Preparing for a new baby, particularly your first, is overwhelming. You have no idea what you really need, everyone has opinions and it’s expensive!
I’ve mentioned it plenty of times on Instagram but we live in a one bedroom apartment. Thankfully it has a study area that we were able to turn into a makeshift “nursery”, but even so, we don’t have much room and we have almost zero storage.
Between recommendations from friends and lists on the internet, I was freaking out a little because we don’t have room for everything it seemed like we “needed”! Plus I am not someone who wants “things” just for the sake of it.
In an effort to help ease your mind, below I’m sharing my list of what you actually need when you bring your baby home from the hospital. On first glance it might appear long, but that is because it is very detailed; I truly think that if it’s not on this list, you *do not* need it. In all honesty there are very few newborn essentials so I hope this list is helpful to you and eases your mind!
There are only two furniture items you will really need: a dresser and a glider.
You will want a dresser that can double as a changing station. There is absolutely no reason to have a separate changing table. This means you will need to pay attention to height – I recommend something that hits around your waist when standing next to it.
The other essential furniture item is a glider. You cannot even imagine how much time you’ll be spending in that thing! While ideally you will find one that is cute, this is one area where function is far more important than form. You want to pay most attention to comfort which is a balancing act. Many of the prettiest gliders on the market are really firm which you won’t appreciate when sitting it for hours on end. However, there are also a ton of really cute gliders that are so plush that they are really hard to get in and out of because you kind of melt into them. I recommend going to a store and testing out a bunch or reading tons of reviews online. We got lucky with a Potterybarn one from Craigslit, but specifically told the woman that we would need to come by to test it out before promising to purchase it.
Without a doubt the best investment we made was our Uppababy Vista stroller. Matt thought the price was absurd so I had to sell him on it. My main points were:
- With the use of adapters, the stroller can accommodate up to three children at one time, making it great for our family as it grows. (Click here to see all the ways you can do that.)
- Large storage area underneath. I was surprised when we started looking at strollers how many had tiny storage areas.
- Extremely smooth ride. I’ve gotten comments from strangers saying how easily my stroller turns corners and maneuvers around tight spaces; they think I’m some sort of wizard but really the stroller is just incredible.
- Comes with a bassinet attachment. We didn’t buy a separate bassinet for the baby to sleep in at night, we simply used this one!
- We live a very active lifestyle, walking and traveling a ton. In fact I don’t own a car; I walk to and from work, picking up Joe on the way home. Since I wasn’t buying a car, we were more willing to pay a premium for a fantastic stroller. I jokingly call it my “city minivan”.
Now I can’t even tell you how many times Matt has looked at me and said “I am so glad we got this stroller!” It truly is worth the price, especially if you plan to have multiple kids or if your lifestyle includes a lot of walking.
We went with the Uppababy Mesa because it is compatible with our stroller, meaning we don’t need to worry about attachment parts. It clips right in so we can go from the car to walking around in the stroller in two seconds.
One very important note that I thankfully learned before registering for a different carseat: Originally I thought I wanted the Nuna Pipa because it is “the lightest carseat on the market”. However (thankfully!) we went into a baby store and talked with a sales associate who informed us that the reason it is the lightest on the market is that it doesn’t have the capability to go in a car without the base.
If you didn’t know, most carseats have these little attachments so that you can put a seatbelt through it and secure it in a car without the base. This is only meant to be done temporarily of course, but things like taxis, Ubers, if you’re in someone else’s car, etc. With the Nuna you have to have the base at all times. Since I don’t have a car (and wanted to keep it that way) and take Ubers as needed, I knew that carseat wasn’t going to work for us. Just an FYI if you’ve had your eye on it after hearing that it is much easier to carry due to its weight.
As mentioned, our stroller came with a bassinet attachment so we did not buy a separate bassinet. It worked perfectly until he grew out of it around 3 months.
We bought the Uppababy bassinet stand which was fantastic because it clipped right in so we knew it was secure, but in all honesty, most nights we would simply attach the bassinet to the stroller and roll the stroller next to the bed. Not super chic, I know, but I loved that when he would fuss, I could reach over and roll the stroller back and forth and the motion would calm him down without me having to get out of bed!
