Baby and newborn essentials
Baby items worth splurging for, and unexpected MVPs (most valuable products)
The Fathercraft Baby Essentials List,
There’s a LOT of baby stuff out there. Know this: not all of it qualifies as baby essentials. John will tell you …
On the list, we’re going to cover:
- Newborn essentials to get your started
- Baby essentials you need
- The clutter you don’t
- Unexpectedly valuable items
After successfully navigating 4 kids through the baby stage and running a website that creates baby & kid product reviews, we have a pretty good idea of the necessities, the nice-to-haves, and the hard nos.
For an item to make the list,
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.
One more thing: baby boy essentials and baby girl essentials are essentially the same – not much of a difference in what you need at this stage of life!
Our list of baby items covers must-have newborn essentials through about 6 months of age.
Please note Fathercraft is reader-supported, meaning, at no cost to you, we may earn a commission if you buy after clicking an affiliate link. Learn more. Also, we are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
Browse by category or read from the top
Clean & diaper your baby
1. The NoseFrida
This thing sucks snot from your child’s nose using the suction from your own mouth. Gross? Sure. But get used to it, because a lot of parenting is gross. The NoseFrida is incredibly effective, there aren’t any good alternatives, and it’ll help your baby sleep, which is worth some grossness. Also, it’s 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
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.
You can get 6 30-packs on Amazon for less than $20. You can also get them in a diaper-bag-friendly pack of 10. Though, 10 may not be enough, and the snap closure on the bigger packs are often the way to go. Speaking of diaper bags, shameless plug, we’re making one for dads.
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. Diapers and wipes
You’re going to need a lot. We like stuff from Abby & Finn because they use ingredients that are thoughtfully sourced to be both eco-friendly and gentle on skin, offer a subscription service that allows you to get regular deliveries to your home, and you save when you bundle other essentials like bath products & diaper balm. In addition to this, we love the fact Abby & Finn’s mission includes donating diapers to families in need. Related note: 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.
Abby & Finn 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.) Diapers, wipes, and other handy products like diaper balm, bath essentials, and more are available on the company’s website and on Amazon (be sure to check out their bath offerings, which are sulfate-free and come in eco-friendly cardboard containers.
4. Honest Company bottom wash
I [Paul, Fathercraft co-founder] 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.
Why? It makes cleaning your baby’s bottom when changing a diaper much easier—you use fewer wipes, and wipe fewer times, which means less irritation for your baby and less time for you. And yeah, we know we’re going on about this brand, but we’re doing so based on tons of personal experience.
5. Diaper rash cream
If your baby wears diapers, you’re going to need diaper rash cream. The stuff is pretty close to a miracle cure for irritated baby butts, so long as you use it regularly and use a good brand.
Again, we like the Honest Company diaper rash cream because 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.
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. 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—like $1,595 not cheap—but sleep is (nearly) priceless and a new rental option is available that makes the Snoo significantly more affordable. 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
Research shows 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 and makes it much less likely that you’ll screw up swaddling. (An improperly swaddled 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 have at least one to wear, one to wash.
3. A rock-solid baby monitor
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.
Our top pick in 2022? The Nanit Pro. 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 Pro review here.
Though Nanit is our top pick, there’s a lot of nuance, and no one baby monitor is right for every family. So, learn more about how to choose a monitor and see all of the baby monitor reviews we’ve done, 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.)
5. A safe crib safe crib mattress
If you decide not to use a Snoo, you’ll need a crib from the get-go. And even if you do, you’ll need one by 6 months. It’s critical that you choose a crib and mattress from a safety-minded manufacturer, follow the instructions carefully, and choose a mattress that fits snugly inside your crib with no space between the bars and the mattress.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a mattress that’s firm, flat, fits the crib well, and uses a fitted sheet will keep your baby safe while sleeping. More on crib safety and safe sleep here.
One thing we have found about many crib mattresses are that they don’t last well through two kids. If you’re looking for a long-lasting option (and have the budget for it), the Newton Crib Mattress is a good pick. It’s Wovenaire core (according to the manufacturer) allows babies to breathe through it in the event they role to their stomach, it’s machine washable, long lasting, and comfortable enough to transition to your child’s toddler and beyond mattress. You can read and watch our review here and shop Newton here.
Download our newborn and baby essential gear list as a PDF checklist
There’s a lot to remember, get the checklist to help you keep it all straight. Print-ready and fridge-ready.
Feed Your Baby
1. A few bottles that work [for your kid]
Last time we checked there were approximately 2,663,446 types and brands of 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—this can sometimes be a miracle cure for fussy feeding.
2. A bottle warmer
It’s kind of a pain in the ass to get a bottle to the right temperature. You shouldn’t microwave formula or breast milk, holding a bottle under running warm water takes forever. If you’re formula feeding, one option is the Baby Brezza Formula Pro (See our review).
