When I was expecting my first baby, I researched everything baby-related to death. Amazon and books like Baby Bargains were a blessing and a curse. I spent countless hours reading reviews on everything from baby carriers and strollers to pacifiers (with and without animal attachments!) and bottles… but all of that feedback also makes it really easy to second guess yourself. Do we really need a Diaper Genie? Does that one terrible review mean I should forget the Fisher Price Glow Worm altogether? These are the things that kept me up at night while we waited on baby to arrive.
Honestly, before you have a baby, it’s so hard to know what’s really essential. For example, one thing we almost decided to pass on completely was a baby swing. When would we ever use an enormous baby swing, especially when our house was already overflowing with tons of baby things?
The week I was due, I happened to be at Target and I had second thoughts about the swing. Thank goodness I wound up buying one! Otherwise, I have no idea how I would have showered when my husband was at work during the day. The swing kept my tiny love happy just long enough for me to sneak away to wash my hair. It’s also the only place she’d sleep for the first four months.
Over the years, lots of Houston mamas have asked me about my personal baby must-haves. From one mama to another, I’m always happy to share advice on baby essentials and what worked for my family. Since these questions come up often during the maternity, Fresh 48 and in-home newborn sessions I shoot in the Houston area, I decided to compile a list of everything I loved during the first year for each of my babies.
Assuming you’ve got the essentials covered (crib, car seat, etc.), here are a few other things to check out. In addition, you’ll also see my recommended list of stuff to skip.
- The Mommy Hook
- Baby Jogger Citi Mini Double Stroller
- Stroller organizer
- Sound machine
- Baby K’Tan
- The Wonder Weeks app
- Aden & Anais swaddles
- Boba sweater
- Angelcare baby monitor
- Some kind of basket for diaper stations around the house
- Fisher Price Snugabear Baby Swing
- Baby Einstein music thing
- Diaper bag backpack
- Sleep & plays
The Mommy Hook
I love this thing so much that it’s my go-to baby shower gift. It’s basically a giant hook that I keep on my stroller. It’s great for holding purses, backpacks, nap mats for older kids, shopping bags, water bottles with a hook… practically everything. Whether you have one kid or 10, you never have enough hands, especially when you’re out. The Mommy Hook helps keep your hands free so you can attend to your kids without juggling so much.
Baby Jogger Citi Mini Double Stroller
If you’re a first time mama, keep scrolling! Expecting a subsequent baby? BUY THIS STROLLER. When we were expecting baby #2, I did endless research on double strollers. I asked friends and even random moms about what they liked/hated about their double strollers. Some moms swear by the inline strollers, where one child sits behind the other… but I just had a feeling my kids would fight endlessly over who got to be in the front. We opted for the side-by-side Citi Mini and I have never had one second of regret. Both kids can lay fully back, which is great if they get sleepy. This stroller is about the width of a wheelchair and I’ve never had trouble entering a single doorway (as opposed to one with double doors). This is one place where we definitely felt like a splurge was worth it, and we were so right.
Whether I’m taking kids to school, out for a walk or on a trip to the zoo, this organizer makes it easy to take just the essentials. There are two cupholders, a generous pocket with a magnet closure and three slim pockets along the front for your phone, cash/credit cards, etc.
Did you know it’s actually pretty loud for babies while they’re in the womb? They can hear your heartbeat, air moving in your lungs and your stomach growling, as well as your voice. We have a tendency to want to keep things quiet for babies once they’re born, but we found that our kids actually slept much deeper and longer with a sound machine. Our favorite setting is beach waves.
I have no idea why every mom on the planet doesn’t have this carrier. It’s perfect for newborns – about six months and keeps baby snuggled so close. The K’Tan folds up to fit in a diaper bag and can be thrown in the wash when it gets dirty. Plus, it’s much easier to put on than those crazy carriers you have to wrap a million times.
The Wonder Weeks app
As baby grows, their brains are developing and they are making huge leaps in mental development over the first two years. These changes can lead to more fussiness, less sleep, more nursing and general baby grumpiness. All of that could throw you for a loop or make you wonder if it’s time to call your pediatrician… but not if you have this app! We started using it with our first baby and it saved my sanity so many times. The app uses baby’s birthday to determine when he or she is likely to hit common major mental milestones. You’ll get an alert as a leap is about to begin and it will also give you new abilities to look for as your baby progresses.
Aden & Anais swaddles
If you’ve booked a session with me, you know these swaddles are listed in the “Motherhood Must-Haves” section of my Celebrate Motherhood style magazine! These are lightweight enough for summer and can be combined with warm clothes in the winter to keep baby tightly swaddled and happy. I love the simple, classic patterns and colors. These are the only swaddles I bring along with me to Fresh 48 and at-home newborn photo sessions!
The Boba Hoodie
I didn’t know about the Boba hoodie when I had a tiny baby, but I SO wish I would have. I actually met a mom of four who was wearing one a few weeks ago and this thing is pure genius. It’s a hoodie you can wear over baby in a soft structured carrier/sling that keeps both of you warm. There is an opening for baby’s head and a side zipper to ensure it’s easy to pull on with baby strapped to you. I would have paired this hoodie with my K’Tan in a heartbeat!
