What you need for baby. And what you don’t need.
Save money by learning what you’ll actually use (and why)…and what will sit collecting dust.
I almost didn’t post this article. I was doing keyword research and realized Google was never going to rank me. I’m going up against sites like Parents.com and What to Expect, which have their own guides on what you need for baby.
Then I realized I DO have something unique to contribute. I may not be a giant magazine. But I do have a four-month old sitting in a bouncer right now. I JUST went through months of having a newborn and know exactly what was useful. And what never got used.
I bought EVERYTHING. Seriously, I scoured books and the internet for lists. I compiled the ultimate list of everything my baby would need. I have not one, but two different style snot suckers. Which I’ve never used because- luckily- baby hasn’t gotten a runny nose yet. (We got COVID…but not a runny nose.)
Only to discover that baby had two primary interests in life: eating and sleeping. But, wow, was he picky about those two things. Especially the sleeping part.
Table of contents
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What You Need For Baby (& Will Actually Use)
Let’s start off with what will actually get used! That’s the most helpful. I also have details on why it worked for me.
The Boppy Nursing Pillow. I cannot rave enough about this. In fact, I wish I had taken it to the hospital with me! There I was adjusting three different pillows to get the perfect nursing position.
It’s been 4 & 1/2 months and we’re still using it. When he was smaller, I took it with me if I was feeding outside the house. (I tried the travel boppy, but didn’t like it…maybe my baby is just too wiggly). Now he’s big enough and eats quick enough, I just sit him on my lap when we’re not at home.
Changing Table with wheels & shelves. I got one with shelves and wheels. I innocently thought I needed the one with wheels because I would be move the changing table to my office during the day instead of carrying baby back and forth. Which I NEVER do. I actually just take the baby to the bedroom. But the wheels have come in handy because we’ve re-arranged the bedroom not once, but TWICE. And it’s been easy to move.
The many shelves have come in super-handy. Trust me. Get one with shelves. Baby’s accumulate crazy amount of small items.
I recommend this table in particular because it’s going to be useful even after the diaper phase. Just remove the changing pad and re-purpose it to a cart.
Speaking of changing diapers. I love the Munchkin Changing Pad because of its shape. I got the curved one and it’s been amazing! Zero concerns about baby rolling off (though, of course, I recommend using the safety strap and never leaving baby unattended). I got the BlueSnail Soft Minky Dot Covers to go over it and they fit perfectly and look great.
Graco Pack ‘n Play. I got the one with the bassinet insert and the changing table. The bassinet insert we used for 3 & 1/2 month. It was WONDERFUL!
Then he got close to “weighting” out of it. I could have continued to use the main part but I didn’t want to reach that far to the floor. (He wakes easily when I put him down). So we finally got a crib. But I’m SO GLAD I waited to get the crib. Because I wouldn’t have known until baby had been around for awhile that I wanted one that was adjustable height. In case you’re curious, I got Dream on Me convertible crib.
Oh, we haven’t used the portable changing thing it came with even once.
Fisher Price Deluxe Kick ‘n Play Piano Gym. This was actually the first toy I bought him. And has been used the most. When he was really little, he loved lying on it and watching the hanging toys. (The monkey in particular fascinated him). Then he started batting at them. Now he grabs and plays with them constantly and loves watching the piano light up. And since the toy transitions to just a piano, I’m betting we have at least another year of play out of this.
Nalakai Ring Sling. I highly, highly recommend this specific product, not just any ring sling. (I bought another style and the material was way too thick for hot days, and slipped through the rings too easily.)
Baby loves this thing. When he was younger, he would ONLY contact nap. And sometimes only fall asleep while I was bouncing on the exercise ball. So the ring sling saved my poor arms and back so much. Plus, when he did fall asleep, I could easily move to a more comfortable place.
Receiving blanket/swaddle. We seriously just got more of the ones the hospital has. (The hospital let us take home a couple.) Right down to the pattern. We got some muslin ones that were supposed to be swaddle blankets, but they were WAY TOO BIG. Like he would have been wrapped 5 times and overheated.
We tried a couple of other fancy swaddle outfits. And nothing worked as well as just wrapping him how the hospital did in a receiving blanket.
Muslin Burp Clothes. Baby actually didn’t spit up much. Or drool that much to start with. But it was still at least once a day. And I got tired of chasing cloths around. So I just got a giant pack and planted a cloth in each of our sit locations.
But I hear some babies are spit-up machines. So you would want even more. These are definitely on the list of what you need for baby.
Haakaa Manual Breast Pump. (You’ll only need if you’re breastfeeding). This thing is AMAZING. You just stick it on the opposite breast of the one you’re feeding on. And it will collect milk (completely passively).
I’m a “just enough” producer so I don’t have some great freezer stash. But I can usually collect 1-2 oz. a day. So every other day, I can hand over a feeding to husband or babysitter. And I nap. For three blissful, baby-free hours.
Earth Mama Nipple Butter. (Again, you’ll only need if you’re breastfeeding). I was told about this before I had the baby. And religiously applied it after every feeding for the first week or so. I barely got sore at all feeding. There was a couple rough days getting used to feeding…but this took care of almost all of the pain. I recommend this for everyone.
Warning: it will leave a greasy looking stain on some shirts. But a stain remover takes it right out.
Yes, this is the most expensive item on the list. But my Lazy Boy recliner is a LIFE SAVER.
