In the blink of an eye, Nori just turned 6 months old (insert crying emoji) and I’m looking back and sharing some newborn products that we use the most often. We live in a small space so got very few baby things before she arrived, but ended up trying and buying more while in survival mode. Newborns certainly don’t NEED much, but these products made our early months as new parents easier. Whenever possible, I recommend borrowing or trying out baby gear from friends first, since every baby and mama’s preferences are different. Similarly, when your family outgrows a product you can always pass it along!
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1. Structured Baby Carrier
Poor Nori had bad reflux as a newborn and cried around the clock, which left us feeling helpless. We had the most success soothing her while babywearing throughout the day, and tried over half a dozen carrier styles. Carriers in general are awesome since they 1) keep baby close to you but your hands free to do things, 2) help reflux-prone babies stay upright after feeding, and 3) soothe fussy babies into staying asleep for longer naps while you’re on the move.
For a structured baby carrier option that both Nick and I used (since he didn’t want to use the soft wraps), we loved the Baby Bjorn Carrier Mini starting at around 3 weeks old through almost one year. Note, since this is a mini carrier, bigger babies will outgrow this sooner. It’s very petite-friendly, doesn’t “swallow up” smaller babies like full size carriers do (even with the infant inserts), and comes in soft jersey or breathable mesh. I wear the straps on the shortest setting and tuck the long tails underneath around my back.
2. Soft Baby Wrap
Our favorite: Solly Baby Wrap (at Nordstrom, Solly Baby)
As an alternative to the above structured baby carrier, I found soft wraps to be amazing for the newborn stage when they’re tiny and squishy, and I hear they’re great for preemies too! Soft wraps keep baby cuddled close against your body, with the option to tuck in their floppy heads. For the earlier months, I personally much preferred these to a structured carrier.
Note, these are basically just long strips of stretchy fabric that you have to wrap and tie yourself. The how-to videos from the brand may look daunting, but you’ll get the hang of it after a little practice, and soon you can go off of just muscle memory. If we were traveling or going out, I’d pre-tie the wrap and layer a jacket over it if needed – see my Traveling with a Newborn blog post for more info!
Other brands: Compared to similar wraps by Ergobaby (viscose), Moby (medium weight cotton / viscose), and Boba (much thicker cotton), the main difference I found with Solly (modal) is that the thinner material on Solly feels more breathable and lightweight and it has a pouch at the end which I used for pacifiers or nursing pads. I heard modal may stretch out or lose elasticity over time if you use this very regularly, but I haven’t had any issues yet.
Also, don’t give up on a product if your baby doesn’t like it the first few times – we had to be persistent trying a few things, such as both our baby carrier and wrap. Nori loved being in a soft wrap from newborn up to 2 months, refused to be in them for a period after that, then enjoyed them again around 4-5 months!
3. Easy to Clean Changing pad
You don’t really need a changing pad, but I’d at least recommend something water resistant that wipes clean easily. I lost count of the rogue pees and poops that have happened! We also use our changing pads every day as a “station” for bedtime routine, to put on lotion and PJs.
The Hatch pad is very easy to wipe clean with no covers needed, has a built-in scale, is comfortable for our baby (surface doesn’t get too cold), plus the base actually does not slide around. We love using the scale casually to see her grow between doctors visits, not for the purpose of measuring breastmilk intake each feeding since that requires exact precision (true lactation scales are much pricier). My one complaint is that you have to use their app on your mobile phone for the scale feature.
UPDATE: After over 2 years of daily use, our Hatch pad still looks like new, so it’s truly easy to clean and maintain and we’ll surely keep using it for baby #2! The scale feature has also been nice since many of our pediatrician appointments are now virtual due to Covid.
Now that Nori is a toddler, though, the Hatch pad is getting to be a little short (ours is also an older version, so it’s even shorter than their current model). As a second pad for our upstairs, I went with this generously sized Munchkin waterproof pad (also at Amazon) + Cloud Island wipeable cover. If you don’t care for the scale feature and are on a budget, I’ve been loving these as well! I will say that all the “wipeable” foam pads including this one don’t seem like they will be quite as water resistant as materials like on the Hatch pad, also the Munchkin pad still slides around a bit despite the nonslip grips (unlike the Hatch pad which stays put).