Angelcare Baby Monitor
When I was pregnant and researching baby monitors, there were far too many scary stories of creeps hacking into video monitors. (Seriously, don’t Google those stories if you want peace of mind about video monitors!) It definitely turned me completely off the idea of having a video monitor, even though other parents swear you can lock them down and make it impossible to hack into them. We decided on the Angelcare monitor instead. It comes with a sensor pad that tracks baby’s movements in the crib and sounds an alarm if they are completely still for 20 seconds or more. We took every precaution possible to ensure the safety of our kids, and this monitor was one of them. It also monitors the temperature in baby’s room and allows you to set an alarm if the temp hits a high/low that you set.
Basket with handle for diaper changing station
I read a tip on some mommy blog years ago to keep diaper changing stations all over the house so you’re not always going to baby’s room for a change. Our first home was one story and on the smaller side, but I’m still so glad I kept a basket with diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream and a change of clothes in the living room. Now that we have a two-story home, it makes even more sense to have easy access to diaper changing essentials on both floors.
This is every breastfeeding mama’s best friend! It’s a C-shaped pillow for baby to lay on while you nurse. We also used the Boppy for our baby to lay against before she could sit, and as support when she was new to sitting up.
Fisher Price baby swing
We used this swing until it practically gave out for all three babies. With my second daughter, we bought a Mamaroo because that was the hot baby thing. It took up dramatically less space than the swing and, quite honestly, it was nicer to look at. But the Mamaroo inexplicably went out when my daughter was five weeks old and the customer service department would not replace it. There are tons of similar complaints online of the Mamaroo suddenly breaking, so I knew we weren’t alone. Instead of dumping more money into another one, we went back to the trusty (but ugly and huge) Fisher Price swing. It’s definitely money well spent, mama. Skip the Mamaroo (unless their customer service has changed!) and go with this swing instead.
Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes
I can still remember all of the long car rides with my first baby screaming in the backseat. This Baby Einstein music toy was literally the only thing that would calm her down. She loved the soft tunes and the blinking lights as it played. Before I’d leave the house, I would check the diaper bag for diapers, wipes and this toy.
Diaper bag backpack
Over the years I went through so many diaper bags. I had a Petunia Pickle Bottom bag with my first kiddo and I quickly traded it in for a different one because it’s super heavy even when it’s empty. After trying a variety of bags, I finally settled on a diaper bag backpack that really made life a lot easier. A backpack is a million times easier because your hands and arms are totally free. Plus, you won’t have to worry about it sliding down your shoulder and smacking your toddler in the head when you bend down to care for baby.
Sleep & plays
Another thing I learned with time is that snaps on baby clothing – especially pajamas – are straight from the devil. How many times did I change a diaper after nursing in the middle of the night and miss a snap so that they weren’t lining up correctly? Zippers are a BILLION times easier! I don’t even know why baby clothing comes with snaps as an option! The sleep & plays are great for those newborn days when baby isn’t doing much and you want to keep them warm. They’re also great pajamas.
I also liked the long newborn gowns when my girls were really small. The only drawback to these is you have to pull the gown up on baby’s legs to buckle the carseat, which means you’ll also need a blanket to cover them up. Diaper changes are a breeze and the Carter’s gowns come with the flip-down mitts so they won’t scratch themselves.
Baby items to skip
After three kids, I can safely say there are some things we skipped and never missed. Of course opinions are going to vary from mom to mom, so do what’s best for your family!
This just felt kind of indulgent and ridiculous. I understand that warm wipes might feel more comfortable, especially in the middle of the night… but seriously? I’d put wipe warmers in the waste of money category.
My husband was the one who wanted to pass on this when we were registering and I thought he was crazy at the time. But it turns out you actually don’t need a special trashcan for diapers. Just get one with a lid and use plastic grocery bags as liners. You’ll save money on the expensive bag refills, too!
Steam sterilizers for bottles
This is what your dishwasher is for. You can also wash by hand. Do you really need anything else cluttering up your kitchen counters?
Space saver high chair
So many moms recommended the high chair that straps to a kitchen chair, so of course we bought one. The thing is, there are times when it’s super inconvenient to be short a kitchen chair. Although high chairs take up some extra space, I think it’s worth it to get a stand alone one instead of this kind. For one thing, kids are so messy and I’ve practically scrubbed off the stain on our kitchen chairs to get dried baby food and apple sauce off. Ikea has very reasonably priced and cute stand alone high chairs, so get one of those instead.
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I’m a maternity, Fresh 48 and in-home newborn photographer based in Houston, TX. Whether you’re pregnant or getting settled with a newborn at home, you deserve to celebrate the beauty of motherhood with a luxury photography experience! Click the button below for more information on my photo sessions. I’ll send you a Welcome guide with all the details!