The two months after your baby is born represents a crucial window for your little one's health. During this time, your baby will largely be at home "cocooned in a bubble", where it is important that only healthy people come inside to contact your baby. Ask visitors to wash their hands when they come in, or use hand-sanitizer (our favorite is EO Natural Hand Sanitizer Gel), when entering the "baby bubble." Advise sick friends or relatives to wait on visiting until they are well.
Once home from the hospital, you will need some "stuff" to keep the ship afloat. If possible, purchase and organize your essentials before your baby's birth so you can focus on the baby after discharge. Early days with your newborn are a continuous cycle of feeding and changing, sleeping, and mom getting enough fluids and calories for breastmilk production.
Like our other essentials articles, we've separated this article into "Must-have" and "Nice-to-have" sections for mother and baby.
0 to 8 Week Must-haves for Mom
Whether you have a vaginal or cesarean birth, you'll require some well-deserved pampering after bringing your little miracle into the world. Be it swelling, bruising, an episiotomy, or an abdominal wound, TLC is necessary. Here are some helpful hints and products that can help soothe and ease mom in recovery.
- Disposable Panties — You may be able to take a small supply of these home from the hospital. However, as lochia occurs for some time, it is nice to have additional panties on hand with this 5-pack of Althea & Anesi Brief Transitions. These are comfortable, seamless, disposable and washable for postpartum use, so you don't have to roll the dice with your fancy knickers.
- Extra Absorbent, Thick Pads — After your baby is born, you will need absorbent pads for several weeks. We suggest keeping a pack of Natracare Maternity Pads at home.
- Herbal Relief — Earth Mama Angel Baby Postpartum Bath Herbs might be what the doctor ordered to relieve hemorrhoids or your sensitive girl bits after birth. It is a toxin-free, organic, and herbal postpartum healing pad formulated with wound healing, antibacterial, and styptic herbs including witch hazel, yarrow, and plantain leaf. Made by a nurse and herbalist, it is free of synthetic fragrances, phthalates, parabens, petroleum products, mineral oil, and Vitamin E, and is naturally vegan and gluten-free. Postpartum, brew an herbal sack like tea and pour it onto maxi-pads. Place both the wet herbal bag and pads into the freezer for use later to relieve swelling and promote healing. They can also be used in a warm sitz bath once you are ready to submerge your lower end in water.
- Perineal Spray — New Mama Bottom Spray is a cooling perineal mist that can ease discomfort related to postpartum vaginal soreness, swelling, episiotomies, and hemorrhoids. It uses all natural ingredients including witch hazel, lavender, and cooling peppermint pure essential oils to give moms the relief they need.
- Bottom Balm — Earth Mama Angel Baby Mama Bottom Balm is a cooling salve for the perineal area. It is formulated with organic oils and herbs to help relieve discomfort.
- Healing Ointment — We like the C-Mama Healing Salve for use once the cesarean incision is clean, dry, and intact. We do not recommend it for a fresh incision. However, we think its unique blend of oils including olive, tamanu, sea buckthorn, and rosehip hits the spot for giving new and old scars, stretch marks, rashes, and burns some extra TLC for optimal healing.
- Constipation Care — To help relieve constipation or to keep it at bay, helpful over the counter remedies include Colace Capsules, Miralax, and Traditional Medicinals Organic Smooth Move. The last is a tea with senna that works as a gentle stimulant to get things moving; available in four flavors, good for prevention or relief.
- Hemorrhoid Care — If your best efforts at hemorrhoid avoidance have failed, good old-fashioned topicals work like magic. Check out Preparation H Cream and Tucks Medicated Cooling Pads for topical relief.
0 to 8 Week Must-haves for Baby
- Changing Pad — If you're cutting corners, or hesitate to register for everything, you might hold back on adding a changing table to your registry. However, a changing pad is a different story, and we think it is important to support new babies while you learn the finer points of diapering. The Naturepedic No Compromise Organic Cotton Changing Pad is a comfortable, 4-sided pad with a safety buckle and snap screws to secure to a dresser. With organic fabric and filling, and a waterproof 100% food-grade polyethylene coating, it is comfortable and easy to clean. There are no polyurethane foam, flame retardants, vinyl, or phthalates here.
- Changing Pad Cover — No changing pad is complete without a cover. The Aden + Anais Classic Changing Pad Cover is two layers of soft 100% cotton muslin tailored to fit most changing pads, and durable enough for regular washing. If that isn't enough to sway you, the cute and stylish patterns will.
- Disposable Wipes — Most parents use disposable wipes (though the trend for reusable is rising), and WaterWipes is an excellent choice made with water and a touch of grapefruit seed extract for a quick, disposable wipe with zero chemicals.
- Diaper Cream — At some point, every baby will need a little help keeping their bottom in top-notch shape. We like Weleda Calendula Diaper Care because it has natural ingredients and is incredibly effective with a pleasant smell.
