Your Baby Shower: Must-Have Products for the First Year

Have you taken a look at all the products out there for new babies recently? Whether you’re already pregnant or TTC, you’ve probably spent your share of time wandering through the baby aisles of your favorite stores, looking up nursery ideas on online, and creating a mental list for your baby shower registry. But there’s a TON of stuff out there that’s marketed to brand new parents—how are you supposed to know what you actually need, and what you can easily do without?

The short answer is that it’s going to vary from parent to parent. Some folks swear by a certain brand of all-in-one cloth diapers, others can’t do without their prefolds and pins, and there are some who can’t imagine using anything but disposables. But while you can probably hazard a few guesses, it’s sort of impossible to know exactly what kind of parent YOU’LL be until you actually ARE one, right?

I talk to new parents all the time, and they’ve got a lot of opinions! I also know that there are some non-negotiables when it comes to safe, non-toxic, and healthy products for the brand new human that will join your family soon. Based on my knowledge and the experience of the parents I work with, I’ve compiled a list for you of the best basic products you’ll need, and how to make sure you can get them without exhausting your bank account.

Sleep

First and foremost, your baby needs a safe place to sleep and rest, and YOU need a safe and comfy place to set baby down when you’re not able to hold her. Snuggle Me Organic is an amazing lounger that’s designed so that baby can be on her back (the safest position) with her head supported and with a neutral spine, so she can’t roll over or out, but will still feel like she’s being held. It’s like having an extra set of arms! This lounger can be placed on the floor or on a bed (not in a crib—babies should not have anything in the crib with them for safety), and creates a soothing feeling of being swaddled and cradled. Although obviously not a replacement for being held, the more safe and soothing places for your baby to rest and relax, the better!

If you plan to co-sleep instead of using a crib (which can be a huge bonus for your sleep if you’re breastfeeding, just make sure you’re using safe co-sleeping practices), you’ll want a co-sleeping nest for your bed. This co-sleeper has vented wall units that keep baby secure and help to prevent rollover, and it packs up easily for travel.

Here are my recommendations if you decide to go with a crib or hammock. The hammock is the perfect transition from co-sleeping to crib. It’s organic, from New Zealand, and gorgeous to boot! Whatever bed you decide on, make sure you choose organic cotton bedding and an organic crib mattress!

Other options to help with sleep (both baby’s and yours!) are a Baby Shusher or White noise machine. Not all parents I talked to felt the needed one, but the ones who did felt it was a must-have!

Washcloths, Burp Cloths, and Blankets

The one thing you’ll need LOTS of when you have a newborn are soft cloths and blankets—for spit up, for drool, for bibs, for a breastfeeding cover, for shade in baby’s stroller, for tummy-time on the floor—the uses are practically endless. If you have a sewing machine and you’re crafty (or if you have a crafty grandma or auntie), you can save a little money by simply buying several yards of organic flannel and muslin in cute prints (here’s a cute one, and here’s another) and cut/hem in sizes for washcloths, burp cloths, small blankets and large ones.

If the thought of going anywhere near a sewing machine makes you break out in a cold sweat, just make sure you have plenty of cloth in lots of sizes. Here are some good options for receiving blankets, burp cloths, and washcloths. Get multiple packs of each!

Babywearing

Your baby will be happiest when he’s close to you, and a baby wrap means you’ll have free hands! This is an absolute MUST-HAVE for new parents. There are a lot of wraps and carriers out there, and you may want to try on a friend’s, or even join a local babywearing class to see what works best for you. Two basic carriers I like are the Moby Wrap and the Ergobaby OMNI.

The Moby can be tricky to figure out at first (check out their youtube videos for instructions), but in addition to being soft, breathable, and cozy, they’re the most versatile—they’re one-size-fits-all, adaptable as your child grows, and can double as a blanket and breastfeeding cover in a pinch.

The Ergobaby OMNI is great because you can use it from infant to toddler, and baby can face in OR out. It has an ergonomic design for you AND baby, providing structured support for baby’s head and neck.

