You may have heard experienced parents say “the smaller the baby, the bigger the stuff,” and I’ve found that to be spot on! You really do need to make room for your new baby, because your home will soon be overtaken by strollers, car seats, play gyms, bouncy seats, and so much more.
Here’s my list of baby gear essentials to help you survive the first year with your infant.
Infant Car Seat
You won’t be able to leave the hospital without an infant car seat — often referred to as “the bucket” — and your baby might be in it for up to a year. The seat usually comes with a small insert piece with a head support to keep your newborn snug, which you can remove your baby gets bigger. All brands and models of car seats must meet federal safety standards, so choose one that fits your needs and budget. The Graco Snugride (pink is cute) and Chicco Keyfit (I like this red one!) are both popular models. You have to buy the base! Another tip: before buying, make sure the seat fits in your car. You can test it out at a store and you can also call your local police or fire department to find out where you can have your seat inspected to make sure you’ve installed it properly.
- Graco SnugRide Infant Car Seat, Pasadena ($79.98) Plus you need to purchase the base: Graco SnugRide Infant Car Seat Base, Silver ($29.59)
- Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat and Base, Adventure($183.57)
Car Seat Carrier/Stroller Frame
One thing you should also get for the first few months at least is a car seat carrier. They are not very expensive and, although the handle bars are not super and the wheels are basic, they are a super way to transport your baby in the early months. It makes it much simpler if you’re getting your baby in and out of the car to just transfer the bucket from the car seat base to the stroller frame. They’re also very light and easily collapsible and have good storage underneath.
- Baby Trend Snap-N-Go Universal Infant Car Seat Carrier (Compatible with most major car seat brands) ($69.99)
- Graco SnugRider Infant Car Seat Stroller Frame (for Graco car seat) ($65.66)
- Chicco Keyfit Caddy Stroller Frame (for Chicco car seat) ($99.99)
If you’re already feeling overwhelmed with what you have to buy, I think you could forgo the stroller for a few months and rely just on the car seat and the car seat carrier for a bit. But at some point, you’ll want a stroller. There will be a lot of options. Since 2004, I’ve used the same Bugaboo Frog stroller. It was expensive (although not as much as the Cameleon costs today!), but it has great wheels and is superb for the city or rough terrains. For me, it turned out to be very good investment: I have used it for all my five children. It was perfect for the city, but if you live in the suburbs or the country this one is not the one for you.
Consider how many kids you might want when you buy your stroller. Baby Jogger and UppaBaby are popular brands these days, and there are great choices at every price point. There’s a lot to look at; take your time and carefully assess your needs.
Not sure where to start? CLICK HERE for my complete Stroller Buying Guide to see all the strollers I’ve reviewed to help you find the model that’s right for you!
Choose practicality over style when selecting a diaper bag, although there are lots of great options these days that combine the two. Look for features like waterproof compartments (both inside and outside), areas for bottles and wipes and a good, resilient changing pad. All of these fit that bill and have some style to boot! I’ve had the Skip Hop Dash Deluxe since 2005 and now use it for my older kids on the weekend. The JJ Cole is another popular bag that has tons of storage and comes in a bunch of different bold designs.
- Skip Hop Dash Deluxe ($65.00)
- Skip Hop Jonathan Adler Dash Diaper Bags ($72.67)
- JJ Cole Collections System Diaper Bag($52.79)
- Skip Hop Via Messenger Diaper Bag ($78.40) This is a great choice for mom or dad!
- Skip Hop Bento Diaper Tote Bag, Black ($98.99) The Bento Ultimate Diaper Bag is bigger than many others out there. It’s perfect for twins or a baby plus toddler.
- Petunia Pickle Bottom Boxy Backpack (Oasis Roll) ($119.99)
A Baby Bjorn or a similar baby carrier or a sling is a must. They are wonderful for walking outside when your baby is little, and some even last through the toddler years. I even used them indoors when my babies were fussy and I needed to be hands free while I bounced them up and down a bit or rocked them. I had the original Baby Bjorn and then someone gave me her old mesh Bjorn and I did find it to be lighter and more comfy. My friends RAVE about the ERGObaby and the Becco, both of which are very popular! ERGO is supposed to be especially good for your back.
- BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier Original ($63.12)
- BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier Synergy(mesh) $129.99
- ERGObaby Original Baby Carrier (black is a nice neutral!) ($93.50). The ERGObaby Heart2Heart Infant Insert is sold separately for$21.33 and is necessary for a newborn.
- Moby Wrap Original 100% Cotton Baby Carrier (in every color!) ($38.44)
- Beco Baby Carrier Gemini ($129.00) (Four carrying options: front facing out and in, back and hip)
Pack ‘N Play
The Pack ‘N Play sort of falls in between gear and play: it’s gear because if you plan to travel or visit family, this is a necessary item. Check with your doctor, but I happen to think you could use this before investing in a crib if you wanted to. At the same time, as your baby grows you can use this for play by putting in safe toys. Since I have older kids, I rely on this a lot because my baby can play here and be somewhat safe. I have had amazing luck with my Pack ‘N Play (I have two now) and they are both going strong after years and years of use.
- Graco Pack ‘N Play Playard with Reversible Napper and Changer ($89.99)
- Graco Pack ‘N Play Playard with Bassinet, Pasadena (very pretty, blue and brown) ($69.98)
Bouncy Seat and/or Swing
I think a bouncy seat is an essential item, because it allows you to put down a new baby safely in a semi-upright position. I say go for the lights, the vibration and the music! Some people are critical of bouncy seats for being over-stimulating, but in a house like mine it’s necessary and my children haven’t had any issues — at least so far — related to over-stimulation. Like anything, my suggestion would be not to overuse it. Many people also swear by a swing as a place for a newborn to rest or even nap.
Play Mat or Gym and Infant Toys
I like these a lot. I think it’s a comfortable place to put a newborn and keeps them interested; the toys that dangle down from the top are fun. It’s also a good place to begin tummy time with your baby because there are bright colors on the mat and on the sides for her to look at. I’ve had the Tiny Love model here since Baby #2 and it’s been great, although some of the animals have gotten lost along the way!
- Tiny Love Super Deluxe Lights and Music Gymini Activity Gym ($55.40)
- Baby Einstein Caterpillar and Friends Play Gym ($47.39)
- Fisher-Price Rainforest Melodies and Lights Deluxe Gym ($74.95)
- Tiny Love Gymini Animal Concert Activity Gym ($59)
And here are some great infant toys I love!
- Lamaze Monkey In The Mirror– Perfect for tummy time! ($17.66)
- Lamaze My First Fishbowl ($19.12)
- Manhattan Toy Baby Whoozit ($14.99)
- Manhattan Toy Winkel ($12.39)
- Whoozit “What’s Red?” Soft Book($13.76)
- My Peek A Baby Book by Jellycat ($16.50)
- Jellycat Peek a Jungle Book ($16.50)
- Skip Hop Hug and Hide Activity Toy, Owl ($17.10)
I hope this has helped you figure out what you’ll need for your new baby and good luck getting everything together!
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