So you’re having a baby.
Babies are beautiful little blessings that add joy and chaos to our daily lives. You are embarking on one of the greatest journeys of your lifetime! So, you want to be prepared, right?? Of course you do! Because it isn’t just about bringing a life into the world, it’s also about caring for and raising that little life the best you can. “The best you can” doesn’t have to mean buying every new shiny baby thing. Most of us parents don’t have that kind of money to throw around. (Especially in America where paid maternity leave is…rarely available.)
When James and I had baby #2 on the way, we made a list of the minimum, of what we thought we absolutely had to have. There are SO many “must-have” lists out there that include (in my opinion) unnecessary items. It really makes it confusing for new parents looking for an honest run down of what, at minimum, they should have on hand. Fortunately, we didn’t have a chance to purchase these non-essential items since K2 came along early. When she arrived, we learned the truth of what we really needed.
To help you new parents out (or repeat parents with a new baby) I’ve put together a list of BARE BONES must-haves that you’ll need to care for that precious little one.
25 Baby Essentials No Parent Should be Without
*Each picture is clickable and will take you to the Amazon product page.*
#1. Diapers (DUH)
Your baby is going to go through a LOT of diapers. Roughly 10 a day. K2 is 2 months and still goes through about that much.
The thing about diapers is, you can never have too many. They range in size from P (preemie) to 7 (for little ones over 40+ pounds) and go up by weight. In the beginning, depending on how large your baby is measuring on sono, you’ll want to stock up on N (newborn) and size 1. Many babies are born over 8lbs these days, so stocking up on more size 1 than N is probably a safer bet. The good news is, most companies are happy to let you exchange unopened boxes or bags of diapers, for other sizes, if you end up buying too much of one kind. If you’d like to read about different brands and how they hold up, you can check out my review of some of the biggest brands here.
Going with cloth diapers is a great way to save money! Not to mention totally eco-friendly.
Here’s what the mom from An Accidental Passion has to say:
I thought about how uncomfortable maxipads are & the thought of crunchy, chemical filled material like that up next to my daughter’s most sensitive areas 24/7 for two years just didn’t feel right. I also loved that I would not create waste. Also, I really loved that my cost of diapers would be about $300 vs the couple thousand dollars it would cost to use disposables. I love how they look, how they feel, and I don’t mind the extra laundry. I think they are really cute & colorful!
#2. Wipes (another DUH)
Now that a baby is entering your home for 24/7 messes, spillage, pooping and spitting-up, wipes are going to be your best friend. They definitely come in handy for any mess, even the not-baby related ones. Make sure to keep extras in your diaper bag AND your car, just in case you run out of the ones in the bag, you’ll be able to restock wherever you go.
There’s really no need to buy those extra wipes specifically for pacifiers, etc. A regular wipe should do the trick. Then again, I am the kind of mom who makes sure the binky’s clean by popping it in my own mouth before giving it to K2. (Is that gross? It’s not like I do that for other kids!)
#3. Diaper Bag
Ok Mama, this new bag designed especially for baby is essentially going to become your new purse. What’s the sense of lugging around 2 huge bags with you everywhere?? You know you treat your own purse like a catch-all, anyway! Now you’ll have more room. 🙂
Whether you’re an “it can only be designer” kind of gal or a “whatever looks cute” kind, there is a diaper bag that’s perfect for you. Lucky for us, I’m not that fancy when it comes to bags. I actually wanted a diaper bag that James and I wouldn’t mind caring around. (I vetoed his manly Molle diaper bag, though.) We compromised on a gender-neutral one at Buy Buy Baby that we both liked. Now he doesn’t mind carrying it around when I need him to, and it’s the only bag I need for me and baby.
One item you absolutely CANNOT forget (I’m serious, they won’t let you take baby home from the hospital without it) is a CARSEAT. This is going to be one of your most important purchases, possibly one of the most expensive–so shop smart!
You’ll need something rear facing for an infant.
They can be purchased on their own like this one.
Or in a “set” or “travel system” like this one.
Or as a 3-in-1 like this one here.
A 3-in-1 actually grows with your child, adjusting to fit their size as they mature, from rear-facing to forward-facing to booster seat. A travel system comes wth a stroller that the carseat can actually snap into, which can definitely come in handy when you’re shopping or going on walks with baby in tow.
Of course you can go the extra frugal route and purchase a used car seat. However, you’ll want to be very careful. You could be compromising your child’s safety unless you’re certain of the seat’s history. Stay away from car seats that are 6+ years old, have been in a car accident, have cracks, or don’t have labels. If you do go used, make sure to look up the model number so you can make sure it wasn’t recalled.
