George turns one this week. I will be the mother of a one-year-old! It still blows my mind. The first year of parenting is such a unique, strange blur of time, but throw in a pandemic and it gets even weirder. You know what they say: the days are long, but the years are short. That is exactly how I would describe the last twelve months. There were some days that seemed never-ending, but then all of the sudden, what feels like a blink later, and here we are about to celebrate his first birthday. It’s wild.

While I have never claimed to be an expert on the topic of baby gear (I’m still learning!), I have nailed down a solid list of items – from teething essentials to the best noise machine – that worked for us over the last 12 months. Below, a list of the top eight most-used, most-loved items for George’s first year.

1. Hatch Baby Rest Noise Machine // I originally had a different noise machine but once I tried this one, I never went back. What I love about this machine in particular is that it’s entirely customizable. I can set different programs to turn on at certain times of the day to help enforce a healthy sleep schedule. For instance, the white noise automatically turns on at 6:30 pm so the room is bedtime ready when George gets out of the bath. I also really love that I can control everything from my iPhone which means I don’t have to tip toe into George’s room if I need to adjust the volume. It runs on Bluetooth so you don’t have to rely on Wi-Fi for it to function, and it offers a range of colored lights so as George gets older, it can be used as a night light.

2. The Doona // The convertible car seat/stroller is by far the best thing I added to my baby registry. The Doona has made all of our outings so much easier. It’s a game-changer and really lives up to the hype. Sadly, it’s only sized for the first year so I’m going to have to give it up. (I’m planning to switch it out for this car seat.)

3. The Nanit Baby Monitor // I’ll be honest: finding an all-around perfect monitor is no easy task. They all seem to have their issues. After trying several different monitors, we have landed on the Nanit as our favorite. We rely on screens a lot in our house so this seemed like a natural fit for us. The app makes it super easy to monitor the baby wherever I am. We took an old iPad that we weren’t using and downloaded the app so we primarily use that when we’re home. (Tip: it’s also great for babysitters so they don’t have to download an app to their phone.) Of course, the second our Wi-Fi goes down so does the monitor so there’s that issue with it. That has happened a couple of times so we use this as a backup just in case.

4. Paravel Packing Cubes // This might sound like an odd addition to this list but it truly was (and still is!) one of my must-haves for George. Here’s the thing: even the most simple outing with a baby requires a lot of stuff. These packing cubes allowed me to keep George’s things – bottles! diapers! pacifiers! – organized and easy to grab on-the-go.

5. Lovevery Play Kit Subscription // This is by far one of my favorite things so far. Created by childhood development experts, Lovevery offers curated play kits with age-appropriate toys to aid in the development of the child’s brain. Each kit comes with a variety of toys and a comprehensive guide for parents that offers insight into the child’s development and growing brain. You can buy each kit separately or, you can do what I did, and sign up for the year-long subscription which will give you a new play kit every two months. (Note: this would make such a great gift for a new mom!)

6. Eparé Popsicle Molds // Teething is a rough and icy pops seemed to really help. These molds make it super easy to make popsicles and have them on hand in the freezer. You can fill them with whatever you want. We made smoothies and poured them in for smoothie pops a lot, and George seemed to really love those.

7. Foam Playmat Tiles // At the beginning, it felt like every visible floor surface in the playroom was covered with a quilt. These foam tiles eliminated the need for ten of those, while also providing the extra cushion that’s needed when they’re rolling around.

8. The Jolly Jumper // It’s been awhile since George used this but in the beginning, it was everything. George loved bouncing around in it. It kept him totally entertained and burned some energy. Bonus: a little bit of hands-free time for parents.

9. Joovy Spoon Baby Walker // I honestly don’t know what I would have done without this thing. George really prefers to be moving at all times and this thing allowed him to do exactly that, while allowing me to be hands-free. While it doesn’t work on carpets, it’s perfect for tiled rooms like the kitchen. The extra-large tray is perfect for toys and books so he can play. Note: as George got bigger and faster (!), the more he used this to mainly chase Lucy around the kitchen.

Photo by Lindsey Weitzel

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