Veteran moms know what newborn babies really need. But for a first time expectant mother, it’s easy to get carried away when furnishing and stocking a nursery. Many first time moms will refer to some sort of checklist found on whatever pregnancy app they are using, like The Bump, or one provided by the retailer they decide to use for their baby (shower) registry. Either way, these list make it seem like babies need a lot more than they really do. Sure, some of these items may make your life a little easier, but many of them are completely unnecessary.
So what do you really need? In reality, you just need the basics – a bed, diapers, clothes, and food are all your baby really needs. But there are some additional items that will make your life with a newborn a little easier and your baby happier. First, let’s talk about the basics.
Bed. You will definitely need a place for your baby to sleep. Even though Leo sleeps in our room at night, I still wanted him to have a crib to sleep in so he would be comfortable sleeping in his room as well. We chose to get a convertible crib – one that can be turned into a toddler bed, daybed, and later, a full size bed, with the proper conversion kits. I’m all about investing in products that can grow with a child. Get a nice, firm mattress for your baby’s crib. Ideally, just get a crib that comes with a mattress. Don’t worry about getting a mattress pad or cover – just get a mattress that has a built-in waterproof cover. Also, get a couple pairs of crib fitted sheets. And, if you plan to have your baby sleep in your room for the first year, which you should (the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that you do and it makes night time feeding and diaper changes much more convenient), there is no need to spend money on a bassinet. Sure they are cute, but why spend that kind of money on something your baby is only going to sleep in for three or four months. Instead, buy a play yard or pack n’ play (whatever you want to call it) with a bassinet feature so that your baby has a safe place to sleep in your room, a safe place to sleep when you travel, and a safe place to play when you want to take a shower.
Diapers (and wipes). Whether you decide to do cloth or disposables, babies need diapers. Each has their pros and cons. We decided to use disposable diapers because we wanted to save on water. Now that I am a mom of a six-month-old, I realize that it probably wouldn’t have mattered in the end – I still do at least one load of laundry everyday. If you do choose to use disposable diapers, I suggest using the brand Seventh Generation. Their Free and Clear diapers are better for the environment than most other brands, great for baby’s sensitive skin (no bleach, fragrance, or lotions), and reasonably priced. Make sure you get at least a two-week supply of newborn size diapers and then start ordering them online. Thrive Market carries Seventh Generation diapers and wipes (along with their other Free and Clear household products) as does Amazon and Target.
Clothes. It’s very easy to go overboard buying baby clothes. I mean, come on, they are so little and cute. Don’t even bother going to an actual store – you will more than likely spend way to much money after you’ve ohhed and awwed over all those tiny little clothes. It was hard enough for me to restrain myself and I did all of my shopping online. Here’s my advice – don’t bother with the little outfits. Unless you plan on getting professional photos of your baby, they are completely unnecessary. Just get a few days worth (10 to 12) of sleep and plays/footies/pajamas (or what ever it is you call the one-piece getups with the zippers/snaps). Do not get too many newborn size clothes. Unless you or your significant other were small babies, your baby will outgrow any newborn size clothes before the first month is over. I bought maybe 2 or 3 pairs of newborn pajamas – the rest of his clothes were 0 to 3 month size. If your baby is due in the warmer months you may want some short and long sleeve bodysuits as well, but again, just get enough for a few days. You may also want a few hats, booties/socks, and a pair of “mittens” depending on where you live. We live in Michigan, so you never know how warm or cold it’s going to be on any given day.
Food. Your baby will either need breast milk, formula, or a combination of the two. Whatever you decide, as long as your pediatrician feels your baby is getting proper nutrition, do what works best for you and your baby. I chose to exclusively breastfeed Leo. The choice was really a no-brainer for me. I mean, we are mammals right? It seemed like the most natural thing to do. It’s what’s best for my baby and benefits me as well. If you plan to spend any amount of time away from your baby, you will need to invest in some form of breast pump and a few bottles. Try to buy bottles with nipples that most closely resemble your own. If you plan to stay home with your baby, you really only need a few bottles (3 to 4). I bought way too many and they are just taking up space in the kitchen.
Car Seat. You will most certainly need an infant car seat. They won’t let you take your baby home from the hospital without one. I suggest investing in a travel system so that you can easily transfer your baby from the car to the stroller, but more on that topic later.
Now, although your baby really only needs the basics, there are some additional items that will make your life a little easier. And while people have been raising babies for thousands of years without these modern conveniences, there are some items that I’d suggest getting if you can afford them.
Changing Table. You can change a baby’s diaper anywhere. Hell, I change Leo’s diaper in the back of my husband’s SUV when we are on the road. But having a changing table will make diaper duty a little easier for you. You want something that will allow you to have everything you need within arms reach – diapers, wipes, diaper cream, extra clothes, etc. To save on space, get a dresser that can fit a changing pad on top, like the Keekaroo Peanut.
