Welcome to The NightLight, a guide to the very best stuff for your baby—and you. Learn more.

The Best Bottle Sterilizer

Munchkin Steam Guard Electric Sterilizer

A bottle sterilizer isn’t a mandatory purchase. In fact, we feel comfortable saying you don’t need one! Our research showed even experts disagree—some say bottles should be sterilized before the first use, others say they should be sterilized in the baby’s first six months and others say not to bother at all. If your doctor recommends your baby’s bottles be sterilized or you have your heart set on sterilized bottles, we found the best all-around electric bottle sterilizer is Munchkin Steam Guard Electric Sterilizer. This sterilizer is easy to use, reliable, inexpensive, lightweight, durable and handles bottles of all shapes and sizes.

The Best Bottle Warmer

Dr. Brown’s Natural Flow Deluxe Bottle Warmer

Picking the best bottle warmer for your family will allow you to spend more time with your baby and less time fussing over making a bottle too cold or too hot. If I were selecting a bottle warmer for my child right now, I would purchase the Dr. Brown’s Natural Flow Deluxe Bottle Warmer because it has the most options and is the easiest to use, all for a reasonable price in the same range as other comparable brands on the market.

The Best Breast Pump

Limerick PJ's Bliss Standard

Having a reliable and effective breast pump makes pumping less miserable and helps maintain a mother’s milk supply, if she needs to be separated from her baby or if the baby has difficulty latching or sucking properly. If I were buying one breast pump today, I’d buy—or even better, request my health insurance cover—the Limerick PJ’s Bliss Standard, because it’s effective, comfortable, and quiet.

The Best Diaper Bag

Ju Ju Be BFF

Diaper bags, admittedly, can be a subjective purchase. Some moms may prefer to just use a large purse, and some parents may want something dad and grandparents can also carry. Finally, other parents may be focused on a designer name tag. Still, after looking at around two dozen bags, we’d ultimately buy the Ju Ju Be BFF ($165, amazon.com) because it packs a lot of features into a compact, easy to carry bag.

The Best Night Light

KinderGlo Portable Night Light

Multiple nighttime feedings and check-ins are a reality for parents of newborns. The use of a softly-lit night light will keep you from tripping in the nursery, or unnecessarily waking your sleeping baby by having to turn on the overhead light.

The Best Bassinet

Babyletto Bowery Bassinet

A newborn baby will sleep for as much as 16 hours per day during their first few months of life. That’s over a thousand hours of sleep time during the first three months alone, not to mention the amount of time spent soothing them back into that slumber. Bassinets are smaller than cribs, and easier to move when needed, making it easy to set one up in your room. Having your baby nearby can help provide peace of mind for stressed out parents that lay awake wondering what their baby is up to in the middle of the night.

The Best Infant Car Seat

Chicco Keyfit 30

When you’re getting ready to shop for baby gear, the car seat should be at the top of your list. If you plan on driving anywhere, think going home from the hospital, it’s a necessity. A good one will allow for simple portability from car to stroller, and protect your baby in the event of a crash. In researching and testing ten different models, the Chicco Keyfit 30 was our top pick. Not only does it fit into a vast array of strollers, but it will provide a secure fit for babies from 4 lbs up to 30 inches tall, making it one of the longest-lasting seats on the market.

The Best Double Stroller

Baby Jogger City Select with a 2nd Seat

There is only one baby gear purchase that is more tricky in scope than finding the perfect stroller: finding the perfect double stroller, for same-age or multi-age children. In both cases, you are looking for the same features: a stroller that is easy to navigate, lightweight, and offers important extras for parents on the go. Tracking down that perfect double stroller can quickly become overwhelming though, especially since there is such variety in style, price and extra features. Of the nearly 100 double strollers on the market, we think that the Baby Jogger City Select with the second seat is the best choice based on its lightweight design, compatibility with over a dozen car seats and its ability to work for both same-age and multi-age children.

