20 Must Haves for a Toddler & Newborn {2nd Baby List!}

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If you’re going to have a toddler AND a newborn around soon, this list of recommended gear is specifically for you.

We’ve had 2 kids under 2… 4 times!! Nothing about having a newborn and toddler is easy. But, a handful of these essential items might make wrangling those little ones and meeting all the needs a tad easier.

This post has all my top recommendations – from best double strollers to a legit leakproof coffee cup for mom to screen-free activities that will actually keep your busy toddler occupied for more than 60 seconds.

We survived 8 years of having 2 kids under 2!! You can totally do this – those sweet little ones were given to your family for a reason. So let’s dive in and try to make your life with 2+ littles a tad easier.

Basic Gear for Toddler & Newborn

1. Double Stroller

The first thing everyone wants to know about the best double stroller for a toddler & newborn! There a lot of options, so think through your lifestyle & how you’ll be using it.

Long story short – I *think* the most versatile stroller on the market is the UppaBaby Vista. It’s usually around $1,000-$1300 depending on style & what extras you get. If I were doing it all over again, I honestly would probably just get this system.

A $1,000 stroller wasn’t even close to being in our budget when we had our first toddler & newborn, so I tried several other popular doubles based on what I could find secondhand. (The nice thing about buying secondhand is you can usually turn around and sell it for the same price you paid if you don’t like it.)

I wanted something:

  • relatively lightweight
  • fits through normal doors
  • good at multiple terrains
  • basket to hold stuff

And eventually, I wanted one that could squeeze a 3rd kid on if needed.

The double strollers I’ve tried over the years are:

  • The City Select
  • Phil & Ted’s
  • Babytrend Sit & Stand
  • City Mini Double
  • BumbleRide Double Stroller

City Select Vs. Phil & Ted’s for a Toddler & Newborn

I haven’t owned every single one of those – but between grandmas and friends, I’ve personally tried them all. My top recommendation is the Phil & Ted’s Double. It’s the one we stuck with for several years.

The City Select was the first double stroller I owned & it was pretty cool. But, holy cow was it HEAVY!!! And enormous. It took up a LOT of space in my minivan trunk… and minivan trunks are big!

We lived in a really hilly neighborhood with crappy sidewalks at the time and it was a legit workout to get that thing up the hills.

must haves toddler and newborn stroller
You can see me paused, huffing and puffing on the left – haha! It was a good fit for 2 under 2 though! I swapped it out on FB marketplace for a phil & ted’s which was much easier to push. I was a little sad not to have a kickboard when my 3rd came along.

I bought it on Facebook Marketplace & sold it a year later for the same price I paid. I switched to a Phil & Ted’s Double (also purchased second hand.)

The Phil & Ted’s was much easier to push around our neighborhood even with two toddlers.

But, when we had 3 kids three and under, I slightly regretted not having kept the CitySelect with it’s fancy kick board option. (not that I could have pushed it with 3 children anyway…)

Here’s how we would make do with the Phil & Ted’s if all 3 got really tired… say, at the end of a zoo day 🙂

best strollers toddler and newborn
4 year old holding 1 year old in front seat; 2 year old underneath. My 2 year old is cringing in the bottom because it was really windy. Ha! The bag area gets a little crowded with a kid sitting down, but it always fit my basic purse/ backpack, even with a kid there. I had a clip on pouch & cup holder by the handle for a coffee cup and my wallet. To me, having a stroller that was easy to push for miles through all terrains (and through a single door) was totally worth giving up the giant storage area.

That Phil & Ted’s pictured above is the Vibe model, which they don’t make anymore. We actually owned the Sport model too, which is a little roomier & great for all-terrain. I’d keep an eye on your local Facebook Marketplace to see if you can snag one secondhand. Otherwise, they have a TON of options for mixing and matching on the Phil & Ted’s site including turning your double stroller into a travel system with their infant carseats. (They call their double strollers inlines.)

You can even get an attachable scooter for an older toddler or preschooler too!

(Check Albee Baby too! Albee is my favorite site for discounted baby gear!! We’ve gotten all our carseats from them over the years, and I wish I would have known about them when we bought our strollers.)

2. Diaper Bag Backpack

These happen to be super trendy as of writing this post – lucky you! They weren’t that trendy when we first had 2 kids under 2, so my diaper bag backpack was pretty boring. There are SO many cute ones now. Just pick the one you like best 🙂 If you have to carry it around all the time, you might as well love it.