- Diaper Pail — Not all diaper pails work well, so it can be more challenging to choose a good one than you think. Our The Best Diaper Pail Review gives you the skinny on everything that stinks, or more importantly, shouldn't stink. In our throwdown of diaper pails, the Munchkin Step impresses with virtually no smell and quick bag changes.
Cloth Diapering at Home
The world of cloth diapering can be intimidating at first, but it can also be as easy as responsible disposable diapering. For detailed information on cloth diaper fundamentals, please see Cloth Diapers vs. Disposables: How and What to Choose? and Cloth Diaper Laundry Basics & Helpful Hints. We also highly recommend Kelly Wells book titled Changing Diapers: The Hip Mom's Guide to Modern Cloth Diapering.
Our recommendation is using a green disposable until your baby fully transitions to breast milk or formula stools. This way, you won't need to deal with meconium staining your cloth diapers. Because most newborns won't fill out one size cloth diapers right away, this is a good time to invest in newborn covers with pre-folds or green disposables until your baby is ready for one-size systems. We discuss our choices for newborn cloth diapering with newborn pre-folds, covers, and liners in the Baby Essentials: In Hospital with Baby article.
Now, let's get some cloth diaper accessories you'll want to make this process a heck of a lot easier and ensure success!
- Cloth-Safe Diaper Ointment — Not all diaper ointments and creams are safe to use with cloth diapers. Traditional options containing zinc oxide or petroleum leave a messy residue or decrease the absorbency of the cloth, even after laundering. Great cloth-safe diaper creams that diapers and baby will like include Thirsties Booty Love and also CJ's BUTTer Plus. The later contains shea and cocoa butter, coconut, olive, neem, and sesame oils, beeswax, and vitamin E derived from soy.
- Cloth-Safe Laundry Detergent — Rockin' Green Laundry Detergent is an earth and baby-friendly cloth diaper detergent available in Hard Core and Classic Concentrate versions depending on your water type. It is great at neutralizing stinky smells and comes in unscented as well as smashing watermelons, lavender mint revival, and motley clean scents that use essential oil created for sensitive skin.
- Flushable Diaper Liners — Eco Sprout Eco-Bottom Liner are super soft and breathable cloth diaper liners that are sized well and won't stick to baby's skin. Available in 100 flushable, tear-off sheets, they make dealing with poop much easier; lift out the poop-filled liner and flush it all down the toilet (they are not compatible with septic systems). These chlorine, dye, and fragrance-free inserts simplify life by reducing staining and the need to spray, swish, or soak off solids before putting into the laundry. Also, bamboo has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, so using these luxuriously soft liners next to baby's skin can help prevent diaper rash.
- Cloth Wipes — After testing many cloth wipes including bumGenius, BabyKicks, Blueberry, Bumkins, Charlie Banana, FuzziBunz, Osocozy, Satsuma, Thirsties, and Prince Lionheart, our favorite is GroVia Reusable Cloth Wipes. Super absorbent, soft, and durable, they excel at cleaning up stinky messes and held up in the wash time and time again, all while keeping our Earth green without contaminating landfills with human waste.
- Diaper Pail — Cloth diapers necessitate a different kind of diaper pail than disposables because they hold dirty diapers until laundering. The Ubbi and Dekor Kolor are far from perfect. Reason? Even if you launder cloth diapers every other day, cloth is bulkier than disposables, and traditional diaper pails tend to fill too darn fast. We've found that using a high-quality regular trash can like the simplehuman 38 Liter Rectangular Step Can works as well at containing smells with the advantage of holding significantly more soiled diapers. If using a hanging bag appeals to you, our favorite is the Planet Wise Hanging Wet-Dry Bag.
- Pail Liner — We tested machine-washable pail liners including FuzziBunz, Thirsties, Planet Wise, Kissaluvs, GroVia, Ubbi, and Dekor, and found that the Kanga Care Cloth Diaper Pail Liner excels. It is cylindrical with a narrow base and fabricated of soft, stretchy fabric with an elastic drawstring and toggle. Manufacturer care and attention to detail are evident in durable TPU waterproofing and unique seams that help keep wetness and smells inside the bag instead of seeping onto the pail's interior. Throw it in with the diapers on laundry day, and you are good to go. If you are getting the simplehuman trash can, be forewarned that it will require a bit of extra effort to get the Kanga Care Pail Liner inside so the lid closes properly. If you are looking for a more simplistic liner, then we recommend the Planet Wise Diaper Pail Liner.
- Cloth Diaper Wet Bag — Small wet bags are essential when cloth diapering on-the-go to keep dirty stuff separate inside the diaper bag. The Kanga Care Cloth Diaper Wet Bag though "standard" in size holds some serious volume when necessary, about 12-15 cloth diapers and inserts. These features make it great for daycare or travel. These bags have a nice zippered closure that keeps the stink inside and prevents messes from accidentally tumbling out. There is also an external strap with a heavy-duty zipper for hanging the bag when needed.
Whether breastfed or formula or somewhere in between, babies tend to have loose esophageal sphincters which directly equates to spitting up at varying frequency and intensity. Thus, a standard rite of passage for parents is having lots of soft, absorbent burp cloths at the ready in addition to an extra change of clothes for you both.