When he was first born he hated the bassinet and slept best in a Rock n Play (he didn’t like being completely flat and the Rock n Play “hugged” his body more). I was a paranoid first-time mom and worried about letting him sleep in there at night, even though tons of moms said that’s what their babies did, because our pediatrician had said “back is best”. However, looking back now I should have just let him sleep in it – he loved it and we could have gotten better rest. He particularly loved the regular Rock n Play, but we also had the one that rocks.
You’ll want a white noise machine. Newborns are used to constant noise after being in your belly for so long (did you know that the sound of your blood rushing around is as loud as a vacuum to them?!) so silence makes them uneasy. Any white noise machine will work, but we liked this one because it has four different noise options (Joe hated two of them but loved the beach one and the noise one).
When Joe was brand new we really liked these SwaddleMe swaddles because they are so easy to use. As first-time parents we struggled getting the swaddle blankets tight enough – he always managed to get his arms out! These are the simplest ones to use, just fold over and velcro!
Within a few weeks we switched over to the Halo Sleepsack because it feels more secure than the SwaddleMe ones. We specifically liked the mirco-fleece ones because it was pretty chilly when Joe was born and this way we knew he was warm enough. I’m not sure if you’re supposed to put your baby in pajamas and then in this, but most of the time we swaddled him in just his diaper.
During the newborn phase it is all about comfort. Though pricey, our absolute favorites were the Kickee Pants onesies. I cannot even convey to you how soft they are! The material is also very stretchy so I found that these fit for the longest period of time. (Joe is still wearing his size 0-3 month one even though all of his other 0-3 month clothes had to be retired weeks ago). Since these are a little expensive to buy for yourself, they make excellent gifts!
My sister got us hooked on the Cloud Island onesies because they zip from the bottom, meaning that you don’t have to completely unzip your baby when you go to change a diaper.
If he wasn’t in those PJ-type onesies, he was nearly always in either a short-sleeve or long-sleeve onesie and leggings. Actually if I’m being 100% honest, most of the time he was naked in just a diaper!
Babies have really sensitive skin because their bodies haven’t been exposed to the world much yet. Therefore, you will want to use a laundry detergent specifically formulated for sensitive baby skin. Matt thought this was a marketing gimmick and washed Joe’s clothes with ours and he broke out in an awful rash that lasted a week and would wake him up at night!
We didn’t want him to get too particular with any one specific kind of nipple so we kept a ton of different ones on hand, which actually worked out well because it seemed that every few days he would decide he had a new “favorite”. It was usually between these Avent ones and these Gerber ones (which are proving hard to find online, but we got them in store at Walmart and they were super inexpensive).
Swaddles, Blankets, and Burp Cloths
While we preferred the swaddles mentioned above for sleeping, we were gifted a ton of traditional swaddles and found that they made excellent burp cloths! We really liked the ones by Angel Dear and Aden and Anais – so soft.
While babies should not sleep with a blanket, we always had some on hand for when we were out and about. We really liked this knit one from Janie and Jack that he can grow into, this cotton one also from Janie and Jack that was a lighter weight perfect for everyday use, and one that a family friend knit for us.
Safety warning: The “no blankets at night” warning is not to be taken lightly. We were using one and one night I woke up to Joe breathing really weirdly. Turns out he had scooted himself down in his bassinet and the blanket had fallen over his face! As soon as I ripped the blanket away, he started gasping for air! It was absolutely terrifying and I hate to think what may have happened if I hadn’t woken up. So please please please do not use a blanket when they are sleeping.
We absolutely love the Honest diapers and wipes. Not only do the diapers come in the cutest prints that make changing diapers just a little more fun, but they are super absorbent so he only ever had a handful of blowouts or leak accidents, as well as very soft with no harsh chemicals so he never got any sort of diaper rash.
Frankly, they aren’t much more expensive per diaper than other brands and I have friends who bought other ones that were constantly experiencing blow outs so I think it’s a worthwhile expense. I usually grab them in store at Target, but they are the same price on Amazon. The cheapest way to buy is by subscribing for the bundles on the Honest site, which I actually just signed up for!
The product you absolutely must buy: this silicone changing pad. You won’t realize how dumb a cloth one is until it’s 2 am and you get poop on the changing pad. Can you even imagine having to strip down the changing pad in the middle of the night and then do laundry the next morning? This one is so easy, just wipe it down and you’re good to go!
There are a few more expensive brands but this was the best one I could find for the price and it was totally worth it.