This isn’t really a necessity for keeping sweet baby alive so much as making life much easier for parents. A stroller is a must-have if you ever plan on taking baby with you on shopping trips, visits to the mall or flea market, walks in the park, etc. Basically, any time you plan on walking for an extended period of time. Because no, you cannot expect to carry baby around wherever you go. He/she will grow and the heavier they get, the stronger your arms will have to be! If you purchase the car seat/stroller travel system, you’ll be right as rain in any of these situations.
K2 usually falls right to sleep when we push her in the one we bought. However, if you don’t plan on getting a stroller yet, a baby carrier is another nice (cheaper) option for toting baby around on long walks. Keep in mind, though, that baby usually needs to be a certain weight. Most babies meet that minimum, unless they’re very new or premature.
#6. Bassinet (or any place to sleep)
When my third and youngest brother was born, my parents had no money to spend on any kind of baby bed. They had the crib they kept with the first three kids, but they didn’t have a place to fit it in their room, and baby needed to sleep near them at first. With four children and a meager income, they were experts on getting the most out of what they had. So, my brother slept in a laundry basket for awhile. It worked just as well as any fancy bassinet.
Basically, your baby is going to need any kind of designated sleeping area that you can come up with.
This could be a crib, bassinet, laundry basket, a box (hello Finland), or even a drawer. During the first few months of his/her life, you’re probably going to want them sleeping as close to you as possible, considering that they’re going to need you-and often-throughout the night. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but you can try to make it comfortable. The best place to let baby sleep is somewhere away from loose blankets/toys/pillows/etc. You don’t want anything to fall in front of their face that could potentially keep them from breathing.
Luckily, I’ve been fortunate enough with both my girls to have had friends give us their old bassinet to use, and even a crib. I decided to keep her in the bassinet next to my side of the bed for now, until she can sit up on her own. Once that happens in a few months we’ll move her to her own room so she can sleep in the crib.
Jumpsuits are the easiest, most versatile outfits for baby to wear. When they’re very little, I feel like jumpsuits are really the only outfit they need, especially when you bundle them up in blankets all the time.
Unlike pants, jumpsuits give you easy access to diapers with only a few snaps at the bottom. This makes diaper-changing a breeze. Plus, if baby gets really messy, many jumpsuits have these overlapping shoulders that allow you to actually peel the clothing off in the opposite direction. i.e. – when baby has a blowout, pull the jumpsuit down and keep the poo from getting in their hair and on their head.
At a minimum, you should have 10 jumpsuits-1 for each day of the week and a few extra just in case you go through multiple in a day (which often happens). Provided you do laundry at least once a week, this should work just fine.
In case you want to know what sizes to start out with, you should know that every clothing brand is different. K2, for example, drowns in everything Gerber but fits in the Carter’s brand perfectly. Her sister K, however, rarely fit in any brand perfectly, because she was so long and skinny. She wasn’t in size 3 months until she was almost 5 months. K2 is more average-baby sized. She was in Preemie (normally up to 7lbs) for only a week (even though she was 4 weeks early) and stayed in Newborn (usually for 6-8lbs) for only a couple more weeks. By 6 weeks old, she fit in 3 months clothing (9-12lbs).
Needless to say, the sizing you purchase will all depend on how much baby actually weighs. Which is something you won’t know for sure until after baby gets here. Try keeping just a few items in several sizes, and keep the tags on. Don’t sweat it too much, though. Most stores are great about letting people make exchanges without receipts these days. You can always swap things out for different sizes.
Sleepers (baby footie pajamas) may be the greatest clothing invention for babies in all of history. They keep baby warm and cozy, give parents easy access to diaper changing, and can look incredibly cute! My favorite kinds have the zipper on them (much quicker than snaps) and are made of terry cloth.
K2 has an abhorrence for anything cold or wet (she even hates warm baths!). She is her happiest self in dry, dark, warm places. The warmer she is, the longer she sleeps, so sleepers are her obvious fave.
These things get so much flak! People can scare themselves out of using pacifiers when they hear that binkies cause kid’s teeth to grow crooked, or that it can confuse them with nursing. In our experience (with both my girls) pacifiers have been a God-send!
Neither of my girls experienced any kind of nipple confusion after using a pacifier. Although some people choose to wait until baby is a couple weeks old and has established nursing well, just to be on the safe side, K2 started using one by the second day. She’s been a much fussier baby than her older sister was, and I got my first dose of colic crying when she was 6 weeks old (it continues today, but we’re working on remedies for that). Sometimes a pacifier is the only thing that will calm her down.