- Burp Cloth — Aden + Anais Burpy Bib (above left) and BabyKicks Premium Burp Cloth/Duz-it-All (above right) are the Cadillacs for burping and spit up mishaps. Both brands and styles are absorbent with fabrics that are nice and soft to wipe messes off of baby's skin.
Primary First-Aid Kit for Early Infancy
Bringing a newborn home, especially as a first-time parent, is an incredible life change and one you will always remember. Being prepared in mindset and supplies can create a calm amid the storm. We recommend the following for a first-aid kit for baby.
- Hand Sanitizer — For yourself and any visitors, you'll want some EO Natural Hand Sanitizer Gel on hand the moment they walk through that door to prevent fomites on surfaces. Then, BEFORE holding baby, ask them to wash their hands with soap and warm water. Seem like overkill? All we can say is you'll be glad you did.
- Digital Rectal Thermometer — Having the right thermometer makes all the difference between guessing and knowing when to be concerned. The standard for accurately checking a newborn's temperature is rectal. You'll need a good digital rectal thermometer for infants. Don't panic, it is easy to do with water-based lubricant, and thermometers like the American Red Cross Digital Rectal Thermometer are straightforward with an accurate reading in 60 seconds. It is shaped with a flex-tip for comfort and comes with a storage case.
When taking an infant's rectal temperature, clean the tip with rubbing alcohol, then apply a water-based lubricant like K-Y Ultra Gel to the thermometer tip. Lubricant allows the tip to be inserted gently into baby's rectum; one-half to one inch (1 to 2 centimeters) is sufficient.
- Temporal Thermometer — Temporal artery thermometry is a quick and accurate method of taking a temperature, even for a newborn. This process entails a well-performed swipe across the forehead and a tap below the earlobe, which works even on a sleeping baby. Temporal options are more expensive, so consider them a long-term investment. We are big fans of the Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer.
- Nasal Saline — Saline combined with a functional nasal aspirator are essential for keeping baby's nasal passages open when congestion occurs. Having these items handy can mean the difference between a happy baby who can feed and a miserable one. Simply Saline Baby Nasal Relief is a fine mist spray that clears congestion to improve baby's ability to breathe. Simply Saline doesn't contain preservatives or CFCs, so there is no uncomfortable burning or stinging.
- Nasal Aspirator — Because babies don't know how to blow their nose, they depend on an outside means for clearing out congestion to breathe, eat, and sleep properly. Do your little one a favor by replacing the bulb aspirator with a NoseFrida the Snotsucker. Designed in Sweden by an Ear Nose and Throat doctor, the NoseFrida is an absolute necessity. By operator-generated suction, mucous is sucked out non-invasively and hygienically via a replaceable filter that prevents goop and microbes from traveling. BPA and phthalate-free, this gem is hand washable in soapy water and is top-rack dishwasher safe.
- Humidifier — When your baby gets a cold, a humidifier can help by keeping mucous membranes moist and secretions loose potentially improving sleep. We tested humidifiers side-by-side in The Hunt for the Best Humidifier Review to help you find the best choice for your family. Also, we recommend reading How to Choose a Humidifier for your Baby for information on proper humidifier care. The Boneco U300 is an efficient, quiet and easy-to-fill option with nice features. We also like the Honeywell HUL520 for its quiet operation, compact size, and budget-friendly price.
- Nail Care — As much as you may agonize over clipping baby's nails, you need to do it as your baby can scratch their face something fierce. Piyo Piyo Baby Nail Scissors come equipped for the challenge. These stainless steel scissors have rounded blade tips to prevent snipping baby's skin and a balance handle design that suits both right and left-handed people.
- Vitamin D Supplementation — For proper bone growth, it is crucial that infants, children, and adolescents receive an adequate amount of Vitamin D daily. The AAP recommends 400 IU/day from birth on for breastfed and partially breastfed infants drinking less than 32 ounces of vitamin D-fortified formula/day. Baby Ddrops provides the recommended daily amount in a liquid dropper that is easy to use. Baby isn't likely to turn up their nose at these tasteless drops, and they are easily placed upon a nipple right before breastfeeding or onto a finger or pacifier for quick administration.
- Educational Materials-- The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD is a life-changing video with advice every parent needs in baby's first four months of life. The so-called "fourth trimester" is a transition period when all babies are learning how to adapt to life outside the womb. This phase includes lots of crying due to self-soothing difficulties. Dr. Harvey Karp's Five S's are just what the doctor ordered (literally) to soothe a cranky newborn. Of course, by the time you really need this information, you may find yourself too tired to read a book. Our advice? Have this DVD on-hand, cuddle up with your significant other and some popcorn, and watch the master lull crying babies into a calm Zen-like state. Another tip to keeping your cool and getting some shut-eye is The Baby Sleep Book: Top 250+ Essential Tips To Get Your Baby To Sleep Through The Night and Find a Permanent Solution To Your Child's Sleep Problems. We really like this book because instead of promoting one particular technique or method of sleep training, it provides a plethora of well-researched, common sense, helpful tips. Why is this so great? Because every baby is different, and what may work for one, may not necessarily work for another. Also, what feels right for one parent may not feel good to another. In the end, experimentation is key to discovering the right combination of techniques that work best for your little nugget and your family's lifestyle.