Here are my favorites ones on Amazon:

3. Boppy Style Pillow for Propping Baby

This may or may not have been one of your baby essentials with your first, but I would say it’s a ‘need’ for the second baby for sure.

Since newborns have so much gastrointestinal stuff going on as their tiny stomachs learn to digest milk, they seem to be happier propped up slightly as opposed to flat on their backs.

Even tummy time can be done on these as long as you’re safely monitoring! They’re helpful for a 3 year old who wants to read to a newborn too 🙂

Lots of positions for newborns on a Boppy. We had the original C or U- shaped Boppy, but now they have these lounger ones that are amazing for newborns!

4. Portable Bed for the Newborn (Bassinet or Pack n Play)

Where baby sleeps will really depend on your lifestyle!

Our newborns sometimes slept in their infant carrier carseats while we were on the go. They slept overnight in either a bassinet or pack n play. All our kids are less than 2 years apart, so we never bothered to move the toddler out of the crib before the baby came along. I highly recommend waiting as long as possible to transition your toddler out of their crib/ bed & just getting something temporary for the baby. (Here’s why!)

Our 2nd, 3rd, and 4th babies all slept in this little portable bassinet for 3-4 months until they outgrew it. It’s funny, after 1 or 2 babies, you realize they don’t actually take up much space.

This picture cracks me up! The toddler tried to put her sleeping baby by our real sleeping baby 🙂

I love how portable it is! They don’t make the same model anymore, but this collapsable bassinet is similar – super compact fold!

This other one comes on a stand and has a stationery or rocking option. A nice, safe alternative to the rock n play for sleeping.

We also had a basic pack n play; we never bothered with a comfier crib mattress for it, even though our 2nd child ended up sleeping in a pack n play for 2 years!

If you live in a drivable area, baby can sleep in their infant car seat & you can just carry the whole thing. Ideally it fits in your double stroller somehow! But if you live in a highly walkable area, you might want to get a stroller that just has a clip on bassinet.

The bassinet that comes with the UppaBaby Vista safely clips into the stroller and is removable for use inside too!

5. Swing?

This one as a question mark because I know some people don’t love having giant baby swings around, but oh my! I could not live without it!! Especially the more outnumbered we got.

Our newborns took lots of naps in swings (even though we also tried to get plenty of crib/ bassinet naps in so that they wouldn’t have too much of a negative sleep association with being swung.)

It’s a good idea to get a swing that plugs in. The batteries die SO quickly on the battery operated ones, as we learned the hard/ expensive way with our first.

We didn’t have a lot of storage in our first house, so I actually just bought a swing secondhand with each baby and sold it when the baby outgrew it around 4+ months. I always looked for a Fisher Price baby swing like this.

6. White Noise Machine

These are a non-negotiable for us. Lights out & sound machine = sleepy environment for a newborn. The background noise helps them get back to sleep when they wake up mid-nap too.

We’ve owned the first two pictured below, and they work great. The other two are highly rated and a little fancier.

7. CJs BUTTer Balm

This stuff is amazing!! And no one knows about it. An organic-loving mama friend gave it to me with my first and we got years of use out of it. A 12 oz container lasts a long time. It worked for every weird skin rash, diaper rash, and even just dry skin.

The warm vanilla cake scent is what we were given and we LOVED it. But I’m sure all their other scents smell way better than normal rash cream too.

Trust me – you want this for BOTH your newborn & your toddler.

8. Clothes Without Snaps

Listen, friends. No parent needs to experience the frustration of snapping a pair of baby pajamas in the middle of the night… especially if that baby is crying and that parent is sleep deprived.

Good gracious, people! Get the ones with zippers.

You are allowed to own a onesie with 2-3 snaps at the bottom, but you only need to snap the middle one. #protip. Ha!

9. Easy to Buckle Carseats

Not all carseats are created equally, as we’ve learned the frustrating/ expensive way.

The carseats where you can barely get them latched in correctly, only to have to pull it out because the straps all twisted and turned around… those are terrible!

Do yourself a favor and get easy-to-buckle carseats. Honestly, ever since we discovered Diono carseats, that’s all we’ve bought. We’ve always bought them on sale on Albee Baby.

(We’ve used both the 3RXT and the 3RX. The 3RXT is a little easier to buckle but it’s probably not worth the price difference.)

