Once you are home from the hospital with your baby, you will need a decent amount of "stuff" to keep the ship sailing. If possible, purchase and organize the essentials before baby's birth so that you can focus on taking care of business upon discharge which is mainly broken down into a continuous cycle of feeding and changing baby, sleeping, and mom getting enough fluids and calories for breastmilk production. We have 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 are going to need some well-deserved pampering after bringing your little miracle into this world. Be it swelling, bruising, an episiotomy, or an abdominal wound, tender loving care is necessary. Here are some helpful hints and products that can help soothe mom back to recovery.
- Disposable Panties — You may be able to take a small supply of these home with you from the hospital. However, as lochia occurs for some time, it is nice to have on hand this 5-pack of Althea & Anesi Brief Transitions. These are comfortable seamless, disposable yet washable panties for postpartum use so you don't have to roll the dice with your nice knickers.
- Extra Absorbent, Thick Pads — After your baby is born, you will need to wear absorbent pads for several weeks following. As such, we suggest having a pack of Natracare Maternity Pads waiting for you at home.
- Herbal Relief — Earth Mama Angel Baby Postpartum Bath Herbs might be just what the doctor ordered to soothe both pregnancy and postpartum hemorrhoids or your sensitive girl bits when recuperating at home after birth. It comes in the form of toxin-free, organic, herbal postpartum healing pads 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 you would 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. As such, we do not recommend it for use on a fresh incision. However, we think its unique blend of oils including olive, tamanu, sea buckthorn, and rosehip hits the spot for giving both new and old scars, stretch marks, rashes, and burns some extra tender loving care 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: original, chamomile, chocolate, and peppermint, so there is no excuse for prevention or relief as the less you strain, the better.
- Hemorrhoid Care — If your best efforts at hemorrhoid avoidance have failed, good old-fashioned topicals will still work their soothing magic well. Check out Preparation H Cream and Tucks Medicated Cooling Pads for soothing relief.
0 to 8 Week Must-haves for Baby
- Naturepedic No Compromise Organic Cotton Changing Pad (left) is a comfortable 4-sided pad with a safety buckle for baby and snap screws to secure to a dresser. With organic fabric and filling and waterproof 100% food-grade polyethylene coating, it is both comfortable for baby and easy to clean. No polyurethane foam, flame retardants, vinyl, or phthalates here.
- Aden + Anais Classic Changing Pad Cover (below right) are two layers of 100% soft cotton muslin that are tailored to fit most changing pads, and durable enough for constant washing and changing. If that isn't sufficient to sway you, the cute and stylish patterns will do the trick.
- Disposable Wipes — Most mamas use disposable wipes (though the trend for reusable is rising), and WaterWipes are a great choice made with just water and a touch of grapefruit seed extract for the convenience of a quick, disposable wipe with zero chemicals that really works.
- 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 is both composed of natural ingredients and incredibly effective with nice smell and consistency.
- Diaper Pail — Not all diaper pails are created equally. So if you decide that you will need one, it might be difficult to decide upon exactly which. Our article, The Best Diaper Pail Review, gives the skinny on everything that stinks, or rather, shouldn't stink. And, in our throwdown of 6 leading diaper pails, the Diaper Genie Essentials won our Editors' Choice award.
Cloth Diapering at Home
The world of cloth diapering may seem intimidating at first, but it can be just as easy as responsible disposable diapering. For detailed information on cloth diaper basics, please see our articles:Cloth Diapers vs. Disposables: How and What to Choose? and Cloth Diaper Laundry Basics & Helpful Hints. We also highly recommend the book by Kelly Wells titled Changing Diapers: The Hip Mom's Guide to Modern Cloth Diapering.
