“What’s the one piece of baby gear you couldn’t live without?” That’s the question my sister posed to me eight months after my daughter was born. A new parent herself with two young kids, she had clearly spent some time thinking about it and was quick with an answer ⏤ Miracle Blanket Swaddle for the first kid, Rock N Play Sleeper for the second. I, on the other hand, stumbled around a bit before eventually settling on our Motorola baby monitor. Sure, an audio baby monitor is perfectly fine, you’ll always know when the baby is crying. But the ability to see everything on screen without having to tiptoe into the nursery was an absolute game changer. We still use it today and our daughter’s sixteen. Kidding — that’s creepy. She’s 2, but you get the idea. I love my video baby monitor, and I’ve never changed my answer.
What I have done, though, is turned that question into something of a party game when I’m around new parents ⏤ similar to asking “What would your death row meal be” or “What song would you want to be playing when you arrived at work, as though you were a baseball player stepping up the plate?” (linguine with clam sauce and Ludacris‘ Stand Up, naturally).
This time, I reached out to ten friends, all new(er) dads with kids 5-years-old or younger, and asked them for one piece of newborn parenting and baby gear they couldn’t live without? The recommendations I received were enthusiastic and eclectic, ranging from snot suckers to sleepsuits. And they’re all helpful. Here are the essential products our dads wouldn’t want to be caught without during baby’s first year.
Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit
“When you have that child that abhors sleep, especially when your little bundle of joy wakes the fuck up after being asleep for fifteen minutes, it’s time to bring in the sleep combat gear: aka, the Magic Sleepsuit. It’s like a tiny version of those inflatable sumo suits, allowing enough movement for your kiddos to be comfortable without letting sudden muscle jerks wake them. Heads up: if you have one of these and show it to your friends/neighbors, they are likely to ask you if they make them for adults. They do not.” ⏤ Will Horne, 42, father of two, Belmont, MA
“How many times have you gotten up in the middle of the night just to put a pacifier back in Junior’s mouth? We used to throw about 10 NUKs in the crib and hope for the best. Then we found the WubbaNub. Our son could search for the stuffed monkey, find it, and put in all by himself. That little monkey saved my marriage, and it came with us everywhere. And when our son got too old, we just cut off the pacifier. He still sleeps with monkey nightly, even at 4 years old.” ⏤ Brad Mercer, 36, father of two, Amherst, MA
“If you’re lucky enough to get a baby who will use a pacifier, the WubbaNub is great. It has a small stuffed animal attached to it which can rest on the baby’s chest and keep the pacifier close to the baby’s mouth. It also makes the pacifier easier to find in a crowded diaper bag and prevents it from rolling way under the crib when it inevitably falls out at 3 am.” ⏤ Dan Moylan, 36, father of two, Easthampton MA
City Select Baby Jogger Stroller
“For two-kid transport, this thing is the bomb. It can fit a car seat and a toddler seat, or two toddler seats, and we love how our Maxi Cosi car seat snaps right in making for a smooth transition ⏤ don’t wake the sleeping baby! We’ve had it for over four years ⏤ through three kids ⏤ and it still rides as good as new.” ⏤ Jason Weakley, 36, father of three, Amherst, MA
aden + anais Blankets
“There are plenty of things that have made our lives easier as parent, that we really liked: the BOB stroller, a click-in car seat. But the one thing that’s held true for all three kids are aden + anais blankets. They’re big, soft muslin cotton blankets that you can use for pretty much anything: as burp cloths, to lay your kid on, to put in the car seat/crib, etc. My wife also uses them as nursing covers. They’re a staple in our diaper bag, and we never leave the house without one.” ⏤ Caleb Machak, 35, father of three, South Hadley, MA
The Puj Tub
“Quite possibly the most function one can pack into a single piece of foam. When folded and connected (by freakin’ magnets), this mini-tub fits in your sink for a perfect baby bath vessel. When you’re done, the tub unfolds and can be hung on the towel rack to dry. Also, no matter how hard I try, this product makes me think about hats, broaches, and Pterodactyls.“ ⏤ Will Horne, 42, father of two, Belmont, MA
Nest Cam Indoor
“Same as your standard video monitor, only with better security/encryption. And one day when the kids are old enough, I can use it as home security camera, as it was designed.” ⏤ John Patrick Pullen, 39, father of two, Portland, OR
“Everybody loves the Pack ‘n Play, and so did I until we got our hands on a Bjorn Crib. It folds like a pancake, so you can put it behind the seat of your car with the baby’s car seat hovering over it. And, it’s so easy to set up that Grandpa can do it without instructions.” ⏤ Brad Mercer, 36, father of two, Amherst, MA
“It’s gross, but this thing sucks out a babies’ snot with a clever tubing system and filter that prevents you from swallowing snot rockets. It’s simple, and it works better than any other thing I’ve tried to remove an infant’s boogers. This thing was a game changer.” ⏤ Carlos Mejia, 34, father of one, Hartford, CT
ezpz Happy Mat
“Love this little mat with built-in bowls and a sticky bottom. It stays place no matter how hard your baby tries to sweep it off the highchair tray in disgust.” ⏤ Jeff Foss, 36, father of two, Denver, CO
“My wife and I text all the time (who doesn’t?). When we had our first son, I also got the Apple Watch. Having the notifications on my wrist as I held/swaddled/fed/changed him was vital, as I wondered where the hell she was and when the hell she was getting home. As he has gotten older, using it for turning on lights/smart home stuff has been great, but its killer app is the timer. I set timers all the time. Especially for putting him in ‘time out.'” ⏤ John Patrick Pullen, 39, father of two, Portland, OR
Halo SleepSack Swaddle
“I hate traditional means of swaddling a child in a blanket. It’s something I could never master. We got a couple of the Halo SleepSack Swaddle wearable blankets for our daughter, though, and they were awesome! You just put the baby in the sack, zip ’em up, fold their arms into the “wings,” and you’re done. Even an amateur like myself can do that. The baby doesn’t easily escape and stays asleep longer. I would highly recommend them to any new parents.” ⏤ Garrett Postema, 30, father of two, South Hadley, MA