If you’ve started checking out pacifiers at the store with all the cute sayings or little mustaches on them, you’ve probably noticed the nipples come in different shapes and sizes. In our experience, the MAM brand pacifiers with rounded/symmetrical nipples are what both my girls, and many of my friends’ kids, prefer. K2 prefers them because they’re shorter than alternative styles. We’ve tried the bent style nipples which are supposedly “better for teeth development” but K2 gags on them. That will probably change when she’s older, but until then we’re sticking to this style.
#10. A Halo, Sleep Sack Swaddle
Ah, the Halo. These things are wonderful, mamas. I had seen advertisements for these in all kinds of magazines before having K2, and I never gave them a second thought. They looked weird to me in all the ads, and I didn’t think it necessary to purchase one. I mean, look at that picture right there^^^! Doesn’t it look weird to you??? I just figured I’d stick with the old fashion blankets, lol.
Boy was I wrong!
Lucky for us, the hospital we had K2 at carried the Halo Sleep Sack for every baby to use. The newborn sized one swallowed K2, so they gave us the preemie one instead. They snuggled her up in it and the nurse said we were free to take one home with us. I am so thankful! K2 falls asleep so much easier in the Sleep Sack because it’s so tight but also stretchy at the same time. Plus it keeps her arms from flailing out into the open air. You may think you’ll be able to swaddle baby just fine in normal blankets – and you just might – but this thing gets the job done SO much easier. (Velcro, what what!) When I swaddle K2 in normal blankets, she always gets her hands out and the blanket falls off. Not with this thing! Muahaha!
Now that I know what a beautiful invention the Halo Sleep Sack is, I tell every mama I know. And try to gift it as often as possible. Add this to your registry!
#11. Burp Cloths
Yet another item you can’t have enough of–burp cloths. Babies spit up. Some more than others, but it’s totally normal. K2’s pediatrician, Dr. Sickler, explained that a baby’s digestive muscles aren’t fully developed yet, so when she eats, milk can kind of be “free-flowing”. K2 is such a good eater, she tends to eat more and…well, overflow. Ha!
We didn’t have nearly enough burp cloths to last us and had to make a trip to the store for more only two days after coming home from the hospital. My favorite kinds are the super absorbent ones made of terry cloth or flannel. With a lot of the other materials, liquid just slides off. Pretty much useless if you ask me.
Blankets, blankets, blankets.
Prepare to stock up! You’re going to be getting so many blankets from baby showers and gift sets they’ll be coming out your ears, which is a blessing if you ask me. There are a couple different kinds you should take note of.
Swaddling or Receiving Blankets
One being swaddling blankets. Baby loves being warm and bundling up in these, sometimes even 2 at a time. You’ll want to have enough of them to last you a week (or until laundry day) and should prepare to go through 1-3 a day, similar to jumpsuits (because messes happen!). I’d say 10-15 is a great amount.
The second kind are the beautiful homemade quilts and such. You’ll be using those not only to decorate baby’s nursery or crib, but also for something much more important–tummy time. As your baby grows, she’ll need time to exercise her muscles each day. The first thing she’ll need to focus on are her neck muscles, and the best way to practice is on her tummy! You can start off by laying her face down on your chest until she gets strong enough to wobble her head into an upright position. Then you’ll want to graduate onto the quilt or blanket on the floor. Place toys and things around her that catch her eye as an incentive for her to turn and look with her head up.
#13. Boppy Pillow
Boppy pillows are magnificent creations that make it oh so much easier on Mommy–for many things!
For one, they fit perfectly under baby when you’re nursing. The pillow fits around your tummy and allows your arms (with baby in them) to rest gently on the pillow. This makes nursing so much easier on the arm muscles! With a boppy pillow you won’t have to worry about your arms getting tired when baby nurses and then falls asleep.
For another reason, boppy pillows are perfect for setting baby in so that they don’t go anywhere (when they’re very little). If I need to set baby down for a second, whatever the reason, I can lay her down inside the u-shaped pillow, propped up to see the world. She likes being able to look around the room much more than just laying down staring at the ceiling.
You can also use the pillow to prop baby up on her chest to help strengthen those neck muscles. It’s like tummy time, but not as much pressure on the stomach. Sounds more comfortable, to me!