As stated earlier, our recommendation is to use a green disposable until baby fully transitions to breast milk or formula stools. This way, you will not need to deal with meconium staining your cloth diapers right out of the gate. As most newborns will not fill out one-size cloth diapers right away, this is then a good time to invest in either some newborn covers with pre-folds or green disposables until baby is ready for one-size systems. We discussed our top choices for newborn cloth diapering with newborn pre-folds, covers, and liners above in the Baby Essentials: In Hospital with Baby article.
Now, let's get into some cloth diaper accessories that you will want to have on hand at home to make this process a whole heck of a lot easier and successful!
- Cloth-Safe Diaper Ointment — As discussed above, not all diaper ointments and creams are safe to use with cloth diapers. Traditional ones containing zinc oxide and/or petroleum will leave a messy residue or decrease the absorbency of the cloth even after laundering. Great cloth-safe diaper creams that both diapers and baby will thank you for using include the previously mentioned Thirsties Booty Love and also CJ's BUTTer Plus. The later contains shea and cocoa butters, coconut, olive, neem, and sesame oils, beeswax, and vitamin E derived from soy.
- Rockin' Green Laundry Detergent is a great earth and baby-friendly, cloth diaper detergent available in both Hard Core and Classic Concentrate versions to use depending upon 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 which use essential oil distillations created for sensitive skin.
- Flushable Diaper Liners — Eco Sprout Bamboo Biodegradable Diaper Liners 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 certainly make dealing with poop much easier; lift out poop-filled liner and and flush it all down the toilet (though they are not compatible with septic systems). These chlorine, dye, and fragrance-free inserts simplify life by reducing both staining and the need to spray, swish, or soak off solids before putting into the laundry. Best yet, bamboo has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties so having these luxuriously soft liners next to baby's skin help prevent diaper rash.
- Cloth Wipes — After testing many, many cloth wipe brands including bumGenius, BabyKicks, Blueberry, Bumkins, Charlie Banana, FuzziBunz, Osocozy, Satsuma, Thirsties, and Prince Lionheart, our favorites are GroVia Reusable Cloth Wipes ($11 for a 12-pack). Super absorbent, soft, and durable, they excelled at cleaning up stinky messes and held up in the wash time and time again all the while keeping our earth green without clogging the landfill up with human waste.
- Diaper Pail — Cloth diapers necessitate a different kind of diaper pail than disposables; they function to hold dirty diapers until laundering. The Ubbi and Dekor Kolor systems are far from perfect. Reason? Even if laundering cloth diapers every other day, cloth is just bulkier than disposables and traditional diaper pails tend fill up too darn fast. We've found that using a high-quality regular trash can like the simplehuman 38 Liter Rectangular Step Can works just as well at keeping smells down, but has the advantage of being much larger and holding significantly more soiled diapers. If using a hanging bag appeals more to you, our favorite so far has been the Planet Wise Hanging Wet-Dry Bag.
- Pail Liner — We also tested many machine-washable pail liners including FuzziBunz, Thirsties, Planet Wise, Kissaluvs, GroVia, Ubbi, and Dekor and found the Kanga Care Cloth Diaper Pail Liner to excel. It is cylindrical in shape with a narrower base and fabricated of soft, stretchy fabric with an elastic drawstring and toggle. Manufacturer care and attention to detail is evident in durable TPU waterproofing and special seams that help keep wetness and smells inside the bag instead of seeping onto the pail's interior. Just throw it right 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 just right so that the lid will close properly. If you are looking for a more simplistic liner install, then we recommend the Planet Wise Diaper Pail Liner. P.S. You will want two pail liners.
- Kanga Care Cloth Diaper Wet Bag though "standard" in size holds some serious volume when necessary, about 12-15 cloth diapers and inserts. This makes them 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 heavy duty zipper for hanging the bag when needed. P.P.S. You will also want several wet bags on hand.
Whether exclusively breast or formula fed or somewhere in between, babies tend to have loose esophageal sphincters which directly equates to spitting up at varying frequency and intensity. Thus, an important rite of passage for parents is to have lots of soft, absorbent burp cloths at the ready in addition to an extra change of clothes for both of you.
