Must-have, sometimes unexpected, baby items from newborn through 6 months
Many thoughts travel through your head as a prospective parent (or the parent of a newborn). At some point, one of those is bound to be something along the lines of, “what stuff do you need for a baby, exactly?” Well, solid question. And one we’re here to answer. If you look, you’ll find lots of baby item checklists out there. And we’re here to help with that too. But, what we think is equally valuable after successfully navigating 4 kids through the baby stage and running a website that creates baby & kid product reviews, is not just a list of things you need for a baby, but what we’ve found to be most valuable and most unexpectedly valuable.
For an item to make the list,
- we had to have personally used it and used it a lot
- it had to provide serious value, often in an unexpected way
- that value could be to make the baby’s life easier or make the parents’ lives easier
Can you survive as a parent without every item on the list? Sure. Does every single thing on the list have the potential to improve your life? Yup. We’ve used every single one to do so. Oh, and since this is a question we see a lot from new parents: baby boy essentials and baby girl essentials are essentially exactly the same – not much of a difference in what you need at this stage of life! (But don’t tell that to grandma – baby girls need way more clothes, of course.)
So, here we go. Our list covers items needed for a newborn through about 6 months of age. We’ve broken the list down into 6 sections:
- Clean & diaper your baby
- Get your baby to sleep, safely
- Feed your baby
- Move your baby
- What we left off (because you don’t need it, or it’s dangerous)
- Everything else (stuff you’ll need, but it’s obvious, or we didn’t cover it for some other reason)
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The baby essentials list, newborn through 6 months
SECTION ONE: CLEAN & DIAPER YOUR BABY
1. The NoseFrida
Suck snot. Yeah, this sounds really gross. And it is kinda gross. But it’s also incredibly effective, there aren’t any good alternatives, and it’ll help your baby sleep,
which is worth some grossness. It’s also, and we hesitate to say this as you might think us weird, oddly satisfying to extract massive quantities of snot for your baby’s sake. (More on that in our review.)
We did some reviews of the NoseFrida here if you want more details.
The NoseFrida is available on Amazon (including extra filters and saline spray, both of which you’re going to want.)
2. Boogie Wipes
Ok, maybe you’re noticing a pattern. Last snot-related item on the list, we promise. But, as you’ll soon find out, babies produce a truly unreal amount of snot. You’re going to need to deal with it. With their soft texture, natural saline, and handy reclosable container, we’ve found Boogie Wipes, used in concert with the NoseFrida, get the job done.
Boogie Wipes also makes grape-scented wipes. While this might seem gross to you (it does to us), if it helps get your older child to practice blowing his or her nose, we’re all for it – and we’ve experienced just this.
3. [A shitload of] Diapers and wipes
[Couldn’t help ourselves.] But seriously, you’re going to need a lot. And you’re probably going to run out at some point, either at home or on the go. To avoid (or at least cut down on) running out, we like stuff from The Honest Company, which offers a subscription service that allows you to get regular deliveries to your home, and save when you bundle essentials. In addition to this, we like the fact that The Honest Company is ultra-careful about the ingredients they use. Babies skin absorbs stuff at a rate higher than that of adults, so we like to be extremely careful with what goes on/touches our kids’ skin.
Honest Company makes diapers of all sizes, with myriad designs, and wipes (which come in handy package sizes, are engineered to keep coming out when you need them, and have available stay-moist containers with easy one-handed access.) Newborn diapers on Amazon, wipes on Amazon, tons of stuff on the Honest Company’s site.
4. Honest Company bottom wash
I [Paul] flat out refused to use this product for a while – for some reason, it just seemed too weird. Then, after a particularly intense diaper, I tried it and haven’t looked back.
The Honest Company makes baby products from carefully-selected, safe ingredients. Their Bottom Wash makes cleaning a baby’s bottom when changing a diaper much more easily, meaning you use fewer wipes, and wipe fewer times for less irritation on your child’s bottom. My family has been using Honest products over the last 4 years across two kids, and we swear by them.
