of my life, and I’m really hopeful that I’ll raise Ryan to be a voracious reader as well. There are hundreds of great children’s books out there, but these are just a few of my favorites. Looking at this list, I actually have 8 of them — all except Steam Train, Dream Train — completely memorized because we read them so much. It’s actually been extremely handy, since now I can recite a few books while I wear Ryan on my back while cooking dinner, while I rock him to sleep at night with the lights off, or in the car if he starts to get unhappy. I think it’s time to switch it up and add some new books to our collection so I can have a few more memorized on standby — what are your favorite children’s books?
4) Little Puppy Finger Puppet Book (we actually have received 4 different animal versions of these - Ryan loved the finger puppets!)