#14. Breast Pump
If you’re planning on nursing, you’ll be needing a breast pump. Not only to help increase milk supply, but to pump and store extra milk for when baby is away from you (especially if you plan on going back to work), for when other people (Dad, or big sister, for example) would like to feed her, or for back up if you happen to have a night out where alcohol was involved. There are so many reasons having extra milk on hand can be helpful!
Get one for Free
Plus, if you have health insurance, you could potentially have the entire cost of a pump, covered! My OBGYN let me in on this little tidbit, that apparently is thanks to the Affordable Care Act (I found one good thing!). They referred me to a website that was supposed to mail the pump of my choice to my home, but my insurance was not part of that particular program.
So, I took it upon myself to give my health insurance a call. The representative was so helpful! She pointed me in the direction of 3 different websites that would bill my insurance company directly and send me the breast pump straight to my door. I went with Byram Healthcare’s medical supply site. Check out the link yourself, and if your insurance isn’t on their list (there are tons on there!) then try giving your insurance company a call to ask where you can order yours.
#15. Breast pads (free samples)
If you haven’t already realized it, the baby business is booming these days, and there are millions of companies in the industry. That means as a woman about to have a baby, every company is going to be fighting for your business! Ultimately, they want you to register with them, because they know how much traffic that will bring them with all your friends and family wanting to buy you exactly what you want. And in order to get you in the door to do that, many stores will actually give you a “congratulatory” gift bag full of coupons, free samples and baby-related goodies.
Places like Target, Buy Buy Baby, and Babies R Us are just a few of those wonderful companies.
James and I had no idea when we registered at Buy Buy Baby and Target that we would be getting so much cool stuff – for free! We got a bottle, a pacifier, a “baby on board” sign, samples of laundry detergent, lotion, desitin, lanolin cream, and even formula.
Do you know how many breast pads I got as free samples?? To be honest, I only ever used them during that first couple weeks where your breasts are always so full of milk they leak all the time. But that leaking goes away, as did my need for breast pads in my bra. This may not be the case for every mother, but from my experience, I never even went through the free sample stash. If I were you, I’d use those up before I actually bought a box.
#16. Nipple Cream (free samples)
So here’s the reality of nursing–in the beginning, it may take awhile for you and baby to actually get the hang of it and do it right. When baby isn’t latching correctly and/or your nipple isn’t stretching far enough back in baby’s mouth, this can cause your nipples to crack and bleed. This happened to me I’d say for about a week until I researched proper latching technique in one of my pregnancy books and started being mindful of how K2 was eating.
To be better prepared, I’d suggest you take the free samples you get of Lanolin nipple cream (thank you Buy Buy Baby!) to the hospital with you. Toss them in your hospital bag–just in case! If you use them up and need more, it’s not expensive to stock up. Hopefully, though, you won’t need it for very long.
#17. Desitin (again, free samples)
Desitin, or any kind of diaper rash ointment really, is a necessity with a little one. You may think your little one could never get diaper rash as long as you stay on top of changing their diaper. Unfortunately, there will come a time when baby’s butt will get red enough to call for this. It could be because they stayed in a wet diaper too long, or it could mean that they’ve had a lot more dirty diapers in a shorter period of time, or it could be something completely unrelated.
It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent, trust me. Every baby will get it at one point.
It’s much better to be prepared by having the cream on hand for when diaper rash does pop up, rather than not having it when you really need it. No one wants to make a trip up to CVS with a crying baby because their bum hurts when it all could have been prevented in the first place! Thankfully, those free samples come in handy once again. We actually got a nice size tube of Desitin when we registered with Target. Woop woop!
#18. Automatic Baby Swing
An automatic swing was something I originally thought to be unnecessary and frivolous.
Until K2 was born.
K2 has been a fussy baby from the get-go and almost always wants to be held. Rocking, shushing while walking around are the only way to get her to sleep when she’s really upset. Once James and I realized this, we both agreed that we needed to invest in a baby swing. We needed something that could do the rocking for us so that we could actually set baby down once in a while and maybe–I don’t know -take a shower???
But we also knew we couldn’t spend a fortune on a new swing.
So, we took a trip to Once Upon a Child. If you’re a parent or soon-to-be parent, you should know that Once Upon A Child, or Kid to Kid, are going to be your best friends. Kids grow fast, which means they’ll grow out of clothing before you can blink. If you have the money, by all means feel free to restock baby’s wardrobe every few months at Janie and Jack, or Baby Gap. We, however, are not that kind of family. I see no reason to fork over so much money on brand new clothing when there are stores like Once Upon a Child with like-new and gently used baby items up for grabs!
