Baby Items to Keep Your Baby Happy at Each Stage

Before my son was born, my husband and I made the prenatal pilgrimage to register at a big box baby store for all the baby stuff we thought we’d need. We were excited, overwhelmed, and just a little bit skeptical. Would we have room in our apartment for tricked out swings and bouncers? How could there be so many variations on the pacifier? Did our little guy really need all this baby stuff? Turns out, he was indifferent to some items, like the ubiquitous lovey blanket, and totally tickled by others.

Here, the go-to baby items that kept our baby -- and his first-time parents -- happy throughout his first year.

0-3 Months

Pacifier My reluctance to introduce the pacifier -- for fear my son would be screaming for this addictive baby item at age three -- quickly subsided when our pediatrician endorsed it as a great way to soothe a fussy baby and help him to sleep. Pacifiers may also help reduce the risk of SIDS, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. So now we keep a few in the diaper bag and by his crib.

Activity Mat Now that our son has conquered that baby development milestone of walking (or more like running) around the house, it’s hard to remember that our baby ever hung out exclusively on a round piece of fabric in the family room. For the first three to four months he happily played beneath the soft, padded arches of his activity mat, swatting at colorful, dangling toys, or strengthening his back muscles during tummy time.

Car Seat-Stroller Combo Baby items come with a lot of straps. It may seem like you’re constantly clicking and unclicking, locking, and unlocking. Enter the detachable car seat and stroller in-one, which lets you transfer your tike -- from the car to the stroller and back again -- while he’s still happily nestled in his car seat (so you’ll never have to disturb him from his nap).

4-6 Months

Swing In the early days, my son was mostly unfazed by this particular baby item. He couldn’t focus on the mobile swirling above him, and even the lowest setting was a bit too fast. But as he packed on the pounds, he found his swing sweet spot. The rocking motion and music helped soothe, entertain, and coax him to sleep whenever he refused to nap in his crib. Plus, it gave me a few precious, hands-free moments.

Toys to grasp Once your little one finds his fingers (one of the cutest baby milestones!), between four and seven months, he’ll be reaching for the remote, your earrings…you get the idea. My son was crazy for a lightweight ball we found that had plenty of large holes his fingers could grip. He also loved to hang onto colorful linked rings that doubled as teethers and pliable plastic rattles.

Floor Seat When I first put my son in his floor seat, which helps your baby into a seated position, his eyes lit up. This was a baby item he could get on board with. Propped up in this new pose, he also had a fascinating fresh perspective on life. Look for baby seats that have straps, detachable toys, and that can double as a booster seat for meals on the go.

7-12 Months

Exercise Gym In the months before he developed his walking skills, my son’s activity gym was one of the baby items at the center of his universe. He loved to pull up to a standing position and explore the keyboard, mirror, and other toys, which made pleasant clicking and clacking sounds. Our gym came with a detachable seat, which rotated around the table. My little one loved to propel himself in circles, and I loved that he could get his legs working without leaving the room.

Stuffed Animal My son’s stuffed monkey is practically a member of the family -- he dines with us on occasion, gets kisses at night, and travels with us on family vacations. While it’s important to keep stuffed toys and other objects out of the crib during the first year (to reduce the risk of SIDS), Monkey’s always been game to demonstrate how to brush one’s teeth, play peekaboo and lay perfectly still for a diaper change. He’s a comfort and constant companion -- in other words, perfect as far as baby items go.