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New (Cool) Mom Must-Haves: Baby Edition

11/02/2016 05:04 pm ET | Updated Dec 07, 2016
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I’m a zealous over-preparer and planner. Before I gave birth, when I asked friends what I needed to have the day I brought the baby home, I was met with a myriad of recommendations. Some were the same, some were conflicting. I decided to put my research skills to good use. (I am told that this is some form of compulsive nesting.) So off I went, I researched every item diligently and have tested multiple products since my daughter’s birth. Full disclosure, being a blogger, many companies sent me products when they heard via social media that I was expecting--major perk of blogging for nearly a decade and having a sizable social media following.

For this article to be useful for you, you should know what I was looking for. Inspired by Amy Poehler’s famous words in Mean Girls, “I’m not a regular mom, I’m a cool mom”, I was on the hunt for the best of the best but not just over-the-top or super trendy products. While I didn’t want to inundate my tiny NYC apartment with stuff, I’m very practical and obsessed with efficiency, so if there was a gadget out there that made life easier, as a new parent I wanted it. I was also looking for style. If there was a way to keep our apartment looking like adults lived here too, I was all for it. (Sidenote, I’m pretty sure I’m failing miserably on this goal)

This will be the first article in a two-part series. In this article, I will cover the must-have items for new moms that are for baby. The next article will cover the items that are for mommy like nursing bras, nursing gear and pumping stuff. Products covered in the article are a combination of gifts from friends, free products from companies and items I purchased myself.

The Perfect Seat

The hype around the 4moms mamaRoo is real and it’s not just me who thinks it’s worth its higher price tag. The mamaRoo infant seat mimics soothing movements made by parents and is a true lifesaver for parents who need to calm their babies down. There are five different movements, five speeds and four built-in sounds you can choose from. You can also pair the mamaRoo with your phone to play custom music and so you can control it from wherever you’re sitting. The seat has a fully adjustable incline for maximum comfort (especially helpful for babies with reflux). In case of digestive emergency, the seat fabric (as well as infant insert) are removable and machine washable.

Our little one also loves her Rock and Play by Fisher Price. This is also a must have! Thank you whoever bought this for us! I wish my brain could remember.

The Perfect Diaper Pail

Ubbiworld Diaper Pail totes itself as the can of steel, and new parents may consider it to be just as powerful as Superman. Its powder-coated steel and rubber seals lock odor in. Its innovative sliding lid minimizes air disruption and keeps the odors sealed inside. The Ubbi Diaper Pail holds up to 50 newborn diapers and is perfect for days you can’t take out the trash. Plus, there are no special bags required--you can use any standard trash bag (or cloth liner) making it affordable and easy to use. It’s also sleek, slim and fits into tiny spaces. While some prefer a hands-free option, the superior odor blocking technology makes this our winner!

We do also love the Dékor hands-free diaper pail, which offers the convenience of step and drop diaper pail. It’s available in the plus (up to newborn 60 diapers), the classic (up to 45 newborn diapers) and the mini (up to 25 newborn diapers). We like this as a second option for a bedroom or other room you may find yourself changing diapers in. The pail is made of ABS plastic so it won’t absorb odors like most other plastics.

Infant Tub

The two biggest issues with infant bathing are that the second you place your infant in the tub, the water is dirty. The water also starts to cool down as soon as you turn the faucet off. The 4moms Infant Tub solves both of these problems. First, the design allows for clean, warm water to continuously flow in, while dirty water flows out. There are two side drains as well, which allow parents to set the proper depth for the perfect bath. There is also a clean water reservoir so you can easily rinse with fresh water (there is even a perfectly-sized rinse cup included). This is a big upgrade from your typical infant tub--knowing that your baby has clean water for the entire duration of his or her soak is priceless. Second, the 4moms tub gives parents peace of mind that the baby’s bathwater temp is always just right. It has a color-coded digital temperature gauge to ensure your baby’s bath water is comfortable and safe the whole time and also fits both single and double sinks. We haven’t heard a peep out of our newborn since we have done baths in here. The baby nurse was shocked to see a newborn actually appear to enjoy bath time! And I was overjoyed!

Super Safe Car Seat

CYBEX Cloud Q

One of the first challenges new parents face is finding the perfect car seat. Sorting through all the options can be a bit overwhelming. Since the CYBEX brand is synonymous with safety, it was at the top of our list. Its newest car seat, the CYBEX Cloud Q aims to keep babies safe with its energy-absorbing shell. The other novel feature is its ability to recline, allowing for a uniquely ergonomic full recline when outside the car (so you can leave your sleepy kid in there longer when you get home). The seat is rear-facing and features side-impact protection, which transfers any energy to the shell before it reaches the child. The seat also features an 11-point adjustable headrest, which is integrated with the padded, no-rethread 5-point harness, adapting the harness length when the headrest is adjusted. The oversized sun canopy (which can fold away) offers UVP50+ sun protection. I love this seat because it is so cushiony—even the harnesses and the bottom buckle have padding to make your little one comfortable. The Cloud Q seat adapts with the Maxi Cosi stroller adapter to multiple other stroller brands. My only qualm is that it does take a little fiddling with to get it safely clicked onto the Maxi Cosi adapter on our stroller.

