I spent MONTHS researching baby stuff. Cribs, strollers, snot suckers (things you never thought you’d google…) There is an overwhelming amount of “stuff” on the market for babies. And according to all of the advertisements, every one of those items is a “must have.” As I was adding things to my Baby List registry, I started to wonder how in the world we were going to fit all of it into our little 1,200 square foot house. That’s when I started paying really close attention to what things seemed like actual needs and what things were really just trendy wants disguised as needs. And I found that you can do with waaaay less than the people in baby product making land will tell you.
There were a few questions I would ask myself before adding an item to my registry:
1. Is it practical?
This sounds like a no brainer, but there are a lot of *cute* things on the market that really aren’t helpful. And even though aesthetics are important to me, I am also very practical, and in the middle of the night when the baby is crying, if it’s cute but a pain to use, it’s not worth having. In our house, functionality wins the day. Occasionally, there will be a product that is as visually appealing as it is user friendly, and those items usually illicit the Hallelujah Chorus from me. I have included several of those items in my list (minus the singing).
2. Do I already have something that could do the job?
The moment I realized that bottles don’t *actually* need their own special drying rack, I felt kind of dumb for not coming to that conclusion sooner. Seriously, there are SO many things like this that those smart marketing gurus make us think we need! Just be thoughtful and don’t invest your money into something that you basically already have. (another example is the Baby Bullet. I actually had it on my registry until I realized that my regular Bullet could probably puree baby food JUST fine. Spoiler alert: it does!)
3. Can I use this for more than one kid?
With the exception of clothing and a few other items, I tried really hard to buy as many gender neutral things as I could so that all of these items will work well if we have a boy down the road.
4. Can I borrow it?
There were a lot of items that I wanted to buy, but then realized we would only use it for a short time, so rather than spending the money this go around, we decided to borrow from a friends. Since we were starting from ground zero and literally needed EVERYTHING, it was nice to save money where we could. Maybe with our next kid, (when we aren’t having to buy the big things) we will fill in the gaps with some of these items that we had previously borrowed. But for this go around, it was really nice!
So here is a curated list with links, broken down into categories, of the things that we have really loved having. I did a lot of research and shopped specifically with our small space (and moderate budget) in mind. I hope it’s helpful!
Taking Cara Babies Newborn Course–
If I could only recommend ONE item for new moms, THIS. IS. IT. Hands down. I cannot say enough good things about this course. I don’t know about you, but we love our sleep around here so it was really important to us to lay a solid sleep foundation from the very beginning. All of the things in this course are simple, easy to apply and don’t involve leaving your baby to cry it out. And guys, IT WORKED! Kennedy was sleeping a solid 8 hours by the time she was 8 weeks old. Obviously, those first few months are tiring, but I never felt sleep deprived and I give 100% of the credit to this course!!
Footed sleepers that zip-
Oh man, I can’t stress this one enough. When you’re bleary eyed in the middle of the night trying to change a diaper in the dark, there is nothing more frustrating than snaps. If I were a swearing woman, I’m pretty sure these suckers would have solicited some not so baby friendly words. Pajamas that zip (especially when the zippers are inverted) are a mama’s best friend. Trust me on this one.
Old Navy has a bunch to choose from and they go on sale all the time!
The photographer in me wanted to buy one of those beautiful woven moses baskets with the cool stand so that I could get all of those Pinterest worthy pictures of my baby all snuggled up and sleeping peacefully. But the practical side of me was thinking about where the heck we were going to store the thing when we were done with it. Babies only use a bassinet for a few months so I knew the smartest thing was to buy one that would be easy to put in a closet. We landed on this one mostly because it had the smallest footprint of the ones I was looking at. The fold up feature has been incredibly handy and has enabled us to take it with us on the go. We used it way more than the pack n play early on. I would highly recommend it!
Hatch Sound Machine –
This sound machine has so many features and is really easy to use. I love that I can control it from my phone and turn it on and off from another room. One of my favorite things is that you can program different combinations of light and sound and have them ready to go at a single touch. Another big draw was the ability to set things to a schedule. For example, you can have the light color or sound change when nap time is over or it’s time to get up in the morning. I think this will be particularly handy when Kennedy is a toddler and is out of her crib but can’t tell time yet.
The Ollie Swaddle –
We call this our little baby straight jacket. Babies are used to being snug in the womb, so it is comforting to them when they are swaddled tight. I think this was a big contributor to helping Kennedy sleep through the night early on. Definitely a must for the newborn stage!
