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.
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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.

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