An Expert Guide to the Essentials You Need For Your Baby

With all the new accessories and gadgets, it can be hard to know what you actually need for your baby. Baby & Toddler Expert Robbie M. lists the essentials!

A baby wearing a hat takes a big yawn. His teddy bear is next to him.

Photo by Minnie Zhou

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In a weird way, gearing up for your first kid can sometimes feel like gearing up for a big trip or expedition. There are so many different items made specifically for your little one that you’ll need to keep them happy and healthy. You’ll find that in almost every room of your home and throughout the day with your baby you’ll be using some piece of baby gear that you would have never even known about had you not had a child. This article will hopefully leave you feeling more confident about the list of must-haves you and your family will want to find before your kiddo makes an appearance in the world.

Nursery

The main place where your child sleeps, be it your room or a nursery, feels almost like the home base of Baby Operations in the home, especially within the first few months of your newborn’s life. Young babies seemingly only sleep, eat, and “dispose” of their meals, meaning a lot of your day is spent in your bedroom or their nursery. Here’s a list of nursery baby essentials along with a few recommendations (many of them coming from personal experience) to consider.

Crib / Bassinet / Sheets / Mattress

A fat baby lays in a crib.

Photo by Paul Hanaoka

Your baby will need a place to sleep, and a crib or bassinet provides a safe and comfortable place for your child to catch some z’s. When picking one, be sure that it and its firm mattress (either included or purchased after the fact) fosters safe sleep conditions as determined by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Many parents opt for a bassinet (smaller-sized crib) that can stand nearby, hook onto, or even be placed in bed with you. Bassinets allow for easy access to the baby for feeding or diaper changes in the middle of the night, however, know that your child will outgrow the bassinet within the first few months of life.

The Halo BassiNest Essentia is an awesome bassinet option for parents who want their baby as close to the bed as possible without being in the bed. Make sure you buy sheets (a couple of sets) for your bassinet and/or crib mattress, as it’s inevitable that your kiddo will need a sheet change at some point.

Nursing Pillow

For either breastfeeding or bottle feeding, a nursing pillow is a must-have for any parent. Despite being seemingly simple, a good nursing pillow, such as the Boppy, can make a world of a difference for parents feeding their infant many times a day (and night). Nursing pillows help hold and elevate the baby to a more ergonomic feeding height, making feeding time more comfortable for mom (or dad) and your little one.

Sleep Sack / Swaddle

A swaddled baby looks around.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema

Unlike us full-grown humans, babies require pretty strict sleeping conditions to ensure their safety throughout the night. One of these restrictions is no loose articles (blankets, pillows, etc.) in their sleeping space, so to make up for that loss of warmth, most babies sleep incredibly well and safely in a sleep sack or swaddle, which are essentially wearable blankets.

One sleep sack that worked well for my family was the Halo Sleepsack Swaddle, which combined the likes of a sleep sack with a swaddle (and never came unraveled thanks to the power of Velcro). Middle-of-the-night diaper changes were a breeze, and the sleep sack kept our son warm. One thing to consider is the thickness of the material that the swaddle or sleep sack is made from and if you plan to put pajamas on your kiddo in combination with the sleep sack so you can help regulate their body heat.

Changing Table Pad

A changing table with a pad and a diaper bin.

Photo by Carrie Allen

Diaper changes happen often, making a changing table pad something you will use many times throughout your baby’s diaper years. There are many options from cloth to foam to silicone, but in my opinion, the better ones are easily cleanable and can be wiped down with baby wipes for the occasional “uh-ohs.” The e is still in use with our now 18-month-old son.

Noisemaker / Light

Life happens, and even when you try your best to keep things quiet, things can get noisy. A noisemaker is a great solution to help drown out life’s background sounds from your sleeping baby. There are a plethora of options available for noise makers with different available sounds and features. My wife and I went with the Hatch Rest Light and Sound Machine, a more spendy option but with simple one-touch on and off and app-enabled controls, we’ve been able to accomplish many middle-of-the-night diaper changes and successful nap transfers from car seats from its ease of use.

