It’s downright overwhelming. The brimming store aisles, the endless array of equipment, the infinite brands and colorful gadgets that promise sanity and miracles — all vigorously vying for your new-baby dollar.
In an era when strollers feature iPhone chargers, MP3 players and LED light shows, new parents can be left feeling dazed, confused and blinking blindly into those LEDs.
So we’ve checked in with the real experts — first-time parents from across the country who’ve been in your shoes — to see what products they consider must-haves for baby’s first year.
Read on for their absolute favorites — from slim city strollers to “breast-like” bottles, baby-bottom creams and everything in between, these may make your own journey into parenthood a bit easier.
Feeding bottles for babes and more
New York City mom Ellen Schmidt of the blog Baby Meets City says that when it came to feeding, the como tomo bottle ($15 and up) saved the day. “We went through so many [bottles] that my daughter wouldn’t take ... but this one, well, the material and shape are very ‘boob-like’!”
What’s more, the bottle is easy to clean. “It was a win-win,” says Schmidt. Portland father Jacob Rueda agrees, claiming it’s the only bottle his infant son will use because “it’s shaped just like mom.”
Other top feeding picks from parents we spoke with include tommee tippee bibs ($6.99 and up) for their dribble catchers that absorb moisture and help prevent rashes (and messes!); OXO rubber-coated baby spoons ($6.99) for their excellent design; and the Bumbo seat ($22 and up).
Some say that shopping for a stroller can be as complicated as choosing a new car. But is it really an SUV you’re after, or a compact ride that folds up seamlessly and navigates the grocery store?
Brooklyn-based mom Jen Palmisano says the Britax B-Agile stroller ($249.99) has made life a breeze in the Big Apple with her son Jonah. Palmisano loves that this model is click-and-go compatible with their Britax B-Safe car seat ($179.99) and says that it’s “very lightweight and true to its name — agile,” with “lots of lying position options and varying levels of coverage for the canopy.” Appropriate for infants and children weighing as much as 55 pounds, the B-Agile got rave reviews for its quick and easy folding ability, storage pockets, foot and leg room (a great pick for tall mamas) and overall durability.
If it’s an all-in-one multi-terrain stroller you’re after, consider taking the Bumbleride Indie ($529.99) out for a test drive. Seattle mom Melissa Anderson says that she loves this stroller for its “adjustable footrest, three-wheel design that’s so easy to push, and huge canopy (one of the largest on the market!).” Weighing in at only 20 pounds, the Indie model is compatible with a variety of popular car seats and even features a removable cup holder for mom’s morning latte.
In need of a carrier that’s just as comfortable for you as it is for your baby? After trying a variety of carriers, Palmisano says that the Beco Gemini ($130) was by far the best for making the urban trek on the subway to day care each day. “It doesn’t hurt my back at all,” she notes. “It faces in and out, which he loves, and later we can even use it as a backpack.”
Spokane mom Maya Lawrence says her daughter Zoey “loved to be close to [her] skin all the time,” and that the Moby Wrap ($47.95 and up) accomplished that wonderfully. “The Moby was very practical for our family — when Zoey was an infant, I once nursed her during a department meeting; no one had a clue!”
Swings for infants
Philadelphia mom Megan Lubin, creator of the blog His Middle Name, says that the Fisher-Price Newborn Rock ’n Play Sleeper ($50) went above and beyond for her son, born prematurely. “It saved our sanity!” says Lubin. “Our son had terrible acid reflux and was on prescription medication. The Rock ’n Play Sleeper kept our son at an incline and really eased the pain he would have felt from the reflux after meals.… We also used it constantly while traveling because it stored so well.”
Another swing-tastic favorite that came in as a must-have: the mamaRoo ($199.99 and up). Taking it far beyond swinging and bouncing, this plush seat features five unique motions that are meant to resemble what baby is most used to: his parents’ natural movements; it sways, it rocks, it bounces.
Additional ‘lifesaver’ gear for new parents
• Exercise ball: “Cheap, and perfect for calming and bouncing to sleep. Has been our lifesaver!” — Alizzy Gooding, Denver
• Medela Freestyle breast pump ($316.99 and up): “It’s a workhorse! Two times a day for half an hour each time for almost a year and no problems.” — Genna Cushman, Poulsbo
• Skip Hop Versa diaper bag ($70): “Very stylish. I like that it looks more like a big purse while still having all of the great features that I was needing in a diaper bag.” — Emily Park, San Francisco
• Puj tub ($45): “My son loves this tub! It’s so easy to use and doesn’t hurt your back like others we’ve tried. It’s soft and cradles his little body so well, and it’s so flexible!” — Ashley Simms, Seattle
• Aden & Anais swaddling blankets ($22 and up): “I love these soft muslin blankets. Not only do they feel great (and they only get softer after every wash!), they are perfect for swaddling. I also like to use them as a sun shield in warm weather.” — Ellen Schmidt, New York
• Baby Connect app ($4.99): “Captures all important data about your baby, including hours slept, number of diapers and height/weight/head circumference. You can also export data to spreadsheets and do check-ins with multiple people for one child.” — Aadip Desai, Los Angeles
• Triple Paste medicated ointment ($5 and up): “The king of creams! It clears any diaper rash in 1–2 applications.” — Genna Cushman
• Vicks rectal thermometer ($9 and up): “Our pediatrician from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia recommended this product. He said it would give us an accurate reading on our son’s temp, and it has never failed us!” — Megan Lubin, Philadelphia
• Lamaze International products: “[Our son] really loved just about any toys from Lamaze International: soft stacking rings, soft books, etc. They also have great breastfeeding books, such as The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, which has lots of tips about baby care and cosleeping, and so much more than just breastfeeding. — Jen Palmisano, New York
• Baby Deedee Sleep Nest ($38 and up): “These are worth the price. [Our daughter] uses one every night. Breathable, washable, warm, and easy on and off.” — Genna Cushman
Jen Betterley is a freelance writer living in Seattle.