Staff Tips: 5 Essentials for Baby's First Year

by: Laurie Mega

Check out our video for more details and hacks using our top five baby essentials! 

"My basement is full of doodads that failed the first-year test -- fancy diaper pails, digital this-and-that, and don't even get me started on peepee teepees."

There’s a whole other list of less-than-cute items that are just as -- if not more -- important to have at the ready for baby’s first year.

In this article, I’ll explore five of those very items -- items that, once I had them, I had no idea how I lived without.

In the video, I also share a few hacks to get the most bang for your buck out of the most essential items for baby’s first year.

More: The Ultimate List of Baby Must Haves to Add to Your Registry

ThermometerThermometers are an essential item for baby's first year.

A thermometer is a must-have tool for your baby’s first year. Babies get a lot of fevers, and their fevers tend to be high. There are all kinds of thermometers out there. Some you use in the rectum or in the armpit. Some go in the ear and some swipe across the forehead. There are even wireless models that you place under your baby’s arm.

Get your doctor’s advice on the kind of thermometer and temperature-taking method they recommend. Whichever you choose, you may want to get two, one for upstairs and one for downstairs, or one for your diaper bag and one for the house.

Snot Sucker

Babies can’t blow their noses, so all the snot they generate when they have a cold has nowhere to go. That means two things: First, your baby won’t be able to breathe very well, especially when she’s on her back. She’ll wake up in the middle of the night miserable.

Second, if the snot doesn’t come out, the fluid can get backed up, and you run the risk of an ear infection. These are very common in kids under 5. To clear out her nose, get a snot sucker, also known as a nasal aspirator.

Warning: Your baby most likely won’t like having something up her nose, so be gentle as she tries to wiggle away. But trust me, she'll thank you in the end.


Bibs are absolutely essential for baby's first year.You can never have too many bibs -- really. And they go way beyond mealtime. Babies under four months tend to spit up a lot. I used to keep bibs on my boys even for a couple of hours after they ate, knowing that something might still come up. There are all kinds of bibs out there in all shapes and colors. I always preferred cloth for the little guys because I could take it off and wipe their mouths with a dry spot.

There are even cute little bandanna bibs. And if you’re out somewhere sans burping cloth, you can throw the bib over your shoulder. The bandanna bibs work pretty well for this.


Again, can’t have too many of them. That spit-up won’t always make it onto the bib. I can’t tell you how many times I took off the bib and seconds later -- blurp. And don’t even get me started on the diaper blowouts.

Onesies are another essential for baby's first year.The handy thing about onesies is that layered neckline. It’s great for getting over your baby’s head but it’s also great for pulling over their shoulders and down. That way, if you have a puke or diaper blow-out, you can slip the onesie down and keep the puke and poop out of her hair.

Onesies also make a nice little undershirt in cold weather and great pajamas in warm weather. The snapping crotch means they don’t come un-tucked from pants and they don’t bunch up under your baby’s arms during sleep.

Petroleum Jelly

Petroleum Jelly creates a protective barrier for baby skin in all kinds of situations. In the first days, place it around the remnants of the umbilical cord so the diaper doesn’t chafe on the sensitive skin.

The same holds true for circumcised boys. A little on the diaper where the wound touches will keep it from getting sore.

If your baby has a bad diaper rash, put the diaper cream on and then a layer of petroleum jelly either in the diaper or on the skin. It will keep the cream from absorbing into the diaper right away and protect irritated skin.

So there you have it, my list of absolute must-haves for Baby’s first year. It may not be the sexiest list of baby products, but there’s no substitute for the tried-and-true basics.

For more tips on baby’s first year, check out .


Welcome to Staff Picks on Family Education. I’m Laurie Mega, Managing Editor of Family Education, and this month we’re talking about our five most essential items for baby’s first year.

I have a two-year-old and a three-year-old at home, both boys--yes, I’m tired. But in doing them in quick succession, I learned very quickly what I needed and didn’t need.

And, my five most essential items are basic, not fancy, only one of them needs a battery, but they saved my life. So let’s dive in.