5. Diaper rash cream with carefully selected ingredients
Diaper rash cream is an inevitability for any baby who wears diapers. Eventually, your baby is going to get irritated, and diaper rash cream is the answer. The stuff is pretty close to a miracle cure, so long as you use it regularly and use a good brand.
As we noted above when discussing diapers and wipes, we believe choosing a brand with carefully selected, well-tested, and natural when possible ingredients is critical.
For this reason, we use Honest Company diaper rash cream. It’s made with plant-derived, organic ingredients and without parabens, synthetic fragrances, and lots of other stuff you don’t want to touch your baby’s skin that you might find in other brands. It’s available on Amazon and from the company’s website.
SECTION TWO: GET YOUR BABY TO SLEEP, SAFELY
1. The Snoo robotic bassinet
Without question, the hardest part of the first six months for all four of our kids was sleep deprivation. So, tools to help your child (and you) sleep better are high on our list.
The Snoo is a bassinet you can use from birth through 6 months, designed by sleep expert Dr. Harvey Karp, and it robotically rocks your child to sleep (and back to sleep when she wakes up in the middle of the night). The company claims this can boost sleep by 1-2 hours per night. In addition, the Snoo’s unique design adds the safety factor or preventing your baby from rolling over.
We spent a lot of time with the Snoo and found it awesome and as advertised. It isn’t cheap, but sleep is (nearly) priceless. Since it’s a big purchase, our review can help you make the decision of if it’s right for you. The Snoo is available on Happiest Baby’s site.
2. Sleep sacks
A ton of research has shown babies sleep better when they’re swaddled. In addition, American Academy of Pediatrics SIDS Guidelines strongly recommend you do not give your baby a blanket. For both of these reasons, we’ve used and highly recommend sleep sacks. A sleep sack swaddles your baby, but does so in a way that makes it much harder to screw up the swaddling. (If you’re using a swaddling blanket, and don’t wrap it at the correct tightness level, your baby can wiggle and worm the swaddling blanket over her face, which is another SIDS risk factor.
After trying 10+ different sleep sacks, we like The Sleepea from Happiest Baby, as we reviewed here. The Sleepea is made by the same company that makes the Snoo (above), is backed by the expert knowledge of the team there, and is available on their site. Oh, and sacks is plural because they will get dirty. You’ll need to alternate washing.
3. A rock-solid baby monitor
A baby monitor is a truly useful piece of technology. In addition to being useful, it can also give peace of mind to parents, which is also super useful. The problem is, many baby monitors on the market suck. They lack range, have poor picture or audio quality, aren’t intuitive, or fall short in some other important category. We’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about this, and have outlined our philosophy on how to evaluate baby monitors, along with all of the baby monitor reviews we’ve done, here.
Our top pick right now? The Nanit. It’s a wifi-powered monitor that gives crystal clear HD picture and audio from a bird’s-eye view, and gives you access to useful and research-backed tips created based on your baby’s actual activity on how to improve your child’s sleep. You can read our Nanit review here.
4. A bedtime book (preferably by Sandra Boynton)
I have a clear memory of asking my mom when I should start reading to our oldest daughter. She said, “well you can read to her starting immediately.” That stuck with me. My wife introduced me to the concept of a bedtime book – a book you read to your child each night right before bed. The idea is to 1) introduce reading from an early age and 2) begin to create a bedtime routine so they know it’s time to go to sleep.
If you’re looking for a good book, we cannot recommend Sandra Boynton enough. (Especially for a book you’ll read hundreds of times.) She has a magical ability to create simple kids books that are wildly entertaining to kids and grownups alike. (She’s also built an empire doing so.) If you’re new to Boynton, start with The Going to Bed Book, Pajama Time, or Your Personal Penguin. And get sucked into her universe from there. (You’ll thank us later.)
