There are the obvious registry must-haves (diapers, for instance), but for the most part, the world of baby stuff can be pretty overwhelming whether you’re the one putting together the baby registry or the one shopping from one. As a mom to a little one, I’ve tested it all. (My personal list of recommendations is 11 pages long, as my circle of mom friends knows.) So, I know from first-hand experience, there are baby items that come in handy and ones that just gather dust in the basement. If you’re a gift-giver who wants to purchase something very thoughtful and most importantly — will actually be used during the baby’s first year, look no further than one of the items on this ultimate list of products that truly change parents’ lives.
4moms mamaRoo4 infant seat, $219.99
For ages: 0-6 months (or up to 25 pounds)
All babies love to be held (blame it on the oxytocin, otherwise known as the “love hormone”), but eventually, parents need to go to the bathroom. Give their arms a break with the 4moms mamaRoo4 infant seat, which is like the Rolls-Royce of bouncers. It moves up and down, side to side, and all-around — exactly the way parents need to move their babies to comfort them. It has five different motions (“car ride,” “kangaroo,” “tree swing,” “rock-a-bye” and “wave”) and five-speed settings that allow for 25 different combos. Plus, relaxing background noise to put the baby at ease. Plus from now until April 30, 2021, if you purchase the Little Rainbow Newborn Insert, 4moms will donate 5% of each sale to Project Sweet Peas, which is a bereavement support program for families who are struggling with pregnancy and infant loss.
Editor’s rave: In desperate times, I took my baby for a ride in the car because the gentle and constant rocking motion was the only way I could get her to calm her fussiness. That was until I discovered the “car ride” mode on this device! It was a game-changer.
Colugo The Compact Stroller, $285.00
For ages: 6 months+ (up to 55 pounds)
Even though this stroller only weighs 16 pounds, it’s super sturdy, has great steering, and can tackle anything from city streets to the dash to the best swing on the playground. While the navigation is note-worthy for a compact stroller, the real beauty of it is the uncomplicated, two-second fold. It’s a dream when you’re juggling a baby, groceries, a diaper bag, and all the other dozens of things you need just to run a few errands (am I right?). You can also add a personalized touch with the new Astrology Patches. They just peel the backing off the patch and place it on any flat surface on the stroller.
Editor’s rave: A fellow new mom’s jaw dropped when she saw the easy, one-handed fold of this stroller. My favorite part is that it has a strap where you can carry it like a tote bag and it conveniently fits into the overhead bin of an airplane making it perfect for travel — and frees up a ton of valuable space when it’s stored in the car trunk.
Elvie Pump, $499.99
If you know the mom is planning on pumping, this wearable and portable device is a must-have for making their lives a lot easier. The tube-less, cordless design fits right into their bra, it’s super discreet and quiet, plus the reusable 5 oz. bottles are handy. The box includes two different breast shield sizes (and a third size, sold separately) so any mom is sure to get the right fit. They can connect it to the optional, free app that lets them monitor their milk output and toggle between stimulation mode and expression mode remotely. Bonus: The Elvie automatically stops when the bottles are full so it prevents any overflow. New moms, model Iskra, actress Mandy Moore, and author Katherine Pratt recently posted about their experience using Elvie Pump. And we also love that Elvie partners with changemakers like Meena Harris and organizations, such as Black Mamas Matter Alliance, HeyMama and Human Milk Foundation, to leverage its voice to advocate for all moms, ensuring they have access to opportunities that help them feel empowered every day.
Editor’s rave: It happened all the time as an exclusive pumper: I’d plug in my pump and I’d need to go to the bathroom. Or the baby would start crying. Or I wanted some water. Being tied to the outlet while I was pumping constantly meant I had to interrupt my session to tend to something else. A portable breast pump gave me so much freedom to pump while getting stuff done around the house and even while driving, on an airplane, and just about anywhere else you could imagine. When I gave this as a gift to a fellow mom friend, she cried. It was a gift of freedom.
Stokke Tripp Trapp Chair, $269.99
For ages: 6-50 months
Most high chairs are bulky and an eye-sore, until you meet the Tripp Trapp. Available in 14 colors, this chic chair — created by Norwegian designer Peter Opsvik in 1972 — truly grows with the baby. The regular high chair configuration is suitable from six months when the baby can sit up on their own, but they can also add on the Newborn Set to give an infant a place to hang out in the kitchen. Then, when the child is older, the parents can take off the harness and use it as a regular seat. The best part is that it’s designed to fit right up to a dining table (though there’s an optional Tray that parents can attach) so the baby can sit comfortably with the rest of the family. Studies show that kids that eat with the family are more prone to developing healthier food habits.
