What do babies even need????
When Papa Bear and I started registering for baby products, we had no clue where to begin. What do babies even need? They’re just tiny humans, right? Well, yes, but tiny humans who can do literally nothing for themselves. The products you register for just help you do everything for them. And the number of products out there can get overwhelming.
Parents are an enormous target market for all forms of marketing because bringing a new baby into the picture means you have a tremendous probability of changing brands. That’s why you are constantly bombarded with ads for baby products the second any company finds out you’re expecting. They are doing everything they can to either keep you as their customer or switch you to a different, more lucrative brand.
So how do you know where to begin?
Friends are helpful, especially those who are having or have already had children. (I would honestly turn to them before I even turn to my own mother – but don’t tell her I said that!) In all seriousness, your friends with kids have experience with current products that your parents and in-laws and favorite aunts probably don’t have. They were using baby products 30 years ago, not yesterday. I have a friend who is a NICU nurse with a son a few months older than mine who created a comprehensive list of items for me that she found useful in the early months of parenthood. Without that list, I wouldn’t have known where to start! Sure, we differed on opinions on a few things, but it gave me a starting point, and that’s what all first-time parents need. It’s a whole new market of products you are diving into, and it can be stressful!
Hopefully, this blog is another place you can turn. If I were creating a baby registry all over again, these items would be the first things on my list. (And this is NOT a sponsored post, these are my real opinions.) Here are my top 10 baby products that I wouldn’t want to live without:
Best Baby Products for 2020/2021 Babies
1. Keekaroo Peanut Changer
This was probably the first product recommended to us by some of our parent-friends. We thought, What’s the big deal? It’s just a changing table! I cannot IMAGINE using a regular changing table, especially with an older baby.
Regular change tables require washable pads (that are constantly dirty) and many even need a special attachment called a change top to ensure it doesn’t slide off of your dresser. When we first brought our son home, we used the changing table that attached to our Pack and Play for a hot minute while we moved around some furniture. And I was constantly changing the pads because they got dirty so easily.
The Keekaroo Peanut Changer is made of a Polyurethane Polymer, so we are able to keep it clean with a diaper wipe. (No laundry – a big deal when you have a kid who poops and drools as much as ours does!) It is heavy enough (7 lbs.) to feel sturdy and stick to whatever surface you need to change your baby on, but it’s not so heavy that you feel that it is a burden to move around.
It was one of the first things on our travel pack list when we drove to Texas from Missouri over Christmas break because we knew how much easier it makes our life. If you really needed to, you could even put it on the floor and have your kiddo nap in it.
The only downside is that it is a little on the pricey side. However, I know that if we hadn’t received it as a gift, we would have used some gift cards to purchase it. The saying goes that buying quality means you cry only once. Buying frugally means you cry every time you use it because it is an inconvenience. I am all about saving money, but the Keekaroo is worth every penny. Even if it is a splurge item, it is totally worth it.
2. Fisher-Price Deluxe Kick ‘n Play Piano Gym
Honestly, I didn’t want to like this as much as I do. I really wanted to stick with a more neutral aesthetic for the Bear Cub’s room. But it really is a great product. Probably the best $40 spent for his development and entertainment.
When he was a newborn, he kicked the piano for long enough for me to fold all of our laundry or make dinner or sneak in a quick workout. Now that he’s a little older and his attention span is a little longer, we get a solid hour of play on this every morning just moving through the different configurations. It’s a great way to help him wake up and get moving early in the day. And if I need some easy entertainment later in the day, I just pick it up and take it wherever I need it in because it is so light and portable.
The mat is washable, hanging toys and piano are easy to wipe down, and the rotation of songs are not too bad. And that’s a big deal coming from someone who has listened to them every day for 6 months! It breaks down easily, travels well, and fits well in a pack ‘n play.
There are toys, and then there are heirloom toys because they are so well designed that they become something you want to keep even beyond your baby’s childhood. This is one of those toys for me. We actually ended up getting two on accident because of a registry error and I just decided not to return the extra in case anything ever happens to this one!
I don’t think I can talk it up too much because all of my friends who post pictures of their kids seem to have one of these lurking in the background.
