10 Life-Changing Baby Products.

By: Jen Shoop

I have so many friends and readers who are about to give birth to their first children and have been asked a number of times about the absolute must-have items on their registries. I always share my full registry, but today, I thought I’d share my top ten favorite baby products based on three criteria: design, utility, and lifespan.

1 // OXO Wipes Dispenser. This may seem like a frivolous purchase, but it is anything but. I’ve had countless moms write in to let me know how much this changed the game! You can open it with one hand (crucial) and the weighted plate means you only remove one wipe at a time versus yanking at a chain of fifty. The design also keeps wipes moist / prevents them from drying out. This all means you’re not winding up with fifty half-used/half-dried-up individual wipes packs, so I ultimately think this saves money. I order wipes in bulk via Prime’s subscribe & save program, and a box comes once a month. I loved this so much I bought two for our two separate diaper stations in our old home. Glad I’ll have that second one handy with micro on the way — I’ll keep it in our bedroom!

2 // Boon Drying Rack. Still use this. Before mini arrived, I remember asking a girlfriend why it was necessary. “I mean, can’t I just put the bottles away when they come out of the dishwasher? Or let them dry on a dish cloth like the rest of our bulky stuff?” Well, I could — if I wanted a ton of clutter, bottle parts rolling onto the ground, and pieces that might never fully dry. The design of the Boon grass dramatically expedites the air drying process as you can fully invert items, while the grippiness of the grass enables you to make the most of a small area of counterspace without twenty five bottle parts and caps leaning against one another, about to tumble over. I also appreciate the opportunity to corral everything into on designated area; it gives me the semblance of order. AND. On the rare occasion it’s not in use, I like that it can be leaned on its side and stowed in a cabinet.

3 // Babyzen Yoyo Travel Stroller. I was so on the fence about this investment, as we already had a very pricey everyday stroller (a Bugaboo) with all the bells and whistles and I wanted to make do with a cheap travel stroller. But the truth is that I use this stroller at least once or twice a week — anytime we take mini on the subway — and it is an INCREDIBLE stroller. It folds up into a tiny and very portable square that can be slung over a shoulder and does not suffer so many of the deficiencies other travel strollers do — bad folding mechanisms, heavy weight, a fold that leaves the dirty wheels laid up against the child’s headrest, a design that makes it difficult for taller folks (like Mr. Magpie) to push without hitting their feet/shins against the wheels, etc. The Yoyo is easy to use, lightweight, and — though it doesn’t have the suspension of a full-feature stroller — smooth.

4 // Wooden Nesting Blocks. This is the EXACT set mini inherited from Mr. Magpie — I can’t believe I found the EXACT SET on Etsy! But any set of nesting blocks would probably do the trick; these and these are cute. Mini has loved these since virtually the day she was born. The bright colors/shapes/objects on the side) have always attracted her attention, and once she figured out how to stack/nest, they provided hours and hours of fun. I also love that they’re cute enough to display openly (no garish plastic!) and that they teach the concept of size. A fantastic toy to have on hand.

5 // OXO Formula Dispenser. I had so many parents stop me whenever I wielded this in public. “Oh, what is that?” “Oh, that’s so smart!” By pre-portioning formula into the little dividers, I was never scooping out of a spillable baggy and bottle-mixing was a breeze. I kept this in my diaper bag at all times and it saved me — especially on travel days. Brilliant.

6 // Boppy Newborn Lounger. I loveeeeeeed this. So nice to have a soft, lightweight, portable spot to deposit baby while laying in bed, sitting on the couch, taking a shower, etc. So much easier to move than, say, a rocker or glider or swing, and can be tossed in the wash when it needs a cleaning! For $32, a must-have for any new parent. Mini spent so much time in this…I anticipate micro will do the same.