Rocking Chair. Whether you plan on breastfeeding or giving your baby formula, invest in a comfortable rocking chair or recliner. Babies eat constantly – you might as well be comfortable.
Stroller. Buying a stroller is like buying a car. There are so many different manufacturers and brands to choose from. And within each brand there are different models, each with a variety of features to fit your unique lifestyle. Start out by buying a stroller that is compatible with your infant car seat. A large storage basket, hand break, and cup holder are other nice features, especially if you live in an urban area and do a lot of walking. Also, if you plan on having more than one child, consider getting a stroller that can grow with your family by adding an additional seat, glider board, or bench. Baby Jogger’s City Select and the Britax B-Ready strollers can both be customized with a variety of seating options and attachments to fit your family’s needs. Wait until your baby is older before investing in a lightweight stroller. We plan to get Baby Jogger’s City Tour when Leo is old enough. It weighs only 14 lbs., has an extendable canopy, a small storage basket, and folds up small enough to fit into a carry case that you can then wear as a backpack. Need I say more?
Carrier/Wrap. In the early days, your baby would love nothing more than to be snuggled up with you all day. A wrap can come in handy when your baby wants to be with you but your arms are tired. Other times you may want to take your baby somewhere that just isn’t stroller friendly, in which case a soft shell infant carrier may work better. I bought a Moby Wrap and used it often when Leo was a newborn.
Now, I primarily use our Ergobaby carrier because it’s more comfortable and doesn’t need to be readjusted. I love our Ergobaby, however, had I done more research on infant carriers I probably would have purchased an Action Baby carrier because they are made here in Detroit and I’m all about supporting local businesses. Whatever you decide, find a carrier that is easy to put on and adjust, has a cover that can protect your baby from the sun, and a small pocket to keep your wallet and cellphone.
Diaper Bag. There are so many choices out there when it comes to diaper bags. I started out with a Skip Hop Duo diaper bag tote. It has plenty of pockets that help keep all of Leo’s things organized. A few months ago I invested in a diaper backpack – the Skip Hop Forma . It’s great because it frees up my hands, which makes things easier now that Leo is older and more mobile. Whatever you decide, get a bag that can double as your purse if you are accustomed to carrying one. Make sure it has plenty of internal and external pockets to help you keep your baby’s things organized and make sure it has space for all of the things you will need for a day out with your little one – diapers, wipes, diaper cream, sunscreen, changing pad, extra clothes, sun hat, spare pacifiers, toys, snacks, and bottles, not to mention your phone, wallet, and keys. You may also want to get to get a mini-diaper bag like the Skip Hop Pronto Signature Changing Station. It has just enough space for a small pack of wipes (box included), a few diapers, and a change of clothes, plus it comes with a detachable changing pad. It’s great for short trips, like when we go to the grocery store or out for a walk, and it makes diaper changes easier on road trips because you don’t have to lug your big diaper bag to the bathroom at each rest stop.
Diaper Pail. You will definitely want a trash can with a lid for all those dirty diapers you will be changing. Get one that allows you to lock the lid if you can. The special diaper pails they sell are nice, but they do not hold nearly as much as a regular trash can and the liners that go in them cost an arm and a leg compared to regular trash bags. Get some of those Arm and Hammer trash bags if you are worried about the smell.
Hamper. Get a hamper and put it right next to the changing table. Your baby will be going through a lot of wardrobe changes between diaper blowouts and spitting up. And just wait until they start eating solid foods!
Burp Cloths and Bibs. Babies spit up a lot after they eat, especially at first. I underestimated how many burp cloths and bibs we would go through and needed to order more. There is no need to get ones with cute little saying and graphics – plan white bibs will do. And make sure you find a brand of burp cloths that are absorbent, because, as ridiculous as it sounds, many of them are not.
Bath Tub. Babies only need a bath a few times a week. An infant bath tub makes bathtime a lot easier for you and safer for your baby. I really like our Primo Eurobath Tub. It has a contoured area where your newborn can lay back in a reclined position safely in addition to a safe area for your baby to sit upright where they’re older. It’s pretty big, but fits in a standard size bathtub.
Bath Accessories. Babies have sensitive skin, so find a brand of body wash/shampoo and lotion that you feel will be gentle enough for your baby. You will also want a few hooded towels and some small washcloths to clean those itty-bitty toes.
Healthcare/Grooming Kit. You will need a brush, comb, nail clippers, scissors, emery boards, nasal aspirator, thermometer, medicine spoon/dispenser, and an infant toothbrush. A healthcare and grooming kit typically contains all of these items neatly arranged in a conveniently sized storage bag.
Swaddle Blankets. Babies like to be swaddled. It reminds them of the cozy confines of the womb. You can swaddle a baby with receiving blankets, but I personally like the swaddle blankets that come with velcro. We had a handful of the SwaddleMe swaddles – Leo slept like a charm in them. When he was learning to roll over we still used them like sleep sacks and just wrapped them around his torso and left his arms out.
