What's the One ''Must Have'' Item?

Archived Q&A and Reviews

See also: Baby Gift Suggestions and Advice about Pregnancy and Childbirth
Dec 2003

I'm going to be a new, single, first time mom in March and I couldn't be more excited! My friends are already asking what's on the new baby wish list. Well I started looking at the tons of items available on the different registries and I got a little overwhelmed.

So figured, who better to ask than all the people on the Parents Network. If you could pick one item that you absolutely couldn't do without during pregnancy, at childbirth and as a new parent, what would it be? (Well, in all fairness, it could be 3 separate items since all three scenarios are different.)

Look forward to hearing your responses!! Michelle

1. Baby Bjorn -- Having you hand free lets you accomplish everyday activities like eating.

2. Fisher Price Cradle Swing -- It soothes the fussy baby.

3. Medela Seemless Nursing Bra -- A nursing bra the looks and feels like a real bra. Adriane

Congratulations - If I could do it over again, I'd have to say a must have item is not an item at all - Ask for help! Babysitting so you can sleep or get out of the house, a housecleaner, or even some home-made meals. Outside of the basics (like a stroller, crib, diapers, bottles) all the baby stuff turns out to really be unnecessary. Allison
during pregnancy: massage from someone experienced in working on pregnant women

at birth: if you will be in a hospital, it's nice to have a couple of friends prepared to redecorate the room. My friends did this for me using fabric, art prints, statues, flowers, and music. It changed everything--no longer a clinical experience. At home or in the hospital, the presence of a doula makes a big difference.

with baby: baby sling and nursing pillow. Or...a postpartum doula for a few weeks would be very nice--someone to come in and help with the baby, food, the house--as you will be tired. Ann

Wow, wouldn't it be nice if there really was one thing that made it all easier? If I can only pick one, the answer has to be ''help.'' From my husband, my neighbors, my family, the cleaning service, our doula, my mom's group, etc. Get it; you'll need it.

But, perhaps more in the spirit of your question: I found a sling indispensible during the newborn period especially. Some parents and babies prefer a Bjorn, but the point is that a way to carry a baby who can't be put down while also fulfilling your need for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or to use the bathroom, etc. is very important. This is also where help comes in, if you have friends from whom you can borrow these items to experiment with what works for you and baby.

During labor, we had assembled quite a number of supposed labor aides, and none of them mattered a bit; for me, in labor, help really was the only must-have item. I highly highly highly recommend using a doula.

Indispensible for pregnancy? LOL, has to have been Tums for me.

Congratulations on your pregnancy! another new mama

A Baby Bjorn...keep your hands free while carrying (and snuggling with) your baby everywhere (on the train, while mopping the floor, on a hike, etc). These are great for the first year. Jan
I have a couple things I can't imagine getting by without - for the labor and delivery of my baby we hired a doula to coach me. She was great. A little expensive if you're strapped for cash but you can get a doula free or cheap with less experience. Any way you do it. I'd highly recommend having one. mine was Judy Ballinger aksharadoula AT mac.com

post delivery my cousin arranged for all family and friends who were interested to bring meals. she scheduled 3 or 4 a week and we were getting meals well into the second month - it was a god send! I've also heard of people asking for time rather than gifts. as a single parent that could be especially useful. time to hold the baby while you do other things or just take a break.

ok last thing, the one actual item we've used more than anything else is our baby carrier. we have a Bjorn but slings can be just as good once you get used to them and they can be used for longer because they are more versatile as the baby gets older. Ilona

Congratulations on your pregnancy!

My baby was high-need and had a challenging temperament from the beginning. He screamed at the top of his lungs every time he was not in my arms,for instance when I changed his diapers (which is about a dozen times a day at the beginning!). What saved my sanity during diaper changes was the black and white mobile (you can find it at any baby store such as Baby World, not at big chain stores.) The store clerks will know immediately what you are talking about. It has geometrical figures and it looks very simple, but it's absolutely mesmerizing for babies for the first 4 to 6 months. My son stopped crying as soon as I hanged this simple mobile above his changing table. It was like magic.