Editor’s rave: Moms everywhere love that the Tripp Trapp has so much life to it. It eliminates the need for separate toddler high chairs or booster seats down the road. Fun fact: It can handle up to 242 pounds, so even adults can use it as a seat. It’s easy to clean (no tricky crevices!) and the sleek design fits into our home’s simple aesthetic.
The California Beach Co Pop N’ Go, $299.97
This portable play yard is the perfect safe space for babies whether indoors or out. Unlike classic playpens that are a pain to put together and take apart, the “pop and release” technology of the Pop N’ Go gets parents a free-standing space in just seconds. It’s only a little over seven pounds (ideal for travel), can fit multiple kids, and comes with a UV shade cover for a protected environment when parents bring it outdoors. With over 5,000 five-star reviews, it’s no wonder it received The Parent Tested Parent Approved Seal of Approval, which is one of the most influential consumer product awards that a company can receive.
Editor’s rave: My biggest gripe about traditional playpens was that they took up a lot of space, felt bulky, and weren’t easy to stash away. This play yard is simple to assemble and break down, so I was able to safely have somewhere to place the baby when I was cooking dinner or doing work in the backyard (the UV cover is clutch!). An adult can even fit inside the Pop N’ Go with plenty of space leftover.
For ages: 4 months – 5 years
Traveling (even just a night away at grandma’s house) can be stressful for baby sleep. That’s where this free-standing, breathable tent comes in. Created by a mother-daughter duo, this privacy nook goes right over a pack n’ play or mini crib to create a safe, distraction-free, and completely dark environment for uninterrupted baby sleep. The updated version has several flaps that parents can lift up (and an optional fan they can attach) to increase ventilation, plus a pouch where they can slip in a baby monitor. Last year, Slumberpod got a $400,000 deal from appearing on Shark Tank.
Editor’s rave: The Slumberpod can be used for a toddler up to five years old (with a cot or inflatable mattress). When we’re room-sharing with our little one during hotel stays, it gives us the freedom to hang out instead of sitting in the dark while the baby sleeps. This is a smart investment if you’re sharing space in an apartment, too!
Hatch Rest+, $89.99
For ages: 0+
If you can’t tell by now, sleep (for both babies and parents) is essential. So it makes sense that the Hatch Rest, a smart sound machine, is Babylist’s top registered item. In a small study done by the Archives of Disease in Childhood, 80% of babies were able to fall asleep within five minutes of hearing white noise. This celeb-loved product (new mom Gigi Hadid touts it as a must-have) features 11 different sounds — from classic white noise to a washing machine to a rainfall. It has a dimmable night light and it’s programmable so you can either set a timer to shut off or turn it back on at a certain time. You can also control it from Alexa, and it’s WiFi-enabled, so you can adjust it from anywhere, really.
Editor’s rave: My daughter’s favorite sound on this is the dryer. Otherwise, she would wake up at the sound of a pin drop, so it was essential to have a sound machine in our creaky house so we could block out all that noise. The night light came in handy for middle-of-the-night diaper changes, too.
Frida, the parent company behind Frida Mom and Frida Baby, has always been at the forefront of normalizing the conflicting emotions that come with being a mom, especially in those challenging early days of infancy. In February 2020, Frida Mom’s postpartum ad was rejected from airing because it was considered too graphic. This year, a cut of their new ad for Frida Mom Breast Care premiered during the Golden Globes and showed a raw look at real mothers caring for their babies during the difficult (and many times, painful) lactation experience. This self-care kit encourages breastfeeding moms to prioritize themselves and celebrate their postpartum bodies. It includes a lactation massager, heated breast warmers, and two different types of breast masks to support lactation and hydration.
Editor’s rave: Because the American Pediatric Association recommends that it’s best for babies to be breastfed for at least the first six months of life, there’s a pressure to perform and ignore your physical discomfort as a mom. This kit (and all of Frida’s thoughtfully curated line) made it a breeze to have all my self-care items in one place.
