We were very blessed (yes, blessed) to be quite poor when expecting our first child. Our necessary frugality prevented the temptation to buy unnecessary or excessive quantities of baby gear. Seven children later, we still have a very basic list of what a parent needs for baby’s first months.
The following list is what we consider essential for small babies. No fluff, no extras, just the basic affordable essentials.
What Do You Need for a New Baby?
- safe and legal transport in vehicles…obviously. If you deliver at a hospital, they will not discharge you if you do not have a car seat.
- safe seat at home or away—far safer than setting baby on a couch.
- bed. Many people, including us, use car seats as beds for several months. The shaped sides of the car seat make baby feel snug, and the properly slanted seat keeps baby’s chest and head elevated to help combat reflux, congestion, and other baby issues.
Diapers—whether you go with disposable or cloth will determine how many diapers you need.
- Disposable—don’t buy too many newborn-size packs. Larger babies may not fit in the newborn diapers for more than one pack. Therefore, if you stock up during diaper sales, buy larger sizes.
- Cloth—figure about 10 per day, so the number you need to buy depends on how often you plan to wash them.
Clothes—you most certainly do not need a closet full of cute little outfits for someone whose main goal in life is to get some form of bodily fluid onto everything within a five-foot radius.
- Onesies and sleepers (footsie PJs or “baby bags”) are really all you need, although a sleep sack and bunting are helpful if you live in cold climates or have a winter baby. Again, if you do laundry every time Venus aligns with Neptune, you’ll need more than if you do laundry every day or two. We figure 4-ish outfits a day for our leaky babies.
- Do not stock up on too many size NB (newborn) or size 0, since they only fit for those first few weeks.
- Buy only the essentials. If you have gift-givers in your family, they will likely show up with the cute extras that baby doesn’t “need,” but that are fun for Mama to put on the little sweetie for three minutes before baby soils them.
- Garage sales are full of clothes that babies outgrew too quickly and which may have never been worn. All our babies were clothed from garage sales and gifts. Instead of giving baby debt and new clothes, go used!
- While it may be your ideal to get organic cotton, collarless, side-snapping outfits, your main goal is to keep baby comfortable and safe, so you may have to set your ideals to one side and think “budget.”
Bed—your baby needs a safe place to sleep. That does not mean baby needs the cherry sleigh crib with matching glider, changing table, and dresser…and a new house to put them in. Here are some options for baby’s sleep needs:
- car seat (see above). Talk to your pediatrician about this. Our docs have recommended it, but I’ve also read that some discourage it because parents may slant the seat too much, making it harder for the baby to breathe. A baby feels cozier in a fitted carseat than in a big empty crib, you need a carseat anyway, they don’t require sheets, and baby can be right by mama all the time.
- used crib. Do the safety checks! One little check I rarely see mentioned is not to use a crib held together by duct tape. Yup. Been there.
- bassinet or carriage.
- pack and play (formerly known as play pen).
- co-sleeping crib or bassinet.
- your bed. Bed-sharing is a hotly debated topic in mama world. If you co-sleep or bed-share, do it safely!
Blankets—thin receiving blankets are ideal for swaddling babies, and soft blankets are nice for holding and comforting baby. Blankets are also an option for nursing discretely.
Nursing support/information or formula and bottles—while breast is best and will save you as much as $2000 the first year alone, not everybody can supply enough milk, despite their best efforts. Do give it your best try and seek lots of support, whether from La Leche League, local support groups, books, websites, or other experienced moms. It may seem difficult at first, but once you both get the hang of it, it’s great! (I’ve nursed 7!) If you absolutely cannot nurse, don’t feel guilty! Discuss formula options with your pediatrician, or make your own.
Those are the essentials. A few additional items are also on my practically essential list:
Burp Cloths—better termed spew catchers. The best are the functional, plain variety, such as cheap, but absorbent cloth diapers or bibs. These are not on the absolutely essential list, because you can just use a small towel. Their purpose is to keep your clothes clean and baby dry from drool, spit-up, and the myriad of other fantastic surprises those little cuties spew at Mama. Plop ‘em on your lap, over your shoulder, in your pocket, anywhere…the burp cloths, not the baby.
Carrier—in my life, a baby carrier should be bumped up to the necessity list, but every mama’s life is different. Regardless, a baby carrier just makes sense, and here’s why:
- Baby is happiest in Mama’s arms, and this mama is happiest with baby in her arms rather than in a stroller, swing, or crying in a crib.
- By holding baby in a carrier, Mama still has two free hands to make sandwiches, change laundry, hold toddler hands, help with algebra, braid hair, play matchbox cars—you name it!
- Keeping baby close to Mama helps babies grow, sleep, find comfort, stay safe, and learn about their world.
- Wearing baby increases milk production for nursing mamas, and makes it easy to feed baby at any time.
- Using a baby carrier when out and about keeps baby with Mama at all times, preventing the “I just looked away for two seconds” disasters that may occur with strollers or shopping carts.
- Wearing baby at grocery stores is far safer than putting the infant seat on the cart, which has resulted in very serious injuries to babies.
Carriers come as back/front packs, slings, or wraps. I have used all three, and each has its perks. The Simple Homemaker will be giving away a $45 Moby Wrap in the next few weeks, so subscribe to get the heads up.
Nursing smock—a blanket can work well for discreet nursing if that’s your preference (and it is mine), so it really doesn’t belong on the essential list, but I have used my nursing smock enough to earn it a place of distinction here. Get one for the cost of shipping at Udder Covers using the code SIMPLE1.
Teen or pre-teen girls–raising a baby is much easier with a handful of trained girls helping out! Baby number seven is loving having four capable (and two entertaining) older siblings who know how to take care of a baby. No, you can’t have mine. Make your own.
What about the pacifiers, strollers, swing, changing table, baby station, bouncy chair, boppy, breast pump, bathtub, and on and on and on?
I said “essentials.” As you grow with your baby and learn about your particular parenting nuances and where you need additional support (bathtub, for example), you may wish to add an item or three. Also, while some items are fantastic, like a diaper bag, you may well be able to get by perfectly well with a large purse you already have. Proceed with caution as you add to your supply list, as most baby purchases go unused, or are used so seldom that they are not worth the money or clutter.
Dislosure statement: if you make a purchase through one of the above Amazon links, I will earn a small commission, but…don’t do it. Why not? Haven’t you been paying attention? For the price of, say, this cute little pair of Carter’s PJs from Amazon, you could buy between 15 and 80 sleepers at garage sales. Can you say “Never do laundry again!”?
In your experience, what do you need for a new baby?