- Burp Cloth — Aden + Anais Classic Burpy Bib (below left) and BabyKicks Premium Burp Cloth/Duz-it-All (below right) are the Cadillacs for 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 indeed an incredible life shift and one you will always remember. Being prepared both internally in mind set and externally in supplies can create a bit of calm amid the storm. We recommend considering putting together the following for an essential first-aid kit for baby. You will find it come in handy right when you need it most.
- Hand Sanitizer — For yourself and any visitors that may arrive have some EO Natural Hand Sanitizer Gel easily accessible and on hands the moment they walk through that door to prevent fomites from surfaces. Then, BEFORE holding baby, ask them to wash their hands with soap and warm water. Seem like overkill? All we can say is that baby will be glad you did.
- American Red Cross Digital Rectal Thermometer make it straightforward with a reading within 60 seconds. It is appropriately shaped with a flex-tip for comfort as well as 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 new, quick, and also accurate method of taking temperature, even in a newborn. It is more expensive, however. So, consider it more of a long term investment to your kit. We are big fans of the Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer. This entails a well-performed swipe across the forehead and a tap below the earlobe, which can be done even while babe is sleeping.
- Nasal Saline — Saline combined with a good nasal aspirator is essential for keeping baby's nasal passages open when congestion occurs. Having these two items on hand can really mean the difference between a happy baby who is able to feed and a miserable one. Simply Saline Baby Nasal Relief is a fine mist spray that clears congestion improving the ability for baby to breathe. Made without preservatives or CFCs, there is no burning or stinging with Simply Saline.
- Nasal Aspirator — Because babies don't know how to blow their nose, they depend upon an effective means of clearing out congestion in order to breathe, eat, and sleep properly. But, do your little one a favor replace that 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 up to parent. BPA and phthalate free, this gem can either be washed by hand in soapy water but is also top-rack safe for easy cleaning in the dishwasher.
- Humidifier — When baby gets a cold, a humidifier can be very helpful to keep mucous membranes moist and secretions loose for better sleep. We tested 9 popular humidifiers side-by-side in our review The Hunt for the Best Humidifier Review to help you find the best for your budget and home. In addition, we encourage you to read our article titled How to Choose the Best Humidifier for Your Baby for essential information on proper use and preventive care of humidifiers. Editors' Choice is the Sunpentown SU-4010 which is efficient, quiet and easy to use and fill with nice features and a large tank. We also like Best Value Safety 1st 360 for its quietness, compact size, and filterless simplicity although it is a good idea to use either filtered tap or distilled water with it.
- Nail Care — As much as you may be agonizing over clipping baby's nails, it needs to be done as baby can scratch their face something fierce initially. 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 which suits both right and left-handed people.
- Vitamin D Supplementation — For proper bone growth, it is important that infants, children, and adolescents receive an adequate amount of Vitamin D daily. The AAP recommends 400 IU/day from birth onward 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 an easy to use liquid dropper. 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 to administer to baby.
- Happiest Baby on the Block DVD is one life changing video that advice that every parent needs in their baby's first 4 months of life. This so-called "fourth trimester" is a definite transition period when all babies are learning how to adapt to life outside of the womb. This phase is characteristically marked by lots of crying due to difficulty with self-soothing. Dr. Harvey Karp's 5 S's are literally just what the doctor ordered 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 to a calm zen-like state. Another tip to keeping your cool and getting some shut-eye? Check out 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 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 to one parent may not feel so to another. Thus, 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 are great to have on-hand 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, however, and can be used for more than just swaddling. For best practice, 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 newer Aden + Anais Classic Easy Swaddle.
- Jollypop Pacifier is soft, light, and appropriately curved to shape baby's face. With a loop-shaped handle, it is also easy to hold. It is an improvement upon 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 to offer a pacifier until nursing is well-established, usually by 3-4 weeks.