Diaper Pail

Diaper pails make the aftermath of your baby’s bathroom breaks much easier to clean up. Simply ball your disposable diapers up and toss them into the pail. A smell protective liner (typically disposable) will keep all the nasties contained in the pail. We chose the Diaper Genie, however, just about any brand’s diaper pail will work great. There are some that work for cloth diapers if your family is pursuing that route as well!

Diaper Rash Cream and Spatula

In the event of diaper rash, a good diaper cream such as Boudreaux’s Butt Paste or Aquaphor Healing Ointment are a saving grace.

Expert tip: get an applicator, such as Dr. Talbot’s Silicone Brush, to keep things less messy.

Items Around the Home

Having these objects around the house can make for an easier day; take a look at my necessities below.

Burp Cloths

Folded burp cloths in a drawer.

Photo by Carrie Allen

One item you cannot have too many of throughout your home is burp cloths. After going through several shirts (decorated by my son’s spit-up), I learned my lesson to always have a burp cloth within arm’s reach when with my son. Make sure you look for something machine washable! It’s not a question of if, but when…

Diaper Caddy and Changing Mat

Not every diaper change needs to happen in the nursery. My wife and I found that having portable diaper changing stations in the areas we spent the most time with our son was incredibly helpful. The Oxo Tot Diaper Caddy with Changing Mat is a good all-in-one solution; simply fill with your diapers, diaper cream (and spatula applicator), and wipes and you’re set for diaper changes anywhere.

Pacifiers

A baby with a blue pacifier holds a blanket.

Photo by Sharon Mccutcheon

Not all babies will like pacifiers, but it’s always a good idea to have a few around in the event that they soothe your upset child. There are different sizes of pacifier nipples for various aged children, and it’s not a bad idea to have a few on deck for when your baby grows. We (along with our son) love the Wubbanub pacifiers with stuffed animals attached to the end, a functional yet cute option that can be tossed into the washer and dryer when cleaning is needed.

Cleaning and Care

Babies are messy and will need help getting clean and staying groomed, and they’ll sometimes need extra help when they’re not feeling the best. Check out these items to help keep your infant healthy and clean

FridaBaby Basics Kit

The FridaBaby Basics kit.

I intentionally made this option specific; this was one of the few items that my wife and I used and continue to use almost religiously. Included in the basics kit are NailFrida Snipperclipper nail clippers and nail file, the NoseFrida SnotSucker, Windi Gaspasser, and DermaFrida Skin Soother. While the Snipperclippers are self-explanatory, the NoseFrida, Windi, and DermaFrida deserve a little more explanation. When babies have a stuffy nose, they are unable to clear it themselves. The NoseFrida allows you to help suck out their congestion (yes, it’s weird, but not gross, I promise). The Windi helped “relieve” our son from several days of constipation (it really works…look up a few reviews). Finally, the DermaFrida helped us remove cradle cap from our baby’s head with the aid of baby soap and shampoo and is the continued scrubber of choice for bath time. A great value, this all-in-one kit is a must-have item (and a great baby shower or baby registry gift idea).

Baby Bathtub

Looking back at our old bathtimes, it’s hard to believe our son fit in the kitchen sink for his baths. The sink is an awesome spot to give your baby a bath as it’s at a convenient height, has access to easy temperature-controlled water, and drains nicely. The Blooming Bath Lotus is a great option for those sink baths. Made of soft materials with anti-skid padding, this is a nice option for those first few baths. When your infant grows larger, the Boon Soak bathtub is a solid upgrade.

Lotion

Post-bath lotion time was one of my wife's and my favorite times with our son. Baby’s skin is very soft and needs a little help to stay moisturized, so make sure you have some lotion on hand at all times (especially in the winter months). There are many options to choose from with various ingredients, scents, and sizes. Pick whichever speaks the most to you and your family.

Baby Thermometer

If your child catches a cold, one of the best ways to help judge if your child is doing better is a baby thermometer. There are tons of options available such as infrared (contactless), oral, rectal, or forehead scanning. At the end of the day, any thermometer will do. Find one that is the right price and has the features you’re looking for.

Kitchen

Babies will take over your kitchen (even before they start to crawl or walk). For several months, we had a constant flow of bottles on our countertop drying rack; it’s an unstoppable fact of life. See below for items to help make your life easier with a baby in the kitchen.

High Chair

A baby sits in a high chair. He is eating something with his hands.