- Swaddle Blanket — The Aden + Anais Classic Swaddle is perfect for swaddling baby. These blankets are made with breathable muslin cotton and are large at 47" x 47" making both swaddling and maintaining a swaddle much easier. They are multi-purpose and can be used for more than swaddling. For best practices, we encourage you to read How to Practice Safe Swaddling to Protect Baby's Hips. A less technical swaddling option for those that may feel overwhelmed is the Miracle Blanket which is good for little escape artists and parents who can't quite get a good tight swaddle. See our round up of great swaddles and sleep sacks for more details.
- Pacifier-- Fabricated from one piece of 100% silicone, the Jollypop Pacifier is soft, light, and appropriately curved to baby's face shape. With a loop-shaped handle, it is also comfortable to hold. It is an improvement on the Hawaii Medical's GumDrop pacifier which is now produced by SandBox Medical. Offer baby a pacifier early on as sucking on a pacifier during sleep may reduce the risk of SIDS. However, if you are breastfeeding, wait before offering a pacifier until nursing is well-established, usually by 3-4 weeks.
- White Noise — Cloud B makes some entertaining soothing white noise products. The Cloud B Tranquil Turtle is cute, soft, and baby-friendly with multiple settings for soothing even the toughest customers. In addition to a variety of sounds, it projects soothing lights on walls and ceilings to help lull little ones to sleep.
- Baby Swing — Most moms will agree that a good baby swing is a must-have item for soothing a baby. Our review, The Search for the Best Baby Swing breaks down the good, the bad, and the so-so swings, so you don't have to. Our favorite is the Fisher-Price Cradle 'n Swing; it has loads of soothing settings including music, nature sounds, and white noise. It also comes with an AC adapter that is much nicer than messing with batteries and means your little one will never be surprised by a slowly stopping swing.
- Baby Carrier — A great baby carrier is another important staple in the baby soothing and bonding armamentarium. It is also a great way for parents and caregivers to negotiate errands without extra gear to push or navigate. Our review The Quest for the Best Baby Carrier of the top baby carriers head-to-head. Our favorites? The BabyBjorn One and Maya Wrap ComfortFit Sling depending on what style of carrier you prefer. If you are looking for a more budget-friendly choice we love the Boba Wrap and the Baby K'tan Original.
0 to 8 Week Nice-to-haves for Mom
More Nursing Supplies
- Book — While help from a certified lactation consultant is often the answer, sometimes having a quality text resource at your fingertips can provide the advice, hints, and answers to fundamental breastfeeding questions that make nursing more straightforward. The Nursing Mother's Companion and The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk can give you the boost you might need when feeling drained.
- Breast Pump — When nursing a baby, a great breast pump can be crucial to success. Whether returning to work, running errands and exercise, or heading out with your significant other for a much-needed date night, a breast pump gives you the freedom to continue breast milk feeding while you are away. Our Best Breast Pump Review includes testing top breast pumps side-by-side to find the best. Editors' Choice goes to the Spectra Baby USA S1 Hospital Grade for its strength and hygienic closed system. On a budget, however, the Medela Pump in Style Advanced is an excellent value for a double electric pump, though it is an open system. If you won't be pumping much or need something light and portable for travel, the Medela Harmony Manual is a great option.
- Breast Pump Bag — With a pump in tow, having a specially designed breast pump bag can make carrying a breast pump a little less conspicuous and pumping less of a chore. The bags have a design with storage compartments for pumps and insulated areas for pumped milk with some room to spare for personal items. This category is "up and coming" with tons of room for improvement, so we hope to see better options (particularly for working moms) in the near future. Our Best Breast Pump Bag Review pits multiple bags against one another in the challenge to carry it all with style and convenience. Two bags earned Editors' Choice awards, the Ju-Ju-Be Be Supplied which is our favorite all-around, and the Dr. Brown's Carryall which offers great organization featuresis lightweight and wipes clean.
- Pumping Bra — While a pumping bra may sound like an extravagance, it comes in handy if you are double pumping. If you want to do anything else while pumping like eat, drink, or work, you should consider this an absolute necessity. The Simple Wishes Signature Hands Free Pumping Bra is the answer to every pumping mom's prayers.
- Milk Storage Vessels — Where there is breast milk, there is a need for storing it. We encourage you to read our article on the Best Practices for Handling Breast Milk for an introduction to the topic. If possible, storing breast milk in shatter-resistant, borosilicate glass baby bottles like Lifefactory Glass are a great way to go because glass is inert and there is no potential for plastic chemicals to leach into the breastmilk. However, this may not be possible or convenient due to limited freezer capacity, potential breakage issues, or the extra expense. The alternative is to use storage bags such as Lansinoh Breastmilk Storage Bags. These bags are budget-friendly and easy to use with useful volume markings and a place to write the date, time, and quantity. The video below nicely illustrates the best use practices with these breastmilk storage bags.
