I’ve been experiencing a little bit of writer’s block lately, and I think it’s partly because I’ve been too concerned with keeping this space focused entirely on design. I first started blogging back in 2009 when I had just moved to Iowa. I wrote about anything and everything, and I miss that freedom of expression.
Last year, I was having the same sort of block, and it was because I had been dealing with trying to get pregnant for so long that it was hard to focus on anything else. I finally wrote about it in this post, and it felt so good to get it all out there. Well, I never went back and wrote a follow-up post on the biggest thing going on in our lives ever since – having a baby!
Ashton was born on November 18, 2017, and he is nine months old now. Becoming a mom for the first time at 38, almost 39, has been quite the roller coaster ride of energy and emotions. There have been lots of high, and a few lows. I don’t know much about babies in general, but I think he’s a pretty good baby on the whole. He’s mostly happy and generally sleeps pretty well, though teething has thrown us for a bit of loop. And, he’s definitely going through a mama phase right now that can be very challenging.
Ashton arrived two weeks early, and needless to say, we were a little underprepared in many ways. His room was mostly done, and it is still just “mostly” done. Definitely not Instagram worthy yet. We had many of the things we needed on hand when we brought him home, but then there were other new baby items we had no idea about until we did a lot of late night Googling and Amazon searching. We learned quite a bit by trial and error.
I read a lot of blog posts on baby registries and baby must-haves, many of them wildly different. So, I thought our list of new baby must-haves might be helpful for any first-time moms out there or if you know someone about to become a first-time mom. And, I broke it down into birth to six months because I feel like things wildly changed around that time. Once I regain my footing, I’ll write a follow up on what we’ve been loving from six months to a year.
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This is by no means a comprehensive list for planning a nursery. I intend to write a separate post on our nursery whenever I get around to finishing it. This list includes some of the things we keep in our nursery that we’ve found to be necessities and didn’t fall into one of the other categories.
Video Monitor. I have a love/hate relationship with the video monitor. Intellectually, I know that babies survived for thousands of years, myself included, without being constantly monitored via camera. But, as a 21st-century anxiety-prone mama, it helps me that I can see him sleeping whenever I want. We registered for this model, and it works well but also has a couple of design flaws. The light blinks on and off constantly, and it’s very bright in a dark room. It also has a limited range. You can check out the top baby monitors on Amazon here. Ours is number six.
Baby Hangers. Baby hangers were definitely on the list of things I had no clue I needed until I realized how annoying it is to fold baby clothes with arms and legs. We hang up all the outfits that he wears to “school” and all long sleeve onesies. It’s so much easier than folding them and hoping they stay folded.
Hamper. A dedicated hamper in the baby’s room is a necessity for me. I wash his clothes separately and often. This hamper has a removable mesh bag that I take out and use to carry clothes to and from the laundry room.
Storage Boxes. Baby’s have so much little stuff, and it’s nice to keep corralled and neatly tucked away. I picked up some cute storage boxes at IKEA and use them to store the Diaper Genie refills, wipe refills, the next size of clothes, and a lot of the miscellaneous items that we don’t need all the time but want to have close by. Target has this cute option in its new closet collection.
Small Wastebasket + Liners. We placed a small wastebasket by our changing station in the early days when we were still taking care of his belly button and circumcision. It’s handy for discarding wipes that aren’t soiled, clothing tags, tissues and other little things that shouldn’t go in the diaper pail.
Figuring out our favorite baby clothes was kind of a process. We were so lucky in that friends gave us huge bins of clothes, and we received many more as gifts. We bought barely any clothes until he was around six months old.
One of my clients gifted us two magnetic closure onesies, which we adored. They were super soft and so easy to get on and off.
I’ve linked to mostly Burts Bees baby clothes because, while they are more expensive, they are my favorites. The fabric is very soft, and they have a lot of give, which means he can wear them longer. And, they’ve really held up over time and abuse. We’ve also loved the Cat & Jack line from Target and the Carter’s brand of course.
What you need is going to vary based on the time of year your baby is born. With a winter newborn, we used more long-sleeve onesies with legs than short-sleeve no legs. And, of course, you will want to get some socks and hats, but type will depend on time of year. We left the house very little for the first few months, so we didn’t use many hats. We did go through a lot of socks.
