As I mentioned in the first installment of this series, when I found out I was pregnant, a fastidious friend passed along a spreadsheet to me of all the baby essentials I’d need for the first six or so months. My secret skill is that I am a powerhouse Googler, so I ended up using my friend’s list as a jumping-off point to satisfy my need to obsessively research every possible thing on planet Earth. Now, two kids later, and as founder of a maternity company, I am waist-deep in mama/baby/parent stuff all day, every day. I’ll admit that I’ve probably gone deeper than most (sane) people are willing to go, and have since created my own Google doc that I email around to any friend of mine who I find out is pregnant. I’ve easily passed this on to 40 friends who have in turn passed it on to their friends in the sisterhood of the traveling spreadsheet fashion. I edited it once after the babe arrived, once more after babe No. 2, and then one more time after hearing from some of my best friends who had kids. The first post featured products for sleeping, changing, feeding and pumping, and transporting. This one includes clothing, bathing and grooming, playing, first aid, and gadgets (plus some things that other parents swear by but that I didn’t find particularly useful.)
This one is neutral and has little built-in hand covers if you need them for a scratchy baby. It’s also easy to get on and off, and snaps in the crotch for nighttime diaper changes.
The crossover onesie is your friend. I’d say a two-pack is good to start. Petit Bateau and Gerber make good everyday options. If you want something a little fancier (that’s great for putting on a registry), head to Makié.
There are a lot (a lot) of options out there, but I was on the lookout for something simple, soft, and neutral, since we didn’t know the gender with either kid.
These are good for when baby’s feet are exposed in the carrier or stroller on chilly days. It’s the kind of thing where necessity really depends on where you live and what time of year it is. Not everyone needs wool booties, or any booties really. (Here are some other Strategist-approved baby booties that famously don’t fall off.)
I have to admit that I picked this solely because it was a neutral color and sans ears, but now I love how soft it is. Since people seem to like gifting baby towels, you may as well have an opinion on which ones you like. The hood becomes much more useful as your kids get older and start walking away from you after bath time. (You can certainly use a regular towel, so I’d say feel free to pass on this one.)
Not all babies need lotion, and many skin issues resolve themselves anyway. But if your little one has sensitive skin or tends to get dried out, this lotion is not too heavy or greasy. It also has no weird baby scent and a low EWG rating.
Babies come straight out of the womb with stabby little finger nails. Sometimes you can get away with biting or peeling them at first, but eventually you do need to figure out some method. These are not revolutionary, but they’re small and they work.
We didn’t have a bouncer seat with our first and we survived. That said, if you have the room, we got this one from Craigslist for No. 2, and it was nice to have something to put him in and know that he was safe and contained and happy. One possibly obvious note here is that you must do the bouncing, it is not electric. (Here’s another Strategist-approved baby lounger.)
I already had one of these that I sat on at work while I was pregnant. I just brought it home and bounced the babe on there when he was sad. Not exactly essential, and looks a little insane in your living room or nursery, but my knees needed a break and it was there for me.
We waited six weeks to give kid No. 1 a pacifier, and she only got it when she was totally inconsolable or when we were out and about and she was wailing. As she got older, we just let her have it for naps or nighttime. With kid No. 2, I gave him the pacifier right away. I also tied a bandanna to his paci, which has the same effect as a WubbaNub, so it’s easy for you to locate and for them to grab onto.
My first kid got a mobile and my second didn’t. It definitely won’t make or break their childhood, but it does serve as a solid diversion for short stretches of time. I’ve had some really lovely cups of tea while she lay staring at the mobile.
Your newborn will not even know this thing exists at first, so you can wait until three months or so to get on the play-gym train. This one is easy, affordable, and folds up. You can choose whatever toys you want to put on. I bought hanging Montessori toys from Etsy and little veggies to swap out for variety.
You’ll get lots of Goodnight Moon and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, but board books are the way to go with small babes. Mostly because they are much harder for tiny destructive hands to rip apart. Choose books that you are actually charmed by because you will read them every day for what feels like eternity. This one has been a fave of both kids and I still dig it.
We started out with a dedicated baby monitor, but eventually repurposed a Nest cam. My kids are never that far away, so I found motion more important than sound. With the Nest, I’m proactive and set alerts as needed. For example, I set a motion alert to know when my toddler was climbing into the baby’s crib in the middle of the night or turning her drawers into stairs to climb.
The Wonder Weeks tells you when your baby is about to acquire new skills and gives you a framework for expectations around developmental milestones (true story, blowing spit bubbles is an exciting development). It also gives you a heads-up when your sweet baby angel is about to become a super grump.
Baby Tracking App
Good for tracking feeding and pooping in the early days when the doctor freaks you out about how many diapers you’re supposed to be changing. You don’t have to track this by any means, but I liked having an easy way of knowing which boob they fed from last while I was getting the hang of it.
Stuff I Ended Up Not Needing (But Others Swear By)
I obsessed over the glider and then ended up buying a vintage rocking chair and ottoman set on eBay. It was delayed and arrived after the baby, and I was actually perfectly happy nursing in bed or on the couch. Made me feel that it’s nice to have and comfy, but not the absolute necessity I thought it was.
Tried to like and use this, but it just wasn’t my thing, so I ended up returning it. It felt awkward and unnecessary, and I found that a regular pillow or two worked just as well. Other friends of mine love theirs and have it down as must-have. To each her own I say!
Didn’t use these at all.
These are sweet-looking and provide easy access for diaper changes, but getting them on and off a newborn is torture.
We used these in the beginning with kid one when we were more timid about bath time, but then just used a regular washcloth when necessary.
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