4. Car Seat + Stroller System
I try to get Nori out of the house once a day and have been SO happy with our car seat and stroller systems. They serve different purposes for us, but if I had to choose just one for life in Boston, it’d be the UPPAbaby (YoYo wheels don’t handle snow or slush well, plus the undercarriage basket is too small for carrying our groceries). That being said, the YoYo is awesome and much easier for me as a petite mom to fold up, transport up and down the stairs (or in and out of a car trunk), and maneuver around tight spaces. Although we have the UPPAbaby bassinet attachment, we actually almost always used our Nuna car seat on top of the strollers instead from 0-5 months, because Nori seemed more comfortable sitting at an angle than lying flat inside a bassinet.
Most of our friends did not have a crib at first, and room-shared used either the Halo Swivel Sleeper (with mesh sides) or UPPAbaby bassinet as their newborn’s primary sleeping vessel to keep besides their bed. The Halo was also mentioned often by C-Section mamas who found the swivel feature to be especially helpful. The UPPAbaby bassinet is included with the VISTA stroller or sold separately if you get the smaller CRUZ. For our second baby, we borrowed a friend’s Halo and have been liking it!
Safety Notes: UPPAbaby sells this bassinet as “a perfect overnight sleep solution.” A reader commented that it may be less breathable due to padding along the inner sides if a baby’s face gets pressed against the edge. We were comfortable with using it for overnight sleeping, but wanted to pass this along as an FYI!
6. Baby bouncer or rocker
There’s a lot of choices in this category including many more affordable options. We loved our Baby Bjorn bouncer (warning: price is not for the faint of heart), which is more of a reclined seat that you can manually bounce. We’ve been using this multiple times a day and still do. It has a lightweight, flat-folding design for small spaces and travel, 3 recline settings, easy to wash covers, plus looks nice and minimalist.
Sometimes using a bouncer was the only way I could have a few minutes to get dressed or cook. And I’ve totally put it in the bathroom doorway while I took a speed shower or used the bathroom (real talk lol). We also use this to read books to her, or clip some teething toys to it now while preparing her food. Lastly, we love bringing it to friends’ homes or on road trips so Nori has somewhere to sit securely after eating!
7. Activity & Tummy Time Mat
Our favorite: Skiphop Farmstand mat
I’ll admit I chose this mat for the cute veggie theme, but all the Skiphop activity gyms have a lot of sensory features for babies to discover as they grow including textures, sounds, rattles, mirrors, a teether toy, and adorable coordinating tummy time support wedge pillows. We held off on getting one initially, but Nori loves this and has spent a good amount of time on it daily for the past few months!
8. Portable lounger
The purpose of a lounger is pretty much the same as a bouncer (# 6) so parents can easily make do with just 1 option! Personally, if choosing one I would get a bouncer over a lounger since you can adjust the angle as baby grows.
The DockATot is a popular, pricey large pillow with a flat center, handle, and removable cover. But we admittedly used this every day for naps in the living room until around 4-5 months. (with baby #2, this has been replaced by the Halo bassinet borrowed from a friend). If you live in a larger house or one with multiple floors, I like that I could grab the DockATot and move it around the house with only one free hand – something I couldn’t do with a bassinet. Sometimes we would co-sleep between feedings, and used this on our bed to keep her close but separated. Some parents get more use out of the Dockatot as a changing station or tummy time prop as well.
We also received the similar Snuggle Me Organic dock which has rave reviews from fellow moms, but unfortunately Nori didn’t care for it. If you’re shopping for a dock to use during baby’s awake time only, several of my friends like the affordable Boppy lounger.
Safety Notes: Loungers and nests are not recommended for unsupervised sleeping. Here are the AAP’s guidelines for safe sleep, which recommend sharing a bedroom but not a bed. For another perspective, here is a post by Kelly Mom on bed sharing safety.
This post got long, but I have several more favorites to share including smaller gadgets, breastfeeding tools, and swaddles + sleepwear! In the meantime until my next post, I try to keep the “Baby” category under my Amazon favorites page updated often. You can click the little notes icon at the top right of each item for a quick review or sizing info.
Mamas ~ what baby product(s) did you get the most use out of in the first year?