Ahead of having my first baby this past July, I felt consumed with a need to research baby gear. It was my version of nesting, which is often characterized as the urge to clean and organize ahead of a new baby’s arrival. For those uninitiated to the world of baby gear, trust when I say there is an overwhelming number of options available for an overwhelming number of products, which you may or may not need at all. Period.
I had no idea how to decide what to get. But then I remembered a brilliant piece of advice I received about nursery furniture that I could apply to all baby gear: Consider what will make my life easier and prioritize that.
I refocused the way I went about picking baby gear to consider what will streamline my life—whether by easing stress, saving time, or otherwise.
During this phase of my life—pregnancy, postpartum, and early parenting—I’ve gotten a ton of advice (solicited and not, helpful and not). But my favorite tip came from a salesperson at a local baby-goods store where my husband and I were picking out a crib and glider chair. “Invest in a comfortable chair for the nursery, not a fancy crib,” she told us. “The baby won’t know the difference with the latter, but your back will with the former.” Fast-forward to right now, and it turns out she was absolutely right: My infant is indeed happy in his budget-friendly crib and my achy back is pleased that I splurged on a chair that feels like sitting atop an ergonomically supportive cloud.
With that in mind, I refocused the way I went about picking baby gear to consider what will streamline my life—whether by easing stress, saving time, or otherwise. For some unsolicited but hopefully helpful advice, below you’ll find the top items types of I’d recommend to all new parents to make their lives easier.
7 products to make a new parent's life legitimately easier
1. A car-seat–stroller combo
Yes, the Doona is more expensive than your average infant car seat, but it’s not just a car seat. One of those “why didn’t I think of that?” inventions, the Doona infant car seat is also a stroller. With the push of a button when taken out of the car, its wheels extend, and voilà! No need to attach a car seat to a separate stroller frame or even transfer the baby to a stroller. This stands to save you time, strained muscles, and, potentially, the need to soothe a screaming baby.
There are a few considerations to make before going for this option: First, it’s only designed for babies who are up to 35 pounds or 32 inches (whichever is reached first), and depending on the baby, that upper limit can take you up to 12 months or quite less. Second, at 16 pounds, the Doona itself weighs more than twice that of other popular car seat options. And third, it’s—again—pricey. But—and this is a huge but—it’s two big-ticket items of baby gear in one.
While I’ve enjoyed in-and-out-of-car ease of the Doona for things like doctor appointments, grocery store runs, and dinner plans, what’s really sold me on this product is how helpful it is for plane travel. Navigating an airport with an infant means you need to schlep around a lot of extra stuff but without any extra hands to help you. (Your baby has hands, but I promise they won’t help.) The Doona allowed me to bring just the one car-seat–stroller hybrid, rather than a car seat and stroller, making for a streamlined travel experience.
2. A space-saving, infant-ready full-size stroller
Shopping for a stroller isn't dissimilar from shopping for a car: There are so many options that serve so many purposes. There are travel strollers, which are meant to be lighter-weight and lower profile, but are typically less durable; there are side-by-side double strollers that are hefty but necessary for those who need them; there are single-to-double strollers, which come with one seat but have space on the stroller frame to add another down the road; there are jogging strollers specifically optimized for that purpose; and there are general-use full-size single strollers.
I knew I needed an additional stroller for after my baby outgrew the Doona, and I also wanted a full-size stroller option to use in the meantime for long walks around my neighborhood and other instances when higher-performance wheels and under-seat storage would be helpful.
Given the many options available for full-size strollers, I narrowed my focus to prioritize an infant-ready option that wouldn't require me to buy the extra gear of a stroller bassinet or infant-adapter. I also aimed to find an option that skewed low-profile, since I live in a townhouse with a shared entrance and would be leaving the stroller in a small (but public) vestibule next to my front door.
I landed on the new Silver Cross Dune—created for city living and to serve the functionality that requires—which checks both of those boxes and then some. Because the chair can lay flat, it is infant-ready. It also collapses with the push of a button to a tall, narrow, freestanding little package that is neither in the way of my shared hallway or an eyesore. As a bonus, its buckle is magnetic, which makes securing a screaming baby faster (and, in my experience, shortens said screaming session).
3. A wearable breast pump
Breastfeeding isn’t part of every new parent’s journey. But if it is part of yours, I’ve found having a wearable breast pump to be helpful for my mental health. Being able to get up and get a glass of water or go to the bathroom or watch TV while reclining comfortably or do whatever the heck I want while pumping (rather than be attached to a machine) has allowed me to feel more like a full human being who is generating food for her child than a milk machine who happens to come with an attached brain.
Regardless of any person's experience with breastfeeding and the emotions tied to it, I’d still argue that the functionality that a wearable breast pump allows for is undeniable. I have used my Willow Go, the newest and most affordable option from Willow, almost exclusively for the few months I have been pumping and have had no issues. (That said, a number of friends have told me that wearable breast pumps are a nice extra to have, but that the option doesn’t empty them as well as a traditional plug-in pump can.)
Willow Go fits right into any bra and its reusable and dishwasher-safe containers hold up to five ounces of milk each. Its companion app tracks how long you’ve been pumping on each side, the suction intensity to which the pump is currently set (you can adjust the intensity with buttons on the device) and it automatically turns off at 25 minutes. The app doesn’t track how much milk has been collected, like the original Willow model does, so you’ll have to sneak peeks into your bra while pumping so as to not end up leaking milk all over yourself. Been there, done that—but even so, it’s nice to be able to get up with ease and get to the sink for easy cleanup.
