These baby items can make your life easier in the sleep-deprived newborn stage and beyond.
Editor's note, March 8, 2023: The recommendations provided in this article are out of date and will not be updated going forward. While we believe these baby products were the best choices at the time, you may find some of these options have either changed or are no longer available.
There are few things more overwhelming than bringing a tiny person into the world. When trying to figure out what you need to put on your list of baby registry items to be prepared for what this new baby life is throwing your way, the sheer amount of stuff to choose from can seem formidable to new parents -- not to mention all of the different choices for each of those "essentials."
The bevy of options for your baby registry checklist, like sleep sacks, diaper bag options, bottles, pacifiers and bassinets is vast and seemingly endless, all for this tiny creature you haven't met yet. It's hard to work out the essentials, those baby registry must haves, from the infinite sea of clutter marketers want to convince you that you can't live without.
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In reality, once your new baby arrives, the products you spend hours agonizing over aren't going to be as important as you think they are. Babies really only need a few things (food, clothes, diapers, a safe place to sleep), and every baby is indeed different, with different preferences. Are any of these items truly necessary? No. That being said, here are several baby registry must haves that ended up being key to my parenting journey, that I wish I had known to register for instead of buying in a panic on Amazon in those early weeks. You can also check out our picks for the best diapers, best baby monitors, best car seats and best baby clothes.
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If you take one piece of advice from this list, make it this: Invest in as many magnetic onesies as your budget allows. These are pricey, but in my experience, totally worth it. No zippers, no snaps – just little magnetic buttons that let you quickly and easily open and close your baby's PJs, perfect for those bleary-eyed middle-of-the-night changes. The fabric has a nice soft, almost silky feel, and there are lots of cute patterns to choose from. (My baby's Pop-pop also loves them, as they're easy to operate even with arthritic hands.)
We brought our baby girl home from the hospital armed with several Halo sleepsack swaddles and swaddle blankets, only for her to either break out or generally hate all of them. She seemed to want to sleep with her hands up, so I ordered a Love to Dream swaddle. She immediately seemed more comfortable at nap time, and we stuck with these until she was ready to transition out (as you size up there are "transition" options that let you zip off the sleeves). These swaddles also offer the added bonus of making your little one look like a flying squirrel.
My lactation consultant recommended these bottles as the most similarly shaped to a human nipple, and best for helping improve baby's latch. They're easy to clean and pack in a cooler. Plus, they're a steal compared to the far more pricey Comotomo bottles I had on my registry. While my baby didn't seem to have a real preference for either, the Evenflo were the ones we stuck with.
What do you actually do with a newborn all day, when they aren't eating or sleeping (which, to be fair, is most of the time)? This Baby Einstein mirror may not be the most aesthetically pleasing, but my baby loved it -- giving her a way to look at herself and at some high-contrast patterns made tummy time a lot easier for us in the early days. She also liked looking at the high-contrast animal cards, which would make her smile.
Speaking of tummy time, once your baby reaches three months, this water mat will help make that activity more engaging and interesting. It's essentially a mini water bed for babies, and gives them a different kind of feeling while on their stomach, and something to look at with the floating fish. You can also try propping them up in different ways using the inflatable sides. It helped us extend our tummy time sessions quite a bit.
Between spit up, diaper blowouts and messy milk eating, newborns can get grimy pretty quickly. For the moments when you don't want to do a full bath (or those fun times when one of the above happens immediately after a bath), these Johnson's Head-to-Toe wipes are nice to have on hand. They're just big, soft hypoallergenic pre-moistened baby wipes that let you do a quick cleanup.
Really, the point here is to register for more burp clothes than you ever could have imagined. Our baby is a frequent spitter, and we have burp clothes strewn around the house at all times. These Hanna Andersson ones are nice and soft, and slightly larger than the Burt's Bees ones that I had on my registry, for about the same price.
I registered for a regular old baby nail clipper, figuring, I know how to clip nails, how hard could it be? At least for me, it wasn't that it was necessarily difficult, but scary – newborns are squirmy, and their nails are so tiny, that I was terrified to go near them with a clipper. Not to mention that newborn nails grow surprisingly fast and need to be trimmed often, lest your Wolverine-in-training scratch themself in the face. This battery-powered electric nail clipper is a lifesaver: It has three different baby age-specific filing attachments (and some adult ones too), a light so you can see what you're doing, and two speeds in each direction. You can even file away while your baby is sleeping (weird but true, at least in my case).
This one is for the parents. I naively thought that I'd be able to fit all of my materials for nursing/pumping in a nice little caddy. I was very wrong. A small storage cart like this one will actually hold everything you need, like your pump, extra pump parts, snacks, water bottle, burp clothes and whatever else you'll need (and shout out to postpartum nurse and Instagram influencer Karrie Locher for the idea). And you can roll it from room to room so you aren't trapped on the couch all the time.
This one is an honorable mention because it was indeed on my registry after a friend's recommendation. If you're someone who hates getting your hands sticky, you need this tool that can only really be called a butt spatula. Apply your baby's diaper cream to this little silicone brush and put it on their bum, saving your hands from becoming a mess. It has a suction stand so it can sit on your diaper table on its own, and it's easy to clean off.