Just about four years ago when I first became pregnant, I emailed a good friend and asked her to recommend her favorite baby items and, more importantly, to tell me which stuff I did not need. She sent me a super lengthy, wonderfully awesome email that totally overwhelmed me. Once I had time to really sit down and focus, this email proved very helpful. Ever since then I’ve been adding notes and forwarding this email on to friends and relatives who are finding themselves overwhelmed when it comes time to register. I was just about to forward it on to yet another person when I thought I might as well clean up that email and make it a blog post!
So here goes – A list of things I think you need and things I think you can do without. Please feel free to comment and add your two cents. I’m surely leaving things out as it’s been just about a year since I had a newborn.
- Co-Sleeper or Bassinet – I used the infant setup on our basic pack and play. This wasn’t as important to me because I moved my kids to their own rooms around 6 weeks old. If you’ll co-sleep or have them in your room for a while, consider investing here.
- Crib and Mattress – We used hand me downs on both of these, but you might want to invest in a crib that will convert to a toddler bed and then a full headboard. We ended up buying a used toddler bed when we needed the crib for baby #2.
- Bedding – I suggest saving your money on the bedroom set, which includes bumpers that our pediatrician recommended we avoid and a small comforter, which is too big for a baby and too small for a toddler. I suggest buying the bedding individually.
- Bumpers – My second kid really needed bumpers. We got her the breathable kind.
- Mobile – Very nice to have but not a long shelf life, as it must go once they can sit/stand.
- Monitor – We have a super basic monitor that we like just fine. Video monitors kind of freak me out, but I have sometimes wished we had one. I like that ours has a feature that shows red lights as the noise gets louder so that we can have it on without having to have the sound on if we’re watching TV or something.
- Womb Noises Stuffed Animal – We swore by this with our first colicky baby and even took the noisemaker (without the stuffed animal) when we traveled.
- Diaper Pail – I’ve used several kinds. You can go expensive here, or you can go really cheap and just take them to your outside garbage can if they are stinky. We used a pail in the beginning when there were several poops a day and now we just use a regular garbage can we empty often.
- Diaper Holder – I really like my diaper holder that hangs on a hanger next to my changing table, but it’s certainly not needed.
- Changing Pad and Covers – Get at least two covers.
- Glider or Rocker – These can be so pricey. I recommend Craigslist.
- Swaddles – I could never get the hang of swaddling with blankets, so we also had a few swaddles with Velcro handy.
- Newborn Outfits – Chances are you’ll need a few tiny outfits, but your child will grow out of them fast. Consider exchanging clothing gifts for larger sizes and be sure they are seasonally appropriate.
- Footed Outfits and PJs – I recommend zip-up pjs as those snaps are just too much to handle in the middle of the night! Footed outfits are nice so you don’t have to deal with socks.
- Sleep sacks/Wearable Blankets – Great for when you’re done with swaddling. I like the sleeveless ones that go on over pjs.
- Onesies: Avoid any shirts that don’t snap over the diaper, as they will just ride up on a newborn. Also, anything with a hood is cute, but not practical for a baby sleeping on its back.
- Pants – I prefer soft and elastic waist, avoiding jeans until they crawl.
- Socks – The weather will dictate how many pairs you’ll need, but I like the ones that look like little shoes as they stay on the best.
- Teensy Tiny Hangers
- Bath Towels – Look for thin hooded towels. The hoods don’t dry on the thicker ones.
- Washcloths – Go thin for easy drying
- Burp Cloths – Several white cloth diapers will be fine. You’ll want to stash them everywhere if you have a spitter-upper like me.
- Blankets – Good to have some, but you’ll probably have several more than you need.
- Sheets & Mattress Pads – Be sure you have 2 each of pads and at least 3 each of sheets, including pack-and-play, as late night changes will be needed.
- Bibs – You’ll probably get lots of cute bibs that come with outfits. This will be something you’ll have way too many of, until your kid outgrows those little ones and then you’ll need a pack of good ones. I recommend snaps, as bigger babies start pulling them off.
(I’m including info whether you plan to breast or formula feed, as I’ve done both)
- Support Pillow – BreastFriend or Boppy
- Nipple Cream
- Nursing Bras – I started with lots of cotton sleep bras and then got nicer ones when I started getting out of the house. The fact of the matter is, you can never know now what size the girls will be later. Don’t invest much here ahead of time unless you’re buying one-size-fits-most cotton or sports bras.
- Breast Pump – Did you know most people’s insurance now cover this?! Call yours ahead of time to figure this out. If not, check with your hospital—mine sells them tax-free and has a better return policy than retailers. If you have options of what kind to get, ask them about their customer service. The brand I got sent me a replacement part four years later without any questions asked.
- Milk Storage Bags and Breast Pads – One box of each to start.
- Bottles – I’ve only ever used one kind. They are fancy and have lots of parts to wash, but maybe it helps with colic?! I have no idea here. You’ll need some no matter what—that’s all I know. I suggest getting a few and buy more as needed. You’ll also need different levels (flow speed) of nipples as your baby grows.
- Bottle Brush – Having one with a flexible neck changed my life!
- Dish Dryer – Make sure it has room for small bottle parts.
- Formula – If you’re looking to save money, consider store brands and buy in small quantities until you’re sure what will agree with the baby.
- Pre-measured Formula Container – These have compartments for pre-measured amounts of formula.
- Highchair – You won’t need this for a while. We use one that straps into a kitchen chair and it works just fine (and is portable). We don’t really have the extra space for a highchair and I think this is a great place to save some money.
