There’s no doubt, these are overwhelming times. And for anyone with a newborn or expecting one soon, doubly so. As a first-time mom, I hope my experience can help alleviate at least part of that equation.

Leading up to Nolan’s arrival, my weekends were spent toggling between countless product reviews and recommendations, only to find my list growing longer and more muddled. Not only was I outlining what I needed, but also navigating between brands. The number of options are dizzying. After substantial research, and perhaps more importantly, trial by fire, below is the list of newborn essentials that we have in constant rotation whether it’s time to eat, play, sleep, or get changed.

For Eating:

  1. Dr. Brown’s Original Bottles. If you choose to bottle feed exclusively or even on occasion, you’ll want to have a set of 6-8 newborn bottles on hand. We went through quite a few options before trying Dr. Brown’s, and I only wish we had discovered them sooner. While breastfed babies like Nolan are said to potentially take better to wide-set bottles, he actually took much better to the narrow shape of these Dr. Brown’s. The straw insert also prevented him from swallowing excess air that can cause quite a bit of tummy discomfort.
  2. aden + anais Bibs. Dribble, drool and the inevitable spit up are all part of feedings, and increasingly so as your little one becomes more engaged with the world around them. My favorite dilemma is when Nolan wants to drink and smile at the same time, allowing milk to pour out of the side of his mouth. These bibs are by far the softest and most absorbent of any we’ve tried – plus, the prints are so cute!
  3. Burp Cloths. Initially, I stocked up on Burt’s Bees burp cloths, only to find that they were somewhat small and not as absorbent as I had hoped. I ended up using them as shields during diaper changes instead (#boymom 😅), and switched to muslin burp cloths or these plush kitchen towels for feedings.
  4. A Nursing Pillow. If you’re nursing or plan to, a designated pillow can really help in the early days. I have a Boppy as well as a My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow, and found the latter to be more comfortable and secure. There is a bit of a learning curve to being able to clip it in place while holding a hungry baby, but once you get the hang of it, it really does help with proper positioning.

For Playing:

  1. “Tummy Time” play mat. As we’ve shifted toward a “Back is Best” protocol for safe infant sleep, caretakers are now instructed to put babies on their tummies regularly during awake time to build up their neck and shoulder muscles. While there are quite a few play mats out there, this option by Skip Hop has been a hit with Nolan, complete with an overhead activity center for sensory development.
  2. Baby GUND Singing Toy Elephant. You may laugh and think, Is a singing toy elephant really an essential? For us, the answer has been a resounding yes, as it was the first (and for a while, the only) toy that Nolan engaged with from his earliest days (thanks, Mimi Mary!). Push one foot and you’ll be singing along to “Do Your Ears Hang Low;” push the other foot and you’ll have an instant game of peek-a-boo. And yes, both recordings will get stuck in your head for hours.
  3. Tiny Love Soothe ‘N Groove Mobile. I bought this mobile for Nolan’s crib in hopes that it would entertain him long enough for me to run to the bathroom. 11 weeks later, and it’s consistently kept him engaged for over a half hour at a time. The battery-powered mobile easily and securely attaches to the side of the crib and spins at a soothing pace to the tune of 18 different songs. Nolan loves it so much that I’ll find him laughing at the characters as they spin round and round – it’s truly priceless. The mobile portion can be removed and used simply as a music box (sound machine) down the road.

For Sleeping:

  1. BIBS BPA-Free Pacifiers. While I had stocked up on the popular Soothies Pacifiers prior to Nolan’s birth, I was in for my first lesson in baby essentials with this one: don’t buy anything in bulk until your baby has tried it! Nolan made a game of spitting out Soothies, requiring us to physically hold it in his mouth until he’d fall asleep. Enter BIBS brand. Upon a recommendation from a NICU nurse (check her out at Bumble Baby), BIBS pacifiers are designed more like the real thing so they stay in the baby’s mouth. They’re also BPA-free and oh-so-stylish (they come in every color).
  2. HALO Sleepsack Swaddles. If you’re like I was, you may be leery about putting your newborn in what appears to be a straight jacket. But rest assured, swaddling is life-changing – and safe. Wrapping your baby like a little burrito helps prevent what’s called the startle reflex (when your sleeping baby involuntarily wakes themselves when their arms shoot up to their face). Translation: swaddling can promote uninterrupted safe sleep. While you can swaddle with a properly folded blanket, I’ve found these HALO Sleepsacks to be more convenient thanks to their easy zipper and velcro arm closures. Bonus: they transition into an arm-free wearable blanket when your baby outgrows their startle reflex.
  3. Hatch Baby Rest Sound Machine. Did you know that infants are exposed to significant, constant levels of white noise in the womb? To ease the transition into sleeping in the real world, a sound machine can help. We’ve loved this option from Hatch, which has tons of sound options (I’d recommend the ocean waves or television static, which most closely resemble true white noise) and a night light that takes on the color of your choosing. You can control both the sound and light through an app, as well as on the control panel on the sound machine itself.
  4. Infant Optics Baby Monitor. A fan favorite for its quality and ease of use, this video baby monitor offers a clear picture, great coverage range and full tilt, pan and zoom controls with the push of a button. (I have mine sitting in front of me as I write this.) We’ve loved being able to add additional camera units into the system, which supports up to 4 total.

For Changing:

  1. Onesies – with feet and mitten cuffs! This was perhaps the only item I had a shortage of when we brought Nolan home from the hospital. While I had a bunch of kimono tops and bodysuits, I hadn’t realized just how convenient a full-body onesie would be. No need for pants, socks, or booties; protection against sharp fingernails; and best of all, easy access for diaper changes. Once you welcome your little one and know how big they are, consider having about a dozen of these on hand. Keep in mind, they’ll likely be worn hard and outgrown quickly, so reasonably priced options will be your friend. Some of my favorites have been: Burt’s Bees organic cotton onesies; Target brand Cloud Island sleep ‘n plays; and Carter’s 2-way zip up onesies (more on Amazon here).
  2. The Changing Table Trifecta: Diapers, Wipes and Disposable Changing Pads. It goes without saying that you’ll need diapers, but the brand can make a big difference. After putting Pampers Pure and Huggies Little Snugglers to the test, Huggies won out thanks to its elastic band across the rear to contain messes and prevent blowouts (I thought those would never happen to my baby…first-timers, take note: they will happen to you, and you’ll want to prevent them). Speaking of protection against messes, we use Peekapoo Disposable Changing Pad Liners to make clean up easier. And of course, you can’t get your baby fresh and clean without wipes. Pampers Sensitive Wipes have worked great for us – just the right amount of moisture, softness and durability to get the job done without skin irritation.
  3. Newborn Bath Insert. While everyone has their own preferences for baby’s bath time, we’ve had a great experience with the Angelcare Baby Bath Support for sponge baths and “big boy” baths alike. The insert sits comfortably in a bath tub, large sink, or in our case, a pop up baby tub that we situate on our laundry room counter, providing Nolan with the support he needs to sit up while we bathe him. It’s also easy to dry off and stow away after use.

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