The Diono Carseat works newborn to 90lbs:

  • Rear facing reclined for newborns
  • Rear facing, more upright for 1-2 year olds
  • Forward facing as a 5-point harness carseat for 2-7 year olds
  • As a booster seat with a regular seatbelt at whatever age you decide to transition.

We love that the Dionos are super solid & easy to latch in and out. They’re also very easy for the kids to buckle/ unbuckle themselves, and the straps never get twisted!

The one downside is they are HEAVY! So if you fly a lot with carseats or have to move them from car to car, that will be annoying. Try the 4 in 1 Graco 4EVER instead People rave about these!

Infant Carrier Carseat

We also used a carrier carseat the first 6 months because I liked being able to carry the carseat in and out when we were on the go!

Hopefully, you have one of these leftover from your first babe. Just make sure to have one that fits with your double stroller.

We used the Chicco Keyfit for all 4 kids, and it held up great. Both the Chicco & the Diono I’ve recommended are some of the narrowest carseats on the market. (The Diono is THE narrowest!) So you can fit them easily side by side (or 3 across) in most cars.

10. Baby Carrier

If you love wearing your little baby, you’ll obviously want a baby carrier! I loved an ergo, but I’m not an around-the-clock baby wearer. It came in handy for some outings and for when the baby was just not having it and needed an on-mommy nap.

The Ergo 360 works 12lbs + , is easy to put on, and didn’t really hurt my back!

For the itty bitty newborn, I loved a more wrappy type carrier. The Moby wrap is super popular, but people rave about the new-ish Solly Wrap now. I just borrowed a Baby K’tan from a friend. The K’tan worked for a brand new baby, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It would sink down on my back, and the shoulder straps somehow hurt my shoulders.

If I had another newborn I’d probably buy the Solly Wrap.

11. Diaper Station

If you live in a two story house, I’d highly suggest a diaper changing basket of sorts on each level. We had a pretty large basket like this with a towel, baby wipes, burp cloths, diapers, and a few extra outfits for doing diaper changes on our main floor. You could toss one of those vinyl changing pad things in there too.

Instead of a changing table, we used a diaper changing pad on top of a dresser in the baby’s room upstairs.

12. Random Newborn Must Haves

You probably have most of this from your first baby (remember when you had an awesome baby registry and people gave you everything you needed?! Haha yeah, that might not happen with your second…)

But check that stash of fitted crib sheets & swaddle blankets before baby’s arrival. I had to replace a couple things like that especially once we got to the third baby. Things just get worn out from using them on a daily basis. Or they get covered in poop & you throw them out because you just don’t feel like washing them.

  • Swaddle blanket – I got a new one with each baby
  • Velcro swaddles
  • Newborn size diapers
  • Simple baby clothes – like onesies & zip up footie pajamas
  • Nail clippers
  • Fitted crib sheets
  • Breastfeeding supplies – you can get a new breast pump from insurance w/ each baby
  • Bottle feeding supplies
  • Video monitor – we never actually owned a video monitor because the house we had all the babies in was so small I could just go peek on them. People with multi-story homes seem to love these though! They can be nice when you hear the baby crying but you’re busy with the toddler. You can quickly check the video monitor to see the baby is safe in bed and not worry about taking a couple minutes to get to them.

On the Go Must Haves for Toddler & Newborn

13. Trash Bag in the Car

Kids create a lot of trash. Baby wipes, snack wrappers, etc. The more kids you have (and the more out-and-about you are with them), the more trash ends up in your car!

I just hang a plastic grocery bag over one of the front seat arm rests. It’s really classy.

But they also make these less trashy-looking trash bags that clip on to your seats. You can dump them out, and wash them in the laundry.

You can use it as-is and wash it occasionally or toss a plastic grocery bag in as a liner. Under $20, highly rated car trash bag.

14. Car “Kit” for Newborn & Toddler

It’s also helpful to keep extras in the car – which I learned the hard way when my potty training 2 year old pooped on the floor of the library and I had ZERO extras with me because we were only going in for 10 minutes. Oh how I wish I’d had a change of clothes in the car that day.

After that, I kept a reusable grocery bag with the following items in the car for easy access:

  • Diapers for both kids
  • Baby wipes
  • Microfiber cloth & water bottle
  • Lotion
  • Extra plastic grocery bag
  • 1 extra outfit each kid

15. Leak Proof Cups for Kids & Mom

These are my favorite leak proof water bottles for kids! We only use them for water so they don’t get a gross taste. At home, we’ve used a variety of random sippy cups that mostly didn’t leak. But they all leaked a little, so I wanted separate leak-proof water bottles for when we’re out.