The Perfect Stroller Overall: All Around Top Pick for Versatility

One of the biggest decisions new parents make is choosing a stroller. It’s one of the biggest investments, so you’ll want to make sure you pick a good one because it will be around for a while.

My top choice is the UPPAbaby VISTA. And I tried out numerous strollers out there in stores, at baby shows, you name it. One of the shows even had a test track with a variety of terrains and turns. I spent hours here weighing my options. This stroller is amazing (and that sentiment is double for parents living in a big city). Parents who have it are guaranteed to rave about the storage it offers and the fabulous maneuverability it offers. I couldn’t be happier with this choice. As a New York City resident I can take it around sharp corners, over rough terrain, easily fold it up and compactly store it. Let me break it down for you. Oh and let me say up front that I am an UPPAbaby Ambassador—but I will tell you that I was offered strollers from multiple other brands, which I declined because after trying everything out there, this is the best.

Storage Underneath your child’s seat is one huge bin that you can fill with up to 30 lbs. of stuff (there is a bar in the center so that can limit you from storing certain larger items though this is rarely an issue). I love that I can take it on all my errands and stuff it with goodies. Most other strollers max out around a 10-pound storage weight limit, so this is a huge advantage for parents who don’t have a car. And speaking of storage, the back of the seat also has a zippered pouch that you can stick keys or other small items in. I love that it zips because you can rest easy that nothing will fall out.

Maneuverability The rubber wheels are so tough that you won’t have any trouble pushing it home, even over the bumpiest sidewalks. It is seriously shockingly good at getting around tight corners. Living in New York City, I don’t have a car, so I basically think of it as my all-day, all-terrain vehicle. We hit the parks, the streets and even the cobblestones—no matter where we go, the wheels are shock-absorbing and feature independent suspension giving my little babe a smooth ride. Independent shocks ensure your child has a smooth and comfortable ride whether traveling down winding paths or over bumpy pavement. No puncture, foam core rubber wheels guarantee you’ll never be stranded with a flat. The UPPAbaby VISTA may be a little bigger and heavier than other compact strollers out there but I love it because I can use it like a giant handbag on wheels that I can take out for the whole day knowing I won’t need to go back home to continually drop off items I pick up along our walk.

Versatility The stroller is really versatile, so it’s worth the investment. The stroller comes with a bassinet for newborns and a toddler seat and then can accommodate two additional children with additional purchases. The VISTA Bassinet suitable from birth up to 20 lbs. and 25” long, or until infant can push up on hands and knees, whichever comes first. The toddler seat is suitable from 3 months to 50 lbs. Sidebar: the bassinet meets ASTM requirements to qualify as an overnight sleeping option and is equipped with ventilation for airflow. If you’re nervous about taking the bassinet out for a walk down busy big-city streets, you can purchase the newborn insert for the toddler seat to get a more secure ride for newborns. The VISTA also offers many ways to expand for a growing family so you’ll be able to keep it as your family transforms. It has a variety of configurations, maneuvers like a single stroller with the ability to adapt as a family grows.

Fold The UPPAbaby VISTA is extremely easy to open and close, though it does require two hands. I love that it locks automatically when opened and has a stand for propping it up when folded that works great. The unfold is pretty easy as well. Also worth noting that you can fold/unfold with or without the seat attached.

Cons The only cons in my opinion are that it’s a bit heavier than other strollers out there, but I think what it offers in terms of storage and ease of use more than make up for it. I find the stroller very easy to maneuver. I tried out the Cruz as well and was surprised that the VISTA seemed easier to push even though the Cruz is smaller. The difference is in the wheels, which are a bit better on the VISTA. My only other issue is that the VISTA’s heft isn’t great for getting it on and off public transportation, but it motivates me to walk more.

Quality I am really happy with the fabric and build of the stroller. It’s very durable and clearly well-made. Friends have had the VISTA for years with no tears or rips and minimal wear.

Harness The harness is easy to adjust and all the enclosures click making it known when they are secure.

Car Seat Adaptability You can also purchase the MESA car seat to snap into the VISTA stroller base, which is also top rated. However, if you have another car seat, you can purchase adapters and most car seats will easily fit on the VISTA base.