If you’re feeding breast milk from bottles or don’t want to go with the Formula Pro (next item on the list), a bottle warmer is a less expensive must-have item.
A good bottle warmer will quickly (roughly 4-10 mins. depending on bottle size) heat milk to a Goldilocks temperature of juuuust right. We like the Kiinde Kozii (Amazon) for its safety features, ease of use, ability to defrost and also warm baby food when your baby starts eating solids.
3. A Baby Brezza Formula Pro [if you’re formula feeding]
If your baby is formula-fed as opposed to breastfed, you’re going to be making a lot of bottles. Making bottles takes time, which 1) takes away time from you doing other things and 2) takes minutes that feel like an eternity when you’ve got a hungry baby screaming.
The Baby Brezza Formula Pro Advanced (Amazon) 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 Advanced here if you’d like to learn more about how it works and why we liked it.
4. Patch countertop drying rack
At this point you might be reasonably thinking something like, “oh 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.
5. Willow Pump breast pump
If you or your signifant other is planning on breast feeding and going back to work, a breast pump is a necessity. Even if mom is staying home, travel, or even the ability to get out for the day can make a pump necessary or at least, extremely helpful. But, pumping also takes time, and if your pump is plugged into the wall, you aren’t getting much done during that time. As a site run by a couple of dads, pumping isn’t our area of expertise, BUT we had a friend test the Willow Pump and she was impressed. Her review is here, and you can check out Willow Pump—an award-winning, hands-free breast pump here. Another signal of legitimacy—Willow Pump won one of Time Magazine’s Invention of the Year awards.
Move your baby
1. A top-rated car seat
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
Strollers are another big-ticket parenting purchase where expecting parents can face choice overwhelm. There are full-size strollers, jogging strollers, and compact strollers. Some strollers work from birth, some don’t. We’ve got a number of stroller reviews here, poking around can be helpful to get a feel for what you want.
A couple of recommendations to get you started: on the full-sized front, we like The Mockingbird Single-to-Double, which, as the name suggests, converts to eventually allow two kids.
For compact strollers, we like The Colugo Compact, pictured above (also see our review here). It’s smaller and cheaper. It folds in 2 seconds, one handed, is small enough to be carried on a plane, and is maneuverable enough for city living. The Colugo Compact is available on the company’s site.
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.
But, attach your baby to your body and you can walk to the store, do things around the house, comb your hair, all kinds of exciting things.
Enter: baby carriers.
Our favorite baby carrier is from a company called Colugo (yeah that Colugo that makes the compact stroller, too. Unlike other carriers we’ve tested, it’s ridiculously easy to get on and off, stylish, and has thoughtfully-designed pockets for essential on-the-go gear. Now on its second generation, the Colugo Carrier allows for both front and back carry, and comes in a variety of fun patterns.
It’s available on the Colugo website.
If you want to shop around, all our baby carrier reviews right over here.
4. A DIAPER BAG
Babies, as it turns out, need a lot of stuff. And organizing (and remembering) it all on the go is a problem all parents will find themselves indoctrinated to quickly. It only takes one time of forgetting extra diapers or hunting through a black hole of a bag for a bottle when your baby is wailing to make you want to get your systems figured out.
A great diaper bag will help you do that. There are lots of great options out there, we’ll take this opportunity for a shameless plug of our own diaper bag. You could call it a dad diaper bag, but we’ve gotten great feedback from moms, too.
Whatever you choose, make sure it’s durable, roomy, and includes a good organizational system!
What you don't need
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. Go ahead and get her one, just put it on a shelf for now. Kids love lovies, but they don’t care about them just yet, trust us. 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 entertainment for now. If you must get something, check out Lovevery’s Montessori-inspired subscription boxes (more in our review here)
- Babyproofing stuff. Infants under 6 months typically don’t crawl. Babyproof, just not yet – you’ve got plenty of other stuff to worry about.
These are the odds and ends 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 other solid resources. Others you’ll figure out, trust us.
- The bible of parenting. At just under 700 pages, the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Caring for Baby and Young Child can seem intimidating, but it’s got short chapters broken down by age, and is a great reference guide covering pre-birth to age 5. If you’re looking for great parenting info in video form, look no further than Father’s Ed, our flagship online course for expecting parents.
- Clothing. 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. And, while it might be hard to call it essential, if budget isn’t an issue, you might consider an air filter (let’s face it, our planet’s air quality isn’t exactly getting better in many places). We use and love the Molekule Air Mini. You’ll find our review here.
- 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.)
- 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. Now that you know about the gear, ready to learn about the skills and knowledge you need? Check out Father’s Ed, our online course for expecting parents.
Browse by category or read from the top
Download our newborn and baby essential list as a PDF checklist
There’s a lot to remember, get the checklist to help you keep it all straight. Print-ready and fridge-ready.