- Freezer Organizer — Once expressing breast milk, moms quickly learn that losing milk by spillage, a bag puncture, or dare we say a thawed freezer (gasp!) is downright heartbreaking. Thus, methodical storage care can pay big dividends down the road. The Kiinde Keeper helps keep milk storage bags flat which increases surface area for quicker thaw times, and it helps organize bags keeping them separate from other items to prevent damage and misplacement.
- Breast Care — Earth Mama Angel Baby Booby Tubes can be used either warm or cold for pain reduction and relief associated with engorgement or plugged ducts. The outer covers are 100% organic cotton with a flaxseed filling. They can be chilled in the freezer or warmed in the microwave or oven for great, gel-free, topical relief.
- Nursing Tank — The nursing tank can be a lifesaver and offer the privacy you need while feeding in public or they can turn any shirt into a nursing shirt. When you lift your shirt to feed your baby, the tank stays in place providing coverage and privacy. We like the Undercover Mama Nursing Tank because it attaches to the bras you already own and covers your back, belly, and sides when you lift your top.
- Milk Stimulators — If you struggle with milk production, you might consider natural galactagogues that can potentially increase the amount you produce. Some women have reported success using Traditional Medicinals Organic Mother's Milk Tea, or if tea isn't your cup of tea, you can try Milkmakers Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookies. Or, heck, go crazy and have them both!
0 to 8 Week Nice-to-haves for Baby
We've already covered Diapering Must Haves for a 0-8 Week Baby which includes items for disposable or cloth diapering. However, we'd like to skim over other styles of cloth diapers as well as helpful accessories might want to consider if you intend to embrace cloth.
- Newborn All-in-One — All-in-One (AIO) cloth diapers eliminate complexity because they are similar to disposable except that the dirties go in a dry diaper pail for laundering instead of the trash. Newborn AIOS is a great place to begin and something that helpful grandparents, friends, and sitters can do without much explanation or fuss. Potential drawbacks? AIOS tend to be much more expensive than prefolds and covers, running around $300 more. Because they are one-piece diapers, they also take longer to dry. Lil Joey Preemie and Newborn Cloth Diaper ($30 for 2-pack, fits 4 to 12 pounds) is a good start for those hesitant to take the plunge into more involved systems. Although more expensive, they are pretty dang cute and simple to use with a snap down feature that helps prevent diaper contact with the umbilical cord stump. To diaper a newborn, you'll need to purchase about 30 diapers, so make sure there is room in your budget for a $450 purchase that only lasts until your baby is about 12 pounds. Good news? If they are in useable condition, you can recoup some of the investment by selling them secondhand. You can also reuse them for the next baby that comes along.
- One-Size Cloth Diapers — The majority of baby's time in cloth will be in a "One-Size" which fits babies in a range of 8 to 35 lbs. Be forewarned, however, that an 8-pound newborn may need to fill out in the thighs and waist before a One-Size will fit properly. Without the correct fit, leakage is an issue in any diaper. Before making a big purchase, we highly recommend trying a few different styles and brands to determine which One-Size option fits your baby and suits your lifestyle best. We invite you to visit our review for The Search for the Best Cloth Diapers, which provides an excellent introduction to cloth diapering. The One-Size options that stand out from the pack in our testing are the Rumparooz G2 (currently renamed to the Rumparooz One-Size Cloth Pocket Diaper without a change in construction and performance), Flip Hybrid, and GroVia Hybrid.
- Prefold Fasteners — If your folding repertoire with pre-folds has expanded beyond the tri-fold, you will need some fasteners to hold it in position underneath the waterproof cover. A 5-pack of Snappi Diaper Fasteners is an economical choice you can reuse.
- Cloth Diaper Sprayer — Properly pre-rinsing cloth diapers is essential to reduce stains and odor. The Bumworks Cloth Diaper Toilet Sprayer Kit easily sprays gunk into the toilet with its high-pressure nozzle.
- Sprayer Shield — Because high pressure promotes better rinsing, the Spray Pal Splatter Shield is pretty sweet as it helps contain mess in its plastic "sleeve" during spraying. It is easy to clean and folds flat for storage next to the toilet tank.
If nursing, it is a good idea to refrain from bottle-feeding until breastfeeding is well-established, if possible. Every mother-baby duo has a different experience here, but this typically lands between 3-6 weeks. If you have questions, we recommend speaking with the baby's doctor or a certified lactation consultant.
- Baby Bottle — Not all baby bottles are the same, and not all babies love all bottles. With that in mind, we tested some of the most popular options. The Best Baby Bottle Review includes our favorite options based on materials — For Glass: Lifefactory Glass, For Silicone: Comotomo, and For Plastic: Boon Nursh.