And this is my favorite leak proof coffee cup for myself. (I have a 16 ounce. The cafe lid is key!!) It was a mother’s day gift one year. You can toss it in a purse or the bottom of a stroller… it does not leak. Ever. I’ve had one for 4 years and still use it multiple times per week to keep my coffee hot for hours.

All new parents need an amazing, leak proof coffee cup. Ha!

16. A Crossbody Wallet Purse

If you have the diapering essentials in the car, there are a lot of times you can just run into a grocery store with your kids & your wallet. You don’t need your entire enormous diaper bag… which is handy because it’s not like you have a lot of extra hands.

Snag an inexpensive purse that has both a wallet & a little purse section for your phone or sunglasses or whatever! Here are several great options under $25 with 4+ stars on Amazon. I had this one for a long time.

17. A Toddler Playlist

Listen, I know kids songs are lame. But toddlers internalize music so quickly, they will learn almost anything by hearing the music on repeat.

For example, once we started homeschooling, we’d play these skip counting songs for our kindergartener. Her little brother was 2 at the time. When he turned 4, seemingly out of nowhere, he started randomly singing his 2s and 3s. But 4.5, he could count to 100 by 5s and 10s… with very minimal actual instruction. All those skip counting songs were just in the recesses of his brain from hearing them over the years.

Here are some I recommend:

  • Wee Sing – they have some annoying but cute playlists/ albums my kids have loved. They have folk songs, American songs, and classic children’s songs like ABCs and Old MacDonald.
  • Raffi – a childhood staple since 1985.
  • Hide ’em in Your Heart – 2 GREAT albums that are basically just Bible Verses sung, word for word.
  • Seeds Family Worship – lots of Bible Verse Songs here too! We used these to learn the Books of the Bible in order as well as the fruit of the spirit & all of John 1:1-14
  • Laurie Berkner – the best silly kids songs; our kids have loved these ages 1-4. Even our big kids think they’re cute to watch the littler ones sing along to now.

18. Simplify Getting Out the Door

This one isn’t so much an item as a process.

Beginning the process of teaching your toddler to get himself ready will make your life much, much easier in the long run. By the time our 4th came along, the 4 and 5 year olds could basically get themselves ready and buckled start to finish.

My recommendation is to simplify by having one pair of everyday shoes, one coat, and one basket of socks all kept near the door. We also have a “dirty sock basket” we keep near the shoes too.

By having one coat and one pair of shoes, your toddler won’t get overwhelmed with decision fatigue. We live in the Midwest, so the seasons don’t always allow for one pair of shoes. 1 pair of boots & 1 pair of shoes will work most seasons though.

Keep the toddler’s socks & shoe basket simple so the child won’t get overwhelmed when it’s time to get ready to go.

Here is a suggested process to ease your toddler into getting themselves ready –

  • Go with them to get ready area, but have them get the shoes, socks, and coat out.
  • Stand 10 feet away and tell them to bring you their shoes and socks so you can get ready to go.
  • Teach them the flip-upside-down coat trick. (Around age 2.5-3, kids can get the hang of this with some practice!)
  • Let them struggle to climb into their own carseat especially if they’re insistent about trying themselves!
  • Put the buckle clip halfway in and let them click it.
  • Let them help you push the lower buckles in too, so they get a feel for it.
  • Tell them exactly where a baby item is (something nearby) and ask them to put it in the nearby diaper bag. Eventually you’ll be able to send that little helper to another room to grab a spare diaper or outfit even.

The trick is to allow more time for all of their “helping” and trying to “do it by myself.” This pays off in the long run!! I promise!

19. Toddler Activities While Breastfeeding

Remember all those sweet, sleep-deprived hours of soaking in the baby smell while feeding!? Yeah, you’re not a new mom anymore.

That tiny little bundle grew up into a busy busy toddler sooo the question is… what to do with the first child while feeding the second child!?

Whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle feeding your newborn, you’re often unable to do very much for your toddler while feeding the baby.

You can put some of these activities below in their own little special basket that only comes out when Mom feeds the baby.

Alternatively, you can just pull 1-3 toys/ activities out when it’s feeding time and put them somewhat nearby where you’ll be feeding the baby. Then your toddler can “discover” them, which often means he’ll play with them longer because he thinks it was his idea.