The baby bjorn, once he could look outside (when he could hold his head up) was another life-saver, since he also screamed whenever I tried to go outdoors with him in the stroller. He did not like being in the Baby Bjorn for the first couple of months,when looking towards my chest.

In terms of you post-partum period, getting outside help for meals and house-cleaning is the best gift you can give to yourself. If you can't afford paying for it, ask your closest friends/family to cook double batches whenever they can and bring you half of what they cook to freeze when they visit you. Or you can ask for payed cleaning services as gifts from a few close people (instead of getting 10 receiving blankets or sheets when you only need a few). I did not have any of this and I certainly felt it in exhaustion and depression as the days went by. Good luck! Anon

It's more than one:

Brest friend breast feeding pillow. way better than the boppy.

Carrying systems: sling, bjorn or snuggli (snuggli is better when they are older, more support) and stroller you can take a decent walk with. I used all three, and later the back pack.

Friends to bring you meals on preappointed days. Your shower organizer can coordinate this.

newborn sacks (leg free infant wear, for speedy changes w/o sleepless fumbling)

soothies (pads for nipple soreness)

lansinol (for soreness too)

happy I had these!

For pregnancy it would be Shiva Rae's Yoga Workout tape For birth it would be a birth ball, a doula and a warm shower For the newborn it would be a New Native Sling My Must Haves
That's easy! A sling! A New Native sling, in which baby sort of crumples up in the pocket and falls happily asleep next to you as if still in utero. You just carry him around all day, and everybody is happy. You can use it for probably two years, too, if you learn how to sling a growing baby/toddler.

And though you didn't ask, thought I'd go ahead and tell you that the one toy you can't live without when baby's about 18 months or so: Legos. My seven year old STILL spends hours with her Legos. The three year old loves them as well. Good luck, Mamma! SlingMama

Must haves for us: ''Buzzy chair'' - the reclining chair thing that can vibrate, and a baby swing. Katia
If your infant likes it (and here is the problem -- some do, some don't), a baby swing is really wonderful. For the first five or six months of my son's life, it allowed my husband and me to both eat dinner at the same time, rather than in shifts with one of us holding the baby. I didn't leave my son in it for huge amounts of time, but it did allow me to have my hands free for 10 or 15 minutes when I really needed it. Karen
Congrats! If you're an active person and would like to stay so during your pregnancy, I highly recommend a ''belly belt,'' which is basically a big velcro and elastic belt that goes around your belly just below where your tummy will be sticking out. It provides great support for your lower back and protruding tummy, especially later in the pregnancy, and allowed me to continue power walking until basically up to the day I delivered. I bought mine at a maternity store for about $20, I think, but I'm sure you can find one through the BPN used.

For childbirth, if you're having a c-section, the best gift you could have is to make sure that the bed you'll be staying in for several days while you recover has a ''pull-up'' bar to help you get yourself out of bed without using your abdominal muscles. My bed did not and I sure wish I'd thought to ask for one in advance.

For a newborn baby, get a ''bouncy seat'' with toys and vibrating action like a ''Kick & Play'' or similar. Babies love it right from the start so that they can see everything, and it's a safe place to strap him or her so that you can do important things like go to the bathroom or take a shower. The baby will be able to use it until age 6-7 months, probably, so you'll get lots of use out of it. Also a great thing to take along if you're travelling anywhere.

Good luck!

A sling and directions how to use it. Infant Tylenol and a thermometer. A snap-n-go stroller and infant car seat to start. An umbrella type stroller (Kolcrafts are good and cheap) for later and a Britax Roundabout car seat for later. A baby monitor. A pack-n-play. A nursing stool. Books: Marc Weissbluth's ''Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child'' E. Pantley's ''No-Cry Sleep Solution'' H. Karp ''Happiest Baby on the Block'' An Avent Isis Breast Pump and An Ameda Purely Yours Breast Pump. A good nursing chair and pillow.
Good luck and enjoy! katwoman
Remembering back to both my kids, the thing that got the most use of all was the Baby Bjorn. I guess any comfortable sling or carrier that frees your hands while you carry the baby would fulfill the same crucial function. Second up (and it lasted longer) was the stroller... but the expensive Aprica was a real pain. The simple, light, foldable umbrella stroller was key. LA
A good quality glider-rocker fits the bill, though it's a high- priced item so a bunch of friends would probably need to pitch in. Dutalier is the most popular brand. It was the only chair I could sit in while I was pregnant, the best for nursing a small baby, wonderful for reading to a toddler, and now good for snuggling with a preschooler.