A product Matt almost made me return because he thought it was pointless but later sang it’s praises: this diaper pail. Not only is it super convenient to have right next to the changing station, but it locks the smell in so you don’t have any nasty scents hanging around. Honestly I don’t know how it does it, it’s amazing!
Lastly, I really like this wipe container. It has a weighted plate so that you only get one wipe at a time.
The Honest Shampoo and Body Wash and Moisturizer are our favorites because they’re formulated to be gentle on sensitive skin. Once when we were traveling, we used a different brand (a baby one, even!) and he broke out so badly in an awful rash!
For just about anything we used Honest All-Purpose Balm. I hate having a thousand different products so this was pretty much our go-to for any random thing.
Babies don’t have hairs in their nose when they’re born so they end up with so much junk in there and they don’t know how to breathe through their mouths, so it’s important to clean out those nostrils frequently (at 4 months old I am still doing this every morning). We have the fancier Frida Baby one but I never could get much out with that, so we went back to using the bulb one they gave us at the hospital.
Same with our rationale about using various binkies, we made sure to use four different kinds of bottles so that he would not be picky (since I was going back to work he needed to be able to take a bottle). We tried the Tommee Tippee, Avent, the Spectra ones that came with my pump, and the ones that come with the ready-to-use bottles. He did fine with all of them!
The nipples that come with most bottles are so big that I have no idea how a newborn is supposed to drink out of them. We found that out the hard way when we went to feed the poor boy and he was gagging with milk spilling everywhere. Be sure to buy the slow flow nipples for those first few weeks (actually Joe probably used those for two months – he only just recently started using the size 2 which is what comes with the Avent bottles).
Pretty early on we switched over to formula-feeding and our favorite has been Enfamil. We use the Gentle-Ease formula because he seemed to be getting some gas bubbles but he likes the regular formula just as much.
We always keep these on-the-go packs and these ready-made bottles in the diaper bag. He really loves those ready-made ones!
Love these Copper Pearl bibs. They’re super soft and fit well so that no spilled milk gets on baby’s clothing (or in their neck rolls!)
If you are bottle-feeding you’ll find yourself constantly washing bottles. I always joke that after I wash all of them, I find one more but it really seems to be true! We use this bottle brush that makes cleaning a breeze and if you don’t have a dry rack already, this drying grass and drying flower are great! If you do already have a drying rack and you don’t mind having your own stuff mixed in there with baby’s then the grass and flower are unnecessary. We hardly use ours because we already have a drying rack in our sink.
Breastfeeding and Pumping
For the first two weeks I was exclusively pumping, using this pump. My insurance did not cover the rechargeable one so I had to always be plugged in. It wasn’t the worst thing ever, but if you’re able to purchase that one I would. Otherwise I did really like this pump. The best feature is that you can adjust both the speed and the strength. With most other breast pumps, if you want it to go faster, it also goes harder which can be painful. This one allowed you to manipulate both separately.
If you’re planning to pump, you need a hands-free pumping bra, otherwise you’ll have to sit there for 30 minutes while pumping holding those things up by hand! Yep, they don’t actually suction on to your boobs. Didn’t know that…
These nursing bras are inexpensive and worked great.
As far as nipple creams, nursing pads, and the like, I am admittedly not your best resource but the above is the bare minimum that you will want.
On the Go
A great diaper bag is a must. There are so many on the market these days, but some features you will want to look for are: a wide opening so you can easily find what you are looking for without digging around blindly, pockets to keep things separated and organized, and the option to convert between a satchel and a backpack (because the ability to be hands-free is priceless).
I loved the look of the Fawn Design diaper bag, but it is SO expensive and lacks a few features I would have liked so I wasn’t willing to shell out that kind of cash. Instead I found an almost identical one on Amazon. It’s still not perfect, but for the price I was willing to let it slide. Personally, I love that it looks nice without obviously being a diaper bag; my husband carries it all the time!
Some things I always keep in our diaper bag:
This changing station is super helpful because not only do you not have to worry about germs in public restrooms, but it makes anything a changing area. Park bench? Church stairs? Sidewalk in Paris? Yep, I’ve successfully changed a diaper in all of those places with this handy dandy changing station.
That changing station comes with a pocket for diapers and a zipper pouch with a wipe container aka everything you need for a diaper change. It is great because you don’t have to lug the entire diaper bag in to the bathroom, you can just grab this and run in!