Accessories The stroller comes out of the box with the bassinet, toddler seat with rain cover. It does not come with a rain cover, though, for the bassinet, so I recommend purchasing this in advance if you plan to use the bassinet. If you want a cup holder or some sort of organization system, I also recommend purchasing this in advance as well as the stroller doesn’t come with those accessories.

One last suggestion, get a safety strap for your wrist that goes on the stroller. As a new parent, your first few walks will be terrifying. This made me feel more secure.

And for good measure, another Disclosure: I am an UPPAbaby brand ambassador. I received free product but no additional compensation.

The Perfect Jogging Stroller

As an avid walker and sometimes runner, I wanted to find a jogging option to fit this particular need. I live just a few minutes from Central Park and couldn’t wait to take her. After much research, we fell in love with the Orbit Jogging O2.

Orbit strollers are a favorite among celebrities and stroller aficionados. It’s a brand that pays close attention to detail and the new jogging model is no different. Orbit products are quite different from other strollers out there and are most well-known probably for their circular hub and rotating seats. I also am all about all the bells and whistles--of which they have more than a few. Living near Central Park, I love taking long walks and runs (okay, light jogs). And even though the 02 is a jogger, it’s totally great for everyday use as well.

Maneuverability This model has great maneuverability and does very well with tight corners, which is important in a running stroller. The stroller is really easy to push and doesn’t require two hands, which is great because you can have your other arm free while running.

The Fold The fold is super simple and even though it requires both hands, it folds up and becomes very compact. It’s also easy to unfold. The only con is that it the seat must be removed in order to fold up.

Quality The O2 is made from high quality materials, and you feel that when you take it for a run. The whole thing feels very sturdy—especially the wheels, which turn easily. When I started testing jogging strollers, I originally thought I wanted it to feel lightweight, but once I began testing different models, I realized that the models that were lighter made me feel out of control and a little nervous. This model has just the right amount of heft that makes it feel substantial while still being able to easily glide.

Storage There is an average amount of storage for up to 11 pounds. So while you can’t necessarily go grocery shopping for the next month with this stroller, you can fit a reasonable amount of stuff in its storage bin under the seat, which safely keeps stuff secure.

Cool Stuff The seat turns around 360 degrees on the patented SmartHub allowing for two positions on the 02 model. There is a low position for when you’re running but then you can lift it up to a higher position for when you’re finished. That way, when you’re walking around town or running errands after your run, you can interact easier with your little one. They call the two options ‘City Mode’ and ‘Performance Mode.’ The other great thing about the SmartHub is that you have the ability to face your baby out or toward you. Being able to do both is something really unique.

Little Things Like I said, Orbit is all about bells and whistles. There is a tracking mechanism for the front wheel to make sure that it stays straight forward during your run, which is really helpful (and necessary). There is also an adjustable handlebar and right below it is a fab parent organizer. There is a spot to secure your phone in, which I find priceless.

Con I wish that the sunshade had a window so that I could see the baby when the seat is facing forward. The only way to check on baby when you have them this way is to pull the shade back, which can wake them up. That said, you can just run with them facing you since the SmartHub allows you to turn the seat.

Compact Car Seat & Stroller for Travel

The Doona Next-Generation Car Seat converts simply from car seat to very compact stroller making it great for parents on the go or with limited space (check, check!). It’s also great for traveling because it eliminates the need for a separate stroller or car seat. It can be used easily as a car seat with or without the base eliminating the need to take a stroller for daily trips. It is perfect for taxis, ubers, car rentals, and you can also take it on an airplane. We love how quickly it folds and unfolds thanks to its integrated wheels (the only seat of its kind). It also folds up and can be stored in very compact spaces, which is great for those of us in tiny apartments. The Doona has also won tons of awards for safety and innovation. It’s equipped with double-side impact protection, orthopedic cushions and anti-rebound technology. Even though it’s a little heavier than other seats like it, it‘s built to last. Its textile set has passed the toughest US standard (CA, Prop 65) and everything is machine washable.

Healthy Products

My two favorite brands for natural products that I feel are safe for my little one are California Baby and The Honest Company. I will be writing an entire article about this topic soon!

Bassinet

The Halo Luxe Plus Bassinest combines both a separate bassinet and the concept of co-sleeping safely. The swiveling stand rotates a full 360-degrees allowing you to bring the baby close to you in bed while also allowing you both to enjoy a safe sleep. The side wall provides a safe barrier between you and your baby but can be lowered for easy access making it perfect for nursing mothers. The base is extremely sturdy (and quite heavy) so you’ll never worry it will tip over. It has four solid (long) legs, so you just have to get used to them and be aware so you don’t trip. You can easily twist the cradle, though, allowing you to get in and out of bed easily. The luxe model also has a nightlight, soothing sounds, vibration, lullabies, a floor light, nursing timer and a storage caddy (also auto shutoff).The 2016 Halo Bassinest Luxe Plus comes in a fashionable gray color. It also comes with fitted sheet and mattress pad. They also sell an organic mattress and sheets for a non-toxic option without flame retardant chemicals.