- White Noise — Cloud B makes some really fun 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 My Little Snugabunny; 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 set 15 of the top baby carriers head-to-head. Our favorites? The Tula Ergonomic Baby (below left) and Onya Baby Outback (below right).
0 to 8 Week Nice-to-haves for Mom
More Nursing Supplies
- Book — While help from a certified lactation consultant often is the answer, sometimes having a quality text resource at your fingertips can provide you the advice, tips, and answers to basic breastfeeding questions that makes life nursing a baby easier. The Nursing Mother's Companion and The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk are two such books that can give you the boost you might need when feeling drained.
- Best Breast Pump Review tests 10 top breast pumps side-by-side to find the best. Editors' Choice goes to the double electric Spectra S1 for its strength and hygienic closed system. On a budget, however, the Medela Pump in Style Advanced is a great value for another double electric pump, though an open system. If you won't be pumping much and/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 to go with it can make carrying a breast pump a little less conspicuous and pumping a bit less of a chore. They are designed with separate storage compartments for pumps and cool areas for pumped milk with some room to spare for personal items.This is an "up and coming" category with tons of room for improvement, so we hope to see better product coming out of the gate (particularly for working moms) in the near future. Our Best Breast Pump Bag Review pits 5 Breast Pump Bags and 2 Diaper Bags against each other in the challenge to carry it all. Editors' Choice award is the sophisticated Juno Blu Esalen for it's elegant styling, quality materials, and great features.
- Pumping Bra — While a pumping bra may sound like an extravagance, it certainly comes in handy as pumping without one entails two hands if you are double pumping. If you want to do anything else while pumping like eat, drink, or work, 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 expressed breast milk, there is a need for storing it. We encourage you to read our article titled 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 is a great way to go as glass is inert and there is no potential for plastics to leach into breastmilk. However, for many reasons, this will be neither possible nor convenient due to limited freezer storage capacity and potential issues with breakage in addition to the extra expense. The alternative is to use storage specific bags such as Lansinoh Breastmilk Storage Bags. Budget-friendly, these bags are easy to use with nice volume markings and a place to write date, time, and quantity. The video below illustrates nicely best use practices with these breastmilk storage bags.
- Freezer Organizer — Once expressing breast milk, a mother quickly learns that losing it whether by spillage, a bag puncture, or dare we say a thawed freezer (gasp!) is downright heartbreaking. Thus, methodical storage care can pay dividends down the road. The Kiinde Keeper helps keep milk storage bags flat to increase surface area for quicker thaw times as well as organized separately from other items to prevent puncturing. Stay tuned for a review of the Kiinde Squeeze baby bottle in a refresh of our Best Baby Bottle Review which will cover performance of the Kiinde Twist Pouch into which milk can be expressed, stored and later warmed then clicked into the Squeeze bottle for feeding. The entire system is available as a Kiinde Starter Kit which includes Twist Direct Pump Adapters, Twist Pouches, Keeper, Squeeze Bottles, Active Latch Nipples in all flows, and Nipple Cleaning Brushes.
- Breast Care — Earth Mama Angel Baby Booby Tubes can be used either warm or cold as a method 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 on lowest setting for great, gel-free, topical relief.
- Nursing Tank — The nursing tank can be a lifesaver and offer mom the privacy she needs while feeding in public or 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 — In the event you struggle with making enough milk, you might consider finding natural galactagogues that can potentially increase the amount of milk 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 at once!
0 to 8 Week Nice-to-haves for Baby
We've already covered Diapering Must Haves for a 0-8 Week Baby above which include items for either/both disposable or cloth diapering. However, we'd like to skim over other styles of cloth diapers here as well as helpful accessories that you might want to consider if you intend to fully embrace cloth.