The first one I found to be absolutely critical was the thermometer. Now babies, unfortunately, get fevers and they get high fevers, and they come on quick. So you’re going to want one of these around to take temperatures at the drop of a hat.

Now there’s a lot of different ways to take a baby’s temperature: rectally, under the arm, there are models that kind of go over the forehead like this, there’s some that go in the ear.

Talk to your doctor, they’ll be able to recommend the best thermometer that they prefer and the best way to take a temperature. So that’s the thermometer.

Now, speaking of babies getting sick, my second item is the snot sucker! This is a very handy, very simple thing to have around the house.

Babies can’t blow their nose, so everything stays up there; they can’t sleep, they’re miserable, you’re miserable, you feel terrible--get one of these. The important thing to remember with these is not to squeeze it when it’s in the baby’s nose. You do that and you’re going to shoot air up there, you’re going to shoot the snot further up their nose. It’s not going to be pretty.

So before you put it in their nose, squeeze it, then gently insert it just a little bit in the nostril, and then release. And what it’ll do is it’ll suck out that snot that’s keeping babies from breathing properly. And then just pull it out and squeeze out the snot.

The best way to wash these, I’ve found, was just to take a glass of warm, soapy water, squeeze it, stick it in, suck up the water, shake it around, deposit it. And just make sure it’s nice and clean and dry before you use it again.

So that’s your snot sucker.

Third item is your bib, and I think everybody says “oh duh, a bib, of course I need a bib.” Well, you need a lot of bibs, and that’s why I’m featuring it. You just can’t get enough bibs. They go beyond mealtime. You’ll need these also for burping time, and for general sitting around time because babies spit up, and from about six weeks to four months they spit up a lot.

So these are just great to have around, and just have on your baby a couple hours even after mealtimes. The other handy thing about bibs is if you don’t have a burping cloth on hand you can just--and it’s not too messy--you can just take it off the baby, stick it on your shoulder like this, and you’ve got a makeshift burping cloth.

So, there you go, two uses out of the bib. And this bib was drawn on; this was from my baby shower, they came blank and we drew on them, and then I picked the best one and they got a prize. So there’s a little baby shower activity for you if you’re looking for them.

So that’s your bib.

My fourth item is also kind of a “duh,” but you just don’t know how many you need until you’re there. It is the onesie. This is a twelve-month onesie. And that’s how much I love onesies is I actually have them going from birth to twenty-four months because they’re just that handy. And I have a lot of them because, again, babies spit up, babies have diaper blowouts, babies get messy.

So these are just great to have-tons and tons and tons of these-and they come in three-packs, you can get them pretty inexpensively.

Little trick with these is if your baby does have a little spit up, or a diaper blowout, you don’t have to pull these over their head. Undo the snaps that come up like this. You get the kind that has the overlapping cloth right here, you just stretch out the collar and slide it over the shoulders and down. And then you’re not getting anything in your baby’s hair, you’re not covering your baby’s face, it’s just quick --*sliding sound effect*-- and you’re done, throw it in the laundry.

And the final item is a very versatile one in my mind. And that is Vaseline. This is--this can be used in three ways. Particularly if you have boys, which I do, and you get them circumcised, you’re going to want to put a little bit of this in the diaper, where the wound makes contact with the diaper, it will just keep a little barrier so that the wound doesn’t get irritated.

Same thing with the belly button as the umbilical cord is drying up and falling off, just keep a little Vaseline around it, it’ll keep that area moisturized, a nice little barrier between the diaper and the irritated skin.

And finally if your baby has a diaper rash, particularly a bad one, and you’re putting a lot of cream on, you don’t want that cream to just wipe away or get absorbed by the diaper right away, so put a layer of this on, a nice thick layer to, again, create that barrier between the cream and the diaper so it just stays on longer, baby gets that relief a little longer.

So yeah, Vaseline, great. And you see I have a nice big tub here, and I’m still using it.

So there you go, those are my five most essential items for new moms and dads. I hope I was helpful, and for any other great parenting tips just visit us at, and we’ll see you next month for our next installment of staff picks.