Humidifier

When it came to choosing a humidifier, I had heard great things about the Crane Drop Cool Mist Humidifier. I liked that it had a modern design and was available in a variety of fun colors. It’s super affordable, at only $34.99. It has a capacity of one gallon, which can work for about 24 hours (even more if you’re in a tiny apartment like mine). It’s also really easy to clean and refill, which was my main concern. I like to clean the tank often since a baby is breathing in the air. It works great and isn’t too noisy.

Swaddle Blankets

The standard swaddles that baby stores will recommend are the aden + anais swaddle blankets. Their generous size makes swaddling easy and with aden + anais, the blankies get softer with every wash without fading. All the cute neon prints I picked stay the same after every load. They’re 100% cotton muslin, and they come in adorable patterns. We use these for everything from swaddling to receiving blankets. It takes a little while to get the technique down for swaddling in a blanket, though. So be sure to take notes from your baby nurse or more experienced mommy friends.

I also love the Bebe Au Lait swaddle blankets, which come prewashed in a set of two. They’re really soft and made of 100% cotton muslin. I loved their snuggly patterns—especially I love the “Love you to the Moon” one. These are really breathable and of course multifunctional and can be used a sunshade on a stroller or car seat. I liked that not everyone had these patterns.

Easy Swaddlers

If you’re a new parent you may be relieved to know that there are about a million products that allow you to easily swaddle your little one (because like I said, nurses and nannies make it look easy). The concept of swaddling originated to eliminate the need for loose bedding in the crib. Deciphering the best products and the advantages of each kind is the difficult part. These are great because they can’t unravel and pose a suffocation risk—think of these products as swaddling for dummies. It almost feels like cheating. Here are some of our favorites--each has their own unique qualities.

If you’re looking for something basic, aden + anais sleep sack is a simple and easy-to-use version that babies seem to love. There are no bells and whistles, but it gets the job done. The fabric is lightweight so your little one doesn’t overheat.

My number one pick for an easy swaddler is the HALO sleep sack. A friend told me about these and I ordered one on Amazon Now to use that night after her rave reviews. Let’s just say, I ordered two more the next day and love it. I love the fleece one for cold nights. I love that you have the option to swaddle the arms in or out. And the velcro makes it very easy to tightly wrap them in. It also zips down for easy diaper changes.

The Swaddle Up is a little different than other brands because it allows your baby to sleep in a position with his or her arms up, which some consider to be more natural since it allows for self-soothing. Medical research shows that babies sleep better when they are swaddled and are able to self-soothe (remember seeing your baby in the ultrasound with her hands by her face?). The Swaddle Up has patented “wings” that allow your baby to sleep in a position with their arms up allowing their hands access for self-soothing. It’s also supposed to help to calm baby’s startle reflex. Plus, the arms-up position reduces the risk of accidental rolling from back to front. The Swaddle Up has a twin zipper that allows for easy diaper changes (trust me--this is key). The Swaddle Up is available in Stage 1 in three sizes: S, M and L, and in three different fabrics to take you into the different seasons: winter warm, original organic and summer lite. There is also Stage 2 for the transition. The 50/50 is designed to gently help babies transition from a swaddle to independence.

The most versatile and long-lasting swaddler (with the cutest print) goes to the Nuroo Swaddler. This is a great Swaddler because there are three sizes in one, and it grows with the baby from birth until your child is 28”. It has two interior pockets and a removable seam to extend its length as the baby grows. And I am obsessed with the “Deep Space” pattern--it is insanely adorable. However, if your child wakes up multiple times in the night for diaper changes, this ain’t the swaddle for you.

Transitioning Swaddle

Baby Merlin’s Magic sleepsuit- This little dream product was made by a mom who was also a pediatric physical therapist. It helps transition babies from the swaddle while keeping them secure. It comes in either a cozy microfleece or a cotton outer layer, each with a soft cotton liner and is designed for babies either 3-6 months (Small) or 6-9 months (Large). I love the microfleece, which is the original fabric (also eliminates the need for a blankie, even in winter). It helps muffle the little startle reflex. I haven’t used this yet on our newborn but have at least a half-dozen friends who swear by it, so we have it standing by in our closet.

