Our fall favorites are here! 🍂

Before I had my daughter last summer, I did a lot of research on what exactly I should register for and what I could skip. And by “a lot of research,” I mean I pestered all my friends about everything they used from strollers to car seats to clothes. I found out what items they couldn’t live without and which ones were completely useless. After nine months of real-world use, here are my top 10 recommendations for baby gear must-haves (None of these are affiliated links. Everything below is just what I used and recommend.):

  1. Fisher Price Rock ‘n’ Play. This item came highly recommended by almost all of my friends. We registered for one and received it. My daughter slept in the Rock ‘n’ Play for the first six or seven weeks, first in our room and then in her room. We actually borrowed a second one to keep in the living room, which was more out of convenience than necessity as the RNP is very easy to fold up and take wherever. Aside from sleeping and naps, the RNP was a great contraption to put her in when we needed to eat or, you know, go to the bathroom. We even brought it with us for her to sleep in at my mom’s. We used the heck out of our RNP for the first three or four months.
  2. Boppy pillow. This is probably one of the most essential items for any new parent. We still use ours every day with our nine-month-old. I found it to be a little awkward at first with a tiny newborn, but once she got a little bigger, I used it for every feeding. My husband also used it when he bounced her on the exercise ball (see No. 3) to get her to sleep. We used it for tummy time, to lay her in on the floor, to lean on while watching TV, you name it. Get a couple of covers, too, because, well, babies are messy.
  3. Exercise ball. Our baby hated swings. She liked to bounce. From day 1, one of the only ways we could get her to calm down and/or sleep was by walking around the house bouncing her. It took about a week of this for me to realize the easiest way to bounce without wearing a path through our carpet was an exercise ball. This is one of those items that no one is going to tell you to register for, but if your baby is a bouncer, you’ll find totally indispensable. In fact, my husband still uses it with her from time to time. Plus, you’ll get a nice ab workout while bouncing your babe to sleep.
  4. Snap and Go stroller. This is one of the best and most useful items we had, and we borrowed this gem from a friend. This type of stroller is a simple frame that you put the infant carrier/car seat on. No need to transfer the baby from car seat to stroller because the car seat…BECOMES the stroller! So convenient. We just kept it in the trunk of my car and used it at the grocery store, Target, at restaurants, etc. I can’t recommend this item enough. If you can’t borrow one, buy one. They’re very reasonably priced, and you won’t regret it.
  5. White noise machine. This was one of those items that we didn’t even think about until after our daughter was born, but we quickly discovered it was going to be very necessary. We bought an inexpensive one from Target and use it every night on the “wave” setting. It drowns out other sounds (like the dog barking) and soothes her right to sleep. I highly recommend snagging one of these and using it from the start. In a pinch, you can download a white noise app on your phone, too.
  6. Jumper. This was another item most of my friends recommended. We couldn’t use it right away, of course, but once she had good head control and was big enough — around 4 months or so — we started putting her in it. She loves it — no surprise since she loves bouncing in all forms. There’s lots to do, she gets exercise and we have free hands to make dinner or type blog posts.
  7. JJ Cole car seat cover.This is a must if you will have a little baby in the winter. I’ve read that the covers that go underneath the baby are dangerous because you can’t get the straps tight enough on the baby. This cover fits over the carrier like a shower cap, so it keeps baby nice and cozy without compromising how the straps fit. The only thing I found lacking in this cover is that the flap isn’t secured in any way, so if the wind blows (hello, Nebraska), the flap doesn’t stay up. I sewed on a couple of velcro patches, and that fixed the problem.
  8. Graco Pack ‘n’ Play. We tried to get away without getting one of these. We quickly found, however, that as our little one grew, we needed something for her to sleep in at grandparents’ and friends’ houses and even to contain her while we did laundry in the laundry room. It also gives her a place to play freely without having the dog steal her toys. You certainly don’t need one right away unless you plan to have your newborn sleep in it (we used the Rock ‘n’ Play). I do highly recommend having one on hand at about the four- to six-month mark. We just purchased a simple one without a changing station.
  9. Bouncy seat. My husband was pretty resistant to getting a bunch of “baby equipment,” so we started out without one of these as well. Around three months old, our daughter discovered her love of kicking and flapping her arms, so I knew one of these would be great to have, not only for her entertainment, but also to contain her when we needed free hands.This was a great “next step” from the RNP. Again, it’s not something you need right away, but I’m sure we could have used it much earlier than we did. Our daughter LOVED it (Bouncing!). It was a great treat for her and a nice convenience for us.
  10. Swaddles/sleep sacks. Take my word for it: no one but the nurses in the hospital are going to be able to swaddle your baby in a blanket worth a squat. Get the velcro swaddle blankets. We received some Summer Infant SwaddleMe’s, but we didn’t use them at first because we thought she was happier with her arms free. About three or four weeks in, we realized that she was not, in fact, happier with her arms free, so we started using them regularly and then kicked ourselves for not doing it sooner. The swaddles helped a lot of her naps, which she tended to fight quite a bit. Once she outgrew swaddling, we started putting her in Halo SleepSacks, which are awesome and essential. No need for blankets. The sleep sacks keep baby nice and warm and covered no matter how much they roll around the crib.
  11. Bonus! Nursing cover. Yes, you could use a blanket, but if you plan to breastfeed, I highly recommend getting a nursing cover. Nursing covers have a strap around the neck to prevent it from falling (or baby pulling it) off. Plus, there’s a nice structured neckline that allows you to peek in on baby without everyone seeing your business. I used mine when people came to visit and when we were out and about. I got the one I linked here from Boppy. Cute and functional and folds up into a nice little bundle. Totally worth it.
So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Amanda Sullivan