If you’re trying to stick to a budget, both of these carriers are popular and should be easy to find at consignment stores, or ask friends if they have one they no longer need.

Clothing

My all-time favorite clothing store for infants and toddlers is Under the Nile. Their clothing is made from 100% organic, sustainable, fair-trade Egyptian cotton, and it’s ADORABLE. If it’s in your budget, this is your one-stop-shop for baby clothes.

If you’re trying to save money in this area, I recommend asking friends, neighbors and family members if they have any hand-me-downs they’re ready to get rid of! Also check consignment stores, shopping sales, and if you’re crafty, you can also find patterns to make all the basics like rompers, bibs, and sleepers.

Feeding

If you’re able to breastfeed, all you’ll need are nursing pads (baby washcloths can double as nursing pads too), a nursing pillow like a Nook Sleep Niche Feeding Pillow (it has an organic fill that’s not too hard, not too soft. It’s also made of a patented Pebble Fabric that’s water-resistant, making clean-up easy, and it’s bathed in natural zinc making it anti-mite, anti-mold, anti-fungal and hypoallergenic), and don’t forget nipple cream—a must-have for when your skin gets sore.

If you’re going to use a pump and bottles, I recommend Medela pumps. The Medela symphony is the highest quality, hospital-grade pump, and if your baby is premature or has issues latching, it’s worth looking into renting one.

If you just need a basic pump, this digital model is a good choice, as it offers multiple speeds so you can find the best pattern to get the most milk out of your pumping session, and will also save the pumping pattern for your next session.

When storing breastmilk, make sure you use glass storage bottles to avoid ANY toxins from plastics leaking into your milk. This kit of nipples and lids allows you to use regular wide-mouth mason jars as bottles, which can be frozen and heated, AND reused—you probably already have some laying around, so it’s a win-win! Remember to always heat milk on the stove top in warm water, never in the microwave or oven.

If you do end up having to use formula, I recommend making your own. Go to this link to read more about homemade formula and see the recipe, instructions and video showing how to prepare it. You can order all the necessary ingredients (except the raw milk) from Radiant Life Catalog, and you can find raw, organic, grass-fed milk locally by checking the Real Milk database for your area or contacting local farms to see if anybody sells raw milk near you. You can also talk to your local health food store and see if they have any suggestions for places to find raw milk. Make sure to buy the highest quality cow’s milk they sell.

If that’s not a realistic option for you, Holle or HiPP brands are the best commercial formulas by far. Here’s a great guide for finding the best baby formulas, and remember, whether you make it yourself or buy premade, ALWAYS use filtered water!

Diapering

The most important thing to consider when you choose diapers for your baby isn’t actually cloth or disposable, but toxicity. Diapers will spend a great deal of time next to your baby’s skin, and will often be wet, so it’s critical that you choose options that are free of bleach and other toxins, and that the materials used to make them are organic.

I haven’t counted but I’m pretty sure there are about a billion companies that make cloth diaper sets, and about a hundred different ways to cloth diaper. But honestly, all you really need is something soft and absorbent next to baby’s bum, and something non-absorbent wrapped around that to prevent a mess.

The parents I’ve spoken with prefer prefold cotton inserts over all-in-one cloth diapers, as all-in-ones wear out quickly and are more expensive. Oso-cozy organic prefold inserts are soft and absorbent, and Thirsties snapping diaper covers are waterproof, fully washable and dryable, and adjustable as your baby grows. To secure the prefold, you can use traditional pins, or these Snappis are a cinch to use and secure. You’ll want a couple of wet bags to store dirty diapers until you can wash them, and a set of washcloths for wiping with clean, filtered water.

Most parents who use cloth will also sometimes use disposables, especially when traveling or just out and about, and some parents decide that disposables are a better choice for their family. Just make sure you’re choosing diapers made of non-toxic, organic materials. Earth’s Best, Andy Pandy biodegradable bamboo diapers, or Naty By Nature are all good choices, and these wipes are the ones I’d recommend.