For smaller items I couldn't do without: a body pillow during pregnancy and a Baby Bjorn and vibrating bouncy seat for infancy. Lauren

During pregnancy, my must-have item was a nearby restroom :) Right after our buddy was born (and I mean the day after) I realized that we had forgotten one item that I simply could not do without: a nursing chair. I had to send my husband out in the dark and the rain across town to snag one before the store closed. By ''nursing chair'' I don't mean a special chair designed for nursing, but just a rocking or comfortable chair that is built so that you can rest your arms on its arms while you feed the baby. I tried nursing on our bed lying down (many women do this successfully) and found that I couldn't quite manage. I think I was afraid of crushing the little mite\xc2\x82. And during the day it makes sense to have such a chair. Ours was a glider, rather inexpensive, and a godsend. My husband liked sitting in it so much I had to kick him out numerous times to nurse, and so we got a second one! Finally, once our son was a bit older I felt that I absolutely had to have an electric swing for him so that I could cook dinner, clean the kitchen, or anything else that was impeded by having to hold a squirming child in my arms. But alas I must tell you that he didn't like the swing. It happens. So I put him in his car seat on the kitchen table and cranked up the radio. That kept him happy for limited amounts of time. Best of luck to you and your baby! rocking mama
I had a top 10, not a top 1 :-) for the first month after my daugther was born last year, in a rough semblance of order:
1. Glider Rocker (can be expensive, but soooo worth it. I spent, and still spend, hours in that chair) 2. Baby Emery Boards (you will NOT want to go anywhere near those tiny fingers with clippers for at least a month) 3. Baby Bjorn (I know some folks swear by slings, but they were only a source of frustration for me) 4. Fisher Price Kick & Play Bouncy seat (I only name the brand and type because we had several and none came close to that one) 5. The unfortunately named My Brest Friend nursing pillow (we also had two Boppys -- worthless) 6. Bassinet on wheels (ours also doubled as a moses basket -- she slept in that thing for the first 2 months, everywhere around the house) 7. PJs and clothing that snaps or zips ALL THE WAY from neck to toes. (Gap and Carters were almost the only ones who had this very, very important feature) 8. SIDE-snap t-shirts (so you don't have to pull them over baby's head -- you wont break it's neck, but you will feel like you might. Terrifying for a new parent!) 9. The Pampers wipes in the pop-up tub (if you are using disposable wipes). All the others were incredibly frustrating to get out of the box/container/package for my inexperienced fingers. 10. Lots and lots and lots of urp cloths (we used cloth diapers for those).
Congrats on your new adventure! Lisa
Congratulations! Pregnancy, childbirth and life with a newborn are exciting, and tiring. The one thing I could not have done without is some help around the house and some companionship. At this stage I think babies do best with happy, healthy, rested moms, not with specific products. After a month or two, you will need something to keep your hands free and baby occupied, like a sling, excersaucer, swing or bouncy seat. But borrow these before buying, because different babies like different things. Good Luck. LC
Pregnancy: A body pillow. Childbirth: I had a c-section, so didn't have to go through labor. What I really appreciated afterwards was a small portable fan. I was really, really hot in the room and that fan saved me.