Hailing from Omaha, Amanda Sullivan is a rookie mom, a pretty swell wife (she confirmed this with her husband), a dedicated marketing and communications professional and an avid latte drinker. She writes about her new gig as a mother and offers up the occasional recipe when she's not changing diapers and falling asleep at 8:00 p.m.

The Letting Go Happens Tooth by Tooth

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy smiling missing a tooth

There is something about a toothless grin. Not the gummy smile of infancy, but the wide-gapped delight of a child who has newly lost a tooth. Today’s was not the first tooth my son has lost—the first was over a year ago—but today, the fifth tooth, was a top one, and today his smile seemed to announce with an oh, so in my face clarity, that he and I had better make room for adulthood (or at least, pre-tweendom?). He is shedding his babyhood. Those teeth that kept me up at night on their way in have outgrown their use....

Keep Reading

To the Parents Facing a Child’s Illness: You Are Strong

In: Grief, Kids, Motherhood
Toddler with cast and IV looking out window

If you are the parents who just sat for hours in a cold doctor’s office to hear that your child has a life-threatening illness, you are so strong.  If you are the parents who can’t bring yourself to decorate or celebrate the unknown because you don’t know if they’ll ever come home, you are so strong.  If you are the parents who travel or relocate to deliver your child in one of the best hospitals with hopes it will change the outcome, you are so strong. If you are the parents who learn all the medical terminology so you understand...

Keep Reading

I Am a Mother Evolving

In: Grown Children, Kids, Motherhood, Teen
Mother and child walking by water in black and white photo

Those who mean well squawk the refrain— “The days are long, but the years are short.” They said I would miss it— little feet and newborn baby smell nursing in the wee hours with a tiny hand clutching mine. Tying shoes,  playing tooth fairy,  soothing scary dreams. They were fine times, but I do not wish them back. RELATED: Mamas, Please Quit Mourning Your Children Growing Up I rather enjoy these days of my baby boy suddenly looking like a young man in a baseball uniform  on a chilly Wednesday in April. And my Amazonian teenage girl  with size 11...