A Mesmerizing Mobile

Once your baby can see clearly, you’ll want them to see something adorable and soothing in their crib when you’re not around. I am obsessed with the Skip Hop brand. Everything they make is so classy looking and blends with even sophisticated décor. I love Skip Hop’s Moonlight & Melodies Projection Mobile which comes in the cutest cloud, moon and star variety we have ever seen. It has a neutral color palette that will match any nursery, plays eight lullabies and nature sounds and also projects stars on the ceiling to slowly soothe your little one into a peaceful sleep. And its remote control can restart the mobile after 20 minutes (even outside the nursery) if your baby needs an encore!

Baby Monitors

There are so many options out there so I tested out many of the top-rated brands to figure out which worked the best and for what application exactly. Since there are so many different scenarios where you’ll find yourself wanting to stalk your baby.

Watch When You’re Away: Nest

While the Nest monitor isn’t exclusively a baby monitor, we use it for precisely this reason. It requires Wi-Fi and pairs with a personal device like a phone or tablet, so you can monitor when you’re away from home. The Nest is super easy to set up-all you have to do is download the app and pair it with the device. It offers a very large field of view (which is adjustable from the app on your device), night vision and 24/7 streaming (you can also choose to pay an additional fee to record activity if you want to go back and review at a later time). The Nest camera has excellent visual quality, clocking in at 1080 pixels, which gives super clear resolution—even the night vision. While you can set up notifications for movement, you can’t use this as a monitor to alert you when your baby cries or makes other noises since that’s not what it’s meant for. I love it to be able to check into the nursery when I’m not home so I can see what’s going on. And I don’t know much about hacking (despite my love of Mr. Robot) but from what I have read, this device is very unlikely to be able to be broken into by outsiders. The Nest monitor costs $200 for one camera, which is really all you need for most nurseries.

Watch from Your Home without a Phone

The Levana Mylo 5” High Resolution PTZ Baby Monitor is more of your typical baby monitor. It has a camera with a 300-degree pan and 100-degree tilt. It also offers night vision. The tilt and zoom is very quiet and is unlikely to wake a little one from his or her slumber. The camera has great resolution, which you can view from the included wireless touch-screen monitor--from up to 500 feet away from the camera. This device features a push-to-talk component that I love--you can talk to a fussy baby from the other room to help soothe her. The monitor has a 12-hour battery life (in power save mode) and a private digital signal that doesn’t require Wi-Fi. It also recharges very quickly from any micro-USB port, which is very convenient. The device also offers temperature sensors and customizable notifications.

Smart-Baby Wearables

These devices collect data on your baby and try and organize it into useful insights that can help you. They aim at helping you rest easy—not an easy task for new parents. While many people may criticize the opportunity to stalk your little one, to me I felt that the peace of mind smart-baby wearables gave me really helped. SIDS is a real issue, and while none of these devices are proven to help combat this problem, having something that will alert you to problematic behavior couldn’t hurt. People warned me that I might drive myself crazy with these devices, but I found the exact opposite to be true. I found that I was able to sit in the other room and relax for a few minutes without constantly asking myself whether or not the baby was ok. This just gave that extra bit of reassurance.

Owlet

The Owlet is simply revolutionary in my opinion and more than worth its $249 cost. It uses pulse oximetry to monitor your baby’s heart rate and can alert you if she stops breathing. The technology is essentially the same as the clip that goes on your finger at the hospital, but it’s now designed for babies at home. Owlet cleverly created a sock that can stay on your baby’s foot to do the same job. The sock then pairs with both your smart device and an alarm that you place next to your bed, and each will alert you if anything changes with your baby’s heart or breathing and oxygen rates.

There are plenty of skeptics out there who may question whether babies will kick this off or be uncomfortable, but I can happily report that is not the case. The sock fits comfortably on (and comes with 3 sizes) and can fit easily inside a onesie with feet—and that will help keep the sock from going anywhere. Being able to monitor our baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels is invaluable. Of course there are the naysayers that say it’s crazy to monitor at this level, but for those of us who gain peace of mind from more information rather than less, I think this gadget is priceless. It saves parents from having to get up every two minutes to check and see if your child is breathing (you know who you are) and lets you get a few extra minutes of necessary sleep knowing that Owlet will notify you via an alarm if anything goes awry. Of course the product isn’t perfect, and you do run the risk of the sock coming off or being notified for a false alarm, but it is absolutely worth it to me. And we have only had one instance of a false alarm, which was our own fault because we placed the sock on incorrectly.

Unintentional suffocation is a leading cause of death for children under the age of one in the United States, so of course parents are experiencing restless nights. With the Owlet monitor, parents can rest easier knowing they will be alerted if their baby is in distress.