Photo by Rickey Hutchinson

Once your child transitions to real food, a high chair is a necessity. Like other products, there’s a wide variety of choices for high chairs featuring different materials, tray types and sizes, and levels of convertibility from full chair to booster.

My wife and I actually have two high chairs; one for everyday use around the house and one for road trips. The Ingenuity Baby Base 2-in-1 Feeding and Floor Seat has gone with us on every trip away from our home and was even used for a time with our son when he was little enough to sit on flat surfaces with this seat.

Things to consider with a high chair are the sizes of children it can hold as well as how easily it can be wiped down and cleaned (some have dishwasher-safe parts)…again, a recurring theme of “kids are messy” emerges.

Bibs

A baby wears a bib.

Photo by Jason Sung

Did I mention kids are messy? The latest and greatest bib technology has brought easily cleanable and wipeable silicon bibs, complete with a small pocket to catch food that misses your baby’s mouth. The Oxo Tot Rollup Bib and BabyBjorn Bib have all of these features, plus can be rolled up for easy storage and transportation. Other bibs are machine washable, but we’ve found the silicon ones are the easiest to rinse and dry for the next use.

Bottles

Regardless if you’re breastfeeding or formula-feeding your child, at some point bottles will be the main method of feeding. There are plastic bottles and glass bottles with various sized and shaped nipples. Something to consider is your child may only gravitate to one type of bottle, so don’t be afraid to get a few kinds to find which one your baby likes best. Our son liked the Comotomo bottles best after trying several other brands; we found them very easy to warm and wash throughout the time we used them.

Bottle Drying Rack

At the end of a long day, one of the common pastimes I found myself doing was washing bottles. As fun as individually drying each of the half-dozen bottles is, I preferred to set them on a drying rack. One fun option is the Boon Lawn Countertop Drying Rack, which is not only functional but looks cute.

Bottle Warmer

This is more of a “nice-to-have” item, but a bottle warmer can give you several minutes of free hands to tend to your baby while their bottle warms up. There are many options available, so look for one that is best for your family and your wallet.

On the Go

Life moves pretty fast; you’ll find you’ll want or need to take your baby with you wherever you go. One thing that worked really well for our family is to have a checklist as we pack up for the day. Here’s a list of items that you’ll want to bring along to make sure your baby can easily come with you.

Baby Carrier / Wrap

A dad carries a baby in a baby carrier.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema

One way to get your hands back after carrying your baby everywhere is a baby carrier or baby wrap (also known as a sling). Baby carriers look kind of like a backpack, with two straps and a pouch with holes for your baby’s legs and arms to poke through. Baby wraps consist of a long piece of fabric that can be tied in several different ways to hold your baby close to your chest. There are pros and cons to both, but most carriers will cost more than the more simple wraps. Ergobaby and Baby Bjorn are two of the main baby carrier brands on the market with several different models and varying levels of adaptability and baby positions within the carrier.

Car Seat

A baby looks at the camera. He is sitting in a car seat.

Photo by Sharon Mccutcheon

A car seat is a must-have item (hospitals won’t let you leave without one). There are tons of different options for car seats but two main types: rear-facing infant car seats and convertible car seats. To learn more information about the different types of car seats, check out An Expert Guide to Baby Car Seats. One thing to consider is that all car seats meet the same safety standards set forth by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), so don’t feel you need to go with the most expensive seat on the market to keep your baby safe.

Stroller

A baby sits in a stroller.

Photo by Huanshi

If you plan to take your baby for long walks, to the store, or out and about in general, a stroller is a really nice item that can act as a mobile base when not at home. With several different types of strollers to choose from, it can be tough at first to know which direction to go. Our Expert Guide to Baby Strollers article is a good place to start learning more about the different strollers available to help narrow down your choice. If you’re getting an infant car seat, consider going with a travel system stroller, which typically comes with a car seat and car base adapter for easy transfers.

Diaper Bag

No trip outside of the house is complete without a diaper bag. Look for bags that can carry up to a day’s worth of diapers, wipes, snacks, and bottles to ensure you always have what you need. There are more traditional backpack-style diaper bags, purse-style diaper bags, and my personal favorite, “tactical” diaper bags. Dividers, dedicated easy-access wipe holders, and fold-up changing pads are all awesome features to have in a diaper bag.