Love to Dream Swaddle –
When Kennedy was about 4 months old, we decided to switch to the Love to Dream swaddle because it allowed her to have her arms up (which she preferred), but still kept her contained. We went with the 50/50 model with the removable arms so that we can continue to use it even when she starts to roll over. (The AAP advises parents to stop swaddling the arms in once baby can roll.)
You can’t put a price tag on the peace of mind that this device will give you. It is definitely an investment but it is worth it, hands down. I love that if I wake up in the middle of the night, I can just quickly peek at my phone and see her heart rate and oxygen stats. It definitely made it a lot easier to transition her out of our room. We were super blessed to be able to borrow one from a friend who wasn’t using it at the time, but we will definitely buy one for our next baby.
CasaCam Video Monitor –
I used to think that having a video monitor was so extra, but it has actually been really nice! I love that I can peek on Kennedy without actually going into the room. The screen is small but is good enough for us. This one doesn’t connect to our phones but we actually didn’t want that anyway. One of the big reasons we chose this one is because the camera can clip to things (as well as be mounted to the wall). We love that we can take it with us when we travel and clip it to a shelf or the crib and be able to see her no matter where we are!
Evenflo Pivot Expand Stroller –
Other than the sleep training class, this may be the item I talk about the most. We absolutely LOVE our stroller. I spent HOURS researching strollers and this one checked all the boxes and was an amazing price. For less than HALF of what the Uppa Baby and Baby Jogger strollers cost, we got most of the same features, a very similar design, the ability to convert to a double stroller AND it came with the compatible infant carseat and base. It was a no brainer!
Backpack Diaper Bag –
This definitely wins the “Fashionable Yet Functional” award! I love the sleek design and it has been SO nice to be able to carry it hands free. It has a ton of zipper pockets and inside storage and comes with a matching changing pad. It also has a slot in the back that you can unzip to put it onto a suitcase handle to make it easier when traveling. I highly recommend this bag!
Diaper Clutch –
This was one of those late night Amazon browsing finds (you know you do it too!) and I love this thing! Having the diapers and wipes in the same place has made public restroom changing sessions so much easier. There have been a handful of time that I was going somewhere and didn’t need the whole diaper bag so I just grabbed this and was set. It’s easy to cary and fits perfectly in my diaper bag! Bonus points for being cute!
Rohm Portable Sound Machine –
We love this sound machine! It is small, holds a charge for on the go use, and unlike a lot of other sound machines, it doesn’t have an automatic shut off. You can run this thing all night long.
I love baby wearing and so far this has been my favorite way to do it! I found this local mama (pictured below) who makes beautiful ring slings and I absolutely LOVE mine!
Collapsable Bouncy Seat –
This was an exciting find! Being able to fold it down makes it easy to store and easy to take places. Sadly, this exact one has been discontinued, but THIS one by Baby Jogger is very similar!. (I have also heard really good things about the Baby Bjorn one)
This was a big fave in our house! We only used it for a few months because she grew out of it, but it was super handy when she was itty bitty. It allowed us to set her down and know she was safe. If elephants aren’t really your thing (join the club!), you can find some really cute covers for these from third party sellers.
Graco Collapsible Swing–
Again, with our small house, this was a great find! It’s super easy to fold up and move around the house and stores well in a closet.
We got this when Kennedy was about 6months old and it’s been a big hit! I’ll even put it on her bouncy seat at home and she loves it! My neutral loving self cringed a little bight at how bright this is, but Kennedy really loves the colors.
Contoured Burp Cloths:
These are oversized and contoured to fit around your neck and they are by far our favorite ones!
Trust me on this one. Your girls will thank you.
Spectra S1 Breast Pump-
I really love my breast pump! This particular model holds a charge so you can take it with you and not have to worry about finding an outlet. I pumped in the car on multiple occasions and was SO grateful I had this one!
Milk Storage Trays–
I got frustrated with using storage bags because I didn’t want to freeze more than a feedings worth in each bag, so if I had an extra ounce left over I had to freeze it by itself or, sometimes I’d keep it in the fridge and forget about it and then I would have to throw it out. These trays freeze the milk in 1-ounce. servings and once they are frozen, I just stick them a big ziplock bag that I can pull from when I need to. I also feel a little bit better about not throwing out so many little baggies.
Haakaa Silicone Pump-
I loved this pump early on. It is very gentle which I appreciated when I was raw and tender. I also used it to catch my let down on the side I wasn’t nursing on and I saved so much milk! It was also helpful when Kennedy started sleeping through the night. There were times I would wake up and feel like I was about ready to burst, so I would use this to take the edge off until she woke up.