Mon Baby

This Mon Baby is basically a button that clips onto your infant’s clothes that tracks breathing and sleep position. The device pairs with your smart device so that you can get alerts for issues--like if your baby rolls over to her stomach. The app is amazing for newborn parents who are constantly freaking out and checking what their little one is doing. It of course makes the most sense to use for babies before they’re capable of safely maneuvering and maintaining different sleep positions.

The button is pretty secure so I didn’t worry about my baby being able to remove it and end up in her mouth. It’s also great because you don’t have to clean it--you just unclip it and reclip to your baby’s next adorable outfit. Our baby seemed completely oblivious to the fact that it was there. Once your baby is asleep you can monitor your newborn’s activity: you can monitor her current position as well as track activity level. To me, the peace of mind this device is able to offer is worth it. Even if it just allows you to squeeze in a restful little nap. My one issue with this product is that you have to recalibrate it every time you use it due to the sensitive settings. This can be a little bit of a hassle in the middle of the night with newborns that constantly wake up. I think this product will be more useful when our babe sleeps through the night.

A few months before I gave birth I read about the Tula baby carrier in the New York Post. The article discovered the Tula’s cult status for babywearers. (Which I didn’t know that was even a thing). There were parents out there willing to stay up until the middle of the night to snag the latest Tula pattern. Or even crazier? The resale value online for some of the hottest patterns can be upwards of a couple thousand dollars. The Tula audience appreciates the uniqueness of the constantly changing patterns. So when Tula offered to send me a carrier to test out, I had to see for myself. The product is not just beautiful, but it’s extremely well made. It’s

100% cotton canvas and uses quality fabrics. The Tula Baby Carrier is available in two sizes, Standard (Baby) and Toddler and can be used from birth with the use of the infant insert (with the standard baby carrier). I love the front pocket for on-the-go accessories and of course the fun patterns and must admit, I too have been guilty of checking for the next pattern release. I think I’m hooked.

The other baby carrier I am obsessed with is the ErgoBaby Adapt, a 3-position carrier that adapts to your growing baby (from newborn to toddler (7-45 lbs). The best part is it can be used right from birth without having to buy an infant insert. I had heard great things about Ergobaby, which consistently wins awards for having the most ergonomic carriers. It’s easy to figure out how to get on (which trust me, that isn’t always the case--I found myself knotted in a tangled web of baby carriers on more than one occasion while researching for this article). Figure out your favorite position: front inward carry, hip carry or back carry. Oh, and it’s machine washable.

Pack and Play

The 4moms Breeze is the easiest playard to maneuver on the market. It opens/closes in one simple step: you push it open and pull it closed. It comes with an infant bassinet and convenient travel bag, which keeps it clean. The material is very durable and easy to clean. The only downside is that it is quite heavy; however, for it to be safe and sturdy, it has to be. It also makes for a great travel crib. Sheets for the playard and basinet are sold separately. We absolutely love this.

Activity Gym

As I said, I love Skip Hop because it has a certain sophisticated look. It also has a soft color palette to complement any home décor while not overpowering the room. Silver Lining Activity Gym by Skip Hop is an extremely engaging activity gym offering music, lights, squeaks, rattles and a baby-safe mirror. The oversized mat provides plush comfort and multiple textures and patterns for sensory development. It also comes with a tummy time pillow. The Gym is also BPA-free, PVC-free and Pthalate-free. This gym provides hours of entertainment.

Diaper Changing Pad

The Hatch Smart Changing Pad is a godsend—it’s a changing pad that measures and tracks data about your baby’s feeding and diaper schedule. It then sends the data to your mobile device.

The Hatch is part diaper changing table/part lifesaving tool that takes your baby’s weight while you’re stuck with the dirty job of diaper change. Perhaps my favorite part though is that you can weigh your baby before and after a feeding so you can actually measure—to the ounce, how much your baby is actually ingesting. You can also log the duration of your feedings as well as your baby’s diaper business. It’s easy to set up and a snap to log--it just takes a couple taps on the touch screen. Everything is sent to your mobile device wirelessly and automatically where you can then compare with percentile rankings of other babies your child’s age so you can monitor progress and ensure you’re on the right track. This data is invaluable and very helpful for your healthcare provider as well. This device really saves a lot of headaches and tracking. It makes it easy for anyone watching your child to seamlessly keep track of what’s going on. You can also use the app separately to keep track of feedings or manually log any diaper changes that you may have forgotten.

Tummy Time/Playtime Mat

I love my LilyPad playmat that I can throw this mat down anywhere and my baby has a soft, clean and safe place to play. Seriously, y’all, it’s so soft. I wish they made one in my size. It’s foam free can be used indoors and out and is totally machine washable. Perfect to take to friends and family for an easy place for baby to hang out.