Expert tip: spare clothes are a sometimes forgotten item that can lead to a bad day; always have spares in your diaper bag.

Playtime

Baby’s are a ton of fun, and some of the best memories I have with my son are playing with him on the floor. Infants don’t require a lot of toys (since they’re relatively immobile), but there are a few I’d definitely recommend.

Play Gym Mat

Activity gym mats are typically made of a soft or mildly padded fabric with several bars criss crossing over the baby with toys hanging from them. They provide a safe place for your baby to lay and observe the motion of the swinging toys above them as well as a place to practice reaching and tummy time. Our son spent countless hours with his Baby Einstein 4-in-1 Kickin Tunes Music and Language Discovery Activity Gym and was seemingly never bored of the dangling toys, lights, and sounds from the kickable keyboard.

Bouncer

A baby smiles from a bouncer.

Photo by Rodnae Productions

Babies love movement, and a baby bouncer is a great way to provide your child with a constant rocking motion. Some bouncers have toys dangling in front of your kiddo for extra attention-grabbing stimulation while others may feature vibration or nature sounds. An added pro of having a bouncer is being able to do things hands-free; many bouncers can be bounced with your feet so you can enjoy a meal with both hands (speaking from experience!).

Activity Center or Play Table

A baby plays with a play center.

Photo by Tai Captures

Another good hands-free option for parents, activity centers (also known as play tables) have a baby-shaped sling in the middle of a table surrounded by toys for your baby to play with and explore. Not only are they good for building hand-eye coordination but also leg and core muscles as your baby stands assisted by the seat in the table. Our son really liked the Skip Hop Activity Center, and even after outgrowing it, he used it to take some of his first steps.

Clothes

Last but not least, you will definitely need clothes for your new baby. One note on sizes: you will want newborn-size clothing but have the next several months of sizes lined up as all babies grow at different rates. Plan to have at least a week’s worth of clothes and know that accidents can and will happen. There are endless options for baby clothes, but here’s a quick rundown of the essentials.

Onesies

A baby in a onesie smiles.

Photo by Henley Design Studio

Plain white onesies were one of the most-worn items by our son. Easy to put on, change diapers, and take off, they’re a simple solution. There are long, short, and no sleeve options along with more designs available than you’d ever imagine (and yes, they’re all absolutely adorable).

Pants

Most onesies don’t cover your baby’s legs, so you’ll definitely want pants (or shorts depending on where you live) for your kiddo. Just like adult pants but only smaller, opt for pants that are easy to get on and off for diaper changes.

Socks

A baby's feet in socks.

Photo by Taisiia Shestopal

Baby’s feet get cold too! As they get older, look for socks with grippers on the bottom to give your baby more confidence when they begin to take their own steps.

Pajamas

Footie pajamas are a great play as no socks are necessary. Depending on where you live, fleece jammies can be a good option to keep your baby plenty warm. As mentioned above, keep in mind the sleep sacks or swaddles you plan to use with your baby’s pajamas to ensure they’re not too cold or warm.

Outdoor Wear

Jackets, sweaters, winter hats, and gloves are all necessary items for babies living in colder climates. My personal favorite were hoodies with ears built into the hood for irresistible photo opportunities with our winter baby!

Just a Start

A baby peeks its head out.

Photo by Jonathan Borba

This list of essentials for your baby is a good start for any parent looking to make sure they have what they need to keep their baby happy and healthy. A little research can go a long way, so be sure to look into the various types of offerings on the market for each of the categories. If you have any questions on the gear listed in this article or as you research more, be sure to reach out to a Curated Baby & Toddler Expert to help get your family geared up for its newest addition; we’d love to help you out!

This content is meant to be informative and add to your understanding of this subject, but it is not definitive nor a replacement for your own sensibility. Neither Curated nor any Curated Expert is responsible for any liability resulting from information or advice shared here. Please consult with a medical professional for any health concerns.

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Since being promoted to Dad in 2020, I have leveraged my engineering background to do plenty of research on baby products to ensure we had the best fit for our kiddo. Living in Minnesota, we face both hot summers and freezing cold winters, and after more hours than I'd like to admit of researching b...

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