(I got a different recliner from Wayfair to start with. It was highly rated on What to Expect. It even had a charging port for my phone in the arm. It was HORRIBLE. The back angled back so far you couldn’t lean your head back. And when you’re exhausted and baby is eating for fourth time that night, I really wanted to lay my head back. The footrest was ridiculously uncomfortable. I could go on and on.)
So we went and bought a Lazy Boy. Which I should have just got to start with. It’s amazing. It rocks. Baby loves it. It’s soft. I can fall asleep with baby sleeping in ring sling. A few of those 30 minute naps have saved my life.
I know, I know. Technically, my Exercise Ball isn’t a baby item. I originally got this for labor on the suggestion of my doula. I never ended up using it because my water broke early, I DIDN’T start having contractions, and had to go to the hospital to induce labor.
But found out that baby found me holding him and bouncing on this more soothing than anything else. Both husband and I have spent hours gently bouncing baby. This has been a life-saver.
Baby Things I Used…But Didn’t Need Right Away
There were a few things that ended up being very useful. But I didn’t use them right away. And probably could have waited to buy.
Baby Monitor. This is definitely a need. Just not a “need right away.”
I was so exhausted the first few months that if the baby was sleeping at night, I was sleeping (and he slept in our room). And during the day, he wouldn’t sleep in his crib. Only in the ring sling or being held in my arms. Apparently this is a common newborn thing. So he didn’t sleep alone in a room until maybe 2 months.
I like this monitor because it doesn’t use wi-fi (which can go out) or require any apps.
Baby swing. This recommendation is definitely baby dependent. Some babies LOVE swings from day 1.
Our baby HATED it to start with. I mean instant crying. Your baby might love it, so I’m definitely not “not recommending” it. Now that he’s four months, he tolerates it for about 20 minutes. Longer if he’s watching me move around cooking. Which lets me make a hot meal on occasion!
Since some babies love it right away, you might want one right away.
Pacifier/Binky. I’m glad I didn’t actually buy any in advance. I got three different types/brands gifted to me. And the baby only likes the one kind (the one with a straight nipple). Luckily, it’s super-cute and comes attached to a stuffed animal so they’re easy to find. I ended up buying three more of them.
But we didn’t use any pacifier until 6 weeks. I am breastfeeding and they say not to introduce a pacifier too early.
Rattles. Baby can’t grab anything for a few months. I seriously could have waited on this purchase.
Bibs/Drool Bandana. I highly recommend these exact drool bibs. I tried regular bibs and they were too loose around the neck. I also tried three different types of bandanas (are you noticing I overbuy for baby?). And these were the best. They have metal snaps, not cheap plastic. They’re slightly larger than the other brands I tried. And they’re more absorbent. I ended up donating the other two brands and just buying more of these.
Things I Bought & Barely (Or Never) Used
This is the section that’s going to be really useful. Here’s the baby stuff I bought…and could have saved my money on.
Breast pump. I mean, don’t get me wrong, yes, I’m glad I got it. And have it just in case. But I think I’ve used it maybe 5 times. And 3 of those were before the baby was born (I was trying to pump colostrum and encourage labor to start).
Sleep sack/pjs. We just left him in his diaper and double-swaddled him. And he wouldn’t sleep at all without the swaddle. So all the 0-3 month sleep sacks never got worn.
Baby bath towels. Maybe I just got the wrong brand…but they weren’t absorbent at all. And not particularly soft. Shockingly, I DO use the little tiny washcloths. But I just use our regular bath towels for drying him off. (Hint: put it in the dryer for a few minutes before bath so baby has warm towel to be wrapped up in after the bath).
Baby hats & mittens. The hospital had a hat for him. And I found out after we got home you’re not supposed to keep covering their head. So I never used the extra hats.
And we never needed the little mittens. His fingernails were soft and peeled. And a friend told me to just use socks anyways. I should have listened and saved the money. Not to mention they use a million of those little plastic ties in the packaging.
Diaper rash cream. It’s still sitting in my “medical” basket. Maybe it’s because he’s breastfed. Or because he’s skinny. Or we’ve just been lucky so far. But we haven’t touched it. I guess I’m glad I have it “just in case.” But I might as well be honest- I’ve never used it.
Chicco Baby Carrier. I tried using this when baby was very little. I know it’s probably safe…but I had to stretch his poor legs so far to get them through the holes. Plus it was so high (but didn’t support his head), it interfered with visibility.
I’ll probably use it more as he gets older and we do more extensive outings (like to the zoo). It’s sturdier, all the way across the back and hips support, will be helpful during long days. But for now- when most of the time is spent at home- it’s just not practical.
A Note About Clothing
I’m going to say one quick thing about clothing. I’m not going to recommend or not recommend anything.
I suggest getting a variety of items- sleep n’ play long-sleeve/long-leg onesie (get both zipper & snap ones), long-sleeved onesies, short-sleeved onesies, maybe a couple actual outfits. And then see what works best for your house and lifestyle.
I discovered that I LOVED the long-sleeved onesies. My baby is fairly temperature tolerant. But my husband keeps the house cold. So I like the long-sleeves for a little warmth. But I like the “no-leg” onesie for easy diaper changes. So I ended up with probably 2 dozen outfits I never use and ended up buying more of what I did like.
So I suggest buying (second-hand) a variety. Then waiting to buy new clothes in the style of outfit you really like.
Do You Have Some Suggestions?
Do you have any suggestions? Or feedback on what worked great for you? Or didn’t work great? Leave a comment below!
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