On-the-Go Diaper Changing Pad

Skip Hop Signature Diaper Changing Station is one of those items that everyone names as a must-have. You probably see twenty of them pass you on the street in NYC any given afternoon. It’s a portable kit that you can throw into your bag that you stuff with all your diapering essentials. It’s essentially a clutch that unfolds to feature an extra-wide changing pad (that easily wipes clean). There is also a small pillow to keep baby’s head comfortable (and mommy’s at ease). There is a front zipper pocket for any personal items and on the inside a place for wipes, diapers, ointments and any other diapering essentials.

Fashionable Floor Tiles

If you can’t bear the idea of those rainbow-colored foam tiles ruining the décor of your apartment, then I highly recommend Skip Hop’s Playspot Geo Foam Floor Tiles. The tiles are easy to connect and you can arrange them in a variety of patterns. I don’t know why--I just really didn’t want those rainbow tiles in my home. You can purchase them in Grey/White or Grey/Peach, which I personally love. These keep your little one’s play space classy—because you know, that’s important for mom’s sanity.

Bibs/Face Cloths

I’m obsessed with Stay-Dry Infant Bibs with Organic Cotton by Green Sprouts – the ultimate protection from spit up. These were an amazing recommendation from our childbirth class teacher. They have a soft, absorbent terry outer layer and a waterproof inner layer to make sure nothing leaks through. They’ve got adjustable velcro for easy on and off. Green sprout also has muslin face cloths that are perfect for gently wiping away sniffles, drips and drools. They come pre-washed and are machine washable. They’re also made from organic cotton, are formaldehyde free and use AZO-free dyes so you can rest easy with these near your little one’s face.

Towels

It’s all about the hooded towel. Your little one can get extremely cold extremely fast, so keeping her head covered is key. The Muslin Hooded Towels with Organic Cotton by Green Sprouts are the best. Green Sprouts makes its muslin hooded towel from organic cotton free of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. I like this one because there are cute little hand pockets. There are two layers for extra absorbency and it gets softer after every wash. I also love the hanging loop for easy drying.

The aden + anais towel sets are great as well and come in the adorable signature prints. The sets come with a plush hooded towel and 100% cotton muslin washcloth. The washcloth has a loop so you can conveniently hang to dry between uses as well, which helps avoid mildew.

The Perfect Bottle

I am obsessed with Joovy bottles. I had planned to exclusively breastfeed but ended up needing to supplement so I was so grateful I had these on hand, The nipples on the bottle are shaped like mom to promote easy and natural latching. This has made switching between formula and the breast a smooth transition. The nipple is very soft yet durable to prevent nipple collapse (unlike other bottles we tried like Medela). It has a clean flow vent that prevents a vacuum effect, which helps reduce colic. There is an extra piece to clean but we think it’s worth it.

Toiletries

Green Sprouts baby nail brush, brush and comb set are the best, all their products are PVC, BPA and formaldehyde free. Plus, the brush bristles are natural, soft and perfect for gentle use on baby bodies.

Blankets

My favorites are Bebe au Lait’s Snuggle Blanket and Aden + Anais Silky Soft Dream Blanket. These oversized blankies are luxuriously soft and get softer with every wash. You can use it for everything from cuddling with newborns to tummy time for the older babies. I also use it as a blanket for myself while I’m up late night nursing.

Cell and iPad Radiation Protection

DefenderShield® offers products designed to deliver total body protection from a broad spectrum of harmful electronic emissions designed to block, shield, divert and absorb potentially dangerous EMFs of Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) radiation, Radio Frequency (RF) and heat radiation. Their claims have been substantiated by independent FCC certified laboratory testing. Their state-of-the-art technology blocks virtually 100% of the full frequency spectrum of electromagnetic radiation emitted from the face of your cell phone, tablet or laptop. I love the new wallet case for the iPhone 7!

Warm-Weather Essentials

Every cool parent in NYC knows that you have to have stroller gloves to keep your hands warm while strolling around town. The 7AM Enfant Polar WarMMuffs are absolutely adorable and a must-have for winter mommies who will be spending a lot of time outdoors with their little one. These mittens attach right to the handle of your stroller. They keep your fingers toasty while you are able to easily come in and out to take care of your little one. I’m also obsessed with the Polar Igloo by 7am Enfant, which is like a sleeping bag and stroller muff all in one designed for comfort and warmth. 7AM Enfant keeps my walks cozy and stylish.

For mamas who need to be on call, the Skip Hop on-call hand muff keeps you warm and lets you see your phone without missing a text message. We love this product because rather than having to fumble around and take your eyes off your baby, you can simply put your phone in its clear zip pocket (fits most phones) and glance down and see if you have any messages or calls. And even better, you can operate your phone by touch through the clear window. The soft fleece lining on the inside of this is insanely cozy. There’s also an opening for a headphone cord. They thought of everything.

