For first-time parents, it can be hard to figure out which items qualify as baby essentials.
Getting ready for a newborn on the way can be an overwhelming experience due to the sheer amount of baby and parenting products available commercially. You can walk into a store intending to buy one item and walk out with dozens of “must-haves” that you don’t really need.
Whether you’re on a tight budget or geared up for a spending spree to stock up on everything before your little one arrives, know that often takes much less than you think to be ready.
Below are some baby essentials that every parent or guardian should have at their disposal, minimalist or not.
Sleeping: A Portable Playard
Let’s get big-ticket items out of the way first. A crib—with a matching crib mattress—is often thought of as a need, and rightly so. Encouraging good sleep habits and making sure your baby is safe while they’re snoozing is paramount.
However, not everyone has a baby registry to count on or financial leeway to prioritize a crib purchase. If this sounds like you, there is a solution: a portable playard, also known as a pack n’ play.
Look for a portable playard that is also marketed as an on-the-go sleeper. The purpose of these products is to have baby furniture you can move around easily and take with you while traveling, but a sturdy and heavy-duty playard can double as your baby’s main bed.
Clothing: Layette Sets and Blankets
Clothes and toys will most likely make up the bulk of what you will receive from well-meaning friends and family members, especially if you hold a baby shower. Remember this the next time you see a cute onesie or layette set.
It’s easy to overestimate how much clothing your newborn will need! Your little one will quickly outgrow their clothes, too, so spending on them is not a frugal choice. You will probably need no more than eight onesies, some short-sleeved and some long, and the same amount of sleepers. Have a few pants, shirts, hats and socks on hand for going out or for layering in cold weather.
Some babies love being swaddled, but some don’t. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to have half a dozen blankets ready: a mix of lightweight and swaddling ones. You will find these useful during tummy time, cuddling, and sleeping.
Feeding: Breastfeeding and Otherwise
The essentials here will differ based on your preference for breastfeeding or formula feeding. Even if you choose the former, though, it’s still a good idea to have a set of BPA-free plastic or glass bottles around. Have a sterilizer and some cleaning brushes on hand, as well.
Mothers, you won’t always be awake or in the area to feed your baby—that’s what breast pumps and milk storage bags are for—so bottles will be useful regardless. When you are present for feeding times, you will need a comfortable chair to sit on, as well as a nursing pillow. You may also appreciate the versatility of a nursing bra.
Something new parents often forget is burp cloths. These need to be absorbent and easy to wash. You will go through them quickly—several in one day is normal—so do prepare accordingly.
Hygiene: Diapers, Changing Pad and a Bag
You can’t get any more essential than this. Newborns don’t come potty-trained! First-time parents, you will need to get used to changing diapers.
Some may think that the true frugal and minimalist choice is to use cloth diapers. However, they may be more time-consuming to maintain in the long run. A good compromise is to have a few on hand in case your little one develops a temporary adverse reaction to the synthetic and disposable kind. Pro tip: cloth diapers can double as burp cloths.
You can certainly get away with using paper liners on a changing table, but if you don’t have a changing table it’s often more cost-efficient to simply buy a well-designed changing pad. Look for one with safety straps and sloped sides. Consider a diaper pail, too.
A diaper bag should always be on the ready, once you’re at a point where you are taking your baby with you out of the house. It should be big enough to contain baby wipes, diapers, diaper cream, and sealable bags for dirty diapers. An extra change of clothes is a great addition, too.
Grooming: Bathtime Basics and First Aid Considerations
A baby bathtub is not a big-ticket item for some, but it is not truly essential. If you’re looking to save some money or space, you can use a sink or tub liner instead. Remember that bathing your newborn starts after their umbilical cord falls off. Sponge baths and gentle wiping will suffice beforehand.
You will also need a thermometer to make sure the water is at a comfortable temperature level. Mild baby soaps and shampoos are a must, as well as sponges and plastic cups that help with rinsing. Hooded towels and washcloths will keep your little one warm and dry after bathing.
Keep baby clippers and a nasal suction bulb nearby, as well. You’ll want to deal with long nails, mucus and snot while you’re in cleaning mode. Consider putting together a baby first aid kit to keep in your bathroom’s medicine cabinet, too.
Traveling: A Carrier and A Car Seat
Having your baby physically close to you is important for bonding as it is for comfort. You need a baby carrier, even if you’re still at the stage where your little one doesn’t leave the house. You’d be surprised by how much easier it is to complete household chores with a baby carrier on.
Here’s a minimalist parent must-have: Get a combination car seat and stroller system. An up-to-date car seat is non-negotiable. In fact, more hospitals won’t allow you to bring home your newborn without a car seat.
If a car can be converted into a stroller, it will be more useful, especially for parents that have busy or active lifestyles. As an aside: A good car seat can double as a safe baby seat outdoors, ideal for visiting family and friends.