- Infant Tub with Sling – I think this is something you could likely borrow or get used as you don’t use it for very long. I like ours because it has a temperature indicator (sad face for too hot and too cold!). I was surprised that my inclination was to make it way too hot. I also liked this sponge thing you lay the baby on for washing on the counter. You would only use this for a week or so when you’re doing sponge baths, but it’s very inexpensive.
- Tear-Free Baby Wash
- Bath Toys – Don’t buy these yourself, as I’m sure you’ll get some from someone.
Health & Safety:
- Baby Proofing – Not needed until the baby starts to move. If you’re running out of time and money, this can wait.
- Bulb for unclogging snot from nose – Bring home the one from the hospital.
- Saline for nose
- Thermometer – I’ve had zero luck getting an accurate read on anything but a traditional thermometer.
- Gas Drops or Gripe Water
- Diaper Rash Cream – One tube goes a long way and I’ve never run out of a tube. Consider exchanging extras for something else or hold one extra for daycare.
- Infant Fever Reducer/Pain Reliever
- Teething Gel
- Baby Nail Clippers
- Pack and Play – I have a single story house so I don’t use this often, but I think many people with two level houses really like having this on the first floor if the crib is on the second floor. Great for use as a bed when traveling. Don’t think you need a fancy one, but the changing table and bassinet insert is nice to have.
- Infant Car Seat – if there’s one thing you should buy new, this is it, unless you’re getting it from someone you know and trust. If a car seat has been in anything more than a minor accident, it should be discarded. You should check with your local fire department for any suggestions they have before buying a car seat and then get the installation inspected before your child is born. I learned so much at the inspection that would have influenced what seat I bought when it came to a convertible car seat. I don’t think you need to go with the car seat that holds a heavier baby, as you’ll be sick of carrying the bucket around once the baby gets that heavy. I also suggest doing research on how the car seat (or car!) you are considering fits into your car. My husband and I are both tall and cannot sit comfortably in the passenger seat with a rear facing car seat behind us and we drive an SUV.
- Car Seat Base – You’ll most likely want to buy one for each car as it will be a pain to move these around from car to car.
- Car and Car Seat accessories – We have none. Our fire department basically said that you should not use anything with a car seat that didn’t come with it—no mat to protect your seat, no mirror, no hanging toys. Check with your fire department to confirm. (I should say we do use the baby sleeping bag insert thing in the winter, as I’ve also heard babies and children aren’t supposed to wear coats while in their car seats).
- Stroller – I am not a fan of the stroller/car seat systems. I think this is like the bed set—overkill on matching things. We like the strollers that are basically just metal frames that you snap the car seat into with a basket below them. Once the kid is old enough for a bigger stroller, invest in a jogging stroller for around the neighborhood, even if you’re just walking. Other than that, a simple and inexpensive umbrella stroller works fine for us. I do have an expensive umbrella stroller that we got used because the cheaper ones don’t work with our longer legs (we kick the tires when we walk).
- Diaper Bag – I’ve had two children and many diaper bags. I’ve never found one that I really liked because my needs and the amount of stuff I bring along changes with each phase of my kids’ lives. I prefer to use bags that are not designated “diaper bags,” and are therefore cheaper. Right now I use a large purse or just leave most everything I need in my car.
- Diapers – Since you’re feeding your baby, it will have to come out the other end as well. The hospital will diaper your baby in name-brand diapers, but feel free to try other (cheaper) brands when you get home, or when they are a few weeks old. I suggest store brands, which I think work just as well. Some babies have more sensitive skin, so you might have to stick to one brand instead of using whatever people give you.
- Wipes – Same deal here. I think store brands work even better than some name brands and can be bought in bulk. You know you’ll need them.
- Play Mat – This is great for entertaining them before they start sitting up. I suggest finding one with music and something that lights up in the middle. You won’t need this until they are a few weeks old.
- Swing – It’s good to get one that can swivel, so baby can be rocked side to side or front to back. This can be a lifesaver or something a baby doesn’t care much for.
- Bouncer Seat – This is the reclined fabric seat on a metal frame. I would 100% tell you to get one. It’s great for use in the bathroom when you take a shower. You will use this right away and often.
- Jumper – You won’t need this for a few months, but it’s great to have! We used this instead of an exersaucer or walker.
- Baby Carrier – I’ve used many. Maybe you can borrow from friends to see which one you like the best. I preferred the Moby with my first and the Ergo with my second.
- Pacifier – Don’t get more than one or two to see if your baby will even like these. If they do, I do recommend the pacifier clip.
Things I think you can skip:
- Cooler for milk or bottles
- Bottle warmer
- Dishwasher basket for bottle parts (unless you are planning to run dishwasher daily)
- Wipe warmer
- Those scented bags to put dirty diapers in (made for diaper bags)
- Small wipe holder (you need more than that, so just bring a wipe refill pack)
- Plastic seat to teach baby to sit up (skip it, or borrow it)
- Toys – you’ll probably get a ton of them, so see what you get and then buy some as baby gets older.
- Baby Powder – I don’t think you’re supposed to use this on newborns.
- Baby Lotion – You most likely will be gifted some.
- Fancy detergent made for babies – Regular unscented or sensitive detergent is fine for babies.
- Baby Gloves – You’ll probably get some or some outfits have sleeves that can turn up over hands so babies don’t scratch their faces.
I suggest you keep receipts for everything and for bigger ticket items like the breast pump, don’t open until you need it in case you decide you don’t need it. I also suggest you check for second-hand stores or look on Craigslist for many items that are easily cleaned up.
This is only the tip of the iceberg in the total amount of stuff you’ll own over the span of 18 years, but it’s a nice place to get started! Best of luck to you on your new adventure!