7 // Skip Hop Activity Center. Mini adored this — ADORED THIS — from the minute we unboxed it. The toys were interesting for her to interact with, the music made her smile, and she loved being upright. I have the fondest memories of her sitting in it while Tilly ran by — and she was just gurgling and giggling for hours on end. The center is brilliantly designed, as you can lower the foot base as the baby grows, and then remove the insert and convert the entire thing into an activity table, which mini used for almost a year until we upgraded to a nicer-looking wooden one for her birthday. When I think about the cost per use, this paid for itself a loooong time ago. (Bonus: it can be dissembled and stowed with the legs separate from the top, a feature of which we are availing ourselves until micro needs it.)

8 // Puj Bath Kneeler. When you are on your knees scrubbing a baby every night, this becomes…a godsend. Especially now that I’m pregnant. I love this thing, and also love that it’s not hideously patterned/colored and can easily slide into a cabinet.

9 // Large Woven Basket. I spent an oddly long amount of time hunting for mini’s laundry basket and wound up with this inexpensive Target bin. It’s super lightweight and non-precious so I’ve never minded throwing truly foul/soiled items in there, and it’s been easy to wipe clean. There’s no fabric liner to contend with / stain / worry about laundering. I also love how large it is — big enough to stow a ton of laundry and also an easy target (no lid to remove! no narrow opening to negotiate!) Mine came in solid white, but this gray one is identical in every other way. I also got smaller baskets that coordinated that I used for toys. They’re still kicking! Such a random thing, but one of the best purchases I made for mini’s room.

10 // Tie between the ToteSavvy Diaper Bag Insert and the MZ Wallace Backpack. The Totesavvy enabled me to convert my Goyard into a highly functional diaper bag. I loved how easy it was to keep everything organized and upright with this — and I still use it from time to time, especially on travel days and/or days I’ll be out and about. I also appreciated that it meant I could easily remove my baby stuff if I wasn’t going out with mini, without having to transfer a bunch of stuff to a smaller bag. Meanwhile, the MZ Wallace backpack has been a GAMECHANGER while traveling alone and navigating the city by myself with mini. It’s roomy, super lightweight and collapsible, made of a water/stain resistant material, chic, and highly functional when it comes to ease-of-access-for-critical things. The two “cupholder” pockets mean I always have mini’s water/sippy/bottle in arm’s reach, while the small zippered pouch on the back means I can keep things like hand sanitizer, my subway card, an emergency pack of raisins, and my house key easy to access without unzipping the entire thing. The inside of the backpack includes a zippered compartment (where I hide my wallet — I’m so scared of someone robbing me blind while my hands are full!) and two little sleeves that usually house an easy-to-grab snack (perfect size for a Gogo Squeez / yogurt pouch) and a precious/beloved toy (ahem, her Little People). I can’t rave enough about this backpack if you live in a city and need to be hands-free while navigating public transit on your own with a toddler or baby. FANTASTIC. I even take it to the playground after someone tried to steal my wallet from my bag when I left it in the stroller! I don’t trust anyone.

What are your must-have baby items?

Post Scripts.

A couple of toddler/baby items on my radar right now:

+This, to organize mini’s collection of Gogo Squeezes and Annie’s snack bags. I buy both in bulk from Target and they’re such a handy size and shape to throw in my bag while on the go. I think I might achieve more Marie Kondo zen if I organize all these snacks…

+California Baby bubble bath. People rave about this stuff! Gentle, good smelling, and — importantly — big on bubbles! Mini loves bubbles; just added this to my Amazon cart.

+Precidio Drink in a Box. I’m attracted to the strong reviews (no leaks?!) and the stor-ability of these box sippy cups. Plus — chic!

+Loving this pretty floral collection for H&M — especially this dress! And how cute is this bunny in a dress to coordinate with a dress for mini?! A sweet and affordable option for Easter at only $15, thanks to that darling bunny!

+Love this popsicle/ice cream print rashguard for the fourth of July!

+This $15 swimsuit reminds me of more expensive styles from Minnow Swim.

+I just found an INCREDIBLE resource for vintage children’s clothing on Etsy. I already ordered a couple of pieces, but I love this romper and this dress, too!