1. A few bottles that work [for your kid]
Last time we checked there were approximately 2,563,145 baby bottles available on the market. After trying a chunk of them, we’ve found that Dr. Brown’s Original Bottles (about $20 for 4) tended to work well for all 4 of our kids – they have the right combination of size (holds up to 8oz), burp reduction (they’re ventilated), safety (BPA and PVC free), convenience (they’re relatively easy to wash and dishwasher safe, though we recommend hand-washing baby stuff anyway), and flexibility – you can buy replacement nipples with flow rates designed for preemies up to 6 months and above.
One thing we’ll note, however, is that all babies are different, and you might not have the same experience with Dr. Brown’s that we did. If your baby seems to be struggling, try a different brand to see what works for your particular child.
2. A bottle warmer
Babies who are bottle fed (either formula fed or drinking breast milk from a bottle) typically prefer milk warm. As we demonstrate in the video in our Baby Brezza review, it’s kind of a pain in the ass to get the bottle to the right temperature.
One option for this, if you’re formula feeding, is the Baby Brezza (see below). If you’re feeding breast milk from bottles or don’t want to go with the Formula Pro, a bottle warmeris a less expensive, and necessary, option.
A good bottle warmer will quickly (relatively – 4-10 min depending on bottle size) heat up a bottle to a good temperature. It’ll also do this safely by preventing a bottle from overheating. We like the Kiinde Kozii (Amazon) for its safety features, ease of use, ability to defrost and also warm baby food down the road.
3. [For formula-fed babies] A Baby Brezza Formula Pro
If your baby is formula-fed as opposed to breastfed, you’re going to be making a lot of bottles of formula. Making bottles takes time, which 1) takes away time from you doing other things (and you’re already going to be short on time) and 2) takes minutes that feel like an eternity when you’ve got a hungry baby waiting to be fed.
Enter the Baby Brezza Formula Pro (Amazon). This thing is like a Keurig Coffee Maker for bottles of formula. Once it’s set up and its reservoirs of powdered formula and water are filled, you can make a bottle in 30 seconds or less. We reviewed the Formula Pro here if you’d like to learn more about how it works and why we liked it.
4. Patch countertop drying rack
If you’re using bottles for your baby, they’re going to get washed – a lot. And then dried – a lot. As we discussed above, we avoid using the dishwasher to wash all of our baby stuff. So, having a good way to dry your bottles (and down the road kids’ cups, etc), you’re going to want a dedicated drying rack.
At this point you might be reasonably thinking something like, “come on, I already have a dish drying rack.” But here’s the thing – baby bottles and kids’ cups have lots of TINY pieces. And all of those pieces will fall between the slats in your drying rack. We know because we used this method for years before finally breaking down and buying one of these oddly-pleasing fake-grass-looking contraptions. They come in all shapes and sizes, we’ve found this one, which fits in narrow spaces on a counter like behind a sink, to be particularly useful. It’s about $20 on Amazon.
1. A top-rated car seat
If you don’t believe your infant should be in a top-safety-rated car seat, we aren’t going to convince you of that here. But, after a ton of research, both of us here at Fathercraft have used the Peg Perego Viaggio Infant Car Seat (Amazon) with our kids.
In addition to receiving top safety ratings, it is straightforward to install (adding to the safety factor – many car seats aren’t installed properly), it can be used with or without its base (for easier travel with your child), it’s lightweight (at least as far as car seats go), and it has a dual-stage cushion system so it works from birth to 35lbs. It also cleans easily and looks good. It isn’t the cheapest you’ll find, but we’ve found it to be the best.
2. A versatile stroller
Between the two of us here at Fathercraft and grandparents who watched our kids, we’ve personally owned more than a dozen strollers and borrowed a dozen more for testing.