- Bottle Warmer — Thawing breast milk in warm water or warming a bottle of formula can take awhile. And, using a microwave or stovetop is out of the question as overheating, and hot spots create too much burn risk and quality degradation. Whether you happen to have a wailing baby who needs a warm bottle stat or you just don't feel like standing over the sink in a middle of the night stupor, a bottle warmer can make life a heck of a lot easier. We tested top warmers side-by-side in The Best Bottle Warmer Review. The results? The Kiinde Kozii scored above the competition for ease of use and health and safety and we like the Tommee Tippee Pump and Go Bottle and Pouch Warmer as well.
- Dish Liquid — Having a trusted dish liquid is essential to hand-clean baby bottles and pump parts of milk residue and odor without leaving behind a chemical-laden, perfumery odor. Dapple Bottles & Dishes Dish Liquid does a good job on both counts and is available in lavender and unscented.
- Bottle Brush — You won't get very far in the cleaning process without a good bottle brush. While it isn't an exciting gift to get or give, it is a nice addition to a theme basket of feeding or cleaning items. The Munchkin Bottle and Nipple Brush is our favorite. We recommend replacing bottle brushes at least once a month for best hygiene practices.
- Straw Brush — While a bottle brush can usually get the body of a bottle clean, some bottles have venting straws or nooks and crannies in nipples or other extra parts that need a thin cleaning tool to get them clean. Dr. Brown's Natural Flow Cleaning Brush works well for this. However, as with all bottle brushes, you'll want to replace it at least once a month to keep things sanitary.
- Drying Rack — Both the Munchkin Sprout Drying Rack and the Boon Grass Countertop Drying Rack (9.5" x 9.5" x 2.5") used separately or in tandem are great drying options to keep bottles in place and dry.
- Burp Cloths — For babies, it isn't a question of "if" they will spit up, but "when." Having an absorbent burp cloth like the stylish Aden + Anais Burpy Bib or the hemp workhorse BabyKicks Hemparoo Premium Duz-it-All Burp Cloths can make clean up easier and gentler on baby's sensitive skin.
- Music — Looking for the right music to soothe your savage beast? Elizabeth Mitchell's You are My Little Bird is a lovely collection of songs designed for baby, but parents and the rest of the family will love it too. It has an acoustic, bluegrass feel and you'll find yourself listening even when your baby isn't around. The music includes songs you'll recognize and soon-to-be new favorites. Some tracks include little child singers chiming in which can peek your tiny one's interest making them smile and coo.
- Bassinet — Many parents use a small bassinet in the first months so that baby can sleep next to their bed. Also, many bassinets are portable, so they can be moved around the house so baby can slumber nearby. The Quest for the Best Bassinet tests popular bassinets side-by-side to find the best for your budget and lifestyle. The babybay Bedside Sleeper earned our Editors' Choice Award for a quality bassinet made with eco-friendly materials. The BabyBjorn Cradle received Top Pick for free standing bassinet. We also liked the HALO Bassinest Essentia and the Arm's Reach Clear-Vue Co-Sleeper for cesarean recovery because it excels as a bedside sleeper while avoiding the risks associated with traditional co-sleeping (which is not recommended due to an increased risk of SIDS). On a budget, the Best Value Graco Pack 'n Play On the Go fits the bill with multiple functions including bassinet and small crib/playard.
- Crib — Looking for a chic yet compact crib that excels in simplistic beauty? The Oeuf Elephant Crib $718 has this in spades. It is eco-MDF that is sustainably produced in Europe with a nontoxic, water-based finish that is VOC-free. Easy to assemble with a small footprint (57 7/8"L x 33 7/8" W x 34 5/8" H), it has three adjustable mattress positions and is situated low to the ground for easy baby access. We also like its user-friendly rounded edges.
- Crib Mattress — In the world of crib mattresses, you absolutely get what you pay for. As this is the one place your baby will be spending most of their time in the first few years of life, we highly recommend choosing a crib mattress that is free of polyurethane foam which usually contains flame retardants and vinyl chloride, potential sources of noxious off-gassing. Unfortunately, this is not easy on a budget. We recommend taking a look at the Naturepedic Organic Cotton Classic 150 Seamless 2-stage a well-regarded product that is free of flame retardant chemicals and is hypoallergenic. This 2-stage mattress offers a firmer side for infants and a softer stage-2 side for toddlers. One caution, the Naturepedic mattress uses square corners for a tighter fit in the crib. This design reduces the risk of a baby getting stuck in the corner, but the unintended result is this mattress doesn't work with every crib (in particular cribs with hardware in the corners).
- Mattress Pad — A quality mattress pad protects baby's mattress from bodily fluids. Our favorite is the Naturepedic Organic Waterproof Fitted Crib Pad which is devoid of vinyl chloride and phthalates often found in lower quality waterproofing materials. It combines 2-layers of certified organic cotton on the top and bottom with a thin waterproof layer in between. Naturepedic's DrySleep prevents liquids from getting through while retaining breathability. It also helps block dust mites and other allergens from the crib mattress while being machine washable and dryer ready.