Skip Hop’s Three-Season Footmuff is also great because it offers three different levels of warmth. You can use one layer for fall or spring and then add the winter layer when the chilly weather starts. It’s very easy also to remove the winter layer if you go inside and don’t want as much warmth, it simply snaps off. It also has a windproof and water resistant outer shell that is machine washable. We also love that it unzips at the bottom to let dirty shoes air out. There’s also a great zippered pocket with toy ring.

Pacifiers

I have two favorite pacifiers. For a basic go-to, Natursutten are wonderful. These are your most basic pacifiers—and I mean that in the best way possible. Natursutten is made using natural rubber and with no artificial color, parabens, PVS or phthalates. Natursutten pacifiers are softer than silicone and are molded in one piece so there aren’t any cracks where dirt and bacteria can accumulate.

We are also in love with our Wubba Nub pacifier. Wubba Nubs are silicone and BPA-free pacifiers that are attached to a teeny, cute stuffed animal. They make them a little easier for babies to grasp and keep nearby without mommy’s help. The only thing I will mention is that these cannot be sterilized like regular pacifiers and require you to run them through the washing machine (on the delicate cycle in a lingerie bag). But they’re totally worth the extra effort.

Sterilizer and Dryer

Baby Brezza One Step Sterilizer Dryer is the easiest sterilizer to use. Like the name says, you can sterilize and dry your baby’s bottles quickly and easily in one step! This 4-in-1 machine uses natural steam to kill 99.9% of the germs in your baby’s bottles--and in just 8 minutes. The bottles then remain sterile for up to 24 hours, or until the lid is opened. The unique drying feature then completely dries your bottles, with a choice of 30, 45 or 60 minute drying cycle. The easy-to-use control panel allows you to sterilize only, sterilize and dry, or dry only. The One Step Sterilizer Dryer holds up to 6 bottles, plus accessories, and works with all bottle sizes. The bottle rack can be removed and used as a storage rack.

And you’ll soon be able to step up your bottle game even more. They’re releasing a sterilizer/dryer that will also WASH your bottles. Trust me, this is a game changer! It will wash, rinse, sterilize and dry with an easy push of a button. It will holds up to 4 bottles + other feeding accessories and go right on your countertop! You don’t know how much time this will save you.

I’m in love with our Baby Brezza Formula Pro. It is kind of like your own formula barista! It measures, dispenses and mixes water and powdered formula to the perfect temperature and consistency with the push of a button. You store your water and formula right in the machine (don’t worry it’s air tight to keep everything clean). Then when your baby gets hungry you just choose the amount of formula you want to make (2, 4, 6, 8, or 10 ounces) and voila! On demand, perfectly mixed formula at the prefect temperature. So I can soothe my baby when I hear her hunger cry while the formula is mixed for me. No more measuring under the gun and waiting for the bottle warmer. This gadget is worth its weight in liquid gold.

Remember Milestones

Can’t get through your first year without these Milestone Baby Photo Cards. Love these adorable cards that you stick in your baby’s photos so that you’ll never forget those milestone moments like birthdays, when your little one slept through the night or rolled over for the very first time.

Upgrade Your Newborn Photos

Looking to upgrade your social media feed with dazzling photos of your little one that will make friends and family swoon without having to spend hundreds on a newborn photo session every month? I am loving my Little Studio by Lollipop Props by Westcott. It’s a portable portrait studio designed for photographing newborns, infants, toddlers and kids. It’s lightweight and unfolds into a 42” x 42” x 42” corner room-like setting, offering an instant portrait studio. You can order different backdrops, posing pillows and props to get professional looking photos at home (which you can take in your pajamas sans shower and makeup).

Car Seat Cover

Bebé au Lait’s Car Seat Cover is amazing because it zips open unlike most others, which you have to continuously lift up and down to see your little one. I have been stopped many times on the street by moms asking about this product. Simple to install with easy-snap straps and an elasticized bottom, it will fit most car seats and is machine washable.

Don’t forget to follow Katie Lara on her quest for the best life has to offer and plenty of new in-depth reviews about the best baby gear and life as a wanna-be cool mom. Follow Katie’s escapades on KatieLara.com.

Disclosure: As I stated in the first paragraph, many of these products were given to me for review purposes for my blog, others were given as gifts that I registered for and many, I purchased before the baby was born (or desperately on Amazon in the middle of the night. To be quite honest, with the lack of sleep and overwhelming joy of having a baby, I can barely remember what came from where. However, I am an UPPAbaby brand ambassador, which I want to make clear. I was provided with a stroller, however, am not paid for my honest opinions. I did not receive any additional compensation for anything or opinion in this review.

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