- Onesies: long-sleeve with legs, long-sleeve no legs, short-sleeve no legs (6-12 of each)
- Hats: cotton (3) and wool or fleece if winter (1-2)
- Sleep Sack with arms: fleece for winter, cotton for summer (3)
- Pants: Cotton or fleece (3-6)
- Socks: Cotton or fleece (6 pairs)
- Rompers: Warm weather only (6-12)
Our nursery is on our main level, only a few steps from the living room and right next door to our bedroom, so we only have one changing station. We purchased a vintage dresser because it was lower in height (I’m short) and added a dresser topper for the changing pad that we screwed into the top. A friend gave us a nice basket (cute alternative) for organizing all of the changing supplies. We keep it fully stocked on the right side because we are both right-handed.
Diaper Genie. You will need some sort of system for disposing of diapers. We like the Diaper Genie and its refills, and I would purchase this system again. It definitely has its drawbacks…like when you run out of bag right when you need it the most, but overall, I’m happy with it. I don’t think any diaper pail is going to contain all the smells all the time, but this one does a decent job.
Changing Pad + Cover + Dresser Topper. As I mentioned above, we converted a vintage dresser into a changing table by adding a dresser topper, which Keegan screwed into the top of the dresser (it wasn’t a pedigreed piece of furniture, otherwise, I’d think twice about that). The secured topper is a must for keeping the pad from sliding around. I didn’t think that would be such a big deal until a month ago when Ashton decided changing time is torture and thrashes about like a fish on the beach. I also only purchased one changing pad cover, which was crazy, and I think it would be better to have two or three on hand.
Pampers Swaddlers. We tried Luvs and Honest Company, but the hospital gave us Pampers Swaddlers to start, and we think they are the most reliable. I particularly like the handy wetness indicator that lets you know at a glance whether the diaper is wet or not. We were shocked at how many diapers we blew through in the first couple months – 10 a day at least.
Pampers Sensitive Wipes. We tried all the wipes too, and we stick with Pampers here too. We have purchased both the refills and the package with the pop-top. I prefer the pop-top because I can never get them to pull out one at a time from the refills. When I need wipes, I usually need them NOW.
Wipe Warmer. Ashton really hated cold wipes in the beginning, and we were willing to do anything to make diaper changing more pleasant. He stopped howling once we started keeping wipes in a warmer.
Aquaphor. We purchased all the organic diaper creams in the beginning, and I do like the Honest Company brand for daily use. But, when Ashton got a diaper rash in the very beginning, my sister-in-law recommended Aquaphor, and it worked like a charm. We keep a big tub on hand and use it preventatively as well.
Vaseline and gauze pads. The hospital will probably send you home with some vaseline and gauze pads to put on baby’s belly button while it heals. And, if you circumcise your boy baby, you’ll need these for at least a couple weeks.
Glider Swing. We (I) told myself before Ashton was born that I would not create a situation where he needed a prop to fall asleep. I read all the books. I knew all about baby sleep, etc etc etc. Let me tell you, that all flew out the window immediately. One night at 3AM, Keegan ordered this Gracco Glider Swing, and it was the best. We only used it for the first six weeks, but it made those six weeks so much easier.
Bassinette. We started with bassinette from a friend that had a flat bottom. It was very nice, but Ashton wouldn’t sleep in it. When we transitioned out of the glider swing, he slept in this cocoon-like bassinette until he was too big for it.
Velcro Swaddlers. We used velcro swaddlers a lot when we were still swaddling. We were given a few, the hospital sent us home with a larger one, and then we purchased a few more. I would buy three of the newborn size to start, and you can always get the larger ones if your baby likes them. They are both good and bad. The velcro is faster than using a swaddle blanket, but undoing the velcro is loud. So, if you have a baby you’re trying to keep asleep at night, the velcro isn’t always the best.
Swaddle Blankets. The muslin swaddle blankets, especially the Aden + Anais brand, are awesome to have on hand. We used multiple a day for the first few months, and we still use them now to cover up in the stroller and to play peekaboo with. Depending on how much you want to do laundry, I think six is a good number. Maybe more if you use them exclusively for swaddling.
Magic Suit. Ashton was pretty much done with being swaddled by three months, and we were at our wit’s end of what to do. It was obvious he needed something, but he hated being swaddled. I did some quick Googling and discovered the Merlin Magic Sleepsuit. When it comes to new parents and sleep, you’ll find that $39.95 sounds like practically free if it means you might sleep for four hours at a time. If your baby likes being swaddled, you probably won’t need this, but it was a lifesaver for us. I should have bought two just in case one got soiled in the night, but thankfully that never happened. Once we started using the sleep suit, he began sleeping for longer and longer stretches and eventually straight through the night.
At six months, we got the larger version but only used it for about a month when he started rolling over. We realized it was time to transition when he started waking up again because he was mad that he couldn’t roll over.