- Newborn All-in-One — All-in-One (AIO) cloth diapers eliminate complexity as they are very similar to putting on a disposable except that dirties are placed into a dry diaper pail for laundering instead of the trash. Newborn AIOS are 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 a much more expensive option 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 not ready to take the plunge into more involved systems. Although more expensive, the are dang cute and easy with a snap down feature that helps prevent diaper contact with the umbilical cord stump. To diaper a newborn with these, you will need to purchase about 30 of them, so make sure there is room in your budget for a $450 purchase that will last you until baby is about 12 pounds. Good news? If in good condition, you can recoup some of the investment by selling them second hand. Alternatively, they can be re-used for the next baby that comes along.
- The Search for the Best Cloth Diapers which provides a great 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 the correct position underneath the waterproof cover. A 5-pack of Snappi Diaper Fasteners is about $15.75.
- Cloth Diaper Sprayer — Properly pre-rinsing cloth diapers is important to reduce stains and odor. The Bumworks Cloth Diaper Toilet Sprayer Kit easily sprays gunk off with its high pressure nozzle. Its chrome finish is a bonus which helps it not appear completely unsightly while it is sitting there attached to your toilet.
- Sprayer Shield — Because higher pressures promote better rinsing, the Spray Pal Splatter Shield is pretty nice as it helps contain mess within its plastic "sleeve" during spraying. It is easy to clean and folds flat for storage right next to the toilet tank.
If nursing, it is a good idea to refrain from bottle-feeding baby until breastfeeding is well-established, if possible. Every mother-baby duo has a different experience here, but this time frame typically lands between 3-6 weeks. If you have questions about this, we recommend speaking with either baby's doctor or a certified lactation consultant.
- The Best Baby Bottle Review. Our favorite options based on materials are the following — For Glass: Lifefactory Glass, For Silicone: Comotomo, For Stainless Steel: Pura Kiki Infant, and For Plastic: Tommee Tippee Feeding.
- Bottle Warmer — Thawing breast milk in warm water or warming a bottle of formula can take awhile. And, using a microwave or stovetop is simply out of the question as overheating and hot spots create too much burn risk as well as quality degradation. And, 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 your middle of the night stupor, a bottle warmer sure can make life a heck of a lot easier. We tested 7 of the top warmers on the market side-by-side in The Best Bottle Warmer Review. The results? The Kiinde Kozii scored far above the competition for ease of use and health and safety.
- Dish Liquid — Having a trusted dish liquid to really hand clean those baby bottles and pump parts of milk residue and odor well without leaving behind a chemical-laden, perfumery for your baby is important. Dapple Bottles & Dishes Dish Liquid does the job excellently 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 at the ready. While it isn't an exciting gift to get or give, it might be 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 as clean as possible. Dr. Brown's Natural Flow Cleaning Brush works well for this purpose and are durable. However, as with bottle brushes, you'll want to replace these at least once a month if you are washing a lot 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") either separately or in tandem are great drying options that help keep bottles in their place and dry. For available Boon countertop racks that are either larger or smaller than the Grass, go for the Boon Lawn (13.5" x 11" x 2.5") and Boon Patch (3.5" x 17.25" x 3"), respectively.
- Burp Cloths — For babies it isn't a question of "if" they will spit up, it is rather a question of "when." Having an absorbent burp cloth on hand 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 just for baby, but one which parents and the rest of the family will end up loving too. It has an acoustic, blue grass kind of feel and you'll find yourself listening even when baby is not around. The music includes songs you'll recognize and soon-to-be new favorites. Some tracks even have little child singers chiming in on the fun which will certainly peek your tiny one's interest and make them smile and coo.
- Bassinet — Many parents prefer using a small bassinet to a large crib in the first months so that baby can easily sleep next to their bed. In addition, many bassinets are fairly portable, so they can be moved within the house so that baby can slumber close by during the daytime. Our review The Quest for the Best Bassinet tests 8 popular bassinets side-by-side to help you find the best for your budget and lifestyle. The BabyBjörn Cradle earned our Editors' Choice Award for a quality bassinet made with top notch, eco-friendly materials. The HALO Bassinest Swivel Sleeper received Top Pick 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 increased risk of SIDS). On a budget, Best Value Arm's Reach Mini Arc Co-Sleeper also fits the bill nicely because it has 3 functionalities: bassinet, bedside sleeper, and non full-size crib/playard.