Keep Reading

Kids Need Grace and So Do Their Moms

In: Faith, Kids, Motherhood, Toddler
Woman touching child's forehead

We were having a hard morning. Our house was overrun with toys, I hadn’t had a chance to get dressed, and my stress level was increasing by the minute. To top it all off, my 3-year-old was having a meltdown anytime I spoke to her. Even looking in her general direction was a grave mistake. It was one of those days that as a parent, you know you’re really in for it. I was quickly losing my patience. My frustration began to ooze out of me. I snapped orders, stomped around, and my attitude quite clearly was not pleasant to...

Keep Reading

As a Nurse, This Is How I Prepared My Daughter for Her First Period

In: Kids, Motherhood, Teen, Tween
Woman wearing sunglasses with hands on the sides of her face and smiling, black and white photo

I don’t remember my first period, which means my mother had me well prepared. This doesn’t mean I was okay with it. I remember feeling awkward and tense each time. And honestly, for many years, shopping for feminine hygiene products filled me with unease. But wait a minute! There shouldn’t be anything shameful about something that will recur for about half of a woman’s life! Who decided it was to be a sensitive subject? Aren’t we all supposed to show empathy toward each other when it comes to this?  I say, pass the Midol around, sister! I knew the time...

Keep Reading

With Grandkids, It’s The Little Things

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Nine children sitting on a couch together

We had just pulled into the driveway when our youngest grandtwins, 3-year-old Ellis and Brady, came running out the front door and down the steps to hug us. “Let me see your earrings, Grandma,” Ellis said, reaching up to pull me down to his level. “The green M&Ms!  I told you, Brady!” “Those are the ones our brother Adler picked out for you!” Brady yelled as he ushered us into the house and started going through the tote bag I always carry for them, filled with favorite books from our house and three little bags of snacks in the bottom....

Keep Reading

Childhood Is Not a Race

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Two young girls playing in creek bed, color photo

Sweet child, I know you want to grow up. You want to get older and do more and more. I see you changing day after day. You are no longer a little girl, but you’re turning into a young lady. You’re becoming this wonderful person who leads and cares for others. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. But don’t rush out of your childhood. It’s this beautiful season where wonder and discovery live. It’s this beautiful time when you don’t have to carry the weight of adulthood. It’s this beautiful time. Savor it. Slow down and enjoy it. Breathe in...

Keep Reading

There’s Something Special about Band Kids

In: Kids

There is something incredibly special about band kids. The hours of practice that begin in elementary school. It’s the squeaking and squawking of a new alto or the flutter of early flute days, high-pitched honks from a trumpet, constant and consistent tapping . . . drumming on everything. And gallons of spit too, until one day a few years down the road, you realize all that practice time has turned into an incredible melody and skill. The alarm that goes off at 5:35 a.m., and before most people are awake, band kids have sleepily found a quick breakfast bite, grabbed...

Keep Reading

You’ll Grow So Much In Kindergarten and I Can’t Wait to Watch

In: Kids
Two young children in backpacks walk toward a school building

On her seventh day of school, my kindergartener doesn’t cry. It was a long road to this day. For the first six days of school, we experienced varying degrees of screaming, clinging, running back inside our house and slamming the door, and expressing general displeasure with the whole idea of school. “I wanna stay home with YOU, Mommy!” “But Charlotte, you are bored out of your mind every day of the summer. You hate it.” “No I don’t. I LOVE IT.” “Well we can spend every afternoon after school and all weekend together. You’ll be tired of me in five...

Keep Reading

Six Feels So Much Bigger

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood
Little girl with horse, color photo

Six . . . Six is only one number more than five,  one grade, one year . . . but it feels so different. Five is baby teeth and new beginnings. Five is venturing out into the world, maybe making a friend. Meeting a teacher. Learning to ride a bike. Six took my breath away. Six looks like a loose front tooth—tiny and wiggly, soon to be replaced by a big tooth, one that will stay forever. Six looks like a bright purple bike zooming down the driveway. RELATED: When There Are No More Little Girls’ Clothes Six looks like playing...

Keep Reading