Written by

Chris Gonzales


Drew Hays

So, you’ve got a kid on the way. Suddenly you’re panicking about stuff you’re going to need.

Your parent friends are coming out of the woodwork with opinions about what bag(s) you should get and why you need a wipe warmer (you really don’t) and how this one stroller will change your life. The baby section at Target is loaded with so many different toys and snack cups and pacifiers and bibs and high chairs and AAAAHHH. It’s all so overwhelming and your bank account is already weeping for what’s to come. What’s an expecting parent to do?

Relax. Take a breath. You don’t actually need all that much stuff to take care of a newborn, and while there’s no avoiding spending some hard-earned cash on a few great items, you certainly don’t have to break the bank on overly fancy ones.

Follow our buying guide below, and all you’ll have to bring to the table afterward is love and care.

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OXO Tot PerfectPull Wipes Dispenser »

There are three main factors that set the PerfectPull wipes dispenser apart from those cheaply made dispensers you find at grocery stores:

  1. It’s weighted.
  2. It has non-slip feet.
  3. It somehow (i.e. magically) keeps wipes from getting stuck together when pulling them out. It dispenses one wipe perfectly, every time. (Okay, it’s not really magic, it’s the weighted plate inside.)

Combined, these things offer true one-handed operation. Trust us, when your kid is thrashing around and giggling at your futile struggle, the last thing you want to be worrying about is fighting with the wipes dispenser too.

Other nice features include: the silicone gasket in the lid (which keeps the wipes fresher, longer); the indicator window on the front that lets you see how many wipes are left; its ability to work with cloth wipes, as acclaimed by many Amazon reviewers; and finally, the lid’s faint opening click, so you can use it at night in the dark without disturbing anyone.

Tom Bihn's Parental Unit diaper bag. ($145)

Tom Bihn’s Parental Unit diaper bag. ($145)

Tom Bihn Parental Unit Diaper Bag »

As parents ourselves here at Tools & Toys, and of course being the bag nerds we are, Tom Bihn had our full attention when they released their Parental Unit diaper bag in 2014.

The Parental Unit is made from durable 1050 ballistic nylon, lined with 200d Dyneema/nylon ripstop, and comes in several gender-neutral colorways. It’s more than tough enough for your baby and looks great no matter who’s carrying it.

The front and back of the bag both have gently curved zippers that open to surprisingly generous compartments, which themselves are divided into three vertical pockets — the middle one being the largest. That middle pouch is best suited for diapers, wipe dispensers, and/or a changing pad, while the two other pockets are great for bottles and snacks.

The top center compartment is a large space with two inner open-top pockets, one on either side. Those two pockets can be snapped together in the middle, dividing the whole compartment into four approximately same-sized pockets. Great for organizing clothes, toys, more diapers, and whatever else you may need to carry around on outings.

You can see how it all works in Tom Bihn’s video trailer for the bag:

Read our full review of the Parental Unit for more info and photos.

The Tula baby carrier. ($149)

The Tula baby carrier. ($149)

Tula Ergonomic Baby Carrier »

A lot of baby blogs recommend the Moby Wrap for carrying your baby around. We love the Moby Wrap too, but it tends to have a short life of usefulness because infants outgrow it within a few months.

Instead, we recommend picking up a soft structured option like the Tula baby carrier, either with the company’s own infant insert or by using the rolled-up blanket trick to ensure baby’s legs are spread outward and up in the “M” position. The Tula is incredibly comfortable to wear, even for extended periods. The baby size will also last your kid anywhere from 12 to 18 months before you’d have to upgrade to the toddler size. Tula carriers usually have great resale value once they’ve been outgrown, so it’s really a good investment all-around.

If you’re bored by the standard black style, they offer a number of funky prints, like “So Jelly”, “Navigator”, “Equilateral”, and “Sidekick”.

Big Oshi Baby Essentials Receiving Blankets (5-Pack) »

Receiving blankets like these can serve a lot of purposes: baby swaddle, burp cloth, emergency changing mat, nursing cover, impromptu shade, mess cleaner, etc. Always have a few with you. Buy a few packs, even. You’ll be glad you did.

Graco Click Connect Travel System »

If you’re forced to drive everywhere you go rather than take public transporation, you’ll really want a good travel system, where the infant seat can be unclipped from a base station installed in your vehicle and attached to the stroller. If you’re lucky, you can get in and out of your vehicle without waking the kid, which is magical.

It’s easy to spend a pretty penny on a great system, but the Graco Click Connect system is a good option for parents on a budget. (Be sure you get the 2015 “Click Connect” version! The “Classic Connect” has been listed on the same Amazon page in the past, to the consternation of reviewers.)

The stroller’s got some neat features for something at this price point. It can be reclined into multiple positions, and folded one-handed in about a second by simply pulling a red strap in the seat. It can stand upgright on its own when folded this way, so you don’t have to worry about it falling over. In front of the handle is a roomy parent tray with two large cup holders, which is so nice to have when you need it.

Boppy Nursing Pillow »

Some parents say that if you’re breastfeeding your baby, you can get by with a simple firm pillow for nursing, and that’s true to an extent. However, a good nursing pillow like the Boppy really does get the job done better, plus you can use it for propping baby up, all the way through them learning to sit up straight. The included slipcover is also removable and washable, and you can replace it with other designs if you like.

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Beyond this point, any items you purchase will depend on your situation. You’ll obviously need things like onesies and diapers. As for onesies or any other outfits, try to score some nice hand-me-downs, whether it’s from your family or a local consignment store. The kid will outgrow everything quickly, and make messes on everything to boot, so there’s no point buying a bunch of brand-new fancy clothes. Diapers can be cloth or disposable, it’s your choice (you’ll have to do your own research on the pros and cons of each).

Some people like to have a swing or a fancy nursing chair or a play mat or a pack ‘n play or whatever else. It all depends on your baby’s temperament, whether or not you’re co-sleeping with them rather than putting them in a separate place to sleep, or what you feel they need.

Don’t worry about all that stuff right away; you’ll figure it out as you go. The guide above is meant as a starting point from which you can branch out. You’ll know what else you need when the time comes.