New Parent: There are tons of things that I found necessary, but other than my breast pump (my preemie wasn't able to breastfeed), none essential. Beyond diapers at the beginning the one thing I needed the most were onesies for the baby (helped keep up the diapers) and blankets for swadling her. But later on many things proved very important: the vibrating bassinet, when the baby wouldn't calm down any other way, a rocker, when she had to be rocked to sleep,the stroller, etc. etc. anon

Congrats! Here is my two cents (three kids under my belt...):

1. Pregnancy: Underwear that fits and a jog bra

2. Birth: Over-rated! The only thing you ''need'' is to have someone help you remember what to do in order to ease your pain/transitions. My sister had this whole fantasy created, where she wanted to listen to classical music and drink champaigne.... When it came right down to it, none of that mattered. We did have my father take B and Color photos before and after the birth, and I really love those.

3. Babyhood: A Snap and Go (the car seat snaps into the stroller base). I like the Graco Brand they sell at Rockridge Kids the best. A vibrating bouncy seat (our babies loved to sleep in there, when they would not sleep anywhere else) and a water bottle with a straw, for me to drink water out of while I nursed. Have a Great Time!

A Baby Bjorn. Don't skimp, and get the cheaper versions...this is a must have. Melissa
I had a very hard time nursing my first baby. Positioning her was so difficult and the one thing that saved us was the Brest Friend nursing pillow. It's firm (unlike the Boppy which is so...floppy) and you can even velcro it around your waist to really anchor it in place.

I always can't imagine a newly-babied universe without some sort of baby carrier. Early on (the first month) a sling is fantastic, but after a month the Baby Bjorn is so handy (I almost cried when my wee ones got too heavy for it.).

Other stuff is nice and handy and helpful, but I wouldn't call a changing table a ''must have'' item. I would not have made it, or so it seems, without a nursing pillow and a baby carrier. Um, I guess I would call an infant seat a must have item, but...well, you know that. mg

Baby Bjorn!! Rhea
you're due in March? well, if you haven't already started (i hope you have) a childbirth class/regimen, you might consider the Bradley Method of Natural Childbirt (husband coached!). it is an amazing way to prepare for your first experience, and even if you don't enroll in the classes, the *book* may give you invaluable information about how to prepare! my wife and i found ''The Baby Book'' by Sears and Sears undeniably the most important book we had *after* our son was born...

those, along with ''The Breastfeeding Book: Everything You Need to Know About Nursing Your Child from Birth Through Weaning'' by Martha Sears, RN and William Sears, MD, are the three *must have* itemsi would suggest! ricky

Diaper service. That's what I told people when they asked what I wanted as a wedding present (yes, it was a shotgun wedding). We used Tiny Tots, and found them quite congenial. Mom
Hi - your question is so fun I just had to answer. You split this into three categories so I'll answer that way: What you must have for:

1) pregnancy - a really high-quality expensive pair of shoes that will not make you feel fat, ugly or matronly, but will provide your feet with a little room to grow and swell. Mine were low kitten-heeled Mary Janes that were/are so cute, only I knew were comfortable.

2) childbirth - you need the perspective that given 9 months of pregnancy and 18+ years of parenthood, this is only a few hours of your life. That and the $300 extra it will cost for a private room, and you're set. Try not to obsess.

3) parenthood - for the new baby days, a good comfortable chair you don't mind spending serveral hours a day in. It doesn't need to be a glider - I liked my overstuffed armchair & ottoman. If you need to recommend something smaller that your friends can afford to buy you, I would ask for gift certificates for cleaning or cooking services. The rest (newborn clothing, toys, gadgets) you will get by the truckload anyway.

Best of luck!!! mom of three (with cute shoes)

The first three items that come to mind are: 1) Nursing Bib: I don't know where this was purchased, it was given to me as a hand-me-down, but it was priceless! It was a big blue cotton bib that snapped around my neck with mesh at the top so you could see through and inside to help baby latch on, adjust, etc. and pockets at the bottom (think an apron, only around your neck). For nursing at times during church, in crowded restaurants, etc., it was definitely a life saver. Worked much better than blankets or scarves because it didn't slip off or make baby too hot, and I could see through when I needed to. (Came with matching burp cloth and pillow).

2) Boppy Pillow: Great to put baby on while nursing sitting down in chairs or in bed. You can purchase, separately, a removable cover that zips off for easy cleaning. Also wonderful to lay baby on with gym swinging overhead to play with and entertain. You can actually buy boppies that convert to gyms - I highly recommend that one!