The Best Baby Swing

Graco DuetSoothe Swing & Rocker

Having a good swing can be a life saver for parents with a fussy newborn. But not all babies like the swing, so purchasing one can be a bit risky. That said, if I decided to make the plunge today, Graco’s DuetSoothe Swing & Rocker is the swing I’d choose. It offers a great variety of motions and settings that in some combination will likely soothe your baby.

The Best Playmat

Tiny Love Gymini Activity Gym

If I were buying a playmat for my baby today, I’d choose the Tiny Love Gymini Sunny Day Activity Gym. This playmat offers great features for both parents and babies and comes at a very reasonable—dare I say cheap—price, averaging $30 on Amazon.

The Best Convertible Car Seat

Chicco Nextfit 65

A convertible car seat will help protect your child when rear-facing or forward-facing, and will become a permanent fixture in your car. If I were buying one today, I’d get the Chicco Nextfit 65 due to its easy installation and extended rear-facing capability.

The Best Baby Wash and Shampoo

Earth Mama Angel Baby Non-Scents

Until they’re old enough for Axe and Bath & Body Works, it’s up to us parents to keep our kids clean. With seemingly endless baby-wash offerings on the market, choosing one can give any conscientious parent a headache. If I were buying one baby wash for my baby today, I’d buy Earth Mama Angel Baby Non-Scents Shampoo and Body Wash because it is one of the safest shampoos out there, and it’s affordable.

The Best Full-Size High Chair

OXO Tot Seedling

Between bites of pureed peas and finger foods, you’ll scrub down your baby’s high chair hundreds of times. Rather than tear your hair out, buy a chair that makes cleaning simple, while offering a safe and comfy seat for your little one. I’d pick the OXO Tot Seedling, which at $120 has everything you need and saves you time when it comes to cleaning.

The Best Video Baby Monitor

Dropcam Pro

No new parent can stand laying their baby down in a crib and just walking away. Having a good video monitor can offer an addictive sense of security—a robo eye that can see your baby in the dark—leaving your conscience free to binge on Netflix in the next room. After weeks of testing, we found the Dropcam Pro to be the best video monitor around, especially for tech-minded, app-friendly parents. (If you want a more traditional single-purpose monitor, we’ve got a great recommendation for that, as well.)

The Best Nursing Pillow

My Brest Friend Deluxe

Nursing pillows can make breastfeeding easier for both mom and baby by providing extra support and comfort, particularly during the first few weeks while mom is recovering from giving birth. After considering the 10 nursing pillows on the market, I’m confident that My Brest Friend Deluxe ($38 with slipcover included; Amazon.com—pictured above is the newly released “green paisley” version) does the job the best, plus gives moms a few extras to support the early days with an infant.

The Best Diaper Pail

Ubbi Steel Diaper Pail

Your baby will burn through an average of 2,500 diapers per year. That’s at least six per day. A diaper pail is a specialized trash can that serves as a place to stow those dirty diapers. A good one is easy to use, contains odors, and doesn’t cost too much to maintain. After looking at six diaper pails, I’m convinced that the Ubbi Steel Diaper Pail is the one to buy, having the lowest three-year cost of ownership, and being the easiest to use. A big reason that we chose the Ubbi Steel Diaper Pail was that it did not require any special bags.

The Best Play Yard (or Playard or Play Pen or Baby Jail)

Graco Pack 'n Play On The Go

Of the dozens of play yards on the market today, we think Graco’s Pack ‘n Play On The Go($65; Amazon.com) is the best one out there. It’s a simple play yard with practical features and a reasonable price from company known for inventing the packable portable crib. Even though it’s not adorned with flashy lights or fancy nap stations, it’s a sensible and useful choice for most families.

The Best Baby Nail Trimmers

Safety 1st Sleepy Baby Nail Clipper

Many first-time parents are terrified of cutting their infant’s tiny nails. What if I draw blood? Luckily, a good nail cutter can take all the fear away. If I were buying a nail trimmer for my baby today, I’d buy Safety 1st Sleepy Baby Nail Clipper because it cuts tiny nails safely at a reasonable price, and has just that something extra to make it stand out.

