Baby’s First Year Must Haves: What You Really Need

Much like choosing a major when you’re still a teenager, it seems silly to choose all of the items your baby will need before they’re even born, especially for first-time parents. There is no manual, and you don’t have your boating license, but here you go…you have to steer this ship with little to no sleep or experience. Seems reasonable, right??

Wrong! But I’m here to help. My firstborn turned one year old a few weeks ago, and thankfully I do feel more confident now as to what was a vital necessity during the newborn and infant stages, and what could have been skipped on the baby registry.

My Top 5 Baby’s First Year Must Haves

  1. Baby Brezza formula maker. This is my #1 baby item. Even if you aren’t sure if you will be formula feeding, put this on your baby registry. If you don’t end up needing it, you can always return it. This brilliant invention makes the perfect formula bottle in three seconds flat, every time. It was a total lifesaver for those middle-of-the-night bottles when you needed it FAST.
  2. Pack ‘n Play. You will use your Pack ‘n Play daily for months, trust me. Mine was set up in the family room for diaper changes and as a makeshift closet in those early months. Looking back, I should have used it for overnight sleep instead of a bassinet (more on that below). Make sure you get one that is easy to break down for transport and that has a changing table accessory.
  3. Automatic Infant Swing. My son took at least one nap a day in his swing for over six months. They were always monitored with an adult in the room. I preferred this to a Mamaroo because the motion of the swing was stronger. (Remember: this is not a baby sleep item. Please do your research on safe infant sleep.)
  4. Sound Machine. There are several sound machines on the market, and I bet they all work great. I was attracted to the Hatch Rest because you can operate it with an app, set routines, and use it as a nightlight and time-to-rise alarm when your baby is older.
  5. Ollie Swaddle. I tried what felt like 8,000 swaddles when my son was a newborn, and he weaseled his way out of every single one, until I found the Ollie. Purchase at least two of them, one for using and one for backup, in case the one currently around your baby gets peed on.

Baby Items We Use(d) All The Time

  1. Clip-On High Chair. This mobile high chair comes with us to every restaurant we go to, unless we know they have high chairs. It is super easy to install, does not leave any marks, and the cover is washable.
  2. Boppy. My son sat in his Boppy for bottles until he was almost one year old. I preferred this to a specific nursing pillow, as I wasn’t sure how long we would breastfeed. It also works as a safe landing spot for baby when they are still learning head and neck control.
  3. Bathtub Kneeler. Unless your joints are made of clouds, baby bath time can be a beating. This item will save your knees from complete destruction. 
  4. Mobile Nightlight. Trying to keep the room dark while also maneuvering a dirty diaper change at 3am should be an Olympic sport. I had two of these transportable nightlights (one for my room, one for the nursery), and they were such a giant help when we were still taking care of baby in the middle of the night.
  5. Fisher Price Kick and Play Piano Gym. This toy was such an unexpected surprise! What sold me is that it can grow with your child’s development. Instead of just being a play mat with the dangling mobile (which a baby outgrows rather quickly), the piano is fun to play with for years! And I promise that the songs are actually enjoyable and don’t get annoying. 

Other Baby Items You Will Use

Extra crib mattress protector // At least a dozen burb cloths // Stacking cups // Stacking rings // Silicone toy teethers // Bottle brush // Music player // Clip-on stroller ran // Diaper pail // Diaper backpack // 3n1 Activity Center (it converts to a table!)


Baby Items You Can Live Without

  1. Bedside Bassinet. I hated the bassinet, and so did my son. With baby #2, I use the Pack ‘n Play for night time newborn sleep. (Also, a $1,400 “smart” bassinet is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard!)
  2. Mamaroo. My sister-in-law lent me her Mamaroo, and honestly, both of our kids just didn’t like being in it. The swing on my must-haves list is the better option, it has a stronger motion! And the price is better.
  3. DockaTot. I’m not saying you *won’t* use a DockaTot if you have one…but I didn’t find it to be as magical as people say. For the price, it doesn’t seem worth it.
  4. Pajamas with snaps. I implore you to only buy baby pajamas with zippers. Snaps are your worst enemy, especially on long-footed pajamas. And especially at 3am.
  5. Play Mat with mobile. Your kiddo will absolutely use a play mat, just not for *that* long. That’s why I suggest skipping this toy and opting for the Piano Gym above: There’s a mobile and a mat, but it can be used for years.

Other Things You Don’t Really Need:

Non-absorbent “cute” bibs // A bunch of hats, mittens, socks, and blankets // Wipe warmer // Infant car seat covers // infant wrap carrier // Clothing items with a hood or buttons (suffocation/choking hazards!) // Bottle warmer 

For being so tiny and helpless, babies sure need a lot of stuff. But it doesn’t have to overwhelm your house and your space. While it’s impossible to know for sure what will truly work or not with your baby, it’s always nice to hear what other moms recommend can be skipped and what they couldn’t live without.

Caroline Klobas
Caroline was born and raised in Arlington and went to high school in Fort Worth. She met her husband Joe while they were in the fifth and sixth grades, respectively, and graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2012 with a degree in chemistry. Caroline and Joe settled in Plano in 2016 with their rescue pup Buddy and welcomed their son William in July 2020. Caroline runs her own virtual assistant business, Just Ask Caroline LLC. When she isn’t in front of her laptop, you can find her reading, getting back into exercise on her Peloton, and slowly updating their house. You can find her online at