3) Zooper ''Z-street'' Stroller: We've turned so many of our friends on to this lightweight, manuverable, good looking stroller. It comes in a variety of colors. Allows for most car seats to fasten in safely/easily, and it very quickly/painlessly folds up into the size of an umbrella stroller! It has been the only stroller we've needed because when our baby was new he'd be in the car seat, and as he grows, the stroller grows with him. Like most newer car seats, it has a five point harness belt that keeps our little tiger safely secured, especially when he doesn't want to be! It also comes with a sunscreen and rainscreen. The top shade has a window to allow for peeking. Only thing I don't like is how the seat adjusts back (you'll see what I'm talking about if you check one out)and like most smaller-type strollers, the handle doesn't switch from one side to the other (to keep baby out of sun) - but not enough to regret buying it (for less than $200, 1.5 years ago.) Good luck! sepee

A changing table.

Every time I travel and there isn't one around, I'm always glad to get home to mine. Makes it much easier to restrain a squirmy toddler during a diaper change. anon

I'll answer the ''during childbirth'' portion of the question. I have two: a mirror and, if you're giving birth in the summer, a fan.

Tall mirrors on wheels are available at Alta Bates, but not everyone knows that (the nurses won't necessarily ask you if you want it). I love that I got to see my babies come out--we had a camera but ended up not really using it, in all the excitement.

Fans are not readily available at the hospital. My first was born in VERY hot weather, so I brought one with me and everybody (doctors, nurses) commented on how much they appreciated it too! (One of the doctors said my room was the most comfortable in the building.) The problem is that many of the windows don't open, so this really was vital to my comfort. Violet

I'm expecting my second in January (the first is only 16 months) so I should know the answer to this but when I think about all the products available it's hard to pick one. There are the bouncy seats, the baby gyms, the swings, and the slings, all of which are indispensable a little later on (except for the sling which is useful right away).

For your childbirth I would strongly recommend a doula. Your girlfriends won\xc2\x92t be able to wrap one up for your shower but they can contribute to the cost. Others may have another opinion but even if you have a very strong companion for your birth I have found that a doula is worth her weight in gold.

If I had to pick something for the first few months after childbirth I would have to say lots of swaddling blankets, lots of onsies, lots of one piece 'jammies (the basics), of course the car seat (the one with the zig zag handle) and the stroller, and someone to help you. Maybe your friends could take turns coming over to help you cook or clean or run errands during the first month or two so that you have more time with the baby.

Now that I\xc2\x92ve said all this I do think a good nursing pillow, if you will be breastfeeding, is a necessity. I know many like the Boppy but I preferred the My Breast Friend. Its more stable, stays in place if you have to stand up, and is more comfortable for me than the Boppy. Don\xc2\x92t buy it new \xad you can get it for 40 - 50% less at a used store like Darla\xc2\x92s in El Cerrito, Bearly Worn in Walnut Creek, Play it Again in San Rafael, etc\xc2\x85

Forget the overpriced cute outfits, the stuffed animals, the wipe warmers, and the hooded towels, etc\xc2\x85 You can get that stuff later if you want it at a used store at a fraction of the price. You can also get those cute overpriced crib sets (bumper, sheets, cribskirt, etc...) at the used stores. I know this doesn\xc2\x92t answer your exact question (The ONE must have item) but it's what comes to mind. S.W.

Congrats Michelle! Guess what? I know the one perfect item and it really is ONE perfect item for all three scenarios. I could not and will not live without my snoogle. It's a full-body pillow that has a funky little curve in it. cut and paste the following to see it!


I could not survived those 8 long months (my guy came a little early!) of pregnancy without it. It's also great now to prop him up as he's learning to sit all by himself! (*sigh*...he's growing up so fast!) I also used it those first few weeks as a breastfeeding pillow when it was still kinda akward. (but then I got my boppy...another ''must-have'').