+Saks is running a great sale on Kissy Kissy, my favorite infant sleepwear brand. I love this cottontail onesie!

+A chic, well-priced rug for a nursery. Also this one, which is sophisticated in a Missoni kind of way.

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27 thoughts on “10 Life-Changing Baby Products.

  1. It looks like the link to “Full Registry” is broken – does that still exist somewhere? Would LOVE to reference!

  2. Great list! We are out of the baby phase now but the baby brezza formula dispenser was a GODSEND! It’s like a Nespresso machine for formula – heats it and swirls it to help avoid reflux in like 20 seconds. Run and buy it now!

    Dr Brown bottles were great but a PITA to wash 😉

    I spent 2 weeks trying to swaddle her with all my fancy overpriced swaddling wraps until a friend gave me one of these – so handy. You can zip the sleeves off as they start to roll.

    A tip I also learned the hard way……… little one went through a phase of screaming after feeding. I knew she was in pain and assumed it was reflux……she was a very chilled baby and cried very little so I knew something was up and it was only after feeds. I went to our local GP who advised that it wasn’t reflux as if it was she would scream all day. She told me ‘babies cry and I need to get used to that”………which as you can imagine as a new mum was lovely advice 😉
    A pal in my mothers group (do you have those in the US?) said it could be reflux, babies don’t need to scream all day for it to be reflux and try some new bottles and formula etc. I went to a pharmacy and the pharmacist was amazing – he advised I try a thickener in the formula and after 2 feeds she was fine – no more screams.
    So my advice is, one listen to your gut, I should have pushed the GP more but assumed she was right, what do I know etc.
    And 2, the formula thickener! This is what I used in Australia but assume there is something similar in the US?

    My biggest regret was my over priced nappy bag which is way too bulky when I head out, wish I had bought that backpack you recommended! I end up using a $5 lunch bag from Kmart with wipes, nappies and a few snacks!

    1. Wow, had never heard of a thickener for formula — I’m sure other moms will appreciate the tip / your experience here! Also, completely 100% relate to your discoveries re: following your gut. I’ve found that my instincts rarely fail me — and even when it’s led me to an unnecessary doctor trip, I just feel better with the peace of mind knowing that I’ve followed up on every symptom.


  3. Many great items! My one recommendation to new moms was a favorite of my mother, too, for early baths: Infant-sized bath sponge. Summer Infant makes one for $6ish. Fits in a sink, absorbs the water to keep baby warm, and keeps slippery little newborns in one spot. Wring and prop to dry. I used it for some time in the kitchen sink, then my Boon tub (which got me through two kids nicely – new sponge for each, obvs). A must have, especially at that price!

    1. Wow! Had not heard of this!! What a great (and inexpensive) way to make use of what you’ve got! xxx

  4. Chiming in late but YES to formula dispensers! We have one for her bag and one for home to simplify things.

    Funny how those wipes dispensers may seem unnecessary coming from a pre-parent point of view. Now I can’t live without them.

    MZ Wallace is the best! I’ve been a fan of the brand since prior to pregnancy and have enjoyed their metro totes (I have them in small and medium) and the metro backpack, and it was only natural to transition the backpack into her “non-diaper diaper bag”! I don’t know when they were released, but I now see there are 2 other sizes of the metro backpack?! I have the regular one (the largest) — and being 5-foot-nothing, when the backpack is packed for travel my husband jokes that it looks so big on me that it needs its own license plate. I am contemplating a smaller backpack for everyday needs…but do I REALLY need a 4th MZ Wallace??

    3 other can’t-live-without items in my experience:

    Bumkins wipeable bibs — so easy to wash/dry/wipe, and thin enough that it doesn’t take up space to pack in her bag. We have a few of these. I love that they come in different sizes as they grow.

    White noise machine! This seemed to be the only way she could sleep.

    Uppababy Minu stroller – so lightweight and easy to fold!