3. The First Years Sure Comfort Deluxe Newborn to Toddler Tub
Babies are slippery. While I occasionally give Bear Cub a bath by myself, I don’t do it outside of this tub and I don’t do it often. My husband and I both love giving the Bear Cub baths together because it is a sweet family time for us all.
We love giving the Cub the freedom of splash baths where he just wiggles and giggles and kicks in about an inch of water in our regular bathtub. Splash baths are tons of fun and worth the effort when you have the time for that free play. As long as you are keeping the water warm enough (obviously not too hot) and never let your baby’s face drop into the water, it can be really enjoyable. The Bear Cub loves splashing and playing to his heart’s content with diaperless free range of movement. (Splash baths are also an easier option for travel if you know a bathtub will be available.)
But about 80% of the time, we bathe him in this tub. Because OH MY GOODNESS. The ONE time I tried to do a splash bath by myself was TERRIFYING. The wiggling – great. The giggles – great. Keeping the water level just right – okay, a little harder to do with just one adult instead of two while keeping the faucet running. The actual washing of the child – so scary. Especially when I needed to set him up a bit to wash his back. (This was before he could sit independently at all.) I constantly felt like I was going to drop him! He slid around in my hands as I picked him up out of the big bathtub, and it nearly gave me a heart attack. I am so grateful that he wasn’t hurt.
So this baby bathtub is a lifesaver – for me and my sweet boy. I can safely bathe him by myself without worrying that he is going to slip. This is especially helpful after a midday diaper blowout when the hubs isn’t home. I’m just as cautious with this tub as I would be in any water situation, but the newborn sling was perfect for helping keep his head above water when he was younger, and now he loves sitting up in the infant seat where he can play and kick a bit more with his head completely out of the water. The grooves on the bottom of the tub sit this tub perfectly into our dual kitchen sink, but if you didn’t have a double sink, this would sit nicely in any tub.
My only criticism of this tub is that it doesn’t travel well. It is a solid piece of plastic that is not exactly packing friendly. But the security it gives our family makes it worth every penny. (At $20, that’s a great trade-off!)
I didn’t link one in the heading because I have two to recommend. For the first three months, I highly recommend the Love to Dream Swaddle UP. Sleep is a struggle those first few months. I don’t think anyone downplays that and I don’t think first-time parents can really prepare for it. Even with a relatively easy baby like the Bear Cub, sleep was a struggle. And both Papa Bear and Mama Bear became a lot more…grizzly with less sleep. I think one of the only things that made sleep for any of us was this swaddle. This swaddle is tight across the chest, loose around the hips and legs, and keeps the baby’s hands up near his/her face for self-soothing. This worked well for the Bear Cub, especially since he struggled with a pacifier due to lip and tongue ties (more on that later).
*I’ve read the argument for and against swaddles because of their effect on the startle reflex. I do not believe that using a swaddle affected how quickly or how slowly the Bear Cub lost this reflex. He lost it around 3 months, and because swaddling allowed all of us to get sleep, I would recommend using a swaddle. Not a medical professional opinion, just the opinion of a mother who did get some sleep in the first three months of her child’s life.
The other swaddle I would recommend is the HALO Sleepsack Swaddle. The hospital actually gifted one of these to us, which was extremely kind. But it didn’t work well for the Bear Cub early on because he was able to free his arms from this swaddle when he was a newborn. After a month or two, he stopped trying, and this swaddle was the best swaddle to help the Bear Cub transition out of swaddles when it was time. We would swaddle him with one arm out to get him used to having a little freedom, and then later with both arms out. I liked that I could still wrap the “wings” tightly on his bellyto reproduce the feeling of being swaddled but we could wrap his arms however he needed them to sleep successfully.
5. Ergobaby Carrier, Omni 360
I read and heard so many recommendations on baby carriers. We ended up purchasing three different carriers, one for my husband, and two for me. I got this and a K’Tan wrap, and this one has proven to be more useful for me. I think I liked the idea of the K’Tan wrap because it is all cloth, but practically it didn’t work well for me. I purchased it according to the size guide, and mine always felt too small. I might have gotten a little more use out of it if I had a larger size, but the Ergobaby Carrier has consistently outperformed the K’Tan.