DockATot Deluxe+, $195.00
For ages: 0-8 months
Aptly named, this “docking station” creates a cozy, womb-like nook for supervised lounging and naptime. Featuring 22 different, stylish covers, the cushion-y lounger is great for diaper changes, tummy time, and giving parents a few moments of keeping their hands free. Each of their docks goes through extensive Oeko-Tex certification, which means the fabric is safe from harmful chemicals so a teething baby is no issue. DockATot also supports Baby2Baby, which provides necessities for children living in poverty and donates DockATots for use in the newborn units of hospitals to help babies feel more secure and comforted during MRIs and CT scans.
Editor’s rave: The DockATot practically weighs nothing, so it was easy to hold the baby in one hand while I moved the DockATot from room to room. I loved how simple it was to throw the cover in the wash — one less thing to scrub down.
BabyBjorn Bouncer Bliss, $249.99
For ages: 0-2 years (or up to 29 pounds)
This battery-free ergonomic bouncer creates a rocking motion that’s generated from the baby (or from a simple tap of your hand or foot). In those early days, babies love to be soothed by anything that mimics life in the womb, so a gentle bounce immediately triggers a calming effect. Available in 17 colors and three washable materials (breathable mesh, cotton, and 3D jersey), it features three positions so it’s easily adjustable as the baby grows.
Editor’s rave: The portability of this bouncer was key and perfect for travel! It has an easy fold that can be tucked away when not in use. This product also has major longevity, too. After the baby is 20 pounds and can sit up on their own, I was able to flip the fabric around to create a comfy kid’s chair.
SNOO Smart Sleeper Bassinet, $1,495.00
For ages: 0-6 months
There’s probably nothing moms like to talk about more than the SNOO (just check out any mom group on Facebook). This smart bassinet is basically like giving new parents the gift of sleep. Created by pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp, the SNOO is responsive to their baby. So, when the baby starts crying or wrestling in the bassinet, the SNOO automatically uses a combination of white noise and gentle rocking to mimic the environment of the womb. Not only do they get the fancy bassinet, but they’ll also get three SNOO sleep sacks (in varying sizes to grow with the baby), a crib sheet, a water-resistant mattress cover, and unlimited access to SNOO’s sleep consultants.
Editor’s rave: The biggest worry moms have about the SNOO is the transition to getting babies to sleep independently once they’re big enough for a regular crib. The SNOO’s weaning mode will help prep them within 1-2 weeks — by the time they’re around four to six months, they’re developmentally ready to self-soothe.
Nanit Pro Camera, $299.99
For ages: 0+
This monitor not only lets parents check in on their baby day or night with a super-clear 1080 pixel HD camera, but it’s also the only device that also tracks the baby’s development and milestones when you use the optional breathing band. It takes the guesswork out of baby sleep by letting parents track their movements in the crib, while also giving them real-time updates on their breathing motions, monitors temperature and humidity, and even tracks their height and weight when they use the Nanit Smart Sheets.
Editor’s rave: The overhead view of the Nanit gave me assurance that there aren’t any blind spots in the crib. I also loved that the app enables background audio, which means you can still hear what’s going on in the nursery, even if you’re using a different app or if your phone screen is turned off.
Guava Lotus Travel Crib, $199.95
For ages: 0-3 years
This easy-to-carry travel crib clocks in at just 13 pounds (over 50% lighter than a classic portable crib) and comes with a handy backpack to keep parents’ hands accessible while traveling. Every side of this crib uses a breathable mesh while the frame itself is foldable aluminum, which is why it’s so lightweight. The foam mattress pad is floor-resting, which means there aren’t any weigh limits to the crib since it’s not suspended and it’s convenient to access with the zippable side “door.”
Editor’s rave: Yes, it’s super lightweight, but a real deal-maker for me was its GreenGuard Certification. It’s the only travel crib on the market that doesn’t contain harsh materials (like PVC, lead, mercury, arsenic, phthalates, and more).
Lovevery Play Kits, starting at $36 a month
From ages 0-36 months
These Montessori-inspired subscription boxes are created by child development experts that know exactly what babies and children need at each stage of life. The first box for weeks 0-12 is packed with black and white objects (since newborns are not born with fully developed eyesight at birth) and ideas on how parents can “play” with the baby and encourage a bond. All the products come from sustainably sourced wood and use soft, 100% organic cotton.
Editor’s rave: Lovevery is so beautifully designed and I love that my child is encouraged to use her imagination with these toys (instead of all the annoying battery-operated gadgets that seem to always go off randomly in the middle of the night). All the boxes are packed to the brim with things that are meaningful for cognitive development. After the first box, you get a new play kit about every two to three months and it continues to be one of my toddler’s favorite ways to play.
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