- Oeuf Elephant Crib $718 has this in spades. Made of eco-MDF, it is a sustainably produced in Europe with 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 3 adjustable mattress positions and is situated low to the ground for easy accessibility to baby. We also like its friendly rounded edges.
- Crib Mattress — In the world of crib mattresses, you truly 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, both sources of potentially noxious off-gassing. Unfortunately, this is not so easy to do on a budget. We recommend taking a look at the Naturepedic Organic Cotton Classic 150 Seamless 2-stage Crib Mattress which is 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 though, the Naturepedic mattress uses square corners for a tighter fit in the crib, which is a worthy design choice in that it reduces the risk of the baby getting stuck in the corner, but it makes it so that not every crib fits the mattress (in particular cribs which have some hardware in the corners may not work with the Naturepedic's square corners).
- Mattress Pad — A quality mattress pad will protect 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 allowing for breathability. It also helps to block dust mites and other allergens from the crib mattress while being machine washable and dryer ready.
- Crib Sheets — The crib sheet is the only thing that should be dressing up your baby's crib besides your baby! With lots of styles and patterns to choose from, the Aden + Anais Classic Crib Sheet is a winner and has designs that will fit into any type of nursery decor.
- Movement Monitor — Movement monitors differ from traditional Sound Monitors and now more popular Video Monitors in that they follow baby's breathing and general movement during sleep and alarm when set parameters are outside the zone of "normal." While they can help soothe anxious parents' nerves, they can also interrupt much needed sleep of both baby and parents with false alarms which, in turn, create unnecessary worry. Nonetheless, they are popular products that parents are indeed buying and using, so we set to work on testing their performance and reliability. The Best Movement Monitor Review can give you a deeper insight into various movement products and how they work. In our testing, we picked the Angelcare AC401 for Editors' Choice. However, a newer kind of baby monitor, the Owlet Smart Sock 2, is now on the market which uses pulse oximetry to monitor baby's heart rate and blood oxygen levels from a sock worn on the foot. This information is subsequently transmitted via Bluetooth to parents either through a base station and, if too far from the base station, from a smart phone. Regardless, none of these types of monitors are considered medical devices and manufacturers have managed to side step FDA testing and regulation by not promoting these as SIDS prevention devices, which they are not.
While some of the items below are certainly optional, some parents prefer to have them for either peace-of-mind, comfort, or to complete the nursery of their dreams.
- The Best Video Baby Monitor Review to get all the details on how to monitor baby via Wi-Fi with highly performing Top Pick Nest Cam or via a more basic video device, Best Value the Levana Lila.
- Sound Monitor — The Best Baby Monitor Review can give you all the skinny on sound monitors and help you pick the right one for you if you think video isn't your cup of tea. The Philips AVENT DECT SCD570/10 and Vtech DM221 won our top two awards and are both worth a look see.
- Glider — Whether nursing a little one to sleep or soothing a fitful baby, glider can quickly become one of the most used items in the home once baby is born. This is another really personal choice where it just so happens price and quality will vary drastically. Finding a well-made glider for a reasonable price is kind of 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 — As discussed above in general diapering, we feel that a stand-alone changing table is not a necessity and typically takes up a bunch of room. Especially since the 4-sided Naturepedic No Compromise Organic Cotton Changing Pad is a quality, waterproof changing pad that can be attached directly to and sit right on top of a bureau containing baby's clothes. If you feel you'd like something more formal into which a 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 are still searching for a dedicated changing table on a budget, take a look at the Delta Children Eclipse Changing Table which is available in five colors.