Pacifiers. When we had Leo I was set on not using pacifiers. I didn’t want him to rely on them. After about a week, I got over it. The sucking reflex is soothing to a newborn and some babies have a stronger urge to suck than others, my son included. So I figured, I can give him a pacifier or he will be using my boob as one. When he starts to get cranky or fussy I give it to him and then get him to bed as soon as I can. Otherwise, he doesn’t really use one. Whether you want to use pacifiers or not, I suggest buying at least a two-pack just in case.
Baby Monitor. If you live in a small house or apartment, you probably don’t really need a baby monitor. However, they do help reassure new parents that their baby is sleeping safe and sound. They make all kinds of monitors these days, many that transmit not only sound but video as well. Some even come with little anklets for the baby so you can monitor their temperature and heart rate. We bought the Motorola Remote Wireless Split Screen Video Monitor. It doesn’t have too many bells and whistles, but it allows me to keep an eye on Leo while he’s sleeping. I can zoom in and reassure myself that, yes, he is still breathing, without going in his room and disturbing him (which is something I still do EVERY SINGLE DAY).
White Noise Machine. This is something I did not buy until after Leo was born, namely because I didn’t realize I would need or want one. When Leo was a newborn the white noise would calm him down almost instantaneously. We still use it but now it’s more of a sleep association – when I play the white noise he knows it’s time to sleep. I ended up buying two sleep machines for two reasons. I wanted one for his room and one for ours. I also wanted one that was more compact and travel friendly. We ended up buying the Skip Hop Moonlight and Melodies Nightlight and Soother for his room. I love it because with the press of a button you can shine stars on the ceiling, which make for a great nightlight. It also has a handful of melodies it can play in addition to white noise and nature sounds. We also purchased a VTech Safe & Sound Portable Sound Machine and Soother, which is great because it can hang on a doorknob or on the handle of a car seat and is small enough to pack. It also has a little night light that automatically shuts off after about ten minutes, which makes night time diaper changes and feedings easier.
Bouncer. Sometimes you need to eat. Sometimes you need to take a shower. And sometimes you just need a safe place for your baby to relax. A bouncer is great for all of these things. They take up less space and are more portable than a swing. We registered for a very basic bouncer – the Fisher-Price My Little Snugabunny Deluxe Newborn Rock ‘n Play Sleeper. The only thing it really does is vibrate with the flip of a switch. Leo loved his little “hammock”. We used it daily until he outgrew it around four months (my kid is really tall).
Books. You should try to read to your baby everyday. Create a small library of children’s books at home and then supplement by borrowing books from the library. I bought about a dozen board books to start, some black and white books, which are good for newborns, and some classics, like Goodnight Moon and Corduroy. I then raided my parent’s basement and took all of the books from my childhood that my mom had kept. I also had a lot of children’s book that I had bought over the years for my classroom. Needless to say, Leo has a lot of books.
Baby Proofing Kit. At first you may say to yourself, “I will have plenty of time to baby proof my house before my baby starts to crawl.” But here’s the thing, they start to roll over way before they learn to crawl and you would be surprised at how quickly and efficiently a baby can get from one side of the room to the other by just rolling around and spinning on their stomachs. And time – what’s that? My advice is to make your house as baby friendly as you can before your baby arrives. Make space in the rooms you spend the most time in so your baby will have room to play on the floor. Check your house for tipping hazards. Look out for furniture with sharp edges. Get some outlet covers so you can at least have that much done. And for cabinets and drawers, get some magnetic cabinet and drawer locks. They are really easy to install.
Teething Toys. Babies start to teeth a lot earlier than you would think. Leo started putting everything into his month by the time he was three months old. We bought about half a dozen Nuby Silcone Teethers (Stage 1 and 2) for him as well as this little teething toy that looks like corn on the cob that he just loves (Baby Banana Corn Cob Infant Toothbrush and Teether).
Baby Gym/Activity Mat. Newborns don’t need much in the way of toys. However, one item I do suggest getting, in addition to teethers, is an activity mat or baby gym. We were gifted the Skip Hop Alphabet Zoo Activity Gym. Leo started using it as early as four weeks. We used it for tummy time and then, once he got tired, we put him on his back and he would flail his arms at the objects. After a few weeks his arm movements were a bit more controlled and he would try to bat at the animals. And before we knew it, he was grasping and mouthing at the zebra or lion. The great thing about the Alphabet Zoo Activity Gym is that the animals can be removed. So now, even though Leo has outgrown the activity gym, he still likes to play with all of the animals that came with it while he rolls around and scouts on the floor.
I hope this guide has been helpful. Look out for my next post on what gear you’ll need when your baby is three to six months old!