- Crib Sheets — A fitted crib sheet is the only thing that should be dressing up your baby's crib other than your baby! With lots of styles and patterns to choose from, the Aden + Anais Classic Crib Sheet is a winner with designs that fit into any nursery decor.
While some of the items below are arguably optional, some parents prefer to have them for either peace-of-mind, comfort, or to complete the nursery of their dreams. One of the essentials we recommend is getting a baby monitor, and there are several flavors to consider. Our review of the 10 Best Baby Monitors is a good place to start, and provides an overview of all three types of monitors, and our favorite picks.
- Video Monitor — Video monitors have come a long way in the past few years both in technology and lower prices. Read our The Best Video Baby Monitor Review to get all the details on how to monitor baby via Wi-Fi with our Editors' Choice iBaby Care M7 Wi-Fi the Top Pick Nest Cam or a more basic video device, the Best Value Levana Jena.
- Sound Monitor — The Best Sound Monitor Review can give you all the skinny on sound monitors and help you pick the right one for you. The Philips AVENT DECT SCD570/10 and Vtech DM221 won our top awards and are both worth a look see.
- Movement Monitor — Movement monitors differ from traditional baby monitors. They follow baby's breathing movements and general movement during sleep and alarm when they are outside the "normal" range. While they can help soothe parents' nerves, they can also interrupt needed sleep for baby and parents with false alarms which create unnecessary worry. Nonetheless, they are popular products that parents buy, so we tested them. The Best Movement Monitor Review can give you insight into movement products and how they work. We picked the Babysense 7 for Editors' Choice but if you want a wearable option, the Snuza Hero SE is also deserving of an Editors' Choice award. None of these monitors are considered medical devices and manufacturers have sidestepped FDA testing and regulation by not promoting these as SIDS prevention devices, which they are not.
- Glider — Whether nursing a little one to sleep or soothing a fitful baby, a glider can quickly become one of the most used items in the home. This product is another personal choice where it just so happens price and quality will vary drastically. Finding a well-made glider for a reasonable price is similar to discovering the holy grail. Nonetheless, one where price and quality seem to be in balance is in the Nursery Works Sleepytime Rocker.
- Changing Table — We feel that a stand-alone changing table is not a necessity and typically takes up a bunch of room. If you feel you'd like something more formal that your changing pad fits inside without the whole table per se, consider the Oeuf XL Changing Station which will fit on top of a bureau for proper changing ergonomics but can also be multi-purposed into a wall-mounted shelf once diapering days are over. However, if you want a dedicated changing table on a limited budget, take a look at the Delta Children Eclipse Changing Table that comes in five colors.
Bathing & Skin Care
- Baby Bathtub — You can bathe your baby in the sink, but it isn't safe or sanitary. Bathing baby is one of the most stressful activities for new parents. A wet, slippery baby and a giant hard bathtub feels risky. The Primo EuroBath makes bath time easier and safer. This baby bath is good for ages 0 to 24 months with two bathing positions. Small infants are supported semi-reclined by contouring underneath the shoulders and at the groin which holds the upper body in place. Babies around six months+, that sit upright unassisted, still have adequate play space and support. It is easy to drain, clean, and has storage areas for soap and washcloths. Made in the USA, the EuroBath is BPA, lead, and phthalate-free.
- Shampoo & Body Wash — California Baby Calendula Shampoo & Body Wash is a gentle, natural, vegetable glucoside-based cleanser for babies and kids. Allergy-tested, non-drying and non-stripping, this sulfate-free wash is biodegradable and made without synthetic fragrances. Tear-free with a lovely smell via essential oils, it helps make tubby time a happy time.
- Baby Kit — Want to get a little of everything superfly for baby bath time? Try the Earth Mama Angel Baby: A Little Something for Baby, a neat assortment of baby shampoo, body wash, bottom balm, lotion, and oil. It is organic, natural, and has toxin-free ingredients. Along with one of the towel items below, it is a perfect baby shower gift.
- Baby Bath Towel — Nothing is cuter than a baby wrapped in a hooded towel after tub time. Aden + Anais Hooded Towel Set offers a large terry hooded towel (32" x 32") with a washcloth (12" x 12") made of soft, cotton muslin for which Aden + Anais is so well-known. If you are looking for a cute, gift-wrapped package with a definite "wow factor," then the Little Giraffe Splash and Dry Towel and Washcloth is a clear winner. It blends soft cotton with plush chenille lining for a towel you will be grabbing for your baby over and over.
- Baby Lotion — For a thick, moisturizing cream for baby without an oily residue, we recommend California Baby Calendula Cream. It soothes with organic calendula and smells heavenly with a light french lavender scent. For those babies with ultra-sensitive skin, steering clear of scented products is a good rule of thumb. Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Non-Scents Baby Lotion is a nice, natural choice. Certified organic by Oregon Tilth, this unscented moisturizer has a base of olive oil and shea butter and also includes aloe, calendula, and rooibos extracts for soothing of delicate or irritated skin suffering from rashes, allergies, and eczema.
