Rachael Rachael, a mom of two daughters, is a freelance editor and writer who enjoys gardening and dreams of keeping chickens in her suburban St. Louis backyard. In her spare time, she helps to edit her husband’s science fiction books. Read more of Rachael's work at www.rachaelsjohnston.com or contact her by emailing rachael@mumblingmommy.com.

Walk into the baby department at any store and you’ll find aisles stretching to infinity filled with “must-have” baby items. There are a few basics most parents agree are necessary, like cribs and car seats. Beyond that, though, what is worth spending the money to have? It will vary from family to family – and all babies have their own preferences and quirks – but here is my own list of the top five most useful baby items.

Comfortable and safe mattress. The most important item that every baby should have is a super comfy mattress. It’s extremely important for your baby’s grown and comfort. I would highly suggest looking at some organic crib mattress options or if not get familiar with some other great crib beds that are both comfortable and recommended by experts. Again, we always want what’s best for our little ones.

Arm’s Reach Co-sleeper bassinet. Hold on, those of you opposed to co-sleeping. Despite the name, this isn’t the same as having your baby in bed with you. This bit of sleepy time heaven looks similar to a Pack and Play with a bassinet insert, and it attaches securely to the side of an adult bed. The baby sleeps in her own safe space next to mom. I love that I don’t have to get out of bed and feel my way down the hall to comfort my baby in the night, and it is bliss for breastfeeding moms who can prop themselves up in bed or lie down to nurse. I love this bassinet so much that when we traveled during the holidays and the baby slept in a borrowed Pack and Play a few feet from our bed, I was bummed that I actually had to step out of bed to care for her at night.

I love my baby carrier… and so does Abby

Baby carrier or sling. It’s not easy to set a fussy baby down, but there are some things that just have to be done every so often, like washing dishes or doing your hair. The solution is to free up your hands by wearing your baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends carrying your baby in one of these while shopping instead of perching the car seat on top of the cart. Besides, people seem to think it’s extra adorable when you wear your baby while shopping, and they will smile and compliment you like it’s show-and-tell day at the grocery store! A word of warning: it may be tempting to tote your baby around in a carrier all day, but young babies tend to fall asleep when they are carried like this. If you want to improve the chances of your baby sleeping more at night, go easy!

Bouncy seat. This is another handy device for moms who may occasionally want to indulge in such luxuries as eating a meal or taking a shower. Best of all, it’s portable. Bring it on into the bathroom with you so you can keep an eye on the baby from the other side of the shower curtain.

Nursing cover. This is only useful if you breastfeed, but if you do, it is well worth having. I am more comfortable nursing in public when I don’t have to worry about accidentally flashing someone. Yes, you can just cover up with a light blanket, but nursing covers are harder for a baby to pull off. Covers also are specially made so you can look down and see your baby, which is something you can’t do as easily with a blanket, and covers come in cute patterns so you’ll look stylish while feeding your baby.

A good book about sleep. When my oldest child was born, I didn’t know how to help her develop good habits that would eventually set her on the path toward sleeping all night, and I was miserable. Someone recommended Dr. Richard Ferber’s book, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. We followed his technique and ever since our daughter has been a fantastic sleeper. If you’re not crazy about Ferber’s method because it involves some crying, find a book that fits your parenting style. You may like The No-Cry Sleep Solution by attachment parenting author Elizabeth Pantley. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth also offers sleep advice, but more interesting is the research he presents on the effects of sleep deprivation in children. The one book to avoid is On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam. Its method has been associated with failure to thrive in infants. Anyway, do yourself and your baby a favor and visit the bookstore. Bonus points if you read the book before your baby is born.

How about you? What beyond-the-basics baby items are your favorites?

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Category: Babies

Tags: baby carrier