    1. Yay — thanks so much for these additions and affirmations. So true what you say: “funny how xyz may seem unnecessary coming from a pre-parent point of view. now I can’t live without them.” YES to this w/r/t so many items on this list and shared in the comments. ESPECIALLY YES to the Bumkins bibs — had forgotten about those! Lifesavers. Love them because they can be easily tossed into a diaper bag without adding bulk, or into a cabinet — critical for us low-on-space urbanites!


  5. I’m adding another vote for the rock n play! Even though we had the baby nap in her crib and sleep there at night almost from the beginning, she did spend a few nights (and many naps) in the rock n play. And soooo nice to be able to put her down and keep her (relatively) happy while I cooked/ate/pumped/etc. And then once she could roll, I could put her in it and know she’d be exactly where I left her when I returned!

    Like you, we are still using the boon drying rack, 18 months later. It’s great, but my one complaint is that it is hard (impossible??) to clean down by the “roots” of the grass. Directions say not dishwasher safe and not sure it would fit in our small dishwasher anyway. But otherwise totally recommend!

    1. Oh man, I would love to add a Rock N Play to our home. I always feel like having an extra spot to put baby down is a GREAT thing. I didn’t understand this before mini was born…and people have such good things to say about the Fisher Price classic! I don’t think we’ll need one in our current living situation (too small, I don’t even know where we’d keep it — that’s how low on space we are!)…


  6. Ahhhhhhh every time you post about the MZ Wallace backpack I re-wonder whether I need it! (Though, I am happy with my Lo and Sons convertible tote-backpack for the time being…)

    Adding that bubble bath to my amazon cart too! I recently bought Tubby Todd’s version but the bubbles unfortunately aren’t great.

    Another +1 for the gathre mat – I still use the small one for on-the-go diaper changes and am re-purposing the medium-sized one for the baby’s art area.

    I’ve recently bought a whole bunch of reusable silicone pouches for snacks… I still love the itzy ritzy ones for toys and other travel “surprises” for the baby, but there’s something about being able to see contents immediately I was missing.

    1. Can’t rave enough about the MZ Wallace…so good! Silicone pouches FTW — love Stasher brand in particular!!

      Lots of good thoughts/notes/tips here! xx

  7. The Ergobaby 360 carrier is top of the list. I have used it almost daily from the day that our baby was big enough to put in it. It’s a great way to get exercise, particularly in those early months when you need gentle activities and baby wants to snuggle close and sleep. I also had one of those baby wraps but they were a pain to use so I would discourage getting one of those unless you are particularly patient and your baby is super chill (ours is not).

    I have the travel version of the Boon grass, which I prefer because it doesn’t take up as much space as the full size one. The ‘twig’ that goes with it is also useful for drying the bottle teats.

    A baby monitor is also great and frees us up during naptimes to roam around the house. Very important sanity tool for mama! Ours is Oricom and has worked like a dream. Very portable too. The breathing sensor mat was not great as we got a lot of false alarms (terrifying!) – we just gave up on it.

    We love our Babybjorn travel cot – sturdy, very portable and comfy for baby.

    Camelbak brand kids drink bottles are great now that he’s a touch older (12 months), the Munchkin miracle 360 sippy cup was great when he was smaller. Not sure if you can get these brands in the US though.

    Bonds zip wondersuits were also great as they have zips not press studs (obviously) and cuffs that can fold over the baby’s hands and feet to keep them warm. I’m not sure that you can get this brand in the US (I am in Australia) but I’m sure there are loads of similar onesies in the US. Our baby was far too wriggly for anything with press studs, especially the winter ones that had an apparent endless number of press studs.

    I also LOVE the Think Touch Learn baby books by Xavier Devereaux. So beautiful and engaging. I’ve also just discovered the BabyLit series by Jennifer Adams. The books are fab and I can also recommend the ABC stroller flash cards.

    1. Ooo SUCH great tips here!!! Thanks for sharing all of these. Love Camelbak, Munchkin 360, and those Devereaux and Adams books in particular!!