These are the time-tested toddler faves around our house:

  • Doodle Board HUGE hit with all ages of our kids; tie a string to the pen & tape it on
  • Craft bucket/ drawer/ basket/ tray – less is more. A toddler will work longer with fewer materials. A small notebook, a few chubby washable markers, and 1 sheet of stickers with the backs peeled off. OR a blank paper & 2 dot paints. OR a black piece of construction paper with 4 oil pastels.
  • Magnetic Tiles – my all time favorite toy; we like the Playmags the best.
  • Audio Books/ Vox Books – Our library has Vox picture books which have an audio player that reads to the child! Cool!
  • Special Book Basket – you can read to them while nursing. Toddler faves for us are Sandra Boynton, Spot, Dear Zoo, anything with flaps. Here are all our favorite board books for toddlers.
  • Memory Match with Wooden Doors – A super cute Melissa and Doug game our kids love!
  • Blokus – This is a grown-up game, but somewhere right around 3, our littles have LOVED putting the pieces on the board, tetris-style. I think part of the fun is they can somehow tell it’s not intended for kids… which of course makes it more fun.
  • Monster Trucks  – This cheap set of monster trucks is a favorite with every single little kid that comes over! They go so far, and then flip over when they crash into something.
  • Egg Match – Another thing my 2-4 year olds love to fight over. It’s especially fun if it gets put away once they’re bored with it, and then reappears a few months later.
  • Stackable Pegs – the pinching hand motion used to play with these is good for fine motor muscles too! (I’d store them in a little basket instead of the bag it comes with.
  • Simple Sensory Bin – I’d introduce this activity when you can supervise, then pull it out during feeding sessions once your tot is good at playing with it. Lots more details about our sensory bin & table in this post!
  • Sink/ Water Play – Like the sensory bin, I’d introduce it for the first time before it’s time to feed baby. Once you’re confident your toddler can play with it reasonably well, you could have this as an activity option while feeding the baby. Here is some great advice about introducing tots to water play!
Above-mentioned egg matching game that is highly coveted. We have a counting dots one, but the shapes one would be fun too! You can see all the options here.

20. Potty Training

Ugh! Potty training is the WORST. 4 kids later, and even though they were all
“average” potty trainers (whatever that means), I still didn’t love it.

Here is a summary of a few things I’d recommend in regards to potty training your toddler – take it or leave it 🙂

  1. Don’t tackle any major transitions for the toddler right around when baby comes – not the bed or the potty! 
  2. Oh Crap! A potty training book that describes a simple, effective approach. Plus it’s funny. If you have to read a book about potty training, might as well get a laugh or too.
  3. Toddler size portable potty or toilet seat – the brand doesn’t really matter. Just get a tiny toilet for your tot.
  4. Step stool
  5. Toddler undies – buy a lot.

The Oh Crap method works great! Remember, there is no one size fits all though. We go all-in on undies (no pull-ups), but we did diapers or pull-ups overnight until the kid stayed naturally dry. This has worked well for our children, all of whom have naturally become dry overnight between ages 2 and 4. Oh Crap explains the downside/ risk of that approach to overnights. You can also limit liquids before bed and wake your child up before you go to bed to potty if you go to bed quite a bit later than them. Or you can set an alarm and take them at midnight.

I also have plenty of friends who took a more gradual approach. Undies here and there, lots of sitting on the potty before naps and bedtime, and one day it just clicked.

So, read the Oh Crap! book, decide what will work for your family’s lifestyle. You’ll have to commit some time and energy to teaching your toddler where to potty, but every kid before them has figured it out eventually. And yours will too.

Just don’t tackle it right when you’re having a newborn.

Last Thing – Some Encouragement & More Practical Help

The early days of having a toddler & newborn are like having a tiny baby and a giant baby. Your first child’s world has been suddenly upended. They were probably too young to process what that giant belly of mom’s really meant. Mom is hormonal, Dad is overwhelmed. Everyone is sleep deprived.

It gets better. I promise. The baby’s first year will probably be a blur. So many things with the second will come back to you from the first baby, like riding a bike. I think most second-time moms feel like baby number 2 is a lot easier than the first. Here is a lot more encouragement for you plus 12 practical tips for surviving the early days of toddler & newborn life.

Remember, the most important things are your baby has a safe place in a loving home and you’re forming a loving parent-child relationship by caring for their essential needs… food, love, sleep. Billions of people have done the newborn/ toddler juggle before & you can do it too.

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