Halo SleepSack. This was another quick Amazon purchase that we waited too long to buy. When Ashton had enough of the sleep suit, we bought the sleep sack to keep him cozy at night. I definitely need to order a backup or two so I don’t need to wash it so often. But, this thing is like Teflon. He’s spit-up (ok, vomited) on it a few times now, and it wipes right off.
Bottles. We were lucky to be gifted an assortment of hand-me-down bottles, which let us try out different brands without having to purchase them. We did not like some of the more popular brands and settled on the Dr. Brown’s while Ashton was drinking 4 oz or less at a time because they seemed to control his gas better. When he started drinking bigger bottles, we switched to Phillips Avent because we had been given a full set with the bottle steamer. We like them and have purchased more.
Bottle Steamer. One of my bigger regrets is that we didn’t buy a countertop bottle steamer/drier/sterilizer. The whole bottle routine seems to take forever and feels like such a chore every night. We use the Phillips Avent bottle steamer, and it works really well as a low-tech affordable solution with the Avent bottles. Do not even mess with those steamer bags unless you are traveling.
Formula & Mixing Pitcher. Breastfeeding just didn’t work out for us for many reasons, and we switched entirely to formula around seven weeks. We supplemented from the beginning and soon got tired of preparing bottles individually. Keegan found these awesome formula mixing pitchers. We purchased two so that we always have a clean one on hand.
Flannel Blankets and Burp Rags. I knew burp rags were a thing of course, but I didn’t know how useful flannel receiving blankets were until we brought Ashton home. We keep a stack in the nursery and a few in a kitchen drawer.
Bathing, Hygiene & Health
Baby Bathtub. We started out bathing Ashton in the sink using the Blooming Bath Lotus. It worked perfectly and was so adorable. When he got too big, we started bathing him in the tub with the Primo EuroBath, which we are still using.
Hooded Towels. We only had one baby sized hooded towel, and we used it until about six months. Then we switched to a regular size towel with a hood that a friend made for us. There is nothing cuter than a freshly bathed baby wrapped in a hooded towel.
Kneeler. Until baby can sit up unassisted, you will be kneeling over him in the bathtub, and that tile floor gets hard.
Moisturizer and Body Wash. We’ve been using the Honest Company since day 1.
Nasal Aspirator. Total honesty…snot grosses me out way more than poop. I hate cleaning out his nose, but the Nose Frida is truly a must-have. If your baby goes to daycare, he is guaranteed to get a cold. We never even used the bulb syringe after we started using the “snot sucker.”
Ear Thermometer. I decided if it was good enough for our doctor, it was good enough for me.
Baby Tylenol. Your doctor may recommend a dose of Tylenol after vaccinations. Ashton did spike a little fever a few times in the first several months, and we used Tylenol at our doctor’s recommendation.
Diaper Bag. We have the HaloVa Diaper Bag, which is the #2 diaper bag on Amazon. I like it for several reasons, but it’s not entirely perfect. My favorite feature is the front insulated pocket for bottles. We bring three bottles to daycare, and they fit perfectly. We can also squeeze in a small cold pack if necessary. It has pockets on the side for diapers and wipes and several pockets inside. My only gripe is that the interior is kind of tight. There is a zipper on the back so you can access the bottom of the back without taking everything out.
Stroller with Travel System. I registered for the Chicco Bravo Trio Travel System for one big reason – it was the lightest stroller that was collapsible with one hand. Now “light” is an interesting term because it doesn’t take into account the seat, which is ungodly heavy. I do love the stroller quite a bit. I don’t like three things about the car seat. First, the straps are impossible to position when you’re trying to get the baby into it. Second, the straps seem to be incredibly tight – it’s hard to maneuver his legs through them. Three, there is no way that I can tell to get the baby out of the seat without taking the seat out of the car. Maybe I’ve just got new mom brain, but I simply can’t figure it out.
Baby Carrier. We did not choose to wear Ashton all that much. We also had the luxury of both staying at home with him for three and a half months, so maybe we would have used it more if we were solo. We did get both a wrap and a Baby Bjorn. I wish I had used the Baby Bjorn more because it was super easy to adjust. Ashton is so heavy now and so active, I don’t see myself carrying him anywhere we could bring a stroller. Maybe I need to try baby carrying more, but it really hasn’t been something I loved to do (of course, I carry him in my arms all the time). I did include it on my list because it came in handy occasionally.