The Best Bottle Drying Rack

Boon Lawn Countertop Drying Rack

A bottle drying rack may not be on your must-buy list if you have a tight budget for your baby gear. But if the idea of a dedicated spot to dry your baby’s bottles, rings, nipples, and, later, sippy cup parts, is appealing, it’s worth considering the Boon Lawn. At $25, it’s pricier than the rest, but the few-dollar difference is worth the versatility, ease of use and longevity.

The Best Crib

Oeuf Rhea Crib

A well-made crib should last long enough to be used by multiple children, and will become the focal point of your baby’s nursery. Having considered and tested twenty different models, I’m confident that the Oeuf Rhea crib at $670, is the best all-around crib when considering price, sturdiness, materials, and attractive design.

The Best Full-Size/Lightweight Stroller

Britax B-Agile

Buying a stroller is just as complicated as buying a car. All you want to do is take your baby for a walk, but we’re talking about hundreds of different ways that you can push your kid around the block. Most parents will own at least one stroller—most likely a full-size or lightweight stroller—and we think the Britax B-Agile is the best choice.

The Best Co-Sleeper

Arm’s Reach Clear-Vue Co-Sleeper

With research indicating that more than half of all parents bring their babies to bed with them at some point, purchasing a product that makes co-sleeping safe and more comfortable should be a no-brainer. After consulting with the nation’s top infant product safety and sleep experts, we concluded that the Arm’s Reach Clear-Vue Co-Sleeper, with its exceptional ventilation and adjustable legs, is the product that does the best job at the most reasonable price.

The Best Crib Mattress

Moonlight Slumber All Foam Little Dreamer

Infants will spend a huge portion of their early lives in their cribs. Choosing the right mattress will help you and your baby rest easy at night. After 19 hours of research, I recommend the Moonlight Slumber All Foam Little Dreamer. It’s a great value at $197 and has a dual-firmness design that will keep your baby comfortable all night.

The Best Soft-Structured Baby Carrier

BabyBjörn Baby Carrier One

After four months of researching babywearing options and demoing more than a dozen different soft-structured options, we found the best of the bunch to be the BabyBjörn Baby Carrier One($115) because it’s comfortable (for baby and you) and supportive for infants as well as toddlers.

The Best Baby Thermometer

Safety 1st Advanced Solutions High Speed Rectal Thermometer

Update [January 14th, 2015] — We’ve had a few people report issues with long-term reliability and accuracy of our choice. (About three, which is three people too many.) While we reevaluate and reformat this guide, we would suggest waiting to make a purchase. If you need a good thermometer today, our second choice, The Vicks, is a solid option.
Having a good, trustworthy thermometer makes taking a baby’s temperature easier and less traumatic for both baby and parents. If I were buying one thermometer for my baby today, I’d buy the Safety 1st Advanced Solutions High Speed Rectal Thermometer. Yes, we are indeed recommending a rectal thermometer–more on that in a bit–because it offers accuracy, reliability and speed at a reasonable price.

The Best Wrap Baby Carrier

Midweight Moby Wrap

While some parents go for a soft-structured carrier or sling for hands-free “babywearing,” others prefer the almost infinite versatility of a “wrap,” and we think the one most parents will like the best is the new Midweight Modern wrap from Moby Wrap($45) because it’s a safe, sturdy, not-too-hot wrap suitable for babies up to 35 pounds from a maker that’s been adored parents for a decade.

The Best Baby Bottles

Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Bottle

If I were in the market for a no-fuss baby bottle, I’d go with the Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Bottle ($14 for three). It has minimal parts to wash (or lose!), the contoured shape makes it easy for older babies to hold, and—because it’s plastic—there’s no risk of shattering (as with glass versions). The bottle’s wide nipple also makes it an easier sell for breastfed babies.

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