Good luck and happy sleeping. Get it all in now, because you're not gonna get much later! snoogle-mama

If you\xc2\x92re planning to breastfeed the one item that I very highly recommend is a \xc2\x93My Breast Friend\xc2\x94 nursing pad. Recent new mom
During pregnancy: a long maternity pillow to sleep with

During childbirth: a DOULA--I cannot imagine my labor without one. Our Doula was Joan Taylor (510) 482 8927, and she was fantastic.

As a new parent: a sleep sack, a ''My Brest Friend'' nursing pillow by Zenoff (way way better than a Boppy), a gymini, a bouncy chair and a portable/travel swing (you can get it at Target -- it folds down for easy travel, but is a great swing with lights and music -- our baby loved it, and we were able to take him all sorts of places in it). If you have those five things you can survive through 8 mos easy.

Also, you should totally take advantage of the used baby clothing stores on College Avenue (Lora's Closet and the other one, name escaping me, across the street from the Cotton Company near Rockridge Bart). They have fantastic clothes, but also all the other items you need too. I regret buying everything new -- total waste of money! Good luck with your new baby!

I didn't see the original post, so I don't know the exact question you asked. But, on others' lists of ''must-haves'', I didn't see the one and only item that my son loved as a newborn that he still loves now at 18 months. That's his Fisher- Price ''Ocean Wonders Aquarium''. This is a crib toy that looks (sort of) like an aquarium, complete with plastic fish that gyrate, and bubbles, lights and music when you turn it on (instead of music, you can set it to bubble sounds). My son was fascinated by the lights at 6 weeks of age -- he often stared at it until he dropped off to sleep. At 18 months, when he wakes up in the morning he now turns it on himself, and there's little buttons he can push to make some of the critters move. This often keeps him amused for a good 10-15 minutes after he wakes up, allowing me to stay in bed a little longer -- and as far as I'm concerned, a few extra minutes of sleep is a priceless commondity for any mom! Good luck with the baby-to- be! Diane
Without question a ''birth ball'' (10 mos. later, i'm still bouncing the baby to sleep on it), a baby bjorn and a bouncy seat -- for the five minutes at a time that the baby is not in the bjorn! Congratulations! anon
Love your question! Things are always more clear in hindsight - i was so overwhelmed when i was pregnant and trying to figure out what i really needed!

Pregnancy: Good moisturizing cleanser - i like the Shi Kai body cleanser you can get at trader joe's or berkeley bowl - it made a huge difference for me - couple that w/ a pleasant sugar scrub - i like the tangerine from trader joe's - and a huge percentage of your stretch marks will disappear!

Just post Birth: the # of a lactation consultant if you are breastfeeding - if you are in berkeley find the # of the city lac consultant that will come for free! I know several first time mommies that had a hard time the first few weeks and didn't think they would need a lac consultant (including me) and wouldn't have gotten through without them.

First 6 months: Fisher price rocking chair - it will last longer than a bouncy chair because your toddler can use it!

Good luck! What you will really need the most is a lot of patience and belief that you are doing a great job as a new mom! anon

Unless I missed it, I'm surprised no one mentioned a good mini- tub for the bath. In the early days (and even beyond), bathing can be such a stressful activity, especially if you're doing it on your own. I can't imagine living without our Evenflo tub, which came with a detachable canopy (like a hammock) that we used until our son was big enough for the mini-tub itself. It really took all the panic out of bathtime. Good luck! Laura
MayaWrap at Mayawrap.com. My child is now almost ten months and twenty-one pounds and i still use it to take the weight off my arms. Has convenient large pocket for the liitle things you need to carry. It has been indispensable for car errands and public transportation -- not a hiking item. liz
Jolly Jumper...both of my daughters could jump for hours

Circle Saucer....it's great to have a safe place to put them down for a moment. We've got a lot more use out of this than I thought...My three year old still climbs into it to play.

Baby Bjorn

Good stroller....check out the MacClaren. They are worth every penny. We went the cheaper route and it broke. The only friends I know who still use their original stroller are those who invested in a MacClaren

Lansinoh cream for nipples, and use it before you start to hurt. Otherwise, you'll need your breathing exercises for breastfeeding! Sandra