Boppy pillow. The boppy pillow was one of our first purchases after we got home from the hospital, and we both used it for holding him and feeding him bottles for a long time. As he got bigger, we took our cues from the daycare and would let him lie on it on the floor or prop him up for tummy time. When he first started sitting, we’d put it around his back so he wouldn’t fall over and hurt himself.
DockATot + Arc + Toys. Is this somewhat pricey dog bed looking contraption an absolute necessity? No, it’s definitely not. Did we use it daily up until about a month ago? Yes, multiple times a day. I originally registered for the DockATot thinking it would be nice to put him in it on the bed with me so we could nap together. Then they revised their guidelines against using it for sleep. My honest reaction to that was “what on earth is it good for then?” So again, being anxiety-ridden, I never let him sleep in it or lay in it while I wasn’t in the room.
We kept the DockATot on our dining table (our dining room is open to the living room and kitchen), and we would place him in it whenever we needed to put him down for a few minutes to get something done. We used it as a spot to put on his jackets and hats when it was still cold and for keeping him contained while we clipped his nails and cleaning his nose and ears. We would put it on the coffee table when he was really little while we watched TV. The toys may look too simple to entertain a baby, but he loved them. They were the first toys he really interacted with and tried batting at. I still have it in his nursery and use it once in a while. I was very happy that we registered for the DockATot and would recommend it to anyone.
Play Gym. When Ashton was around two months old, we realized he was ready for new experiences. We had a little play gym a friend had given us, and we put it in our living room and propped up some stuffed animals around it. This was a life-changing moment. He would happily lay in the play gym for twenty minutes at a time, staring at the lights and listening to the music. As he got older, he would interact with the toys that hung down. Eventually, he got too big for the first play gym – the toys would hang on his face – so we swapped it out for a taller version that lasted until he became really mobile. Even though they are more expensive, I would opt for a version with lights and music.
Large Baby Play Mat. We started floor play with the play gym and eventually added small blankets around it to create a clean play surface once he started rolling over. One day, Keegan decided that laying all these blankets out was stupid and ordered a large baby play mat. We love this thing. It’s soft, slightly padded, durable and washable. I even feel like it’s slightly water repellant. It also has a grippy pattern on the back so it won’t move around on a smooth surface. This mat would be great for playing outside too. This is the exact one we purchased, and it comes in several fun patterns. I don’t know why it has negative reviews…it’s been nothing but awesome.
Hanging Toys. I think these are pretty self-explanatory. We have a toy hanging from his car seat and of course from the play gym when we used it and also his activity center.
Activity Center. Around four months old, which was maybe a little young, we put Ashton in this activity center for a few minutes at a time. He can hang out in it for maybe 10-15 minutes now before he gets bored because he loves to be moving. But, for a couple months after he could sit by himself, this was the hot spot for him to play. We have one kind of like this Baby Einstein version in the house, and then we bought another one for the patio from the consignment store.
Door Swing Jumper. This was another hand-me-down from a friend, and Ashton adores it. As soon as we put him in it (around six months), he went crazy for it. He is pretty much always happy to be in it unless he is super tired or hungry. We have it hanging in the door to our kitchen so he can hang out with us while we cook or prep his bag for daycare.
Things We Didn’t Love
The Bumbo seat. Ashton hated this chair. We saw people using it on Facebook and thought he would love it for sitting up, but he couldn’t stand it. Even though he was technically too young for it, his chubby legs were too big for the openings.
Bottle Warmer. We couldn’t agree on how much to spend on this device (and none had great reviews), so we bought a cheap one, and it sucked. So, we continue to warm up all of his bottles in an insulated cup that we already had with hot water. It works perfectly though it’s not great at 2 AM when you have a screaming hungry baby in your arms.
I think it’s safe to say that I won’t be turning this space into a mommy blog, but I do intend to write about motherhood and its up and downs from time to time. I know that whenever I am struggling with a particular challenge (hello eight-month sleep regression), it helps to read about how other moms and dads dealt with it and got through it. So, if sharing my experiences can help even one frazzled new mom or dad, then it is definitely worth it to me to write about them.
We were very lucky and grateful to have several friends give us their hand-me-downs. We have a whole section of our basement filled with bins of clothes and baby toys and equipment where we “go shopping” when we need something. If we don’t find it, our next stop is an awesome consignment store where we’ve been purchasing all of our toys and some clothes. If that fails, then we hit Amazon or Target. We get diapers and wipes from Walmart and order formula in bulk from Amazon.
Do you have any new baby must-haves I missed that you would recommend? We’re entering new territory as he starts walking any day now, and I would love your advice or product recommendations for nine-month to 18-month-old babies.