  8. I agree with so many of these- the YoYo stroller is truly worth every single penny, and the Boon drying rack is still a staple. My one game-changing addition was the Keekaroo Peanut changing pad, as someone mentioned below- it also initially seems stupid expensive (not to mention ugly) but I swear it is ergonomically pleasing to babies! Even as a newborn, my daughter would stop crying as soon as we placed her down and lay patiently through diaper changes, outfit changes, etc, and sometimes if she was struggling with a difficult #2, laying on the pad would help her go. Even now as a 2 year old, she lays happily and doesn’t try to roll off which I am pretty sure is not the norm!

    1. Oooooooo!!! I am SO intrigued. I was planning on making do with my Gathre mat, which I will just lay out on the edge of my bed when I need to change micro in the middle of the night, but now I’m wondering if the keekaroo would be a better solution as a portable changing station for our bedroom in the evenings. Thank you!!!

  9. my must have (especially with 2!) is a good carrier. I splurged on the ergo omni (like the rolls royce of carriers?) and i’m so glad i did- it gets used every single day!

    1. Ooo! I got the Baby Bjorn mini and the Solly Baby wrap this go around and can’t wait to try both. Completely agree that having a carrier I love will be a gamechanger; hoping one or both of these does the trick.


  10. We have the Skip Hop activity center, and I love it so, so, so much (and so does Elizabeth, my 7-month-old!). We were in Florida last week, and I legitimately mourned that I couldn’t pack it. Like you, I also love our hamper for E, which is a cotton rope basket with handles. It’s structured but malleable and light, which means I can scoop it up by the handles with just one hand to bring down to laundry. Anything that can be done one-handed is a winner.

    Other life-changing products:
    1) Keekaroo changing pad. You can just wipe it down! No extra laundry!
    2) Angel Care baby bath. Not ashamed that we DID pack this for Florida.
    3) Gathre changing mat. I love how small it is! Fold it up and toss it in the diaper bag; it takes up so little room. Definitely worth it.
    4) Copper Pearl bibs. Thick and absorbent.
    5) Fisher Price sit-me-up seat. So much less expensive than the Bumbo (I think we got it for $20?), and it comes with crinkly toys that Elizabeth STILL loves. It’s not the prettiest item, but it gets the job done.
    6) Vanicream. Elizabeth is a rashy baby, and we live in Portland, ME (DRY WINTER AIR), and this stuff is thick and contains nothing that exacerbates her skin issues.
    7) Not a baby product per se, but: my iphone Loopy Case. The finger loop means I never drop my phone anymore, even with hands full of baby! Plus the finger loop is glow in the dark.

    Items I found to be overpriced/gimmicky:
    1) Snuggle Me Organic. We did not use this for long enough to justify the price (SO glad I didn’t get the Dock-A-Tot; even more expensive!). Would definitely just get the Boppy Lounger if I could have a do-over.
    2) Baby Bjorn bouncer. We rarely used it – Elizabeth didn’t seem into it – and it’s so expensive! Maybe a future baby will like it more.

    Side note: You introduced us to “Please, Mr. Panda,” and it is our FAVORITE board book. My husband does ridiculous voices for all the animals, and I get so much joy out of listening to him read it to E every single day. (However, not into “Thank you, Mr. Panda” – he is a terrible gift giver! He pays no attention to his friends’ needs and wants! Poor form, Mr. Panda.)

    1. Hi!! These are SUCH great additions. I ESPECIALLY agree with the Gathre mat (actually that should be item 11 on this list) — I love how easy it is to wipe down, fold up, etc., but it feels so much more substantial than those flimsy plastic-y ones that come with most of the changing kits. (Like, the one that come with Skip Hop changing station thing, which we never really used!)