I like that the material is soft yet sturdy, something I believe I will use for years. Some baby carriers hold your baby away from you, but I like that this one gives you contact with your child, no matter what position he or she is in. I can plant a kiss on his head whenever I want. He still loves naps in this when he is strapped in facing me, and now that he is older and has enough head and neck control, he really enjoys the freedom of looking out when I have him forward-facing for family walks. Now that he is 6 months old and has great head control, I can’t wait to try the side carry and the back carry because I think he will love these positions too.
This carrier is really great because just about anyone can use it. We have it fitted to my size right now, but when my son gets too heavy for the carrier we bought my husband, Papa Bear will be able to share this carrier with me by simply lengthening the straps at the waist and shoulders. This is a well-designed, comfortable carrier that we will enjoy for years to come.
6. Thick Burp Cloths
It might be surprising that I would include something so low tech on this list, but a thick burp cloth is worth a lot to any parent. Babies produce a lot of…liquid, and it is helpful to have something to clean up any spills. Even if your child has on a bib, burp cloths are necessary because bibs don’t always contain the messes produced.
I have some normal, one-layer burp cloths, and while, yes, I can fold them, things just don’t feel as clean. Burp cloths kind of remind me of paper towels or toilet tissue. The more layers, the better quality. I suggest looking for some that are at least 4 layers. The ones tagged here are 6 layers and work very well.
7. Dr. Brown Bottles
When Papa Bear and I first began creating registries at different stores, we had no idea how many free samples would be handed out in gift bags. We received 5 different types of bottles in these gift bags, so we had some great options to test with the Bear Cub. Our son had an undiagnosed lip and tongue tie that was not revised until he was 4 months old. (That’s another story!) He still managed to breastfeed, but he needed supplemental bottles to help him gain weight and regain traction on his growth curves.
These were the only bottles that he tolerated at first. Eventually, we were able to get him to take the other bottles too. But after his lip and tongue ties were released, he somehow got even pickier about bottles, so these became our go-to bottles for him. He seems to like the wide and narrow versions, but the narrow ones seem to leak a little less. Some babies start to turn away from the breast when you start bottle feeding, but thanks to these bottles (and a few tricks we have up our sleeves) he never pulled back on either one! He loves his milk – from the breast or Dr. Brown’s bottle.
A great feature of these bottles is the anti-colic natural flow design. The Bear Cub has NO PROBLEM letting out burps and gas, but these bottles help with spit-up, which is great because he does tend to have a little more spit-up in the mornings. These bottles are just an all-around solid purchase.
8. Spectra S1 Breast Pump
For someone with absolutely no experience with babies or anything breastfeeding related – this breast pump was a no-brainer. After lots of research and talking to friends, I knew a breast pump would pretty much be a necessity. If I ever needed or wanted to be away from the Bear Cub, I needed a pump to express milk for him while I am away. I read lots of articles comparing pumps and checked into my insurance to see what options were available. The Spectra S2 was one of the options I could get for free with our insurance. And that would have been a decent option. But for an additional $75, I was able to purchase the S1, and I am so glad I did.
I didn’t pump much before we found out about the Bear Cubs lip and tongue ties (something I now regret), but once we learned of these difficulties, I went into pump mode big time. His ties made it hard for him to get all of the milk he needed, so I started pumping to increase my supply and make sure he was getting some easy calories. This pump saved both of us a lot of time and trouble.
The best feature about the Spectra S1 is that it is portable. You don’t have to be plugged into an outlet to pump. (I think that might be the only difference between the S2 and the S1, so if you don’t mind being plugged in, I’m sure the S2 works great.) This is a big deal when pumping ends up taking up more time than you planned! It allowed me to do dishes while pumping and eat lunch because while I am attached to this machine, I am not attached to a wall. Its battery also holds a charge for a long time. When I was pumping a lot, I would charge it every day, and that was sufficient. Now that we have gotten the Cub’s lip and tongue ties fixed, he nurses a lot better, so we don’t have to rely on the pump as often. I can charge it once every few days for my pumping needs. You can even buy a car adapter if you need to pump and charge on the go.
I bought some additional tubing and flanges and things because I read everywhere that they would give out, but my extra tubing is still in the wrapper. I use it every day and have for at least 4 months, and it works just fine. The other extra parts are nice just to make regular cleaning a little easier.