- Non-Petroleum Ointment — We recommend substituting petroleum-based healing ointments such as Vaseline and Aquaphor with non-petroleum ones. We like Honest Organic Healing Balm; intensely moisturizing, this balm works wonders on chapped or irritated skin without the potential for absorption of petroleum products. With a base of organic sunflower, olive, coconut, tamanu, and chamomile oils, it combines beeswax, shea butter, calendula extract and non-GMO vitamin E for effective healing.
A layette is a fancy way of saying all of the clothing that baby will need during early infancy. While less is more when it comes to clothing, baby certainly can't go naked. So we suggest you keep it simple and gauge numbers depending upon your laundering schedule. Suffice it to say, because newborns spit up and have blow-outs or leaks more often than not, you may need to factor in anywhere from 1 to 4 outfit changes a day.
- Footed Pajamas — Footed sleeping pajamas help newborns feel cozy with fewer exposed body parts. They are also an excellent option for on-the-go car seat harness strapping. Our favorites include Babysoy O Soy Footies (below left) and Kissy Kissy Footed Pajamas.
- Cap and Gown with Attached Mittens — KicKee Pants Print Gown & Knot Hat Set (below right) is a cute little number with a gown that allows for easy diaper changes with an elastic bottom design and prevents inadvertent face scratching with built-in flip mittens. The matching hat is available in either a single or a double knot. Made of 95% bamboo viscose and 5% spandex, this is a comfy outfit perfect for lounging around the house. Pair it with some leg warmers (below) for complete coverage at night.
- BabyLegs Newborn Lil' Leg Warmers. They've made a comeback, and are a hit with the cloth diapering crowd. Made of 87% organic cotton, 7% nylon, and 6% poly, they are designed to stay on even the most active babies and are a great addition to any legless onesie or gown. Machine washable and lay flat to dry.
- Carter's Long-Sleeved Side Snap Tees are a classic item for the newborn period. The t-shirt prevents rubbing of the umbilical cord like a onesie would and they have built-in, fold over mittens to keep baby's nails from scratching their face.
- Babysoy Kimono Tee, long-sleeved onesies like Babysoy O Soy Kimono Bodysuit, and Babysoy O Soy Footie Pants are favorites. Made from a soy-based fabric called Azlon, Babysoy clothing has natural moisture transmission qualities that keep babies warm and dry.
- Short Sleeve Onesies — Gerber Organic Short-Sleeved Onesies make a classic base layer for baby. Made of organic cotton, these onesies wash and wear well, and are a staple of any baby closet.
- Mittens — No matter how diligently you trim baby's nails, they will still find a way to scratch their beautiful little faces. Guomi Kids Guomi Mitts are knit fleece mittens made from 70% bamboo, 30% organic cotton with a soft velcro strap for baby proof attachment.
- Socks — Babysoy O Soy Socks are soft and designed to stay on baby's feet. Soft cuffs keep socks on and never leave marks on baby's skin. If prints and patterns are more your thing, take a look at the Trumpette 6-Pair Dots and Stripes Socks.
- Bib — Aden + Anais Burpy Bib are soft 100% cotton muslin and serve a dual purpose as a bib with a snap and burp cloth in one. Kidney-shaped for maximum coverage, they are both absorbent and easy to wash.
- Booties — Robeez Classic Soft Soles Boots (below left) are a great warm shoe for baby from infancy to early toddlerhood exploration. With a leather exterior and faux fur lining, they have soft suede soles perfect for developing little feet. These are indeed classics and for a good reason.
- Sweater — Consider having at least one cozy baby sweater for chilly outings. The Zutano Cozie Fleece Contrast Hoodie (below right) is a casual, zippered sweater worn alone or as a nice layering piece in colder months. The cuffs, waistband and hood lining are made of 100% interlock cotton while the body is 80/20 cotton/poly. With snaps up the front, this is a fresh, layering piece you'll use daily.
Strolling with Infant
A lightweight car seat frame stroller is useful for clicking the car seat onto for strolling on smooth, hard surfaces. They typically have adequate storage, so a quick trip to the grocery store is simple to achieve. More importantly, the frames are easy to fold/unfold and load/unload into and out of the car for multi-stop trips with a baby.
- Outerwear Bunting — Consider registering for a cold weather bunting to keep baby cozy while strolling in the great outdoors. The Angel Dear Baby Fuzzy Footie is soft and warm. For a more substantial piece for colder weather, the Columbia Infant Frosty Freeze Bunting comes with an ample hoody, water-resistant shell fabric, plush fleece lining in the body, and has high-loft faux down insulation which makes it easy to wash. You will definitely want some warm socks and mittens with this number, however, as the fold-over hands and feet are not insulated.
- Bassinet Strolling — If you love the idea of strolling with your baby in a bassinet, we highly recommend the UPPAbaby Vista. While we don't recommend using the bassinet for overnight sleeping, the stroller took home our Top Pick Award for Versatility in our The Best Full-size Strollers review and comes standard with the bassinet.
NEXT: Baby Essentials: Out of the Bubble (2 to 6 months)