We found an automated baby swing there, that was small enough to set on a table top, very sturdy, and that played music and nature sounds for only $40. I call that a win!
#19. Music/White Noise Smartphone App
Sometimes you need help getting baby to quiet down, or go to sleep, or stay asleep! And there are PLENTY of free or inexpensive apps out there that provide music, sounds, and/or white noise for baby. You can set your phone or tablet near baby’s bed and leave it on for a certain period of time until she falls asleep. Or, if you don’t want an app, try an album of relaxing classical music off iTunes. Yeah, there are a lot of stuffed animals that play music or make whooshing heartbeat sounds at the store, but you have less control over how long the sounds play with those things. I love the ease of using a smartphone to help quiet baby, instead of constantly having to rewind or replay a stuffed animal.
#20. Baby Carrier
We touched a little on baby carriers earlier when we talked about strollers and toting baby around. Baby carriers are wonderful to have when little one loves being close to you. K2 is one of those little ones who just loves being held and can get pretty upset when you put her down sometimes. On days when I’m tired of fighting it and just want her to sleep so I can do laundry, or dishes, or the million other things on my to-do list, I put the baby carrier on.
James and I actually have 2 carriers, one we got from a K2 baby shower and another I kept from when K was little. We’ve kept both because having a pre-adjusted carrier for each of us on hand is much easier than re-adjusting one carrier each time we take turns using it. I will say, however, it is very obvious which carrier is higher quality–the one we got with K2! The older one we have has absolutely no back support, and the positioner in the back is constantly sliding up, causing K2 to fall further and further down my front. It can really make your back hurt!
This is actually the carrier we do like. It’s made of better material, is more cushioned, has more support, and keeps baby in place. It’s not a bad price, either!
#21 & 22. Gas Drops/Gripe Water and Infant Tylenol
Gas drops and infant Tylenol I like to group together. They’re the 2 forms of medication you should always have on hand with baby, just to be prepared.
There will be times when baby is so fussy you have no idea what to do. It could be gas! Which is why Mylecon drops, gas drops, or gripe water can really come in handy. You can also try moving baby’s legs in a circular motion to help relieve the discomfort, or try bouncing and patting their back for a burp.
Tylenol can be handy if baby ever runs a fever. Many times after baby gets a set of shots (which starts the day after they’re born!) they can get a small fever and be a bit fussy. Doctors usually say a dose of infant Tylenol (a dosage they dictate) can help.
#23. Hand Sanitizer
In case this one isn’t obvious–hand sanitizer is another must-have. Friends and family are going to want to hold your new baby, a lot. As a way to keep germs to a minimum, keeping hand sanitizer on hand is good way to make sure everyone’s hands are clean. No need to only take their word for it!
Originally, I was going to put changing table as one of the 25 essentials. But to be honest, you don’t necessarily need a special table just to change baby on. Obviously the easiest way to designate a changing area is with a “changing station”. But you don’t have to purchase those expensive extra pieces of furniture. You could take an old dresser, remove the mirror, and secure the changing pad to the top surface. As long as you have a designated area, preferably with a special changing pad, you should be just fine.
Honestly, you could do without a changing pad entirely. That is, if you don’t mind changing baby on a bed or other soft surface. Remember, though, that blowouts DO happen! If you like to keep things clean, it’s better to have a changing pad with a removable and washable cover that you can easily clean whenever bodily fluids dirty it up!
#25. Play matLastly, for our 25th item–a play mat.
No, this is not a life or death necessity for taking care of baby. However, it is a very helpful item that can keep baby happily entertained while you work on your chores and to-do lists (or while writing blog posts!). Not only is it fun for baby, but it can make tummy time much more interesting for them. K2, for example, isn’t a big fan of tummy time yet. I think she gets tired of holding her head up to look at everything. A play mat, however, usually comes with removable toys that dangle above baby’s head. You can take them down and place them in front of your little one to keep her curious while exercising those muscles!
I hope this list helps some of you new parents or parents with new babies on the way! It certainly breaks down the bare necessities, and definitely would have been nice to have when James and I were planning our registry.
So to make things easier on you as a mom or soon-to-be-mom, I created a Baby Registry Checklist to share with you!
It has all the items listed above, as well as lots of other items you may decide to add to your registry.
Leave the “I’m so lost” thoughts behind when you start building your registry. And if you take the checklist with you, you can knock out that registry-building in one shot!
PS: Have you chosen a baby name yet?!