Six months in, and I still don’t see any wear and tear on the pump itself. It is a very reliable piece of equipment. I can’t say that I really enjoy pumping, but the Spectra S1 made pumping a whole lot more enjoyable because of its reliability, durability, and mobility.
9. Hatch Baby Rest Sound Machine, Night Light and Time-to-Rise
I didn’t want to believe in or use a sound machine. But EVERYONE said to get one, and this one was the most highly recommended among our friends, so this is the one we got. And I am so glad we did! The Bear Cub is actually a pretty good sleeper (thank the LORD!), and the Hatch just gives us all a little help.
The sound machine aspect mimics the white noise-like sounds the Cub heard in the womb. It has several different sounds to choose from, but our favorites are the rain and ocean waves. Having a sound machine meant for us that while we were room sharing with the Cub, we could roll over in our sleep or cough or even get up to use the restroom without disrupting the noise level in the room and waking the Cub. During his day naps, it helps when I am doing the dishes or the mailman comes, etc. I don’t want him to need a sound machine for the rest of his life, but many sleep experts say that as your baby gets older, phasing out a sound machine is manageable around his or her first birthday.
We never use the Time-to-Rise feature, but the night light works great for the middle of the night wakings and feedings. You can set it to whatever color you want and change the brightness on a great scale. I like the blue setting on pretty low because it seemed to give off just the right amount of light without being too disruptive. Now that the Bear Cub is 6 months old and sleeps in his own room, I still use the sound machine feature and the light feature for night feeds and wake-ups.
10. Mika Micky Bedside Sleeper
This bedside sleeper rounds out the top 10 products I wouldn’t want to live without. We needed a bedside sleeper so that we could room share with the Bear Cub. We decided against bed-sharing for his safety. The Mika Micky worked out perfectly. It’s a great size and collapses down into a slim carrying case. This makes it much easier to travel with. When set up, one side lowers so that if you have the Mika attached to your bed (via a strap that is included), you can easily reach your little Cub when you need to. We found that attaching it to the bed was too distracting for all of us, but it is a nice option if that is your need.
It also has wheels. I didn’t foresee how important those would be. Papa Bear, the Cub, and I always started off in the same room, but there were times when the Bear Cub woke up crying and it was very convenient to be able to wheel him into another room so that Papa Bear could sleep for work. I could catch up on my sleep throughout the Cub’s daytime naps, but as that wasn’t possible for my husband, this is the scenario that worked best for us.
Now that the Cub is older than 6 months, he sleeps in his own room for naps and overnight, but the Mika Micky still gets lots of use! It will work well if the Cub ever gets sick and we need to monitor him more closely overnight. I now use it as a little playpen that is elevated off of the ground – great news for my knees! The corners of the bedside sleeper are rounded, perfect for offering a little support to the Cub while sitting up with a toy or two. (Under my constant supervision, of course. I would not recommend doing this if you are not able to be in the same area as your child. The company recommends stopping the use of the Mika Micky when the child can sit up on his or her own.)
Honorable Mention: Motorola Video + Baby Monitor
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how much safer our home feels because we have a baby monitor. My husband did a lot of research before selecting this one, and I think he did a great job. The camera can hang over our son’s bed in the Halo or be detached and set up anywhere necessary. This made traveling with it very easy. We could pop it on top of a piece of furniture facing his Pack ‘n Play bed, and we were good to go.
You can use WiFi to connect it to your phone, or just use the baby monitor which has its own connection to the camera. We actually haven’t set it up on our WiFi/phones yet because it feels safer in the world where people hack each other’s WiFi networks, and we are happy to carry around the monitor. The monitor would work perfectly too for a babysitter who you don’t want to have permanent access to your monitor. It has a decent battery life, you can control so many aspects of the camera and Halo mount from the monitor, and it’s small enough to take everywhere.
I didn’t include this on my top ten list because people all over the world do just fine without these types of monitors. They are a wonderful convenience, and I am thankful that we were gifted such a useful tool, but it is possible to parent without this.
There are many other wonderful tools out there to help with parenting. We are all different and have different needs, so I hope you find the ones that work best for you. Tell me what baby products you wouldn’t want to live without in the comments!