Diapers, whether cloth or disposable, can get really pricey fast. Make sure you check consignment stores for cloth diapers, or check Craigslist in your area. I know one mom who was able to find all of her cloth diapers for FREE just by searching Craigslist regularly while she was pregnant! Another way to save is to buy disposables online in bulk, which are cheaper per diaper than buying them in smaller packages in brick and mortar stores.

For preventing diaper rash, there are a ton of great organic, non-toxic products out there, but parents I talked to swear by Weleda Calendula baby oil. Again, just make sure you check labels!

Toys

Toys are something you’ll want to specify on your registry, as there are so many plastic toys out there marketed to infants. Even if they’re labeled non-toxic or BPA-free, it’s still best to go with natural materials, especially for teething toys. This set of wooden rattles and teethers is a perfect choice, and so is this grasping activity toy. If you know any other new parents, you’ve probably also heard of Sophie the Giraffe, an amazing natural rubber teething toy, a favorite that many parents rave about. You’ll also want to make sure you have a few natural rubber pacifiers, which are great for self-soothing, and also for teething as baby gets older.

Bath

This is another area where there are a TON of products out there, and only a couple you actually need. A bath lotus is handy and versatile, since you can use it in the sink and in the bathtub as baby grows. Don’t wash your baby with anything but clean filtered water, and occasionally Dr. Bronner’s baby mild castile soap. I don’t recommend sudsing your baby up every day! This washes all the important beneficial bacteria from her skin, and can leave skin dry and prone to rashes and eczema. If your baby is prone to dry skin or rashes, try less frequent baths before putting anything else on his skin, but you can also try Weleda Calendula baby oil after bathing. Add a soft, absorbent, organic cotton baby towel, and you’re all set!

Carseat and Stroller

While not necessarily a absolute must-have, a good stroller/car seat/bassinet combo will definitely make your life easier! Car rides tend to put baby to sleep, and having to wrestle a sleeping baby out of carseat straps is definitely NO FUN. A combo allows you to gently lift the seat out of the car and place directly in a stroller without waking baby. A stroller that’s lightweight and easy to maneuver will also make outings less stressful, and therefore make it more likely that you’ll get outside for walks, which will be good for both of you!

Parents I talk to RAVE about the Uppababy bassinet/carseat/stroller combo. It accommodates babies from birth to the toddler years AND allows for multiple configurations to transport up to 3 kiddos. It’s lightweight, simple to fold and unfold, and compact enough to easily fit into the back of your car.

If the Uppababy is out of your price range (and at almost 2k that’s understandable!) there are other more affordable combo systems that work well also, including ones with jogging strollers, a must if you want to take baby with you on your runs. Make sure to talk to friends with kiddos, try out a stroller or two at a brick and mortar store, and just make sure it’s a system that will work for you.

Post-Birth Support For Mama

Self-care after baby is born is one of the hardest, but also most important parts of being a new parent! Make sure to stock up on post-partum comfort items for mom before baby arrives as well. Some basics are a peri bottle filled with witch hazel, menstrual pads soaked in witch hazel and kept in the freezer, herbal sitz bath soak, and disposable underwear for postpartum bleeding. You’ll also want the freezer stocked with plenty of easy-to-prepare meals, or consider setting up a meal train so friends can coordinate bringing meals to you.

In a nutshell

  1. All you really need for a new baby are the basics: a safe place to sleep, comfy blankets/wraps/carrier, things to wear, a way to feed (hopefully breastfeed), a stroller and diapers.
  2. Avoid toxins whenever possible in ALL your baby products.
  3. Check my Shop My Home page for a full list of safe products I use myself, and if you need more support, I’m here to help!

Let’s Talk!

I want to hear from you—leave me a comment below and we can continue the conversation!

Have you started planning your baby shower yet?

What amazing baby products have your friends recommended to you?

What baby products are you most excited to pick out and buy?

Spread some new mama lovin’! I bet you have some friends who would love to read this too :).

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Looking to have a more in-depth conversation about how to make sure you’re choosing non-toxic baby products? Schedule a consultation with me!

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