4. A magic bottle-making machine
If you’re exclusively formula-feeding or supplementing with formula, I can’t recommend the Baby Brezza Formula Pro enough. It’s essentially a Keurig machine for baby formula: Add water into one airtight vestibule of the machine, formula powder into another, select the number of ounces you want to make, and the machine mixes and dispenses it in seconds—to the perfect temperature, no less.
Having this at-the-drop-of-a-hat option has made bottle-making a cinch. My only worry is that it may give my baby the unreasonable expectation that all food can be prepared so quickly.
5. A wipeable changing pad
As someone whose little one functions as an active volcano, ready to erupt from three or more physical locations at any given point with no notice, it should come as no surprise that the most-used appliance in my house is now the laundry machine. But I'd be using it a heck of a lot more without the Keekaroo Peanut.
The wipeable changing pad has saved me from countless would-be laundry mishaps. Many popular changing table pads are plush, similar to a mattress pad, and if they're soiled, they have to be laundered. With a wipeable pad, cleanup of any spillover action takes just seconds and zero stress. The only con is that it's currently out of stock, but should be available soon! If you're fine with waiting a while, I recommend adding this to your wish list.
6. Next-level fitted sheets
I don't use the word "brilliant" lightly, and QuickZip crib sheets absolutely fit the bill. Fighting with a fitted sheet for any size bed is a constant annoyance in life. (Is it any wonder that "making your bed" is among the first chores many kids have? Parents don't want to do it a second longer than necessary on an additional bed than their own!)
With a crib, the annoyance is more pronounced. A safe mattress hugs perimeter of the crib, so affixing a fitted sheet requires lifting the mattress out of the bed to fit the sheet around all four corners. I did this once and pinched all my knuckles in the process before switching to QuickZip sheets for good.
The way they work is the mattress fits inside a base sheet, and then a top sheet zips around the top edges of the base. So when you need to change the sheet, which in my house happens near nightly, you simply unzip the top sheet an affix a new one—no sheet-fighting required.
7. A place to put the baby down… in every single room
Holding my baby is an instant mood-lifter to me, and I've been known to cradle him on the couch for hours on end with no breaks and no intention of stopping. I realized the flaw in this arrangement early on in his life when I had to hold him while I used the bathroom. It was an urgent situation, and I have no other options; no one was around to take him from me, he couldn't simply sit on the couch and wait for me, and my living room's hardwood floor wasn't ideal for his newborn skull.
Since then, I've made sure there's a safe place to put him down in most areas of my home. This way, should nature call or I have some other reason to want or need free hands, I'm covered. These are some of my (and his) favorite items to facilitate that.
My favorite part of the Babybörn bouncer is that it is so lightweight and low profile that I can hold my baby with one arm and the bouncer in the other to find a place to set him down. The bouncer also folds down to a completely flat position that makes it portable for car trips.
What allows it to be so transportable and lacking of bulk is that it is not battery-operated. Instead, its motion is generated by the baby’s movement. (Before a baby learns to rock themselves, an adult can gently get the bouncer moving.) This specific bouncer also has longevity of use to offer: After a baby reaches the 20 pound weight limit, the bouncer can convert into a chair for toddler of up to 29 pounds.
My experience has been that the DockATot is the easiest place to put down a baby to quickly free up your hands. It’s not meant to replace a bassinet or crib or be used in any kind of unsupervised way, but it’s small, lightweight, washable, and many babies tend to feel comfortable in it because its snug shape is meant to mimic that of the womb. And since it’s easy to move around your home or travel with (I’ve brought mine to friends’ houses for dinnertime with baby), you’ll likely find yourself using it more than you realize.
Until my son was about 3 months old, he slept in my room, which is on the third floor of my townhouse. So, having a satellite crib on our first floor in the living room where he could sleep, whether for a daytime nap or for the beginning of his nighttime stretch, was clutch. The Nuna Sena Aire comes with a washable, mesh mattress to facilitate safe sleep via air ventilation (mimicking the Newton Baby mattress in his full-size crib) and an organic fitted crib sheet, removing any guesswork from using it for sleeping.
It also comes with a diaper-changing attachment, and having a designated spot on our first floor to change my baby’s dirties has also been helpful. (I’ll spare you details about not wanting to transport an actively leaking, dripping, filthy baby up the stairs to his formal changing station.)
As my baby grows, we’ll remove the zip-off bassinet portion of the Sena Aire, leaving him with a classic play yard to keep him contained for up to age 2. And since this product has taken up permanent residence in my living room, I also appreciate that it’s pretty chic, as far as travel cribs go.
8. A travel stroller that's carry-on–compatible
Initially, I thought I'd use the Bugaboo Butterfly exclusive for flight travel; its feature of fitting into an overhead compartment is what initially piqued my interest. That feature is certainly notable in the realm of products to make new a parent's life easier, but, rest assured, this stroller has so many more use cases than being approved to board by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
It folds in one second and using only one hand, meaning you can hold your baby and either collapse or expand the Butterfly with ease. It is also ultra-compact, weighs just 16 pounds, and has generous under-seat storage—these are features that I love for a flight-friendly option, but also just in general. That's why the Butterfly now lives in my car's trunk, and I use it for local strolling rather than just exclusively for travel.
One note: The Butterfly is meant for babies older than about 6 months (it doesn't lay flat, so if you're not attaching a compatible car seat to the base, it's important that your baby be able to sit upright on their own). But, since it's meant for kids to use through being 48 pounds, parents of newborns would be wise to consider snagging this one for their years of strolling ahead.
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