Newborn must-haves like sleepers, diapers and other baby essentials

When I was expecting my first baby, I cross-referenced multiple “gear to get” checklists, hoping to come up with a definitive list of baby essentials. From there, I built a spreadsheet of gear with columns for pros and cons, safety information, price comparisons and more. The chart was two pages long.

It wasn’t until months after Sophie’s arrival that I realized I really should have asked the mothers in my life for their lists of newborn must-haves. I would have saved myself time, energy and cash. That’s why I polled the mamas in my life to see what items they wish they’d left on the shelves and what they recommend buying instead.

1Skip: Change table | Buy: Hard-backed changing pad (or two!)

Baby on changing pad

I didn’t have space for another piece of furniture in my daughter’s room, so a change table was out of the question. Instead, I opted for a low dresser and added a change pad on top. A hard-backed change pad is a moulded, sometimes upholstered piece of foam with a firm backing to help your little one stay put during changing. I even ended up buying a second one so I could have change stations on both levels of my home.

What other moms say: “You’re going to end up getting rid of a change table later. Just plop a change pad atop a dresser and use one drawer for diapers, etc.” –Sarah, 41, mom of 2

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2Skip: Wipe warmer | Buy: Receiving blankets in bulk

Baby in a receiving blanket

I received a wipe warmer as a present, but I didn’t use it for long. Why? I had packages of baby wipes everywhere—but only one wipe warmer. Sophie got used to the warm wipes and would cry when I used cool wipes in the car or at the park. So I decided to stop warming her wipes altogether and she was fine. I did find it helpful to have multiple receiving blankets on hand for diaper changes, though. I’d place one on her chest while I was diapering or dressing her, so she wouldn’t get cold. I also used the blankets as loveys, car seat covers and floor covers during tummy time.

What other moms say: “I love receiving blankets and use them for everything. Naps, spit up, nursing covers. I have a ton and, since I use them every day, I’m glad I have that many.” –Danielle, 36, new mom

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3Skip: Stuffed toys with white noise | Buy: White-noise machine

Mom and baby with white noise machine that has projections

Sweet, cuddly stuffies programmed with white noise are great in theory, but they have one major flaw: They time out. When the noise ends, the lack of sound may wake the baby. A noise machine—whether specifically for babies or even created for adults—can run from bedtime until morning without disruption. They’re a total sleep gamechanger.

What other moms say: “Stuffy sound machines are a pass because they time out! All night or bust, baby.” –Allie, 38, mom of 2

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4Skip: Pricey diaper bag | Buy: Purse or knapsack

Mom using a backpack as a diaper bag

I started out with a standard diaper bag at first, but I hated it by the second month. It was too big and bulky, and trying to carry a baby in a bucket seat with one hand while trying to keep the diaper bag over my shoulder—forget it. I swapped it for a regular ol’ knapsack before Sophie was three months old and never looked back. The only downside? It didn’t have any insulated pockets. I used an insulated lunch bag for bottles instead.

What other moms say: “My diaper bag was completely useless. A regular backpack or purse would have been sufficient.” –Joanne, 37, mom of 2

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5Skip: Clothing with lots of snaps | Buy: Clothing with zippers

Baby in a zippered sleeper

A good friend of mine gave me a beautiful romper before Sophie was born, but I’ve never hated an item of baby clothing more. I think I put her in it twice before it got retired to the keepsake box because it had 14 buttons and buttonholes. (Yes, I counted.) I can deal with snaps if I have to, but I’m Team Zipper all the way. Most zippers are plastic, so you don’t have to worry about them feeling cold against your little one’s skin. And don’t worry—you won’t catch baby’s skin in the zipper. Just pull gently.

What other moms say: “Can I just question why any clothing designer would make button-up one-piece pajamas for babies? They never stop moving. I was in a full-out sweat as I tried to speed-button them in.” –Leanne, 39, mom of 2

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6Skip: Swaddle blankets | Buy: Sleep sacks

Two babies in Halo SleepSacks

While some moms say swaddle blankets are newborn must-haves, they never worked for me. Even the oft-praised muslin swaddles came undone, no matter how many YouTube videos I watched. But then I found baby sleep sacks (also known as “easy” swaddles), which are wearable blankets with built-in flaps that made wrapping Sophie so much easier. And once we were past the swaddle stage, I still used the sack, but left her arms free.

What other moms say: “My kids were Houdinis and would escape any swaddle! Halo SleepSacks made it so much easier.” – Anchel, 42, mom of 2

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7Skip: Nasal suction bulb | Buy: Nasal aspirator

Using a FridaBaby Nasal Aspirator

When Sophie got her first cold, she was like a feral animal. She was snarly because she couldn’t breathe and fussy because she couldn’t sleep. I tried everything to soothe her, including a turkey baster-like bulb the doctor recommended for clearing snot. Nothing worked. But then a co-worker recommended a nasal aspirator (specifically the NoseFrida, which has amazing reviews). If I hadn’t been so tired, I’d have sent her a fruit basket! This contraption lets parents suck snot out of baby’s nose with their mouths (with a filter, of course). It’s awesome.

What other moms say: “Just get the NoseFrida. Best. Purchase. Ever.” – Tanya, 45, mom of 3

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8Skip: Bottle-drying trees | Buy: Microwave sterilizer bags

Mother using microwave

I don’t think there was a chore I dreaded more than sterilizing bottles and soothers when Sophie was a baby. That’s why it was a good day when I found micro-steam bags—which use the microwave to sterilize everything from bottle nipples to breast pump parts. It was so quick that I sterilized more often and let things air dry in small batches in the regular dish rack. The bags are usually BPA-free (check the label just to be sure) and the steaming process kills up to 99.9 per cent of germs. They’re often reusable many times over as well.

What other moms say: “Those micro-steam bags were the best $14 I ever spent. I used them mostly for soothers, but they’re good for bottle and pump parts, too.” –Ariel, 36, mom of 2

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9Skip: 4moms Mamaroo Infant Seat | Buy: Affordable infant swing

Baby in the Ingenuity SimpleComfort baby swing

Some parents say the Mamaroo is a newborn must-have for soothing, but not every baby loves it. It also comes with a hefty price tag (more than $300 at time of publish), so it’s a pricey gamble. In my case, it was a wager that didn’t pay off; Sophie hated it, so it became an expensive place to toss laundry. Swings can be the same—some babies love them, some hate them—but at least they aren’t such a big investment.

What other moms say: “I called our swing ‘the baby whisperer’ at first, but now my four-month-old hates it; the longest she will sit in it is 10 minutes. I guess it really depends on the baby.” –Danielle, 36, new mom

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10Skip: Bumbo Infant Floor Seat | Buy: Nursing pillow

Mother using nursing pillow to hold baby

I never understood the Bumbo. As soon as your baby starts to move, they can wriggle out of it fairly easily. For my money, a nursing pillow is a better newborn must-have. It gave me a place to set baby down, while also providing so many other benefits. Nursing pillows make it easier to hold your babe, position for feeding and more.

What other moms say: “My kids were so chubby that they barely fit in the Bumbo. They looked so uncomfortable and would work hard to wiggle out of it.” –Leanne, 39, mom of 2

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