The undisputed champion when it comes to versatile, well-built strollers is the Urbo2 from Mamas and Papas (Amazon). This British brand is popular in London, where it’s got to take the abuse of city streets, navigate the Underground, deal well with rain, and store small in small flats. We’ve had one that’s traveled with us from Denver to London and can attest to all of the above, personally. The Urbo2 is compact, easy to maneuver, has a seat that flips around for front or rear-facing stages, lies flat for naps, comes with a rain cover, weighs only about 20lbs, folds into a small package for travel and storage, and can be used as a jogging stroller (at least on flat, paved streets). At around $600 on Amazon, it ain’t cheap, but you can also spend a lot more on a lot worse stroller.
3. A baby carrier
Back before we had kids, we had dogs. Dogs you can leave when you go out for a bit. Dogs are perfectly happy to sit on the floor and watch you do the dishes. Babies are kind of the opposite of dogs in these respects.
So, you’re going to want several options for bringing your baby everywhere and doing nearly everything around the house with your baby. A solid baby carrier is a great compliment to a stroller for these uses.
We both use carriers from Ergobaby. They’re thoughtfully and safely designed, and the Ergobaby Omni 360 works for various different positions and babies of all ages.
You need a lot of stuff for a baby from the time they’re a newborn to the time they’re six months old. Here’s a checklist of the things you don’t need – either because they’re dangerous, they’re not age appropriate, or you simply don’t need them.
- A crib bumper. Crib bumpers are dangerous, period. They’re also unnecessary. If you don’t believe us, please believe the American Academy of Pediatrics on this subject. If you’re in an ongoing debate with your spouse about a bumper, you can put one on the outside of a crib as a compromise.
- A stuffed animal or “Lovie“. Again, do not give your infant a stuffed animal to sleep with. Sure, go ahead and get her one, just don’t place it in her crib yet. We wrote more on safe sleep guidelines here.
- A blanket. Please see above.
- Anything that promotes co-sleeping. Please, please see above.
- A copious amount of toys. We’re all about cool baby toys. But, you just don’t need a lot right now. Your baby will be much more fascinated by human faces, and given he can’t move or grasp yet, showing him ordinary household objects is great for now.
- Babyproofing stuff. Infants under 6 months typically don’t crawl. Babyproof, just not yet – you’ve got plenty of other stuff to worry about.
Alright, here goes, everything else you need to consider, in addition to the above, to make this the complete checklist of baby essentials. Even with four kids, we don’t pretend to be experts in all of these areas, so we’ve pointed to good resources in other places on the web for those. Others you’ll figure out, trust us.
- Clothing. This just depends – on where you live, the season your baby is born in, etc. Some general ground rules: simple is better (less snaps/buttons/etc = more, especially for dads),
- many people over-bundle their babies. Use the “ear test” from Happiest Baby described in our Sleepea review, the amount of clothes you need is inversely proportional to how often you plan on doing laundry. Expect outfit changes several times per day. A gentle and preferably natural laundry detergent is also important to help your baby’s skin.
- Other nursery items. This list could go on and on and be filled with unnecessary items, but essential? A safe crib with a firm, flat mattress with no space between it and bars of the crib and several fitted crib sheets, a rocking chair, a nightlight, something to produce white noise, and a diaper pail.
- Bath essentials. A safe container to give your baby a bath, a couple of hooded baby towels, natural baby shampoo and wash, soft washcloths, and a baby hairbrush. Here’s Parents Magazine for more.
- Health items. Baby nail clippers, an infant thermometer, first aid kit, sterile gauze and petroleum jelly for circumcision care (Ask your delivery hospital & pediatrician for all the details in this category, please.)
- Additional feeding items. Burp cloths, a bottle brush, and a Boppy (amazingly helpful!) If you’re looking for a good breastfeeding supplies checklist, here’s Parents Magazine again. If your significant other or you will be pumping, be sure to check your insurance – many insurance companies offer a free breast pump.
And there you have it! The complete baby essentials checklist, from zero to six months. Stay tuned for more lists, coming soon.