Once my milk supply was more regulated and I wasn’t dealing with sore nipples, I ended up switching to this to catch my let down. It’s more discreet and you can slip it into your bra while you nurse as opposed to the Haakaa which requires you to strip down. They both worked great, this just ended up being my favorite. It doesn’t have any suction though, so it really just catches the milk for you.
Munchkin Bottle Warmer-
Even though I breastfed, this was great to have on hand if I ever needed to give her a bottle or if we left her with someone. I liked this particular warmer because it works super fast and has the bottle warmed in 90 seconds. When you have a screaming, hungry baby, every second counts!
Avent Glass Bottles–
Even though the plastic bottles are BPA-free, we just felt better about going the glass route. They are more expensive, but because I was breastfeeding, we only kept one on hand for the rare occasion that she needed to take a bottle. We started with the 4oz bottle and that worked great for us.
Folding Booster Seat-
Because our house is small, we decided not to get a highchair. Instead, we went with this booster seat. It straps securely to one of our dining chairs and when the tray is down, we can scoot the whole thing under the table so you don’t even realize it’s there. It’s dishwasher safe which makes it easy to clean and we love that it can collapse down for easy travel.
Finding clean diapers was really important to me. It’s insane the amounts of chemicals and fragrances are in traditional diapers! I tried several different brands (Pampers Pure, Huggies Special Delivery, Honest, etc.) but eventually landed on Dyper. I love that they are a subscription so 1) it saves money and 2) they ship directly to your house every month so I never have to worry about running out and it’s one less thing I have to remember to buy. A fun bonus is that this company is based here in Phoenix. I love getting to support a local brand with a great product! These diapers have also been the best at keeping thing contained. Kennedy had SO many blow outs in the other brands and so far these have only leaked a few times.
Huggies Natural Care Baby Wipes–
I tried a lot of natural wipes and these are by far my favorite. A lot of the other brands are small and kind of stiff, but these are a good size and very soft.
Burts Bees Diaper Rash Cream–
Like I mentioned before, Kennedy hasn’t really struggled with diaper rashes up to this point, but any time she starts looking the slightest bit red, I will put this on her and by the next diaper change it’s totally better. I love this is natural but also effective!
Ubbi Diaper Pail–
After doing research, (again, add to list of things I never thought I’d google!) this became an obvious choice for several reasons. It came highly recommended by several friends, apparently it has won awards (did not know diaper pails could win awards), and what sold me is that you don’t have to buy special bags for it! They do seem their own brand of bags, but I just use flap tie kitchen garbage bags and they work great! The pail is made of steel which is non-porous so it keeps the smell completely contained. And the lid locks and seals so we truly don’t smell anything! I knew i had mad the right choice when I was inline at Target to buy it and a mom behind me said, “Oh, you are going to LOVE that. It’s the best one on the market!”
These have been a life saver. Kennedy had a pretty sensitive tummy early on and these helped a ton!
Wellements Teething Oil–
We love this teething oil! It’s an all natural blend of essential oils and works quickly to soothe little gums.
Hooded Towel –
We love having this cute hooded towel to wrap her up in after her baths. It’s soft and warm and has held up really well so far.
Puj Baby Bath –
A friend told me about the Puj tub and it has been one of our favorite finds! It is so compact, easy to store, easy to travel with AND easy to clean. It’s non porous, so no need to worry about mildew. It fits perfectly in our sink for super easy bathing and then we fold it up and hang it on a hook we put in the shower. You hardly even notice it’s there.
Puracy Stain Remover–
This stuff is my new best friend. It’s no toxic but WORKS! Kennedy is the queen of blowouts and this has save may outfits. (The stain pictured below came out completely!)
We never go anywhere without a paci on a clip. It’s so nice to be able to secure it to her onesie or the carseat and keep the paci from falling to the ground.
Copper Pearl Jersey Swaddle –
This is hands down my favorite swaddle blanket. It is soft, light weight, and the knit material allows it to stretch so the you can wrap baby really tight. Like I said before, Kennedy is an escape artist and this was the only blanket that could actually keep her contained. They have lots of really cute patterns.
So there you have it! Having a baby is such an exciting time but preparing can definitely feel overwhelming at times. Whether you are expecting your first or our fourth, I hope this list has been helpful for you! Best wishes as you begin your journey with your sweet little one.
Kara Knapp Photography is based in Phoenix, Arizona and specializes in newborns, maternity, and family photography.
Click HERE to see more of her work.