Bathing & Skin Care
- Baby Bathtub — Sure you could bathe baby in the sink, but it isn't really safe or sanitary. Bathing baby can be one of the most stressful activities for new parents. A wet, slippery baby and a hard giant bath tub can be risky. The Primo EuroBath can make bath time easier and safer. This baby bath is good for ages 0 to 24 months with two bathing positions. Small infants are supported in a semi-reclined position by contouring underneath the shoulders and at the groin which holds the upper body nicely in place. Babies around 6 months+ who can sit upright unassisted still have adequate play space and support. It is easy to drain, clean, and has nice storage areas for soap and wash cloths. Made in the USA, the EuroBath is BPA, lead, and phthalate-free.
- Shampoo & Body Wash — California Baby Calendula Shampoo & Body Wash is a gentle and natural vegetable glucoside-based cleanser for babies and kids. Allergy-tested, it is non-drying and non-stripping. Sulfate-free, it is also biodegradable and made without synthetic fragrances. Tear-free with a wonderful smell via essential oils, it will help make tubby time a happy time.
- Baby Kit — Want to get a little of everything awesome for baby bath time? Try the Earth Mama Angel Baby: A Little Something for Baby, a cool assortment of baby shampoo, body wash, bottom balm, lotion and oil. It is made with organic, natural, and toxin-free ingredients. Along with one of the towel items below, it would be the perfect baby shower gift for a good friend.
- Baby Bath Towel — Nothing is cuter than a baby wrapped in their own hooded towel after tubby time. Aden + Anais Hooded Towel Set offers a large terry hooded towel (32" x 32") with 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 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 baby over and over.
- 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/or eczema.
- Non-Petroleum Ointment — We recommend that you substitute petroleum-based healing ointments such as Vaseline and Aquaphor with non-petroleum ones. We really like Honest Organic Healing Balm. Deeply moisturizing, it 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.
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 a newborn feel cozy with fewer exposed body parts. They are also a great option for on the go as baby can be strapped into the car seat much easier. 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 second to left) 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.
- Legwarmers — Flash back to the 80's and you'll fall in love with these little BabyLegs Newborn Lil' Leg Warmers (above center). They've made a comeback, however, and are a huge 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.
- Long Sleeve T-shirts with Mittens — Made of 100% cotton, Carter's Long-Sleeved Side Snap Tees (above second to right) 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.
- Easy Outfit Sets — Having easy to use and comfortable outfit sets for baby make daily dressing easy. Short-sleeved, wrap-around tees like Babysoy Kimono Tee, long sleeved onesies like Babysoy O Soy Kimono Bodysuit, and Babysoy O Soy Footie Pants (above right) 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 keeps 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 fabricated of soft 100% cotton muslin and serve dual purpose as bib with a snap and burp cloth in one. Uniquely 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 good reason.
- Sweater — Consider having at least one cozy sweater for baby for chilly outings. Zutano Cozie Fleece Contrast Hoodie (below right) is great for a casual, zippered sweater worn alone or makes for 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, staple layering piece that will be used daily.
Strolling with Infant
As stated in the section titled "In Hospital with Baby," an infant car seat frame stroller is great for clicking the car seat right into a lightweight frame for easy, smooth surface strolling. They typically have good-sized under storage, so a quick trip to the grocery store is simple to achieve. More importantly, frames are easy to fold/unfold and load/unload into and out of the car for multi-stop days in the car with baby.
- Angel Dear Baby Fuzzy Footie is soft and warm. For a more substantial piece for colder weather, the Columbia Infant Frosty Freeze Bunting complete with an ample hoody, water-resistant shell fabric, plush fleece lining in the body, and insulated with high-loft faux down 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 which took home our Top Pick Award for Versatility in our The Best Full-size Strollers of 2017 review.
NEXT: Baby Essentials: Out of the Bubble (2 to 6 months)