Figuring out must-haves for a new baby is hard, and everyone has their own ideas of what is a must have. After getting several questions from friends who are also expecting, I figured it was due time to put together a full post on what I can look back on as the no-kidding must-have items for a new baby in the first three months.
Here’s the thing–and it’s really very simple–the one, and I mean THEE one thing you’re going to want most in those first three months is SLEEP. I think every single new parent would say the same thing. There’s a reason that military training for captives involves sleep deprivation. We humans NEED sleep to function and, when you take that away, we become a bunch of hangry monsters.
I look back on those first few months (specifically the FIRST month) as a total blur. I was talking with my sister-in-law the other day, who had a baby two months before I did, and we agreed that if you showed us pictures of our babies from the first month, we wouldn’t even recognize them as our babies. For one, they change so much, so fast. And two, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t even recognize myself during that time.
That all said, getting your baby into a sleep routine–to a point that they can sleep through the night–will be the best thing you can do for your sanity. And, let’s be honest, you won’t be the best mom you can be unless you’ve got that sanity. For that reason, nearly all of my must-have items revolve around creating an effective sleeping environment and supports seamless diapering for those middle-of-the-night changes.
So, the no-kidding must-have items for a new baby in the first three months are:
2 really great swaddles
Honestly, there are so many brands out there that make swaddles, and I’m sure there isn’t a ton of difference between all of them. All I can say is that you’ll want one that can be made REALLY tight. We used the Halo Sleep Sack and it worked wonders. I didn’t use it but I’ve seen a lot of moms using the Ollie swaddle, and it looks like it could also be made really tight. Truly, the only thing that matters is that you have something strong enough to hold their little arms in place. Otherwise, their startle reflex will keep them up throughout the night. (You would be amazed at how tightly they need to be wrapped in order for their arms to stay down!). I recommend buying two since they’ll inevitably spit up on it at some point, at which time a back-up will be life-saving.
Make sure to get the version with the wrap-around straps, not the sleeveless version. That way, you can use it arms-in or arms-out but, as mentioned above, they’ll sleep best with arms-in. For our first daughter, the hospital actually gave us one of these when we brought our daughter home, but this was not the case at the hospital for my second daughter. I recommend purchasing a size newborn and size small, and having both with you in your hospital bag. It’s so much easier than trying to swaddle with a blanket!
Recommendations: Halo Sleep Sack in size newborn and size small.
Here again, I know there are several brands that make wraps, and I’m sure they’re relatively similar, since the basic idea is the same. I had the Solly Baby Wrap, and it was a lifesaver on so many occasions. The wrap creates a womb-like atmosphere for the baby that is instantly calming for them. Josie would go to sleep seconds after I wrapped her. It was the only thing that allowed me to get anything done during the first few months (vacuuming, laundry, organizing, going to church, etc.). Basically, any time I needed to be up and about, this was what allowed it to happen. (Tip: if you’re going out somewhere, tie the wrap before you leave. Then, when you get to where you’re going, you can just pull the baby out of the carseat and into the wrap, without having to tie it up first. That made trips to the grocery store so easy!)
Recommendations: Solly Baby Wrap + Boba Baby Wrap
white noise machine
White noise is magic for baby sleep, but you need it to be LOUD and play all night. For my first daughter, we used the Amazon Echo since we already had one in our bedroom, which we shared with her for the first six months. We plugged it in near the head of the crib so that it blocked out any noises around her. We still use that for her today, as a toddler. We have it set up to play a routine where we say, “Alexa, time for bed” and it automatically turns the volume to 10, starts the white noise, then stops the white noise at 7 a.m. to play her wake-up song (Here Comes the Sun, by the Beatles, if you’re curious. 😄), then turns the volume back down to 3 before turning off. Having the routine set has helped a lot now that she’s in a big girl bed.
For my second daughter, we purchased the Hatch Rest+. Compared to the Echo, my husband and I prefer this mainly because it has a back-up battery for times when the power goes out. This way, the white noise plays continuously regardless of whether there is a wi-fi connection (our wi-fi connection is spotty so this is a big perk for us). The Rest+ model also unplugs so that you can take it with you for travel and use it with or without wi-fi.
It also features an adjustable night light option that is great for middle-of-the-night feedings and diaper changes. I did find it clunky to fumble with the app to turn the light on/off during those late night feeds, so we just leave the light on all night. Since I wear a sleep mask anyway, it hasn’t been bothersome to have it on all night and it’s helpful to see her if she needs some soothing throughout the night. Once she is sleeping through the night, I don’t think there will be a need to keep the light on throughout the night.
Another perk, it has an audio-only monitor built-in, so we didn’t need to invest in a second baby monitor while our infant daughter is still room-sharing with us.
That said, the Echo is a great option if you’re looking for a multi-functional device that you might even have on-hand already. It most definitely gets the job done, and is super easy to use. However, if you don’t mind investing in a separate white noise machine, the Hatch Rest+ can’t be beaten and it doubles as a monitor. (We’re all about multi-purpose baby gear in this house!)
Recommendations: Hatch Rest+ and Amazon Echo Dot (Bonus! It does a million other things and is only $39.)
rubber changing pad
I truly don’t know how anyone manages with a cloth changing pad. That just sounds like so. much. laundry. We got the Keekaroo Peanut Changing Pad; it’s rubber and can be wiped clean in seconds. I keep the Babyganics All Purpose Wipes on the diaper cart next to the changing area, and it makes for a really fast cleanup after messes. I know that Hatch also makes a rubber changing pad with a built-in scale. In retrospect, I think that would’ve been a nicety that could’ve come in handy. (Instead, I just weigh myself and then weigh myself while holding her, in order to see how much she weighs.)