Unfortunately the included wipe container is cheaply made; it caused our wipes to lose moisture. I replaced it with this wipe container that is fantastic and still fits perfectly into the pouch.
We keep a clear pouch in the diaper bag with a change of clothes just in case. We purchased a multi-pack of inexpensive pouches from Amazon and while they’re fine, I truly think just buying 1 or 2 of the Truffle ones and using them intentionally is the better route; the quality is superb. While the inexpensive ones get the job done, the material is “sticky” so it is difficult to keep more than one in the bag (when you go to grab one, all of them come out with it) and the plastic is not thin so it loses shape. The Truffle ones are much thicker so they keep a very thin profile even when you stuff them full. I have the mini one in my purse and it is amazing.
This carseat cover is a multi-tasker that we always keep with us on the go. It is a carseat cover, nursing cover, burp cloth, spit up rag, blanket, etc all in one. The key is that it is CRAZY soft!
While we do own the Ergobaby and Baby Bjorn carriers, the one that is truly essential during the newborn phase is this carrier. When they are so little, the Ergo and the Baby Bjorn require special infant inserts which is just way more work than they’re worth. This one is a soft material that is super easy to use and allows baby to really snuggle up to you. There were days when Joe would fuss any time I tried to put him down, he just wanted to be held. On those days, this carrier came to the rescue, allowing me to get some things done while he snoozed away on me!
We intentionally didn’t read many books because too much information is not always a good thing. Many books contradict each other and can cause new parents to worry and doubt themselves. That said, we did read two that proved to be extremely helpful: Happiest Baby on the Block and Baby Wise.
Happiest Baby on the Block: This book is a major confidence boost! It teaches you the five steps to calming a crying baby while also explaining “the Fourth Trimester”. This book gave us a better idea of what to expect of a newborn which gave us some serious peace of mind.
On Becoming Baby Wise: Truthfully I only read about 25% of this book but the feed-play-sleep cycle was a game-changer for us! Not only did the rationale behind it make total sense (rather than feeding a baby to put him to sleep, letting him play until he got sleepy and then feeding him when he woke), but it gave us a semblance of structure and Joe started sleeping much better after I began implementing it. We did not do it strictly, we just did our best to follow that cycle.
What You Don’t Need
A crib. I understand that the nursery might feel incomplete without it, but you won’t be using it for at least a few months if you have a bassinet, so don’t stress if you don’t have it or don’t have room for it. We did not buy a crib until he was 3 months old.
4moms Mamaroo. This is one of those love or hate products. Some people said it’s the only way they could get their newborn to sleep so one morning when we were extremely sleep-deprived, we broke down and bought it. Joe hated it so much we almost re-sold it.
I will say that once he hit 3 months old we started to get some use out of it. He still won’t sleep in it (I can count the number of times he’s taken a nap in it on one hand) but it’s really helpful to put him in while I make dinner. And I do appreciate that for being a swing it has a fairly small footprint. My biggest pet peeve about it is that the mobile doesn’t turn on it’s own which is honestly shocking for such a high-tech product!
Dock-a-tot. The infamous Dockatot that everyone raves about. I’m here to tell you: you don’t need it. At least not yet. Frankly, at 4 months old we still don’t need it. The truth of the matter is that until your baby can roll over, you can leave them on a bed or other soft flat surface no problem, you don’t need what is essentially just a wildly expensive pillow.
I’m thinking that in the next few months we might finally get some use out of it, but up until this point it’s been a waste of money and space.
If you decide to purchase the Dockatot anyways, my one suggestion would be to go with a printed option. We have the white one and I was having to wash it every few days because it showed everything! Even drool would leave an outline. While a printed one will get just as dirty, it will camouflage it much better.
Cute clothing. For multiple reasons, cute clothing is not necessary for a newborn. First off, they sleep so much that they’re hardly ever awake so getting them all dressed up is just a waste. Secondly, babies are messy. They have blowouts, they spit up, they drool. There will be days you go through multiple outfits so you just want something easy. Third, they grow SO fast. Until they are much older, I think that expensive clothing is a waste because they only wear things a handful of times before they grow out of it. Lastly, during the newborn phase you won’t be leaving the house too much so it’s just unneeded. Would you want to change out of your PJs and into a fancy get-up if you were just going to stay home all day? Didn’t think so.