I’m a mom of four, but I felt like a first-time parent all over again when I had my youngest last year. My husband had given away all of our infant gear, thinking we were done after our third child was born. Spoiler alert: we weren’t. Baby clothes, swaddles, bibs, chairs—everything—had already been donated, so we were essentially starting fresh. This time around, I decided to go minimalist and only buy what I thought were the absolute must-haves. I was seriously off.
Within the first week, I hastily purchased a few select items in an attempt to make my life a little easier, all while wishing I’d just kicked off life with No. 4 with these in the mix already. Here’s what I wish I’d had on hand from the beginning.
A bouncer to keep baby busy
I never had a BabyBjorn bouncer with my older children, but I did have a similar hand-me-down seat that had been given away. Friends raved about how much they loved this one and—silly me—I didn’t think to pick up a chair to have a spot to put baby down when I needed a hands-free moment. Instead, my husband and I handed her back and forth while we showered or did anything that required two hands, while I desperately willed the bouncer to come a little faster in the mail. It was a lifesaver as soon as it arrived, with light padding for maximum comfort and a gentle bouncing motion that soothed my daughter. The seat also offers three reclining positions, so we could adjust it as she grew and developed better neck strength. Another nice perk: It folds flat for easy storage.
Buy it: BabyBjorn Bouncer Bliss, $210; Amazon.com
How could I have forgotten a sound machine? My husband and I made do using our Echo Dot when Isla first came home from the hospital, but I quickly realized that drop-in interruptions and random notifications weren’t helpful for keeping our little one asleep. The Hatch Rest has a ton of features I wish I’d had from the start, like a night light (helpful for late-night diaper changes), white noise and 15 additional sleep sounds. It’s also adjustable via an app on your phone, so you can raise the volume when things get noisy outside baby’s door—a huge plus with three older siblings running around.
Buy it: Hatch Rest Baby Sound Machine, $70; Amazon.com
A can of formula—just in case
My daughter was born in March 2022, and a baby formula shortage had really taken hold in the US the month before. I’d exclusively breastfed her older siblings and planned to do the same with her, but it was hard not to feel some level of fear around the shortage. What if my milk didn’t come in or if my supply dropped? What if it dried up entirely? I started to research formula and found ByHeart. The brand is newer to the scene, but it’s gotten a lot of great buzz for its clean ingredients and years of research. It also incorporates the two main proteins found in a mother’s milk—lactoferrin and alpha-lactalbumin. For peace of mind, I wish I’d had a can in my pantry, just to be safe.
Buy it: ByHeart Whole Nutrition Infant formula (24 oz), $39; ByHeart.com
A busy mat for tummy time
In my minimalist approach, I figured I could just tackle tummy time by laying a blanket on the carpet. That worked for a few days, until I realized my daughter needed a little more entertainment than I could provide—and I needed a break from making silly faces and dancing toys around. This Fisher-Price playmat is packed with detachable toys that baby can grab onto or play with separately. It also provided a designated space that was “hers”—meaning, my big kids couldn’t take the blanket and try to claim it as their own. Isla loved the music and dancing lights, and I appreciated that the mat was machine washable—a feature that came in handy after many a diaper blow-out.
Buy it: Fisher-Price Playmat, $65; Amazon.com
A bottle warmer that sends alerts to your phone
I work from home and went back to my job just two weeks after giving birth. We’re lucky enough to have someone help care for our daughter at home, and I would either breastfeed her on demand or have our sitter give her bottles. I quickly realized that bottles were the best route to go, so I wouldn’t need to spend work calls nursing, praying my daughter wouldn’t burp or have gas at the same time. So, we needed a bottle warmer. The Baby Brezza offers two heat settings to evenly warm bottles (Quick Warm and Steady Warm) and you can even operate it from an app on your phone—a game changer for multitasking diaper changes and bottle prep.
Buy it: Baby Brezza Safe & Smart Electric Baby Bottle Warmer, $80; Amazon.com
Thankfully, I still had a double stroller, but I’d forgotten to get a hands-free carrier before Isla was born. Cue me, quickly ordering one on Amazon. The Moby wrap was a lifesaver for just about everything. I could hold my baby and still be able to walk my kids to the park, fix sandwiches at lunchtime and do pretty much anything else with her snuggled up against me. She loved the cozy, T-shirt-like feel of the wrap and I loved having her right there. I also appreciated the fact that it’s machine washable and feels even softer with time. The wrap can be used in different ways as baby gets older, and Isla still enjoys hanging out in it when we head out of the house.
Buy it: Moby Wrap Baby Carrier, $45; Amazon.com