      Tell me more about this Angelcare baby bath! I somehow overlooked it and bought first the Puj foldable one that fits into any sink and then the Boon, which has a repositionable seat. I really liked the Puj when I was recovering from my c-section (didn’t need to bend over, could just install in the sink) but a) we did find it molded and scratched pretty easily and ended up throwing it away when we were done with it, and b) I’m not sure it would work in our current apartment sink situation, where there’s not as much of a “lip” to either of our bathroom sinks, so I wouldn’t have anywhere to lay the baby’s stuff out, you know? I’m thinking I might have to find a better newborn bathing situation unless (!) I need a c-section, in which case, I’ll make do with the Puj again. But tell me about this Angelcare thing!!! I was surprised by the strong reviews and cost!

      Agree 100% on bouncers — it is SO tough because they are all expensive and you feel like you need one but every baby is different; some don’t like to be bounced, but want to be swung. Some want to be bounced, but not swung. Some don’t like any of that jazz. AHH. If I had had friends with babies close by when I had mini, I would see about sharing/swapping — i.e., you get the bouncer, I’ll get the swing and we’ll see what sticks and swap when they don’t work. But alas I did not.

      Anyway, oh MAN, I could go on about all of your picks!

      Love your notes on the panda books — we also do outrageous voices for the panda. Haven’t read “Thank you, Mr. Panda,” so think I will skip. When Elizabeth gets a little bit older (or now, honestly!), please try the Mo Willems’ book “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.” We do a really funny voice for the pigeon and Emory DIES every time. She loves it, especially the page where pigeon goes wild — “LET ME DRIVE THE BUS!!!!!” — which we kind of read in a booming Charlton Heston “LET MY PEOPLE GOOOOO” voice.


  11. This post is so helpful … going to send a link to my pregnant sister for inspiration and info as I think it’s overwhelming when you’re a first-time mom! I don’t have baby experience myself, but that wipe dispenser seems amazing for any household … and I really want the MZW Metro Backpack for travel purposes. I feel like it would be so helpful to be (more) hands-free in the airport. I’m in New York this week and might try to squeeze in a visit to their downtown store. 🙂 xo

    1. Same here, MK! I don’t have baby experience either but a good friend is expecting a baby in July so I forwarded this to her since it seems very helpful! The comment section is always great too.

    2. YES. I should have mentioned that the backpack is just as chic as a non-diaper bag (in fact, have seen many women in NYC wearing it sans baby) and it is just an incredible travel piece. SO lightweight, easy to keep clean, the perfect arrangement of zippers and pouches and all that jazz. Very pro that purchase 🙂 I got mine in black but I like the other colors, too.


    3. Ahhh I am definitely going to visit in person & take a look. I am between that & the Fjallraven Kanken No. 2 laptop bag (the monochrome one with leather details) and I’m debating … the Fjallraven is a little sportier and doesn’t have an interior zip pocket, but is also $100 less expensive. Eeee! Considerations! xo

  12. Baby gear preference is so subjective (for both baby and parent)- so I love that you call the post “life-changing” and explain why you love it) vs. so many blog posts of baby gear collages that refer to baby gear as “must haves,” which makes you sometimes feel like you need to shell out more for something that doesn’t seem necessary to you out of guilt/fear). We didn’t find a wipe dispenser or kneeler necessary, but have found all three kids adored at first a floor mirror (great for cognitive and physical development) and Baby Einstein take along tunes (fantastic for car trips). For strollers, my undying love is our uppa baby Vista (though somewhat heavy, it’s the right fit for our family given its ability to grow with our family). The Rock n Play (which can be somewhat controversial) was my favorite place to place a baby up off the floor for quick naps.

    1. Hi Danielle! Oh good! Yes, agreed, baby gear is all so subjective. I have friends that would rate the rock-n-play and the noise machine as the #1 and #2 things you need as a new mom, but we had neither. It’s so tough to know what baby will want/need. I guess that’s why it’s good to read widely and then have that Amazon Prime subscription so you can order whatever you need whenever you need it 🙂

      The FLOOR MIRROR. I’d forgotten about that! Mini loved that, too, and actually — looking at herself in the mirror was the first time she ever really laughed, which killed me. Yay!


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