Continuing our series during this final year of AoS of the top 12 published posts of all time (measured in simple traffic numbers), I adore that this one is so popular, at number 5, because my kids are now 10, 12, and 15. How time flies! We’ve updated links, so the info here is still relevant — just know that if it applies to your life, you’ll blink and be in the passenger seat doing driver’s ed with that baby before you know it. Perhaps this is comforting: I remember dealing with almost none of what’s in this post.
There’s a lot out there in stores you don’t actually need for a newborn baby—but this doesn’t mean you need nothing. Throughout human history, parents have managed to raise the next generation with very few items; the “must haves” of today’s culture weren’t even invented not that long ago.
Here are the eight things I do find essential during the new baby stage.
This is as basic as you get. Sure, there’s elimination communication for the truly frugal and die-hard, but you’ll do just fine with a basic stash of cloth diapers, wipes, and diaper liners. Here’s our 101 on getting started.
If that’s intimidating, though, don’t sweat it—there are eco-friendly disposable diaper options, such as these.
2. Portable Playard
For our mobile lifestyle, a pack ‘n play has proven essential both on the road and at home. I know it’s tempting to get a classic crib with the coordinating sheets and bumper, but it’s not a necessity.
We had a classic crib with our firstborn, then we moved overseas and were given one with our second. We moved back to the states with our third-born, and we stuck with only a pack-n-play like this one as his main bed. It was perfect because it stayed by my side of the bed for months for easy reach with the newborn mattress setting, then stayed with him through toddlerhood.
3. Baby Carrier
Babywearing is healthy for bonding and comfort, and it makes basic household tasks, like folding clothes, much easier. It’s also easy to be overwhelmed at the selection of baby carriers. There’s no one perfect carrier, but I loved the Ergo baby carrier with infant insert. It’ll last you years, through all the baby and toddler stages.
4. Basic Layette
Your newborn obviously needs clothes, but you don’t need nearly the amount nor the extravagance of a wardrobe that mainstream baby registries will have you believe. Plus, they soil several clothes daily, making those fancy outfits seem over-the-top for daily use.
A stash of onesies, pants, socks, little t-shirts, and a lightweight hat are all you need, with a few more layers for colder weather. Save those photo-worthy outfits for when they’re just a bit bigger.
5. Swaddling Blankets
You won’t know ahead of time whether your newborn will prefer swaddling (my oldest hated it; my second-born loved it). Either way, these stretchable blankets are quite useful for a variety of things, from swaddling, to tummy time, to cuddling in a stroller. Genuinely useful.
6. Car Seat
You don’t need anything fancy—it just needs to be safe and up to standards. If you need a stroller, go with an all-in-one set that works together. It might seem more expensive, but it’ll last you through toddlerhood, saving money and space (no need for extra strollers).
7. Basic Grooming Tools
A newborn’s fingernails grow surprisingly fast. The amount of snot from such a tiny thing is downright shocking. Occasionally you’ll need to check your little one’s temperature. And he or she just might find comfort with gas relief drops.
You won’t know for sure when you’ll need these items, but you sure don’t want to be stuck without them at 2 a.m. It’s a good idea to have on hand simple tools like baby fingernail clippers, a bulb syringe, a thermometer, and gripe water.
8. Burp Cloths
Babies are messy. Simple cloth diapers used as burp cloths are absorbent. You can do the math—trust me, these things come in handy for all sorts of reasons. In the early months, we go through several of these babies daily.
There are a few other things our family found helpful, but I wouldn’t exactly call them essential—we used a bouncy seat with all our babies, two of ours liked a swing for a few weeks, and our middle baby had fun with a door jumper once he could hold up his head. But none of these things are fundamental.
As babies grow, other things might become useful, like a stroller, simple toys, and sometimes a playmat, but there’s no reason to invest in these things until you know your particular needs and your baby’s preferences. Until then, save your money for the things you truly need.