Recommendations: Keekaroo Peanut or Hatch Changing Pad and Scale
I don’t think a whole lot of explanation is needed on this one. Baby diapers smell. Keeping the smell contained is pretty important, especially if you’re sharing a room with them! We use the Arm & Hammer Diaper Pail and I love the little pucks that keep everything odor-free. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever smelled a thing. It comes in two sizes, we got the bigger one. I’d say it’s personal preference, but if you’d rather take the trash out less often, then you’ll want the larger size also.
Recommendation: Arm & Hammer Diaper Pail (Bonus! Baking soda pucks eliminate odor)
You probably wouldn’t consider this a must-have, but every time I’m without this thing, I miss it. During middle of the night changes, I can’t imagine fighting the wipe package, while also stumbling around barely awake.
Recommendation: Ubbi Wipe Dispenser
[cheap] white onesies
I had about one or two “dressy” outfits for Josie in the first few months (that’s still true today). She had such bad reflux that I just could not justify putting her in anything other than a white onesie for 90% of the time. She was a winter baby, so every day I dressed her in a white onesie and either a sleeper over top, or a pair of footed pants to keep her feet warm. This way, when they throw up all over themselves all day long, you won’t feel bad about (a) them getting ruined, or (b) having to throw them away. I recommend having about 6 long sleeve and 10 short-sleeve. It’ll allow you to go a good week between needing to do laundry.
Recommendation: Gerber Long Sleeve Onesies (Bonus! Cuffed hands mean no mittens!)
burp cloths (times a million)
Arnie and I laugh because I originally got three burp cloths in preparation for Josie, and legitimately believed that would be all we’d need. Let’s just say that I now have about 30. Early on, and still now, I go through 1 or 2 per feeding. Josie had some reflux issues when she was born, and there was so. much. spit up during those first few months. It’s only now starting to get better and she’s five months old. Our favorites are the Gerber cloth diapers. They’re the most absorbent and pliable for quickly getting to messes. I know there are way cuter ones on the market but, for literal spit-up, I personally didn’t feel a need to overspend here.
Recommendation: Gerber 10-pack of cloth diapers (Bonus! Turn into dust rags when done.)
Starting at about 3 weeks old (or whenever your baby is breastfeeding without issues), a pacifier will become a lifesaver. Sucking is a soother for a baby so, unless you want them using you as a pacifier, you’ll want to have a few of these on hand. I’ve loved the BIBS pacifiers. They are BPA-free, are minimal in design, and really easy for babies to grab onto once they get the hang of grasping. Josie was putting hers in and out like a champ at around 3-4 months.
Recommendation: BIBS pacifier
Odds are, you’re not going to stay cooped up inside every single day with your new baby. First of all, you’ll have several doctor appointments within those first few days and weeks that you’ll be forced out of the house whether you like it or not. Unless you live next to the hospital, you’ll need a way to transport your little one in a vehicle. We love our Britax Travel system. It’s super easy click-in functionality makes it a total breeze for me (a total weakling) to get her in and out of the car and up several flights of stairs to our apartment. The three-wheel stroller design lives up to its name: it’s agile as can be to maneuver around city streets and sidewalks. Most importantly for us though, it’s super compact when folded up and really easy to open and close (with one hand!).
Recommendation: Britax B-Free Travel System
nursing cover/car seat cover
Regardless of whether you want to be covered up to nurse your baby, this cover is multifunctional and is GREAT for getting your baby to nap. You’ll find out VERY quickly that your baby will sleep best if distractions are eliminated. If you’re taking your baby out and about during their nap time, putting a cover over the carrier will create a nice dark space and allow them to get good sleep (trust me, making sure they get good naps while you’re out is VERY important).
Recommendation: Copper Pearl Nursing Cover and Car Seat Cover
I’ll be the first to say that we totally underestimated the importance of the monitor at first. We live in a small apartment, so we didn’t think it was necessary. In reality, you’ll want it for every nap in addition to during the night (for the infared vision), even if you’re sharing a room with baby.
Recommendation: Motorola MBP36XL Video Baby Monitor
a go-to reference book
I probably called my nurses’ hotline once or twice a week during the first few weeks. I just didn’t know what I should/shouldn’t be concerned about, so I always wanted to be safe rather than sorry. It would’ve been helpful to have a quick reference book for little things like fevers, eye drainage, stools, etc. that I could refer to when I was unsure. The Moms on Call book was really helpful for that reason. The information was presented simply and clearly so I could refer to it as I needed.
More than that though, the most valuable part of the book was the chapter on sleep. We started the Moms on Call sleep method when Josie was about 5 weeks old. Honestly, it took approximately three days of following their schedule to get her sleeping through the majority of the night. By three months, she slept 12 hours a night without any issues. I couldn’t imagine going back to work at that time, if she weren’t sleeping through the night. I truly don’t know how people do it! She’s the happiest little baby, and we attribute a lot of that to her getting long stretches of sleep overnight. Now, I know a lot of people have their own thoughts on putting your babies on a schedule. I honestly think that, if you’re lucky enough to be home with your baby all the time, then you probably don’t have a driving need. But, if you’re going back to work, it’ll be the best thing that could happen for you and your baby. Since starting this program, Josie was generally more content. She never stopped gaining weight, and she’s incredibly pleasant. That said, when she’s happy, I’m happy, and it’s made for a generally easy transition for all three of us.
Recommendation: Moms on Call
Is your little one a bit older? Try these posts with more of my must-have baby items: