A list of our top products for first year babies to help make Year 1 a little easier for other parents…
It’s pretty hard for us to believe that Baby Sebastian’s one year birthday is right around the corner. The parenting-brain time warp makes it seem like it was just yesterday that he was an immobile newborn.
No more measuring his age in days, weeks, or months. Now, he’s a crawling, sort-of-walking, sort-of-talking 24 pound baby who’s taken a full trip around the sun. Tomorrow he’ll be shaving and asking to borrow the car.
Even though the time has flown by, we’ve certainly made the most of our first year together as a family. It’s been joyous, exhausting, grueling, and educational. We could use a week of sleep followed by a week of vacation.
Reflecting on the past year, we thought we’d share with other soon-to-be OR in-the-thick-of-it first year parents about the top products for first year babies that we’ve personally found to be most useful.
Some of the products on our list have been absolute life savers for us. Some have bought us peace of mind. Others have brought countless hours of stimulation and entertainment for our baby at certain developmental stages.
We hope this list of our top recommended products for first year babies helps all you parents out there better navigate your first year of parenthood!
Top 17 products for first year babies
We did our best to list our recommended top 17 products for first year babies in order of the months when we (or baby) found them most useful:
1. Owlet Smart Sock
The prospect of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is something that terrifies parents, us included. Even though we’re low risk due to not smoking, drinking, being overweight, etc, we still chose to co-sleep and bed-share with Sebastian, for multiple reasons. (We follow Le Leche League’s Safe Sleep Seven guidelines.)
Our sleeping arrangement may slightly elevate the risk of SIDS, depending on which research you look at and how you parse the data. To mitigate this risk and put our minds at ease, we use an Owlet Smart Sock which monitors Sebastian’s blood oxygen levels and heart rate while he sleeps. In the event that either vital sign goes into danger level (or baby manages to take the sock off), an alarm sound goes off on the bedside monitor and our smartphones.
If your baby sleeps in a crib, you can also get the camera/monitor that goes with the Owlet sock. We highly recommend this product to other parents, and if sharing this info prevents even one SIDS death, we’ll consider everything we’ve ever done to create this website worth the effort.
2. Drool rash AND diaper rash salve
Unless you ordered an upgraded potty-trained, drool-free baby, chances are you’re going to be dealing with diaper rashes and drool rashes at some point over the first year of your baby’s life.
Diaper rash: Even though we keep Sebastian clean and his diapers changed regularly, we noticed him starting to get a diaper rash after about a week at home. The Tyrant was talking to a friend and neighbor with two kids of her own about diaper rashes, and she highly recommended Motherlove diaper balm, a certified organic botanical-based product.
We now use Motherlove diaper balm preemptively every time we change Sebastian’s diapers. Rub a bit in the creases and cracks (not sure how to say that more delicately!) during each diaper change, and voila! We haven’t had a single diaper rash since.
Drool rash: The Tyrant not-so-jokingly says Sebastian drools like a Saint Barnard. The rate of drooling peaks whenever Sebastian is cutting a new tooth or whenever he gets really excited about something he’s chewing on.
He also covers himself with food and drool during his feedings. (We do baby-led weaning.)
Since his drool is acidic, this can lead to red splotches of irritated skin on his face, neck, arms, and even chest (when the drool travels south). This is called drool rash and is quite common, especially as you get towards the end of Year 1.
The product we’re using to help treat and prevent Sebastian’s drool rash is Ora’s amazing herbal baby salve, an organic salve made from skin-soothing botanicals like chickweed. We apply it somewhat thickly to any rashes before each meal to provide a protective barrier. We also put some on “high risk” spots (arms, neck, etc) before each meal and during clothing changes.
3. Baby carriers
We do a lot of walking, hiking, and foraging. In fact, we put in more average daily miles now that we have Sebastian than we did before.
He LOVES being outside and it allows us all to do something together that keeps him entertained while getting us out of the house and exercising. Win-win!
To facilitate our outdoor walks, we started with a Boba wrap carrier for mom. As we got comfortable with longer hikes, we got an Ergo baby carrier so I could carry Sebastian and give mom a break. As it got to be summer, I’d end up soaked with sweat during hikes since this model was a little heavier and better for cool weather.
Thus we got the cool mesh summer-weight version which has been great — and Sebastian seems to like even better. We also have an extra fleece lined cover to protect baby on cold, windy, and/or wet days. (It has the added benefit of making him look like a weather-proof bear.)
Since Sebastian is now about 24 pounds, he’s getting too long to hike comfortably with him in his Ergo carrier, so we got an Osprey Poco backpack that will get us through the next couple years worth of hikes.
During our maiden voyages with the the Osprey backpack, Sebastian has really loved the improved views from atop dad’s shoulders and even took a nice 45 minute nap atop his trusty steed.
If you love outdoor time as much as we do, need some exercise, or just need a break from indoor parenting, we’d highly recommend any or all of these products:
- *Boba wrap carrier (*our pick for the newborn stage, but Sebastian still uses it occasionally)
- Ergobaby 360 Omni Carrier, 7-45 lbs (started using this at ~3 months)
- Ergobaby 360 Omni Carrier with cool mesh, 12-45 lbs (the cool mesh made this one so much better for summer)
- Ergobaby fleece lined winter weather cover
- Osprey Poco backpack carrier
4. mamaRoo baby swing/rocker
Months 3 – 7
While we love holding and cuddling baby during a nap, we also have to be functional, productive adults.
Between months 3-6, the mamaRoo was the only place other than mama that Sebastian would sleep. The Tyrant would get him napping on her, then transfer him to the mama-Roo. The rocking motion would keep him happy for the duration of his nap, buying her many hours of productive bliss (or breaks).
Caveat: the maximum weight capacity of the mamaRoo is 25 pounds, but Sebastian was too long for it well before he reached that weight. (He’s a tall little man.)
5. Sophie La Girafe
Since the moment Sebastian has been able to pick something up and chew on it, he’s adored Sophie the Giraffe. In case you’ve never heard of it, “Sophie” is a world famous teething giraffe from France that’s been popular with parents for over 50 years.
We’d never heard of Sophie, but thankfully family friends had. Sophie was their baby gift to us. Oh là là!
Sophie the giraffe has lots of different textures to chew on and features contrasting colors that make it easy for developing baby eyes to recognize. She also squeaks when chewed. This combo has made her a perpetual favorite with Sebastian. (Sophie is made of natural rubber from the Hevea tree.)
6. Baby teething toys, aka “fruit misters”
Next to Sophie the giraffe, Sebastian’s other favorite teething toys are his silicone Asani fruit chews. We call them the “fruit misters” because he’s got Mr. Strawberry, Mr. Pineapple, Mr. Orange, and Mr. Grape (The Tyrant swears it’s a blackberry and calls it Mr. Blackberry) to choose from.
We don’t remember when, why, or how we assigned them these names because your brain doesn’t do a great job of encoding long-term memories when you’re exhausted. We also don’t know how we were able to determine the sex of the silicone chews.
Regardless, Sebastian loves them. They’re also small and easy to carry with you to pediatrician’s appointments, hikes, car rides, etc. We’d also recommend getting a clip-on strap so that when baby tries to drop a fruit mister when you’re out, it doesn’t end up on the ground.
7. 3-D LED projector lights
This might seem like a strange thing to recommend for a baby, but ever since Sebastian could start seeing colors, he’s LOVED gazing at the groovy light show courtesy of his night light projector.
This is basically an on-the-ready light show for your ceiling or walls. This contraption has bought us countless hours of breaks, helped snap Sebastian out of crying fits, and bought us needed time as we frantically do meal prep.
He loves his light shows as much at Month 12 as he did at Month 4.
8. Jolly Jumper
Months 5 – 12
Long before Sebastian could crawl or stand up, he could jump. We just didn’t know it until we stuck him in his Jolly Jumper.
Starting around Month 5, the Jolly Jumper has been one of his favorite indoor entertainment stations. We turn on his 3-D light projector + a playlist with his favorite songs and he happily bounces away for at least 30 minutes. It’s his own private baby disco.
The Jolly Jumper snaps in safely over door frame molding or you can get one with its own stand if you want to put it in the middle of a room or bring it outside.
Our Jolly Jumper has bought us countless hours of free/work time while Sebastian joyously bounces away and gets exercise. He still enjoys his jumper as we’re heading into month 12 (perhaps not quite as much as he first did) even though he can now crawl, stand, and walk while holding on to things.
9. Boon pulp silicone feeder
Sebastian took a keen interest in food at 6 months and that’s when we initiated baby-led weaning. Some of his favorite foods (ex: blueberries) are choking hazards. What to do?
We simply put them in his Boon pulp silicone feeder and let him gnaw away. We also bring his Boon feeder on long hikes and give him fresh fruit when we all stop to take a snack break.
At $6, this is a no-brainer.
10. Baby Bjorn bib
When your baby starts eating solid food, you and everything within a 10′ radius will be covered with a layer of said food. We’re not quite sure when this stops being the case, but that day will be a day of celebration for us.
Regardless, one thing that has made eating with Baby Sebastian far easier and less wasteful is his Swedish-made Baby Bjorn bib. It catches all foods and fluids that drop down. (It’s unable to capture projectiles.)
With the Baby Bjorn bib, you can put chunks of once-used food back on the plate to let baby have a second pass at it, rather than scraping food scraps off your floor.
11. EZPZ silicone suction food plate
This useful product works great in conjunction with a Baby Bjorn bib to make mealtime easier. The first time that your baby pulls their full dinner plate onto the floor, you’ll understand why.
The EZPZ plate is made of heavy-weight silicone and sticks to any table top surface, making it impossible for baby to pull it off the table. It also keeps things much cleaner than bowls and plates allow for.
We use a rectangular one since our dining table is square, but there are also round EZPZ plates for round tables.
12. Tripp Trapp high chair by Stokke
You’ll also need a high chair when your baby starts eating solid food. We didn’t like the idea of getting a plastic high chair that Sebastian would quickly outgrow.
Instead, we wanted something well-made that would last for years and be ergonomically correct as Baby Sebastian learned to eat. Thankfully, The Tyrant found the iconic Scandinavian Tripp Trapp high chair by Stokke, which matched our criteria.
This high chair converts to multiple sizes and even converts to a regular chair once baby is done with the high chair period of their life. (Adults can use it as a chair too!)
13. Baby Einstein activity center
Around Month 8, Sebastian’s “gamma” texted to tell us she’d found a toy she wanted to get for Sebastian: a Baby Einstein activity center.
I was admittedly skeptical that he’d like it, nor was I thrilled about having another large “baby thing” taking up room in the house. However, this activity center doesn’t actually take up much room, and since its arrival, Sebastian has probably spent at least an hour each day playing with it.
Before he could stand, we put him in to the attached seat that swivels around the center so baby can access each station. His favorite station is the music area, especially since he learned how to press the magic blue button that plays all kinds of songs. In fact, he’s played his music so much that we had to replace the batteries in it.
Now that he’s older, Sebastian no longer sits in the seat, he simply holds on to the edge of the entertainment center and moves around it while standing on his own.
14. Hape pound and tap bench with slide out xylophone, aka “Mr. Hammer”
When your baby can start grabbing things, it’s a lot of fun to watch. Soon, they’ll start grabbing one thing and using it to hit another thing, which is usually fun to watch if there’s not a foot or pet (or pet foot) involved.
We got the Hape pound and tap bench + xylophone expecting Sebastian to love hitting the xylophone, which he’s just started to do over the past month. However, for whatever reason, his absolute favorite part of the toy is the hammer, which we refer to as “Mr. Hammer.”
Sebastian LOVES holding Mr. Hammer, chewing Mr. Hammer, caressing Mr. Hammer with his index finger, holding Mr. Hammer above his head while screaming like Baby Thor, etc. The heart wants what the heart wants.
We have a feeling we might regret this purchase when Sebastian becomes more adept at using the xylophone, but the joy he’s gotten from his relationship with Mr. Hammer was worth it. Plus, he’s now starting to slide the wooden balls across the floor and chase after them.
15. Joovy Spoon Walker, aka USS Monster-ous
Months 10 – 12
This was a find we picked up used from our neighbor, and wow are we glad we did. At first, we thought our used Joovy Spoon was broken because Sebastian couldn’t move in it.
As it turned out, he just didn’t have the physical capacity to use it. Then one day, he just took off like a rocket and begin scooting around the house in his Joovy spoon walker like he owned the place. Now he runs circles around the house in his “walker” screeching with delight, banging, and throwing objects as he goes.
Since one of his many nicknames is “Monster-ous” (intentionally misspelled), the walker has been christened the USS Monster-ous.
16. Mini Tudou silicone building blocks/teethers
We had these silicone building blocks for quite a while before Sebastian grew into them. At first, he wasn’t terribly interested in them and didn’t use them as teethers, which is why we got them
Then around Month 10, he began taking a keen interest in holding, poking, and chewing them. Now they’re among his favorite toys.
While baby can’t currently construct his “building blocks,” his parents enjoy stacking them as high as possible, then calling Sebastian’s attention to them. His eyes light up when he sees the tall stack and he smashes his little hand into them, making a pile of cubes fall to the floor. Then we make a “pew” exploding sound, which delights him further. Happiness.
It probably won’t be long now before he’s able to start stacking his own blocks.
17. Little Tikes Light n’ go activity garden treehouse
Months 10 – 12
This was another used find from our neighbor’s pile of old baby toys that we’re really glad we got. We can’t prove this claim, but we think it was very helpful in Sebastian learning how to pull himself up and stand on his own. Or at least it seemed that way to us.
The activity garden has a ton of little stations and hidden surprises built into it, and Sebastian slowly discovered them all. There are buttons that put on music and light shows, balls that go cascading down slides, rattles, and more.
His love for this toy seems to have peaked in Month 11. He still enjoys it, but won’t play with it as long as he used to now that: a) he’s discovered and played with everything in the station, and b) he can crawl or pseudo-walk around to discover all kinds of new stuff in our house.
We hope this list of top products for first year babies is helpful for your family. If you have something that your Month 1-12 baby loves or has provided you with critical help but is NOT on our list, please share it in the comments to help other first year parents make it through the gauntlet!
Other parenting articles you’ll enjoy:
- Baby-led weaning: 10 helpful tips from 2 food-loving parents
- Our breastfeeding nightmare: overcoming a tongue-tie
- The birth story of Sebastian Gordon von Frank
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nomadicnesthomeDecember 28, 2020 at 12:53 pm
I just used your links to buy Sophie and the silicone building blocks for my grandson. They sound perfect! He has a DK board book about Sophie, and he loves giraffes already, so the Sophie toy will be ideal–and the blocks will be lots of fun, I’m sure!
Aaron von FrankDecember 30, 2020 at 11:14 am
Glad to spread the giraffe love! Hope your grandson loves Sophie and the silicone building blocks as much as our son does. 🙂
April GordonDecember 14, 2020 at 8:52 am
Wonderful suggestions for innovative baby products! I have forwarded this to my friends who have babies or grand babies. These will make terrific Christmas presents.
Aaron von FrankDecember 18, 2020 at 10:50 pm
Thank you! Hope these gift ideas are hopeful to other parents and first year babies you’re connected to.